RogerBW's Blog

Thirsty Meeples January 2018 17 January 2018

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

We began with A Study in Emerald, a Martin Wallace game. And… it's OK, I guess. It's basically a deckbuilder with very limited ways of removing cards from your deck; although it's theoretically based on the Neil Gaiman short story, the connection with the theme is very loose, and the same mechanics could very easily be used with an entirely different setting.

Beyond the basic "capture cards to get points", there's a game of working out which side the other players are on (because the player in last place causes everyone on their side to lose a chunk of points at the end, in one of several possible endgame reversals); it's implementing the idea of spymasters not really knowing whom to trust, and that part works reasonably well.

But while the decks represent cities across Europe, most of the cards are shuffled into them with no pattern. Doctor Watson is in Cairo? Irene Adler in Madrid? The Fenians in St Petersburg? Zombies? Meh, sure, why not. Mostly they just give you action icons anyway.

I'll play it again now that we have a better idea of what's going on, but I'm not likely to buy it, and I suspect there's not a great deal of long-term enjoyment here.

A recent episode of Our Turn! mentioned The Networks, and we played that next. Players run TV stations, trying to juggle shows, stars and advertisements to maximise viewing figures. But shows and stars have a lifetime, and eventually lose their audience, so you have to decide when to replace them with new ones.

I liked this one a great deal, even though I came in last.

[Buy A Study in Emerald at Amazon] [Buy The Networks at Amazon] and help support the blog.


  1. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 10:27am on 17 January 2018

    At last, a game I've played that you've reviewed. Yay!

    I played this game several times on two separate games days. I desperately wanted to like it because Sherlock Holmes meets Cthulhu.

    I was left dissatisfied with the game because it appeals to those game players who want to take advantage of the 'edge rules' to win. And doing that sucks all the fun out of the game's theme. Or at least for me, it did. But this is down to my dislike of players whose idea of fun is winning.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 10:41am on 17 January 2018

    I suspect that the thing I call "abstraction/thematic gap" is what Rich of TfL might call "play the period, not the rules". If a game has a rich theme, I want to do things that match that theme: foil Irene Adler's nefarious plots and recruit her to do nefarious plots for me! Send agents to chase unspeakable monsters down the back alleys of Cairo! Feed the ducks in St James's Park while negotiating with someone I may like but can never trust! What I end up doing in this game is "I'll lift three influence cubes and put one back on the board".

    One of the reasons I gave up Battletech back in the day was that when I thought of it as an exercise in probability, rather than as a simulation of giant stompy robots, I won a lot more.

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