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Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Beware! You've found my semi-hidden blog. So that I have an idea of how many people have made it here, please recommend the list. (I like this recommendation feature - now I can see who y'all are... B^)

Unfortunately for you, all that's here is a bunch of random ramblings.

I'd just as soon this list not be publicly announced if possible - thanks!

(Note - this is no longer active. And recommendations are now thumbs, but who's counting...)
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1. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:52]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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I just received Goa, the sole content of my first order with an online store I learned about here. My experience with them definitely helps me appreciate the bigger names I've dealt with.

The good:

I got the game, in fine shape.
The price was acceptable.
They actually had the game in stock; none of my usual choices of vendors did.

On the other hand:

An email was promised upon shipment; none was sent.
A phone call to see what was up was indifferently answered; the promised follow-up email never came.
The game was sent in a plain box with no packing material.

Overall, I'm not tempted to go back.
 
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2. Board Game: Manga Manga [Average Rating:4.17 Overall Rank:10867]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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I just today realized that I occasionally repeat words in my speech. Odd the things you learn...

On the subject of repeats, I have designed a game, Manga Manga Manga, using the components from this game. The game is entirely different - the original was a reaction game, mine is a trick taking card game - and at least for me turns it into something I don't mind playing. If I can ever find the time, I'll write the rules up for The Games Journal...
 
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3. Board Game: StreetSoccer [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:1147]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Since someone has found this list, I'll add an extra item.

I played Street Soccer with my 6 year old this evening, which was really enjoyable for three reasons. First, it's just fun to spend time with him. Secondly, I hadn't played Street Soccer in quite a while (no plays in 2004), and it was good to get the game in. Third, it's fun to watch Ethan drawn more and more into games. Last week, I finally played Um Reifenbreite with him; he's been asking to play the game for a couple of years now, just based on the box. I already considered myself lucky to have one son who enjoys games - I can't quite believe that I've been twice blessed.
 
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4. Board Game: Sextet [Average Rating:7.25 Unranked]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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In honor of our first grand slam bid & made at lunch today, a two minute review of Sextet...

Sextet was released in 1964 as a way to have 6 players actively playing Bridge. Mechanically, the game is Bridge - just with 2 extra suits, and each player having 2 partners rather than just one. In practice, this emphasizes entry management in the play, and constructive passing in the bidding.

For those familiar with standard point counts in Bridge, we play with the following tweaks for Sextet:

A - 4 points as always
K - 2 points (singletons are too common)
Q - 1 point (three card side suits aren't common enough to be worth more)

This leaves 42 high card points; then open and raise a touch light, and you're set to go.

The game plays a bit slower than Bridge (we get in about 60% of the number of hands we would otherwise), and some Bridge players aren't adventurous enough to give it a try, but it's quite a treat if you can find six players who are willing.
 
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5. Board Game: Emerald [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:1627]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Yesterday, we were simultaneously playing three games designed by Rüdiger Dorn at the game session I hosted - Louis XIV, Goa, and Emerald. I'm coming to the conclusion that I really have to try Jambo; while I've actively disliked all of Dorn's pre-2004 releases I've played, I quite enjoy both Louis XIV and (after some hesitation) Goa. Unfortunately, Emerald fell about as flat as Ex & Hopp and Zauberberg did for me. However, Goa took another step forward for me; the German rules for expeditions really make a difference.
 
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6. Board Game: Isfahan [Average Rating:6.95 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.95 Unranked]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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We played Samarkand at lunch today, with Isfahan as always. About the only other game where I will always play with the expansion is Bohnanza. Isfahan, in my opinion, takes a fine game in Samarkand and transforms it into a classic - my very favorite Sid Sackson game, even with the nostalgia boost Acquire gets.
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7. Board Game: Klunker [Average Rating:6.23 Overall Rank:2232]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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You know, I'd forgotten just how much I enjoy this game. We played at lunch today, rushing through things in about 20 minutes. It's not my favorite game, but like most of Rosenberg's games from that time it's very playable and moves along quickly.

We also played Zum Kuckuck at lunch, with about the same degree of success; I've got to get these games on the table more often.
 
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8. Board Game: Mü & More [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:516]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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The Mu revolution at work seems to have finally ebbed; the same group is now mostly playing Bridge. It is neat to see four tables of Bridge at lunch, but it's getting tricky to get in other games.

We had a fascinating hand; three players were bidding up, while a fourth slowly put out three 9s, and then an 8 and a useful 7. I was in the odd position of being very happy being chief, but only with the right vice; when that situation arose, I took advantage. But the other bidder bid up, so I ended up vice.

Which was unfortunate, since I don't have a long suit and am void in the suit that will clearly become overtrump. But with another look around the table, I realized that the chief and his clear partner-to-be have only one 8, and too many losers in other suits. So I declared 9s the undertrump, and ended up with 4 tricks on defense, more than enough in this case. I believe that with any other trump, they make easily.
 
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9. Board Game: Musketeers [Average Rating:6.06 Overall Rank:3668]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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It's amazing just how many variants on the Hol's der Geier mechanism there have been. While Stefan Dorra has designed some of my favorites (For Sale, Zum Kuckuck), there are a number of other really good ones around - such as Musketiere. Musketiere has the disadvantage of not balancing out the luck factors, but is still rather a pleasant little game. I really need to try designing a game or two with simultaneous play; I've never really given the concept much thought, but it offers a number of significant advantages in gameplay. What I'd like to do is find a way to gain the advantage of simultaneous play without the "guessing" element of Hol's der Geier (or even For Sale or Olympia 2000 BC).
 
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10. Board Game: Ido [Average Rating:5.79 Overall Rank:5958]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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I only played Bridge at lunch today, and didn't see any interesting hands, so I'll have to use something else for inspiration...

One thing I usually make at the start of the year is a "too long unplayed" list. I was so busy at the start of the year that I failed to do so this year, but I'm tempted to make one now. The requirements for making the list are simple: rated 8 or higher, and not played in the previous calendar year. (While I try very hard to play every game I rate a 9 or 10 every year, I do somewhat less well with the 8s.)

Right now my two longest unplayed games are prototypes I played at the Gathering in 1999 - one by Frank Branham that I'm still hoping makes it out eventually, and one by Bernhard Weber I've largely given up hope for. Which is too bad; it was rather an enjoyable game. (Of course, many of the less enjoyable games I played as prototypes that year were published 5 years ago now...) The published games I've left unplayed the longest are Knightmare Chess, Keydom, El Grande, Der fliegende Holländer, Cosmic Encounter, Auf Achse, and Al Cabone, all of which last hit the table in 2002.
 
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11. Board Game: Pickomino [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:915]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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I love it when a shipment from Adam Spielt arrives - even when, as this time, it doesn't include everything I'm looking forward to (particularly Kreta, which I have played, and Koenig Salomons Schatzkammer, which I haven't).

One game that did come today was Heckmeck, which I quite enjoyed playing at the Gathering, and hadn't realized Jay was importing when I ordered it. I played it with my sons this afternoon, and it went over well - particularly with my younger son, since he won. It's a nice little dice game, with very nice components, and at less than $13 (including shipping), a bargain for what you get.
 
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12. Board Game: Louis XIV [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:334]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Well, my thought of designing a game with simultaneous play worked altogether too well - I came up with 3 (plus a realization of a 4th) over the weekend. The one that will be easiest to round out bears some resemblance to Louis XIV - in spite of being far lighter, far shorter, and well suited to 5 or 6 players. As a result, I'm having a hard time finding an appropriate theme for it; my mind's stuck on Louis.
 
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13. Board Game: Nanuuk! [Average Rating:5.70 Overall Rank:8051]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Every now and again, I'll play a game I haven't played for a long time. Sometimes, a game will improve for you, though rarely will a game switch over to become a keeper. Goa has, but it wasn't far away to start. Looking through my collection, that might be the best example I can come up which suggests that the fact that I often dismiss games on a play or two isn't likely to haunt me.

Having picked up a nearly-but-not-quite complete copy of Nanuuk, I felt the need to give it another go. Unfortunately, it fell just as flat as it did >5 years ago. It's too bad; I _really_ enjoy many of Cornett's games, such as Chinagold, Autoscooter, and Schlangennest. Oh well - my FunAgain parts order left me with one game and lots of parts, which I can easily live with. (The one game is Tolstoi, but that's a different story for a different day.)
 
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14. Board Game: Rook [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:1562]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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I played Rook for the first time at lunch today; we used the rules Mike Kagen learned growing up, which required removing the 2, 3, and 4 of every suit from my 2001 release, and adding 15 points for each 1. A nice little game. I'm curious if 500 borrowed from Rook, vice versa, or if they were in fact independent developments.
 
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15. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1527]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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I find it very interesting that when Dan Blum added the "Unpublished Prototype" entry, he included the line about games the designers not wish to publicly announce. I have nothing against publicly announcing prototypes, but always figured that BGG wasn't intended to be cluttered with such items. (I've even asked specifically about games I've "released" 1-2 copies of via the Gulf Games prize table, but not having received figured it wasn't worth worrying about.)

My real intent of writing, today, is to discuss inspiration. I find most of my games come together when combining an inspiration and a limitation. Over this past week, I put together four prototypes, based upon just two starting points: Musketiere and the Abacus product line. (This is not to say that I'd expect any of these games to ever be picked up by Abacus; the odds of that are roughly nil. I just find that working with a manufacturing limitation tends to help me design better.)

The games:

Unnamed 2 player wargame - OK, I lied. The inspirations for this were Musketiere and a contest announced on BGDF, rather than Musketiere and Abacus. The contest, you see, requires designing a historical game with 6 dice and 16 cards as the only components. Unfortunately, I don't think I even have a game, though I'll make sure to play it once before completely scrapping it.

Cycladean Isles - I woke up Saturday morning with most of this game in my head, and by the end of the day had pieced together a first draft. It's an odd game - over this week, it's losing the Musketiere inspiration, and showing more signs of Jenseits von Theben and Merchant of Venus learnings. I've still got problems to work out, but I think it has potential.

Quincunx - Michael Tsuk suggested the name; it's rather more abstract than I'd prefer. The other clear inspiration for the game is Louis XIV, which unfortunately shines through too strongly - even though the goal (unlike in Louis) is to win the individual spaces; the mission equivalents are only steps toward the goal, rather than endpoints. While it still needs some tuning, the game definitely works, plays in 30-45 minutes, and handles 6 players with ease. What I really like about it is that it offers simultaneous play with far, far less of the sense of guessing than is common in many games with that feature.

Unnamed card game - there are very few games I've designed specifically with children in mind; this is one of them. The theme is importing wild animals for zoological exhibitions, with the everpresent danger that one player's exhibition will cause the loaning zoos to request their animals back because of the increased demand. That said, it's really a stock market game, simplified so that it can be done without money or a stock market, and themed for children. I haven't played it yet, but hope to today. The additional inspiration here was a Tom Vasel review describing a mechanically very different game, but sparking a line of thought. Simultaneous play is also featured here, but the guessing element is more prominent.

Only 3 people who've admitted to finding this - well, I hope y'all are enjoying it.
 
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16. Board Game: Pussy Cat [Average Rating:5.47 Overall Rank:8862]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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I love taking a chance on Adam Spielt closeouts; a 25% hit rate, and I'm in great shape. This game helps to keep that hit rate down, unfortunately; it's a nice idea, and everything works, but I don't feel any need to play the game again.
 
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17. Board Game: Balloon Cup [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:649]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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I just realized something - Balloon Cup and Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation are both among the Kosmos 2 player games I most value, because of their pieces (I love using the Kosmos boxes to hold my own designs), in addition to having among the best reputations here. Personally, my favorites in the series are Tally Ho (which is also good for bits - nice board, nice size tiles, but no wood) and Hellas (which too is good for bits - nice medium-size hex tiles and lots of armies and navies).
 
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18. Board Game: King's Breakfast [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:1913]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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I never quite understood why this game doesn't generally hold more appeal - it's up there with For Sale and Geschenkt as my favorite fillers. We played twice at the end of lunch today, after playtesting Quincunx (coming along, but today's game was odd) and Animal Show (the previously unnamed game, that's also moving along). Great fun; if not for Ticket To Ride, would still be my favorite Alan Moon game of the past decade.
 
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19. Board Game: Jenseits von Theben [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:1247]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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We playtested Cycladean Isles again at lunch today; both it and Quincunx seem to have rather quickly reached the "tuning" stage of game design, which isn't my favorite overall but which I'm happy with given how short a time it's taken to reach in these cases. Switching to using the Jenseits time management entirely has helped; the attempts I was making to keep simultaneous play aspects just weren't working. I'm not even certain a lot of additional tuning will be needed in this case; our play at lunch went very well, though I'm tempted to allow players to go over the current 50 day time limit at both a per diem cost, as well as a loss on the tiebreaker. It's one of the longer games I've designed, clocking in at 75 minutes, and I desperately need to make turn cheat sheets, but other than that I'm getting to be quite happy with it.
 
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20. Board Game: Industria [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1211]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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It's not often that a game I intentional avoid really captivates me, but Industria has. I played (poorly) again at lunch today, and am definitely finding it to be an auction game where the auctions don't overwhelm the rest of the game - in spite of their frequency. I don't think it will climb any higher than an 8 for me - but based on the descriptions I was expecting a 5, or at best a 6.
 
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21. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:87] [Average Rating:7.53 Unranked]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Well, I finally found a use for the GG that's been accumulating in my account for ages - buying game giveaways. (See: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geekforum.php3?action=viewthrea...) If anyone reading this on or near June 3 really needs the Mystery Train expansion, let me know...

But I'm now very tempted to auction off a number of items for GG - and strongly suspect I will do so. Mostly little things - Mystery Train if none of y'all claim in, some spare small-size English El Grande cards I've never found anything to do with, maybe some wrong-size (i.e., not poker size) foreign language cards to popular games. I'm really, really tempted to auction off a prototype (Femto, for those who know it). And I rather like the idea of selling something fairly major to wrap it all up - some brand-new, reasonably large game.

BTW, while comments are still not allowed, I've now enabled user additions to this list as a method for leaving comments. If you choose to do so, please ensure that you use a game I've never played - if I don't have a rating for it here and it's not a game I designed, you may assume I've never played it.
 
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22. Board Game: Zing! [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:707]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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This is one of my favorite light trick taking games. I enjoy such games, because they're easy to draw people into, but generally find they aren't favorites because I prefer more depth in a trick taking card game. Die Steven Seagal has just enough to it to satisfy reasonably, while remaining readily accessible.

I lost horribly at lunch today; I had two tough hands in a row to end the game, but really lost it on the penultimate hand when two 8s of mine took tricks.
 
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23. Board Game: Mr. President [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:3262]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Yesterday, in addition to the second half of my most recent Adam Spielt order (I'm working on translations for Das Gold der Inka and Koenig Salomons Schatzkammer presently), an emergency backup copy of Outpost, and a second copy of Union Pacific so I can try Freight Train with plastic trains instead of cards, I received a copy of Mr. President that I didn't own previously - one with a single number of popular votes listed on each card, rather than varying numbers based upon the state being campaigned in. An article comprehensively covering the differences between the various editions of Mr. President is now in my queue to write, along with a Geeklist to advertise the article. One of these days I'll find time to work on reducing the list a bit...
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24. Board Game: Union Pacific [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:286]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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D'oh...

Well, so much for using Union Pacific trains to play Freight Train - there aren't enough colors.
 
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25. Board Game: Inka [Average Rating:5.48 Overall Rank:9300]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Taking chances on games, buying them blindly, can be great fun - it leads to finding hidden gems, and occasionally you discover a game of wide appeal. One of my greatest pleasures is when I've played a role in the popularization of a game - I can count those cases on one hand, with fingers to spare, but it's been quite enjoyable.

The downside, however, is lots of Der Schatz des Inkas. It's not a broken game - while the rules aren't clear, with a reasonable set of assumptions it works - but it's not so interesting as to give me any desire to play again. With the cost, the need to translate the rules myself (and the guilt if I don't clean up the translation and post it here), and the time spent discovering that the game wasn't very good, it's a fair investment. Still worth it, but a little tough when I hit a valley.

Of course, I just bought 10 oddball games (not all of them are in the database here), in hopes of finding a hidden gem among them...
 
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