The game collection contraction effort has reached the second round. In the first go, we kept two full-sized games and one small card game, gave the thumbs-down to four games, and have retained one for consideration.
Here are the games in Round 2. Again, please keep my objective in mind: to send games away that don’t get played, not to pass judgement on games that might be favorites (but not our favorites.)
It’s back . . . cool clock notwithstanding, Merchants is a very interesting game, that deserves another shot at our game table. Still, I don’t know if it will survive closer scrutiny if the clock isn’t there to enhance the playing experience. (Ours is definitely non-functional, with very little use.)
An Alan Moon design from 2001, Das Amulett is a resource-acquisition and resource-expenditure game with an interesting bidding mechanism. Players move around the board trying to gather jewels to complete an amulet, and have special cards that give them powers . . . but the cards have a time limit built into them. Like many such games, clever play is built on card combinations, and there’s a lot to keep track of. A player with a particularly good combo can run to victory very quickly, and the game plays in a short enough time that it’s worth trying again.
Apparently it’s to be shortly rereleased as “Wizards’ Brew”; our set is in German with English card text attached to the cards.
UPDATE 17 June: Played three-player with L. and A. They both really liked it, though it took awhile to get the two types of auctions straight. When bidding for power cards the auction is once-around, with each player limited to available power stones (10 minus the number already allocated); when bidding for jewels on the board, the auction goes until someone wins. The biggest tactical mistake on the board is having no cards to bid with; an experienced player can run the table quickly, as noted above. Still, it was an enjoyable game and it does have beautiful components.
VERDICT: It stays, at least for now.
Beautiful plumage, mate.
This game is a Christwart Conrad design, originally published in 1998. It’s an area control game of sorts, in which houses are placed on cities to gain control for later scoring; the board is a tangle of roads and territories. This one has been on our shelf for a long time (we bought it when it was new) and is probably not well known in most Eurogaming circles; along with Moon’s UP it’s one of the first to allow six players (instead of the usual five).
The only other Conrad design I’ve actually played was Vino, released the following year by Goldsieber; I thought that one was a complete dud. This one . . . it’s in Round 2, so we’ll see.
An Alan Moon design from 2003. The game is about land development – optimizing the use of available tiles to acquire money and other resources. It’s mechanically very sound and easy to play, characteristics of a good Moon design; but I’ve never found it particularly compelling. It found its way into our collection by trade (with Alan, actually) and has never seen too much play.
UPDATE 2 July: Played a three-player game with A. and L. The game is extremely straightforward: bid high and pay more, but get a better choice; bid low, save your money, take what’s left. There are cards and tiles, and the current first player gets to choose 3-6 of one and the rest of the other, totalling 9. There are a few specials: ships, barns, pilgrims.
Overall, the ladies were unimpressed, and I was whelmed at best. It was a close game but there was precious little excitement.
VERDICT: It goes. Sorry, Alan.
Alan Moon strikes again. 2001 was an amazingly productive year for Alan, and this game was acquired from his hands at one of the earliest Unity Games events. Unlike Das Amulett (see above) or the wonderful San Marco, however, this game – that some people swear by – has never really gotten much play. As a result, it’s time for it to get put to the test.
UPDATE 9 July: L. and I played a two-player game, which won’t really give you a feel for the interaction part of the game – it’s got auctions after all. There’s a lot of cleverness in the game, with the cards serving different roles (type of card for actions during construction, number on card for bidding during auction), and the idea of building off board to place on board . . . but the mechanic fell flat for L. I don’t think it will come out anytime, so it’s not something that needs to stay.
VERDICT: It goes. Sorry again, Alan.
This 1999 Thorsten Gimmler design got a lot of play when we first added it to the collection, but has fared badly on Boardgamegeek. It’s a race game, with an unusual design for movement – the placement of navigational tiles. There’s a certain amount of luck involved with the drawing of these tiles – so it tends to be more of a tactical game than a strategic one, and of course it’s only a sailing game in theme and not in the sense of a “realistic” sailing simulation (as with a game like Regatta, which has tacking ‘n’ stuff. But it does have a sailing “feel” at least at some level.
Gimmler’s other designs have at times made it into the collection, particularly the fine two-player Odin’s Ravens and the clever, nasty Geschenkt (No Thanks), both of which get played regularly.
Around the Horn
UPDATE 15 June: Played two-player with L., and I pointed out the win to her. We liked playing it and it’ll get to come out again.
VERDICT: It stays, at least for now.
One of the Kosmos 2-Player series, this Uwe Rosenberg et. al. design revolves around card play of various “cultures” to build, enlarge, and knock over temples. It’s a tactical game which rewards planning and hand management, and ultimately is much more of a game of skill than luck, but for some reason has rarely made it to our table.
UPDATE 15 June: L. didn’t think much of the playability of this one. There are people who really like this one, but for a two-player game to survive in our collection, L. has to like it. She didn’t, not really at all.
VERDICT: It goes.
This 1999 Knizia design was a very early Rio Grande import. It looks like a lot of other train games – except that there’s a veto/voting mechanism to control the direction of development, there’s a whole stock manipulation aspect, and the merger mechanism is very different. There are a number of different ways to score, and the game takes some effort to wrap your head around it: some devoted, clever gamers I know have given up on it, unable to determine what to do. Still, it plays fairly quickly, and like most Knizias has a lot of “I have three things to do and only two actions” feel to it.
Stephenson’s Rocket midgame
UPDATE 21 June: We played it three-player; L. and I wound up close, with A. trailing behind. All of us played well – but A. despised it and L. said that it hurt her head. The problem is that I still like the game, though it hurts my head too. I don’t think this will wind up being on our table very often.
VERDICT: Unless I decide I want to bring it out from time to time to hurt people’s heads, it probably goes.