Last weekend I managed to get three games in. I’ve played Everdell a few times already but this was my first game of Clash of Cultures and Abyss. Here are my Hot Takes.
1. Clash of Cultures. Stuck in the Classical Era
This game committed one of the cardinal sins of game design. It front-loaded almost all of the decision making in an interface that wasn’t particularly user friendly. Almost all of the game’s meat comes from which technologies are chosen and there are twelve groups of four each, presented solely as text. It’s one of those games that feels incredibly awkward showing to new players just because of the sheer barrier of wrapping one’s head around so many interconnecting technologies. As a video game, this wouldn’t have been so bad, as the user could merely Cntrl+F for key words they want. However, a new player will be stuck reading through 48 abilities looking for something that helps them with what they want to do and unless that player is a savant at instant memorization, they will probably be rereading things again and again trying to remember where they saw that one bonus.
Once players have played a few games, remembering technologies won’t be an issue but I really feel the game will have been “solved” with build orders by then. More significantly I can’t see any reason to devote precious game nights to repeating what Clash of Cultures has to offer. There are far better games that are available. While I haven’t played it, I’ve heard from people that have played both that the new Civilization game is much better. Though not quite as faithful a “Civ-Style” game, Tapestry provides a far more interesting puzzle and enjoyable experience. It’s a testament to Martin Wallace that six years previously he created a Civ-Style game that felt more modern and fluid in its mechanics with Tempus. Age of Empires 3 predated CoC by half a decade and also felt like a much better game with more modern design mechanics. For just plain dudes on a map games Kemet came out the same year and blows CoC out of the water with design. Even in 2012 this game would have felt left behind by the trends of modern boardgaming.
2. Everdell. It’s All so Beautiful………
Still one of my favorite games of all time. It takes worker placement tableau and perfectly balances decision making with relaxing fun. It’s much maligned among more hardcore players because of the small amount of randomness it does have, but even when things don’t go your way there is still fun to be had. Everdell is one of those games where you can just get lost in the story that’s unfolding in front of you and enjoy the experience you’re having regardless of whether someone else is running away with a victory. Myself and one other person didn’t get many harvest cards early but still had a chuckle at our little dystopias with ruins, dungeons and overzealous judicial systems (Judges and Courthouses). Players were impressed by the shift in tone the game takes from engine buildings resource gathering, to victory point maximization. There’s just the right amount of crunch to hit the top of that gamer demographic bell curve. I felt like the table left that game feeling entertained and relaxed.
3. Abyss with Leviathan Expansion. Deeper than expected.
Abyss was more enjoyable than Board Game Geek led me to think it would be. The game offered interesting decisions when gathering resources and climbing the ladder of Allies -> Lords -> Locations. Every round of bidding felt engaging and the game did not have the “Not my turn downtime” most do. The Leviathan track was fantastically interesting and fun. The only issue with our game was that the first lord taken locked everyone else’s hand size down to 6 for the entire game (that player never got 3 keys to stop that ability from continuing). In a normal game that wouldn’t feel too restrictive, but with Leviathan ally cards are also used to fight monsters and there were too many times where players just didn’t have the cards needed to participate in that section of the game. It was bad luck with our group, but I think I’ll take that one card out when playing with the expansion just to stop that from frustrating players again. I read through all of the lord cards and none of them are even remotely as oppressive. Other than that, it was a great experience. Another middle of the road type of game that has enough complexity to satisfy the majority of gamers but enough user friendliness, theme and charm to be fun and cathartic. Not something that will be at the top of the list for hardcore gamer groups, but something I feel comfortable breaking out with people of all gaming preferences. The gorgeous artwork will make it easy to convince new players to give it a try.
4. Ganz Schon Clever. Just roll with It because……
that’s right, we’re doing a late Hot Take turn around! We’re kicking this up a notch and turning it into a QUADRUPLE Hot Take! Bam! I played this on Tabletop Simulator and had an absolute blast. It’s a game that is incredibly popular but I had been keeping busy with Welcome To… and Railroad Ink. This game though, is the best of all the Roll & Write games I’ve played. The best way to describe it is like a German Euro Yahtzee. It takes all the great things of Roll & Write and adds something everyone would love, more maths! Colored dice each have their own sections and rules for how they score increasing the variability and complexity. Each player can draft the dice that are left over from the main players turn leading to some off-turn engagement. I had a blast and can’t wait to show this game to everyone I can. Look for a full review soon.