Sunday, January 22, 2023


My latest gaming obsession is accurately called Obsession. I read about it a post about good games to play solo.  I don't play solo as much as that implies, but I do have a selection of games I can go to if no one will play with me [Street MastersThe 7th Continent: Classic EditionPaperback Adventures which is taking a backseat to Obsession, and several others]. However, I've played almost exclusively with others since my wife picked it up for my birthday.  This was one of the few birthdays where I said, "I want that.  You can get it here.  They confirmed they'll be getting a shipment so you can lock one down in advance as well as pick up the expansions I want at the same time."  Not ironically, probably one of my most used birthday presents so far, and not one I had to give away because it didn't fit.  I even signed up to host a session at a local board gaming convention, although I'm not approved yet.  I may have been too late to host and get a table.  That's ok...I'll just haul it along and play a pick up game or by myself if I can't find another event.

I taught Aeryn to play.  I taught Kyle to play last weekend.  And Aeryn and I taught our neighbor to play.  For as complex as it looks, you can get someone going in about 15 minutes and they'll even be able to formulate a bit of strategy at that point.

The basics: you're improving your manor in order to attract the local heirs by playing to their druthers.  You can do this by building various rooms and spaces for events, and then using those rooms to host events for gentry and distinguished guests.  Initially, you're limited by your reputation to which of your rooms/events you can use and which guests will attend, but as the game progresses you can increase your reputation to host more prestigious events and more prestigious guests. So there's a balance between the rooms/events you acquire, the guests you accumulate, the money you accumulate to buy new rooms/events, when you do these things [you get to influence the heirs quarterly by focusing on a room/event theme], and how you deploy your little fleet of servants to accommodate the needs of guests [do you need valets and footmen or maids to host the event and particular guests, do you have enough, and are the ones you used in the previous turn still too tired...even in the Austen era overclocking your workers wasn't cool...hear that Elon?].

There are some objective cards as well that you gain and lose, but those can be really tricky to target.  Once during the game there's a National Holiday where you can ignore reputation [so if you're really lagging at your manor you can try to score that one big fancy dinner party for the hoi polloi as long as you manage your staff in advance] and you can swap your reputation to try and tweak your position.  Each family has a slightly different ability such as an extra room, extra staff, or extra money to give them some character.

Aeryn and I have played the standard game a few times.  Then played the Jane Austen variation where you hide the theme for the quarter [which should make for a more balanced room set, but as you can see in the photo above, Aeryn doubled down on a theme].  And played the extended version where you play for 20 rounds instead of 16 and the National Holiday really seems to sneak up on you and isn't as critical because everyone is targeting larger rooms with the longer runway.

I also have the Upstairs/Downstairs expansion although we haven't played it yet.  It adds a family and a few new servant types.  The nice thing about it is that the servants allow you to modify or trigger existing effects.  So they don't completely rewrite the game, they just allow you more levers to target your strategy [e.g. a bit more money on an event, a bit less money on a buy, a way to wipe the board of the rooms for sale, etc].

Truly one of my favorites, particularly given how easy it is to bring someone new into the game.  There's a lot of local color to really give it some character and you can really feel the frustration when you invite a rich but uncultured American heiress to your event at the cost of your local standing [and victory points], despite how much you need her to motivate your manor economy.

I should add.  I have played the solo version exactly once [yesterday] and the automata crushed me. The general gist of solo play is the solo character has particular points for each room type each quarter.  You can't beat them all, so you have to focus on the themes it is weak at.  That might be at odds with how you're trying to build money, servants, etc.  The automata player steals a tile or wipes the board every turn, making long term planning pretty difficult, particularly as it has a penchant/preference for stealing the high value monuments before you can put together the cash/pounds. If it beats you in a quarter, it adds the victory points to its base total.  If you feel like a challenge, you add the monument points it scavenges to its total.  When I totaled up the challenging value, the "easy' automata beat me 167 to 104.  But I learned some strategy so we shall meet again.

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