martes, 3 de junio de 2014

Review of the VIII JugarXJugar Fair in Granollers (part I)

Hi to all!

The last week we were in the Granollers (Barcelona) “VIII Fira JugarXJugar” (that is: PlayXPlay Fair), May 29th to June 1th. First, many people who came to the “Fira” for the first time asked themselves if this Event is one of the most important in Spain or not. I have to say that “JugarXJugar” could not be compared with the “Festival Internacional de Juegos de Córdoba” (“Córdoba International Game Festival”), they are very different! The “Fira” is really small compared with the Córdoba Festival: barely two big canopies inside a farming Fair. But this “Fira” has different things to offer: in first place, the Design Game Contest “Ciutat de Granollers” (the most important design contest in Spain); in second place, the place reserved to new authors called “Racó del Autor” (that is, “the Authors' Corner”), where any author could show his prototypes and at last, a casual audience, maybe too casual... We seen people whose faces seemed to say: “What are people doing here?”...  

I am going to explain how the day-to-day was in the “Fira”. I have to reveal that I will focus in the prototypes I tested. There were a lot of prototypes and, unfortunately, I had no time to test everything, but I played enough prototypes to get an idea about the games designed in Spain. Let's go!

May 30th, Friday.

15 Días: The Spanish Golden Age (Gonzo Bríos).

Yes, there were a lot of games of this Asylum Games' launch, explained by the author himself, Gonzo Bríos. A thematic game set in the Spanish court in the XVII century which confronts to families in their struggle to become the new “Valido” (Favourite) of the king Philip IV of Spain, so only one player would win. A game in which players have to cooperate but there is room for many “stabs in the back”, all for the power. I don't know why exactly... But if you know Spain, I see “15 Días” as a present game... It seems that time has not passed in Spain.

The players are personalities from one of two families which were struggling for power, Lerma and Olivares. Player has a lot of options to do in his turn: playing a character, playing court or administrative action, purchasing a new character called conspirator, etcetera. “15 Días” has two phases: A “Family” phase in which two families cooperate as a group and an “Individual” phase which is “a free for all” fight.

We can say that people enjoyed “15 Días” a lot.

Reinos (Alejandro Pradas)

We played this prototype in the afternoon, a game designed by Alejandro from Crevillente (Alicante). It's a card game set in the Middle Ages in which players have to improve their kingdoms (“Reinos”). The mechanics work in a similar way to poker: you have to make your set (pairs, three of a kind, straights) but it has a peculiarity because you can start a set to finish it in a further turn. Besides, you have to try to spend your own hand of cards to draw a new hand and continue playing (and it's not easy).

Telling that, it seems that it's an abstract game. But there are special cards which are events against another players or protection againts those events. Here it is the theme which makes “Reinos” a living game.

I liked it, because it's very well illustrated also. Although, there were things that I like less. For example, the special cards were played easily (you played a special card per turn always) and sometimes, they have hard effects. But I have to insist, I liked it.

Crazy weather!

It seems to be a tradition in Granollers, in the Vallés region. We are used to the weather in Valencia. Mild, sometimes hot and very few rainy days. We are so used to this weather that we thought that going not many kilometres to the North and weather would be the same... We failed! Past year like this year, weather's gone really mad! Really hot hours and after that an incredible storm to end in a cold night. And we only had a light pullover... Oh no! But at least we saw the rainbow.

Constelarium (Fernando Chavarría y Judit Hurtado)

Night fell and we were in the “OFF” after the LUDO dinner (the Spanish author Association) and we had the opportunity to play Constelarium, designed by Fernando and Judit.  
The first to highlight was the incredible illustrations designed by Gonzo Bríos, both the board and cards (I love the small puppy with the Prussian helmet!). Secondly, it's a game in which you learn astronomy because the board contains the most important constellations in the northern hemisphere.

How could you win? You have to complete constellations with your tokens, scoring points according to the size of the constellation. And about the mechanics? Constelarium is played with cards which reflect those constellations and icons which allow you to place and move tokens. In your turn, you can draw cards, discard cards, place tokens and score.

The thing I loved, without doubt, it was the scoring. Each player has the usual counter to show his score. Although, there is another counter which goes in the opposite direction and it's moved when a player scores. When a player's counter crosses the special marker, it's played one more round and the game ends. This mechanic supposes that Constelarium grows intensity (a lot) while players are scoring. I loved it!
But it was difficult to score constellations and it wasn't any mechanism “anti-powergamer”, because a player could choose to break another player moves (he wouldn't win, the other players neither).

May 31th, Saturday.

5 Familias (Sergi Marcet y Xavier Carrascosa).

We had the opportunity to play this game in the morning, designed by Sergi and Xavier, board game artists. The game is set during the Prohibition, that is, it's game about mafia in his struggle to control the city in different aspects: newspapers, smuggling, casinos, police... The goal of the game is really easy, you have to win with straights (like poker)... Telling that you could think that it's an easy game. But the complexity of “5 Familias” lies in the character cards, each one with a very different action (drawing cards but you can attack the other players).    
These cards are drawn when you play a set or straight on the table and you have more cards of this kind than the rest of players. In this case, you “attract” that character to your play area, or you draw it from another player area.
The game ends when the deck is ran out... It's so easy and funny! I loved it.

Montoro (Xavier Carrascosa).

After a fast game to “5 Familias”, Xavi showed a prototype with an original title. Yes, “Montoro” makes reference to a man who is in the Spanish Government, with a smooth tongue and unfortunately, he makes a lot of mistakes. The game is about that, about avoiding this damned crisis, with unemployed, poor self-employed, advisors, “outraged” people and of course, Montoro as himself...

I am going to explain it simple, according to Xavi's words the game is “rock-paper-scissors” in the sense that some cards win another cards and vice versa. But, obviously, there is something more and it's really funny.

Begginning with in each round, the first player, seeing his cards, has to make a bet about how many duels (in “rock-paper-scissors”) sense he would win, if not, he would win nothing. Here it's the funny thing of “Montoro”. I said to Xavi, sensations are similar to penalties round in a football game... You see as the opposite player scores and you fail, so you have less opportunities to score and the game becomes more intense.  

Polis: Fight for the Hegemony (Fran Díaz).

No, it's not a prototype. It's Polis, our first game, sold out and we are working in a new and international print-run. But I had the opportunity to recall a great Polis game in this “JugarXJugar” Fair.

It was a game to the death. It happens sometimes. Players drained their resources from the beginning. This circumstance was crucial in the following rounds. Both Athens and Sparta had to do really hard moves to advance and even to not being eliminated consequence of starvation or lack of prestige. For example, Sparta, after a strong advance conquering polis, had to return many Poleis to neutrality because the player didn't have enough wheat to feed population and the tables turned.

I warned players, since it was their first game and Polis is a complex game, to play until the 5 a round. And, finally, they finished the game in the 5 b round... At last, Athens victory, which played better maintaining a balanced position during the four rounds.

Meeting with Francesco Nepitello and Marco Maggi.

I had the opportunity to talk with these great Italian authors. It happens that “War of the Ring” is one of my favourite games, I have played more than 30 games and I keep playing it from time to time. I don't get tired to play it again and again.

First of all, I have to say that in this small world you can find a lot of different authors. There are authors who keep their own counsels only, there are funny and not so funny people, there are approachable and not so approachable authos. But I can say that Francesco and Marco are very funny and approachable people. Anybody could talk with them.

I was surprised with one more thing: They don't mind to talk about “War of the Ring”! After 8 years, I would understand that any author could get tired of people who talk with them about Free Peoples, Strategy cards, etc. But it wasn't the case, we were talking about “War of the Ring” strategies as if it were nothing, as they have just published it. We talked about future projects like “Battle of the Five Armies” and some of its mechanisms to reflect this battle... But this is another story that we'll see on a table. Won't we?
Ah! And they knew about Polis: Fight for the Hegemony!

And this is the end of this I part review in the VIII Fira JugarXJugar. The next part soon!

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