Recap: The Speicherstadt & Intrigue First Impressions
So, after playing Trajan and Castles of Burgundy, and falling in love with Macao, I’ve developed a little bit of a crush on the designer Stefan Feld. I’m now on a mission to obtain and play the majority of his designs. To that end, I received my very own copy of The Speicherstadt in trade. And play it I did. I also was able to get in first plays of Intrigue and the recently Kickstarted For the Win.
The Speicherstadt. In Speicher, the players attempt to get the most points by completing contracts and fighting fires. Generally, the game is a mix between resource management and auction. However, there is a twist that really shakes up the genre. Once the cards for bidding are put out, players then place one of their three workers on the card they want to buy. If someone is already there, you put them in line behind the other pawns.
Once all pawns are place, the cards are sold. The card is offered first to the player who is first in line. But, the cost of the card is the cost of all pawns there present. So if four pawns are there, then that first player must pay four coins for it (a hefty sum). If that player passes, then his pawn is removed and the card is offered to the next player in line. Now there are only three pawns, so that player may buy it for three, or again pass and the next player may buy it for two, and so on.
This provided a really interesting mechanism in the game. When you place a pawn, you are not only putting yourself in line to buy the card, but also making it more expensive – and therefore less advantageous – for anyone in front of you in line. That twist alone brought a ton of new decisions and considerations into the game.
In my first play, I did middlingly well. I got points from fires and custom houses, but for the life of me I could not buy a ship. Through the course of the whole game, I got one contract and two ships. Not too good. Part of it was the order in which the cards came out, but part of it was also that, as an auction game, I didn’t properly value the cards on my first play. I paid too much for early cards and missed some opportunities later on. Now that I see a little more of the interaction, I think I won’t pay quite as much as I did for firemen and sellers.
Intrigue. This game has a hefty element of negotiation and a nigh unquantifiable level of spite and backstabbery. Holy moley. The great thing about this game is that you can make any kind of deal you want, but nothing is binding. So if you and I agree that you will pay me $5000 and I’ll put you in the $6000 per year slot in my palace, I can take your money, and then put you in the measly $1000 slot. Just like that. Instant betrayal.
I’m a big fan of negotiation games. I do a lot of negotiation in my day job. I’ve even read up on a lot of the biggest theories of negotiation (the classic Getting to Yes is a favorite of mine). So I leaped at the chance to play Intrigue. I’m not saying I’m the king of negotiation, it’s just something I love to do and something that I may be more practiced in than the average player.
I think the game would be better with more players, as we played with the minimum of three. With three, it was much easier to see how everything would shake out, which made the information more open and easy to calculate for all players. But I did manage to achieve a substantial victory, and it wasn’t because I’m some kind of expert negotiator. Instead, with three players, I was able to see when it was in a player’s best interest to let my academic in and kick out the other guy. So I only moved to places where I knew the guy already had an incentive to let me in.
In one instance, I put my dude on the $3,000 spot that was already occupied. The palace owner and the current occupant had formed a loose alliance, so I was fighting an uphill battle. When it came time to negotiate, and I had to make the first offer, I gave him the minimum bribe. Shock and repugnance from all! They thought I was basically just giving money away. They would never break their alliance over a minimum bribe. Then I started wheeling (but not dealing). I pointed out that only one person wins. And the person currently housed in that space, the person with the loose alliance, had many more academics earning him income. It was to the player’s advantage to kick him out and put me in so that his competitor would be earning less. The competitor cited their alliance and even donated more money. But, in the end, I won the day. And then I made the exact same argument and minimum bribe on the $6,000 spot.
For The Win. For The Win is a small and short abstract tile laying game. I had the chance to play it three times over the course of the week precisely because it was so short. I played twice as a two player version and once as a four player version. Overall, the game is fun because it is brief. The two player games lasted less than ten minutes, including rules explanation. The four player game lasted about fifteen. The more I play it, the more strategic possibilities present themselves. Although I wonder if, with the turn order, eventually one player will always get four turns in a row. If so, that pretty much seals the deal on winning.
I was a Kickstarter backer and paid $15 for this game. I’m happy with what I got at that price. It’s simple, it’s easy to play, it’s quick, and the tiles are good quality (though I wish the three and four player tiles had red ink on the flipped sides like the two player tiles do). However, the box shows a MSRP of $25, which I assume is for the two player version. There is no way this game justifies that price. Maybe it’s necessary for business reasons, but I would be hard pressed to recommend anyone pick it up at full MSRP.