Four more capsule board game reviews
I’m starting to run out of space in my board-game bookcase. And I’ve just ordered a new game to boot. I think I’ll have to bite the bullet and get rid of the ones that aren’t getting any play, and aren’t going to get any in the future either…
This week, a bunch of games that come in small boxes and all by the famous Reiner Knizia:
A filler that sees players manipulate hands of merchant and pirate ships. The pirate ships can be deployed to attack merchants that others may have played. If one’s attacking ships can last a full round in top position against a ship, they win the merchant ship (each is worth a different amount). There are two incentives to play merchants out of one’s hand: if everyone else is distracted by other battles and the merchant is not attacked for a round, it
makes it back, and is points for the player who started it out. Additionally, unplayed merchants count against you at the end of the game. This is a fantastic mechanic, and the game plays well, particularly in the teams variant.
- Lost Cities
A two player “competitive solitaire”, where play consists of discards and or playing cards to attending sequences of five different suits. Again, a great mechanic, and one with some real heft to it. Chris Farrell discussed it nicely in his Illuminating Games blog.
- Medici vs. Strozzi
This is another two-player game. I’ve only played it once, and had to agree with my counter-party that it was very dry. It’s probably a candidate for the “making space” project. The game requires constant valuation of loads of goods that have to be put onto ships, and the setup which ensures that different loads will be worth different amounts to different players is clever. If you want a calculation-heavy game, and have an opponent who wants the same, this is probably the game for you both.
- Modern Art
I suppose this is the heaviest of the four games this week. I think it’s fair to say that it’s widely acknowledged as a classic. The theme is appealing: each player is attempting to convince the others that particular artists (and thus their paintings) are a great investment, and then selling them off in auctions. Sometimes, it will even be the case that the paintings will be worth good money. And so, there are two routes to wealth (and thus victory): by buying paintings that do turn out to be valuable, or simply by selling paintings at the right moment.
This is not economic like Container, but it’s definitely about accurate valuation. The thing that lifts it so definitely above Medici vs Strozzi is that there are more people involved, the values are not so certain, and there’s an obvious development to the game across its three phases. This is definitely a great game.