The Game I Hate: Race for the Galaxy

I love playing board games. However, there are games we have bought and played that never really kept our interest beyond a few games. Smash Up is one I can think of that both Evil Husband and I both didn’t really enjoy. There are games that Evil Husband loves that I just have had the hardest time getting into. Race for the Galaxy is one of these games. I really didn’t want to play this game at all. But, I did say I’d play the game I hate, so I had to live up to my promise. So, I gave Race for the Galaxy another try.

I disliked Race for the Galaxy for various reasons, but the biggest one is I just didn’t get the point of it. It’s a deck building game where players are racing to build galactic civilizations, but there is something lacking that I have never really been able to put my finger on. I have to admit though, a few of the times we tried playing in the past, cocktails were involved and this is definitely not drinking and gaming type of game.  When you are presented with a double sided card on how to play and a “starter” hand, alcohol shouldn’t be involved until you really know how to play.

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Front Side
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Flip Side

Each player is given a set of cards that represent each of the phases of round and at the beginning of each round, players secretly and simultaneously select which phase they wish to play.  Players can choose to explore (draw more cards), develop (place a card on their tableau), settle (place a world card on their tableau), consume (consume powers by discarding “goods”), or produce (place a “good” on a world.) Selecting one of these phases at the beginning of every round, each player is given the chance to perform that phase’s action. Only player who has chosen the phase gets a bonus that applies only to them as shown on the Round Summary card.

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In addition to the phase cards, players are given a set of random cards consisting of settlements or developments to play on their tableau. Below are examples of various settlement cards and development cards.  The numbers indicated in the diamond or circle indicate the number of cards to be discarded in order for that card to be played in the player’s tableau.

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Midway through game play (face down cards are “goods” to be consumed.)

The game ends when either one player has 12 cards on their tableau in front of them or all of the victory point chips are gone. Victory point chips can be awarded through out game play during the “Consume” phase where players can trade in the “goods” (cards placed face down on a world) for either more cards or points.  At the end of the game, the chips are totaled up, as well as the cards laid on the tableau and each card has an assigned victory point as indicated by the smaller secondary number on each card.

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End of game. I lost.

Final verdict: Despite my protests, I played this game again with an open mind and a full cup of coffee. It really wasn’t as bad as I thought and I kind of want to try playing without the starter hand. Because I’m pretty sure that’s all we’ve ever played. If you enjoy deck building games, you will enjoy Race for the Galaxy.

My next hobby is letterboxing. It is similar to geocaching, however involves stamps and journals. If you are unfamiliar with both of these hobbies, they both are real world “treasure” hunting using GPS or compass coordinates to find a box left behind by someone.

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Carcassonne?

One of Evil Husband’s favorite ways to ask me if I’m up for board game night is to repeatedly ask me in the most awful French accent imaginable, “Dooo you want to play… Carcassonne?”  For years, it’s been a running joke in our house. But since Carcassonne was one of the first games we purchased, we slowly moved on to other games over the years. And, like many of Evil Husband’s bad jokes, we stopped playing.

That’s not to say Carcassonne is a bad game. Quite the contrary. Carcassonne is a tile placement game for 2 to 5 players, but in our opinion, it plays best with 2. An average game last around 30-45 minutes if you play with just the base game. When we decided we wanted to add Carcassonne to our collection, we purchased the big box version that contains the first two full expansions, Inns & Cathedrals and Traders & Builders, as well as 6 mini expansions. I highly recommend purchasing the Big Box as it is cheaper than buying expansions individually and it adds significant re-playability value to the game.

 

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The Big Box and the 6th Expansion

The game begins with a starter tile, or in our game, the river tiles that are included in the 6th expansion, Count, King & Robber. Each player draws a tile with a featuring a piece of southern France landscape on it. The tile may have a portion of a city, a road, a monastery, grassland or a combination of the aforementioned. Tiles must be placed adjacent to tiles that have already been played and in such a way that cities are connected to cities or roads to roads. Once a tile is placed, the player then has to decide to place one of his meeples on one of the areas on it: on the city as a knight, on the road as a robber, on a monastary as a monk, or on the grass as a farmer. When that area is complete, the meeple scores points for its player. Some meeples remain on the board until the end of the game.

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Beginning of the game (top) & Mid-way through gameplay (bottom)

Strategy is relatively simple. As some meeples, such as farmers (meeples lying down in the field,) remain on the board to the end, you must decide the optimal meeple placement. Once a city or road is complete, the points can be scored and your meeple is returned. The other strategy is how to screw over your opponent. If you notice in the above photo, the two spots open in the middle near my (red) three meeples in the field, road & city are empty because Evil Husband pulled some jerk moves early on. The odds of me pulling a tile to exactly fit in those spaces to allow me to complete the city or that road are about zero. So, I lost two of my meeples for the rest of the game and I lost points. I was not happy.

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End of game. I lost. RH: 126 EH: 149

A rematch was demanded immediately as I had now actually remembered how to play and well, I considered it a warm up game anyway. We always play with the first expansion, Inns & Cathedrals, and decided for the second game we’d add in the Traders & Builders. Each expansion adds about 15 additional minutes of gameplay, more tiles and meeples to the game. This expansion adds in the builder meeple to assist in city & road building & the pig meeple for farmer meeples. The builder allows players to draw an additional tile and the pig allows for additional points at the end of the game.

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The Builder meeple

Adding in the additional tiles and meeples adds a new element of gameplay.  Building cities become more important as there are now goods to be won for completing a city as well as additional tiles can be drawn if you are able to add to a city that the builder is in.  I’ll be honest, utilizing the builders and drawing a second tile helped me to crush Evil Husband. As we played, I was building a major city that Evil Husband had decided to pull one of his signature jerk moves, and block my city so the odds of me completing it were slim to none.

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Midway through game. My city in the upper right that was blocked off by Evil Husband’s two road tiles

Nevertheless, I continued adding on to it when I pulled random city tiles I couldn’t place anywhere else. I had scored a lot of points early on in the game, but I lost a meeple and my builder, so Evil Husband slowly closed the point gap. Until the end. I pulled one of the two remaining tiles out the bag, which ended up allowing me to complete one end of my city. Since my builder was in that city, I was able to drawn again & pull the last remaining tile…. that perfectly completed the other end of my city!

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Final game. RH: 228 EH: 169

Carcassonne is easy to learn and a lot of fun. It is also a gateway game I’d recommend for beginners as well. The scoring can get a little tricky sometimes with added expansions, but overall is relatively easy to figure out. It’s also a fantastic two player game, which is what we look for in a board game. With all the expansions available, Carcassonne offers great re-playability factor, and no game will be the same.

I’ve tried to delay the “game I hate” post for as long as I can. So next week will feature one of Evil Husband’s favorite games to play. It’s a game I have tried on several occasions to enjoy, but I just can’t.  Until next time!

 

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