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WBC 2013
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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I thought I would try my hand at typing up a report of everything I played at the 2013 World Boardgaming Championships. Spending the week in Lancaster playing wall to wall board game tournaments is always a highlight of my year. Here are the 27 different games I played, ordered by when I first played them. Let me know if you enjoy this and I'll try to do it for more events in the future!
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1. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:52]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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I landed at the Philly airport Saturday afternoon and my teammate / roommate Andrew Emerick picked me up there on his way down from Connecticut. I had lined up some Saturday night open gaming and I was particularly interested in learning Goa since I had heard it was good and I didn't have anything else to play Tuesday at 6pm.
Goa was in fact good, and I have now purchased a copy. It sounds like many folks soured on it because there was one clearly best strategy (going down the card track and the spices track), but the recent reprint has changed enough things to balance it. Cards still might be the best strategy if you can pull it off, but it's no longer mandatory.
I was kind of, sort of competitive in the learning game, which Andrew won. I then won my first heat (where I went quickly down to the draw 2 cards spot on that track but then did other things), which was enough to secure advancement, but I played the second heat anyway for playtesting (and fun) and lost first on tiebreakers.
There were three semi-final tables of 4 each, with the closest 2nd joining the 3 winners at the final table. I ran the card strategy slightly better than David Platnick did on my right, but the guy on my left crushed us both and won by 6. I almost snuck onto the final table anyway but apparently the last place guy on Sceadeau's table took two money actions on the last turn to steal most money from Sceadeau and close Sceadeau's gap to 2nd from 8 points to 5. Oh well, you get laurels for any finish in the top 6 and I'm pretty happy with 5th place in a game I had never played before Saturday night. Now to see if my local group likes it ...
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2. Board Game: Vegas Showdown [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:272]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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I was working at Wizards of the Coast when this was designed and published, and it has been in regular rotation at my game group ever since. We had 5 for the second open gaming game Saturday night so this came out, especially since Cary Morris was focusing on it this year. I wound up winning the Saturday night game and that warm-up served me well.
I lost the first heat on tiebreakers despite a really weird game where we only saw one copy of Table Games before it was too late to place the High Roller's Room that I had purchased as an early bargain. I then played a second heat and won it so I wouldn't have to depend on tiebreakers to get me through to the semi's.
In the semi-final game I purchased a Fancy Lounge for a good price despite not having a lounge yet and then on the next turn I had position to take the Theater (which has Fancy Lounge as a pre-requisite) for 33, so I did. It was funny when the event for the next turn was 'Lounge Builders on Strike,' but when the other copy of that card came out on the following turn it was officially scary instead of funny as the game was in danger of ending any turn now. Luckily it did not end, and i was able to buy and place the lounge and then renovate the Fancy Lounge and Theater into play. I think I would have been second if the game had ended then, but there was one final turn where I was able to buy a Night Club (plus use it to connect) so I won going away.
The finals saw me buy a bunch of $5 slots much earlier than I am used to being able to buy them, and I had a pair of Restaurants for population, but I was never quite able to get any of the exciting rooms (or spend my money in any other useful way either). I'm not sure quite where I was supposed to do something different, but when the game ended (fairly quickly) and we added it up, I was happy to see that I was taking home the 2nd place plaque. Doug Faust was the winner thanks to a slot tournament that gave him $2 on the turn he needed it in order to box out Cary for the Theater at $42 (otherwise Cary would have won).
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3. Board Game: Glen More [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:191]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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Glen More was open gaming game #3 Saturday night. I guess it's been out for a few years, but it was new to me and I was impressed with how elegant it seemed, especially the market mechanic. As a 5-player game I thought it had too much downtime, but I am optimistic enough about it as a 4-er (which also happens to be the number BGG says it is best with) that I went ahead and bought a copy. Hopefully I wasn't just starry-eyed thanks to a blowout victory fueled by being the only one making whiskey early.
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4. Board Game: Hanabi [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:144]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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Wow is Hanabi good. You need a group that thinks logic puzzles are fun, but that's true of both my WBC friends and also (I think) my home group so I played a ton of late-night Hanabi throughout the entire week and hope to play a lot more as soon as I can find a copy. Of course, my FLGS is sold out and most of the internet seems to have it on back order. We actually proxied up a deck out of Magic cards to play at WBC, which didn't work great (since the mana costs are too small for reading easily across the table), but playing bad Hanabi was way better than not playing Hanabi at all.
We scored 21 when none of us knew what was going on. Then struck out (which was what the one veteran predicted would happen in game 2), then scored 26 before calling it a night. I don't think I was in a group that broke 27 or maybe 28, but I felt like the conventions we evolved were good enough to score better than that if we had a group with no newbies and no one actively fighting off sleep deprivation.
Saturday night open gaming seemed like exactly the right way to kick off WBC (especially with the TTA event starting on Sunday) and I think this will become a tradition now.
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5. Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.21 Overall Rank:4]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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I was the GM for TTA again. We had 43 3-player games and 2 2-player games across our 3 heats, with 72 unique competitors (up 3 from last year). I won all 3 of my heats comfortably, which meant I was seeded away from the other 3 triple winners in the semi-final. (With 8 additional double winners it took a 1st and a very close second to advance, fwiw.)
No one built military aggressively in my heats so I was able to build enough to stay in first but then funnel lots of resources into infrastructure and especially culture so I won all 3 by 100+. In the semi, which was a 4-player game and against better players, I of course had to build more military, but I still managed an Opera worker and a couple of Journalists during age 2. It felt fragile, but no one's military was crazy strong so I was able to stay 2nd/3rd and got away with it, winning by 50+.
The other 2-time former champ, Jason Ley, also won 3 heats and his semi; as did 2-time runner-up Joel Lytle. Sceadeau was the other triple winner, but he ran into Aran Warszawski in the semi. Or, more accurately, he ran into Frederick Barbarosa, which Aran knew exactly what to do with when he comes out early in a 4-er.
Aran had the lead for most of the final table as well (helped in part by Jason d-drafting Michaelangelo away from me), and I could have played conservatively to secure second by just building up my military at the end, but I made some risky plays in an effort to catch Aran and opened myself up to an 18-point culture war on the last possible turn from Joel. The game was so close and so low-scoring that those 18 points dropped me from 2nd to 4th and catapulted Joel into first! 4th didn't feel great after finishing 1st, 2nd, and 1st in my other three years, but I still think it's correct to play for first.
All in all a very fun event again this year and I don't have any plans to change anything about the format or schedule for next year. Congrats to Joel, who is a bridesmaid no more!
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6. Board Game: Thurn and Taxis [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:255]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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There was a heat of Thurn nestled nicely in between the final TTA heat and the TTA semi-finals on Monday. I won this event last year, but got paired up against Kyle Smith (who had won it the previous year). I made a judgment call halfway through building my 6-train to try to go for all the grays, but the last one got drafted before it came back to being my turn again and I couldn't find another copy despite "wiping" on each of my last 3 turns. I tried another heat on Wednesday morning where I once again found myself wiping a lot at the end searching for one key city, and I lost that one too. Fwiw I think my judgment call against Kyle was right, but that I backed myself into a corner that was just too risky in the second heat. I didn't bother with the 3rd heat since a 2nd and a 1st was not going to be close to good enough to advance. Hopefully there will be a quarter-final for this event next year as its a good, popular game with attendance that certainly justifies adding a 3rd playoff round.
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7. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:146]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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My home group has two guys that really like Acquire (and are really good at it) - Bill Rose and Mike Turian. My hope was that losing to them 5-10 times over the years had taught me enough to do well, but it turns out we play a very different game. The Wizards crowd doesn't like memory games so if information was ever revealed we tend to leave it revealed. That means we play Acquire with open money and open stocks. But at WBC it's closed money and closed stocks ... you've got to just spend brain cycles keeping tabs on who has what. I got smashed while stumbling through my first heat, but did manage to win the second heat I played and advance to the semi-final.
Sceadeau had commented that he doesn't understand how to play Acquire at WBC because there's nothing you can do when somebody randomly merges your opponents' companies. I told him to think of it like a die roll - if you randomly roll a 1 at the beginning of the game then you don't get to play (because someone accidentally king-makes someone else), but it's still a good game the other 5/6ths of the time.
Well in my semi-final I rolled a 1. One player clearly did not understand basic strategy and the first merger was him trying to fatten up a company that he owned a majority of, thus giving the owner of a brand new company both the 1st and 2nd place money. Seemed like a good guy, but the beneficiary of this mistake won the game (and the beneficiary of his next mistake finished 2nd, with me finishing 3rd).
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8. Board Game: Ivanhoe [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:1180]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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I've only ever played this game at 11pm on a WBC night when there was nothing else to play, but I've enjoyed it both years I have tried it. Seems like a nice light multi-player card game, and I almost won this heat, but Haim Hochboim had the cards he needed to punish me for going for it in a duel against him.
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9. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:153]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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Another game that I won last year, but failed to get out of the heats for this time around. I knew I had been running pretty good the last two years to win back-to-back Caesar awards (the BPA's player of the year award), but I figured/hoped my regression toward the mean would take the form of final table finishes other than 1st, not heat losses. I would have had to win both the other two heats of St Pete to advance, but they were hard to fit into my schedule so I didn't try.
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10. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:260]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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I'm not sure I actually enjoy playing Lost Cities - it's one of the few games where every move feels *bad* and you never get to feel clever (because the only good plays are the brain-dead obvious ones). However I do enjoy playing tournaments / questing after laurels and it's short enough that it often fits nicely into spare hours in my schedule. I did win a tough heat against an opponent who clearly knew what he was doing on Wednesday, but I never got into another one and wound up with a conflict with the advancement rounds anyway.
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11. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:6]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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My tough heat tables continued with a pairing against the eventual champion Ben Scholl. I knew my losing streak was going to continue by about turn 3 when he had played out Charcoal Burner, Head of the Family, and Ax - each of which was better than every Occupation or Minor Improvement I had seen at any point in the draft. I should have taken 2nd, but mis-ordered my actions on the final turn (letting someone beat me to Fishing for 2, which would have been 6 food for me thanks to Canoe and Basketmaker's Workshop) to finish 3rd by a point.
I have skipped the Agricola event the last two years because the 3-hour time slots are hard to fit into my over-full schedule, but I thought this was the year it would actually fit in. It's one of my favorite games and I play enough online (plus with the new iPad app) that I thought I could do well, but I did not manage to squeeze in a second heat.
My favorite part of the Agrciola event is the fact that over half of the 20 semi-finalists were in attendance at Sceadeau and Elaine's wedding back in March. That extended group plays a *ton* of Agricola.
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12. Board Game: Ra: The Dice Game [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:805]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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Another short game that often fills out spare hours in my schedule. I actually made the final table of this a couple of years ago, and I won my heat Wednesday to advance to the quarter-finals, which I even had time to play on Saturday. The quarter was the longest game of this I've ever played as we just never rolled suns and every monument spot was covered before the end of age 2. I lost to Alex Henning and her "Boats, Boats, Boats, BOATS, BOATS!" strategy, which was ok since winning would have forced me to choose between this semi-final and the Last Will semi-final anyway.
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13. Board Game: Egizia [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:182]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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Another event that I have won previously, but failed to win a heat of this year. I have no idea how I managed to only score 70 points in this game (I can't remember the last time I failed to break 90). My table draw was tough and I should have just been the slow boat every turn, but I kept trying to jump downriver for key cards only to have everyone else also jump aggressively. Bad play does not combo well with bad luck ...
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14. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:61]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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I guess my losing ways sort of ended here, as there were 25 semi-final slots available (since the game only plays well when it has 5 players) and fairly light attendance. That meant my second place was good enough to advance even though I got beaten by a very impressive 63-point performance. I wound up not playing the semi-final though, as it conflicted with another semi.
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15. Board Game: Amun-Re [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:173]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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Another excellent 5-player game that my home group plays with some regularity, but I have found I have a lot of trouble playing it with strangers because I have trouble anticipating how much they will sacrifice (which also makes it very hard to evaluate the value of camels ... and makes it a bit tricky to bid early in the auction as well). I was 0 for 2-3 heats of this in previous years, but I finally won one this year.
And then in the semi-final I was thoroughly disabused of any notion that I understand how to play this game. Haim and especially Eric Freemen were clearly playing on a whole different level that I didn't even understand until I'd thought about it for a day or two. My game ended when the movers turned off my camels at the end of Age 1, and Eric wound up winning a close one over Haim to claim the seat in the finals.
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16. Board Game: Navegador [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:98]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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Last year I had only played one game of Navegador before the heats began, but Andrew had won it the previous year and his download on proper strategy was good enough to get me to the final table, where I took 2nd ... behind him. This year I think the rest of the world has caught up as he failed to get out of his semi-final and I failed to get out of my heat.
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17. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy [Average Rating:8.07 Overall Rank:9]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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The one silver lining to losing early heats of games I expected to advance in is that I got to play a lot of other good games that I didn't think I would have time for. Castles was one of those. By this point everyone seems to know that board 8 is just way too good (it's the one with the 6-pasture, plus a bunch of easy 1's) so i don't think anyone allowed it. My heat just stuck to the beginner boards, as did my semi-final table.
I thought I had the semi-final won thanks mostly to the yellow tile that gives +1 to all your animal tiles whenever you place an animal, but the player on my left made an amazing comeback where every play he made in Age 5 both advanced his cause and also counter-drafted me. All I needed to do was fill out my last 3-city with buildings that did anything, but he took all the ones that matched my yellows plus he made shockingly good use of the shipping tile that lets you pick up from two adjacent locations to prevent me from getting any goods to sell either. His dice helped, obviously, and mine were annoying, but in the end he beat me 262-257.
I still feel ok about taking 5th overall in a game I wasn't even planning to play when the week began.
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18. Board Game: Cavemen: The Quest for Fire [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:2723]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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I found myself with a spare hour in between the Castles heat and the Castles semi, and when I looked at the program I saw that there was a one-hour game of something called Cavemen: Quest for Fire happening then. It was a trial event (which meant it only had 1 plaque and I don't remember it winning the vote for trial events so I'm pretty sure it was a vendor-sponsored trial event, which makes sense for a Rio Grande new release).
I went to the open gaming room with Andrew to check out a copy and try to learn it in the 20 minutes before the heat began. It's light, and clearly kid-targeted, but there's some legitimate depth and replayability to it. The idea is to recruit cavemen (hunters, explorers, thinkers, et al) so you can both hunt animals for food and teeth plus have enough knowledge to discover fire when it finally comes out. I might have felt bad trying to win it if the heat was all kids, but the majority of competitors were adults like me who just happened to have a spare hour and/or liked the game.
My heat went long and I was able to beat Curt Collins because of it (had the Fire card come out earlier he would have won, but I put together a winning board just in time).
Then it became kind of a running joke that the game was actually Cavemen: Quest for Laurels. I chose to play this semi-final instead of Princes because Princes takes two hours but if I lost Cavemen then I would be done in time for Liar's Dice. Well by halfway through the semi-final I actually had a pretty good handle on the strategy of the game (it's all about having the most teeth so you can at least threaten to win the conch on any turn when fire comes out), and fire once again stayed in the deck until I was well set up for it.
In the finals two people built science early and two of us focused on accumulating teeth. I felt like I was in control pretty much the whole way. I did bid for the conch once to grab a thinker (we had gone several turns without one even being available), so there was a turn or two when i didn't have the most teeth, but the guy with the teeth only had 3 bulbs so he couldn't have won even if fire did come out. Once fire appeared I was able to easily win the Conch, buy a thinker with my first action to get to the required 7 bulbs, and then win the game with my second.
I had set a personal goal for the week of winning wood in something that I had not won wood in previously, so this accomplished that goal. It also gave me a win in an 8th different game. It felt a bit weird to pull that off in a trial event for a game I'd never played before the heat, but then again the "schedule game" has always been one of my specialties.
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19. Board Game: Last Will [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:234]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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Last Will was also a trial event, but it is a legitimately good game that I own and play regularly. I'm also pretty sure the attendance was high enough that it will make the cut into the Century and return for next year.
My heat was an $80 game, but my cards all said to go farms, plus I got gifted a late farm steward in the first draft so I went farms even though the game would be too short to take full advantage of all that synergy. I wound up winning by a single dollar.
In the $80 semi-final I finally got a hand that let me try out Waiters & Reservations, which I've always thought looked decent but have never actually gotten to try. Oh my god, they're way better than I realized and I won the semi in a blow-out even though I got one of my reservations d-drafted away.
The $90 final started well, with Old Friend plus Carriage Ride and Coachman, but the guy across the table also went Carriage Ride plus Coachman so I never saw more of them. I wound up putting down a Sea Dog when drawing 7 cards from the helper pile didn't yield anything better, and he turned out to be quite good as I spent my time (and my School Chum) drawing lots of Boat Trips and lots of the right companions to take on them. Everyone else ran out of gas around the time they had to sell their farms and/or buildings, and I never had a building so I just kept going and won a game I was at no point confident I was going to win.
This win gives me 10 wins across 9 different games in my 4 years going to WBC, including at least 2 each year. This year's wins were smaller, so I do not expect to win the Caesar again, but I should still finish top 10-ish.
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20. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.15 Overall Rank:5]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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I've never played enough Puerto Rico to actually get good at it, but I enjoy it enough to hop into heats with some regularity and I actually made the semi last year. This heat was a very tough table, and I did manage to make and sell the first Tobacco, but the market got clogged and no one was willing to Craft so we spent a lot of time just staring at each other and seeing who would blink first. I managed to get both Wharf and Harbor, so in retrospect I think I was the one who was supposed to blink first and just craft or captain every turn. Instead I wound up losing to the guy with the Guild Hall.
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21. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:161]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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Obviously Settlers is too political to make for a great tournament game, but that doesn't stop it from being fun or from being popular. I ran a heat of it Saturday morning and the dice were kind to me early, which meant I got to 4 settlements very quickly, but of course that also meant that people stopped trading with me because I was clearly winning. I could have won despite that but I just never hit my ore number, so I couldn't upgrade anything into a city and I stalled out around 8 victory points. Oh, well ... was still a fun game.
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22. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:107] [Average Rating:7.44 Unranked]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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Carcassonne is another of the gateway games that populate the Saturday schedule for folks who only get to play the weekend, and serve as my back-up plan in case I'm not qualified for any semi-finals. I managed to sneak a 2nd farmer into the big farm in my heat and won thanks to that play.
There were 25 spots in the semi-final, but there were 29 people who had won their first heat so if they had all showed up we were going to have to roll dice to see who got the spots. Luckily they didn't all show up so nobody got screwed by a die roll. (Carcassonne might be worth adding a quarter-final to for next year.) I got two farmers into the big farm again in my semi, but another guy got 3. I was trying to add in a 3rd at the end of the game, and if I had managed it I would have won, but I did not get him connected and instead wound up 5th.
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23. Board Game: Colossal Arena [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:540]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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Another spare hour let me try out this old-school card battling game which I had otherwise known only as the game that stole the rightful acronym from Through The Ages - we are AGE because this game already had dibs on TTA.
Greg Crowe did a great job as the GM of this. He even had medals for various fun achievements that you could earn.
I found it tough to have enough control to execute a plan at my 5-player heat table and I lost a close game. Looking it up on BGG just now it says 'best with 3,' which makes sense to me. Was still a fun way to send an hour.
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24. Board Game: Yspahan [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:288]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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I think I would like this game if I got to play it very much, but I don't. I've tried it on yucata and you can mostly only get 2-player games that are dominated by the caravan strategy (of drawing a card for sending to the caravan and trying to get one of the two ways to send up 2 at a time). It doesn't seem like this would come up as much in 3 or 4-players games, but the 4-player heat that I played saw the winner pull off exactly that. She was helped by a guy not placing cubes to block her when he should have, but still ... is that all this game is ever about? Or is it actually good?
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25. Board Game: Facts in Five [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:2994]
Randy Buehler
United States
Bellevue
Washington
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John Corrado does an outstanding job of putting together fun categories and awesome trivia for this Saturday night tradition. I missed the first round finishing up my game of Yspahan (and apparently missed a hilarious intro routine as well), but I'm not actually good at thinking like this so I wasn't winning anyway. All in all a very fun but humbling way to wind down Saturday's gaming.
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