GCL Meatball Division - The Ten Commandments
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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Welcome to this week's Meatball discussion list. Swedish Meatballs is not only a division of BGG's GameChatLeague, but also a weird but delicious dinner I recently cooked. Members only should add an item to this list for weekly games played. Members and non-members are welcome to comment, answer questions, divulge secrets of life, etc.

Rotation:

Dubbelnisse... or should I say, Double NEXT! (no, I should not.)
cymric
tonksey
fateswanderer
darrinwilliams
baditude
rarevos
qwertymartin
lacxox
bnordeng
Bolger
natestraight
patrick carroll
ellephai
johnbandettini
osirus

************************

Well, after doing 4 horsemen of the apocalypse and 7 deadly sins, clearly the next sensible theme is the 10 commandments. (I may be stumped next time, but I'll worry about that then.) Anyway, this is not a religious geeklist, I just used the theme as inspiration, so I hope people of all and no religions will have no qualms about participating.

Cheers.
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1. Board Game: The BoardGameGeek Game [Average Rating:6.13 Overall Rank:2702]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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1) "BoardGameGeek is your God; you shall have no other sites before it"

Is BGG your most visited and/or favorite site? If not, what is? Where do you spend your time online?


My web address used to autocomplete with BGG if I typed "www". Right now it appears to be boingboing.com. But those two and Facebook are probably my most visited sites. I hate Facebook though, and boingboing has gone downhill, so I think BGG easily wins there. Is it my favorite site? Well, no, I think at the moment that might be Netflix...
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2. Board Game: Curse of the Idol [Average Rating:5.04 Overall Rank:10483]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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2) "Thou shalt not make any graven game image, and bow down to them"

Do you have any game images in your house aside from your game collection itself? Giant game posters, meeple magnets, lifesize cardboard Friedemann Friese, etc.?


I have many video game posters (although most have fallen down; I need to put them up better), but don't really have any board game paraphernalia on display. (Aside from my 25 shelves of games, which are enough to make most visitors gawk in terror.)
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3. Board Game: Vulgarville [Average Rating:3.00 Unranked]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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3) "Thou shalt not take the name of Games or Gamers in vain"

When you tell people you are a gamer, have people made snippy comments? Do friends and family say your hobby is a waste of time, and that gamers are generally socially inept foul-smelling hairy unemployed men?


Hey wait, that describes me! Crap.

Seriously though, I've certainly had many people express their contempt for games and gamers to me. I will admit that at some game stores or tournaments you might meet the... well, the comic shop owner from the simpsons, and similar such characters. But by and large, the people I game with seem quite pleasant, and the constant mischaracterization of gamers irks me somewhat. And people have oft called my hobby a waste of time, usually while enjoying some highly valuable pursuit like football-watching, but the most damning criticism was from a friend who said it's pointless to attempt to excel within a tiny rulespace someone else has defined for you.
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4. Board Game: Game Night at Nate's [Average Rating:6.83 Unranked]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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4) "Remember Game Night, and keep it holy"

Do you have a regular gaming night? If so, do you honor it by scheduling everything around it, or do you skip out on it for other events?


We game on Thursdays, although our group has severely dwindled to the point where only two people regularly attend aside from me and my partner -- and one of those two lives 40 minutes away and can't always show. I'm not blameless though -- the local monthly comedy open mic falls on the same night, so once a month I skip game night to go do stand-up. I try not to plan things on game night if at all possible, but when events show up, game night is admittedly not my top priority.
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5. Board Game: Legion of Honor [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:4113]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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5) "Honor those who bring games, teach them to you, and game with you"

Do you appreciate those who teach you new games, bring new games to try, and play with you? Do you express that appreciation? Or is gaming just expected, and bears no special comment?


I appreciate those who game with me, and love when people bring new games to try, and are good at explaining them. I don't necessarily honor them though. Perhaps I should; one of my stalwart gaming companions has infinite patience, and the other has infinite enthusiasm. And an erstwhile one who I hope moves back soon may be one of the best rules explainers I've seen. Honor unto them!
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6. Board Game: Murder City [Average Rating:5.47 Overall Rank:9136]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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6) "Thou shalt not kill a game."

Have you ever overturned a board, swiped the pieces off the table, stormed away from a game, or any other rage quit that basically kills the game for all other players before a rules-related or otherwise agreed-upon conclusion?


I really try not to drop out a multi-player game if my doing so will kaibosh the game for everyone else. If I can leave without affecting things much (e.g. Apples to Apples), I will. But I'd feel bad leaving a game where doing so would mess up the other players. I have certainly abandoned 2-player games mid-game when a turn leaves me destroyed but not likely to see the game end soon, as I feel conceding is a reasonable option. But I have not, to my recollection, thrown pieces around in disgust.
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7. Board Game: Cheater [Average Rating:4.10 Overall Rank:10696]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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7) "Thou shalt not cheat"

Have you ever cheated at games? Would you now? How do you deal with catching another person cheating?


I have cheated at games. As mentioned upthread, as a child I did not deal with losing very well.

In my modern gaming incarnation, I do not cheat at games*. Mainly because I don't see the point; I don't play for money, so the sole prize of victory is satisfaction, which there is none of if I have cheated. (*Okay, technically I don't cheat on purpose -- there have been games where we realize halfway through that one of my early plays was illegal, but so it goes.)(*Also exception made for Euchre, a game where cheating is part of the meta-game, and I cheat among a group of friends who are all aware each other are trying to cheat in that game and that game only.)

If I see cheating, I will call it out and presume (or act like) the person has made an honest mistake. I haven't had to deal with persistent cheating, unless you count the time I was dragooned into playing a game with a child. Children don't like losing, and cheat a lot, go figure. I tried to call the kid out, but the mother said, "let her have fun". Me, I think it's a bad lesson to teach, so even with kids, I wouldn't play with a cheater.
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8. Board Game: 'Steal' The Card Game [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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8) "Thou shalt not steal game concepts"

How do you feel about games that take most of their mechanics from other games? Is there an amount that's too much, or are we standing on the shoulders of giants?


I tend to think great ideas are great and I always like to see them refined. I do have a preference for original mechanics, but if worker placement and deck building make good games, then go ahead and keep using those mechanics. Eventually people get burn out. And half of the Dominion clones aren't as good as Dominion anyway; it's the games that add new stuff that work better.

I do draw the line at those games that pretty much steal the entire game and just re-theme it. That seems like crap. But if you have a crazy new mechanic that's the best thing since sliced bread, of course other people might want to refine it and use it in their games too. That's how games get more fun.
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9. Board Game: Eye-Witness [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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9) "Thou shalt not be a false witness"

How do you feel about false witness genre games where you try to convince people you aren't the evil one? (Werewolf, Mafia, Witch Hunt, etc.) What makes playing these games more or less fun for you?


I hate this genre of games more than anything. More than Monopoly, Settlers, and Apples to Apples put together. Nothing can redeem them for me, I have no desire to play them, in any circumstance, ever again. But don't let that stop the rest of you from having an interesting discussion.
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10. Board Game: I Want Candy! [Average Rating:2.00 Unranked]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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10) "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's games"

Do you appreciate the games you have on your shelf, or do you find yourself always more interested by the games your friends own?


I have greener-grass-itis. I own over 200 games, and I want to play the ones my friends have -- even though there are many games on my shelf I haven't even played 5 times yet. And then if I finally acquire a game my friend owned, my excitement and interest in it diminishes somewhat within weeks. It's sort of awful, actually. I'm not sure what to do about it.
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11. Board Game: Egizia [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:179]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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Alright, I am back! Have been stressed and haven't played any games so I took a break from the meatballs. I am back now though, and I hope to be able to play more games now in the near future.

We had a great four-player session of Egizia, which I would put as my number one worker placement game now. The Nile mechanic makes the game so tense, and with four players it is almost brutal. I got last, and I hope to get my revenge this week.
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12. Board Game: Santiago [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:332]
Brad N
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
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.N/A. The Battle for Hill 218 - Jack
.N/A. Wooly Bully - Ivory, Azalea
I8.5I Santiago - Shane, Neal, Jed, Nick
_.8_. Carcassonne - Marie
I7.5I Click Clack Lumberjack - Shane, Neal, Jed, Nick
I7.5I Word on the Street Junior - Marie, Ivory, Azalea
I7.5I Duck, Duck, Bruce - Bill
I7.5I Forbidden Island - Dane
I7.5I Round-Up - Dane
_.7_. TransAmerica - Bill, Shane
_.7_. Hey, That's My Fish! - Dane
I6.5I Ticket to Ride: The Card Game - Marie
I6.5I Go Away Monster! - Ivory, Azalea, Dane
_.6_. A Fistful of Penguins - Marie, Ivory, Azalea (x1); Eve, Marie (x1); Olivia (x1); Marie (x3)
_.6_. Slide 5 - Shane, Neal, Jed, Nick
_.6_. FITS - Dane
_.6_. Dancing Eggs - Ivory, Azalea
I5.5I Hare & Tortoise - Bill, Shane, Neal, Jed
I3.5I Reiner Knizia's Amazing Flea Circus - Dane

I really love Santiago as a 5-player game. I finished second by $1 in this game against a player who paid $8 for a field with two planters that dried up late in the game. I was amazed by that. Fun play.

I picked up A Fistful of Penguins while in Chicago visiting family and we played it several times. It's a cute, little dice-roller in the whole Yahtzee-style of games. I enjoy it, but it isn't amazing. It plays super fast. Marie really likes it as a quick game. Marie and I also played Carcassonne which was good except for my 50 point cathedral city that secured the win pretty early on.

Jack taught me The Battle for Hill 218 over lunch one day this week. Good, quick, abstract game. Not sure about replayability, but I enjoyed my first play with Jack.

Dane and I played a bunch of games this week... the best of which was Forbidden Island. I'm really impressed with his ability to play this as a 3 year old. This time we lost as the winged lion tiles sank before we saved the winged lion. Added Wooly Bully to our collection and played it with the girls... went well (there is a fair amount of take that possible in this game, but it didn't disrupt this play). We played Dancing Eggs too and I'm always surprised at how flat this game falls. It's not bad, but never as good as expected.
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13. Board Game: Magic Realm [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:624]
The one and only (but one of two in BGG)
United States
Minnesota
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"Desire makes everything blossom; possession makes everything wither and fade." (Marcel Proust)
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I said above that I don't cheat, but I guess I'm cheating if I say this is a game I've played this past week. All I've actually done is set it up and reread half the rules--including the combat rules, which are new to me and which I'll need in this Second Encounter.

Setup took a long time--about an hour and a half, since I didn't have the components sorted out and was new to it, reading the instructions as I went along. It's supposed to take an experienced player about 40 minutes to set up. I enjoyed the process, though. It didn't drag on; it was interesting enough. I just put on some music and relaxed into it.

I knew I'd need a good rules refresher, though, so I printed out the latest rules (all 122 pages of them) and started reading through them. I've got some more reading to do before I'll begin the game.

As I was reading the rules last night, I got enthused. I thought, This sounds like a really cool game. I think I can get into this.

And then I read something--this short interview with the designer, to be exact--which dampened my spirits. Maybe it shouldn't have, but it did.

In the interview, Mr. Hamblen describes what his game design was supposed to be like--and how the publisher's demands prevented it from manifesting. Evidently the game people play today is only half the game it could have been and was envisioned to be.

I've sometimes wondered why there are no water tiles in the game, or why my set came with a red die and a white one. These things are explained in the interview. And now that I've read the explanation, I feel like I'm stuck with a hastily cobbled-together partial game instead of a full, polished game.

Well, maybe it was all for the best. Since MR was published as a self-contained game and never officially expanded, its fans have had time to playtest the heck out of it, refine the rules, come up with some viable strategies, and verify that it's a good enough game to still be rated highly after more than thirty years.

It sure would've been nice, though, if MR had been the fantasy equivalent of ASL, generating expansion after expansion all these years.

There's a rumor that such a thing may yet come to pass. Apparently there's currently some interest in republishing MR. And if it happens, maybe Richard Hamblen's original vision will finally be realized.

Meanwhile, maybe I should be grateful that the game I've got on my table is, at present, the whole game. If it were ASL, there would be more expansions and user-designed scenarios out there than I'd ever be able to collect in a couple lifetimes.
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14. Board Game: Thunderstone [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:322] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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Not much gaming this week. Had two rounds (with the same board) of Thunderstone with my partner, and some playtesting/tweaking of the game a guy in our gaming group made. I think Thunderstone will not keep up this rate of play, but as I acquired the set with two expansions, it's always fun as long as there are new cards. We've now played with every card from the basic set.

But I did spent a lot of time writing an introspective blogpost about Media Scarcity vs. Media Abundance, so that's time well-spent, right?
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15. Board Game: Bios: Megafauna [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:1171]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Wednesday: a fairly light night at LoB

The few of us left over at the beginning couldn't agree on a game and ended up with a quick round of Liar's Dice - fine by me.

Next we played a plesantly speedy game of Manhattan, which I'd played once before and still quite liked. Two of us were vying for the lead throughout, but our rivalry let another player sneak through for a 1-point win in the final scoring.

I was keen to get my traded copy of Merchants of Amsterdam to the table, being one of the few 'serious' Knizias I hadn't yet tried. Annoyingly I botched a rule, which made it less interesting than it should have been but I think everyone still had a good time. The wind-up Dutch auction 'clock' is a neat gimmick, but there was a lot of overbidding and if I'd stuck to my 'buy nothing' strategy I probably would have won.

Next I tried out my other new Knizia - Wheedle. It's a raucous real-time trading game, a bit like advanced Pit and it was pretty good fun. I particularly like the rule that the company with a face-up card on the table at the end of a round goes 'bankrupt'.

Then we finished with the traditional few rounds of 6 nimmt.

Sunday: the only other gaming this week (which also included the World Diving Cup at the new Olympic aquatic centre and a gig by one of my favourite artists in a tiny stuffy basement) was this afternoon.

Eryn invited me over for a game of Bios: Megafauna, which we had a slightly strange game of at LoB a few weeks ago. The rules have changed a fair bit since then, in typical Eklund style, and they seemed to be improvements. I still think it's more of an experience than a real competitive game, but we all had a great time. I was well ahead early on, as there seemed to be lots of food that only my long-necked beasties could reach. Then an ice-age hit, wiping out almost all life, and when it finally warmed up again, my one remaining animal got trapped on an island for a few turns.

I wish Eryn wasn't moving back to the US in a couple of weeks!
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16. Board Game: Mykerinos [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:518]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Wednesday, gaming club:

Age of Industry- Well, I have heard this one is called Brass light but that's not true. Yes it's lighter, yes it's shorter, probably it's even shallower - but it's still not light or short. It's still more or less the same game but it can be played in under 2 hours which is a good thing for me. Alo unlike Brass, the fact that you have color-coded area cards instead of cards with texts, it seems it's a lot easier to add new maps to this game. I liked the experience - Brass is probably a great game but Age of Industry is probably very good, too.

Mykerinos- I was lucky enough to be able to try the copy of Mykerinos I just bought some days before. I knew the game from years ago when I played it on-line (in 2008) but that was so long ago that I had to re-learn the rules. I was also surprised how fast this game goes face to face. In short, I love this little game. Rather simple rules (especially for an Ystari) of decisions that are not that easy - this one has first the blocking aspect of Through the desert, then the decision of going to the museum or taking patron cards, and later, of course, the proper timing to use the patron cards. The Brown card is owerpowered in the beginning, yes, but that only means there will be a stronger fight for certain areas in the first regions so I don't think that would "break" the game. And as I mentioned last week, I think the 2-player rules work fine; now I think it's time to teach Mykerinos to my wife.


On Sunday I played Carcassonne: The Castle with a friend once. Our wives' comment was interesting here: they both said they don't really like this one but they would like to play good old Carcassonne anytime (and no, they weren't hinting "We would like to play too but now you play a 2-player version"). Unfortunately they just could not explain why.
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17. Board Game: Last Will [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:227]
Darrin Williams
United States
Allen
Texas
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I had a short Game Night this week. It was my first chance to play in my new Game Room. (Actually, it's the Dining Room, but since we're not very formal, we're calling it the Game Room.)

Last Will - They really should have gotten the Bruester's Millions license for this game. Everyone I show this game to immediately makes the connection.
I really like the game.

Nefarious - The older kids wanted to join in which left us with 6 players, so we pulled out Nefarious. It's a fine filler. I like it better than 7 Wonders, because I feel like I can sort of plan ahead in Nefarious.

The Great Dalmuti - I found out my friends had never played this. In fact, they'd never heard of Richard Garfield. We played a few rounds. I kind of like the reverse player elimination in games like this. The Winner has to sit and watch everyone else play.

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18. Board Game: Parthenon: Rise of the Aegean [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:1789]
Andrew
United States
San Francisco
California
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Rather than put Hansa Teutonica up again I'll pick something different...

Anyway, I began with a tough 5p game of Hansa Teutonica - my group now believes that the 5th seat must displace around Gottingen on the first turn, but this was the first time I had seen it. Here's one for the "tactics versus strategy" discussion: the player who counselled me against upgrading too much upgraded too much, and found himself with one overbuilt office in the corner of the map, two merchants in Coellen, a couple of bonus tokens, and nothing else. I haltingly built up a network in the Northwest, but the heavy use of merchants and the interference of other players made it take forever. The winner took a disproportionate number of the +skill and +action bonuses during the game, and built his network in the far more open Southeast, thoroughly outpacing the rest of us. I took a distant second place.

I think I need to displace more in order to be displaced more; the other players were displaced a lot during the game but I frequently found myself with nowhere to block, also having to use the replenishment action often. The other players were more aggressive with displacement than I had seen before. Then again, I did come second, so who knows?

I then played 4p Discworld: Ankh-Morpork and was perturbed by the arbitrariness of it. I was expecting a wacky, random take-that game, but drawing a hand of single-play cards (none of which placed minions, which I needed) while waiting for another player to go through a multi-card sequence wasn't great. What's more, random events and cardplay by others happened to remove the hard-won minions I did place! I like the core of the game and the simplicity of the mechanics (trouble and majority, assassinations and buildings); however it didn't come together as well as I wanted it to. The play-one-card and draw-up system seemed stultifying. Discussions after the game had us wondering how Vimes wouldn't win most of the time (and me wondering if Wallace would never impress me).

I would like to play the game again, with quicker turns - perhaps I just had a bad game. Well, I ended up winning but I didn't feel like it during the game.

On Saturday we launched into a 5p game of Parthenon: Rise of the Aegean. This is a game that has to be appreciated in the right way to be enjoyed: less as a strategy game than an experience game, with significant luck each turn. Players generate resources, trade with each other, send ships on risky expeditions for more trading, and then build up their economies. Add some very nasty random events (and an elected position that can steers these events) for spice. The high-variance expeditions really fit the theme, and I like the fact that you actually trade at the destinations.

Parthenon: Rise of the Aegean ran rather long though, and I found the Aegis cards rather useless (eg use Poseidon to avoid pirates who take half your goods and hit pirates who take all your goods instead!) - especially when compared to a monopoly over one of the rare item types. Anyway, I missed the game end trigger and came third - I probably would have won otherwise.

Plague & Pestilence was a mindless little take-that filler that had a boom-bust cycle I enjoyed. A pity the rest of the game had so little to it; I think something interesting could be designed with more interesting boom-bust tradeoffs/interactions.

6p For Sale was as excellent as ever. I was forced to take the 1 and 3 properties and spent big to get the 29 and 22. My timing was good though, and I squeaked out a win by $1.

Thunderstone is on Facebook now and so I played a game. It's the most interesting Facebook game I've seen (the rest are puzzles or reflex games), but Thunderstone is still not great. (I haven't bought Ascension: Deckbuilding Game on my phone for similar reasons.) The UI is slow too.
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19. Board Game: RoboRally: Crash and Burn [Average Rating:7.82 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.82 Unranked]
Lori
United States
Durham
North Carolina
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So I just got back from Prezcon (aka Robocon), where my primary mission is to compete in the Roborally tournament, teach and recruit new people to try Roborally, and generally play Roborally around the clock and have as much fun as possible. Since there are several hundred other people in attendance who mostly don't realize we're at a Roborally convention, other incidental stuff also tends to happen. Here's what I played:

Pre-Prezcon gaming:
Taluva x 4. Second appearance of this game at my Monday group. I like that we played it enough for me to identify why I don't like it.
Dominion x 3.

Open gaming at Prezcon:
Botswana (new to me)
Can't Stop (new to me--finally!)
Qwirkle
Biblios
Dragon Rage. Played this recently, and the goal was to play it again while we could still recall the rules. This is an asymmetric 2p game, and so far it seems unbalanced in favor of the city defenders. But perhaps we just haven't thought of a good strategy for the dragons yet.

Other tournament events:
Dominion x 4. Played in a couple of Dominion heats, and I think I had enough points to have gotten into the semis, but was busy playing Roborally. Had a great time playing Dominion, though. I notice there's a geeklist on the front page right now denouncing the Dominion GM, but I thought his event was really well organized.
Merchant of Venus. The losing streak continues! Played in one heat of this, and wound up at the table with a guy who's won the event a good few times. It was the third player who won our heat, though, with an interesting approach--a combo drive in a clipper. First time I've seen a passenger-based strategy actually succeed in this game.

Roborally:
Roborally x 23. Yes, we broke our own record for greatest number of Roborally games played at Prezcon! I'm terrible with names and faces, but there's getting to be an increasing body of people I recognize as having played Roborally with us in past years. And we taught the game to a bunch of new people whom I hope we'll see in future years at Prezcon. One person we taught came back the next day, won a heat, and made it into the final! The Roborally final was hilarious. It was the Factory Rejects course (from the 3d ed. rulebook), where all the robots start with 2 damage and you are not allowed to ever power down. As you can imagine, this led to considerable mayhem; we had one turn where 5 of the 6 robots were off the board. My friend Rick won the event, I came in 2nd, and my mom made it into the finals for the first time. All in all, another great Robocon.


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20. Board Game: Prêt-à-Porter [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:637]
eryn roston
United States
San Diego
California
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This weeks gaming included some big games which are typically the sort that I enjoy most.

Prêt-à-Porter:
John and I participated in a 4-player game of Pret-a-porter. One of the other players had played a couple times before. This was only my second game and the other 2 players were new. I really enjoyed my second play of this and I could see my rating rise even more if I manage to get more plays out of it. It shares some similarities with Agricola in that it's worker placement, you've got cards that give players unique characteristics, and theres some upkeep to look after as you move through the game.

Unlike agricola there is some tangible competition which makes the game feel more interactive. Players fight to win specific categories at each of the 4 fashion shows. and information is all basically open. So if I'm trying to have the trendiest clothes everyone can see what Im goign for and move to compete with me.

It's got that quality I like in a game in that afterwards you can look back and clearly see where you could have made different choices to get a different outcome and there's lots of ways one can move through the game and explore it.

a couple fillers 6 nimmt and parade rounded out the evening.

As Martin said, Sunday was Bios: Megafauna. The new rules made for a much more interesting game compared to the last time we played at LOB but they also added to its length, making what was reliably a 2 - 2.5 hour game into more like 3-4 hour affair. This sits fine with me as Id rather play a longer more interesting game any day.

Where my last game was rather static, this game pretty much had everything. Different species seemed to rise and fall as the earth got hit with multiple asteroids (usually right before a scoring round - having a dramatic effect on the game). We also saw both extremes of climate change where the land was filled with impassible wastelands of pure ice as well as a veritable water-world that left everyone grapsing for marine DNA in order to swim off their islands and expand.

good times.
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21. Board Game: German Railways [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:1296]
Johannes cum Grano Salis
United States
Finger Lakes
New York
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"It's not hard to design a game that works, the real challenge is making one that people want to play again and again."--Martin Wallace
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No Thanks! x3 (1 @ 4p, 2 @ 3p)
Paris Connection x3 (1 @ 4p, 1 @ 3p, 1 @ 2p)
Chicago Express x2 (1 @ 3p, 1 @ 2p)
Gyges x2
Onirim x2
DVONN
German Railways (1 @ 4p)
Hive
Quoridor
Ticket to Ride: Europe (1 @ 4p)
Yavalath


Various partner combinations of self-wife-brother-father-mother for the week; my only solitaire games were the two games of Onirim I played at the hospital while waiting for my wife's kidney stone to be removed (there's a circle of Hell reserved for those; she said it was worse than giving birth), and I did manage a game each of Hive and Dvonn against AI. The rest were all face to face.

Multiplayer games featured a lot of train games, and I'm not sure I have coherent thoughts about them yet since I had never played most of them before. So these are only preliminary thoughts.

Paris Connection was fun, and feels like an abstract game wearing an Engineer's outfit. The problem with it was that the first play was spent watching one of the players b-line to Marseilles (even though we told him not to because it doesn't mean he'll win), so the game was annoyingly fast, and no one else owned a share in that company to redirect it; by the time someone traded a share to do so, it was too late. Unsurprisingly, he did not win. He also did not play again. Down to 3 players, we played on. That game played differently, mostly because people knew to somewhat conspire to redirect the Marseilles-bound line off into the middle of the board, so it took a few extra turns to trigger the end game. My father and I tried a two-player variant after that, and it did not work well at all (we handed out 10 trains to each player and removed 10 random trains as well so you couldn't just deduce which trains your opponent had [I stole this idea from Haggis and No Thanks!, among others], then started the game). Overall, it's not a game you get a grasp of on your first play. It strikes me as a game that rewards repeat play, and is a wonderful & rules-light introduction to the concept of shared playing pieces and having a stake in multiple lines.

Chicago Express was awesome, and I'm not saying that because I won both games. Having played 18xx before, CE's rules felt downright simple, and the gameplay was really deep. Each game was completely different. One game I won was (I think) because I owned the only shares in the yellow line at the bottom of the board, and even though it led nowhere, I kept developing cities and mountain hexes; by the end, I had gotten 5-6 payouts at something like 16 bucks a pop, and that wound up being huge. I love the gauges for measuring how frequently an action has been taken, and I love the decisions from the asymmetric train companies.

I'll need to play German Railways some more before I know what I think about it, but my first thoughts are pretty positive, actually. My initial impressions of the turn order thing were not entirely correct (that's Academic Euphemism Speak for "I was wrong"), and we touched upon this in Brad's list entry from a few weeks ago (summary: player order is determined by a random lotto grab from a bag -- if you're in first place you get one entry, second place you get two, third place you get three, etc, so players in last place should, over time, get more moves than those in first).

The turn order thing is the game. If you're not OK with it, you won't like the game. However, I can confirm that it is possible to win without getting turns, because I went two rounds in a row without getting a single turn. BUT that happened only after I had a few shares of stock in a few different companies and was guaranteed to have other people's work benefit me. My father missed a turn early in the game and it was a LOOONG time before he could catch up again. I believe that was when he was in fourth place, had four tokens go in the lotto draw, and didn't get a single one picked. Chicago Express is a no luck game; this one is not.

One night before bed my mother trounced us all in Ticket to Ride: Europe, so there's that. Having now played both TtR:E and Paris Connection, I'm starting to see why PC is sometimes held up as the simpler of the two games.

I'll stop babbling now.
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22. Board Game: After Pablo [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:2409]
Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
Zaandam
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After Pablo — A friend of mine decided to 'go indie' at Spiel, and came home with this title. To be honest, it's adult subject matter—drug trafficking is not everyone's cup of tea—had caught my eye too, but games from indie designers tend to be miss rather than hit so I didn't pay more attention to it beyond smirking at the entire idea of the game. As it turned out, the rule book is a bit hairy, so despite several beginnings we never managed to play to completion. However, as part of an extraspecial Alphabet Challenge, we resolved to see things through this time. And we did. The new Pablo Escobar: Paula Escobar. Yes, the most ruthless of all players was a woman.

As for the game: I think this is a good example of subject over game. Selling coke to Mexico (an exceedingly safe way to play the game) yields a modest income, but not enough to become competitive. So players are forced to smuggle coke into the US, which basically means spending a lot of cash to bribe both DEA and the dealer network. Player interference is high here, it can, does and must happen within moments that a previous player ruins safe deals out for the next player. And at the end of the day, having control of Mexico and Colombia might actually be the most profitable way to win. Subjectwise it's probably all correct, but gamewise I think there are a lot of rules for little interesting game play. Sadly, the owner of the game considered it a bit of a 'meh' experience too, so I doubt we will be seeing much of this title in the future.

Trajan — This game is, I think, of all Felds I played to date, the one I like best. Just like Die Burgen von Burgund Stefan created a puzzle game instead of a point snowball engine, but whereas in DBvB dice with lots of modifiers are the main driving force, here it is a completely deterministic Mancala wheel. That doesn't mean it is simple to use: it actually becomes trickier the more you try to plan ahead. Fitting the limitations of your movement options to what is still available on the central board isn't easy, and creates the right sort of puzzle environment. I like Trajan better than Die Burgen von Burgund too, for several reasons:
— better physical appearance;
— plays much quicker with 4 than DBvB; and
— the use of the Mancala wheel gives you utmost control over your own action potential.
With the last I don't mean to discredit the way the dice are used in DBvB: that works, and works well. This just works a bit better.

Too bad that Trajan is about €15 more expensive, though... But if I had to make a choice, I'd go for Trajan before DBvB. I'm puzzled about the layout of the rules, though: this is decidedly Queen Games-like... Anyone know if Ammonit Spiele happens to be related to Queen Games?

Helvetia — Helvetia appeared on my want to play-list because of some superficial similarities to Glen More. Both games are from the same author. When I played I had to conclude that the similarities were indeed only superficial: most of the interesting topological puzzling has gone; instead we now have shared building activation which is all in vogue these days. Using another player's building to get you stuff isn't done just like that, though: it requires you to marry into the other player's family. And for that you need children, which you only get from couples in the first place. A jointly occupied building only becomes blocked the moment both spouses have used it, so in that the game is 'generous' compared to the competition. Personally I found the rest of Helvetia not particularly engaging: buildings are simple, and what you need to do to score points is also very simple. Doesn't mean it cannot become complex to work out the marriage schemes: it just means that I didn't find it sufficiently interesting title to play anew.

Also, the artwork is a hindrance to quick scans around the table; and with the barely distinguishable difference between men and women meeples the game is not very ergonomic to play in the first place. It makes you wonder if someone at Kosmos ever wondered about the impact of various material choices.

Merkator — The last game I played last week is this one. When I sat down for the first time behind a table on some Spiel, I was quickly relegated from competitor to bystander. I could not understand what was happening, and so wanted to try the game again to see if I could now make some sense of it. Unfortunately, I was again quickly out of the race, causing me to mope for the major part of the time it took to play the game. In hindsight, I think I made a few errors which would have at least have me participating more:
— you need to be very careful with the contracts you keep: if you can't get at the resources easily it's of little use holding onto them...
— ... but at the same time it could very well be the case that with the 4:1-trading rule you can at least fulfill the contract once: it gets you a better contract which may have the overlap you seek.
— And moving to a country you don't have a contract of may allow you to get a bunch of cubes you can use for trading; and it may help you obtain new time markers from players travelling with you.
Still, Merkator is a game where you can be played by your competitors, for example if they take all the fattened-up countries before you can move there yourself.

All in all I did not enjoy myself much, but curiously I still find myself wondering if I couldn't make the game work 'as intended'. I noticed that last year the box was on sale already, and with waning interest in the 'Lesser Uwes' I have a hunch that it will be really on sale the coming Spiel. We'll see if I can find a copy for an acceptable price then.

That said, ergonomically this game is annoying too. Whoever thought that small cardboard boxes filled with tiny cubes are useful for people with big hands needs to be thumped with a box the weight of Agricola. Including the expansions.
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23. Board Game: Air Show [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:4636]
John Bandettini
United Kingdom
London
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Two sessions last week both at London on Board.

20/2 I was the host for the night. It was not a very busy night but about half the visitors seemed to be first timers. I managed to get everyone into a game and a couple of them have already been to a second meetup.

Air Show. I have been wanting to play this for a while, even bought it in a couple of times before but never got it to the table. This time managed a full five player game. Each turn begins with an auction for available air craft (Same amount as number of players) + 1 event card. (these make something favourable happen for owner)

The auction is done with poker chip style tokens. Each player has 5 with different values, 0, 1, 2, 3 and 5. In turn each player places a token face down under a card they are interested in. This continues until every player has placed three bids. Bids are revealed and highest bid buys plane for bid total plus value on the plane card. In the case of a tie, player who placed a token first wins.

After the auction all players can buy an upgrade for their airfield. These can allow you to gain more income, fix more planes, get better weather, have less breakdowns etc

Depending on age, planes are split into five groups. Each player can put on a show with as many planes as they like. Each player has a hand of 5 cards. These cards have the rewards for a successful show on them. They also determine the weather for the show and the chance of mechanical breakdown. You have to play a card on each age group you have in the show. This basically means the more age groups you use the higher the chance of bad weather and mechanical breakdown.

After everyone plays their cards, one card is taken from the deck and the weather and mechanical breakdown values are added to everyone’s cards. Depending on the results some of your planes may not fly due to bad weather, (The older the plane, the more they are affected by weather, but also they score more points) and some of them might not fly due to mechanical breakdown.

The game continues until someone builds their fifth upgrade to their airport, this triggers the last round. Players score points for planes owned, building built and cash and prestige points. (When you put on a show you can gain money or prestige, some of the better buildings require prestige to be able to build)

I liked it a lot and will bring it in again. In fact I was asked if I could bring it in again the next night, which I did, though I did not play. The one downside is a terrible rule book, with lots of rules not explained properly. A lot of guesswork and discussion made what is probably about an hour long game last quite a bit longer.

Kingdom Builder. I think I may have mentioned this game before. Played a two player game. One of the many things I like about this game is that it works just fine with 2, 3 or 4 players.

Havana. Also played a two player game of this. Unfortunately this does not play so well with two. It’s not a bad 2 player game, it’s just a great 4 player game. Some of the cards just don’t work very well with two players.

21/2 Back again the next night for more gaming goodness.

Pret-a-porter As Eryn has already mentioned we played this together with a couple of other players. What he did not mention was how close we came to nearly not playing it. The club officially starts at 17:30 and it was approaching 18:30 when Eryn arrived, just as we were setting up Genoa.

I had a few months earlier gone to visit Mr BoardGameGuru (Paul Lister) and thought I would try one of the Essen games he had that I did not know a lot about. For me the choice came down to either City Tycoon or Pret-a-porter. I went with City Tycoon, which I found a little underwhelming when I tried it, so I had been wondering if I had made a mistake and gone for the wrong one.

I found I had, but not by that much. I preferred Pret-a-Porter but not enough that I am dying to play it again. I would not turn down another game, but won’t search it out. I must say I thought it was a much heavier game than it turned out to be. Eryn did comment that he thought that perception was more due to the pretty poor rule book translation than the actual game. Personally I thought it was only a little more complex than Stone Age.

Parade and 6 Nimmt! Due to a late start not much time for other games after Pret, but we did manage a couple of quick filler games.
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