Monday, July 4, 2016

What I've Been Playing: May & June

A not untypical turn in Dominion Empires

PitchCar is a game involving flicking a disk around a race track.  The flicking part I can handle, but keeping it on the track is not my strong suit.  The last time I played, I finished well behind the people who showed up 20 minutes late, and that is for generous values of finished.  The host setup the track in advance and was excited to play the game again, but mostly excited to watch me play again.  I showed up late, but not quite late enough to avoid playing.

I went first, the advantage of being terrible, and flew off a side railing.  My 2nd attempt was much better; I got slightly farther before sailing into the abyss.  Other players slowly made it around the track and towards a large ramp in the middle, while my token remained directionally challenged.  Finally, with a clear track in front of me, I managed it to the next section. The next few flicks weren't great, but I made forward progress.  Meanwhile most of the other player were having trouble getting over the ramp, knocking into each other and falling off repeatedly.  I reached the base of the hill with only two players having surpassed it.  Amazingly, I made it to the top of the ramp on my first shot.  Going down the other side took a little longer, but the people in front of me were going slowly, and the ones behind me were still stuck.  I made it around the final turns and into the final straightaway while others still struggled.  I centered myself with a short flick and then sailed over the final railing to land on the edge of the track with half my token hovering over nothing.   I finished an astonishing 2nd, just ahead of the person who played the whole game while holding a baby.  It may have been my greatest gaming achievement.
QuarterMaster General,

A 90 minute, 6 player, World War two game, where players team up as the Allies and Axis.  The 90 minute time-frame makes it much more playable than most Axis vs Allies type games, but it did lose something in the distillation.  You can only play 1 card a turn, so often you are going back and forth with an opponent without making any progress.  For particular players, you can even get stuck with little to do on your turns.  Given the positive reviews, I'd try it again, but I wasn't especially enamored with it.

Millenium Blades:

A game that was designed to feel like collecting a collectible card game without the need to take out a second mortgage.  Players buy packs (the game uses stacks of money for individual bills which is great), and build decks and collections to compete in in-game tournaments.  For better or worse, it captures that feel very much, both in the excitement and frustrations.  Despite the happy nostalgia, the game overall though felt long and overwhelming, with players receiving too many cards to be able to analyze them all.  More problematic was that the in-game tournaments were dull and lacked complex decisions or interactions.  Making cool decks isn't that much fun if you don't care about the deck you are making.  Like many Kickstarter games, the concept was great, but the execution needs some work.

Dominion Empires:

The 10th Dominion expansion, and the 2nd one after the "last" expansion, is every bit as good as its predecessors.   The set features a number of new and expanded concepts such as events, landmark cards (items that give/take away points for achieving certain things), gathering cards (cards that collect victory tokens), and debt (getting cards and paying for them later).  The quality of the game components are as good as they have ever been, with heavy and shiny new victory and debt tokens.

As with other recent sets, I hosted a tournament to get to play a bunch of games with recommended sets.   9 people came, which is a nice number for such things.  I enjoyed how the new cards changed player goals turning normal Dominion decision making on its head.  Alas I fell short in the tourney, needing 1 more copper to win a decisive qualifying match.  We did get our fifth different tournament winner in five tries, which is neat.   I have played a number of games of it since with my wife who is a big fan of the set.   She has built super-turns from cards such as the Villa (a card in the village family that allows a player to jump back to the action phase from the buying one.) and Royal Blacksmith (A debt card that lets you draw 5 cards and requires discarding coppers).  She has won a number of these games quite handily, but I did heroically buy the last two provinces and a duchy in one such contest to lose 63-32.


Jaipur is a popular two player card game where players buy, sell, and trade gems and camels.  I played it first online and enjoyed having simple turns that still had multiple compelling options.  I bought a copy in a game store in my wife's hometown though that was partially to support a neat looking store while getting something that would fit in a suitcase.  I still haven't figured how much of the game is skill vs luck, but I'm curious to keep exploring.  My initial opponents were not as enamored with the game though, so I might have some difficulty finding opponents.

Above and Below:

I wanted to try Above and Below mostly because it looked pretty.  And pretty it was, though it could have used clearer visuals to distinguish between different types of cards.  The game combines an action selection game with a story telling one.  Players can explore the "below" which result in mini choose your own adventure style adventuring.  The game had some interesting concepts and fun stories, but ultimately lacked focus and ended before much could be accomplished.  For example, there was a nice tension between using common resources early to get money, or saving them for later to maximize points, but you got so few resources until the end that it didn't matter all that much.  The stories were amusing but repetitive, always having similar requirements and rewards.


Days of Wonder's latest production is a light-ish tile laying game where players draft tiles and place them in a tableau, scoring points for getting combinations of buildings together.  At times drafting choices were severely limited or unimportant, while at other points players were overwhelmed with information.  Compared to Between Two Cities, it had more interesting scoring rules, but was slower and accommodated less players.   I'd be interested in trying how the advance rules changed the dynamics of the game.

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