7th Sep 2023 - League Of Sixby Robin. Fri, 8 Sept (Updated at Fri, 8 Sept)
Just the 4 tables this week. Downstairs we had two games at opposite ends of the thematicness spectrum (ish). According to John's explanation, Barcelona is rich with mechanics that align nicely to its theme of urban planning. One set of points and bonuses for doing good, civically-responsible things, like parks and transport; and one set for being an evil scheming businessman. Sounded fun.
At the other end of the room, and the spectrum, was Castles Of Burgundy, which as we know is all about building fine medieval castles, and not at all about messing around with dice and abstract tiles and stuff like that. But as ever, this week's group managed to suspend disbelief and enjoy the mechanics. Castles Of Burgundy has never been one of my favourites, but it is an enduring favourite at the club.
Remember Vital Night? When half the games played at the club were Vital Lacerda games, in honour of the great man's visit... well this week was Suchý night, the only difference being that Vladimír Suchý wasn't actually present or aware of this one. But we did play a couple of his games. James brought in Woodcraft - the latest Suchý game I think - at one table upstairs. Sadly I didn't manage to look in on that one at all, being thoroughly absorbed in our game at the other upstairs table.
That game was League Of Six, which is one of the first Suchý games and not well-known. Like many of the hidden gems I've discovered at this club, this was one of the obscure games that Steve managed to pick out when it was new, and then leave unplayed for the 10+ years since. Which was his - and the club's - loss in the meantime, because this is a great game.
It's not the most thematic game, and you feel like Feld could have taught Suchý a thing or two here. Castles Of Burgundy is something we can relate to, having been to Burgundy or seen a castle or drunk the wine or whatever. Whereas tax collectors in Lusatia isn't, because you've either not been there, or not realised you were there, or not paid taxes there on account of it not being a country for the last 500 years. Add to that the Byzantine turn-order mechanics, and you can understand why this one didn't catch on.
You may remember Shipyard, another Suchý game, which is the game with all the rondels. League Of Six is the game with all the turn-order mechanics. The game has 6 rounds, and 4 different turn orders for different activities in the round, each one somehow influencing the others. It's one of those games where you need to work out what other players will try to do in order to work out which is a good move for you; but there's enough intricacy and long chains of events that - for me at least - this proved impossible. But I enjoyed trying.
You start with an auction of who gets to tax which city. It's an auction where you have to pay when you get outbid (though normally not as much as the person who outbid you). So you can either go for the good cities and pay a lot for the bidding war, or choose a city where no-one will compete with you and pay almost nothing. The bidding order is set by turn order number 1.
Turn order number 2 is determined by who bid the most in the auction: this is the order in which we go to the cities and collect taxes - and, confusingly, horses. Turn order number 3 is determined by how many horses we collected: this is the order in which we try to earn victory points - which is thematically veiled as stowing the taxes in warehouses or something exciting like that. In turn order 3, players take turns to nominate a warehouse to fill up and then all players have to try to fill that warehouse with the taxes they have collected, in turn order 4 (clockwise round the table). Players get points for putting things in warehouses, but once a warehouse is full, the player who nominated it gets far more points, even if they didn't actually put anything in it. Turn order number 1, if you're interested, is set by the reverse of turn order 2 from the previous round...
Clear as mud? Hence why the game struggled to catch on. But once we had done it a couple of times we soon got the hang of it. That is, we understood how it worked; I don't think any of us cracked how to make the most of it. Like all the best games, there is no clear best way to play, as it depends on what everyone else does anyway.
I thought that Shipyard was potentially a very good game, with lots of nicely interwoven mechanics, but tragically let down by the randomness and secrecy of the end-game scoring cards, which reduced it to a game you largely played against yourself. This game has arguably even more intertwined mechanics, and was thick with player interaction throughout. And it was definitely well-balanced: we tried different strategies (Andrew and I went for civic warehouses early on, Steve and Karen tried royal warehouses), and the scores varied widely during the course of the game; but we all finished very close together.
So, for me, League Of Six joins a list of obscure games that Steve has forgotten he bought, but have turned out to be great when he brings them to the club long after the rest of the gaming world has forgotten them. Like others on that list - Sun, Sea and Sand, In The Shadow Of The Emperor, Bullfrog Goldfield - I hope he brings it back to the club again soon.
And we finished with another little-known game from the "Steve" list, which has become something of a regular fixture at the club: the Bucket Game, otherwise known by its original title of Alles Im Eimer. Chaotic fun. Again, don't believe the rating on BGG: if you've not tried the Bucket Game, you're missing out.