Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Return to the Archipelago

Last week there were some minor complaints that I had failed to bring neither Ora and Labora or Archipelago - the NoBoGers can be a tricky fickle bunch, and it's hard to work out what they want.

There have even been rumblings of heading off the pre-gaming game choice indecision and availability by possibly having some funky web thing where people could pre-register interest and ask for things to be brought along.

But anyway, so it was that Archipelago hit the table this week after a hiatus of some months. Such was the demand for a play that I gave up hosting it and left Rich, Pete, Fletch, Matt and Moritz to take on the balmy islands and see whether they could steer their fledgling colony to success and prosperity, or chaos and disaster.

Archipelago. The game heats up and demands people lean in.
This turned out to be fairly typical of the raucous play.
 The game turned out to be a raucous affair. Arguments and insults over who was paying what, and who the separatist was - of course, it is after all Archipelago - combined over jeers about using evil slavery methods, hogging island space, and oh yes somewhere in there it was supposed to be co-operative. Noisy. Funny. Argumentative Diplomacy. Distrust. Archipelago at its best.

As it turned out Matt was the separatist, but the colony was under a firm hand, and the rebels struggled to make much headway at all. Matt confessed he hadn't had the best time - but when the colony is making successful gains, it can often pay off as the separatist just to play the same as everyone else - after all you earn the same VP's as anyone else - the only difference is that you only know one VP score condition whilst everyone else knows two ( out of six in a five player game ). When separatism is not working, its time to beat the colony governors at their own game.

Rich compressed into a corner, unable to explore, unable to expand and finding life difficult specialised in fish, and worked hard to keep the colony ticking over. Despite such social minded efforts possibly being anti win, they eventually paid off and Rich ended up as the game winner as the colony burgeoned with success.

Table two was left to four of us, myself, Ewan, Dean and Tom to vie for respect in ancient Japan around Edo.

Edo is a worker placement type game with a few minor twists - the actions you can take are arranged as a very limited either or ( pick only one action from a set of four, three times, each set of four being mostly unique in the set of 12 ), thus making action choice that bit more convoluted. The actions are also fairly carefully grouped - do you take Rice ( food ) and then lose any chance of gaining money, or do you take the money and have to look for Rice elsewhere. Actions also often consist of two worker placements - one on the board and one selecting your action. Both together allow you to take the action. Your workers that power them are by and large interchangable - more on the board, or more on your action tray ?

Two actions down, one to go. One samurai about to make use of the
specially purchased extra stone harvest action.
The rest follows by the numbers - buy more workers to increase your actions, but more workers on the board costs more resources. Gather one of three key resources in the game to build buildings and trade, each building giving you income and a precious victory point. Interfere with each others plans by building where someone else wanted, or harvesting resources making it less lucrative for the next player.

Finally when a VP limit is broken, the game ends with that round.

The game is not as locked down as other worker placements, you can shift people around at the cost of a little money - not a big deal, so the game is more about getting your planned actions lined up correctly, than worrying about where your workers are or if you have enough resources. There are also quite a few ways to achieve the same thing - the game is fairly simple at its heart, but gathering resources for instance can be done in a number of ways - special action, gathering at a resource site or trading. None of them are particularly at a disadvantage, it just depends where you are and what the state of the board is.

The state of play. Buildings spring up around the towns,
and Samurai wander the map.
So all in all, pretty simple. I am sure that once you get the hang of this game, you can rattle out plays of this quite quickly, but at first it can seem a little daunting about just what actions you should be making. There were a lot of sub optimal and downright awful turns in our game - people losing entire actions because of miscalculations.

Tom ended the supreme winner, pipping me by a point. As it turned out if I had been paying attention I could have added a couple more samurai to the board and pipped him by a point, but eh. Who pays attention ? Dean barely made it past the dis-qualification, narrowly missing being ejected entirely from end scoring by not having any buildings in the all important Edo.

Nice game, nothing ground breaking, but given the speed it should be able to be played at, this is a nice hit of none too taxing worker placement, in a real compressed time. Not sure about the depths of its replayability as the variables are fairly small - but the capability for advanced play to screw with others plans is definitely there and may provide for some cut throat ploys amongst the grognards.

Next up was Mermaid Rain.

A game about fulfilling your Mermaids destiny to get her legs back and marry the Prince.




This is a japanese game - which completely explains everything - that sees players competing to pick up a spread of resources, and then to have the most of a particular type of resource to gain end game VPs. The one with the most treasure impresses the Prince and wins. Shallow bastard - only after their money ( and a nice set of legs ).

Card hands commence the bid for turn order and tile placement ( where you can move on the map is dictated by what tiles are laid down ). This is somewhat off handedly similar to Taj Mahal - a rough poker scoring system indicates who is winning the bid and who is not based on what your current laid down hand of cards looks like. Certain hands as well as having a score hierarchy for bid winner also perform special abilities - raw VPs, extra resources, extra tiles and so on.

The game is very short turn wise - and you don't have a lot of time to faff about. So you really need to get those resources - there being a penalty to anyone that doesn't have at least one complete set by game end. Moving can be tricky as the cards required to move are the same cards you have been bidding on at the start of a turn. The better the bid and hand, the less you have left to move and vice versa.

With the rules under our belt we all picked our Mermaid alter egos - not strictly a requirement for the game, but Tom wanted to know what my mermaid was called. Philipina Flipper of course. Tom mildly impressed by my name suspected I had given this a lot of thought, before deciding that he was Sandi Crease. Sandi with an I he pointed out. Ewan was Crabby Mcgee. And Dean was Shelly Shipwreck - who apparently wears no makeup, doesn't comb her hair and lumbers out of bed in a state in the mornings. But don't worry Shelly. The prince is only interested in your treasure. Aren't they all ?

Despite the somewhat unusual match of theme demographic versus player demographic ( a bunch of dudes playing mermaids to woo a prince vs a bunch of teen gals wondering wtf is up with the weird 'Euro' rules to this game ), the game is pretty good. It's designed to be a fairly quick semi filler affair, and it's worth a blast in a limited time slot. Particularly if you have a thing for mermaids, and, really, who doesn't ?

After some sexy mermaid on mermaid action between Philipina and Sandi on a remote island, Tom won, beating me into second place again. Pfah.

No photos of the mermaids. I meant to, then I forgot, caught in the fishy tresses of Philipina Flipper.

I think you really had to be there for this one. The blog just wont do.

1 comment:

Mr Bond said...

Interesting to see that the separatist could't earn a win through nefarious means. I always assumed it would be an easy job, but I suppose it depends on how close to the edge the other players are willing to go.

Nice to see cooperative Rich get the win. Pays to be nice in Archipelago? Who'd have thought it? Such a good game.