Analog Game Night – December 2009

We met for December’s installment of AGN at Jared’s house (thanks for hosting Jared). A couple of people were going to be a bit late so we set up for a 4 player Dominion/Dominion Intrigue and just as we were about to play the first hand, a fifth showed up. Given that we could support five with the “expansion” we dealt in a fifth and got started.

We’d started the game with a variant that I like where you select some number of decks from each game and then you each take turns going around the table throwing out a deck of your choice until you get down to the requisite 10. We’d chosen 10 decks from the base game and 6 from Intrigue (at random using the “blue” cards) and got down to a painful deck that included the Thief AND the Torturer and no Moat. We should have chosen 8 from Intrigue to give everyone two chances at removing decks but it didn’t occur to me at the time so…my fault. I’m used to playing with that approach with two players where that number is more appropriate. Since we chose decks with only 4 players yet played with 5…well I guess it was pretty screwed up anyway.

The Thief was one of the first decks to go and boy was he hitting hard. There were huge swings of money (10+ bucks!) being swiped from people and going into the discards piles only to be stolen again a few turns later. The killer was that it wasn’t accomplishing much since the money in hand was relatively light. Torturers were relatively popular as well (Markets a close second) to try to get more cards in hand. Unfortunately, multiple Torturers would be played in a round so some people would go into a turn with very few cards (sometimes zero!). With little money the 6 point Provinces were going very slowly so I started buying 3 point cards to just try to get some victory points. In the end, the most prolific Thief and I tied for the win but wow, what a slugfest. I’d sorted my money into the piles thinking I’d lost when we determined the tie and we didn’t even look up the tie-breaker rules.

Next up was Long Shot with 6 players. I was the only one that had played so after a quick run through the rules the gates opened and we were off and running. I bought horse 6 (black) and probably shouldn’t have with only 6 players. With the crappy cards I had (no chance of getting any money), I’d shot my bankroll on buying a horse and little I could do but watch others buy up other horses. Horses 3 and 9 made an unnatural beeline for the finish line helped by my uncanny ability to roll 0 on the movement die a good 75% of my turns which included rolling my own 6 horse simultaneously several times.

I did manage to get several bets down and pick up some money near the end game but finished in the latter part of the money pack by game end. I like Long Shot better than Winner’s Circle. I’m probably in the minority there but I don’t really see a need to own both games. I like Long Shot’s single race approach rather than Winner’s Circle’s three and, although non-thematic, I like the fact that you can bet on horses during the race until the last quarter of the race when individual horses cannot be bet on due to entering the “no bets” zone. I think choosing a horse based on the payout odds is more more thematic and I’m not all that fond of Winner’s Circle’s betting chip model especially since you’re not allowed to bet on more than one horse. Winner’s Circle also has some weird rules (to increase tension) about not allowing horses to share the same spot on the track. It just feels weird and makes it readily apparent that Knizia’s Winner’s Circle is really a mathematical model with the theme pasted on. Long Shot, although chaotic given the weird card play, does feel like a horse race.

After Long Shot, we lost one player and we needed to play something light to end the night so we played TransAmerica – Vexation. TransAmerica is a VERY light game but the “vexation” variant/expansion “games” it up a bit. I’d never played with the expansion but it is a welcome addition to an otherwise dirt simple game. If you’re looking for a game to play or buy and something as relatively simple as Ticket to Ride feels too complicated, then maybe TransAmerica would fit the bill. Still a great family game or a game for new or light gamers but definitely a game that shows its age once you get into the hobby.

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