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.

Sunday 29 January 2012

Games Played - January 2012

I thought I’d try doing monthly reports, rather than the weekly ones I’ve done (or more recently not done) in the past so here goes. This is actually a few days later than I expected due to time spent on Eclipse and messing about with websites (see other post) in the last day or two.

13 games were played this month of 9 different titles, the average attendance was 7.25

Games played this month

Magnum Sal(4/1)
I thought this had been played more than it actually has at the club, but this month actually saw only the third play, after 1 play in each of the last 2 years. I have shied away from it due to the dreaded taint that is the worker placement mechanic.

The latest big thing and I was interested to give it a try on account of the numerous comparisons I have seen to the Master of Orion PC games, MOO2 is one of my all time favourite PC games and one that I actually still play from time to time. Unfortunately I was disappointed, mainly due to the randomness that permeates nearly all of the game’s systems.

There are things that I like about the game, notably the action system that has the effect of increasing cost if you have spread your influence over many systems, reflecting increased administration costs amongst other things. There is also the ship design system allowing you to customise your ships as you wish depending on the technologies that you have developed.

Then there are those things that I’m not so happy with which unfortunately outweigh the good things. Exploration is by way of drawing a random hex to reveal the sector you move to, some randomness is understandable and acceptable here, but the swinginess, even within the 3 types of tile, between a good find and bad seems a lot considering that the game is only 9 rounds.

The research system is a variant of one of those things that I find most offensive in board games, that of limiting various items (in this case technologies, could also be something like buildings as in Puerto Rico) for no logical reason, so that a player may be denied a technology they want/need purely because someone else grabs it first. That said it is forgivable in some games such as the original Civilization which I would still play as the rest of the game more than compensates, although I will always go with Advanced Civ if available which eliminates the problem. In the case of Eclipse the technology mix might not be firmly limited, but still be effectively so as the appearance of technologies is random, meaning that even if the technology appears it may be too late to make a difference. I honestly can’t see the need for this bit of randomness, it seems to me that all technologies should be available from the start, giving players the choice as to how they will develop; it may even shorten the game by a few minutes by cutting out the need for drawing new technologies every round and during setup.

Combat I have several problems with. First it is mandatory, if 2 forces are in the same hex they have to attack each other, I would have thought that an option to let the other force pass through  in peace should be available if neither wishes to attack, particularly if 2 forces have diplomatic relations. Then there is the combat resolution itself, I have no problem with some randomness in combat, but the way this works with sets of ships attacking in turn based on initiative, it is possible for one side to annihilate the other suffering little of no damage, I would rather see simultaneous turns, giving a better chance for both sides to inflict some damage. Finally there is the distribution of victory points for reputation, which seems an odd name to me because the points are secret, to me if you have a reputation, then by definition people will know what it is. Also the random selection of tiles means that of you are to try to go this route, the you need to get in early because the chances of getting the good tiles will decrease as the game goes on due to their being taken out of the mix.

Anyway, time to move on.

Canal Mania(11/1)
The first time I have got this to the table since 2010, unfortunately I managed to get to get heavily beaten, missing a vital connection in my southern network compared to Claire and Steve H who were doing well in the Midlands and North respectively. One of my big attractions to this game is the local setting (I always tend to look more kindly and a British location compared with mainland Europe which has, by now been done to death). The game seemed to go down well, perhaps better than earlier trips to the table so I hope to play again in the not too distant future.

Completely random silliness, but it only takes 10-15 minutes so makes an idela way to fill in a bit of time at the end of a session.

Age of Industry(11/1)
I’ve only played this once a few years a few years ago as a prototype with Martin and I don’t think that there were any substantive changes between that and the published version. It seemed a fairly typical heavy Wallace, actually a slightly simplified version of the earlier Brass. The sort of game I might play once in a while as I would Brass, although the previous game would probably be preferable due to the English setting.

It’s been some time since I played this (2006), but it’s still a good game, although I still have this feeling that Web of Power is slightly better.

Scotland Yard(18/1)
Another oldie, this one last seen in 2008, although I have played a few games since then. This is a 1 v Many game, which is a type I like, as Mr.X attempts to elude the detectives. Another game of this ilk is Letters from Whitechapel, which was played last year and I’d like to give another try.

The First Sparks(25/1)
Or Power Grid – The First Sparks as it says on the box, the title making a lot more sense when reading the original German title. This is a slimmed down version of Power Grid, which clearly displays its origins and should play quicker when we know what we’re doing, also hopefully we’ll be able to give Mike a better fight as he won rather too easily in our first play. I spotted a couple of mistakes in the play, first forgetting to discard knowledge card (“Power Plants”) for the number of players and also the discard of an unbought lowest technology. I don’t think these would have made much difference result wise, although possibly the game would have been shortened.

Family Business(25/1)
Another round of fun mob battles. Now Mike has got a copy and the 2 plays we’ve had with it since then have gone OK, I expect that this will have some more run outs, I seem to recall that the last play before the end of last year (January 2007) had a bit of bad feeling, but these plays have been more in the spirit of the game. Possibly I’ve overestimated the game length of this one, due to rules/cards explanations.
Games Summary
Time (Mins.)
Player Hours


  1. Morning all.

    I've played Eclipse once now and hung back from buying it after getting the Phantom League and having had the combat system frustrate me. I thought it was okay but couldn't really see what all the fuss is about. I don't think the experience is quite worth the play time.

    First Sparks on the other hand: that's dire. The prospect of player lock out from the game gave me flash-backs to Cargo. No way would it have made it to print if FF wasn't behind it.

    Played Mundus Novus yet? It's really good.

    1. As can be seen from my comments, I definitely don't see what the fuss about Eclipse is about. I wouldn't say First Sparks is dire, although it obviously has a lot to live up to in Power Grid. Not sure what you mean by player lock out and haven't played Cargo so can't use that as a point of reference.

  2. I have Phantom League and Mundus Novus and haven't managed to play either yet. Maybe I'll bring Mundus Novus this Wednesday.

    BTW Matt, are you coming to Rosliston? I could bring Hansa Teutonica - my fence needs its yearly weatherproofing.