Thursday, 12 January 2012

Summer gaming with my dearest love...

The expected fullness of summer has, in all it’s glorious arrival, been something of an anticlimax.  The weather: cool, windy, and a patchwork of occasional rain.  Late January and February will undoubtedly bring the heat and burning sun out of this despicable malaise, not that I wish to hasten it.

There has been much travel, much attending to the grounds, and also quite a bit of gaming - which has been nice.  Now it feels as if that lazy plan of things we’d do in the holidays has reached the critical point of becoming impossible to achieve in the time remaining.  Our ‘tasks’ list has reached a euphemistic event horizon, and the desperate scrambling to cross things off has left little time for blogging and the like - we shall see how things progress over the next two weeks, so please forgive me if I’m sporadic - my radio waves are having a hard time escaping the singularity.

Some of the games we’ve managed to get to the table have been highly enjoyable.  Gaming with my dear love is always nice - a chance for us to relax after a day under the rule of the lad.  A chance for us to chat, laugh, and generally enjoy each others company.  As the sky farewells the sun with a pinky blush, what better way to spend an eve?

The three games we’ve managed to get to the table most recently have been Mondo, Burrows and Fresco.  All Christmas arrivals, it has been nice to be able to see what they offer.

Mondo is probably the most interesting of the three; we’ve played it perhaps 5 or 6 times now.  It’s a puzzling game, where ‘puzzling’ is a verb and a lots of animals and completed terrains is the objective.  Players simultaneously (and with one hand) take whatever tile from the centre of the table they can scrabble into their mit, and then place it on their ‘world’ board.  Of course it is better is all the tiles match up, and there are positive points to be had for every animal, and negative points for those one who ends up with the most volcanoes.  Points are also won for every completed terrain (for every forest, desert and grassland).  It’s basically the first phase of Galaxy Trucker turned into a complete game.  

However, as simple as that sounds there are some really neat aspects to it.  The game plays easily, is simple to learn, plays quickly and can be challenging.  There are also a number of variants available that mean you can ratchet up the difficulty to suit.  In fact, the different variants really add a lot of interesting aspects to the game, the demand you to not simply make the best of what you can, but while doing so also consider x, y or z.  

I would recommend this for people who enjoy puzzles, for people who have family members who like puzzles or for those who want a nice easy game that’s a little bit different from the usual Ticket to Ride or Carcassonne.  Of course, I also supply the caveat that there may be some people who’s minds simply do not function well with puzzle building - and for them this game is probably gong to feel very frustrating.  We’ve enjoyed it though.

Burrows was a game we hoped would be a light and easy game in a small box.  Players are building a network of burrows, trying to have a bigger burrow of the various types than other players, and thereby avoiding the penalty notes handed out each scoring round.  It’s an easy game to play, but my feeling with the two-player game is that each scoring round happen in too quick a succession.  The speed between rounds means that players have little opportunity to catch up.  If the lag between scoring rounds was slightly longer this might be a more interesting game.  We’ll play again with with this modification and see if things improve - it might also have been just us of course.  Sadly for us the game seemed simply ok.  Given the size of our game collection that means that it’s unlikely to come off the shelf when other, more interesting, games are clamouring for attention.  We’ll play again and see.

Fresco was the latest game to hit our table.  I really enjoyed some aspects of this game, but felt that the forward planning required was made moot by the potentially chaotic and ever changing state of the scoring tiles (or Fresco tiles).  I also felt that this was one of those games where one was continually swapping bits of this for bits of that.  Lastly, we played two-player and to do so introduces a dummy-player.  I am not a fan of dummy players at all - though having said that the Fresco dummy-player (Leonardo) was relatively easy to implement.

I’ve been informed by the gamer twitterati that playing with the expansions that come in the box really adds to the game - and given that for all my interminable whining I still enjoyed the game, I have hopes that these will lift the game play and make it a game we’ll play regularly - time shall tell, as they say.

In any case, that’s enough from me for now.  It’s late, I have been paring down my book collection - always a sad time, as saying farewell to books is like parting with old friends.  I have much preparation and painting to do in the next few days as we renew one of the rooms here at the Castle to make way for baby number 2.   

Look for me when I am least expected...




  1. Sad to hear you didn't think a great deal of Burrows. I haven't played it but it's been on the radar for a while and I'm curious about it as I enjoy tile-laying games of this nature.

    Mondo I have and really enjoy it. I get the puzzle building thing and this is a game that will get many plays from me. I haven't tried the solo variant yet.

    Fresco I've tried a couple of times and also enjoy. I wouldn't get it out too often but it's a refreshing change occaisionally.

    Nice read BTW - Simon

  2. Well I have to hold off my full opinion on Burrows until I've played it with more than 2, and I have played with 2 using an extended number of rounds between each scoring round. I like the tile laying aspect of the game, as well as the creation of the largest burrows to attract the gophers - that system is neat. I just didn't feel there was enough time between each of the scoring phases to allow a player to do much to better their position.

    I need to try Fresco with the various add-ons - I hope it'll be a game we quite enjoy.

    Mondo is good fun - and it's quick playing with a finite turn length.




  3. Hey Giles,

    do you think Burrows would work better with fewer scoring rounds? On the other, hand rushing players is one way designers create the feeling of wanting to do more and thus play more. Perhaps the effect is deliberate?

    Congrats too for the impending birth. Hope all goes well for you and Kylie. Do you have enough room (after moving some books on)? We're expecting #3 and have moved to a bigger place to accomodate us all.

  4. I think Burrows has the right number of scoring rounds - the problem is that the scoring rounds can happen every third tile played (in a two-player game) - each time a tile is laid that has a bus symbol on it the bus is moved one space towards 'the ranch' - when it arrives the complaints tokens are handed out for those players who don't have the appropriately coloured gophers.

    In a 2 player game the bus only need move three spaces from the city to the ranch - with a high percentage of tiles displaying the bus symbol, the bus moves quite quickly.

    When we played we felt there was not enough time for a player who is behind to do much to catch up - so they can potentially be hit by several rounds of complaint tiles (whoever has the least of these will win).

    I think with just one or maybe two spaces more between the City and the Ranch it might allow players more opportunity to make some sort of fight back. Having said that - we'll play another game and see how it goes - this was just our feeling from one play.

    Thanks!! Yes - we have enough room for now, though we'd love a bigger place! Congrats on #3 - very exciting!