I played Intrigue for a second time on Saturday. Without a doubt it’s the most vicious game I own. It feels more like a psychological experiment than a game. We all had a good time, especially my brother-in-law and his wife, but you have to have a sense of humour about it and warn people.

My favourite gaming experience of last year was playing Lifeboats with my wife’s family at Christmas. That was such a success that they wanted something even more vicious, so we decided to give Intrigue a go.

Stefan Dorra (Linie 1, For Sale, Medina) designed the German version Intrige in 1994. It’s a simple game:

Each player has a number of jobs available in his palace, which pay varying income. Players offer applicants for these jobs, offering cash bribes and threats to get their applicants accepted. Players appoint applicants entirely at their whim. The player with the most money at the end wins.

We played with open money, which was a mistake as it slowed the game down, but not fatally. Incidentally, my 100 poker chip set worked a treat.

I have the English language Mayfair version, which is cheap and easy to get hold of. Intrige is definitely worth picking up if you have friends who enjoy intense games where the game is won by the weight of popular opinion and your skill in manipulating that.

“JC Lawrence responded”: to tell me that he prefers Intrigue with *open* money and that I should try “So Long Sucker”:

So Long Sucker does look good. You can’t beat “one page of rules”: and free – especially for this kind of game.

Um Reifenbreite

Steve and Mike came over and we played Um Reifenbreite. I have had this hanging around my collection since Essen 2006, where I picked it up for 6€. I thought this was a good deal for a Spiel des Jahres winner, even if the box is twice as big as it needs to be, but leaving it for four years before playing was not in my plans.

We picked Um Reifenbreite because we were tired and Mike and I like cycling. There was some messing around with printing translated rules and chance cards but in the end it is a simple game, which captures the feeling of a bike race well. We spent almost no time printing or cutting the translated chance cards, as they are rarely handled. We played the Advanced Rules plus the swapping leaders and sprint rules.

The art in this game is classic 1980’s continental comedy style that used to be very common on jigsaws, postcards and posters, but has sadly died out.

The game is similarly retro – simple, intuitive, basic fun that captures the essence of the underlying theme. This is what eurogame originally meant to me. Now that definition has morphed into baroque monstrosities like Sceptre of Zavandor or Dungeon Lords. Clever games, but a long way from Um Reifenbreite. If you have played Formula De or Circus Maximus, you will be familiar with the basic race game mechanics of Um Reifenbreite and a game takes between 45 minutes for one-day races to two hours for the Tour de France. The winner is mostly decided by luck, but you don’t play games like this as a test of your intellect.

You can get this very cheap second hand and it’s a good family game that works for armchair biking enthusiasts at the end of a long day.

Flash in the Pan 2

Dungeon Lords was a flash in the pan after all. I still think it’s a good game, but after three plays weaknesses emerged:
* chaos – you can play as conservatively as you like, but it just takes one unexpected decision from another player to turn your plans upside down. Age of Steam has the reputation of being a harsh game, but bankruptcy is always deserved. In Dungeon Lords it’s out of your hands and in a game of this length it gets frustrating. Cute imps and funny monsters can only make up for it so much.
* tough learning curve – Jeff taught the game *brilliantly*, but I was able to teach San Juan and fit in a two-player game while the tutorial was played through.
* duration – despite familiarity this is a 2.5 hour game. Simply too long for a euro.
* fiddliness – there is a lot of shuffling pieces around that gets tedious.

Despite these criticisms there is still a lot to like. You have to plan carefully and the theme is irresistible, but I’m less enthusiastic than I was.

Come back Reiner! All is forgiven – except Beowulf.

Noise Before Defeat on Tactical Wargames

I really enjoyed the last “Noise Before Defeat podcast”: It was an excellent round-up of tactical wargames which taught me a lot. I may have to try Lock ‘n Load.

Alhambra: The Card Game looks good

I just saw the Alhambra: The Card Game preview at Boardgamenews. I liked the card play of Alhambra, but I thought the city building was gilding the lily. I have thought about buying “Stimmt So”:, the original and simpler version of Alhambra, but it’s ugly, rare and expensive to ship, so I held fire. I’ll have to read the rules before I buy.