Thursday, February 01, 2007

Raoul and Congolia Breckinridge Hit The Beaches

Despite a little swelling from the only elective surgery that I’m told men get, I decided to make the trip out to Mike’s for at least part of the SouTu session. I had games for HazMatt and Chris, and with snow (yes, snow - this is a rare event in Portland) threatening, I decided to bite the, uh, bullet and get in one game even if I’d be sitting on a hard wooden chair.

While Mike, Carey, and Tim pulled out Hacienda (and later Walhalla), Chris taught George, Matt, and myself Big Kini. This is a classic resource management game, although it does feel a little bit like a “do a lot of things, get a lot of points” game. Every turn you have the opportunity to do a variety of things, from moving your cubes around the incredibly dense and Skittles-vomit colored board, to exploring as-yet-unrevealed tiles, to earning money, to holding elections to be The Big Raoul on a given island, to collecting pearls/shells/fish, to hanging out in the honeymoon huts and having babies.

The thing that makes the game particularly fun is that the first time someone does an action in the turn, they get to do it twice. After that, the following player taking that action only does it once, then the third person has to pay 2 clams to do it once. As such, you spend a lot of time trying to think of what the people in front of you are going to do. That, and whether or not you’ll be able to do what you want to do at all!

The good news is that the game is fairly tactical, or at least you generally have enough options that you can shift strategy as you go. However, there are only 12 turns in the game, and you only get 2 actions per turn, so to go from having only two tokens on one tile in a sea of undiscovered tiles takes a bit of doing. Being able to look a turn or two ahead is critical, as so many things you do will require at least two actions (have babies, move, hold elections - oops, you forgot that the place you wanted to move from only has one ship so you can’t move two tiles! Ack!)

The board is very difficult to parse, at least it would be if you had to look at the whole thing, but like most games of this sort you more or less stay in your own corner and branch out (or not) only if there’s good reason to. Not that there isn’t a lot of interaction and screwage going on, there is. However, Chris and I never ended up in a tile together, although Matt and George ended up all over the board.

I spent the first four turns watching Matt, sitting to my right, take the exact action I wanted. Every time. Fortunately, it seems like there is always something you can do to advance your cause, even if it isn’t exactly what you thought you’d do. We did have one exciting moment when I realized halfway through the 10th turn that it was actually the 11th turn - you can tell by who has the Raoul Goes First token. As such, everyone who thought they had five actions left realized they only had three!

In the end, my last move was to hold an election on a tile to get my Raoul points, then realized that not only was I could hold another election, but because I had two extra shell markers I didn’t need for sets, I was able to pull one Raoul-in-chief spot right out from under Matt. Revenge, she is sweet. Actually, I felt really bad about it, even though he’d left the chance open, but in the end it didn’t make a huge difference, as I won by a hefty margin and the steal really only resulted in me gaining 3 points while Matt lost 3, and our margin was broader than that.

I enjoyed the game quite a bit, and I’ll probably pick up a copy despite the fact that I find the board such a busy, tiny mess. It isn’t so bad if you focus on one at a time, but in it’s entirety, it’s quite a sight.

With that, I decided that I’d had enough hard surfaces on my soft parts, so home I went. Still, it’s always nicer to drive home with a win! Not really. OK, a little bit. Thanks to Mike for hosting!

BTW, bonus points to anyone who recognizes the cultural reference in the title.

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