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WBC Needs Losers: My 2013 Geeklist
Anni Foasberg
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In the past, I've titled this list "Things I learned at WBC." I really liked doing it that way because it emphasized what to me is a very important aspect of WBC, the fact that I get to play games I really like and have played several times with people who know them well and are often good at them.

I've stopped doing that, though, for a couple reasons. One is that it started to feel kind o difficult and gimmicky to try to pick out the "thing I learned" from every session, and another is that I don't feel like I'm getting better the way I was a few years ago. Moving away from the active gaming scene of central New Jersey has decreased the amount of gaming available to me, and the groups I've played with in New York are also a little less likely to play the same games many times.

Oh, well. I go to WBC for the tournaments, and a tournament doesn't just need winners. It also needs losers. Lots and lots of losers. So, I'm contributing to it in one way or another!
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1. Board Game: Cargo Noir [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1130]
Anni Foasberg
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Open Gaming

I don't do a lot of open gaming at WBC because I really like the scheduled events, and it isn't easy to do both. Still, I was able to play a few of them.

MONDAY

--First--Cargo Noir--

On Monday, Doug (Phrim, who's married to me) and I were able to meet up with my friends Bill, Vien and Carolyn, and we wanted to play a game. Somehow, we ended up playing Cargo Noir, although I don't think it is really what any of us wanted to play. I'm not sure exactly how games get selected; in this case, I'm not sure any of us were really clear on that.

In any case, I'd played the game once before, when it first came out, and liked it; I liked it slightly less this time, but I still enjoy the bidding, which reminds me of Nefertiti. The game doesn't appear especially deep, but that's okay. I got a very slow start, but as it turned out, a lot depended on a single turn, in which I had a jewel, was able to pick up a couple in the lots I was bidding on, and then traded for some more. This allowed me to snag one of the bigger buildings in the game. I didn't do a ton else during the rest of the game, but this was enough to give me the victory on a tiebreaker.

Anyway, it was my birthday.

--Second--Galaxy--

Doug and I got into a game of Galaxy with the person who GMs the Galaxy tournament. I was kind of aware of Galaxy as the game that isn't the game that isn't Titan (but also, Galaxy isn't Titan). It turned out to be one of those games about trying to guess what will be valuable in the future and zapping everyone else's tokens. I was slow to get down my first token, so I started the game a little behind, but I was able to move things around in such a way as to put myself in a pretty good position, points-wise. A little too good; I drew an attack or two and proceeded to not-win. Meh.
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2. Board Game: Merchant of Venus [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:432]
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I like Merchant of Venus, but it really isn't my game. I don't remember the first game of this too well, but I think I started out slow.. and .. continued to be slow? It might have been one of those games where I started off with a shield but then couldn't find any money. Anyway, I probably finished last. The second game was much more memorable (more later).
 
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3. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:95]
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I played Ra with some people that I continued to see around the convention throughout the week. I'll pretty much play Ra anytime, and last year I did well enough to make the semis, but no such luck this year. It was kind of an ugly game, with lots of Ras coming up early. After the first round, I think one or two of us had positive scores.

The player to my right drew a tile out of the bag, and said "pyramid" (you know, because it was a pyramid). The following turn, he did it again. The following turn, same thing. A few turns later, he drew the fourth pyramid. Someone else drew the fifth, but still: improbable!

I don't remember what I did in the game, but I think I wound up coming in third.
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4. Board Game: Vegas Showdown [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:272]
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I got to play against Eric Freeman, who is the GM for this game. He started out the game by bidding very aggressively on slots and then being outbid, forcing other players to pay high prices for their slots. I didn't want to pay these prices, so I bought some other things instead. I did pick up a couple of slots eventually, but most of my income came from other buildings. It turned out that this is really good, especially if a lot of people want to bid aggressively on slots, because then the price becomes comparable and the other buildings take up a lot more room. I was still a little behind on money, but Eric was making even less, which surprised me.

I also had another realization, which is that if I buy the cheap buildings, I'll never have money for the expensive ones, so I started taking publicity more often. This..worked pretty well. At one point there was a large building I wanted and I realized that I'd be able to get it; it was one turn before it would have slid into the reasonable zone and I wanted to make sure I snagged it before other people could bid. Eric told me afterward I would have had to pay more if I'd waited, because he would have bid on it, so.. that worked out.

Anyway,I think this is the best game of Vegas Showdown I've ever played, but I came up short in the end. Second place. Eric was the winner, so maybe falling behind in income isn't as bad as I'd thought.
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5. Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:17]
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Open Gaming

--Tuesday--

First--Tzolk'in--

Sadly, events on Tuesday did not start until 6:00, so we slept in, had food or something, and then had to resort to open gaming again.

A game of Tzolk'in started with me, Doug, Jeff Kahan, and Bill Hoch. I have a recurring problem where I buy too many farms and take too long to start working on temples and monuments. This happened again. I think by the end of the game I was paying two food for five or six workers, but the gods didn't think much of me. I was able to pick up a monument that gave me points for my wood-gathering chips for a decent number of points, and there were a couple of turns where I built two or three buildings at a time. Those turns were impressive, but I certainly didn't win with them. I took advantage of the tech tracks to do that, but maybe it took me too long to get started on them? Anyway, I think I came in third.

Second--Yedo--

Technically, Yedo was not in open gaming, but rather in the Sampler Showcase. This is a cool idea, and part of the convention which I've never been able to attend until this year, so, right on. Of course, as WBC is in early August, I'd already played most of the games that were featured, but there are always a couple I want to play but haven't yet been able to. Yedo fit that description well. I was intrigued by it after listening to the Spiel episode addressing it.

The game is about contract fulfillment; you draw cards from stacks of different difficulties and have to go somewhere on the board after collecting certain items to complete them. This basic idea is one I really love. The game itself is surprisingly reminiscent of Princes of Florence; it has a similar bidding system, and bonus cards that work just like the ones in PoF. I was pleased with this as well; I wish I liked Princes more than I do, and I definitely didn't like Colosseum, so I was happy to see a game that does a similar thing in a way that might be more interesting to me. I did have some troubles with the chaotic event cards, though. Then again, I got pretty screwed with one, so maybe I am biased.

I played the game with Doug and Jeff. The game plays a certain number of rounds, and each round players have the ability buy something in an auction and then to take a certain number of actions, so you might concentrate on gathering things or on completing contracts. I spent the beginning of the game completing as many contracts as I could, which seemed to be working out well. The easy ones ran out, and I drew some contracts in the later part of the game that did not at all work well with the things that I'd amassed. Then, the attack cards started causing me problems. There was one that made me pay money or lose a worker, and another later that just killed a worker straight up. I wasn't able to buy it back, and this left me without enough workers to complete the contracts I had for the last turn. There are lots of these attack cards, so it's rather difficult to protect against them. The attacks seemed a little too strong for what the game wanted to do. But I'm told you can play without them, or at least some of them, so maybe it's better that way.
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6. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:27]
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This was the one decision of the convention that caused me real anxiety. I had to choose among Empire Builder, El Grande, and Goa, and I know it sounds silly to say, but I felt worried and unhappy all day because I didn't feel like I could choose one. But I did! I picked El Grande.

I got to play with Dave Bohnenberger, so that's always fun. I think we all sat down at the table and claimed we weren't going to win. I guess most of us were right This is another one I don't remember too well, but I think it was fairly competitive early. Things went wrong toward the end and I believe I came in fourth. It was fun, though. I think I picked the right game.
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7. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:95]
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This was another weird game of Ra--in fact, I don't think I had a normal one at WBC--but I don't remember it as well as the others. I believe that I focused quite strongly on pharaohs, but despite that I may still have not won them. Things didn't work out.
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8. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:153]
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One year, I will make the St. Pete semis. This is my long-term WBC goal. It's all I really want.

This was not that year, but I still played it many times, because it's great.

This game was the first game of St. Pete where I got the sense that I had not been ambitious enough. I had a good layout, which I don't remember anymore, and I more or less coasted through the last two turns without any stress. No fear of being stuck with a card and plenty of money left. In St. Pete, though, that probably means you should have spent that money sooner, preferably as early as possible, because you are losing the points from whatever you would have bought. In any case, I didn't win. I believe I managed to take second place, but I don't think it was especially close.
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9. Board Game: Vegas Showdown [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:272]
Anni Foasberg
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Sure, let's have more Vegas Showdown.

My success in the prior game encouraged me to play again. But, this time I couldn't pull make it work out the same way and ended up playing a somewhat more conventional (for me) strategy. I ended up with more slots, had more difficulty getting the bigger buildings, and generally didn't do especially well.
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10. Board Game: Amun-Re [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:171]
Anni Foasberg
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I like Amun-re a lot and don't get to play it very often. I'll blame the fact that I'm not very good at it on that. Actually, I did pretty well this time around. In the Old Kingdom, I was lucky enough to pull two bonus cards, one early enough to fulfill it and the other when I just happened to have it already, so I scored pretty well. I had decent money going into the New Kingdom, although I believe a couple other players had more. There was, as there always is, a pretty fierce pyramid fight in the second half. I wasn't as aggressive with the pyramids and I'd have liked to be; basically, the province I needed for pyramids was priced far out of my league, so I saved my money and built some more pyramids that way. I did have two master builders for the last two turns, which helped me out a little. I ended up going for sets at the end, when possibly I should have tried to go for a majority because I could have forced a tie. It was a lack-of-ambition problem mostly; another player had so many pyramids there that it didn't occur to me that I'd be able to tie him.

I think I came in third or so, but it was fairly close among those of us who didn't win (I seem to remember the winner being farther ahead).
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11. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:52]
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I almost didn't get to play Goa. It's a high priority game for me, even though I never do well, and I was sad that it was gone last year and happy to see it back this year. I hadn't brought my copy because I only have the old edition; it seemed that many others had the same problem and there almost weren't enough copies for everyone to play. They broke out some old copies and were able to make it happen, though.

I got to play with one of the second edition boards. I'd never played the new version before, but was able to get a rundown on some of the differences before the game began. It's interesting; some of the new tiles seemed very powerful, but in practice they were difficult to pull off and seemed balanced on those grounds. I'm not sure I'll buy it, but I'm also not sure I won't buy it.

Two of the players were inexperienced at the game, but they still seemed to do very well. I did okay. Near the beginning, I focused on the card track and the colonist track, since I was having trouble getting colonists off the board. The card track didn't work that well because it was very competitive, but the colonists did some good work for me because I was able to use them to get spices while ignoring the harvest track. At some point I also started focusing on ships. Early on, I was sharing the flag with another player, but eventually the inexperienced players started getting in on the action as well. Not as good for me!

I don't think I ever advanced the spice track or the money track, but I still picked up the duty tile toward the end of the game and was able to fulfill it while still doing about as much shipping as I would have been able to do anyway, so, that worked out well. I think I got one track down to 10 and the other two down to 6s. I had a reasonable score, but I don't remember for sure whether I was second or third. I think third, and I'm sure that at least one of the inexperienced players was ahead of me.

I'm told that the turnout was poor for Goa this year, which makes me sad. I'm a fan of the game and would love to win a heat one year. I'll definitely vote for it, anyway.
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12. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:27]
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Well, sometimes you get interesting tables at WBC. I sat down at this table and saw that I was sitting with Eric Brosius, Alex Bove, a new player (he later revealed that this was his first WBC!) and Pete Staab. Rob Flowers, the GM for El Grande, stopped by before we started and said, "That's a table!"

It was a table. Eric has posted about it already, so there's probably a limit to how much this one session of this game needs to be described, but it was an interesting one. Two players had an early lead; I wasn't one of them, but I caught up some in the middle of the game. At some point it became very clear that Eric was winning, but his position was essentially unassailable because he was in so many places with so many cubes. I was keeping up well even near the end of the game, but the last castillo turn was ... kind of amazing as EVERYONE turned up in my Grande region. Eric won, of course, and Alex wound up taking second--I don't even remember where I ended up.
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13. Board Game: Navegador [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:98]
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I'm the Navegador GM, and Wednesday night was my demo time. I really enjoy teaching this game--well, I enjoy teaching games in general, but I have this one pretty well down, I think. Anyway, the demo was pretty well attended. I usually let people play through at least the first phase so they can get a better understanding of the game. This time, since nobody else was scheduled for the table and there weren't any other events later, I actually guided them through an entire game. Some of the people I taught came back for the heat, which was gratifying, and one of them ended up making it all the way to the final table! Do I get to claim partial credit for this? Anyway, it seemed they enjoyed themselves.
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14. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:27]
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Thursday morning! Time for more El Grande!

This time I didn't know anyone at the table. I fell a little behind early, but established decent board position and caught up somewhat after the first castillo. At some point, something interactive happened--I think I was scoring something while the red player held the veto. I asked if he wanted to veto it, and he said, "You're not the threat."

Okay, so from the final score I guess I wasn't? But it was pretty early to say so at the time. Anyway, I'll take it, but I'd still file that in my list of Things Not To Say To Your Opponents At WBC.

In any case, the game kind of got away from me because of some things that happened after that which I have forgotten but which definitely made it difficult to get cubes on the board.
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15. Board Game: Thurn and Taxis [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:253]
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When I walked into the Thurn and Taxis heat, the GM told me I couldn't advance. "That's okay," I answered, "I'm not going to win anyway."

I sat down at a table with Norman Rule and two other players I didn't recognize. The game went well for me at first; I focused on finishing routes quickly with maximum efficiency of post offices. I was able to pick up several of the area chips-- I was either first or second in the purples, blues and greens, and I believe I was second to pick up the chip for getting one of each color. With three post offices left, though, things really stalled out. I didn't have a good way to get the last three down; I was a little greedy and wanted to pick up the red/gold chip along with it, but even getting three in a row proved not to be possible. I crashed a route trying to get this, and then another player went out. So, although I'd been doing well the entire game, I came in last. Oh well, I told the GM I wouldn't win.
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16. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:8.00 Overall Rank:11]
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For once, I actually got to play in Power Grid. I opted for a quick game to make sure I'd be able to set up for Navegador, which was in the same room just afterward.

We played on the Spain map, whose most obvious feature is lots of very expensive connections. There's another rule with Portugal, but we didn't play with that Portugal, so that wasn't important.

My initial placement was a problem, because I tried to place in such a way that I'd have access to go South, but could go North if someone got in my way. Instead, other players placed very close to me on both sides. This made things more difficult for me throughout the game. I picked up some fairly efficient coal factories and, because at some point I had little choice about it, a wind plant. I was able to stay in a favorable position in the turn order, but coal was still fairly expensive, and I think through a lot of the game we were all short on cash. By the end of the game, I just didn't have enough money to build up to seventeen. I'm still going to blame it on the connections because they ate up so much of my money.
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17. Board Game: Navegador [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:98]
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It was time for the first heat of Navegador. This was kind of chaotic because the room was small and it was still full of Power Grid players and people who were milling around, so it was difficult to identify the Navegador players and to get the boards set up. I compounded this problem by making a mistake with assigning tables and, in the end, it took a little longer than usual to get everything started.

This was pretty stressful, and there wasn't room for me at a table, so Vien Bounma, who is one of my assistant GMs, proposed a game of Saint Petersburg to help me calm down. It actually did help--wasn't there a geeklist somewhere where St. Pete was described as a "comfort game"? Anyway, Doug, who also played in that game, has already written a description of it. Here, I'll just say that I was behind for most of the game and didn't win.
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18. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:153]
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Okay, now it was time for Saint Petersburg for real. This time I had a table of two experienced players, a very new player, and me. I've probably played Saint Petersburg at least sixty times, but the people I was playing with also considered me to be a new player because I am not into mental arithmetic and wanted to receive money to start the game. Heh. The people I play with usually use money.

The game was extraordinarily short and it ended before any of us were ready for it. I had some aristocrats I needed to get out of my hand and I knew I'd be able to do it, but the problem, as always, was calculating how much money I'd have left to potentially buy another one. The difficult thing about this is keeping in mind the amount that you will get from aristocrat income. In any case, I used the observatory to flip an upgrade, which turned out to be an aristocrat upgrade which was just outside the price that I thought would be helpful. When the aristocrats came out and I got everything out of my hand, though, I did have enough left to have bought that card. I don't think it would have given me the win, but it would have been a lot closer, and at least I would have been second. As it is, I think I ended up third... behind the new player. It was a very low-scoring game, though.
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19. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:95]
Anni Foasberg
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Okay. More Ra. Another ugly game, with lots of negatives early on. The rounds went quickly and the players with high tiles showed a certain reluctance to spend them. The player who started with the sixteen kept it until almost the very end of the third epoch because nothing came up that he considered worth his while.

The player to my left built up a large pile of monuments, though, starting pretty early. She had low tiles through most of the game and was able to make the most of them, even though in the second (and maybe in the third?) epoch, I also had low tiles and was able to call Ra in a way that kept her from calling it.

I called Ra pretty aggressively but didn't bid as aggressively as maybe I should. This was fairly beneficial to the player to my left. The player to my right said once, after I'd let a lot go by, that that had been the ideal lot for my sun and I should have bid. Maybe he was right, but also: Wise words from a man still holding the 13 and 14 from the prior round.

Anyway, I did pretty well with the floods and okay with the pharaohs. I didn't really have civs until the last round, but then, few did. I don't think the player to my left actually ended up winning; there was another player who picked up a lot of valuable stuff late and managed to win.

In one of the games of Ra, and I don't remember which one, four players were tied for lowest suns at the end. That was amusing.

This was my last game of Ra for the convention; at this point I had a second, a third and a fourth, and while I wanted to come back and get a fifth place so I could complete my set of loserness, I really wanted to play Burgundy the next morning, so I did.
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20. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy [Average Rating:8.07 Overall Rank:10]
Anni Foasberg
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I like The Castles of Burgundy a lot and I generally feel like I'm decently good at it, too, so I was excited to play in the tournament. The rule for the tournament was that we were to play on the standard boards unless all the players in the game agreed that the advanced boards were a possibility. In our game, we decided to play with advanced boards as an option; two players opted to play with the standard boards and two with the advanced. I had the one with the big group of brown hexes, which I knew was difficult to pull off but potentially very good (and I tend to go for a strategy of building lots of brown buildings anyway).

The yellow tile that allows a player to put multiples of the same building in an area didn't come up until the third or fourth round, but since I was making a priority of getting different buildings, it actually seemed like it was going to work out. I did end up getting the yellow tile, but by the time I got it, I didn't really need it anymore. The player to my right played a successful animal strategy on the standard board, and we finished pretty close together, but the winner was the player across from me, who played a really focused shipping strategy which involved pretty much all the tech tiles that had to do with shipping, including the one that let him pick up two goods tiles at the same time, the one that gives points for having different goods, and I think also the one that gave him workers for shipping. It was.. pretty impressive.
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21. Board Game: Merchant of Venus [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:432]
Anni Foasberg
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Okay! Time for more Merchant of Venus.

I got a pretty bad start in this one; I ran short on money, went the wrong way, and ended up spending several turns going back and forth indecisively. This is not the secret to winning a pick-up-and-deliver game. Eventually, I was forced to pick up a fare as a way of raising some money. But then, there were more fares that were in my way! And even more! So, while I didn't want to become an interstellar taxi, and I know that's not the best way to make money in this game, I nevertheless ended up doing just that. I wasn't able to get to most of the things I'd actually been planning to do, because I wasn't very fast, but this turned out to be enough money that I ended up beating another player and coming in third, much to my surprise. I thought I'd been far in last.
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22. Board Game: Notre Dame [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:139]
Anni Foasberg
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I had some time before the next event, so I ended up in open gaming with Doug, Jeff Kahan, and a friend of Jeff's who had never played Notre Dame before. I love Notre Dame, so we fixed this problem for him. I went fairly heavy on the park, which I find often works out well for me. There was at least one time, maybe two, when I should have gone to Notre Dame but didn't; I was short on money. But in the end, I guess I still won by a point. Doug has more on this..
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23. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:153]
Anni Foasberg
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C'mon, I have to at least win a heat.

This game was fun because I got to play with a person, Ernie, who I remember from the Shipyard tournament, back when there was a Shipyard tournament. Anyway, he's a fun person to play with, although I did get the sense he hadn't played St. Pete quite as much as the other players had. I bought some large buildings, not immediately but fairly early on, and I believe I also had an observatory. The player to my left built up a pile of small buildings worth at least as much as my large ones and also had a nice collection of aristocrats going; I was absolutely sure he was ahead of me, but at the end I managed to catch up on aristocrats just enough that I could get a win with the points I already had.

There you are, folks, my only win of the convention in a tournament game!
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24. Board Game: Navegador [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:98]
Anni Foasberg
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This heat didn't have good turnout, probably because it was late at night and because people apparently play Liar's Dice, which I have made an effort to avoid (I don't like large, noisy crowds). The way that the math worked out, I got to play! I was pretty excited about this, but I went on to play badly.

I went first, which is something that I don't really like doing. I sailed to Guiné, but then, so did everyone else. When I saw that at least two other players were in Guiné with me, I kind of panicked and gave up on the gold colonies without buying a single one, which was a pretty major mistake actually, because this meant that I could never really build up the kind of money that I needed to actually get stuff done. I usually go for sugar, so I kind of forgot that splitting gold is actually okay. The hilarious thing is that the colonies just continued to sit there for several turns after that, even though we were all sitting there.
In any case, I tried to do a factory strategy, but Sue Goodson was sitting to my left and had way more money than I did and managed to buy them much more effectively than I did. So, yeah, I didn't do well.

(I did try playing again the following week with a similar strategy and won, so.. hooray for using the tournament as practice?)
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25. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:157]
Anni Foasberg
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I don't get to play Settlers much, so this was a good opportunity. At my table, the person who owned the game had this nice wooden frame to hold all the tiles in place.

I went fourth on a map which really only had two good spots, so my initial placements weren't great. I tend to go after wheat and stone, and I was able to find some places which were decent for that, but the problem was that all my numbers were under six.

Basically, there were too many pips on all the dice! I couldn't get many resources. It didn't work out well. I think I might have had five points at the end of the game?

It's funny because it had actually been a long time since I lost at Settlers.
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