Last time we talked about playing online, today we go back to the realm of cardboard, plastic, and wooden bits. We’re going to branch into some mid-weight games. I’m sure some of you are wondering what this weight I’ve mentioned before means. It’s a measure of how complex the ruleset of the game and the interactions are. As an example, checkers is lightweight, chess is mid-weight, go is heavy. Other terms to reference heavier games include brain burner or “thinky” games. They will generally focus on efficiency and planning ahead, with less random elements. Now that you know that, let’s get into some mid-weight games:
Game 1: Avoid angering the gods – Tzolk’in (2-4 players, 5 with an expansion)
Tzolk’in is a game of timing, efficiency, worker placement, and corn. The rules of the game are fairly simple, each turn you may either put workers onto the gears, or you may pick workers up off of gears and take an action available to that worker. After all of the players have taken their turn, you turn the center gear one crank, which moves all of the other gears one step forward. There are six gears in the game, five of which can hold workers, with the center one timing the game. The game is played over 27 turns broken down into 4 periods. Each gear focuses on different items:
- A gear for getting wood and food, the higher up the space, the more wood or the more food you get
- A gear for getting other resources, the higher up, the better the resources you acquire
- A gear for moving up in technology, building buildings or monuments, or moving up the temple tracks
- A gear for getting more workers, or exchanging corn for other items
- The final gear for placing crystal skulls for points and temple steps
As you place workers, you need to put them in the earliest open space on the gear. So if you’re the first to place a worker on a gear, you place it in spot 0. If you then place a second worker on the same gear, you place him in spot 1. You must pay corn for placing in any spot other than 0, and for placing more than 1 worker a round. When picking workers up, you only need to pay if you wish to backtrack spaces on the gear (taking the action at spot 2 when you’re at spot 4 would require you to pay 2 corn). You can pick up all of your workers in one turn if you wish (and good players try to plan it that way for the last turn of the game). At the end of each period, you also must feed your workers who require 2 corn each. If you can’t feed a worker, you lose 3 points per starving worker. There are multiple ways to get points:
- Placing Crystal Skulls on one of the gears
- At the midpoint of the game and the end of the game, you will score points based on how far up the three temple tracks you are with bonuses for being the highest.
- Certain buildings give you points
- Technologies can give you points
- Monuments are worth points at the end of the game
At the end of the game, all of your resources get traded for corn, and every 4 corn is worth one victory point.
Game 2: Building a bag out of workers – Orleans (2-4 players, 1-5 with expansions)
Bag building, the kissing cousin of deck building (which I’ll be getting to soon). The premise of both systems is that all of the players start with the same resources, and through the course of the game purchase new ones that make their bags/decks better. In this game this is done by hiring workers. The game is played over 18 turns with the following steps being taken each turn:
- Flip over the top hardship tile (the one for the first turn is set)
- Draw a number of discs out of your bag based on your position on the Knight track
- Arrange your discs under the actions you want to take
- Starting with the first player take an action that have all of the worker places under them filled. The next player then takes an action or passes.
- Once all players have passed, pass the first player token to the next player
Most of the actions involve you purchasing a new disc and moving up the associated track. As you move up the various tracks you gain certain benefits. If you are ever at the end of a track, or there are no further discs of that type to take, you are unable to take that action. Other actions have you moving around a board, building trading houses, picking up goods, and increasing your position on the development track. The goods and trading houses are both worth points at the end of the game, and some of the hardship tiles will require you to give up certain types of goods tiles. The final type of action allows you to send some of your workers out of your bag by moving them to the beneficial deeds board. Here they will give you development points or coins. Through the course of the game, players will also acquire citizen tokens which will be worth points at the end of the game. Once the final round is completed, a citizen is awarded for the person with the most trading houses, and everyone scores their points, which are made up of the following:
- Money is worth one point each
- Goods are worth between 1-5 points for each tile
- Citizens and Trading houses are worth a number of points based on the threshold you’ve passed on the development track
- Some buildings award end game points
The player with the most points win.
Game 3: You can’t win with Green power – Power Grid (2-6 players – recommended for 4-6)
This is one of the first economic engine games I’ve touched on. In this game, each player represents a power company working to power cities through connecting them to their network, purchasing power plants, and buying the fuel the plants need to operate. This is done through several phase each round:
- Power Plant auction – Starting with the first player, a player may (except for the first round, where they must) put a power plant up for auction. Each plant has a number printed on it, which is the minimum price of the power plant
- Purchase Resources – In reverse player order, players purchase resources to power their plants
- Expand network – In reverse player order, players pay to expand their network to other cities
- Power network – In player order, each player decides which plants to run, and how many cities in their network to power (which generates income)
- Bureaucracy – More resources come into the market, power plants get moved around, and player order is determined by number of cities in each player’s network, with ties being broken by the numbers on their highest numbered power plant.
The game does a decent job of simulating a market with a set number of resources coming out each turn and watching players value plants differently based on what other players have been buying through the game. There are coal plants, oil plants, garbage plants (natural gas in different versions), nuclear plants, and green plants (which require no resources). The end game is triggered when a player has a certain number of cities in their network (the number is based on player count). However, the winner of the game is the one who can power the most cities in their network, with the tiebreaker being remaining money. As each player can only have 3 power plants at a time (and they’re public knowledge), you can see how many cities each player can power. The only randomness in this game is the order in which the power plants come out, which is mitigated by them being placed in numeric order, and which ones can be auctioned off.
Hopefully you haven’t been run off by these more complicated games, and at least one of these piques your interest. Again, feel free to bring up questions or complaints below, and I’ll be back next week with some games that you can play on your Android (and iOS) devices.