10th November 2019
Sunday lunch time at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking. 50 Fathoms is still on hiatus, so board games it is.
We actually begin the day with a card game. A little 2 player 'Alice in Wonderland' themed game called 'Wonderland'. Yeah... Someone spend a while coming up with that.
What's in a game?
Wonderland is quite a minimalist game. There is a deck of cards for each player and each deck has only 7 cards in it. 7!
Despite the differing artwork, the 2 decks are identical.
The theme though, is entirely replaceable, it could as easily been about cats v dogs or elves v orcs or whatever v whatever.
How's it play?
The purpose of Wonderland is to place cards down in the playing area (In a 3x3 grid.) to 'win' the rows and columns.
After deciding who will be playing who, each player should take their respective deck.
Rows and columns are 'won' by calculating the value of each players' cards in each row and each column, the player who has the highest value in each row and each column 'wins' it and takes that row or column's face-down card.
However, it's not just the value of the cards that matter here. The poison and the cake play a vital role here.
Wonderland is an interesting little game that seems to be about trying to out-predict the other player and ruthlessly take advantage of any error the other player may make.
Playing a card with a cake or poison symbol facing the right way can dramatically change the scores.
There's also an element of bluffing here, as each player essentially has to discard 3 cards and only play 4. This means it not possible to count cards as a player never knows what their opponent has put into their row or column.
Wonderland is a quick game to play and is small and portable.
I don't think it's a game that stands up to a lot of repeatedly play. But has a quick filler for 2 players it's OK.
15th October 2019
Tuesday evening has rolled around again and we're at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking. This can only mean it's games night.
Our game of the evening is 'Gold West'. A game for rootin' tootin' prospectors and quite possibly outlaws and bandits.
What's in a game?
There are quite a lot of components in Gold West. The general game components are:
How's it play?
Before beginning, setup needs to be carried out:
Resources are supplied through the supply track.
So now that resources have been moved out of the supply track, they must be used. There are 5 resources and 3 of them are precious metals - gold, silver and copper. In this stage, the precious metals are 'spent'.
Build camp/settlement or loot
After using metals, the active player has to build a camp or settlement, or loot. This is done using wood and/or stone resources that were bought out of the supply track along with the metals.
This means that having more than 1 stone or 1 wood is a waste as these will be discarded. A player only needs a stone or a wood, or a stone and a wood.
That's it for a player's turn, it seems like a lot, but in play it's pretty straightforward.
Gold West is played over 11 rounds, players have ten tents to use and there's a further round with no tents. Then we get on to scoring, points are scored in the following ways:
There's a lot to like about Gold West.
The supply mechanic is equal parts infuriating and brilliant. If you put your resources in the lower boxes and have trouble getting them out effectively, it's only your own fault for being greedy for points. But if you're able to manage the flow of resources well, it's a good source of points.
Talking of points, Gold West presents players a good variety of ways to score points. There is always a way to accumulate points, it's a question of optimisation and individual strategy. Players are always given meaningful choices on how to approach scoring. Even if a player fails to bring out a stone or wood resource, they still have the open to loot.
I also like how resources become revealed as players build camps and settlements on the map. It's a nice touch.
The game is also a nice looking game, I like the stagecoach meeples and there's something pleasing about looking at the game map covered in lots of tent meeples.
All in all I liked Gold West.
7th September 2019
Saturday evening. Matakishi's. Game night.
Tonight we decided to play another classic board game. This time it was 'Britannia', a game originally published in 1986, over 30 years ago.
Britannia is a historical game of invasion and conquest and when I say invasion and conquest, I really do mean constant invasion and conquest.
In Britannia, players do not play a single nation or tribe or whatever. Instead they play a colour and each colour has 4 nations of varying size. Each colour will have 1 nation that benefits from a 'major invasion', this explained later.
Britannia is played over 16 rounds and centuries of time. The game starts with the Roman invasion (So around 43 A.D..) and end with the Norman invasion (Around 1066 A.D..).
Even though each player has control of 4 factions, the factions do not appear at the same time in the game. They appear when 'historically appropriate' in various turns throughout the game.
What's in a game?
How's it play?
The rules for Britannia are relatively simple. The complexity comes from the interaction with the other players.
Before the game begins we have set up. Each player chooses a colour and is given all the relevant tokens for that colour, the play begins.
One other thing worth noting are 'major invasions'. Each player will have a faction that has a major invasion at some point. A major invasion means that the relevant faction gets to turns in a row.
Britannia is played over 16 rounds. Scoring occurs throughout the game, but not on every round. In fact not all the factions score at the same time, some factions score on entirely different rounds.
Additionally, when scoring is carried out, different factions score different points for controlling different areas of the board. Which means that different factions may have different priorities. However quite often opposing factions score points for the same regions, invariably pushing them into conflict with one another.
After all the rounds have been completed, points are tallied and highest score wins.
Britannia is a wargame and as such is very confrontational. It's a game that charts the historic invasions and conquests of early Britain. It turns out there were a lot of invasions and conquests! Players will more or less be in constant conflict with other players and there's no way to avoid it.
Combat is a key component in Britannia: Luckily, the basics of the rules are simple to remember. Mostly players will be looking into how to expand into and hold high scoring areas and this drive most of the game's conflict.
Asymmetrical rules make Britannia interesting and quite unique.
I like how the asymmetrical factions give different players advantage at different times. So for example; whoever has the Romans will gain an early lead, but after that they will have smaller factions appear.
Combined with the asymmetrical scoring that gives different players different objectives means that the end score is always unpredictable.
I do have a couple of minor criticisms of Britannia.
Britannia should only really be played with 4 players. Sure you can play with 3 or 5 players, but it's not optimal.
Britannia can take about 4 hours to play, so it requires quite a time commitment. I guess a millennia of invasions of Britain can't be played out quickly!
But these small criticisms aside; Britannia is an involved but entertaining game to play, provided you don't mind a game about conflict with other players.
4th June 2019
Tuesday night and it's game time at 'The Sovereigns' in Woking with the board game club.
Does the idea of game about slowly growing trees excite you? If the answer is yes, then Photosynthesis is the game for you!
What's in a game?
All of the components of photosynthesis are made from card. All of the of the tokens, even the trees. There are no plastic meeples or soulless wooden cubes here.
And even though this is the case, they are still good components. When a bunch of trees are all on the playing board. It looks impressive.
In photosynthesis there is a main playing board and a sun marker to indicate the direction of the sunlight. Additionally, each player has their own board that contains most of the seeds and trees needed to play the game.
Players also start with some seeds and trees that are not on the player board that are 'available' to use. There is an important difference between the two that will explained a little further down.
How's it play?
The premise of Photosynthesis is to plant seeds, grow the seeds until they become the largest possible trees and then score points from those trees.
In a normal game, play continues until the sun has completed 3 revolutions of the board. It takes 6 rounds to complete 1 revolution. Thus players each have a total of 18 turns to win the game.
Each round consists of 2 phases.
So now that all the players have calculated their light points, play proceeds to the next phase.
That's it for the basic rules. There are, however a few other rules to remember which are very important.
All of these rules basically serve one purpose - to slow the game down. And that makes complete sense, this is a game about growing trees after all. It forces players to think a few turns ahead.
It takes time to score points. A tree can only score points when it is a 'large' size. It takes 4 actions to plant a seed and then go to a small, medium and large tree. Then it takes a 5th action to score it.
Furthermore it will take more actions and light points to 'buy' the seed and 3 different sized trees from the player board in order to do this.
Photosynthesis is a peculiar beast: It's a little bit like a worker placement game with trees earning light points from their positioning and it's a little bit like an area control game, where larger trees will shut out surrounding smaller ones.
It's simple to learn but forces players to adopt a 'ent-like' mentality towards the games varied choices, strategies and occasional hard decisions. It's slow place means players cannot burn light point to do one thing quickly. Sometimes it's possible to speed events by sacrificing seeds or trees, but this can be tricky choice as it's permanent. I'm sure there are ties when it is prudent to do so. But slow and steady, that's the way to go.
I think all of this good and makes for a good game. I'm sure Treebeard would agree!
I play, I paint.