Michael invited all of us for a session at his place on January 16th, but only André, Manuela and I came. We started with Mission: Red Planet, a nice Faidutti game of area control and character cards, each with variable powers concerning how many astronauts to send to Mars and what to do to other players’ astronauts or rocket ships. Contrary to El Grande, it’s possible to play a Recruiter card that collects again all our played cards. In the end I came in third place and Manuela in first, although she had by far the most astronauts killed or replaced by other players. Next time, I should try to use the recruiter earlier in order to have more options in the final rounds. Related to this is the need to use the explorer more than once to get more than 2 bonus cards: they can make the game. Also, I completely forgot that whoever has the most ice gets 9 bonus points. This made the difference between me and André (2nd place). Overall, I got the impression the draw of the bonus cards and of the resources is slightly too lucky and their value not quite balanced. But nevertheless a nice game that plays at a good pace and doesn’t drag on for too long. The card graphics are very nice, although one of the cards is missing the b’s.
Our second game was Blokus, which Michael got at a charity shop for one pound! I always had the impression (without actually playing the game!) that it is too abstract and dry, but it’s actually quite good. I lost miserably: by trying to block other people, I blocked myself into an area that seemed large enough, but the constraints make it very difficult to have tiles tight next to each other. I also didn’t realize I should start by using the 5-square pieces to reduce the negative points at the end. Next time I should try to expand along two borders, instead of diagonally into the centre.
We spent about 2 hours with the first two games and then 2 hours with El Grande. Michael has the decennial edition, which has lots of expansions included (we ignored them), but also some mistakes on the action cards. André and Manuela beat Michael and me big time, both of them with over 100 points in the end, with us lagging more than 30 points behind. I was stupid enough to move my Grande into André’s home province: in a previous turn I had put a mobile 8-point scoring board on my home province and then he moved it to his! My Grande had to follow, but this led to lots of fighting over the majority there, and at some point Michael evicted us both. André and I fought later back, but in the end I had to move my Grande back to my original home province, while 4 caballeros got stuck in André’s and brought no points for me. Next time, besides not disputing with other Grandes (exciting but too risky), I have to keep the high cards for rounds 3, 6, 9 in order to control the king and move it to my Grande province to get the extra 2 points.