Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Board Games IIa

Listening to:

Shostakovich, symphony no. 7 in C major, op. 60 ‘Leningrad’. Played by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Some Games Played Last Year

Here are some board games I played last year, mostly on Monday nights. The associated comments are miniature reviews, if you like, but reviews derived from only a small number of plays in most cases.

7 Wonders

A “builder”, where the thing being built is a rather abstract representation of a civilisation. You can focus on resources, or science, or the military or just awesome buildings. It has minimal random elements, but can still feel rather random in the way it develops, thanks to the fact that people are playing simultaneously from hands of cards that are whittled away. This central mechanic of playing cards from hands that are shared around the table is definitely cool. The multiple routes to victory work well. I don’t really feel in control when playing though, and that feeling of detachment is not ideal.


An oldy but a goody. A cute representation of capitalist investment in corporations, where the only objective is to own big companies, and to be the beneficiary of mergers that you and other players bring about. It has just enough fidelity to what I imagine the real world might feel like to be fun, but it’s clearly silly in a number of ways. Has been fun each time I’ve played it (have managed it perhaps 3 times in total). It’s definitely too slow to finish, and there is too much luck in the draw of tiles. It hasn’t happened to me, but it’s easy to see how the game might end up leaving you with very little to do each turn. This is due to the way money only flows in big bursts, and rather selectively. A better simulation might see money flow to and between players more evenly and more frequently.


A fun, very social game where people are constantly talking and interacting with each other to hatch deals. I’ve played this one quite a bit, and I think it’s always been well-received when people first play it. The art on the cards is comically appealing, conveying the game’s essential light tone very well. I don’t know that one’s wheeling and dealing can ever be in the service of a long-term strategy. Instead, it’s all very short-termist (very tactical if you like). One’s skills are deployed to make the best of the current situation, and that’s definitely fun (if you like the wheeling and dealing), but I’ve never felt that I’ve been pursuing any larger vision.

Chicago Express

Another economic game, featuring joint (multi-player) investments in companies. It plays quite quickly, and has a very nice physical realisation (lots of cute wooden train bits that get deployed across an appealing map of north-eastern USA). I bought this mostly on the strength of the gushing comments on the BGG site (linked above), and I think I can see the same things in the game that the gushers wax lyrical about. There’s also a fine version of the game available for iOS devices (called Wabash Cannonball there). Unfortunately, people I’ve exposed this to have mostly been pretty unexcited about it. Some didn’t like the nastiness of buying into a company and then messing it up; another didn’t like the primacy of the auction mechanic (how shares are acquired), still another didn’t like having to share “their” successful company with another investor, even if that second investor was happy just to receive the dividends and keep the company successful.

More in this vein next time. Of the four above, CE has definitely been least successful. Unfortunately, of these four, it’d probably be my first choice. If I wasn’t allowed to play it though, I’d then go for 7 Wonders: it plays very quickly, still feels new to me, and may yet reveal hidden depths.