Friday, 13 May 2016

Board Report: Cartagena / Robo Rally

The problem with letting the blog get out of date at the moment, apart from the intense embarrassment and shame I feel in failing my loyal reader yet again, is that there's just so many games that I want to share with you all. Normally the need to blog is the thing that drives me to complete projects, but games keep happening and the writing lags behind, and that's just not on. Here's just a little taste of what I've been playing lately.


The ever-reliable Ian keeps bringing new and interesting games along to Wednesday for me to try, and he keeps hitting pretty close to the mark. Personally, I suspect that he's building up a database of my gaming predilections in order to replace me with a game-playing automaton, but what's a girl to do?

Cartagena is an elegant little race game, in which players need to push their crew of five pirates through a labyrinth to their waiting row-boat. The mechanics are simple, pirates can move forward though the passage to the next empty space displaying an item represented on one of the cards in their hand, or backwards to the closest group of other pirates in order to earn more cards for their hand. The result isn't taxing, but it presents an interesting challenge reminiscent of tactical race games like Hare and Tortoise, without having to do any maths (I just need 225 and a quarter lettuces to win...). The game has room for tactical play, but is simple enough that children could play it (at first with slight simplification), which will probably mean that when I finally perfect the Leaflocker Gaming Indoctrination Method this game will almost certainly be appearing relatively early in the syllabus.

Robo Rally

Keeping with the theme of race games, the other game that has seen a lot of play in the last few weeks is Robo Rally. One of the joys of playing games with people that have been in the business for a while is that over the years they've accumulated a diverse collection.

Robo Rally hails from 1994, that makes it the same age as Settlers of Catan. It's a race-game in which each player secretly plays cards from their hands to program their robot, then the turns resolve simultaneously, with the robots bumping into each other, shooting each other with lasers, pushing each other into bottomless pits, and generally interfering with each other's plans. There's a kind of perverse delight in seeing events occur on the board that are going to mean that the cards you're about to play are going to ruin someone's day (though in my case, it was mostly all about unintentionally sabotaging my own robot). Players of damaged robots have smaller hands to pick usable cards form, and in acute cases, have some cards locked in every turn, so sacrificing speed to avoid or inflict damage can often be a good tactical choice.

The game comes with a variety of boards that all have different hazards for the robots to avoid, and they can be laid next to each other to make for a longer game, but since having a bigger board naturally results in less player interaction and player interaction is where all the best stuff happens (and by best stuff, I mean robots spinning in circles, jumping into pits and overshoot their targets while their players shout, curse and laugh maniacally), it seems the best way to play is with two boards at once rather than any kind of larger size. It's a silly game, but after a few weeks of more strategic Euros, this blast from the past was much appreciated.

It's also worth mentioning I've also played a LOT of Power Grid the last couple of weeks in honour of the closing of South Australia's last coal-fired power station, and harking back to those halcyon days when the Grid was all the rage has been a real nostalgic time for me. Since PG is hardly a new Game for me there's no need to go into much depth here except to say that I approve of the Korean expansion with the separate markets very much, and find the idea that North Korea is the only power in the world that has a Power Grid map but has no nuclear power hilarious.

Ongoing Gaming Goals

Try to get a Diplomacy board running
It's done! It's happening. As I write, it Spring 1905 and the leaders of Europe are all having a break to calm down and plot away before the game continues next week. It's been a delight for me to watch a bunch of new players discover and try to come to grips with the challenges that the game poses, all from a position of relaxation, having elected to run the game and give advice instead of playing for myself.

When the game is finished, you can reasonably expect that there'll be an EOG report here, but that day will be at least a week, and possibly two into the future. It's hard for me not to get ahead of myself, but I see some real promising signs in some of the participants, and I can't help but have high hopes that when the World Diplomacy Championships are held here in Oxford next year that there might be a home contingent ready to fight the good fight.

Get all Train Valley Achievements
The new DLC poses a few interesting challenges, but none of them were particularly hard to overcome. I am still left with one of the originals that I just can't quite seem to surmount, though. I think I'll give this one final hurrah, and give it up as a bad job if I can't get it done by this time next week.

Regain Nova I rank in CounterStrike (again)
Things are going well on the CS front in the last few weeks. Not only have I regained my little gold star, but thanks to a long winning streak that had very little to do with my own individual performance, I'm currently carrying two little stars around every time I log in to CS. Even if it doesn't last (which it won't), that purple patch should at least prevent me from being relegated back to wearing the silver chevrons again for at least a little while.