21st December 2019
It's the last Saturday night before Christmas and we're at Matakishi's for some board games.
This is a game about accumulating stocks in railway companies, running railway companies and paying out dividends.
Yep, this is 'Irish Gauge' and not 1830.
Irish Gauge is a game that simultaneously is the same as and also completely different to 1830.
That is, it shares the same themes as 1830, but is a quite different game.
What's in a game?
Irish Gauge components.
How's it play?
We begin with setup, which is pretty simple.
Before normal play commences, there is a 'initial auction' This is where players get to bid on and auction one share from each of the 5 companies.
In their turn, the active player can perform 1 of 4 actions, these are: Place track, place a special interest, auction a share and call for a dividend.
This is probably the most common action in the game
The game ends when there are no more cubes in the bag, either because of a dividend being called or placing a cube as a special interest on the board.
All players tot up their cash plus the initial value of the shares they own. Highest cash wins.
Irish Gauge is a railway building game with stocks and shares and companies.
It's actually quite a common theme in board games. But Irish Gauge plays nothing like any of these other games.
It seems like the basic strategy is that players need to build railways, to issue dividends, to buy shares.
Simple, right? Not necessarily.
Whilst players may want to maximise their railway network before calling dividends, to get as much money as possible to have more funds when bidding on shares during an auction.
Waiting a long time to buy shares is a risky move.
Why? There limited opportunities to call for dividends because when the game starts, there will only be 22 cubes in the bag and each dividend uses 3 cubes. So there's maximum of 8 times a dividend can be called - and the last dividend will be with 1 cube! This is of course, provided nobody uses cubes to upgrade towns.
So shares bought later in the game will benefit less because there will be less dividend pay outs. This isn't so bad if you get a shares at the initial value, but that's unlikely to occur. So paying an extra 20 to get a share that only pays out 5 twice is actually a loss of 10!
This means players will want to get shares as quick as possible, but at the same time, it's prudent to wait and see if other players have low funds as this is a great time to trigger an auction, since they may have to pass, giving the active player a share at the initial value.
It's like some sort of horrible balancing act.
There's more as well. If a player thinks they benefit from a dividend more than anyone else, then they might ignore buying shares or improving their network and may just call dividend after dividend and 'run out' the game. However there's a random element to dividends, so they may scupper themselves.
After playing the game a couple of times: It seems to me that how a player places their railway lines is a bit of a 'no-brainer'. But on reflection I don't think this is as much of an issue as I first thought. Perhaps when to call for dividends may seem more vital for the game than anything else - provided the right cubes are pulled from the bag of course.
There's a lot to think about here, which is good.
Finally, Irish Gauge plays as fast as a roadrunner with it's backside on fire.
If you're used to slow and meaty railway games, Irish Gauge may feel quite fresh with it's relatively short play time.
I'm not certain if Irish Gauge will stand up to extended play. But it's worth giving it a couple of plays at least.
16th November 2019
Saturday night gaming at 'Matakishi's' continues.
The second game of the evening was 'High Society'.
Some people are just obsessed with reputation, luxury, wealth and prestige and will pay anything to elevate it. Well almost anything.
These are the trials and tribulations 'endured' by the aspiring wealthy and privileged, where image is everything.
What's in a game?
High Society has broadly speaking 2 types of card.
How's it play?
First give each player a 11 card bidding deck. Then shuffle the status cards to form a deck and determine a starting player.
4 cards in the status are coloured green, they are the 3 prestige cards and one of the scandal cards.
When the 4th green card is drawn, the game ends immediately - there is no bidding on the 4th green.
Next is the game's sting in the tail. The player who has the least amount of money in their hand is eliminated from the endgame!
The remaining players total the value of their luxury cards and modify them by any prestige/scandal cards they have. Highest score wins.
There's a few clever little things to think about here.
Because a player can only add to their bid, players will be faced with tricky choices. If you really want a card a card, do you bid low hoping other players won't try and out bid you? Or do you start with a high bid hoping to discourage others and use less cards. For example: Using a 4 and 6 is worse than using a 10, even though they have the same value, in the first case you're using up 2 cards instead of 1 - and you can't bid if you don't have cards.
Also; there's nothing more infuriating then when you want to push up a bid by 1 or 2 and you've got nothing less than a 5 in your hand.
The endgame mechanic adds an extra level of unpredictability to the game. A game can last anywhere from 3 to 15 rounds. Players will know when there's a chance that the game will end because they'll see that 3 green cards have been played, but they won't know exactly when the end is coming. All of this can affect how you bid.
Finally, there's the player elimination in the endgame. The sting in the tail that constantly niggles and lingers in the back of every player's mind when they're playing.
It doesn't matter how well a player has done in the bidding if they're eliminated for having the least money. It is painful.
All in all, High Society is a quick to learn game that is quite fast to play and makes an excellent filler game. It's mechanics push players into making meaningful and tricky decisions. Other than constant stress, what's not to like?
5th October 2019
Gaming night at Matakishi's is underway.
The third game of the night was 'Campy Creatures'.
Put yourselves in the shoes of a 'mad scientist'. Misunderstood, never trusted and unloved. But there's a reason why the mad scientist is the way they are and why they kidnap innocent people. It's to stop those other pesky mad scientist from doing it first!!
Campy Creatures is a blind bidding game where you bid to capture teenagers and other hapless victims and put them into sets in order to score points.
What's in a game?
All of the cards in this game are nicely illustrated with art that wouldn't look out of place on posters for the 'creature feature' movies that this game is emulating.
How's it play?
As always we begin with set up.
Campy Creatures uses blind bidding. The highest bid gets to go first and pick the victim card of their choice.
Campy Creatures is played over a total of 3 rounds. After the final round, final scores are tallied, highest score wins.
Campy Creatures is a quick and interesting game to play.
This is down to the special abilities on the monster cards. They can really throw a spanner into the works (And player's plans.). Special abilities include cancelling other cards special abilities, acquiring 2 cards instead of 1, forcing someone to discard a card they captured etc.
Learning to watch other players is important. Looking at what cards they have collected gives you the chance to anticipate what other cards they will want. This means you have the opportunity to mess with them! It gives the game an extra level of depth, which without the game would be too simple.
Even so, with so few special abilities (That are identical for all players.), after prolonged play, the game could become 'samey'. But as a occasional filler game, Campy Creatures is a good game.
11th June 2019.
Gaming Tuesday continues at 'The Sovereign'
Next up is 'Hit Z Road'.
Have you ever thought about what you would do during a zombie apocalypse?
If your first thought was. "Well, I'd design a game about being in a zombie apocalypse!". Then this might be the game for you.
Hit Z Road is designed to look like a game made by a child during an apocalypse, made from bits and pieces of other games etc. Some of these are other actual real games.
So Hit Z Road is a game set inside the game you are playing. Omg! There goes the 4th wall!
In Hit Z Road you play a small band of survivors travelling through a zombie infested apocalyptic landscape towards a safe haven.
What's in a game?
In particular the art direction of this game is superb. Many of the components are designed to look like they came from other games (some real games and some fake). The rulebook looks handwritten. There also human and zombie meeples.
There are 3 different types of currency/resource in the game, (Ammo, petrol and adrenaline. These will be explained below.). The game plays homage to Fallout by using bottle caps as the different currencies and they look cool.
You can't fault the production values here.
How's it play?
Hit Z Road is a relatively simple game.
Your band of survivors travel from left to right dealing with the obstacles encountered.
There are basically 3 phases in a round.
And that's pretty much it for the rules. The game continues until all the encounters have been played and dealt with. Upon which any remaining survivors reach their destination and points are
Points are earned in a few ways.
The player with the most points wins.
Hit Z Road is a fairly simply game (Which is not necessarily a bad thing.) that will give players a couple of meaningful choices to make every turn - which is a good thing. A bad choice of route can cost a lot of resources.
But the game's problem is the auctioning mechanic, to reiterate:
During the auctioning phase, players bid to create a turn order in which to choose which route to take.
Everybody who make a bid, must pay for the bid they made. Thus it's not a good idea to to try and 'run up' another player's bid, (because your own bid and cost would almost be as high.).
The problem here is 2-fold.
Firstly, the player with the most resources can always go first. This means that they can always have the choice of the most optimal route which will gain them the the most (Or lose them the least.) resources. The remaining players will be bidding (And spending resources.) over the remaining sub-optimal routes which are less beneficial. Essentially, they'll end bidding over the scraps.
Secondly, when most of the players have either spend too many resources or realised they can't bid against the player with the most resources. Then they'll stop bidding. And when no one bids, the turn order does not change. This means that the dominant player doesn't even need to spend any resources to stay first or continue dominating.
The results of this is that all the players bar one will be put on to the back foot and will find it very hard to get off it.
This ruins the game. I know why it was done - they didn't want auctioning reduced to 'Auction winner goes first, play proceeds to the left'. But still, it ruins the game.
I've looked online and found I'm not the only person who thinks so. I've seen that this is called a 'Runaway Leader' problem.
This is the harshest I've been about a game in this blog. I've played games I didn't like or care for. But I consider this to be a bad game, no two ways about it.
In the end I look at the game's excellent production values and can't help but think. 'Maybe the designers got their priorities mixed up.'.