GCL Phoenix 101: The Fundamentals of Gaming
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Policy: If you're a lurker or have otherwise discovered GCL Phoenix, feel free to read along with us and see what the members have to say on everything under the sun. If you have a constructive comment or something else you think would add to the discussion, consider posting it — if it's helpful, respectful, and polite to the discussion group as a whole, as well as to its individual members.

Our Perfesser

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Our freshmen seniors indentured postdocs.
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"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
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Mark Johnson
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“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done, the Dornishman’s taken my life, But what does it matter, for all men must die, and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!”
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"Oak and iron guard me well, or else I'm dead and doomed to hell." - Andal proverb.
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Kurt R
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All life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward dreamings, and no cause to value the one above the other.
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"L'état, c'est moi."
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
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Q:When I say "lawyer" what pops into your head? A:Someone who designs games about penguins." - Dormammu
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Yoki Erdtman
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Handsome devil huh?
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On sabbatical.

James
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Next semester's list:

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"L'état, c'est moi."
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Welcome to Game School 101.*

Thinking back on your entry points into the hobby, and the good bad and indifferent experiences you've had along the way, if you were to take a new gamer under your wing and haze them show them the ropes, which games would you use?

Would you go for the so-called gateway games, aka Boardgaming 101 type games?

Bonus marks: Put together your list of 10 games you'd use to haze new gamers. Tidiness and good penmanship count.

* I simply had to pick the game for this entry based on the absolutely stupendous title
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2. Board Game: University [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Game school, the early years

If you've gone to college/university, you know that there are a certain number of courses you have to take whether you want to or not (and if you haven't, now you know).

Do you think there are specific games that all gamers need to try at least once? Or perhaps instead of specific games, specific types of games (e.g. worker placement, or roll-and-move)?

Or maybe there are certain kinds of games one needs to have played before you can really dive into the hobby. Do you feel that way?

Bonus marks: Select 10 games would you put together as a prerequisite package for gamers. Please show your work for full credit.
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3. Board Game: Mad Scientist University [Average Rating:5.80 Overall Rank:9374]
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Game school, time to graduate

Woohoo, you've been hazed with introductory games, you've experienced a whole bunch of different games in different categories, and you've discovered the kinds of games you like best; let's call those games your major.

What kinds of games are your major? Are heading towards tenure track with those games? Are there any minors you're dabbling with?

Bonus marks: List 10 games you feel would be required playing for your gaming major.
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4. Board Game: Survival of the Witless [Average Rating:4.43 Overall Rank:15183]
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Tenure track

Last week Ben talked about having a sense of identity reflected by what we consider to be our favourite games. "I consider myself to be "the kind of gamer" who likes Goa. I defend the old Goa and didn't think it needed changing."

How often do you revisit those old primary source games and revisit your notion of gamer identity? Has that identity changed over time? Have you specialized in any particular game genre?

What about research? Critical thinking? Has your experience shaped the kind of view you have with respect to trying or buying new (to you) games?

Bonus marks: Update your top 10 and hot 10 lists. Justify your decisions.
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5. Board Game: Combat Commander: Battle Pack #6 – Sea Lion [Average Rating:8.33 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.33 Unranked]
 
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This is the semaine that was:
Scrabble 2
Combat Commander: Europe 1
Dominant Species: The Card Game 1
Here I Stand 1
San Juan 1

A quiet but good week on the gaming front. My wife and I played Dominant Species TCG at the pub on Friday, and we ended up in a draw! However, I didn't check if there were any tie breaker rules, and I suspect she would have won based on being ahead on the survival track. This game has now a nickel in plays.

We also played San Juan, and I just had beautiful synergy on my cards.

Combat Commander was a mid-week play with the designer of this week's representative game. We played the 10th scenario in the pack, and we think the British need to be able to set up two deep rather than just one hex deep. Of course, much better play on my part would certainly help matters too!

Here I Stand - a new pbem game! I really like HIS.

Ongoing pbem:
- 2 active games of Unhappy King Charles, 1 I'll consider abandoned, and 1 is just slowwwww

- I think my VQ games are dead. RIP.

- 1 active game of 1989, 1 that needs to be revived (Judit, was it my move or yours?)

- 1 active game of Twilight Struggle. Battling it out for bottom spot on the ladder.
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6. Board Game: History's Mysteries Card Game [Average Rating:5.50 Overall Rank:12757]
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Pixel 2 (Thrifty Santa Gift)
History's Mysteries (Cate108 G4GG gift)

I talked about History's Mysteries and Pixel on last week's list so I don't have anything more to add.

I was looking through the set of Killer Bunnies that my Thrifty Santa gave me last night, and I was impressed at the stock and gloss of the cards. I also liked the d20s included, especially the translucent ones. I plan to take it to Ryan's house, it might be fun to try there. At a cursory glance, it reminds me a bit of King of Tokyo, so I think they might like it.
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7. Board Game: Archipelago [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:285]
 
Ben
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Games Played:
_9_ Archipelago
_8_ Ginkgopolis
_7_ Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island
_7_ Il Vecchio
_6_ Qin
_5_ In the Year of the Dragon


Gaming Notes:

I had some positive news on the Archipelago front this week. My third attempt to teach the game to players in my DC gaming group went reasonably well, and I now know at least two people who rate the game at least _7_ . Additionally, my wife didn't mind it, though she was not fond of the theming.

As for me, I find the game gets better with every single play. After this most recent session, I bumped my rating up to a _9_. I find it hard to convey what I like about the game, though I will say that it gets bonus points for so thoroughly subverting my expectations.

Initially, I watched the first minute or so of the BGG interview from Essen and scratched it off my wishlist once the designer explained that each round opens with a blind bid for turn order followed by a period of open negotiation. With practice, I've not only adjusted to those mechanics (and more like them that I expected would turn me off), but I'm finding myself fond of them. It is a fascinating about-face for me. Something I rarely experience.

I think a considerable part of what I like about it is that it is so unlike other games I enjoy. It has a bit of a story-like feel in the way it unfolds (not unlike Robinson Crusoe), and it encourages a leisurely pace which I find relaxing (German-style hyper-efficiency will lose you the game). Likewise, all the point opportunities are relative, so everyone having lots of stuff is no different than everyone having very little. It produces a sense that we are all sharing in each others' experience at developing civilizations, even though in a non-cooperative game. It might be similar to how others view Through the Ages (which never clicked for me): sometimes there are lots of churches and the Pope and cities; sometimes there are lots of boats and fishing and market transactions; sometimes we all just aimlessly wander around exploring; and sometimes the natives kill us all.

I have already purchased the solo expansion, and I invested some cash in upgrading a few game components (moar wood!). I will let you know of the changes once they've arrived and I've tested them.


Ginkgopolis is a great little game. I'm yearning for the day that I can just set it up and everyone knows how to play. It's not that it's a hard game to learn, it's just that everything doesn't really click until you've seen the end-game scoring in action.

Additionally, try as I might, I just can't seem to convince new players that Ginkgopolis is not an area majorities game. Of course, it has an area majorities mechanic, which in fact is a large source of points. But I really want to teach new players to think outside of that box because I feel that it hinders players' abilities to appreciate the game's nuances.

When Ginkgoplis is played as primarily an area majorities game, the first question players ask themselves when selecting a card is, "How can I impact a particular majority in my favor?" What they care about is the color of the tile they are placing and the location that they are placing it. Any other positive stuff that flows from their decision is typically viewed as a bonus.

What considerations does this area majority focus overlook? I'm glad you asked.

1. What card do I want to keep? Rather than just thinking about where they want the tile to go, players should think about the ramifications of adding cards to their tableau, as this is a large source of points.

2. What tile do I want to play? The number on the tile played dictates which cards enter the game. Some of these cards will benefit you far more than your opponents. You control the scoring opportunities in the game; utilize that control!

3. What cards do I not want to pass to my opponent? Sure, playing tile x at spot Y may temporarily swing a large majority in your favor, but passing a card that is worth 9+ points to your opponent for that temporary majority advantage is insane. Card points can never be lost; majorities are fragile.

4. How can I minimize the value of majorities? This one always gets me. Three players fight over a majority, growing it to astronomical size, then one player wins it (usually on a last round play) and earns beaucoup points in a rather unpredictable fashion. Ginkgopolis does not have to be some swingy, winner-take-all game. Playing tiles that break up larger regions into several smaller ones with multiple different winners balances out the scoring and allows you to rest on the advantages gained by your clever card play.

When played as a majorities game first-and-foremost, Ginkgopolis is very tactical, chaotic, and swingy (but thankfully pretty short). When majorities are deemphasized (not ignored; they're still worth points), Ginkgopolis becomes much more strategic and involved. I wish all players could see it that way.


Il Vecchio is just simple, solid fun. They don't make games like this anymore. This week was probably my most fun play of the game.


In the Year of the Dragon was the first Feld I ever played and I hated it. That I would try it again and find it merely mediocre is a good indication of just how much my gaming style has changed.

When I first began seriously playing Eurogames, Agricola was the crown jewel to me (though Puerto Rico was also fun). I primarily played each game by making decisions that fit the narrative: I plowed a field, so I should probably plant some grain; I have all this grain, I should probably build an oven; etc. At the end of the game, I would score points (and often score well) just by following the thematic cues.

Feld games have no thematic cues. The theming is not only thin, it is often distractingly counter-intuitive. In general, the theme must be swept away, and everything must be broken down into component VPs, including the opportunity costs of each action you take. They are puzzles to be solved, and only once they are solved can players find space to combat each other over the solution.

The words I just wrote still make me recoil a bit, because I hate games like that. But, with additional experience gaming, I am beginning to see more and more games that way without trying. I'm more tolerant of interesting mechanical combinations that don't necessarily have that experiential reference point to guide my play. So when I finally played In The Year Of The Dragon for the second time, nearly three years after I first played it, I found myself a little surprised by how ambivalent I was to it. I still don't like Feld's approach to game design; I've rarely enjoyed a game of his. But it would be unfair for me to continue to demonize him for failing to include the sort of thematic road signs I no longer need, or for so flagrantly flaunting the mechanical underbelly of his games when I myself now increasingly engage with games through those very same concepts.


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8. Board Game: Homesteaders [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:508]
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_9_ Kolejka x1
Five player game at international library event. Two players were able to use the black market to get their final good, but rules state once the first person did that they won with the other a close runnerup, I guess. Myself and one other person were one good card away. The last player only had half the required cards. Several people had fun calling for "LUCKY STRIKE" which always amuses me.

_7_ CO₂ x1 new!

Three players with my boys. I think we did pretty good on obeying the rules. Oldest son won with 129, youngest son 121, and I had 117.

I also had two incomplete games I didn't record. The first was before the game with the boys and was about two decades in length. I messed up the CEP rules completely, pulling them from the bank rather than the market and I was mostly confused on a lot of things.

The other incomplete game was after the game with my boys and was four players at a gaming party with college folk. I wasn't even sure that was going to get played at first. I had brought a box full of games: Hab and Gut, For Sale, Keyflower, VivaJava, Kolejka, Homesteaders (from earlier in the day, I went straight from library event to party event), and CO2 was in the middle of the clear carrying box. I went to get a glass of wine and when I had returned, other just arrived guests had pulled out CO2 from my box and were looking it over.

I warned that the game would take two hours or more and I had just received it and played once before, but these warnings didn't deter anyone. I suppose I could have pulled out another game and suggested that, but people really wanted to play this. My explanation took about ten minutes, explaining things while I set up and I answered most questions easily as I recall. After a coupld of rounds everyone at the table had a good idea of how to play if not how to play well for their positions. At the end of the first decade levels went up a bit but not horribly so and by the end of the second decade things were fairly under control.

We went four decades and had started the fifth when the table realized we were close to three hours in and some people needed to leave, so we quickly finished the game. I just stopped and scored out expertise, then gave controllers of areas their CEPs and cashed them in and we had a relative socre where I was third of four positions, but then the clean up happened before I coud write don the exact scores. That's fine as it was incomplete anyhow.

Right now I want to play this a few more times to get a better understand of the gears and wires and such. However, I'm not sure where this will end up in the long run. Three hours feels too long for my enjoyment of this game.


_6_ BraveRats x1
A quick game with my youngest son. I won after having two rounds put on hold. Almost thought we might null the whole game.

_9_ Love Letter x1
A couple of rounds while waiting for people to arrive. Lost both rounds.

_7_ Homesteaders x1
I got a four player game of this in and realized I really was messing up the auction rules. I had thrown in some rules from Cyclades, where being outbid on an auction meant you couldn't rebid in the same auction immediately. We fixed that after a few rounds and with luck I'll recall this for the future. Amos and his wife Gina both did really well, while myself and random-passerby-recruited-into-game Greg did less well: Amos 57 Gina 56 Jon 36 Greg 31

_6_ Biblios x1 new!
Taught this at home to my wife and youngest son. My wife just barely beat me out in two categories and won with 15 points, while my son had 3 and I scored 0. Right now I think this is ok but I'm not feeling the love some of you people have for this.

_7_Keyflower x1
The boys helped me teach my wife. I won with an insane 75 points, while my wife had 42, my youngest son 40, and my oldest son 37.
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9. Board Game: Glory to Rome [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:148]
Kurt R
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_10_ Glory to Rome 1
_7_ China 1
_7_ Mansions of Madness: The Yellow Sign 1
_5_ The Great Zimbabwe 1

A light week with not much notable. I won G2R for the first time in over a year. China went over well, and I'm happy to say we played with 5P and we all thought it worked just fine. I wasn't sure if there would be too much chaos or not, but we all worked to keep each other in check. The MoM: Yellow Sign play was with a friend trying out my solo/coop variant. It went well, but still some tweaks are needed. For now, I'm still having fun playing around with this idea. TGZ is just too dry in a spatial sense for me; it lacked tension and comes nowhere near justifying the price, so I'll be reselling this once my copy shows up.

Edit: I didn't mention my play of Paths of Glory b/c my opponent hasn't made a move in over a week. I can't tell if he's demoralized (which is pretty cool for me if that's the case) or just too busy at work.
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10. Board Game: Seasons [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:161]
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Keyflower x 1

A pretty neck-and-neck play until the end of autumn; one of the buildings she won in the auction had 3 workers on it, and she won the boat with 6 workers (leaving me the boat that had 3). Add the fact that she had the buildings that let you trade 1 worker for 2 and she was able to push me around pretty good in winter. I made it close, losing 43-48.

I also learned that you are supposed to randomly choose which side to use for the summer boat tiles; we'd always just used the "front" face of the tile. That should help mix it up a bit. Speaking of mixing it up, I might look into randomizing the 2 boats that bring the workers each season, just to mix it up.

Fleet x 2

Our first (and probably last) plays of Fleet. It's certainly not bad, but I ended up feeling kind of indifferent toward it. The auction is certainly a little goofy (no doubt because it is a 2-player game). Resources are quite scarce in the game, which doesn't bother me in and of itself. It's also a very short game, and it seemed to end just as we were starting to wriggle out of the constraints the game had us in.

The entire crux of the game seems to lie in the fishing licenses. They confer special bonuses to their owners which, in turn, determines how you play. 1 license gives you a bonus and a 2nd copy of that same license increases that bonus.

They say that the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference.

Seasons x 1

We followed Fleet with an odd game of Seasons. Odd because I didn't play a single card during year 1 of the game. This is because not a single green energy was rolled on the season dice. I felt like a dummy when I realized that I could have (should have?) used the "pay 5vp to trade 2 energy for 2 other energy". By the time I did get up and running, I did pretty well. My cards led me to a strategy of spending up my energy tokens constantly - I had cards that let me spend energy to transmute, or to make my opponent lose crystals and I also had a card that says "If you have 1 or 0 energy at the end of the turn, gain 1 energy". It was enough to eke out a 5-point win.

The game was noteworthy for me in that it wasn't the best play of it, but I still enjoyed it (if that makes sense).

Animal upon Animal – Here we turn! x 1

My game comments should sum it up well:

I was kind of excited about the lazy susan that came with the game, but after playing with it I realize that it adds a layer of instability to a game that doesn't need more. The fact that the whole thing will topple if someone bumps that the wrong way makes it feel cheap.

The whole thing is slightly elevated as well, so it tips easily. All told, I was a little disappointed with the game.

The reason I got the game was simply for more pieces to add to Animal Upon Animal, and it's a mixed bag on that front as well; The new pieces are unique, sturdy and interesting. The pig with its sloped back, the bumpy kangaroo and camel, the tiny frog, the moose with its ridges, the mountain goat. All neat. There are some duplicates as well, but that's not the end of the world.

Problem is, the game comes with only 1 of each animal. We'll just have to change Animal Upon Animal to everyone drafting. Lack of research on my part.

Then again, I just want more animals for the base game, so I'm likely not the usual customer for this one.




I'm glad I got more little animals, I just wish there were 4 of each of them. I'd love a "Animal Upon Animal: Lots More Animals" expansion that was simply a big bag of wooden animals. Oh well. I still want that last one I haven't tracked down yet.

Plato 3000 x 1

Last night, Kat said I owed her a play of Plato 3000, so we brought it out this morning before I had to leave for work. I jumped out to a quick lead, quickly lost it and never regained it. I bagged 42 points in the last round, but it wasn't enough. Plato 3000 is her game, plain and simple. I have to work at it, and the game just comes to her.

Battle Line x 2

We had a little time, so I busted out Battle Line and played a couple times. If Plato is her game, Battle Line is mine. I felt like I was able to make the game bend to my will; I drew the exact card I needed 3 turns in a row and buried the knife (in a sweet, loving way of course).



The upcoming week:

Well, I have to work again on Wednesday night, so no game night for me. Last Wednesday, our friend watched the kids so Kat and I went out for an actual dinner (this is very, very rare). I learned that I should not drink Top Shelf Long Island Iced Tea on an empty stomach. The more you know!

Anyhow, no game night this week. However, Pax Panaflorinini should arrive soon. I am cautiously optimistic.
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11. Board Game: Pax Porfiriana [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:378]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 8Dec2012:

6/7/377 plays of 5/5/189 total games, with 0/0/33 expansions employed.
Plays with 8/8/107 distinct opponents.

0/0/27 games acquired - though I did order Pax Porfiriana - (plus 0/0/21 expansions.)

With the left-coast leftovers of the I've been Diced! group:
1x _9_ Terra Mystica - Still don't have much of a clue. But I managed to place second this time (instead of trailing the pack dramatically.) It may be that I'm gradually figuring things out; it may be the result of some lovely butterfly effects that I'm not yet able to track. In the end, it doesn't much matter: I'm finding the game very entertaining. (Sufficiently so that I've boosted my rating a half-point. And even despite that, it's still not my headliner for the week!)

With the no-longer-on-Fridays gamers:
1x _7.7_ Palastgeflüster - It wasn't the best instance of the game I've seen. Some hands present a cool puzzle; some seem far more random: this set was closer to the second of those. (Which, for the record, makes me understand a bit better why some of you aren't so entranced. If you've played a couple times, it's quite possible that the game has not presented its best side. If it does that a few more times, I may need to downgrade it: but I've still seen some very compelling plays!)
2x _7_ Coloretto - It's funny: given that I'm occasionaly susceptible to "production values" (I prefer Quandary to Loco; for example) I find myself dramatically preferring this one to either of its children (Zooloretto or Aquaretto.) I'm not completely sure why. Perhaps it's the "Carcassonne factor": the base game is quite lovely, but I've expanded the fancy children to the point of unwieldiness. Nonetheless; this is really easy to explain, very portable, and yet presents a pretty reasonable set of decisions.

With a cool colleague from work (who provided the game):
1x _8_ Pax Porfiriana New! - I mentioned this somewhat in last week's list. I found it thematically delightful (perhaps even more so than Andean Abyss - as fun as that one was!) Moreover, it worked better as a game than any previous (Phil) Eklund game of my experience (which admittedly is not an extensive exposure.) We didn't get it completely right (for example, I'd completely forgotten that one could sell a card that one had previously played: I'd - foolishly - misremembered that only cards in hand could be sold.)
I found the interlocking of the cards to be quite excellent. My mental models for the game were Union vs. Central (only 2p; distinctly more economically-oriented; relatively little period color) and Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization (mostly for the card draft: the churn of production and spending feels very different) and neither presents quite the mental jigsaw puzzle that PP does. That bit reminded me (imperfectly; I can't force the direct analogy) of the political constraints of gifts in Confucius.


With son #2;
1x _7_ Neuroshima Hex! 3.0 - Another quick dash through (what is for us) a comfort game. Despite the fact that the results are pretty random, I've managed several wins in a row; it's about time for him to break the streak.
0x _7_ Catan - I can't count the play (since a phone-AI was involved) but the youngster and I tried out the Android version while we had breakfast on Saturday. (We were the only two at the table; my two older children were still abed, and my lovely wife was off on a Photo Walk in the redwoods.) He was quite amused - to the degree that we should probably conscript an older sibling into playing us the "real" version.

Owned-and-unplayed: 17 (+0/-0) If we play at my place this Wednesday, I'm going to inflict Feudo on the guys (regardless of merit) just to get it off the list!

Outlook for the week: Should be able to pick up my copy of Pax Porfiriana this week (I ordered it from the LGS; they said "It'll arrive on Tuesday" - and it's cheaper that way than ordering from funagain.com. I'd've ordered it from boardsandbits.com if Tom had it available - but it's not in his system... The only question is whether one of my kids confiscates it with an eye to throwing it under the tree in a couple weeks.) Hope to get in a play of something cool this coming Wednesday. Not sure what, yet: my copy of Keyflower is now six weeks in the mail so I'm beginning to despair on that front; Terra Mystica would be three weeks in a row (totally fine with me); and I'd be happy to get The Great Zimbabwe or Pax Porfiriana back to the table.
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12. Board Game: Chicago Express [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:364]
Tom Shields
United States
Tacoma
Washington
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Chicago Express x2
Keyflower x2
Pax Profiriana x2
R x3
Mai-Star x2 (rounds, not full three round games)

It was approaching 2am when we realized we were playing Keyflower under Kurt's rules, earning at least a double asterisk and handling the moment of awareness in true gamer fashion.

The second game is with Joe (Jocose here on the Geek), Ben, and I. Ben teaches Joe the ruleset while I pad around rousting snacks and go to the bathroom mirror to practice a Keyflower face that would project, hopefully, a macho intimidation when I place bids using brightly colored meeples instead of poker chips. I was in there a while before I was satisfied.

So back at the table, the game proceeds and we're in late winter and we're devolving into a tactical min-max trope. Ben is bidding on all three boats to fulfill a 16pt tile and he opens bidding on one with a green meeple. Which I question, because the way we've been playing the green meeples are wildcards and so aren't a color and thus far have been used to be any of the three colors, kind of like salamanders, and this naked placement doesn't fit.

Ben consults the rules. He comes up and announces that 1) the greens aren't wildcard meeples at all, they actually represent green! and 2) the boats aren't actually supposed to be out there in the general pool for independent bids.

We all absorb this in the last 5 minutes of our second game, laughing, blaming Kurt's asterisked gaming of this title. It's 2am. It's like you're on recreation time in the holodeck and the computations hiccup and reality gets patchy & fuzzy & starts glitching. We are not really in Keyflower. So we do what any gamers do and negotiate our patchy code to repair this alternate Keyflower for 15 minutes so we can manage the placement of three more meeples.

We called it playing Keyflower Kurt's way. Asterisk asterisk.

*
Joe and Ben, Chicago Express

Chicago Express was a wonder, and we played two back to back. I loved it, a game that joins Container and Planet Steam as exceptional economic games with a shorter playtime but packed with beautiful incentive structure to play with and learn. CE is opaque the way Container is, a wonderful learning feedback loop, with Planet Steam being a bit more transparent with an awesome market and derivative set-up that is more granular and manipulable. All three excite me as being learning labs, rewarding replay with the same table. I was unable to understand both the incentive structure and how to play it, but I could see it, like it would flicker in and out of phase, and I want to get back to it soon and learn how. For now, I didn't know the timing for null-cap moves and such, not developing tempo in my alliances nor fully understanding what to do to change the structures that disadvantaged me. Yummy yummy stuff. Ben, fabulous teaching job and I hope the same table plays again soon. And Joe is great at this sort of thing.

I'm afraid Keyflower suffers in comparison with it's burden of wasteful thinking, like it's vestigial road routes for spatial routing. I think Ben should share his thoughts, I think he's developed some nice ideas about it. Ben! Post this week! Anyway, I would continue play if Ben and Joe or Max want to pursue it, it is short and maybe it grows with familiarity, and certainly the multipurpose use of workers as currency for tile bids and action selection is pretty damn cool and worth another view. So my criticism remains an impression and is informed by my own taste and may not be a helpful point of view for others.

Mai-Star is a fun, quick random game of becoming the best geisha, collecting pimps & paying clients in a pleasant and fast tableau game. Great for primping, or pimping, your reflexes between heavy games or for the pub. There are no heavy Eurogame mechanics or archetypes, so this would be a fine and thematically flavorful game for non-gamers. Nice art and the story of each of the six competing Geisha's charmingly described in the designer notes. I wouldn't recommend importing this for it's own sake, but I'm glad I got it along with my Trick of the Rail order.

I loved R. So fun to crawl into each others head for 5 minutes.

For Pax, I must make a chart of the prestige status for ingame tracking. There's too much to take in, one needs a reminder of the current tableau count, especially in multiplayer. I think a pencil and pad will work fine, but I won't play without it again. It's too easy for a game state shift catching someone unawares (namely me) and the game is best played quicker rather than stopping with every shift to recalibrate this all important auto-win condition. This first 3-player went four hours with teaching, way, way and painfully too long. So either it needs to be taught 2-player and/or it is highly susceptible to acute AP in some cases. So I see this as an anomalous play, and still hope it will scale well into 3-4 player in a roughly two-hour window for a full endgame rather than auto-win game. And oh, I've been getting killed in it, Martin you'll get your Brass revenge unless I get my shit together on Pax.

Oh, I met a new gamer! I didn't get a game with him, but immediately liked him. And he loves trick taking! And he'll teach me Arcana! I smiled thinking of getting play for Was Sticht? and Sticheln and their ilk. The eco system grows! Maybe we can plan our own card nights as distinct from game meetups.
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13. Board Game: Keyflower [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:44]
Albatros
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played
Keyflower x2
Ascension: Storm of Souls x1
Carcassonne x1
Glen More x1
Prêt-à-Porter x1
Snowdonia x1

Expansions Used
Ascension: Return of the Fallen x1

The Games of the Week in Review
A smorgasbord of old and new and really, the only reason I made Keyflower my headliner was that we played it twice. Our Monday play of Snowdonia was probably the most interesting with Glen More a close second. Keyflower is beginning to get a bit too familiar and a bit too repetitive. I'd certainly like to shake it up with a few more players round the table.

Prêt-à-Porter was somewhat disappointing. That I lost after taking an early lead put me a bit out of sorts. But really, I should be kind of glad that it happened, because I frequently complained about a runaway leader in this game.

With a week to go, my auction is going okay. Three of the eight games have bids on them. Whatever doesn't sell, I'll probably offer out again in February or March with whatever other games have lost their lustre by then.

The Week Ahead
I'm debating whether to throw Ginkgopolis into my order with The Great Zimbabwe and Ascension: Immortal Heroes. If I do, it'll ship this week. If I don't, I may wait for CO₂ (which is supposed to be available around the 19th).

As for plays in this coming week, I'd like to see Snowdonia get to the table. But what I'd really like to see on it is Mage Knight Board Game. If only I could convince S that she'd like to try taking the deck-building in Ascension to another level. However, she hated her first play of Mage Knight Board Game so the only way I'll probably get the game back on the table is to play it solo.
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14. Board Game: Zombicide [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:336] [Average Rating:7.25 Unranked]
Yoki Erdtman
Sweden
Södertälje
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Games Played in Chronological Order
(Links to play details, with my ratings in color, and milestones in red italic.)

Thursday:
.10. Zombicide
Another fun session. We started the Switch City campaign, but lost badly. It was one very long, but highly engaging game. We were all drained from all the various tactics we tried to beat the zombie horde, but ultimately failed.

New Games in My Collection
None for the first week in a while, although I did order Civil War Essentials Event Book.

Week in Review
I've been suffering insomnia something awful for a couple of weeks running, and it's starting to mess me up. At least I managed to play a game of Zombicide during our game night, but even that left me feeling as if it was a complete brain-burner.

Representative Item
Zombicide by default, but we're having so much fun with it!

Plans for the Week
None, but I look forward to my package from Japon Brand and hope that my Kickstarter backed DreadBall: The Futuristic Sports Game arrives soon.

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15. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.23 Overall Rank:8]
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
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Games Played

.10! Hanabi 4
_9_ Puerto Rico 1
_9_ Magic: The Gathering 14
_8_ Modern Art 1
_8_ Terra Mystica 4
_8_ Escape: The Curse of the Temple 4
_7_ Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game 1
_7_ Witch's Brew

Week in Review

This week's plays of Hanabi were 98-101, so I broke the century mark on this group favorite. It's still great and we're still perfecting our skills with rainbow cards, which add quite a bit to the difficulty level.

Legendary continues to amuse beyond it's empirical worth. I sucked it up in Puerto Rico and Modern Art, two favorites.

I had a six-player game of Witch's Brew that did a good job of revealing the most clever parts of the design. I really like the way this game encourages you to read other players' intentions and the also the difficult timing involved, since winning something you don't care about can put you in an awkward position for something you do care about.

More on Terra Mystica later after I get some sleep.
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16. Board Game: Innovation [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:279]
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
Ebeltoft
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Games Played Week 49:
4x Innovation
1x Plato 3000

Game of Choice:
In a week dominated by this one game there really was no competition.

We played it twice in midweek and then again on our romantic get-away - sitting in the bar, playing 3 rounds, enjoying each others company and some alcoholic beverages - it was just a wonderful moment with a great game.

I have a goal of reaching 100 plays for the year and we are on track though it will require some dedicated gaming - we are still 16 plays short. We still have not added the expansion cards but I keep putting it off, we still need to sleeve them.

The Week in Review:
We also managed a play of Plato 3000 on Saturday evening. I enjoy the game but after our one play I requested another play of Innovation instead.

Our romantic get-away was a great time. We had a wonderful room, plenty of time for ourselves, great food and really romantic weather with snow falling gently. It was just what we needed.

The Week Ahead:
Weekend gaming perhaps? I am picking up Kingdom Builder tomorrow. On Friday I picked up Vanuatu only to realize yesterday when I opened it that it was the French version - the farce continues.

Hopefully some positive news too - perhaps a job opening... keep your fingers crossed.

meeple
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17. Board Game: Android: Netrunner [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:42]
Mark Johnson
Canada
St.John's
Newfoundland
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“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done, the Dornishman’s taken my life, But what does it matter, for all men must die, and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!”
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Android: Netrunner (5)
Coup (5)
Ginkgopolis (2)
23 (1)
Caylus (1)
The Great Zimbabwe (1)

---

Last week I announced that I finally won a game of Netrunner. I had also mentioned how I had actually enjoyed playing Netrunner much more with constructed decks. So, I ended up creating my own corp deck and altering the Runner deck so that it's more to my tastes. I ended up beating my friends constructed decks. This is significant as it's the first time I've won a game of Netrunner against him. Though, to be fair though, he was constructing using only a single Core Set whereas I had full deck building options. I think I'm going to collect the first cycle of data packs + the first big expansion and see how much play the game gets. At that point I'll either keep it and stop collecting, continue collecting or sell it. The only thing that bothers me about constructing decks is that I'm a huge perfectionist and I keep second guessing the decisions I've made. I end up spending hours tinkering with my deck and it feels a bit like diminishing returns. I hoping to dive into OCTGN soon and that will allow me to jump into games quicker and hopefully temper my tinkering.

After the games of Netrunner, there was a bunch of us at MUN (university) and they wanted to play Coup. I was a bit apprehensive as the last time I played with this group, I felt they were taking turns too quickly and the game play wasn't really sinking in. This time we had new people so they didn't play the game so fast. It ended up being quite and enjoyable filler. We ended up playing 5 times in a row and I look forward to playing this one more in the future. Anyone that doesn't have Coup should just use other cards to play this one. It wouldn't be hard as long as you make a reference to have in front of everyone.

I have suffered my first defeat in Ginkgopolis. I'm fine with it as it was the tightest game of Ginkgopolis that we've had so far. My friend beat me by 1 point and I was only ahead of the 3rd place player by 5 points. It's just a great snappy game that get's played in an hour. It's even better now that everyone is getting proficient with it. I have increased my rating of it to an 8.

I generally like Amigo card games of numbers and suits (ie Sticheln, 6 Nimmt, etc). 23 was touted as a good game from the company that I believe someone said was similar to No Thanks which is one of my favorite fillers. I didn't really feel it had similarities to No Thanks and the game was a bit opaque to me. It also doesn't accommodate a large number of people. Overall, I would much rather play Sticheln.

This was my first play of Caylus in a LONG time. Over two years in fact. I was surprised by how quick the game played and the decisions weren't nearly as difficult as Ora et Labora. Well, they ramped up near the end of the game, but overall it felt lighter and quicker than I recall. Wouldn't you know that I had ended up tying for first place. I'm surprised it happened because my opponent had built multiple prestige buildings whereas I hadn't built a single one. I think my opponent would have won except the 3rd player helped me end the game sooner than anticipated. I was surprised as I had bullied her a bit with the provost in the early game. I had a pretty decent time playing, but it wasn't as satisfying to me as some of my favorite games.

I was really looking forward to The Great Zimbabwe. Unlike most Splotter titles, it didn't have too many components. It also didn't look to have too long of a playing time. I was really intrigued about drafting powers, but making it more difficult to to win the game. The game also was very hard to grasp from my first reading of the rule book. I watched Joel's video review and then re-read the parts that I was having difficulties with and then it all made sense. When we played, my opponents had picked up Gods in their first turn. I decided that I would either draft later or draft Xango for the lowered VR. I also focused on selling the commodities more than anyone else. The person who drafted the god that gives 2 cattle/round also drafted Herds so they could get more bonus income. He ended up completely destroying us as he always had the income to win the turn order and since the cattle are spread among each player, it didn't even dent his economy much. I ended up being the next closest one to fulfilling my VR requirement.

I think I would definitely enjoy Zimbabwe more with additional plays, as we would know not to let someone get too many 'money' powers in the future. That being said, I also agree with Kurt that it was a more dry experience than I would have liked. Even if I did get more enjoyment out of it, I will probably enjoy the money that I made from the auction even more. Especially if certain plans come to fruition. Muahahaha.

---
In Other News...

As I have previously said: I'm trying really hard to get my whole collection played. I'm down to less than 15 games which is great! Here's what I need to get to the table and how many people I intend to play it with

2:
Omen

3:
Through the Ages (maybe 2)

4:
11 Nimmt (maybe 5)
Imperial
Louis XIV
Mykerinos
Taj Mahal
Tichu

5:
Amun-Re
BSG Express
Die Sieben Siegel
Hornochsen! (maybe 4)
Tammany Hall (maybe 4)

6+:
Castle of the Devil

I think Amun-Re is going to be the hardest one to get to the table. I say this because everyone says it plays best with 5. I can sometimes get 5 people, but usually only with lighter games. As anticipated, things are going to be slowing down in terms of getting new games to the table since two of the people in my heavy games group are leaving the province to be with their families over Christmas. On the plus side, there are very few games that I'm eyeing on purchasing. In fact, the only thing that's been tempting me lately is trying to reacquire a complete set of Blue Moon. Now that it can be sleeved properly, I'd like to have it back in my collection as I did enjoy it, but it fell out of favor due to the sleeving issue. Sadly, I doubt I'll get this one at a price I'm willing to pays so, there shouldn't be many purchases from me in the coming months other than expansions.
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18. Board Game: Keyflower [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:44]
Ben Draper
United States
Seattle
Washington
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Games played

Sunday w/ Dave, Garret, and Liz @ Cafe Mox
_ 8 _Ra
_10_Hansa Teutonica

Friday w/ Tom @ Tom's place
_ 7 _Keyflower New!
_ 8 _Pax Porfiriana

Saturday w/ Tom @ Bluebeard Coffee Roasters
_ 6 _BraveRats (x3) New!
_ 6 _Mai-Star New!

Saturday w/ Mike, Joe, and Tom @ Maple Valley Gamers
_ 8 _Pax Porfiriana
_ 6 _Mai-Star
_10_Chicago Express (x2)
_ 7 _Keyflower
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