This was a full weekend of gaming, for me. Saarya and Tal were both here for the weekend, which only happens once every three weeks.
Our guests for dinner were Zeke, who comes occasionally to the Wed night games, and his mother Mindy. Zeke is about 14 years old, by the way.
After dinner, Zeke, Mindy, Saarya, Tal and I played Zug im Zug, otherwise known as Ticket to Ride. I had played TtR:Europe at BGG.con and was hoping that this could be a game that both Tal and Saarya could enjoy. Net reaction: it's ok. Maybe we are spoiled from five years of gaming already, having broken our teeth on Settlers and Cities and Knights and so on, but TtR is not quite deep enough for us, at least on first playing.
I will say this: it is a very elegant game. It combines a very few rules for a complete game experience. There are just the right amount of decisions to be made on your turn, but not too many. And all with very few rules to the game. Add to that some nifty pieces, an educational map, and you're good to go.
However, it lacks a bit. Since you don't really know what other people need to do, blocking them is usually more of an accident, rather than educated guesswork (although there's some of that). Most of all, it lacks any sort of story arc; the game plays the same from the very beginning to the end and then it stops; then you count points. Some sort of mechanism that required an increasing minimum route length as the game progressed would be slightly more interesting. And of course, the luck of the routes is a big factor, although variants on the web are designed to solve that problem.
So let's say it's 85% of the game we want at 30% of the complexity, which is a good tradeoff. SoC is 70% of the complexity for 95% of the game. I don't think TrR will replace SoC as our introductory game of choice, but it is a strong candidate for being one of the first ones out.
Anyway, Zeke cleaned up in our first game with 115 points. I was the next closest at 88 points.
Saturday Tal brought over some friends. They played TtR again; I forget who won. After dinner we played 4-player Settlers which played ok, although one of them was more interested in the LotR:tConfrontation game I played simultaneously with Saarya. In the Settlers game, there was a lot of giggling, and one of the girls didn't really try, buying only Devel cards whenever she could. I knocked out four cities and a Longest Road.
Meanwhile, Saarya took white in LotR. This was his second game. The first time he beat me playing black. This time he beat me playing white. I must be getting old. Somehow our pieces just kept trading off until we each had three left. Unfortunately mine were not able to get to the Shire or intercept Frodo before he could waltz in.
Lastly I introduced Saarya to Maharaja, and also tried it as a 2 player game. It played pretty well, actually. We played with the variation that each player kept picking roles whenever they chose role swap until we both had three, and thereafter we traded roles. So we each had three roles from the second round onwards. We also played that the role owner had +1 in the corresponding city.
I really like the game; I like it as much as I like El Grande, and there sure are a lot of similar mechanics between the two. However, the one thing that bothers me about Maharaja is the victory conditions. Aside from the fact that the rich kind of get richer, somewhere around midgame one person gets out a palace one round earlier than the other person and that kind of wraps it up as long as he can keep doing so each round thereafter.
Which only matters because the winner is the first person with seven palaces. Two of my game group members complained about the same thing during game night and I dismissed them, but I now kind of agree with them. As a general rule in games, the mechanism for gaining resources should not be the same mechanism for victory points, unless there is a clear means of ganging up on the leader or otherwise making up for a deficiency. Settlers has the robber and trading, Power Grid has the turn order. Maharaja has the blind actions, but it's not quite enough.
In any case, it doesn't prevent me from enjoying the game; I may just have to think if there is anything I can do that would make it slightly more to our taste in victory conditions.
After shabbat I reviewed my player's character sheets and answered an email from a new potential player. The next two days are semi-vacation.