Monday, February 7, 2011

Gaming Convention Season, Part 1

Here are some of the games I played at Winter War:

Dungeon Lord:
In this game, players play as lords of minions in a dungeon with lots of rooms. Each player selects a starting room, and then during each turn there are several phases. First, players get gold depending on how many rooms they control. Next, there is an auction where cards are turned up that represent minions to bid on, and players bid gold on the minions. After hiring minions players place them on the board, then they move the minions, then there is an action phase where minions can fight or bribe other players' minions to gain control of the rooms. At the end of the game whoever controls the most rooms wins.

Rating: 8 out of 10. The auction mechanics, where players can spend money on things like hiring minions, bidding for initiative order, buying extra actions, and bribing enemies, add significant strategy to each turn even when you are not in direct conflict with another player, and encourages players to pay attention to what everyone else is doing even if they are on the other side of the board.

Race for the White House:
In this game, players play the role of candidates in a presidential primary. They travel around the country, stopping in cities to pick up votes. There are event cards that turn up that do things like make certain issues (like defense, health care, etc.) "active issues", which means that candidates who have strong positions on those issues become able to pick up more votes, and give a chance for players to receive campaign contributions. By the time you get to election time, you figure out who has the most popular vote in each state, count up electoral votes using a ballot system similar to that used by the Democratic and Republican parties, and whoever gets 270 or more wins.

Rating: 4 out of 10. While I originally thought this game would be good because I have had good experiences with other election-based games like Campaign Manager 2008, I found that this game had a lot of unnecessary complexity. Having complex rules can be fun if it adds to the strategy, but in this case it didn't. For instance, some of the event cards make it so you have to cross-reference the issue on the card with your character's position rankings to find out whether you gain or lose votes and then you adjust the vote totals in the state you're in and each adjacent state. This is a complex process that takes several minutes to resolve each card, and dozens of cards come up over the course of the game. But the event cards are completely random and your positions on issues are fixed, so there's no way to plan for the event cards or respond to affect the outcome. And the parts that aren't random are largely non-interactive, with the main challenge being to remember how many votes your opponents have in each state.


Nanette Goodman said...

too bad the election game wasn't too good. It has such potential. Would it be possible to have an election game that is sort of free-form like the national security game we played at GenCon?

Dan Mont said...

Maybe you should have a game rating website/ You are good at it!