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Kitchen Table Games

Games I've played on my kitchen table
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My Top 20 Countdown. #7

Max Jamelli
United States
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Game #7 - Union Pacific

Back in 2004 when I got married, I moved to Chambersburg. The only people I knew who played games were my in-laws. They played some of the games I owned, but really I didn't have a lot in terms of good games. My dad was the game owner and when I moved, I only had a copy of Air Baron to play. I knew of BGG back then, but really didn't start surfing around until 2007 or so.

In 2007, I found the "find gamers" link. I did a zip code search and hoped to find some like-minded gamers to try to play with. I sent out some GM's to people asking if they wanted to get together. I was lucky enough to meet up with a gamer named Ray who happened to live 10 minutes away from me:

Ray Smith
United States
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Stay thirsty my friends.

I went back into my email and saw that he mentioned he had 700 games at the time. I was blown away, since I had 4 or 5 at the time. He invited me to come over to his place for a game day with a few other guys. I got to his house in the middle of the game day and met the guys. They were playing a train game when I got there. I told them to finish playing and that I'd look on in awe at Ray's gaming closet. It was quite the experience. (even now when I go over, seeing his gaming closet at over 1,000 games is still awe-inspiring.)

When they finished, they wanted to play a game called Union Pacific. I had never heard of it, but I told them I'd be willing to try anything as long as they could teach me. The game had money in it, so I figured it was something I'd enjoy. True enough, the game was easy to learn and I did very well that first game. I actually won! I remember the guys joking around with me that they couldn't have a new guy winning too often.

I would meet up with this group once a month or so, and I learned (and continue to learn) many new games with them. It wasn't until WBC in 2008 where I'd get the chance to play UP again. It was at this event where I was introduced to some more gamers I consider good friends. The event was run as a swiss tournament - meaning, you win and continue to play. In the first round, I was at a table with a player named Steve. Steve was (and is) a very good UP player. He had won the WBC event the year before. It had been a few months for me, so I needed a refresher on how to play. It took about 3 minutes and it all came back to me. I played that first table pretty well and came in second (to Steve). As the semi-final tables were announced, the GM needed some extra players to fill in. I had scored enough points in the first round to earn a spot in the semis (thanks to Steve's lobbying actually). I don't remember much about the second game except that I was able to win. I was really excited - I was going to play in my first WBC final! The only disappointment was that I had to skip out on the Vegas Showdown semi-finals to play in the final.

The final table was tough. There were two guys who seemed to know each other and they talked a lot. I tried to stay as innocuous as possible. This was a case really of my just being happy to be there and not wanted to make a stooopid move. The one problem I did have at that game was that one of the players,

Fred Minard
United States
Camp Hill
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looked and sounded like someone I knew before and I couldn't place it. (As it turns out, I've come to realize that Fred looks very much like and talks like a Fraternity brother of mine named Jeff ... but that's neither here nor there). Late in the game, I apologized to him for staring and explained that I was trying to figure out who he looked like. Fred became a really good gaming buddy after that UP game.

While I tried to stay coy during that game, I did let it slip that I was playing in my 4th game of UP ever. That seemed to impress the guys and I felt more at ease. The game ended and I ended up finishing a pretty close 3rd. There was a tie for first. I did win a prize though - the GM gave away train books to the finalists. I took a book about train wrecks - citing my dice rolling as a train wreck.

Of all the games in my top 20, Union Pacific probably evokes the second most memories of gaming because of those two stories. Aside from those, UP is a solid game. It is very similar to Acquire in that you are trying to build up stocks in companies in order to receive payouts. In Acquire, the payouts are determined solely by the players. In UP, there is a bit of luck involved - although if you keep track of the deck you can mitigate the luck a little.

UP is an easy game to learn and teach. Jen enjoys it as well. In our combined ratings geeklist, UP comes in at #5. For comparison purposes, Acquire comes in at #13.

Final Thoughts

UP is one of my gateway games. It was the game that introduced me to a local game group, several new friends, and was one of the tougher games for me to purchase. I did secure a copy through the BGG marketplace and while it took a long time to come in due to shipping internationally, it was a well received package. I'm glad I know how to play since the rulebook is entirely in German.

Alan Moon's new release Airlines Europe is a remake of UP, with an Airline Theme. I'm looking forward to trying it at WBC 2011.
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