Friday, 15 February 2013

There was a man who went to Venus...

“Will you be pulling out your Merchant of Venus and slapping it on the table?” Dean enquired. That was all I was going to write this week, but John has been spilling the entire contents of his brain on to the blog over the past few months and a one line innuendo just won’t cut it today.
There were ten of us. No intrepid travellers from far off climes decided to visit this week, so we were left to endure the company of people we already knew.

John did indeed slap his Venus on the table. He’d been threatening to do it for a while and the encouragement from Dean was all he needed.  Rich was impressed and joined them for travelling through the galaxy buying and selling to alien worlds in hope of earning a buck.  This is the second edition of Merchant of Venus, the first being published by Avalon Hill back in 1988. The blurb on Board Game Geek says that this revision "remains true to its magnificently campy core while updating the map and game components and expanding game play in surprising ways that will cause even the most hardcore fan to celebrate." Campy hardcore! It also notes that in true Fantasy Flight tradition the player count has been lowered from six to four. No doubt so that a five player expansion can be released at a later date in order to delight (squeeze cash out of the) fans. As suspected, the intrepid three never finished the game, but they said it was good and could be played in the NoBoG timeslot with a bit more familiarity. John reckons he won.

Stu, Sam and Nicki raced through a few games of Kingdom Builder, which has seen some good table time lately. They then saved the human races in Pandemic. Before finishing the evening with some Coloretto. A victory for each of them and a combined victory to boot - this would have stood them in good stead if Crocker’s victory league table had survived the formative years of NoBoG. As it is, nobody really cares who wins.

Finally we come to Tzolk’in the fancy gear turning Mayan worker placement game. The tribes of Bond, Ewan, Pete and Tom competed for the prestigious prize of having the most victory points at the end of a complete rotation of the central cog. This was my first experience of Tzolk’in and it was one that I greatly enjoyed. On the face of it there is nothing new, other than the gears, which are an inspired way of speeding up the upkeep between rounds. The gears also allow the progression of time to become an easily trackable and usable factor and the actions of your workers get better as they age. I also like that having more workers isn’t an obviously good thing as it becomes prohibitively expensive to use the full complement. The rest of the game is decent, though familiar worker placement fare, with feeding workers, progressing along tracks and building engines to do actions more efficiently. One thing it did lack was the Mayans love of fiendish booby-traps (everyone knows ancient civilisations loved to foil tomb robbers and adventuring archaeologists with ingenious death-dealing devices?) I felt slightly disappointed that every time the gears were turned a random worker didn’t disappear to his doom through a hole in the board. Surely that should have been included? Anyway, I’ll certainly be back for more, but if you hate worker placements the novelty of the gears won’t distract you enough from the grind of optimisation.  Pete won with a building strategy – pipping my crystal skull and god track exploits by two points. I am enraged! Who said nobody cares who wins?


Minitrue said...

Ha ha, that's a fantastic idea about holes in the board dropping workers through.

Half worker placement game, half mousetrap game.

Ever played Downfall ?

Mr Bond said...

Yes. I loved Downfall when I was a kid.