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Game: Helvetia Cup (Helvetia Games)
Submitted By: Charles Bahl
Date: 5/22/2003 5:50:00 PM
I started out really loving ?Balloon Cup,? one of the games in the two-player series by Kosmos/Rio Grande. I mean the game is easy to learn, plays pretty fast, and seems chockfull of tough decisions and possible strategies. Unfortunately my affection for the game didn?t survive about five trips to the table.
I will not explain the rules in detail. Suffice it to say that in the game you attempt to collect sets of cubes. You play cards to help yourself win the cubes you need. Or you play cards to keep your opponent from winning what he needs. The play is somewhat reminiscent of ?Heave Ho? where you play bad cards to your opponent?s side of the tug-o`-war and good cards to your side. But in ?Balloon Cup? you are playing four ?tugs? simultaneously. For each tug that you win, you receive from one to four cubes which can be used to form the sets you are looking for. It can be fun trying to figure out which of the four tugs to play to and which side of the tug to play on?your side your opponent?s.
But after about five games of ?Balloon Cup? it began to dawn on me that although strategy can give you an advantage early on, the balancing mechanisms built into the game inherently bring both players to an equilibrium point in which each is simply waiting for the one single card that will win the game.
Once the equilibrium point is reached the game is basically nothing more than a flip of the coin. Although reaching the equilibrium point is not completely inevitable, you would have to play very stupidly not to reach it. In fact the equilibrium point is so easy to reach you might as well let your opponent do all the hard work to get an early lead, while you sit back, wait for equilibrium, then hope to get lucky. There may be a simple fix to prevent this from happening, but until one is found, I have to consider ?Balloon Cup? a broken game. Rating 4 out of 10