Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Wolfgang Kramer (lighter games)

The best "lighter" games from designer Wolfgang Kramer...
Also nominated:
For comparison, the top five games from 2002:
The Apple Pickers expressed some prefences:
  • They like Daytona 500 best from Herr Kramer's series of card-based racing games... although there was a vocal minority who prefers Top Race because of the betting mechanism.
  • There was a slight preference for Wildlife Adventure over Expedition. I did not ask about differing opinions about the newest version of Expedition (with the National Geographic license) - but there are rules differences.
  • And a few of them expressed a preference for the older version of Heimlich & Co./Undercover over the newer Top Secret Spies.



Blogger David Fair said...

"And a few of them expressed a preference for the older version of Heimlich & Co./Undercover over the newer Top Secret Spies"

I am a fan of Top Secret Spies, but am unaware of the differences in versions. Can anyone enlighten me?

2:15 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

A fine list. I'm very happy to play any of these as that lite intro game or closerPut me in the Top Race camp as the betting makes for a very interesting twist in the game. And I'm squarely in the Wildlife Adventure camp.

Though I forgot about Tanz der Hornochsen as a possiblility during the nomination process. While a total crapshoot with a full battery of players, I remember this being an absolute hoot with four or five. Though my memory tells me I'm in the distinct minority here.

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Jonathan Degann said...

To answer David: Only the newer version has those action cards.

I am not especially a fan of the game, so I was pleased to see it bumped by That's Life which I like better (but still don't love.)

It was hard for me to choose between Wildlife Adventure and Expedition. I think that WA has a more interesting map. It is easier to get routed to hell with no easy way to get back. The Expedition looping rules get a little loopy. You can end up getting gazillions of extra turns if you can loop into a green space... it causes a chain reaction of extra turns which can dominate the game a little. Yet, I do have a lot of fun with it.

2:27 PM  
Blogger huzonfirst said...

It seems with Kramer, as opposed to Knizia, I strongly prefer his heavier designs to his lighter ones. There's really only two of the fourteen nominated games that I look forward to playing, and that's Haste Worte and Australia. I did nominate some games that didn't make the big list, like Saga, Plem Plem, and Forum Romanum (as well as Evergreen, which is more marginal). But as opposed to Knizia, where I ran out of choices with his light games, it was more of a struggle with Herr Kramer.

6 Nimmt! has always seemed very random to me. It would probably be better if played with fewer than six or seven, but that's how we always play it. Not a bad game, but pretty pointless.

I played Daytona 500 once and thought it was decent, but nothing to write home about. Then again, I'm fairly allergic to racing games. I've also only played Wildlife Adventure a couple of times and wouldn't mind playing some more, but only with fewer players--with six, it's very chaotic and has some downtime issues. That's Life is a superior family game and might work for gamers were it not for the luck-ridden endgame.

I've never played Viva Pamplona, Auf Achse, Gulo Gulo, Midnight Party, or Tanz. Heimlich is another bluffing/guessing game, the kind I barely tolerate. Hornochsen is pretty good, certainly better than 6 Nimmt. Pueblo is an abstract that requires spatial recognition--strike two and I'm out.

That leaves my big two. Haste Worte is a wonderful party game, thanks to its very clever scoring system. It isn't widely known and I'm quite happy it even made the nominations list. Australia is a nice twist on majorities games and plays well with three or four.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Kevin_Whitmore said...

I'm a big fan of Viva Pamplona and Daytona 500. But then I AM a racing game fan. I have to admit that I was taught to play Viva Pamplona with variant rules though. I love the theme, the "machismo" points and the idea that you want to run just fast enough to barely beat the bull into the stadium. Sort of a race game turned on its ear.

Daytona 500 is more of a hand management game with a racing theme. For me, the track on Daytona 500 seems better than the Detroit/Cleveland Grand Prix tracks. Sadly I've never played any of the others from this series.

9:35 PM  
Blogger Shannon Appelcline said...

I wasn't too enthused by the Kramer lighter games either. I actually only voted for four and three of them (Australia, Heimlich, and Pueblo) missed out on the final victory.

Generally, Kramer's heavy games are a lot more interesting than his light games, and there also seems to be a notable problem with there no longer being in-print English versions of a lot of Kramer's light games.

10:28 PM  
Blogger snoozefest said...

Seems like a good list, but as for the nominations - Australia and Pueblo? Those two don't feel all that light to me!

3:43 AM  
Anonymous BobT said...

I was surprized when I first saw Expedition/WA on the 'light' list. Glad it won something, I consider it a 'heavy' game myself. There is quite a bit of planning to be done, even during other folks turns. That 'extended thinking' aka 'Brain Cramps', puts it in the 'heavy' camp.
Jonathan Degann spaketh
"The Expedition looping rules get a little loopy. You can end up getting gazillions of extra turns if you can loop into a green space... it causes a chain reaction of extra turns which can dominate the game a little. Yet, I do have a lot of fun with it."
This isn't correct. The rules only allow ONE loop per route per turn. And I always play that the arrow MUST branch off the loop. If you do the loop into green, then yea, you get to branch off the loop and place an additional arrow, but no loopin'...louie...er.. Jonathan.

9:21 PM  
Anonymous estoote langobarden said...

Truly there are some very nice light games in the Wolfgang Kramer catalog, and I find I've got a lot to say about the winners we've picked here.

6 Nimmt! is an odd design in that its target audience doesn't seem to be gamers. You can explain it to a bunch of innocent bystanders and have them pick a card to see whether they'll get lucky, and they'll enjoy it just about as much as throwing a dart at a board and betting on which color it'll hit... because they'll have just about as much strategic control.

Verflixxt! (or, if you prefer the vapid English title, "That's Life"), which at first blush might seem to offer just as little control -- I mean, all you get to do is roll one die and pick which piece to move -- actually provides some interesting challenges in probabilities management... on SOME turns. For me, that's enough to make a 20-minute game amusing.

Viva Pamplona! (I love how these titles all come with exclamation points!) weighs in at a very similar level of strategy. Here you roll TWO dice and pick which TWO pieces to move, and sometimes the dice will let you be clever and sometimes they will force you to do something dumb. This game lasts longer than Verflixxt! but it's got something extra, that wonderful bull we have learned to call El Torro. Is there any other turn of a card so avidly anticipated, so dramatically dividing the winners from the losers as that dread moment at the end of each round when El Torro is revealed to charge or not to charge? And what an inspiration to use the running of the bulls at Pamplona as the storyline for this foolishness, and what marvelous cartoon artwork to emphasize the frivolity of the whole exercise, and... well... what fun! This game is top of its class.

By the way, we also use the "safety" rule (rumored to be Kramer's own, but who knows?) about your pawn not paying or being paid if it is in an orange square when El Torro does his thing. And of course we rotate the start player. All the cool kids do.

Speaking of rules variations, I like Wildlife Adventure better than Expedition not only because of its more appealing artwork but also because of its rules about spending your cash, differentiating between what you can do for $1 and what you can do for $2.

My all-time favorite Kramer design is Daytona 500, though it's not a game I classify as "light." True, its rules are reasonably easy to master. Its decisions really aren't. This is the game that MADE me a fan of racing games. In the other games in this family there are magical cards, choke points, and in one the chance to bet against yourself, making them extremely different games from Daytona 500, games not at all to my taste when I'm so dazzled by the plain challenge of getting those cars around the track and through those darned curves. In any case, I regard Daytona 500 as a classic and am very glad to see it on one of our lists of winners... even if I appreciate it in a "heavier" way than the rest of the crowd.

I'm surprised to see Auf Achse on the "lighter games" nomination list, too. I find it rough and tumble -- and sure, you're rolling a die -- but you've still got to manage your money if you expect to compete. Certainly it's a "heavy" enough game that with more than four players it sinks under its own weight.

The many good words about Australia have made me eager to give it a try. Thanks for the recommendations!

Stven Carlberg

11:47 PM  

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