LudoNJ Game Day - Maharaja, Reef Encounter, Taj Mahal and Amun-Re

Yesterday I had my game day at the LudoNJ group. I got there late at 5:30, but played till midnight, so got 5 games in which I was happy about. Really had a good time. Bryan from my normal game group came for his first visit, which was great! We played Maharaja (for the first time), Reef Encounter, Taj Mahal, For Sale (first time) and Amun-Re (first time as well).

Maharaja seems like a good game, though Bryan and I played a 2 player while we waited for the main group to finish up their game. The 2 player version of this is ok, though I wouldn't say great. The game was tense and some interesting tactical moves became apparent, like clearing one's house away to "block" a road. Despite the tense game though, something felt missing to us. The sense is that it will play much better with more people.

Reef Encounter continues to amaze me. So much to think about that the brain goes on overdrive. We play fast, though and tend not to over analyze things too much. This was my first time playing as a 2 player and found it to work really well. So happy to have another 2 player game to choose from. Proud to say that I own the original production on this limited edition game. There's been quite a bit of discussion about the look of this game compared to the new publication and I've often been tempted to respond to these posts. But, for now, I need to formulate my thoughts on this as what it comes down to often enough is "I like the look of this" and "I like the look of that." That is, personal tastes. I will admit, I didn't like the look of the original the first time I saw it. It grew on me rather quickly though and now I'm fond of it. As for the new publication, I can honestly say that it is off. It isn't that great and I can say that through years of professional experience. Articulating why is difficult, however, particularly in an environment where personal tastes seem to dominate the discussion. I'll need write more on this at a later time.

We went on to play a 3 player game of Taj. Oh wow, do I love this game! This was my fourth play now and every bit as fun as my first. Our particular session was also notable as Bryan came back from way back...and I mean way back. Half way through the game, while we were well onto the second side of the track, Bryan had but 1 point. I had built up an incredible array of goods which seemed very promising at this point mid game. And then, something happened. Bryan had taken some time to build up a massive hand. The mere thought of facing him straight on with all those cards sent us both bowing out earlier than we should have when contested and his score shot up. I was running out of steam from the first half of the game and my card count was low. Even after passing for a turn or two my sad hand paled in comparison to Bryan's. In the end, he secured a victory edging past me by a few points. Very tense!

Amun-Re was a delight to play as well. Just the sort of game I like with a little bidding, some purchasing and building up an income base. The game lasted a little longer than I would have liked at 1.5 hours, but this was with 5 relatively new players. I expect it will play faster over time with fewer people. I have heard it said that this is a very beautiful game. I think the cover is pretty nice, but something is lacking with the board. It's not bad to me, but it lacks magic or great appeal. Perhaps it is a matter of scale of the pieces as they all sit low on the board. Perhaps it is the overall blandness. Blandness, by the way, can be a virtue in board design as it allows pieces to pop off. But in this case, the pieces are generally equally bland – in particular the pyramids. Again, I'll leave more analysis for a future writing, but I do find myself less enthusiastic about the visual appeal than others.

I look forward to my next session at LudoNJ and will definately work to get there early!

- Mike