Boardgamecafe.net Meetup Report @ OTK Cheras 4/10/2013 – Hansa Teutonica, Ticket to Ride, Kemet, The Little Prince, Robinson Crusoe
We took the downtime (stock arrivals) to test out a few newer games but also some older faves like HANSA TEUTONICA and TICKET TO RIDE. KEMET, LE PETIT PRINCE and ROBINSON CRUSOE also saw some actions. Find out what’s the buzz about Robinson Crusoe.
Gamers: Chee Ho, Boon Khim, Sinbad, Ivan, Kareem, CK Au, Waiyan & others.
Games: Hansa Teutonica, Ticket to Ride, Kemet, The Little Prince, Robinson Crusoe.
REMEMBERING SOME FAVE EUROS
We’d wanted to kickstart our Essen buzz by doing an ESSEN SPIEL 2012 Theme Nite tonight, unfortunately the arrivals of our stocks derailed that plan since the shop was packed with boxes here-n-there so we’d to call it off for tonight (but will definitely resume Essen Spiel 2012 next Friday).
We do have some customers dropping in to pick up their games, and our regulars were also here for their Fri gaming and while you might think we’ll be playing some of the newer releases, you would be surprise to find the first game on the table was HANSA TEUTONICA, a 2009 classic but as Ivan said, still feel as good as any of the recent releases.
Sorry, didn’t take any pic of the session so the box cover shall do. :)
TICKET TO RIDE
A customer had wanted to try out Ticket to Ride and instead of just explaining the game to him, we thought why not get a quick game since I myself has actually not played this game for a long time. This game holds a special place for us since it is among those fave games we played in those early years of Boardgamecafe.net.
Above: The table behind those boxes of new stuff was the one doing Hansa Teutonica.
I still like the simplicity of the USA version best as compared to TTR Europe or TTR Marklin. I do quite like the map series that Days of Wonder are now releasing on an almost yearly basis to keep the game fresh. They have three map series (not including the earlier maps like Nordic & Switzerland (standalone)) covering Asia, India and Africa.
Above: The current line-up of Days of Wonder’s Ticket to Ride Map Collections (available from our webstore).
Kareem jokingly suggested we do a Ticket to Ride Theme Nite @ OTK where we get ALL flavours of Ticket to Ride in play! Err.. you were not joking right? :P
Btw with my limited knowledge of games, me thinks this game above is also another Ticket to Ride flavour, right? It appears to be another train game set in the map of Upper Canada, no? :P
THE LITTLE PRINCE
One of the games in the new shipment caught our attention – Le Petit Prince, from the popular young children fiction by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. This is a special book between me & wifey as it was she who introduced this book to me when we first met. J
Do not be deceive by the fact it looks like – and is meant – to be a book for young children as there’s some profound nuggets on relationship and life to be found within the book. Stuff that can only be understood by adults.
Anyway we’ve a few copies of this book in different languages – French, German and Spanish – acquired thru my travels and whenever we travel, we are always on the lookout for different editions. :)
Back to the game… we were wondering how good would a game based on the Le Petit Prince play? So we quickly unwrap a copy and started a 4-player session with Kareem, Sinbad and waiyan.
The objective of the game is to build your own planet and in your planet, there’ll be various animals & items (all coming from the book’s drawings) such as fox, sheep, rose etc.
Each turn, a number of tiles (equal to player count) are picked and opened face-up; starting player gets to pick one tile of his choice (to build his planet) and then nominate the next player… until all four tiles were chosen (in our 4-player game).
The choice of tiles would depend on the Bonus tile (above) that you selected for your own planet. The Bonus tiles would influence which animals or items you wish to have on your planet – for eg the 2nd (from left) Bonus tile above would give you 7 pts for one Baobab tree or 14 pts if you have two.
Which means your opponent would try to prevent you from getting those planet tiles that have Baobab trees – while at the same time, trying to pick their own choosen tile (if possible).
There are a few gotchas built into the game to make it fun (by giving you to chance to screw up your opponent’s planet!)
Baobab trees are nice – and if you have the Gardener on your planet – but when you get the 3rd Baobab trees, they flipped over ie those tiles containing Baobab trees would be flipped over becoming a blank tile (and losing you all the animals & items on the tile – ouch!) So give the player above (who already has two Baobab trees) another tile with Baobab tree and he’ll lose all his sheeps & fox..haha.
Above: A completed planet at end of game.
This game is indeed fun to play – and it’s very simple to learn – and we think it’s a good game to start as appetizer. In fact we enjoyed our session so much we did another round! Interestingly our overall scores went down in the 2nd round once we understood how to “deny” our opponents. LOL.
Meanwhile the Hansa Teutonica table moved on to something more mythological when they set up camp @ KEMET.
Ivan going thru the rules with Chee Ho’s group.
Fans of miniatures and/or Cyclades would love this game naturally. If you find Cyclades lacking in confrontation, give Kemet a try. It’s more in-your-face and less Euro. J
The map area appears large but do not let that deceive you… almost everyone is within hit-zone so if you play this with blood-thirsty gamers, it can get brutal very fast. :P
The only downside (compared with Cyclades) is a sharper learning curve. You get a lot more tiles, each with their own abilities & powers and can be daunting on your first play. But once past this learning curve, you’ll appreciate the game a lot more.
And if you still miss your CYCLADES creatures, why not play both? Hah? Yes.. they are now releasing the Creatures Crossover expansion for Cyclades / Kemet. We’ll pick this up in Essen… stay tune for a preview. :)
We first saw this at last year’s Essen in PORTAL’s booth. It definitely looked pretty. Took them a long while to have Z-man release the English version and we finally managed to squeeze in time to play a session tonight. Let’s take a quick look at how it plays.
This is a cooperative game (but I would rather label it a “team” game) and can play 1-4. You are shipwrecked on an island and are given “scenarios” to achieve. The first – and learning / basic – scenario is the Castaways, which was what we played in our 2-player session.
In the Castaways scenario, your objective is to gather enough wood to build a visible fire pyre to attract the attention of the incoming search boats that’s due on Day 10 onwards. You see those empty squares at the bottom right of the picture above? Yup 15 empty boxes. Just filled them up with wood cubes (brown) before Day 12 latest and you are done.
Sounds simple enough…. let’s go!
You get to play one of four characters. When I re-read the rules, it seems the Soldier cannot be in play for a 2-player game. No reason given but I suspect one reasons could be his strong ability to hunt which possibly solves your food problem easier. Anyway we’d already decided on the Carpenter (myself) and Explorer (kareem).
Another thing I like about this game is they provided a female-based character illustration on the flipside of your Character card; this means you can choose the gender of your character. Ah.. No more cross-dressing? L
One question that comes to mind (ala Pandemic) is would the game be easier or harder with different player count. I suppose that question was answered when they included a standalone character Friday with the 2-player mode. There are certain restrictions to what Friday can and cannot do, but overall he’s more of an asset to the team than a liability eg he does not need to feed (at night) hence does not increase your food liability.
Oversized start player token. Haha. And even this token has both genders depicted. :P
The game starts with everyone on the starting beach hex where we have set up our (rather filmsy) base camp. It doesn’t do shit for us at night to protect from the howling wind but it’ll do for now. There’s also plenty of food (fish) and ample supply of wood. So we are not thrown into chaos on day one. Good.
You can – as a team – decide what to do next to fulfill your mission – which
should you choose to accept it you have already choosen to accept – is to get 15 blocks of wood to form the huge wood pyre to burn (hey, weren’t they discussing some laws against open burning back home?)
There are four main actions one can do when shipwrecked on an island (and this is useful info okay in case you do get shipwrecked)
- Build (new inventions)
- Gather (resources)
- Hunt (for food or pleasure)
There’s also the option to Arrange your Camp (gain determination tokens and improve morale) and Rest (heal one wound).
So we explored.. and discovered more lands deeper into the island. When you explore, you make new discoveries which is shown by the round discs on the newly discovered hex. These new discoveries can be very useful as they could be new inventions/items to help you in your quest (for wood).
New land may also offer some of its local animals (beast cards) for your team to hunt for food. As the days wore on, hunting is a good source for food.
Another key effect of exploring new land is the discovering (or in game-term “activating”) a new invention card that can be build into an item to aid us in our mission. We start with a certain number of invention cards (fourteen I think) – see below – which can be converted into an item (by a Building action). Some of the inventions require a cost (other resources). However at the beginning, not all inventions are available for you to build as some are terrain-specific and you need to have explored and uncovered an island hex of the same terrain before the particular invention card is “activated” for you to build.
All items are useful but you won’t likely be able to gather the resource and time to build all of them so you do need to prioritize. So a plan needs to be form and you’ll need to draw on the special ability of the Explorer player who can preview the top three hexes and choose one to explore. You can just explore pell-mell but that’s not likely going to help your team. Starting to sound a bit like real life. :P
Beside turning inventions into items, the Building action also allows you to build a proper shelter (as your base camp), adding roof onto your shelter (which shields you from the harsh weather) and even adding palisades (which helps protect you from the local wildlife – well, I did mention about the local wildlife which you can hunt for food but if you do not hunt them, guess what, they’ll hunt you for food I suppose).
These building structures are really important.. maybe less so in the early days (the game is measured by days and for the Castaways scenario, you play to 12 days max) as your body has not yet succumbed to the harsh realities of trying to survive outdoor against raging wind & storms. But as the days go by, the Weather can really do your team serious damage. Advisable to consider those structures or make plans for them.
Above: This is the best outcome for your Action die roll… a “V” indicating the action is successful and no other risk/damage from the other two die (blank face).
When you choose to take a Building action, you have the choice of using one pawn or two pawns. When using two pawns, they can come from you and other team members. Essentially this is a “team” game where everyone’s pawns can be used interchangeable to achieve the team’s objective for the round. Everyone has only two pawns so in a 2-player game, we get only 5 pawns per round (the 5th pawn is Friday) and need to weigh the decision to guarantee our actions (2 pawns each) vs getting more actions (using 1 pawn).
When you choose to send only one pawn for a Building action, you’ll need to throw the three brown dice (for Building, while Explore is green dice and Gathering is gray) which would then determine if you are successful in your action (the V symbol above indicates you are successful in building), whether you take a wound for the action and if an Adventure card needs to be drawn (if the “?” turns up in one of the brown dice).
To avoid all those risks above, just send in two pawns and your action is guarantee to complete without the risks. This is the safety-first approach but might not be your team’s best option since your team is essentially running against time (and the environment).
The same principle applies to the other two main actions Explore and Gather. Send one pawn and you need to risk the three-die throw or send two pawns in to “guarantee” the action but at the cost of lesser actions for the team. It’s risk management, folks.
Each character has his own special abilities for eg mine Carpenter can build things faster (swap determination tokens – the round tokens above – for one wood) and also reroll a Building dice (brown) at the cost of two determination tokens. Kareems’ Explorer can preview the top three island hex before choosing one to explore.
Each character also has limited life points where you need to take care you do not get this life point down to zero else it’s sayonara for you – and your team since the game is lost if one team member dies.
The resource space is separated into Current and Future sections. This simply means resources gathered and items just invented in this phase cannot be used immediately in the same phase. So no resource-invention chaining combos. :P
Food is indicated by yellow cubes and the difficulty here is that food is perisable (unless you have built some items such as the Cellar that allows you to store food) so any unused food at the end of the day would be discarded – and you need to get enough food again the following day to make sure everyone on the team can be fed. Not getting enough to feed a team member would cause him to take two wounds (ouch).
Our game started off well and most of the days proceeded without much incident. We quickly built the Snare which enabled us to get one more food (temporarily solving our feeding problem) and were piling up the wood we gathered into the wood pyre. Everything was looking good and even the occassional threat (from the Threat cards above) like a predator coming into our camp site and having to chase it out did not bothered us too much.
Then bad things started to happen…
First due to us hoarding stuff, we now need to build a larger camp (which translates to needing more wood for each build). Since wood is a scarce resource that’s used for building and also to stock up the wood pile, this would become a key contention for us.
Next kareem stepped on a viper and was bitten. No big deal for now but the wound could turn into a fever if we did not have the medicine (build Cure item) to take care of this later.
The viper wound on his head is marked by the green token (below). LOL.
Then things got worse as we realized we’ve dried out the resources in our base camp area (which was the only hex that provides us with one food and one wood; the others only provided either food or wood) when the End of Source adventure card was played. Duh.
Now we have to shift our base camp elsewhere and would be struggling to keep up with the resource requirement.
At this stage, both of us have lost about half our life points…. but we thought we were still doing fine since the wood pyre (below) was close to half completed (or so we thought).
We were not maximizing some of the items available to us – there’s a number of resources forthcoming (above) if only we managed to build the Pot item however we could not seem to be able to locate a Mountain terrain for us to explore in order to activate the Pot invention.
On the other hand – due to the recent hunting trips – we were a bit flushed on food. Not likely to be useful since we can’t keep those food from rotting and there were more than we need. Poor food management. Sigh.
We did manage to push in and found a good place to set up our base camp. Similar to the (starting) beach hex, this place provided us with both food & wood resource (and hopefully won’t get hit by another End of Source event).
With the weather getting imminently nastier as we move into Day 7 – and insufficient roof levels and palisades to afford us ample protection from the environment, we knew we’ll be exposed and our only chance was to rush the wood pyre for a quick win in Day 10.
Putting everything into scrapping the wood for the pyre… almost there now, five more wood cubes to go… but running out of time.
And both were weak and a wound or two away from dying.
Even Friday our trusty buddy was not spared as a few solo adventures on his own took their toll making him joined our Wounded-n-Dying crew. Well, we did send him on those solo adventures consciously since we realized he’s … erm, dispensable. LOL.
In the end, on Day 11 we were hit by Bad Fate (literally) when that event popped up resulting in the immediate resolution of all pending Threat cards…. we simply do not have enough life points left to absorb those damages.
What do we think?
Kareem certainly love this game, describing as the “only cooperative game that he’ll play”. Of all the coop games available on the market – and there’s none with a shipwrecked theme – I felt this is one of the more immersive game (the other would be BSG). You do feel you are shipwrecked with a motley crew and need to make the best of the situations to achieve your scenario objectives.
Mind you, we only did the basic starting scenario and didn’t do too well. In retrospective, we certainly can improve on a few areas and were a little complacent in the early days when we should have buckled up and set ourselves up better for the latter half of the game. Better planning would have help I suppose.
I’ve scanned the other scenarios and they certainly feel more challenging. Which is only good right as it add to the replayability value of this game.
A Team Game?
I like how the designer meshed the player actions into a single collaborative approach – rather than the individually-taken actions in other coop games like Pandemic, Shadows over Camelot and even BSG. In those games, each of us take (and choose our actions) individually though we collaborate and discuss on what to do. In short, we are individuals cooperating to win (I’m discounting the traitor effect here) instead of working as one team.
In Robinson, you really discuss as a team and then act as a team. The individual self is not so pronounced here. There’s a difference between a team vs a group of cooperative individuals. I felt Robinson Crusoe allows us to experience the former.
The question that pops into our head everytime we think coop games – Would this game suffer from alpha player problem?
And my answer would still be the same, “Alpha player is a problem of the gamer, not the game. If you find yourselves consistently playing with such alpha gamers, I suggest you consider changing gamer(s).”
But would an alpha gamer spoil this game? Absolutely. He’ll dominate proceedings so much, you might as well just leave the table and let him play a solo 4-player session. And it’s not about just this game, right?
An “alpha” person won’t fit into a team culture; whether you are playing boardgames or developing software. The team mentality requires everyone to look at the benefits of the team objective first and your individual needs second. There’s simply no place for an “alpha” person who think his way is the BEST way (regardless of how many times you have play Robinson Crusoe). This type of gamer is best left alone as a commando.
I think Robinson Crusoe’s designer solved this problem for us since he has designed the game to be playable by a single player! There you go, Mr Alpha – this plays well as a solo commando. Bravo bravo.. You saved…
the team yourself!
However if you get the right group of gamers, this game really shines as the best part of the game is in the discussion around working out the most optimal path to achieve your scenario goals, how to go about doing that, mitigating the risks as a group and then handling all the good and bad events as a team.
I’m particularly keen to try this game as a team building activity (especially on a self-directed Agile team) and see if it works better as an experiential learning tool compared to what’s on the market (Gold of the Desert King etc). The game length could be manageable and the rules do not seem too complex so it might work well. Anyone who’s interested in the same are welcome to drop me a line to see how we can collaborate.
Note: Is there such a thing as an “experienced shipwrecked survivor”? I don’t suppose people go around sailing on boats looking to be shipwrecked so that they can say “hey, I just survived another shipwrecked and now gained one more shipwreck experience!”
Well, you can now boast of such party talks if you are playing ROBINSON CRUSOE regularly! Yay to boardgames!!
Boardgamer @ Party, “Hey have you peeps experienced shipwrecks before? No? Well, I just survived my 14th shipwreck last nite. It was close and we almost couldn’t build the wood pyre in time to attract the incoming rescue boats and boy, I must share with you Fred’s close shave with that giant alligator… Not sure when’s the next adventure but it might happen next Friday. Well, can’t say life is boring, can you?”
Another AXIS & ALLIES edition, this time they are setting it in WW1 1914. A big box similar to the Anniversary Set. Not yet unbox…
The two newer COIN series have also arrived from GMT – Cuba Libre and A Distant Plains – both getting good reviews and said to have improved on the Andean Abyss system. Andean is already a good game (read our sessrep on Andean Abyss) and we can’t wait to see how well Cuba Libre plays.
It’s less than two weeks to ESSEN SPIEL 2013 and this year looks to be a stupendous year for boardgames!! We’ll build up the noises by kickstarting our ESSEN SPIEL 2012 theme nite next Friday at OTK. Time for us to remember some of the better games from Spiel 2012 – Great Zimbabwe, CO2, Tzolkin, Crude Oil, Terra Mystica, Keyflower, etc
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