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Amparo Bertram

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02:56 pm: In a galaxy far, far...er, actually a hotel not so far away...
This week my gaming experiment was to join a Palo Alto group that meets in my town in a hotel lobby. It happened to be on the first real rainy day of winter, so a lot of people were held up by traffic and we got a late start. This also meant that, as people straggled in one at a time, we would have to explain the game all over again for the newcomer.

We started off with 7 Wonders, which we played with 8 people using the "team" version. We were in four groups of two, which meant that each team had to discuss each card selection to form a coherent strategy. This made each round take forever. I'm sure the game plays much faster when each person is playing individually. Aside from that, the game was pretty straightforward; I just kept forgetting that some of the early cards I played made some later cards free, so I was lucky to have an experienced teammate to point this out to me. The scores were very close; my team came in second by four points.

After that, we broke up into two groups. My group played Race for the Galaxy, which I had requested because it's something I'm thinking of buying. This is a science fiction card game in which players use cards depicting worlds to be settled and technological developments. The object of the game is to get planets and developments that synergize to produce goods and then consume them for points. (For mangaroo: Eminent Domain essentially takes Race for the Galaxy and turns it into a deck building game, so they feel very similar.)

The one thing that most reviews of Race for the Galaxy mention is that it uses an elaborate system of symbols on each card to describe each card type and what actions it can do. Some people complain that the symbols make the game too hard to learn for people new to gaming. The lady who explained the game to me said that she had to play it ten times before it clicked for her. While it does have a lot of symbols on the cards, I found that they were pretty easy to figure out, particularly since everyone gets a detailed player aid explaining them all. Essentially, if you can tell a circle (planet) apart from a diamond (development), you can play the game.

This game also took ridiculously long, because one of the new players needed a 5-10 minute strategy explanation before every single round. She ended up getting a fairly high score, but she didn't really play anything herself, she just did what the experienced player told her. (I do give her credit for trying it, though, since she said she's really more of a worker placement game fan.) I got the lowest score, but that's mostly because I had the bad luck not to draw any good production planets until very late in the game, so I had no real way to earn points until the final 2-3 rounds.

With all the rain delays, extended explanations, and slow playing, the meetup wound up lasting until 11pm, after which I still had to catch the bus home. It was near midnight by the time I got to bed, and lucky me, it just so happened that we had extra-early morning training the next day. I think it was worth it, though, to get a chance to try out new games before deciding whether to buy them.

Comments

[User Picture]
From:mangaroo
Date:November 20th, 2013 11:31 pm (UTC)
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Are you still thinking of buying Race for the Galaxy? Was it fun? Also...

The object of the game is to get planets and developments that synergize to produce goods and then consume them for points.

Except I remember playing Eminent Domain with a scorched earth strategy (conquering planets and not producing goods at all, while you guys were making me extraordinarily nervous with your frequent harvesting). Does Race for the Galaxy have similar alternative paths to victory, or are the goods the only way to get points?

I want to play 7 Wonders.

Edited at 2013-11-20 11:39 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:November 21st, 2013 01:13 am (UTC)
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Are you still thinking of buying Race for the Galaxy? Was it fun?

I had second thoughts after I played it, just because it is so incredibly similar to Eminent Domain, which I already own. However, the benefit of it is that it can be played solo with the Gathering Storm expansion, while Eminent Domain cannot. It also has a really interesting simultaneous action selection component, which Eminent Domain sort of adapted to the "role" phase, but it isn't quite the same. So I'm still waffling.

I do think it was fun, but I'd let new people play Eminent Domain first to become familiar with the concepts and terminology. I think that would cut down on the amount of explanation necessary, which would let the game play more smoothly.

Does Race for the Galaxy have similar alternative paths to victory, or are the goods the only way to get points?

It does have the same thing, in that each planet or development itself is worth points. It also has the same military/non-military split. If you want to go military, it works pretty much the same way, just without the little fighter miniatures.

Edit: The main difference is that in Eminent Domain, each planet could be claimed either by peaceful settling or by military takeover. In Race for the Galaxy, black planets can only be settled and red planets can only be conquered with military power, so you have to be able to draw the right color planets.

I want to play 7 Wonders.

I am considering buying it, but I want to wait until my copy of Among the Stars arrives. The drafting mechanic is similar in both games. If they have the same feel, I might not need to own both.

Edited at 2013-11-21 01:18 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:November 23rd, 2013 03:16 pm (UTC)
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After spending more time reading on the BGG forums and practicing a couple more games using a digital version, I went ahead and bought RftG and, not one, but TWO expansions.

The game is going to be releasing a new expansion in December that essentially reboots the game...the new expansion can be used with the base game, but not with the previous expansions. Because of this, a lot of the fans are planning to re-purchase a new copy of the base game (so that they won't be using worn old cards together with the new expansion cards). Thus, I wanted to buy a copy before the surge in popularity made it sell out.

I also picked up a copy of Citadels, so I've added all the new games to my Japan list.

Edited at 2013-11-23 03:17 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:mangaroo
Date:November 23rd, 2013 03:48 pm (UTC)
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Digital version of the game? This one?
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:November 23rd, 2013 03:57 pm (UTC)
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Yep, that's the one.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:November 23rd, 2013 04:38 pm (UTC)
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P.S.
It is VERY hard to win. So far I have managed to tie the AI on points, but I haven't won yet. It is making me very interested in playing a human opponent.
[User Picture]
From:wednesday_10_00
Date:November 21st, 2013 03:10 am (UTC)
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one of the new players needed a 5-10 minute strategy explanation before every single round

Ugh, I played 7 Wonders with someone like this at the Halloween party. I really admired the patience that went into explaining everything. (What really annoyed me was he would go through and explain all the cards, and then the girl would be like, "But which one should I play?" Well, yes, it's hard to decide. That's kind of the point of the game.)
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:November 21st, 2013 03:56 am (UTC)
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Well, yes, it's hard to decide. That's kind of the point of the game.

Haha. All I can say is, I'm glad we have such a wide selection these days of games that let you think...and that I have friends and family who like playing them.
[User Picture]
From:jojobruin
Date:November 24th, 2013 07:18 pm (UTC)
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I'm... worse than a novice when it comes to the games you are describing. Are they most card games or like monopoly with dice rolling or like Yugioh card games where cards battle? They seem fun. I hope to learn more about them!

Your team did well to come in at second place! Any award? =P

I didn't know buses run that late in the South Bay until 11pm. I'm glad you didn't have to walk home that late.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:November 25th, 2013 02:56 pm (UTC)
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Are they most card games or like monopoly with dice rolling or like Yugioh card games where cards battle?

Much more like Yugioh, though of course not exactly the same. Games are really different now, compared to the ones that used to be available in the 80s.

Any award?

Just bragging rights.
[User Picture]
From:jojobruin
Date:November 26th, 2013 04:32 am (UTC)
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Really?! Like Yugioh?! Hahah! I've played yugioh based video games. I kind of like the half strategy and half draw luck based approach to these card games. I wouldn't mind playing some card games like that! How often do you play? How were the games different in the 80's?

***
Bragging rights are good! =p
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:November 26th, 2013 04:25 pm (UTC)
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I wouldn't mind playing some card games like that!

I recommend that you try Dominion. You can try it for free online at goko.com if you like.

How often do you play?

That depends on my schedule, which changes all the time. It's hard to get together with other people when I usually have to work on weekends or evenings.

How were the games different in the 80's?

Most games relied on "roll-and-move" like Monopoly. You don't actually get to make any decisions in a game like that. You just roll the die and move wherever it tells you. Essentially, you're not playing the game, the game is playing you.

There were also some strategy games like Risk, where players did get to make decisions, but they were more like miniature wars than games. If you've ever played Risk, you know it takes forever to finish. Not everyone has four or more hours to sit around sending armies at each other.

In the late 1990s, European (usually German) games started to become popular. They rely less on rolling dice and more on the players making decisions. Settlers of Catan, Alhambra, Carcassonne, and Puerto Rico are some of the more popular ones. Once those became popular, more games of that kind started to be published. Google "Tabletop" if you want to see Wil Wheaton's YouTube channel devoted to videos of such games.
[User Picture]
From:jojobruin
Date:November 27th, 2013 04:40 pm (UTC)
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Ok - I'll definitely try my hand at Dominion then in my spare time! I'll let you know what I think. =P

***
Will they give you your schedule at least ahead of time? Or are you randomly called in to work? That does sound like a tough schedule. Has it affected your sleeping?

***
Ah, yes, monopoly - the game is definitely playing us. I get fascinated by it though. I played computer games that are based on monopoly and really enjoyed it. But I've come to like Yu-Gi-Oh card games a lot. I don't have time for trading and collecting. So if I were to play, I would just buy video games based on yu-gi-oh. The last one I played was Yu Gi Oh 5DS 4.

I've never played Risk. But it sounds pretty interesting!

I just watched this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9QtdiRJYro&list=SP4F80C7D2DC8D9B6C&index=1

This game is cool! How many games do you have?
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:November 28th, 2013 01:59 am (UTC)
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Will they give you your schedule at least ahead of time?

I know far in advance, so that's not a problem.

This game is cool!

I've never played Small World, but I know a lot of people like it.

How many games do you have?

I haven't counted, but I own quite a few.
[User Picture]
From:jojobruin
Date:November 27th, 2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
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I tried Dominion during my break. It was really hard! I got through the tutorial because the AI sucked. But playing against normal computer opponents was really hard. I lost 4 times in a row. Hahah. O_o It was fun though! Argh!
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:November 28th, 2013 02:02 am (UTC)
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But playing against normal computer opponents was really hard.

It takes a while to figure out strategies, but you can watch what the computer does to find out what works.
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