Thursday, June 09, 2005

2005-01-25: Old Town and Ys

Historical Session - January 25th, 2005

Old Town

This is an interesting concept for a game. Everyone is working together to recreate this late 19th century town. But I don't mean working together cooperatively as there are points to win here.

The basic game is card driven, and with that comes a little luck which is to be expected, but at it's heart it is a deduction game. Unlike most deduction games, however, there is no definite answer. And that might seem like an oxymoron, but follow with me here.

The cards give general ideas where the buildings were located. Cards range from "The Saloon is to the South of the railroad tracks", to "The Church is facing East and across the road from the Jail." One card is played to set a handful of markers on the board showing possible locations for the building depicted on the card. Once there are markers on the board, you can then use the cards that mention that building to reduce the possible locations, thus scoring you points. If you can manage to play a card that proves that the building can only be in one specific spot, you will score big. So to plan a building's location from start to finish would be more of a reverse-deduction, I guess.

As you might be able to tell, this game does require a bit of brain-work. Trying to figure out the best possible way to score with a building might seem more like a puzzle than a game. But at the same time everything you play affects the board in some way thus keeping player interaction in the mix. I'd need to play again to see how much the luck-of-the-draw plays into it, though.

Final Comment:
Interesting and original (to me, at least). A little bit of a brain teaser at times, but still light and fun in spite of that. I'm definitely interested in playing this one more.


Hard to categorize, Ys has a pile of mechanics all rolled into one. While Ys is made up of different elements already present in other games, it still manages to create a new gaming experience that doesn't feel as convoluted once you get into the game.

To try to explain the different parts of the game would likely leave you more confused. In fact, this is one of the few games that it is probably best to place random pieces and walk through a round with the players before bothering to explain anything. Basically, everyone wants a majority in the most popular gems. Popularity is decided by the market system that players will influence. And gems are earned by having a majority in certain city sections. Other city sections can give straight points, or special action cards.

While this sounds complicated, there is really only one type of action done throughout the game's four rounds. Each player has 9 influence markers with varying values. Three are set aside as tie-breakers, and the rest are placed on the board in either the city sections, or the market influence section. Players place them two at a time each turn, one face up and one face down, wherever they want. Once all have been placed, face-down markers are turned over and step-by-step rewards are handed out for the various sections.

As long as players place their influence markers quick enough, this is one of the few strategy games that feel the perfect length. It's hard to tell who is ahead and a well-played final round can pull last place all the way to first. It's all about where the market ends up, and another round would just delay that; any shorter and there wouldn't be any room for different strategic options.

Final Comment:
Somewhat dry, but interesting influence/area control/market manipulation/blind bidding game. Not something to rush out to buy, but not something I would pass up the opportunity to play, either.


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