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

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Carribean, Hacienda, Reef Encounter, game parts

Another missed game night with friends, but at least I got in a game with Candy. This was Caribbean, acquired in trade just this week in shrinkwrapped condition. It's a game with a decidedly middle-of-the-road (at best) reputation, a lukewarm 6.2 rating and ranking in the high 700s. I got to see this game undergoing final playtesting (I think) when I went to the Gathering back in 2004. It hadn't piqued my curiosity until I read about it as a good family game. So, I tried it. What did we think? Funny, Candy had the same opinion as was running through my head: the gameplay isn't bad, but just doesn't inspire. No great plays, no big laughs, no hidden depths (that we could see in one play, anyway). But the small production is so nice, with an attractive board, nice ships (that will be nicer with a touch of glue), and a fun theme. It's not actually piracy that either of us find very compelling, just the detailed and accurate geography of the Carribean itself. Makes us think of planning a vacation. :-)

So, for now it'll stick around. I think it will do better with another player or two causing more mayhem in the blind bidding, but even that won't change the game too much. I'll play it another couple times then move it along in trade or sale.

I guess those BGGers were right in their assessment. :-)

Besides that, the only other games I played last week were play-by-web. Another go at Hacienda, and again I just don't see the appeal. Of the game. In this particular outing, I think we made a believer in play-by-web of local friend David Gullett, so that's great. Now I just need to get him trying some of the other online offerings. A complication is that he still hasn't played so many of those games in-person yet. And though you can learn a game through online play--I'm doing that now with Kreta--it's definitely easier if you know what the face-to-face play of the game is like first.

Such as with Reef Encounter, my other pbw title this week. I can't imagine learning THAT game through online play alone, though surely people have done it. This time it was a 3-player game and I tried a sprint strategy. My opening tile draw let me come around to turn 2 with six polyps still intact. I gobbled them up immediately, cashing in just two tiles but getting a significant jump on the other players. I then gobbled one or two more tiles with my second shrimp on turn 3. I think there was one turn where I couldn't eat a shrimp, but the rest I ate tiles & locked down dominance/scoring through algae cylinders. In the end, one other player and I tied at 23 points in one of the quickest games of Reef Encounter I've ever played.

This sprint strategy appealed to me early when learning the game--I often gravitate toward strategies that let a player (me) dictate the tempo of the game, trying to foil the longterm strategists. But I don't often see it succeed in Reef Encounter. There's a nice balance in there where the player with the tempo of the game has to relinquish big chunks of the reef to other players who have built up more of a warchest of tiles. You just don't have the tiles or shrimp remaining to apply spatial pressure on those opponents while you're also pressuring the game clock. I love it.

Last, I think I mentioned in one of my podcasts how I went in with friends on a game parts order from Germany. Kind of ridiculously expensive, but I got a lot of fun parts. I've got big cardboard squares and plastic standup bases to use for permanent family members in I'm The Boss, lots of wooden disks to replace the cardboard counters in Kings & Castles, and other stuff intended for game designs that aren't much more than ideas right now. The only disappointment were some round disks intended to replace some poorly colored ones in Make Five, a pretty, wooden abstract. Turns out the replacements I got aren't quite the same size as the other disks in the game. And since they need to blindly drawn from a bag, that's a problem. Oh well, on balance I'm pleased with all of the goodies. Oh, the website we ordered from is .



Blogger Brent Mair said...

Thanks for the update. I'm always happy to see you continue to play Hacienda, even if you don't like it.

8:13 AM  

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