Saturday is our first full day of gaming. The schedule for Saturday was:
- 8am Breakfast
- 9am – 1pm Block 1 (Bigfoot)
- 2pm – 6pm Block 2 (Otter)
- 6pm – 8pm Dinner/Campfire break
- 8pm+ Open Gaming
Bigfoot had the first block of time where had full control over what game we would play, free from veto, but not free from my derisive sneers. He could pick any game in the world, and he chose one of his absolute favourite games, Gaia Project, which I’ve written about in my Bigfoot’s Trash Taste post.
Gaia Project, designed by Jens Drögemüller and Helge Ostertag is the spiritual successor to Terra Mystica (another of Bigfoot’s favourite games). In Gaia Project, players control an asymmetric faction and must terraform neighbouring planets into their home environment before developing colonies and improving their infrastructure. This is a big game with a lot going on. Players are tasked with balancing several resources as they expand into the far reaches of space.
I can see why Gaia Project (and it’s fantasy partner Terra Mystica) are so beloved. The decisions offered here are wide and varied. With 14 different factions all playing differently, there is depth to be plumbed. This is a tough game that rewards appropriate planning and capitalizing on being a turn ahead of your opponents. There’s no randomness to throw you off your game, everything is deterministic, which I generally enjoy. I still think it’s still a bit too much for me, after we finished our 5 hours game I had a splitting headache, but there’s no way I can say that this game is objectively bad. For my money, I’d say Gaia Project is better than Terra Mystica, even if only because it jettisons the need for priests. One less resource to juggle means one less bottleneck to force yourself through.
Maybe Bigfoot’s taste isn’t as trash as I remember… but don’t tell him that.
7 Wonders: Armada
Our game of Gaia Project went longer than Bigfoot’s allotted time, but wanting something light to buffer between big games, Otter chose to play 7 Wonders with the Armada expansion
7 Wonders is a classic game that serves as the introduction to modern board games for many players, and amongst our group of board game enthusiasts, 7 Wonders remains a tried and true favourite. So of course we’re going to change it by adding expansions!
If you haven’t played 7 Wonders before, it’s a civilization building card drafting game, where players simultaneously choose cards from a hand, reveal their choices, then pass the hand of cards to the next player. At the end of the game, the player who has accrued the most points, or culture, has won the game.
7 Wonders: Armada adds a whole extra board to the right of your normal player board. When you build a non-resource card, you can spend additional resources to progress a ship of the same colour up its track. These tracks will offer some naval combat power, inflict taxes upon everyone at the table, a flurry of victory points, or, the opportunity to settle an island, which can offer some unique enhancements to your civilization.
This expansion also adds a few cards into each of the ages, meaning you’ll play 7 cards per age instead of the usual 6. These extra cards offer more ways to interact with the players who are not your neighbour, like, granting you the ability to buy a resource from someone 2 seats away, or, choosing someone to combat with, meaning at the end of the round you’ll evaluate 3 combats instead of the usual 2.
At the end of each age, in addition to the usual combat with your neighbors, there is now a naval combat that all players participate in. Whoever has the strongest naval military of all the players earns points, while the weakest loses points.
These may seem like small changes, but they actually address a lot of the problems I have with 7 Wonders. I like being able to interact with more players at the table, I like using leftover resources, and I like the little boosts the island cards offer (even if I ignored them to my own demise). I’ve seen this expansion on sale for as low as $8. At that price, I cannot recommend this one enough.
Otter had pre-planned on having our friend Clare arrive in the afternoon. Clare is a sometimes guest to our gaming group, but one of our great experiences was playing through the entirety of Scythe: Rise of Fenris together. I actually really enjoyed that campaign, as the ending felt climatic. Depending on your performance throughout the campaign, you got some significant benefits, but the final battle was for all the marbles. I enjoyed the feeling of “anyone can still win this”, and the final game was TENSE. It probably helps that I won that final game, but who can really say? 😉
For those who haven’t played before, Scythe by Jamey Stegmier is an action selection game where the threat of combat is often more powerful than actual combat. Set in an alternate history version of 1920 Europa. Workers farm the land with scythes, while heavily armoured mechs loom on the horizon. Each player takes control of an asymmetric faction that offers various abilites and powers when the mechs have been built, and, each player’s action selection board is different from each other. On your turn, you’ll place your pawn on one of the four actions on your action selection board. You’ll take the top action, which can be Move, Bolster, Trade, or produce, and if you have the necessary resources, can take the bottom action as well, which can be: deploy, upgrade, build, or enlist. Players keep taking turns building up their forces until one player manages to play their 6th achievement star. The end game scores are tallied, and the player with the highest score is the winner.
Scythe is high on my top games of all time list, and probably my favourite game that includes direct attacking. I generally enjoy the arc of the gameplay. Everything starts slow, your factions move at a glacial pace, and everyone is locked into their own island, cut off from the world by a river. Only by building the mech that grants Riverwalk can you adventure forth and spread your influence.
In this play of Scythe, we included The Wind Gambit expansion. This module adds in impressive airships with 2 abilities that can be swapped in and out each round, as well as an alternate ending condition. Following the advice of the rulebook, all the airships had the same power, units moving out of the airships space get +1 movement, and players don’t lose popularity when forcing workers to retreat. I think this combination of cards would have been more interesting had we gotten to the end game where stealing resources was possible. The new game end card said, “When the first player places a star in a category that has no stars, they earn $5. The game ends when someone either places their 6th star, or has $40”. Otter just so happened to get a great combo going where he could do the top and bottom sides of two actions back to back (Bolster, build mechs, produce, upgrade, then repeat). This got him 4 stars very quickly, but left his popularity in the toilet. The 4 stars, and the coins he earned from the bottom row actions, left him within striking distance of ending the game. A few turns later he earned his 40th dollar and ended the game just after the first combat and each other player had only 1 star on the board.
I think if the game had continued on, his engine would have spluttered out. Sure, he had a commanding lead, but I do think it would have made for an interesting end-game. Going forward, I wouldn’t play with the alternate ending conditions. I also didn’t feel like the airships added too much, other than general aesthetic.
Bigfoot already wasn’t a fan of Scythe, and this play didn’t change his mind. It was anticlimactic and didn’t have a chance to get interesting or exciting. This play may have also turned Bear off the game as well. Otter and I are still enthusiastic though, we’ll probably try to play through the fan-made campaign soon with a different group of people, but at the time of this writing, I have no idea when we’ll squeeze that in!
So Clover was the game of choice while waiting for pizza to be delivered. If you haven’t played it before, So Clover, designed by François Romain is a cooperative word association game. Each player is given a plastic clover and 4 cards. Each of these cards slots into one of the four quadrants of your clover. Each card will have a word along each edge, but you only need to consider the words that are facing the outside edge of your clover. Your goal, is to write a single world on each edge of the clover that will allow the others at the table to re-assemble your clover once the cards are shuffled. Sometimes you’ll have words that just work well together, like Skin and Suitcase (clothes was the clue given in this case). Other times, a stroke of genius will have you connect two seemingly impossible words, like Quilt and Sausage (Homemade won the day here). And sometimes, you’ll get absolutely stuck on a word, unable to shake the meaning of a word, like Charge and Cow. I couldn’t think of ANYTHING other than electric milk, so I eventually just went with Amp and hoped the other three sides of the clover would lead them to the correct answer.
It did not.
It has got to be difficult coming out with a new word association game when there are such giants already published. Games like Codenames, Just one, and Decrypto are so fun and clever, I can’t imagine trying to compete against them. So Clover has done it, we had an absolute blast playing this, and I’ll be picking up my own copy for the next time I visit my family back in the Canadian prairies.
Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Castles of Mad King Ludwig by Ted Alspach tasks players with building an extravagant castle with no plan or forethought. Players take turns taking the role of the ‘Master Builder’, where they arrange the available rooms into different prices, then the other players take turns buying the rooms, giving their cash to the master builder, and finally, the master builder paying the bank for whichever tile they take.
Players need to place their tiles into their castle, matching entrances, scoring points based on adjacency, and scoring bonuses if they finish the room.
It’s mildly annoying that you’ll never finish your castle. The game ends after a certain number of tiles have been bought (dictated by the number of cards in the deck), and when the game ends, a final scoring happens. The player with the most points is the winner and players are left reflecting on their architectural failings. Maybe if you didn’t spend so much time getting the bowling alley to fit next to the flower bed, you wouldn’t have come in last place.
I really enjoy Castles of Mad King Ludwig. Years ago, I played this along side another Ted Alspach design, Suburbia. At that time, I proudly proclaimed that Suburbia was the better game and I cast Castles of Mad King Ludwig aside. Today though, I feel my tastes shifting. I like that the room market is controlled by the players, even if sometimes the Master Builder makes arbitrary decisions that shunts the room you desperately needed into the $15,000 slot.
The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
One of the highlights of Cabin-Con 2021 was The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, designed by Thomas Sing and published by KOSMOS. It was a light and easy cooperative trick taking game that was exactly what our brains needed after a brutal day of playing Oath. We blazed through a couple dozen games that weekend, and this year, we returned to our interplanetary adventure, hungry for more.
The downside, we embarked on this game at 11pm, after a VERY full day of big games. Brains were tired and SOME players (me) were incapable of counting cards. Foolish misplays were abundant, and we ended up failing against the same chapter 8 times in a row.
If you haven’t played The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, the game begins by dealing out the entire deck to all players. cards vary from 1 to 9 in four different suits, and 4 more cards, numbered 1 to 4 in black serve as trump cards. The story blurb is read out, and goals are distributed, based on the requirements of the specified mission. In general, you’re trying to make certain players win certain cards. The rub is, communication is extremely limited. You may not talk to your comrades, and you can only show one of your cards, which you place a token on to indicate that the card is the highest, lowest, or only card of that suit in your hand. If the card doesn’t match one of those three descriptors, then you may not show it.
The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is a great little game to play with friends. There’s very little at stake, losing just means reshuffling and trying again. Sometimes, multiple tries in a row.
And that’s all we played on day 2 of Cabin-Con 2022. Come back soon for Day 3!