Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tuesday Gaming

This has been and will continue to be a very busy gaming week for me. I had gaming experiences on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and another one coming on Saturday. 

Tuesday was our group's regular game night, and this time it was Mike's turn to host. Present were Greg, Dave, Mike, and myself, and on the table were Airships, Rheinlander, and Sieben Siegal.

Airships is a Queen release that Mike had asked Greg to bring by. It's a game with a very strong luck element that may be mitigated by planning and decision points. You are the CEO of an airship line, trying to get better airships, better pilots, better engines, etc. There are seven different types of cards that become available over the course of the game, six of which you are only allowed one active card up at a time. You start with the ability to roll two white dice per turn, which give 1-3 points per roll each. You pick a card you are trying for, roll your dice, then pick the dice you want to use to take the card, which has a target point value on it. If you get the card, you put in in that "suit's" slot on your play mat and get the benefit that it provides. If not, you have the option to use one "bonus" chit to up your score by one. If you don't get anything, you get a bonus chit as consolation. Regardless, you may then spend three bonus chits to take a shot at another card, regardless of whether you were successful or not. 

As an example: You have 2 white dice to roll, and you choose to go after a card that you have to roll 2 or more on one white die to take it, and if you have it on your play mat it will give you an extra white die to roll. You roll both dice, rolling a 3 and a 1. You "discard" the 1, as you can only count the points on one die, and since 3 is higher than the target value of two, you get the card and will have three dice to roll next turn.

If you rolled two 1's in the above example, you could (if you had one in your pool) choose to burn one of your bonus tokens in order to bump your total up to the 2 target value. Had the target value instead been 3, you would be out of luck if you rolled two 1's as you can only bump up your dice values by one at the most, although you would get a bonus chit as consolation.

Over the course of the game you add red and then black dice, and the bonuses that cards give you range from adding one to the value of a specific colored die, give you an extra die that always rolls a certain value, give you more bonus chits, give you extra colored dice, give you victory points. If you take an airship, you also get the "blimp" figure, which gives you an automatic +1 to your dice total, right up until someone else takes it from you. The best way to use the blimp is to save up three bonus chits, take a cheap airship, then use the tokens to take an extra shot at a card with the +1. While the chits would give you three shots at +1's, getting those extra cards, especially ones with VP, is important and thus worth spending the chits in that fashion.

The seventh suit is airships, and you can collect as many of these as you want. All they do is give you VP, but they also act as a timing mechanism in a manner that I choose not to elaborate on at this time. There is also the Hindenburg, which you can attempt to get points for after one of the four stacks of airships becomes empty. In our game, we never got to that point, and I think that perhaps we were not aggressive enough in going after airships in general, and despite feeling like the exact card I wanted had been snatched by the person ahead of me. However, I won on a tiebreaker by leaving exactly one airship in each pile on the board (I think there are only three). Go figure. 

While there are, at any point in time, 10 or more cards on the board to choose from, often you have to spend a little time thinking about what it is you need to do to get better cards and airships in a general sense, as the chances of a card  you particularly want sticking around for an entire round is fairly unlikely. As such, it's mostly a tactical exercise with a fair amount of luck with the dice (I got very lucky on my final rolls, despite having no bonus chits to help me out). I'd happily play again, but I'm unlikely to add it to my collection. 

Next up was Rheinlander, which came out several years ago as a Europe-only release from Parker Bros. I remember this game because it had relatively lukewarm buzz at the time, and Dave wanted me to get it so that he could see if it was any good. ;-) Despite having absolutely no idea of how the game worked for the first several turns, I came in dead last. That said, there's some potential here, although the Acquire-like knight placement rules (there is more flexibility than in Acquire, which turns almost entirely on your ability to generate money by setting up to have your chains taken over, and thus either depends on you getting the right tiles or someone else playing the right tiles), and the weird slug-antennae on the plastic horses put me off a bit. However, I think this is a game I'd consider getting if the price was right. 

Sorry there's no full explanation of the rules, but a) I'm not sure I have them down right (Mike did the 'splainin', which is not to say he didn't do a good job but that I was tired and wasn't listening as well as usual), and b) I'm all 'splained out.

Last up was Sieben Siegel, also known as Zing! for those of the Simply Fun bent. We were looking to go into a particularly tight fourth round when we discovered that there'd been a misdeal and I'd gotten one of Greg's cards, and as such Greg didn't lose 6 points and instead went on to win handily. I'm fairly certain I beat Dave out by one point for third. You take the wins where you can get them. Particularly interesting were the relatively high scores, which were pushing the mid-teens after four hands for three of us, which means lots of wacky card distribution. Still my favorite trick-taking game, if for no other reason than you can play with any number between three and five and it feels different with each number (and you must choose your trick tokens accordingly). 

Next session is at my place, as Chris will be out of town (he picks up the slot on the 17th, then back to the previously established calendar). 

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