Thursday, 22 November 2012

Archipela-gold!

Archipelago has been something of a hit on a Tuesday night. Everyone else at the club had played it and I was feeling left out and sorry for myself. So after months of being left in port I finally embarked on a game of Archipelago. As I’m sure John has mentioned in previous posts, this is a game about European powers of yore competing in the exploration of a tropical archipelago. Players must build up and manage a colony in order to create wealth and prosperity for themselves and their respective nations, all the while balancing the impact on the islanders, who are ready to revolt and declare independence.

This was sold to me as a cooperative game with a winner. I would say it’s not. I would say it’s a highly competitive and ruthless game that everyone can lose. Everyone is out for themselves, but are always keeping an eye on the creeping unrest and trying to get others to shoulder the burden of placating the natives. All the while wondering whether there is a secret separatist actively trying to incite a revolt. 

So not as much cooperation as I expected, but there is so much more to this game than all ‘pitching in for the cause , while accusing everyone else of being a separatist’ (which was the impression I got as I looked on from afar in previous weeks).Worker-placement is the core of this game. A gaming mechanism, which I like, but feel has been over used since the worker-placement poster boy Agricola hit the shops in 2007. But Archipelago has more. So much more. It has area control. It has stock market manipulation. Modular tiles. Special actions. Exploration. It has cooperation, negotiation and back-stabbing. And all of this is tied together nicely in a very eye-pleasing manner. 

I also like the ambiguous nature of the victory and end game conditions (with hidden objective cards). It really adds to the tension. And from my point of view has the added benefit of reducing the need for heavy analysis or number-crunching. That’s not to say this isn't a good intellectual exercise, this is still a pretty heavy game with lots to consider, but you’re never entirely sure what the best move will be and so a good rounded plan will probably be better than a narrow one.

I bobbed around a bit aimlessly for most of the game and didn't quite get a handle on it until the end – even having the ignominy of making the most pointless move in the game (everyone thinks I’m talking about the migration where I moved a solitary ship to open water, I was openly laughed at for that – but it was actually the buying of the Spy card, which I could never afford to use).  I came in fourth with a mere four points. However, I was saved the shame of last place by John with his three meager points. Tom won with his ruthless 14, and Rich and Pete somewhere in between. Anyway, it’s a great game and I hope to get in more games before something new and shiny replaces it in John’s bag of wonder.  

On the other table there was horror in the city as Dean, Matt, Alina, Nicky and Sam played City of Horror. Appropriately, for something in the zombie genre, this is a remake of the 2005 Mall of Horror game, which gathered a cult following after it became out of print. Described as a back-stabbing survival-horror game, players have to survive the onslaught of a shambling horde. Occasionally sacrificing one of their own in order to do so. It looked cool with stand-up cardboard figures and scenery; including a water tower dominating one end of the cityscape. It was declared to be good and Dean won.

Games of Gloom and Saboteur finished off the evening.

Beer:  I sampled Loose Cannon Bandwagon. A bitter with a rich mahogany colour. Nice and malty, a hint of winter fruit, but lacking sweetness and body. Decent. 6/10

4 comments:

Minitrue said...

Yes yes, a terrible score following my victory last week. I thought I had it sussed. But the damn population end game caught me out - again.
I think I had most churches and most exploration tokens, which of course netted me a big fat zero.
Pfah.

I think I will announce end game markers again in future, its helpful for everyone to know how far off maybe an end game trigger is.

Peter Chinkin said...

It was a good game. Now that we've got the cooperation sussed it is more how you describe it; however, you missed the many early games where it all went tits up from the start.

I was so right about using the Exporter btw. Also, the money cost of using someone elses card goes to them not the bank so maybe the spy wasn't such a bad idea in theory!

Peter Chinkin said...

It was a good game. Now that we've got the cooperation sussed it is more how you describe it; however, you missed the many early games where it all went tits up from the start.

I was so right about using the Exporter btw. Also, the money cost of using someone elses card goes to them not the bank so maybe the spy wasn't such a bad idea in theory!

Minitrue said...

I saw your vindication on bgg Pete, heh, we will know better for future. And the gold but not resources to the owner of a card was something I completely missed.

As for colonies not going tits up, its definitely something that has improved over time, but its all so easy for it to go wrong - last week we had a collapsed colony, a dodgy crisis with myself Moritz and Rich, Moritz and Rich elected to be blase ( Rich was the unknown Separatist ) and the separatist numbers leaped in a single turn.

Smelling blood in the water Rich then just went outright for separatist play and pushed the colony over pretty quick.

It's tricky. It can often be difficult to get those separatist numbers back down once they've gone up. We had a really unusual game this week in that I think we had 3 separatist reduction events based on churches - and we didn't really have any killer crises.