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12 Person-Days, 20 Person-Hours, 52 Person-Minutes at the Tables in Columbus
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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Time for my unorthodox recap of happenings at The Gathering. I was in the hamlet of Columbus, Ohio for a bit over 8 days and managed to be in the ballroom 62 hours (the rest of the time being devoted to family activities, sleep, and the occasional walk). During those 62 hours, a good bit of time was spent thinking about or discussing what game to play or going over the rules. In the end, my actual active game time was 45 hours, 7 minutes. That's about a 73% Ballroom Utilization Factor (TM).

Following, you will read about each game played. They are listed in order of total personhours spend playing each title (total of everyone at the table's time spent). The exceptions are the final two entries, which are just oddities. I do this to show what titles were actually consuming the collective groups' time. After all, a group of five may play Ra, but if a group of 12 plays What Were You Thinking, that's more of a following/devotion. At least in my book.

By the way, as I am one of the group of "party gamers" at the gathering (and a proud member at that), I will be listing games which I categorize as Party Games with this garish pink color. Those of you looking only for the run-of-the-mill recent releases for dry Eurogamers can skip over the pink. I prefer to surrender to the pink.

Finally, I've included anonymous comments from some of the people I played multiple games with. I interpreted their comments to try to come up with a rating (and some just gave me a rating). So, you'll see their comments and a 0-5 star rating at the end of each item.

Update: I revised my star scale to include negative stars. It now ranges from -2 stars ( ) to five stars ( )
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26. Board Game: MooT [Average Rating:6.70 Unranked]
Randy Cox
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South Carolina
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MooT 1 play, 9 participants, 3:27 time spent playing

This is a fun two-player trivia game about origins of English words. It's challenging and has a built-in catch up mechanism in that about half the questions are 50/50 (yes/no, true/false). So, if the on-turn player misses, the other player safely steals.

But playing it with more than 2 is a challenge. First off, everyone has to write down their answer (except for the on-turn players) and then if the on-turn player misses, any/all of the others can challenge if they think their answer is correct. Note: they can only go with what they originally wrote down. It works fine, but some people dislike that if they picked the wrong 50/50 choice during the "write your answer" phase, they can't change it now that they know the real answer. Well, tough. It's still a good game.

Panel of Experts wrote:

- (check)
- Throw out those 50/50 cards, and this becomes ok (4.5)
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27. Board Game: Facts in Five [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:2984]
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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Facts in Five 2007 1 play, 6 participants, 3:18 time spent playing

One morning, long before party games usually break out, we ran through six of the games I brought, hoping to play. They were, in order, Black Vienna, Code 777, Imposter!, Facts in Five, Ex Libris, and Literati Challenge. It was wonderful. When we got to this one, some people were pressed for time, so we only played two rounds. It's really the same game as the old Fi5, only with more reasonable categories. We also played with the rule that the group could override narrow categories. So, when Bob chose Military Figures--American Civil War, we ditched the Civil War part and stuck with just plain old Military Figures. That was narrow enough. And he was a good sport about it.

Panel of Experts wrote:

- I like it, but I think it causes too many disagreements about what is a good answer and what isn't. The updated version is a slight improvement, but not very different really. (6)
- Good solid game
- (check)
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28. Board Game: Baffle Gab [Average Rating:5.05 Unranked]
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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Literati Challenge 1 play, 7 participants, 3:16 time spent playing

I purchased this game and took it to a small gaming gettogether last fall, but it was shot down. I was determined to play it at the Gathering, puffinge or no. Well, right after Facts in Five, it hit the table.

The game is simple...five obscure-ish words are laid out on the table, worth 5 or 10 points each. Everyone gets 90 seconds to write a paragraph using as many of the words as possible (within some restrictions--like no list of words separated by commas). Go around reading them and scoring points for correct usage of the words.

And therein lies the rub. When someone says "and he climbed the ascerbic stairs," everyone wants to challenge, but the rules say only the first does so. That's OK. But then when the card is turned over to read the actual definition and the challenge is resolved, there are still six people to read. If any of them tried to bluff "ascerbic," they are exposed and ready for another quick challenge. I think something needs to be worked out with the challenge rules. Otherwise, it's great and people seemed to enjoy hearing the stories.

Panel of Experts wrote:

- Not really a game here, but it could be fun as a challenging activity (4)
- Not for me
- (check) Clearly not for everyone
- Nooooo
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29. Board Game: Humor Rumor [Average Rating:6.62 Unranked]
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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Humor Rumor 1 play, 8 participants, 3:12 time spent playing

I played this game in 1971 as a little kid. We enjoyed it, but we also broke it because of a rules flaw. See, each player gets a card with a word on it. Then the first person whispers a very short phrase to the second player through a long cardboard tube. Did I mention the huge plastic lips and ear on each end of said tube. Yeah, it's funny. And probably unsanitary. Player 2 now repeats that to player 3, plus a short phrase with their word on it. Anyway, do this until the final player repeats what they can remember of the progressively growing story.

The scoring is that when your word is uttered during the final soliloquey, you give the card (a point) to the narrator. So, as kids, we just imbedded our word inside a string of similar words, hoping that not all words would be remembered (e.g. "He ate with a rumpled, cold, silver, oblong spoon" when our word is one of rumpled, cold, silver or oblong). But the scoring really isn't what it's about. It's Telestrations without pictures--Telephone!

We played a few rounds and it wore out its welcome. I had played it again and with a mean-time-between-sessions of 39 years, I wouldn't be scheduled to play it again until I'm about 88 years old. So when Sheila Davis (owner of 11,000 games) walked by and had never seen the game, it was granted to her.

Panel of Experts wrote:

- Hilarious, what more could one ask of a game. But only if you play it only once every five years. (5.5)
- Not enthralled with it
- nostalgic but that's about it
- (X), silly and fun
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30. Board Game: The Hanging Gardens [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:834]
Randy Cox
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South Carolina
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Hanging Gardens 1 play, 3 participants, 3:00 time spent playing

Tery had not played this game and since it's great for two (she often plays with Mark), we taught it to her. It's a much quicker game with three than with two.

Panel of Experts wrote:
- (check)
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31. Board Game: Imposter! [Average Rating:4.90 Unranked]
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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Imposter! 1 play, 9 participants, 2:51 time spent playing

This game would work better as an automobile activity. The cards are neat--four items listed, one of which is not like the others. For instance, it may be "Lady, Lightning, Water, and Thunder." The answer is "Thunder" (not a bug). Now, the rules allow people to argue their point and say something like "I chose Lady because it's not associated with a thunderstorm." And if enough people agree, that's correct as well. The only problem in the game comes when people try to use reverse logic ("X is something and Y, Z, and Q are NOT"). See, the game is about which ONE is not like the others, not which THREE are unlike the others. Cute activity moreso than a game.

Panel of Experts wrote:

- OK for light pasttime
- I liked the cards/puzzles, think it needs more to it; the categories remind me of Take Your Best Shot
- Another good idea that's not quite a game. Some of the questions are good, it would probably be better to just sit around and answer the questions for fun. (4.5)
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32. Board Game: Black Vienna [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1591]
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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Black Vienna 1 play, 4 participants, 2:48 time spent playing

I like this game because you only get one shot to figure out the answer (unlike Code 777, which is also a good game). But if your note-taking methodology fails you, you're hopelessly lost and apparently that's what happened to Rachel first and then me. We guessed wrong. Then Brian guessed right and it was over. I like deduction games and this is one of the finest.

Panel of Experts wrote:

- Very Good
- (check)
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33. Board Game: Survive: Escape from Atlantis! [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:174]
Randy Cox
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Survive 1 play, 4 participants, 2:28 time spent playing

I had never played this old mass market game. I own it, but had never even read the rules. And it's quite cute. Of course, I'm not so good at it since it requires a bit of memory, but that doesn't matter if you're playing with fun people.
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34. Board Game: Mosaix [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:1879]
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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Mosaix 1 play, 6 participants, 2:24 time spent playing

This seems to have been the week of dry-erase markers. Telestrations and Wurfel Bingo both use them and this one does as well. The way the game works is that you roll four dice, each with three possible symbols on the faces (equal distribution of chances). The symbols are triangle, X, and O. Then you align them all touching along sides. Then, each person must draw that same configuration somewhere on their grid (maybe 8x8?) and any that "fall off the edge" don't have to be marked down. Your goal is to created groups of 5 or more connected symbols of the same type. You score for a combination of how many such groups you form and the total number of symbols in those groups. Works very well, much like Wurfel Bingo.

Panel of Experts wrote:

- I like this type of game where everyone has to use the same thing on their individual board and try to do better than everyone else. But I like this one a bit less than some of the others that do this. (6)
- Had to really focus; "fine"
- Like this...I think the trick is to let lots of stuff hang off
- Good game
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35. Board Game: Nerdy Wordy Crossword Game [Average Rating:5.93 Unranked]
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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Nerdy Wordy 1 play, 6 participants, 2:00 time spent playing

If only this game had boards and dry-erase markers. It could be done, you know. Anyway, this is like Wurfel Bingo in that everyone plays the same elements to their own 5x5 board. In this case, the elements are letters and you're trying to form words and words-within-words. It's very clever for those who enjoy word games. The game is designed for two players, but I purchased two additional sets at 50% off from Target.com last year and we can handle up to six with our "Battleship"-like boards.

Panel of Experts wrote:

- One of the better word games out there. It's no Scrabble, but what is? I think it would be better if 2letter words didn't count. That would eliminate a lot of the crazy "ai" type words. (6.5)
- Liked this, but not as much as the bingo game
- (unconvincing statement of...) Fun
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36. Board Game: Code 777 [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:998]
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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Code 777 1 play, 4 participants, 1:48 time spent playing

Just after we played Black Vienna, we broke out this brain burner. In this one, you're trying to determine what three secret numbers are in front of you, unseen to you (like What's That on My Head?). You do this by having other players answer questions like "On how many boards (that you can see) do the digits sum to 18 or more?" Over time, you can figure out what you have. Then, you guess. Right or wrong, you then get three new cards and continue until someone has guessed correctly three times.

It didn't take Roger long to nail his numbers three times.

Panel of Experts wrote:

- (check)
- Very good, but not quite so good as Black Vienna
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37. Board Game: Monad [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:2763]
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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Monad 1 play, 4 participants, 1:44 time spent playing

My wife and I play this reasonably frequently and it's a pretty deep game for a card game that isn't about taking tricks. It feels a lot like Bazaar to me, only you get to make multiple transactions on each turn. Playing with only two, it can take over an hour to play. But this was the first time I had played with four and it was much quicker. We did have a problem where two of the "3" cards were placed into the "1" discard pile, causing the 3s to cycle through at a quick pace.
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38. Board Game: Ubongo Extreme [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:1017]
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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Ubongo Extreme 1 play, 4 participants, 1:44 time spent playing

A couple of years ago, I played Code Omega, which so many people said "is like Ubongo." Now I have finally played Ubongo and I like it. It was sometimes frustrating, which makes me think that some of the combinations are just tougher than others, which makes for an unbalanced game. But who cares? It's a puzzle.

Panel of Experts wrote:

- (shrug) Fun
- I put this in the same family with Mosaix and Wurfel, despite everyone using a different board and different pieces. This is better than the first but not as good as the second. (6.5)
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39. Board Game: The Poll Game [Average Rating:6.30 Overall Rank:7424]
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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the poll game 1 play, 5 participants, 1:20 time spent playing

Alfonzo showed up and we played a few games in rapid succession, and I do mean rapid. I had played this game before (as recently as last fall), but he streamlined it even more by having everyone look ahead so they'd have a topic ready when their turn came. Played very fast and quite fun. Now I know how many of the group had ever been skinny dipping (1).

Panel of Experts wrote:
- Fun
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40. Board Game: Get Bit! [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:1408]
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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Get Bit 1 play, 5 participants, 1:10 time spent playing

This game felt like Wurmeln. We all just tried to figure out who had which cards left in their hands (1 to 'number of players') and decide who would play which card. See, if two play the same card, neither moves. Otherwise, you must move in order to the front of the line. Don't be at the back of the line or you lose victory points (body parts).

I could do without the little robotic people. It's just silly and harder to manipulate than chips or whatnot. But it's a painless quick game.
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41. Board Game: Piece o' Cake [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:1103]
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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Piece o' Cake 1 play, 4 participants, 0:44 time spent playing

I played this last year under the German title and I swear it was more complicated. I thought there was something about building your own pie, rather than just accepting pieces and collecting them like tricks. Anyway, as it is, it's a mindless game pretty much.

Panel of Experts wrote:
- (X), but pretty
 
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42. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:477]
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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Can't Stop 1 play, 2 participants, 0:32 time spent playing

When I played my second game of the convention, which was the same as my first (Ra), Marty came to my rescue and asked me to play this game so that I could get something else--anything else--under my belt. It was a close fought game and I think I won 3-2.
 
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43. Board Game: Finger Ball [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:6838]
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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Finger Ball 1 play, 2 participants, 0:04 time spent playing

After playing Piece o' Cake, the poll game, and a prototype by Stephen Glenn, I mentioned how fun Finger Ball is and that I had never won. So Stephen obliged and started a game on the spot. I am still winless.
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44. Board Game: Werewolf [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:707]
Randy Cox
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Clemson
South Carolina
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Werewolf 2 play, 36 participants, 34:49 time spent playing

For each of the past two years, I ventured into the Werewolf room one night and played two games. Thankfully, the games I played did not include any of that crazy stuff. I like my Werewolf games to include wolves, villagers, and a seer. We had the Hunter in these two, which isn't great but sure beats all that strange stuff that messes up the game (like The Blob). I was a villager both times, and we won once and lost once.

Panel of Experts wrote:

- I like it every other night, and NEVER with those cards that set a time limit on the game. No mummies, vampires, Blobs, Frankensteins,...
- Always a great game
- My all-time favorite game. The games this year were almost all very good, but there was no one outstanding game as there has been in past years. I like it better with not too many special characters. I particularly don't like special characters with separate victory conditions that can end the game prematurely. (10)
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45. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1526]
Randy Cox
United States
Clemson
South Carolina
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Prototypes 4 play, 24 participants, 13:10 time spent playing

This entry combines four games which weren't yet released, though one of them already has an entry in the BGG database--Seven Wonders. I will say that I didn't particularly enjoy that game, as it's just another of the "multiple paths to possible victory but one works better than others" sort of games.

Two of the others were party games and I will say that they ranged from very good to fair.

Panel of Experts wrote:
About "A" - This was very interesting. I wasn't good but enjoyed the game.
- didn't play but watched it; I liked it
- Terrific idea and great fun, not sure it can sell though (7.5)

About "7 Wonders" - Good Game
- Short, fairly simple, it made me feel like I was in a Magic draft, and that's a really good thing. I will definitely buy this when it becomes available. (7)
- It was fair--needs a lot of work before I'd buy it, starting with editing out some cards and making one not need a ping-pong sized table to play it properly
- I liked it a lot and can't wait for it to come out in the fall.

About "S a P" - Reminiscent of parlor game from novels of a century or two ago (unenthused rating)
- Not enthralled with it
- Fun, but it needs some changes, I'm just not sure of the best way to fix it. More (REDACTED)? More or less emphasis on (REDACTED)-giving??? (6)

About "P & C" - I only played one demo round. It seems like a good idea, but once again, it doesn't seem like enough to me. But, again, I'm sure I'm wrong. (6)
- (X) Pensive
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46. Board Game: Time Control [Average Rating:2.13 Overall Rank:10841]
Randy Cox
United States
Clemson
South Carolina
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Here is how my time was allotted during the week.


Having the kids along (and grandma) meant that we got up for breakfast with the family around 7:00 and by the time we got downstairs (10 ish), there were still not many people available for gaming. This crowd takes their late sleeping seriously. Usually, Grandma and kids were out until about dinner time when we paused our gaming. After getting them to sleep, we came back downstairs (around 9:00) and played until past a reasonable bedtime.

The green here indicates "serious" gaming time while the yellow/gold is "party" gaming time. There is a pretty obvious split between "day" and "night" gaming. The brown is dead time between games (sometimes reading rules, sometimes just waiting). The little purple dot was a group walk down the street for some sunshine and exercise.
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47. Board Game: The Long March [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Randy Cox
United States
Clemson
South Carolina
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And here is my chart of when each game began (horizontal axis) crossreferenced with the length of the game (vertical axis). Black games are "regular" fare and pink are party games. If the name is in a box, I particularly liked the game.

The little yellow squares indicate the "typical" game played in the early part and late part of each day.

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48. Board Game: Finish [Average Rating:4.96 Unranked]
Randy Cox
United States
Clemson
South Carolina
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And here's how it all came out. These are the players I played at least 3 games (5 game cutoff above the line). For instance, Denise came in 1st (first column) 6 times and had an average game of 8.2 players in those 6 games. AvF means "average finish" so my average finish was 2.48th out of 6.7 players.
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49. Board Game: The Who's Who Game [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
Randy Cox
United States
Clemson
South Carolina
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And here is who I played with. Using Denise again as an example, she played 3 of my 4 Telestrations games with me. Rachel was kind enough to play 41 games with me and spend 31 hours in my presence.
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50. Board Game: Booty [Average Rating:3.94 Unranked]
Randy Cox
United States
Clemson
South Carolina
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And finally, what did I pick up from the prize table?

Well, my wife eyed the game Bloom last year and it was available in a big lot which we picked first. Included in the lot were Einfalls-Pinsel, Igor: the Monster Making Game, Paddle Pool, and Pants on Fire. For our other pick, I was eying Long Shot. But we also were looking to pick up our offering (Wildlife Adventure) which had been bundled with Word Thief and something else.

Well, the person who picked up or Wildlife Adventure really just wanted that game (and maybe a third that was included) and didn't have a lot of room in their luggage (they were flying), so they gave us the copy of Word Thief. There are wonderful people everywhere.
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