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J. R. Tracy
We had nine players last Tuesday for several games, a couple of which were brand new to us.
Maynard and Campoverdi tried Worthington's recent Wilderness Empires, a card-driven block game on the French & Indian War. Campo took the French to Maynard's British. Maynard quickly seized Louisbourg thanks to an early flood of reinforcement cards (and maybe a rules misinterpretation). Though turned back at Quebec, he had Campo on his back foot for much of the game. The French struck into British territory when the opportunity presented itself, but Maynard maintained his advantage and closed out a win.
Early assault on Quebec
This is a handsome game, with a clean-looking map and nice chunky blocks. The art is good too - the Troiani images are wasted on the stickers but look great on the cards. Campo and Maynard enjoyed the game, and wrapped up quickly enough to move on to another title.
Fort William Henry under siege
They followed with Galaxy MotherTrucker, with Maynard looking to avenge his loss of a couple weeks ago. Since then he's installed the game app on his iPad and learned a thing or two. He put his newfound knowledge to good use and prevailed.
Smitch, GorGor, El Rios, and Mark tackled Pax Pamir and had a long, hard-fought game. All four Topples passed without an outright win, so it came down to tiebreakers. Smitch and El Rios were tied on military power, but Smitch eked out a victory thanks to an edge in rupees. Another good session with more to follow, I'm sure.
Mark recruits some local talent
The same crew followed up with a few games of Coup. El Rios took one, while GorGor won two. The final game was a hoot, with GorGor claiming a heavy card four plays in a row, getting called each time, and proving to hold the relevant office in every case. That cleaned up the table nicely for a convincing win.
"You're bluffing!" "Am I?"
At the other end of the table Scott introduced Dave and me to Burgle Bros., a cooperative in which the players are a team of thieves. The target is a three story building, with each floor composed of sixteen randomized tiles (though each floor always has a stairwell and a safe). We needed to crack each safe and make our way to the roof to escape via helicopter. In addition to the safe and stairwell, tiles might contain one of several flavors of detection systems (lasers, motion detectors, etc), a barrier of some sort (deadbolts, keypads, etc), good stuff (control rooms to disable security systems) or weird random bits like shaky walkways that could send you crashing through to the floor below. Each floor also has a guard walking a random beat.
Scott makes like Catherine Zeta-Jones
Once we enter a floor for the first time, the local guard is randomly placed. Players then expend up to four action points, to either move, reveal an adjacent tile, or perform other tasks like preparing to crack a safe or working the tumblers. The safest approach is to reveal a tile before entering (the walkway is dangerous only if unrevealed) but sometimes you're in a hurry and don't have the luxury of caution.
Each character has some sort of special ability that can break a particular rule or aid an action. Characters also have three 'stealth' tokens, and lose one each time they encounter a guard. The fourth time you bump into a guard, you're caught, and the team loses. After a character moves, the guard on that floor is moved. The guards have a randomly determined target tile and follow a predictable path to it, then choose another target location. While you know where they're going and their path, occasionally the newly-revealed destination proves inconvenient or even fatal to your chances. A triggered alarm takes priority over the guard's target tile, a fact you can use to your advantage.
Hacking the motion sensors
In our first game, we tiptoed onto the first floor and quickly cracked the safe, but found ourselves cornered by the guard and hemmed in by lasers and motion detectors. After a five year stretch upstate, we returned to the scene of the crime for another attempt. This went much better, and despite losing a few tokens on the first floor we breezed through the second and confronted the third and final floor. Two of us had expended all our tokens but we used the alarms to distract the guard and dart in to try the safe. Unfortunately, we didn't crack it on the first pass and an unfortunate tile draw sent the guard right at us, with a deadbolt at our back. We were out of options and could only watch helplessly as he made his collar.
This is a really nifty co-op, with a very strong theme and fun puzzle-solving elements. The layout can change dramatically from game to game and definitely shapes your strategy - early access to a security system control room can be a huge break, while a poorly placed stairwell can prove to be a bigger problem than opening a safe. Nice art, reminiscent of the credit sequences of 50s/60s caper flicks. The whole thing packs up in a compact little box, though only just. Impressive effort, and recommended especially for folks who might want to rope in a casual gamer or two.
We then tried The Magnates: A Game of Power, covering the golden age of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Players compete to expand their family holdings within the Commonwealth while seeing off various predators poised on the borders. Each player has a deck of cards numbered from two to fifteen - they use these to bid for offices in the Senate and privileges in the Sejm, and to fight Poland's wars.
The Sejm is in session
The course of play is simple - after determining the king for that turn (randomly selected from historical personalities; each confers a small bonus for some game action), players secretly bid for offices. These are Primate (breaks ties during the turn), Treasurer (allows you to swap an opponent's estate for one of your own), Hetman (+3 to your contribution in a conflict), and Chancellor (+3 to any one influence bid). With these in hand, bids are placed for the five Sejm privilege cards - these offer game bonuses or rule-bending actions, and allow placement of estates onto the map. Finally, five Conflict cards are drawn and placed where appropriate, and players secretly commit cards to fight them.
Scoring is typical area majority - points for each estate, plus bonus points for having a plurality or majority in each of the five major regions. In addition to estates earned via offices and privileges, you gain estates by helping win a conflict. Each conflict has a value that must be equaled or exceeded by the sum of the player cards committed against it. High contributor gets to place an estate if Poland wins, while the low man suffers in some way if the conflict prevails. Also, everyone loses an estate in an affected region if you don't see off the conflict; therefore you might not always be 100% motivated to win a particular fight if your neighbor will suffer more than you in a defeat. However, if three of the five regions have active undefeated conflicts at the end of a turn, the Commonwealth is broken up and all the players lose.
Dave snags another card
In our game, Dave dominated from the get-go. He grabbed the Primate on the first turn and won three ties in that round. Despite witnessing the power of the office, neither Scott nor I could wrest the Primate from Dave's grip the rest of the game. He also grabbed the lion's share of the privilege cards for most of the four turns. My ill-considered strategy focused on winning the conflicts and accruing extra estates that way, but it is clearly the weakest of the three uses of influence, more a defensive measure to protect holdings than a way to build your board position. I think Dave ended with a score in the upper 40s, while I had 38 with Scott a few points behind.
I found Magnates to be a very effective re-implementation of the ideas in Martin Wallace's God's Playground (the designers explicitly state their inspiration). All the basic systems are familiar but well-executed. This is no doubt a Euro, but I think the theme carries through via the Senate/Sejm/Conflict structure. As Scott says, it transcends its progenitor by forcing players to preserve the Commonwealth - you could win God's Playground regardless of Poland's fate, which never felt quite right. Magnates' presentation is top-flight, with great art and loads of flavor text. I'm afraid it pushes God's Playground into deep storage - definitely recommended if you're looking for a well-themed bidding/area majority game or have a fondness for the history of Poland.
Threats to the Commonwealth
Last up, I joined Smitch and GorGor for a nightcap of Nations: The Dice Game. This is a very straightforward dice-placement game. Players start with five white dice, with a face each for grain, stone, books, swords, gold, and re-rolls. At the beginning of each of four turns, a market is laid out of upgrade and monument tiles, with purchase prices expressed in terms of dice-generated commodities. Buying a tile grants more/better dice, victory points, and/or specific commodity tokens, which can be used once per turn as if you rolled that particular value.
In addition to scoring points for buying tiles, you also score by defeating that turn's war and/or famine (by having the requisite swords or grain). There is also an interesting culture track - you move up by playing books, and each turn score VPs equal to the number of players *behind* you.
Our game was very tight for two turns but then GorGor achieved and maintained separation due to a nicely diversified approach. He had both blue (stone/books) and red (swords) dice plus a few yellow (gold) thrown in, while I had only red in addition to my original white. Without blue dice, many of the expensive late-game tiles were simply out of reach - I could buy them, but the lack of stone meant I couldn't complete any monuments for VPs. Smitch and I were basically just fighting for second, and I managed to edge him by virtue of beating both the final war and famine. Neat little game, super-fast but with more depth than I first suspected.
J. R. Tracy
We had thirteen gamers last week for a couple new titles and a variety of older stuff.
Natus, Jim, Mitch, Campoverdi, and Bill tried the new Holy Roman Empire: The Thirty-Years War, an overhaul by Mark McLaughlin of his old title from World Wide Wargames. Nate took Spain and Bavaria (combined in a five player game), Mitch ran France, Bill took the Swedes, Campoverdi the Palatinate, and Jim the Holy Roman Empire. The game has cards but isn't really a CDG, as the cards just represent territories and mercenary leaders in the game. Gold drives the show and territory confers both income and VPs. A conquered territory doesn't offer much of the former but you can invest in it to make it a more productive part of your tableau.
Electors run wild
The game offers a battleboard combat resolution system alongside a simpler bucket o' dice approach; our crew opted for the latter for the sake of time. That said, they still only worked through two turns or four years of the conflict. Players struggled to figure out how best to spend their hard earned gold, often bidding for provinces only to find themselves unable to keep their mercenaries happy. They called it after a couple turns, with Campo holding 18 of 30 cards needed for an outright win, so nominally in the lead. Mitch was making good use of mercenaries to prey on his neighbors, working his way up the leaderboard.
The joint kingdoms of Spain and Bavaria
Comments were mixed on gameplay and presentation. Attractive cards, bright pieces (though the French and Swedish appear very similar at arm's length), and a subdued, drab map. The bidding and treasury management aspects were interesting, but even at less than a full table the pace was laggy. The overall reception was lukewarm, so we're likely to take a stab at Won by the Sword before returning to this one.
Dave and Dan VIII paired off for a slew of two player games. They opened with The Duke, a whacked-out Chess variant. Pieces are wooden tiles with a movement pattern on each side. After the piece moves, it's flipped, and the new pattern is in effect. The two sides are usually related but differ in subtle ways (though some are wildly different on each side). Basic principles of chess apply as you try to corner the opponent's Duke. Dan VIII took the first game, and for the second they tried the Robert E. Howard expansion characters, which include Conan, Krull, Solomon Kane, and Dark Agnes. Players draft these into play based on game actions, and once in, they tend to dominate. Dave made good use of his Howard heroes to grab the win.
Put up your dukes
Next up, Dave taught Dan Arena: Roma II and took two games, though the second was very close. They then split a couple games of Star Realms - it was a little weird seeing this on the table after playing a couple hundred games on my iPad. They wrapped the evening with Melee, won by Dave after he conquered Kilimandjaro and pummeled Dan's legions with catapults. Not the heaviest list of titles, but a lot of gaming for a single evening.
Dave seizes the high ground
The recently arrived Pax Pamir hit the table with Hawkeye, Scott, Chris, and Smitch. The first game wrapped in fifteen minutes due to a snappy fool's mate by Scott, as everyone else forgot the First Rule of Pax: "Before you can win, make sure you don't lose". They reset and followed up with a much more satisfying game.
Afghan power was thin on the ground as the players split into Russian and British camps, pushing dominance back and fourth. The first two topples passed without a win; Chris spotted a chance after the second purge to set himself up for the third topple that just appeared at the top of the market. He managed to engineer a regime change to Fragmentation, sneak out a couple tribes, and grab the Russian Favor card for the win, all in a couple plays. It was a classic Pax win familiar to fans of Papa Porfiriana, but the game itself has enough unique elements to distinguish it from its forbear. Enjoyed by all, this will be a rotation regular in the weeks to come.
Enjoying Her Majesty's favour
Dr. Rob and I wrapped up our ASL match of Inherent Systemic Violence. To recap, Rob's Germans had to kick my NKVD and friends out of three of four buildings, and had already lost two of his five AFVs (one was merely immobilized but effectively a mission kill). He had two buildings cleaned out but I had my armor and infantry reinforcements in place and felt like I had matters well in hand.
Not covered by warranty
Rob knew he was behind the curve and needed to shake things up if he was to have any shot at all. Opening turn four with his armor, he promptly lost a PzIIIG to one of my infantry guns. Unfazed, he fired up a second PzIII ("Jason") and rounded a corner to face off against three of my BTs ("Camp Crystal Lake counselors"). The ensuing killing spree blew my left flank wide open. His remaining PzIV followed by claiming a victim of its own before rolling up to the door of one of my two remaining victory buildings. Supporting panzergrenadiers eliminated a gun crew and the rest of the defenders were broken. Rob reached for the high volatility play, pulled it off, and flipped the odds.
I responded with my surviving armor and as much infantry as I could spare (Rob still posed a viable threat to the fourth building). Unfortunately, Rob's 10-2 was well placed in an upper lever, directing heavy machine gun fire against my counterattack. I did manage to get back into the third building, but between the MG nest and the PzIV's pointblank fire, even my rock hard NKVD lost their nerve. A hard fought comeback win by the good doctor!
That's a wrap
Good scenario, great game. Rob was on the verge of quitting early on, but I'm glad he persevered - we had a terrific endgame and he made all the right calls while I missed a couple obvious and not so obvious moves. Both my infantry guns and two of my tanks had smoke capability, and I should've blanketed the 10-2's line of sight once he settled in. Also, I misplayed my armor on my final turn - I was positioning to stop Rob's follow-up attack when I should've been dealing with the immediate threat. I'm happy with the layout of my defense and my midgame play, but once Rob started getting frisky I needed to regain the initiative rather than let him dictate the course of action. Congrats to Rob - I am already plotting my vengeance.
J. R. Tracy
(Apologies for the lack of reports in recent weeks - we've still been gaming but a little too much Real Life in my life has gotten in the way of getting out the AARs!)
We had fourteen players for all kinds of action this past Tuesday.
Dr. Rob and I continued to prepare for the Albany tournament with another Barbarossa ASL scenario, Inherent Systemic Violence from Schwerpunkt. My ragtag Soviets have to hold onto two of four buildings against a force of elite German infantry backed by five panzers. Most of my troops are first liners, but I have a platoon of motivated NKVD hardcases and a couple infantry guns to stiffen their resolve, along with a commissar to make sure everyone is up to date on their Party dues. We each have radios to summon a little indirect hate from offboard. I get armor of my own in the form of six BTs, which are faster than hell but less-than-perfectly engineered - I think every BT in the Red Army was built around 4:45 on a Friday.
No one gets out of here alive
Since I only have to hold two buildings, I loaded the front two with a leader each and enough infantry to slow Rob down, and put my artillery observer, a couple squads, and my infantry guns in back to hold those buildings and await reinforcements. My relief also includes a platoon of conscripts and a mighty 10-2, but they all have to enter across a bridge - I was concerned about Rob's panzers sweeping around to interdict, and hoped my guns would be enough to deter him.
Bill pounds out a few Kursk curls
As it happened, he used his armor to support the frontal assault on my forward positions. So far one building is holding up well while the other finds the ground floor infested with Nazis while my garrison is encircled upstairs. However, one panzer is immobilized in the street thanks to close combat, and another is parked in the cellar of a rowhouse after taking a wrong turn just past the pantry. Things look promising for the Motherland at the moment, but even at 2:1 odds I am a little nervous about the upcoming armor battle. The burden is on Rob to force the action with a depleted force, but we'll play it out just in case things swing back his way.
Now you see him...now you don't
Dave and Scott fought the War on Terror in Labyrinth, with Scott playing the Free World to Dave's shadowy bad guys. They went for a longer two-deck game, and had a doozy. Scott swapped postures from Hard to Soft at the outset, and opted to cuddle up to Pakistan rather than hammer Afghanistan. This helped keep the WMDs out of Dave's hands. Elsewhere Iraq was coaxed to Good Governance, only to see a jihad flip it to the dark side. Scott invaded to get it back and eventually was a country away from victory. However, Dave doggedly worked his black magic, and with Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia in hand, managed to recover Central Asia for the win. Good game with both players taking the long view.
Dutch and Mark returned to Triumph & Tragedy, with Hawkeye as their newbie third. Dutch took the Axis, Mark the Soviets, and Hawkeye the Western Allies. The first game saw a very aggressive opening as Dutch headed west hard, with an eye on an early Sealion. He quickly overran France and was soon on the doorstep of No. 10 Downing Street. They reset, and tried again. Learning a trick or two from the first game, Hawkeye got some fleets out and this time faced a blockade strategy by Germany and Italy. This was an interesting game, much cagier than the first. They were tripped up by a couple rules (the sub stuff is the hinkiest part of the game in my opinion) but eventually the UK was starved of resources, and succumbed to an invasion a couple years into the war. I think the guys are enjoying the sandbox element of all this - lots of viable strategies and countermeasures, and as we burn through the fool's mates of inexperience, some richer possibilities are opening up.
The Home Fleet guards the approaches
We had a full table for Dune, finally hitting the table after months (years?) of talk. Nate took the Guild, Tenno was the Harkonnen, Campoverdi the Emperor, Jim the Bene Gesserit, Smitch the Fremen, and Maynard was House Atreides. Early action saw the factions pair up, with the witches hanging out with the Fremen, the Guild allied with the Emperor, and horror of horrors, the Harkonnen lying down with the Atreides.
The action was bloody, with at least one Lasgun/Shield combo leaving a smoking crater on the map. The Harkonnen/Atreides alliance marched forward relentlessly, until the Harkonnen broke away and their forces exterminated a pack of Fremen to claim victory. At this point Jim peeked at a slip of paper and said, "Turn seven? Harkonnen? Bam!" Few things in gaming are as sweet as a Bene Gesserit prediction win in Dune, though Tenno may have been a bit less appreciative than most.
Spot the Harkonnen
Smitch, Maynard and I wrapped up the evening with a quick game of Galaxy Mothertrucker. This was Maynard's first game and I was pretty rusty, so Smitch ran away with it, easily doubling my score. I was happy just to complete all three rounds, though sadly Maynard was lost to the vacuum of space on the final round due to critical component failure. Always a hoot - I picked up the expansions recently and hope to give them a try next time out.
Unsafe at any speed
J. R. Tracy
We had nine players a couple weeks ago, including Mark Bretherton, up from Down Under, taking the long way to London.
Bill and Dutch paired up for W1815, with Bill taking the Allies to Dutch's French. Dutch opened with Kellerman against the Allied left. Bill declined to leave the safety and comfort of his squares, so Reille went in and punished Hill accordingly. Hill crumbled, and the Allied army soon followed. Bill was neither pleased nor impressed, but I think you need to leave square immediately (unless Ney seizes the reins) and take your chances with the cav.
Kellerman tags in Reille for the atomic leg drop
They then turned to Evan Jones' Blue vs. Gray. As the Federals, Dutch quickly teamed up Grant and Sherman, surrounding them with a formidable array of subordinate talent. This juggernaut punished Bill for his constitutional transgressions and dragged him kicking and screaming back into the Union. They had some great battles along the way as Bill tried to make gains of his own in the opposite theater, extending the war as best he could. Good game and enjoyed by both.
Terrible Swift Sword
Scott introduced Maynard to No Retreat! The Russian Front, with Scott taking the Germans. Maynard cut his teeth on Avalon Hill classics so this was right in his wheelhouse and he warmed to it quickly. They used the GMT first edition rules with the added tweak of no German stacking until the Soviets could do so also (we tested this a while back and it works well).
Barbarossa yet again
Scott loaded up in the center and drove hard for the Kremlin, attending to his flanks as best he could. However, once he reached the Moscow Metro, resistance stiffened. The Germans attacked the capital into the winter and through 1942, but Maynard was able to hang on while solidifying the front elsewhere. As the spring of 1943 arrives, the Wehrmacht has clearly shot its bolt, so now it's a question of how much ground the Red Army can recover by 1945. Scott still holds a lot of Mother Russia, but the extended battle for Moscow was costly and those losses may haunt him in the months to come.
A last desperate push
Mark, Dr. Rob, Smitch, Hawkeye, and I all tried Lew Pulsipher's new Sea Kings, from Worthington Games. Each player is a Viking clan leader, accruing wealth and fame through exploration, trade, settlement, and good old fashioned head-splitting. You may perform two actions in your turn, which include challenging another player in the same region to a fight, moving a space, drawing a card, or playing a card. The cards themselves offer chances to discover, settle, raid, or trade in particular regions. There are additional cards that modify actions or grant bonuses, and a few mandatory random events.
With a few exceptions, most of the discover/trade/raid/settle cards name a specific location, so your hand guides your movement. You still have to make some decisions with respect to distance/payoff tradeoffs, and the more violent actions require a die roll for success. Your reward comes in fame or wealth depending on what you do (you get to choose which after a successful raid). You also score 'land' points as you settle territory. At game end, whoever leads in a given category (land/wealth/fame) earns two bonus points in that index, while the last player in each is docked one. The sum of your three tallies is your final score. The game ends after completing a lap around the table after the final card is drawn.
In our game, a couple players headed down to Rus to settle while others struck out across the North Sea to the British Isles and on to Iceland. We went where the cards told us to go, occasionally stealing settlements off one another. Smitch seemed to have the worst luck of the dice, while Dr. Rob moved out in front. I got some nice late-game cards, allowing me to head down to Miklagard for some raiding, picking up some settlements along the way. I had a nice balanced score, but so did Mark - he managed to snag my Rus settlement on the last turn, which proved to be enough to edge me for the win.
The game is physically beautiful - in particular I love the card art in the play deck. The map is nice and the wood components are top notch. In play terms, however, we felt we were just along for the ride. There is a high degree of interaction but the decision making didn't seem particularly challenging. I would like to play it again to judge the value of deck-diving for cards a little more that we did, in hopes of gaining some control of my fate. In sum, clean and light, but I was hoping for a bit more.
With Dr. Rob's departure, our remaining four turned to Nexus Ops. I decided to pop the shrinkwrap on my FFG edition - egads! This is one ugly game. The original Avalon Hill edition might not be to everyone's taste, but I love the glow in the dark pieces and the clear graphics. The FFG kit includes weak pastel units and muddy terrain tiles and resource tokens. Altogether a distinct downtick in appearance and usability. Still, it was good enough to play, so we dove in.
My initial exploration granted me spiders but no mines, while Smitch was up to his armpits in Rubium. He was first to the monolith, but I quickly challenged him, only to see my spiders hurled from its heights. I was crippled militarily and way behind the power curve - my loser cards and hot dice weren't enough to stop Smitch's tidal wave of troops. He had enough guys in action to fight several battles a turn, winning most of them. He quickly hit the VP target, with Mark a distant second. Nifty game, over all too soon. I will consign the FFG edition to the post-apocalypse bunker and use the original from now on.
Last up, Hawkeye, Smitch, and I grabbed The End of the Triumvirate. I was Pompey, Hawkeye Crassus, and Smitch Caesar. I moved first and opted for the political regions, manipulating the senate as much as I could. I seized the first consulship, and played defense on the map while angling for my second. Smitch twigged to what was going on and moved to stop me, but was a turn too late as I was elected a second time. My opponents played honorably and were therefore allowed the option of dignified suicide in light of their service to the Republic.
Caesar seizes Hispania
It was only then that I noticed I shouldn't have gone first. Given the tight tolerances of the game, that's easily enough of an edge to steal a victory. I thus rule Rome with a heavy heart. We've relied on a couple rules translations for the game that have their merits and shortcomings, but I have since discovered UniversalHead produced one of his usual excellent summaries here. I heartily recommend it - it even tells you who moves first!
Heading for a showdown in Syria
J. R. Tracy
With ten players this week, we had a double session of T&T, plus some other old and new favorites.
Natus, Smitch, Dave, Bill, and Dr. Rob grabbed Tesla vs. Edison: War of Currents and tore into it. Rob reprised his stock strategy of a few weeks ago, but this time he was able to stay to see it through to the end. By the time the rest of the table recognized his scheme, it was far too late.
Brush builds in the Midwest
With other players selling their shares in his company in the early going, Rob was able to embark on market manipulation on a grand scale without fear of reprisal. The results were staggering, with Rob garnering 832 points with Thomson to Natus' 558 with Edison. Dave managed 448 with Tesla, who is looking more and more like a puzzle. His +3 lightning bolt looks great but seems less useful in light of his special ability - he doesn't need lightning bolts! Hmmm. I'm sure we're missing something. Anyway, kudos to Rob, but I have a feeling the stock track will get a lot more scrutiny in the future.
Scott, Dutch, and Maynard had a bangin' session of Triumph & Tragedy, with Dutch taking the Soviets, Maynard the Axis, and Scott the Wallies. After a little diplomatic prelude, Maynard turned west, with a built-up Luftwaffe plastering Denmark. However, Scott's boffins took note and developed early warning radar in their secret labs. When the Germans hit the main Allied armies in France, Scott revealed his radar and enjoyed doubled hit chances against Maynard's Stukas. With their air support stripped away, the German ground forces bounced, and it was payback time.
Unwilling to settle things peacefully
Cold Soviet steel won eastern Europe to Dutch's side, while the French and British devoured Italy and her possessions. With the walls closing in, Maynard built up and awaited Ragnarök. The climactic battle took place in Germany, with all three sides at war; the USSR and the Wallies had one capital/subcapital apiece, so whoever took the Ruhr would win the game. It played out over several turns, with the Reds and the West trading haymakers while Maynard usually declined to activate since he always got the worst of it. Dutch had massive manpower, but the Royal Navy was on hand to lend support to the West. Ultimately Scott won the battle and the war, but only by a hair - he had no more troops to commit and Dutch would likely have won if he'd had just one more crack. Great finish, and I think even Maynard enjoyed the finale thanks to the drama of the three way fight.
Twilight of the Reich
At the other end of the room I taught T&T to Hawkeye and Campoverdi, but this was more a demo/exercise than a game. After my diplomatic debacle last week, I devoted over two thirds of my production toward troop builds. Campo was busy in Persia and Finland, but I noticed Hawkeye was spending most of his builds on cards. I took a chance and hit France, and managed to knock her out. I followed up with a quick Seelöwe, really just to test the defenses of the UK. To my surprise, my invasion force survived. Thanks to air support and follow on forces, Germany prevailed for an early win. We learned a lot of what I'm sure are canonical moves - fleets to the Channel, etc - but more importantly, everyone has learned the basic system and we should be able to scare up a game of this no problem in the weeks to come.
Sea Lion sticks the landing
We followed T&T with The End of the Triumvirate, a great little three-player that's been absent from the table for too long. The game postulates that the First Triumvirate of Pompey, Julius Caesar, and Crassus fell apart immediately in 59 BC, with the three coming to blows. Players vie to control the manpower and financial resources of the Republic, and can win either through conquest, by being elected Consul twice, or by maxing out the 'competency' tracks (indices of political and military skill, advanced by player actions). At its best, with experienced players, it's a supertight knife fight with everyone on the cusp of victory in the final turns.
Caesar heads home
I was Pompey to Hawkeye's Orange Julius and Campo's Crassus. Hawkeye and I shoved each other back and forth in Europe, while Campo consolidated the Mideast and North Africa. I grabbed back a couple cheap spaces in Africa, but Campo immediately rolled me up and headed for the Pillars of Hercules. Unfortunately, he left his home provinces lightly defended, and Hawkeye was able to take them in turn for a military victory. That's the nature of the game with new players - there are so many ways to lose that it's easy to overlook one on your first or second playing. Still, I'm glad I could reintroduce it and I hope to keep it in circulation.
The Julian battle barge rolls through Greece
Hawkeye and I paired up for an Up Front nightcap somewhere on the Riviera, his French versus my Italians in Scenario B, City Fight. I had a horde of Italians, 22 soldiers I think, many with great morale. I also had a pair of LMGs, where most nationalities only have one. Unfortunately, I also had a lot of troops with lousy morale, and more importantly, my standard infantry rifle was crap, requiring me to close to Relative Range (RR) 2 before I could even consider shooting. Hawkeye's French were better equipped, able to engage me at RR1, but he had one of the worst hands in the game, with a six card capacity but only one discard per turn. I had a mere four card hand, but a whopping two discards. Unfortunately, my Italians surrendered on a loss of 40% of my troops, as opposed to 50% for other nationalities.
Hard men for a hard job
In City Fight, you score points for troops that have advanced into building terrain, in addition to casualty VPs. I put my tough guys on the right to maneuver forward, a healthy firegroup in the center, and my shiftless shirkers on the left. I saw some great cards early on and had all three groups in buildings at Range 1 - with my enormous supersquad I now just needed to cycle the deck and await delivery of my sparkly victory tiara. Sadly, Hawkeye refused to toe the line. His Frenchmen advanced through and around a steady barrage of streams and wire, managed to find decent (but non-building) terrain, and began pecking away at me.
A jaunty Frenchman
The firefight was decidedly asymmetric with my Carcanos outranged by Hawkeye's MAS 36s. It got even worse when both my LMGs broke in quick succession, and were permanently disabled before I could repair them. My nine-casualty surrender threshold seemed a long way away at first but slowly my men departed the field of play. We had several lulls of Up Front-style "Go Fish", with multiple discards in a row. Unable to fashion even the lightest fire attack, my best weapon for deck-cycling was out of my hands. However, Hawkeye pressed forward, anxious to push me over the limit before we drained the decks, which in turn finally allowed me some fire opportunities of my own.
As the end of our final deck approached, I was in bad shape, with eight casualties and several pinned soldiers. Hawkeye would fire, I'd toss out a Concealment card, my guys would survive, and I'd play a Rally to repair some of the damage. I was teetering but still alive. With just three cards left, I couldn't do anything but discard, giving Hawkeye one more shot. He searched his hand, sighed, tossed a discard and drew the final card. I'd somehow survived without surrendering! We toted up the points, and found ourselves in a dead tie. Hawkeye's steady fire had a beneficial effect after all, denying me the unpinned men I needed to edge him for the win. It was a fitting end to a fun, tight game. I'm glad Hawkeye has brought it back into play the last couple months, and am having a great time rediscovering its pleasures.
J. R. Tracy
We had a modest six players to open September gaming a couple weeks ago.
Bill brings a feisty brew
Dave, Smitch, and Mitch tried Tesla vs. Edison: War of Currents, with Dave getting Edison, the Dark Prince of DC. Dave used Edison's mad patent skilz (claims patents for free when available, ignores patent fees due others) to pad and preserve his coffers, giving him an edge in network-building and in the stock game. This was enough to claim a win.
You light up my life
The same crew moved on to Stone Age. Here Smitch tried the starvation strategy, opting to suffer the 10 VP hit for food shortfalls each turn under the premise he could make it up in actions elsewhere. He nearly succeeded, but on the last turn ran out of alternative uses for his actions and tried to grab the food he needed for his little tribe. He fell one Happy Meal short, and lost the game by nine points to Dave. I've never seen the starvation strategy in action so it was interesting to watch it play out.
Quest for fire
Dutch, Bill and I broke out Triumph & Tragedy, GMT's block game on the European end of WWII. I had the Germans and Italians, while Dutch took the Wallies and Bill the Soviets. The game starts in 1935, with annual turns. I decided to try something a little different and gave peace a chance.
I focused my production on buying action/diplomacy cards, winning the good people of neutral Europe over to my cause. I also built out my factories a little, to take advantage of the population resources I was accruing. Soon I had a very impressive haul of cards every turn, outstripping my opponents by a mile on the diplomacy front (the lone exception was the US, which jumped to Dutch's side in '35). Bill, however, was wielding the Red Army around the edges of the map, conquering Persia and Finland and eyeing Turkey with evil intent.
Persuading the Persians
The breakpoint of the game came in 1940 - Poland had been in my (diplomatic) sights all game, and I just about had her in my grasp. She is a sweet plum, providing three strong units as a satellite and a handy buffer between Germany and godless hordes to the East. Unfortunately, Bill and Dutch teamed up to beat back my efforts. I should've given up on the jaw-jaw at this stage and just ramped up the Wehrmacht, but instead I gave it one more shot in '41. This proved to be a mistake, because while I was failing miserably, my opponents were busy investing in their war machines. I was forced to invade Poland before the Soviets did so, and the resulting losses left me even worse off relative to my foes.
Poor innocent Germany was caught in a fatal nutcrusher, losing her frontiers in late '41 and her core in '42. We called it at that point - Bill had the upper hand and was likely to win, though Dutch might have beaten him to Rome for a military victory. I suffered a nasty beatdown but I had a blast. I enjoyed trying an extreme strategy, but didn't recognize failure when it was staring me in the face. Unsurprisingly the game rewards a balanced approach over my dip-heavy scheme, but I like the way it provides a spectrum of options.
Bracing for the inevitable
Bill had tried the game before but it was the first time for Dutch and myself - Dutch hadn't even read the rules. However, we had no problem getting into it and I think we only had a couple errors over the course of the game. We played eight years of the war in about four hours - I can see experienced hands finishing a game in an evening. Good fun, very accessible, and sure to be back on the table soon.
Always have a backup plan
J. R. Tracy
We had eleven players last week for the wrap-up of Cataclysm plus a smattering of lighter fare.
Campoverdi, Herr Fuchs, Smitch, El Rios, Dr. Rob, and Mitch tried Dark Moon, a hidden identity game with a lot in common with CattleCar Galactica. That's no accident, as the game was originally described as 'BSG Express'. Players are the personnel of an off-world mining colony, divided into Infected (traitors/Cylons) and Uninfected. The group must accomplish various tasks over the course of the game - should the group fail, the Infected win, while success is a win for the good guys. Players resolve tasks by secretly rolling dice and picking one result to reveal, which may or may not be a success. Based on outcomes and patterns the crew can vote to quarantine members or otherwise address their suspicions and paranoia. They played twice, with a win for each faction (though Campo notes he was on the winning side both times). This is a slick, fast-playing game, with a great The Thing/Who Goes There? vibe - I will be picking it up myself.
The big group split up, with Herr Fuchs and Mitch pairing up for Magic: The Gathering. Mitch had a matched pair of 'Duel Decks', Jace versus Vraska. They played three games, with David's Vraska getting the best of it, largely due to the rampaging Spawnwrithe, a self-replicating creature which generates a new copy with every hit it inflicts.
The rest of the Dark Moon crew grabbed Five Tribes, as Dr. Rob shed his outer skin to reveal a Natus lurking within (though unconfirmed rumors claim Nate was there all along). Tribes is a funky desert-themed VP-harvesting game dominated by a Mancala/Oware style mechanic. Players scoop up the meeples of a given tile and drop them in a chain around the board, with the color and location of the last meeple determining VPs gained or special actions performed. They played at a good clip until the endgame, when the other players desperately conspired to block Nate's apparently imminent win. Alas, they failed, and Natus emerged victorious.
Late summer vacations and Asian market volatility savaged the ranks of our Cataclysm game, but Maynard stepped up to lead the Reich, while Bill moved into the Kremlin and Scott assumed the reins of Italy and Japan. With the Western alliance on a roll the Axis were in dire straits. However, all was not yet lost.
As France I went on a shopping spree, purchasing units, upgrades, and offensives, in order to meet or better yet preempt the German threat. Maynard had similar ideas, however, and before my shiny new Somuas could roll off the assembly line, German armies smashed through the Low Countries to the gates of Paris. Twice the Germans attacked the capital, but both times my valiant infantry saw off the invaders, with the aid of British armor and American airpower. That was the German high water mark, as an American counteroffensive into the Ruhr forced Maynard to retrace his steps and defend the Fatherland.
Next stop Tokyo
In the Pacific, powerful US carrier groups approached the home islands, but the IJN sailed to meet them. The mighty Yamato and Musashi turned away one invasion fleet despite daunting odds. I was beginning to wonder if Japan might pull this out but Scott grimly shook his head. I didn't quite appreciate the power of American production, and sure enough, the west coast shipyards easily replaced US losses and then some, while Japanese industry struggled to keep up with attrition. The writing was on the wall, but Japan's defenders covered themselves in glory before succumbing.
Into the Wolf's Lair
In Europe, Italy fiercely contested the Med, with a couple good fights in the Tyrrhenian Sea keeping the RN preoccupied and the French fleet engaged. However, Germany was fighting for her life. The Soviets stayed out of the fight, preferring to move east to pick at the carcass of Japan. Germany somehow avoided political collapse despite losing most of her territory, but she finally surrendered with the loss of her last army. This, plus the pending loss of Korea, sealed the Axis fate and the game.
I was impressed with the way the Axis bounced back this week. They had a good shot at knocking out France, which would've forced the US to divert resources to Europe, in turn allowing Japan a little breathing room. With the Allied victory in Paris, however, Western industrial might proved overwhelming. We made a few rookie errors as players - Germany needs to set the pace in Europe, and some rules and map misunderstandings hindered Japan's early moves. I think our western alliance strategy was perhaps too easy to implement (though we had great die rolls) so Scott and Bill may tweak that a bit. My biggest concern as a playtester was the PTO, which I had yet to see in action. I'm now satisfied the naval mechanics work and integrate well with the ground war and the activity in Europe. Great fun overall and closing in on its final form.
J. R. Tracy
We had a dozen gamers for some playtest topics past and present, as well as a drive across France.
Roberto was up from DC and joined Mitch for Space Cadets: Away Missions. They tried the intro scenario and were doing okay, struggling a bit but their chances looked good. However, I noticed they weren't scanning every turn (a scan reveals the contents of an unexplored tile) and therefore they were a little light on bad guys. They played it correctly the rest of the game but it definitely dialed up the challenge a couple notches. They still managed to squeak out a win.
Space Leech is leeching
Next up, they tried 1944: Race to the Rhine, with Roberto taking Bradley to Mitch's Patton. Mitch was concerned about his flanks so proceeded at an unPatton-like pace, while Roberto charged ahead. Unfortunately, the opposition piled up in front of both of them and they ended in a draw with three medals apiece. I really like this game and would love to break it out again with the full three players. Gotta love the deuce-and-a-half on the box cover!
Smitch, Campoverdi, and El Rios sat down to Churchill, with Smitch as FDR, Campo as Winston, and El Rios as Uncle Joe. The bickering began immediately and didn't let up until yesterday. The Western Allies didn't exactly break a sweat helping out the Soviets, figuring the Second Front could wait just a teeny bit longer while they attended other concerns, such as liberating the Philippines and choosing a logo for the 406th Engineer Battalion.
The mid-war stress proved too much for Churchill, who suffered a heart attack and was then bounced out of office in the 1945 general elections. Attlee pressed on with the war effort. All the dilly-dallying came home to roost when they discovered there wasn't enough time remaining to complete the atomic bomb, so an invasion of Japan was needed to force an unconditional surrender. In the end, they didn't manage to invade Germany, let alone Japan, thanks to their petty squabbles and meaningless side projects. The whole mess was settled with a negotiated peace, with Campo's Britain edging out the USSR for the 'win' (really 'first loser' after the triumphant Axis).
A long way from the Reichstag
Scott and Bill directed Jim, Mark, Dutch, Hawkeye, and myself in a playtest of the latest version of Cataclysm: A Second World War. Jim was Germany, Mark had Japan/Italy, Hawkeye was the USSR, Dutch was Britain, and I played France/USA. Dutch and I decided to focus our diplomatic efforts on cementing alliances, as the game rewards formal agreements with improved efficiency in joint operations. This sucked up a lot of resources at the expense of influencing non-player countries, but we eventually succeeded in piecing together a US-UK-France tripartite.
Lafayette, we are here!
Meanwhile, Italy was making all kinds of friends in central Europe, as was Germany. Hawkeye got the wheels of Soviet industry turning, and laid the tracks of the Trans-Siberian railroad, just in case the war in China got out of hand. He need not have worried, as random events pushed the Chinese civil war along at a brisk pace, with Mao getting by far the best of it. Japan's carrier program flourished, and Mark looked south for an opportunity to use his new toys.
Tojo demands success
Italy fired the first shots, seizing Austria by force. Germany muscled up and looked ready to overrun France, which was vulnerable thanks to repeated failure to rearm. Fortunately, the alliance with the US was signed in the nick of time, and GIs flowed to France to man the border regions. Out east, Mark's imperial ambitions could no longer be contained, and he reached for Borneo. In a stunning reversal, the locals saw off the aggressors and the US came to their aid. Japan had no choice but to directly confront the US, and global war was at hand.
Turned back in the Philippines
We wrapped the first half the game with furious action in the Pacific. Another Japanese invasion force was stymied, this time in the Philippines, with heavy casualties on both sides. The combined Allies responded with a strike at the Rykyus, and were repulsed in turn. As it stands, the Axis and the West are at war, while the Soviets remain on the sidelines, working their diplomatic magic behind the scenes. France struggles to rearm, while Italy and Germany are tooling up toward a true war footing. The US is also trying to convert to a wartime economy, while Japan hopes to expand her perimeter before the American behemoth fully awakens.
Softening up Okinawa
Great fun - the good guys have the upper hand at the moment thanks largely to sweet diplomacy rolls and well-timed chit-pulls, but it looks like our alliance focus is working. The gameplay is very smooth - Bill and Scott are taking notes, but the only issue so far is how to strike a proper peace/war motivation balance, particularly for the Western powers. Should players be rewarded for maintaining a peacetime economy, punished for tooling for war, or some combination of both? The current mode (reward-oriented) seems okay but may yet be tweaked. Next week, we'll see if the Allies can maintain the momentum.
J. R. Tracy
With a post-DonCon gang of thirteen we got in some newish GMT wargame titles and explored the dawn of electrification.
Hawkeye, Jonathan, Andy, and Dr. Rob tried Tesla vs Edison. As Thompson, Hawkeye planned to grab as many patents as possible, but Andy's Edison hit the ground running and scooped up patents ahead of the pack. Hawkeye instead opted to pick up his own stock on the cheap while advancing up the tech track as best he could. Dr. Rob experimented with a stock strategy from the start, trying to build a portfolio while prices were very low in the early going, but he handed Brush Electrical Engineering over to Bill who was just getting up to speed with the game. Jonathan's Tesla pursued the DC heresy, and dogged Edison all the way to the finish line. Hawkeye made things interesting by lighting some Level V towns in the endgame, but Andy/Edison's early lead held up for a win.
Sparks will fly
Scott, Mark, and Maynard tackled Triumph and Tragedy. Scott ran the Fascists, Maynard the West, and Mark the USSR. Mark kicked things off with an attack on German-allied Romania, while Maynard sent the Royal Navy into the Baltic to support some Scandinavian adventures.
Pre-game trash talk
When Scott turned west, he staggered France but did not knock her out right away. Britain was defended by half a ham sandwich and the Royal Navy was trapped east of the Skagerrak, but by the time the conquest of France was complete, the opportunity for Sealion was gone. Maynard scared up enough troops to defend the island even without naval support. They were unable to finish the game but with the Soviets ahead on points, Mark took the asterisked honors. The game looks fast and fun - definitely has some substance but it's built for speed.
We're from the Comintern and we're here to help
Smitch, Campoverdi, Natus, Jim, and I got biblical with Genesis: The Bronze Age, which ports the Pax Romana system back a few centuries. Players strive to expand their empires, pound on their neighbors, and raise monuments to their gods over the course of 50-year turns. Units are infantry, peasants, slaves, and chariots. Infantry do the hard work of conquest, while peasants handle the literal heavy lifting of wall-building and monument-raising. Slaves are gained through battle or city-taking, and are a handy source of labor with the bad habit of wandering off when unsupervised. Finally, chariots are the glamor boys, packing a punch in combat and lending a bonus if your chariot tech is higher than your opponent's.
Crashing the Cilician Gates
The economic system is simple - cities provide income and if you're feeling greedy you can shake down your non-native cities for a little extra at the cost of potential revolt. Money buys units and initiates actions for the most part. Activation is by chit draw - when your empire is drawn, you typically activate your ruler by rolling a die and adding his Campaign value, yielding his movement points for the turn. You also get a couple minor actions for moving individual units, doing some fortifying, or general tidying-up. Combat is the most involved bit of the game, with both sides rolling a single die which represents the percentage loss inflicted on the opponent. A Bergian host of modifiers (force ratio, leadership differential, chariot tech, etc) are netted out and applied by the favored side. The modifier may be added to the friendly die or subtracted from the enemy's as you see fit, depending on whether you want to reduce your losses or guarantee heavy enemy casualties. Thus are armies destroyed, cities taken, and reputations made.
The beginning of a beautiful friendship
Each empire has a pool of ten leaders; you draw a new one each turn (there might be an optional rule for an historical order of appearance). I drew a hot king on the first turn and set about bending my neighbors to my will. The Assyrians and Babylonians immediately went to war, while Pharaoh Campoverdi was hit with a Sea Peoples invasion before he could even cross the Sinai. Smitch's Mitanni, like my Hittites, enjoyed a little breathing room and quietly expanded.
On turn two I had a good economic base and continued to expand my army, though my placement wasn't very efficient (it took me a couple cycles to integrate my builds with my game plan). The Babylonians held Nate's Assyrians at bay while expanding westward, while the Egyptians finally got their house in order and headed up the coast. Smitch activated a minor kingdom to my west, but I just ignored it - any damage they did could be easily undone and I was busy consuming the sweet nougaty goodness of northern Syria. By turn three, I was finally bumping into the Mitanni, and grabbed some of their westernmost cities. Egypt was nibbling at Judea, while the Assyrian/Babylonian frontier ebbed and flowed between Sippat and Samarra. We called it at that point due to the hour - I had a nice lead but with two turns to go, fortunes could change dramatically.
Those things are terrifying, and the cleanup on them is a nightmare
It's been a couple years since I last tried an RHB design, and I was pleasantly surprised. I found Genesis smooth and intuitive for the most part, though we spent a lot of time chart-flipping on the first turn. My primary disappointment was the lack of distinction between the empires. I realize the historical record is sparse, but a little chrome here would go a long way. The unique leaders are a nice touch but I think the pools are roughly equivalent taken as a whole. As it stands the empires are defined primarily by geography. That geography matters from a competitive standpoint - I spent most of two turns snarfing up defenseless local real estate while Jim and Natus were on each other from the get-go. A lot of the thematic flavor flows from the cards, which provided a couple narrative highlights in our game but fell more heavily on the other players than on me. They don't drive the game but do shape the course of play from time to time. Overall, I enjoyed the game and would like to try it again; I think it was well received by the table, even Natus (you should read what he says about games he *doesn't* like!).
Nice little empire you've got here
Hawkeye wrapped up the evening by taking Jonathan on a spin through a couple decks of Up Front's Meeting of Patrols scenario, converting yet another soul into a fan of a great game.
"Don't worry about it - nobody understands infiltration"
Thu Aug 27, 2015 12:58 pm
J. R. Tracy
We had eight players this past Tuesday, including a couple generations of one family.
Smitch, Maynard, Mitch, and Campoverdi pulled out Chaos in the Old World, a group favorite. I think it was a first playing for a couple players, which I thought was a bad sign - experienced hand Smitch was running the Khornish game hens, who can often snag a dial victory on a sleeping/newbie table. However, pleasure-master Mitch was the real dial threat, with his seductive Slaanesh wiles. Scores were tightly packed and dials were running even, but the Blood God was harvesting a disturbing number of hapless citizenry.
Lords of Chaos
The game remained close going down the stretch; Campo managed to get his Tzeentch lord powered up and ready to roll but random events hampered his ability to deploy corruption in warpstone regions. Eagle-eyed counterplay kept anyone from a threat dial win, and the 50 VP mark looked out of reach, so it was going the distance. The overhanging issue was Smitch's pile of dead peasants - if the card allowing him to cash them in appeared before the last region was ruined, the game would go to Khorne. Sadly for Tzeentch, Nurgle, and Slaanesh, the card did indeed pop up, granting Smitch ten more VPs for a healthy margin of victory.
Behold the corrupting power of corruption
At the other end of the table, Dr. Rob, Dave, myself, and Maynard's dad Hal sat down for first edition Wallenstein. Hal is a gamer from way back, an old hand at the likes of PanzerBlitz and Afrika Korps, but he was game for something a little more new-fangled. We used the fixed setup, which found most of my troops in Bavaria with a sprinkling up on the Baltic coast. I think I misplayed the first turn, buying all three buildings, plus both reinforcements, *and* the Electric Slide. I thought I could build safely in my interior regions, and this proved sound, but the lack of funds would hurt me later.
Hal owned the east of the country, while Dave and Dr. Rob battled in the Rhinelands. We had a three-way fight for Saxony and Rob soon ran the north, but not before I pillaged Bremen and Osnabruck. These regions provided a handy ablative layer for Rob's construction projects. Between board position and resources, he was the obvious target, openly goading us to drop everything and attack yellow. I seemed to be the only one who got the memo, but Dave and Hal had viable shots at a win as well.
Carving up Germany
The loss of my grain region before harvest (damn you, Dave!) and a -7 food penalty devastated my holdings, as I lost two regions to rebellion in the second year. That left me out of the running. Dave and Hal consolidated their holdings, while Rob used deft single-cube spoiling attacks to keep threats off balance. In the end it was closer than I thought, with Rob winning with 47 to Dave and Hal at 45 and 44. I failed to crack 40, not a great showing. Still, a lot of fun. Looking forward to picking up the second edition at some point - I like the system tweaks in Shogun and want to try them here.
Too much yellow
Last up, Smitch joined Dave, Hawkeye and myself for Imperial Settlers. I said a couple weeks ago that it was unlikely to see the table again soon, but here we are! Anyway, I found it much more interesting this time as the various civ flavors came through much more strongly.
What have the Romans ever done for us?
I didn't run my Barbarians particularly well, tossing some sword-generators early when that's what I needed to get my engine cranked up. Also, I spent too much time hitting the common deck in search of resources, and failed to deploy some of the very interesting and powerful buildings in the Barbar's unique deck. Hawkeye (Romans) and Smitch (Egyptians) did a better job with theirs, with the latter regularly ringing up VPs and the former really on a roll with unique buildings. Dave's Japanese made a solid late run - he was harvesting tomatoes like crazy and turned a heap in for a big VP score at the very end. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to catch Hawkeye, who won pulling away.
Now that I've seen more civ buildings deployed, I've warmed to the game somewhat. Also, we're still underutilizing opportunities for interaction. I stole a stick from Hawkeye every turn and Hawkeye's engineers blew up a Sphinx, but that was about it. We need to develop that aspect of our gameplay before we can really make a call. Still feels a touch long, but overall, a more positive vibe than the first time out.
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