Game night actually started with Torin and I playing 13 Minutes from Jolly Roger Games. It was actually my second game of this today, as Gerald and I played it this afternoon. It’s a light, micro-version of the same producer’s game 13 Days, a card game about the Cuban Missile Crisis, which is itself an homage to the classic Twilight Struggle. (Which reminds me, I need to check on my online TS game. . . wait one.) Torin made sure to remind me why I’m no good at these event-based card games.
This was followed by a four-player game of Century: Spice Road, an excellent “hand builder” that really zips along. Cal edged out Dan and I with a 60 point win.
With Andy and Julie arriving during Spice Road, I pushed a rousing game of Bunny Bunny Moose Moose on the group. I found it to be exceptionally silly and fun. I’m not sure the rest of the group would agree. But Julie and Torin grokked the game early and beat me by a point, Dan by two, and, well, Andy played too.
The game you see in the picture (hey, I finally remembered to take a picture!) is Concordia, played on the Germania board. I played this one last Friday, and it reminded me how much I LOVE this game.
Ok. A quick review of 13 minutes and Century: Spice Road, since I have played both of these twice now, and neither is so complicated that I need more plays to really understand them.
Two adversaries, 26 cubes, 13 cards, and NUCLEAR WAR! Ok, hopefully not that last thing if you want to win. Each player takes on the role of Kennedy or Krushchev, 13 cubes of their color, and two cards from the deck. A third card is played facedown into the middle of the table, representing Cuba. Each turn, a player plays a card either to manipulate influence or for the listed event, following rules like you find in most of these event-driven card games. The card is played onto the table in front of the player, becoming a new destination that can hold influence cubes (along with Cuba). The Soviet player may only play “red” events, the U.S. player “blue,” and both may play “UN” events. The kicker for those of you not familiar with the genre is that if the Soviet player, for example, playes a U.S. event card to manipulate influence, then the U.S. player gets to run the event first.
One of the new ideas in this game, though, is that manipulating influence is not just putting cubes onto cards, but also taking your own cubes off of cards. “Why would you do that?” I hear you cry. Well, because of nuclear war, that’s why.
Let me explain. See, there are three “zones” in the game. Each player has a sphere of influence in front of them, and then there’s the nuetral zone where Cuba lives. Placing a cube on a card moves it one step toward the player, and removing a cube moves it one zone away. This becomes important when I reveal to you that every card has a nulear symbol on it in one of three different colors, and if you end the game with three of the same color in your sphere of influence, BOOM! You lose.
Look, this explanation is already longer than the game takes to play, and you get 80% of what’s happening already. So is it worth the 13 minutes and $10 it takes to play? Sure! In fact, given that the “8-minute” series of games is a bald-faced lie (though still excellent), this is the only microgame in my collection that lives up to its name and still offers some tension and hard decisions. Do I play this event and pull two yellow nuke symbols into my sphere? Or do I play the card for influence and push a third green nuke symbol into my opponent’s sphere? What card is he holding on to for the end?!?! I’m sure that the game won’t last for 30 plays, but I’m equally sure that it will make a very good filler while waiting for others to arrive at future game nights. I give it 7 out of 10.
Century: Spice Road
This one comes from an unlikely source. See, I find myself frequently swayed by the dulcet tones of Quinns, Paul, and Matt over at Shut Up and Sit Down when it comes to finding new games. Even titles I know I don’t or won’t like sound intriguing when they push their energetic selves at the camera. The Dice Tower, though, is usually a place I go to learn about games I won’t like. (I mean, they don’t even pay to have an SSL certificate on their domain. What is that?) I have to give Tom and those guys credit – they describe games in such a way that I know exactly why I disagree with their assessments even before I play the game, and there’s value in that. But this time, Tom Vassel reviewed this new card game that I just had to try out.
Players are spice merchants (because if you’re not selling or trading spices, IT’S NOT A EUROGAME, DAMMIT!), trying to make collections of Turmeric, Saffron, Cardamom, and Cinnamon (or, as you will likely call it within 3 minutes of your first game, yellow, red, green, and brown cubes) that match cards in a buying row for points. To aid in this endeavor, there are market cards which allow you to produce cubes, upgrade cubes, or trade cubes. On your turn, you either play a card from your hand, buy a card off of the board, or “rest” and pick up all your previously played cards. And that’s the whole game.
This one is the quintessential fun filler game. It takes no time to set up (or tear down), plays in about 30 minutes, and is FULL of tense and interesting decisions. Your hand becomes this puzzle to solve of how to turn the cubes you produce into the collection of cubes you need. But, oh, no! Is the jerk next to you going for the same card? Will he make the combo before you? And how the heck is it your turn again already?
Seriously, this game is whip-fast. Breath twice, and it’s time to play again, even in a five player game. I see this one potentially making the 10 plays in a year board. 8 out of 10 (and Dan agrees).
As I finish this post, it looks like Julie (and Torin and Andy) are finishing up crushing me in Concordia, so I’ll sign off and go count my paltry victory points.