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Newlywed Gaming

A blog about a recently married couple who have rediscovered board games in their lives.
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September 2012 Recap

Matt Dawkins
United States
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We're back!

Alright, I have condensed most of September's sessions into this one post for a few different reasons. One, I am once again fully enrolled in college courses and do not have nearly as much free time as I did. After 7+ years of working active duty and reserve military, it is weird to be going back to school full time, so I am still getting the hang of balancing my hobbies (such as writing here) with writing essays and papers.

Two, most of September's sessions were Android: Netrunner plays, so there is honestly not that much to write home about on this front. Since there is a lot of Netrunner interest out there right now, I did want to take folks step-by-step through one of our sessions. I love looking back in hindsight and seeing the different steps (and often mis-steps) that I took and how different decisions could have impacted the game. It's nice to lose a game and be able to look back and see where I messed up, rather than blaming a bad card draw, dice roll, or poor luck. Hopefully you will enjoy this retrospective... The pictures that I took did not turn out well, but if I decide to keep doing these in-depth reports on Netrunner, I will try to include pictures for each decision point in the future.

Third, we actually did get several plays in of new games, which I will cover in a separate post in the near future. Those games include X-Wing Miniatures, Merchants & Marauders, FlowerFall, RoboRally, Power Grid, and Race for the Galaxy.

I will probably be doing another separate wrap-up for the month of October, and then we will see if I can catch back up to the weekly updates.

Last thing of note that you might find interesting, Katie and I both put together Top 15 lists, and I have included each game's ranking in our lists below along with our monthly/all-time play counts. If a game has NR in that space, it means it was not ranked in that person's top 15.

Now some of you may scoff when you see where we have a game ranked compared with how many times we have played it. It seems understandable to have a game with 30 or 40+ plays in our top three, but it may seem crazy to have a game with only a couple of plays up there as well. Frankly, that sort of comes with the process of being board game newbies. We are introduced to new board games on a weekly basis, so when compile lists of our favorite games, we base a lot of our bias on initial impressions, simply because we have not had a chance to play games beyond that, yet. So, take it for what it is worth, and realize that our lists will be quite fluid over the next couple of years until we start really nailing down our favorite games and playing them a lot.


Android: Netrunner

As mentioned above, I will focus this discussion on one particular play that we had. Nonetheless, as you'll note at the bottom, we have been playing this game *a lot*... In less than a month, Netrunner has become our third most played game of all time. Okay, "all time" can be misleading, since we have not been playing games a very long time. Nonetheless, since we started this in March, we have recorded 245 play sessions for 46 different board games, and Netrunner is now the third-highest on that list.

On to our featured match! (As a side note, this was one of our first games against each other... if you have been playing Netrunner, you will notice critical mistakes that each of us made throughout the game. Don't spaz out, we were newbies!)

Katie started a remote server, placed ice in front of it, and rezzed PAD Campaign in the server. A mistake on a couple of aspects. First, I normally wait to rez PAD Campaign at the end of the runner's turn, attempting to draw them into wasting clicks and/or credits to find out what it is. Second, PAD Campaign rarely needs any ice, unless you know your opponent's running Bank Job. At this stage of the game, I knew this meant that she had no agendas in remote servers on the board, and her HQ and R&D were both wide open with no protection.

So I drew a card, then ran R&D with Maker's Eye (scored a 2pt agenda) and ran her HQ twice (scored a 3pt agenda on second attempt). One turn, and I am already winning 5-0.

I would like to say it was all downhill from there, but thanks to my Maker's Eye run, I was aware that she had Neural Katana ice which does 3 net damage. As a result, I played very carefully, ensuring I had a decent amount of cards at all times before running on any server with unrezzed ice. I eventually found that ice later in the game protecting her R&D, and it did indeed cost me 3 cards.

Katie managed to score an agenda, cutting my lead to 5-2 on the critical turn of the game. With four cards in hand, I had three icebreakers out, 7 credits in my pocket, and three potential avenues of approach.

Decision Point #1...

1) I had Maker's Eye (2cr), which I could use to make a run on her R&D, protected by a rezzed Neural Katana (5cr to break subroutine). I would have gained access to the top three cards in her R&D, and it would have cost all 7 credits I had.

2) I could make a run on her HQ, which was protected by one piece of unrezzed ice.

3) I could make a run on one of her remote servers, in which I was certain she had just placed an agenda, which was protected by two pieces of unrezzed ice.

I went for option 3. She rezzes Chum. Now I had these options...

Decision Point #2...

1) Break Chum's subroutine (3cr) and continue encounter.

2) Don't break Chum's subroutine and continue encounter (next piece of ice gains +2 strength and does 3 net damage if all subroutines are not broken).

3) Don't break Chum's subroutine and jack out.

Playing with a 5-2 lead, I should have taken the safe route and either broken Chum's subroutine and continued, or gone conservative and jacked out, saving my credits for another run on the next turn.

Instead, I decided to go for the win and press on. My assessment, given that we were playing with starter decks, was that if the unrezzed piece of ice was anything except Wall of Thorns, I would be able to break it and move through. Which, naturally, means that it was Wall of Thorns, and Katie had the credits to rez it. As a barrier, Wall of Thorns is the only piece of ice that I did not have an icebreaker out for. With Crypsis, I could get my strength to 7, but it would have used up all the credits I had, and I did not have the credits necessary to break the first subroutine (Do 2 net damage). Due to the Chum/Wall of Thorns combo, I took 5 net damage, which flatlined me with 4 cards in my hand. Katie wins. Doh!

Looking through the cards afterwards, I pretty much went with the worst possible decision at both of the above decision points. At decision point #1, option 1 would have given me access to her R&D, which had an agenda as the top card, giving me 2 points and the win. Option 2 would have potentially given me the win, as a game-winning agenda was in her hand with two other cards (none of which were Snare!). But of course, I chose option 3...

Having chosen option 3 and faced with a second series of choices, I made the only choice that could have gotten me killed. Option 1 would have allowed me to see what the unrezzed ice was, and while I could not have gotten through and would have lost cards, I would have lived to fight another turn. Option 2 would have allowed me to come back on the next turn with the necessary credits to break Chum and/or Wall of Thorns together. Option 3 got me killed.

Anyway, you can see why I love this game. I can look back at the last turn and point to exactly why I lost, and I only have my poor tactical decisions to blame.

Total Plays This Month: 16
Total Plays All-Time: 18
Rank in Matt's Top 15: 1
Rank in Katie's Top 15: NR

Fun Facts (Includes October's Plays through 10/11)
- Matt has a 13-8 record for a winning average of 0.619
- In those 21 games, Matt has played 5 different opponents
- At 3-2, Katie is the only other opponent with a winning record
- Matt is 6-3 as a runner, performing best with the Criminal faction (4-1)
- Matt is 7-5 as the corporation, performing best with Haas-Bioroid (4-3)


Kingdom Builder

Though we don't have it in our collection, our friends have it and it has become one of my favorites. We played it three times last month, bringing our total plays up to four. Brian and Alexa are by far the best two players through our four plays, partially due to the fact that they own it and play it more... partially because the rest of us just suck. =) Brian won two of the three games this month. Katie strongly disliked this game, and still doesn't really know what to think of it. While I love this game because of the variable scoring/winning conditions and random board maps, I think it overcomplicates matters for Katie, as she struggles with knowing what to do in each game because of the different scoring rules in each game. Nonetheless, she has stuck with it (because I love the game so much and keep asking for it to hit the table) and it paid off, as she managed to steal the third game away from all of us with one of the highest scores in any recorded play yet.

Total Plays This Month: 3
Total Plays All-Time: 4
Rank in Matt's Top 15: NR
Rank in Katie's Top 15: NR

Fun Facts
- Brian is 3-1 and averages 57 points per game
- Katie is 1-2 and averages 41 points per game
- Alexa is 0-3 and averages 55 points per game
- Matt is 0-4 and averages 45 points per game
- Kyle is 0-2 and averages 37 points per game


7 Wonders

We got in a few more plays of 7 Wonders last months as well. As previously mentioned, Dave and Katie each won a game in the two matches we played in Oklahoma. I won both of the matches we played back here in Colorado to push my winning average back over .500. Despite a huge discrepancy in number of games won, Katie's average score remains quite close to mine. Aside from random stats, the most interesting thing to note is probably that this game came in at #2 on Katie's Top 15 list. She hated this game starting out... and now it's nearly her favorite!

Total Plays This Month: 4
Total Plays All-Time: 15
Rank in Matt's Top 15: 8
Rank in Katie's Top 15: 2

Fun Facts
- Matt is 8-6 and averages 51 points per game
- Katie is 2-10 and averages 46 points per game
- Matt's most randomly selected wonder is tied between Ephesus and Olympia (four times each)
- Katie's most randomly selected wonder is Babylon (three times)
- Matt has never played with Halicarnassus or Alexandria
- Katie has played with every wonder at least once


A Game of Thrones: The Board Game

Ah, A Game of Thrones: The Board Game... I had an incredible introduction to this game a few months ago, and since then I have run a failed online implementation of it, purchased the physical version, and tried to get it to the table for months. I finally got it to the table, however we knew going into it that one of our players was going to have to leave early, so we established that it would just be a learning game and we would call it when he had to leave. The idea was that everyone would figure out how to play, and we could set up a complete game at some point in the future. Our follow-up match has not happened yet, but everyone seemed to enjoy this brief incomplete play.

We only made it two turns into the game, but that was plenty of time for everyone to recognize the brilliance of simultaneous hidden order selection, fragile over-the-table alliances, and the persistent threat of back-stabbing. We only had five players, so we took Greyjoy out and made Pyke unattainable. We then randomly drew for Houses with me taking the last House available. Stark went to Katie, Martell went to Kyle, Lannister went to Brian, Tyrell went to Alexa, and I ended up with Baratheon.

Kyle and I had a lot of back-and-forth over Storm's End. We both obviously wanted it, but we were each more concerned with other regions and were not willing to spend too much effort on it. I managed to take King's Landing on turn one and a Muster card came up, leaving me sitting pretty at the beginning. Instead of fighting over Storm's End with Kyle, we settled on him holding it with a skeleton force (so as not to threaten my neighboring regions) so we could each focus elsewhere. My focus then turned towards my wife and her fleet in the Narrow Sea, as I started building up forces in Dragonstone and fleets in the region surrounding it.

Meanwhile, Alexa initiated the only battles in this brief game, as she pushed south right off the bat into Martell territory. This was good for me, because Kyle realized he couldn't fight two enemies on both sides of him and why we were able to make the agreement on Storm's End. Her mistake was not taking Oldtown in her rush to push south. She did successfully push into Starfall before getting too greedy and attempting to push further, where she lost her attacking unit. This set the table for Kyle to push back north and take over the regions where Alexa had initially pushed south from.

Brian built up forces around Lannisport and kept them there for defense, then sent ships and forces north towards the stony shores. Katie pushed south, setting the table for a series of conflicts around Seagard and Moat Cailin.

When we called our brief learning game quits, Kyle had the lead with 4 castles/strongholds, Brian was second with 3 strongholds, I was third with 2 strongholds and 1 castle, Katie was fourth with 1 stronghold and 2 castles, and Alexa was in fifth with 2 castles/strongholds.

Had the game continued, there would have been a long and drawn-out conflict between Brian and Katie for the north, leaving me relatively unimpeded in the east. Kyle would probably have pushed to within striking distance of Highgarden before moving against my forces in the east. I think Kyle would have pretty easily had the game in hand with the way it started, but I would have had a good shot at winning if everyone continued to leave me alone and let me do my own thing. Knowing our group though, they would have never let that continue. =)

Total Plays This Month: 1
Total Plays All-Time: 3
Rank in Matt's Top 15: 5
Rank in Katie's Top 15: NR


Cosmic Encounter

I first played Cosmic Encounter a couple of months ago with Kyle and Jordan and instantly labelled it as a favorite of mine. I have been talking it up to Katie for a while now and, though she remained quite skeptical (she is not big into sci-fi themes), she agreed to play the next time that Kyle brought it out. Well we had that chance at the end of the month and got the five of us together for some Cosmic Encounter goodness. I had the Reserves, Katie had the Traders, Kyle had the Mutants, Brian had the Sorcerors, and for the life of me I can't remember what race Alexa had.

The game was a lot of crazy fun with the Traders and Sorcerors both involved, particularly when they ended up going after each other. Katie would swap her hand for his before the encounter, then Brian would swap the played cards during the encounter, it was crazy. If you do not like random elements, you probably are going to have a difficult time with this game. But if you love pure chaos... oh man, this game is fun.

After a few turns, Kyle, Katie, and I were the clear frontrunners, each sitting with 4 and needing 5 to win. Katie was going for the win, against Brian, and invited both Kyle and myself along with her. Brian invited both of us to his defense. I scoffed at the idea of a three-way tie for first place in a five-player game, and joined Brian on the defense. Kyle decided that first was first, and joined Katie, hoping for a two-way tie for first place. Brian ended up winning that one, but a similar circumstance a few encounters later ended up with Kyle and Katie both attacking me for the win, and even with the defense aid from Brian and Alexa, I could not win. Kyle and Katie took their first-place tie, leaving me all alone in third. Brian and Alexa tied for fourth with 3 each.

Do you think my wife enjoys random chaos in her board games? I think so. So how much did she love this game after her initial skepticism? With just one play, it came in as her third favorite board game. =)

Total Plays This Month: 1
Total Plays All-Time: 2
Rank in Matt's Top 15: 7
Rank in Katie's Top 15: 3


Ticket to Ride

Finally, we played a Ticket to Ride game with Brian and Alexa. I am happy to say that Katie's complete and utter dominance over this game appears to have come to a halt. After losing the first six recorded matches that we played, I have now won two in a row. Woot! I finished with 154 to Katie's 131, Brian's 120, and Alexa's 99.

Total Plays This Month: 1
Total Plays All-Time: 8
Rank in Matt's Top 15: NR
Rank in Katie's Top 15: 1
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