January 24, 2015 by Jake
This past weekend Megan and I headed over to our friends’ house for a day of gaming. I brought my crate of some of my List games and a couple others, but we came down to play one specific game in particular. This was some serious business, my buddy had received Trajan a while ago, but as far as I knew he hadn’t played it yet. I was skeptical about how much I would like this game and bringing Meg along for it, but my love for the hobby meant that I couldn’t not try it.
Trajan by Stefan Feld is a rather heavy and robust Euro game themed around establishing a level of control over the budding Roman Empire. A Euro game usually contains complex strategy, a pointed lack of random events and player aggression, and almost always little wooden pieces. There are several actions in Trajan ranging from exercising military strategy, setting up shipping deals, or even trying to gather favor in the senate. While all of these actions on their own seem kind of boring, they are all very lucrative ways to build a sort of Victory Point Salad, extra croutons and Caesar dressing please. There doesn’t seem to be a direct route to winning and like any good Euro game all of the different areas can indirectly affect each other. Megan and I sat at zero points for the first half of the game while collecting bonus tiles that I doubted would ever pay off, but all of a sudden our little green point tracker was ahead of the pack in first place (until the very end of the game).
What I can say about the game was that I would have to play it again for sure. With so many moving parts in the engine I can tell this game was play tested for hours upon hours, but it paid off. There were dozens of pieces and tiles and things to keep track of and the game was long. One of the longest I have played, at roughly three hours of play and forty five minutes of set up with a group of first timers. This doesn’t mean those hours were poorly spent. We ate, drank, and joked and the finale was exciting and left us both wanting more (Megan’s first Euro!). Games with long set ups are hit and miss with me, sometimes I crave them, other times the thought of taking everything out of the box and then putting it back while feeding the obsessive compulsive need for neatness is enough to make me want to drive a knife into my own back. Et tu Jakey? I know however that the length of a game can never be critiqued on its first test drive, since time to teach and set up are shaved down by minutes over subsequent outings. The game had smooth flow, and none of us were ever stalled or confused over whether a move was legal. Megan and I drove home and discussed all the different ways we could have improved or diverged when we played it again. With all this considered I would give Trajan two thumbs down in the Circus Maximus and two thumbs almost all the way up on the gaming table (ask a history teacher).
As an aside; the game had a maximum of four players and since there were five of us Megan and I played on a team. This was actually highly entertaining and the thought occurred that I hadn’t played a game with teams in the longest time since I can remember (unless you count One Night Werewolf, in which teams are completely dubious and uncertain). I would actually like to pursue playing more team games in the future and perhaps adding one to my collection, playing a new game with a team mate allowed us to cycle our interests and strategies and made the experience more fun for me. If I had spelled out a strategy for the turn Megan would sometimes point out an obvious advantage I had overlooked. I look forward to delving into this topic further and can’t wait to expose Meg to more Euro games with little wooden tokens. Carcassone anyone?
The rest of the evening was quite swell with a couple plays of Smash Up and a cruise through Kings of New York. We ate hearty and agreed to do it again.
In other news as of writing this post I am still right on schedule with my challenge and have drummed up some various topics to write about other than reviews and tactics to avoid the reckless consumer bug. One thing I have to point out is how much of a fountain of support my wife has been with this blog and my writing. Not only does she play the board games with me, she actually took the time to set up this shiny new site and keep me on task in writing and editing. If you have someone you love or even frequently like, make sure you make time to step outside of your comfort zone for them on a regular basis and make their interests valid. Meg shocked me by agreeing to try every single game on my list at least once. That’s the kind of support you can’t find under any ancient Roman archway.
For now, there is home-made chocolate frosted cake in the kitchen and a long week of work ahead, PEACE OUT GIRL SCOUTS.