I got to the venue nice and early this time — in expectation of a packed house and a shortage of parking spaces and tables — only to discover that attendance levels were back down to the club’s more usual pre-Christmas levels (20 or so). Not really sure what caused the blip last time (or why so many of those first-timers didn’t come back) … but things did seem a bit easier with fewer people in the hall.
First game of the night: Eketorp
This is a title that I grabbed as an impulse purchase during the recent stock dump by The Works. I’d read that it works particularly well with a full complement of 6 players, and the running time is normally less than an hour, so — given that at the last meeting we had a couple of slots where a quick game that could seat a lot of people would have come in useful — I thought I’d sleeve up the cards and shove it in my bag. As it happened, quite a few people were keen on playing something light and quick to start the evening, so it hit the table first.
The premise of Eketorp is that you control a tribe of vikings, and you’re competing to build the most impressive Hill fort. To do this, you send out your viking workers to collect turf, wood, clay, and stone from various resource points. If more vikings turn up at a particular resource collection point than there are available resources, a fight takes place, and the victor claims the loot… then everybody goes home and starts building their fortifications. In subsequent rounds, you can choose to send your vikings to collect more resources, OR send them to loot and pillage resources from an opponent’s fortress (or, stay at home and defend your own fortress).
It turned out to be quite a fun little game… and although it’s very gateway-ish in nature, it manages to incorporate some neat euro mechanics — worker placement, simultaneous action selection, hand management — alongside some not-too-serious backstabby-wargamey bits… and you get to stew over some pretty interesting decisions about where your defend / attack / resource collection priorities should lie. There was surprisingly little down-time for a 6-player game too (though it ran for slightly longer than the advertised 60 minutes!)
I enjoyed that one. It’s not an AAA-title, or one I’d want to play week after week, but made a good start to the night, and I’ll certainly take it back for another outing one day.
Next: Battlestar Galactica
This was only my second ever game of BSG (My first encounter was blogged here). I had mixed opinions the first time round, and figured I probably owed it a second try since (a) it seems to be one of the most-played titles at Newcastle Gamers, and (b) it’s perpetually sitting in the top end of the BGG chart. But… no. After two games I’m still not quite feeling the love for this one.
The first half of the game dragged quite a bit… the decisions I found myself facing were very one-sided, and could’ve been entirely scripted (seriously – if anybody ever decides to make an iOS port of BSG, the AI is going to be a breeze to write!). Things got markedly better at the half way point, when I discovered that I was actually a Cylon sleeper agent, and had to start surreptitiously sabotaging the human players’ actions… but, sadly, the entire second half of the game turned into a pretty easy ride for the humans – the crisis cards brought virtually no hostile spacecraft with them, and the opportunity for a masterpiece cylon betrayal at a critical point of chaos and mayhem never really arose.
Sooo… same criticisms as last time; when you’re not a cylon, the actions you should take always seem pretty narrow/obvious, and more-often-than-not hinge on a dice throw (ugh!). When you are a Cylon, things are a little more fun – BUT – your eventual success still seems to be largely determined by the whim of whatever the crisis decks/dice throw at you. The mind games are fun… but… the rest of it… Meh.
I don’t hate Battlestar Galactica, and I’d probably play it again if that’s all that was on offer (any port in a storm!) … but I think the time you invest in playing it (typically 3 hours?) far outweighs the payoff.
By now, the time was creeping towards 10pm. There was a game of 7 Wonders on offer, and I was tempted to stay for it… but was starting to suspect that the runny nose I seemed to be developing over the course of the evening wasn’t a good sign, and I might be coming down with something nasty… so thought I’d best leave early.
(As it turns out, this suspicion was entirely correct… I hope I didn’t pass on my evil Man-Flu bugs to anybody – sorry guys!!!).
CREDITS: Session pics gratuitously stolen from the Newcastle Gamers web site. Newcastle Gamers meets on the second and last Saturday of the month… usual cost is £3, but your first visit is free. More details here.