Larry Levy: Some Essen *Second* Impressions

I’ve posted a number of articles giving my first impressions of Essen games.  But as every gamer knows, the first play of a game doesn’t always tell the whole story.  So here are some second impressions of games I recently got a chance to play for a second time.  In some cases, they prove the wisdom of making sure a game always gets a second chance…

Nieuw Amsterdam:  You know, it really makes a difference when you play with the proper number of players and the right rules!  (In my first game, we erroneously awarded players too much money for their boroughs.)  Far from the loose affair my first game had been, this second attempt, with four players, was ultra-tight.  The different groups of Action Tokens being auctioned were hotly fought over, with some very high bids.  And the game proved to be very unforgiving.  In fact, I found myself agreeing with just about everything Ted Alspach and Greg Schloesser said in their review and comment on NA on this site!  (Sorry for doubting you, guys!)

Now that I’ve revised my feelings about the game, my only concerns are if it might be too unforgiving and too hard to recover from a slow start (something a few players struggled with in my most recent game).  That’s not necessarily a fatal issue (Age of Steam features the “death spiral”, and yet is one of my favorites), but it might mean that all the players need to have similar experience with the game.  I should get a better feel for this once I’ve played it some more.  But overall, I’m really happy to see how good a gamer’s game my buddy Jeff Allers can create.  While I’m busy exploring this one, I’ll be waiting to see what other goodies he can come up with in the future!

Terra Mystica:  In this case, my highly favorable impressions from my first game were just corroborated with my second.  I struggled more with my chosen faction this time (my first game was with the Fakirs and my second with the Alchemists), but still really enjoyed the planning process and could appreciate the wonderfully interconnected nature of the design.  This second play made clear that TM and Tzolk’in are my two favorite games of 2012 by a significant margin.  I want (nay, need!) to play both of them a whole lot more!

The Great Zimbabwe:  I quite enjoyed my first game of this.  It was clear that we had only scratched the surface of the game and I was hopeful that further plays would only enhance our enjoyment of it.  But in our second game, we started to play it the way the game is meant to be played, with players building advanced craftsmen and raising their prices to make things difficult for their opponents.  Basically, being obstructionist, in an attempt to get an edge.  And it turned everything into an unbelievable slog.  The effort required to count things out, to try to squeeze as much as possible from your cattle that turn, was extremely tedious and time-consuming.  I rarely put much stock in complaints that a game is “more like work than play”, but it really felt like that here.  I’ve now had two games of this where we stopped play and awarded the win to a player, simply because it would have taken too much time and effort to play out that last turn.  That is not a healthy sign for any game.  A lot of players love this, so maybe they have better spatial reasoning skills than I do, but this could very well be my last play of this title.  That’s too bad, because the ideas in Splotter games are always unique, but sometimes there’s so much packed in there, the fun gets squeezed out.

Qin:  Both of my games of this have been with two, but the second one was on the advanced (or “lion”) side and I thought this definitely made for a better game.  The game is more dynamic using this board and the tactics are more interesting.  I find this to be a nice, light, and quick-playing abstract game.  It does seem as if the player getting more doubles tiles has an advantage, but I’m not sure if the edge is significant enough for this to be a serious problem.  This isn’t going to make anyone forget Euphrat & Tigris, but it’s nice to see that Knizia can still produce a simple and appealing game like this one.

Il Vecchio:  I am happy to report that I did not suffer the OG curse with Il Vecchio, as I enjoyed my second game just about as much as my firstI still feel this is a solid, fast moving middleweight with interesting, albeit not terribly taxing, decisions.  I can see where the game could conceivably get a bit samey over time, but for now, it’s a title that I’ll happily play if suggested and I may well suggest it myself from time to time.  Good to see Dorn making something of a comeback (and I’m curious to see what his new title Asante adds to the Jambo universe).

Starship Merchants:  While I still find this to be fairly interesting to play, it’s now quite evident that there’s just not enough here to support either the duration or the downtime of a four-player game.  This is exacerbated by the fact that this is 90% multi-player solitaire.  Oddly enough, that last item is good news, as it means that there’s really no reason not to play this exclusively with 2 players.  The game will play almost exactly the same, except that turns will be a lot quicker and it shouldn’t overstay its welcome.  I think this will play quite well with 2 and that justifies my keeping it in my collection.

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5 Responses to Larry Levy: Some Essen *Second* Impressions

  1. Cary says:

    Downtime in 4p Starship Merchants? Not when Joe Huber is one of the four.

  2. Frank Hamrick says:

    Terra Mystica – at least for now, the best game I’ve played since Advanced Civilization hit the market! Of course, I’ve only played 3 games, but have not had this excitement for a game in years. Of course, I felt close to that when I discovered Borg’s Battle Cry in the ’90’s. But set–up time ultimately cooled my excitement for the C&C series (though I still enjoy Memoir ’44, if someone else will take the time to choose the module, dig out all the pieces for whichever scenario, learn the special rules for that particular scenario, and set it all up). TM doesn’t require all the set-up, but provides an
    Have also played quite a few games of Qin,. I find it a quality, short, ‘quiet’ game that could be my filler of choice for some time.

  3. jeffinberlin says:

    Thanks for giving Nieuw Amsterdam another try, Larry!
    I’m curious–how did you award income from the city districts in your first game?
    4-5 players is still the best number for the game, but I know that I’ve had some tight 3-player games as well, and I’m sure this would have helped yours to have been better.

  4. huzonfirst says:

    The way it was taught to me in our first game, Jeff, was that the base income was one coin per BUSINESS, rather than one coin per occupied DISTRICT. Big difference and I was able to set the group straight once I had the chance to review the rules after the game.

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