Thursday, December 18, 2008

I'm So Tired

Nathan Winchester came over last night to play a game of something. That something of course was Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage (hence the picture of the game). Nathan had no clue what he was getting into, having not seen or played anything like this game before, but Nathan has enjoyed learning loads of new games so doesn't seem to mind indulging me in whatever I feel like pulling out. Hannibal is a two player, card-driven, area control game with a little bit of "fighting". Battles are carried out almost like the card game "war", but they favor the stronger force. Combat is one of the weaker parts of this game and is a bit goofy, but its ok. The heart of the game is the card driven fight for control of the board through political influence. After going through the rules (for both of us, since my previous plays were a long time back and I couldn't remember all the little details) we dove in, neither of us sure what to do. I played Rome, while Nathan controlled Carthage (just like my last game of this when I played The Fonz). The first couple of rounds worked well for Nathan, who had a load of good cards, while I struggled with only two or three 3pt cards in the first two hands of cards and was stuck with two generals each of those turns that needed the 3pt cards to do anything. For the first 4 turns or so I was losing influence left and right from the board. However, Nathan extended Hannibal a bit too far and I smacked Hannibal out of the game before turn 5. Surprisingly (or not if you've ever played a game against me), this didn't turn the tide like I hoped, as Nathan still maintained a tie or lead in controlled areas for another couple of turns. Scipio Africanus finally joined me and that helped me recoup some losses and also let me put a dent into Carthage's operations in Hispania. Nathan mounted a comeback of sorts, smashing Africanus and getting some much needed relief from African troops and pushed the game into the early morning hours. Finally, the last turn came and he didn't get cards that were going to allow him to reach the victory conditions, so he surrendered. It was a long hard fought battle and some good cards kept Nathan in it early (but also kept him out of the end of the game). It was also a learning game so we both took the outcome with a grain of salt. However, this leads me to one of the major problems with this game - randomness. The game doesn't feel random while you are playing - it feels very strategic, despite the random card battles and die rolls for sieges and attrition. But in the end, it really sucks that a close close game gets decided solely on the cards dealt out in the last hand. In this case, Nathan needed a tie of areas controlled to win. Had he been dealt any of the cards that caused areas to go out of my control (Syracuse, one of the islands, etc), he would have had me and there wouldn't have been much of anything I could have done. On the flip side of that, I had a great last round hand, with two campaigns, a card destroying all the political control in one African area, etc. Again, there was nothing he could have done to stop that. I don't mind randomness in games - playing the odds is ok. However, after playing a 4+ hour game, nobody wants the outcome to come down to only luck. We had both managed to play to essentially a stalemate after 8 turns, and then Nathan loses to me and not because I outplayed him (per se).

4 comments:

Mike G. said...

It seems to me that almost any close game will come down to luck as long as the game has some sort of luck driven mechanism/randomizer such as cards, dice, tiles, etc. Generally, the only games without luck are abstract games such as chess, go, gipf style games, etc.

Tatsu said...

I guess - maybe its just because I'm so tired, but that's still frustrating. I'd have been less frustrated if there was one last battle that would have swung the game and randomness determined that winner. But the event cards swing so much of the game all over the place...

nwinches said...

I really liked the randomness of the event cards until that last turn. Even though I pulled ahead with an early lead, it was obvious that the same thing could happen at any time the other direction, and it still felt (to me, at least) very tight. It'd be nice if the randomness throughout the game were somehow varied, such that the severity decreased with time. Perhaps a different set of event cards for the last 2-3 turns, just to slow things down a bit.

That said, I very much liked how the game played throughout, even if I didn't care as much for the ending. You still deserved to win (I did a couple stupid things on the last turn in terms of army placement), but I thought I should have been able to hold my own a bit. You know, 'cause it needed to go later ;)

sourwyrm said...

I prefer the block sytle of wargames to these card driven ones that are so popular. The block games encourage clever maneuvers a little more. Plus, when using dice the luck seems to even out a little more.