"Let me explain something to you, Walsh. This business requires a certain amount of finesse." - Jake Gittes, Chinatown
Well, after many previous haulings, I finally brought out and played Chinatown (and now that the weather is nicer, maybe I can finally finish my payment to Mike Gingold for said game). I was joined by Mike Garrett, Justin Kosec, and another guy hanging out at the Game Shoppe, Mel. So, Chinatown is a negotiation game - fairly simple really. The board is divided into 6 buildings which are divided into areas of 12-15 spaces. Each space has a unique number from 1-85. On each turn, players are dealt a set of cards with lot numbers. They can pick from a subset of these cards and simply claim ownership of that lot. In the next phase, a random assortment of business tiles are given to the players. Then a negotiation phase, then placements of the businesses, and scoring. Businesses score based on their size and "completeness". Then repeat. After 6 rounds, the person with the highest score (money) wins. Pretty simple. During negotiations, everything can be traded - money, space, tiles, whatever. We started playing and after 3 turns, realized that the translated rules were in err, and had to restart (we ran out of tiles). At any rate, I squeaked out a win 171-168-168-126. So, I enjoyed playing the game (not just because I won), but here's my problem with negotiation games of this type - its technically "solvable". Here's what I mean. If you need my one space on the board to finish your business, I can see that you will make and addition [for example] 5000 each turn for the next 4 turns over what you would make without finishing. Meaning that at a minimum (there is possibility for bonuses, but I'll ignore that) giving you the space is worth 20k. Fine - pay me 10k and we're good. And that's what I mean by solvable. A good player is not going to just give up money/points to another player unless the deal is equitable. Since the equality is based in math, the deals (should) be zero sum. Which means - the winner is determined randomly based on the cards that come out and the tiles you get. And that's my biggest gripe with this type of negotiation game (for whatever reason, negotiations in wargames don't feel the same and I like that just fine). Mike says that Traders of Genoa is similar, but the information is a lot harder to track (in part because the game is longer). If anything though, I'm less inclined to play Traders than I was before. Chinatown is about the right length (for me) for this style of game, but is probably a once or twice a year game. **I just read that Z-Man games is producing the English release of this. Sounds like it'll get the nice Z-Man component treatment, but its going to be MSRP of $70!!!
After finishing up Chinatown, I pulled out In the Year of the Dragon. Sadly, it did not get played, as Mel took off, so Mike said he'd teach us how to eat poop - and by that I mean we played Primordial Soup. I had just purchased this, as Justin had called to let me know another local shop was having a 50% off sale. So I pulled it out, Justin set up the board, I started putting together the amoebas and Mike reviewed the rules. The rules are pretty straight forward. The complexity in the game lies in the gene cards, which give you abilities to "break" rules. The combinations that are available are enormous and what you take will depend in part on what the other players are doing. Since we had no clue (other than Mike), I played with my gut and roared out to a big lead. This of course prompted Mike to become "aggressive" and he started eating all my amoebas. Justin played steadily the whole way and managed to win by a couple points (I didn't score well at the end of the game as I couldn't keep my amoebas on the board). Not a bad little game, and I have the expansion, so I can get this to the board with up to 6 players. After playing, I thought maybe the game would be a bit long with 5 or 6, but the scoring is done where you basically ignore the spaces ahead of you where another player sits on the scoring track, so if you have 3 players ahead of you and you score a bunch of points, you "technically" gain 3 bonus points. This leapfrogging probably speeds things up quite a bit with more players.