Friday Jan. 15, 2010 - Gamer's Inn
The day started with the ending of an online game of Tikal between Nathan Winchester, Chester Ogborn and myself. Tikal is one that I haven't played in a while and it showed. Chester and I both missed a play one round and "gave" Nathan a very easy 9-temple early in the game. We were playing with the random draws and Chester seemed to get a large majority of the artifact tiles which I think helped him seal the game up. In the second to last scoring, he was scoring at least 15 more points from just the artifacts than I was.
The actual game night started out with me seeing and purchasing a game that had just caught my attention a couple of days ago - Thunderstone. Thunderstone is best described as a dungeon crawl / fantasy themed Dominion. Now I liked Dominion, but not nearly as much as other folks. It felt very much the same each time I played despite the various combinations of cards. In fact, the cards just seemed to make a game longer or slower rather than fresh and new. I have not tried any of the Dominion expansions, but neither did I ever want to. Thunderstone caught my eye and after reading about it and seeing the video review, I was intrigued. Much like Dominion, you build a deck from a common pool of cards. However, you build the card deck to fight the monsters coming up out of the dungeon. There are always three monsters (at different depths) coming out and if your hand allows you to beat one of the monsters, you can fight it and gain XPs (which are currency for upgrading your Heroes) and the monster card which then gives you cash and in some cases a bonus ability (like more attack). You also score VPs from the monster cards - at least they are often useful, unlike Dominion where the VP cards just clog your deck. The monster decks are randomly chosen, as are the hero decks. Then an additional 8 village card types (equipment and such) are chosen. I unwrapped the game and Steve Bauer, James Smyth, Noah Antwiller and Matt Cullinan (yes, it plays 5-players in the base set) joined me to try it out. The rules are pretty straight forward (especially since all of us except James have played Dominion) and we got down to the basics pretty quickly. If you hate Dominion, you will likely hate Thunderstone. I prefer it given the theme and slightly more interesting play. The game ends when you burn through the monster deck - you place a Thunderstone card in the bottom third of the monster deck which signals the end game. This means the more players there are, the faster you will get through the monsters. Noah wacked a large number of the early monsters, but Steve hit upon the right combination with his deck and ended up winning by about 6 points.
After we cleaned that up, Steve and Noah explained Hermagor to us. This was one that kept showing up in the AZ Gamer's top 3 ratings, which meant I needed to try it - so much so that I used it as the "base game" in a purchase I made with an online shop to qualify for a couple other discounted purchases. So what is Hermagor? There are two parts to the game: a somewhat complex auction/bidding round followed by a marker-placement-type round. While it isn't a bad game, it reminded me a lot of Thurn and Taxis. I'm a little surprised that this has such exceedingly high marks from the local group. Again, not a bad game, but I guess I had much higher expectations going in.
Nathan Winchester and Matt Longiliere stopped in and Steve and Matt C took off. Brendan Coffee also decided to join us, so Noah pulled out his copy of the Ave Caesar reprint. We ended up playing 4 races because apparently we couldn't get enough of screwing with each other - I swear a couple of fights were going to break out. What was readily apparent to Noah and I was the fact that this new version sucks. It is waaaaay too easy to finish. In fact, in a 6 person game, we never had someone run out of points. What fun is that. Well, it still is a laugh to clog up the track and make folks run to the outside, but there was no tension. I'll stick to Q-Jet thank you.