There is a time when you have to decide if a new edition is considered a new game or not. I pose that question since two of the games played this week are new editions of games that I also own the original. For most games, a new edition is just a reprinting of the one before it and perhaps fixing typos or other minor issues with game play. There are a couple of games out there that are a complete redesign of the system for better or worse – I know some on both side of that coin. In the end, I guess it depends on which edition you like and if you can handle staying with an earlier edition knowing that new material may not be compatible. Most of the games I own, I have advanced to the newer edition for some reason or other (be it new material, easier game play or my friends like it better). For the most part, I haven’t looked back.
The first game off the list is 7 Wonders. This game takes the card drafting mechanic famous in Magic: the Gathering circles and creates an entire game experience with that mechanic. Seriously, the entire game consists of selecting a card from your hand to play and passing the remainder to the next player. That’s really all there is to it.. After six rounds, there is an end of the era check which you look to both neighbors to determine who has the highest military to score victory points. After three such eras, you count up all your victory points (be it from your wonder of the world – your player board, you military victories/defeats or your science level) with the player who has the most being the winner. This game takes all of 30 minutes, but has a lot of depth and choices. I don’t own the two expansions which is rare for me considering how much I like this one.
Second off the list was Merchants of Venus – 2nd Edition. I bought this at a clearance sale mainly due to the original. The new edition has everything updated to the beautiful thick cardstock that is the current standard and has the classic way of playing it (along with the new standard way). Be mindful that the new edition only plays four as oppose to the six in the old edition. Note that we played the standard game since I still own the original (technically both games are separate on the list). Each player takes the role of a merchant looking to make money in a space sector. Due to some recent calamity all the races need to be rediscovered by the players which is the first part of the game – moving to all the planets finding which race is where. The second part is determining what routes will be the most profitable (buying goods and taking them to a race that wants them for profit) by moving efficiently to achieve these goals. Each turn is pretty simple – you decide if you want to move and roll three dice to determine your speed. You have the option to roll a fourth die if you rolled a one, but since that requires you to assign that die, you might not want to do that. You can only assign a number of dice equal to your level (between 1 and 3). If you make it to a planet/space station to a race that hasn’t been explored, you get an IOU to spend at the newly discovered race; otherwise you may buy and sell goods, special items and ship upgrades (the number of buy/sell actions that you get on your turn depends on whether it is a surface city or a station and if this is the turn it was discovered). There are 30 turns in the basic standard game with the player having the most money the winner. It was an enjoyable experience even though it lasted around 4 hours. I can’t tell you if I like the standard game or the classic – both feel so different to each other; they might as well been different games. The new components are nice – just wish they could have kept the second edition a six player game (maybe that will be an expansion – Fantasy Flight does like doing that).
The final game was Battletech. It was one of the first miniature/board games that I ever played when I was a kid. There was something cool about large mechanical robots (you could say suits, there is a pilot inside) fighting each other. There were Large Lasers and dozens of missiles blasting through layers of armor in eight hit locations (11 if you count the back ones) and you had to worry about heat and ammo and – well, it was glorious. But it turns out that these large battle as told in the stories and rulebooks where dozens of ‘mechs battle each other just isn’t all that possible on the table top with the original game. I mean, even in my heyday, I could only play a battle of eight versus eight and that took all day! I mean a child’s all day – like 12 or so hours. Still I remember it fondly and I have kept all my old books and technical readouts always telling myself that I was going to buy some miniatures, paint them and play this more often…
So at Gen Con last year, I tried the new Battletech Alpha Strike (even after 20+ years, I’m still a sucker for this genre). This version of the game converts a Battlemech into a far simpler and manageable chunk. Gone are the hundreds of armor circles in eight (or eleven) locations and having to roll to hit (and the damage location) for each weapon. In the end, I enjoyed it and seeing a battle between 22 ‘mechs against 24 ‘mechs and it only taking 4 hours was pretty awesome! Not to say that this new version doesn’t have its flaws (like the all or nothing damage or to hit modifiers), but I felt like I got the Battletech experience without the Battletech headache! So does that count as playing Battletech – perhaps? I currently have marked Battletech off the list but maybe I should get into a quick demo game at Gen Con (like I have been saying for years as well) to truly mark it off the list…
Until next time – Play a game!