Monday, September 25, 2006

Leo Colovini

The best games of designer Leo Colovini...
Also nominated:
There are no comparison results, as we did not have this category in 2002.

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11 Comments:

Blogger mark aka pastor guy said...

As you can tell from only having four "winners" this time around, a number of the Apple Pickers don't have a strong preference for Colovini's designs.

I still have a soft spot in my heart for one of his earliest co-designs, the delightfully odd Die Oster Insel (a game of racing Easter Island heads).

7:11 AM  
Anonymous Frank Hamrick said...

My top 5 would include two that didn't make the Apples top 5 - Bridges of Shangri-La and Masons. Im fact, I think Bridges is one of the best games I've played (one of my all-time favorites). I also really enjoy Masons, a quick, great looking game. I would place Magna Grecia 3rd. After that, take your pick.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Nick Danger said...

I'm a bit of a Colovini fan and have enjoyed all of his games I've played with the exception of Doge, which just hit my "blind bidding" dislike button.

I find his games often have hidden depth and include just the right amount of luck. Luck which can often be tamed with better play.

I included Alexandros in my nominations, a game I really enjoy and find intriguing.

Dry? In the sense that the theme is hanging on by a hair, sure. But Leo's games are challenging in many ways. Perhaps the downside, if one wanted to think of it in that term, is that his games often need multiple plays to begin to comprehend what constitutes "good play".

10:18 AM  
Blogger huzonfirst said...

Sadly, I feel about this particular election much the way that I feel about Colovini designs: indifferent. His most highly rated games are both very abstract and best played with the lower number of players (usually two), two things that tend to keep me away from his creations.

I voted for both Carolus and Magna Grecia. I've always had a soft spot for the former game; for some reason, it's ideas clicked with me where with most of Colovini's games, they don't. It also plays very well with three. Magna Grecia is both very clever and very dry; the combination means I'll glady play it, but probably will rarely ask for it.

Clans always seemed overly mechanical to me. I guess I don't have enough of an attention span to do the necessary look ahead (and with larger numbers of players, it really is pointless). Maybe if the base mechanic was more interesting to me.... As for the hidden player colors, it's totally irrelevant to me. You don't care which color succeeds as long as you're on top at the end, so why even bother bluffing? In our games, the unused colors never do well (although I understand that isn't the case with other groups), so it's easy to spot which are the player colors. A very bland, so-so game, a solid 5 that's harmless enough to play, but truly is a gaming opportunity wasted.

Cartagena is better, I suppose, although I've never done too well with it the few times we played it. It didn't excite any of us, so it was soon consigned to the trade pile. I suppose the best thing I can say about it is that it's better than most of Colovini's titles for me.

I also voted for Incognito (I find it very interesting that this didn't have enough votes to make the final list, while it did for co-designer Randolph; could this be a sign of general ennui for Colovini games?), Corsari, and Familienbande. In general, Colovini's light card games register better with me than his more notable abstract fare. None of these games are great, but I'll play them, which is more than I can say for the rest of the designer's output.

I've only played Bridges once and instantly hated it. It was confusing, non-intuitive, maddening, and dry as burnt toast. I won the game, had no idea why, and categorically stated I never wanted to play it again.

Europa might well be a decent to good game, but my one experience with it was bad, as one player won the unquestioning support of two others and they handed her the game while I and another player looked on helplessly. Probably more of a problem with the players than the game (not to mention excellent negotiation skills of the winner). I really should give it another try, as the game seems interesting. Doge also got a few tries, but didn't engage and seemed to lack multiple paths to victory. Masons isn't bad, but the luck of the draw (and the fact that the best way to win is to be fortunate enough to share a card with a player who is working hard to maximize its score) effectively killed it for me.

Hey, it could have been worse--we might have nominated Alexandros or Submarine!

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Jonathan Degann said...

I don't have a big stake with any Colovini games. The one winner that I like (alot) is Magna Grecia, which strikes me as being more like a Kramer than a Colovini game.

The fact that the winners include a rich game like Magna Grecia along with miniatures like Cartagena says: buyer beware. It is hard to just say: "well these are Colovini games and the ones most selected, so I think I know what I'm getting here." The games are all very different from one another.

I am in a minority that does like Doge - even though I don't like blind bidding! However, in Doge, the bid ranges for a chip are narrow: from 0-2, so I don't feel it is all that blind.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Chris Farrell said...

Unlike for Michael Schacht, there are two Colovini games I really liked - Carolus Magnus and Cartegena. I don't feel either of them really has the replay value of a true classic (I ended up selling on both), but they are also both are fun and interesting. I wasn't particularly moved by Magna Grecia, but it seems a reasonable pick.

The thematic deficit in Colovini games to me seems extreme though, which I'm sure is in large part why his games don't really engage me beyond a play or two (the same can be said for Michael Schacht, but even his pretty-abstract games seem to have better theme than Colovini's stuff). Part of this may also be presentation as well - the look of Magna Grecia is awful, but many Colovini games seem to have a graphic design that ranges from spartan to uninspired (again, Carolus Magnus and Cartegena were exceptions, and Bridges of Shangri-La wasn't bad either).

12:45 PM  
Blogger David Fair said...

I find it unsurprising that Colovini and Faidutti are the two designers, thus far, who have only 4 games picked. They are both often called to task for issues in their games, though for the opposite problems it seems. Colovini is to dry and themeless, and Faidutti too chaotic, is the common mantra.

Still, I wish Masons and Doge had done better. The good news is that 2 of the games in the top 4 are ones I own and have never played. I will make a new effort to get them played soon.

1:00 PM  
Blogger dave said...

I have played most of the games on this list (including all of the winner), and I prefer Carcassonne - The Discovery and Submarine to all but Cartagena and Magna Grecia. Some of those nominations are real turkeys.

- "Sour Apple" d

1:29 PM  
Blogger Shannon Appelcline said...

That looks an entirely fine, but not surprising or exciting, set of picks. Clans & Cartagena are fine light-weight fillers, and Carolus Magnus is a fine medium-weight. I agree with folks who say Magna Grecia isn't very Colovini. It's a pretty heavy game, which isn't his standard.

I don't think I would have particularly picked anything in the nominees over the winners, though there's some perfectly OK games there too.

I suspect Masons is just too new to win. It's not helped by a $40 price point, which has kept me away from the game, under the concern that it's another of his lightweight games, which wouldn't be worth that price.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Kevin_Whitmore said...

Count me as a Doge fan. Doge enjoyed about 2-3 years of fairly high rotation before fading into disuse at my game club. It proved a popular game due to its ability to play in an hour, yet provide a rewarding "deeper" game experience.

I own 2 other games designed by Colovini. I have not played Carcassonne: The Discovery since early play testing, but I recall it as quite good. I also own Inkognito, a deduction game I actually like!

Of the award winners, I have to admit I own none of them. I regard Magna Grecia & Carolus Magnus as perfectly fine games. I'd agree to play either, but with over 300 games on my shelf I admit I have not felt the need to add them to the collection. Nonetheless I did vote for them, and recommend them to interested readers.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous estoote langobarden said...

While I suppose most of Colovini's games tend toward the lighter end of the spectrum, a couple are real thinkers: Magna Grecia and Bridges of Shangri-La. These two games have a solid following, and I respect that even though they're not big favorites of mine. I can play Bridges competently, but the process doesn't fascinate me like it does some players. Magna Grecia I recognize as a good game, but to figure out what I want to do on my turn takes me so long that I start to lose interest. It's bad enough when the downtime in a game tries your patience, but when the UPTIME bothers you....

Carolus Magnus is a sweet design, a bit unlike anything else, and I'm glad to see it made the winners' list.

Corsari really made a nice splash with us with its variations on the rummy challenge, but then the game seemed to be ruined once people discovered the tactic of going out near the very beginning of the hand. So I'm not sure now how I rate this one.

Familienbande is one of those games where the process is fun to watch unfold even if you can't do anything about it. It's a card game, and without good cards, you're sunk. But it only lasts 20 minutes or so, and in addition to the game itself you get to enjoy the goofy artwork on the cards while you're sinking.

One of the two real standout Colovini designs for my money is this year's Masons (Mauer Bauer). I'm completely charmed by the game's rhythm, the routine placement of a wall to begin each turn and then the rolling of the dice to determine what color tower will go at one end of the wall and what color cubes will go on either side, and then the EVENTUAL development, out of this swirl of placement choices, of scoring opportunities for which you may or may not be holding advantageous cards. It's a delightful game of hand management, outguessing your opponents, and making the best of the luck of the dice and other modes of constant change. Even though it's a fairly light game, easily positioned as a family game, there's plenty going on to engage my interest for an hour, and it often comes down to a pivotal decision in the endgame. Masons is easily my favorite of all the Colovini designs with the single exception of...

The classic Cartagena. For a game of its weight -- light medium light -- there is really none better. Racing your team of pirates to the boat by means of playing cards whose symbols match the symbols on the path, but skipping past spaces where that symbol already has another pirate on gives you the skeleton of a nifty waiting game. But the stroke of brilliance is the way you get more cards only by moving BACKWARDS in the race. Give each player the chance to move three times on a turn, and you've got enough to think about to make it an interesting little tactical problem each time it comes around to you. Oh, but wait -- you've got to try not to set up the OTHER players while you're making the best of your position, too! This is a delightful game to teach people whose gaming experience has not gone beyond the conventional because it's not so complicated that they'll fail to grasp all the rules, yet it's got those wonderful twists of backward movement for cards and leapfrogging the pawns ahead of you for big gains, so they've got to make decisions the likes of which they've never seen before... but they're done in half an hour so they can say "Let's do it again!" And for us more experienced gamers, we get to make some interesting decisions and watch the consequences unfold. A very nice game indeed.

Enjoy,
Stven Carlberg

2:27 PM  

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