Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lemming luncheon

My wife Kathy, my eleven-year-old son, and I inaugurated one of my WBC acquisitions this evening -- the light-hearted Leaping Lemmings (designers John Poniske and Rick Young, artists Rodger MacGowan, Leona Preston, and Mark Simonitch, publisher GMT).  This fox-and-geese variation is actually a symmetric game, in which each player has a faction of lemmings seeking to evade the eagles, whose control rotates among the players.

This evening my wife Kathy played the light blue "Hippie Clan" of lemmings, my son played the light green "Soldier Clan," and I played the red "Biker Clan."  Factions have no special abilities -- just a great deal of personality in the game piece art.  Our game ran long, since it was a learning game -- perhaps two and a half hours from opening the box to final scoring, and that included dinner preparation and eating during the last part of the game.  Ostensibly, a three-player game should take 30 to 45 minutes, and I think that might be true for three experienced players who are familiar with the game flow.  The decision space is really not that large, so I can image the game length shortening as we get acquainted with LL.

Way too many bikers in the
Eagle Chow Pile
For some reason, my red bikers attracted the most attention from the voracious eagles this game, and I came in dead last with over half my lemmings in the Eagle Chow Pile at the end of the game.  My eleven-year-old won our session with a few good-scoring dives and an enormous number of point-scoring food pellets.  My wife came in a respectable second place.

One aspect of the tactics in the game that I didn't take into account until late was the turn order and rotating control of the eagles.  I hadn't considered that the relative safety of a lemming's position depends in part on who controls the eagles on the next turn.  Whereas I was preoccupied with minimizing my vulnerability to the dice roll, I might have focused more on when I was going to control the eagles and what my options would be depending on which number came up on the eagle dice.  I might have taken fewer risks on the wrong turns and been more daring in anticipation of holding the eagle dice on a later turn.

So we have a good initial impression of LL -- light-hearted, in the vein of Guillotine, but a legitimate game of tactics.  It is by far a better game than the mechanically similar Lost World: Jurassic Park, because there is no play-balance issue as in that confrontation of dinosaurs vs. people.  In fact, I wonder whether LW:JP couldn't be restructured along the lines of LL so that we could breathe new life into that old flawed sentimental favorite.

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