Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

BGTG 60 - June 14, 2006 David Arnott Leftovers about Medici, Elasund (and Hacienda)

During the All About Vinci show, my guest Dave Arnott thought to bring up something we'd failed to cover during our previous All About show, covering Medici almost a year ago. Rather than include that in the Vinci show, I clipped that part out to be used later. Something similar happened when Dave turned the tables on me for the "Dark Johnson" interview, when we got into some discussion about Elasund. Though it didn't really fit with that interview, it was too good to throw away.

So that's what this show is--a mash-up of these other segments, interspersed with some more recent commentary by yours truly. Then I felt it was finally time to back up the parting shot I took at Hacienda some time ago. At least one podcast listener has been waiting for me to back up those comments. We'll see how I did.


Medici (BGG thread about the new edition)
Mike Siggins' Gamers Notebook column at Funagain


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kind of a nice little odds-and-ends show. It's a bit weird to hear snippits of yourself out of context, but I'm glad those "extras" finally got up off the editing room floor.

Hey, maybe we should keep coming up with more stuff on Medici, like, every four months - that could be out thing :)

I, too, am lukewarm on Hacienda (not as much as you, but I'm near your camp)... and yet I disagree with most of your "problems" with it. Hmm... rather than type it all out, maybe I'll try your Skype account (plus, I know you want someone to test it for you now).

And yeah, on the one hand, I can't believe they added special power cards to Medici... but, as you say, you can always not use them and still play the original game. It is cool that they reprinted this classic, albeit with cardboard pieces, and I can see how including a new variant might get people who already own the game to buy a second copy (like you..?)

So... when's the bloopers show?

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The French edition is mostly disappointing for a reason not mentioned in the show. The scoring track is much too short for the amount of points achieved during a typical game. It seems like a nitpick, but compared to the longer rectangular tracks of the previous versions, it’s harder to get a quick assessment of how everyone is scoring in relation to each other because it looks like people have lapped other players.

6:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent show as usual. I've just started playing Medici myself, largely due to your "All About" show. I have the Rio Grande edition with the "5" step. I actually have a question about how the steps work, as it is not clear in the Rio Grande rules. Let's say I'm on the 4th from the top space. That turn, I buy 3 of that commodity and advance to the top space. Do I get a 20 point bonus, or do I get a 5+10+20 point bonus? I assume the former, but the rules just say you get the bonus when you "Reach the space". Similarly, let's say I reach the "5" bonus on round 2. On round 3 I do not advance that commodity. Do I get the "5" bonus again?

On another topic, I need to speak out in defense of Elasund. First off, my 3 player games have been coming in at under an hour. This is a game where you can largely plan during other's turns, so we're pretty much ready by the time it comes to us.

What I like about Elasund, and what I think is the key strategic element, is the balance between Gold and Influence. You do need to maintain this balance, but the way you go about it can vary. Investing in Influence buildings early can be initially painful, but can be very beneficial in the late game. However, even if you over-invest in Gold, you can convert that gold to influence by building wall pieces. However, if you're going to do that, you need to do it by midgame, at which point the wall will likely be complete.

You can even try to go for a gold-only strategy and gain your victory points via church building, but if you're going to do that you will need to set up very powerful gold income early, as the church pieces are expensive victory points. Plus, if you've probably left your gold-generating buildings vulnerable, and have little influence to help you put them back, so you're taking a big risk going this way.

Another neat element is the way that the best trade-point generating spots can be at the mercy of the church with no defense other than denying the other players the gold to build over you. It's an expensive gamble to attack someone with the church (irony?), but that's one of the elements that makes this game exciting and avoids a midgame determination of the winner.

Anyway, maybe this game feels samey to you guys because there's only 2 resources, but I find that the complex balance between the two generates a lot of tension. In my opinion, Elasund incorporates the good parts of Settlers into a more interesting, albeit less casual, game.

- Damon

8:23 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Mark, the land approach in Hacienda is viable. You'll still have to connect to some markets, but 5 or 6 out of the 11 is sufficient if you can connect a large (14-16 tile) land chain, or two or three shorter (6-8 tile) chains. In this case you cease to rely on herds for cash and instead you harvest the land. I've been quite competitive vs the marketeers with a terrain approach.

The main characteristic it shares with Durch is the market connection, and not the area enclosure. Cutting off opponents from markets is an important element especially with more players.

Hacienda also seems to be a kit-style game as you pointed out. Between using new maps (the dogbone one is very much a beginner, non-gamer map) and the variants (score-as-you-go seems to be popular) you've got a poor man's Torres.

We really like Hacienda as a relaxing, gateway-type game.

4:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another note in defense of Elasund.

It sounds like the confrontational element is really what turned you off of the game, which is too bad. Perhaps if you reframe the confrontation as "perpetual defense" it might help you. And that's what I love about the game.

Unlike other games which allow you to develop your resources and then [for the most part] rest on your laurels while you collect residuals, with Elasund your future income is in no way guaranteed. You need to fight to keep your economic engine running! And this can be a bit of a downer for the first few plays until you figure out the development arc of the game. You've got to balance development with defense and timing is everything.

It's a really great game and I hope you can find the wherewithall to give it another chance.

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark, you failed to start the podcast with "Okay...". I felt out of sorts the entire episode! I think I held my breath for 45 minutes waiting for the "Okay...". Felt like the show never started.


5:12 PM  

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