My favorite 2010 Gathering experiences
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I have been a gamer since I received a copy of Avalon Hill's D-Day (first edition) as a child, but my wife Claire has gained interest slowly over time. At first she played games mainly to be sociable, but now she is interested in games for their own sake. This year, after I had gone to the Gathering without her for six years, she decided to come with me.

We booked flights on Southwest Airlines out of Providence, and as the departure day drew near, we began to wonder whether the flooding in Rhode Island would make it impossible to get to the airport. Fortunately, although our regular route was closed, we were able to use an alternate route. The flight was uneventful (a welcome change from 2009) and we arrived Friday afternoon as people were just beginning to arrive.

As in previous years, I haven't tried to list every game I played (I played 68 games of 42 different titles.) I'm going to stick to the highlights.
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1. Board Game: Snow Tails [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:459]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Claire and I arrived at the hotel, checked into our room, and headed down to the ballroom to see who was there. There were only a few people, but one of them was Rodney Somerstein, who was rounding people up for a game. We were happy to join in a game of Snow Tails, which we have played and enjoy.

Some people claim there's a runaway leader problem in Snow Tails, but we haven't found it to be the case, especially if you make a reasonably long course. In this game, Rodney started slow but caught up during the race and finished in first. Just goes to show!
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2. Board Game: Dixit [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:119] [Average Rating:7.42 Unranked]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Later on Friday, Claire and I met Debbie Ohi and Jeff Ridpath, who were first-timers at the Gathering just like Claire (first timers wear red badges and get lots of welcoming wishes as a result.) Debbie is an artist who creates cartoons on BGG for the caption contest, and she contributed a beautiful bound book of these cartoons for the Prize Table.

Debbie and Jeff were getting ready to make a visit to the Apple store early the next morning to pick up the iPads they had pre-ordered, and Debbie proudly showed off her iPad carrying case. It had no iPad yet but, as she pointed out, no one would know it was empty unless she told them.

Debbie and Jeff suggested that we try Dixit, a light-hearted card game with beautiful images in which players try to guess which of a set of cards corresponds the the description one player provides.

It sounds like an easy game, but people's minds work in unexpected ways, and we enjoyed quite a few laughs as people made guesses we weren't expecting.
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3. Board Game: Le Havre [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:15]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Claire headed off to play a game on her own, and I saw Marty Hoff and Sharon Madden setting up a game of Le Havre. I hadn't played for a while, so I was happy to accept their invitation to join them. Sharon's husband Warren usually comes to the Gathering, but he couldn't make it this year (though he did "attend" the Prize Table ceremony by video link!)

Le Havre is a game with a significant amount of fiddliness, a characteristic that doesn't present a problem for me as long as the game is a good one, but it can be hard to get onto the table. We moved our ships, scooped up loads of goods, occupied buildings, and collected victory points. I focused on getting Coal, Coke and Steel into play, building the buildings that support this strategy, and in doing so I collected quite a few of the buildings that provide bonuses for the Bank at the end of the game. This single-minded focus proved to be enough to put me over the top in VPs when we totaled the scores.
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4. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:1562]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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At this year's Gathering, Scott Nicholson was demo-ing and testing an adventure game prototype with components that were truly impressive. I'm not the usual audience for this sort of game, but I decided to give it a whirl on Saturday morning, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked, even in prototype form. Scott made quite a few changes during the course of the week as the game received repeated plays. People who had played the game recommended it to others, and this added to the buzz.

Claire also played it and enjoyed it later in the week, and in many ways it's a better fit for her than for me (she enjoys adventure games.) If it comes out, we'll probably be buying a copy.
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5. Board Game: Roll for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:41]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I moved straight from Scott's prototype to one I had seen Wei-Hwa Huang demo-ing earlier. I can't speak in any detail about this prototype, and like the previous one, it's still in the process of development, but I will say that the concept was fascinating. I played Wei-Hwa's game five times during the Gathering.

Update: Now that Tom Lehmann has mentioned it publicly, I can say that this is the Race for the Galaxy dice game. Interesting, and unlike most dice-game versions, not obviously simpler than the original game.
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6. Board Game: Famiglia [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:1015]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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It was almost time for lunch, but before we looked for someone to eat with, I showed Claire how to play Friedemann Friese's 2-player card game, which I had played and enjoyed before. It was a close game, but I edged her out. We then spotted Jim Scheidrich and Mary Ann Benkowski heading out for lunch, and they invited us to join them (they had a car in Columbus.) We went to a restaurant called Noodles & Company, part of a chain, where we got big bowls of food for relatively low prices and talked about some of our favorite books. There's an excellent bookstore just across the driveway from the restaurant, and Jim and Mary Ann often visit it while they're in Columbus.

Edit: I can now mention that the name of this game is Famiglia.
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7. Board Game: Dungeon Lords [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:115]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I played a few games during the afternoon, and with Claire looking out for me, I actually thought about dinner (I often wind up skipping meals when I'm at the Gathering without her, because I get wrapped up in playing games.) Jim McCarthy and Donna Balkan were on hand, and we hadn't seen them since the summer. We agreed to go out for dinner together and looked in the restaurant guide Bruce Reiff had created. The Montgomery Inn is a ribs place about 6 miles west of the hotel, so we went there. The ribs were good but not outstanding, but the potato chips (which they cook on site) were fabulous.

When I returned, I scared up a game of Dungeon Lords. Dale Yu had purchased the game way back at Essen but hadn't played it yet. With my encouragement, we decided to give it a try.

I have a perfect record in Dungeon Lords---I've taught it to many people, but I've never won. This game was no exception. I'm pretty good at many of the aspects of this game, but scoring VPs is not one of them. In the end, Dale won a fairly close game. I had a good time; I really enjoy both the mechanisms of this game and the way they support the theme. I played Dungeon Lords again the next day, and this time Ken Boone (another first-time player) won.
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8. Board Game: Flowerpower [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:1705]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Floyd Sherrod, one of the Gathering attendees, took the initiative to learn new games by bringing pre-printed Post-It notes that he stuck on games sitting around the ballroom. Each note said Floyd wanted to learn the game, and asked anyone who was putting a game together to consider inviting him to play. What a great idea!

I saw one of his notes on Flowerpower, a 2-player game that is a favorite of mine. I invited Floyd to play, and he was happy to learn it. We had a good time playing.

It's a real shame that Flowerpower is out of print; it's a great 2-player game that deserves to be reissued.
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9. Board Game: Anno 1701: Das Brettspiel [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:2516]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I don't usually play a lot of Settlers at conventions, though I enjoy the game. I also tend to avoid the expansions, as I like the base game more than any of the expansions I've tried. But every so often I make an exception.

Anne Norton is a big fan of the Settlers family, and she asked me whether I'd make a fourth player for a game of Anno 1701: Das Brettspiel. I hadn't tried it, so I agreed. The other 2 players were Jim Vroom and June King. Anno 1701: Das Brettspiel doesn't have a common board upon which you place initial settlements. Instead, each player can build ships to explore a central board, gaining access to new types of commodity and sources of VPs.

Anne is a strong Settlers player, and she moved into the lead early. I then grabbed several Commerce spots to pass her for Commerce and take the lead myself. Anne took my threat seriously, re-taking the Commerce lead and buying a VP with cash. But Jim was planning his own move, and in one fell swoop he settled with a ship, gained a VP for having 7 settlements on the exploration board, and also took the lead in cannons. It was an exciting denoument to a good game.

Anno 1701: Das Brettspiel is one of the better Settlers variants I have played (much better, for example, than Anno 1503, which has no trading,) but I still prefer the base game.
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10. Board Game: Titan [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:535]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I started early on Monday morning, and after a game of The Speicherstadt (a game I found to be acceptable, but not outstanding,) I saw Scott Mellon sitting down with Floyd Sherrod to play Titan. It was another of the games Floyd had put sticky notes on, and Scott had agreed to teach. I asked whether they wanted a third player, and they were happy to have me join them.

I enjoy Titan a lot; the only downside is that one player can be eliminated early. This isn't a problem at a convention, where the eliminated player can go play something else, so Titan is a great convention game. As we set up, people walked by and talked about how long it would take to play. I wasn't worried, as Titan only becomes unbearably long if none of the players will fight. I knew I would fight, so either the game would move quickly or I would be eliminated and it wouldn't be my problem.

We gave Floyd some advice, but you want to give new players a chance to think for themselves as well. Before long he moved his Titan stack next to a tower that had one of Scott's fighting stacks adjacent to it as well, and Scott took Floyd out of the game with an attack.

Scott had the lead at this point, as he was recruiting Rangers like crazy. I think Scott recruited about 20 Rangers in the game, and I recruited none (!) On the other hand, I hit the center ring (the "spin-dryer") several times, gaining 2 Dragons in one stack. My Titan stack went green (you have to do what the dice let you do) and I was up to 3 Cyclopses, a Gorgon and a Warlock. It was moving around the outer ring (the "gutter") and managed to hit a Jungle hex to gain a Behemoth. At this point, Scott smashed into it from behind with his own Titan stack, which was composed primarily of Rangers (but had no Bramble natives.) Rangers are strong, but not so much in Jungle, and I was able to take him out before he even summoned an Angel.

The game took about 3 1/2 hours, which wasn't bad considering that we spent more time than usual answering Floyd's questions. Floyd left with a desire to play Titan again, though I'm not sure he got a second game in at the Gathering.
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11. Board Game: At the Gates of Loyang [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:188]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I bought At the Gates of Loyang around year-end, but I had not managed to play it except for one solo game. Dave Andrews, Michael Tsuk and I were looking for a game, and I suggested At the Gates of Loyang, which neither of them had played. They were both happy to learn the game, so I taught it to them and we began play.

I'll warn you, if you haven't played At the Gates of Loyang, that it's a game that can be slowed to a crawl by players with analysis paralysis. None of the players in this game suffered from that affliction, however, and we had a good time playing together. Dave wound up winning a relatively close game. I enjoyed it more than I think I should have, and in fact I've determined that I enjoy all three of Uwe Rosenberg's trilogy (consisting of At the Gates of Loyang, Le Havre and of course Agricola) about equally.

Dave and Michael said they enjoyed the game, given the company, but they would be somewhat reluctant to play it unless they knew it would move quickly. I found myself thinking about the game during the week, and in fact managed to play another game with Robin Hill, Terry Bailey and June King (I think) that Robin won.
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12. Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:400]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I had played Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age a few times (when it was a prototype) at previous Gatherings, but I had played it only once since it was released. It was getting quite a bit of table time this year, and late on Monday night I accepted an invitation from Robin Hill, Sterling Babcock and June Hill to play a game. I got off to a strong start (the first time I rolled six dice, I rolled 18 people on my first roll and used them to finish off the Great Wall and complete most of another monument) but Sterling was doing well too. He was building up a nice stock of the more expensive resources, and with seven cities he rolled a lot of commodities.

On one turn, he rolled once and got two skulls. Thinking that it would make sense to try to roll a third, he rolled the five remaining dice and got---four more skulls! This meant that his civilization was subject to a revolt, which wiped out all his goods. It wasn't as though we even felt Sterling was taking a big risk, but wham!---he knocked himself out of the game in one shot.

I think I got nearly twice as many VPs as anyone else in this game, as almost everything I did worked perfectly. I played a second game on Tuesday, and it was also enjoyable, but it wasn't nearly as dramatic as the first game.
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13. Board Game: Greed Incorporated [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:1099]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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There are moments each year at which one is standing with a group looking for a game to play. Some people bring lists of games they want to play for just this purpose---Michael Tsuk and Walter Hunt for example---and as I mentioned above, Floyd Sherrod went them one better with his sticky note idea. Maybe I should try it one year.

Nevertheless, one game I knew I wanted to try was Greed Incorporated, a game I wasn't sure I'd like, didn't want to buy without playing, and didn't think I'd get anyone in my local groups to try. This is the perfect kind of game to play at the Gathering. Chris Blancheria, Seana Miller and Ken Drake were willing to give it a shot, and Chris brought her copy of the game over and we un-shrink-wrapped it.

The concept of Greed Incorporated is clever: the players are corporate execs trying to amass personal wealth by collecting golden parachutes from companies they run into the ground. It's clear that the designers are making an ironic comment on the events of the past few years. The game is heavy on negotiation (and in fact, heavier than would be ideal for me,) but it's fairly well put together. The trick is that you have to run the company well enough for it to collect a lot of cash, then put it into a tailspin, fire yourself, and clean up.

Ken suffered a bit at the start because he was reluctant to trash his companies, though in the end he got into the spirit of the game. Chris, however, proved to be the master of the group, piling up the highest score at the end. We tried not to mention the fact that she is a lawyer more than a few times...

This really isn't the game for me, but I did enjoy playing it with this group. Many games are fun if you play with the right people.
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14. Board Game: FITS [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:891]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My wife was a keen Tetris player back in the day. She could get the version on our Mac to the top level and keep it there for hours; in fact, the limitation on her score was not her skill but her ability to sit there without getting a cramp. I thought this game would be one she'd like, and I was right.

I invited Claire to try the game, and Donna Balkan joined us to make 3. I've played the game before, which is a big advantage, so I chalked up a good score in our first game, finishing at 19 VPs while Claire and Donna were both slightly negative. Both wanted to play again immediately, and this time Claire improved her score to 12 while I increased mine to 24. Donna was still struggling in the second game, but we all enjoyed it.
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15. Board Game: Eurorails [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:733]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I'm a big fan of the crayon rails games (the ones descended from Empire Builder,) but most of my games are 2-player games at home with Claire, who enjoys them at least as much as I do. You might think it odd for me to play games at the Gathering that I can play all I want at home, but it's fun to play with more people (after all, people are what makes games fun for most of us.)

Claire, Joe Rushanan, Donna Balkan and I played a game on the new Eurorails set, which has not only upgraded graphics (color-coded load chips,) but also a revised set of demand cards, giving more prominence to Scandinavia, which was rarely visited in the original game. All four of us love Eurorails, but we're still learning to play with the new demands, and it was the first game with the new version for Donna.

Joe started off the game with two excellent starting runs, taking Wood and Oil (or Copper?) to Krakow. He built from Vienna south to get the two loads and northeast to Krakow to deliver them, earning 42 million Euros almost immediately and buying a fast freight. This start gave him an unorthodox track network, but he got some good card draws and won by a fairly wide margin.
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16. Board Game: Burger Joint [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:3250]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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On Wednesday morning, following a game of Fresco, I asked Joe Huber to teach me his game Burger Joint. Joe is one of the most calm, even-tempered people you'll ever meet, and you won't hear him plugging his own games, so even though I play games with him often, I had never played Burger Joint. The rules are clear enough, and there are various tactical decisions. Joe beat me handily, as one would expect. I had the sense that there's more to the game than a first play will reveal, so I'd be willing to try this game again. The problem is that many games never get more than that first playing before people go on to something new.
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17. Board Game: Nur Peanuts! [Average Rating:6.09 Overall Rank:4421]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I have a great affection for the game Nur Peanuts!, a die-rolling, gambling game. On Wednesday evening, I saw 5 people getting ready to play, and I rushed over to join them (the game is perfect with 6, and 5 is not quite as good, though better than 4 or 3.)

The game can end in two ways: one player going bankrupt, in which case most money wins, or one player buying five properties, in which case money is meaningless. Ideally there's a knife-edge balance between the two varieties of victory, but in many games one player takes excessive risks and goes bankrupt as a result of non-optimal choices, a flaw that can detract from the game.

This game was terrific, though, as all 6 players were exhibiting good judgment. Erin O'Malley came close to bankruptcy, but clawed her way back from the brink. Kevin Wood was slowly piling up cheap properties, with a few of us just behind him. Finally, with Kevin already owning four properties, he parked his playing piece on the 2300 space, which would guarantee him a fifth property and the win.

I was the only player left to roll, and I knew I must knock him out, even if I had to risk bankruptcy. I rolled the black die, with a 1/3 chance of knocking him out, and ... I missed, rolling a 3! There was nothing to do but take another spin around the board, trying to land on the 2400 or come all the way around and hit the 2300. I missed the 2400, but as I neared Kevin's space for the second time, I rolled the dice and ... Yes! I knocked him out.

Kevin calmly took the dice and rolled, rolled, rolled his way around the board until he had a shot to land on 2400. He rolled the dice and ... Aargh! He landed on 2400, bought a property, and won.

If you see me at a future gaming event, and if you have 5 players and a copy of Nur Peanuts!, be sure to invite me to play! At this moment there's only one person on BGG who has recorded more plays of Nur Peanuts! than me: Mark Jackson with 24.
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18. Board Game: Sextet [Average Rating:7.25 Unranked]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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When Michael Tsuk comes to the Gathering, he misses his regular Wednesday bridge night. To make up for this, he organized a Wednesday night game of Sextet at the Gathering. Sextet is 6-handed Contract Bridge, with two teams of 3 players each sitting alternately around the table. The deck has 78 cards composed of six 13-card suits. The usual 4 suits in red and black are supplemented by 2 new blue suits: racquets (a minor suit) and wheels (a major suit). The rules are just as in Bridge, except that, once declarer has been determined, the left-hand opponent leads, then declarer's left-hand partner puts down the left-hand dummy, then center-hand opponent plays, then declarer's right-hand partner puts down the right-hand dummy, and play proceeds in the obvious way.

I went out with a group to a different barbeque place this evening: City Barbeque, which is closer to the hotel. The chips aren't nearly as good as the ones at the Montgomery Inn, but the ribs were outstanding. It's a down-home place with cheap aluminum tableware and rolls of brown paper towels on the tables, but the ribs!

We needed 6 people for Sextet, but we could scare up only 5, including several of us who don't play much bridge. We roped in good sport Kevin Horovitz, who had never played Bridge, but was experienced at other trick-taking games.

Joe Huber explained that one can use a point-count system with Aces worth 4 as usual, Kings worth 2 (there's usually a singleton in any suit) and Queens just 1. Then Joe says "bid a little more aggressively than usual." That's saying quite a bit coming from Joe, who never saw a bid he didn't like. We played two games of Chicago, and there were plenty of games made, plenty of big defense scores, and at least one slam bid and made.

On the final hand, Joe was determined that Kevin get to play a hand as declarer, so once Kevin named a suit, Joe raised that suit. The contract wasn't makable, but Kevin did get a chance to be declarer.

I quite enjoyed this game, which I had played only once or twice previously, and in fact I bought a copy from Joe at the Flea Market.
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19. Board Game: Rails of New England [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:3120]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Walter Hunt has been working on a game called Rails of New England for many years, but this year it is scheduled to be released as a published game, and Walt had a copy to demo at the Gathering. I didn't play it (though I had played it a week or two earlier at MVGA, our local gaming group,) but Claire played it and enjoyed it. In fact, Claire started her network in Maine, and despite being hampered early on by forest fires, she built a lumbering and paper-making conglomerate that started raking in the money and won the game by a narrow margin. It's always a cheerful day when Claire comes over to tell me about a game she won.

Rails of New England is a modern Euro game to a large extent but it also has an unusual amount of local color, especially with regard to the many businesses which tie to actual historical businesses. If you like train games and you also like history and geography, check it out.
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20. Board Game: Curling Table Game [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:4117]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Sheila and Jim Davis are known for their enormous and eclectic game collection (known informally as "The Hoard".) They usually bring an assortment of games few have ever played. This year they brought a copy of the Curling Table Game, a dexterity game pattered after the sport of Curling, which received some attention during the recent Winter Olympics.

I played this game several times, though I didn't prove to be very skillful. The thing I enjoyed most was watching Canadians come over and ask "what is this?" I was able to tease them about whether they were really Canadians if they couldn't recognize a curling game.
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21. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:62]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I really enjoy playing The Princes of Florence, and I truly regret the way it has lost prominence in recent years. I look for a chance to play it at any convention I attend (though I was [mock] horrified to see a 3-player game in progress early in the week!)

On Thursday afternoon, Beth Raphael (another first-timer) arranged a game, and I was delighted to get the chance to play. Rod Spade, a strong player I've seen many times at the World Boardgaming Championships, where I am the GM for The Princes of Florence, was also in the game, and he and I were neck and neck all through the game. I was the 2nd player, thought by many to be the best starting seat, but Rod played a great game and beat me by 1 VP, 67 to 66.

I'd be happy to play lots of games of The Princes of Florence if they're as good as this one was.
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22. Board Game: Campaign Trail [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:4682]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Some of my favorite gaming experiences involve games I didn't even play in! I've just mentioned Rails of New England above. Another highlight was watching the end of a game of Campaign Trail that was about as close as a game of Campaign Trail can get. If you've ever played, you're probably familiar with the knock-down, drag-out, in-your-face fights players can get into over a state, often far past the point where the electoral votes they gain are worth the expenditure of resources.

In this game, Bruce Reiff and Ken Gutermuth went head-to-head over Ohio. You probably know that Ohio is Bruce's home state (no, despite the shirts, he does not come from Hawaii!) and he didn't want to let Ken take it. When they counted the votes, though, Ken edged him out by a margin of 178-177. Despite this blow Bruce knocked Ken out to go into the 2-man final showdown against Ray Pfeiffer, where he lost by a margin of 279-259. You won't see many games as close as that.
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23. Board Game: Black Friday [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:1374]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I've written in previous reports about how much I enjoy Black Friday. As soon as midnight arrived on Thursday night, Wei-Hwa came over and asked "do you know what time it is?" I was a bit slow on the uptake, so I looked at my watch and said "midnight?" He said "do you know what that means?" He had to remind me that Friedemann Friese only demos Black Friday on Fridays, and with midnight past, it was now Friday!

We quickly put a game together and played. The rules are somewhat different (and the board no longer looks like the one in the picture,) but it's still the same basic game, and it's still a lot of fun to play. I will definitely buy a copy when it comes out later this year.
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24. Board Game: Empire Builder [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:673]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I had played Eurorails earlier in the week, but on Friday morning it was time for Empire Builder. Bruce Linsey is a huge fan of the game (in fact, he introduced me to the game back in 1988.) Two newer players wanted to learn it: June King and Dave Vander Ark. Both had played before, but Dave in particular had played mainly 2-player games with his son and wanted a feel for the game with more players. Lizbet Williams also played, making a total of 5 players on the original Empire Builder map---quite a crowded situation.

For some reason, I must be fated to build to Fargo. I've drawn the Steel to Fargo card at the start of a number of games recently, including at the World Boardgaming Championships. Fortunately, I also drew Steel to Regina, and this was a good enough pair to start with. I built Chicago to Pittsburgh and Chicago to Fargo. I also had Coal to Winnipeg, and this third contract gave me the confidence to build a Fast Freight as soon as I delivered to Fargo. I was just out of Regina when BAM! I got hit with a derailment that cost me a turn and all loads (yes, Bruce's cards are tougher than the ordinary ones.) There was nothing to do but head back to Pittsburgh, get more Steel, and go on to Regina.

Fortunately, the other players were facing difficulties of their own. Three players were caught in Kansas City by a single Rail Strike card. Bruce couldn't get cards he liked, so he dumped cards quite a bit, and in an historic move he cross-graded from Fast Freight to Power Freight and back again!

Not too far into the game, I drew Tobacco to Las Vegas and Cars to Los Angeles. I couldn't afford to build to LA, so I built to LV, delivered the Tobacco, and then rented Lizbet's track to move to LA on the same turn to deliver the Cars. I decided it was worth paying rent rather than waiting a turn to build my own track (and risking a derailment when I had only one load on my train.) Later in the game, Lizbet managed to derail 4 of us (all but Bruce) with a single all loads derailment. This didn't hurt me more than by the turn I lost, as I had just delivered my loads, and it didn't help Bruce enough---he finished 5th out of 5, a rare poor performance by him in Empire Builder.

One of the most enjoyable parts of this game was watching the newer players gain confidence in their play. Dave in particular was feeling much more comfortable with the mechanics and was ready to look for opportunities to play larger games with his son.
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25. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm [Average Rating:8.10 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.10 Unranked]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The Gathering features tournaments, though they are by no means the focus of the week. I entered just one this year: Race for the Galaxy, which was GMed by Jim Vroom.

Instead of playing one game, the tournament was based on 3-game matches, with a player's score being the total number of VPs scored 3 games with the same group of opponents. Jim realize there could be ties, so he foresightedly asked us to record how many left-over cards we had each hand as a tie-breaker. There were 5 tables of players, with 3 or 4 at each table.

In my first table, I won the first game by a big margin, but Jeff Goldsmith won the second and third by smaller margins, so when we added the scores, Jeff and I were tied at 117 VPs! It was a good thing we had recorded the number of cards. Let's see ... Jeff had 15 left-over cards and I had ... also 15! What do we do now? Jim decided to advance both of us to the finals, making it a 6-player final.

We had played the heat using Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm, but the final used Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium, since we needed enough cards for 6 players (none of the games were played using goals or takeovers.) In the first game, Mark Delano won, but I was reasonably close in score. In the second game, I got Diversified Economy and Galactic Exchange going to pile up a big score, though Adam Ruprecht also did well with a military strategy.

I was 7 VP ahead of Adam with just one game left to play. I started with Damaged Alien Factory and drew some tempting Alien cards, but Wei-Hwa was also collecting Aliens and we fell into the "Alien trap" together. Adam played Terraforming Guild and a bunch of cheap windfall worlds to win the tournament by a comfortable margin.
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