Analog Game Night – September 2009

We met at Jared’s house last night for the September 2009 installment of Analog Game Night. Thanks for hosting Jared. Jared had some home brewed beer that was hot off the presses and ready for the taste test and like a good gamer, I had to oblige. Awesome job Jared and much thanks for sharing!

We started the night with five and we chose to play my copy of Small World. I’d only played Small World as a two-player game with my son Noah so I was anxious to try it out with more. One can usually judge the clarity of the rules by counting the number of pages of questions in the BGG forums and as of this post, Small World has a staggering 18 pages (10 forum posts per page) of questions. It didn’t surprise me that upon set up, we ran into a few soft rules areas in which I was weak.

There are regions of the 5-player board that appear to have both water (dark area) and mountain in the same region (near the bottom of the board). It didn’t become an issue that needed resolving but I’d think that each region can only be of one type. Since the mountain is the only clearly visible feature I’d side with declaring it mountain and be done with it.

During the game some questions arose about special power etc that I hope were resolved appropriately. I do know that I learned more about Sorcerers. I’d been playing wrong in that I’d missed that the area must contain only one token of your opponent when using the Sorcerer’s power and the token must be active. We played it correctly last night BUT still incorrectly in that I thought you still must add more of your own tribesmen from your hand to attain the correct number of conquering force. That approach proves to be more complicated than it really is. The Sorcerer simply allows you to turn a single, active, and unbivouacked tribe into a Sorcerer taken from the tray. Done. You put the conquered token in the tray and put out the Sorcerer and you’re done…area conquered. Oh well, I’ll get at least that part right next time.

I didn’t enjoy the game near as much with 5 players as I did with 2. I suspect the sweet spot is with 3 or 4. The down time increases dramatically with each addition (at least with my group) and there’s really not much you can do between turns. Requiring you to redeploy conquered troops (minus the losses) onto existing regions is a nice feature that does keep you involved in other player’s turns (at times) but for the most part, you can go get a beer and some food between turns.

We lost one player after Small World and after some chit chat about work stuff we pulled out a blast from the past, Mexica. I’d not played in a very long time and I hope I didn’t murder the rules too badly.

I usually play Mexica very poorly falling into the same trap every game of trying to retain dominate in too many areas against too many different opponents. I made a conscious effort to limit my opponents this game and did better than usual. In other words, I didn’t end up a distant last.

Mexica is one of those games that doesn’t get played much but every time I play it, I’m reminded how good it is even if I routinely play poorly. Sure, it’s a bit chaotic with those bridges and the water travel but still a solid game. The costs of actions and the number of actions you can expend per turn are honed to such a keen edge you’d think the game a design of the mathematical brilliance of Knizia but you’d be wrong. Mexica, as well as the other “mask” games (Tikal, Java, and the sometimes thrown in for good measure Torres) are all the product of the creative minds of Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling.

All four games feature the clever artistic feature of beginning the game with a “clean” board but games end, you’ve constructed something that looks pretty cool in it’s own right. Those unaccustomed to games such as these will just look in wonder at how you could play a game on what would otherwise look like something kids have been playing “city” with. Getting there is the battle and having it look good in the end is just icing on the cake.

Thanks Jared for hosting and as usual I’m looking forward to next time.

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