Having accidentally acquired China Moon (I asked someone to pick me up a copy of China Moon but I really meant to ask them to pick up Blue Moon), I figured I might as well try it. I had some conflicting expectations.
First of all, it looked pretty simple and weird, what with rubber frogs moving around on a race track collecting flowers. Was this a children's game, basically?
On the other hand, it was from Bruno Faidutti, a very respected game designer. I have to say, I really respect him, too. He has an impressive list of games designed, many of them quite popular. He has a great website and is active in the online board gaming world. He also seems to be a great guy all around.
On the other hand, my only other experience with a Faidutti game is Citadels, a game that I don't really like. You don't know how much I hate the fact that I don't like it. I console myself with the following: I also don't really like Goa. Both Citadels and Goa are rated in the top 100 games (so to speak) out of millions, and the fact that I don't like them is not going to change the fact that everyone else does. I am VERY happy about that. I wouldn't want anyone else not to like something just because I don't. These games just have a certain mechanic that doesn't appeal to me, that's it.
Now I am about to try my second Faidutti game, with low expectations. Ugh. I would have preferred to have a few other of his more highly rated games to try first, so that I don't risk batting 0 for 2 with him.
So anyway, that is my mindset.
I am pleased to say that China Moon turned out to be a pleasant little game, and dare I say, even elegant.
The game has some minor random set up elements, and then has no luck. Each player moves 3 frogs exactly two hops each around an occasionally branching track, skipping over any spaces occupied by other frogs. At least one of the frogs you move may not be your own. When your frog lands on a flower you pick it up. When your frog lands on a spring you move again. When your frog lands on a "silly frog" you exchange flowers with another player. When your frog lands on a butterfly, you drop a flower. When your frog lands in the end zone you get one of the end zone flowers, in landing order. The game ends when the fourth frog is in the end zone. Flowers are worth 1,3,6,... for sets of the same color, with the very last flower a special one worth 4 points, and one black flower worth -2 point.
Pretty simple, really. The elegance comes from several different aspects. The rules are dirt simple, but the variable movement caused by obstructing frogs makes it a challenge to get where you want to go. Some other frog master is likely to find a way to send your frog down the wrong branch, run your frog into a butterfly, or cause you to jump over the flower you want, and then you can't go back and pick the flower up.
Also, the game moves forward pretty neatly. It is usually possible to catch up from a losing position. And the theme is fun.
There are a few less elegant aspects to the game. The start of the game is very crowded, and one player will typically fall behind in the track while others move forward. While this seems bad, it is not necessarily bad for your score, as you can often pick up dropped flowers by other players. It's just a little inelegant, as you are forced into playing a certain role. Off the top of my head, a board designed more like Sorry or Chinese Checkers might have worked better, where all frogs don't start from the same location.
Also, despite the variability of which color flowers are laid onto the flower spaces, you always want to take every flower you can (aside from black) so it doesn't really present much choice in that regard.
All in all, I was happy to play it and I will be happy to play it at least a few more times, especially with a different number of players. We played three player, myself, Rachel and Saarya, and Saarya won 8 to 7 to 6.
In other news, I received my first GeekGold tip for a strategy article about T&E. Come to think of it, I really haven't posted much to the Geek recently. I am months behind in my session reports. I'll have to take care of that in my copious free time.
Oh, and somehow I just jumped to 160,000 on Technorati. I wonder how that happened.