Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Essen Impressions

Well, my experience with Essen titles is pretty sad, as I don't have enough leave in a year to get to all the places I'd like to go, but I did get some Essen games from Julian at Unhalfbricking who collects money from eager Aussies and invests it in new games for them. In order of play...

Sheepdogs of Pendleton Hill: very definitely a kids' game, aimed at maybe 8 year olds, but with the chance for some slightly cunning play to amuse adults. You place your shepherds on the hill, the players form combined flocks of sheep, and then the flocks move around. If a sheep (as part of a flock) moves onto the same space as a shepherd from the same player, they both score and are removed from the board. So the goal is to make your opponents' sheep meet their shepherd early while your own sheep trundle up Pendleton Hill for more points.

Sheepland: not a kids' game, and not a gamer's game, just an old-fashioned Euro. the board starts with 24 or so sheep on 25 or so spaces. There are 6 different terrain types amongst the spaces. On your turn you may move your shepherd, move a sheep, or invest in a terrain type. At the end, for each terrain tile you have you score points equal to how many sheep are on that type of terrain. When we played CyberKev went for lots of investment in terrain, I went for moving sheep into the terrain I already had, and the result was so close I would say both are viable strategies. This is a Euro of the complexity of Heimlich & Co / Top Secret Spies, or Clans. It's nothing special but it's not bad.

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island: I bought this for solitaire play, and probably won't bother sharing it with my friends as there are better games to play with them (see below). The game it reminds me most of is Mousquetaires du Roi - there are lots of bits of mediocre quality, and a massive rulebook, but it all works OK in the end. You spend the game sending out Crusoe and Friday and your dog to hunt / gather resources / build stuff / achieve the scenario goals, while the game throws random stuff at you to interfere with your plans. I've only played one scenario so far, but that was interesting enough. The odd selection of bits reminds me of the old version of Prophecy.

Tzolk'in: the Mayan Calendar: Now this is a proper game. You may remember the pictures from BGG, there are big plastic cogs. I'm happy to say that the cogs work well, they're meaningful, they're thematic, and they're fun except if some doofus isn't careful and knocks over all the bits. The big wheel represents time, and as you turn it it moves your workers who are placed on the little wheel so that they can be removed from the wheel to have achieved better stuff. It's something like Macao or The Circle where you plan now what you'll have available to you in a few turns, and the more you wait the more you get. The more you can get your plans working together, the more efficiently you'll generate VPs. We had basically no problems with the rules, everything was where it needed to be, the bits were lovely, and overall the game is a great experience.

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