Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Atlantic Star and Tzolk'in

I haven't been quite punctual in blogging about our regular Tuesday night game I'll combine the last two in one post.  I learned two new interesting games in the last two weeks (plus snuck in a game of Power Grid, to boot). 

Atlantic Star

The Love Boat?
Two Tuesday's ago Mike R, Tom, Traci, Carson and myself made it out to the game parlor.  We were joined by a 6th player, a gentleman on business travel who was looking for a game.  The First thing we broke out was a game Tom & Traci had brought, called Atlantic Star.   The theme of the game is that you are organizing cruises in 4 major bodies of water - the Baltic, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the Pacific.  Each cruise has a certain color assigned to it, and each has number of "stops" (3,4,5, and 6 respectively).  You complete a cruise by collecting a number of cards equal to the number of stops required. 

The ship cards
However, it's a bit more complicated than that - of course.  The cards, which show images of various ships, contain letter-number combos in various colors (corresponding to the 4 different cruises).  You have to collect cards that have letters in sequential order, in order to play them to complete a cruise.  So, for example, you have to collect cards that have a yellow A, B and C in order to complete the Baltic Cruise.  Now, the numbers connected to the letters indicate the overall "value" of your you want to get letters that have higher numbers associated with them.  The trick is, you can't have more card in your hand than 2 over the cruise you're trying to complete - so, for example, to complete the Baltic Cruise (3 cards), you can't have more than 5 cards in your hand when you play the cards to complete it. 

The "value" of your cruise does not correspond to victory points, though.  When you complete a cruise, you write the value of your cruise on a little marker, and then put it on one of 5 scoring columns on the score board.  The different columns have different scoring ladders.  If you are the first to complete that particular cruise, you can choose which column to use...if not, you have to put your marker in the column that has already been chosen for that cruise.  The markers of the different players are arranged on the column in order of cruise value.  So, if you complete that Baltic Cruise at a higher value than other players, you will go ahead of them on that column, potentially bumping them down.
Setting Sail at the Game Parlor

So, how do you get new cards?  You buy them.  You start the game with $18000.  There will be 4 face up cards, in slots costing $0, $1000, $2000, and $3000.  On your turn, you can pay to get the card of your choice.  As each slot is taken, the remaining cards slide down.  You can also pay $2000 to wipe the board and put 4 new cards out.  You do not "earn" more money during the game...but you can borrow from cruises that you have already completed...which will lessen their value, potentially causing them to move down on their scoring column.

This is an interesting card/set collection game.  I can't say I loved it, but I would definitely play it again (it helped that I won).  The most interesting mechanic, in my mind, is the scoring table, and choosing which column to put various completed cruises in, and how much to borrow later - do you risk letting someone else sneak in above you? 

Just a quick note that we also played Power Grid that night.  Tom and Traci had never played before, so we played the base game, with the German map.  Power Grid is always fun, and in this case Mike R. pulled ahead early and went on for the win.  We let him start in a good position, and he went unchallenged for much of the game, while others of us battled it out for one corner of the map.  We had higher power plants come up early, and I bought them early, thinking to secure my capacity, and then concentrate on houses.  But, it was one of those games where game end was triggered...and the number of houses powered was actually I wasted a lot of money on unneeded capacity.

This past Tuesday, I was the only one from our "regular" group to be able to go to Game Parlor Tuesday night.  I've gotten to know some of the other regulars there, so I figured I'd show up and see if I could get into a game.  I wasn't disappointed, as I joined Malcolm, Carl and Jeff for a game of Tzolk'in - which I had seen played a lot in recent months, and was intrigued by.
A crystal skull? Wasn't there an Indiana Jones movie...nevermind...

The game is subtitled "The Mayan Calendar"...but no worries, you're not playing to end the world.  One look at the board, and it's easy to see why I was intrigued.  The board is dominated by 6 gears in the middle, 5 outer gears driven by a larger central gear.  There is no easy way to explain this game without actually playing it, so I'm not really going to try.  Suffice to say, it's a worker placement type game, where you place your workers on the gears.  Each smaller gear has a track around it, and when you decide to remove your worker, you will get the benefit of the space he has stopped on.  This includes getting resources, extra workers, building buildings and temples, etc...

Just another cog in the gears....
As with most euro games, there are multiple ways to score points, and thus paths to victory.  You can buy buildings that are wroth straight up points, buy buildings that score you points for owning other buildings, move up on the temple track, get crystal skulls that will earn you points, yada yada.  The key mechanism, as you might expect, has to do with the big gears.  On your turn you can either place workers, or remove them, but not both.  You have to plan when you place your workers, so as the gears rotate, they will get to the proper spots at the right time.  There is a mechanism to change who is the first player, and when that happens, the new first player has the opportunity to turn the gear 2 spaces (the game lasts one full revolution of the large gear).  This ended up biting me in the 2nd game we played (a 3 player game, as Jeff left after the first game).  I had set myself up in good position for the final 3 turns - or so I Carl took the first player token, and moved the gear 2 spots, effectively giving us only 2 final turns.  This really screwed up my plans and cost me a bunch of points.  Ah well.  I really enjoyed this game...I thought the gears might be a gimmick, but this is a very deep and strategic euro game.  I would definitely play it again.

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