The Ross-on-Wye Boardgamers

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How I Voted In Geek Madness Round 1

Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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Oi! Hands off...
Microbadge: Guinea Pig loverMicrobadge: Princes of Florence fanMicrobadge: Agricola fanMicrobadge: Game Group OrganizerMicrobadge: Quantum Leap fan
I'd just like to reassure all Ross-on-Wye subscribers that we are still present and that normal service will be resumed when life is back to normal. But frankly, I've run out of ways to write 'Dave and Becky and I had a Skype call, played a bit of Innovation and Fleet and then Dave's laptop crashed' every single week. Ian is recovering from Covid, Gerv has had bereavements and other family issues, and there's plenty wrong with Tony even notwithstanding what you all see from him on a day-to-day basis, so things have been a bit slow.

So, for a change of pace, and because it seems to be the activity du jour on BGG blogs at the minute, I will give you my (completely correct, obviously) rundown on the games that deserve to progress to Round 2 of Geek Madness.

Gloomhaven/Le Havre This is a no-brainer for me: dungeon crawling is not my business and I have no intention of making it my business. Le Havre is far from my favourite Rosenberg; I find it stilted, awkward and anticlimatic, but it's not a dungeon-crawler.

Everdell/Power Grid I've always found the economy in Power Grid to be depressingly linear, but at least it's not some over-produced piece of hyped cutesie nonsense.

Patchwork/Concordia A very tough call. I've never seen a 2P economic game done better than Patchwork, and Concordia has been a group favourite ever since it was published. Perhaps we've over-played Concordia a little bit, especially on the smooth boiteajeux implementation during lockdown. Patchwork squeaks it.

Wingspan/Alhambra Before lockdown, I might have voted the other way, but I've been playing a fair bit of the online implementations of Alhambra lately and reminding myself of the game's charm. Wingspan is lovely in many ways, but it is determinedly random - a problem you exacerbate with more expansions.

Star Wars Rebellion/Lost Cities All Star Wars licensed material is ultimately disappointing.

Root/Ticket To Ride I've never actually played Root, which is a big gap in my gaming CV, but I'm well aware of it and what it does, and I've always had a sneaking admiration for asymmetric powers. I'm also well aware that I'm allergic to Ticket To Ride.

Twilight Struggle/Just One I have always had problems with the way some decisions get trivialised in Twilight Struggle - I much prefer 13 Days: the Cuban Missile Crisis which does a similar sort of thing without the dice. But, despite all the hilarious antics that other people seem to get up to, Just One isn't a game.

Puerto Rico/Obsession Christ on a bike! Have you tried to BUY a copy of Obsession lately? I'm sure it's a perfectly nice game, but I doubt it will displace one of my all-time Top 10 games. Easy decision, this one: anything that can stay in the public domain for this long and not be 'solved' further than about the second round is a design classic.

Terraforming Mars/El Grande Terraforming Mars is a passable 40-minute filler that inexplicably takes two and a half hours to play. El Grande is one of the best area-control games ever designed, a perfect balance of control and tactics that hasn't been bettered for 25 years. No contest.

The 7th Continent/The Crew I didn't find The Crew challenging as a game. But it did provide us with decent entertainment for a couple of evenings. The chances of 7th Continent ever doing that are zero.

Scythe/The Quest For El Dorado Both games have flaws: over-production and over-elaborateness in the former, and mis-appropriation of deckbuilding mechanics in the latter (no more ghastly purchase displays, please). I'd take El Dorado on the basis that it'll be over quicker and we could move onto something better.

Viticulture/Lords of Waterdeep I've never been a fan of 'cash in your goals' mechanics, but these are two of the better ones. Viticulture just about wins out on the basis of theme and the Tuscany expansion.

Twilight Imperium/Architects of the West Kingdom I kinda admire what Twilight Imperium has done, but the practicality of playing a 6-hour space-based 4X game is too much of a challenge in this day and age. I tend to find Shem Phillips' games procedural and dry but they are dolled up nicely, he has a good customer-service model, and there enough fans around these parts that I will acquiesce to playing once in a while.

Agricola/Race for the Galaxy Anyone who follows the blog will know that this is a no-contest.

Spirit Island/Ra Co-operative games don't get a look-in, especially not against one of the cleverest auction games ever designed.

Nemesis/Lord of the Rings:tCG Odd bracket for me, this one. I've not played Nemesis (although other parts of the club have, and enjoyed it), but - despite deprecations against co-ops, I have played LotR, and quite enjoyed it too. Nemesis wins it, just because I'd rather watch the film.

Pandemic/Roborally Last thing I need in the current climate is to be pretending to fight global disease.

Blood Rage/Azul Blood Rage was no fun at all: a card-drafting mechanic where a card-drafting mechanic had no right to be, and plenty of overblown miniatures which I'm sure appeal to someone else. Azul is cute, and charming, and simple enough to teach the family, and downright nasty if you play it properly. What's not to like?

7 Wonders Duel/Stone Age This might raise a few eyebrows, but I've rather warmed to Stone Age of late (getting the knack of winning occasionally has helped!). Lockdown online plays have done enough to earn it a vote over what might be the single most over-rated game on BGG.

A Feast For Odin/King of Tokyo AFFO is one of Uwe's least appetising titles: a sprawling model of excess and a dying fart of yet another thing to do with polyominoes. Being a Rosenberg, it's not all that bad compared to some games on this list, but sometimes I'd rather mount up Cyber Bunny and lob some neon dice around.

Gaia Project & Terra Mystica/Splendor I much prefer Terra Mystica to the ropey and jargon-laden Gaia Project. It not as interesting as it was a couple of dozen plays ago, but it still beats out the utter blandness of Splendor.

Food Chain Magnate/Dominion FCM went down reasonably well with the group but there haven't been any repeat plays since. Dominion is still the best deckbuilder ever created.

Great Western Trail/Love Letter My preferred gaming environment is the pub. You can't break out 150-minute yawners about cowboys in the pub (I think Pfister should have stuck to small-box games, myself), but you can play an awful lot of clever micro-deduction in the same time.

Mage Knight/The Quacks of Quedlinburg Two designers whose rise to the top baffled me. Chvatil was overladen with fiddly rules and unintuitive gameplay (at least for a long time, until he came up with Codenames); Warsch is just a bit too twee. But Quacks is perhaps the best Warsch game, whereas Mage Knight is Chvatil at the most incoherent.

Brass/Roll for the Galaxy Oooh...tough call. I rather enjoyed my couple of plays of Brass, as long as its in the hands of fast players. The club went wild for Roll for a while, but it seems to pale rather quickly after you've seen everything. On the basis of future plays and the fact that Race for the Galaxy had a no-win bracket, Roll would just about edge it.

Mansions of Madness/7 Wonders I've no idea what Mansions of Madness is about, and to be frank I don't really care. I'm sure I wouldn't enjoy it more than 7 Wonders.

Castles of Burgundy/Kingdomino Castles of Burgundy has really suffered in comparison with the smooth online implementations: who wants to dig out all the flimsy boards and horrible-colour tiles any more? There's still a decent game engine underneath, which is more than can be said for the wafer-thin conceit of Kingdomino.

Arkham Horror Card Game/Castles of Mad King Ludwig I don't really care about either of these, to tell you the truth: there are much better options for us in both cases. On the basis that we played Mad King Ludwig wrong, then it gets a second chance.

Through The Ages/Battlestar Galactica BG does traitor mechanic about as well as I've ever seen it done. TtA is an immersive and surprisingly thematic experience. Both outstay their welcome enormously, so aren't exactly top-tier material. But I'd rather take something competitive over something semi-cooperative.

Caverna/Carcassonne Caverna is horribly bloated and took out a lot of what made Agricola great. Carcassonne, with the right mixture of expansions (or even better, one of the later stand-alone games) can still be a treat in the right hands.

War of the Ring/Catan With exactly four gamers who aren't looking for anything too heavy, Catan is still a treat and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. War of the Ring has impressive ambition, but I don't really identify with the source material.

Orleans/Tzolk'in Two models of Euro excess that pretend to be a lot cleverer than, in fact, they are. I'd be happy for them both to drop off the list, but if forced I'd just about come down on the side of Tzolk'in.
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