Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Three Reports

We visited Josh in Blacksburg and consequently I had a busy gaming weekend.

Mage Knight: if I'd seen the component list, I might not have bought it, but after the play-through with Josh, I have a reasonably good handle on the basics.
I took Tovak and Josh took the expansion character Krang, and we each made our way up the map, exploring, fighting and recruiting. We both avoided dragons, and I backed out of one fight that involved two monsters at the same time, but otherwise we tried everything, including a successful assault on a city.
It may be more than I want to set up on a regular basis, but I can see playing it solo every now and again.

Maria: this is a three player game is set in the War of the Austrian Succession, with a split map board. In the East, Austria faces Prussia and French-backed Bavaria; in the west, France faces the Austrians in the Netherlands and Prussia's alter ego, the Pragmatic Army. I made the decisive move to victory, by deciding to play France; Kelson got Austria and Josh tookk Prussia/Pragmatic.
Each player has a pool of victory tokens, and the objective is to use all of your pool. You can do that by conquering cities, winning battles decisively, winning the Imperial election, and probably a couple of other methods that didn't come up. In my case, France advanced conservatively into the Netherlands and aggressively with the Franco-Bavarian forces. Meanwhile, Prussia also pushed into Austria, while the Pragmatics raced south to block the French from the Electors. Austria responded, perhaps too aggressively, to Prussia, but couldn't stop the Franco-Bavarian bulldozer. The game ended with Prussia in control of Silesia, Saxony neutral, the Pragmatics in northeastern France, and the Franco-Bavarians controlling everything from Prague to Vienna.
My understanding is that if you play Maria with continuous negotiation, it's reasonably balanced; but if you play it as a straight wargame, it favors the French fairly heavily. That was our experience. Austria and Prussia did negotiate towards the end, and Prussia subsidized Austria in an attempt to stave off a French victory, but it was too little, too late. I think with more experience, it would be more balanced.
One mechanism that I particularly liked is that supply trains are separate units from the armies, and are slower than the armies. Being disconnected from your train means you can't capture fortresses (no siege guns) and you suffer attrition. It was a simple and elegant way to handle the logistics concerns.

YardMaster: this is a simple card game, in which each player has an engine and a caboose and is trying to connect the two with enough cars in between. Each car has a color (red blue green yellow purple) and a value (one to four). In order to join the train, each car has to match the color or value of the preceeding car, and the last one also has to match the color or value of the caboose. Of course, you have to buy those cars with cards, and it seems you never quite have the cards to buy what you want before someone else snaps it up. Josh and Kelson call it "Soviet Trains", and the theme song is "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might just find, you can't get what you need either." Despite that, it's fun--with three or more players, you get to laugh at their frustrations more often than they're laughing at yours. Easy to learn, quick, and amusing, and what more could you want?

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