Saturday, December 03, 2005

Weekend Gaming

Friday night: guests, their 6 year old son and a friend. The son taught his friend chess on our Star Wars: Attack of the Clones chess board (nifty looking, actually). Then I gave them a deck of cards to play War, and then I gave them Othello. This was during dinner, so I didn't have time to sit and teach them anything else.

Saturday lunch: at Nadine's house, afterwards we player Puerto Rico with Nadine's daughter, Ginat. I had difficulty acquiring a trade good, even though I bought an early Factory. Nadine also had Factory and four goods, while Rachel was massively producing with Hospice (we play that a colonist gets moved onto it the moment you buy it) and Hacienda. Ginat had a coffee monopoly for most of the game, but only a few game's worth of playing experience.

Somewhere near the end of the game either Rachel took a phase too many or I did something wrong and we became totally confused as to which round we were in, who was governor, and so forth. After some arguing, it looked like it might be my turn and I ended the game, feeling sure that more rounds wouldn't help me, although I did have Harbor. The game ended with Nadine at 51, me at 50, and Rachel at 47, with Rachel convinced that she may have won if we had gone one more round.

Saturday night: I visited my older brother David who doesn't get out of the house much because he has a perennially sick child. Every once in a while I show them some new games and they end up buying a few of them.

First up was my prototype, as in really my pre-prototype, because I hadn't had a chance to cut any more copies of my printed prototypes since I sold the last one on Game Night. We played twice, and Pini, David's eldest, won both games. David thought the "buy a card out of the discard pile" mechanism didn't happen enough, but I'm not sure if that's bad, and I'm not sure how I would change it without wrecking it, anyway. Anyway, they liked it, and I will be sending them a copy for Hanukkah.

Next was Torres, which they liked, although it was certainly a more complicated game. I won by a reasonable margin, but no overkill. Both David and his two kids did pretty well for a first playing.

Last was St Petersburg. I went into this knowing that the game had problems. I even tried to fix one of the major problems by having all blue buildings score an additional time at the end of the game. It didn't help.

I am convinced that this game is deeply and inherently flawed beyond fixing. It seems to me that the game is entirely determined by the order the cards flip up, and the amount of control that you have concerning this order, while not nil, is too slight to matter. I grabbed an Observatory first turn and walked off with the game without even a challenge. Whether the right Aristocrats will flip up, whether Aristocrat exchange cards flip up in a way that you can grab them, and the complete dominance of the Aristocrat cards - it's just not any fun.

Maybe, maybe the game can be fixed by changing the Aristocrat bonus to 2 pt/Aristocrat, instead of a progression. Frankly, I can't understand how this got out the door in its current form, let alone won Game of the Year. I must be missing something really obvious.


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