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Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

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Scepter of Zavandor
About a month ago onigame introduced our small circle of gaming folks to the game The Scepter of Zavandor. In the game you buy gemstones, which produce energy (ie, money), which you can then use to buy more gemstones. Or, you can also buy artifacts, which enhance various abilities, or sentinels, which give you lots of points. The game has lots of little fiddly bits -- gems, money, cards, a board, little counters -- but is surprisingly satisfying to play. We've played the game probably 8 - 10 times since Wei-Hwa taught it to us.

At this point, though, I'm about done playing it. I feel that we've explored most of the possible strategies, and that there isn't an untapped reservoir of further exploration. Unlike Race for the Galaxy, which I still enjoy playing for the 100th time or more, The Scepter of Zavandor doesn't have a wide diversity of cards or components, and these tend to not interact with each other in novel or exciting ways. There are cards that give you discount on other cards, but having the set of them doesn't give you exponentially more points or money or anything. Playing the game is still somehow satisfying; I think I rather enjoy moving the little bits around and slowly building up a tableau of gems that produces money for my economy. But there's just not the possibility of tactics or combining strategies as there are in, say Race for the Galaxy. If you see that someone else is making more money than you, and especially if that person is Wei-Hwa, the handwriting on the wall is pretty clear.

What's remarkable about Scepter is how it went through the game lifecycle with my friends so quickly. Six weeks ago we hadn't heard about it. Wei-Hwa taught us, it caught on quickly, and we played voraciously for a few weeks. We've had conversations over dinner about strategy, we've analyzed games after we've played them, we've tried to compute the cost of earning a victory point. We quickly peaked our enthusiasm for the game, and it held for a while, and now it's tapering off (at least for me). I don't recall the last time we've found a game that we all have really enjoyed this much, and that had at least some lasting power. (Not to say that we won't ever play Scepter again; it's just that I think I'm ready to go back to other games now.) I guess that's a challenge for Wei-Hwa: to get us hooked on some other game just as much. 8)

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