Jul. 15th, 2014

quarrel: (gaming)

Two semi-regulars brought a game they’d recently acquired: Compounds. In the main playfield are sixteen chemical compound cards: ammonia, ozone, etc. Each turn, players draw some random elements, maybe do some trading, then place elements on cards in an effort to complete compounds and score cards for victory points. Each card scored also increases some fundamental game property for you, such as how many elements you draw per turn, and can have additional optional effects as well, such as awarding you a token worth an extra mid-turn draw.

It seemed like there were one or two more moving parts than the game needed. In particular, there are frequent “lab fire” events that set fire to all flammable compounds on the board. One or two fires sends a flammable card to the discard pile and replaces it from the deck. So every two or three turns, you could count on about a third of the board getting replaced. It felt like something that just happened around us that we couldn’t stop or plan for and that added no strategy to the game beyond “don’t play on flammable compounds”. They didn’t seem to be worth enough points compared to non-flammable ones to justify the risk. (Elements on a partially-completed compound aren’t discarded when it burns. They’re shifted to any available adjacent compounds, as chosen by the active player. I feel like there must be some way to leverage that, but it looks both unlikely and complicated to A) get a fire while you’re active, and B) establish a board position where you gain more by rearranging elements that you could have gotten by putting them in different spots in the first place.)

Final scores were close. With four players, there was only a five or six point spread between 1st and 4th. I came in second, one or two points behind the lead. If I had gone for an upgrade on how many elements I could place a turn, I would have won. That particular aspect — which basic upgrades to acquire, and when — is one of the good mechanics of the game.

Game 2 was Forbidden Desert. The theme and mechanics are similar to Forbidden Island. It’s a co-op game with each player moving a pawn on a grid of tiles, with the overall goal of finding four hidden items and assembling them, plus themselves, on a specific exit tile. The challenge is that the map, and our water supply, randomly and steadily deteriorate. Ultimately, we lost. I struck out early in an odd direction searching for artefacts. This fragmented the party a little and kicked off a mini-scramble to reassemble when random sand dunes built up between us, but Orbus feels we were doomed regardless from playing too conservatively and over-relying on a single character’s special power to keep us alive.


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