This past week I played a couple of board games that I need to play more often. They were my Kickstarter copy of Endeavor Age of Sail and the time-travelling boardgame: Anachrony.
This past weekend was our Extra Life Board Game Blitz charity board game tournament. I played Endeavor the Monday before the event to brush up on the rules, and at the event, a table of gamers insisted I play Anachrony with them during the final round of the tournament.
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I’m liking the board game Endeavor: Age of Sail the more I play it.
I got my Kickstarter copy of the Commodore Edition of Endeavor: Age of Sail late in 2018 and got it to the table for the first time in October. I’m sad to say it took almost a year for me to get it back to the table. There are just too many games to play and too little time to play them all. A part of this was the fact that our first game of Endeavor didn’t go over as well as I had hoped. Deanna, in particular, wasn’t a big fan. I think her main problem was that she was expecting a heavier game. I also think that three players may not be the right player count for this game.
In preparation for our Board Game Blitz tournament, I broke out Endeavor with my Monday night group in an effort to re-learn the game before the event. I wanted to feature this highly rated game in the medium game length spot and as I have already noted, it had been a long time since I played it.
Our Monday night game of Endeavor was played at the full five-player count and went very well. Actually I would say exceptionally well. While I was a bit rough on the teach of the game, once we got going things flowed extremely smoothly. I noted how smoothly Endeavor plays in my initial thoughts last year, and I still stand by that. This game has a great flow to it.
Each round starts off with the same three actions. Players purchase one building from a central supply (all players have access to the same buildings), the level of the building is determined by their Industry Level. Players then recruit workers based on their Culture Rating and pay existing workers based on their Wealth level. Then players take turns using those workers with their buildings to take actions.
Actions include Shipping, Occupy, Attack, Payment and Draw. Shipping and Occupy are done to take trade tokens off of the map, most of these increase players attributes and others allow players to take extra actions that don’t require a building. Attack lets players take spots on the map from other players. Payment readies a worker for use this round and Draw lets a player collect cards from regions where they have presence (where they have previously shipped, occupied or attacked). These cards also increase a player’s attributes and/or give victory points. At the end of the round players can hold a set number of cards based on their Influence attribute.
At the end, after seven rounds, players are going to get points based on their four attributes, cards they have gained with Glory symbols on them and for controlling various shipping routes.
That’s the base game, this new edition of Endeavor also includes things called Exploits that really expand the game. I still haven’t gotten to check those out.
By the end of our five-player game, every single one of the players had something positive to say about the game. Not only that, we all commented on how we need to play again, soon, before we forget the rules again, with just the base game. There is a bit of a learning curve and playing a second time people would have made some different choices from our first play. Then we all agreed we really want to try out the Exploits as well. They look like they add an entirely new dimension to Endeavor.
Overall this was a great play experience. It really highlighted how much of an impact player count can have on the enjoyment of a game.
Endeavor also got played at the Board Game Blitz on Saturday. While I didn’t actually play this game I was sitting nearby and watched a good portion of the gameplay. That game was hosted by Deanna and was with three players who had never played before. Similar to the reaction I got Monday night, all three of these players were commenting on how much they were enjoying the game. They noted that the basic rules, the mechanics, are so simple but they are combined in a way that just flows very well.
Both of these instances of Endeavor being played have convinced me that I really need to give this game more attention in the future.
Every time I play the board game Anachrony I’m impressed, but it is not an easy game to teach.
As mentioned previously, this Saturday I hosted a Board Game Blitz tournament raising money for Extra Life. During these events, I facilitate but don’t participate. As the organizer I’m the one picking which games will get played and all of the games come from my personal collection. I don’t think it would be fair of me to take part and potentially win a tournament featuring games I’ve handpicked. So I spent most of the even teaching games and watching people play and answering questions.
That was until the final round. In the final round, the games being played were Teotihuacan, Terraforming Mars and Anachrony. Deanna was playing Teotihuacan and was able to teach it to the three other players playing. The group that chose Terraforming Mars were all players who had played the game multiple times before. So that left me to teach Anachrony.
I had completely forgotten how difficult Anachrony is to teach. Especially when you have one or more players who aren’t familiar with a wide variety of different games and mechanics. While I think I did a decent enough job teaching (mainly based on the fact that players didn’t have a lot of questions once we started playing and people weren’t making mechanical mistakes during the game), it took me a long time to get all of the concepts across. While I didn’t have a timer out I know it took me over half an hour. It may have been closer to an hour.
The problem with teaching Anachrony is how important strategy is for that game. Right from round one you should be planning ahead. One of the first things you do is decide which resources you want to take from your future self. That involves not only knowing what you need for that first round but being able to plan ahead to pay those resources back in a later turn. For someone who hasn’t played the game before, that’s a difficult concept to fully grasp.
An added complication comes from player picked asymmetry. At the start of the game, even if using the symmetric A-sides of the player boards, players have to pick between two sides of their faction board and pick between two leaders to use for the whole game. This is literally the first decision you have to make and each of the boards, and each of the leaders, have a unique ability that affects one of the six main phases of the game. Another ability is based on a special scoring system (evacuating the capital) that happens about 75-80% of the way into the game. So again it’s asking players at the very start of the game to set in motion a plan for something that won’t hit until the latter half of the game. For players to be able to make this decision I need to explain The Entire Game before they can make an informed choice.
For most board games, as a teacher you have the ability to say: Let’s just start playing and I’ll explain a few things later. You don’t need to know everything before you make your first decision. This is also the case for Anachrony with the buildings and superpowers, but everything else in the game needs to be taught up front and that can be rough.
By the time I had gotten the group to a point where I thought they were all comfortable with the mechanics of the game, they insisted I also play. As I wasn’t needed at any of the other tables, and due to the fact that I had just invested an hour in explaining this game that I obviously was excited about, they invited me to join in. They would just skip over my score for the final scoring for the tournament. I okayed this with others present and actually played a full game of Anachrony.
This leads to the other odd thing about Anachrony. Once you start playing it’s not an overly hard game. Your initial choices at the start of the game are limited to public worker placement spots, and the early decisions are very straightforward. You want to either focus on building buildings or getting workers for later turns and most of that is going to be driven based on what the other players are doing and player order. It’s only once you start adding buildings to your own player boards that the decision tree really branches out and the decisions get a lot harder.
I always find it striking how quick and enjoyable those first few turns are when compared to how rough the initial teach of this game is. Yes the game does get heavier as you get further into it, but it’s a nice slow progression and by the time you get to the harder decision points, you’ve since learned how to play and are ready for those more difficult choices. It’s one of the things I think is brilliant about the game.
By the end of our game, all three of the other players noted how enjoyable an experience the game was. A couple noted that they thought they would hate it when I was first presenting the game, but they ended up really enjoying it. The other thing all three of them agreed was that none of them would ever want to teach anyone else how to play.
Overall what this play of Anachrony told me is that I really need to sit down and play it again with people who already know how to play. Removing that initial hard teach from the front of a night of play would make the overall experience much more enjoyable.
There you have my two game #WhatDidYouPlayMondays list for this week. What did you get to the table this week?