Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Giants of Easter Island

Stu turned up this week with two new things in his hands - Giants and Forbidden Desert. With numbers at ten - Seamus the travelling thesp with us for his last week before moving on - it was decided two good 5 player games were required, and Giants... well, it was untried, untested, but it was 5.

Stu, Matt, Elena, Fletch and myself sat down with Giants to learn how we might erect the greatest Fat Stone Head of them all. ( I am not going to refer to them by their proper Moai name - Mo - Aye for the phonetics , they shall be called instead Giant Heads). The aim of the game is to garner as many points as possible - and this is done by carving and then shifting a Giant Head across the island to a suitable Giant Head site on the coast. The further you have to lug it, the more points you get. The heavier it is, the more points you get. And for the cherry on the top, you can invest in a hat, lug that to the site, and stick a hat on your Giant Head. And if you think I am joking you are much mistaken and I doubt you have what it takes to be a serious Giant Head and Hat installer.

Giants is a game if nothing else about balancing ill fitting and ever more ridiculous looking things on top of other ill fitting and ridiculous looking things. Giant Heads. Hats. Tribal tokens. Possibly tribal tokens on top of hats. And then trying to get your fat fingers in between two tricky statues to collect up your tribe members. It's (unintentionally) like Buckaroo or Operation but with Euro mechanics. It also has a wood resource token that is quite small and prone to rolling around.

The island of Wobbly Heads. Early sites have been developed.
Worker placement is the order of the day. But it's way more limited than other worker games - not an especially great deal to think about here. The interesting bit is in how you haul the various Giant Heads and Hats around the island - achieved by placing workers and wood in a path between Where You Are and Where You Want To Go.

Whilst shifting around the smallest heads isn't so difficult, shifting the bigger ones around is much harder, and in reality you will almost certainly need to lean on other peoples labour to get the job done. But this isn't a problem. Once a player's worker is placed on the map *anyone* can utilise them. If you do utilise someone elses worker however, they get a victory point or three, depending how much work needs to be done.

This means the game quickly shifts into synergistic, opportunistic lines of workers snaking across the island - and you have to pay attention to how many VPs you are blowing by using others workers. In general this shouldn't be too much of an issue, but if you let one player take a big role in all movement, you will find they have a nice lead to hold onto.

Our game was very much a learning curve kind of game as most players fell into a series of copy cat turns exploring different mechanics as time went on. Elena more than anyone else concentrated on building up her supply of workers and then shifting stone around. This lead to her being instrumental in getting everyones first and second wave of Giant Heads onto site - netting a lot of points in the process.
A conga line of workers, chiefs, shamans, wobbly statues,
ridiculous hats, and things balanced precariously on top
of other things. Stu gave up trying to balance
some of these items when he failed his basic Buckaroo skill test.

A scramble for sites at the end, and a bit of a mistake with the end game conditions meant the final turn was hectic, but it didn't end up making too much of a difference. As the final statue was lowered into place, Elena had come out on top some dozen points in the lead, myself in second thanks to the only enormously heavy head present on the island being shifted for miles, and a dozen or so points behind me were the also rans.

Interesting game. Feels like some of the mechanics are... well... off... there are some things that are just so useful, it's pretty much a no brainer to take them - the magical tablets -, and there are other things that are well... borderline useless - the wood. I guess the whole wood angle is very thematic to what's going on as a cautionary tale about getting into the Giant Head business, but I don't think it really adds much/enough to the game to justify its presence. Conversely the magic tablet is pretty much a no brainer purchase - you can often be left with spare tribal tokens at the end with which they are bought, and as a magic tablet can be used to give you an extra action AND counts as VP at the end AND is a tie breaker for bids....

I suspect the game should probably mainly be about negotiations about who is going to help who. The rest is just a setup for that discussion. Definitely worth a play. One to avoid if you have shaky hands and are easily annoyed.

After that, we had a bash at Forbidden desert, which is a thematic successor to Forbidden Island. Run around digging in the sand for flying machine parts to escape the clutches of the hellish wastes and a terrible dessicated fate. Cool filler game. Some very clever tiny mechanics going on. A great looking flying ship that needs assembly. A challenging difficulty.

Rather appallingly, Stu - the Water Carrier - failed the mission for us all by dying of thirst. To be fair half the rest of the team also died on that turn from thirst, but I personally blame the water carrier. Who carried no water during the game. And then promptly complained of being very thirsty before falling over. Pfft. Fletch the Meteorologist on the other hand spent almost the entire game propped in a deck chair, scrying the skies for what tomorrows weather would be like. As it turned out the weather was always Hot. With Sand. Hmm. Fletch declared he didn't need to be a meteorologist to tell you what the weather would be like in the desert.

Table 2 meanwhile had a fling with Chaos in the Old World. Seamus as bloody Khorne, Tom as the warped Rats, Pete as festering Nurgle, Ewan as sorcerous Tzeentch and Rich as the pleasure loving slightly suspect Slaneesh.

By all accounts the game was something of an aberration. An early world event restricted *all* card playing unless you sacrificed two of your snivelling followers. This, fairly obviously, set things up for a very different game, and the fact that it managed to stay in play for 4 out of 5 rounds meant it pretty much dominated the flavour of play.

 Khorne laid the smack down hammer on the every churning leader, Tzeentch struggled with the card ban, Rich unrolled a cunning all consuming plan for victory, and Pete lay in the back rows getting ignored.

Five player games. If there is a rule to five player games it's this. Never ever take the lead until you can win. Lurk in the middle of the pack and hold onto that killer move.

After Rich crashed and burned with his plans, Sneaky Pete managed to get his infectious hands on a set of ruinations that pushed Nurgle onto a rare victory. This kind of makes sense to me as I find Nurgles powers are blah at best. A game that forces a premium to be paid for playing cards can only on balance I think help Nurgle. Nurgle doesn't lose much compared to everyone else here. Although in theory it shouldn't be much of a problem for Khorne either who can always just stick to Plan A - Beat the Snot out of Everyone.

After the win of the Grand Snotty One, King of Tokyo was played - Pete managing a win by ignoring the over hyped Tokyo and instead installing himself in a comfy suburb with some rather surprisingly efficient dice. King of Tokyo ? Perhaps Not. Prince of Suburbia ? Definitely Yes.


Minitrue said...

One interesting Giants rule that was left out / not covered - you don't have to reserve - with your shaman - one of the sites to build on it.

Also, you can't get a size 3 Head at the start round - all 0's are treated as 1, and *all 3's are treated as 2*.

Also also, hats and heads that are not moved must be placed on the board at the end of the turn - so no hogging of heads / hats in your supply area. This has implications for using up tribal markers to guard them ( or not ).

Also also also, the scoring for Rongo tablets was removed by the designer in a later addendum ! Thus making the tablets slightly less compelling.

Alina said...

Psst, it's "Alina" :P

Mr Bond said...

Yeah, get it right, Jon...

Minitrue said...

Sorry Alina ! I shall fire the secretary immediately. And very good Mr Bond, I will not rise to your bait :p