Thursday, May 23, 2013

Containing the Hive, trucking through the Heartland, and Innovating through history

After taking a break for a week (sometimes "real life" gets in the way....sigh) I was back at the Game Parlor this past Tuesday looking for some gaming action.  Actually, nearly all of our "regular" group passed on this week as well...with the exception of Carson, who was running late.  That left me looking to join in some games with other folks at the store.  Unfortunately, it seemed to be a low turnout in general...but just as I was considering leaving, a fellow named Darren with whom we've played in the past came in, and asked if I was looking for a game.

Tower o' beetles!
Since I knew Carson would be arriving at some point, we decided on a quick 2-player game.  Darren introduced me to Hive, a clever little tile laying game.  The idea in Hive is to completely surround your opponent's queen bee - with tiles from either side.  So, you have to be careful not so endanger your own queen with your own tiles.  At the start of the game, each player lays down one tile, and they must touch.  Your queen must be one of the first 4 tiles you place, and you cannot place where it touches an opponents tile.  However, once your queen is placed, your hive becomes active, and your already placed tiles can move - and they can move to touch the opponents tiles.  There are several different bugs, and they all have different movement rules...but the key rule to the game is that the hive can never split, i.e. you cannot perform a move such that a single tile, or group of tiles becomes separated from the main hive.  This leads to useful defensive strategies like hanging an ant off the end of a key tile of your opponent such that they can't move that tile.  Despite the kind of silly theme, this is an interesting and deep game, and very chess-like.

Breaker 1 - 9, anyone got leads on Smokey the Bear?
 Carson arrived after we'd played a few games of Hive, and I spotted something in Darren's collection that I've been wanting to try for some time now - Dice Hate Me Game's The Great Heartland Hauling Company.  In this game, you play the role of a trucker hauling various resources (pigs, cattle, corn, soy) to and fro across the "Heartland", trying to sell the goods and make a profit - game end is triggered when one player reaches a certain dollar amount (i.e. score) - which is dependent on the number of players.  The game "board" is going to be unique every time, as it is created by placing a number of cards around a central "anchor" card.  Each of the cards has a primary resource that you can pick up, and 2 resources which they will buy for an annotated price - some places pay more for certain goods than others.  In the basic game, you essentially just make a grid of these cards, but you can set them in any design you want, really (which can make it more difficult).  You navigate across the map, and manipulate the resources on your truck by means of a 2nd deck of cards, from which you are constantly drawing up to a hand of 5 (Ticket to Ride style, where you can draw from face up cards, or randomly from the top of the deck).

This map configuration was...challenging...
On your turn, you must do 3 things, in this order - move, take an action, and then draw up to a full hand for next turn.  In order to move, you either play fuel cards from your hand (in values of 1, 2 or 3 which allow you to move that many cards), or if you have no fuel cards, you can pay $1 per space you want to move, up to 3 spaces.  You can pass through a card with another player, but you may not stop there.  On your action phase you can do one of three things - pick up goods, deliver goods, or pay money to discard and redraw new cards.  In order to pick up or deliver goods, you must play a card of that good type - one card per good.  And you can not mix goods.  As the game goes on, goods will end up on cards where they are not the prime can pick those up, at a cost of 2 cards per good.  Now, I want to highlight what I think is the key mechanic in this game.  You MUST move BEFORE picking up or delivering.  What this means, in essence, is that you cannot deliver a good to a spot, and then on your next turn pick up the good that they are "selling" there, to then deliver to another location.  So, you have to plan several turns in advance as you collect cards in your had, and what route you may take.  To be honest, I don't know how I feel about this rule.  It sort of breaks the theme for that in real life, you typically wouldn't offload in one city, and then drive your empty truck over to the next city to load up on goods there.  I suspect that in original playtests of the game, you could pick up where you had dropped off, but I suspect that made the game pretty's definitely more strategic this way.

We played a 2nd game of "TGHHC", in which we used some expansion cards - two cards were locations that only bought goods, and didn't provide any - but they bought at premium prices.  The other cards we used were "truck stops", which were essentially cards that you could buy if you landed on them, which would allow you to break the rules of the game if they were in your possession.  For example, I ended up with a card called "sleeper cab", which enabled me to spend $1 to NOT move on a turn.  Unfortunately, I was never able to put that to really good use.  There are some other alternate rules that we didn't play such as road closures.  In short...I don't think I liked this game as much as I wanted to.  The whole thing about not being able to pick up in the same place as you just delivered was a real irritant.  On the other hand, I would like to play some more, using those truck stop cards...I think those push the game up a level.  And I really really liked the little 18-wheeler meeples (18-wheeleeples?) - I might have to pick up a copy just for those!

Moving into Age 3....
 Lastly, we played a 3 player game of Innovation.  In this card game, you are trying to build your civilization on various technical advances through 10 different ages.  There are 10 decks of card that represent the different ages.  You start with a hand of 5 (I think) cards, and on your turn, you can do one of the 3 things - "Meld", which is playing a card from your hand face up in front of you, on top of any cards of the same color, "Draw" - drawing a new cards equal to or possibly exceeding the highest "age" card you've played, or "Dogma", which essentially allows you to use the text of any card you have face up in front of you.  The cards are used for multiple purposes - they are used for their dogma powers, they all have symbols on them, which may allow you use another player's dogma actions, and they are used as points...which are then used to "buy" achievements - first player to 5 achievements wins the game.  The "dogma" actions are what really drive the game, and allow you to alter your various face-up cards, score points, screw with your neighbors (and boy can that happen a lot), etc.  I was really enjoying this game for about the first 3/4...and then it (literally) blew up.  Carson had fallen far behind.  Darren and I had multiple achievements, and he had none so far.  With much apologies, he decided to play the "Fission" card, which wiped out the face-up decks, and the points of every player on the board - and removed those cards from the game.  Darren and I still had our achievements, but with only a handful of Age 1 and 2 cards, and then leaping up to Age 8+, it was a strange climb back into the game.  It quickly became obvious that we weren't going to win by getting to 5 achievements, and the alternate rule is that when the Age 10 deck runs out, the person with the most points win.  But those higher age dogma effects get to be pretty crazy - one of them changed the winning condition to the player with the *least* amount of points.  And the "screw your neighbor" aspect ratchets up with those higher age cards.  In the end, Darren won by running out the Age 10 deck.  So...I don't know how I feel about this game...I want to play it again.  I think that the "fission" card may be a game breaker...but it did allow Carson to get back in the game (he actually tied for the win, but lost on tie breaker).  And I think those higher age cards may be a little too much "screw your neighbor"...but after one play, I'm not sure I can judge that so well.  There are games - like Dominion - that I knew after one play, weren't for me.  That's not the case with Innovation - I'm  a little wary...but I'd like to try it a few more times.

No comments:

Post a Comment