Back to the boardgame café. With images;
The first, and longest, game of the evening was
Agents of SMERSH,
which combines Arabian Nights-style narrative resolution with a
vaguely Pandemic-ish movement and opposition-growth mechanic. You
move around, track down Intel tokens, and fight the big bad guy's
henchmen; once you've won a certain number of henchman battles, you
end the game and see if you had the right tokens to stop the
villainous plot. After each of your turns, the villain gets stronger,
and airports are closed, making movement round the board slower.
The basic mechanic is a three-way combination of encounter card (which
is usually a fairly general term like "Car Chase" or "Torture"), the
stance you choose to take (perhaps "Better Part of Valor" or
"Overreact"), and a random number. This leads you into an entirely
arbitrary situation: maybe you'll be helping a fellow agent, chatting
up an uninvolved party, or assassinating Idi Amin.
Um? The tone never quite settles down: is it groovy sixties spy-fi, or
terribly serious with doomsday cults all over the place? In any case,
most encounters boil down to some sort of skill test which rarely
seems to have much to do with the options you chose, and it's
Eldritch Horror-style rolling of multiple dice, usually in the hope
of getting at least one success. Here the dice are dissimilar, with
some giving you better odds than others, a complication that I'm not
sure really adds to the game since you have to pick them at random.
There are some odd design decisions. Surviving the random encounters
is the most varied and interesting part of the game; the henchman
battles are rather more predictable, and therefore dull. But you can't
really plan for them or send the best agent for the job, because you
don't know which of the four henchmen you'll meet.
Once we'd got the hang of it we did reasonably well and won handily. I
have to say that the rulebook is terrible both for teaching and for
reference; most of our early struggles arose from its failure to lay
out a clear turn sequence.
It was good fun overall. I don't think I have room on my shelf for
both this and Arabian Nights, though this was quite a bit shorter.
Next we tried
intended as a quick introduction to the universe (and iconography) of
Race for the Galaxy.
It does a reasonable job, and my starting hand certainly suggested
routes I could take.
However, each scoring card scores every turn, and by the time I was
just starting to get my setup working another player had the victory.
A pleasant experience but I'm not sure how much depth there is here; I
can't see myself playing it even as often as proper Race for the
Our last game was
where monsters fight in an arena while magicians cast spells on them
so that their preferred one wins, while trying not to catch the
attention of the judges. It's very chaotic, with a fair bit of secret
information; we enjoyed playing but I don't think we'll rush back to
it any time soon. Still, not bad as an digestif for the end of the