Wednesday, December 13, 2006

SouTu Session, 12/12/06

You know what my favorite part about Christmas is? Finding out that someone has hacked our credit card two weeks before the holiday. Especially when the person telling me this over the phone is clearly not a native English speaker ("can you spell that? Slowly?" They must think I'm a billion years old). Then they suggest we log on online to see what charges are ours and are not, and we are locked out. Sayonara, Capital One, you're complete lack of customer support has lost you another customer.

But I'm supposed to be Mr. Whiney on Dice Tower, not here in my blog! So I will take this opportunity to recap our South Tuesday session at Mike's this past Tuesday instead!

There were a ton of people there - me, Peter, KC, Mike (obviously, it's his house), Alex, Liz, Ben, Jim, Tim, and George. While everyone was still arriving, Ben set up his Tumbling Dice game and Alex, Liz, he, and myself gave it a shot.

Tumbling Dice is yet another "flicking" game, except instead of wooden disks, you flick dice off of a platform onto a very nice wooden board. The board consists of four tiers - from top to bottom; the "launch" pad, the 0x/1x level (the largest), the 2x, and the 3x levels. There are also three small 4x areas below the 3x area. At the back of the 3x and 4x areas are pins to prevent some of the dice from continuing off of the board. It's a lot easier to understand if you see the board, but trust me that it's a very nice setup.

Each player has four dice that they flick off of the launch pad one at a time in player order (so player 1 flicks one die, then player 2, etc, until all players have flicked four dice each). If your dice falls off of the board, it won't score any points. However, there is no penalty for knocking off someone else's die off of the board. Likewise, it is possible for your die to hit another die so that it will score more or fewer points by moving to another area of the board or changing which side is face up.

Scores are computed by multiplying each die on the board by the area it's in once all dice have been flicked. The highest score then begins the next round, and works it's way down from there. After four rounds, you add up all of your scores and the highest wins.

The game plays very quickly and has almost no downtime. Much of the fun comes from hitting other people's dice and knocking them off, although just as often the dice ended up in a higher multiplier area with a better number! Having the pins at the back of the board makes for even more unpredictability.

On the downside, this is not a cheap game, and this is not a small game. At $50 at discount in a box that would hold perhaps four or so "normal" boardgames (it's even bigger than the Carabande box), this is a bit of a stretch purchase unless you and/or your family like flicking games. I can see my family digging this when we're all out at Sunriver, and it would take up shelf space there rather than at my home, but it won't make it into my home collection for those reasons. If you don't mind those issues, this one is a winner.

Of course, Cooley's Law does play a role here, as I surged past Ben in the final round with 43 points for a crushing win!

By now, everyone was there (told you TD was quick), so we broke up into a group of four playing Anno 1503 (Mike, Tim, Peter, and KC), while the rest of us played Atlantic Star. I reported in more depth on the game in my last Sunriver report, when we played a game with KC and Rita. In our game, only Jim and I had played before, and Jim had played last weekend so I had someone to help me remember all of the rules as I did some 'splainin'.

I think a key strategy in this game is to put out a decent but not necessarily killer cruise line that you don't feel too bad about using later on for a loan, and this is exactly what I did with a four-line Mediterranean cruise that I promptly put in the one-star column (which means even worst place gets decent points). I was able to get my big 6-line Pacific cruise out without having to take a loan as well, but I'd done well with my 3-line Baltic cruise, which was a five-star and I was in first with 23 points, which I kept until the end. In the end, I had to spend my last dollar (after two loans) to get my last card for my last cruise launched intact, and that with two cards in-hand. Had I not finally gotten an E line card, I would have been two points out of first place in the two-star column, which would have let Liz sneak by me for the win!

This is a game that plays best with 6, simply because there is so much competition for the cards and so much chance to ruin someone's day by wiping the cards off of the agency board. I still think that Show Manager has a better theme, but the game is exactly the same and one of the five best games for six out there (Medici and Elfenlands also come to mind). And, I won my second game of the evening!

After this game, Alex and Liz headed for home so we gave the newest Sunriver Games title, Incan Gold, a try. This game has a certain amount of controversy surrounding it, in no small part because of the 'Geek, but I will state here for the record that the folks who run Sunriver games have the highest ethical standards, and in no way did they "steal" anything, intellectual or otherwise, in the creation of this game.

Incan Gold is a slightly modified version of Diamant, the very cool but overpriced press-your-luck game. The theme has moved to exploring a Mayan temple, and the artwork is excellent and evokes the theme quite well. Instead of gems, the "money" now consists of very nice plastic bits intended to represent nuggets of turquoise, gold, and onyx. There are still a few production issues to clear up, but the game is essentially finished. The only rules change is the addition of an increasing number of "artifact" cards that go to whoever is the sole person to bail in a given turn, unlike unclaimed nuggets that get split up among the bailing players. I have no experience with Diamant, so I really can't compare, but it occurs to me that the addition of artifacts gives players who find themselves seriously behind a (small) chance to catch up if things go their way in the final round.

We played with the maximum, 8, and I have to say that this is perhaps the best longish filler game out there for that number, putting it in the company of, uhm, let's see, uhm...

Some help here?

OK, Saboteur. But I like this better. Yes, Dave, I like it better, even though you told us dozens of times that we should get this game for that very reason. You. Were. Right. Although it may be just a bit too long to qualify as filler.

Peter won, partly through picking exactly the right time to bail in order to get very good points for artifacts and loose stones. Mike did an awesome job of sticking around in an early round that netted him enough points for second, and I was at least in the hunt for third with 25 points. I'm looking forward to getting a copy of this game, as it's a very nice reprint of the original title. While it doesn't have the elaborate gem chests of Diamant, it certainly won't be confused for one of those "cheap American reprints" that the 'Geek seems to think it will be. Nicely done, Sunriver Games.

Thanks for hosting, Mike. The next session will be the pre-Christmas fest at my home on the 19th, where we will consider doing a gift exchange!

1 comment:

George said...

Exploring a Mayan temple for Incan gold, eh?