Thursday, November 25, 2010

First (and only) play: Sumeria

In a recent post by GamerChris, he describes Hansa Teutonica as a "soulless Eurogame" but states that he still quite likes it (as do I).  Well, Chris, if you want soulless Euro, have I got the game for you!  Reiver Games' Sumeria by Dirk Liekens is a cube-pushing, mind-numbing game of subtle, ineffective tactics that is about as dry as the desert it's board portrays.

The rules themselves are pretty simple.  Try to get a piece in the city of or a majority of your pieces in the top 3 of 8 regions by the end of each of the 6 rounds.  Add a piece, remove a piece, or move and possibly jump a piece over others to get to another region.  Every region you enter or remove a piece from usually changes the ranking of 2 of the 8 regions.  And therein lies the problem.  With each move from each player changing the ranking of the regions, often the top 3, it is nearly impossible to plan more than a turn or two ahead.  And when one is the first player in the round with a set number of turns before scoring, it is almost guaranteed that the players after you will completely change the top 3 regions before you get to score.

I suppose one could say the scoring mechanism is kinda neat, grabbing one or two of 4 different types of tiles which increase in value depending on how many you get (1, 3, 6, 10, etc...)  But this is hardly original, having been done many times before in MUCH more interesting games like Knizia's brilliant Taj Mahal, for example.  And since you barely have any control over what regions score anyways, it's impossible to plan to grab a certain tile over another.  You just grab whatever tiles you are able to and the choice is pretty much thought-free.

We played one 4-player round of this almost luck-free game and it gave us all a headache (but not in a good way).  You can analyze and plan all you want, and we tried, but in the end you realize that everyone can completely destroy those plans in the turns between yours and the scoring.  I suppose one would have more control in a game with 2 or 3 players, but to be honest, the mechanics of the game just aren't interesting or enough fun to be worth trying. 

At least it was easy to explain...

RELATED:  At the same games night, we played Tigris & Euphrates, another Euro by Reiner Knizia.  Every time I play T & E, I'm reminded of just how fantastic the game is.  This abstract representation of civilization-building and conflict boils everything down to its bare essence and leaves a deep strategy that still feels thematic and is, most surprisingly, a hell of lot of fun. Easily in my Top 10 games of all time and proof that strategic Euros do not have to be dry and soulless.