Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Friends, Romans and Salty Sea Dogs

Report for 29th January 2008.

Revelling in his
success from last week by bringing along a game and not only getting it played, but also winning, Tom thought he’d try and his push his luck by doing the same again this week. The first part of his plan worked nicely. By pulling out the eagerly anticipated Tribune: Primus Inter Pares (Tribune: First Among Equals), by game designer Karl-Heinz Schmiel, he quickly gathered the first four gamers through the door (Jimmy, Hayden, Ollie and myself) and set the Roman themed game going.

The publisher describes the game thusly:

Bow before the Tribune, Romans! Poor or rich, strong or weak, Patrician or Plebeian, hear the word of the Tribune! He is one of you, but he is the Tribune, he is the primus inter pares – the first among equals!

Welcome to the most impressive metropolis of the ancient world – Rome. A city full of life, with inhabitants of many differences. But beneaththose differences they had one thing in common – they were Romans.

Play as one of the great patrician families which held great power and influence. Gain control over the seven factions of the city which hold control over many aspects of Roman culture.

In Tribune, you try to become the most powerful family in Rome. Will the Legions stay faithful? Will you be honored with the favor of the Gods? Will you even get the title of Tribune?


All pointed to a rich game full of politics and intrigue. The board was beautiful with big Roman buildings dominating the bustling streets. And there is a big Roman guy on the box. So when Tribune turned out to be a set collecting card game with a few bells and whistles, I must admit I was a little disappointed. Despite my disappointment, the game rattles along at a good pace with players taking control of the seven factions by playing larger sets of cards than the previous faction owner. Once a player has control of a faction he uses its powers to help him complete three of the six victory conditions - once achieved the game ends and all players that have completed three conditions (one of which must be a Tribune tile) are considered for victory by adding up points they’ve scored.

It was quite hard to judge how well players were progressing throughout the game, with most people concerned about their own objectives rather than each others. Therefore the game slammed to halt with much surprise when I enquired if the game ended as soon as I had completed three conditions. I had and was declared the winner. No one else was close to completing three, but Ollie had the most points and was declared second place. Whether I deserved the victory was a bigger issue than the lack of politics and intrigue. The cards do not seem very well balanced and by winning one card in particular, I gained a ‘Gift from God’ – one of the harder to obtain victory conditions – which should normally take two turns of good planning and play to obtain. To make matters worse this card could have appeared in anyone’s hand through a random draw or by simply being the player to go first. And the final insult was that I didn't realise that the card gave me this game winning 'Gift from God' untill Ollie pointed it out to me. That'll teach him to look at my cards! Overall, we all seemed to enjoy the experience, but I’m not sure any of us came away with the feeling of re-writing history.

Whilst we spent time hanging around the latrines of Rome. The other attendees got down to the serious business of winning Land Unter, Fearsome Floors and even a six player game of the Settlers of Catan (as opposed to the usual four player version), something I’ve never tried despite playing around a hundred games of Settlers.

Undeterred by his staggering failure with Tribune, Tom pushed on and whilst everyone was at the bar he snuck his second German edition game, Rette Sich Wer Kann (Each Man for Himself - or Lifeboats), on to the table. This is a negotiation game with six lifeboats trying to row to the safety of a group of nearby islands. The rules are simple. Basically each player has six sailors distributed between the vessels. Each turn only one boat will make progress towards the islands – voted for by the players. One boat will spring a leak reducing the boat’s capacity – voted for by the players.
If the boat is at maximum occupancy when the leak occurs, then players (on the boat) vote to decide who to throw overboard (that sailor is removed from the game). If a boat ever has more leaks than occupants then the boats sinks and all sailors on it are food for the sharks. Players are also required to move one of their sailors to another lifeboat each turn. The game continues in this fashion until all the boats have either reached an island or have sunk.

Jimmy and I both got a number of sailors to the shore fairly quickly. Tom also looked to be progressing well but that worked against him as time and again his crew got thrown overboard. Hayden spread his crew across a number of boats which made him less of a target but meant he was either at the mercy of the majority on a lifeboat or had the deciding vote. Ollie on the other hand didn’t seem to grasp the game at all and spent most of the game with his crew on the precariously leaky orange boat. However, it became clear that anyone who got crew to the islands early on was not going to get many more to safety as the perceived leaders had their boats spring leaks and then their sailors tossed overboard.

Ollie sprang into action in the final couple of turns moving his mostly untargeted crew from the dangerous orange boat to the high scoring prestige boats and finally got four sailors to safety and stole the win, which everyone thought had gone to me. Bah! Lifeboats proved to be a raucous game with jeers and jibes flying across the table as sailors were thrown overboard and boats were sunk. This was especially surprising coming from a game with perfect information.

Anyway, congratulations to Tom on getting two of your games to the table in one week. I’m sorry you didn’t get to complete the double and win either. Better luck next time you get a game to the table – check back here in about August folks!

If you've read this and wondered why the phrase "
Crocker won the game as usual" hasn't been used. He wasn't there. He was ill at home. So here's a little note just for Luke: When we packed the games away, we didn’t use the baggies. We just shoved all the bits in the box. And even when we did have bags, Tom told us to mix up all the colours. I would have taken a photo for you, but didn’t have my camera.

1 comment:

King Crocker said...

My OCD is in overdrive as we speak, maybe I should try and go round Toms house to sort out his game bag 'problem'.