RogerBW's Blog

Mini-TringCon 2 January 2016 15 January 2016

Mini-TringCons are all-day house gaming events run by the organiser of TringCon, in Deepest Buckinghamshire. Images follow: cc-by-sa on everything.

With six players present, we split into three and three; the other group spent the whole day on Robinson Crusoe, only to lose on the final turn. We started with a standard-difficulty game of Leaving Earth.

We all tried to keep research costs down, and plumped for different all-purpose rockets: I had Soyuz, while other players went for Atlas and Saturn. Atlas probably was the best choice, and the player opposite scooped up most of the easy missions (Man in Space, Man in Orbit, Artificial Satellite) leaving only Space Station, Lunar Survey and Venus Lander in play. He was fortunate in drawing a full hand of Success outcomes for his Atlas boosters, while my Soyuz had a minor and a major failure, and of course the major came up when there was a cosmonaut on the top of the stack. Meanwhile, my opponent's Space Station mission used most of the available Atlases to get a minimal capsule into orbit…

I did score the Lunar Survey, at least, and while Venus Lander proved impossible I was one year ahead of the opposition in discovering this (though I still wouldn't have won, thanks to the -2 for cosmonaut death). I think this game is better with harder missions (particularly with more things to go wrong and remove an early lead), but it was great to have it on a physical table at last, and an enjoyable introduction for the other players. I will pretty much insist on getting this out any time I have players who aren't terrified of a mildly maths-y game.

A few rounds of Red 7 before lunch. We tried the scoring system, but I think it's better just to score rounds won: if you end with a "highest card" or "most cards below 4" you don't get as many points as you would for a "cards in a row" or "most of same colour" win, and that's both an extra complication and not particularly fun. (On the other hand I do like the feel of removing the winning cards from successive rounds.)

El Gaucho after lunch, a dice-placement game reminiscent in some ways of Alien Frontiers. You're laying claim to cattle, as well as putting dice on other spaces that give you special powers later. There's a bit of complexity in what you claim when, and while I did quite badly as I often do in these games I still had a good time.

Almost the last of my unplayed Essen 2015 purchases, The Bloody Inn, came next. You're murderous French peasants who are killing or recruiting the various travellers who come to the inn. The theme isn't a great match for the mechanics, but the card art is very well-suited to the theme. It's hard to get right and I suspect against expert players we'd be slaughtered, but we still had fun. I particularly like the mechanic of shifting money back and forth between liquid funds (which you use for paying your helpers, but which are capped at a low value) and cheques (which aren't as negotiable, but you can have more of them).

Finally Cacao, which I found myself thinking of as "like Carcassone, only fun". Tiles alternate between villages, owned by one of the players, and jungle with resources, which are exploited by their neighbouring villages. But the orientation of the cards also matters. There's a standard Eurogame mechanic of different resources scoring in different ways (this is most blatant, in my experience, in Between Two Cities) and we ended up with a very close finish.

[Buy Red7 at Amazon] [Buy El Gaucho at Amazon] [Buy The Bloody Inn at Amazon] [Buy Cacao at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:51pm on 15 January 2016

    Why did you have a cosmonaut death? Did the escape tower rocket not work or something? In the real world a manned rocket has only exploded once on the pad, a soviet launch in the early 1980s and the escape tower worked and saved the crew.

    Personally I'd want Saturn launchers if the game follows historical stats. Never failed after the unmanned test flights, and huge lifting capability with Saturn V. They'd have been great for building the ISS if the US hadn't retired them.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 02:15pm on 15 January 2016

    It's a pretty crunchy game but it doesn't go into that much detail; a major failure when firing any rocket destroys the spacecraft and anyone on board.

    The names are really for colour, describing four different sizes of rocket, rather than representing historical hardware.

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