Mike, Chuck, and Ben Harris (whom we will assume for now qualifies as "Ben" until Ben Fleskes shows up regularly again) showed up for some multi-player goodness on Saturday. The only planned game was Princes of the Renaissance, a Wallace title that I'd missed out on during the initial buzz. Chuck wanted to give it another go, Mike had played once some time ago, and Ben had yet to play a Wallace title, so this was an excellent choice.
Like most Wallace titles, the game focuses around players gaining control/interest in a set of common resources, in this case five major cities in Renaissance Italy, represented by six "city tiles" in each city that give you VP at the end (based on status, which is controlled through "wars" and by placing certain Event Tiles on a given city. You buy troops and treachery tiles, auction off city and event tiles, and declare wars that then auction off who controls which side in the war. Interestingly, there are two currencies in the game: Influence, typically rarer, and money. Troops and city tiles are paid for with money, the pope tile and the "condotierre" roles in wars with influence (although you then gain back money regardless of how you do), event tiles depend on the specific event, and treachery cards are one of each.
The thing that makes this game is the treachery tiles, at least in my book. Nothing like watching Mike's army once again unable to use his cavalry in the attack because of bribed troops. Hehe.
Not that any of this mattered. Mike creamed us all, mostly by declaring wars every chance he got, and by making use of his family tile and a city tile that lowered his costs of becoming condotierre. As such, he did quite well at wars, gathering six laurels, four more than anyone else and twice as many as the rest of us combined. The 21 points he gained from that was enough to put him well over the top. Also interesting was that only a single city got more than 3 VP per city tile at the end of the game, largely because I smacked Venice with a French Invasion for the final play of the game to bring it into a three way tie with everyone else but Milan (the 10 pointer) and Rome (the big loser, only I had ever purchased a Roman city tile and paid for it). Ben came in second, myself in third.
A fun game, and one I'll have to try again. I prefer this to Liberte, as it is easier to parse the game situation - all of those pastel control markers and primary color faction blocks make the board look like the floor of a Tilt-A-Whirl compartment on Free Cotton Candy Day at your local amusement park. Definitely not a problem in PotR.
Ben had to go, and Mike only had about an hour, so we tried out my new copy of Bollide, which I described in my Sunriver report (Day 3). We each played two cars, ostensibly for one lap. About 2/3rds of the way into the game, Chuck and Mike both called the game on account of boredom. They both felt it was a puzzle game, which in a way it (and about 3/4ths of designer games) is. True, I was doing well, but there is usually a strong leader in about 1/2 of the games this group plays, so I don't think that was it. We were playing at a brisk pace, too, although not fast enough to make it feel like you were under pressure to make a decision.
I think the real problem is that racing games become boring quickly if you aren't into racing games. Formula De has the same problem, as did Circus Minimus. Either you like these kinds of games, or you don't. Me, I love 'em.
Mike had to go, so Chuck and I grabbed some pizza, discussed the pitfalls of having 20-year-old daughters, and then came back to play the North Africa campaign of Rise of the Luftwaffe, an old GMT title from the early 90's that uses cards to simulate WWII era air battles. The campaign game has some interesting mechanisms and concepts that were expanded over the following three titles that covered the late ETO, early PTO, and late PTO. Dan Verssen came up with a very clever idea, but it became apparent as time went on that he really didn't have anything planned, especially as he started making more money in the CCG market. Still, there were improvements and the game has been pretty popular, with new campaigns in GMT's house magazine C3I. Chuck and I both enjoy the game, although luck can play a pretty big factor.
We started out with a dogfight that saw most of my fighters go down (a common occurrence, unfortunately - I tended to have attack cards most of the game), followed by a couple of raids by Chuck on airbases and factory complexes that went either very well or not so well. In the end, Chuck was up 35 points going into the final mission, but I had the benefit of having two elements of aircraft in my resource list while he was down to reducing FLAK over the target. Sadly, he drew a dogfight for the final mission, and I had no chance to recoup enough points to do more than go from "Miserable" to "Poor", so we called it a game. One of my favorite short wargames, although one that seems to be an acquired taste for many gamers.
Thanks to Chuck, Mike, and Ben for saving me from a boring Saturday stuck home with the dogs.