Monday, 22 February 2016

Boardgame session: 20 Feb 2016

Val and Chris hosted this afternoon gaming session. We started by playing a new-to-us filler game, ‘Skulls’. Each player has 4 cards, one of which is a ‘skull’, and sequentially plays a card in front of them until one player bids to reveal the cards played. The bid is the number of cards the player plans to reveal, and other players can increase the bid number. The highest bidder then reveals that number of cards starting with their own cards. The aim is not reveal any ‘skulls’, if no ‘skulls’ are revealed then the player scores a point. If a ‘skull’ is revealed then the bidding player loses a random card, and all cards are returned to the players hand and another round is undertaken. The first player to score 2 victory points wins the game. The game is essentially a bluffing game, and a good ‘poker face’ is an advantage. We only played one game and I’m not certain I truly understood the game play. The game did not grab my imagination and I cannot see it becoming a favourite. I suspect this game would suit a pub environment and the beer mat style of cards encourages this view.
Next, we played Castles of Mad King Ludwig which we had not played for many months (see blog post April 2015). We all seem to like this game with its mix of bidding, tile laying and randomised victory scoring. Chris narrowly won by a point from Val, whilst I trailed badly score-wise. Although I lost, I think my castle was the most ascetically pleasing! I think this is one of the most enjoyable and puzzling aspects of the game; a player’s choice of room is not simply driven by the victory point score, you want to create your ‘dream’ castle. How could I not have a billiard room? What self-respecting castle can be without a dungeon region? Different players tastes impinge on the game, for example Val seems to like ‘garden’ features. The game touches a ‘nest-building’ response and this diminishes competitive play, because although you have lost you can take pleasure in what you have created.
We finished the session with a game of Ticket to Ride Europe, and included the 1912 expansion for the first time. We used ‘Depots’ and the ‘Major Cities’ tickets. Val was the eventual winner of a close game, except that Chris trailed badly due to failed ticket routes. In my opinion the ‘Major Cities’ expansion did not offer any improvement on the base game. I cannot see the point of this addition, but maybe I’m missing something. I think I need to play a few more games to judge better. The ‘Depots’ did work and provided a new challenge. Gaining cards from the depots, particularly from other players, is nice. Deciding where to place ones depots is important, not only because of potential connections, but also to block other players from placing stations. I think depots increase the aggressive play within the game because players start placing track that are not necessarily part of a route they may wish to construct, but simply to gain the cards lodged in the depot.

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