This week on Meeple Adventures… Can a cadre of strategy gamers save planets for 12 rounds from a time and space anomaly called the Quake before the train home arrives?
Or, in other words, could the four newbie players finish a new game of Paradox including setup in three hours?
First, a thank you to Tokens&Tankerds for providing a midway location to play this game on a Sunday. We were all comfortable with a variety of drinks, food available, and plenty of space to spread out.
Then, we had to deal with setup. Beyond punching out several boards of chits, the game requires a different setup depending on the number off players. I did this wrong the first time….and second. Really pay attention to the setup rules to this game you will really waste a lot of time or significantly impact gameplay! Now that I know how to setup, it can still take a significant amount of time to setup, unless you bag each of the colored tokens up separately. In that way, it is a little like a deckbuilder game. If the game is all sorted, setup is easy. If not, you will have to plan on spending a while sorting pieces out.
Now we were all setup. I had read the rules and another player had played months ago. The turn actions are easy to understand and can go quickly. Unfortunately, none of us understood how these actions interacted.
Ok, so we all picked a card (basically at random) because we knew we needed these cards but we didn’t really know what they represented. Then, matching 4 or 5 tokens on our turns like a phone game is somewhat intuitive but the mechanism for matching isn’t matching a matching color token over by one. So, we had to look that up. Then, what do you do with the token you win? Can you keep it for another turn? Do you buy a card with it? What happens if you have no cards left on your board to resolve for the round? How do we resolve a nexus? The answers are:
1) You spend the earned token to resolve the cards you currently have on your board.
2) No, unless you buy an alliance with it
3) No, you can only play the token on cards on your board.
4) No cards left? Then, try to match a white or black to flip one of the worlds you have won a card for back to a non-disrupted world.
5) Put a shield on your token grid in the place the nexus shows. Once you resolve a 4 or 5 in a row with this token in it, you have resolved a nexus problem and earned the card.
For all of these questions and more, we had to go back to the game book. It’s not that the game is complicated. It’s not. It’s really that the mechanics are so unusual that there are no assumptions that can be made without possibly wrecking the game. You really need to know exactly how to play so that there are no errors in the endgame. At this point player frustration was getting a bit high. Not with the game but with our mediocre understanding of the game and conflict between personalities of gamers that had been there a more hours with another game. There was even a heated moment where a player had to walk away from the game. He came back a few minutes later though as a bit of a favor to me as he knew I was itching to finish a play through of this game.
Finally, we got a bit of momentum. The only tricks at this point were working out how to be efficient in our strategies and remembering the order of how to replace tokens on the our grids. Don’t put your row of 3 discarded tokens back until you grab the replacements! This is easy to forget and messes with the odds on both your grid and the next player’s grid.
Now, we finally got to full speed. And, the game is really dynamic and fun! The gameplay has the right amount of player interaction with taking planet past, present, future, or nexus cards that another player may really want. Players can also interact slightly on the token grids by taking pieces from the center of the board or resolving the same colors on their grid to avoid the next player from getting a better variety of pieces.
At this point, we all began working strategies, moving turns along quicker. We saw the interactions between players more clearly. It turned quickly into an interesting game. Then, we saw the clock. Two rounds left with 20 minutes to go and suddenly my points dropped from a likely first place to a likely last place due to the surprise disruption of a planet! Luckily, my token grid was setup to solve this problem so I was quickly back near the top. On the other hand, I had to sacrifice my planned move which meant I might no longer win.
One round left with 10 minutes to go. The last round moved very quickly though as most of us could not find major points with the available cards. Game done, 5 minutes to go! The player that needed to hop on the train quickly counted up his points and got to the train while the rest of us were still counting beyond his points. In the end, I won by a single point!
The endgame is really exciting and the gameplay once understood is really fun and quick. I will be playing this game again soon. But, this time everything will be organized and I will really understand how to fix the galaxy in Paradox!