Our first real evening game, at least for Dave, Eric, Tex, and myself, was A Brief History of the World. I've posted on this in the past, here's a real session report. A brief one!
Of the four of us, only Eric had never played any version of the game before, but the rules didn't take long to explain. With so many changes to the system, it was worth a full refresh of the rules before we played.
One of the problems I've had with History in it's earlier incarnations is that a) it's a bit long for what it is, and b) there tends to be a lot of downtime. ABHotW didn't seem to have that problem - we finished in about 2 hours not including 'splainin'. There was very little downtime, other than waiting for Dave to finish watching Kobe in the NBA playoffs and drifting away from the game. ;-)
The other problem is that earlier versions more or less required six players. I would say that the game really requires five or six, and six is better. I think that three hours for six is perfectly acceptable in terms of play time, although there will obviously be more downtime. Whether that's an acceptable tradeoff is a good question, only a six-player game will tell.
In our game, I was in last place for the first two turns, which allowed me to pull the Romans. Unlike earlier versions, the last place player gets to choose from X empires, where X is the number of players. Rome was there, and I went crazy. In fact, I went so crazy, and there was so little beating down of my empire for a couple of turns that I ended up staying in first for the last four turns, gaining 12 bonus points along the way.
That said, there was considerable beating down in the last epoch, when I ended up with Japan. However, the other empires (other than Britain) weren't that great. As we moved through that last Epoch, Tex started fairly weakly with Russia, then Eric got a lot of points with Britain, and Dave actually one-pointed him after playing the US. I had almost no choices, but I had pulled a Diplomacy event card that allowed me to score a few extra points. We ended up with about a ten point spread between all four players, with Dave in second (I think he got bonuses every turn, although most were one or two points instead of three) and Eric in third.
HotW requires a certain amount of understanding of what's important - beat on the leader, although often the leader is not who he appears to be. If you don't take board position into account, often the leader will just get further ahead. That was definitely the case for me, and I had a good 20 point lead going into the fifth and sixth epochs. Even with Eric getting close to fifty points in his last turn (and Dave doing about the same), I was able to hold them off.
I still think that if I've got six players, five hours, and good players, I'll take the original AH edition every time. The strength/VP point system makes your empire choices all that much more important. That said, Brief is a very good game if you like HotW but don't have the time or skilled players. The main reason skill isn't quite as important is that there are considerably fewer areas on the board, and thus fewer places to "hide". Understanding board position compared to VP total is still important, but with four there's a lot greater chance that wackiness will ensue as a result of a wider set of possible empire pulls is present and you can't assume the Romans will be the Khmer in the next turn.
That may be my only win of the week, I certainly haven't won anything else...
Mike and Chuck played the new Treefrog title Gettysburg from Martin Wallace. They were very impressed, but I don't know much more than that.
I'll also note that we had five games going during the day today (Day 3) - Eric and Tex played Stalin's War, and Eric demonstrated how not to play the Soviets. Once they were done, they played 1825 Unit 3, with Tex winning. Dave and Chuck played Flying Colors, the Sadras scenario from the Ship of the Line module, with Dave winning. They are in the middle of playing a two-player game of Maria, the follow-up to Friedrich.
Not sure what's on the docket for this evening, but I suspect I'll be showing Dave how to play D-Day at Omaha Beach or RAF or both while everyone else plays other games.