Monday, 30 January 2012

Welcome to Feld Club.

Stefan Feld has come to dinner and he won’t leave. He’s drank all the port, he's been grinding water biscuits into the carpet for the last half hour and now he's standing on the table threatening us all with the butter-knife. Actually this isn't true - I don't think Stefan would be such a terrible guest, but then again I probably wouldn't recognise him. What I would recognise, even under the pressure of a butter-knife stabbing is one of his games. Trajan is no exception, and there were two of copies of it in our midst on Tuesday.

Both Jimmy and Luke had brought Trajan and even Pete, who hadn't, was whooping with delight at the thought of Trajan. Numbers, however,  conspired against a two table Trajan-fest so Jimmy, Luke, Tom and I delved into Trajan while the other five - showing a complete lack of imagination - played Hansa Teutonica. Trajan is apparently about the Roman Empire, but I won't be mentioning that again as the first rule of Feld Club is that you do not talk about themes. 

You know what the second rule of Feld Club is. The third rule of Feld Club is that the game must have a slightly convoluted, but an interestingly new mechanism. Trajan delivers an uppercut by using individual player mats depicting mancala bowls. At the start of the game, each player has two differently coloured cubes in each of his six mancala bowls. Each turn, the player picks up all the cubes in one bowl and distributes them one-by-one to bowls in a clockwise order. Wherever the final piece is placed, the player takes the action associated with that bowl. Mostly these actions allow each player to take actions that influence mini-games on the central board. The six actions are: senate (points on a track),  military (points on map), building (taking points tiles), trading (er, taking points tiles), Trajan (add new Trajan tiles to your mancala) and forum (take tiles in order to stop bad things happening - which is the fourth rule of Feld Club; bad things happen in the game and you must try to stop these bad things happening).

In addition to determining the action each round, if the colored pieces in the final bowl now match the colors shown on a Trajan tile next to the bowl, then the player takes the additional actions and points shown on that tile. In this way the game feels like a puzzle to be solved as you manipulate the coloured cubes in the mancala bowls to take the actions you need, but also satisfy the requirements of any Trajan tiles you have acquired. Fifth rule of Feld Club is the need balance the individual puzzle elements while still trying to score points. Trajan, like Luna last week, will appeal to those euro-ites that like optimization, efficiency, and exploring the puzzle elements and competitive routes to victory. Those who need a kick-ass theme best keep away.

Beer: Old Ale from Adnams. Not old as in out of date, but Old as in the type of beer - usually malty and dark. This was very dark red in colour, nutty, malty, slight acidic hint of fruit. Surprisingly wet. 6/10.


SuperEliteGames said...

Well, I do enjoy optimization, efficiency, and exploring the puzzle elements and competitive routes to victory.
I'm gonna give Trajan a chance, see how it plays.

Mr Bond said...

Oops - how have I not seen your comment until now? It's got optimization, efficiency, and exploring puzzle elements in abundance - I'm sure you'll enjoy it. It's a good game.