Sunday, September 05, 2010

First Look at Indonesia

My good friends Bill and Shirley have returned to Israel for a few months, and they brought with them four things I asked them to bring to me from the US: the board game Indonesia, a box of random Magic card commons, an ICv2 magazine, and a cookie.

Indonesia is a well-regarded but expensive game. I bought it using a coupon code for Boards and Bits that I had received as a birthday present from a friend (thanks Abraham), combined with a (comparatively) low price for the game and free shipping offer from B&B.

Indonesia is a Splotter game. Splotter is a Netherlands game company that makes wildly imaginative, fantastic looking, fascinating games. Their games often feature revolutionary mechanics that are adapted and popularized by other companies for other games (which become more popular and successful). In the two other Splotter games that I've played, the games had a few mechanics that disn't work, or had a long playing time and a lot of bits, or had very non-intuitive game play. Indonesia is their second highest ranked game on BGG, and the highest rated one I have tried, so I have high hopes.

I experienced some initial buyer's remorse when I suddenly realized that I had bought a game that takes 3-4 hours to play. My game group doesn't do well with longer games. We never even managed to finish a game of Die Macher. What had I done? Could we ever finish a game of Indonesia?

Indonesia is a route building, pickup and delivery, and company acquisition game, combining aspects of Acquire and train games such as the 18xx series. We opened the game up to play a few sample turns, so that we would be ready for a complete game. I sat in for a few rounds (after which I had to leave) while the others played another round or two.

The rule book is a freaking mess, running on for dozens of pages of small print where a few pages of tighter language, ordered correctly, would have been much appreciated. The components are pretty enough, but I have yet to figure out how the boat colors and shapes make any sense. The map spaces aren't big enough for the items that need to go into them. None of this is enough of a problem to ruin the game (I'm looking at you, Railroad Tycoon).

As the rounds progressed, we began to make sense of the rules, and they were not all that complicated. It looks like a fine game. I don't know how long it will actually take.

Many times, longer popular games get reprinted in new editions that streamline their game play, making them more family oriented. E.g. Age of Steam to Stream, Lowenhertz to Domaine, etc. The first thing cut is the auction for turn order, which takes up a fair amount of time. There's added value having this auction, and losing it certainly removes a strategic element from the game; however, it is not really necessary. Removing that strategic element lets you focus on the other elements. That will probably be the first thing to go, if I want the game to be playable in my group. Some monetary adjustment may have to be worked in to accommodate that.

Otherwise, looking forward to trying a complete game.

As for the Magic cards, I was happy with the cards I got, mostly. I was promised, and received, no more than 4 of each card. But I would have been happier with no more than 2 of each card, or even 1 of each card. I like playing with new cards and their variety; I don't need them to build decks. So really, I only received about 350 new cards for my $20, which is still a decent deal.

As for the ICv2 magazine, I thought it would have a lot more, but it was just one or two dispensable articles and their industry top 10 tables that they eventually post online, anyway. Simple top ten tables without any further info (the rest of the games, how much the sales were, the sites reporting) is not much use.

As for the cookie, yum.
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