Saturday at Unity

Saturday was the 13th incarnation of Unity Games, a biannual gamestraviganza taking place outside of Boston. This is a fairly large to-do in our area, and attracts people from all over New England, including up in Maine. Mattwran, Albatross, and I got up bright and early on Saturday, and after a fortifying breakfast at the Fifties Diner, piled into the Hardcore Ludography dirigible and headed east to the less glamorous and more downtrodden side of the Commonwealth.

There had been a math trade on BGG before the event, so one of the first things we did was take care of that. I scored China, King Me!, BuyWord, and Pizza Box Football, as well as a side trade netting Employee of the Month. I had also arranged to pick up a copy of Yspahan on the cheap, but more on that later.We first settled down with one of the games that really seemed to be everywhere at Unity: Thebes. (We were joined by a fellow named Mark who looked over our shoulders just as we were starting the rules.) This archeological game has a beautiful production and a well designed “flow”. We got into the rules without much problem and had a really good time with it. There’s a “time” mechanic in it that makes for a lot of fun and adds a good amount of tension to the choices. That is, every action takes up a certain number of weeks, and you advance on the calendar by those weeks, not taking another action until they’ve “elapsed”. If you’re up and everyone else’s turn is a few weeks again, you can often take a couple of “fast” actions in a row. We all really enjoyed it, and it may be in a ThoughtHammer order soon. It’s not a game for everyone, though — there’s a huge amount of luck in it. Personally, I don’t care about that. I think it fits the theme and made for some fun turnarounds. As much as it sucks to draw nothing but blanks (ask Matt), there’s some excitement when you do get something decent out of a site that you feared was picked over.

To demonstrate, here are two people experiencing different results from their archeological digs. On the left is Al, getting five treasures in five pulls. On the right is Matt, with Not So Much.

After Thebes we were walking by tables of games and I spotted one I’d seen at the last Unity Games, being played at a table near where I was playing Age of Steam. I grabbed it and said to the guys, “Oh hey, check this out! This game is crazy.” It’s called Maus nach Haus, and the idea is, you have a wooden ring and little wooden mice. One player spins the ring and then you try and flick your mice so that when the ring stops spinning and comes to a rest, your mice will be in the center. If you do so, those mice are removed from the game; first to get four mice in the center wins. that’s all there is to it, which ain’t much. Nevertheless we had a wild time playing this thing, and Al and Matt were still playing when I left to go get ready for my teaching stint.

Last year I had fun teaching folks how to play Mission: Red Planet. This year I decided to teach Leonardo da Vinci, a game I really dig but again, doesn’t seem to get the love I think it deserves. Four other guys joined me and though I would have rather not played, as I wanted everyone to be beginners, I think the game is better with five than with four, so I also played. They all picked it up very quickly and all did really well (as well as you can the first time. There’s an odd bit towards the end that it is VERY hard to set up for.) They said I did a good job teaching (though I forgot one minor detail that it turns out might have hanged things for one of the players; I felt kind of bad about that.) which was nice.

While I was teaching Leonardo, Matt and Al were playing Combat Commander: Europe. They’ll have to tell you about that, but spoiler:

So instead let me tell you about this. Remember how I told you I’d made a deal for a copy of Yspahan? Well that deal was with none other than BGG’s own Ekted, who ended up selling it to me for the bong-hittingly low price of ten bucks! And he had a buncha games he was looking to unload. For more ten buckses I got Lost Valley, Matt got Wallenstein and Al got Tomboctou. And I also got Memoir ’44 for five. I tell you, the man was crazy. We were afraid to leave him alone! I told my Leonardo teachees that Ekted had a copy of that game for ten bucks and on of them snagged it off him. BOARDGAME DREAMS WERE COMING TRUE IS WHAT I’M SAYING HERE.I went and got me some hot dogs to eat and when I caught back up with my colleagues they were playing Tumbling Dice. Matt didn’t win despite the helpful strategies I was giving him.

Our hunger for dice unsated, we played another new arrival that’s been generating some buzz, To Court the King. This game is essentially Yahtzee with special powers. Achieving certain die rolls can get you various royal personages who then grant you special dice-manipulating abilities so that you may achieve other die rolls with your eventual goal being to get the King himself! And then roll a crapload of dice!

Good god this game was awful. There was literally nothing to do on your turn except watch another guy roll and manipulate dice. And there’s so much manipulation that, unless we were all super geniuses with uncanny dice-rolling skills, getting a good card out of your roll wasn’t hard at all. Dull, repetitive, unchallenging, and just about no interaction; I think it was the far and away clunker of the day.

At this point we needed something to wash the taste of yuck out of our mouths. What better than FIRE AND AXE, the Viking game? I’ve decided it must be written in all caps: FIRE AND AXE. This remake of Viking Fury (which I played a long time ago) was a hoot. (And Ekted joined us for it!) We had a lot of fun spreading the good news of Vikingism all around Europe and this is another one on the short list for ThoughtHammer. I will say, though, that I think this one could actually use more interaction. There aren’t nearly enough ways to put the screws to your opponents, though I did feed a bunch of Al’s guys to a Sea Serpent, which was pretty cool.

In this photo my Vikings decide to visit Paris. Sacking it was worth 12 points!

Ekted declined to join us for our next game, Caylus Magna Carta. I’m not a huge fan of the original Caylus, and when I heard this one streamlined it and took out a lot of the fluff, I thought it was worth looking into. It certainly was, because had I not played it, I might have bought it just in the hopes it was good. As it was, I discovered that Caylus-lite is still pretty dull. Al declared that while he wouldn’t quite shake the stick at this one, he would want to make sure it was within reach. None of us were blown away by it.We were bleary-eyed by this point but determined to stay as long as possible, though we only had 45 minutes to go. Not really enough time to learn and play much else. Normally at this point we’d be at the Crokinole board, but the only one here had already returned to its home, with us having logged zero hours at it! It was a sad sad development for us, though probably a somewhat happier one for the little kids who didn’t have to face down Al.

Instead we went for Chopstick Dexterity Mega-Challenge 3000, which is kind of everything you need to know. I can’t really tell you if it was fun or not — by this time we were a bit punchy.

Finally we packed up our things and left, facing the long flight home to our beds, where visions of mice, Vikings, and archeologists danced in our heads.

Can’t wait for the next Unity! It’s in September, right?

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3 Responses to Saturday at Unity

  1. Mrs. Mancer says:

    Paris is smaller than I imagined (or Vikings are bigger).

  2. Sean says:

    Let me know the next time one of these goes down. I’d spend air miles to fly up for something like that. It’d be a blast.

  3. Sounds like a great time. While Dave T. and I are going to GenCon Friday (woohoo), the games I was most interested in playing (Live Kill Dr. Lucky, Live Chess, and others) are always filled in the wee hours of registration opening, so I rarely play anything there. One year, I entered the Giant Settles tourney and won (they gave me, I kid you not, $2 off coupon at the Mayfair booth – to win more you pretty much had to win all the tourneys all weekend). But playing Settlers with foot-long road pieces and nicelt crafted hand painted & colored settlements etc was a blast. Unity sounds smaller but a bit more fun actually.

    You’ made Thebes sound fun. As I get older, I am moving away from the heavy-strategy wargames of my youth and appreciating the fun of the random. And Pizza Box Football, I meant to buy when it came out at GenCon a couple years ago. Met the Smith brothers, and they seemed pretty cool. I frankly forgot to return to the booth. Fun simple game though. And nice blimp……