Sunday, July 27, 2014

Miscellany: 7 Wonders review

"7 Wonders" is a card-drafting board game for 2-7 players designed by Antoine Bauza. In the game, each player controls a city from the Ancient World, including its corresponding Wonder (the Colossus of Rhodes, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, etc.). Starting with a hand of seven cards, each player selects a card to play based on the resources currently available to the city, and then passes the remaining cards to the next player. Players can use cards to build up their city's raw materials and commerce, strengthen their science or military, or, of course, to construct their Wonder. All of the cards and Wonder boards are beautifully illustrated by Miguel Coimbra.

"7 Wonders" is a lot of fun, and it has some interesting characteristics that distinguish it from other city-building/economic development games. It's pretty easy to learn, since there are a limited number of things you can do on a turn (play a card, discard a card for gold, or use the card to build a Wonder). It plays extremely fast because players take their turns simultaneously (around 45 minutes per game, regardless of how many are playing). Finally, "7 Wonders" allows multiple paths to victory, whether it's gathering a strong army, building your Wonder, or simply constructing enough victory-point buildings in your city to outpace everyone.

The major downside of the game is that it, at times, feels like multiplayer solitaire. To be sure, you can affect your opponents by depriving them of cards they need to pursue their strategy, and you can force your neighbors to either take defeat or play military cards by buffing up your own army. However, as in most Eurogames, you can't directly attack another player, and the game often boils down to optimization of scarce resources. If you can live with this limitation, I think you'll like "7 Wonders" very much.

Music: Sara Bareilles "Little Black Dress Tour" concert review

The Hard Rock Live is a bland, industrial venue inside the Seminole Hard Rock casino complex. Its stage is flanked by rows of hard plastic seats. The walls and decor are flat and ugly. The nosebleed section is so far up and off to the side that it's hard to believe anyone could watch a show there. But on Friday night, singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles turned the place into the liveliest joint in Hollywood, Florida.

Bareilles played piano, strummed the guitar, and swore like a sailor as she treated the crowd to a playful set of tunes from her newest album, "The Blessed Unrest," as well as all of her old hits. Effects were minimal, limited to synchronized lighting and a video screen at the back of the stage. That didn't take away from the show, though - Bareilles's voice came through clear and strong, cutting through energetic songs like "Little Black Dress" and "Chasing the Sun" with ease.

The crowd was instantly brought to its feet by her most popular singles, "Love Song" and "Brave":

Despite what would be deserved aplomb after being nominated for several Grammys and selling millions of records, Bareilles was sarcastic and self-deprecating throughout. "This is the sad part of the show" she admitted, as she launched into "Manhattan"; she later joked that most of her love-related songs were so depressing that people didn't want to add them to their wedding playlists. Even in the slow parts, however, Bareilles's talent trumped all. Though I'm not a hardcore fan of hers, I think "The Little Black Dress Tour" is well worth a look if it stops in your area.

[The opening acts, Hannah Georgas and Emily King, were good but didn't have the seasoning and polish of Bareilles. Georgas's set of Feist-like indie songs were pleasant but not rousing. King's delivery was full of new-school R&B jump, but she rushed from one song to another without talking to the crowd, and her set was over before you knew it. They'll both benefit from the exposure and example set by Bareilles]