Monday 30 March 2009

Replayablility and Reviews

There seems to be a shortage of good Age of Conan reviews, right now. Having now played the game as three of the four kingdoms, I can say some things about it, but not that much. Maybe the game is too "deep" to allow quick quality reviews.

On the surface Age of Conan looks like a Risk variant. Underneath that layer is a game about converting resources into victory points. You essentially have three types of resources: Conan bid tokens, cards, and the fate dice.

Conan bid tokens (plus a strategy card) convert to control of Conan (assuming you win the auction). Control of Conan gives you access to adventure tokens (which can be kept for potential end game scoring or converted to money/sorcery), Conan's aid in battle, and ability to drop raider tokens (negative points and/or make neutrals harder to take).

Fate dice let you do 4 things: move emissaries (main source of gold in the game), move armies (main source of VP in the game), get cards (which make your other actions more efficient), or effect Conan (either by dropping raiders, shortening the adventure track or moving Conan more quickly to his destination).

And cards (as I claimed earlier) aid your efficiency. Increasing your odds in dice contests, giving you special powers to sway events in your favor, and so on (I'm not that familiar with Stygia's deck so I'll keep things vague).

I am familiar with Aquilonia, Turan, and Hyperborea. I know what most of my opponents have hidden in their kingdom decks. I am not surprised when Turan plays Sultan's Gold (for example).

But all of this still feels like the surface of the game. I'd need a lot more plays to see how it all pans out. All these fun plays are just me getting a handle on the strategy and tactics allowed by the game.

I've tried a game where I tried to control Conan via lots of card draws (for the auction), tried a cash strategy (doesn't do much unless you have play on the table cards to fuel), and even tried a military only approach. Each has some merit and I don't think there is an optimal path through the game.

Multiple paths to victory and all that.

Maybe the reason there are so few good reviews of Age of Conan out there is that the game takes time to learn and enjoy (which is true of teaching and individual sessions). Maybe that level of depth will give Age of Conan a level of replayability that most new games lack.

But those new games do get quick quality reviews. Oh well.

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Upcoming games

Valley Games has announced a release date for Republic of Rome. They say it will be out in Summer 2009. Call me a cynic, but board games seem to frequently miss release dates. I am okay with that. I'd prefer a quality product over one that hit a release.

Long time blog readers will remember that I posted a similar topic back in July of 2008. Hopefully it will be out before Christmas '09.

Speaking of games which aren't officially out in the US, how about them boats that Le Havre is on?

Le Havre was printed in Europe and got on a boat about 15 days ago. Since I ordered a copy from a local store instead of Essen copies, which were available on-line, I am still waiting for the boat.

It is kind of ironic that a game about shipping and a harbor town is currently on a ship at sea. At least I've gotten a chance to play someone else's copy.

Personally, I like Le Havre. It would seem like the kind of game that I'd dislike: engine building games where you have to "turn the crank".


Maybe it isn't an engine building game, at all. The majority of actions are resource gathering or resource transformation. Maybe the game is about transforming resources into the most valuable stuff (while dealing with the overhead of feeding your workers).

If you are waiting for Le Havre, Republic of Rome, or something else, I hope your desired outcome happens soon. For me the funniest part of the game is in the playing, and we can't do that until the game, itself, actually arrives.

Friday 13 March 2009

Long Games

Played Age of Conan and Android. I really enjoyed both games, but I'm not close to being able to review them.

I've been Louis Blaine in both Android games. They've been different cases (which make the game play differently), but same character. I even ended up with the same starting plot.

In the second game, I played Louis more in character. He didn't have the maga-happy ending with his wife, but did catch the criminal. Going for the marginally happy ending gave Louis extra powers (ability to move evidence after following up a lead), which isn't there if you resolve the first 3 days favorably. Being able to place evidence helped a lot (Louis was also obsessed with his suspect).

But there is so much more to the game: 4 other characters to try, many other cases, different strategies to try out with each character. Only problem is the length-phobic gamers make it harder to get played than other games.

Played a full game of Age of Conan (as Aquilonia). I seemed to be doing pretty good conquering territory, but the game ended shockingly: Stygia crowned Conan king. Last time I checked Conan hated Stygia, but they had enough "women" tokens to win Conan over.

I had also left 1 army unit alone next to Stygia. They were able to attack it for a Crom counts the dead token. This was enough to give them +3 points (instead of +1 for ties on Crom counts the dead). Did I mention that I lost by 1 point?

Although, if he thought he wouldn't win via crowning Conan the game would have ended normally and Hyperborea
would have won. They had the majority of Monster and Treasure tokens (+10 points) which would have put them in the lead.

It is amazing to play a quick 3.5 hour game (with 3-4 players, one player left early), and still be within striking distance of each other. The "rubber banding" mechanism of the Conan bonus card didn't seem to come into play (although that might be because Hyperborea
had it and they kept winning Conan auctions).

I'd like to play the game again as a different kingdom (probably one of the sorcerous ones) to see how the game changes, but as it is the game is great fun.

Not sure when/if I'll be picking up a new game. The current crop of games are very fun (at least the first few times) and need a lot of time. This is probably a good thing, why spend money on a "disposible game"?