The 2013 Golden Game Award: Game-Off Number 1
It’s time for this year’s first game-off between contenders for the coveted Golden Game Award. The winner of this epic battle will win a place in the final and a chance to go down in history as a game that Miss B likes more than some other games on a particular day.
In the Red corner, nominated by Miss B herself, we have a game that represents an entire family of boardgames that allow you to draw on the board with crayons. It’s a game that is nowhere near as pretty looking as its competitors, but it’s one that rewards strategy, planning and luck, and involves building a huge rail network in order to deliver goods throughout the North-east of the USA. Yes, it’s Empire Express.
In the Blue corner, nominated by me and representing the hopes and aspirations of what is probably the biggest gaming franchise of the last 20 years, the Catan empire, we have a game that allows you to trade goats for cutlasses and swap stuff for parrots: Catan Junior.
To be honest, I’m a little surprised by the selection of Empire Express, but also very pleased by it. I like the “crayon rails” range of games, having played several of them in the past, though they are notable for being quite time consuming to play for fairly low complexity games. Empire Express cuts out some of the options and gives you the option of a flying start, and makes the whole game playable for the two of us in maybe an hour and a half now Miss B knows her way around the game. Still quite a long time for one game with a six-year-old, but it’s just about manageable.
This play went well and really held Miss B’s attention throughout. Thanks in part to some good card draws and me trying to be too clever for my own good (though it must be said, my track was beautiful, I just needed a longer game…) Miss B won. Actually, she didn’t just pip me at the post, she totally walked it, leaving me at least a couple of deliveries behind her. Well played!
As for Catan Junior, we always get on well with that one and it plays quickly, usually in the ballpark of half an hour. There was a little complaining when I built a pirate lair where Miss B wanted to go, but then she managed to get her own back soon afterwards. This time, though, her usual strategy of buying lots of parrot tiles (which give assorted bonuses) wasn’t quite enough and I managed to win by the narrowest of margins.
Miss B told me, “Empire Express is really good because you have the crayons and you can do a bit of drawing. Catan Junior is a teeny bit worse because you can’t have a draw in the game.” (Actually, you can’t get a draw in Empire Express either, but there you go.)
Based on this assessment, Miss B has awarded Empire Express 16 out of 20 and Catan Junior 15 out of 20, and thus our first finalist for this year is Empire Express. Personally I think Catan Junior is a better kids/family game, but I’m delighted because it means we’ll get to play Empire Express again very soon.