May. 16th, 2014

quarrel: (gaming)

Don’t Starve went on sale on Steam, so I bought it. It’s a roguelike survival game with a mechanical emphasis on crafting tools and tech trees and a cartoony goth art style. It’s permadeath, of course, and not easy.


I finally got around to playing Quantum, which I bought back in early February but have had a huge delay in playing, partially because the dice were misshapen and I had to wait for replacements. Its designer is one Eric Zimmerman, who is a prominent academic in the game industry. (How prominent? He’s made multiple museum installations.)

Quantum is a slightly abstract game of space opera-y planet-claiming, with a small, elegant set of tightly interconnected rules. Each player controls some ships, which are represented by a 6-sided dice. Higher-numbered ships are faster but weaker in combat. Players maneuver their ships around a square-gridded galactic map. If you destroy enough enemy ships or position a specific dice total into orbit around a planet, you can build a Quantum Cube. Build all your Cubes first and you win. You have a strict limit of three actions per turn — basic effects like “move a ship (and maybe attack)” and “return a destroyed ship to play” — plus one special power per die, whose exact effect is unique for each of the six ship types. There’s a lot of interaction, dynamism, and power combinations. Single decisions cause large divergences in how a game might unfold.

We had the full contingent of four players on the standard starter map.I was set back early due to a neighbor starting off by invading my territory with strong combat ships and picking me off for renown points. For a while, I had only one ship on the map and was pretty sure I’d been knocked out of contention. That player and Wing progressed steadily through their first three Cubes while I limped back into the game and Orbus, who was also slow off the starting block, gradually gathered upgrade cards to increase his bonuses for winning battles and remove his penalties for losing them. Eventually, all three became mired in back-and-forth fighting in one corner of the map, letting me build Cubes unmolested in the opposite quadrant. In the end, neither of the two players who got early leads placed any more Cubes, Orbus built four, and I won with the aid of two “take an extra partial turn” cards in the late game and an upgrade that let me move and attack with the same ship more than once per turn.

Update: I also played a quick 2-player game with Shaterri, which I lost 5-4. I adopted an early strategy of going around the edge of the map building one Cube almost every turn. He advanced to the central planet to claim it eventually. By that point, he was in an even better position than I was to build one or even two Cubes a turn. I looked for ways to destroy his ships and wreck his plans, but with him occupying the center of the board, plus all my ships being either too weak to win a fight or too slow to reach him, I couldn’t manage it and he beat me in the building race.

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