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2015 Gaming Resolution & List of Games to Solitaire

Caleb
United States
Seminole
Florida
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Well, a new year and a resolution: no net expenditures on new games this year!

Last year I spent over $300 on games, net. (it was something like $700 offset by $400 in game sales). I've got a nice back-log of things to play now so I'm going to try an experiment: holding myself to net $0 expenditures on games for the year! Wonder if I can do it? Several things may trip me up:

1. I love thrifting for games. I'm pretty picky about what I buy, because in the past I grabbed nearly anything that caught my eye and found a lot of it was in the thrift store for a reason So lately I've been much more circumspect about what I pick up. The thing is, when I'm spending $3 or $4 every couple of months on something, it's hard to even bother to count that as 'game spending'. So I might exclude thrifted games from my calculations unless I suddenly see myself spending way too much on them.

2. Trades. Trades are net $0 except for paying shipping, which is not inconsequential. But realistically, if I'm holding myself to spending limits, the cost of shipping a traded game needs to be factored in. So I will account for shipping costs in my spending calculations.

3. Gifts. I plan to not ask for any games as gifts this year. Even though it's not true spending, it is $ received that could be spent on something else.

4. Pre-Orders. Right now I only have 1 pre-order; Cataclysm from GMT's P500. I don't think there's much risk it'll be charged in 2015, the way it's going.

------

As I look through my collection, I probably only have 2 or 3 games left that I'd really like to sell. Which means my income opportunities are pretty low, unless I luck into some good thrift finds I can re-sell. Given that, my actual game buying will be very low as well. While I have a decent-sized wishlist, most of that is in the 'thinking about this' stage, not the 'gotta have it!' stage.

Now, the flip-side of game acquisition fever is lack of opportunities to play. I find, somewhat unexpectedly, that when I have ample opportunities to play games (even if they're primarily all MY games), I don't suffer from the game acquisition bug too badly. It's when I lack opportunities for FTF play that I seek another outlet for my interest in the hobby and get all interested in what's out there to buy. Yucata.de, a site I discovered in July/August last year, will help this a bit. Unfortunately it'll be offset by the fact that I'm no longer hosting regular game nights. Hopefully between my kids and Yucata, I can keep the collection fever at bay

Solitaire
I also enjoy playing wargames solitaire. My current interest is in scifi wargames, and I've recently acquired a few that I think will provide many hours of enjoyment down in the Man Cave.

Star Borders: Humanity is a recent pick-up that seems to do everything right in a lightweight strategic SF game. It is relatively simple, has reasonably interesting scenarios, and doesn't have any immediately-apparent discontinuities of scale that bother me in games like Space Empires: 4X. I've just set up the first scenario and played through a turn or two; I hope to play most of the scenarios over the coming weeks.

Godsfire is a fascinating game but is really in-depth and requires immense amounts of table space. Not feasible prior to having a dedicated gaming space in the basement. I grabbed a TFG edition from eBay with the 4 extra colors of counters so I can play 8-player solitaire scenarios. Well, probably not! But I do look forward to exploring that game again.

I got FAB: Sicily in GMT's fall sale. Really looking forward to playing this - seems well-suited to solitaire play and also very well thought-out; the decisions it forces you to make are what I imagine a theater commander would have had to wrestle with. I especially like how it treats certain units as 'assets' that can be assigned to various larger divisions. Very thematic.

Well, that's about it for now. As far as things I do think I might pick up if I can fund them properly, probably the only items I'm super-excited about are Imperial Stars II and that little AEG one about the gears. Forget its name, but it's only $8 or 9 on Amazon so I'll probably grab it at such point as I am in a credit position with my spending - think the kids'll dig it.
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Fri Jan 2, 2015 7:24 pm
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Cannoneer's 2014 Gaming Year in Review

Caleb
United States
Seminole
Florida
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Time to take stock of my gaming year for 2014. Overall a good year, though my face-to-face plays dropped as we sort of stopped having regular game nights. This was offset by more gaming with my kids, especially my son, and the rise of Yucata.de for a quick nightly gaming fix.

We also moved and now I have a dedicated game room in the basement - it's not a super pleasing environment so I reserve it for storage and leaving solitaire games set up for long periods; our FTF gaming is still mainly done at the dining room table.

257 games played
81 unique titles
33 new to me
125 played online*

34 games purchased ($734) (incl $144 in games received as gifts)
26 games sold ($404)
Net spending $330 or $27.50 per month - under a dollar a day!


4 dimes
Vinci (33 plays - all on Yucata.de)
Masons (23 plays - all on Yucata.de)
Jaipur (20 plays - all on Yucata.de)
Amazons (11 plays - all on SDG)


11 nickels
Commands & Colors Ancients (8 plays)
Ingenious (8 plays)
Love Letter (8 plays)
Under Cover (7 plays)
Small World (7 plays)
Complica (6 plays - all on SDG)
King of Tokyo (6 plays)
The aMAZEing Labyrinth (5 plays)
Cannon (5 plays)
Carcassonne (5 plays)
Keltis: Das Orakel (5 plays)


I opened an account on Yucata.de in the mid summer and have really enjoyed getting lots of plays in of some of my favorite games, including Vinci, Masons, and Jaipur. I've tried several other games on Yucata, including some that I played years ago, but I keep coming back to the above three as my favorites. Of the 125 games played online, exactly 100 were on Yucata while 25 were on SuperDuperGames. If I continue playing on Yucata (and don't see any reason I'd stop or slow down much), online plays will swamp my FTF plays next year. That's OK; aside from family gaming, my FTF opportunities seem to be drying up a bit so getting in some fun online games is definitely great. That being said, my son is getting older and more capable at proper grown-up games so I anticipate lots of good games with him, especially of C&C Ancients, Ingenious, and a few others we enjoy a lot together.


Best New Game
Commands & Colors: Ancients has been my favorite new game this year. I asked for the base game & Expansion 1 for my birthday, hoping to be able to play with my son. He really took to the game and we've had some epic battles together. At only 5 (at the time we got it; he's 6 now) I simplified a few things initially, but now we're playing with all the rules (though we have not yet played a scenario with Elephants as they have by far the most special rules). We'll typically leave a game set up on the dining room table for a few days and take several turns per evening before he has to go to bed. It's been an incredible time and I spent $267 this year on it (I now have everything besides Epic). By far the most memorable experience was just this past Christmas - we took it up to Maine and played Cannae (after watching a History Channel special on it together a few weeks ago). I was up 6 banners to 2 or 3 but, with a bit of coaching on my part, he battled back for the win, including 3 banners on a single (final) turn! It was a blast. I foresee countless hours spent playing this with him and am super excited to have everything. I'll probably pick up Epic in 2015.


Other New Games I Liked
Jaipur was a game I tried on Yucata, having heard good things about it but never played. It's incredibly fun and while I've slowed down a bit, I always have a game or two going. It's got everything I look for in a light (but not too light) card game, and the one complaint some have (fiddly physical components) is of course taken care of online. I'm not sure whether I prefer it played with open or closed cards; it depends on whether the game is live or not. For a live game I like not seeing what my opponent has; in a game that's played over several days/weeks I think open scoring is really necessary. I anticipate playing Jaipur a lot in the coming months/years. I don't know if I'll ever buy a physical copy; if I felt like my family would enjoy it I probably would, but for now Yucata is great.

Heimlich & Co (aka Under Cover) was a thrift store find that our family has really taken a shine to. It's everything an SdJ game should be: short, easy, playable by kids as young as 5 and interesting to adults at the same time. It's really a fascinating design and the kids have a grand old time trying to figure out what color dad is (we play with the optional guess your opponents' colors rule). I'm always up for a game of this and I hope it'll receive regular play in our house in the coming year.

Antike Duellum - that Rondel is infuriating (but in a good way)! I always feel like I'm behind the 8-ball on my moves, getting to each spot a couple rounds too late I played on Yucata but also own the game and am hoping for a FTF play soon.

Up the River - just a kids' game but it's not too bad. It can be pretty mean when you lose your ships. We found that the first player to get to the finish line always won. Not sure if we'll play it much more, but it was good for a few laughs there for a while.

I hesitate whether to put Ingenious in with the new games, because I did play it a couple times years ago on the Marquand.net site. But it didn't make much of an impression and I forgot about it. However, I couldn't pass it up in the thrift store for $4 (same trip as Under Cover) and remembered that my wife enjoyed playing online back in the day. Turns out, I really enjoyed it and my son took a shine to it as well. It's a far better game than Qwirkle and I think it'll get regular play. I also found Ingenious Challenges cheap and took a flyer on that, but it's not nearly as good (the dice game is OK, the card game is passable, but the tile game is horrid). We took that one to Maine and left it there so we'd have something to play when up there in the future.


New Games I'm "meh" About
Cheaty Mages - I think I could have liked this, but for some reason it fell a little flat. I felt like it was usually too obvious what everyone was going for and that there weren't as many opportunities for skulduggery as I thought. But I would like to try it again - I plan to teach it to the kids as I think they'd really like it.

King of Tokyo was an enjoyable experience at ConnCon this year in March. After thinking about it a lot I decided to pick it up to play with the kids. I'm still not totally sold - we enjoy playing but something in it seems a little off - we don't typically see much in the way of card purchasing happening in our games, so the games tend to play out in a static manner. It might be that it's a better 4+ player game than with 3, our typical number. I's also true that it probably needs the Power Up expansion to really shine. Perhaps I'll pick that up if I find it cheap, but I'm also more cognizant of throwing good money after bad nowadays so we'll see.

Prosperity would belong in the "new games I liked" section except for the horrible graphic design choices - the iconography is far too small to be easily visible across the table, making the game nearly unplayable since you can't make meaningful decisions without understanding what tiles your opponents have and are likely to want/need. I think the game itself is fun and is a quintessential Knizia. I'd be interested in playing again, but only under ideal space & lighting conditions. It's a shame because I think if it had been better designed from a physical standpoint it would be a classic and one I'd probably pick up.

I learned Mt Drago on Yucata, expecting to really like it as I pretty much like everything by Colovini (though let us not speak of Submarine). Unfortunately, it fell a little flat. It might be one of those games that really needs the laughter and camaraderie around the table and simply doesn't translate well to online play against unknown, faceless opponents. There's less decision making than I would like, and it seems way too possible for the cards to just screw you over. I'll probably play it from time to time on Yucata for a change of pace, but I don't think I'll pick it up.


New Games I Didn't Like
Tzolkin was by far my worst gaming experience of the year. It's the quintessential overwrought euro with systems and conversions hanging off it like unnecessary appendages serving to obfuscate and obscure rather than clarify and distill. Someone said the mark of successful game development (as opposed to design) is how much stuff you take out, rather than how much stuff you add in. Tzolkin went entirely the wrong way there. It's horrible and I hope to never play or even see it again.

Finca - talk about a pointless, boring exercise in futile conversions. Here's a Rondel done wrong. No depth, no soul, no way, not playing again. Boo!

Figaro is proof that Knizia is fallible. The less said about this "take that" train wreck the better.

Vicious Fishes is another useless title that combines horrible graphics, pedestrian game play, and repetitive arithmetic in an unpalatable mess of a game. Avoid, avoid.


Games Purchased
Notable purchases included all the C&C Ancients stuff (except for Epic...so far), several thrift store scores including Ingenious, Under Cover, Ghost Party, Magic Hill, and Up the River, as well as a bunch of good wargames (scifi and otherwise). A notable dud was Space Empires 4X which I bought to solitaire. Could not get through it - no soul. It was super boring. I'm likely going to sell it. In its place I'll play through Godsfire, Stellar Conquest, Star Borders: Humanity, and hopefully someday Imperial Stars II.


Games Sold
I got very aggressive this year selling games - made some hard choices and sales (farewell, Elfenland!). I looked at my shelves early in the year and realized there was stuff just sitting there seldom or never getting played, and in many cases I realized I had another game/games that were mostly interchangeable from an experience standpoint. There are a few more titles I'd like to part with; I'll probably put them up in the BGGM after the holidays are safely behind me. My biggest sale was my entire Summoner Wars collection - with C&C Ancients for a fun dice-roller and with Vortex for a Special Powers Tactical game, SW just wasn't seeing any play. I think I burned out on it after about 30 or so plays. I sold it for about $50 less than what I paid for it all, so on a per-play basis it's not bad, but there was just no way it was going to see much (if any) play time in the future).


Played Games
Vinci 33
Masons 23
Jaipur 20
Amazons 11
Commands & Colors: Ancients 8
Ingenious 8
Love Letter 8
Heimlich & Co. 7
Small World 7
Complica 6
King of Tokyo 6
The aMAZEing Labyrinth 5
Cannon 5
Carcassonne 5
Keltis: Das Orakel 5
Ghosts! 4
Just4Fun Colours 4
Mount Drago 4
Up the River 4
Blokus 3D 3
Forbidden Island 3
Ingenious Challenges 3
Magic Hill 3
Raj 3
Summoner Wars 3
Torres 3
Battleship Express 2
Dragonheart 2
Kill Doctor Lucky 2
Midnight Party 2
PitchCar 2
Race for the Galaxy 2
The Resistance 2
Wildlife Safari 2
10 Days in Europe 1
Alak 1
Alfred's Wyke 1
American Carrom 1
Antike Duellum 1
Asara 1
Borneo 1
Caravaneers 1
Carcassonne: Hunters and Gath 1
Carcassonne: The Castle 1
Carolus Magnus 1
The Castles of Burgundy 1
Cheaty Mages! 1
Clans 1
Clash of the Gladiators 1
Divinare 1
Eat Poop You Cat 1
Elfenland 1
Fantasy Dice Battles 1
Figaro 1
Finca 1
Focus 1
For Sale 1
Hey, That's My Fish! 1
Hisss 1
Imperial 2030 1
Incan Gold 1
Islas Canarias 1
Junior Labyrinth 1
Kahuna 1
Kingdom Builder 1
Louis XIV 1
Modern Art 1
Peloponnes 1
Prosperity 1
Qwirkle 1
Saboteur 1
Slide 5 1
Tally Ho! 1
Tempus 1
Thurn and Taxis 1
Thurn and Taxis: Power & Glory 1
Tigris & Euphrates 1
TZAAR 1
Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar 1
Venture 1
Vicious Fishes 1



Solitaired Games (not included in play count above)
I solitaired a number of wargames including Revolution's excellent Road to Cheren and Decision's mediocre but endearing Khyber Rifles. I have several other games on the docket for 2015 including FAB Sicily, Godsfire, and Star Borders: Humanity.


*My played online number only counts games against real humans. Any plays vs. bots of any kind (iOS, web, whatever) are not included.
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Wed Dec 31, 2014 7:22 pm
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Cannoneer's Q4-2014 Gaming Review

Caleb
United States
Seminole
Florida
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Time to look back on 2014's Q4 and see what I did Overall a successful 3 months fueled primarily by family gaming, Yucata, and some neat purchases I'm looking forward to. This might also be the first quarter in a long time where I got rid of more games than I acquired!

85 games played
26 unique titles
6 new to me
52 played online*

11 games purchased ($300)
22 games sold ($328)


2 nickels
Jaipur (7 plays - all on Yucata.de)
Small World (7 plays)

2 dimes
Vinci (17 plays - all on Yucata.de)
Masons (16 plays - all on Yucata.de)


I played 7 games of Small World on the iPad with the kids - I'd never buy the game (I have a strong preference for Vinci) but we have a good time playing some quick games on the iPad with Airplay going so the non-moving players can watch it on TV. I even bought one of the expansions (Cursed, I think) but we haven't tried it out yet. I count this as board gaming because it's really no different than pushing the pieces on a physical board, especially when everyone can see what's going on by watching it on TV while the moving player holds the iPad and makes his move. Gaming from the comfort of the couch!


New Games I Liked
Antike Duellum - that Rondel is infuriating (but in a good way)! I always feel like I'm behind the 8-ball on my moves, getting to each spot a couple rounds too late I played on Yucata but also own the game and am hoping for a FTF play soon.

Up the River - just a kids' game but it's not too bad. It can be pretty mean when you lose your ships. We found that the first player to get to the finish line always won. Not sure if we'll play it much more, but it was good for a few laughs there for a while.


New Games I'm "meh" About
Cheaty Mages - I think I could have liked this, but for some reason it fell a little flat. I felt like it was usually too obvious what everyone was going for and that there weren't as many opportunities for skulduggery as I thought. But I would like to try it again - I plan to teach it to the kids as I think they'd really like it.


New Games I Didn't Like
Finca - talk about a pointless, boring exercise in futile conversions. Here's a Rondel done wrong. No depth, no soul, no way, not playing again. Boo!

Alak - weird 1-dimensional Go variant. I'm not even sure how I lost. It's un-fun.

Caravaneers - this one moves too slow. It's an interesting concept with the shared pieces but competing directions of motion, but it just takes WAAAYY too long to develop. It might be something I'd try in FTF play sometime, but really with so many excellent abstracts out there, this one's just too mediocre to care.



Games Purchased
Notable purchases included buying The Resistance for a team-building event at work (not the main event, but just a fun exercise for my team). It was a big hit, though as usual the resistance lost miserably both times. I also took advantage of the GMT sale to get FAB Sicily, which I think I'm really going to like, and Space Empires 4X, which I don't like at all. It's going to be up on the chopping block soon. I also got billed for 3 C&C Ancients expansions I had on P500 (didn't expect them all to come due at once!) and a few thrifted games, most of which I sold on.


Games Sold
I did a big GeekList auction in October and also sold several individual games afterwards. I decided to be aggressive getting rid of things I seldom/never play. There are a few more titles I'd like to part with; I'll probably put them up in the BGGM after the holidays are safely behind me. My biggest sale was my entire Summoner Wars collection - with C&C Ancients for a fun dice-roller and with Vortex for a Special Powers Tactical game, SW just wasn't seeing any play. I think I burned out on it after about 30 or so plays. I sold it for about $50 less than what I paid for it all, so on a per-play basis it's not bad, but there was just no way it was going to see much (if any) play time in the future).


Played Games
Vinci 17
Masons 16
Jaipur 7
Small World 7
Up the River 4
The aMAZEing Labyrinth 3
Commands & Colors: Ancients 3
Heimlich & Co. 3
Ingenious Challenges 3
Love Letter 3
Torres 3
Magic Hill 2
Alak 1
Amazons 1
Antike Duellum 1
Caravaneers 1
The Castles of Burgundy 1
Cheaty Mages! 1
Finca 1
Focus 1
Hey, That's My Fish! 1
Ingenious 1
Kahuna 1
King of Tokyo 1
Mount Drago 1
Thurn and Taxis 1




Solitaired Games (not included in play count above)
I played several C&C Ancients scenarios from the First Punic War. Kept the board set up in the dining room for a week or two and played 3 or 4 games. Always a good time, even with something so relatively simple.

I set up and tried to play through Star Viking, the old Dwarfstar game, but the combat sequence defeated me. It ended up being a little too tedious. I might pull it out again sometime, but now with Star Borders: Humanity and Godsfire coming, I don't see it getting set up anytime soon.



*My played online number only counts games against real humans. Any plays vs. bots of any kind (iOS, web, whatever) are not included.
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Wed Dec 31, 2014 3:28 am
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September 2014 in Review

Caleb
United States
Seminole
Florida
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Vinci x8. Since discovering Yucata.de I've been getting back into Vinci in a big way. While I prefer the traditional board & rules, I've had fun exploring the alternate boards. I agree Nomads is a Bad Idea and always check the box to play without Nomads/Culture (though Culture isn't nearly as abuse-prone). It took me a while to win my first game, though I came in 2nd in 5 or 6 of those games! Vinci keeps getting better every time I play it.

Jaipur x5. I don't typically like learning new games from electronic implementations. But Jaipur is simple and quick enough that this was not an issue. Boy, it's a fun game. It sits about at Lost Cities level of complexity but I find the decisions to be a bit more varied, though it loses some focus due to this. I'm not sure which I prefer at this point; Jaipur is new and that's a benefit but I assume over the long haul Lost Cities has more staying power. I'm not sure if I'll ever buy the physical game, but I really enjoy my plays on Yucata.

Masons x3. I own this game but don't get to play it much; finding it on Yucata has been a treat. I wish the online implementation let you see your opponents' moves, but it's a simple-enough game that you can play well without a turn-by-turn analysis. When I started playing this online I was SHOCKED at how many small cities (and in many cases, how few total cities) get created - in most of my FTF games up to this point, a large city dominated the landscape. I chalk that up to newbie play: people don't realize the downside of creating ever-larger cities if they only have 1 good card to score them with; opponents will often have more. My first multiplayer game on Yucata I got stomped by a crew who made maybe 2 or 3 cities the entire GAME. Now I play much better. I may up my rating of this game to a 10 because, with the way it's played on Yucata, the scoring cards come much more into balance. It's amazing.

Commands & Colors: Ancients x2. I've been teaching this great simple game to my 5yo son. We play without some of the more tricky units (elephants, chariots) and I remove the more complex cards (darken the sky, spartacus, etc) but we have a grand time. He really loves beating his old man. I had to finally play my best and beat him after he'd defeated me like 3 or 4 times in a row (with extensive coaching on my part and some purposefully sub-optimal plays). We really love this and I can't wait for the 2/3 combo expansion from GMT (we have Expansion #1). I found a great post with some interesting campaign rules we'll have to try. I foresee playing this for years to come.

The Resistance x2. I manage a team at work and we had a 1-day team building event. I brought this to play as a sort of fun break from the more work-related sessions. It was great seeing different aspects of people's personality come out. I find this very difficult for the resistance team to actually win, and this time was no different. Nevertheless, everyone had a good time and it was a great relief from work stuff to play something that was just plain fun for an hour.

Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers x1. Another Yucata session. I'd owned this years ago and got rid of it due to derivative game play and unpleasant graphics. Nothing has changed in the online implementation I shan't be playing this again.

Clash of the Gladiators x1. Pulled out this Knizia dice-fest at FalCon with Gola, Dave, and Erik. It is silly fun. Strategy, such as it is, is swamped by who gangs up on whom. Getting to inhabit animals after your squads are killed off is a good touch, keeping players engaged throughout. I won, but not due to any particular cleverness on my part.

Divinare x1. Met some local gamers and had a weeknight game night with them. This seemed like something I wouldn't particularly like but I was pleasantly surprised. It makes good use of the drafting mechanic but is light enough that you don't really care too much how badly you're doing, yet there is room for clever play and educated guesses after all. I'd definitely play it again, but I probably wouldn't buy it.

Forbidden Island x1. A quick play with my son. Nothing special to report except that the 2 roles we had (messenger and the guy who can move other players on his own turn) were not what we normally have used. We won pretty easily. This is much more about the order of the tiles than I'd like, but it's lighthearted and quick enough that it's fun occasionally.

Keltis: Das Orakel x1. Also played with the local gamers I met. I always love this game and this time was no different. I was once again surprised at how hard it is to overcome 'point-peggers' in a 4-player game and ended up in 2nd place. 2-player games on iOS have trained me in ways that are not conducive to multiplayer wins!

Louis XIV x1. Also played at FalCon. The game of Pasty White Faces. It's really cool though. Gimmicky, yes, but well-balanced and has nice tension with a combination of all-or-nothing plays and the ability to play it safe at times. Sort of like Asara in this regard. I would love to play again. I think 4-player would be even better as it will be tighter.

Peloponnes x1. FalCon. Glad I got to try this finally. It's good, but is no substitute for 7 Wonders. Or, rather, my collection does not have room for both. It is a brutal game, but in a good way.

Tally-Ho x1. Ugh. Random and boring. Maybe it would be better FTF than on Yucata, but I don't care if I never play this again.
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Wed Oct 1, 2014 2:37 pm
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2012 in Review, Inspired by Joe Gola*

Caleb
United States
Seminole
Florida
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Totals
263 total plays
74 unique games played
22 new-to-me games played

Most-played games
Amazons: 53
Havannah: 25
Summoner Wars: 16
Onirim: 12

Favorite new-to-me games played
Asara
Islas Canarias
Taj Mahal

Collection
79 games
9 unrated
2 unplayed (Caylus Magna Carta, Goa)
Percent of collection played in 2012: 85%

2012 Additions to the collection
Too many to list here, but see this geeklist for more details of my game acquisitions (and disposals) for the year.


*contains no actual Joe Gola
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Wed Jan 2, 2013 12:56 am
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Game night: 28 Jan 2012 - the Finnish Countryside, Leprechauns, and Slanders...in Spaaaaaaace!!

Caleb
United States
Seminole
Florida
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We had our first game night of the new year last night. Only one other person came, so we got to play some games that often don't get played when we have our more typical 5+ people. Me, my wife Joanna, and our friend Ken settled in for some gaming.


What do you mean I can't get to Finland from Denmark?



Our first game was 10 Days in Europe, a lightweight route-building game with a lot of luck and not much strategy. Still, it's passable for a few minutes at the start of a night, or with kids.

The first part of the game you're just drawing tiles, one by one, and fitting them into your stand. I tend to do this pretty quickly because it's usually obvious where to put things; e.g. 2 like-colored countries should be 1 space apart from each other (in hopes of a matching airplane), etc. Joanna and Kenny were much more deliberative during this phase. I have no idea what they were thinking about for so long, but as Joanna won both games quicker than I'd have thought possible, and I was no where near done either time, there must be something to longer preparation. Unfortunately, the game's just not that interesting, at least not enough to warrant that type of prep-work.



They're always after me lucky charms.

Joanna was feeling good about her 2 wins at 10 Days. So good, in fact, that she was in a mood to be magnanimous. She allowed me to pick the next title, and didn't even veto Keltis: Das Orakel, which is one of my top 3 favoritest games and one I tend to be pretty good at (innumerable iPhone/iPad games against the Hard AI will do that for you).

There were a couple of early mirrors that Ken and I grabbed. Joanna used the Oracle a few times before it was (as usual) left behind. She tended to lag in points by around 8, which worried her, but I told her not to be too concerned as the end-game points are much more important than being ahead or behind by a few throughout.



The first Leprechaun space was ideally suited- just far enough that you had started to build up some chaff in your hand, but not so far along that you couldn't easily dump it and hope for better. So it's hardly surprising it got a bit crowded there:



Ken had some sort of brain seizure toward the end and didn't press on to the last blue space when he could've, allowing me to swoop in and score the last stone. He had 2 mirrors to my one, and all three of us scored the Leprechauns (first time I've seen that), leaving Joanna pretty far out ahead before final scoring. Nevertheless, I squeaked out a narrow victory (possibly closest finish we've seen in the game) 76-75-73. I told Joanna that 1 point was probably within the margin of error for the scoring throughout the game, but I still marked it as a victory for me. She was not amused.



A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a sad-sack would-be claimant to the throne could only afford a lousy 5 intergalactic agents to advance his agenda.

Though it was late (for us, e.g. around 9:30pm), we decided on another game. I'd been wanting to try Carpe Astra ever since I'd picked it up the last go-round with Tanga. Usually I do not like learning a game while teaching it - I prefer to learn the game ahead of time. But this one seemed simple enough that we popped the cardboard off the frames and ran through the rules.

Let me just say, it sounds a lot more complicated than it really is, at least with all the phases and stuff. Kenny and Joanna's eyes glazed over a few times, but we soldiered on and started playing. I went first, on the reasonable assumption that since I was the one holding the rules in my hand, I was best suited not to screw anything up.

I'll get this out of the way up front: the game is abstract. Yes, it could be about anything from sheep-shearing to serving tables at a fancy restaurant, but I enjoyed the poli-sci (get it?) setting. It fits, and allows for some flavorful flavor text, and is a decent 'hook' to hang the various game mechanisms on. But the game is at its heart a placement-heavy spacial abstract of sorts. Not what you picture when you read 'bribe or slander, whatever it takes to claim the galactic throne' or however the cover reads. Nevertheless, I felt the mechanics were generally sound and provided for some interesting decisions...at first.

I jumped out to an early lead, being able to complete both of my cards on several of the early turns, also taking advantage of the events to earn some scarce coins. A few turns in, things looked like this:



Yeah, the yellow guy is me, and yeah, that's only 1 lousy agent out on the board. You see, in this game the points from majorities are clearly visible to everyone, and everyone knows who's winning at all times. This means that the leader will have a galactic-sized target painted on his forehead for the other players to tee off on him at will. Yeah, it's that kind of game.

It's also a brain-burner. You have to be able to imagine the effect of adding a tile, moving some of your guys, maybe spinning a tile or two, and compare that to the score cards in your hand, keeping sure to have a guy on the Senate, your home tile, or your opponent's home (in the case of a slander)....it actually gets pretty complex. If you don't have much of a head for that sort of thing, you'll end up looking like this:


High Priest Ichthon ponders his options

My initial lead was so commanding, and I am so versatile and savvy (uh, yeah) that I was able to maintain my lead throughout the game, despite having those two blasted interlopers chewing at my flanks for 4 or 5 turns.

Speaking of which, the last 4 event cards in the game were the kind that offered drawing extra cards for the prize, meaning no new cash was injected, meaning money was VERY TIGHT by the end of the game. I managed a narrow victory 12-11-11 but only because we'd overlooked that if one person earns all the support tokens from a single faction (with none in the supply), they are supposed to get 6 points rather than just 4. Since we never saw that till the end, we chose to score that you'd only get 4 points.

Had we scored the right way, Joanna would've had 13 and won. This is her, realizing that:



But then Ken's final turn decision would've been harder, as he'd be effectively handing the game to me or Jo. You see, both of us had a monopoly on one of the factions' support, and in our game Ken took from me knowing I was in the lead, realizing that though he and Jo couldn't catch me, he could at least take 2nd in that faction. But if we'd realized that that monopoly was really worth 2 extra points, he would've had to decide whether I or Jo would win. I know who he would've chosen (hint: not the guy who mercilessly slandered him throughout the final 6 turns of the game...), but that kind of forced kingmaking always leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

I felt like the game worked OK, but only just OK. They missed an opportunity with giving each faction a special power (even only a one-shot one, or something), because the flavor text is interesting, but everything is too symmetrical. I get why they limited you to just 2 cards in hand (usually) - any more and your head would explode with figuring out all your options. But it also means you're at the mercy of what you draw. And the king-making in the end-game is pretty bad.

But, it was still kinda cool. I liked to read the flavor text on the various cards I played; it really does help get you into the spirit of intergalactic intrigue. I would like to try it with the advanced variant of some face-up scoring cards to draft. But I suspect it's a game that'll only be welcome for a few plays before these annoyances become too strong to keep playing. But for $10 or $11 shipped, I'll feel like I got my money's worth.
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Mon Jan 30, 2012 2:07 am
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