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Session Report: Die Tore der Welt Kartenspiel, Vegas and Haggis

Antti Koskinen
Finland
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It's been a longish while since my last blog post and reason is simple - second child replaced games almost completely for the first couple of months of this year. With no sessions of games it's tough to find time and topics for blog posts but I hope I'm beginning to find the balance between rich family life and enough time also for my hobbies.

On Sunday I had the chance to try out some games I've recently purchased (no time for playing games has decreased my spending on buying new games but I can't help myself now and then...). First of was Die Tore der Welt Kartenspiel which is Nürnberg release from Amigo and it is, as one can figure out from the name of the game, a card game based on the board game Die Tore der Welt (or World Without End). I really like the board game and actually think that it went little bit under the radar for many for no reason. Normally I'm not too interested in card game versions of good boardgames but DTdW Kartenspiel got good reviews in the latest Spielbox:

Quote:
Just for a fraction of the price of the board game, the card game World Without End provides as much long-lasting playing fun as its big brother. The cheaper alternative could almost be considered the better alternative... (Spielbox 2/2012, 11)


Getting a hold of a copy of the game demanded a help of a fellow BGG user and approx. 9 euro and reading through the German rules and components (cards are in German) took some time. Luckily there's not too much of complicated German involved and playing the is not impossible even with lesser knowledge in German linguistics.

DTdW Kartenspiel was interesting and offers most of the good components which the board game version has to offer. Managing your resources is important and converting resources to points demands for an eye for timing and obviously also luck in the event card draw. Game doesn't last forever but neither is it a filler of any sorts - our 3 player game took probably 45 minutes including rules explanation and some going through the rules as we play when we encountered problems. Not bad for a card game and I'm willing to give it another go to see whether it offers similar experience for multiple plays.

Second game of the day was Vegas which is the new Alea game in their midsize game box range. Vegas was just nominated for Spiel des Jahres and I have had habit of trying to play all the finalists before they announce the winner in July. Nomination is also enough for me to purchase nominated games and more then often this means that I don't really know that much about the games before I read the rules for the first time. Vegas was a good example of such a game and I was little surprised that I'm holding a dice driven gambling game in my hands when I had gone through the rules for the first time. Gambling is not a theme one encounters too often in German style family games and especially not in those games which has been nominated for SdJ.

Vegas turned out to be a positive surprise. It's fast and fun to play, it's simple enough to play with anybody and dice make it appealing for the general gamer. Small box is a plus since it makes the game portable but for a person with 200+ games there's too much empty space even in the midsize range box. We played the game with three and used the variation where each player also controls neutral dice and I felt that for 3 and 4 players that's almost a must. All in all I look forward playing Vegas again and it should not be a problem since it's so fast to play.

Last game of our session was Haggis which I had played once maybe two years past but the session then was with normal deck of cards (with which you can easily play the game). Published game offers a custom deck of cards that are of good quality and graphic design and you do also get player aid cards which definitely help to teach the game (as well as figure out what to do when you haven't played the game in a long while).

Haggis is a climbing game which has been said to be Tichu for three. I would not go so far as to say that Haggis is like Tichu since Tichu is in its heart a partnership game and Haggis does not have this element but there are similarities with these two games; combination one can play are similar and both games have bombs in them. I'd say Haggis is somewhere between Gang of Four and Tichu with similarities compared to both of these games.

I like the game and the variety it offers for a Tichu-maniac like me but what I missed was a original yelling mechanic for points.With this I mean that now we did not figure out why player would want to make a small yell (15 points) since it only makes sense in yelling when you have good possibility to go out first and if you have good chance why not just make a large yell? Apart from little tweaking of the scoring I enjoy the game and when I have three Tichu oriented players there's no reason not to play Haggis.
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Mon Jun 11, 2012 7:38 pm
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Secret Santa 2011

Antti Koskinen
Finland
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Here's a little video of what I got:



Participating SS is always fun and giving is what it is all about. This year I sent two games to a target in the US and received the game you all saw. Unfortunately my SS probably did a small mistake with the gift since I already own the expansion (but obviously not the second expansion which is not out yet).

Someone is going to be really happy though when he/she receives this expansion which I now have to give away.

Merry Christmas everybody!
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Sun Dec 25, 2011 10:56 pm
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Star Trek Fleet Captains

Antti Koskinen
Finland
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It's been really quiet in the gaming front but not so quiet when it comes to purchasing new games. Star Trek: Fleet Captains wasn't actually on my buy list since I have a good fried who's a Trekkie and said at Spiel that he'll probably end up buying the game anyways. Unfortunately game can't be bought from any dealer in Finland and there's not too many places even in Europe who sell it. Thus I had do get it when my friend studying in UK came back to spend the Christmas to Finland.

I invited both my friends and one additional buddy to give STFC a shot on Saturday and to make it as exiting as I could, I did not tell my trekkie friend that I had purchased the game. You should have seen him when he saw what we were to play. Awesome!

Game is impressive - massive box and extremely cool miniatures. Unfortunately other components are average and I would have liked to see a bit better quality. I suppose having miniatures does this to other components and I can't complain too much since miniatures are so cool.

My trekkie friend went first to choose side and took Klingons and desided the sides for rest of us - my friend visiting Finland took the other Klingon position and me and my fellow Federation buddy began to select the fleet for us. Obviously we had to take USS Enterprice and while we did my fleet was smaller and crappier that the one my friend controlled.



There's quite a lot of rules and details in the game and we desided that we'll just jump into the game and I'll explain the different actions once there's any idea of taking them. This worked quite well even though we did not have any player aids and I presume that some of the actions were not taken simply because I had not talked too much about them. Rulebook for the game could have used little bit more editing and reordering the information. There are bits and pieces of information here and there - a method which makes it almost impossible to find the information you need right now.

Session culminated in a huge battle in which three Klingon ships tried to take down Enterprise and a another Federation ship. What Klingons did not do was cloak after they had attacked and they were easy targets for Federation when they attacked. We scored three kills before Federation had to retreat to the nearest space station to do some repairs. At this point we had gathered 16 points together with missions linked to battles and exploration (and couple points from events).



We liked the game even though it wasn't praise in unison. I think the feel of the game nails it even though there are some issues with the gameplay and components. I'm also pretty sure this is going to hit the table reasonably often which would be great. Next I'd like to test whether Klingons are worse than Federation as the loosing team complained (My opinion is that they played like monkeys).
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Mon Dec 19, 2011 8:22 am
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Organizing biggest board gaming event in Finland

Antti Koskinen
Finland
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Last weekend was reserved for Lautapelaamaan which is the biggest board gaming event in Finland. As I was producing the event I did not have time to play games which is always a pity but fortunately there were a lot of other things to keep me occupied.

Friday was reserved for game design and we had workshop for game design planned as well as presentations about game design and other topic close to designing games. Designing workshop wasn't a huge success which was a pity but Touko and Stefu still had time to create components for a Christmas themed game. Evidently the initial idea for the game was better than the end result which was tested in the workshop but components did look very good indeed.



Then there were also the presentations which were actually very interesting. Jyrki J, Kasvi (former Finnish parliament member) talked about future of gaming in general, Touko Tahkokallio presented some interesting game mechanics and their special characteristics, Jani Moliis told us how to publish a game and Tapio Talvisalo game a presentation of his own publishing company. This is hopefully part of the foundation of future quality game design in Finland.





As said I did not have too much time to play games but I played a couple. First on Friday I tried Flash Point: Fire Rescue. There's a fun idea and theme in the game but the game felt much like so many co-op game before it - new elements were there but they did not make the game unique enough to really stand out.



I also had time to play couple of two player games, Drako and Champions 2020. I had already tried Drako at Spiel and liked it so much that I brought it home from the fair. Cool components, fantasy theme and quick and interesting game play make it a solid filler and now that I know the correct rules I can hopefully find time to play the game now and again.

Champions 2020 was also much waited game since I'm a huge fan of StreetSoccer (1000+ plays online). I was little worried that the elegance and simplicity of SS might not transform into a better game when adding complexity and rules to the game but fortunately I was wrong. Champions 2020 is probably the best simulation of a game of soccer out there and I really had fun playing it.



But that was more or less what Lautapelaamaan gave me in gaming. I think we had a fun event and people seemed to enjoy themselves. Next year we're going to have even more fun and people enjoying good games.
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Sun Nov 13, 2011 9:36 am
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Spiel 2011 Part II

Antti Koskinen
Finland
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Last weekend I was at Spiel. Now I try to remember what happened during Friday.

Friday was the first full day in Germany and we began the day looking for games old and new. Janne had arrived day earlier and had not been at the fair before and we helped him to find the games he searched for (he was a mule for friends with a special taste).

As we tried to support Janne's efforts to find the games on his list we ended up playing Drako which I had not noticed before the fair. This REBEL.pl fantasy game is for two players and the idea of the game is that one player controls a dragon and the other player has three dwarfs, who try to kill the dragon. Each character has special powers and game is played by playing cards. Therefore there's nothing particularly new in the mechanics of the game but the feel of the game as well as the game play was solid. I really enjoyed the game and ended up beating Saku in both of our games playing Dragon side.



As the third member of your group was finishing his buying spree we ended up sitting at the Cambridge Games Factory booth. I'm a huge fan of trick taking games and I had read about Pala which was Cambridge's take on the trick taking games. Components of the game are not very convincing but the game (actually two of them) itself is very good and felt unique. I love games which can deliver such experiences and ended up buying the game after the test session. I should receive some components which were missing by mail by have not seen them yet. Hopefully they will arrive someday.



Next we tried to find something more meatier to play and ended up playing Hawaii with two gentleman from Germany. Hawaii is the latest offer of Hans im Glück and I didn't have huge expectations based on the couple of the previous games of HiG and things I had read of the game. I was actually positively surprised by the game because it had something else going on than just the gorgeous components. There were lot of decisions and planning and mechanics which were fluent. I have my doubts on the length of the game (too long) and the theme was there just for the show (which I find disappointing) which leaves me wanting to play a full game with four to see if I really like the game or not.



The last game at the fair for Friday was Mundus Novus which we decided to play after trying to to find a table and a game for five players. I had read the rules beforehand and was interested in the game. Basically Mundus Novus is a game based on the trading mechanic of Mare Nostrum. I liked the mechanic in Mare Nostrum even though I did not like the game itself and thought that creating a trading game with a solid trading mechanic, not a civilization game with a cool trading mechanic, might work well.

We had fun with the game up until the 60 minutes mark but unfortunately the game lasted much more than that. While I likes the game play if Mundus Novus I really think that the game lasts too long for what it is. This can be solved easily by changing the end conditions but playing the game with original rules does not sound so interesting.



After a very good Chinese meal we decided to play a couple of easy card games. Amigo card games are the ones I always take a close look at. Some of them are classics and even the poorer ones typically are fun to play with right group. Hol's der Geier! was the first Amigo card game of the night and this one you can pass. Game is like For Sale's second part and there's really nothing new here. Each player has a similar set of cards and you play one card during a round. Highest card takes positive points and lowest negative points and the one having most points at the end of the game wins. Obsolete.

Big Five is Reiner Knizia's take on Qwirkle. The basic concept is almost the same with little differences in scoring and the fact that game is played with cards. If you like Qwirkle you'll like Big Five and if you're not a big fan of Qwirkle, like me, you probably don't have to buy the game but can play it when you have an opportunity to do so.

At this point we had energy for one game and playing a Martin Wallace game is always a good idea to end the night. Normally this would mean couple of well spent hours enjoying a rather heavy game but this time we ended the game in less than an hour. We also ended the night playing a trick taking game which is always a bonus and the game was Old Men of the Forest.

I really enjoyed the game and especially the mechanic where you try to win tricks to collect sets of cards which you can use to win scoring cards. Not a very heavy game but still a thinky game and definitely worth a closer look if you ever have a chance to do so. I want to play a second game which is a positive sign since there are a lot of games sitting on the shelfs unplayed.

Saturday was the day for Europe Masters but that's a story for another blog entry...
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Sat Oct 29, 2011 10:40 pm
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Spiel 2011 part I

Antti Koskinen
Finland
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As said in the previous post I was in Germany playing games old and new for four days. I'll go through the games I played in chronological order starting from Thursday.



First game of the day was Illusion which is a light memory game from South-Korea. There's not much to be said about the game since it's really simple and light game. Four piles of cards and cards which have different flower on them. Flowers look very similar and the idea is to put a card on a pile which does not have similar card in it. There's really nothing unique in the game and cards are too similar and there's too many of them.



Next we headed to Queen stand which offered a lot of space to play games and thus better opportunity to find a free table. Fortunately another group of Finns were finishing a game of Kingdom Builder and we got a table really easy. The game itself if light and fast and really good looking but I did not quite like it as much as I hoped. There wasn't enough meat in the game to make it interesting but I think many non-gamers will surely like the game.



Next we headed to the 4th hall and tried to find a table from any of the many interesting stands which offered hot new games. What we found was a free table at the Artipia Games booth with Drum Roll on it. Drum Roll is a worker placement game in circus surroundings and I have to say I really liked the game. It's maybe a tad too long for my taste and offers nothing which would not have been seen somewhere else before but ingredients are put together in a way which stands out.



After Drum Roll we had time for one game and we headed to hall 12 and the big stands. The game we ended up playing was not that big and I did not have huge expectations beforehand and the game was TSCHAK!. Here's a game with simple game play and game idea. Three rounds and players play cards to win treasures with high combinations and minus points with bad combinations. Everybody plays 10 cards in a round and collects rewards after which comes the interesting part of the game - you pass your cards to the player to your left. Thus everybody plays with all the cards once and the one who sores most points wins the game.

I really liked the game and it is definitely a good filler since a game did not last long.



After TSCHAK! we decided that it was time to go and find something to eat and we went to a Mexican restaurant in which we played a game of The Dwarf King. I like trick taking games and this was a must buy for me. Game box and components are really good but the game itself was a slight disappointment. Trick taking was quite simplistic and scoring was different each round a la Stichmeister. Not a bad game and I will definitely play again but probably not the best of it's genre out there.

After the meal we still decided to play a game at the hotel. I had read the rules of Arcanum just before the fair and I figured that it would be enough to play the game without serious problems in set up. Here's another game I was looking forward before the fair because of two reasons. Firstly, I am really fond of the classic computer RPG Arcanum which is in my opinion one of the best in it's genre (but has absolutely nothing in common of the board game). Secondly, I'm also fond of classic card games and Arcanum has a pretty clever card mechanic which uses 78 card Tarot deck in the game.

We were really tired at this point and did not play a full game but I liked the game play and mechanics and there were enough choices to be made. Obviously there's luck involved because of the cards but 10 different actions on the board and 22 special actions cards guarantee that you'll have a lot of possibilities to secure points in the game. Is this a keeper is question which remains open but I'm optimistic.
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Thu Oct 27, 2011 9:13 pm
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Game week 41/2011 - Training for the Europe Masters

Antti Koskinen
Finland
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Sort of quiet week of gaming except for Sunday when we met with our Europe Masters team. Tournament is held next Saturday in Essen, Germany at the Spiel fair and as Touko is heading to Germany today this was out last chance to practice.

First game of the night was Olympos which I rather like and have done quite well earlier in. I started the game from the 4th position which definitely is not the best in the game but I was lucky because the double sword tile was in the non-specific resource column. The other columns would have meant that I would have had to find some other path to begin the game than grabbing the double sword early on, which I did.



It was steady down hill from there on while I didn’t quite get a hold on any strategy and as a military leader I got to play rather seldom (without the time class tokens one doesn’t het too many turns during the game). Touko and Saku went for discount tiles and murdered me and Janne. Fortunately Janne did even worse than I giving me the 3rd position.

Olympos is a solid game which offers quite a variety of strategies from the get go. Path to victory is heavily dependent on other players’ decisions and your ability to grab the right tiles. Olympos might not be the perfect tournament game but certainly a fun game for casual gaming.

Second game of the training night was Troyes which I have played quite a lot and I’m comfortable playing the game. Troyes is a game, in my opinion, which demands an eye for opportunity and tactics and not so much strategical skills. Different set of cards create unique combination for each game and long term planning is very hard. I’ve done well in the game in previous meetings and did well this time also.

I went for the broad strategy to fight as many events as possible and ended having 6-7 cards. Obviously I took care of the cubes in the Cathedral as well and since I had the money card as a secret scoring card, I also secured 6 points with 18 money. In the end it was a very close game for others except Saku. Me, Touko and Janne had all 40 points and shared victory and left Saku 4th with 30 points. We had also couple good laughs watching Saku reroll ones to ones to ones. Good times!



The last game of the session was Navegador which is a solid eurogame with some very interesting mechanics but unfortunately it’s also lifeless and dull and I just can’t find the fun playing the game. I didn’t quite get the engine build up and running and didn’t hit the privileges often enough as I should have thus missing the big points in the end scoring. I felt that I always came behind somebody everywhere and in this game it’s definitely not a good position to be in. But hopefully I learned my lesson and will improve my game and the last place i got when I play Navegador at the tournament.

As said I’ll be off to Germany on Thursday morning and spending time walking, talking and most importantly playing games during the 4 days visit. I try to keep you informed of what’s going on and which games you really should keep you eyes on after the fair. But until then – Hyviä pelejä!

Originally published in the Boardgaming Finland blog
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Tue Oct 18, 2011 7:08 am
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Gaming during week 40/2011 (Space Empires, Navegador, Kosminen kierros)

Antti Koskinen
Finland
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I did get some interesting games in this week.

On Thursday I visited Leppävaara's game club and began the night with Navegador. This was the one game I really did want to play since it's one of the games in the European Masters tournament which we'll be attending during Spiel 2011. I had not had too many opportunities to play the game and there's not that much time left before the tournament so I was glad that three other gamers joined me to play the game.

I was even more happy when we finished the game and I won it. I did not have strategy and I made mistakes but I suppose other players did more of them. Navegador is a game which I probably don't play after the tournament because I find it to be much too dry and themeless for my taste. Mechanically the game is superb and theres' a lot of meaningful choices throughout the game but it just isn't fun enough.



After Navegador I ended willingly to play prototypes (the other choice would have been Eclipse but I probably have several chances to play it in the near future). First we tried Paul's card game proto which was interesting and felt quite ready to be published. Game was a card placement game which had some interesting choices in a short playtime.


Next there were two prototypes from Touko - a trick taking game and a work game with cards. I had played the trick taking game and the small changes it had undergone were good. Game has quite unique card playing mechanic but I don't know whether this mechanic alone makes the game interesting enough for continuous play. Word game was very interesting mix of classical word game and a speed game. It has potential and I suppose it's going to be published some day.

Last game of the Leppävaara night was Kosminen kierros by Jani and Tero Moliis. I have had this sitting on my shelf for some time and it was great to have it on the table. Kosminen kierros is a game in which players are scientist on a mission to travel around the sun and gather as much information as possible. Each turn players visit one department of their space ship and trigger the action attached to it. Players can turn the ship, take resource cards, take information cards (which score in the end of the game) or fly the ship one space forward.



Idea of the game is to fly the ship back to Earth and obviously there's a high chance that ship crashes before it reaches Earth. The biggest problem in the game is that it is a collaboration game in which each player tries to gather their own points. This leads situations where some of the players don't actually want the ship to finish because they don't have any chance to win the game. With children this might not be such a big problem but because it's fun to reach the final destination but gamers play to win and if they can't it's better to not let anyone else win either.

I also got a chance to try out the new 4X space game Space Empires 4X which I've waited for almost a year. With three players the game took 4-5 hours and we did not even play until extermination (which would have taken several more hours). Playing time is definitely the biggest problem with this game and I don't see a clear reduction of the duration even when players know the game. There are other issues with the game as well like the fact that you probably never have a chance to develop all the technologies in the game (they are just too expensive) and the fact that once someone has taken a clear lead in the game other(s) have no chance to come back (and the game might still last several hours).



Fortunately there's variation and scenarios available for the game and you can play the game solitaire which offers a chance for longer games. Obviously I also need to try the game out with different amounts of players and maybe a bit smaller map and other additional rules. I hope that these changes will make the game better.

After the very long Space Empires we still had time to play one short game. Hessu wanted to play Lemmings Mafia and I had no objections since it is a solid game. I actually think that this game is a hidden gem which has gone under the radar for most gamers. There's gorgeous components, fun game play and some interesting decisions in the game in the 20 minutes it lasts. Obviously it's not a very deep game and there's a lot of chaos in it but as much as I don't like these characteristics in many games, in Lemmings Mafia they fit the theme and mechanics very well. Solid filler and a very good game to be played with families and non-gamers.



Great week of gaming behind and probably a bit quieter week ahead. I hope I can get some games in but even if I don't, it's soon going to be Essen time and I'll be off to Germany to play a lot of games!
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Sun Oct 9, 2011 5:09 pm
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Finally back in business

Antti Koskinen
Finland
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It's been a long pause for boardgamingfinland but finally I'm back in business now that we've moved to a new location and I have a room dedicated for work and gaming. I kicked it off with three friends and three fun games.

First game of the night was Hamsterrolle which is at the moment unavailable at the market and I suppose Zoch is not going to republish it any time soon. It's a pity since Hamsterrolle is a very entertaining dexterity filler with gorgeous components. The game takes maybe 10 minutes and filling the wheel with wooden pieces is challenging enough to keep it interesting for several plays. I can't recommend Hamsterrolle as the beef of the game night but fortunately there's plenty of other games to play when you need meatier game.

One good candidate as a meatier game is Principato which we played next. I've had the game for some time now but have been unable to play it because of the boxes lying around waiting to be emptied. I had read the rules a couple of times and Hessu68 had played the game once before so we had the game running in no time.

There's several reasons why Principato is interesting from the boardgamingfinland point of view. Firstly the designer Touko Tahkokallio is a friend and a Finn and there aren't too many Finnish designs in the international board game market. Secondly I really liked the game after reading the rules; it seemed that there were clever card mechanics and enough meat in the game for a hobby gamer.

Principato is actually quite straight forward type of game where on your turn you have two actions of three possibilities. You can activate a card you own, you can change a card you own to one of the general stock or you can take a joker resource. Players build an engine which generates points from military and or culture and the one who does it best wins the game. This sounds very euroish and that's just what Principato is - a solid and streamlined eurogame.

I liked it but it took a tad too long with four players for what it is. I'm pretty positive that playing time can be reduced once everybody knows what they are doing but there is always the AP danger in a game like this. For all of you who are fans of engine building Principato might be what your looking for.

The last game of the night was Dominant Species which has been sitting on my shelf for nearly a year since I last played it. Unfortunately year was too long and after three hours of playing we finally noticed that we had played one crucial rule wrong (each player controls animal and species refer to cubes players have on the board not like species refer to a player and all his cubes like we played). One mistake can have severe consequences and we decided that the way we had played had ruined the game and there wasn't a reason to finish the game.

I probably should try to get Dominant Species on the table soon so that we could have another go with the correct rules. I like the game and the concept but there's not enough time to play the game very often these days.
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Sun Sep 25, 2011 3:58 pm
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You've got a new microbadge

Antti Koskinen
Finland
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It's always fun to receive free microbadges but getting a silver badge for collecting games makes me wonder. I own a lot of games and maybe there's a couple too much.Wife is supportive which is obviously great but I've got huge pile of games on my shelfs which I have not played even once. But I adore them and like to watch my collection.

Yesterday I got Saint Petersburg and new Alea game Die Burgen von Burgund. Did not help the situation but hopefully I get these played quickly.
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Fri Mar 18, 2011 8:47 am
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