29 Dec 2021. I taught younger daughter Chen Rui Blue Moon, the 2-player-only card game by Reiner Knizia first published in 2004. Each player uses a preset deck of 30 unique cards. Each deck belongs to a race in the Blue Moon world, and there are eight basic races. The later expansions added a few minor races. When setting the game up, you place three dragons at the centre of the board. During play, you compete to attract dragons to your side by displaying your power. You win by convincing all dragons to work with you.
All the eight races in Blue Moon are very different. They have different strengths and abilities. With eight races there are already many different possible match-ups to play. You can also do some deck-building with the game, replacing some cards in your deck with those from other decks. There is a lot of replayability. Reiner Knizia said this was one of the most difficult games to design. With so many different cards and abilities, it must have been a lot of work to balance the whole system while giving every race unique characteristics.
The base game comes with just two races, the Hoax and the Vulca. The other six basic races come in the form of small expansions. After these there are three more small expansions introducing new mechanisms and races. I am thankful I bought all of the expansions when they were still available. This edition of the game is now out of print. In 2014 there was a rerelease. All the 8 races and the 3 advanced expansions were put into one box and sold as Blue Moon Legends. This is a good deal. For the price of one boardgame you get the whole game system. However this newer version uses standard size cards. The first edition uses large cards, and I like that format better. The artwork used are the same, but there is some difference in the graphic design, probably to cater for the smaller card size. I prefer the older graphic design. The only thing I don’t like about the original edition is the game title artwork. The “Blue Moon” looks rather amateurish.
To truly enjoy Blue Moon you need to get to know the decks and the cards well. You need to understand the characteristics of each deck and how it is played and should be played against. If you play by simply making decisions based on the cards you draw, you are missing out on the strategic part of the game. When you get familiar with the decks, you start anticipating what cards you may draw, and you watch out for what your opponent may have up his sleeve. You play at a deeper level.
Chen Rui and I played three games back-to-back. She tried three different races, starting with the Vulca who are strong in fire. They are a more straight-forward race and often win by being powerful. Chen Rui thought they were just meh after losing to my Hoax deck. The Hoax are a trickster race, not as powerful but they have many clever weapons. Chen Rui then tried the Pillar, who deploy giant caterpillars which force their opponent to discard cards. She wasn’t impressed either. I played the Vulca against her Pillar, hoping to convince her that the Vulca was a decent race. For our third game Chen Rui played the Khind, a race which can fight in gangs, as opposed to other races which fight one-on-one. The Khind is a fun race to play. She had good card draws which allowed her to utilise well the Khind’s specialty. She defeated my Vulca deck soundly.
The cards are large and visually lush. Reiner Knizia later released another game called Blue Moon City which is based on the same Blue Moon world, but it is a very different game. I own that too and quite enjoy it. It is a 2 to 4 player game about rebuilding a city, as opposed to being a confrontational game. In fact it is a game which encourages collaboration.
When I compare playing Blue Moon and Attika, I find that I enjoy the experience of playing Attika more. Despite admiring how clever and well-balanced Blue Moon is and how much character each of its races have, on the emotional level I feel more happy when I play Attika. Playing and experiencing games is still primarily about the emotions and not logic or technicality.
I have tried all eight basic races in Blue Moon, but up till now I still have not tried any of the three advanced expansions. I still feel I have not played the basics enough to qualify to play the advanced game. Perhaps I should think of them as variants rather than an advanced version.
31 Dec 2021. This time when we played Attika my wife Michelle wanted to join us. I was surprised she still remembered the rules and didn’t need any refresher. However she did make one rule mistake which put her at a disadvantage. She thought that she needed two cards of the same resource to make a joker. You can actually use any two cards as a joker, regardless of resource type. She only discovered this error near game end. I remember we did play this rule wrong in the past, when we started playing the game many years ago. Her memory is too good and she remembered this wrong version we have played before.