Friday 7-20-2007 - Justin Easley's House
This Friday night was originally "scheduled" at the Game Shoppe, but Justin's wife made plans to attend one of the Harry Potter all night events at Borders and Justin had their son Finn to watch, so he invited us over to his place. In all there ended up being five of us - Justin Easley (JE), Justin Kosek (JK), Mike Garrett, Greg Fuller and myself.
The two Justins and I had wanted to give Age of Empires another shot, so I quickly went over the rules and flow of the game. Greg seemed a bit confused/overwhelmed, but we assured him that after the first turn, he'd see that the game wasn't terribly hard to pick up. JK set out from the start to become the merchant master and went for the trade ships. Greg started shipping three guys to the new world right of the bat while also grabbing the capitol building which gave him $5 a turn. Mike, JE and I seemed to just sort of feel our way along for the first couple rounds before settling down. Mike ended up with a fairly strong colonization and discovery push. JE and I also started sending a number of colonists over and in the end, we were also the only two that sent over soldiers and fought. For myself, I ended up grabbing a building to give me an extra colonist each turn and was trying a mixed discovery, colonist type strategy. This seemed to be paying off as I was tied for the lead through the first two ages. Unfortunately for me, I think JE mis-judged who the threat was and in the last turn of the game, he went to war with me, killing a number of my guys and costing me a large number of points. Mike grabbed a third age building that gave him bonus points for each region he had a colonist in, which easily pushed him to the win.
After playing this with five players, I have to say that I really like this game, and that its much better with five players than three. After about the third turn, the colonist dock was filled every turn and competition for the slots was quite contested. I also like that you have a number of option in trying to win, score points, get money, etc. I had no real trade goods for most of the game, but I managed to keep a steady income shipping merchants to the colonies. If I have any complaint, its that the last round of buildings can really swing the game. If you have a large fleet of ships, the navy is a must at the end of the game, however, if it doesn't come out, you are at a severe disadvantage. This minor luck swing is the only flaw that I have with the game thus far - the rest of the luck can be mitigated, even if it means a change in strategy part way through the game. This one is one of the better games I've played in a long time.
After that, I pulled out QJet, which is a space-themed, Japanese re-release of the original Ave Caesar. I had wanted to get a copy of the original, as the new version screwed with the tracks. Though a different theme, this is basically the same as the first release play-wise. I explained the rules and we started it up, and the others quickly saw why this game is a gem - screwing with everyone else. Though we only played one race, it was a good time, with only three of us finishing. JE just beat me out for the win, as he had two 6's to finish with.
We had a little time left, so I pulled out Ra, which I knew the Justins had both wanted to try. This Knizia games is by far the easiest of his auctions to get a handle on for new players. It what (for me) was a strange turn of events, the board filled with Ra tiles in the first round before I could win a second auction. missing two sets of tiles put me in a hole from which I could never recover. Mike managed to jump all over monuments and Pharaohs and pretty easily won this one.