August 17th, 2004


Game Report: San Juan/Princes of Florence

With a good 66% of my kids out of town I took advantage of the mostly quite house and got some gaming in. I ended up playing two games last night San Juan and The Princes of Florence. We only had 3 players Flare (my wife), Wookie (a good friend) and me.

We played San Juan first and since its one we have played before we finished in about a half hour. I ended up winning but not by much. Flare used her typical "stinky pete" strategy which mainly focuses on her picking the prospector nearly every turn. Normally I wouldn't advise going this route but truth be told she won the first game of San Juan using this strategy, so what do I know. Wookie went invested heavily on the production plant side which was bringing him in a great deal of cards towards the end of the game. Had I not been able to end the game so quickly Wookie clearly would have won. I was able to eek out victory largely because I had an early silver mine on the table (the best of the 5 production buildings), a quarry, a library and a tower. The library and quarry allowed me to build two big 6 cost buildings for only 3 when I choose the builder. I think the library might be a little over-powered but its hard to say just yet.

The second game we played was Princes of Florence. This has been one I have been wanting to break out for awhile (I got it for Christmas and had yet to play it till last night). Since none of us had played the first couple rounds were a bit confusing as I was trying to explain the rules when I didn't have a great grasp of them myself. San Juan was certainly a lot simpler to play and understand than PoF.

In PoF each player gets there own board (similar to Puerto Rico). The idea is to generate the greatest amount of prestige points through completion of works. You need artisans, scholars and theologians to finish these works for you though. These professionals each thrive in certain environments. The more closely your home/palazzo matches the environment that they thrive in the greater the value of the work they produce. The gameplay is a mix of each player trying to improve their own palazzo while simultaneously trying to produce works. When a player produces a work they get an amount of money equal to the value of the work produced. At that time and only at that time they can receive Prestige Points (victory points) instead of actual cash for the value of the work. What this does is create an interesting decision point (do I get more cash to build more building and improvements on my property or take more PP which are what actually determine victory). The building of improvements and buildings on the property is also an interesting spatial relations challenge. This is a result of the buildings all being shaped like complicated Tetris blocks combined with rules not allowing buildings to be placed right next to each other and not allowing anything to move once its placed. The downside of this aspect of the game is that you can very easily screw yourself with poor building/improvement placement at the beginning of the game. The game is played for a total of 7 turns and each turn is broken into 2 phases. The first phase is the auction phase and this really the phase that keeps this game from becoming multiplayer solitaire. The second phase is the action phase where players build buildings, complete works, and look for new professionals. The game does a great job of giving you the feeling that you never have enough time or actions to do everything you want to do (so you have to make tough decisions).

I enjoyed the game as did Wookie but both of us agreed that it needs at least 4 players if not 5 to make it really interesting. With just 3 it was too easy for one player to get in the lead and basically never be caught. Flare hated the game mostly because of the spatial relations aspect of improving your palazzo (she admits to not being very good at those types of tasks). Overall though I feel this is very deep strategic game that has a great many balanced strategies that could all lead to victory. We played in about an hour and a half. With 5 people that all knew how to play you could complete a game in about that same time. However analysis paralysis is a possibility (I am especially guilty of this) so dont be shy in the player nudging ("Yo Ves, a turn completion sometime before Duke Nukem Forever shows up on store shelves would be nice!!").

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Ves's Big Ass Upcomming PC Games List

Ok here is a big list of what we have coming to world of computer gaming over the next 4 months. This list is heavily biased towards games I tend to like. Sorry bout that, however feel free to leave a comment with any game thats coming soon that you think people will be interested in. Here we go in chronological order by expected release date:


09/01/04 - Half Life 2
Not much explanation needed for this one. The multiplayer mods that spawn from this engine will likely be very big. Counter Strike: Source (Source is the name of the HL2 3D engine) is already being played in some cyber cafand word is that its pretty decent. I could put together a Lan Party around this one and feel good about it. Plus as someone who completed the single player of original I am really looking forward to the storyline as well.

09/14/04 - The Sims 2
I am not really sure why I even list this one. I played the original and found nothing fun about doing the annoying tedious things I have to do day in and day out (taking out the trash, making my bed, etc). Well at least this one's in 3D and has alien abductions. The sequel to one of the best selling series ever should probably be listed and I will probably begrudgingly end up playing it at some point just so I can say that I have. And who knows Sid Meyer is the man after all.

09/20/04 - Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War
We need at least one RTS on this list and unfortunately since Empire Earth 2 wont hit until early next year this is pretty much it. However it has a great deal of potential. I am a fan of the Warhammer world admittedly which is partially why this title showed up on this list. With bizzarro features like being able to customize the look of your army (i.e. paint) this might end up with more in common with the tabletop game than it seems. I have read good things about it thus far but admittedly It will likely suck just like every other warhammer franchised computer game I have played. Heres hoping that I am wrong.

09/21/04 - Star Wars Battlefront
Talk about your reasons to LAN. I am really excited about this one for some reason. Combine the star wars license with 1942 like gameplay, over 30 vehicles (x-wing,y-wing,tie fighter, AT-STs, speeder bikes, etc) and 4 factions ranging both trilogies (separatists, clone army, rebels, empire). Sounds like multiplayer mayhem to me. Bet on a LAN party late September, early October.

09/22/04 - Rome: Total War
Ok so I lied about warhammer being the only RTS but truth be told these total war games are more like large scale battle simulators than RTS games (whats the difference you ask? I have no idea I say). The total war series is all about packing tons of troops on the field in formations and letting terrain actually have a factor in the battle. Rome apparently pushes the engine to its limits. Besides Hannibal is one of my all time favorite generals (even though in the end Carthage lossesBadly) a chance at playing a simulation of the Battle of Cannae using the total war engine has me excited.

09/28/04 - Evil Genius
This one admittedly is a bit wacky and its a bit not necessary for the list considering the shear number of September titles that are looking cool. However who doesnt want to play the role of a Dr. Evil like tyrant? Anyone... Anyone. Yeah I thought so. You get to build lasers on the moon, develop highly destructive technology and hire henchmen to protect your secret underwater lair. You must be joking! More fun could not be found unless they added midget clones. This ones probably not everyones cup of tea and its not multiplayer but it looks fun none the less.

10/05/04 - Men of Valor
Ok I know we are all sick of Vietnam games but wait a second. Remember a couple of years ago when we were all sick of WW2 games and then Call of Duty came along? Yup same deal here, this one is created by the same people that did Call of Duty. Multiplayer for Call of Duty was great but I personally think the single player was one the best FPS single player games I have played. If anyone can breathe life into the Vietnam shooter genre then 2015 can. Chalk this one up for another LAN party hopeful.

10/11/04 - The Matrix Online
As a City of Heroes fan I had to at least mention this one. I think its coming out too late to really be picked up by anyone in this group. Its sandwiched between too many good titles. Its boasts a huge world and a skill based system. I would probably have tried it if it had been released in July but given the title that follows it my chances of playing it are well, truthfully, nil

10/12/04 - Tribes Vengeance
Yep this is biggy for us. Many a wife has lost their husband for the day to LAN party where Tribes 2 was the star. Hopefully this iteration wont be so buggy. Gameplay I hear is largely the same except for the addition of some vehicles and a grappling hook(??? Yeah that was my reaction). October 12 is a Tuesday so that puts our first LAN day with this title at October 16th. Mark it down, I am so going down like a presidential intern for this one.(*ERROR: shit talk filter malfunction*) Crap, I mean your so going down like a .. ahh nevermind.

11/01/04 - Dragon Empires
A decent looking fantasy MMORPG. This unfortunately is another case where it proximity with other titles (WOW/EQ2) will likely be its downfall. Again I say I might have played it in July.

11/09/04 - Medal of Honor Pacific Assault
Medal of Honor was one of the first really great WW2 shooters. Unfortunately the team that did it largely up and left and started 2015 (giving us call of duty) but some of the talent remained. I am kind of torn on this one. I think its proximity to tribes and eq2 will mean its largely ignored by us unless its something very special. Multiplayer for this one better be something spectacular. Originally it was slated for a 09/20 release but it got pushed back. That may be the nail in its coffin as far as me playing it.

11/15/04 - Everquest 2
This date is far from assured but it definitly seems more likely than any other and its been put forth by more than one source. The sequel to the game that sucked our souls and left us nearly divorced is back. Let me just say that I have zero desire to throw hours and hours at a retarded level time sink. However I suffer from stupidity so I will be playing anyway. I am sure my ADD will kick in and keep me from playing more than a month or two but for that month I will be in hardcore gaming nirvana. Mark your calendars folks, were heading back to Norath.

12/07/04 - World of Warcraft
I was really hoping WoW would hit before EQ2 (it still may as both of the dates for these games are not 100%), but even if it doesnt I will likely give it a shot. If WoW actually turns out to be the more casual gamer friendly of the two games I may actually enjoy it more. If its PvP system turns out to be well done and balanced then I may actually invest some serious time into it. At this point it looks as if wow has more ground to cross but never underestimate Sonys uncanny ability to alienate their customers. I am not sure any of us will ever commit the time we did in the past to these games but if there were ever any games on the horizon that posed a threat to our relationships with our significant others then EQ2 or WoW are it. Be the warned! Now Gibber to meh my Betaz!!!.

Thats what we got. I am sure I missed a few but I think frankly thats plenty. Its gonna be a good fall meesa tinks.

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