Atlanta Game Fest 25: Day 2
I woke up feeling poorly on Friday, Day 2 of Atlanta Game Fest, so went back to bed and didn’t make it down to the game rooms until after 1 p.m. I only learned two new games on Day 2: Cubist and Istanbul – probably my favorite of the convention, though Alchemists is a close second. But I’m getting ahead of myself: I didn’t encounter Alchemists until Day 4. I also got to play Luna, an out-of-print Stefan Feld title Tim got me for my birthday last year, and taught Paperback in the evening.
Contrary to the sound of its name, there’s nothing political about Cubist. Cubist is an interesting dice game in which you use your dice to build 3-dimensional structures. In order to place a die orthogonally adjacent to another die its number must be within one of the die it’s next to. So, you can only place a 1 or a 3 adjacent to a 2. 1s and 6s unfortunately don’t wrap around. To build up the dice have to match: a 2 on a 2, a 5 on a 5, etc.
On your turn you take two dice from your supply and roll them. You can either set them in your storage space, which can hold a maximum of 2 dice between rounds, or place them immediately on either or both of the two building areas on your play mat in order to form, or begin forming, the shape on one of the face up technology cards. Another option is to assign one or more of your dice to an artist card which can grant you a special power in a future turn. Dice on artist cards can get bumped, however, by higher-valued dice played by others.
You want to acquire Installation cards – by being the first to build the depicted structure. Installation cards not only provide victory points, but also one or more dice you can use in the central structure that all players will work on. At the end of the game, you’ll score two points for each of your own dice in the central structure. You can use dice from your Installation cards one time to add to the central structure or one of your own structures immediately upon acquiring them, providing they’re placeable, or whenever you want. The same rules for adjacent and level placement apply. I found Cubist to be a fun, 3-d puzzley kind of game that I’d definitely like to play again.
I really enjoyed my first game of Istanbul. The modular board tiles and bits are a delight to behold. Your goal is to be the first to collect a certain number of rubies – five in a four-player game. You can acquire rubies in a variety of ways: buy them outright from the Gemstone Dealer, trade goods for them at the Sultan’s Palace, acquire both tiles at the Small Mosque or Great Mosque, or fully expand your cart at the Wainwright. Most players will use a variety of these methods to complete their ruby quota.
In Istanbul, each player is a merchant with a cadre of assistants at her disposal. As a rich merchant, it would be inappropriate for you to pick up items yourself – that’s what your assistants are for. So, to perform an action in the city, you’ll pick up your entire stack of playing pieces, which represent you and your assistants, and move it to another tile 1 to 2 spaces away, either dropping off an assistant (disc) to do your bidding or picking one up (adding it to the bottom of your stack). If you ever find yourself alone without help, you’ll need to move to a nearby tile containing an assistant to perform an action, or return to the Fountain and call them all in. It’s a very cool mechanism. There are a variety of actions you can do on your turn, depending on which establishment (tile) you visit. The modular board means a new configuration in every game. Efficient use of your moves, dropping off and picking up assistants is certainly one of the keys to success in Istanbul.
I really enjoyed Istanbul and look forward to acquiring a copy for myself soon. I think it might even deserve a coin upgrade: one of the sets of metal coins I acquired from the Tuscany Kickstarter. They’re the perfect denominations, too, even if they are the wrong currency.
Before I end the report of AGF Day 2, let me make mention, or at least show you a picture of Luna. While it is indeed out of print, and quite pricey at the moment, it’s certainly worth playing if you ever get the chance – particularly if you’re a Stefan Feld fan like me.
There’s a lot going on in Luna, but the iconography on the player aids is a big help. Your goal is convince the current high priestess to choose you as her successor by garnering the most influence points. You’re the head of your order, so you’ll move your novices around the seven islands surrounding the temple, recruiting new novices, building shrines, advancing novices into the temple, participating in the High Priestess’ services, and obtaining the favor of local priests who can provide you with special actions to assist in your endeavors. Having novices in the right place at the right time is crucial to your success is this unique worker placement game. Did I mention it was designed by Stefan Feld? 🙂
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