Driving to Victory

automobiles

Azriel, Rosalynn, Peleg, and Sheer joined me for the last pre-Pesach playing session, and a good one it was.

We started with Automobiles, a game that combines deck-building with a racing boardgame. This was new to Azriel and Rosalynn, but they were quickly up to, er, speed with the game mechanics. Azriel loves combinations, and was happy to do as many of these as he could, even if they weren’t the best for his chances of victory. Rosalynn, Peleg, and I competed to be second to last, as Sheer had decided he wanted to win from the back and stay in last place as long as possible. Come the final lap, Sheer made his break for the front and we all chased him. But a bad draw meant that Sheer’s bold stroke fell at the last hurdle, and I was first pass the post.

We finished the night with a combination of Dominion: Adventures and Dominion: Intrigue. It was very definitely my night, as I built up a stack of gold cards, and nobody else’s combinations got anywhere near to my buying power often enough. (I think most of the other players were still in shock from me winning the last game, as my previous efforts at it have been awful.) So, I managed the rare event of winning the second consecutive game of the night. Hopefully everybody else still enjoyed it…

Thanks to all who came for making another great night of gaming.

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It’s all in the combination

7wonders-small

To start this week’s session, I was joined by Sheer, and we played 7 Wonders: Duel.

Sheer is quick at assessing the value of card combinations, and he put that to good use in this game, by collecting science cards aplenty, and the resultant bonuses. His focus on that aspect forced me to look elsewhere, and I started off with a military strategy. That – eventually – started eating away his finances, and allowed me to get some decent victory point cards. I came close to knocking him out with a military victory, but he fought back, and the game went the whole way. I was pleased with my play, but (pleasantly) surprised by the win, as I was sure his bonuses would have been too much. Great fun. And each time we play this, I am more impressed by how well it works as a short, sharp, and challenging two player game.

Peleg then joined us, and we played Automobiles. Sheer again got a powerful combination together, and soon looked to be out of reach to me. (I had chosen the opposite of a powerful combination.) But Peleg, with a variation on Sheer’s theme, was keeping in touch, and so made it a bit of a competition. We played three laps, and I was consistently in last place and in danger of being lapped. Peleg  kept up the pressure, right up until the last turn or so, when Sheer pulled ahead to win the race.  Then, to our surprise, we found out that we had played some of the cards without taking the requisite wear. That would have changed things, though it is doubtful if it would have changed the result. It simply whetted our appetite to try this game again, because it is a good variation on the Dominion type game.

Speaking of which, we finished off with a regular Dominion game. Peleg and I went into an early lead, with lots of victory points, while Sheer concentrated on getting the right combination so as to maximize the efficiency of his desk, and throw all the Curse cards at us. It worked. Both Peleg and I were slowed down, and Sheer gradually caught up and exceeded our victory points. Damn!

Thanks to Peleg and Sheer for making the session so enjoyable.

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Baby, you can drive my car

automobiles-cover

This week’s session saw new arrival Automobiles going through a test drive, courtesy of Peleg, Sheer, and I. The game was designed by David Short, and is published by AEG. Was it a smooth ride, or did we crash and burn? Read on and find out…

Automobiles is a neat twist on a deck building game. Here, the cards are fixed and never enter your hand. Instead, you have colored cubes – each colored cube matching a single action card – which you acquire, and put in your very own draw bag. The actions may help your car move on the race track, or do different things dependent on your current or used cubes. Each turn, you draw seven cubes from your bag, and take actions according to those cubes. You do not have to use all the cubes each turn, with the remainder being available to purchase new cubes. When your draw bag is empty, you put all the cubes back there, and continue.

To match the race car theme, some actions and movement on the race track force you to acquire wear cubes. These are not good to have. Think Curse cards from Dominion, and you get the idea.

There are several types of card for the colored cubes, and the mix and match interaction has echoes of other deck building games. So, while some combinations are given, you can experiment to your heart’s content. Also, because there is only one card for each color, it is a whole lot easier to come up with home brewed variations, since there is no need to manufacture a ton of cards, with the need to replicate shape and quality.

The winner is the first past the post, or furthest past the post if there is more than one finisher. The game can take five – though annoyingly my copy only came with four draw bags – and has a low to medium complexity.

So, how does it play?

Overall I would say that it is a good game, with lots of challenging decision making, and a hefty does of fun. It’s easy to play, but not so easy to play well. The components are high quality, clear, and easy to use. However, I hear I am not the only one to suffer from a missing draw bag. The rules are clear, especially after you take the time and trouble to properly sort the cards before playing. (That’s an in joke at my expense. I complained there was no clear way to use the cubes for third, fourth, fifth, and sixth gears. Then I bothered to check the cards.)

The one potential blot is that it may take too long to play for four or more players. With three players, we managed a couple of complete three lap games – some card sets come with a recommendation to do five laps – inside two and a half hours, including rules explanation. In theory, because you can see your cubes in advance, you should be able to plan your turn ahead. In practice, I found myself checking out the board to see what the others were doing, and that slowed things down. I would try it with four, at least once, but maybe there’s a reason there were only four draw bags…

automobiles

Anyway, true to form, Sheer cracked the right combination in both races, and won. He was untouchable in the first. In the second, both Peleg and I did better, and were in contention until the last couple of turns.

I definitely want to try this again, as it was fun, and it’s been the most successful race game experience I have had in quite a while.

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