Thoughts on Scrabble, Mutant Revolution and Star Trek: Scene It!

So while I was on vacation in October, I actually managed to play a couple of board games that I had been trying to play for ages.  I had picked up X-Men:  Mutant Revolution a while ago but never played it, had had Star Trek:  Scene It! for years and never actually played it, and had played Scrabble once quite a while ago with a woman that I was somewhat dating at the time (and lost) but was reminded of it by the fact that Spencer and Toby play it in “Pretty Little Liars”, and so went out and bought myself a copy to try it out again.

Now, you might be wondering about the fact that I’m pretty much just talking about myself here.  Who else was I playing these games with?  And the answer is … no one.  I play games like these alone, with nobody else, but you know when I play board games alone, I prefer to be by myself.  What I generally do — and I do the same thing with turn-based strategy games like Disciples 2 — is play with multiple players, but players that are all me.  So, obviously, there’s no real purpose to secret information when I play these games [grin].  So that means that I prefer games where either the narrative of the game or the gameplay of the game is dominant.  Out of these games, the gameplay dominates in Scene It! and Scrabble, as the former is about the trivia and the questions asked about the various scenes and the latter is about making words from the letters you have and that are on the board.  Mutant Revolution is about the narrative, as you take on X-Men characters and have them face-off with villains that can produce a bit of a story, as well as some strategy.

So what did I think of the games?

Let’s start with the one I’ve played the most:  Star Trek Scene It!.  This worked really, really well.  I took out each ship — it comes with the TOS Enterpreise, the TNG Enterprise, the Defiant, and Voyager — and played essentially each series against each other to see who would win.  There are a number of little games that you play as you go around the board — determined by what you roll on the die — and I really liked the “My Play” category since it usually shows you some kind of scene or image and you have to answer questions about it.  The best part of that is that you, well, often get to see scenes from the shows which was interesting itself.  The others were mostly trivia questions a la Trivial Pursuit but they were entertaining enough.  The worst — although not necessarily the least fun — for me as a solo player was obviously the “All Play” categories, because unless I couldn’t answer it — which did happen — there was no way for the current player/ship to lose by having someone else solve it first, so it felt a bit unfair.  This was the worst at the end, with the “All Play to Win” where if I could answer it the player won and ended the game, and if I couldn’t it got to the more interesting “Final Frontier” set of questions.  But since I could answer them a lot of the time, that mostly meant that “Final Frontier” rarely happened, despite it being far more fun than the All Play was.

The biggest issue with the game is that it’s really, really short.  It takes me an hour or less to play one game.  This wouldn’t be bad in and of itself, but that meant that in the time I had set aside to play the game I could play a number of games.  That itself is actually pretty good.  But the issue is that despite the fact that the disk randomizes each time it starts, there are a limited number of clips, and so after playing three or four games and then coming back to it a few days later I kept getting the same clips, sometimes with different questions and sometimes not.  This, then, was a bit boring as I saw questions and clips that I had seen something like the previous day, and my memory is pretty good so I definitely remembered it.  Because of this, I ultimately decided to put the game away for a few months between plays to avoid that issue, and after trying it again once recently it did work out much better.

I looked for other Scene It! games but couldn’t find anything still in print that I both wanted and could get directly from a retailer, so while I might keep looking around for them it doesn’t look like I’ll get a new one anytime soon.

Next, let me move on to Mutant Revolution.  I didn’t actually finish the game for this one, despite being interested in the game.  I was a bit rushed that day and it was dragging a bit, and so I decided that I had had enough game playing for the day.  But it was actually pretty fun.  The game contains the leader characters of various “schools” in Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm and Magneto, and you get characters given to you at random (and that you can purchase by auction as well) that you then use in encounters to try to gain points for your school, and if you get enough points that leader wins the Revolution.  There could be a bit more encounters and characters, but that would have worked for an expansion.  And there’s strategy involved, as often you get an encounter with a villain and they do move around the game board, and you have to choose the right character and move them properly to get shots in at the villain without getting knocked out (as that loses you points).  So there’s more to it than the simple game that it seemed like at first, which is probably also responsible for my being a bit burned out on it when I realized the mistakes my characters had been making.  Still, it was a good game and I likely will play it again at some point.

And, finally, Scrabble.  I’ve played it twice by now, and it is an interesting game to play.  I played it with two players that are me (but have different letters) and I managed to get around 200 points each time which … isn’t very good, actually.  But part of the reason for this — and the thing I didn’t realize when I played it the first time — is that there’s a lot of strategy involved in the game, deciding when and where to play your letters to maximize your points and block your opponent from maximizing their points.  I tend to play the game pretty straightforwardly in just trying to make words, and taking little advantage of the special squares. I’m starting to get better at it, though, but while it shows that while my vocabulary is pretty good, vocabulary alone is not what wins at Scrabble.  This one will cycle back onto my gaming table when I get a chance.

But I’m on vacation again, and so have other games lined up to play.  We’ll see how that works out.

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