Welcome to the Leisure Phase

In many games there is a time during play that you stop building your engine and start to focus on victory points. This blog is part of my transition into my own "Leisure Phase"

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Episode 7: All mainstream games are bad but some are useful

John Wilson
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Here on BGG it is customary to complain and point out the flaws in mainstream games. However when playing with non-gamers there are a few games that work as good crossovers and most importantly you can still have fun with them. That's not to say that they could not be improved with a gamer's eye or better play testing.

In general though there are only a few types of mainstream games that I find playable

Party or Quiz games such as Chronology ( see below) or Apples to Apples
Dexterity Games such as Loopin' Louie
Very short luck based games such as Quadwrangle

My most recent success with this type of game has been with Chronology

Board Game: Chronology

Board Game: Chronology


I purchased a copy of chronology for the huge sum of £1 in a local charity shop , it looked like someone had tried it once, as two of the card packs were open, but they had not enjoyed it enough to play any fruther. I thought it might work in place of Timeline so I handed over my pound coin and took it home. It sat on the shelf for a quite some time and then my Partner's parents were due to visit and I thought that this might work for them as they are a history loving family. They play the odd game of Ticket to Ride with us but they are not gamers.

We tried it, enjoyed it and immediately played again, always a sign that people are enjoying it, and have now hit 14 plays and have got through all of the cards once.

So how do you play?

Well I can tell you how we play, my second hand copy had no rules so my rules are cobbled from google etc. So here goes

At the start each player draws two cards and places them in front of them in chronological order. A starting clue giver is chosen and they draw a card and reads the event out ( but not the date). The player to their left then indicates where in their timeline they think this event is situated. If they are right they get the card , placing it appropriately in their timeline and then they become the next clue giver. If they get it wrong it goes to the next player who does the same but with the added information that where the first player tried to place it was incorrect and so on.

If the card goes all the way round the table, the card is discarded and the clue giver becomes the player to the current players right.

The game ends when one player has an agreed number of cards in their timeline and they are the winner ( we play to 10)


We find that the game works and prompts some fun discussions and we have a now infamous rule of thumb "It always happened earlier than you think"

Board Game: Chronology

Board Game: Chronology


I said before that mainstream games had faults so what are Chronology's faults

1 If you don't like trivia games it just doesn't work but that is clear going in
2 The player to the left of the starting clue giver is at an advantage and will win if they don't make a mistake, so why not play until the end of the round?
2 There is a lot of luck. You might be attempting to place the invention of the toaster compared to the invention of the electric kettle while another player gets to say that the pyramids were built before the outbreak of WW2

Comparison to Timeline

There are clearly a lot of similarities to timeline, fundamentally they both involve placing events on cards in the correct place in a timeline. The main difference is the single card row in Timeline compared to the player specific timeline in Chronology. I think this does three things

1It brings you closer to the trivia, you can see the cards more easily since it is directly in front of you and is correctly orientated, making the game more interesting

2It introduces an element of deduction to the game, when one player gets it wrong and the card comes to you. So I know that the invention of the electric kettle is not between 1910 and 1946, so I can pick between 1899 and 1760 instead.

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Electric Kettle was invented in 1891


3It keeps people interested in the game when it is not their turn as theoretically the card could get to them.

What mainstream games have worked for you?


Image Credits @Martin Stever, @belia1134,@base the bass
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Thu Jan 27, 2022 10:15 am
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Episode: Lets Work like its 2021

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Happy New Year, lets hope 2022 is better than 2021

I planned to do a summary of my plays in 2021 just after new year and split it into two blogs but then covid hit us both. Fortunately mild but still enough to reduce the motivation to write the blog. So this has become one massive list and commentary on the games played in 2021

TLDR

I played lots of games in 2021 mostly on BGA.

Favourite was Lost Ruins of Arnak
Worst was 7 wonders Architects

Onto the Games:


The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine 55 Plays

This is just a brilliant game, that has deservedly won many awards. A co-operative trick taker just seems an absurd combination but it just works. The first few levels are really easy but serve to introduce the game concepts and start to build up the group's skill. We played with three players and that does make it easier than with 4, as one player has an extra card, but we managed to play through the whole campaign. We did play a couple of games with two but I found the setup and play too fiddly to be worthwhile.


CuBirds
55 Plays (All on BGA)

After so many plays of this game you would imagine that I definitely like it but I am not sure I do, but it has become our filler of choice on BGA. It seems simple and with lots of luck but since one of our players has won about 50% of our games then maybe there is more to do it. It has a problem that would stop me playing in real life the rules rely on you playing all of one type of birds when you lay birds, this is enforceable online but in real life a mistake could cause issues

The Crew: Mission Deep Sea 25 Plays

Surprisingly this is even better than the first one, the cards are identical to the first but the tasks have been redone and now allow for the difficulty of the task with the number of players . We haven't finished this yet, we are probably about halfway but I can see us keeping going back to this even after we are done as the task system allows you to keep making it harder

Yokohama 18 Plays (All on BGA)

I really love this worker placement game, and it has become a mainstay of our turn based BGA games. The subtleties of the assistant placement choice and interlinked nature of the game really come through with multiple plays.

Chronology 14 Plays

This is fairly similar to Timeline but instead of building one timeline between all players, each player has their own timeline. With the right group such as my partner's parents this just works and was well worth the £1 I paid at at thrift shop.

Beyond the Sun 13 Plays (All on BGA)

Another mainstay of our turn based BGA games, this has the classic feature of many games that it finishes about a turn before your engine is fully developed and you would be able to do loads. The key seems to be to balance colonizing planets alongside research technology, but it is fundamentally a game of researching the tech tree.

Innovation 13 Plays (All on BGA)

This is another game that we have been playing quite a lot of but that I'm not sure I really like that much. Getting a cool ability and having the icons to use it is great and fun but it seems quite luck based whether you get abilities that score or are helpful. This is very mean as well so may be best online where you don't have to look your opponent in the eye.

Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 12 Plays

We started playing this earlier in 2021 and haven't been able to get the group together since, we are about 2/3s done and Hope to get together earlyish in 2022. We have played the other two and this does seem to be easier than the previous 2, still lots of fun though

Crokinole 11 Plays

This takes centre stage on my living room wall, so when people visit it acts to start conversation and then hopefully get a few games. Lots of strategy here just wish that I had the dexterity to be able to implement them!

Kingdom Builder 11 Plays (All on BGA)

I have the big box but haven't played physically for a while, but this acts as great filler on BGA. If BGA implemented the expansions then this would definitely be up higher on the number of plays. Simple turns and variable scoring makes this a great game

Terraforming Mars 11 Plays

Without attending conventions this year, we have been focusing on older games and in particular playing out those that we have previously got expansions for. So we started with the base game and then slowly added each of the expansions in. With all of the expansions it can out stay it's welcome even with two players but I can see the value in adding each of the expansions.

Lost Ruins of Arnak 10 Plays

This is the first game on the list that I have both played on BGA and in person. I love the combination of worker placement ( with emerging placement options) and deck building. Although you do need to point out that the goal of the game is research and you will not be successful if you ignore the research track, This is my top game of 2021 and I was very pleased to receive this from my Secret Santa.

Gloomhaven: Forgotten Circles 9 Plays

I love Gloomhaven and it would almost certainly be among my highest rated games, if I rated games. I did not like this though, we are playing with only two players and hence one of us must play the diviner, but many of these scenarios are just unbelievably difficult with only two players and this just meant it wasn't fun. We might go back to this at some point but more likely we will just leave it and look forward to Frosthaven

Rajas of the Ganges 9 Plays

I bought the two goodie boxes during 2021 and we played through all of the expansions adding one or more in each game. Love this worker placement with dice and the way that game ends when you two tracks overlap. Most of the expansions add only a small amount to the game but I think that each does add something worthwhile to the experience

Stone Age 9 Plays

Classic worker placement with dice. I have played this over 50 times some online and some in person. Really enjoy this.

Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization 9 Plays (All on BGA)

A game of this length is the perfect game to play turn based online ( BGA in our case). There is so much going on here and you can easily get yourself in really bad position where you need to make suboptimal decisions such as disbanding military units in order to get population to build farms as otherwise you cant produce enough food. A long game but with so much to explore.

Barrage 7 Plays

I love this very mean worker placement game. The position of your dams and plants definitely matter . Some of the engineer's powers feel overpowered at first but I think it is more that some are easier to play initially and they seem more balanced with more plays.

Can't Stop 7 Plays (All on BGA)

This was our go to finisher on BGA until we discovered cubirds. In many respects this is a perfect game, yes there is luck in it but you can try and mitigate and pushing your luck is the basis of the game


Splendor 7 Plays (All on BGA)

I have a love hate relationship with Splendor. I enjoy the process of playing but whenever I play I cant help but think that the last player has a distinct disadvantage. Usually the first player can move towards one of more tiles and the second player can determine which tiles the first person can buy and guarantee they can buy one tile. Third and subsequent players do not have this option. They can reserve a tile but I suspect that in an efficiency game such as this, reserving a tile is a suboptimal move. Still enjoying the process of playing though.


Lorenzo il Magnifico 6 Plays

Another game that we have been playing all of the expansions for. I had the big box expansion and had got the Pazzi deck from Kickstarter. Love this game along with most of Simone Luciani's games


Theseus: The Dark Orbit 6 Plays

In many respects this is Aliens the board game. A 2 player in your face game with asymmetric player powers. I liked this but felt played out after these plays. One to come back to later

Tranquility 6 Plays (All on BGA)

A simple co-operative game with limited communication making it perfect for an online implementation. The goal is to fill the grid with numbers in ascending order without reaching a stage where a player has no legal play. The further you are away from the previous or next card in the sequence you must discard more cards from hand. Simple and fun

Azul 5 Plays(All on BGA)

Great abstract well implemented on BGA, Can be extremely mean and definitely can have some luck in when the new tiles are laid out for a new round

Carnegie 5 Plays(All on BGA)

This is a complex economic game which I backed on Kickstarter after playing on BGA. Lots of variety with the different departments that are available and we have seen a number of different strategies win. I am looking forward to this when it arrives later this year.

Res Arcana 5 Plays

There is a lot in this game considering that the 8 cards you see at the start will be all you ever get. Basically this is a mix of resource conversion, recipe fulfilment and hand management. I was gifted the expansion to this for Christmas so looking forward to getting this to the table some more soon.

Solar Storm 5 Plays (All on BGA)

An interesting co-op where you are trying to keep your spaceship from being destroyed by repairing all the relevant parts and then escaping the storm by jumping away, meanwhile the ship is being damaged further each turn. There are 9 rooms each with a special ability and when you are in an undamaged room you can use the special ability of that room. The key seems to be to balance repairing and using the useful rooms with keeping the ship of being destroyed.

Alhambra 4 Plays (All on BGA)

This game doesn't seem to get much love these days, but I really enjoy this tile laying game, On a turn you either take money ( one card of any value , or as many cards as you like as long as the value is less than 5) or buy a tile from the display, but if you pay the exact money, you get to take another turn. The building colours are basically a number of area majorities that give more points as the game goes on.

Chronicles of Crime 4 Plays

I really enjoy this App and card based detective mystery game that utilises the QR scanner on your phone. We have now finished all of the original London based scenarios, but I have purchased a couple of the DLC scenarios with some google credit that was expiring and I have the three new time periods, from kickstarter, to play through. The quality of play does depend heavily on the quality of the scenarios though


Clank! In! Space!: A Deck-Building Adventure 4 Plays

A Christmas gift that we have already reached 4 plays on, I have played the original game once but I think I prefer this with the more variable board setup. I have yet to see anyone pull off the strategy of getting the easiest artefact and then rushing to escape but it will be fun trying

Codenames 4 Plays

So easy to play and explain, this party game should be a mainstay of any collection. The only problem is the downtime when the clue giver is lacking in inspiration or has tricky words to link together

Deus 4 Plays

We were playing the Egypt expansion adding in a pair of colours at a time. I like the expansion as it does tend to move away from the strategies that the original game demanded. It does work with two but it tends to lead to each player taking an area of the map and sticking to it.


Foothills 4 Plays

Some has described this as two player Snowdonia and while it does have some similarities I think they are different games. In Foothills you use one of 5 worker placement spaces(cards) each turn, but when used they are turned over to reveal a different action on the back. Existing cards can be replaced with new cards from the market and the replaced card goes into your score pile to provide scoring based on a particular condition. This is a bit of brain burner to play well but I found each game to be a bit similar despite the variability in the track being played each game.


Tapestry 4 Plays (All on BGA)

Played on our weekly BGA nights. I like this a lot, I would seek out a physical copy if it weren't so over produced. Still tempted though....


Tawantinsuyu: The Inca Empire 4 Plays

We love the "T" game series and this was no exception, although probably one of the weaker games in the series. Like all of the T games there is a lot going on and there is a lot of intricacy on how each mechanic combines together. Each turn you place a coloured worker on a space of the board and get actions points to perform the actions around that worker, up to a maximum of 5 times. Buildings and statues can give you more power and special abilities.


Viticulture 4 Plays (All on BGA)

Really enjoy this worker placement game of producing wine and matching it to contracts. Turn order is very important as each space has a bonus only available to whoever goes there first. At the start of a round you bid for turn order but the earlier you go the lesser the amount of goodies you will get. This combined with a summer/winter period with one set of workers covering both periods makes this really fun. The cards are swingy but as long as you understand that going in, I don't see this as too much of a problem


7 Wonders: Architects 3 Plays (All on BGA)

I realise that I am not the target market for this game but this is too simple and too luck based. Not for me.

Biblios 3 Plays

It was a stain on my gaming passport that I hadn't played this classic, which I had heard some good things about including for two players. I had picked this up in a maths trade a while back. It was enjoyable but like a lot of fillers definitely better with more than two players, still fun though.

Bonfire 3 Plays

Stefan Feld is in my top three designers and my partner got my this for my Birthday. Like all Felds it is a bit of a brain burner but I enjoyed the puzzle of placing the actions tiles to maximise the actions and to be able to do what you need. I would prefer a touch more variety so I am eyeing the expansion already.

Caverna: Cave vs Cave 3 Plays

I have had the expansion for this for a while and this year we got round to playing. You basically play the main game and then play an extra set of rounds using the expansion tiles. It does bring in some variety and new tactics but I think i would have preferred something that changed the first few rounds though. It is a fun game though and happy to play again

Clans of Caledonia 3 Plays (All on BGA)

This is the ultimate Chimera of a game mixing parts of a many of the top games at the time of designing and I like it quite a lot. We were playing 3p on BGA and previously we had played just with 2p. Playing with more players adds more fighting for spaces and brings interaction through the bonuses for playing next to other players and the makes the market more variable. Happy to play again with 2 or more players

Flamme Rouge 3 Plays

I had heard good things about this and was lucky enough to find this with a couple of expansions in a charity shop. All plays so far have been 3p. This really does feel like a cycle race as you try and sit by the leader avoiding the exhaustion cards and then time your attack to perfection. Looking forward to playing this more and trying it out 2p with the dummy teams.

Helios 3 Plays

There is a great game in here but this so needed an expansion to add some variety to the game, I know this is a mini set of "gods" that you can add, which I will try and tie down but without that there is very little incentive to move away of tried and trusted tactics

Homesteaders 3 Plays (All on BGA)

A game that took the auction mechanic from Amon Re and implemented it with a fun western theme. I like this and will try and play it more. Either this does not play 2 or uses a dummy player so I think I will stick to online play.

Mansions of Madness: Second Edition 3 Plays

My background into gaming had a big dose of the Call of Cthulhu RPG, so this game absolutely fits the bill. I have the first edition and don't really want to support the change in edition, but thankfully other friends have the new version. We played one game over zoom which worked but the extra admin made this long game go even longer. Best to play it in person where each player can see the board and their own cards. We won both games just, with a least 2 characters insane in each case. I got the expansion for a Christmas gift for one the owners so looking forward to playing this some more.

The Networks 3 Plays

The networks has that strange and rare thing. A dummy player that is easy and works well and does seem to simulate a real player. Part of the fun in this is the humour of the cards which does fade with time but the core card mechanisms are strong and with a really nice theme,

New Frontiers 3 Plays(All on BGA)

This is RFTG the board game and while I enjoyed my online plays it emphasised a problem with online board games. The key to Race and hence New Frontiers is working out what your opponent is likely to do and to play off that. For the main action this is quite feasible but in working out what cards a opponent might buy it is too much to check on an online game compared to looking across the table and being able to see their situation in one glance. So for me while I enjoy the game I find it somewhat frustrating online.

Paris Connection 3 Plays(All on BGA)

Simple filler until you realise that you can put trains back, which makes it quite thinky for a game that initially appears to be take trains and play them.

Scythe 3 Plays

This was last year's secret Santa game, we had played it 4p a few years ago, but we played three games of this with only 2 players. This does work with two but it is definitely better with more. The nature of getting 6 stars encourages combat between the two players but there will always be more combat with more players and this makes some powers and abilities worse with 2 players.

Agricola 2 Plays (All on BGA)

One of my favourite game of all time and works will online too. My partner and I have played this quite a lot and this meant our third player tended to lag behind and I think that is why we moved away from this after two plays.

Carpe Diem 2 Plays

Another brain burnery Stefan Feld title. The basic play is simple but the scoring system adds a puzzle of what resources to collect, but if you spend your time getting resources, you will be down in the turn order and wont get access to that scoring card. Love this game

The Castles of Burgundy 2 Plays (All on BGA)

One of my favourite games that it is well implemented on BGA. Roll the dice choose tiles, place tiles, score points. If you have not played this I would recommend looking out for this

Decrypto 2 Plays

Definitely more advanced than codenames but still a very enjoyable party game that really brings out the competitiveness between the two teams. Very hard to explain without going through an example turn caused partly by the nature of the game and partly by the rulebook

Die of the Dead 2 Plays

A game from our halloween games day, the art is beautiful in this simplish game of dice rolling with a little memory tagged on. The memory should be easy but at least once or twice per game someone gets it wrong and chooses an empty casket.

The Ruhr: A Story of Coal Trade 2 Plays(All on BGA)

I had always wanted to try this game and was not disappointed, a fairly simple action selection mechanism with some tough decisions as the value on the dice reduce and your opponents get in the way. I found this slightly long but happy to go back to this

Signorie 2 Plays (All on BGA)

I love What's your Game, and I hope that the Madeira Kickstarter has not cost them too much. Love this dice selection game, with some engine building. It can be brutal when the diplomacy tiles that you need don't come out or are taken before you but always happy to play this.

6 nimmt! 1 Plays (All on BGA)

Tried this as a quick filler on BGA with three plays, it really shines with more players but too static with only three.

Balloon Pop! 1 Plays (All on BGA)

Apologies to the fans, publisher and designer of Balloon Pop. I remember nothing about this game. I suspect that says more about me that about the game.

Carcassonne 1 Play (All on BGA)

A few years ago I played lots of "carc" on the app and that experience means I tend to dominate the game with less experienced players. So that has led us to to other games on BGA as fillers

Cards Against Humanity 1 Play

I play one game of this every year on New Years Eve with friends that I went to University with. It funny and rude but one play a year is probably enough

Decktective: Bloody-Red Roses 1

This is an escape room style game that use some of it's cards to create a diorama showing where the "crime". Had a fun with this and plan to look out for more in this series

Dune: Imperium 1 Plays

We played this at one of our few games get-togethers with friends in 2021. I really enjoyed the deck building worker placement combination ( see Lost ruins of Arnak). We played 4 players and I added this to the wishlist despite two players requiring a dummy player

Exit: The Game – Advent Calendar: The Mystery of the Ice Cave 1 Plays

We really enjoyed this exit gamed themed Advent Calendar, well produced and with some interesting puzzles. If we were doing this all at once, I would probably look for more complex puzzles but for a fun distraction each day it was perfect. If they are doing one next year, I will definitely get it

Horrified 1 Play

Played this at our Halloween games day. As we went through the rules seemed like it would be fun but we were hit with bad luck very early and were on a losing track very quickly. Needless to say it did not last long

PARKS 1 Play

Another game from the halloween games meetup, it might not be scary but it is very mean with 5 players. Its simple and approachable and looks very pretty but I would prefer a bit more game

Race for the Galaxy 1 Play

Played this once physically with a friend who we had been playing new Frontiers with on BGA, to show the similarities. Must play this more.

Railways of the World 1 Play (All on BGA)

One of the last games we played in 2021. I like the "realistic" economy of this game, in one more recent play I got into a debt spiral where my income was not enough to pay my debt leading to more debt. I will try not to that again!

Targi 1 Play (All on BGA)

I bought a German copy of this for the huge sum of £1 at UK Games Expo a few years ago, I knew it was good and thought it would be a good project for paste ups or for improving my German. It is still sitting on the shelf though, so when there was only going to be two of us for our regular Saturday night BGA gaming. I suggested this, Liked it and I moved the physical copy down stairs but nothing done to it yet.

Wingspan 1

I like this game its fun approachable and with a great theme and it may well bring lots of folk into gaming but that's all it is. I am always surprised to see so many people who think this is something special. I believe that the expansions add more strategy so maybe I should look at those.
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Thu Jan 13, 2022 3:17 pm
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Episode 5: You will know it when you see it

John Wilson
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When I started this blog with worker placement games, I specifically excluded dice placement games, but when I came to write a list of my top dice placement games. I suddenly realised that I didnt know what a dice placement game was. BGG uses the mechanic "worker placement with dice", and I knew that would include everything that I would call dice placement but would also include games such as lorenzo il magnifico which I would exclude.

So what do I define as a dice placement game?

To me, the dice must be the workers so I guess that means it is a worker placement where dice are the workers, which rules out Rajas of the Ganges, where you play a worker and then spend some dice to pay the cost ( if any). I would also rule out Teotihuacan which I see as more a rondel game with dice the differentiating factor being that the location of die determines it's options.

The problem with this definition is that if I extrapolate from my own rules, some of the games below would fail my own rules. So my rule is if it looks and smells like a dice placement game then it probably is a dice placement game. You'll know one when you see one.

So my top "dice placement" games in no particular order are

The Castles of Burgundy

This also includes the other Castles of Burgundy in the database, quite why BGG needs to separate out this from the later version I do not know. This is the basically the same game just a different version and isnt there a perfectly good version system that could be used. Don't get me started on "reimplemented by"......

I love this game, roll two dice and then with each dice you can choose to

Pick a tile from the respective section(1-6) of the board to your supply
Build a tile from your supply onto your player mat location based upon the die
Ship goods ( that match the dice value) you may have obtained to get points and money
Get workers ( which allow you to adjust the value of dice by 1)

The tiles are

Buildings which each have a special ability
Castles which give you an extra turn
Animals which score points
Yellow bonus tiles which give you abilities or end of game points scoring
Mines which earn you money each round
Boats which give you the goods and impact the turn order

It's the chaining of actions which make this game especially cool, build a building which allows you to place another time from your supply, build a castle you had acquired earlier and then take an extra turn buying a boat and you still have the second dice to go....


Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy


The Voyages of Marco Polo

I am also considering Marco Polo 2 here, the games are similar enough to be the treated the same here but they are different games.

At the start of the round you roll your dice so you know what you have to work with. Spaces will require different numbers and values of dice. If you go where another player has already placed you may pay the amount in coins of your lowest dice. So turn order is important and low value dice can be important as well as high

Most spaces have a variety of options but which ones you get to do will depend upon the value of the dice and some spaces can be activated a number of times up to the values of the allocated dice.

There are two ways of scoring points, travelling to visit cities and encampments and completing contracts although generally you will do both. As you travel and reach destinations you open up new worker spaces that you can use.

This a great game with a fair chunk of indirect interaction over who takes and what spaces first and what resources they take

Board Game: The Voyages of Marco Polo


Troyes

In Troyes (and Black Angel which again is a different game which uses a very similar rule set), you roll your dice at the start of the turn, but other people can buy your dice, so if you roll very "well" you may find that others have bought your dice, but you will have lots of coins for future rounds

These dice are then placed upon cards upon the board to perform actions, the actions share the Marco Polo mechanic as the value of the die or dice that you play allows you to perform the action more times. For example there is a card which gives you 2 coins for your roll/2, if you allocate three dice or a value of 13 then you would 12 coins.

There is a semi-cooperative element in that the are events that will trigger if not resolved by the players, these can be resolved by one or more players, but if an event comes up that because of the game state will not impact one particular player you can guarantee that they will not be helping too much.

The game used hidden final scoring that applies to all players, each player knows their own scoring card but not the other players. This introduces a bit of deduction but I find that it introduces a fair share of luck as players score points not by watching their opponents but by doing what felt best at that time that happened to meet another players card


Board Game: Troyes



Bora Bora

In Bora Bora, each player rolls 3 dice and can then allocate them to the limited number of actions that are available, you can go onto actions that have already been picked by other players ( or yourself) but your dice value must be lower than than all of the previously played dice.

As you imagine this can be quite nasty. Especially since for most of the actions you get better actions by using higher value dice and these can get blocked quite quickly if your opponents are watching what you are planning to do. This makes the turn order quite important too.

As usual in a Stefan Feld game there are lots of tracks to consider and an engine to build. Like this one a lot


Board Game: Bora Bora



Signorie


Signorie has dice drafting as well as dice placement, there are 5 colours of dice and 1 die per colour per player. On your turn you will draft a die and the select an action with that die. There may be a cost for placing the dice with lower values generally costing more.

You then take one of three actions, either

Perform the action based on the colour of the die, and all its associated helper actions.

Hire a helper- this is basically building your engine, but the colour of helper will be differ from the dice drafted, for example red dice hire yellow helpers

Perform an assignment action from the board, these are all always available but may change position each turn. They will usually have a cost in meeples

High dice are good because you will pay less coins but there are bonuses to be had, at the end of the round, if the total value of the dice you have taken is less than threshold, which makes lower dice better and in fact will often mean that you may not want to take all of the dice available to you

Overall I like this a lot but I sometimes find the diplomatic missions filling up and then becoming unavailable before you have a chance to do anything and a little too much luck around the alliance tiles that appear, but the dice drafting and placement is excellent

Board Game: Signorie


So these are my top 5, are there others that I should consider?

( Edited for a rules mistake)


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Fri Nov 26, 2021 2:47 pm
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Episode 4: And with Strange Aeons .....

John Wilson
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This weekend we went somewhere other than our own house to play games

We met up with Craig, Peter and Richard in Edinburgh for Halloween games on what was also my birthday.

We had picked out a large selection of spooky games ahead of time but the games we played were as follows

Die of the Dead

We started with a light game with beautiful art. In the game your dice are placed in gorgeously decorated caskets, each casket has a special action which often involves shaking up and revealing the it's contents and then performing an action. Casket number four allows you to ascend your dice and ascending 10 dice wins you the game. The twist is that all of the caskets are closed and the contents are only revealed when an action for that casket is being resolved and the caskets can move.

Normally I am not a fan of games with a memory aspect, but here because of the short play time and the lightness of the play, this works and can create some really funny moments when you shake a casket expecting some dice but just get the sound of silence.

Board Game: Die of the Dead



Mansions of madness 2nd edition

Myself and Phil had played this before most recently over zoom but this was the first play for the other three players. We played the first scenario which I had played before but couldn't remember very much about the plot or goal. I played Rita Young the athlete who with the addition of brass knuckles became a very efficient fighter.

Rita and Preston Fairmont did most of the fighting while the other characters ( Father Mateo, Agatha Crane and Carson Sinclair) did lots of exploring and searching, everything seemed to be going well apart from the Sinclair's sanity until we discovered the ritual taking place and then with a few bad dice rolls both Rita and Sinclair went insane, my insanity was that I needed to collect many items. As I could move an additional space, having disrupted the ritual, it was agreed that I would take the required evidence and run toward the door. Of course I needed to be loaded up with cool gear to get through the myriad of Creatures that were fighting Preston Fairmont in the hallway.

So as a team we won, and I won too as I had the required number of items. I think that is how it works


From gallery of johngw


The ritual is starting


From gallery of johngw


Preston Fairmont is having a bit of a hard time


Horrified

I has not played this coop before and quite liked it. We played the standard game fighting the mummy, the wolfman and the invisiable man. The initial set of tiles on the board suggested that we could get rid of the wolfman quickly. Unfortunately two of the characters were attacked before they even got a turn and the terror track was moving quite quickly. We did manage to get rid of the wolfman and got all of the items to defeat the other two monsters but one or two turns before we would complete the other two creatures it was all over. I can see this as a good gateway co-op but the lack of control at the start seemed a bit too much but maybe this is a more a feature of 5 player games


Board Game: Horrified


Parks

We finished with this non horrifying game which I had played once before. It's a "path" game like tokaido with the goal of getting combination of resources to visit parks which give you points. With five players I found this very tight, I went last so i found that my choices were very limited. You can use your campfire to visit a space someone else is on but only twice per round.

I would like to play again, I noticed it is on BGA, but I do wonder if the winning strategy might be to just visit the next free space even if it did not get you something that is immediately beneficial

Board Game: PARKS


Everyone had a good time and games, beer and Pizza make a good Birthday


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Wed Nov 3, 2021 9:55 pm
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Episode 3: Work is the curse of the Drinking Classes

John Wilson
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A month has passed since I retired and at the moment I struggle to understand how I had time to work. Board game playing hasn't increased yet but I have started playing through some classic xbox games that I missed out on the first time. I am currently working my way through the first Mass Effect, but mainly I seem to have spent lots of time cooking.

Retirement is an important aspect of life that hopefully we all get to experience, which is why it is surprising that so few worker placement games allow for that aspect of a worker's life. The only game I can think of where your workers actually retire is Praetor.

Agricola effectively allows for childhood in that you can't use the worker you get from family growth immediately and that you need only pay one food initially, but there is no allowance for retirement. In Agricola's defence, I am not sure that medieval farmers had the option of retiring they would just work until they were no longer able.

There are other types of game that allow for retirement.

Gloomhaven has the retirement goal that each character takes at the start of the game. When these are complete, they have accomplished what they want from adventuring and either they take a less dangerous job or we assume they have the finances to enable a more relaxed way of life. In the fRPGs that I played in in my younger years, adventurers that did retire always bought taverns where younger adventures would go meet patrons.

The goal of the Game of Life is a happy retirement and I'm sure that games that model life such as Pursuit of Happiness or Careers also allow for retirement in some way

I want to exclude Teotihuacan as although this has a very similar mechanism to Praetor ( along with Origins, the first builders), your workers are effectively sacrificed to the gods in order to facilitate the eclipse. This is certainly not the retirement that I think most people are looking forward to.

Praetor is set in Roman times, which is where the first concept of pension was developed. Augustus Caesar created a pension plan in which retired soldiers were to receive a pension (of minimum 3,000 denarii in a lump sum, which at the time represented around 13 times a legionnaires’ annual salary) after 16 years of service in a legion and four years in the military reserves ( Thanks to wikipedia for this)

In praetor, the workers are dice and the value on the dice is a measure of how experienced your worker is.

On your turn you choose to either expand the city by building new buildings or activate existing building. In some locations the action that you take gets stronger as your worker gets more experienced and also causes your worker to get more experienced. But 5 is the maximum, when you have to upgrade a worker to a 6, they retire and you must pay them a pension each turn thereafter

Board Game: Praetor



There is one building that allows you to allocate retired workers to buildings but again this being called the "labour camp" does not fit with the retirement that the workers were expecting.

In reading through the rules it also occurred to me that Praetor also allows for the schooling in that you start to train workers but it takes a number of turns before you can use them.

Board Game: Praetor


In the above photo, blue has 4 active workers ( including two approaching retirement) and two pensioners. the left most top dice is a trainee just beginning it's training.

What other games allow for retirement? I'm sure I have missed some?



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Thu Oct 14, 2021 8:29 pm
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Episode 2: We Must Perform A Quirkafleeg

John Wilson
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For this edition I was planning on writing about games where your workers "retire" but that will have to wait for next time. I was saddened to see that Sir Clive Sinclair died last week and while reading his obituary it struck me how much impact he had had on me while growing up.

You can read his obituary here

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-29985976

I was 12 in 1981 when one of my friends got a ZX81, I was instantly hooked playing a game where you were a gunslinger firing at your opponent. I persuaded my parents, on education grounds, to buy one and pretty soon I was typing in programs from magazines and indirectly learning how to code. With only black and white graphics and a whole 1k of ram ( 16k with a ram pack, the thought of ram pack wobble still haunts me), the computing power was laughable compared to a modern phone, let alone a PC, but it was a computer; you could program it and of course you could play games on it.

It was just one year later that the ZX Spectrum came out with colour graphics and a whole 48k of ram and it was this that transformed my leisure time and indirectly my future.

Video Game: Jet Set Willy

Video Game: Knight Lore


From the Spectrum:

1I learned to program in basic by writing simple games
2I started a love of all forms of game playing whatever me and my friends were buying and copying. I vividly remember the thrill of completing my first real game ( knightlore)
3I taught myself assembler so that I could hack and cheat on games. I had only two real successes, I managed to hack a way round the annoying code sheet for Jet Set Willy and I managed to give myself infinite lives in Kosmic Kanga
4I learned to write text adventures, firstly using "The Quill" and then Graphic Adventure Creator

Video Game: Graphic Adventure Creator


This led me to study computer science and although I subsequently swapped to maths, my career has largely been flirting on the edges of both fields

So thank you Sir Clive, my thoughts are with your family and friends

Moving on to the games we have been playing

Two games have dominated the last couple of weeks, Terraforming Mars and the crew

Terrafoming Mars

Board Game: Terraforming Mars


I while back I kickstarted the Turmoil expansion with the dual layer boards and we recently have been playing the base game adding in the expansions in order. Last week we started playing with Prelude, which I think is a must play expansion. It makes the game a little quicker but gives yet more direction at the start of the game

So far I think my order for the expansions would be

Prelude
Speeds up the game and makes the first few turns more fun

New maps
Really like the new awards and milestones

Venus Next
Feels slightly off to one side and not used to much particularly in a 2p game. I do like the Galactic world council turns which again speeds up the game and allows you to push towards cards which have some tough global requirements

The crew

Board Game: The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine


We managed a trip away with my Partner's family to a cottage on the coast in Dumfries and Galloway and this meant we could finish our "campaign" of the crew

It was about a year ago that we started playing the crew as a 3 player and this trip finished the remainder of the 50 missions. I think this is a brilliant way of learning the intricacies of trick taking games and I will be definitely adding the sequel to the wishlist. It is easier with three and we may start again with the more challenging variant in the rulebook, but it still is very fun at this player count.

We have played a few games at 2p but the set up and play is a little bit too fiddly with the setting up of the dummy players hand ( without trumps)

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Thu Sep 30, 2021 8:36 pm
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Episode 1: The End of the Beginning

John Wilson
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Long time reader, first time blogger so please be gentle.

Last week I was made redundant from my job of 30 years, so a change in lifestyle was needed. After a short period of negotiating with my partner, we have decided that we are going to live off her salary and that I won't look for another job.

This blog ( which I am thinking will be roughly fortnightly) is my way of putting down my thoughts and will, I hope, describe how the transition is impacting me and, in particular, my game playing.

Questions that I am wondering about are :

How will my game buying change?
Will I become addicted to kickstarter?
Will I start getting into to Solo Games?
Will we play more games and will the type of games change?

But now some games stuff, with my move towards not working being my focus over the last few weeks, I thought I would cover my favourite mechanic, worker placement(WP). I'm not certain why WP is my mechanic of choice, I may come back to that another time, but here are my top 5 worker placement games( In no particular order)

Russian Railroads

Board Game: Russian Railroads


The speed of escalation in this game is it's most memorable feature. At the end of round 1 you might score 2 points ( if you are lucky) but by the final round you might be scoring 60 or 70, this is not a game to get caught behind the curve on. Some of the worker spaces are definitely better than others and in a two player game there is clear competition for these spaces, which leads to interesting battles over the turn order. Add to this some variety with the type and order of the Engineers and the fact that some of the actions require more than one worker and you have a very enjoyable WP game. As someone who has all the expansions I was disappointed to see the new edition has new content that isn't available to those gamers that made the game a hit..


Agricola

Board Game: Agricola


One of the first worker placement games and still one of the best. There is good interaction in the battle for the best spots and a small change in the order that the actions come out can change the game significantly. The occupation and minor improvements cards offer a lot of variety, there is luck in those cards but I think the goal is to do as well as you can with the cards you were dealt ( or drafted). We have been playing this on BGA and it has rekindled my desire to play my physical copy.

Underwater Cities

Board Game: Underwater Cities


The twist here is that you must play a card at the same time as selecting your action, and if the colour matches the space you get to perform the action on the card too. This has the delicious ( did you see what I did there) decision making that I think is a main stay of worker placement. I want to wait and take that action so that I can make best use the card that I have to play at the same time, but if I wait my opponent may well take it from me.

Lords of Waterdeep

Board Game: Lords of Waterdeep


I used to play this one online a lot online on the IPAD app. It's often seen as a gateway worker placement but in my experience it is a just a little too much for new players . I love the idea that you can build buildings that are new action spaces and that when other players use them you get a benefit. It does contain some direct interaction via the intrigue cards but as long as you understand this at the outset I don't see that this is a problem. There is also a good dose of indirect interaction via the race for the best actions and this leads to a worthwhile battle for 1st player like Agricola


Tzolkin

Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar


Such a tough decision on each turn, to add workers or take them off but how many times would you just like to pass and do neither. The longer that workers are on the board the better the reward is when you do take them off, so you want to leave them on as long as possible but you must do something each turn. You can get more workers to make it easier to leave them on the board, but you have to feed them, so need ways of getting food, which requires workers. Add to that a lovely presentation that draws people in to see the wheels working, the wheels look good unpainted but there are some great examples of painted wheels here on the geek too.

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Tue Sep 14, 2021 8:36 pm
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