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Monday, June 21, 2010

Genoa and El Grande: First Impressions

Once again, stock footage prevails as I forgot to take pictures.  I intend to take pictures, promise.

This weekend found me playing two interesting games for the first time.  The first was Genoa.  In this game, you take the role of a merchant.  The goal is to have the most money by the end of the game.  The play is heavy on negotiation.  Essentially, each player takes a turn being the "merchant."  The Merchant has near total control over what actions are available and which each player can take.  Thus, the other players must bribe the merchant and haggle with him in order to take actions.  

The Merchant can't be too evil, however, because then the next player gets to be the merchant.  If you don't build some good will while you are in charge, you'll have to pay a steep price for actions when another player is calling the shots.  

Overall, I was pretty impressed with Genoa.  Being in control was, of course, fabulous.  And being out of control meant using your negotiations skills with as much precision as possible.  However, there are times when it is best to deny another player any action whatsoever.  This extreme move can cut a player from a turn entirely.  So Genoa will only work with the right group of people.  If a player easily has their feelings hurt, will feel 'picked on' even if they just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, you may want to avoid this one.  Same for those players who seek out extreme vengeance when they are harmed in a game.  That activity would really hurt the fun of Genoa.  

Next up was El Grande.  This is an area control game.  Each player plays cards to determine turn order and to decide how many cubes are available for placement.  Then they select cards that allow for special actions and allow the player to place a certain number of cubes onto various territories.  

El Grande turned out to be quite entertaining.  The area control base was very much enhanced by the special actions and strategic turn order placement.  If the game had just been about placing units and scoring position, it would have fallen very flat.  Instead, the special actions revealed a whole host of potential extras.  Sometimes it was important to go first, even if that made things more difficult, just to snag a card to prevent another player from getting it.  There were several key decisions to be made each turn.  In the end, oru four player game had the top three players within five points of each other.  

I can see how Analysis Paralysis could creep into this game.  Luckily, we played fairly quickly without much downtime.  A Deep Thought player, though, could significantly increase play time.  Barring that, however, I'm very much looking forward to playing this game again and further refining my strategy. 

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