Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Art for art’s ache

This week’s regular meet was held at Adam and Hannah’s. There were seven of us (Adam, Hannah, Martin, Sam, Joe, Gonz and me) but despite 7 Wonders being the only available option if we wanted to play a game together, we passed over that option and went straight into the evening’s main courses. There was a four-player game of A Study in Emerald (Martin, Gonz, Adam and Hannah) and a three-player game of Bruxelles 1893 (me, Sam and Joe).

The three of us went into the front room where we had to spread the game across three occasional tables, delicately balancing the main playing areas on the largest oval table. Just getting the layout right took several attempts, and quite a few minutes. It was to be an omen for what was to come.

We explained the rules to Joe, who asked insightful and intelligent questions. This made me think he already understood the game better than I did. I had a plan in round one, but even by round two I was being squeezed out of auctions and when round three finally began, I’d pretty much forgotten what the plan was at all.

If it was long with two newbies, it was a dirge with three. We added at least an hour to the recommended playing time for three, and this is not a game that gets better the more it goes on. While it has some nice ideas, it has far too many of them. They may overlap, but they never really gel.

I popped into the next room to see how Victorian London was coping against a battle between anarchists and octopuses, but I found that board equally baffling. In the end, Martin went mad in order to end the game at an opportune time, putting his colleague Hannah in second and leaving the two beastly loyalists in last.

Martin 9
Hannah 4
Adam 5
Gonz 3

When they’d finished, we were still knee-deep in art. Our game was taking so much time we even quipped "Bruzelles 1893? That's when we started playing it." So they began another game: Kingdom Builder. Another new game for Hannah, I think. Gonz took revenge for his recent last place.

Gonz 70
Hannah 51
Martin 51
Adam 37

When Bruxelles finally came to a close, we even had a few minutes debate about the score track, since it only went up to eighty before resetting to zero. Sam scored over one hundred, so should he put his counter on 20 something or 0 something? By now I was exhausted. If a game can’t even get the scoretrack right, it’s a bad sign.

Joe 133
Sam 126
Andrew 85

And there the evening ended. Sam suggested a final game of Raj but sorting out who’d play a five-player game out of seven people was one logistical puzzle too many for our frazzled brains, and in the end the offer was never taken up.

And if the evening wasn’t long enough, on the way home Adam called me to say that Sam had left his bag behind, with his keys etc. in them. Sam dropped me and Gonz off before one last dash across Bristol to round off quite a fraught evening for all concerned.

Joe1 2 1 1 3 8
Martin 2 1 1 1 3 8
Sam2 1 2 2 1 8
Gonz1 4 2 1 2 10
Hannah2 2 1 3 4 12
Steve 4 1 3 31 12
Andrew3 3 1 4 3 14
Anja2 3 2 45 16
Adam 3 3 3 3 5 17
Will3 2 5 5520
Matt5 5 5 5525

And on the monthly division, Martin leads on points and medal table, while Steve still holds on to points ratio.


  1. I really want to like Bruxelles. It looks great and there is a lot about it that appeals... but it's just too bloody complicated! And long. The rulebook felt like an integral part of play rather than an introduction. With any big game there's a hump to get over on first play before you 'get it' and settle in slightly, but Bruxelles just felt like it had one or two mechanics too many. I could have done without the losing of assistants.

  2. I liked it, but it is complicated. It scratches the very same itch as a lot of other games, but with more cognitive load, so it's hard to see why I'd choose to play it over one of those others. As you suggested last night Sam, you'd have to go away for the weekend and only take Bruxelles to really get in to it, and even then there are other games I'd rather do that with I think.

    That said, the mechanics were clear enough for me to form a coherent strategy on my first go - I just didn't know whether it would be comparable to Sam's building/architect behemoth. In the end my painting collection/multipliers won out, which was satisfying. I'm sure if I'd lost I'd be ranting about the game.

    Those multiplier bonus cards are an example of the overload - they could just be multipliers, but no - you can use them for the immediate bonus instead (oh and they also contribute to starting player). Every choice seems to come with a free extra choice!

    The end result is paralysing - like being in a restaurant where each ingredient of your meal has several choices - do you want the stew with turnips in, or with carrots or the painting by Alphonse Mucha?

    Thanks Adam and Hannah for hosting, though I barely saw you.

    Oh and Andrew, my points should be 8 on the table, though I'm in the right place I think.

  3. To the guys playing Kingdom Builder, does that expansion add anything to the game other than more variance?

  4. think my points should be 8 too - so I'm in third and Joe is second!

  5. i've updated it. Joe is now first. Congrats, Joe!

  6. Chris - I really like the Crossroads expansion. I find the options it adds more interesting than the Nomads expansion. You get a new type of scoring card (one-off 'tasks') that you can use in addition to regular scoring cards. And the bonus tiles introduce some new types of pieces that do fun stuff.

    If you want to know more, some guy called Martin wrote a rather detailed review.....

  7. There are lots of games that only really shine with 5+ plays in relatively quick succession - Adam was saying just the same about A Study in Emerald. It's a shame how rarely we (not just this group, gamers in general) manage to achieve that - we're always so quick to move on to the next shiny thing!

    Joe and I were talking about this on the way home and wondering about the idea of a GNN 'game of the month'. Maybe we each put the name of a game into a hat and then draw one out each month. Could be too much of a commitment though.

  8. Yeah I do like the idea of Game of the Month. Since most games are 3 or 4 player, it's not as if it would be the only game that gets played that month by any means - though I suppose, particularly with something like Emerald, it would work best if it were the same three or four players each time.

    I'd be up for it - I like the idea of encouraging repeated plays. Would it, could it work? Would it include Roll for the Soul?

    It could be a subset - if say four of us were up for it we could try it that way, meaning anyone who isn't would be free to play other things . . .

  9. I like the idea of focusing on a game for a few weeks. Recently I've had a bit of a spate of new games: Russian Railroads, Bruxelles, Fresca, A Study in Emerald, Discworld. They've all started to blur into one another. Yesterday, when Hannah asked me why I didn't like A Study In Emerald, I couldn't even remember what the board had looked like.

    If you bear in mind that there are usually two games going on at a games night, then there's room for another option in the event that one of us finds a game particularly objectionable.

  10. Perhaps the key is choosing which games go *into* the hat - once the game comes out of the hat, it's got to be played, so maybe participant's choices of what games go in need to get a thumbs up. Or a sideways wiggly thumb . . .

    Andrew you forgot Caverna in your list of recent conquests!

  11. I'm definitely up for trying it, and would suggest we don't include RftS.

  12. I've also noticed that you've had over 60 plays of Kingdom Builder and was beaten in to third by someone on their first game. Not trying to insult anybody here, but how much does luck play in this game? (We are playing it for the first time tonight).

  13. I'd actually be more open to games that I'm not that keen on than I am when we're just playing them once or twice. I hate learning a complicated game and then never playing it again!

    Perhaps we could each have one veto or something.

  14. I quite like the idea, but...It is difficult enough for us to decide what game to play for a couple of hours, think about choosing a game for a month! Although, if you think about it, there has been a lot of kingdom builder lately...What the hell, lets do it!
    Off topic: has someone seen my keys, by any chance?

  15. Hmm? Gonz and Adam have played it loads of times and Hannah had played once before. I also played really badly :) There's certainly some luck, but way less than its detractors think, and a perfectly reasonable amount for a light 30-40 minute game.

  16. Gonz - the good thing about it is that once we'd chosen the game of the month, we wouldn't have to agonise over what to play every week!

  17. Fair enough. (Andy has written it was a new game for her....)

  18. Ah yeah, I noticed that afterwards. The one thing I would say is that the opening moves are crucial. You can get into a bit of a downward spiral if you fail to pick up a few bonus tiles, which was what happened to me this time.

  19. Martin, weren't you tied in second place in kingdom builder?
    For me, the highlight of the night was you no being able to place your massive chunk of settlements on the board! ;-p
    Sorry, still sore about the sudden death in Study in Smerald

  20. I was, but let's not split hairs. It was so annoying when I'd finally found a place to play it on my last turn and then Hannah randomly drew canyons and blocked me :)

    I tried to warn you guys about the sudden ending - I wanted to carry on playing!

  21. Fair enough. Yes, you warned us, but I had enough on my plate trying to remember the rules and developing a semi-coherent strategy! Not enough computing power for anything else...

  22. One thing, If we are going to choose a game of the month, wouldn't it be better to do it online, somehow? so we don't spend an hour discussing when we meet.

  23. What does game of the month mean - do we play it every week for four weeks?

  24. Because while I'd be willing to give it a go, I do like the variation we have. I agree with Martin and Joe that we could give several games more time instead of obsessing over the new, though - I'd like to play Taj Mahal again for one. Could be there's a middle ground somehow where a group of games get more attention?

  25. Also I think Ys is great and we don't do a lot of bluffing stuff...

  26. Yeah each week for four weeks is the idea I think . . .

    As for variation, since any game would only involve four people max (we could cap it at that) it wouldn't preclude other people playing other games - also since playing time for the game of the month would likely decrease, it wouldn't have to dominate a games evening.

    Probably with any given game it would be best if the same four people were playing . . .

  27. Yeah. A game of the month would mean a dozen games getting 4-5 plays each over the year. If you water it down much more than that, each game is just getting a couple of plays, which isn't much different from what we do anyway...

  28. I don't think it's a good idea to have the same four people play each time. It's not very social, plus it stops people who don't enjoy the game from leaving and it stops people who might enjoy the game from joining.

    How about if we had a game that would always be an option for four weeks?

    I'm most excited about the opportunities for mini-divisions and brand new spreadsheets!

  29. I see what you mean Andrew, but part of the appeal is to not have to teach the game every time and to actually develop some experience. It's tricky isn't it!

  30. re Kingdom Builder Chris, there can be times when you curse your card, but 90% of the time it's pure strategy I think. That's why I suck at it!

  31. yeah, it is difficult. On one hand, it is nice playing a game without having to explain it, and with people that that understand the game and are semi/competent at it. But I see the dangers down this route...

  32. The only way to know is to try it. Who are the first four pioneers to step up to the challenge?

  33. I'll sign up!

    If we had four people; each could suggest two games, and the other three vote - we'd end up with four games to put in the pot . . .

    One other consideration is extra-curricular meetings, i.e. the four could attempt to meet outside the normal tuesday evening slot, so as to have less impact on tuesdays.
    Whatever works . . .

  34. I'm up for it. How could I not be?

  35. If nothing else than getting the comments up to a ludicrous amount, shall we propose our two games each? I'm mooting Taj Mahal and Raj. I know Raj is new to Joe and Adam but it's very simple. And it has a j in it, like Taj does.

  36. although I guess it's a filler. My longer suggestion would obviously be Tinner's Trail

  37. Palaces of Carrara and Study in Emerald!

  38. Tinners Trail, Sam? I mean I love it, but it's hardly underplayed. Bruxelles, surely!

  39. Yeah, for sure. I mean, we've learned the rules now, let's at least get some reward for that.
    My two are Russian Railroads, predictably, and Trains, possibly less so. Both have been played twice, as far as I'm aware.

  40. I like Russian Railroads so that has my support. Remember enjoying Trains too.

  41. What about agricola/caverna?

  42. Whatever Sam's second choice is, Taj Mahal gets my vote!

  43. I'd like to try Caverna. Agricola gets my first veto, sorry Gonz

  44. My votes are: Study in Emerald, Bruxelles, Caverna.

    Hmm, that's some heavy shit.

    But what about the other GNN-ers - have we jumped the gun here, does anyone else want in? Adam? Andrew?

  45. If we're going for heavy stuff I'd be willing to try Bora Bora again as well. Do recall it was a bit salady though...

  46. Can I ask, Sam, how is that you want to play Caverna and not Agricola? they feel much the same!
    I would also like to try Village, or that Mayan calendar game whose name I never remember... I wouldn't mind playing Study in Smerald.

  47. Because I've never played Caverna, and I've played Agricola a number of times.

    I'd be up for revisiting Village. T'zolkin has been traded away though I'm afraid - I was the only person who liked it.