The Games We Play

The Games We Play

A repository of reports on the Wednesday night sessions of the club and anything else related to the club or boardgaming in general, which may be of interest to anyone who may be passing by.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Session Report - 1st September 2011

In the absence of other stuff, here's my summary of some games I played this week, and some others I didn't.

First up, I didn't play Paris Connection, which was played by Dave F, Andy, Claire, Steve Pe and Mike; however, I have played it before and think it's a cracking, fast-paced economic game with tons of depth for its length. Six railway companies start from Paris(?) and build lines out to other towns and cities on a hex map of France. So far, so Chicago Express (apart from the France bit); but PC is a much simpler game. On a player's turn they may take one action only: lay up to 5 sections of track for any company; take a share; or trade a held share for two identical shares of a different company. Laying track to new destinations increases the share value of a company, and the aim is to hold the highest combined share value at the game's end.

Yes, really, that's it; and that is its genius. The game is further simplified by the facts that there is no cash money: shares double as track and comprise the game's only currency. The more track one lays (provided it connects to a town or city), the higher the share value climbs whilst the scarcity of shares (and, as a consequence, track) increases.

Anyone can play this game, and it's over in 45 mins, but in that time each player has had to make some tough decisions: do I sell my share in red, which looks spent, to buy two blue as the price climbs? or do I lay track in green to a random spot in the woods just to deplete resources because I don't hold any green shares? Simple, involving and very, very good. I liked it so much, I bought the game... but anyone who knows me knows that's not saying much.

Andy, Steve H, Dave D and I played Roborally. I don't have a heck of a lot to say about it other than I was narrowly beaten by Dave when I got a handful of turn cards when in his laser sights and he shot me to bits. We played Dave's Wizards of the Coast version which, component-wise, beats my Avalon Hill version hands down. I do prefer some of the later AH rules (for example, timer for other players once the first has programmed his registers) and the player boards with damage accrued. The only naff rule in WotC is the "virtual" robots, but it's not terrible, just not very consistent in my opinion.

Roborally is both simple and complex; both logical and chaotic. I love it to bits. We should play more.

Steve romped away with Ra: the Dice Game by virtue of his propensity to flood. He won by some margin.

On the other table, after Paris Connection, they played 7 Wonders with the Leaders expansion. I've yet to try Leaders, and am curious to see how it plays, but there are so many games that are just plain better than 7 Wonders that I haven't quite got around to it yet. It's not that 7 Wonders is a bad game - I just find it a bit ordinary. It ploughs a furrow of mediocrity that's all too common. Pick a card, pass; pick a card pass. Its tendency is toward being a game about managing the player following in a similar fashion to Puerto Rico - at least, that's the mechanism I'm most reminded of.

Scores anyone...?


  1. A blog entry. This is unexpected. Thanks Donald.

    Roborally is a lot of fun. I like tight courses over just one or 2 boards. What the game also needs for it to work for me is for one of the more spatially aware players to take on a "master of ceremonies" role, checking all the moves are done right.

  2. Thanks Donald, I'm glad that someone has decided to write a bit. I finally got fed up of writing throwaway comments on games, when I had no real things to write, which was a lot of the time. I have, as I think I did mention at the club at one point been thinking of some other types of things to post on here such as reviews and others, but I have accumulated over a long period now a number of started but never finished articles, time will tell whether any of this this will see the light of day.

    On RoboRally, it is one of my favourite games and has been since I first played it going back to the last century, the problem has been getting a game since Dave C had the only copy and he had been somewhat discouraged in bringing it along due to a perception that Mike was not keen, although he seems to have mellowed on the subject. It is why I was very happy to be able to pick up a copy for a tenner on the bring and buy at this year's expo, the only problem is I am lacking the expansions that Dave has.

    I disagree about the "virtual" rule. While it is strange, it has the great (and necessary to me) advantage of giving everyone an equal starting position compared with different starting positions using the AH docking bays. Considering that even a difference of 1 square in position can mean a sizeable advantage, I would not want to play that way.

  3. Hi Dave

    I'm happy to leave posts - I just didn't think, until we had the conversation a few weeks ago - that it was my place to presume I had the right to post whenever the mood took me. I am now fully appraised and happy to post whenever I feel I have something worth contributing.

    On your point about the starting locations in Roborally, I can totally understand your position; however, given that the distribution of cards at the start of the game is as random as it is throughout, barring the reduction in card numbers imposed by the damage system, I wouldn't say that it's entirely fair in any case, though I agree that, given the core mechanism that drives the game, it is as fair as it can be. Still, I don't see how the AH system of different starting positions is necessarily less fair provided the first flag isn't on the starting board and closer to one player than the others. In some ways, I think it is fairer as there is a reduced chance that players will be lasered on the second or third turn than in the WotC version when the virtual bots become substantive. Indeed, WotC almost necessitates either making a turn or starting slowly in order to reduce the chance of damage as anyone charging ahead in a straight line is almost guaranteed to get shot at the turn's end.

    This is, of course, a minor issue, and one could argue that making such turn choices is part of the game's tactical core - if you're able to race ahead on the first turn, it may be the following players' best response (albeit not one that's entirely planned) to shoot at you.

    I don't have a problem with playing the WotC way, but it does feel like a fudge that's there to ensure that, before the game proper begins, all players are on an even footing - something I think it fails in as soon as the first card is dealt.

    I further agree that neither method is entirely satisfactory, nor can I think of an improvement; however, I don't think the hologram paradigm fits the theme at all - this is a distinctly physical, low-tech world that reminds me of programming 8-bit maze mice at Uni. The idea of rezzing-up just jars a bit with me. This may, of course, just be a function of my personal experience - I don't intend to presume that I'm right, just give my reasons for my thinking.

  4. First time I have played 7 Wonders which I do like, with the Leaders, and sadly I think I'm unconvinced by it. It is very important to be aware of what the player you are passing cards to is doing, but when it's Dave F who got a Leader which seemed to give him about 5 others, that's very difficult. Of course there's a strong luck element in the base game, but theleaders make it worse, I played a leader at the same time as Steve P played one which halved its effectiveness, it would have been an extremely irritating waste of a lot of cash had I not had a leader which gave me it for zero cash.