Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Year's Day in Bali

I got my first game of Indonesia on New Year's Day, I was invited over by friends at the London Mennonite Centre in leafy Highgate. Vic gave us a thorough rules introduction lasting an hour - during which Don fell asleep - and we got started by 3:30. I had the same feeling I had when I first played 1830 - feeling my way i nto a complex, deterministic game, with lots of levers to pull and unsure which levers do what. Not surprisingly I drifted for the first few turns, and made some bad decisions (though I'm not entirely sure what they were!). The other 3 players, who were also playing for the first time, seemed able to analyze the game more effectively than I was, especially Don, who won handily in spite of having missed half the rules.

We finished at 7pm with the following scores: Don (775), Vic (709), Chris (552), Me (404). Many thanks to Vic and the folks at the LMC for their hospitality.

A few first impressions (coloured by my defeat, no doubt).

I am quickly developing a strong aversion to the "bidding for turn order" mechanism. Even in Indonesia (where it is softened by the way that you don't really lose the money you bid) it smacks of lazy design - give them a bunch of options, no need to balance them out or make them equally interesting, let the players sort it out in the auction. And what real-world business activity can "bidding for turn order" possibly correspond to? It breaks the spell for me, and it is a prime opportunity for the AP people to freeze their brains for 10 minutes before deciding to pass.

The map is beautiful, really beautiful, and fairly functional as well, though the scrolly script is hard to read at a glance. And I hate the anachronistic microwave ovens.

I had problems reading the situation - the links between markers on the board and company certificates in front of the players are not at all clear visually.

Calculating out the shipping routes and payouts rapidly becomes a complex, even bewildering task. The physical design doesn't really offer much help with getting through this.

Analysis paralysis - it's a deterministic game with a lot of variables. Players with AP tendencies will tend to freeze over at nearly every decision point in this game.

On balance I think I'm glad I didn't buy it at a discount when I had the opportunity at Midcon. I would be happy to try it again soon, but I have plenty of heavyweight games already sitting on my shelves waiting to be played for the first time (Die Macher, Revolution, Dune, Shadow of the Emperor).


Iain Cheyne said...

You might as well sell those longer games. You'll never play them now!

Peter said...

Why do you think my first marriage ended?!