Session Report: Puzzle Strike, Combat Commander, Suspense and Cosmic Encounter

Lots of gaming in the last two days. More in-depth review later on this week, especially about two great, if completely different, games, namely Puzzle Strike and Suspense.

Gaming started at work on Tuesday, teaching Benjamin how to play some Puzzle Strike (Sirlin Games). The game is a deck-builder of sort, only with chits. At about the same complexity level as Dominion, it has however much more interaction as the players are trying to prevent having 10 Gems in their gem pile at the end of their turn, or put in a more aggressive way, make their opponent have more than 10 gems at the end of their turn. The game centers around the idea of Gem Smashing, or simply put, sending gems of your pile to the other player’s pile. Add to this the idea that each player receives three unique “chips” (no cards here, but large poker-style chips) which represent their character and you have a game that is simple but that has a lot of depth. Expect a more in depth review soon, with photos!

In the evening, I played some Combat Commander: Europe(GMT Games) over Vassal against Matt. I really don’t get to play CC:E often enough as it is one of my favorite tactical wargame. The system is very simple, the card mechanic very cool and it plays really fast. Some people complain that the cards are too constraining: you cannot give an order to a unit, be it move, attack or what have you, without playing a card that specifies the order. This is meant to simulate the fact that you are not some sort of omniscient god, but rather an army commander with imperfect control over your units. Add some random event and you have a game that feels very cinematic while being simple. Lots of fun and one day I’ll take the time to make a much more in depth review of the game.

Wednesday? More gaming! This time, only in the evening though.

We started a regular gaming group at work which meets every Wednesday night. We’re hoping to draw more people once we officially announce the group in a few weeks, but right now we get 3-7 people every week, which is not bad. We had a very small turnout this week, but we still had a blast.

The evening started with a fast game of Suspense (Daniel Solis) with Steph and Steph (yes, that’s three Stephs around the same table), a three player micro-game. This is a game very much in the tradition of Love Letter, being a minimalist design in which the entire game takes up a whole 13 cards. Yup, 13 cards, divided into cards going from 1 to 6 in black and in white, with an additional ? card. And there is a game in there, a pretty good, brain-burner of a game. The aim of the game is to be the first one to 10 points and to do this, you have to be the one that fulfills the current victory condition, such as have the lowest black card in hand, or on the table, or the highest white card in hand, etc. This victory condition will change each turn, based on the last card that remains once you’ve evenly distributed the rest of the cards. So far, so standard. The big twist is that the only person who knows the victory condition on the card in the middle is the dealer, who keeps this card face-down. Thus, on their turn each player either plays a card to the table, passes or fold. The trick is to be able to read the dealer, who is trying to influence what you’ll do on your turn and get you to fold, since when a player folds, he is completely out of the game along with whatever card he has in hand or has played. It takes a hand or two to fully grasp the dynamics of the game, but once understood, it turns into a game of bluffing and deduction, of knowing when to fold (you get a point if you would have lost versus getting nothing if you do lose). Lots of hurty brain fun. Expect a more in depth review in the near future. Will be playing this a lot more I feel.

Francois then joined us to make for four players and Steph broke out his copy of Cosmic Encounter (Fantasy Flight Games). Crazy, chaotic Cosmic Encounter: probably the best concise description I can come up with for a game which defined the very idea of simple rules that are constantly broken by the player’s powers and cards that they play. The goal of the game is simple: establish colonies on 5 of your opponent’s planets using your 20 ships. Thing is, you don’t get to pick (well, most of the time) who you target so you need to make the most out of your attacks. And also, you don’t get to draw cards at the start/end of your turn, but only when you need them. And then there’s the special powers of your alien race. I did mention that *all* of the different powers break the rules in different ways, right? And that the basic game comes with something like 40 or 50 of them? And that ultimately, they are not balanced? None of this matters as the game is incredibly fun and funny to play as long as you don’t take it very seriously. In the end, as much as we thought that the game would end quickly since I took a very large lead early on, it ended up being a very narrow victory with 3 players at 4 and Steph taking the win with 5. Lots of fun and recommended.

Well, that was it for my week in gaming (so far).

Happy gaming,


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