Archive for September, 2006

Twilight Imperium

September 28, 2006

I played Twilight Imperium last weekend, it’s a good game, but takes a while to play.
The game has familiar elements to anyone who has played Settlers, Puerto Rico or any of the German style board games. The basic premise is a galaxy inhabited by six races, who each vie for supremacy, aiming to complete various objectives to score victory points, the first player to score 10 points wins.

The game is ideally played with six players, but there are variant boards available for as few as three players.

There are various random elements to the game, starting with the selection of the races, and the layout of the board. Each players chooses one of the ten available races at random, and five of the galaxy cards to build the galaxy. Each race has it’s own set of special rules, with different strengths and weaknesses.

Once races are selected, the board is built. Each board tile contains different features, planets, wormholes, asteroid fields and so on. Generally you will attempt to place helpful planets near your own base, and less useful tiles near other players.

The game begins with player colonising the various planets, and building up fleets of space vessels. They can try and complete their own Secret Objectives, which are generally worth
two victory points.

As well as moving ships around, and attacking other players, there are various role cards available, much as in Puerto Rico. The best role is Emperor, which is worth 2VP. The next best is Initiative, which allows the player first selection in the next round (so an ability to take Emperor). Other than that, the other six roles allow various benefits to the selecting player in the realms of trade, politics, diplomacy and technological advancement.

There are several types of card available, notable Action Cards and Political Cards. These are made available as the game progresses, but you will generally only see a few of the possible cards in a single game. Action cards either help you or hinder your opponents, Political Cards require a vote, and will generally alter the rules of the game slightly.

I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s available, and this post is already getting long. With 2 experienced and four new players, the game took around an hour to set-up and explain well enough to start playing, and an hour to play the first round. Subsequent rounds were faster, but creeping towards an hour again towards the end, as the board grew more crowded, and the decisions became harder. In all, you can probably expect to devote most of a day to a full game, possibly an afternoon or evening if all players know the game, and play quickly.

I’d certainly rate this as a game I’d like to play again, but not quite to the level of Puerto Rico or Settlers, due to the time taken to play. This isn’t a game you play once every couple of weeks, it’s for once every few months.


Shadows over Camelot

September 5, 2006

I played Shadows over Camelot for the first time on the weekend. It’s a board game from Days of Wonder, the same people who gave us the excellent Ticket To Ride.

It’s an interesting game, as it’s a co-operative board game, rather than the standard competitive type that we play more often. Instead of each player attempting to win individually, the players compete against the game itself.

The game follows a set method of play, to place random obstacles in the way of the players, as they try and complete various Quests. If the obstacles are allowed to become too great, the Quest will become impossible to complete. If too many quests are failed, the players lose, if they complete enough quests, they win.

It’s a relatively simple game, I picked up most of it within a couple of turns play. Further play will allow better knowledge of the card decks that provide the random element, enabling a bit more strategic play.

The game is suitable for 3-8 players (the eighth player can be added with rules from the Shadows over Camelot website). One of the players is secretly a traitor, they will win if they can cause the rest of the players to lose. This roll is optional, allowing you to play a truly co-operative game if you wish.

Overall, a good game, worth playing a few times at least, but not serious competition to replace Puerto Rico or Settlers as my favourite.

Subtle Rules

September 1, 2006

Subtle rules are a bad thing. Subtle rules are generally elegant and well worded, which is good, but their reason for being and their justifications are often hidden, which is where their weakness lies.

It is a sad fact, but people are more likely to ignore rules they don’t understand the need for, no matter how important these rules may be.

Obvious rules, with clear reasons for existence, will be followed most of the time. Try and make all of your rules obvious in this manner. The clarity with which they are conveyed is important, but if the reasoning behind a rule being present is not obvious, then it will often be ignored.

Sometimes, players will realise that one of the subtle rules with no justification is actually very important, and changes the game significantly once they realise this and begin to include it. I’ve seen that this tends to cause resentment amongst the players, even if the new rule is a good one that benefits the game.

Make your rules obvious, but don’t slip too far and patronise your players, they will not enjoy that other. Seek a balance when writing the rules, make sure everything in the rules document has a visible reason for being there, and make sure that the reason is not one only you can see.