Tuesday night is board game night at the local game store, Quarterstaff Games. It has been for a year and a couple months now. In that time, the pool of players has grown precipitously and wonderfully. Precipitously in that the board game players occasionally outnumber the long-standing Heroclix set with which we share the space and wonderfully in that I’ve been part of the forming of a whole new social circle, which is pretty awesome.
Tonight, there were enough of us to spill out into Muddy Waters, the coffee shop down the block from Quarterstaff. I’m the one usually — if twice so far can be so to be usual — pushing to do this. Rather than set up a card table in the middle of the traffic lane in Quarterstaff’s game space, decamping to Muddy’s for its relaxed atmosphere and variety of refreshments, all infinitely preferable to the plain jane vending machines at Quarterstaff, seems a much better deal than cramming into an overcrowded game space, especially on humid summer nights.
At one table in Muddy’s, four folks played Agricola, while I and two others played Race for the Galaxy. This was my first time playing Race and despite having no idea what I was doing, I somehow managed to win by a lot. And by “no idea what I was doing,” I mean that I still don’t understand about half the game.
The other two players explained the first three phases of a turn — exploration, development and settle — well enough. It’s the consumption and production phases that I managed to completely ignore. I’d like to blame the graphic design for that; all the cards tell you what they do, but I didn’t find the iconography very intuitive. It took me almost the whole game to realize an eye next to the Phase I section of a card means you draw one extra card in that phase; as opposed to the hand holding a card in the Phase I section, which means you keep one extra card out of those you draw. In retrospect, I find myself comparing it to Dominion, another game about accumulating cards and spending them to accrue victory points; it’s so much easier to understand and while I have minor issues with its graphic design as well, Dominion is definitely more accessible to a first time player.
With more plays after a good long sit down with the rules and deck of cards to refer to, I think I could grow to like Race, but on levels considering the sensory and sense of gameplay experiences, I was disappointed by this first try.