What a Fast Two Months – And Boardgames

Wow, we are going to be in the third month of the new year. Time really flies. And I am also back from the Chinese New Year week-long holiday. It was a really nice week. The theme was of course family and friends but this time, the new theme was Board Games. I am currently a bit into the wonderful world of board games, not that I do not like board games previously, which is the absolute opposite, but this craze is because of the discovery of a bunch of wonderful boardgames and a great place to purchase them and then, most of all, a bunch of friends and family (i.e. my wife, my brother, my sister, my brother in law, my sister in law) to play with.

Gone were the days where MONOPOLY is the ultimate board game along with RISK. We are now in the whole new world of PUERTO RICO, THROUGH THE AGES, POWER GRID, STEAM, etc. And yeah, of course, THE SETTLERS OF CATAN and its expansions.

To those who may wonder, what happened to GO? Isn’t GO a boardgame too? Well, ahem, GO is not a boardgame. GO is life. ahem, ahem.

So over the week-long holidays, we have played all the new games that I bought although there are a few that I have placed an order but has still not arrived (AGRICOLA and LE HAVRE).

In order of ranking, I love THROUGH THE AGES the most, followed closely by PUERTO RICO. I really like CIVILIZATION the computer game but I am really not a fan computer games and THROUGH THE AGES was perfect as a board game that is something like CIVILIZATION. It is not really a stripped down version of the computer game but is a game on its own. In fact, after having played it, I find it even better than the computer version because the warfare and aggression in the computer version is really too annoying. There is just too much emphasis on military might but in the boardgame version, this is very much toned down and one can really start building a civilization. Military strength is still very important but it is much more balanced now.

As you can see above, THROUGH THE AGES is essentially a card game with the scoreboard in the center and a small board that each players has to hold their resources and population. The player’s military, buildings, mines, farms, wonders etc. are placed by the side of their individual boards. Every round, the player has to decide on how to build their civilization, should they build an extra mine so that he can build another lab, or should he build another farm so that he can conscript another worker, should he acquire an action card to take advantage of the offer the card offers, should he “acquire” a leader for his civilization, should he build a wonder, or perhaps upgrade that mine? But wait, oh no, he also has to take care of his civilization’s happiness and that annoying corruption issue!

And if he is weak, he may be subjected to aggression from other civilization or some events will punish his weak civilization, if he is behind in science, his rivals will discover better technologies enabling more efficient buildings or armies etc. And if he is behind in culture, he loses the game.

So THROUGH THE AGES is really an excellent game, my type of game and I really hope to be able to play it more.

PUERTO RICO, on the other hand, is more micro and is a favourite game of many people, including those guys (you know who you are) who stayed over at my house last weekend after playing the whole night’s worth of games, and slept at 6.00 am, and then wake up 4 hours later and play another game of PUERTO RICO because the game is just so good!! And after that, in the afternoon, participated in the Malaysian Go Championship, all of us with red eyes and our brains still in dream-mode.

PUERTO RICO is a really simple game. But it is so good. It is something like Go. The game is just about building plantations or quarries, acquiring buildings, produce good such as corn, indigo, coffee and then either ship them for victory points or sell them in the market for money so that you can acquire more buildngs, conscripting workers to work in your plantations and buildings, etc. At the end of the game, whoever has the highest victory points wins. Simple isn’t it? But the route to victory is numerous and there are many strategies to employ.

Should one use the cash crop-ship strategy or the building strategy? Should one take the Captain card and force the opponent to ship all of his good so that he does not have enough money to buy buildings? Should one even take the Craftman card because it enables his opponents to produce resources which they can then ship or sell before you can? Or should one just take the Prospector card, take the cash and do nothing? The role that one choose in each round is really important. The role choosing during each round is the heart and soul of the game.

Besides the above, we have also played POWER GRID, a game that requires one to auction for power plants, buy resources to run them, build cities around a board and then power the cities. Whoever that can power the most cities at the end of the game wins. This game is also not luck dependent as all information are open on the board. It is an efficiency game whereby you must use the money that you have in the most efficient way, to bid for the most efficient plant at the right price, manage resources so that you buy cheap and don’t get forced into a demand-more-than-supply situation and you need to plan where to build your cities and the cost of building them. If you do not manage your money well, you will find lots of inefficiencies, such as you have too much power capacity but not enough cities to power them and gain money. So the money you invested will go to waste.

Then we also played STEAM. My brother and sister love that the most. It is a game where you build railway tracks to deliver goods from one city to another and score points or earn money. The game mechanics require you to plan your railway track as only certain goods can be delivered to pre-determined cities. You need to also invest in building up engine power so that you can deliver farther, and thus gain more points or income. If you do not have money to buy tracks, you can raise money from the bank by borrowing but be careful to not go bankrupt. The player has many strategic choices, such as building tracks to block other players’ tracks away from rich and desirable routes, choosing cards that enables them to build tracks first or deliver goods first, etc. Again, this is a open information game and no dice rolling required.

And of course, we played the classic SETTLERS OF CATAN which my wife loves. It is a really fun and simple game, involving lots of chatting and negotiation, or just plain coaxing. Each and everyone that played the game enjoyed it tremendously. We also played the CITIES AND KNIGHTS expansion but I felt that it just clogs up the original game by adding a bunch of things such as babarians and knights which sounds good but when played, I find it clumsy. There is just too many unnecessarily things going on. It is not that there are many things going on (unlike perhaps THROUGH THE AGES) but in the CITIES AND KNIGHTS, I felt that the extra thing to do unnecessarily bogs down the game just so that there are “more” things to do. I will play the original CATAN anytime.

Well, so that’s it for this time. When I play more and/or when the other games arrives and when I have played them, I will write more about them then.

Till then, happy boardgaming! :)

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “What a Fast Two Months – And Boardgames

  1. Hmmm…. I think my favorite board game remains… Scrabble. ;b

  2. fallingstones

    haha, i bet u r really good in that game ;-))

  3. If you haven’t received it yet I’m sure you’ll love Agricola if you love Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico players can learn quickly and easily defeat new players and the same strategies can be employed in any game. In Agricola the cards add a lot of variety to the game and no two end up being alike. Even without the cards (Family Style) it’s fun. It’s like getting 4 games for the price of 1 – Family Style, Beginner, Intermediate and Complex card sets.

  4. fallingstones

    Hi Erik, indeed, I really look forward to playing Agricola :) Thanks for leaving the comment. What other games do you like?

  5. I don’t have a lot of board games, but of the games you mention I do like Puerto Rico and Settlers. I received the card game San Juan as a Christmas gift and I like it as much as or more than Puerto Rico. It takes no time to set up and it’s easier to play. I’d love to try out Through The Ages but I think the next board game purchase will be one of the Ticket To Ride games. We’re starting a board game night soon and I think it, along with Settlers and Carcassonne (another I like a lot) will make for good “intro” games. After that will be either Stone Age (similar to Agricola) or Power Grid I think.

    And Go! But that’s not a game, I guess. ;)

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