Dale Yu: well, there may not be much from the GoF in the next few days as the Internet has disappeared here in the hotel. I’m trying to post this from my iPad in the 10 minutes I have connectivity. Tuesday was a good day gaming-wise. So far today, I’ve played BITS, Uluru, Secret of Monte Cristo, Firenze, Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, Genesis. BITS was a nice enjoyable light game. It was a bit complicated in the fourth round with four different objective cards in play, but fun nevertheless. Uluru is becoming my most played game here – partly because it’s short and partly because I seem to have the only copy here, and I’m being asked to teach it or play it constantly. Time will tell how well it holds up.The basic version might become old as it’s becoming easy to figure out on the basic level.
Doug Garrett: Though I’m not in New York with the rest of the crew, I was able to place a “can’t go to New York, so I’ll treat myself to some new games” order which arrived yesterday. As I get a chance to play them I’ll chime in “Gathering-style” with some brief tidbits on them. The first game I tried out this afternoon with a couple of my students was Top & Down, a new entry in the Easy Play line of games that Schmidt Spiele has been putting out over the last couple of years. This one LOOKS like a race game and does end when 3 pieces reach the last board where those pieces earn their players points, but the interim scoring is the heart of the game. If you go online and check out pictures you’ll see that the track is made of flat pieces interspersed with ‘bridge’ or raised pieces. When a scoring happens players score EITHER points for being on the bottom of a stack OR for being on the top of a stack depending upon whether they are on a flat or raised piece of track. Rolling a die & moving a piece seems random, but every turn you have the chance to re-order a stack that you’re in before you roll. Another solid Easy Play game that we played back-to-back, so two plays with 3 people each time. The other game I got a chance to play was Die Burgen von Burgund which will be called Castles of Burgundy when it comes out from Rio Grande later this year. This is another big-box Stefan Feld/Alea release with MANY chits and another interesting use of a dice mechanism for determining players’ turns. Players purchase chits of different types with their two dice each round, or place purchased chits onto their own player mat which then triggers actions over the course of 5 rounds. This one may have some down-time problems and could be prone to Analysis Paralysis with 4 players especially, but I enjoyed my first playing with 4 players and I’m looking forward to playing with 2 and 3 players later in the week.
Dale Yu: I also got to play Top & Down today. A definite not for me. The best thing about the game was that I no longer have to spend the time and energy to get my own copy. Avanti has received two more plays this week and I’m happy to say that there isn’t a runaway loser issue (when you play with the correct rules). Today was also an all Filosofia day. Secret of Monte Cristo is a very tense game – big thumbs up. Filosofia also had a very intriguing prototype that can be described as a Superhero themed cooperative deck builder. It was really interesting, and they are probably looking at it being done in the next 12-24 months. Spring Fever is a cute and quick bluffing game that will go over well with my kids. We had a chance to play the game with the designer, Friedemann Friese, and FF continues his lifetime undefeated streak against me in games that he has designed.
Greg Schloesser: Attending Alan Moon’s Gathering of Friends is always one of my
favorite gaming and social experiences. Not only do I get to play
dozens of games virtually non-stop over the course of five days, I
also get to socialize with some of my favorite gaming buddies from
around the world. Most of them I would never see in person were it
not for the Gathering, so it is always a priority for me to attend.
I must admit, however, that I was on the fence about attending this
year. The site moved from Columbus, Ohio to Niagara Falls, New York.
Since moving to East Tennessee back in 2005, I have been able to drive
to the Gathering each year as Columbus is only about a six-hour drive
from my home. This made it very convenient, as I was able to bring a
large suitcase of games, plus participate in the Saturday morning flea
market. The latter was especially beneficial, as I usually made
enough money from game sales to pay all of the costs associated with
attending the convention (registration fee, hotel, food, etc.) Plus,
I had a vehicle with me, which made going to restaurants and area
attractions much more convenient and less intrusive on others.
So, when Alan announced it was being moved to Niagra Falls, I was
concerned. While the prospect of seeing Niagara Falls was alluring, I
realizerd my cost of attending had just increased substantially. I
would now have to fly, and flight prices to Buffalo are not cheap. I
would also not be able to recoup my costs from game sales at the flea
market, as tranpsorting the large suitcase of games would be cost
prohibitive. Then there was the inconvenience of not having my own
vehicle with me. Suddenly what had become a no-or-low cost gaming
vacation was now going to cost me $750 – $1,000. Ouch.
Utimately, the allure of spending five fun-filled days socializing and
playing games with good friends prevailed. I’m happy I came to my
senses. I have been having a grand time, and even spent three hours
Tuesday walking around the Falls and into Canada. I understand
Niagara Falls is now considered one of the wonders of the world, and I
can see why. It is amazing.
Enough of that. I’m sure most of you are reading this to find out
about the games I’ve played. Here is a brief snapshot:
Pergamon — First Playing. As with Thebes, I dig the archaelogical
theme. I doesn’t hurt that my wife and I are planning a vacation to
Turkey in 2012, and Pergamon is on our itinerary! While Pergamon
shares a similar theme with Thebes, the mechanisms are quite
different. Players have to estimate how much funding will be
available, and plan their hoped-for acquistions accordingly. The
object is to collect complete artifacts and place them on exhibit.
The more valuable the exhibit, the more notoriety that is earned. A
pleasant game that can play in under an hour. My initial rating is
around a 6.5 or so.
Pastiche — Third Playing. My initial conerns over a potentially
game-breaking strategy has subsided. I find this game to be a nice
adaptation of the trading mechanisms used in Sid Sackson’s Bazaar and
in the recent Fresko. The art theme is also still fairly fresh. I
enjoy the game, even though I always seem to come up just one turn
short of winning. The second edition will include nifty and handy
easels on which to display the painting on which you are working. My
rating is a solid 7.
Castles of Burgundy — First Playing. A new big-box Alea game is
impossible for me to resist. As one should expect, Castles of
Burgundy is a solid gamer’s strategy game, filled with tough choices
and numerous options. My only concern is that it seems to last
one-half or one full turn too long. By the final turn, all players
seemed to have accomplished the goals they were pursuing, and the
final choices seemed anti-climactic. Others have voiced the same
concern. Still, it is well worth investigating further, and this fear
may abate with future playings. The game is currently at the 7 level
for me, but could rise if this concern does vanish.
Troyes — First Playing. This game has been getting fantastic buzz on
the internet, and it was on the top of my “must try” list. Frankly, I
was disappointed. There was more randomness and considerably more
frustration than I anticipated. It was very frustrating to have good
rolls, only to see your opponents scoop your dice before your turn
arrived. After fighting the barbarians, many of the dice were gone,
so players didn’t have a lot of options on their turns. I was
disappointed. My initial rating would likely be a 5.5, but I will try
to play again due to the favorable reception being given by most
Pantheon — First Playing. So far, this is my favorite game of the
Gathering. I was initially concerned that the receiving of money was
left to randomness, but this did seem to even-out over the course of
the game. Lots of interesting, not overly taxing choices and a fairly
fresh feel makes the game enticing for both casual and hard-core
gamers. This might be one of the finalists for the Spiel des Jahre
and International Gamers Awards. I’m giving this one a 7.5 – 8 after
Firenze — First Playing. Not to be confused with Florenze. This is
the Steding design from Pegasus Games. Yes, it is another medieval
Italy tower-building affair, a theme which has been overutilized.
Fortunately, the game plays quite differently from most, with players
acquiring special characters / building and tower supplies in an
interesting fashion. I enjoyed this more than I thought. It also
helps that it is a game that can be played and enjoyed by family and
friends. My initial rating would be a 7.
Antics — Second Playing. The latest offering from the jovial Fragor
Brothers. This is a deeper game than their previous two offerings, as
players must assemble their anthill and contemplate the best actions
to optimize their moves and results. There is a puzzle-like feel to
constructing your anthill, and the variety of choices gives players
wide latititude in terms of creativity and strategy. It is prone to
considerable downtime, and the board is overly busy and confusing.
Still, I enjoy playing. My initial rating is in the 7 range.
I will try to post more later, but that is highly dependent upon the
availability of the internet. The hotel is experiencing huge
connectivity issues, and there are only two hard-wired computers
available in the business center. Sigh.
Dale Yu: More updates as we can find Internet access! See you tomorrow