Thursday, 1 November 2012

A Storm Brewing

Casting off the urge to lubricate themselves with copious amounts of warm beer, nine tee-total puritanical types favoured board games instead of the alcoholic delights of the 35th Norwich Beer Festival. However, we do have surveillance that indicates both Jimmy and James shunned us in favour of beer. It has been noted in the NoBoG Journal of Transgressions.

As promised Dean furnished us with new delights from the world’s biggest board game fair, which he attended in Essen a couple of weeks back. He brought the dubious Aristoocrazy, Samurai Sword, and two games from AEG’s new Tempest setting; Courtier and Dominare. It is the latter, meatier game, Dominare, that Dean favoured and so myself, Nicky and Rich sat down to see what the City-State of Tempest had to offer.

A conspiracy unfolds in the city-state of Tempest
In Dominare, the players are wrestling for control of a conspiracy which will ultimately overthrow the existing structure and ultimately seat them at the head of the city’s power structure. Agents are used to spread influence throughout the city as players vie for control of city blocks and organisations. This is ultimately an area control game with card (agent) drafting.

Each turn, players draft an agent card, adding one new agent to their part of the conspiracy. The higher placed an agent is in your conspiracy, the more powerful that agent is. The agents can add influence onto the board, provide revenue, increase your exposure (turn order mechanism) and have unique action/abilities which break, bend or add new rules. The game is played over seven rounds, victory points from controlling the 10 city blocks, bonus blocks and having a low exposure are totted up at the end to determine the winner.

Not sure what to make of this. The main thrust of the game is area control and feels like it’s come 10 years too late to the party – solid, but uninspiring on its own. The agents breathe life into the game – they’re well thought out and characterised. (I like that AEG are trying to make their own thematic world and story, which is always difficult as a known franchise is instantly more gratifying). The powers are nicely varied and the way they interact and change depending on their position within the conspiracy provides interesting avenues to explore. Good stuff. But, the way they interact with the board is frustratingly chaotic and creates huge swings with regard to board positioning. Add the arbitrary random events and the board is in a constant state of flux making planning extremely difficult.  Perhaps the characters should have been used in something else as they don’t shine in Dominare - ultimately they make the area control game slow and frustrating, when they should have made it a lot of fun. This was our first play and we got off to a tumultuous start by misunderstanding a couple rules – it also took a long time to play. A second play would probably give a fairer impression – so I'm not consigning it the land of Leonardo da Vinci just yet. Dean won convincingly.

On the other table, two games that have found a place in the hearts of the NoBoG regulars saw table time:  The instant hit, Archipelago, saw the players staving of revolt long enough for Matt to be declared the winner. And Peter rejoiced as he claimed victory in Hansa Teutonica. John, Phil and Tom didn't win a thing.

Beer: I obviously didn't have any beer as we don’t partake in such vices. And I was saving myself for the beer festival tonight.

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