RogerBW's Blog

Thirsty Meeples January 2015 14 January 2015

Back to the boardgame café. With images; cc-by-sa on everything.

First game of the night was Pandemic: Contagion, which reminded me quite a lot of BTRC's Black Death; for a start they have similar themes, where each player takes the role of a disease ravaging its way across the world, and scoring is based on the total number of people killed. Here you don't have the trade-off of contagiousness versus lethality, though; rather, you have three attributes, which denote the number of cards you draw, the number of infection cubes you place at a time, and a "hit point" score that lets you resist the effects of the World Health Organisation.

You don't get to do much on your turn: two actions, chosen from drawing cards into your hand, infecting people somewhere in the world (preferably using cards of the right colour), or mutating yourself to increase one of your stats. Since there are only twelve turns to the game (at least in the three-player version), there's not much of a feeling of player input.

I misheard one of the scoring criteria, which didn't help, but we ended up wiping out a reasonable number of cities. I didn't do terribly well. I suppose it's all right for what it is, but it felt a bit random, and I shan't be in a rush to play it again.

We didn't play, but looked over people's shoulders at Riff Raff: you're balancing things on the ship's wobbly rigging, and catching stuff as it falls off.

The next game was one I've been looking forward to for a while, Castles of Mad King Ludwig; it's by Ted Alspach, who also designed Suburbia, and feels in some ways like a revised and shaken-up version of that game. You don't have a hex grid, but rather irregularly-shaped rooms; you don't have four types of tile, but rather eight; you don't have a steady progression of tiles from the expensive new slots to the cheap older slots, but rather the first player each round can rearrange the tiles available for purchase as he sees fit. You don't have the scoring constraints of Suburbia, where as you build things up the quality of life for your residents goes down.

There are still constraints, though: you have to match up room entrances to each other, and rooms score more or fewer points for being next to others of the same type. And there are still secret objectives.

I enjoyed it, but at the end of the evening I bought a copy of Suburbia. I'm not attempting to generalise this to everyone's experience, but to me it felt just a bit too random: for example, I had a goal card awarding me extra points for building a certain sort of room, but only one of those rooms ever came out of the tile decks. I wouldn't mind playing it again, and many people reckon it's better than Suburbia; I think I have to write this off as personal taste.

Last game of the evening was Eight-Minute Empire. On your turn, you take a card (the un-picked ones gradually get cheaper, in the manner of Surburbia and many other games); this lets you create or move armies, destroy your foes (oddly, any foe anywhere, not just one near your armies), or build cities. The card also has a resource of some sort, and the more matching ones you have at the end of the game, the more points you can score from it.

I (Red) ended up pretty much ignoring the resources, and just spreading out onto multiple continents. When we counted up the score, it took us to the third tie-breaker to reveal that I'd lost to Blue.

I'm not sure there's a huge amount of strategic depth here, but it's enjoyable as a filler. There's very little fighting; I think only one "destroy enemy army" card came up in the whole game. Again, not one I'll rush out and buy, but I wouldn't mind giving it another go some time.

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