Got together with Daniel, Jacob and Todd las night to play 18xx. We played 1846, 18Mex and 1832 – and with small exception I played terribly, embarrassingly badly; rank amateurs could easily have done better. I don’t know where my head was last night, but it wasn’t in that room. The one gleaming light was that I was able to consistently manage the private auctions to my own best advantage. Actually making good use of what I got from there…not so much. Bah. Thankfully I also forgot to take any pictures. A small blessing.
My head finally hit the pillow at around 08:00 this morning, so I’m a bit groggy as I type this. However my brief sleep and the time afterward has been filled with the most delightful many flavoured forms of Oh I should have done XXX! realisations. The 18xx are so wonderfully expressive in their almost symbiotic layers of counter-reactions in that regard.
I’d been wanting to play 1846 for a long time and it has been near the top of my ever-almost Deep Thought Games order as a shorter and clever 18xx by Tom Lehmann. I’m less interested now, verging on active revulsion. I’m generally not a fan of partial capitalisation games as they push players to continuously invest in their own companies in order to validate their prior investment and make it viable. As such cross-investment is more of a spare-cash activity than a selective investment, presidency transfers are far less common, and the emphasis is moved heavily to run good companies rather than free money, combinations, or timing1. In short the question is How do I ride this vehicle to success? rather than, How do I exploit the other players in order to win? However, more simply, the game seemed intensely tactical, almost entirely non-confrontational and an effective rendering of a standard euro-style economic-snowball into 18xx form. Shudder. I have not had a more unpleasant 18xx experience. I’m willing to play again, I’d like to play again2 just to make sure I saw the game reasonably clearly, but I’m tempted to rate this one at 3.5/10 or under.
We played up through Phase 3.5 and into the start of Phase 4. I had a clear lead with the NdM presidency, the 20 trigger private, 40% of the Chihuawa and 20% of the, err, gray/black thing down in the south (the two clearly best companies in our game, with the Chihuawua set to merge into the NdM), Jacob wasn’t far behind but was a noticeable step behind me, Todd managed admirably for not knowing the board and I don’t think Daniel had much idea of how terrible a position he was really in once the train rush really broke. Sadly Jacob had to go home (wife, kid) so we called it just as we entered Phase 4. Finally, at least once, I had some of my act together and wasn’t entirely stupid. Even better we got to see some neat track-build patterns with the minors that raked in the money (A and B were both running for ~$100 before they folded) while also driving the game development in entertaining fashions. Tres chic.
18Mex is growing on me. I like the phase 3.5 evolution3 plus the almost as large mutation in phase 5 one or two ORs later when the NdM forms. By reflection (same designer, similar system) 18TN (which I also have) is climbing rapidly on my want-to-play list. Just delightful.
Perhaps I’m just not a stylisitic fan of Bill Dixon games. Perhaps the less said here is also the better as this was where my brain clearly exeunt stage left, leaving me to ungracefully and unconsciously suicide4. I admire the huge number of levers the game provides the players, the game has good arc, good development curves and an interesting track-system. That said, the game felt bloated. I suspect that’s an unfair characterisation as the interesting facets of the many many levers provided couldn’t fully express in a shorter game5, but having 2-trains run 6-8 times and 8 ranks of trains ( same as 1870: 2/3/4/5/6/8/10/12) is perhaps a bit too much for my taste.
I played a wonderful, just wonderful, game of 18Mex. Final scores were delightfully tight: ~5,700, ~5,600, ~5,500, ~4,800. The 18xx are firmly cementing themselves as my favourite games; solid and somehow enheartening comfort-games.
I arrived late and didn’t get much onto the table:
Tomorrow is the second 18xx night at SB-Boardgamers. A fairly typical gamesday in all.
A night dominated by Dominion at the other tables for SB-Boardgamers. So far it is showing no signs of fading. It was good to see Hammer of Scots come back into play; it has been a while for that classic. I managed to get in:
Sorry, no pictures of the Bridges of Shangri-La, Thor and Army of Frogs games. I must recall to take pictures of my own games, not just other’s games. I’m also not sure why the pictures are all so badly cropped on the right end. Oops. They weren’t so badly cropped when I took them!
I should raise my rating. I’m never sure whether this or Through the Desert is my favourite of Reiner Knizia’s games as it depends on which I’ve played most recently ↩
Such a delightful game. I’d nearly forgotten the importance of tile-type management. ↩
I’m about to call Army of Frogs critically flawed if not actively broken. ↩
A fine dinner – I ate so many peppers I was slurring words. I should put myself through this abuse more often.
Played 3 games of Axiom and lost them all – I blame low blood sugar from an overly replete belly! Axiom is both less and more than I was expecting; a fine but not terribly engaging combinatorial game. I still somewhat wish Axiom were the game I imagined it to be on first sight, a game of moving pieces about the entire exterior surface of a constantly changing 3D shape which the players held in their hands and manipulated (changing the shape and the locations of their bits) before handing it to the other player to do likewise.
I screwed up the last auction of Medici, simply wasn’t paying attention again and drew an extra tile to a set that was already worth nothing to every other player but would also have given me biggest ship plus a max on the wheat track for a +60 bonus (I was already at +5 on wheat). Apparently I let my internal snoring break my absent concentration. Gahh.
Last night was the fifth anniversary of SB-Boardgamers. This is also my first attempt at a blog post using my iPhone from end-to-end. It was a fairly typical night at SB-Boardgamers, perhaps a little low on attendance and most people left a bit earlier than usual (morning meetings), but that happens now and again. I took some quick snapshots (see below) to give an idea of the evening.
Eugene Huang gave a short speech about the history of the group and awarded prizes to the people who had played with the most different people (thus fostering the group’s goal of evangelising gaming) and there were pies, cake and cookies to munch. Ted Alspach’s table were surprised that I did not win the award; they thought it was a given for me and not by a small margin. So goes perception bias. It may have been close but Randy Farmer and John Yeager took the prizes instead (a copy of Tadsch Mahal and one of Knizia’s Lord of the Rings games) which seems reasonable (I’ve no interest in either game).
I played 5 player Imperial (won) and two 3 player games of Army of Frogs (won both). Apparently it was my night. Adam Kao (my primary opponent in all of the night’s games) was excellent competition. I had to (surreptitiously) muster and coordinate all three other players against him while also playing tempo hard against him, pushing him to decelerate when he really needed to keep accelerating the game in order to win Imperial. It was an excellent game!