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

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1st February 2016 - my week in games

Nick
United Kingdom
Somerset/London
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On Tuesday we played Imperial Settlers, which we had played last month and I wanted to play again. The previous game had left me just a touch nonplussed, but I had been unable to get it out of my head, and was determined to play again in fairly short order. Returning to it I found it much more involving once I could see just a little how the wheels were turning, and I really enjoyed it, even if I felt just a touch overwhelmed by the choices at hand. On occasion, though, I felt I played a round just right, using my resources as best I could and ensuring that my economy was running smoothly. In a strange kind of way this reminds me of Agricola. I know that they are entirely different games, but the lining up of various resources in order to try to eke out some more and the use of cards just brought it to mind for me, also that feeling of always being just one or two resources short.

Obviously this is something that will shine even more once we are fully conversant with the card decks and the various buildings, and the only thing really standing against it is the raft of other games we would like to play, and the time it takes to get through. I would place it in the category of games that make me wish I had a smaller collection, which means it is a keeper and one I want to play more. As it is, we have yet to touch the Japanese, but have played out with Romans, Barbarians and Egyptians, so lots of play still in the base box. With the art and design I think that we thought this was a fairly light play, but it seems to be much more than that. As usual I lost.

There was no more gaming until Friday, when we managed the following:



Revolver had been away from the table for over two years, so it was on the verge of trading, especially with a UK Maths Trade this month, but I really wanted to get it back to the table. Somehow there was a nagging feeling that it needed to be played again, as it was hard to shake the fact that we had once played it eight times in a row. In short, I am glad that we gave this another chance, especially as I have two unopened expansion packs in the tin as well.

It plays cleanly and quickly, and, unlike LCGs, for example, you simply shuffle and go, and there is a limited number of cards to get to grips with. Exceptions to the rule tend to be few and far between, as long as you remember certain basics, so it is not one of those head-scratchingly frustrating games where every card rewrites the rules in some way, while gaining Alert, Dispose and Something Else until some phase or other. Here you play the cards, add them up and see if a member of the Colty Gang goes down. Good stuff.

My rating for this used to be a 7, but I have a higher opinion of it now than I did. Firstly, the rules are clean enough that KT will play it, which is always good, but it has enough meat on the bones to reward repeated play. A couple of similar games have come and gone in our collection, and I think this pretty much hits the sweet spot of theme, complexity and gameplay, and it helps that it used to be based on Aliens, which makes me well disposed towards it. So, back from oblivion it comes, and I think I might put it into heavy rotation for a bit, see how it goes. Certainly, KT did express the desire to toss in the expansions at one point... We played two games, swapping sides, and I lost both times. In fact Katie's Colty Gang nearly had enough time for a coffee and a pastry before they needed to board the train.



Patchwork was our quick non-confrontational game of choice during the week, a slot I think it fulfils pretty well, even if it stops well short of eliciting any really strong emotions in me. It has been a few weeks since we have played this, and, like some other games in our collection, it fills a slot without ever making me particularly excited when it hits the table. Pick and place the patches and get your economy up and running...and suddenly it's over, a great game, I think, to entice newer gamers into something a little more meaty. We played it three times, including my two first wins at the game, and I seem to be in the habit of having scores in the positive now, which is handy.

I have a sneaking feeling that this will stay in the collection for a while, as it is likely to hit the table when we are not really in the mood for something too deep and prolonged, even if my feeling at the moment is that 7 Wonders: Duel is likely to knock all comers away as it works itself into that position.

After these games we needed to head next door with a bundle of boxes...


Pandemic was the first game we played with our neighbours on Friday evening, as we tried to convert them to the joys of gaming. They had been pretty open to the idea anyway, and had insisted that we brought some games with us, but this was still one of those delicately balanced occasions where things could have gone wrong. As it happens, one of our hosts manufactures medical equipment while the other was ill, so Pandemic was a perfect choice. It is a little deeper than I might have gone for a first game, but KT was optimistic about the outcome.

We played with four roles on Introductory level, and all went pretty swimmingly as we managed to cure all four diseases without too much trouble. Diplomatically I withheld the information about the difficulty until after we had finished, but, as I am sure many others have experienced, this was an eye-opening experience for the new gamers, and I was keen to tell them about the jollities that the expansions bring - Bioterrorists and the like. In short, a success, and Mark (one of our hosts) was really impressed that the difficulty could be adjusted, rules tinkered with, variants adopted...we might even have a Geek in the making!



Hanabi was another of the games we took to our neighbours in order to indoctrinate them in the ways of the gamer. After we had cured the world of disease we decided to put on a firework display, which was our first time playing with four players, and it was a hoot. Our first game was clearly a learning encounter, and we struggled, to be honest, to get to 11 points. Our second, however, saw everything fall into place in fairly quick order, to the extent that we outscored our previous best and managed an impressive 22 points. Both of our hosts said that they loved the game and were keen to play it more, but it was already midnight, so we are planning a proper games day at some point when we can indulge ourselves more properly.

Happy gaming!
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Sun Feb 7, 2016 10:16 pm
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Converting the unconverted...

Nick
United Kingdom
Somerset/London
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I have just returned from a wonderful evening with my neighbours at number seven. We have played some games with our neighbours at number five before, and I even bought some new things to play with them, but we had to cancel our meeting with them last week, so tonight was our first attempt at gaming with the folks at seven.

We already knew that they were open to the idea of gaming because we, enthusiastic (as always) about the hobby, have mentioned it to them before, and when they came over on New Year's Eve they were genuinely interested in our copies of Patchwork and 7 Wonders: Duel, newly denuded of their Christmas wrapping paper. Tonight's meet up was for food, but also for gaming, and I checked the gaming bit many times just to make sure that I would not turn up clutching various boxes and being laughed at, a little like the only person in fancy dress.

We took three games with us, heavier fodder than we might otherwise have done, but these are intellectually weighty folk, and we also bore in mind that, in our experience, cooperative games are a great way to lure people down the rabbit hole. So we began with the progenitor to BGG's number one game, the original Pandemic. It took a couple of goes for our friends to get a grasp of the mechanisms, but after that everything ticked along nicely, and we managed to win on Introductory level without too much difficulty. As usual, this was a real eye-opener for our hosts, who have never encountered modern games or coops before, and they were particularly impressed that the difficulty level could be adjusted.

After Pandemic we moved to Hanabi, which I bought last month with the express intention of playing with new people. Our first game was pretty tough, and we only managed 11 points, but both our hosts really loved it and demanded to play it again. Second time through we all clicked somehow and ran to our greatest score yet, an impressive 22. I must admit that this came as something of a surprise, but there it is.

Our hosts were very keen to play again, but it was close to midnight and we needed to leave. Upon reflection I think that we may have converted some admittedly willing people to the cause. Many is the time tonight that I have said "There's plenty more where that came from", and we are already planning our next game extravaganza. We moved out of London at the end of 2014 and now find ourselves in a part of the country where our neighbours on either side are happy to play games and be a part of this hobby. These are indeed good times.

Happy gaming!
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Sat Feb 6, 2016 1:08 am
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January 2016 - My month in gaming

Nick
United Kingdom
Somerset/London
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Thoughts


In terms of the number of plays, January was my most gamey month ever, helped largely, I think, but the acquisition of some decent and fast-playing choices. In terms of quality as well I think that it was a good month, and, against our normal pattern, we managed to play no fewer than six new games. I know that playing new games is like breathing air for some, but KT can tend to get new-rules fatigue if I am not thoughtful about how many new lists of exceptions I put in front of her at once.

Regular readers of this blog might remember that I upped sticks to the countryside at the end of 2014, in search of a slightly quieter and less confrontational life. This, I am glad to say, we have found, and, better still, have managed to lure some of our new friends into gaming. One family now has Forbidden Island and Labyrinth in its collection, and another couple visited our house mid-month to be inducted. Starting with four-player Carcassonne might not have been the best idea, but Forbidden Island was much more successful, at which I point I realised that our collection, based strongly towards 2-player encounters, might be a little light on games non-gamers might enjoy, hence the scuttling off to a FLGS and the gleeful purchase of some new games to fill this terrible and gaping chasm. Needs must.

The hits of the month were Codenames and Hanabi, both notching up over 10 plays in their first month in the collection, enough, I think, to make them secure from any prospective culling for a while yet, while I think it is safe to say that The Rivals for Catan qualifies as the most pleasant surprise. But enough chit-chat, read on...

What did we play?



Continuing to enjoy this game a lot, and think it is by far my favourite of our recent acquisitions. I have only won a single match so far, and was destroyed by KT's military might (thanks to her use of Strategy) on one occasion this month, the first time it has not been a points victory. I am looking forward to many more plays of this, and I think it will stay in heavy rotation for now, with several more plays in prospect before it starts to go stale. This has totally killed off the big box version for us, which we will be getting shot of unless we can get some neighbours up the required level, and the rumours of an expansion are good news.


A play to introduce two of our neighbours to gaming. James enjoyed it (and won) but Beth found it a little stressful, we think, hence the move to Forbidden Island shortly thereafter. This was the first time I had played with four, and I found it an interesting experience - where the two player game is all about denial, in the four player game you are trying to help other players as little as possible, a fascinating change of dynamic. We played it with just the base set, and I distinguished myself by coming last, behind KT and two complete newbies. Clearly a luckfest, or, as KT would say, "stupid game for stupid people"! We play so much in two that I really enjoy finding out how games change with more players and how they react to it, although in this case we might just keep playing it head to head.

Codenames - New to us

Well, this one certainly came out of nowhere, especially as I really wasn't expecting it to be a hit just with KT and me. I had bought it as something to play on prospective game evenings with our neighbours, and we only ran the two-player version to get used to the rules, but the cooperative nature of this version really struck a chord with us, although I think that KT enjoys it a little more than I do. We have managed a couple of scores of 4 before, and would be hard pushed to go further, I think, but a 5 might be possible. Intrigued to see how this plays out when we eventually get to run it competitively. The ease of setup and playing out a second round straight away means this will probably rack up many more appearances in the coming year.


Having failed for us as a two-player game, I ran a solo bout of this one evening, which was kind of fun, but probably not enough for me to keep it, so onto the trade pile it goes. I suspect that this game could be quite fun when you know it in more depth, but I have enough stuff to play and explore. In any case, we own and enjoy Sirlin's Puzzle Strike (Third Edition) very much indeed, a game that is a hit with my other half, so I shall have to be happy with that.


We played two games of this with our neighbours, introducing them gently (we thought) to the delights of cooperative gaming, but we failed in our rescue mission both times, the game feeling substantially trickier with four than it is with two. We drowned in fairly short order in the first game, at Normal level, so we then took it down to Novice and were left besoaked once more as the tiles disappeared before we had even come close to completing our objective. Our neighbours really enjoyed it, though, and this remains a game easy to play with non-BGGers. Are we really terrible at this game or does it get more tricky with more players? I soloed it myself towards the end of the month in one of the variant setups and was no more successful.

Hanabi - New to us

This was another new one for us, and one I really enjoy. There's an awful lot of game in a small package, and it comes replete with that just-one-more-try feeling, although the playing of it is sometimes frustrating, sometimes fun, depending really on how stressed you might be feeling. A really clever design, and again one that we are looking forward to playing with a larger group. This could well become my pocket game of choice, playable with two to four, veterans or beginners, and with the expansion and variants in the tiny box as well this could well have a lot of mileage. This is one of those designs that is so, so simple, yet thoroughly engaging in its execution, a real gem.


This one had been away from the table for over a year. We had only played it twice all that time ago, so it has been seriously underloved. Thankfully it did not take too long to get back into, although I suspect that it might take some more plays to become fully conversant with the factions. KT was the Romans and I was the Barbarians, and I went down to a moderate defeat, having been neck and neck until close to the end when I just could not keep up. To be honest, I was not that impressed with the game at the time, but later I couldn't get it out of my head. How was I going to get those resources? Should I have been making deals from the start? But with what? And did I expand too early? All of that questioning is usually a good sign for a game, and now I really want to play it again, and possibly again after that. I think this is the kind of game that demands investment really to shine, and we will need to see if we have the energy and desire to do that.


This came off the shelf for the first time in nearly two years, and we added in the extra cards (but not the jobs) from Last Will: Getting Sacked. Strangely, I enjoyed this very much indeed but now find myself pretty much unable now to muster up any real emotion about the game. Maybe the enjoying for this one is in the playing rather than the remembering, but does that make it surplus to requirements in my collection? I have several similar build-it-up games (of course, this tears-it-down, but it is essentially the same thing, just in a mirror) and would probably not miss this much were it to disappear, but I simply cannot bring myself to get shot of it quite yet. The artwork is part of its charm, of course, especially if you can buy into the notion of hiring a chef to cook you a dinner before you take your horse to the theatre.


I played two solo games of the first film, with two random characters each time, losing the first but winning the second despite losing the Priest early on. My Medic, however, had things sorted, and I felt that this was a very strong character indeed. I still haven't ventured onto the next film, as I really want to experience all that this has to offer, and I'm continuing to enjoy it, even if I'm not as totally besotted with it as I was when it first arrived. There is still something about two-handing a cooperative that feels a little awkward to me, and I would always rather have that communal experience, so I am cagey about attacking the next missions without KT by my side to share it with me.


A year since this one has been played, and we knocked out four games of it in a single evening. I do wonder, though, if it is just too light for us these days and whether it has really been replaced by other head-to-head card games in our collection. It is a game that has seen multiple plays since we first bought it in our early gaming days, but maybe our tastes have moved away from this to something grittier. Like Jaipur there is more to be found in this under the surface, and I think this would have a more secure future if KT were not into her gaming quite as much as she is (lucky me!), meaning that we both find this a touch too wafty. Certainly, the idea of Musée, which has been touted as a possible replacement, appeals.

Love Letter - New to us

Another game we are intending to play with our neighbours, and which we tried out with just the two of us. If we were to play it that way constantly then I doubt we would keep it, but I can see how this would shine with four, especially with the Batman variant, whereby a correct guess with the Guard (in this version) nets you an extra token. I was 6-4 down in our first match, but came back to win 7-6, and then had a stunning run in match number 2 to go 7-0. This is, I think, the first game in our collection which we will only ever play with other people, and we'll trade it on if it is not a hit.


Two more games of this recent arrival, which I am enjoying, though without going totally head over heels in my admiration. It's a neat, tight and tough little play, and good for a quick head to head encounter of moderate depth, I think, but I'm just a couple of steps short of really enjoying it - 7 Wonders: Duel is beating it hands down in the enjoyment department, I have to say. Does this have the legs to go all the way in our collection, or is it a case of "close but no cigar"? As so often it will depends very much on what KT thinks, but, while she likes it, she hasn't been massively enthusiastic about it. Strangely, I woke up in the middle of the night mid-month realising what this reminded me of - Arkadia was a game we owned once and traded on, and has a similar build-a-Tetris feel, and I remember it being easy to teach and play and looking great on the table. Thinking about it and Patchwork made me want to play Arkadia again, but not Uwe's offering, so if I want to play a game I traded more than a game I own, what does that mean..?


We finished off our mini-tournament with the deciding round of this, which I won 190-149. Given that we bought this in a charity shop for £2.99 and have so far got 18 plays out of it I think you could say that we have got value for money, and this has become our fall-back abstract, which has pretty much fired Scrabble in our house. We also think that this might well be the next game to introduce to our family of gamers (see above). A good little game, and I wonder if this is going to sit happily alongside Ingenious, fire it or even be fired by it when we get to Knizia's colour matching game.


Another month, another appearance for this masterpiece. On it goes with more and more ways to build up your tableau, constantly new and constantly reinventing itself. A work of genius which we always play with the Alien Artifacts cards but never The Orb. This is KT's favourite game, and I always make sure I get it to the table when she's a little bit tired of playing my latest shiny game, and I think she would dearly love the day we convince our neighbours to look past the icons and play it with us.

Red7 - New to us

Bought as a prospective cafe game for the two of us, this is an intriguing prospect. In its basic form we found it pretty meh, but found it that much more interesting in the full version, played with icons over several rounds. While I think I would like to explore this more, I have a nagging feeling that the purchase of Hanabi on the same day has pretty much stifled its chances, and it also feels a deeper game than it is wide, if that makes any sense at all. I find it quite beguiling, but KT is less keen, even though she has said that she would be happy to play it. If I wanted a collection of 100 games or so I would probably keep it, but in a crowded selection, it probably needs to move on, especially as we have other card games where you are allowed to interact with your opponent's tableau - Guildhall springs to mind, but this certainly has portability on its side.


This was a surprising success, although I had quietly thought that it might go down well. We started with three plays of the Basic Game, getting used to the mechanics and the various rules, and it was well received both by me and by KT. We then moved on to play an Era Of Gold game, which was, as expected, longer and more involved, although we did not expect it to be quite so tough going. Once you get attacked by a Pirate Ship, of course, you then realise that there are ways to mitigate this through paying resources to look through the draw piles, but it is tricky to get your head around all the possible choices the first time through - in other words, I consider this game deep and wide, which bodes well. There's certainly a lot going on in this game, and it is a heavier play than might appear from the small box, and a large table is advisable as well. In fact, this could well become our heavy card game of choice, I suspect, although I do wish there was a more satisfactory way of laying things out. Good prospects for this, as long as we do not overplay it too soon.

What next?


I have decided to try to get some of my underplayed games back to the table. Like many other Geeks, I am sure, I keep a spreadsheet with info about my games, but I've been helped also by the Friendless Stats site, which is a real time sink for those of us who like charts and numbers and then being able to reorganise those charts and numbers. Anyway, I have a rudimentary way of working out which of my games are underplayed (I don't believe there is such a thing as overplayed!), and have decided on a rolling 1x10 type thing. 10x10 challenges always feel a little like imposed work to me (I must play that game), but I still like the idea of using something similar to explore a game in depth. What I have decided to do is to take my most unplayed game at the start of each month and to attempt to play it 10 times over the next year. In all honesty, that is either going to happen or we are going to decide that it no longer has a place in our collection. January's game was Imperial Settlers, while this month's will be Targi, with only two plays and both of those nearly a year ago. This needs much more love.

A secondary ambition is to get my collection back down to 52 by the end of the year (currently at 70), and I think that is achievable, especially as there are 9 that can go pretty much immediately (and some creative accounting in working out the total!), and this focus on underplayed games will help us work out whether they deserve to stay on our shelves or whether they are not to our tastes. I acquired 9 games in January and played 4 of them, and am allowing myself only 3 more over the course of the year, and that includes trades and presents. Much of it will depend on how things go with our neighbours - the saver in me says that there is more than enough in my collection to keep them happy for a long while yet, while the spender says "Ooh, Sheriff of Nottingham", so we shall see how we go.

I'm really looking forward to what February has to offer, but have to admit I'd be satisfied even to come close to this month's quality and quantity of play.

Happy gaming!
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Sun Jan 31, 2016 10:52 pm
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2016 - The year ahead

Nick
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There's no 10x10 for me, or any other equation. I just want to get more gaming done and limit the size of my collection, while augmenting its quality. In 2015 we played pretty much the usual number of games, but the coming year is shaping up to be something different, as we are gradually drawing new people into the gaming net, meaning that the focus of my collection, primarily light to medium weight strategic two-player stuff, will possibly shift to incorporate more inclusive games that anybody can pick up, even people who would rather dip in a toe to gaming, rather than dive right in, although why they would choose not to dive in is beyond me.

I learned a few things in 2015, some of them contradictory. Firstly, buying games makes me happy, but owning too many games makes me fret. I only bought two games last year, but traded for many more, ending up with a collection more or less the same size as at the beginning of the year, better quality, though. If the collection is so large, though, that Agricola hasn't been played for over a year, though, then that is not a good sign, and things do not look good for several of the games that have not hit the table since 2013/4. Agricola and Alhambra apart, I'm not experiencing a massive desperate urge to play them, but we'll just wait and see how good the new stuff is before the old stuff gets booted.

Also, while I love exploring new games, especially ones that are innovative rather than developmental, I also adore exploring games with depth, Race For The Galaxy being a case in point, now so worn that we might well be needing to buy a second copy at some point fairly soon. Again, there needs to be some kind of balance here. In terms of games my partner also enjoys large doses of the familiar, with the occasional moment of novelty, and anything that feels like hard work, or at least where the hard work does not lead to an outcome worthy of that work, gets cast aside pretty quickly. Dungeon Lords is the game that springs to mind when I think of that.

I left 2015 by putting some games onto the trade pile, therefore ending up with what I think is a kind of ideal-sized collection (for me) of 52 games, one for each week of the year, and that includes the likes of Backgammon, an Italian version of Rummy, and three separate deduction games with a limited number of cases. It also, however, includes several unplayed games, some for over a year, and while I just cannot let them go, there must be a reason why they have not got to the table. I convince myself that reason was that I played other new games instead, which have since left the collection. Thus, this year the intention is to get everything to the table, even if not everything promises to be a keeper, for we have been surprised in the past.

For 2016 I've given myself a little leeway, as we are enjoying our gaming at the moment, so why impose strict targets and turn it into work? Ideally, at the end of each month, it would be good to have played 10 games 10 times over the previous year, but it doesn't really matter which. Normally we have seven or eight dimes, so adopting this kind of loose approach will at least help me sort out the oft vexed problem of what to play next. Also, rather than saying "no new games in 2016", I have limited myself to 12 which seems about right for somebody who plays, on average, a game a day, and whose other half likes playing new games, but detests having too many of them in a row. Crucially, though, those 12 new games are to include trades and presents, and the overall size of my collection should be back down to 52ish by the end of the year - I have told my other half to hold me to this.

At this point, I should say that I have already bought 9 games this month (look at me go!), 5 through a frivolous spend of Christmas money, a further 4 as a result of having our neighbours round for their first gaming session last week and now having a much better idea of what they might enjoy playing. While my collection is, I think, strong in terms of what suits my partner and me, it only became clear last week that we are short on fun, lightish stuff for four, unless I blow the dust off Jenga, of course. Perhaps significantly, four of those nine new games have been played within three days of buying them (for a total of 20 plays!), and they are all the ones I bought as light, fun stuff. The other, heftier five still sit in their delivery box...but looking at their components makes me very happy indeed!

So onwards into 2016. I guess that the moral is to enjoy and explore what I have, spend less and game more. Can be done, I think.

Happy gaming!
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Thu Jan 14, 2016 12:19 am
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December 2015 - My month in gaming

Nick
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What did we play?



I played this little solitaire game five times over the course of the month. It's a pleasant little diversion, but not more than that, so I have decided to purge it from the collection as I try to get it down to a decent size in time for 2016.


This returned to the table after more than a year away. We played a couple of sessions of best-of-three to take our total to four over the course of the month. I enjoy playing this. It's a light abstract, easy to teach but with enough going to keep serious gamers interested while those less deep into the mire of the hobby can still both understand and enjoy it. As it happens, it also turns out to be a game my other half can play while she is drying her hair, so that's another (albeit unexpected) opportunity for gaming uncovered. It also leads me to think that the abstracts in my collection might be well suited for such situations.


Talking of abstracts, Hive made it back to the table for the first time in 2015, which, in my opinion, means it has spent too much time on the sidelines. This was a Christmas gift from my other half at the end of my first year in the hobby, and I have enjoyed playing it from the very start, so much so that the time has come to consider investing in Hive Pocket, possibly as something to play in cafes and the like.


This came into and departed from our collection in fairly short order, as we had bought it as a present for a friend's daughter's birthday, and wanted to give it a try to assess its suitability. I lost all three games, during which we tried one of the variants as well, but we still enjoyed it very much, just not enough to buy a second copy for our own enjoyment. Friend's daughter was delighted with this. Her previous board gaming experience had been with Forbidden Island, and she wanted something she could win against the other players. The day after her birthday we were sent a photo of the daughter, her brother and her best friend all sprawled on the floor, thoroughly engrossed in a game of this.


After several months of strong presence on the table, this faded slightly during December, receiving only three plays, but it remains close at hand. As usual, our games of this threw out yet more new combinations of cards and new ways to strike out for victory. Great stuff.


This was a present for me under the Christmas tree, and is a great reimplementation of 7 Wonders for two players. We had played and enjoyed its bigger brother many times in two, but always found it slightly fiddly and a bit too tangled for its own good. Duel really fixes those concerns, and, although we can't deny that it loses some aspects of the big box game, comes out with a fully fledged 7 Wonders experience with sufficient tightness and tautness to provide a compelling play. We have found that the first age tends to fly by, but the game gets heavier as you move through it and attempt to garner points, all the while keeping an eye out in case your opponent is going for a military or scientific victory. Many more plays of this to come, I am sure.


Also under the tree was this, and it was similarly enjoyed by us. Easy to teach and easy to play, but with enough choices to make things interesting, this is a great little design, although I have obviously yet to get my head around it, and have spent the month clocking up scores below zero while my other half racks up the wins. I wonder how long this will remain in heavy rotation for us, as maybe it is just a little too much on the light side for our tastes, if good enough for now.


Nearly two years away from the table for this one, and a whiff of nostalgia getting it out once more. It is ok, I suppose, and a decent play, but neither of us has really got to grips with cracking the mysteries. Here we both hazarded a guess and were left baffled when the correct perpetrator was revealed. We probably worried too much about beating each other and not enough on solving the mystery. Maybe next time.

Final thoughts

We also tried Flash Duel: Second Edition and Yomi this month, if only briefly. The first gave us a feeling of "meh", while the second, even though our first game was stilted and anything but fun, had enough to it to make us want to give it another try. I have duly reread the rules and played an encounter online, so we'll see if it grabs my SO's attention, but, if not, out it goes, and Puzzle Strike (Third Edition) will be the sole survivor of what I call the smackdown trilogy. Yomi had enough going on to pique our interest, especially in the whole area of gaining cards and how needing to do that impacts upon your choices and, therefore, your opponent's likely action, and I really want it to succeed, especially as it looks like a fantastic cafe game. If not this, then what? Red7 maybe?

7 Wonders: Duel and Patchwork seem already to have proved that they have the legs to go a long way in the collection, especially the former. Both have that lovely quality of sending you away thinking about what you did last time, how it could be improved, and making you actively look forward to the next play. The former could, I think, even make it into our top ten in due course. The other new arrival in the month was The Rivals for Catan, still unplayed, but I think this will have to really go some to replace Catan (and its various expansions) in our collection, even if it might just carve out its own niche.

Happy gaming!
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Thu Jan 7, 2016 10:57 pm
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November 2015 - my month in gaming

Nick
United Kingdom
Somerset/London
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What did we play?



After a couple of vanilla games in October we played our preferred deluxe version, with Carcassonne: The River, Carcassonne: Expansion 1 – Inns & Cathedrals and Carcassonne: Expansion 2 – Traders & Builders, and it was a real humdinger of a game, our meeples trading positions on the scoreboard throughout. For once I felt that my farmer placement was pretty decent, and I also remembered to place my pig, something I don't always remember to do. At the end of it there was very little in it, and a decent tile would have allowed me to score a couple more farms and draw close to the victory, but it was not to be, and lost 231-220.


I think it would be fair to say that this is now my other half's favourite game, and she would be very happy to explore it most of the time (as would I, I admit, but there are other games in the collection...), so it seems only fair to get it to the table when requested and make good on my gaming luck. We played it out eleven times over the course of the month, usually in best-of-three bunches, and it has become, above all other games, our "let's play something, anything" game. Occasionally I'd like to dig into something else instead, but having a partner who adores Race is surely a gift to be appreciated, no?

Anyway, as expected, the game just continues to get better and better, and I love finding new routes I might not have explored before. This month I've been exploring the diverse economy route, as well as making some use of some of the other oft-ignored cards in new ways. Often I feel that my engine is just beginning to thrum when the game is over, but at least I feel that I am still discovering even more ways to get the tableau together in this amazing game. We play with Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts, by the way, and I wonder if one day we'll actually get round to The Orb.


Off the table for over two and a half years, it took us the first couple of epochs to get to grips with the various choices available on each turn, but then we were off and running. I really like this game, despite the complaints about randomness. Frankly I just don't see it - sure there are "lucky dip" options, but there's enough open information to be able to plot your route with a moderate amount of security. There are, I think, flaws at higher player counts, but it can be decently vicious with two when both players are conversant with the game, and it certainly shines for us, more than its brother Stone Age. So, another game which, like Dungeon Petz last month, we have both agreed needs to be played more often. Oh, and I lost.


Seeing as my love affair with The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game has cooled a little of late, my thoughts turned to this game again, having not played it for over a year. I like deckbuilders as opposed to deck construction, have had a lengthy love affair with the whole Alien thing, so can't really understand quite why this has stayed on the shelf for so long. Admittedly, it took a while to get the correct cards into the correct decks, and the mechanics took a few goes to remember, but then I was off, two-handing my way around the Nostromo.

In my first game I played quite poorly - really I should have played to my characters' strengths rather than diluting their abilities, so things did not go well. I failed to disarm the Self Destruct or shut off the Ventilation Shaft, and, to make matters worse, I accidentally killed Jonesy, which made me feel pretty bad. Having said that, I enjoyed this, despite the walls-closing-in feeling I have had so often with LOTR. Of course, with only four films it has limited longevity, but it is doing the job for me at the moment.

The second game was a real struggle, but I played much better, trimming my deck more effectively and playing to the strengths of my characters. The first two objectives were overcome fairly easily, but the third was a fight - The Perfect Organism ended up in the Combat Zone a couple of times, but it only managed to get in its strikes once, as I was able to prod it back into another part of the ship. Eventually I managed to get it to the Airlock and had enough firepower to get rid of it. Better still, I saved Jonesy. Good fun.


In an attempt to find some interesting but relatively light solos to play, I dug this out from the pile of long-unplayed games and ran it through a couple of times. It was quite a pleasant diversion, although my times were some way off those quoted by some folks, over an hour for my first game and a good 52 minutes for my second. I think I enjoy the experience too much, only looking at the clock when I am done rather than trying to save every second. Managed to get "zoological" in there as well. It was fun, not necessarily the first game I would turn to, but ok, even if I think I prefer the genuinely inventive Football Manager version.


Dungeon Petz continued its time in the rotation as we introduced the advanced variant whereby some need cards may be used either way up. Once we'd got the hang of this we realised that, if you can cater for those extra double-symbol needs, you can rack up some decent pointage. Although I lost out our first game, I pulled off the best sale of the encounter, sweeping into the lead from behind at one point, even though it was not quite enough to save me from defeat. For our second game we threw in the extra bits and pieces from Dungeon Petz: Dark Alleys but not the Dark Alleys board, and went for the extended game. This proved to be a mistake on my part, as I was ahead right until the final exhibition, losing by three points, a massive frustration. We are both enjoying this a lot at the moment, much more than we ever enjoyed its brother Dungeon Lords.


I'm one of the few people on BGG to have played this, and it is a decent enough solitaire experience, more a logic puzzle than a game per se. It sits right on the outer edges of my collection, so I thought I would dust it off and give it a go one evening, knocking out three plays (all successful) in quick succession. I have to say that the physical design of the game is just great - good components, a tray in which to store the cases, two small lips to hold the current case in place. Will I play all fifty cases? It's possible, and then I'll probably give it away to somebody. A fair enough diversion, though.

Final thoughts

Heading into the final month of 2015 the collection stands at 58, with 12 unplayed, and we have played 41 different games so far this year, although a fair few of those were for games that have since left the collection. I would be very happy (a) to get the collection down to 52 by the turn of 2016 and (b) to play everything bar the unplayeds by the end of the year. Neither is particularly likely, but a couple of good gaming sessions will not only help the latter but also provide a much more secure fix on how to achieve the former. It's also time to start thinking about those 2016 gaming resolutions. Onwards..!

Happy gaming!
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Tue Dec 1, 2015 12:59 am
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October 2015 - my month in gaming

Nick
United Kingdom
Somerset/London
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What did we play?


We kicked off well - the builders finally turned up to do some work on our house, at the third time of asking, and we notched up two games of Machiavelli, the Italian card game, early in the month. I usually do quite well at this, but my mojo had clearly left the building in some kind of huff, so I was soundly beaten twice.


Then, after nearly three years away from the table, I finally plucked up the courage to slap down our dusty copy of Tigris and say "we're playing this." My other half agreed, sportingly, especially as, in her words "this game just doesn't do it for me", but she is aware of how much it does it for me, so will destroy my emergent civilisation every now and again, just for fun.

We played with the "tight" Variant, here on BGG, for two players. You set up without the four corner temples and treasures and remove some tiles from the draw bag, and the game ends either when one player cannot draw to six or when only one treasure remains. We found that this variant dealt impressively well with some two-player issues, partially by shortening the play time, and partially by concentrating the empires into the middle of the board, making conflict almost obligatory. The shortening of the game also means that we are likely to play it more often in this house, as it is over and done with in half an hour or so - I get my Tigris fix, and my other half doesn't spend ages on a game which doesn't appeal to her as much as something like Seasons.


We also explored Star Realms a little more, really enjoying getting to grips with the ins and outs of the base set. One of our games of this was particularly enjoyable as I managed to thin my deck to the extreme, ending up pretty much with just a mixture of Bases, Outposts and Blob Faction cards, maxing out my offence while still managing to put out some decent defences. My other half, however, was exploring the Stealth Needle and made excellent use of it to keep her authority up or launch devastating attacks on my empire as the occasion demanded. Eventually the stars aligned for her and she launched a massive attack, annihilating two Outposts and the rest of my (rather healthy empire) in a single go. Really enjoyable.


My solo choice of the month, unsurprisingly, was Lord Of The Rings: The Card Game, finally moving on to the final Core Set scenario, Escape From Dol Guldur, after restarting the whole LOTR experience from scratch. Armed with a much better idea of the mechanics of the game I nearly sailed through my first go at this scenario...until I realised that the Nazgul should have entered play when the prisoner was rescued. I have come to accept that it takes several goes at each scenario just to iron out the various procedural mistakes, but putting critical text on a card which is put out of play is a little silly. Second time through things did not go well at all and I was swiftly overwhelmed, but I was still playing with the two decks from the second scenario. Third time was better, fourth not so good, and by then I felt I had a decent enough feel for the scenario to begin tweaking my decks.

Unfortunately my post-tweak defeats were swift and brutal, even on Easy Mode, enough to make me wonder whether this game is for me. I have been an ardent advocate of this game for a while, but the constant deck fiddling followed by almost immediate defeat is getting to be wearing, and my eye is being drawn by the likes of Baseball Highlights: 2045. I have always enjoyed the journey towards success that LOTR has to offer, but maybe my reserves of good will are beginning to run out. Time will tell.


I also played a couple of sessions of two-handed solo Forbidden Island, using the Bay of Gulls variant setup on Normal level, as I slowly work my way through the different layouts. First time through things just did not go well - my two explorers had two green cards each for the final treasure, but were totally overwhelmed by the floods. In a comic moment they retreated to Fools' Landing while the island sank around them...and then down went Fools' Landing as well. Second time through it was much more straightforward and we managed to secure all four treasures and get off the island half way through the second deck. Depending on my mood I tend to be tired either of this or of Lord Of The Rings: The Card Game, but never both at the same time, so it is probably not a bad idea to keep both of them in the collection.


Another dusty game to find its way back to the table was Dungeon Petz. I mentioned it to my other half and her eyes lit up (seven games and seven wins, so no surprise there), so onto the table it went. We bought, played and sold its bigger sibling, Dungeon Lords, finding it too dry and ineffective in two, but this game really tickles us, and is another one of those "how come we don't play this more often" cases.

Of course, it took a while to get our heads around the various aspects of the rulebook, but once things got up and running we both started getting back into the feel of the thing, stocking out pet shops with wildly different degrees of success. My pets ended up miserable and mutated, while my SO's secured her neat little profits. Of course, at game end she had romped to a 53-33 victory, and we both agreed that we want to play this again, often and soon. It was on my mind the following day, the engrossing nature of the whole affair beguiling me, even though I am so useless at the game that I was hard put to articulate what I might do differently. Clearly something had worked, however, for in the following game I managed to plan much better, and just squeaked out a 50-48 victory, my first win.


This was another one to have the dust blown off it, as I try to get our entire collection to the table by the end of the year. We had both cooled on this, so it wasn't the top choice, but we were short on time (so we thought) and decided to give this a quick run. Let's just say that we packed it down after four plays, all of which had been fun and one of which I managed to win.

We do seem to build up cities as our main focus, giving us more dice, of course, but after that we tend to go down different routes, although we both like to develop Irrigation nice and early. While it is not really a game to scratch our civ-building itch (unless it is a very small itch), it is pretty much the only light dice-thrower in our collection, and we both enjoyed it enough to agree that it stays.


Our single game of Race For The Galaxy (with Alien Artifacts) was a real tussle. My tableau started off shakily, but a decent and fairly lucky selection of Uplift cards helped me get some direction, and I felt that I was heading for a win, but my other half placed three 6-cost developments plus a meaty and high scoring Alien card, meaning that the final tally was 40-39 to her. Always a great game to play.


We played three games of Carc with The River in a single afternoon which, as expected, was hugely enjoyable. I won one of the matches, and lost the other two on advice! On the last move of the first game I said to my SO "Don't you want to claim that road?" That seven point road - she won by five. On the third game I pointed out that a two point road was up for grabs, and she took it, but protested that she didn't feel it was worthwhile, and then went on to win by one. Maybe I should be more ruthless. Still, Carc is a classic for a reason, and even though I love the first two proper expansions, I have a soft spot for quick and dirty base box Carc. Always and forever central to our collection.


One game of this, quite quickly played on this tight and busy map. Very enjoyable indeed, despite a loss, and good to get back to the table. We now own Nordic, Switzerland and India, and, although the wrinkles in the various rules can be complicated, it is pretty decent fun to bounce around the various countries. Like Carc, this is central to our collection and, like Carc, it is something my other half can play with my mother when I'm awa on work, something worth more than gold (or War of the Ring Collector's Edition, if that's your bag).


Played a couple of solo games of this, which was fun...but I miss the feel of competing against something. I know that there are leagues here on BGG and that I could always compete against my own times, but there's just something missing for me. I managed to get a copy of Leader 1: Hell of the North this month, and the solitaire variants on that look to be much more like my cup of tea.

Trading

It always pains me to cull a game unplayed, but there tends to be a reason that something has not been introduced to the table for over a year. Whether that is because the collection is too large, the game is too complicated, another game already does it better, there is always something underpinning it. So, out went a couple of gems that are clearly fantastic games but just not right for us or, to be more specific, my partner. I know that I would love playing Star Wars: The Card Game with my best friend over and over again, and he would love it too, but he lives in New Zealand and we get together maybe once every five years or so. Those LCGs are just too fiddly and complicated for my other half (one game of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game taught her that), especially given that practically every card has some kind of exception to the rules, and we're simply not going to get to the stage where we will play those games enough to know the decks in depth, whereas something like Star Realms has a simple shuffle-up-and-deal appeal that means it hits the table again and again.

Out, then, went Star Wars, BattleCON: War of Indines and Omen: A Reign of War, either unplayed or played once, and in the trade I picked up some decent loot which I think will suit us so much better - Jambo, Ingenious and Flash Duel: Second Edition. We had traded Jaipur earlier in the year, finding it just a little too light, despite its subtleties, and my SO declared that Targi had become her "pretending to be a merchant" game of choice, but I think that Jambo will fill a different gap for a similar theme. I have high hopes for this one. Ingenious seems to be the kind of abstract we might be able to play - anything too intense is just too intense, funnily enough, so Hive sits right on the edge of what my other half will play, but Qwirkle was a big hit, so hopefully this will appeal. Knizia is one of our favourite designers as well, when he's on song, although the theme is pasted on in this one, tee hee. As for Flash Duel: Second Edition, it completes what I call the Smackdown Trilogy, and now sits alongside Puzzle Strike (Third Edition), Puzzle Strike Shadows and Yomi. Puzzle Strike was such a hit with my other half, and the characters went down so well that I felt it was right to seek out the other two games, especially as they look to be highly portable and we are still trying to find something to fill that cafe niche.

There were some other trades in the middle of the month, as I finally sold on Core Worlds. This took time to bed in to our collection, and I really loved it, but our last play was not a success, and although I have soloed it to much enjoyment, I think that it is time for it to move on. In its place came Attika, not a game I have played, but one that came to my attention and which it is likely that we will enjoy.

What's next?

Still trying to get the collection down to 52 by the end of the year, and to play everything in it, but I think there might be just a little mission-slip creeping in. A Christmas holiday rush of gaming might sort out the latter issue, but things are going to have to go from the collection if the likes of Patchwork, 7 Wonders: Duel and Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 are going to make it in...

Happy gaming!
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Tue Nov 3, 2015 10:33 am
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September 2015 - my month in gaming

Nick
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As we push on towards the end of the year, it is probably a good time to take stock and see where my resolutions for the year have ended up. I did not have many, but they were basically as follows:

1) - Spend no new money on games, but trades and sell-to-buy are allowed.
2) - Play everything in the collection in 2015.
3) - Get the collection down to 50 in 2015.

I am a depth gamer, admiring those who rack up 700ish different games in their first 1,000 plays, but not quite understanding it. To me a game played 100+ times is a badge of honour, and having games such as Glen More still languishing in single digits makes me feel queasy, a sure sign that I have been spending too much time flirting with the shiny, new and insubstantial rather than things that have made it through years of quality control ("hello, Tigris & Euphrates, my old friend, I've come come to dust you off again..."). As such, and aided by clinging to resolution number one (for once), I have realised that most of the games that have come into the house this year have not made it into the category of permanent keepers. Everybody's collection has its quirks and odd moments (Backpacker in my case), but mine at least gets played on a fairly regular basis, and resolutions two and three are interlinked. Resolution 3 is particularly tight for me, given that it includes my SO's games as well, many of which she is unlikely ever to part with. I've allowed myself an extra bit of wriggle room here, going for 52 games, so one for each week of the year rather than an ever-so-tidy two page Geeklist!


image by Nekau

With all that in mind, we started off the month in great style, blowing the dust off the mighty Glen More (not played since January 2014) for three games. We had played this so infrequently since acquiring it that I had come close to jettisoning it many times, but now I cannot believe the thought even crossed my mind. I have seen this described as a big game in a small box, and I would have to agree, and it is one of those games that, win or lose (in fact, all my plays have been losses), I really enjoy playing. I have noticed, too, that little details, such as placing the distillery near the wheat fields, are not only important to consider, but also (get this!) neat little thematic touches. I think I enjoy tile-layers anyway, as they give me that "Look what I built" feel, but this one feels so tight that every decision matters, and running on ahead for a valuable tile can leave you dangerously open to a canny opponent. My SO is a canny opponent, and, since being dragged into the hobby by me five years ago, has really honed not only her trash-talk, but also her mind games. Nine games played in total, nine straight losses for me, but, my word, we need to play this again soon.


image by yudp

Dominion, with our standard expansions (Intrigue and Prosperity) found its way back to the table, although it is never really away for long. We played it five times and, to my other half's shock and sarcastic surprise, I managed to work out a combo and steal a victory, coming within a point in one of our other games as well. Clearly I'm learning something on this journey, even if it turned out that we'd been playing one rule incorrectly all along, playing that the Buy action was compulsory on each turn rather than optional. One particular game included Witch, Goons and Militia in the pool, and that got pretty nasty as things went on. My SO tends to be the aggressive one, so I hunkered down and bought some card-drawers and Reactions to keep me in the hunt.


image by Goodsound

While away for a few days I continued tackling one of NinjaDorg's The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game quests, The Old Forest I think it was. I'm a big fan of pretty much all he does, and loved my experience of the award-nominated 1066, Tears To Many Mothers. In the end my other half found it just a little too dry, but it is a quality product, and worthy of more even than its runner up Golden Geek Award last year (I think). I ran this quest several times, honing my choices about which Orc goes into the Staging Area at the start (eventually I decided on the Goblin Sniper), and I eventually ended up winning with my Leadership/Spirit single deck. Moving on the the Journey Down The Anduin scenario (which I have beaten before) I had a far better idea of how the game plays, at least in terms of card interactions, and I managed to defeat this before the end of the month, the swapping of a single hero to keep my starting threat low proving to be the final nail in the enemies' collective coffins. This remains an awesome and involving game, though difficult, but the sense of improvement and satisfaction is terrific. Onwards now to Dol Guldur!


image by vantageGT

I also spent many hours engrossed in the SoloPlay rules for the nearly-but-not-quite-sold Core Worlds. Let's not beat around the bush, these are complicated and with many a trap for the unwary, but probably no worse than - well - The Lord Of The Rings: The Card Game. Anyway, after the disappointment of my other half's rejection of this game, I have to say that these rules have saved it for me, at least for now. It's a gnarly, grindy tussle against AI that will do exactly what you don't want it to do, but there is just enough thinkspace to tilt the advantage, if you know how to use it. Having been schooled several times, the joy of my 16-10 win (on Easy Mode, but I would have won 16-13 on Normal Mode, yay!) was extreme. As this game stands, the decisions and interactions are so intertwined that it can slow down to a crawl. In the solo version, though, you need all that time, and at least you are not annoying another player. I could see myself coming back to this variant for a long time to come, were it not for the lure of Middle Earth.


image by capovonderband

Visiting our local hostelry I decided to continue our quest for a quick and easy play to get done while waiting for drinks, food or whatever. We've tried a couple of games here before, but my other decided she didn't like Indian Chief after I won the first seven games in a row, so that was that. However, I extracted the cards needed for Elements from a standard deck (black Aces, 2s, 3s, 4s & 5s, and the red face cards, familiarised myself with the rules, and then we played a couple of quick matches on the table while we waited for our food to arrive. I was washed out in the first match 6-0, but edged the second one 6-4, and there's a lot of game in only twelve cards (four are discarded unseen after the deal). You attempt to get the total of the central stack to match or exceed the total in your hand and drawn cards, but only just, and you also need to judge what your opponent is up to. After our third play (which I won 6-2) my other half pronounced herself pretty much done with it, and I had to agree. I'm still looking for that highly portable hit that we can play anywhere - Yomi? Province? Star Wars: Empire vs. Rebellion? Any suggestions would be warmly welcomed.

Towards the middle of the month, while on a brief trip abroad, I finally signed up to boardgamearena and got in some online gaming. In a way it defeats what gaming is about for me, especially that tactile element of having the components in hand, but, having said that, my other half is done and dusted with games like Troyes, while I am happy to give them another go. I lost a game of Hive, and then joined bkunes for a game of Troyes. I was certainly flailing around and doing things nearly at random, but it's been genuine fun, and it also gives me an opportunity to experience games with more players. For example, we eventually sold Stone Age because, as a two-player game, there were much leaner, meaner games, and we never play with more people. Online, though, I can experience this as a proper four player tussle. Good job I don't mind coming last.


image by Menaveth

Star Realms made a welcome return to our table, one of my other half's favourite games, apparently, and we returned to the core experience as I decided to remove the Crisis expansions. We threw everything together when we first got to grips with the game, but one thing I have come to appreciate this year is how much can be said for experiencing a game's lean original version in depth before being gripped by expansion mania. In any case, I have probably as many unplayed expansions as unplayed games, and some of those unplayed expansions are for unplayed games. Anyway, we enjoyed the return to the universe of Star Realms very much, even if the tension as the game runs towards its climax can be very intense. It always feels as though it begins with border skirmishes before running on to full-on assaults, but it is fun, even if those enemy Outposts can be hugely frustrating.


image by Moviebuffs


The last game we played in the month was the venerable (to us) Backpacker, something we encountered for the first time on a weekend away, which my other half liked (for which, read "she won a lot") and we subsequently bought. Although it has fallen off in popularity over the past few years, and my other half will admit that it is not her favourite game, we still enjoy playing it, if only to see the hell I am put through by (a) terrible card draws, and (b) her astute play. We played a three-year epic, pretty much ironing out any chance I might have had for a win, and she trounced me. As usual.

Overall it was a good month of gaming, and I am trying to get the older and dustier games to the table just a touch more often. Best of all, we seem to be getting back into the habit of gaming, so not necessarily sitting down once a week for an evening's worth of pushing cardboard, but instead getting in an hour or so three or four times a week. It seems to be working well, and the plan for October is to continue getting those long-unplayed games to the table, and maybe to try one of the many unplayed boxes.
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Thu Oct 1, 2015 10:18 am
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August 2015 - my month in gaming

Nick
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I had hoped that August would be a good month of gaming. After moving house at the end of last year and adjusting lifestyle to match our playing habits had fallen slightly by the wayside, but it is fair to say that they have picked up of late.

August got off to a cracking start. Race for the Galaxy with Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts, probably my SO's favourite game, continued its tenure on the table, and we played this 11 times overall. As always with this game, there are low-scoring sessions where nothing seems to go right...and then there are those games when the whole thing comes together. This happened quite spectacularly for my SO in one of the games we played, as she decided to go for an Alien strategy right from the start. It paid off handsomely as she ended up with 9 Alien cards in her final tableau and 3 6-cost Alien Developments. Add to that some Uplift bonuses and she smashed our previous record score to bits, totalling 78 to my meagre 29. She said it was a perfect game when everything came together, but she certainly used the Explore bonuses to get through the deck and fish for what she needed.

This remains one of our favourite games, even if sometimes I resent it just a touch for taking table time away from others. Every time I play it, through, I can't help but admire such a brilliant design, and it fully deserves its place in our collection.

Next up was Guildhall, unplayed for a while but one I was keen to get back to the table. This is, I think, a really solid game, deeper than some might have you believe, and inexplicably out of print, seemingly for ever. Having spent so much time away from it we played our first four games with just the base box, enjoying the experience thoroughly. It all came back, things like the care you have to pay to the discard pile and what your opponent has, how best to use your completed chapters and so on. The following day we threw in Guildhall: Job Faire to make our first attempt at MegaGuildhall. Ten minutes in, with the score still at 1-0, we abandoned it - it works for some people, but clearly not for us. Instead we mixed and matched the trades randomly, but found that we often ended up with some very strange decks indeed. For example, one was full of interaction but had very little to do with the discard pile. Anyway, I took a shine to Tax Collector and came within a hair's breadth of pulling off a wholly unlikely victory - only my opponent's lucky 6-card draw saved her - but later went down to my two worst defeats.

When this was fresh back to the table I loved it, but when we threw everything in together we were both less than convinced. Things seemed to drag and slow down immensely, and we found the game to be less - now, what's that word? - fun. Some have recommended lining up similar professions by pairs and randomising one of each pair for the set of six. I've also come up with the idea of players alternating choices and maybe playing a best of three with the same deck, first to choose going as second player, perhaps. Might be interesting. Given its rarity and despite needing perhaps a tweak to keep it spinning along nicely when combined with the expansion, it's safe in the collection.

A few days into the month we went away on holiday with the following in tow - The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (for me, early morning solitaire), Seasons, Race for the Galaxy, Dominion (and two expansions), Puzzle Strike (Third Edition) and Star Realms, with serious hopes of getting in some solid 2P gaming. In reality, though, we were doing so many other things - walking, eating, drinking, exploring and so on - that face to face gaming rather took a back seat, but (for once) for a good reason.

In the mornings, though, I took the opportunity to get in some plays of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, going back to basics yet again in an attempt to beat this game rather than have to give up and trade it. Using an excellent post by Wojtek Wojcik I decided to follow the advice I found there and to go entirely back to basics, savouring the journey and not rushing along the way.

Although I wish I had read that advice when I started out with the game, as with so many things I doubt that I would have had the patience to see it through. However, I think I am really beginning to get to grips with the possibilities of the individual cards, grabbing hold of one or two combos and exploring the possibilities of others I simply have not used before. I have gone back to playing the Passage Through Mirkwood scenario with each base deck (and added Gandalf) several times. I have beaten this scenario on this basis before, but this time through I really want to get to grips with the mechanics and possibilities of the game, especially as it is so portable and could come with me on work trips.

This was a really good way to get back into the feel of the game and the different spheres. I beat the scenario single-decking with all four base decks, a couple (Lore and Tactics) proving tricky, but it really helped on a couple of occasions that I had a good questing party together and the nasties left me alone. So much depends on the luck of the draw, but it is clear that I have been missing opportunities in the past to use the capabilities of various characters. Essentially, that is what this back to basics approach is about.

After the two weeks of holiday were up we had managed only two games of Race For The Galaxy and one of Dominion, which I won, using my Bishop to good advantage, for once. Maybe holiday time, good for gaming for so many, is just not for us...or maybe we just need some more portable games next time around.

We also played Pagoda twice, new to us, and this is a decent little two-player game. It needs to be played in the full version, with architect boards, to shine, but it is an interesting game, full of good decisions and likely to appeal to those who enjoy a little bit of doublethink. We enjoyed it, but decided to put it onto the trade pile - my SO said, "it's a really good game, but we have so many great games" - and I think I have decided this month to focus my energies, at least where spending is concerned, on improving and exploring what is already in the collection. If you like face to face games then Pagoda is probably worth your time, I think, very enjoyable, but not as engrossing as Revolver or (king of the quick face-to-facers!) Battle Line.

Right at the end of the month we tucked in a game of Core Worlds, gathering dust for a while. I really like this game, but its relative length and complexity makes it a difficult play for my other half. She gave it a go, but eventually told me that she just didn't enjoy it any more, even though she admired it. I played it a couple of times more with the SoloPlay rules which, though complicated on first glance, are actually really engaging, and am trying to work out whether it can stay in my collection as a solitaire game. With LOTR in the collection, though, that's a tough ask.

Another month and another set of lessons learned...and a collection finally closing on the magic number of 50, especially as I had the urge for a clear out towards the end of the month, as looking at my 11 unplayed games made me feel slightly uneasy. Playing games that we really enjoy puts those that we 'just' play into sharp focus, questioning their validity in a small collection, and, as September hoves into view, I am still clinging to that promise I made in the dog days of 2014 not to buy any games in 2015...just.

Happy gaming!
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Wed Sep 2, 2015 8:43 am
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July 2015 - my month in gaming

Nick
United Kingdom
Somerset/London
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July is normally a very quiet gaming month. It coincides with some work which takes me abroad, and it always happens to be a busy month anyway, but this year we managed to get in more games than we normally do, which was good to do.

Dominion, together with Dominion: Intrigue and Dominion: Prosperity got in 7 plays, to make it our most played game of the month. I feel that I am slowly getting better at this, gradually becoming more adept at sniffing out the decent card combinations from a given setup, but I still lag some way behind my other half who won out 5-2. She also took the opportunity to teach the game to my mother when I was abroad, beating her for good measure. It's always close to the table when we want something to play, even when I hanker for something with more meat on the bones.

Towards the end of the month we decided to christen my Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 2 – India & Switzerland expansion, playing three games with the Switzerland map. We normally play Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, and this represents a tighter map with more opportunities for screwage and some decent twists on the tickets. We found that the games sometimes turned into one person simply drawing extra tickets towards the end, but maybe that just means that we need to get our elbows out a bit more when building routes. Still, a worthwhile map, I think, especially since I won 2 of our 3 games, and I'd be keen to give India a go as well.

We blew the dust off a couple of boxes in July. London has been long absent from the table, and we played it twice. As usual, I lost both games, and for the second one we adopted the BenLuca (is it?) variant for two, which randomises the cards somewhat and just takes the edge off the length off the game, to good effect. This is one of those games I really enjoy as an experience, watching my city grow in front of me, so it does not matter so much to me whether I win or lose. Just as well.

Blue Moon City was also a game to lose some of its dust over the course of the month, complete with the expansion tiles. As I took the game off the shelf my other half said "Ooh, is that the one with the dragons? I like that one!", so onto the table it went. Again, I lost, but a nagging worry woke me up in the middle of the night, and I realised that we had always been playing one of the rules incorrectly. Always playing in two, each of us had been making offerings in strictly numerical order (7,8,9,10,11,12), but you are actually meant to fill empty spaces from the bottom, so, in theory, a player could win by filling 7,7,8,8,9,9. We'll need to play this again with the proper rules, but I doubt that it will improve my win rate.

Lastly, a single game of Jenga on an evening when we simply could not be bothered to think. My other half proved herself the queen of dexterity, and it is fun enough to play once in a while.

There's been a vogue for Geeklists outlining hypothetical 50-item collections, a number chosen, I suspect, because it fits nicely into two pages of a Geeklist. 52 (one a week) might make more sense, but, even so, with only 47 items in my collection, it gives me room for a little expansion. Add in my other half's games, and I'm still only up to 58. Still, I prefer a smaller to a larger collection and look forward to playing more of it in August. We'll be away on a holiday together, taking some of our most popular games with us, so I'm hoping for a full month of gaming.

Happy gaming!
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3 Comments
Wed Aug 5, 2015 12:45 am
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