I have to remember that my current average to complete all my games this year is 2.0 games per week. It’s a lofty goal for some, but I have plans for those weeks that I might not have a chance to get a game played due to illness, vacations and other assorted issues. Of course, I might lose my chance for a good write-up in the future if I talk about them now (that’s foreshadowing or some other English term that I haven’t used since college)…
Another three games were played and it happens that the later discussion dovetails nicely with the games played (totally unrelated at the time – I swear). The first was Steam – if you haven’t played this game, I recommend it. The object is to build the largest rail empire by connecting cities, delivering goods and urbanizing towns. There is a lot of good strategy for a fairly simple and straight forward rule set. I admit that I have only played the basic game without the auctions, but even without those, the game is very engaging.
The second was Quarriors! (I can’t help the exclamation point – it’s in the name). We played with two expansions and the epic rules. For those who haven’t played, Quarriors! is a ‘dice’ building (read deck building) game where you build your dice pool by purchasing dice from the wilds (either spells or creatures). Each turn, you draw 6 dice from your bag, roll them and use them in various ways (every spell and creature die has some sides that are just ‘money’ – even if you have that awesome creature, you still have to roll the needed creature side). I ended the game with not a single VP in a four player game (hard to win when you don’t roll any creature). That is the first time I played with the epic rules and I will always seek to play it that way in the future since it makes the game a lot more strategic than “buy a dragon die and stomp your foes” (since I own the expansions, we might have a game without the dragon being a creature choice).
Lastly, I played a couple games of Priests of Ra – a remake of Ra that I picked up as a free board game at Origins Game Fair a couple years back. The rules are very straight forward since you can do two things: pull a tile from the bag or ‘invoke Ra’. If the tile pulled is a Ra tile or someone invoked Ra, you have a single pass bidding round. Any other tile is placed on the offer track. A round ends when all players have used their bidding chips or a set number of Ra tiles are pulled from the bag. Points are scored for that round, some tiles are removed from your playing area and a new round begins. A final scoring occurs after third round with the player having the most victory points winning the game. Knowing when to start an auction and which bidding chip to use interduces all the tough choices for the game.
Two of the three games played this week were remakes of previously created games. The first remake Steam/Age of Steam is a huge controversy that I don’t dare to bring up. Suffice to say that in the end of it all, we have a publisher and a second publisher producing and selling a very similar game. I picked up Steam when Age of Steam was still out of print and I haven’t been disappointed. I have heard that Age of Steam is a bit more unforgiving due to a couple of rules, but not having that edition doesn’t bother me. There are a bunch of expansion maps which I believe are interchangeable but I don’t have any (which is odd considering my desire to have ‘complete’ games, but that a whole other story).
Why Ra was redesigned as Priests of Ra is a mystery to me. I’ve played both a couple of times now and they are similar enough and fairly equal in enjoyment. I guess the idea since the tiles in Priests of Ra are double sided it allows for a bit more strategic planning since you need to look at what you have and the other players need before you place it. Come to think of it, maybe I’ve just answered my own question (Priests of Ra plays with a bit more strategy and has an easier scoring system).
Now the retake (for two different reasons):
Steam takes a couple of plays to get your head wrapped about the rules. As with most games with a lot of strategy (and almost no luck), it takes time to understand just how all those rules are going to interrelate. Everyone has heard of the “Aha” moment when the strategy of the game dawns on new players! In that light, I would consider the first couple of Steam games played as the dreaded “Learning Game”. There is nothing wrong with a “Learning Game” if everyone is at the same experience level and/or is committed to getting passed the first couple of games. Truly great strategy games take a while to ‘master’ (some like Go can take a lifetime). But the learning game to the seasoned player always falls short of a great gaming experience.
The second retake is that we played a rule wrong in Priests of Ra (too much of Ra’s game influence on my thought processes I guess). You see, the buildings stay after each round and we were removing them after each scoring. In all honestly it might be a minor thing, but it could have tipped the scales for each of the games we played. Now, after learning of the gross error on my part should that game play be stricken from the record and replay at a later date to get the complete (and correct) experience. Of course, if you put it like that should I play Steam with an experience group of players to get the ‘full game experience’? It’s definitely something to think about and maybe something to plan for in the future.
So, be it resolved that if at the end of this year, I have weeks remaining and no games to complete; I will replay Priests of Ra correctly and Steam with a group of experienced players…
Until next time – Game like no one is watching!