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Bartending Defenders of Olympus

I enjoy writing and wish had more time for it. However, business calls and January was another stonking month for Boardgameguru. I thought the 20% Vat rate and the lack of stellar games would cause a slowdown in sales but no sign yet.

So onto games. My New Year (gaming) resolution was to rebalance my game playing towards the old and great away from the new and good. And despite only de-cellophaning three games it was a great month of gaming. Classics and older games played included Agricola, El Grande , Ra, Stone Ages (Lots) and Tribune. What i have enjoyed about playing older games is the perspective it gives you on newer releases; i think a mono diet of the latest releases can weaken the critical faculties if I am just thrill seeking from new games. A classic is acts as a reminder of what good games are meant to be.

Of the three games I opened this month 'Last Call : the bartender game' was the least enjoyable. It's nicely produced (cute booze bottles), however the game requires a little too much brain engagement for the time it's going to be played which is after a few drinks.

After listening to so many contributors to The Dice Tower put 'Defenders of the Realm' as their number one game of 2010 I thought I ought to give it an outing. I had been put off by reports of 1970's artwork and its similarity to Pandemic, then by the outrageous price of the expansion. 1970's artwork i can live with but not Pandemic. Despite 20+plays of the the co-op game i can say i am not a fan. It lacks theme (blue diseases are just not very scary), it feels more like a puzzle than a game and the specalists tend to push players into one role. I admire the game a lot - the mechanisms are innovative and clever its just one i will avoid (unsuccessfuly) if i can. Now 'Defenders of the Realm' shares the card driven 'crank up the badness' mechanism of Pandemic, it also borrows a bit from the 'creeping closer' mechanism from 'Castle Panic' - it is a whole lot more fun to play though. What makes it so is the theme and the pacing, you get a bit longer in DOTR to set your self up with cards and quests. Another difference is the characters - they are less specialised but have more interesting powers than in pandemic. The last and for me best change is that you dont spend any time trading cards - they are used to get you into the action of fighting the bosses.

'Olympus' might just be the slow burning star of Essen 2010. This is one vicious worker placement game, and thats what sets it apart from so many tech tree games of recent times. You really have to watch who is the bully in the group, turn order and actions remaining otherwise you will get clobbered. In this it reminds me a little of Through the Ages as you have to balance wanting to improve your Polis and your need to avoid having all your resources stolen by the table macho man. I fear that a lot of gamers will be put off after a first game because they will play it like the resource n' ramp up game it looks like and then see all there hard earned what and fish cross the table. However, a military strategy is not the only viable one (our Military player game last). Whay i like so much about this game is the tension between the need to produce resources and turn them into Vicory points and the need to avoid being screwed. It won't be for everybody but I am a fan.

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