On the 15th November 2007, I brought along three games: Kontor, No Thanks! and TransEuropa. Kontor is only for 2 or 4 players. Being 5 at our table, I’ll bring it along some other time.
So Ian, Keith, Michael, Steve and I started with a game of No thanks! Nobody but me had played it before. The first card up for grabs was 30. Nice start… After nobody took it for 2 rounds, I gave in, grabbing the card and 10 chips. At the end of the game I had just 4 cards (30, 31, 34, 35), for a total of 64 negative points. However, I managed to offset the 30 card by as many chips, thanks to my opponents who I made pay dearly for not taking the high cards. Nevertheless, as far as I remember, Steve won due to a lucky streak of two sequences of low valued cards. In the end, everyone had a good time due to the simple rules, quick play (even though the only binary decision to be made at each turn is not always easy to take), and the nastiness factor of either taking away cards that could be useful to someone else, or by making everyone pay hard.
Our second game was TransEuropa. Only Michael and I knew the game. So we played the first round according to the basic rules, to introduce the game, but in the remaining two rounds we used one of the official variants, the Locomotive Blockade, which was new to us all. It was an instant success. The element of variable blocking that it introduces and the way it forces opponents to waste tracks to go around the blocked paths is brilliant. You have to be very careful to always keep an ‘escape route’, which is not always possible. There was some doubt how to score the missing tracks at the end of the round: do we take the current blocked paths into account or not? We decided not to, as it would make the penalty too big. For our third (and as it turned out, last) round, we added the Card Pass II variant: after looking at our cards, we simultaneously passed one of them to our left neighbour. This way you can get rid of a far out city and you might get from your right neighbour a city in the colour of your other 4 cards. No such luck with me: I got an even further away city of the same colour I had passed to my left neighbour! The game was won by Michael with a large advance on the rest of us. In the last round he kept building his own cut-off network in Southern Europe, waiting for us to waste tracks in order to connect to him past the blocked entrance to his network, and then doing quickly his remaining connections when we moved and thereby unblocked our parts of Europe to him.
Our third and last game was Keythedral, brought by Steve. The rest of us hadn’t played it before. We all enjoyed it, especially Michael, who won it with 16 points. Unlike the rest of us, he didn’t build any of the first two levels of the cathedral, building up a reserve of resources that he used to trade for the more valuable resources (stained glass and gold) needed for the last levels of the cathedral. Just when he was about to complete the cathedral and end the game, I played a ‘design change’ card, which forced the game to take some more turns. I had hoped to force an extra round, but Michael had so many resources that he could trade them for the new resources needed for the changed cathedral design.
Overall, an evening full of fun and laughter due to the games’ twists and turns: players get blocked (both in TransEuropa and Keythedral), the card they wanted is taken right before their turn (both in No Thanks! and Keythedral), etc. I think what makes the three games a success are:
- not too many choices at each turn, contributing to a good flow of playing
- strong and immediate player interaction: what you do affects those playing next in a very direct and possibly hard way
- neither game takes too long to finish (in part due to point 1)
- the nastiness factor is high