The List – Xia and Arboretum
The other day I posted an article about The List. It’s a list of the unplayed games my group owns. Our goal for 2016 is to work through these unplayed games. As we do so I’ll be posting brief reviews of the games.
These reviews will be after one play, so take that as you will. However, since we have so many unplayed games and so many games that we love to play, if a game doesn’t strike us after one play then we probably won’t play it again.
The other day we crossed two off the list. These were Xia: Legends of a Drift System by Far Off Games and Arboretum by Filosofia and Z-Man Games.
Xia: Legends of a Drift System
My friend A-Game backed this one on Kickstarter. We knew that it would be a long game so we limited the play time and used that as the endgame condition.
In Xia players command space vessels set upon gaining Fame Points. Fame points are earned in numerous ways, like exploring, selling cargo, and completing missions.
This is a pretty epic game in terms of decision space and game production. There are bunch of different ships you can command and each has its own miniature to fly around the map.
And speaking of the map, players will expand the map by adding sectors to the map as the game moves along. Sectors can contain planets, nebulae, gates, or even the Sun.
I think Xia is a fun game. I enjoy the building of the map and the exploration aspect of the game. There are many ways to earn Fame Points, which allows players to try different things in the game. In some ways this game feels like Merchants and Marauders in space, which is a good thing.
The biggest problem we had with the game was the downtime. When your turn is over it could be a long time until your next turn and there’s really nothing to do during the downtime unless someone attacks you. The downtime was kind of a killer for me.
Overall I thought that Xia was fun and I would play it again. Next time we would try a variant that cuts the downtime, perhaps by limiting players to two actions at a time and then a simultaneous Business Phase.
On the very first action by the very first player he chose to “Blind Jump” to explore a new sector. It was the Sun and he was destroyed. He died on the very first action in the game. It was pretty hilarious. We let him redo the action and shuffled the Sun back into the deck.
This is a game that I almost bought at Gen Con but Z-Man wasn’t discounting the price at all so I passed. In Arboretum players are working to create paths of trees by playing cards to their display.
The gameplay is pretty simple. Players draw two cards, play a card to their display, then discard a card. Play continues until the draw pile is empty. Then the paths are scored.
Where the game is really interesting is in the scoring. There are ten types of trees in the game. To score a tree type you need two things: 1) a Path that begins and ends with that tree type and 2) the highest sum of that tree type in your hand at the end of the game.
So there is a very interesting balance of using cards versus holding on on to them.
I’m not a huge fan of the art direction of the game or the theme for that matter. It is different and unique and I give them credit for that but ultimately this seems like an abstract game that could have utilized many different themes and played the same way.
The other issue is that it took a little too long for what the gameplay presented. We all felt as though we wished we could have done more on each turn. Of course that would have changed the thrust of the design. Maybe a nice variant to speed up the game would be to remove one or two tree types.
Perhaps it was a lowlight instead, but one time when I was drawing cards I drew from Bosun’s discard pile and then flipped the top card of the deck onto his discard pile. It was just a random moment where I spaced out and misplayed. It didn’t affect the game much but it made for a funny moment.
Overall we are off to a great start by getting two games crossed off The List! We’ve got many more to go, however. And I’m sure we will add a few more games to The List as the year moves along.