July 31, 2012

Back to the Board(gaming)

Haven't been playing much in the way of board games lately.  The biggest reason for that is the guys haven't been showing up as often for Sunday games...often it's just Seb or Will and I, and occasionally the three of us.  I don't think we've had a full complement of five players since we played Risk: Legacy a few months ago.  Edit: I really wish we could play that again, it's such a fun experience. 

I did order a bunch of games a few weeks ago, but they weren't actually for me.  I still have a few games ordered back in March that haven't been played yet, so I'm keeping my cash (ie: spending it on other nerd stuff I don't need) until I get through the backlog.

Last week we actually did play a quick board game called Castle Panic. Will brought it along and had actually read the rules in advance, so we set it up and gave it a shot.  The game mechanics in and of themselves were actually quite simple, but allowed for quick turns while we collaborated trying to save the castle from invading monsters.  Things were starting to look good for us when a giant boulder rolled down from the forest hills and destroyed everything.  We lost.

There isn't a lot of depth to Castle Panic, and I can certainly see if falling prey to dictatorship problems, where one player tells everyone else what to do.  I don't think that's a flaw in the game though, but rather a caution to anyone playing collaborative games.  Apparently there is an expansion for the game too.  I'd be fine playing this again as a quick warm up for a heavier game, or with non-gamers to get them into things.  If the expansion adds some more depth to it, all the better.

On Tuesday I had tried for the second time to organize a demo of a few skirmish games (Dark Age and Hell Dorado) but it was cancelled...again.  So knowing that Sebastien was off work I sent up the nerd signal to see if he wanted to help me finally put Star Trek: Fleet Captains on the table.

After reading through the setup pages of the rule book we were finally ready to play a 10 point game.  Seb was running the Klingon Empire and I was in control of Starfleet.  We bounced around the very helpful one-page cheat sheet I had found over on BGG and got some experience moving our ships around, scanning, exerting influence and exploring regions of space.

Once we started drawing encounters and playing command cards the game started to come together for me. Initially I thought it was just too clunky and mechanic heavy to be fun, but after sleeping on the experience I think future plays of the game will be a lot better.  The trickiest mechanic is understanding that the things one can do on their turn can be done in any order.  This makes planning out the sequence in which you move ships, adjust their power settings and perform their actions has a lot of freedom to it.  It also means that there's a lot of room for over-analyzing your options and taking way to long to do anything.

We didn't get into cloaking our ships or actually battling each other, but I was able to recruit over half of the Enterprise E's crew onto the USS Venture.  It was pretty funny seeing Picard, Data and Worf make the tiny little ship (USS Venture I think) over twice as powerful from its starting stats.

I'm looking forward to trying it again, and I will be putting the upcoming Romulan expansion on my wish list.  There's a lot of flavour in this game, and a lot of fun too I think...with the right players.  Maybe with a third faction on the table (hopefully allowing for games with 2 to 6 players instead of just 2 OR 4) the game will feel a lot more trek-ish.

One final note on the game: the components are not on par with stuff from FFG or Days of Wonder, even though they look great.  We discovered that one of the Klingon ships had a broken off nacelle, and the cards are very thin.  The ship is easily fixed with a little glue, but I'll definitely be sleeving the cards, if I can figure out how to get them back in the box afterwards...
"Ensign, set a new course...and engage."

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