FFF, Volldampf, Wallenstein

Last Saturday I visited my friend Michael, who was hosting a games day in Crawley (near Gatwick Airport). Unwisely, I chose to cycle the long distance on the windiest day of the year, so I was exhausted. I played three new games: one good, one average and one superb. Two games were based around maps of Germany, so I got a good geography lesson.

“Fische Fluppen Frikadellen”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/4370
This is a nice medium weight romp. It’s a fine balance of keeping an eye on the resource graph and the other players, while plotting your movements around the board. The components are very nice quality and look great. Apparently our game was particularly chaotic, due to using a trader who shifts other traders around the board. I’d like to try this with multiple boards, but it’s not on my buying list for now.

We played a six-player game of this one. Five of us were Age of Steam veterans. Michael was keen to try this, as he is an AoS nut and heard that this one was lighter and quicker. It is very close to AoS in terms of mechanics, but lacks a few elements, like engine and getting victory points for track. These changes mean that although the games share 90% of the same genes, they are very different. We all agreed that Volldampf is the chimp and AoS the man. AoS is very tense, as any mistakes you make will be immediately and harshly punished. Volldampf is much more forgiving and there is much less incentive to set up your own networks. You’re better off working out where bottlenecks will occur between heavily built up areas of track. It occupies an uncomfortable middle ground between light, fun games, and heavy absorbing games. While not being a bad game, I can’t recommend it for either casual *or* serious gamer

I have wanted to play this one ever since I read “Bruno Faidutti’s review”:http://faidutti.free.fr/jeux/articles/wallenstein/wallenstein.html. I generally agree with Bruno’s recommendations and they were one of my main gateways into this hobby. I find that our tastes most closely match with heavy games.
I was not disappointed. This was the best game of the day and my best discovery since Acquire. About a year ago, I played El Grande and liked it a lot. I put it on my list of games to buy, but never actually got around to it. Wallenstein has now blasted El Grande off the list. My only complaint with El Grande was that it felt like it lacked drama. Wallenstein is like a cross between El Grande and Risk, so there is no shortage of drama and chaos. It may be too chaotic and political for some, but I really enjoyed it, despite coming fourth in a five-player game. There is plenty of skill, but enough politics to make it sharp and exciting. The tower is a brilliant innovation and fits perfectly. My only worry is that the box is huge, so I will have to move a few games out of my collection into the attic. There is some German text, so I’m going to print paste-up images from the Geek onto A4 labels and stick them to the cards.