A once-in-a-century event couldn’t get in the way of our regularly scheduled gaming day, although a head cold very nearly did. We commemorated the conjunction of Pi Day and our Second Saturday Game Day with lots of pie (of the apple, Little Debbie Oatmeal and pizza varieties, among others) and lots of games, while the whole time I felt my sinuses slowly filling up with the black blood of Kali. Or at least what felt like it. This cold had me on a roller coaster all week, and Friday ended on a deep drop that I thought had leveled off come Saturday morning. By mid-afternoon though, it was winning again, and I ended up leaving with about three hours left in the event to find solace in darkness and Sudafed. But hey, there was pie, so it wasn’t all bad.
Machi Koro — We started off with something simple, which doesn’t necessarily mean it was easy or quick. Machi Koro involves each player taking turns rolling a die, then taking an action from one of their buildings in play based on what was rolled. You might have a building that gives you a coin when anybody rolls a 1, or gives you two coins only when you roll a 5. There are even cards that let you take money from other players if they roll certain numbers. The money allows you to buy more buildings with different numbers on them, with the goal being to be the first to build a set of landmark buildings each player starts with unbuilt. These landmarks provide lots of benefits — adding a second die to roll, letting you take a second turn if you roll doubles, getting double rewards for certain types of buildings and such — but they’re they most expensive properties in the game, so you have to build an economic engine before you can start buying them. In fact, a key part of the game is knowing when to stop buying the regular buildings and start focusing on your landmarks; a common mistake is to get caught up in building this sprawling city while your landmarks sit there languishing. This time around, I had some terrible die rolls early on that kept my income pretty low, and one of my opponents managed to get multiple cards that regularly stole money from me, so I was behind the monetary eight-ball for most of the game. Still, it’s a great, fun game that doesn’t take a lot to learn.
Cthulhu Wars — This was a huge Kickstarter project that raised almost $1.5 million, mostly on the strength of the elaborate miniatures offered with the game: giant plastic Elder Gods that look really impressive on the table. Of course, the size and number of these miniatures — there are five factions in the game, each with around a dozen figures — puts the game’s price tag just south of $200. So if someone in our group hadn’t jumped on the Kickstarter, it’s unlikely any of us would have just picked it up. As for the game itself, it’s an area control game where each player is in control of the cult of a different one of H.P. Lovecraft’s Elder Gods, including horrible monsters, evil cultists, and the Elder Gods themselves. Each faction has different special abilities, as well as spells that can gained by meeting certain game conditions. These forces battle across the world to open and control gates, with players having to gain all their spells and reach a certain number of points before, well, everyone pretty much goes insane. As impressive as the figures were, I think this would have been just as enjoyable — and much more obtainable — with tokens and counters. As it is, I’m not in love with plastic figures enough to drop $200 for the amount of game play here.
Kingsport Festival — How good is this game? So good that I played it twice in a row, despite the growing tide of gunk in my sinuses had me almost ready to leave after the first one. Kingsport Festival reimagines the game Kingsburg, using a similar mechanic but adding some Lovecraftian flavor to the mix. I’ve never played Kingsburg, but it’s my understanding that Festival is seen as an improvement. Here, players roll three dice to invoke various Elder Gods numbered from 1 to 19. If you roll a 3, 5 and 6, for example, you could place one die each on 3, 5 and 6, or place one on 6 and one on 8, or put all three on 14. The challenge is that once a player claims a space, no other player can go there. So if you were planning on dropping your 4 and 6 on God #10 and someone drops a pair of 5s on it, you’re out of luck (there is a god that any number of players can invoke so that if you’re locked out of everything else, you don’t go empty-handed). These gods grant you various resources that are used to gain influence over different locations around the town of Kingsport, locations that bring more resources as well as victory points. Standing in your way are raids by intrepid investigators, coming at set intervals throughout the game. Defeat them and you get a benefit (which can be doubled if you beat them by a big enough margin). Lose, and you suffer a penalty. There are also scenarios that can be used to set up certain conditions for the game (when raids happen, restrictions on certain abilities, and other special rules) and also a possible festival card that isn’t revealed until after the game ends, and which could significantly alter the final scores. Once twelve turns (representing the year the Kingsport Festival runs through) go by, whoever has the most points wins the game. Like I said, this game was so good I suffered through a pounding headache to play it twice. It’s got tension, meaty decision-making, and so many game-changing possibilities that no one is ever really out of it until the very end. And it didn’t hurt things that I won both games. Hey, I can be easily swayed by success.
But as awash in victory as I was, I was done after that. I suffered through a drive home into the setting sun, washed down my medicine, shut off all the lights, and slept off an on for a few hours while the pseudoephedrine did its magic. Fortunately, I must have appeased the Elder Gods, because I woke up this morning feeling about a million times better. Not too sure about these tentacles though, but maybe my heating pad will take care of it.