GCL Amoeba 94 -- All Together Now (2012-11-12)
Mikko Saari
Finland
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Welcome to this week's Game Chat League Amoeba discussion group!

If you found us randomly (via subscription, perhaps), you're welcome to join in with constructive conversation -- we're friendly symbiotes in real life, though vicious competitors at the game table. (Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most dangerous predator on earth!) Read the links above for more info. (If you're shy, just thumb the list so we can see who's stalking us :-) )

BrenoK
cadavaca
fizzle
elemental
Eric Brosius
garygarison
jasonwocky
jdludlow
Joshuaaaaaa
Morganza
msaari
out4blood
paulclarke339
photocurio
sprocket314

Everyone should feel free to switch off as life requires. (Our valued regular visitors and former members might also want to speak up here...)

This week's topic is co-ops. All together now!



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1. Board Game: Flash Point: Fire Rescue [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:254]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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Here's what got this started. I played Flashpoint, the rather exciting co-op game of firefighting. It became an instant favourite co-op game for me.

What are your favourite co-op games?
 
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2. Board Game: Hanabi [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:277]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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I played Hanabi a week ago, and it's another entertaining co-op. I'm not sure how long this'd last active play, but figuring out effective means to communicate is an interesting challenge.

What makes a co-op game work? The common complaint is that one player can play the game for the other players. That's probably best solved by choosing players wisely, but for example Hanabi makes that pretty much impossible, as nobody simply has all information. Is limiting information effective way to deal with this, or is it just silly if you have a rule "you can't tell what's in your hand"?
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3. Board Game: Competition [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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Or is playing games even interesting at all if there are no winners? Considering how some people feel that all ties must be broken to reach a single winner and a game without tie-breakers is somehow broken, winning together might seem like a fizzled ending.
 
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4. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:73]
Joshua Gottesman
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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One of the earliest co-ops I played, and I still think its one of the best. Watching the players frantically scramble around trying to stop the spread of viruses, thinking you've got them under control only to see some bad card draws erase turns of progress, to that turn where it all spreads out of control...at least in most of the games I've played. And then there's a small number where we do find cures, where we get to say "this disease is wiped off the face of the planet", where humanity survives.
 
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5. Board Game: Sentinels of the Multiverse [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:275] [Average Rating:7.30 Unranked]
Joshua Gottesman
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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I played the original version of Sentinels of the Multiverse a lot. I have Sentinels of the Multiverse: Rook City. I have Sentinels of the Multiverse: Infernal Relics. The group at the FLGS plays these every weeks. I love this game...yet I haven't played it in months. Why? Well, partially because I'm dreading having to sleeve my cards. Partially because other, more complex games have been grabbing my fancy. Partially because I'm afraid that I won't like the new edition, which I think is irrational, because virtually everyone in my group loves it, and I loved the original. I grew up on comic books, and this is the most thematic co-op I've played. After BGG.con, this will be hitting the table.

And since I get the idea we're supposed to be posting what we played this weekend at some point, here's how it broke down:

Saturday Morning Group:
The Great Zimbabwe - I still had a blast, still can't figure out a winning formula, but there are so many variations that I'm having fun trying new things
Libertalia - I liked this as a relatively quick game where everyone is on a level playing field. I'm not going to rush out and buy it, and if it hits the table again, I'll be happy to play it. One of the players didn't like that everyone used the same cards. I think the way the game is structured that's the only way to keep it balanced. Maybe me winning the game didn't hurt my opinion.
Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar - I tried getting more guys out early and was up to 5 by about the 5th or 6th turn. It didn't help, because I couldn't turn them into a point scoring engine. One player absolutely abused the building and resource tech tracks and ran away with it.

Saturday Evening Group:
Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar - I tried to make better use of the tech tracks. The player who ran away with the game this morning got buildings to feed all his people for free early on and got to 6 workers quickly. Neither of us paid a lot of attention to the God tracks, and this was our undoing. We came in 3rd and 4th. The 2 new players came in 1st and 2nd. I really enjoy this game, however in 3 plays, I haven't figured out a good strategy...which is an excuse to play it more!
Coloretto - I played Zooloretto a couple of times when I first started playing Euros, and was pretty "meh" on it. When someone wanted to teach me Coloretto last year I was skeptical that it would be any good. Instead, I really ended up liking it and now think its an excellent filler game. I'll probably pick up a copy to take along when I visit family or as a "down time" game at conventions. I mean, what's it going to cost? Maybe $10? I came in 2nd in a 5 player game.
High Frontier Expansion - Helpful hint. When you're only just getting some expertise in the game, don't teach the expanded game to players at 10:30 PM at night when people are tired. 3 of us stumbled our way through a couple of hours of this. I think HF is an awesome game, and I think the mechanics are overall pretty simple (move your rocket, take 1 of 8 actions). However, putting them all together in a sensible way is tougher. Everyone was intrigued by this, and realized that we need a bigger time commitment to really play it and see the richness and not spend all our time figuring out how to get the right cards.

Saturday Gaming:
A couple of friends called me in the afternoon and said "Zimbabwe is calling to us...or something else." I had work to finish, so we didn't start until late afternoon and only ended up playing 2 games.
The Great Zimbabwe - One player used a Herd/Engai combination to just bury the other 2 of us in cows. He won going away with a VR of 36 (he ended with 45 points). What did us in? Well, the way the resources came out, there was a lot of water, and on the 1st turn he monopolized all of the ivory on the board. Neither of us grabbed Shaman right away to counter it. I was bound and determined to play Eshu in this game, I hadn't tried him (her? it?) before and mostly I learned how NOT to play Eshu. While I did take advantage of the enhanced range, I made some tremendously bad monument and craftsmen placements that undercut some of my efforts. The bigger mistake was the neither of us took the Shaman early (I took it later and didn't use it as well as I could) to get some more ivory on the board that I could stash in a far corner where only I could get to it. I'm still loving this game, although one of the players was concerned that this is a game of build-up, until one player has a huge explosion of activity on a turn that really slows the game down, and can more or less clinch it. I've definitely seen this, however this hasn't stopped my enjoyment, because of the different tactical situations that are presented each game. This game definitely isn't for everyone, and I expect that it will not wear out its welcome with me for a long time.
Merkator - We needed something relatively fast and challenging, and we all enjoy this game, and even though one of the guys probably hadn't played it in a year, the rules for Merkator are very intuitive and take all of about a 2 minute refresher. I probably cashed in more contracts than anyone, however they were all crappy contracts. I never got above a 7 in the game, while the other guys were able to complete 9 value contracts at the end. Despite that, the sheer mass of contracts I finished kept me from being blown out (I came in last, but only 1 point behind 2nd). I still think Merkator is an under appreciated game. And in our group, of course (and I preach this gospel to others), its very customary when a player says "Does anyone want to accompany me to France?*", when you don't want to go, to reply with "F--- the French!**"

It was a good weekend. Now, work today and pack for BGG.con tonight. Dallas tomorrow.


* - Or any country, for that matter.
** - Or the residents of the country in question.
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6. Board Game: The City [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:1724]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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1 x _8_Felicity: The Cat in the Sack
6 x _8_The City
1 x _8_The Great Zimbabwe
1 x _7_Love Letter
4 x _6_Famous 500: The World's Smallest Car Racing Game
1 x _7_Casino

I got Famous 500 as a prize from the last month's photo contest. It's a cute little racing game. Not bad.

The Great Zimbabwe was a five-player game, and lots of fun. Under 90 minutes, too, so the game length was very much under control. Interesting game, too. I was fairly poor, and didn't do well. Anansi (pays just 1 for goods) almost won, but was left one point below VR. The last player, who had Atete (recycle resources) was one cow short from building a level 4 monument to win, but was easily able to build two level 3 monutes for just as many points. Goes to show you need to build enough monuments.
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7. Board Game: The Great Zimbabwe [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:341]
Jason Reid
United States
Brooklyn
New York
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I actually gamed on Saturday, although unfortunately I feel like everything was at an awkward player count.

1x The Great Zimbabwe, 3p
1x The Speicherstadt + expansion, 5p
1x Vanuatu, 3p
1x Sticheln, 3p

Oh, also, I took possession of Keyflower today.

Played my first game of The Great Zimbabwe with friends Jesse and Daniel. Daniel took a very low VR approach, building 2 different Craftsmen, and taking the Nomads and the God of Trade. I went the opposite tack, taking one Craftsman, but grabbing the Herd, the Shaman, and the God of Fast Monument-Building. Jesse played the middle and dominated us with the Builder and the Builder God, and a ton of Craftsmen. Ultimately we let his economy get too powerful. I had a VR of 38 or so, so there was little I could do to disrupt Jesse. Daniel seemed to get stuck during the midgame. We all liked the play very much, but would have preferred a 4th player.

First game of The Speicherstadt with the Kaispeicher expansion included. Unfortunately, it was 5 folks, which I think really made it tough to control one's destiny. The guy that won had one of the rare goods traders (pink), and once a pink cube made it into the stock, he kept selling it, trading for it, and selling it again for a huge cash advantage over the rest of us.

Crowd died down and 3 of us played a game of Vanuatu, no role cards. It was a game, but a pretty dull one. I love Vanuatu in its maximum pain configuration (5p, no role cards). Otherwise it stops short of being great for me.

Little bit of time left, and I was introduced to 3p Sticheln (a trick-taking game). I don't know the game well enough to grok the patterns, but I feel like we could have benefited from a fourth player. Anyone have thoughts on good player counts for this game? I see that BGG voting recommends 3 & 4 players, but I don't often put a lot of stock in those figures.
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8. Board Game: The Great Zimbabwe [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:341]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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I'm going to follow the herd and also post The Great Zimbabwe as my representative game of the week. (What is that, 3 weeks in a row for me? It's just that compelling...)

In other news:

(1) Saturday I had *9* people at gaming at my house. 2 tables! W00t!

(2) Tomorrow I head off to BGG.con. I have a plan for what to play there; I'm sure the reality will be FAR different.

Monday night:
1889
3p with JC and Ron.

Thursday night:
Great Zimbabwe
3p with John and JC.

An extra cow from the first turn-order auction combined with both John and JC picking gods freed me up to get the Builder on turn 1, and I pursued a multi-craftsperson strategy with an eye to picking up Gu, who changes all tech VR to 1, on the last turn.

I built a tight little cluster of 3 monuments and 3 craftspeople (with a random potter off to the side) and won with +2 before anyone else hit their target.

Second-level wood never got built; I'd thought about an all-craftsperson finish but (barely) didn't have the cows, while I did manage to get one of my three monuments to level 4.

Unpublished Prototype
Played version 0.0.2 of Color Wheel 2p with John; three turns in he said there was one too many mechanisms and we packed it in. I left with ideas on how to simplify and rebalance.

I wrote up my ideas and sent the revised version out to a few people including Carlos. He told me it was *still* too busy; I've simplified but haven't gotten any testing done yet. BGG.con.

Friday night:

Puzzle Strike (Third Edition)
2x2p with John; our chips and characters were sadly uninspiring, and we won one game each.

Race for the Galaxy: The Brink of War
3x with Don, Jeremy, and John.

Power Grid: The Robots
Me, Jeremy, John, Don, and *two* robots, one of whom was so stupid that it didn't get a second city down until Step 2. Benelux map. (We fed the robots trash plants and let them buy out the resource market.)

The game ended one turn too soon for me. At least I beat both of the robots. :-)

Saturday, gaming at my place!

The Great Zimbabwe
Beginner's setup, teaching Jesse, Chris D., and Oliver.

Jesse took the income god and simply built monuments while the rest of us provided craftspeople for him. In an attempt to slow down him and Ollie's Tsui-Goab, we threw first sand (the first second-level craftsperson) and then quick-drying concrete (all the other level 2s, and then raising prices for everything to 3) in the game's gears, but Jesse was unstoppable.

Peloponnes
4p with Chris, Ollie, and Jesse. (New to Chris.) Nasty game with back-loaded disasters, winning score 24.

Schlock Mercenary: Capital Offensive (forst play for everyone)
Partial play as I succumbed to food coma. Me, Andy, and Jeremy against John. I had the speedy character with the big stomping boots and managed to fight my way through swarms of John's pinheads to unlock one of the gates before I collapsed from a combination of exhaustion and tasty Indian food.

Not really my kind of game but probably a reasonable light ender.
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9. Board Game: The Resistance [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:181]
James Ludlow
United States
Saint Louis Park
Minnesota
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Played last week

2x The Resistance

I guess I never need to play Werewolf again. This is better in pretty much all ways that I can think of.

These games were in public, polite, mixed company. While there were plenty of accusations being thrown around, I'm very much looking forward to playing again with the combination of beer and loud insults. It seems like a game that was built for yelling.

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10. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:49]
Tim Seitz
United States
Glen Allen
VA
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Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14
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2x Race for the Galaxy

Not much gaming here, after the wild weekend that was Euroquest last week. Just played a couple of games of Race for the Galaxy with my 12 yo daughter. She's getting a bit better, but still not to where she is looking to leech yet.
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11. Board Game: Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:62]
United Kingdom
Southampton
Hampshire
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Battlestar Galactica (5p, won, human Adama)
Saboteur (5p)

Race for the Galaxy + 1st expansion (2pa, won)
Phoenicia (4p, won)

I skipped over one of my game sessions to go to a presentation on entrepreneurship then watch the Presidential election results come in.

I've been busy doing some repairs and gardening, currently fighting to remove the roots of a planty-weed thing I hacked down. Roots are currently very stubbornly stuck in the ground, directly adjacent to and intermingled with a rose bush that I don't want to damage.

On my computer I've been playing RFTG as normal, also Doom TNT-Evilution which I'm very impressed with (good level design).
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12. Board Game: Taj Mahal [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:313]
Jens KH
Germany
Karben
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Games played

_9_ Taj Mahal
_8_ Race for the Galaxy x2
_8_ Reef Encounter
_6_ Animal Upon Animal
_6_ Der Herr der Ringe: Die Gefährten – Das Kartenspiel
_6_ Love Letter
_5_ Coney Island (new!)
_3_ Würfel Bohnanza (new!)

The favourites take back the table after the Essen lock-out. And it's good to know they're still there when the new and shiny have gone home.

LotR: I really want to try the Samurai card game now because in my mind it looks (well, okay not looks; but plays, feels) exactly like this.

A mostly uneventful week, otherwise, but I ended my 50th game of RftG with exactly 50 points. Here's to the next 50.
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13. Board Game: 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:2666]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I attended Lobster Trap this past weekend. It's an invitational event in the Boston area scheduled with an aim toward giving people a chance to try the new Essen games which, if all goes well, arrive just before it starts. I played 10 games there, 7 of them new to me.

_8_ 1812: The Cradle of Steam Railways -- This was my second play of 1812: The Cradle of Steam Railways (I played it for the first time earlier in the week. In this game, a player who started only one minor early at a high price won the game (he started a second one near the end of Phase 3 just to get a cheaper token in another spot.) I continue to like it as an 1861-like game that is more compact.

_4_ Casa Grande -- Are most people more polite than I am, or do they actually enjoy games like this? It was a dull game about building a multi-level structure, with a "roll a die to see what your options are" mechanism. I wasn't tempted to burn it, but I certainly have no interest in playing it again.

_7_ Muzundrum -- A quirky game that is something like Scrabble, but in which you build musical scales and chords instead of words (and of course, on a hex grid rather than a square grid.) It makes use of the fact that the number of sides on a dodecahedral die is equal to the number of notes in a Western scale. It is bizarrely quirky, and not likely to be balanced unless the players have similar familiarity with music, but I enjoyed it.

_7_ 1830 Cardgame -- If you're planning to play this game, you should recognize before you start that, although it clearly shares a number of elements with 1830: Railways & Robber Barons, the strategies needed to win are completely unrelated to those needed to win the parent game. First, you will be constrained by the availability of card draws from an action deck. Second, the oppressive wealth tax makes early riches dangerous (I thought it was ironic that I played this game during the first week of the new Obama administration.) Even so, it's an interesting game (and our game was decided by a margin of less than 1%, after being close the whole way.) I will be happy to play again at least a few times.

_8_ Memoir '44: Sword of Stalingrad -- I like the serendipity you encounter at conventions. When I entered the gaming area on the second day, I saw a half dozen people sitting around a giant Memoir '44 table. They were trying to get 8 people for an "Overlord" scenario, which involves 4 players on each side---one supreme commander to hand out the cards and 3 subordinate commanders to carry out the orders on the cards. They asked me to join them and I was happy to do so. I've played a number of games of the Commands & Colors: Ancients equivalent and enjoyed every one of them. This one was no exception. We played the "Rats in a Factory" scenario in this scenario pack, and there was a lot of back and forth action before Joe Rushanan, commanding our right wing and badly outnumbered, knocked out a few enemy units to drive us to a win in a nail-biter.

_6_ Mice and Mystics -- This is not my type of game. You will almost never see me playing a "dungeon crawl" game. But I have to admit that this game does a pretty good job. We sat down to learn and got help from a very generous fellow gamer who spent quite a bit of time teaching us.

_9_ The Princes of Florence -- I encountered another pleasant surprise on Saturday morning. I entered the hall to see, right in front of me as soon as I went through the door, a game of The Princes of Florence set up with 4 players getting ready to play. The game is best with 5, and when they invited me to play, I cheerfully agreed. I GM this game at the World Boardgaming Championships, so someone commented that I am a "shark". Well, I over-reached, trying to put on 6 works and buy multiple Prestige Cards, and I came in a close ... 5th. You have to love a game that successfully lures you into doing something you know perfectly well you shouldn't do.

_7_ Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar -- I have a list of Essen games I want to try, and this was high up on the list ever since I saw a prototype, gears and all, at the Gathering in April. Some people had compared it with Trajan, a game I am about as likely to play in the future as a french horn in a symphony orchestra, so I was worried that I wouldn't like it. I was pleased to discover that it works well, though I'm not sure about the "move the wheel an extra space" option. I won't be buying a copy, but I'll play someone else's copy.

_7_ 18MEX -- I had gotten a Deep Thought Games order on Monday, and this was one of the games. I didn't bring it to the event, but Kevin Horovitz brought his, and when several of us wanted to try a new 18xx game, this is the one we picked. I had read the rules, so I was able to teach. Our game had enough stock trashing to make sure we never threatened the $200 mark on the chart (at the end, our highest price was $140.) It is my favorite Mark Derrick game so far.

_9_ 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt -- My favorite 18xx games are 1846: The Race for the Midwest, which I rate '10' and have played 88 times, and three that I rate '9': 18EU, the not-yet-published 1834, and 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt. I really admire 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt, but although this was my fifth playing, I have never really felt that I understand the game. It has an epic sweep for an 18xx game, with important decisions from opening to closing bell. The claim you have your minor company buy on OR1.2 has implications for your growth company or the Asteroid League in the final OR of the game.

In this game, which had 3 players, I set out to get the TSI together with two supporting minors, and I succeeded after an interesting auction. You start with $600 and I got Ice Finder, Ore Crusher, and four TSI shares. The TSI is a great corporation, but like the first corporation in 1829, it's hard to get a big share of it. With these three properties, I was able to get the whole south end of the board to myself with minimal interference from my opponents, and there sure was a lot of nickel there, ideal for shipping to the transport point in the far southwest. I growthed Ore Crusher into Lunar Enterprises and was off to a great start.

Toward the end of the game, I was worried that TSI would bang up against the top right corner of the stock price chart, so I bought its 9/7 ship down to LE and paid about $800 out of pocket for another 9/7, giving me a little more space. I'm not sure whether this was the optimal move, but it was the most enjoyable one, and I did get a narrow victory. This was the first game of 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt I've played in which I felt I had a reasonable idea of what I was trying to do.

Even if you're an 18xx player, this is a fiddly game, but in my opinion, it's worth it!
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14. Board Game: Combat Commander: Europe [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:104]

Eugene
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Played this week

Age of Industry: Japan
Combat Commander: Europe
The Palaces of Carrara
CO₂
Sunrise City
Ginkgopolis

Sorry for the lateness of my weekly post. Life calls.
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