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We2areboard

When I am not putting notes on paper I like to play. Here are my scribblings.

Archive for Nick

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Saving the galaxy will have to wait

Nick
United Kingdom
Somerset/London
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It has been a slow week for gaming thus far, many boxes opened but nothing played as yet. However, we set aside some time today for our first competitive play of the mammoth Star Wars: Rebellion. I've managed to decipher the eighty-three rule books (I exaggerate for effect, but I'm serious about the deciphering bit) enough to write a crib sheet, and, having set up the game a number of times, read the cards and run through various turns and parts of the game, I was pretty happy that our first play wouldn't get bogged down in some kind of interpretational quagmire.

So, anticipating at least four hours of play, we decided to get it on (the table) at two and maybe break for food later in the day depending on how things went. KT is looking forward to a proper play of this, and has agreed to let me indulge my 39 year itch to become a Rebel attempting to scupper the devious plans of the Empire. Two o'clock came, and KT said "You set it up and I'll be back down in ten minutes", so I positively skipped upstairs, flexing my puny muscles to make sure I could pick up the box without damaging myself.

Barely sixty seconds later KT returned with a desolate look on her face - she'd received a text message from one of the people at her work who had to pull out of their shift at short notice and KT had to go in to cover. Internally I let out a Skywalkeresque "NOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooo...", but outwardly I emitted a "that's ok sweetie, we can play it another day".

Looks like saving the galaxy will have to wait a little.

Happy gaming!
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Thu May 26, 2016 7:02 pm
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Unboxing the new arrival - 13 Days

Nick
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It's always a good day when the postman brings a parcel for yours truly. Sometimes you would imagine, with all the packages and letters that arrive for KT, that I am merely a passing house guest, but, no, here's a new box and it has my name on it.

The newest arrival in the house is 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis, a game that promises to play a little like diet-Twilight Struggle. Twilight Struggle was, of course, for many years the number one rated game here on the Geek before being surpassed by Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 whose reign looks like being much shorter, what with Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization and Star Wars: Rebellion coming up fast on the rails.

Anyway, back to 13 Days. Opening the box makes a good impression. The board is of think card and the cards and tokens look to be of decent quality. I was also impressed that there is a little booklet about the crisis itself and the background to the various cards. If anything the box could have been even smaller than it is, the size of the folded board, but we would then have lost some of the evocative artwork on the outside. Even so, I like the idea of it being highly portable.

We'll probably not be able to play this for a few days, maybe 13 or so, and it will be interesting to see how it goes down with my other half, as I suspect she may not be as interested in the theme as I am, but it is one of those games that is already giving out positive vibes.

Happy gaming!
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Wed May 25, 2016 1:09 pm
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16th May 2016 - my week in gaming

Nick
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A good week of gaming with some meatier stuff going on and two new solo games...

Tuesday:

Seasons - 1 play

After last week's decision (we'll see how long that lasts!) to jettison our lesser enjoyed games and focus on the ones we find rewarding, I thought I would appeal to KT's tastes and propose this as the first game of the week. Of course, she leapt at the chance, and reaquainting ourselves with the game after our 10 plays last year has enabled us to slip back into the rules and find correspondences between different cards that we might otherwise have missed. This game was less confrontational than last week's, and a misunderstanding on my part about the Temporal Boots (they activate only when first placed) meant that the game went on for one turn longer than I had thought. Would it have been enough to secure me the victory? It's possible, but KT went on to win 181-154.


As above, so here in terms of getting our favourites back to the table. Quite why this had been away for over a year is beyond me, but I am sure the answer has something to do with too many not as impressive but newer games. It took us couple of rounds to get back into the swing of things, but then we were off and running, and by the final phase we were definitely back into the groove. Given the chance to play the game again I would make different choices, and hope to throw fewer doubles (useful elsewhere, but not so much here). Even after more than a year it was clear that the mechanisms and rules were sitting at the back of our brains, and we'll probably get the latest promos from the Geek store at some point. The lead was swapped throughout, but KT managed to stretch away just at the end to win 207-176.

Wednesday:

San Juan - 1 play

While KT was working on Wednesday evening I took the chance to get in my first play of GameRulesForOne's solo version of San Juan. Although it can be difficult to wrap my head around these rules, I find that I have enjoyed these versions a lot, mainly because they often feel like a reinvention of the game, and present a considerable challenge. I dipped my toe into the water with the earlier (and, supposedly, easier) set of rules, and must admit that I did not really know how I was meant to be scoring until I got to the end of the game and found that I had lost with 33 points (52 needed, I think, for a win). It was fun, though, and I think I'll run it again at some point now that I have a slightly better idea of what is going on.


By the time we got home after KT's work it was gone midnight, so, of course, we set up Castles Of Burgundy for another play! Difficult though it might be to believe, this was a really exciting game. KT stayed ahead for most of the game, but in the final phase I managed to finish a 6-space area for a large bonus and pull off some placement combos, which brought me back into contention. At the final scoring my animal bonus tile gained me 16 points to edge me the victory 188-187. It turns out that this is the second game in the last three to have a victory margin of a single point - great stuff!

Saturday:

As this arrived during the week and I was away for a few days I took it with me to try to get to grips with the rules and run it through a few times. As seems to happen so often with these games, it all seemed fine and dandy until I started playing it, and then had to go scurrying through the rules to find out what certain icons meant, the timing of various effects, and so on and so on.

At the end of it all, and with three defeats under my belt, I think I enjoyed it - it can be hard to tell with these Fantasy Flight things - and it brought back strong memories of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, although there are several aspects that are different, not least of which is that there is no deck construction involved from the player's point of view. Instead you simply choose your heroes and off you go with four actions. I tried the Delve Quest first (after the tutorial), got smacked upside the head by various rats and things, and then tried the first part of the Campaign, losing twice. I know I should probably go on to the next stage of it, win or lose, but I know I've been missing some rules niceties, specifically when locations are deemed explored (in the Location Phase, which is different from LOTR). I'm still on the fence as to whether this game is work or fun, but I feel that it's just a matter of becoming more deeply acquainted with it.

Sunday:

To while away Sunday evening I had another run at the first part of the Warhammer Campaign, this time using different heroes and with a better idea of what was going on. With this, the fourth play, I felt that the flow was much smoother and that I was making better decisions, although the third Peril activation did for me when Odious Grump became particularly Odious. I'll play this differently next time based on what I learned this time through, and I'm happy to take defeat on board if I feel I can make better decisions the next time.

Happy gaming!
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Sun May 22, 2016 11:13 pm
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Hammer down - my first impressions of Warhammer Quest

Nick
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Having taken the wrapping off Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game and played it for the the first time last night I thought I'd write a little about my initial thoughts. I have a love/hate relationship with these kinds of games from Fantasy Flight - I find them utterly brilliant in the way a few mechanisms can recreate worlds and themes so immersively, yet I can never get past the knowledge that I am probably missing some small timing issue that is making things (usually) much more difficult. Compared to The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game Warhammer Quest does away with the deck construction and simplifies choices, and also - at least for now, and in name - is not part of the LCG model, although I'd be very surprised not to see expansions for this in the future.

It also seems that FF are trying to do something with their rule books, giving Tutorial Games both for this and for Star Wars: Rebellion and then providing further rules after that, and a Rules Reference booklet to boot. I can understand why they have done this, as previous rules, such as those for Android: Netrunner can be forbidding. I think the reference booklets are a good idea, as they clear up ambiguities in what is usually a pretty clear way, but the Learn To Play books might be better off describing the full game and highlighting what could be omitted for an early, exploratory play.

The game itself, once I've got to grips with everything, looks as though it could be fun, though. I've played the Delve Quest and the first stage of the Campaign for a total thus far of three defeats, but I know that my heroes are not the best combination, and I also keep finding, as I did with LOTR, nooks and crannies in the rules that I didn't know about, but these come with experience - enemies you kill manage to get a last attack in if a claw has been rolled, locations do not change until the Location Phase (I seem to remember it happens immediately in LOTR), those kinds of things.

It's clear already that you need to keep on top of all the cards and tokens in the game, although it feels cleaner and leaner than LOTR, which is a good thing for me, although you may well feel differently. Having extra success tokens on your actions (via the Aid action) looks to be important, and I like that each Hero has an action that readies their other, exhausted actions, forcing you into a corner if you do not play that action regularly. I also like the feeling that I could beat this game without having to tinker endlessly with my deck and then hope to Mordor that some Giant Orc doesn't leap straight into the play area. Don't get me wrong, I adored the play and thematic strength of LOTR, but, for somebody with more years behind than ahead, I just wanted to play and stand a chance of winning without having to read a thousand internet articles with graphs and so on.

So, at the moment I'm still on the uphill climb, but I'm going to try to get a few more plays in very soon and keep them running, because this feels like it could be fun and even recreate the feel of what I knew as Legend, which I adored.

Happy gaming!
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Sun May 22, 2016 3:37 pm
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New arrivals

Nick
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I sat in the local hostelry the other night and tried out the SoloPlay rules for San Juan. I like the way that these reinvent the game so that it is not a case of playing against a dummy player, but a challenge to manipulate the new rules to your advantage, but using the basic mechanisms of the game itself. I had printed out the rules, but, in true gamer style, didn't read them until I needed to...which meant that I had assumed that the scoring was as in the normal version of the game.

Not so - it is, of course, really tricky to balance all the various requirements and get to the winning score of 52. On my first and effectively blind play I managed something like a 33, and I would certainly try it again. Whether it has the legs to remain as a purely solo game in a household that is done with it as a multiplayer affair we'll have to see, but I'll probably give it another couple of spins over the coming week to see how it runs.

We also ran a game of The Castles of Burgundy that evening, staying up way past even our tardy bedtimes to see out an ancounter that twisted and turned until the very end, my diverse pasture approach reaping me the win by a single point, 188-187.

We had a couple of new arrivals in the house yesteday as well - Thunder & Lightning and Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game. The former is a reboot (or some such "re-") of Hera and Zeus, and looks, upon first acquaintance, to be very interesting indeed. The cards are lavishily illustrated, and the text fairly clear, although there are one or two bumps on the road, and it seems as though the exceptions to the basic rules are fairly well signposted. I also was not sure why some cards have a srength of 0 and some cards simply omit it, though I now think that this is down to the Ravens.

Without having played it, it seems to have a really decent amount of depth for two packs of cards, but there are some intricacies and I wonder, once more, why player reference sheets are not included as standard in what is now a fairly mature hobby. I know that we could always pass the rule book around, thumb it intently and attempt to find what we need, or download a help sheet from BGG, but am I missing something here? After all, it cannot be purely down to cost - Thunder & Lightning includes two lovely marker tiles that are mentioned only in the contents and never thereafter...

Now, I have no idea what a Warhammer is, only that it is fiercely protected by certain large companies to the extent I'm not really sure I should have written the W word at all. I would have just walked right on by the game, but hang on, what's this? The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game type play but without that incessant deck building and tweaking only to find you have been killed by an Orc you cannot really beat unless you are either insanely lucky or have bought Story Pack 142 (and all the other cards before that)? I think it was all that deck tweaking that did it for me with LOTR, and I'd much rather shuffle up and go, which is something that WQ looks to have. Otherwise it all looks eerily familiar (you could say that it, ahem, "Rings" a bell), as you action, exhaust and ready your Heroes to defeat enemies and explore locations. I'm planning to play this over the weekend, as I'll be away and on my own, but it could just scratch a particularly itcy itch. The signs are good, as I never thought I'd be disappointed that a game lacked the (fiercely protected) "LCG" logo on the box.

Happy gaming!
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Fri May 20, 2016 1:39 pm
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Saving the rejects

Nick
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It's early days yet, but gaming chez Nick seems to be less stressful with fewer games on the shelf. Yesterday, for example, we blew the dust off The Castles of Burgundy and had the same feeling we had with Seasons, namely, why don't we play this more often? The answer is always the same - because the collection has games that we feel obliged to play simply because they are there, and my constant tinkering with system and rotation means that I often avoid the obvious question - What do we want to play?

What brought this to a head, as mentioned in a recent post, was San Juan. It appeared on the "To Play" list, we got it to the table, but neither of us could muster up the enthusiasm for it. Somewhere along the way our tastes have shifted away from it, although, with over thirty plays, it has clearly provided great value for us.

Tonight, though, I'll attach the electrodes to San Juan's temples, wait for a passing thunderstorm and see if I can resurrect it as...a solo game! There are some fascinating solo variants here on the Geek, and I really enjoy
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's rulesets, often because they simply reinvent the game as something wholly new and challenging. In fact, there are two games gone from my collection that I often think about reacquiring purely for the solo challenge, and I notice that SJ is there on the list.

And then the evil voice starts in my ear, and it tells me that I could really have not one but two collections, one purely for solo play and one for company, especially as I do not like to solo games I play with my other half, preferring that we enjoy the journey together. Two collections? Now that I could live with!

Happy gaming!
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Wed May 18, 2016 11:44 am
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Diminishing returns

Nick
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There are a couple of conflicting aims in my gaming life. I love the idea of exploring a game like Imperial Settlers in real depth, getting to know the interactions between the cards in the different decks, and playing against opponents with a similar level of knowledge. Given that I tend to play mainly against my partner KT that shouldn't be impossible to achieve, yet in the case of Imperial Settlers I have still only played the game four times since I acquired it a year and a half ago. It is one of those games I think about very often and should be on the table more, so something is clearly askew.

That askewness could well be ascribed to my rather understandable desire to play new games as well, which I think most members of this site would understand, and the sheer pleasure and joy that rulebooks, components and freshly punched card can offer. For various reasons there are more new games coming into our house than before, and the investment of time that they require in order to be given a fair shot at gaining a permanent place in the collection inevitably means that some old favourites might be gently nudged aside from time to time.

I have, therefore, decided to go for a fairly large cull, something that was prompted by our rejection of worthy old San Juan last week. A game we have played many times, but off the table for over a year, neither of us could muster up much enthusiasm for it when I brought it off the shelf. We are so into Race for the Galaxy, with nearly two hundred face to face plays, that San Juan is now probably never going to come back to the table unless we play it with somebody else, and that is something we rarely do.

We are, however, in the process of inducting our neighbours into the hobby (they have just bought their first game, Codenames), and it seems that it might well be worth passing on some of our lesser loved games to them. After all, we might all love to think that our games are accruing in value, but once a game is surpassed by a new edition, which has happened often in my collection, there is very little in terms of financial recuperation to me made, and I think the joy those passed on games might provide will outweigh the few pennies I might recoup, which themselves might be outdone by the hassle of sorting, packing and sending.

The stuff at the more complex end of the market, less suitable for beginners, and the games that still have value, such as my Rallyman and Rallyman: Dirt, will be traded or put against purchases of new niceness, however, although I suspect that those purchases might be very limited indeed in their focus - expansions for games we have tried, tested and love, for example (such as Seasons), or games that show genuine potential for hitting our gaming targets (such as Five Tribes). As I grow older and supposedly wiser I have managed to eke out a life where I have a little of some of that most precious of commodities - time - to spare. I really want to spend that playing great games that KT and I enjoy, and I know that unplayed games cause mental as well as physical clutter for me. I reckon I could clear out maybe 15 or so games, be very picky about what new games stay in the collection, expand its quantity gradually and its quality substantially, and make other gamers happy as well.

Maybe I am heading into another phase in this hobby. I have had the joy of discovery, the unbridled I-must-buy-every-game-in-the-world rush, and then the sharpened focus that gaming and knowledge offer. I feel that I now have a much better idea not just of what I might enjoy, but also of what games offer genuine long term value. San Juan is an example of how those targets can change over time, but it is hard to feel bad about passing a game that has garnered over thirty plays to somebody still in the fresh excitement of discovering the hobby. And, of course, we'll still be able to play it when we go round.

Happy gaming!
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Mon May 16, 2016 1:30 pm
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9th May 2016 - my week in gaming

Nick
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Another relatively quiet week - I was abroad early on and then KT was ill for a couple of days...and then I was away again. Still, we managed three plays and also got an old favourite back to the table.

Thursday:

Seasons - 2 plays

For some reason we were talking about Splendor on Wednesday - KT asked why we hadn't played it for a while, and I explained that we had traded it a while ago, but then it turned out that she was thinking of "something with cards in it that I really liked. It was about seasons or something." That would be Seasons, then. This had been a hit when we had first got into it, but had been sitting on the shelf for a while - too many new games, as usual - so we dug it out on Thursday and got it back to the table.

The first game was tough, rethinking all the correspondences and all the bits and pieces after eleven months away was tricky, but by the third year it was all beginning to come back together, and I had forgotten quite how smoothly it plays in two, although I can imagine it would be much less easy with more players. I cannot admit really to knowing what I was doing, but somehow I pulled away to win 175 to 163.

We set up immediately for a second game, and this was much more of a slugfest. KT had clearly gone for the plan of drafting the more aggressive cards in the deck, and she kept pushing me back whenever I started to gain crystals. It was interesting how different this game felt from the last one, and the scores were correspondingly much lower. She won 133 to 93.

Clearly there is something wrong with the way I rotate my game collection if this is away from the table for nearly a year when we find so much in it. Time for a rethink!


Race For The Galaxy - 1 play

We then dragged out San Juan for a play, as it had not been to the table for over a year, but somehow neither of us felt enthusiastic about it. We have played it over thirty times, but now we think that Race for the Galaxy has totally killed it. We discussed it and both agreed that it was unlikely it would ever come back to the table, but that it had served its purpose well. It is possible that we might even give it to our newly-converted neighbours, so that it will have the chance to provide pleasure elsewhere.

I managed to get a couple of Genes worlds up and running early in the game, and started ploughing on converting the goods at double VP rates, thanks to the Designer Ultd card, which meant I was gaining 6VPs for two Genes goods. KT managed to catch up a little, especially as I was finding myself short on cards, but all those chips paid off in the end and I won 41-33.

So, although it was not the greatest week in terms of quantity of plays, the quality was pretty good, and I'll happily take that. I think in the coming weeks I'll need to go through my collection in a pretty unemotional way and work out what gives us genuine joy and what does not, as gaming time is just too precious a thing to fritter away.

Happy gaming!
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Sun May 15, 2016 9:48 pm
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Got to play 'em all

Nick
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In another life I think that I might just have gone into something with numbers. I wanted to do mathematics to A-level but my school would could not provide for that with my other choices, so languages it was alongside the music I was always going to do. Music has the capacity to lock in with mathematics in a profound way of course - ratios, frequencies, form, proportion and so on - so in a way I get to fiddle with numbers in my everyday life, but I do also love tinkering with spreadsheets, and, being a fully paid up Geek, my games and their plays are subject to that.

I have those conflicting aims of (a) desiring a small and deeply played collecion and (b) loving the smell and feel and emotional impact of freshly punched cardboard and freshly digested rulebooks. To balance these seemingly opposing aims I subject my spreadsheeted games to formulas and sortings, the better to sort out what needs to be played. I tend to change my mind about those formulas and sortings on almost a daily basis, though, but at least they point me to games that should be played more - Agricola, for example.

Where formulas are always going to fall down, however, is where emotional impact is concerned. Agricola, despite being underplayed, is still one of my favourite games, while there are others that are distinctly overplayed despite not really having any visceral pull. As a result, I sometimes ask myself what is important when it comes to thoughts of culling - is it the emotional pull I have towards a game or simply the number of times it gets to the table, depth of emotion versus stark utility?

Do you have any desire to get all the games in your collection to the table? Are you happy to let some gather dust and then for them to surprise you when they leap off the shelf in your direction? Or do you have (whisper it) some system that you use? When it comes to culling do you keep the games you love or the games you play (if those are not the same) and why?

Happy gaming!
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Wed May 11, 2016 9:14 pm
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2nd May 2016 - my week in gaming

Nick
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Well, we didn't play anything the week before this, for the first time in quite a while. Even in busy times we have managed to build up enough momentum to get something to the table, but it just happen. This week was different, though, despite being very busy as well. We were in Paris from Monday to Wednesday for a concert, and then I was in Tuscany from Friday (another concert), but we got some games in.

Monday:

Hanabi - 2 plays

Hanabi is a pretty decent travel game, I have to admit, and I imagine it looks fairly intriguing to other people. We played a couple of games on the Eurostar journey from London to Paris, getting a score of 20 in our first game and a lowly 9 in our second. If you end up with high value cards in hand towards the start of the game then things can tend to get clogged up, and that's what happened to us.

Wednesday:

Hanabi - 2 plays

On the way back to London we played another couple of games in a cafe in the Eurostar terminal. We managed 17 in our first game, but the second was very nearly a perfect storm and we excitedly ran out to 24 out of 25. The green 5 came out of the deck just too late for us to get the perfect score, which remains tantalisingly out of reach.


Machiavelli - 2 plays

On the train back we played this Italian rummy variant, one of KT's favourites, as the tension of Hanabi was becoming just a little too much. The first game was over fairly quickly as KT managed to pick up a 6,7,8 of clubs to close out, but the second ran on for much longer and I was eventually able to manipulate the cards on the table to secure an unlikely win.

That was it for the week, but more normal service will hopefully be resumed as we move onwards into May.

Happy gaming!
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Mon May 9, 2016 6:51 am
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