Monday Night Tabletop Round-up 16/03/15

Now I have been boardgaming for a year I have learned when to run, not IN a game but FROM it. Last week it was Outpost which is an auction game that requires endless counting (I like Maths but not for 3 hours) and this week it was from about 7 successive games of Avalon which is a hidden traitor game that is fun in singles, OK in doubles and plain dull in sextuples. I am learning.

Dark Tales

Players: 4 (Plays 2-4)

Duration: 15 minutes

Full first impressions here

Dark Tales is a card game with a sinister fairy tale coating. Players draw a card into and then play one from their hand. Cards have various abilities and some stick around with lasting effects. I had played it the week before and was happy to do it again as the simple puzzle of trying to maximise the points potential of a hand of 4 cards makes for a nice filler and when the cards are junk it doesn’t matter too much when it’s only 15 minutes. One thing I did notice on this second playthrough was how much faster the game ended with four players instead of three. With a larger play count it really creeps up on you so be prepared.

For me the fairy tale theme is an interesting one. Apparently there is a Snow White expansion out with a Red Riding Hood one to follow which could be a great opportunity to add a narrative-building aspect to all the heroes, ogres and creepy castles that are featured on the original cards. Perhaps it is better suited to imaginative younger gamers who are better able to tell stories as they play instead of us mechanic-focussed older players who are just interested in optimising their hands. Boring bastards.

Tammany Hall

Players: 5 (Plays 3-5)

Duration: 3 hours

Full first impressions here

For a game of such simple mechanics Tammany Hall can be a real brain-bruiser. It’s an area control game where players take the role of mid 19th century politicians attempting to gain influence in southern Manhattan by placing ward bosses (meeples with squat top hats) or immigrants (coloured cubes) onto the map. After 4 rounds there is an election phase which gives players the opportunity to gain points by exerting their accumulated influence to win control of wards they are present in. After 4 elections the game ends and the player with the most points is the winner.

At first the map is nice and plain but after a cube here and a meeple there it quickly fills up, crowding the board and making any sort of strategy increasingly difficult. In addition special player powers (awarded after each election) and the ability to slander once between each election can mess with the board making it feel fairly chaotic. This is unusual for a game with no hidden information or randomness and play is all about how players interact either on or off the board with shady deals not just allowed but encouraged.

I love this game. Monday was only my second full game and it was just as enjoyable as the first (even without the imaginative backstories conjured up during the previous games’ enthusiastic slander-fest). On your turn you only place a couple of pieces but each meeple or cube put down feels like it could end your game right there. The weight of these decisions is mostly driven by player paranoia though, if a player has a successful election phase they become an immediate target to the other players and holding on to a lead is very difficult. In fact it’s probably better to hide in the pack during most of the game and try and boost to the finish. Players of Power Grid should be very familiar with this!

Unfortunately at the other end of the leaderboard it can be tough for a player to recover after a bad start. After election phases all meeples are removed from the board apart from one in each ward (the winner of that ward election) so if you have a disastrous first round and burn all your influence only to be left with nothing then you are essentially starting again. It has happened in both games so far and while it could just be a coincidence it seems all too possible. Then again I could just be bitter because once it was me!

King of Tokyo

Players: 5 (Plays 2-6)

Duration: 30 minutes

Full first impressions here

More bitterness. I have complained about how the best strategy in King of Tokyo, a game about giant, brawling monsters, is to just hide in a corner and accumulate points and that probably won’t change any time soon. Usually I go down swinging in Tokyo (the heroes death) but this time I had a really good chance to be the last kaiju standing with upgrades that let me deal extra damage from Tokyo (Urbavore) and another roll to do it with (Giant Brain) but before I could start windmilling like a drunken prize fighter the guy RIGHT BEFORE ME rolled 9 points in a single turn (almost half of what you need for an entire game) and left the rest of us choking on his victory dust. Next time turtlers, next time.


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