Monday, November 3, 2014

Boardgaming Evening

Gaming with Chuck HQ (now in historic Stafford Virginia - "George Washington played Settlers of Catan Here!") was recently a scene to a pleasant autumn Boardgaming evening.  All of the staff members (and two of the staff cats) were present, as well as a local visitor.  We originally had three things on the menu, bringing together a nice suite of themes and different styles games.  The original plan was to play Reiner Knizia's Age of War dice game from Fantasy Flight, also Franz-Benno Delonge's Trans America, and finally capping it with Hisashi Hayashi's great deck building game, Trains.

The thinking was this - these are three very different games, mechanically.  But the themes were the connective tissue.  Age of War is themed for Feudal Japan.  Trans America is themed for Rail Empire building.  And Trains is themed for Rail Empire building in Japan.  Voila - secret sauce is made!  The mechanics, however, are what made the mix very interesting.

Age of War is mechanically a dice game that preserves the same structure of the game Risk Express.  Now, this same mechanic found its way into Elder Sign, but in that game, the simple "assign dice to targets; complete all targets to capture a goal" mechanic is complicated with many, many different options (some goals require targets to be completed in order; many different benefits exist to help the player such as equipment and spells; extra targets can creep into a goal, in the form of monsters; there is a whole meta game around the basic mechanic; etc.).  But, since the admirable dice game, Risk Express was on the "to acquire" list for Gaming with Chuck HQ for quite some time, this new version out (with a feudal Japanese theme, no less) is very welcome.  And as a game it does not disappoint - it is a pretty easy game, simple to play, and fast turns, but there is enough strategy going on, and possible paths to winning, that there is some amount of decision making - a bit more than many dice games, a lot less than many more complicated games. Just enough to make you feel as if you are waging a campaign to capture the country.
Age of War - excellent components, in a small box. *


Trans America is mechanically a network building game.  It has a rail empire theme, but unlike many railroad themed games, there is no concept of cargo or passengers to pick up and carry.  The focus on railroading in Trans America is much more strategic than that of merely pushing cargoes around - it is of building a network of rails to connect cross-continental cities.  As a game, it is pretty simple to explain and play, but it still has some good decision making built into it - chiefly of timing.  As in - do you push and build your own network, or concentrate somewhere else and rely on your opponents to fill in the network infrastructure that you can also make use of , later?  A fun game, and if there were such a thing as Trans Japan, we might have tried that, to fit in with the theme.  There is a Japanese tie in for the game - in 2002, Trans America won the Japan Boardgame Prize for Best Foreign Game for Beginners.  Something interesting to look out for - a document of 20 different Trans America variants.  Mixed in with the Vexation variant (which typically ships with Trans Europa), there is lots there to complicate or change this simple little decision making game.

Excellent components from Trans America - Dinner table accessories, not included. *
Once we played Age of War and Trans America, however, we then broke for dinner (excellent Chinese food), and decided to watch Dr. Who.  We'll get to play Trains next time, I'm sure.  I wanted to bring up the mix, because I thought there were some interesting aspects to the three games we had originally planned for.  More game days are definitely needed.

Trains - next time, definitely. *
* = images from Board Game Geek.
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