Thursday, 26 April 2012

A Weekend of Games and Revelries

Over the weekend gone my brother and another good friend arrived in pomp and ceremony, with panoply and many a trumpet call, at the Castle gates.  There was feasting, aquatic displays, the imbibing of fine beverages, and of course, many a game.

A handful of the games played were becoming known to us, familiar like acquaintances working toward full-fledged friendship.  Others were wholly unknown, their arrival at our tables heralded with quiet and unsure reservation, but an open heart.

7 Wonders is a game that has attracted much praise in the small but vociferous online community of board game lovers.  Early comparisons to another favourite game of mine: ‘Fairy Tale’, garnered nought but hesitation and a willingness to disregard from me.  ‘What need I of a bigger game with more things to set-up, if I have such a game already, in much finer and sleeker a package?’ I thought to myself.

Having played the game nearly ten times so far I can say that it has grown on me.  From a willingness to disregard to an eagerness to play is not the product of online praise, but of a good and heartily enjoyable game.

In 7 Wonders players draft one card per turn that they must either play, or discard for money.  Some cards provide resources which expand a players ability to play other cards in the future, other cards break the rules in subtle ways, and other cards still are worth points - some a set amount, some an amount for a set.  Players must do the best they are able with one card of the cards they pick up each turn.  Slowly the capabilities of your ‘empire’ grow, enabling you to play more expensive cards in the future.  This progressive creep in capabilities makes for a highly enjoyable game, because of course, players are doing their best to ensure that this progressive creep creeps in the direction they want; one that is going to score many points.

All in all it is a highly enjoyable experience.  There is not too much set-up, and what is more, the game plays at a fast and engaging pace - it is one of those games that lasts just the right amount of time for the game play it offers.  It is a different game to the inestimable Fairy Tale.  A bigger and more involved game, without being layered in anything overly complex.  It is a rare game for me in that I would happily play it multiple times in a row - highly enjoyable and much recommended.

A smaller game to grace the high table was Chronicle - a small trick taking game where the way of scoring the point for each trick changes every round.  Players have a hand of numbered cards, cards that each also have a power that is usually activated the moment the card is played.  Of course the game is really in the powers and how they can be used to mess with the trick enough to help a player across the line and score them a point.  There is nothing overly complex here, but it is highly enjoyable.  We played with three players, and I feel that the game would be at its best with 4.  Nonetheless, it is a good little game if you fancy trick taking games - the powers and the ever changing landscape of point-scoring rules makes for an interesting and engaging game.

The next game worth mentioning is Endeavor.  I had played a modified two-player game a long while ago and found it pleasant and forgettable. There are so many little bits and bobs that need to go out on the board that set-up is annoying at best.  Despite this ringing endorsement a little voice nagged at me to get the game to the table again...

We began the game long after the witching hour had come and gone - all of us were weary from our day’s exertions.  I, nearly nodding off to sleep, meandered through the rules to the general confusion of all involved - including myself.  Despite what would seem insurmountable difficulties, we managed to set the game up and muddle through a turn.  And click.  It just happened.  Everything started to make sense, and my vague and wandering appraisal of the rules seemed suddenly daft in the light of what had become, of a moment, a simple and interesting game.  Yes, there are lots of little cogs all whirring beneath the surface, and yes, the billion chits are annoying to set up, but all three of us found the game to be highly enjoyable; a fascinating development game, where players struggle to build themselves the potential to take the actions they require to score the points needed to win.  This is a game that is most certainly coming back to the table - and soon.

Endeavor is a very good little economic/building game.  One of the things I like most about it is the finite nature of the game - it will end after 7 turns - at that point the player with the most points will win.  This system may mean that eventually the game will stagnate into an uninteresting malaise of optimised and pre-determined choices - but we are nowhere near this stage yet (and with so many games to play, will be unlikely to get there).  Endeavor is yet another game I chastise myself for leaving on the shelf for so long...

Lastly it is worth mentioning the most epic game of those attempted - Runewars.  This is a strange mixture of a game - part economic, part empire building, part wargame, part... and yet, despite its disparate elements it all seems to coalesce rather nicely.  We failed to get in a full game due to time constraints (damn you inexorable time!), but at the stage we left it the game was fascinatingly poised.

In Runewars players gain resources for those spaces they control.  Resources can be used to ‘muster’ certain things, like troops, influence and so on.  Every turn a season card will be overturned - providing some random event, as well as a seasonal phase.  Players will then pick a card to play - with each card allowing for a certain action and potential bonus.  The game, with its mixture of seasonal phases, action cards and bonuses, is all about timing.  Planning a campaign year, and seeing it come off exactly as you wanted is an absolute joy.  Having to suddenly change plans mid-year because of the encroachment of some enemy force is tense as you scramble to see what can be done with what you have left yourself.  

The winning condition is something of an area majority - with players wanting to control 6 or whatever Dragon Runes to win the game.  Regardless though, it is a large and sprawling game, there are systems and subsystems at play, but on the whole the game plays smoothly and remains tense and interesting throughout - thoroughly recommended for those who like a game with chapters.

Phew - well that’s a rough run-down of the weekend of revelries.  Many a game found its way to the high table, many a game with which we were unfamiliar.  All left as firm friends - with hopeful promises that we should meet again soon... we shall see.

There is an old saying from the Norse book of wisdom: the Havamal - “It is far away to an ill friend, even though he live on one's road; but to a good friend there is a short cut, even though he live far off.”

None of the games played this weekend now gone are ill-friends.  All found a place in our collective hearts, and will forever be welcome guests at our high table.



  1. i would have really loved to finish runewars, pity we left it so late to set up and start. It really was left at an interesting point just as empires were starting to clash. Still next time i'm sure we'll bust it out. Endevour was awesome, i really liked that one. Well paced, plenty of choice and so on. Was good fun. Can't wait till next time hehehe.

  2. Can't wait to get that big box down again - if if it means being crushed beneath its mighty weight!

    Next time = hopefully soon!

  3. I love Rune Wars, but because of the length I don't get to play it much. Might bring it down to Bordercon.

    I love the fact that it's more a Euro with Ameritrash trappings, than Ameritrash with Euro trappings.

    1. A sheep in wolf's clothing! Yeah - the timing is so important - like in many euros - that stuffing that aspect up in play can put you behind - all those interesting systems, and the time pressure of trying to get them humming before the other players do, makes for a game that is a lot of fun!

  4. No mention of Danger 5???

    1. Oh my God! They're weapon proof! Hehehehe - funny show!