Gathering of Engineers Spring 2005: Day 1
First up was Dracula, from the Kosmos 2-player line. Doug took Dracula, and I took Van Helsing. Early on, I landed on his space so I could see whether he had few coffins on the board (I had 2 victims), and he only had 1. He then did some skirting around the board and swapping of cards, which I took to mean he was trying to hide the last coffin, so I worked my way over there and found the coffin; all I had to do next was follow him and keep snagging coffins as he lay them down. He got away from me for a bit, but I player "Battle Lust" which gave me a double-move and time to catch up; after finding the last coffin he laid down, I then played the action card that lets me search his supplies immediately, giving me the instant win as I was able to prove that he had no coffins on the board.
Dracula is a cute game with a little bit of everything. I'm not sure that there will ever be an epic match that will leave you proud of your victory at the end, but I think it's worth pulling our for a quick 30-minute game. Thumbs Up.
Next was Jambo, another in the Kosmos 2-player line. I've played ~12 games of it since it was released, and my record is about exactly .500. In this game, I stuck to my usual strategy of trying to keep 2 wares in my warehouse for maximum flexibility/efficiency. I happened to get a series of ware cards that allowed me to make several trades, rotating goods in and out, and won fairly early. An interesting thing about this match is that neither of us ever took the 1 gold for unused actions!
When I lose at Jambo, I never feel as if I could have done something to improve my chances; when I win, I never feel as if I did something brilliant. Sure, there are a lot of little choices you can make to improve your chances, but it seems that victory is determined by the boons that come your way; in this match, me drawing both Psychics was a big advantage. The game sure is fun to play though, so I have to give it a Thumbs Up.
Last, Doug taught me Al Cabohn, another in the dreaded Bohnanza line. This one is tailored for 2 players, which is weird because the original game is based strongly on trading. Instead, you are competing against the mob, who may be edging in on your bean trade if you are not careful. The mob got an early start in our game, but we were able to come back and keep it close. In the end, the mob had 24, I had 23, and Doug had 20. It turns out we were playing a small rule wrong (we were playing that you couldn't cash in a beanfield before being forced to pay the mob), which would have given me one more point, and possibly slowed down the mob.
I mentioned boons in Jambo; here, they were just obscene. When you are drawing your 3 new cards for planting, if the top card in the discard pile matches one of the cards, then that card gets added to the new card, and this keeps happening as long as there is a match. This means that you could have several new cards of the same type to plant, just from luck-of-the-draw! Also, I thought hand management was much more simplified, since there was no trading. There were a few tough choices in the game, but, overall, I thought it was a bust - Thumbs Down. (Note that it's supposed strength is as a solitaire game, not a 2-player game.) As I told Doug, as with Carcassone, all these expansions and variants of a base game that I used to loathe have the effect of making the original seem great!