Qwertymartin's Trip Through Time: 1996
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Since discovering this hobby nearly five years ago, I've played over 300 different games. But I still feel like there are some gaps in my gaming experience, particularly amongst older games. I'm planning to fill some of those in by playing and rating the top 10 games from each year, starting with 1995 as 'Year Zero' for the Euro game. I've chosen to exclude games from the 'thematic games', 'war games', 'customizable games' and 'children's games' subdomains because those aren't to my tastes. I'll work forwards a year at a time, trying to find and play the games I'm missing. And if I'm still enjoying it, I might work backwards too, though probably with longer periods than just a year.

I'm getting 1996 started now, because I'm going to need some help! Until very recently I'd played none of these games, now it's just one. Quite a contrast to 1995. If anyone who knows me in real life has any of these, let me know!

Qwertymartin's Trip Through Time: metalist
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1. Board Game: Catan Card Game [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:534]
Martin G
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Bristol
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Borrowed this from Robin and played once with Sarah.

I guess this game was the first of many X: the Card Game spin-offs, but unlike its followers, it's significantly more complicated than the board game that inspired it and at least as long. That seems an odd decision. Sarah and I decided to call our game at 10VP because it had already gone on for over an hour and we were tired. I'm sure it would speed up with repeat plays, but I don't think it'd ever be the slick 30 minutes that would compete with modern tableau games like RFTG and Innovation.

The other thing that amused me about the design was that just the other day I posted a tirade about how replacing SoC's two d6s with a single d12 would totally break the game. And yet the card game does essentially that! It's this divorcing from a weighted probability distribution that makes it feel unlike SoC, just as much as the way that trades are relegated to a sideshow in a 2-player zero-sum game.

There are some nice things about the game: the tracking of resources using card rotation is neat, for example. But I don't like the fact that roads are nothing but an additional cost to a settlement rather than an important entity in their own right, and I don't think it was necessary to have three separate largest-army style contests. I also don't care for the fact that you could gain a large advantage from a strong memory.

Overall, I would say this game has been superseded. In fact, Teuber has admitted as much himself by issuing an upgraded version. I'd be interested to know whether the changes in The Rivals of Catan would address some of my criticisms, but I can't say I'll be rushing to try it. Giving this a 5, which doesn't bode well for the rest of 1996
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2. Board Game: Age of Renaissance [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:572]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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3. Board Game: Show Manager [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:664]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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I played this set-collection card game recently and liked it quite a bit. It has a clever two-dimensional scoring board, where you are competing within each column to put on the best 'show' of a particular type, but the first person to put on each show gets to choose which column it's assigned to. Some have a higher top score but a bigger spread, while some are more even. Most of the tension in the game comes from only being allowed to hold 2 more cards in hand than you need to put on each show, so each card choice becomes quite important. There's a lot of luck to it and it might be slightly too long, but I didn't feel it dragged. I'd be tempted to buy the Queen reissue but it looks rather overproduced, large and expensive for what is essentially a filler.

UPDATE: 2nd play and I still think it's a really neat game. Pleased to see that it works really well with 6 too. Because you do so little each turn, it doesn't drag at all.
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4. Board Game: Serenissima (first edition) [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:749]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Unplayed
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5. Board Game: Expedition [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:1056]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Played at the Eastbourne LoB weekend thanks to Richard and Jennie.

A lost gem! I described it as 'Transamerica on steroids'. Like Transamerica, players have a hand of locations to visit, and take turns to add to a shared network. But there's loads more going on in Expedition: three point-to-point 'expeditions' instead of a single network; face-up location cards that can be claimed by anyone; tokens that you can spend on special actions; the possibility of upping the stakes on some of your locations by revealing them to everyone; an ingenious mechanic for dealing with loops in an expedition. I went in knowing nothing and not expecting much more, and it ended up as one of my highlights of the weekend (during which I played 40 games). Kramer's such a reliable designer, I should have known better.
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6. Board Game: Mystery of the Abbey [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:864]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Unplayed, not particularly enthusiastic, but will give it a go.

UPDATE: apparently MotA has been reclassified as a 1995 game!
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7. Board Game: MarraCash [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:1180]
Martin G
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Bristol
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Cheers to Richard and Jennie for bringing this along to LoB.

Definitely my hit of 1996 so far! This is exactly the kind of elegant, interactive, short but deep Euro that I love the most. I wish more games like this were still being made. Essentially it's a game about incentives. You have only two actions in your own turn, but you need to use them in such a way that the other players are coerced into helping you out on their turns too. It reminded me quite a bit of Knizia's Quo Vadis? in the way the topology of the board drives collusion and competition between players. But I prefer it to QV because the negotiation is more implicit in the moves you make rather than explicit in what the players talk about. Would love to play this again, and to acquire/make my own copy.
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8. Board Game: Top Race [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:1138]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Thanks to John M for bringing this to LoB tonight.

We only had time for one race, with betting. I thought it was a solid, if unspectacular, design. The main difference from most play-a-card-move-a-piece races is that the cards affect more than one piece. Most of the game seems to be about arranging blockages on corners, in order to waste movement points of cars you don't favour. The sprint/breakdown cards are a powerful catch-up mechanic, though the fact that there are only three of them between up to 6 players is a little odd. I can't see why you wouldn't play with the betting rules, as without them the decisions would be a little too obvious. Overall, I'd be happy to play this again (which I'll effectively get to do with Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix below), but I can't see myself ever preferring it to Winner's Circle for a racing/betting hybrid.
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9. Board Game: Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:1198]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Another one of Richard and Jennie's vast collection.

I ended up preferring this to Top Race, despite the lack of betting rules. The tracks seemed better designed, with more nasty single-width corners. And the effect of the colour switch cards is more subtle than in Top Race. A good fun racing game that I'd happily play again.
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10. Board Game: Entdecker [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:1474]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Plays: 1
Rated: 6

It's been interesting to see progenitor mechanisms in these 1990s games. 'Ticket to Ride' card drafting in Elfenland. 'Transamerica' route-building in Expedition. And now 'Carcassonne' tile-laying in Entdecker. I enjoyed my play of this, but like a few others of the 90s Euros, it runs a bit long for modern tastes, and it's so similar to Carcassonne that I can't really see needing both.
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11. Board Game: Gloria Picktoria [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:1668]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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How convenient. Mystery of the Abbey being moved to 1995 means that this one moves up into the top 10. And I bought a copy the other day for £2.99!

Played last night, and it's a pure, cards-only distillation of the majorities-with-periodic-scoring system that Moon uses so often. The theme is preposterous (chickens collecting trinkets) and it seemed like there wasn't much to it at first, but the tension ramps up as the scoring cards accumulate. Added paranoia is provided by the cute little fox figure that passes round like a hot potato, making the collection he sits on worthless. Certainly a good pick-up for the price, especially as I realised the deck can be used to play Coloretto too.
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