GCL Amoeba 60 - A brief elaboration of a tube
Mikko Saari
Finland
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GameChat League - Amoeba Division 60

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Welcome to this week's Amoeba discussion group!

If you found us randomly (via subscription, perhaps), you're welcome to join in with constructive conversation -- we're friendly symbiotes in real life, though vicious competitors at the game table. (Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most dangerous predator on earth!) Read the links above for more info. (If you're shy, just thumb the list so we can see who's stalking us :-) )

I started with no particular theme, but then the first question I came up with turned into a theme. How convenient. So, this week we're going to talk about components and design.

elemental
fizzle
garygarison
jasonwocky
jdludlow
Morganza
msaari
out4blood
paulclarke339
photocurio
sprocket314
Verandi
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1. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Accessory [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:2556]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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"And with books especially, books as objects are not what books are, it's not what's important about them..." (Jo Walton: Among Others)

I bumped into this passage when reading the book. I was reading the Kindle edition on my iPad, so it rang particularly true. What's important about the books is not the object.

That, of course, applies to games as well. But just how important are the cards, the wooden cubes and the mounted boards? Just like a well done book is a very pleasant object to handle, so is a well done game.

So, let's start with this: how much do you value the tactile experience? Does it feel the same to play an electronic version of a board game? If there are several editions of the game available, will you go to extra lengths to acquire the version with the highest-quality components?
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2. Board Game: Go [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:62]
 
Mikko Saari
Finland
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What is the most beautiful game in your collection? The one with the best components, the one with the most well-designed components, both beautiful and functional? (That's probably more than one game.)
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3. Board Game: German Railways [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:1296]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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Which game has the highest ratio between weak design and excellent gameplay - that is, is fugly but a great game. How about vice versa? Looks great but is not that fun to play? Examples can be from your personal collection, but don't feel limited, particularly on the second part.

For the games that are great, but not well done, how would you improve? How have you improved games to make them look better, work better, to make them more your own. I know Cary and Peter have made some amazing homebrew versions of games - anybody else?

What would be your ideal edition of a game of your choice?
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4. Board Game: Tikal [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:150]
Jens KH
Germany
Frankfurt am Main
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Games played

Wednesday
_8_ Tikal
_6_ Emerald x2

Thursday
_6_ Steel Driver
_5_ Formula Dé Mini (new!)

I'm still hoping to get something played today but it doesn't look very likely at the moment.

I hadn't played Tikal in more than a year so it was high time to fix that. And a great session it was. I had a narrow lead before the final scoring but having painted a bit of a target on my back and going last in the final auction unfortunately meant I wasn't able to defend that position very well (also because I probably should have protected my 10 temple that got snatched away from me). I only just managed to turn it into a shared victory.

Emerald is one of the lesser-known Rüdiger Dorn designs, a casual filler based on the mechanic that pawns can only move a number of spaces equal to the number of pawns on their space (also used in Finca). It also includes a bit of roll and move, but only for the mother dragon that's threatening to eat those pawns for lunch.

Our game of Steel Driver was marred by some very unexpected final scores. Everybody was like "Huh, where did that come from? Seems highly unlikely..." We pretty much agreed somebody must have made a mistake (or two) when handing out the money.

Formula Dé Mini is actually pretty close to its bigger sibling, and even the shorter playtime is mostly a result of the smaller tracks which are, at the same time, pretty dull. The one we tried could be completed without changing gear at all (after getting up to speed, obviously) provided you had a bit of luck with the rolls. The rule changes are fine if probably unnecessary, but the tracks are crap.

I've also been working on the German rules for Massilia this past week.
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5. Board Game: 1880: China [Average Rating:8.33 Overall Rank:1735]
Breno K.
Brazil
Brasília
Distrito Federal
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One match of 1880.

The ORs between the 4+ and the 6 train went on forever, and everyone entered the SR with +1K in cash, with uaually only half the cert limit reached. Weird.

Also, it was a 5 player game and each player got one 4+ train, which was convenient and a last-train-purchase killer.
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6. Board Game: Power Grid: The First Sparks [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:561]
United Kingdom
Southampton
Hampshire
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Power Grid the first sparks (New, 3 player, won)

Battlestar Galactica + Pegasus (5 player, won)
2x Dominion + Seaside (4 player)

Puerto Rico (3 player, won)
Texas and Pacific (3 player)
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7. Board Game: Pantheon [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:881]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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1 x _8_Villa Paletti
1 x _8_Acquire
1 x _9_My First Carcassonne
1 x _9_String Railway
2 x _7_Felix: The Cat in the Sack
4 x _8_Pantheon

Thursday games, a visit to my mother.
 
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8. Board Game: Byzantium [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:969]

Eugene
Oregon
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Byzantium
Kogge x 2
Rosenkönig
Oregon x 5
Kingdom Builder x 3
Walnut Grove x 2
Chicken Caesar
Jockey

Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Lord of the Rings: The Search x 2
Lord of the Rings: The Duel
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation

Finally, a 4p game of Byzantium, on a lazy Sunday afternoon down in the lush south hills of Eugene. It was new to one player, and that player ended up cutting himself off by getting his two armies too close to one another, leaving his options slim for most of the game. We other three played a fierce game, one going all Byzantine at the sacrifice of Arab points, and me and another guy playing straight mixed points, with occasional feints and stabs at Constantinople with the Bulgars. A few crazy dice rolls produced some unexpected results, but they were hardly the deciding factor. I'm chalking up my satisfying victory to my greater experience finessing the special actions. My refrain in this game was, "Where'd you get that cube?" You have to watch your fellow players with an eagle eye in Byzantium, as innocently taking a cube from the casualty pool without paying for it is an easy mistake to make.

Kogge has been occupying my mind quite a lot since my first game last week. I can see it becoming a real favorite. A couple games of it this week, one 2p with Anna, and then a 3p on another day that saw some vicious raid action. JC insists on 4p for Kogge, but I'm not convinced.

My reign as King of Oregon at yucata continues to be unchallenged, though I finally suffered a loss at the hands of Matt (tasajara) in what seems ages since the last one.

Matt came over for an evening of light-played-serious with Kingdom Builder and Walnut Grove. Our KB match saw Matt taking the first game, but then me running rampage with the next two, mostly on account of my equestrian skills using Super Jumping Pony Power.

Chicken Caesar I talk about below.

Someone in their comments mentions that Jockey is great as a 2p game. Anna and I tried it out, and it wasn't great for me. I lost every penny, while Anna made a killing, taking her initial $1000 stake and turning into $23,000. Lesson: Don't bet on more than two horses when playing 2p. It's hard enough getting just one to cross the finish line.

Lord of the Rings Trilogy! First up, Lord of the Rings: The Search, two games, one with the original German rules, one with the altered RGG rules. Anna's experience with LotR mythos didn't seem to help her, me taking both games. The big victor, though, was the original German ruleset. Those who claim there are no decisions in this game must know it only from the RGG rules. LotR: The Search is about managing your hand, managing the landscape, and managing the eventual location of Mt. Doom. The RGG rules subvert all these by making it an easier game with tile placement and losing turns from battles in the mountains, and a more random game by having far less control where Mt. Doom ends up. This isn't a top-shelf game, but it's definitely better than its detractors who've played only by the RGG rules would have you believe.

Next, Lord of the Rings: The Duel, where again Anna's vast knowledge of all things LotR meant nothing, my red owl climbing to the top of the stairs at the Tolkien pedestrian bridge and shouting "I'm king of the world!", just like it did in the movie.


Feeling vexed now, Anna takes me on in Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, she as the Frodo side. I had two guys in her shire, waiting for a clear path to bring my Witch King in for the win, when she attacks it with Merry. Ha! Only a 2 to my Witch King's 5! I got this! No, she says. Merry defeats Witch King instantly. What? Where's that rule? I didn't know that rule! No fair, you read the books! Now I've totally lost! That little fucking hobbit fuck Merry can go straight to hell.

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9. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.13 Overall Rank:6]
Tim Seitz
United States
Glen Allen
VA
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17x JAB: Realtime Boxing
9x Agricola
5x A Few Acres of Snow
1x Cartagena
1x Hansa Teutonica

Went to Prezcon this week out in Charlottesville, VA. It's a grossly over-priced con, IMO, with very little open gaming. They mostly do a lot of tournaments, much more so than Euroquest, which is farther away, but I enjoy quite a bit more. I wasn't going to bother going, but we put together a few good prototype copies of our MMA game ("not JAB: Realtime Boxing"), so I went out there to get playtesting feedback. Totally worth it for that alone.

Because Gavan is in Calgary, I needed an easy way to connect him with the feedback. Rather than me wasting time trying to distill it down and potentially misinterpreting things, I would just interview my playtest victims, get their reactions to the game via video, and then upload them to YouTube. The Internet is pretty amazing, and we didn't try doing Facetime meetings ...



Anyway, while I was there I thought I would enter the tournament for A Few Acres of Snow. Well, there were 8 of us, and everyone quickly agreed (without me present, I might add) to just play a round of games, and award the plaque randomly via a roll of the dice. Later on, for the plaque, George and I agreed to play a set of games with my recommended fixes (Old rules, French bateaux out, British bateaux in, no governor, 3 coin symbols = 2). French won all of them, even the 1 games where I was British, but that one was very close, and included ambushes, raids, sieges, and both sides nearly developing out. That fix is probably slightly too strong for the French side, but dialing back the money restriction to making it "max merchanting of 4 (or 5)" should balance it out nicely. In addition, we post-ludo added in the option to rid yourself of a lost location at a cost of one action. With these rules, the game would appear to play as intended.

Also while there, I entered the Hansa Teutonica tourney at my buddy's urging, since I've never lost a game of it, and he was GMing it. I easily won my game, as he did his. The finals were Saturday, and since I didn't pay for Saturday attendance, I didn't feel right about sneaking in to play the final. As it turned out, my buddy won, so that was nice for him. So we both came away with plaques and t-shirts! LOL.

Meanwhile, my 8 year old son, Jason, took a strong liking to Agricola, and so in between playtest sessions of MMA, we would play 30-minute filler games of family-game Agricola. He really loves it. He also learned how to play Ticket to Ride on the app, and now he likes that, too!

Cartagena was earlier in the week with all of the kids. Candyland Pirates!

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10. Board Game: 18MEX [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:2210]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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I had the pleasure of playing 18MEX with Peter this past week. (Well, the collective gameplay was cringe-worthy, but playing with him was a treat.)

Games played:
Monday:
18MEX -- 4p: me, Peter Mumford (photocurio), Siri DeLicori (third 18xx), Jon Hall (ravenskana; first 18xx). Game developed very slowly; Siri's SoPac went to help his B and had terrible routes, so didn't buy trains. (He had NdeM Pres. share so didn't want it to stop paying too soon. Mistake.) Game ran way long and JC took over Siri's position; in a dramatic rescue he came within $29 of winning.

1849 -- 3p: me, JC, Mike. IFT was first company, and sat trainless until a 6H, at which point it teleported to Palermo. I got crushed. Later on I got Garibaldi dumped on me, floated the Archimedes to save it, struggled to get a beautiful 35$ 10H into the Archimedes and 16H+R6 into Garibaldi, and was competitive for a brief moment until a trainless RCS came visiting.

Thursday:
Power Grid: First Sparks -- Final scores: Albert 13.4 (first play) Candy 13.3 (first play) Aliza 13.3 (third play) I would have won had I realized that there was suddenly a ton of competition for formerly-plentiful mammoths...
Quarriors -- (Corruption in play but none in the mix, so logged as the base game) Run-away 3p win with heavy deck-thinning.

Friday:

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer (3p, my second logged play) -- I don't usually log video games but this was multiplayer with Don and Jeremy. Played on Don's iPad instead of Hugh's iPhone so I could actually see the text on the cards and not just blindly play all and attack the biggest targets :-) I won somehow.

Power Grid: Iberia + Robots -- 6p: Jeremy, Don, Hugh, John H., me, and a two-faced robot that bought all fuel every other turn. Iberia map (with the wind-power market clog) with near-donut region choice. After Hugh sent the robot into John and Jeremy's territory, leaving Don all by himself in the southern strip, I retaliated by feeding the robot a coal plant and then two garbage plants, making everyone's coal and Don's #24 (two garbage for 4 cities) very expensive to run. Meanwhile, I had bought two end-game oil plants before the Step 2 stall, and rode them to a decisive victory. I've raised my rating on the Robots to 8.2 and it may rise higher. "Abusing the robots for fun and profit" takes some skill... (And note that while I was annoyed at Hugh for leaving Don room to romp in, he eventually joined the party there, and came in second. It would be a lot easier to dismiss Hugh's erratic tactics if they didn't sometimes win...)

RftG 3x - me, Don, Jeremy. I won two of the games and then my high score of the night was a 3rd place. :-)

Saturday, BAP:
Outpost -- 6p; took pity rule on first turn; in lockstep with Dave P. doing poorly in early game, but came back to win on a butterfly effect (able to bid 54 on Microbiotics on a turn when Dave P. could bid 51 after Dave E. unexpectedly kicked us into Era II a turn earlier than I expected) and snowballed to a huge victory.

Peloponnes + 1st expansion -- 6p including Eric R. and his son. Sea tiles played correctly are quite powerful. Eric's son is only 8 but shaping up to be quite a gamer.

Big Kini + half of expansion -- 5p without action cards not recommended. (We had game-fail and picked this as something to bridge the gap between heavier gamers with divergent tastes and lighter gamers. The owner made several comments that the game is more interesting with the action cards but that the added complexity would have put it beyond the ability level of the 2 lighter gamers, at least one within their hearing.)

Two people asked me if I was hosting after BAP, so I did:
Mage Knight (mines liberation) -- This was my first play since last November. John had played the intro scenario once and declared it too boring for more than 1 play, so I picked Mines Liberation as the shortest "interesting" scenario. Unfortunately, we suffered a bit from both rules muddle (what monsters can you attack from adjacent versus need to enter the hex; are mine guardians fought serially or in parallel; can you end the turn standing on an unconquered mine or keep; etc.) which led to several poor decisions and from a nasty initial tile draw that led to us clogging up against several impassible hexes (notably an orc who was too tough for L1 characters without a really lucky card draw.)

I suspect Jeremy won in some small part because we messed up turn order on the first turn and he got to go where I wanted to be...
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11. Board Game: Route 66: The Great American Road Trip Game [Average Rating:3.80 Unranked]
Peter Mumford
United States
Somerville
Massachusetts
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Still driving.. posting from a Comfort Inn in Kansas City. The only game this past week was a session of Notre Dame that I wrote about in last week's list. And several games of chess with my hosts in Boulder.

I'm still intrigued by Stefan Feld. I'm going to go looking for sessions of In the Year of the Dragon, and Macao when I get settled. Why he gets such high negatives I don't understand.
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12. Board Game: Go [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:62]
James Ludlow
United States
Saint Louis Park
Minnesota
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Played last week

12x Go
1x Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

== Go

A dozen games of go and some lectures to help shake off whatever slump I've been in. I read "How Not to Play Go" again, which is entertaining. It's basically a laundry list of my favorite moves and the reasons that they're terrible.


== Pathfinder

I might be in some trouble in our campaign. Let's see.

* Currently insane via the insanity spell, which is permanent without high-level magical intervention.

* No weapons, even if I could understand how to use them.

* Bound hands and feet.

* Floating in an unknown plane of existence.

* No friends or party members know where I am.

That's bad, right?

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13. Board Game: A Game of Thrones: The Card Game [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:365]
Jason Reid
United States
Brooklyn
New York
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It was a friend's birthday this past weekend, and I largely let her determine the games we were going to play. It was a weird mix.

2x A Game of Thrones: The Card Game (one 3p, one 4p)
1x Chaos in the Old World (4p)
1x Witch's Brew (6p)

Now that I own a few sets of the Game of Thrones LCG core set, I've been waiting to take my first set of constructed decks into play. My opponents played Targaryen, Mertell, and Stark decks that were each built from a boatload of the expansions (btw, if my spelling is off on any of the proper names, I don't read AGoT, so there ). Given that House Lannister only very recently got major expansion love, I figured I'd probably be best able to build a competitive deck from the core sets using them. Besides, competing via intrigue is just cool.

Turns out I was largely right...my deck was very competitive, coming within 1 point and 2 points of victory in each of my two games. It's a pretty neat system. I haven't played any sort of deck-construction game in years aside from these few games of AGoT over the past couple of months. I'm still hesitant to spend a lot on the expansions, but locally my friends are great fans of the game and I expect I'll be playing a lot more in the future.

Introduced Chaos in the Old World to a few folks. I thought this instance of the game was so-so, as it often is with newbies. I typically play Tzeentch when introducing the game, since I think he's the least straightforward god to win with. That proved to be true in this case...I was out of contention for the win about halfway in. However, everybody was regardless extremely jealous of my abilities to manipulate the board.

It's really hard for newbies to see what they need to be doing in order to prevent the two straightforward goliaths, Nurgle and Khorne, from running away with it. Khorne started out strong, but Nurgle went on a rampage in the endgame, as he is oft wont to do, and won it decisively via VP.

Finished the night with a 6p of Witch's Brew. Been playing that a lot lately, and seem to be strengthening my play. When played with a steadyish group, where you get to know folks' proclivities, I can pretty safely disregard any complaint that this game is too random. I've finished in a close second in 2 6p games in a row now, and didn't feel lucky at all. The opening round I would characterize as somewhat random, especially when playing with folks you don't know, but as the game progresses and positions ebb and flow it's quite possible to make steady progress.


I really need to get back to playing some deeper games. I've experienced a dearth for the past few weeks, and next week isn't looking much better.


On the buy list, I've been steadily parting with a few things via the BGG marketplace of late. Since I found my PayPal account burning a hole in my pocket, I sprung for a copy of StarCraft: The Board Game and the Brood War expansion. I watched part of a play a few times...looked ornate and intriguing. Found a decent deal on a OOP copy and jumped on it.
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14. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:288]
John Brier
United States
Aventura
Florida
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Just got back from Argentina a couple days ago... I'm not much for telling stories about my vacations so I'll limit myself to saying that Argentina is so awesome that I'm wishfully contemplating the possibility of moving there in a few years (once I get my feet wet with some relevant job experience here). One step at a time though- I need to finish this damn degree!

No games played last week or yet since I've been back (although presumably I'll be playing Whitechapel tomorrow). I did, however, decide to take a break from my thesis when in Argentina so as leisure reading I dusted off and brought along my bridge books in a second attempt (years later) to get into the game. So far I'm pretty excited about it (again), but still have a bit of studying to do before I can start playing online so I'm a bit conflicted about whether to just put the project on hold until I finish my thesis. Regardless, I'm more confident now that I'll (at some point in the next few months) commit to getting over the hump and fully tackling the game.

Anyone here a bridge player/interested in becoming one?
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15. Board Game: Ricochet Robots [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:421]
Carlos Moreno Serrano
United Kingdom
Guildford
Surrey
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Join us every Tuesday night at the Woking Gaming Club!
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Ricochet Robots x2
JAB: Realtime boxing x3
Container x2
Homesteaders x1

I had a Spanish friend from Netherlands coming for a visit. He goes every year to Essen, so he is into the hobby, which means GAME PARTNER!

I finally got to play JAB and I LOVE IT. We had a blast and played 3 games straight. Very fast to play and we explore different ways of winning. It was great.

At night we played Ricochet Robots for the first time and I won both games (we played with all 17 chips each game). We massively enjoyed it, trying both sides of the modular board.

On Tuesday I got to play two of my favourite games: Homesteaders and Container (twice). I failed miserably to win by 1 VP in Homesteaders and 1 dollar in Container (one of the games). That was a bit devastating, but I had a great time.
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