Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Portobello Market - now available!

A few days ago, Portobello Market , a board game designed by Thomas Odenhoven, was finally made available for purchase at online U.S. game stores.

This game was released in February of 2007, published by Schmidt Spiele for the European crowd. The game caught the eye of Playroom Entertainment who published it state-side this summer. I have been watching and researching this game for a few months, wondering how good it was and if it was worth buying. Thoughthammer was showing “Pre-Order - August” for a long time. August came and went, and then it finally arrived in early September. By the time I saw this, the game was sold out. So in pre-order phase, it must have been fairly popular.

What piqued my interest?

This game has art by Michael Menzel. He's probably my favorite game artist - every game he paints for ends up looking great. For an example, look at pictures of the game board for Pillars of the Earth. I love realism in art, and Menzel uses it well. He also has a wonderful sense of lighting and shadows. To look at his art for various games, check out his website.

So, in the case of Portobello Market, the art was admittedly the main draw for me. It just looked fun to play. In addition, there are colorful wooden bits, which are also quite attractive to me, even down to the pattern in which they're placed on the board.

Next, I read some reviews and comments from early owners of the game, which were generally positive. One reviewer called Portobello Market “a gem of a game,” which caught my attention.

And so, I decided to keep my eye on the game, watching for new reviews and comments once the English version was released. That's where I am now. But...

What diminished my interest?

Whenever I'm considering a new game buy, I consult my wife. After all, if she doesn't like the game, who will I ever play with? Sure, I play with the guys at work, but my wife is my primary gaming partner. So, I typically try to get her to show interest before a buy. She researches the game on BGG, reading reviews, and looking at personal comments and pictures.

After looking at Portobello Market, her interest was low. She read that the game was similar to Ticket to Ride and Masons - two games we already own. Other people say that the game is nothing like Ticket to Ride, so that just creates confusion. At the end of the day, my wife just didn't see anything that stood out to her. The game looked boring.

As I continued reading through comments, I was turned off by phrases like “abstract” and “brain-burner” and “no luck”. I tend to avoid brain-burning games because they require more energy and competition than I like investing. If I'm going to play an abstract game, I like it to be light, with somewhat easy decisions (like Through the Desert or Hey! That's My Fish!). The game looked like it had a fun theme, but it started to sound as if it's not necessarily important to the game. I am trying to buy mostly games with clever or seamless theme integration because those seem to be the games we play most, and the type other people request.

So, I'm not going to buy the game for now. But I'll keep looking for reviews and hoping for a chance to try the game someday. It still looks attractive, and I wouldn't pass up a chance to get down all close to the board and admire the detail in Menzel's artwork.


Landstander said...

I don't think Portobello Market is that similar to TtR. It's more similar to Union Pacific or Santa Fe Rails, in that you don't really complete a line all at once, but other players can build onto it before it scores. It is also not luckless. I would say the "level" of luck is about the same as Puerto Rico. But I do see the similarity to Masons, and I understand the abstract complaints, though that really didn't bother me much. It isn't THAT abstract; it's not like a Kris Burm game. BTW, how could something similar to Masons also be luckless?

TimothyP said...

I haven't played Puerto Rico, Union Pacific, or Santa Fe Rails, but I trust you.

As for Masons and luck - yeah, I'm not sure. Those opposing ideas must have been comments from different players. Maybe the mechanics are similar to Masons, but it's played in a way that eliminates the luck? I know that Masons can become more strategic if you roll before placing the wall. I can see similar mechanics being used in a more luckless way. It's not impossible, I would think.

Landstander said...

I feel like Han Solo..."you haven't PLAYED Puerto Rico? It's the game that ran to number 1 in 12 seconds!" Anyway, Union Pacific, Santa Fe Rails, and TtR were all designed by Alan Moon, and they all share some similarities, other than the theme. Remember - Protobello Market started out as a rail game...