A Look at Strasbourg and Gugong, and a Return to Terraforming Mars and Railroad Ink – Tabletop Gaming Weekly

This past week I got in a bunch of game plays. Strasbourg a couple of times, Terraforming Mars with Prelude on the Elysium map, Railroad Ink and Gugong.

It was nice to have a solid week of gaming again. It had been a while. Below you will find my thoughts on each of these games.

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I played Strasbourg twice this past week

Playing Strasbourg the board game from Stefan Feld at The CG RealmStrasbourg is a slightly older Stefan Feld game that was nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres in 2011. I don’t know if it’s come up much since I started blogging here, but I’m a huge Stefan Feld fan. I absolutely love Macao, Bruges, Amerigo, Castles of Burgundy, and In The Year of the Dragon. I’m a fan of all his other games as well. So far I’ve only been disappointed by one of his designs, Aquasphere, and even that I think I need to give a second chance.  So, when I had a chance to pick up Strasbourg when Geektropolis closed, I jumped at the chance.

Strasbourg is shorter and lighter than most Feld games. It’s not such a point salad as other of his games, but there are still many ways to get points. This is a pure Euro game, where players are taking part in a series of auctions to get family members into influential places, in the various guilds, of the town of Strasbourg. The game consists of 5 rounds, each round has 7 auctions. That’s 35 auctions! 6 auctions each round, are for guild placements or to sell to merchants. The 7th auction is for the city council head and for the church representative.

For guild auctions, first place gives the player a seat on the city council, the chance to place a family member in a guild house on the map and a good token for that guild. Second place gets to place a family member and receives a good token, while third place gets a choice of placing a family member or a getting a good token. Merchant auctions let the winning bidder sell the good tokens they have collected in previous actions.

Bidding in this game is unique (and I love games that do something unique). At the start of the game, every player gets an identical set of 24 cards, numbered 1-6, four times. Each round, players draw as many cards from this deck as they want randomly. Players then split the cards drawn into piles containing one or more cards. Each of these piles can be used to bid in one auction. So right at the start of the turn you need to determine not only how many auctions you want to take part in but what bids you want to use for those auctions.

Strasbourg the board game by the designer Stefan FeldPlayers are doing all of this to score points. The main method of getting points is by scoring cards selected at the start of the game. Each player receives 5 cards and picked 1-5 of them to keep for the game. If they fulfill the conditions on the card by game end, they get the points listed, if they fail, they lose points instead. You may recognize this system from Ticket to Ride. Most cards award points based on where family members are located on the board. Players also get points for each family member on the board, for family members next to chapels, privileges they collected during the game, and family members on the town council.

We first played Strasbourg on Monday night and I was immediately smitten by it. The rules are rather simple to teach but wow, is there a lot to think about once you get playing. Figuring out what and when to bid is huge. Even just trying to set up your bids at the start of the turn can be agonizing.  Realizing that there are only three auctions for each of the five guilds is crucial. Even knowing that, it is still quite easy to miss when a move that you have planned, is no longer possible. Each play I had this happen to me at least twice.

I played another game on Saturday with a different group of players and enjoyed it even more. That game, I was more aware of how the auctions were going to play out, how many bid sets I should try to have each round, and I was starting to learn what the various scoring cards were so that I could predict what my opponents were going for. This really indicated to me the impressive depth the game has. There is a good deal going on and Strasbourg really rewards repeated plays and learning the various cards and strategies.

Overall, I’m extremely impressed. I’m happy to have found another quicker Feld game, something I can fit in during a game night easily.

Playing Terraforming Mars on the Elysium map with Preludes

Early in a game of Terraforming Mars the best board game by Stronghold GamesAs noted above, Strasbourg was surprisingly quick and that meant that after we finished our game on Monday night we still had plenty of time, so we returned to an old favourite: Terraforming Mars. Since we had a group of experienced players we decided to mix things up and use the Elysium board. I personally also wanted to play some more with the Preludes expansion as I had only tried it once so far. We left the Venus Next Expansion in the box this time as at least one player (my wife) isn’t a fan of that expansion. We played with the Corporate Wars cards but no drafting.

I still love Terraforming Mars. I really do. Every game somehow still plays out differently, despite having played so many times. It was cool to play on a different map, but I still feel that Elysium is the worst of the three existing maps. I think it’s due to the awards all being based on actual amount of goods and not production with some of the milestones being much easier to achieve than others. It’s also frustrating when you discover that certain cards work differently on this map. For instance, anything that needs to be placed on a volcano or Noctis City. It’s not that it’s a bad map, I just prefer the other two more.

Final board state at the end of a game of Terraforming MarsHaving now used Preludes twice, I don’t think I will play without it going forward. I mentioned in the past that I was worried it would make the game too quick. That is just not the case. This game felt just as long and satisfying as it ought to. If the game was at all shorter, it was maybe 15 minutes or so and I didn’t miss that time. Besides that, I really love the fact that the Prelude cards give you direction at the start of the game. The combination of initial projects, choosing a corporation, and picking a couple of the prelude cards should give you some form of plan, right from the start. Of course you will likely change and adjust that plan once the game gets going but I enjoy that everyone has an initial direction to head off in.

Up next, I really need to pick up The Colonies expansion. I would have bought it at the FLGS Saturday, had it been in stock.

I’ve now tried both colours of Railroad Ink, and was disappointed

Saturday was one of the twice monthly game nights at The CG Realm, and I attended alone while Deanna is still recovering from surgery. We started off with a game of Railroad Ink: Blazing Red Edition (Sort of.) This was the featured game of the event, and the store was offering ongoing demo games throughout the night.

Railroad Ink being played at a game store.I had played the blue version of Railroad Ink (sort of) during my Birthday Bash back in January, and quite enjoyed it. As a result, I was looking forward to trying the red edition. I have to say, I was rather disappointed. It’s not that the game is bad, it’s that the two editions are identical when it comes to the base game. The only difference between the two are two special dice. Lake and River dice in the blue set, and Meteor and Lava dice in the red set, and both times, those teaching felt the additional red/blue dice were too complex to introduce.

As a result, this game play was identical to what I had experienced with the blue version. The game itself is solid. I enjoyed the game back in January, and enjoyed this play just as much, however I’m put off by the way CMON is selling these. If I buy both, I end up with the same game twice. Why didn’t they they didn’t sell a base game and then let you pick up the extra dice in a separate booster pack I don’t understand. Now, if I buy both games, I end up with an extra set of dice I will never need.

The marketing of Railroad Ink has turned me off on buying it, at least for now. I still want to try the thing that makes the sets unique, the special dice, but until I do, I won’t be looking to pick up either version.

My first ever play of Gugong

Gugong from Tasty Minstrel Games completely slipped under my radar. It was my friend Chad who brought it out on Saturday, and taught us to play. While I vaguely recognized the cover, I knew nothing about it before playing.

Gugong is a card driven, action selection game set in 1570 China during the Ming Dynasty. Players take on the role of powerful Chinese families trying to negotiation the complex politics of The Forbidden City. Each round players get a random hand of cards numbered from 1 to 9. They play these cards onto action spots on the board to take actions. When this is done, the player takes the card that was already on that action, and places it in their discard pile for next round. Most cards also include bonus actions, and these can only be used if the card you play has a higher number than the one you are replacing.

Early in a game of Gugong the board game from Tasty Minstrel Games.There are a wide variety of actions. Players can explore the countryside, which gives players bonus tokens for special actions and/or resources. These tokens are saved, and can be traded in for more workers, points, or jade (important during end game scoring). Jade can be bought from the market as well. Players can move up in the courts (interestingly, if a player does not reach the end of this track, by end of the game, they cannot win). Workers can be sent to work on The Great Wall, boats can be manned and travel The Grand Canal. There is an Intrigue Track that can be advanced. There are random tiles you can place workers on that give you in game bonuses or end game scoring opportunities. Along with these I think there’s at least one other possible action I’m forgetting.

If you can’t tell, there is a lot going on in Gugong. The action selection method reminds me a bit of ZhanGuo with a touch of Ra mixed in. The exploration reminds me of Village. The Wall Building of Caylus. Overall this game feels like a bunch of different mechanics from various games put together. The problem is, I’m not sure if it works.

I found I had far too much to think about to be able to effectively plan out actions. Some of this is probably due to it being my first play, (Also, I don’t think the game was taught very well.) There were things that I didn’t realize, until a few turns in that would have changed how I played the game. By the time we were done the game, I was glad I got to try it before buying it. I was not a big fan. Since then however, I’ve been thinking about the game, and the more I think about it the more I want to give it another try.

Any game I’m still thinking about two days later must to have something going for it.

So those are my #WhatDidYouPlayMondays games. What games hit your tabletop this week?

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