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Dave Peters

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Go to the Through the Ages page
Go to the Magic Realm page
Go to the Race for the Galaxy page
Go to the El Grande: Decennial Edition page
Go to the Arkwright page
Go to the 1830: Railways and Robber Barons page
Go to the Planet Steam page
Go to the Gaia Project page
Go to the Starship Merchants page

Starship Merchants

4 out of 6 gamers thought this was helpful

Y’know the classic description of a chaotic system: the butterfly flaps its wings in Southeast Asia and some event happens in New York as a result?

This game, at least at first blush, is more than a little like that. There’s a fair bit of randomness (two shuffled decks of cards appear in some order, and one pulls Ore tokens from a bag when prospecting) but (after seventeen plays!) it seems to me that the primary driver of the game outcome are the downstream ripples from the decisions the players make.

That means that the game can easily seem capricious in a first play: the players haven’t yet been trained to see the tie between decision and outcome; and so one might (as we did!) complain that “the best player didn’t win.”

With practice, though, the best players absolutely do win. And the motivations for making one plausible decision over another start also to become clear. I’ve really enjoyed this for the last dozen plays, and would absolutely recommend it for folk willing to give it repeated and regular attempts. (Or, I guess, for folk that find the references to 2038 charming.)

Equally, I’d not recommend it to folk that won’t play often: a novice in a table of experienced players will lose (and not know why); and a table of novices will see a (superficially) random result. And neither of those are particularly compelling.

Go to the Le Havre page

Le Havre

147 out of 174 gamers thought this was helpful

Le Havre is not for the faint of heart. It’s a fairly long game, and not terribly forgiving. There aren’t any random factors to blame when everything inevitably goes sideways two or three hours in. But it’s definitely worth playing.

If you’re unfamiliar with the game, this is a game in the worker-placement idiom: on many of your turns, you’ll play a piece somewhere in the playing area to choose a particular action. In Le Havre the set of those possible actions increases as the game goes along. At the beginning of the game, you’ll be able to see the potential actions that will be available later – but you won’t (quite) know in what order they’ll arrive, or when.

Your goal is to have the most assets. Buying or producing goods, then selling them locally will make you money. Building or purchasing a ship or building will increase your portfolio. Shipping goods to far markets can be still more lucrative. And while that sounds easy enough, there are lots of potential resources to manipulate, and many ways to manipulate them.

In the end, the game is about opportunity and timing. You’ll want to manipulate the choices of the other players to ensure that the goods and resources you need are available to you; that the buildings you need to use are constructed in a timely manner; that the others find greater potential in colliding with one another than with you. It’s not remotely a multiplayer-solitaire game: everything you do has repercussions to the others in the game.

My bottom line? After 20 plays, it’s still something I’m wanting to get to the table.

Go to the Homesteaders page


20 out of 40 gamers thought this was helpful

But like a nice cookie (biscuit in the UK) rather than an unappealing crust of stale bread.

The game presents a tight little optimization problem: each turn there’s an Amun-Re-style auction for a building permit; the game arc comes from a gradual change in the structures available to build. Buildings provide various opportunities for your corner of town. The trick is getting the synergies right – or, at least, more right than your opponents managed. Money, workers, and resources are pretty tight.

All told, it’s pretty cool – if a bit on the penny-counting edge of the game spectrum.

Go to the Runewars page


38 out of 47 gamers thought this was helpful

Our initial impression of Runewars was as a rather overproduced Risk-like game: one in which armies beat on one another in order to claim the most territory. While that’s certainly a sub-theme, it’s not at all the whole: one must learn to read the map, its resources and connections; one cannot neglect the Hero subgame (our winners are usually able to pull of two or three of the six needed Dragon runes through Hero play); one needs to understand the tempo of seasons and order cards; and one definitely needs to learn to manipulate influence and the Objective and Title cards. That sounds, on first blush, like a lot of subsystems – but it’s not terribly difficult in practice.

The real problem is with the wants-to-play-overproduced-Risk player who tries to simplify, and then discovers he’s going to lose every time to the player that has the whole thing under control. If you try to play some other game with the Runewars bits, it might be unsatisfying – but the game that came in the box is excellent: subtle; tight; replayable; charming.

I still don’t understand the production decision that gave us the “mountains”, though!

Go to the Ticket to Ride: The Card Game page
56 out of 65 gamers thought this was helpful

While I could imagine this game working for others, it absolutely doesn’t for me. I’m one of those annoying people that naturally tracks information that I see in a game: I count cards; count supposedly hidden VP in games like Puerto Rico or Smallworld where the payouts are public; stuff like that. So I naturally attempted to keep track of the cards I’d played in TtR:tCG. And it was hard; painfully so. If I’d been sensible, I would have given up – but then I would (by my standards) have been “playing badly”: so I ended up exerting quite a lot of effort to play a horrible little take-that game as well as I could.

It’s not worth it. The game is capricious, random, and chaotic. Any planning one might do is wiped out in a moment of inattention, or by the casual convenience of an opponent. Here, devious plays are not the stuff of planning, achievement, or subterfuge: they’re just the mislabelling of coincidence.

Go to the Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium page
62 out of 74 gamers thought this was helpful

With Rebels vs Imperium, the early criticism of Race for the Galaxy as a game of multi-player solitaire become even more untenable then they already were. No longer are the players building their tableaus in isolation: there’s now a Takeover power to ensure that some tableaux are dangerous to pursue. It worked for friends and I: we now always play with RvI in play and takeovers on.

Go to the Through the Ages page

Through the Ages

49 out of 80 gamers thought this was helpful

Through the Ages is not for the faint of heart: it’s a game that permits one to be abjectly crushed by one’s opponents – if one fails to pay attention to the oh-so-important balance of military power. But as a game for players of roughly equal skill, it’s very rewarding: the decisions are meaningful; the game arc nontrivial; yet the mechanics are still entirely tractable. A very nice game.

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