This is a post for MOUTH because I think I found a tableau other than the most expense card game out there (Glory to Rome) that Matt actually likes to fulfill your Race for the Galaxy needs on the ski trip. I know he’d like you to leave that one at home, and here’s a very viable replacement: a strategic tableau builder, highly thematic, not overly complex with an all-vs-one win requirement at the end (like Shadowfist).
One checks Boardgamegeek a lot and one plays a bunch of games and one thinks one is on top of it and know what’s good and what one’s group should play because one knows what’s in the top 100 games and what’s out there but let me tell you– you don’t know SHIT. A lot of the hot games that run up the BGG ladder are flashes in the pan– fun for the euro crowd but ultimately shallow patchworks of regurgitated mechanics loosely tied to a theme which eventually become boring as there’s no interaction with meaning, and it’s a hollow experience (Scythe, Coimbra, on and on). The experience in most is akin to everyone playing solitaire.
I like games where the problem in the game is the other players. All CCG’s are like this, Gangland, Rising Sun, Root (oh especially Root…), Blood Rage, on and on. In many tableau games, you’re really just still playing solitaire, Race for the Galaxy, which is a great game and spawned an entire sub-genre, isn’t about crushing or even really interacting with your opponents, it’s all about engine building faster and better than the other players. Then the game ends and it’s a point salad. Pax Pofiriana is a tableau and you try to build an engine (multiple actually), but there isn’t a point salad at the end unless all players fail to win via the normal means, which is to become the leader of Mexico after Pofirio Diaz is toppled from power (or abdicates).
In the game you play as a hacendado near the turn of the century (1880’s -1920 is the period) and are trying to build out your businesses, banks, ranches, mines, transportation systems and personal military in anticipation of either a coup, revolution or abdication of the long-time president of Mexico- Pofirio Diaz. If it was a straight copy of RftG, you’d just win at some appointed time with the most money– but the victory conditions are extremely different.
Basically, there are four separate”I’m going for the win” cards in the game and each allows for a different victory condition: Military, Loyalty to the current government, US Annexation and leading a successful revolution. Each of these cards are tied to a type of victory points in the game that you try to collect. They come up semi-randomly during the game into an area where they can be ‘purchased’ by a player and played for the win. When someone goes for the win, all the other players try to stop them by increasing the current government’s strength or their own. The whole thing is a sub-layer over the top of a solid engine builder.
So the game is a good replacement for Race for the Galaxy AND it’s a non-CCG game that gives some of the same feels as Shadowfist.
It’s also very, very nasty with extortion, assassination, bribes, enslaving the indians, but with the caveat that an enemy one turn may be the only thing preventing another player from winning in another. So if you wanted an update of a game like GANGLAND (from 1996) this is what you’ve been waiting for, though without Lump Loafman and Clubber Clovis and those guys.
Lastly, the history you learn from this game is amazing. I had a class on Latin American history in college and the end of it was all about the Mexican Revolution, so I had to read 3-4 books on the subject and write a paper on it. I remembered just enough so when I saw this, I knew just enough to be able to grok what it was about. This game is PACKED with insane historical detail about the period in question and it’s really fun to read the flavor text on the cards while waiting for someone to finish their turn. The game just begs you to study the period further and even lists resources to do so at the back of the rulebook.
So do check out the game, MOUTH, since this whole post is for you and also Matt.