The Games We Played #3: Vikings, Zombies and other Cliches

Last night was a good night for games. I was buoyed by the news that I got the great job I wanted (and I decided not to talk about the Bond Villain job since SMERSH might come after me..) and I have about 3 weeks off starting next monday. Yeah life was good. Until we played Zobie Fluxx…

The first game we played was a new release from one of my favorite designers, Friedemann Friese (designer of the excellent Powergrid among other things.) Felix: The Cat in the Sack. We went in thinking it would be a nice little filler (taking about 20 minutes or so.) It was short, but it was also a really well done bidding game. Each player places a card (which will have either a positive or negative point value, or be one of a few special cards) face down starting with the start player. You only know what your card is, which is key during the bidding process. Starting with the first player, everyone now bids from their small collection of money or passes. If you pass, a few things happen. First, you get to take a small amount of money (which gets larger if you are the 2nd or 3rd person to pass) and then the next face down card is revealed. It really hurts to chicken out & pass first (netting only 2 coins) and see a big positive point card get flipped over! One of my favorite game mechanics shows up here – There is a finite amount of money in the game, and that has to cover the money paid out to folks who pass. If there isn't enough to cover it (as happened to us twice) then no money is payed out to the people who pass.

The game was pretty cutthroat, and a lot of fun. The mechanics of the bidding and hidden information mesh quite nicely. Despite losing miserably, I would highly recommend this game as a good starter or filler game. As a side note, the graphics and art of the game are (as in all 2F games) excellent.

Next, played a game I had been wanting to try for awhile, Aqua Romana. This is a tile laying game where you are trying to make the longest aquaducts possible, using the master builders that circle the board. The trick to the game is that the master builders (each corresponding to a certain tile, ie straight, double curve, etc.) can only be used when you can see one from one of your people orthogonally. That means that sometimes you are forced to take an action you don't want to. Interesting, but also very frustrating. One neat thing, the scoring is exclusionary. So, the first player to get a 12 point aquaduct is the only person who will score 12, the next 12 point aquaduct will be worth 11 (or whatever the next lowest point value is.) This, coupled with the fact that you only have 3 people to score with, means that the game can rush to a conclusion.

I enjoyed the game, but wasn't in love with the master builder mechanic. I can also see how the game could easily bog down if playing with a more .. deliberate.. player.

We gained another player then, and decided to pull out Zombie Fluxx. This was a tragic error. I have written about Fluxx before, and zombie fluxx is ok, but man can the game drag on. And, after the first few plays the whole rules changing every few minutes bit starts to get a little old. At least one of my friends brought little zombie figures for props. That livened up the game for me.

We finished off the night in a great way, playing Midgard. This viking game uses the theme nicely (vikings get points for dying & going to valhalla, and spend the entire game raiding and invading) and has some interesting mechanics. The idea is that there are 3 regions that have provinces in them. At the end of each round you get points based on how many provinces you have a majority in. This can lead to some real cutthroat game play, especially if you go first, because the rest of the players will all have the opportunity to cut you down (in fact, they really need to..) 5 provinces at random are given doom markers, which are a big advantage (only with vikings!) in that at the end of that turn, every viking in a doomed province dies and goes to valhalla. All vikings in valhalla get you points and come back for you in the next round, so it is really like scoring twice with the same viking. A big advantage! The most interesting part of the game (but also the most complex) is the card drafting mechanic. It's similar to the one from Notre Dame, which I have talked about before. You are dealt 6 cards, and then you keep one and pass the rest to the next player. This process continues until you have 6 cards back again. It can get a little confusing, but makes for some interesting choices.

I really enjoyed the game. I won, mainly because I got lucky and got cards that allowed me to have more vikings than the other players, and then I used those numbers to get advantages all over the board. I made a conscious choice to use the cards that let me place more new vikings instead of replacing another players one viking, because I wanted to get more of my guys onto the board. I also tried to get as many of my vikings into valhalla as possible. Midgard is a little heavier than the other games we played, but definitely a good game. One I hope hits the table again. Definitely my game of the night.

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