Monday, May 24, 2010

Atlanta Game Fest Wrap-Up Part 1

I just returned from Atlanta Game Fest, so it seems like the perfect time to resume blog updates. The event consisted of four days of wall-to-wall boardgaming with far too little sleep in-between. Over the course of the weekend, I played a quantity of games that can only be properly described as "a crapload".

The final tally looks something like this:
31 total game sessions played
20 different games
14 games that were new to me
2 unpublished prototypes

In the coming days I'm going to post a few sets of capsule reviews of the new games I tried. It's difficult to form a solid opinion from only one or two plays of a game, but I'll give it my best shot.

Havana - A light resource-management and action selection card game. Players secretly choose cards to play from a set deck. The cards allow players to gather resources, steal from each other, and ultimately acquire the victory point tiles that inhabit the middle of the table. The unique thing here is the method of choosing turn order -- each player's pair of cards in play forms a two-digit number, which determines who gets to perform actions first. Each new card will cover up an existing one, resulting in an ever-changing number. The higher numbered cards are much more powerful, but going early is the only way to maximize resources. This trade-off mechanic is relatively simple, but the game is short enough (around 30 minutes) that it doesn't get stale before a winner is determined. Rating: 7/10

Peloponnes - Resource-management is one of my favorite themes, while I'm not generally a fan of games with a heavy auction or bidding component. This left me a bit torn on Peloponnes, as both elements factor heavily into this game. Improve your city and cultivate the surrounding lands, while making sure to feed your citizens and prepare for the upcoming, inevitable disasters. Sounds cool, huh? Unfortunately, the bidding mechanic feels too limiting, as once a player bids on anything, he is committed to paying exactly that amount for something. This constraint probably helps the game from devolving into an all-out bidding war every turn, but that may be just what this game needs. I didn't hate Peloponnes (and actually ended up winning by two points), but overall it left me a little flat. Rating: 5/10

Castle Panic - In this semi-cooperative game, players work together to protect a castle from an onslaught of orcs, trolls, and other nasty critters. Attack cards are continually dealt out to players, which allow them to attack the rampaging hordes based on their current position (for example, archers can hit monsters that are far away, while swordsmen have to wait until the monsters are almost upon the walls). If the castle is destroyed, all of the players lose. However, unlike most traditional cooperative games, there is a "winner": the player responsible for slaying the most enemies. Honestly, I don't know that this element is necessary. The game is already difficult, and not helping the other players to the best of your ability seems counter to the spirit of a co-op game. Of course, this point was moot for our session, since the Orc King showed up with his buddies and trashed our castle quite effectively. Castle Panic is fun, but I doubt it would ever be my first choice when looking for a co-op game to pull off the shelf. Rating: 6/10

Union Pacific - I know. Everyone has played this except me. However, I'd never had the opportunity until this weekend, and I was excited to finally give it a try. I wasn't disappointed; while UP ultimately a stock investment game, players have a lot of control over their own fortunes, and there's a lot more depth than I expected. There's a fine balance between enticing other players to invest into improving routes that help your stocks while attempting to keep a majority share on as many companies as possible. I can see why this is my wife's favorite boardgame, and I look forward to playing it again (I only wish it were possible to actually buy a copy without paying an arm and a leg). Rating: 8/10 (and may go up with more plays)

Wasabi - Pick up ingredients and place them on the board to create sushi combos and score points -- the bigger the combo, the more points scored. There's nothing really revolutionary about this tile-placement game, but it is light, fun, and well-themed. The special action cards make Wasabi just deep enough to keep me interested, and I'd definitely try it again in the future. Rating: 7/10

That's all for now! In the next installment I'll cover The Golden City, Cyclades, Samarkand, Medici, and Summoner Wars.


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