GCL Amoeba 55 - Do You Wanna Be My Avatar (2012-01-23)
Jens KH
Germany
Frankfurt am Main
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GameChat League - Amoeba Division 55
ABOUT | AMOEBA DIVISION | SUBSCRIBE

Welcome to this week's discussion list!


Avatars are what provides people with an identity on the Geek. They make it easy to recognise even those people you cannot for the love of all that is sacred remember the names of (except for those who insist on switching avatars every couple of weeks; bad for brand recognition). They provide anchor points when just scrolling through pages upon pages of the latest discussion about whether Kickstarter is a boon or a bane for the hobby. They make you look cool!1!1 Or not as I'm sure some of you will be quick to point out. In some cases the avatar is the user. (Now why does that make me think of Waxworks?)

If you stumbled into this geeklist by accident, can't make any sense of the list, or get confused by people waering masks, take a look at the pointers provided at the top. Constructive on-topic comments from visitors are welcome, but please refrain from adding items.

The remaining members of the conspiracy:

elemental
fizzle
garygarison mb
jdludlow
jhagen1908
Morganza
msaari
out4blood
paulclarke339
photocurio
sprocket314
verandi

Does that list look short to you, too?
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1. Board Game: Avatar: The Board Game [Average Rating:4.51 Unranked]
Jens KH
Germany
Frankfurt am Main
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Obviously, despite all I've stated above I don't have an avatar myself. Why is that? I cannot decide. Or, more precisely, I don't even have a good idea what to choose. After all, an avatar should be recognisable, unique, and have some sort of connection to the person it represents (and ideally the hobby, too). That's hard. Inspire me, o amoebae!

What is the reason for/significance of your avatar? Does part of your BGG personality spill over into real life?
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2. Board Game: Avatar: The Last Airbender Trading Card Game [Average Rating:5.60 Overall Rank:8947]
Jens KH
Germany
Frankfurt am Main
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Suppose your avatar encompassed more than just visuals. If you could choose an entrance song to go with your gaming alter ego, what would it be?
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3. Board Game: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:73]
James Ludlow
United States
Saint Louis Park
Minnesota
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Played last week

1x The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game


My daughter and I played against The Hunt for Gollum. The encounter deck immediately spewed forth its hatred of us, coughing up "Old Wives' Tales"* during setup. Oh good, all of our heroes are exhausted on turn 1. Starting out behind the curve, we still lasted about 10 turns before we were finally overwhelmed in the middle of the 2nd quest card.

* Each hero discards a resource or is exhausted.

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4. Board Game: Power Grid: The First Sparks [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:585]
Jason Reid
United States
Brooklyn
New York
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1x Power Grid: The First Sparks
1x Eclipse
2x Witch's Brew

Purchased this week (hopefully): Container. I've played and loved this a number of times, but never bought my own copy. I just recently noticed that it's at the end of its print run, and marketplace copy costs have shot up. I did find one online vendor still selling at a reasonable price, and so I snagged it, but I'll believe it for sure when I hear that it ships

Comments to come.
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5. Board Game: Puzzle Strike [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:892]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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http://www.lautapeliopas.fi/ - the best Finnish board game resource!
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2 x _9_Oregon
3 x .10!Dominion
2 x _7_Puzzle Strike
2 x _7_Richard Scarry's Busytown: Eye found it! Game
1 x _7_Voll in Fahrt

Decent week. More Puzzle Strike. I think it's a good game, but I'm still not sure if it's a keeper. Dominion with new cards was interesting, Hinterlands had many good cards. Fool's Gold was a particular favourite.

I played two games of Oregon at the circus school, two-player games against a newbie. Won both games, but funny enough the first game had scores of 60-40, while the second game was about 120-90. A bit of development there between games.

Go vote in the 2011 Picture of the Year contest- Huge GG Prizes, there are lots of good photos there.
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6. Board Game: Stephensons Rocket [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:694]
Jens KH
Germany
Frankfurt am Main
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Games played

3x _5_ The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow
2x _5_ Ultimate Werewolf: Ultimate Edition
1x _8_ Clippers
1x _4_ Friesematenten (new!)
1x _6_ Glen More
1x _2_ Gruftmeister (new!)
1x _6_ Lancaster (new!)
1x _6_ The Manhattan Project (new!)
1x _7_ Stephensons Rocket (new!)

Lots of new stuff once again.

The Manhattan Project is a solid worker placement game, yet it felt a little one-dimensional to me and took a bit longer than it should have. I'm still not sure what to think of the direct confrontation, either. Love the graphic design, however.

Stephensons Rocket got a tentative 7, but I think it's the game with the most potential from the new ones. Very opaque on first play.

Lancaster is another entry with some new twists on worker placement (is it the season?). I feel similarly about it and MHP: some nice ideas and I'll gladly play again, but ultimately not really breaking any new ground.

Friesematenten was a dreary affair. Too convoluted for casual (fun) play, too generic to be appealing, and too chaotic to be taken seriously. What does that leave?

Gruftmeister was even drearier. A dungeon crawl in the most literal sense of the term.

Curiously enough, just like Mikko's experience last week, Clippers was a pretty drawn out game which only ended when all the lines were exhausted. It really did drag a little that way...

All the Werewolf plays were with (parts of) the new troupe that overran our meeting two weeks ago. Luckily, it's quite possible to have a fun time even though I'm still not particularly fond of the game.
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7. Board Game: Stephensons Rocket [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:694]

Eugene
Oregon
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Played this week

Chain Reaction
Isaac
PAX
Rolling Stock
Symbioz
Wiz-War
Mü & More
Magic Hill
Trajan
Oregon x 3
Paris Paris x 2
Slither
Stephensons Rocket
Walnut Grove
Cranium Scribblish
Kingdom Builder x 3
Mahjong
In the Year of the Dragon

Ha, looks like a Stephenson's Rocket boom this week on Amoeba!

Lorna emails me an hour or so before we head out of town for our weekend game getaway and asks if I can bring the makings to play Chain Reaction, a Sid Sackson obscurity. Let's see...7x8 board. Yeah, I got one of those close at hand for playing Knight Moves. The pieces...11 for each player, and they have to stack. And it just so happens that I'm planning to take along Manhattan. I'll just repurpose bits from that! Splendid! We play it on Sunday, and it kind of impressed. Feels a bit like rugby without a ball, chaining moves across the board to get past the goal line. Once a piece does this, it materializes again on your own side of the board. This is an abstract with the option to move pieces of your opponent, though that didn't come up in our game. Another oddity is that there's no real victory condition. At the beginning of the game, you decide how many points you'll play to. Another fun Sackson.

Isaac, however, felt kind of dry. It's a Nestorgames abstract of severe ply analysis, where you first fill the board up with pieces, then remove them and score points based on how many other pieces have presence in the same row. On top of that, the play space also serves as the score track, and the moving score markers double points in that row. Ugh. A computer would slay at this.

I like PAX. It's a Biblios kind of game with a Liberté-esque alternate spoiler victory condition.

Training game of Rolling Stock, and as Julie put it, it's not quite the sort of game to play in a cabin at a snowy mountain retreat. Still, we had fun with our severe strategic mistakes. Reading the strategy guide afterwards, I can see this being quite the game, if I can ever convince a group to get comfortable with its very uninviting appearance.


Finally, Symbioz! But boy, that was quick. My right hand Bryon got his three Symbioz in no time flat, mostly on account of my being derelict in keeping him in check. Is there any symbiotic play in this, or is it straight all out eat or be eaten? If we play again, I'll suggest that those zerbs be replaced by cubes.

Though Lorna has had some bad experiences with it in the past, Julie and I persuaded her to a 3p game of Wiz-War. Julie and I had fun thwarting each other right from the start, she cursing me with a spell that had me take ½ point damage with each step, and me transforming her into a ghost for four turns. Lorna took the quiet and sneaky route and ended up getting two treasures back home for the win, escaping a last ditch effort on my part to prevent it by absorbing a spell delivered by my black cat familiar.

A long time since I last played Mü & More. The bidding is all sorts of good, but the cardplay seems kind of perfunctory.

Magic Hill is a children's game, but adults in the right mood can enjoy it. Alcohol does much to elicit that mood.

Talked about Trajan last week. Solo optimization all the way. That said, I'd try it again.

More Schacht investigations with Paris Paris. I might end up liking this more than others do. Not as much as Web of Power, but that's a high standard. Oh, here's my cute homemade PP:


Taught a Go-playing friend Slither, then gave him a lesson in losing. He didn't catch on with the moving pieces part of the play until it was too late.

The same guy got his comeuppance, though, when he won our 3p game of Stephensons Rocket. My weakness in SR is my inability to get my stations on lines. Can you win without them?

Hasbro demonstrates that yes, they can completely fuck up even classic public domain games. That's what they did with Cranium Scribblish, their sad take on the Telephone game. Telestrations has made me cry tears of laughter each time I've played. Scribblish, with its stupid Barney-purple paper doohickies and stupid die rolling that returns your entry back to your hands and stupid faux-wacky subject cards, fills me with nothing but sour cynicism.

Best 2-out-of-3 Kingdom Builder match with Anna. We each won a game, and then in our deciding game, the special stuff was points for each separate settlement and that jumping pony power thing. It was nuts, I tell you! Both of us jumping around like mad to get singleton settlements all over the place. I ended up taking the win by not neglecting the other scoring thing for pieces in a horizontal line.

Went over to Lorna's for some Chinese New Year celebration and games. Played a few hands of Mahjong, and then the very timely In the Year of the Dragon. I did my default early geishas, early 2pt scroll, cycle my servants strategy, and lost to Lorna by one point.
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8. Board Game: Quarriors! [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:457]
United Kingdom
Southampton
Hampshire
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Glory to Rome (5 player)
Troyes (2 player, New)

2x Quarriors (3 player, won 1 game, New)
Phoenicia (3 player, won)
2x Race FTG (2 player advanced, 2 wins)
St Petersberg (2 player, won)

Puerto Rico (3 player)
Dominion + Seaside (2 player, won)


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9. Board Game: Outpost [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:1048]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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A tale of two 4p Outpost games:

In the first game, our protagonist couldn't draw a high card to save their life. This was best exemplified by round 2 where two water and a dirt, expected value 17, yielded 12; LHO (an eventual titanium baron) expected them to bid up a data library but that was impossible, and the antagonist got it for face. The antagonist ended up with all 3 data libraries; an early Scientist/Laboratory in Era II and they were unstoppable. (Final outcome: protagonist 4th place, antagonist 1st place. It wasn't even as close as that; game was called in part because positions were determined, and in part because antagonist had not noticed that Research doesn't count against hand limit, or that no additional tech was required to buy New Chemicals.)

The second game went a bit differently. Both protagonist and antagonist got very lucky first draws; our fearless protagonist bought a water factory and a person to staff it with, while our antagonist bought Heavy Equipment at 30 and had a dirt card to spare. A bit later the tally was Mega-water plus dirt plus nodule versus 2 Titanium+water+dirt. Protagonist then bought the last heavy equipment and moved into Titanium, with a brief foray into microbiotics. The game was determined when they bought the first Outpost (a lucky roll at or near the beginning of Era 2) for face with $25 in discounts.) Robots turned out to be superfluous as the game snowballed with only 2 turns in Era III (Ring Ore + Moon Ore == Game Over). The drop-in/drop-out auctions mean you can be selective, bidding on an item only if the player you don't want to get it is winning, but it's hard to do much to slow down a leader that way.

Don't ask me why I love this game.

I'll note that all my plays of the old Outpost were with at least 5 or 6 players, and all of my plays of the new game have been with 3 or 4, so I can't really speak to the differences. (For those not keeping score, the old Outpost was heavily houseruled, with most players adopting some or all of the changes from a set of unofficial "expert rules" floating around. While I think the new Outpost has a great set of rules, it's hard to compare plays.)

Other games played his past week:

Sunday:
1846 5p -- I still dislike the post-bankruptcy feeding frenzy on this one. (I'll freely admit that I helped cause the bankruptcy by buying a $40 share from John's B&O; he had three privates, as did Scott. Final scores reflected the truth of the common wisdom that 3 privates is usually death.)
Monday:
1849 3p -- JC was in a good solid position when Mike showed up and we reformed. This was an attempt to play Electric Dreams variant, but we didn't get far enough to see any changes except "no issuing shares".
1880 4p -- I was wondering where my permanent train money was coming from, so I floated the last company rather than just buying good shares. Turned out the 4+4s never rusted. I ended the game with 8 shares of the only top-price company, with the highest dividends, but it just wasn't enough.
Wednesday:
Due to work issues I arrived at the battlefield a bit late, but still managed to have some disorganized Brits take out some disorganized Nazis.
I've also grown inordinately fond of the sound of acrylic dice dropping into a glass mug. (Randomizing is accomplished on the bounces; it's a good substitute for a dice tower, and was deemed necessary after one player bounced a few too many dice onto the map.)
Thursday:
Outpost, 4p, see above
Bohnanza 4p: I got an early third beanfield, but was not aggressive enough about harvesting partial fields to plant new trade-beans.
Friday:
Mégawatts (4p,2x,new to all) -- I've played a lot of 4p Power Grid with this cast of characters, but this was all of our first play on this map; the big non-map change is that the deck and market is stacked with Green plants. The first game we had South Montreal but not North. I bid up the #3 plant, took both Montreal spots and the outlier to the SE, and was left unchallenged; H. took a poor position boxed in by D. and was effectively out of the game. I won handily. In the second game I got the #3 and took all 4 Montreal spots; I got completely fenced in, but struggled back to competitiveness when Step 2 and Step 3 hit on the same turn. Conventional wisdom is that this is a terrible map, but I think it's worth playing.
RftG (all 3 expansions, no goals or takeovers) 3x,3p
Saturday:
Sekigahara new -- we did a lot of small battles instead of a few big ones, leading to what felt like a huge pile of dead-is-forever blocks off to the side. John hit on the killer strategy: pick 3 fights. fight somewhere that you have the cards for, get your new cards, fight the optimal second battle. Absurd card luck took him out to a commanding lead, but I was turning the tide on the inland side by the end of week 3 (21 points of unanswered damage on a 3-block stack -- sluurp!) when we called the game for the arrival of new players.
Outpost, 4p: see above
Power Grid: The Robots 3p+2 robots, US map, new to all -- We had some impressively dumb robots that we made even dumber by deliberately steering them into plants where they soaked up huge amounts of oil and ended up too broke to buy cities. And what idiot put a robot in Seattle? Oh wait, that was me. Summary conclusion: totally worth $6. A great way to break up groupthink. Not sure how good it is for the long term, but I'm very happy to add this to my overflowing Power Grid box.
RftG, all exp. + goals 3p 2x
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10. Board Game: Mage Knight Board Game [Average Rating:8.16 Overall Rank:8]
Tim Seitz
United States
Glen Allen
VA
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Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14
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21x A Few Acres of Snow
3x Mage Knight: Board Game
2x Paris Connection
1x Glory to Rome
1x JAB: Realtime Boxing


I keep saying I am done with A Few Acres of Snow, but I keep getting sucked back in by my buddies, wanting to test another strategy against the British. In a recent game, Gavan had gotten beaten by a friend of his with an interesting strategy, so he tried to surprise me with it. Instead, I surprised him by burning down Quebec 3 times. Good times. Good times.

Taught some friends Mage Knight Board Game, and they loved it. Hope to be getting lots more plays of it. Did a couple solo runs, but never managed to kill the two cities.

Finally got a chance to play Paris Connection, one a 5-player (3rd), and another a 6-player (1st). It's not really as deep as I thought it might be, but it was as fun as expected. I'm rarely a fan of games with large numbers of players because I prefer to exert more control in my games. But this is deceptively innocuous that it could be a good gateway game. It's nice to see the good Winsome games getting nice treatment from Queen Games, but I wish they had used cubes instead of train-shaped pieces. If you're gonna go with a funny shape, wouldn't a track-shaped piece have been more appropriate?

I wish I had the
Italian version of GtR
On a whim, I took Glory to Rome to our monthly game day at the FLGS and ... shockingly ... we ended up playing it over Eminent Domain and Core Worlds. Both of those games were already on the table, and the guy who brought them asked me what I had brought, and when I mentioned GtR, they were, "Yea, let's play that!" I nearly fell over. Surprisingly, my 3 opponents put up a competitive game, and I won by only 3 points. I thought I had a much bigger score, so I ended it with the last in-town site, but I had forgotten my nearest rival had the statue AND the Wall, which netted her an additional 10 points. still, they all had tons of fun, and they were sad that we had to stop. (I mentioned I could end it two turns previously, but they all wanted to keep it going! LOL!).

I taught JAB: Realtime Boxing to some folks. What a great game! There's usually a very stark skill differential when teaching this game. It's far better for me to just teach others and let them fumble around against each other. Got me excited to push through the MMA version of it though. Lots of new ideas. laugh
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11. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:164]
Peter Mumford
United States
Somerville
Massachusetts
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My neighbors, a sweet couple and good friends, recently discovered the best boardgame ever!

my friend: Its called, its called, I can't remember. Its got these tiles, and there's a robber..
me (sinking feeling): Settlers of Catan?
my friend: That's it! We love it! Will you play with us??

That's how I've come to play Settlers twice in the past two weeks. It a much worse game than I remembered. There are so very many layers of randomness and so few opportunities for tactics (it is strategic, I'll give it that).

In this week's game I was way out ahead, so my two neighbors kept putting the robber on me. You might say the robber was on the hexes that produced for me 2/3 of the game. This of course is a catch up mechanism designed to mitigate the game's positive feedback. Which would be OK, except that its a no-brainer. Its just random — when a 7 is rolled, you put the robber on the guy who is in front, and both the move and the timing are chosen for you by the dice. That's not much of a game. I did end up winning that game, but it just wasn't satisfying. If I had rolled a 7 on my final turn I would not have won.

I have introduced my neighbor to Tigris and Euphrates. I'm hoping he and his girlfriend will take it up as a replacement to Settlers.

My plays this week:
Wabash Cannonball
Tigris and Euphrates
Settlers of Catan
Traumfabrik

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12. Board Game: Ora et Labora [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:47]
Jerry Hagen
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
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.10! Ora et Labora 3
.10! Brass 1
_9_ Mage Knight: Board Game 1
_7_ Vikings 1

Some good gaming. I'm pretty excited.

Jack came by late morning on Monday as we both had the day off and daycare was pre-paid. First I taught him Mage Knight Board Game and it was a pretty good session. I'm definitely bored with the intro scenario at this point but it can't be helped on a first play. I played Norowas again but unfortunately don't remember too many of the details.

We hoped to get Sara involved in a 3p game of Ora et Labora. Unfortunately she was a bit stressed from lesson planning and so we had to change the plan to Vikings. It was a strange game in which I ran myself down in money and then kept getting the exact right tile/veeple pair falling into my lap. I finished with 89 which was just a hair ahead of my two opponents combined. I won't claim that was a fair reflection of our skill at the game but it was fun.

Jack and I then played a 2p long game of Ora (France), which degenerated into a wonder-fest. I'm not enamored of the 2p long game.

Friday night I got to play Ora again, and also a FTF game of Brass. Because I haven't played that enough over the last two months. It was actually quite a good game; I rushed cotton and won by just a few points over Brad who got out double shipyards.

Last night Timmy crashed at 6:00 after skipping his nap. (By the way his normal bedtime has stabilized in the 8-8:30 range which leaves me a lot less grouchy.) Sara and I took advantage to play a 2p Ora short game. I have to say that's going to be my preferred way to play 2p. I still would prefer a fixed ending though; I don't care much for the dynamic of building out all the buildings. After the game, the initial count had me winning by a scant two-point margin, 271-269. Given such a close score she insisted on a recount, and I was already recounting. We found two errors in her score, a 2-point miscount of her buildings and a failure to give her credit for a water space next to one of her settlements, so it appeared she would win by three. Then we recounted my score and it turned out I had a string of several 4-point buildings in a row, one of which I had skipped in the first count. So the final was 275-274 in my favor after multiple recounts. We resolved to play again soon.
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13. Board Game: German Railways [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:1316]
John Brier
United States
Aventura
Florida
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1x German Railways New to Me
1x Traders of Genoa
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14. Board Game: Innovation [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:207]
Carlos Moreno Serrano
United Kingdom
Guildford
Surrey
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_7_Innovation x 2

I finally got to play Innovation. I got the iello edition which I found quite pleasant.

I really liked it until we played it a second time and it got quite random, making the only player that was completely "lost" the winner.

Still, quite a lot of fun. I plan on keeping my copy for many years to come. I think it will be a hit with casual gamers.

I find myself being more and more elitist with the games I keep in my collection. The rest I recycle them in trades. I enjoy heavy games the most, but I get to play them so rarely it makes me cry. I have increased my gaming frequency but with casual gamers, which makes me happy and sad at the same time, quite bittersweet... My secret plan is to transform or evolve my casual gamers into more advanced gamers, but some of them really are not in the mood...
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15. Board Game: Star Fleet Battles: Captain's Edition Basic Set [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:1582]
Edward Rustin
United Kingdom
London
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Last week was a bit of an odd and crazy week, so not a whole lot of gaming (of any sort) done.

Long story short - my girlfriend had been losing a lot of weight and not feeling so great, so went to the doctor and found out that it was because she's developed type-1 diabetes. In practical terms, it meant that Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were taken up by visiting the doc, getting blood tests, visiting the doc again, and then with her being told to go to the emergency room on Thursday evening to get her blood sugar lowered, which meant a night in hospital.

So, yah, games haven't really been at the forefront of my mind for the last nearly-a-week. I'm glad that it happened while I was around and in between jobs though - which is something that will change next week when I'm starting a 6-month banking contract.

Still, I did get some gaming in.

I've been wanting to play Star Fleet Battles for a while now, since I got Federation & Empire last year. I finally managed to track down a copy of the Captain's Edition Basic Set at my FLGS and so bought it on a whim as a new-contract gift to myself. Haven't had a chance to do much with it yet, but I have started working through a couple of basic scenarios using the simplified Cadets Rules that ADB released a while ago as a way of easing people into the game. It's fun so far, so I'm looking forward to reading the more detailed rules and getting into some nice and tactical space ship blasting!

Got in a few rounds of RFTG with the girlfriend as well. I want to play it more often and get back into the game, but taking it slowly so far and easing her into it. Should be able to start mixing in the first expansion soon I hope!
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