Thursday, October 19, 2017

Welcome to the New Blog and What We're Playing

The blog is back and better than ever!

After the sad departure of our beloved blogger, Alex, we've been laying low on the whole regular internet journaling thing.  Well, today we burst forth from our cocoon.  The Labyrinth blog will once again be the best place to see what's new and exciting in the store.  We're also introducing a slew of new features and posts, including a new segment on what we're playing.  This week, the woman who puts the "Queen" in Queendomino, the incomprable Kathleen Donahue herself kicks us off with her thoughts.

By Kathleen Donahue, Position: owner, Years working at Labyrinth: 6 years and 11 months

With the new (and hopefully improved) format of Labyrinth’s newsletter and the reinvigoration of our blog, we wanted to start a regular feature where our awesome employees share information about some of the games that we’re currently playing. The staff thought I should start us off. As usual, I’ve been playing a lot of different games. I try to play several new games each week, and I often do not replay them, because I want to know ALL the games. However, every once in a while there are games that catch my fancy and I can’t stop thinking about them and I must play them MORE. This month there are two that I just want to play again and again.

The first is Sidereal Confluence. I honestly have no idea how to actually pronounce the name of this game, but I’m completely obsessed with it. This game is complex, and there’s a chance that it may be overwhelming to someone who doesn’t have much gaming experience. Once understood, however, it is actually pretty easy to play. It is an asymmetrical trading and negotiation game for 4 to 9 players. Each player plays an alien race who must trade with others in an intergalactic trading federation to survive. The game is competitive, but it is set up so that you must collaborate with others because no race can function on its own. Pretty much the entire game is played simultaneously, so there is very little down time. You are trying to make profitable trades to earn resources to run converters to gain more resources that can then be used to develop technologies and colonize planets. The game consists of a set number of rounds, with each round being made up of a trading phase, an economy phase, and a confluence phase (where you can bid and win planets and technologies). You earn victory points in multiple ways but mostly from discovering technologies. There is a lot of engine building and resource management, but the heart and soul of the game is negotiation. I cannot think of another negotiation game that I’ve enjoyed more. I absolutely love it. We’ve played several times now, with 4 to 6 players. The game takes a while, averaging about 2 to 2.5 hours for us, but the duration is very dependent on how long you allow the negotiation phases to last. If trading bricks for sheep thrills you, but is getting a bit old, and you’re ready to settle something much larger than Catan, this might just be the game for you.

The second game that I currently can’t stop thinking about is Raiders of the North Sea. We just got this in, and so far I’ve only played it once. This was one of this year’s nominees for the Kennerspiel des Jahres award (the German award for the year’s best gamers’ game). While it may also be slightly complicated for a beginning gamer, I found it to be very straight forward in actual game mechanics. Basically everyone starts the game with some cards (you get 5 and must keep 3), some silver, and a pawn. BTW, they included real metal coins which is awesome! During the game, you place the pawn on action spaces in the town to do things like getting silver, more cards, provisions, etc., arming your Viking ship, hiring crew, or making offerings to the chief. If you decide to go to town, you will get two actions, one when you place your pawn, and one when you remove a pawn from another space. As soon as you have the appropriate provisions and crew, you can go raiding instead of going to town. To do this, you will place your pawn on one of the raiding locations, you’ll get plunder and a new pawn that may be a different color. Only certain colors of pawns can be used to raid some of the locations on the board. I did really horribly when I played this game, but I found it to be absolutely fascinating. I loved the variation on a worker placement game, and I thought that it really suited the theme even though, like Lords of Waterdeep, it is mostly about the mechanics and the actions you take and the theme is pretty secondary. As a matter of fact, this game reminds me of the feeling I had the first time I played Lords of Waterdeep, so if you like that one, you may really like Raiders of the North Sea, too. I’ll be playing again soon, and hopefully, I will redeem myself as a better Viking. 

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