Trumps, sheep, and old dice

P.D. Magnus' ruminations on gaming, along with shrill promotion of his own designs.

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Game plays in 2019

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445 plays of 84 different games last year. That's less than 2018, but more than 2017.

Here's the list of everything I played five or more times.

Spirit Island x119 (252 all-time)
Still enjoying this as a laundry-day game. Looking forward to the expansion.

Sentinels of the Multiverse x48 (688 all-time)
It's fallen into being the second-string laundry-day game. Because of very late Kickstarter campaigns, I guess there's still more content for this on the way.

Unpublished Prototype x25 (304 all-time)
Various prototypes and experiments.

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King x16 (54 all-time)
I still don't feel like I've played this out. Always a good time.

Tiny Towns x13 NEW!
Second Story x12 (50 all-time)
Decktet x9 (240 all-time)
There was a while when John, Chris, and I were getting together for weekly Decktet nights. Some of the games are ones that I haven't played in a while, and they've held up well.

Five Tribes x9 (31 all-time)
This is my favourite game that I don't own.

Perudo x9 (46 all-time)
Sluff Off! x9 (58 all-time)
Cardline: Globetrotter x8 (52 all-time)

Draftosaurus x8 NEW!
I added origami boxes (so you don't have to hold all the pieces in your hand) and invented a variant. Together, these small changes take it from good to great. Tied with Tonari for best new-to-me game of the year.

Kingdom Builder x8 (146 all-time)
The Mind x7 (23 all-time)
Sorcerous Futures x6 (14 all-time)
Chicane x5 (17 all-time)

Modern Art x5 (20 all-time)
Starting bringing this old classic along on friday nights. I've learned some new strategies, too.

No Thanks! x5 (51 all-time)

Tonari x5 NEW!
Less chaotic than I expect from a Bruno Faidutti game, but subtle and fun.
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Wed Jan 8, 2020 12:18 am
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Decktet prestige rankings

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Long ago, I reported the Decktet family prestige rankings. The Perl script I used stopped working, and it wasn't worth tallying by hand.

Today, I bodged together a Python script which plays with the newer API. Here are the top 20 as of today, with the Decktet itself for comparison:

* * * begin output * * *
game raw rtgs prtg
0 Decktet 7.5 464 46.0
1 Magnate 7.2 198 38.5
2 Emu Ranchers 6.5 97 30.0
3 Jacynth 6.6 69 28.0
4 Adaman 6.0 98 27.6
5 Goblin Market 6.7 42 25.1
6 Quincunx 6.9 38 25.1
7 Bharg 6.0 63 25.0
8 Thricewise 6.6 27 22.0
9 Myrmex 7.4 18 21.3
10 Gongor Whist 6.1 29 20.8
11 Bisque 7.1 18 20.6
12 Quäsenbö 6.2 25 20.1
13 Dectana 7.5 13 19.4
14 Biscuit 6.5 17 18.4
15 Oh Quay 6.5 17 18.4
16 Ace Trump 6.6 14 17.5
17 Frogger 6.8 12 17.0
18 Double Knot 7.0 11 17.0
19 Hermit 6.4 14 16.9
20 Colour Bazaar 6.6 12 16.4
* * * end output * * *


Despite being more than six years since I last tabulated the prestige rankings, the top 20 hasn't changed much. There's been some movement up and down, but most of the Decktet games which were in the top 20 back then still are.

Bisque, Dectana, and Double Knot have moved into the top 20.

Caravan, Ascend, and Varg Bid have all been nudged out. They're now at 21, 24, and 30 in the rankings (respectively).

meeple Looking back further, it's been about nine years since the first time I calculated prestige rankings.

All I recorded back then were the top 8, and today's top 8 is almost the same. The only game to have moved out is Varg Bid. Goblin Market has moved in.
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Thu Jun 13, 2019 2:59 am
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Much played games of 2018

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I've listed my much-played games from the previous year, like you do. I recently discovered Robin Levins' GCL games-played formatting tool which did most of the work.

Spirit Island x133 NEW!
We got this over the summer, and it has become our go-to laundry day game. We can play 4-6 games on a Sunday while waiting for the washer and dryer.
It scales well, both in terms of size and in terms of difficulty. We have played two spirits each a few times, when we wanted a giant event, but mostly we play with one each on a smaller island. The different adversaries and variants provide lots of ways to change to ratchet up the difficulty.
It is an impressive design, definitely my game of the year, and something I know we'll be playing more of in 2019.

Sentinels of the Multiverse x40 (640 all-time)
We got back into playing Sentinels at the beginning of the year. Once the long-delayed Oblivaeon set finally arrived, however, we'd moved on to other things. So we've only played the Oblivaeon scenario once (a win! on New Year's Eve!) and we haven't tried any of the new environments or heroes from the set.

Unpublished Prototype x27 (279 all-time)
As always, this is a catch-all for playtesting rather than any specific game. As an index of how much better 2018 was than 2017, I had more plays of Unpublished Prototype last year than I had of any game the year before.

Scrutineyes x25 (68 all-time)
10 Days in the USA x24 (39 all-time)

Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King x20 (38 all-time)
Isle of Skye is a game I still enjoy playing, with or without expansions. It is great for game night, because it is simple enough to teach but rich enough that it rewards repeated play.

Altiplano x19 NEW!
Altiplano was our laundry day game for a while, before we got Spirit Island.
I have the expansion, but I haven't opened it yet.

Kingdom Builder x17 (138 all-time)
I always enjoy Kingdom Builder and would love to play it more often. The last two expansions are bit frustrating, though, because their complexity makes them hard to teach (especially to new players).

The Mind x16 NEW!
The Mind is surprisingly fun. It creates uncanny moments when you feel like you're on the same wave length as someone else, but it's not clear whether it was just chance.

Through the Desert x15 NEW!
This is a classic that I wanted to try, but nobody in my group owned a copy. So I bought to recent reprint, and was really happy with it. It's medium-short, and it's fun even with players who wouldn't ordinarily go in for an abstract.

Codenames: Pictures x14 (68 all-time)
All two-player.

Liar's Dice x14 (37 all-time)
A standard for game night, either before, after, or in between heavier fare.

High Society x10 (62 all-time)
Ditto.

10 Days in Europe x9 NEW!
Escape: The Curse of the Temple x9 (87 all-time)
Coloretto x8 (54 all-time)

Five Tribes x8 (22 all-time)
This is perhaps my favorite game that I don't own. Asaf regularly brings his copy to game night, though, and that's where I play it.

Kingdomino x8 (21 all-time)
I played less of this than I expected to. It may have been eclipsed by other things.

Zendo x8 (58 all-time)
Codenames Duet x6 (18 all-time)

Goblin Market x6 NEW!
This year I've been working on revised rules which take the tensions and action at the core of Goblin Market and crank them up to 11. So I've played it several times and gotten other people to play it a few more times than that.
The script flags Goblin Market as new, but it's not really. All of my old plays were before it had its own entry, so they're listed as plays of the Decktet.

Sluff Off! x6 (49 all-time)
One of the cards in my french copy (Les 7 Sceaux) got bent in a way that marks it, so I ended up buying a copy of the english language release (Sluff Off!). Regardless of the name, it's a great game. Possibly the only thing on the list that I regret not playing more in 2018.

Bärenpark x5 (6 all-time)
Glass Road x5 (10 all-time)
Some other enjoyable games that I'd think about buying, except that Asaf brings them to game night.

The games I've listed comprised almost 80% of my total plays in 2018. I played 72 other games, too, but I'm cutting the list off at ones that I played five times or more.

There were 45 games that I played only once, some with good reason and some just because there are so many games. El Grande, Mombasa, and Notre Dame (to name a few) are all things I'd happily have played more. But that would have meant playing something else less, and I've got not regrets.

2018 was a good year overall for games.
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Tue Jan 1, 2019 6:56 pm
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Much played games of 2017

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Tallying up last year, like you do. These are games I played five or more times last year, along with some commentary.

There were 26 plays each of Codenames, Escape, and Sentinels of the Multiverse.

Not a coincidence. We were going to play either Escape or Sentinels while doing laundry on Sunday. I mentioned that whichever we played would turn out to be my most-played game for the year, so Cristyn suggested we should play some of each in just the amount to make it a tie.

It's less Sentinels and more Escape than 2016.

I don't mind not playing as many games of Sentinels as in earlier years. It's still fun, but we've seen a lot of how it goes.

We used to play lots of Escape but had not for a while, and it was good to put it in the rotation again. We also did less gaming on laundry day overall, because we often ended up with work to do instead.

19 plays of the new Zendo. So far, we've been playing with the rules cards. This makes it easier to play one round after another, because one needn't think up a new rule, but the experience is different. I won't know what I really think of the new pieces as compared to old-school pyramids until we try it with freeform rules.

15 plays each of the Decktet and Scrutineyes. The former is a catch-all for games that don't have their own entry yet. The latter is a New Year's tradition.

13 plays of Kingdomino. A contender for my favorite game of the year. Even so, it calls out for mini-expansions like the ones for Coloretto. I'd like a little more, but not as much more as Queendomino. I'm eyeing Age of Giants.

12 plays Codenames: Duet. It's a clever variant that makes the two-player game intense and difficult. There's never any downtime, and you have to be thinking like a spymaster all the time. Adding it to the plays of Codenames and the 6 plays of Codenames: Pictures, I could count the Codenames franchise as my most played game of the year. I like all of them, with different groups and under different circumstances.

11 plays of Isle of Skye. This plays well with five, and I'm still enjoying it. I expect it will see some more play in 2018.

8 plays of Cardline: Globetrotter. It plays very fast.

7 plays of Perudo.

6 plays each of Clubs, Imhotep, The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet, Magnate, Mombasa, No Thanks!, Sidereal Confluence, Sorcerous Futures, and Unpublished Prototype. Unpublished Prototype is just a placeholder for things that don't have their own entry yet.

Sidereal Confluence would get more plays, but it's longish and heavy-ish. It is hard to teach, not so much because it's terribly complicated but because it is asymmetrical and simultaneous. I need to watch that newbies are playing correctly, they have some factors which nobody else at the table has got, and I'm trying to work through my options at the same time. Even so, it's a contender for my favorite game of the year.

Sidereal is different enough than Kindomino that it doesn't make sense to say that one is better than the other. Maybe the fact that Kingdomino leaves me itching for an expansion means that Sidereal wins.

5 plays each of Coloretto, Einstein, and Monster Trick.

robot Last year saw less gaming than the year before, because gaming lost time both to work and to other hobbies.

Since I stopped going to Wednesday night game night at Zombie Planet, there were no games of Kingdom Builder. That's something that's already been remedied in 2018.

robot The plays of Sidereal and Mombasa (plus a play of Caverna) made me realize in 2017 that I like evening-long games more than I thought I did. They'd certainly count higher in the year-in-review if I added up play time rather than number of games. Cardline would vanish, and Kingdomino would be further down the list. Even so, higher play counts indicate that a game won more rounds of What Shall We Play than the other ones.
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Tue Jan 2, 2018 6:44 pm
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Memories and THE Memory

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Back in 2003-4, I had a column at RPGnet where I posted files for paper miniatures along with some evocative text. I noticed that all the links at RPGnet were broken, so I reposted Planet of the Paper People [link] over at my site.

Most of them were standees, but the final installment had a paper model of a terrible horror. It hunts smaller minis, mesmerizes them with its hypnotic eyes, and feeds them to its brood.

From gallery of pmagnus


In the same period, I was also doing the original lineart illustrations for the Decktet. So I'll post this tangentially related teaser from the counterpart deck project. Unlike the miniatures, which are relics from the past, this card is a work in progress.

From gallery of pmagnus
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Fri Jul 14, 2017 5:19 pm
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Much played games of 2016

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Tallying up last year, like you do. These are games I played five or more times last year, along with some commentary.

96 plays of Sentinels of the Multiverse, mostly while doing laundry. This year, we started playing with support decks. They provide a nice twist on the game play, upping the challenge of the two-player game a bit while reducing the bookkeeping.

cool 63 plays of Codenames, 48 plays of Codenames: Pictures, and 6 plays of Codenames: Deep Undercover.

Original Codenames is best with a large-ish crowd. With at least six, both teams will have enough people that they can discuss clues (when it's their turn) and trash talk the other team's clues (when it's not). It ended up being the standard evening closer at Zombie Planet for a while, dethroning Bandu.

Codenames: Pictures doesn't work as well with a big group. The pictures have lots of small details which are hard to appreciate across a long table. And, like Dixit cards, the pictures have a delightful subtlety which means that you process them differently if you pay attention to the details. That same subtlety makes Pictures great as a two-player game. The two-player game replaces racing against another team with a one-per-turn countdown.

tantaj: 39 plays of Kingdom Builder. I'm glad this has been making it out more, because it's still one of my favourites.

goldencamel 23 plays of Coloretto. It got more play partly because I now have the pretty, pretty European edition.

21 plays of Unpublished Prototype. This is a catchall for playtesting sessions. It's been a while since I invented anything new, though.

robot 16 plays of the The Game. It is surprisingly good.

corn 13 plays of Bausack. Mostly Canadian rules.

H 12 plays of Suburbia. I really wish this got played more, because it's still one of my favourites.

X 11 plays of No Thanks! We play three games and add scores at each sitting, so maybe rules-as-written would have this at 33.

trade 9 plays each of BANG! The Dice Game, China, and Loot N Run. If I were working the 10x challenge, I'd have forced in another play of these.

trade 8 plays each of Clubs and Rick and Morty: Total Rickall Card Game. The latter was a fun surprise. I stumbled into a game at Zombie Planet without having seen the show at all. Watching the episode after playing, it is quite simply the best game adaptation of a fictional narrative ever. (It narrowly beats out the excellent Star Wars: Queen's Gambit.)

trade 7 plays each of Isle of Skye and The Networks. Both great new games. I just got Isle of Skye in the last couple of weeks, so I hope it will get more play in the coming year.

trade 6 plays each of Between Two Cities, The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game, and Seven Seals. Maybe the new release of Seven Seals (as Sluff Off!) will make it get more play this year. I hope so.

trade 5 plays each of Decktet and Five Tribes. The Decktet plays weren't specific Decktet games which have entries in the database, so that's probably more playtesting.
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Mon Jan 2, 2017 5:04 pm
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Much played games of 2015

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These are games which I played five or more times in 2015, along with some commentary.

117 plays of Sentinels of the Multiverse, mostly while waiting for laundry.

cool 54 plays of Roll for the Galaxy. My wife and I played hundreds of games of Race for the Galaxy, and the pattern here is similar. If we play one, then we end up cycling through the starting cards and playing several.

ninja 31 plays of Unpublished Prototype, which is a catch-all for playtesting a lot of different games.

sauron 24 plays of Bausack and of Kingdom Builder. There are a number of the regulars at Zombie Planet who are enthusiastic for Kingdom Builder, and we've started playing regularly.

20 plays of Scrutineyes, all over the holidays with my wife. We've used up almost all of the pictures, so we can't really play again until we wait long enough that we forget them.

17 plays of High Society. It's become a go-to for early in the evening, when waiting for other people to arrive. It's short and easy to teach, and the player count is flexible.

16 plays of Camel Up. I'm surprised it wasn't higher.

16 plays of China. It's my favourite discovery of the year, and I hope to play more.

15 plays of Bananagrams, because every session is many, many games.

15 plays of Suburbia, which is about half as many as last year. I would like to play more.

14 plays of 7 Seals. I always enjoy this, and it's a trick-taking game that I can convince people to play.

12 plays of Cardline: Globetrotter, which means three sessions. If we get the box out, we play one game with each of the categories.

12 plays of Star Trek: Five-Year Mission. I enjoy this, but it's a bit of a disappointment. The fact that the box includes duplicates of most of the cards with alternate art is a missed opportunity. If there were duplicates of all the cards, you could swap out decks easily depending on which crew you were using. If there were some differences, then the alternate cards could provide variety.

8 plays of Macao. A classic Stefan Feld which is always fun to play. Spend AC to get GC, spend GC to get PP.

7 plays each of Bharg, Clubs, Dominion, Magnate, and Mogul. All except Mogul are old favourites.

6 games of Liar's Dice and of 7 Wonders. Two of the 7 Wonders games were played with the 7 Blunders variant; you must buy a card if you can, you must trade as efficiently as possible, and the winner is the player with the lowest score.

whistle 5 plays each of 7 Wonders: Duel, Deep Sea Adventure, Hanabi, and Rights. Duel is brilliant, and I'll happily play again. Deep Sea Adventure has caught on as an evening-closer at Zombie Planet, and I'm OK with that.
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Sun Jan 3, 2016 3:36 am
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The year in gaming

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I wrote the following answers in response to some questions on Facebook. I'm crossposting here.

1. Best new-to-me surprise of 2015: China. I was taught Web of Power in June. That prompted me to get a copy of China, which replaced WoP. I've now played 16 times. It is highly strategic, but simple and quick to play. I can almost never tell who's won until we tally it up. Before learning Web of Power, I don't think I'd even heard of it.

2. Biggest new-to-me disappointment of 2015: Suburbia 5★. It makes the set-up more complicated and has a few overly complicated rules. I'm honestly unsure how Alien Mountain would work, but luckily nobody's ever bought it. To be clear, it's not the worst thing I played this year. It's just the biggest disappointment. I fear this has killed Suburbia at Zombie Planet (the venue where I play), which is a shame because Suburbia's still among my favorite games.

3. Most-played game of 2015: Far and away, Sentinels of the Multiverse. My wife and I play several games every laundry day to fill time while waiting for machines.
Second-most was Roll for the Galaxy, again mostly 2-player with Cristyn.
Nearly tied for third-most are Bandu and Kingdom Builder, predominantly at Zombie Planet. I'm glad we have been getting Kingdom Builder to the table more.
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Thu Dec 31, 2015 6:37 pm
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The Spiel des Jahres and me

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Zombie Planet got copies of Camel Up in time for Tabletop Day, so I bought a copy. I ended up playing four times, both before and after some meatier games. It is wild fun which invites the careful gamer to hilariously overthink their strategy while still giving some reward to that thinking.

I definitely think it deserved the game of the year win over Splendor, which I have always found to be enjoyable but unexceptional.

This got me thinking about the Spiel des Jahres over the long run. I looked them up, checked which I'd played, and tallied the results.

I've played 16 of 36 winners of the main prize. If we add in the Kennerspiel winners and winners of the other relevant special prizes, it goes to 22 out of 45.

thumbsup means I've played it, and X means I haven't. I really should have played Hare & Tortoise. I traded for a copy a while ago but didn't get around to playing it. Now it's packed in a box until we move. I should play it in June, after the move, which will pull me up to just more than half.

thumbsupthumbsup 2014: Camel Up, Istanbul
thumbsupX 2013: Hanabi, Legends of Andor
thumbsupthumbsup 2012: Kingdom Builder, Village
Xthumbsup 2011: Qwirkle, 7 Wonders
thumbsup 2010: Dixit
thumbsupthumbsup 2009: Dominion, Space Alert
Xthumbsup 2008: Keltis, Agricola
thumbsup 2007: Zooloretto
XXX 2006: Thurn and Taxis, Caylus, Shadows Over Camelot
X 2005: Niagara
thumbsup 2004: Ticket to Ride
thumbsup 2003: Alhambra
X 2002: Villa Paletti
thumbsupXthumbsup 2001: Carcassonne, Troia, Lord of the Rings
X 2000: Torres
thumbsup 1999: Tikal
X 1998: Elfenland
X 1997: Mississippi Queen
thumbsup 1996: El Grande
thumbsup 1995: The Settlers of Catan
X 1994: Manhattan
thumbsup 1993: Liar's Dice
X 1992: Um Reifenbreite
X 1991: Drunter und Druber
X 1990: Hoity Toity
X 1989: Cafe International
X 1988: Barbarossa
X 1987: Auf Achse
X 1986: Heimlich & Co.
thumbsup 1985: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
X 1984: Railway Rivals
thumbsup 1983: Scotland Yard
X 1982: Enchanted Forest
X 1981: Focus
thumbsup 1980: Rummikub
X 1979: Hare and Tortoise
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Mon Apr 13, 2015 1:32 am
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Much-played games from 2014

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This is the list of games which I played more than 5 times in 2014, along with some commentary.

cool 132 plays of Sentinels of the Multiverse, almost all of them two-player while we were waiting on loads of laundry. I look forward to trying the new expansion this afternoon.

37 plays Marvel Dice Masters, boosted by the fact that I played in a few tournaments. I think that I've seen what it can do, and I'm basically done with it.

cool 28 plays of Suburbia. It is, I think, may favourite game for 3-4 players. At the very least, my favourite from the last few years. I hope to play it lots this year, too.

ninja 27 plays of Unpublished Prototype.

laugh 24 plays of Cardline: Globetrotter, which Cristyn got in her stocking on Christmas. Plays very fast. It's broadly a trivia game and so has limited replay value.

cool 19 plays of Les 7 Sceaux, which I picked up on a whim in Paris. I love trick taking games, and this one is clever without being too clever. My favourite new discovery of the year.

16 plays of Animal Upon Animal, and 15 plays of Bausack/Bandu. I like stacking games to end a night of gaming. Next time I play Bandu, I plan to mix in the animals from Animal Upon Animal.

14 plays of Dominion. Consisting of a few sessions, because once I sit down to play Dominion I end up playing several times.

12 plays of Pairs, which represents almost no time at all.

10 plays of 7 Wonders. This is one that lost luster by being overplayed when it was new. It was boosted recently by the new Babel expansion.

10 plays of Clubs. It's lost some of its hotness at the game store I frequent, but I'm always happy to play.

10 plays of High Society.

10 plays of Kingdom Builder. This is another one which I tend to play multiple times when it hits the table, and which might have gotten overexposed when it was newer.

10 plays of Magnate.

robot 8 plays each of Bang! The Dice Game, Macao, and No Thanks! (The plays of No Thanks are mostly 3 games each, with scores added up.)

robot 7 plays of TransAmerica.

robot 6 plays of Escape and Impulse.

robot 5 plays each of Battle Merchants, City Council, Hanabi, Planetfall, Splendor, and The Young Queen's Palimpsest.
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Sat Jan 10, 2015 4:49 pm
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