Turnout this month was very good, with almost 30 people in attendance. From when I arrived I saw Innovation, Agricola, Rattus, Trans Europa, The Sceptre of Zavandor, Glory to Rome, Indonesia, Dominant Species, Ankh Morpork, Alien Frontiers, Power Grid and Dominion being played.
Second time playing this game, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Played 4 player and started as Vimes, but decided to change roles when I got Zorgo the Retrophrenologist and ended up as Lord de Worde. Felt like I should have stuck it out with Vimes, since he seems quite strong in a 4 player game. I noticed a lot of building and minion placing, so I surmised that we had an all noble game (I was wrong, Blue was actually Chrysoprase, but was hampered by constant money stealing). As Green came pretty close to victory and I had the cards to pull it off, I decided on a strategy to make it look like I was Dragon King of Arms and cause heaps of trouble to distract the others and hopefully sneak a few control areas. Demons and then Trolls turning up messed with my plans a bit, but I managed to accrue enough minions and cash to end up winning on points anyway. I quite enjoyed myself and the second guessing of character roles is probably the most interesting part of the game. The random bits still irk me a little, but it suits the theme and integrates Discworld references so well that I can’t help but enjoy the game. I’ve ordered a copy of the Special Edition from Treefrog, which awaits me in Melbourne, and I can’t wait to bust it out. I’ll probably write a full review later; might wait until I have my own copy handy so I can refer back to some of the great references in the cards.
Alien Frontiers is a dice/action drafting game very similar to Kingsburg (speaking of Kingsburg, I’ve just finally ordered a physical copy after playing it on the iPhone all this time). On your turn, you roll dice which represent your ships and then assign your dice to “orbital stations” which allow you to take certain actions. The catch is that some orbital stations only allow certain types of ships (dice combinations) or provide defferent effects depending on the value of the ship. For example, the Solar Collector provides increasing amounts of Energy cubes depending on the value of the ship assigned and you can only build new ships using a matched pair of dice. Various Alien Tech cards also provide you with powers and usually means to control the value of your dice rolls. You also gain Bonus benefits for controlling sectors of the alien Planet, such as reducing costs and providing an extra Alien ship die to use.
Overall, I really enjoyed the dice mechanic used in the game and the interactions between the different ways of using your dice, which I feel is an improvement over the Kingsburg model. I also like that each sector of the planet is named after a well-known sci-fi author (Asimov Crater, Herbert Valley etc. Herbert Dunes would have been to on the nose, heh). However, I felt that the end game felt anticlimactic as you only score points for colonies and the game ends as soon as a player deploys all his colonies. This may have been because we played a 4 player game with only 6 colonies per player, and rarely fought over control of colonies so the endgame felt quite sudden and the scores quite low. There were some tense moments toward the end though, were a few unlucky dice rolls prevented an earlier endgame. I could have sneaked in an earlier victory as well, but I had stupidly started on the colony track with a stray 1-die earlier in the game hoping not to waste it, which ended up wasting me a turn since I could not activate that colony on the crucial turn. In the end, I came in second while Yellow snagged the crucial last ore needed to build 2 colonies in a turn and won the game. Another minor issue with the game is the downtime, as the many options for using your dice can lead to analysis paralysis from some players. That only surfaced a few times in this game as the other players seemed to be quite familiar with it already, but it could be a potential issue. In summary, an enjoyable game with some interesting interactions which I hope to try again. This is almost a review already, so I’ll just leave it at that for now and may do a detailed review once I’ve played it a few more times and with different number of players.
Ah, Carl Chudyk. This gem of a game really scratches my itch for a civ-lite game using cards and provides an ungodly amount of different interactions and tactics to keep in mind. After finishing it, I feel like playing again to try different cards and interactions. This was one where I wished it could have gone longer, but I was also kind of glad it ended when it did so I could catch the bus home.
In Innovation, you get 2 actions a turn, which you can use to draw a card or to play down different cards which provide different resource icons and powers (dogmas). The powers have a related resource icon which dictates who and how other players are affected by the powers. The two different dogmas are Supremacy Dogmas and Cooperative Dogmas. Supremacy Dogmas allow you to Demand cards from other players who have less of the related resource than you while Cooperative Dogmas allow all other players who have at least the same amount of the related resource as you to also take the same action and provides you with a bonus if they cooperate. Some dogmas allow you to collect Influence, and when you have enough Influence or meet certain conditions you can also use an action to Dominate (score) an Age or a Discipline. The first player to achieve a set amount of Dominations (based on the number of players) wins the game.
Those are the basics Innovation, but the bulk of the game, like any fine Carl Chudyk design, is actually just figuring out the interactions between the different Dogmas you have available to you and how you can best use them to beat the crap out of the other players. I played a 3 player game, which I sadly did not win but I had a really fun time. I remember Clothing, Optics, Engineering, Feudalism, Mathematics, Mobility, and Physics being used to great effect. I also played with the gorgeous Iello printing, and I’m not sure whether I should hunt that one down or order the Asmadi version from Milsims. In any case,this is one game I definitely want to play a couple dozen more times and I am looking forward to getting a copy of my own.