Friday, December 08, 2006

Exploration

13 Comments:

Blogger mark aka pastor guy said...

Voting note: Lost Valley, Jenseit & Starship were all within a couple of votes of being included in the top five.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Chris Brooks said...

I'm surprised GoldLand turned out as high as it did. I traded mine away - it didn't age well and I think Lost Valley is much more engaging.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Jonathan Degann said...

I suppose this is a good opportunity to open that tired old Entdecker debate.

I'm in the (minority?) of folks who prefer new Entdecker. I prefer it primarily because I HATE the emphasis on closing off territories in the old version. That makes the thinking required in the game too abstract, too geometrical, in my opinion. The new edition feels more like an exploration game - which is what this category is about, right? Some don't like the huts in the new version. This rule has players repurpose their smallest units that were used to take over an island, to move to a separate majority fight game. Say what you like about the luck, but I always feel that the luck is reasonably balanced, and that people really enjoy those battles for the huts.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Kevin_Whitmore said...

This is a category of games I respond to. I love the theme and enjoy the boardgame version of discovery.

Usually the mere idea of exploration or discovery precludes perfect control. Often these games rely on drawing cards, flipping tiles, etc. to generate the experience of encountering the unknown. I have noticed that often gamers with a proclivity for high levels of control will not enjoy exploration-type games.

But if you don't mind some uncertainty in your games, exploration games may be a fun category to check out.

Entdecker is a personal favorite. I tend to play on the original Goldsieber set with a few rules imported from the newer Kosmos set; and the "Manu" variant. Mark Johnson has a nice article on the Boardgamegeek describing a nice hybrid set of rules. Entdecker really deliveres that "sense of adventre" I crave from an exploration game. I highly recommend it.

While I like the other winners, I also like the other games that made the nomination list. Of those games, Anno 1503 offers a nice exploration/colonization theme; and Jenseits von Theben carries off the competition between early 20th century archaeologists almost perfectly.

I'll happily play any game on this list.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Chris Farrell said...

I like Magic Realm, Candamir, El Cabellero, and Tongiaki as exploration games too, none of which got traction I guess.

I guess I'm in the minority too (around here anyway) on Jenseits von Theben. I'll grant you that it's a very clever game, but as it is now, the scoring seems to me to be too badly out-of-whack. It doesn't really reward taking risks on exploration; it's just about mini-maxing the chart. And once you've done that, it's not like Starship Catan, where when you discover something new, it's useful in interesting ways and you can add it to your knowledge bank about how the game works; in Jenseits, you just get a VP or not.

Then again, I think Starship Catan is a really great exploration game that was overlooked. It and Magic Realm were my only votes that I felt were complete no-brainers.

I'd agree Goldland isn't a terrific game, but it does carry the exploration theme fairly nicely.

2:30 PM  
Blogger mark aka pastor guy said...

Lots to comment on...

Goldland works well as a puzzle/exploration game for 2-3 players. (No one in their right mind should play it with 4 or 5.)

I'd like to try Lost Valley again - I was dreading the experience based on all the bad press it got early on (bad rules translation) and liked it enough that I'm looking to trade for a copy.

Old Entdecker w/Manu is the perfect "weight" for Entdecker - the new version adds some nice bells & whistles but makes the game overstay it's welcome. (And I don't like the hut mechanism.)

I'm with Kevin - there's only one game on the list I don't enjoy playing (Tikal, oddly enough - me hates analysis paralysis)... and I'd gladly own all of them. (In fact, I almost do - I'm missing the aforementioned Tikal, Jenseit (which is, thankfully, being republished) & Nautilus (which I'd be happy to trade for, even it runs a little long.)

And Chris F is right - Candamir is a perfectly decent game. Though he's dead wrong about the counter-intuitive El Caballero & the excrutiating Tongiaki.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Chris Farrell said...

Though he's dead wrong about the counter-intuitive El Caballero & the excrutiating Tongiaki.

I certainly wouldn't argue Tongiaki is a tremendous game; I owned it, played it a few times, and sold it. But theme-wise, I think it works quite nicely with the migration/exploration of the Polynesians. You get together guys, they go on risky expeditions to new unknown islands, from which they progress to further colonization. Theme-wise, it's pretty clever. I like Entdecker, but at the core that game's a pretty straightforward tile-laying game.

I'm perfectly willing to admit El Cabellero is, ah, an acquired taste. And you have to play the "advanced" version. And anyone with AP problems should be barred from ever touching it. But setting aside those caveats, it's a fascinating game.

3:11 PM  
Blogger Kevin_Whitmore said...

Hey, Tikal is a good game! When we play it, I figure the game will run 90-120 minutes. Mark, I'd encourage you to try it. You shouldn't let horror stories of analysis paralysis scare you away.

Like any game, its all about who you play it with. Don't play with folks who insist on sucking all the fun out of a game as they calculate and recalculate their potential moves.

I find the game moves along at a decent pace with the folks who I play with. And, while some scoff, I think the theme is nicely tied to the game mechanics.

3:21 PM  
Blogger mark aka pastor guy said...

El Caballero: owned it, played it 4-5 times, like it as a concept but not as an actual playing experience. And it does NOT feel like an exploration game to me... too much manipulation of the pieces.

Tikal: played it twice (2 player - OK, made better by my opponent being Ted Cheatham; 4 player - awful, wanted to gnaw my own leg off to escape the AP). Watched a group of players (all of whom I enjoy playing with normally) take 1/2 hour to take the last turn of the game. No thanks.

9:30 PM  
Blogger huzonfirst said...

I'm pretty pleased with this group of selections. Number one, of course, I'm delighted that Tikal, one of my all-time favorite games, got a tie for the top spot. (Mark, it's too bad you had a bad experience with the game, but we should really play together one time with a group of folks who know who to move it along--all my games of Tikal have been completed in two hours or less, even with the auction variant.)

It's also nice to see Goldland, a superior Kramer design make it (although I have to admit this game fell off the radar pretty quickly--I'm not sure why). Unlike Mark, I've had good experience with 4 and 5 player games of this--in fact, that's the only way I've played it. I can see that 3 might be the sweet spot, though.

I'm a little surprised that Africa made the list, although pleasantly so. Looks like the campaign by Joe Huber and others has successfully removed the bad first impression this formed on those of us who were expecting something much heavier. It's a solid family game that I'd like to, uh, explore a bit more.

I've only played Wildlife Adventure once (never tried Expedition) and that was with 6, clearly not the optimal number. I'd like to see how it plays with 3 before deciding on an evaluation.

I played the New Entdecker once (never played the original) and thought it was decent, but nothing special. Not the sort of game I'd expect to love.

My selections were Tikal, Goldland, Anno 1503 (interesting Teuber design, not much interaction, but still good), Jenseits (mostly for its remarkable fidelity to theme and the ease with which the higher luck elements could be fixed), and Africa. I haven't played Lost Valley or Starship Catan, Nautilus is good, but like Mark says, too long for a game of its weight, and Lost Cities is just okay and only an exploration game via its paper-thin theme.

I nominated three other games that I would have liked to have seen gotten more consideration. Wildlife is an excellent Kramer design; it's not a classic exploration game, but kind of fits. Pizarro & Co. is a fine auction game; there's no exploration per se, but it's just about the only game that's totally *about* exploration--that's gotta count for something. Finally, Bayon is a nice little Adlung card game which is quite clever and genuinely underrated; the exploration theme is executed quite well.

11:50 AM  
Blogger huzonfirst said...

By the way, like Chris, I love El Cab (and yes, it is an acquired taste). For some reason, I didn't think of it as an exploration game--maybe I should have.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous estoote langobarden said...

I'm delighted to see Goldland on the winners' list! I haven't played this game in a couple of years -- due to lack of opponents! -- but was a big fan of it and got pretty good at it when it was first published. I agree that five is more players than I really want in the game, but four works fine for me: that way there can be two players each following two main approaches, which in its way is balancing.

Entdecker: I've never played the original, but I'm fond of the new version even with its goofy "native huts" ending. I actively like the income challenge that some people complain about.

In the also-rans, I'm a big fan of Starship Catan and a big detractor of Nautilus.

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Doug G. said...

In this category my favorites ended up in the "Also Nominated" section rather than in the group of winners. I admire the ones that made the top five, but find myself playing Anno 1503 and Starship much more often.

12:42 PM  

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