Gaming splendor


This week I was joined by Joseph, Peleg, and Sheer for a three game session of friendly competition.

First up was Splendor, a Marc André design published by Space Cowboys. (Ahem.) Each turn you can collect gems, reserve cards, or buy cards. Gems are the currency, so you need to collect them. The cards are what you buy with them. There are twelve cards visible at the start of the game, and you can reserve one for future purchase by taking it in to your hand. (As cards are removed, a new one appears.) This reservation stops an opponent from buying it, but obviously takes up a turn. The cards themselves give gem bonuses, so can be used to supplement the gems you collect. And, there are a small number of extra victory points you can acquire by having the right combination of gem bonuses. Essentially, you need to maximize the return on your action, so it is all about planning, planning, planning. (And not being screwed by your fellow gamers.)

In our first encounter with this game, we all liked it, but Peleg was that bit better at maintaining his focus, and he was a worthy winner. Sheer and Joseph were close, but I wasn’t. This is the type of game where, to do well, you need to concentrate.

It’s an easy game to play, quite quick, and satisfying. Over time it may become too bland if we play it too often, but it seems a perfect filler and stand by.


Next up was another game new to all of us: Samara. This is a CornĂ© van Moorsel design, published by Cwali. It’s a worker placement game. The first twist is that the workers are on a monthly calendar board. Each action takes time, represented by moving the worker the requisite number of months down the calendar. So, the longer the action, the more opportunity for the other players to do multiple actions before it is your turn again. The second twist is that to buy one of the 30 (out of 36) available buildings on the board (all with victory points, some with bonuses, and some with penalties) depends on the prior acquisition of certain tools, and on the row they occupy. There is a row for one, two, three, and four, being the number of workers needed. So, to get something – a tool or a building – that is six months away on row four, means four workers need to start on the same space, and then get moved six months away.

There was a lot of planning and decision making in this modest little game, but it didn’t quite seem to hit the sweet spot. For example, I don’t think any of us were satisfied that the game’s random distribution of the tools worked. Further, the higher up the starting order you are in the first couple of turns, gives an advantage (OK, I was last in turn order; I admit it) that it can be difficult to overcome. Some of the building bonuses seemed too powerful, and the penalties were too penal. It was an enjoyable enough experience, and Joseph warmly deserved his victory. However, I didn’t see enough to guarantee that this will ever get another play. There are some terrific ideas here, but it lacks some final development that might turn it into something more than it is now.

We finished off with a Saboteur dominated game of Dominion: Intrigue. Sheer was the winner in terms of players. However, his victory point score was only half of the number of victory points in the trash pile. So, really, the trash pile won!

Thanks to all who came.