Monday, December 31, 2007

End of 2007 Gaming Goodness

Well, I ended 2007 on a good note, with a fine day of gaming. Jason and Justin Easley came over early to get the day started. We played some Exxtra while I made breakfast and to get us started. I won the first game, but Justin had a nice streak of luck and managed to squeeze out two more wins, included a VERY close last game, where he just couldn't roll an X and finally got doubles for a win.
After breakfast, we sat down for real gaming and Jason asked for us to try out Wabash Cannonball. This turned out to be a great little game that is only marred by two things - the components are minimalistic (at best) and this is published by the putz of the gaming community John Bohrer. Despite that, this was an interesting game - my best description for this might be that it's a bit like Union Pacific, except that you auction off the shares of the lines and the money payed for the shares is all that company can use to invest. Its really a slick little game that plays pretty quickly. I managed a pretty good sized win here over Justin and Jason (96,62,73). <rant-on>Now, I'm hard pressed to say that I'd pay JB $40 for this. The money is literally just color paper (not event construction paper thick, but color copier paper) with amounts printed in the middle (like - $100). The shares are not much different. The map is small thin cardboard affair, and the instructions look like he ran them off a photocopier. Now, if this was a home published affair, the world would be in an uproar that the guy making the game wanted $40 ($30 + S/H) and yet this is EXACTLY what it looks like you are getting. Given that I hate paper money and have poker chips, I can make this game for about $5 (tops) with a small amount of effort. Would I pay $40 for a better produced version? No. This is still at best a $20-$25 retail game (meaning you'd expect this for $15 on most web shops). I'm annoyed that it was decent and that the publisher wants so much for it. Bah. <rant-off>
After Wabash, Justin Kosec arrived and I pulled out Tier auf Tier so I could try this with four adults. Justin E and I had apparently drank too much coffee to start the day as we were both terribly jittery. Justin K was not jittery at all and won his warm up.
Next, we pulled out Race For the Galaxy. This was Justin K's first time playing, and though he was familiar with San Juan, he still took a game to take everything in. I ended up playing a "brown planet" strategy that seemed to sneak up on my opposition and I won (44CH-28Jas-41JE-16JK). As Justin had the mechanics down now, we played again. This time Justin E started out strong with a military strategy and nailed a huge win. (29CH-30Jas-51JE-40JK).
Jason only had about 90 minutes left before he had to take off, so we finally decided to pull out Union Pacific. Jason owns this, but hasn't ever played it before and I enjoy this game, but rarely play it and was happy to explain it to everyone. We played with unlimited UP stock and I made sure to explain the importance of that stock's payout many times. We had the initial dividend card come up very early in the game (which turned out to be a predictor for the rest of the game) and the race for UP stock began. I was easily in the lead after the second dividend payout and the others raced to catch up on UP stock, realizing how much I was pulling away. In the end, it didn't matter as the last dividend card came up long before the end and I won by 21 points (101CH-80JK-74Jas-69JE). It wasn't until I started writing this that I realized how similar that Wabash and this game felt. Both use railroads as the theme, but are really just investment games. The track serves as a way to limit the options when increasing the company's worth, but otherwise really doesn't serve any other purpose (ie shipping or moving goods or people doesn't happen). You only score for those rails you have invested in. They are of course not identical, but (and I hate to say it) - Wabash scratches the same itch, and for me it does it better and faster.
After Jason left (Happy New Year buddy - I was glad to sit down and game with you), Justin E asked for Mykerinos. As I've reported before, this is a fun little game that I'm terrible at. I continued my losing ways again and both new players beat me up (55JE-54JK-49CH).
We finished our day out by introducing Justin Kosec to the 3-player-all-time-favorite San Marco. There isn't much to say that I haven't said before. Justin K's newness was definitely a factor as was the incredibly small amount of banishments we saw. I managed to win my last game of the year (84CH-61JK-72JE) and look forward to gaming in 2008.


Jaybird said...

Oh man, you played Mykerinos? Now I really regret taking off. I recently got this game, on cue from your thoughts and my brothers interest in the game.

I have told several people that Wabash Cannonball is the first game that really pushes me to create my own version of the game--especially the game board. Your terming it thin cardboard is generous--it is more like a piece of slightly heavier copier paper with lamination.

I wonder if Bohrer prices the game high for what it is for two reasons:

1. To make enough money to justify the troubles of putting it out.

2. To keep casual players away. This seems odd, or maybe even backwards when coupled with the first, but it seems to me that he really tries to keep that niche as small as possible. Maybe kind of the opposite of Jay Tummelson. The less people that play WC, though most of them enjoy it, the more lionized it becomes.

I believe that there is a chance that this game gets picked up by someone else, and gets the full version treatment--the game is that good. Putting out a very limited number (limited because of print run and high price point) increases the interest in this game, thereby increasing publishing interest. I don't know--I am just trying to figure out why the game costs so much.

In any event, here's hoping that the next time we meet is not far off.

Tatsu said...

My $0.02 - I believe JB has cheaped out on WC and is also charging as much as he is only because he knows its a niche market and there isn't much profit in a full print run of this. He probably makes as much from doing 100 or 200 of these as he would if he got 1000 printed. He is simply a small publisher trying to stay alive, unlike Jay, who is a bigger publisher trying to grow the hobby/industry. JB has never been interested in getting games into the hands of people - they print less than 200 special edition maps for Essen each year, knowing full well that most people don't go to Essen and will never be able to get the maps. He has no interest in re-publishing these.

Now, if he was just a guy making games out of his home and not a "publisher" I'd cut him some slack. But the way the guy has presented himself just doesn't make anything he does cool.