RogerBW's Blog

Thirsty Meeples June 2014 04 June 2014

This time we tried a variety of shortish two-player games at this boardgame café, playing each of them twice just to get the hang of the basics.

We started with Splendor, which I enjoyed again. My second and third games; with only two players one uses fewer tokens, so it's still possible to corner the market in the early game. I'm definitely getting a feel of building up resources, then choosing when to abandon that and sprint for the finish. Certainly one I expect to buy at some point.

King & Assassins was next, a slightly hnefatafl-like game of getting the king out of a crowded market where any local citizen might be a disguised assassin (and they're all controlled by the assassins' player). It's a bit simplistic for a wargamer like me; enjoyable to play once or twice, and with randomness only in the allocation of action points to each side (by card draw; if one side gets a lot of actions, so will the other that turn) which is a pleasant touch, but I can't see myself playing it a great deal and it probably won't go on my purchase list.

We took a look at Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War but were frankly intimidated by the game materials (see this image) and so decided not to play. It looks a little like a reversed Stratego, in that your enemy can identify all your pieces but you can't; you make a move, he tells you whether it was a legal move for that type of piece, and you try to deduce which of your pieces is which.

Instead, carrying on with the Cold War theme, we tried 1955: The War of Espionage. With six countries available, each side plays cards to sway them towards his own faction (winning by getting any three countries' control markers all the way to his end of the board, or by taking over the enemy's home country). There are complex rules about which cards one can combine and when, but in the end it felt fairly random (because of the large card deck, which we were nowhere near getting through by the end of the game) though still enjoyable.

We finished off the evening with Summoner Wars: first Phoenix Elves vs Tundra Orcs. This is a card-based combat game on a 6×8 grid: you draw cards, summon allies to join your side, move and attack the enemy, and discard cards to build up your magic reserve to summon even more allies. (We didn't spot during this first game that you also add killed enemies to your magic reserve.) The elves were fragile, but effective in attack and with lots of magical boosting; the orcs were less fragile, but also less effective. This came down to three on one in the end, and my elves managed to surround and magic to death the orcish summoner (king-equivalent).

Guild Dwarves vs Cave Goblins was a more asymmetric match: the goblins have many cheap but ineffective units, which when they're slaughtered en masse contribute plenty of magic to the dwarves' side. They really need to rush forward constantly. I got a good start on this one, but bogged down, and my summoner took some heavy damage, which eventually gave the victory to my opponent.

This game suffered, to my mind, from a difficulty in combining attacks: ranged units can only fire orthogonally along the grid lines, an understandable simplifying assumption but one that was just one simplification too far for my suspension of disbelief. Elven archers can shoot at enemy A four squares away, and at enemy B right in front of them, but not at enemy C one square forward and one to the right?

I wouldn't mind playing some more of this, but I don't really see myself wanting to have it as a regular game at home. Indeed, Splendor is the only game of these I'm likely to buy, and I already was before I played it here. But most games can be enjoyed once or twice even if they don't earn a place in one's collection, and this was a good evening of trying out new things.

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