GCL Amoeba 100 -- The 2013 recruitment drive
James Ludlow
United States
Saint Louis Park
Minnesota
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GameChat League - Amoeba Division 100

ABOUT | AMOEBA DIVISION | SUBSCRIBE

Hi

Normally we would not be publishing this geeklist to the front page of BGG, but we have a few openings for active participants. Do you like to talk about games? Are you not a mouth-breathing troll? Peruse the archives and feel free to comment on the goings-on here. People who find a nice fit may ask to join as active members and get their own weekly geeklist entry. Mmmmm, prestigious.


Current hosts:
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1. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:154] [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked]
James Ludlow
United States
Saint Louis Park
Minnesota
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What were your highlights from last year? Games you played a ton of or games you enjoyed (not always the same thing).

I did play a lot of go, although I'm currently in a lull. My formal study slowed down, but my personal study was about normal. I only got in 100 games, which is quite low for me.

The 63 games of Magic: The Gathering that I got in were easily the most fun I had with games this year. I built a stupidly overpowered cube for drafting, and we've had a riot with it.

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2. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.23 Overall Rank:8]
James Ludlow
United States
Saint Louis Park
Minnesota
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What were your near misses?

I want to play Terra Mystica pretty badly, although apparently (as an economist would say) not badly enough to actually play it. My last chance to see it was snowed out as I couldn't make it a mile down my street before giving up the journey. It's worth it to play this thing, right?
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3. Board Game: Outside the Scope of BGG [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:2603]
James Ludlow
United States
Saint Louis Park
Minnesota
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What (if anything) has prevented you from playing more games? We do have several here who are playing tons of games on a regular basis, but it seems like it's taking a break for a big chunk of us. Why? What do you do outside of boardgameland?

I'm still into computer games and going to the gym. That's been a constant for a while now. I did, however, pick up a new hobby that ties in well with gaming. A buddy of mine got me into home brewing. I've made three batches so far, plus 5 gallons of mead that may or may not be slowly turning into poison. I've been drinking others' home brews for years, and finally decided to take the leap into trying my own. Just doing extract brews for now. I don't have the equipment or space to go all grain yet. (yet)
 
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4. Board Game: Happy New Year [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
James Ludlow
United States
Saint Louis Park
Minnesota
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What are your 2013 gaming goals?

I'm going to continue with Go, Magic, and Pathfinder. I'm also going to make it to a few game marathons. I think that the go congress is out, but perhaps in 2014 I'll be able to make it.
 
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5. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:137] [Average Rating:7.44 Unranked]
United Kingdom
Southampton
Hampshire
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For those who don't know, the format of GCL leagues is for some discussions topics then each member can add an item with games played from the last week.

Last week I played:
1x 3D Noughts and Crosses

4x Carcassonne

All my usual meet ups were cancelled because of Xmas/New Year and student holidays.

My cousin had bought her new Chinese husband a copy of Carcassonne, which got played a few times. IIRC I played a 4 player game which I won, two 2 player games with my brother winning one each, and a 5 player game which I also won.

My cousin's husband's mum was also visiting from Shanghai, and she'd been learning English for a month. She beat me at 3D Noughts and Crosses. I think the game has a strong 1st player advantage because almost all my moves were reactive. It is probably just as solved as the 2D version, but I don't care enough to go through all the permutations.
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6. Board Game: Bananagrams [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:1570] [Average Rating:6.34 Unranked]
Edward Rustin
United Kingdom
London
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Spent most of the Christmas week with the family and the lady. As usual I took a huge box worth of board games, but we only ended up playing one game of Libertalia, a couple of games of Dixit and about a dozen games of Bananagrams.

The family loved Dixit, but Bananagrams was the real hit this year - quick to play, but uses your brain as well!
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7. Board Game: Archipelago [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:285]
 
Jens KH
Germany
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Happy New Year, everyone!

Games played

_6_ Hanabi
_6_ Der Herr der Ringe: Die Gefährten – Das Kartenspiel
_5_ Ginkgopolis
_5_ String Railway
_4_ Archipelago (new!)
_3_ Rummikub
_0_ The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet

That doesn't look like a particularly good week in retrospect. And gaming-wise, it certainly wasn't. Fortunately, that is not all that counts.

I'll try to add a few more comments when I get some time (which likely won't be before the weekend...).

Update (yay, weekend):

Rummikub, The Little Prince, and Lord of the Rings were with parts of the family over Christmas. I'm especially happy that it wasn't me who proposed gaming although I had brought some games along for the occasion.

Archipelago has already been discussed a bit in the comments below. The short summary would be: semi-coop + negotiation = not for me.

I wasn't too taken with Ginkgopolis on its first outing, and after seeing lots of enthusiastic comments on BGG I was wondering whether I had missed something. It certainly didn't help that the circumstances for that first game were less than ideal so I was happy to give it another chance. I still don't think I missed much, though. I might actually raise the rating by a point on further plays, but I don't expect it to go any further.

String Railway and Hanabi... Oh, well, I guess they're both nice gimmicks, but at least in the former I think the game is lacking.
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8. Board Game: Ruhrschifffahrt 1769-1890 [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:2108]
jbrier
United States
Aventura
Florida
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1x Ruhrschifffahrt 1769-1890
1x Terra Mystica
1x Kemet
1x Von 0 auf 100

Commentary coming soon...
 
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9. Board Game: For the Crown (First edition) [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:8252]
 
Joshua Gottesman
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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I hosted open gaming at my house Saturday - Tuesday. We had 13 on Saturday, 7 on Sunday, 10 on Monday and 7 on Tuesday. It was a lot of gaming. Now its back to work catch-up, so just a quick listing for now:

Saturday:
For the Crown (First edition) (this was actually at the VPG offices before I left Cali, and almost made me late for my own party...damned holiday traffic.
Omen: A Reign of War
Ticket to Ride
Power Grid: The First Sparks
Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game

Sunday:
For the Crown (First edition) x 2
Seasons
Keyflower
I feel like we played something after Keyflower, and maybe not.

Monday:
For the Crown (First edition)
Hemloch
Acquire
Terra Mystica
Power Grid: Russia & Japan (Russia map)

Tuesday:
For the Crown (First edition)
Slapshot
Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization - I played with one player with maybe 10 games under his belt, 1 with 2 games under her belt and I came in DFL. The cards were not my friends.
 
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10. Board Game: 1817 [Average Rating:8.63 Overall Rank:2040]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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Two! Two! Two plays of 1817!

OK, I played a lot of games last week, it's time to put up the whole list:

Dec. 24th, my house:
Terra Mystica
5p: me (Swarmlings), Albert (Alchimists), Becca (Dwarves, first+half play), Brian S. (Witches, first play), Dave E. (Nomads).

This was a very tight game, more so than usual 5p games. The game was decided when Brian build a Sanctuary, took the "cities only need 6 points) favor tile, and founded the last two available cities for 20 points in one move.

I've never seen all 10 cities get built, nor had I seen 3 cities on the Eastern peninsula.

Awesome game.

Dec. 25th, Hawk's house:
Sentinels of the Multiverse x2
Me and Hawk, 2 heroes each. In the first round we barely won with 3 heroes dead and Haka surviving with 4 hit points; the second round all of the heroes survived, though badly dinged and dented.

Dec. 26th, my house:
1817
3p teaching game: me, Albert, Mel. I somehow got 7 privates and got overbid for the city I really wanted, so I floated 2 companies where I had planned on 3, and held back cash to buy a share after growing up. Loan interest never got over 15 the whole game!

Much learning happened, some of it the painful kind.

Dec. 27th, my house:
Terra Mystica
5p game.

Quarriors! Quarmageddon x3
Me, Albert, Albert's friend, (who was the 4th? Jeremy, perhaps?)

A good lighter game for people not up for significant complexity.
(I'll note that Albert logged 4 plays. Perhaps his logging is more accurate than mine.)

I always enjoy playing Quarriors when I'm looking for a lighter shorter game; I've since bought a copy of it (and all the expansions) which are on their way to me, last seen at a FedEx facility in Florida.

Dec. 28th, my house:
CO₂
Me, Andy Lange, Barbara, Jesse, Dave Peters.

Unfortunately, the game ran about twice as long as I expected (over 6 hours!), and that killed the fun for several of the players.

When the game broke up people were halfway through a game of Caylus at the other table; after that the remainder played

Puzzle Strike (Third Edition) x2
This game: All plays | User plays
me, Candy, Jeremy, Don. The similarities to Dominion made this fairly easy to teach. :-)

A big improvement over the second edition.

Dec. 29th, BAP game day:
Outpost
5p: me, Dave P., Rich Irving, Eddie, Laura. Eddie bought a mish-mash of stuff (heavy equipment, laboratory, robots) that never really worked well together. Rich had double data libraries and leveraged that into 89 points, I had all three orbital labs but ended with only 78 points. Yet again I had no colony support improvements other than a single nodule, but this time it was not enough to win.

Dave P., our titanium baron, ran into issues with hand size and air limits, and finished below 75.

Race for the Galaxy: The Brink of War
me, Dave Peters (rynelf), J. (JC's younger son)

Won handily by the player tripling points from prestige. (Well, yeah, that was me.)

The Great Zimbabwe
A wild game with me, Dave P., JC, and Dave Eisen. The game came down to Dave E. bidding $13 in the final turn-order auction, I had $14 and bid it all, which left me with $7, enough to get to my VR total (I had Anansi, the god of $1 price tags.)

Sunday, Dec. 30th:
1817
7p: Mel, Chris Ferejohn, Oliver, me, Van, Richard, Albert. Yes, 7 players. Mel won handily, Chris squeezed me out for second by $174, Albert nearly went bankrupt but held onto a Presidency of a viable company, Oliver nearly committed seppuku, Van went quietly into the night and built a portfolio to live on, Richard got shorted and then saved the company. Good times.
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11. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.02 Overall Rank:17]
Jevon Heath
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
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While visiting family:
_8_ 2x Agricola
_2_ 2x Tetris: The Card Game
_7_ 2x SNCF: The Moon/Mars (One each)
_7_ 1x Letters from Whitechapel
_8_ 1x 1989: Dawn of Freedom

New Years Eve:
_4_ 6x We Didn't Playtest This At All (5x with Chaos Pack)
_8_ 4x Android: Netrunner
_7_ 3x Glory to Rome
_5_ 1x Cards Against Humanity

The good games were great and the bad games were short. That's a pretty good distribution as far as I'm concerned.

In my first full game of Whitechapel, us coppers found Jack midway throught the first night. It was Jack's first full game too, and she hadn't foreseen how good our deductive capabilities could be, so she set up an overly elaborate false trail and got arrested when she got back where she started.

SNCF Mars was a lackluster map, but the Moon was great. The 7 is the average score for the two.
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12. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:235]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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Claire and I hosted a boardgame con at our house from December 26 through the 31st. I played 46 games over this 6-day period, not counting 3 games on Christmas. I'm going to describe them over several GeekList items.

_7_ Escape: The Curse of the Temple -- I got this for Christmas, thinking that it would be a good game to play with groups and at cons. We played it once on Christmas Day and again later in the week. For our first two games we didn't play with the curse and treasure cards as we strove to get the rules down. For this reason, my rating should be taken with a grain of salt. I'll have to play it some more before I really know what I think of it. Interestingly, my wife and daughter avoided it because they don't like the idea of "letting the team down."

_8_ King of Tokyo -- We played this on Christmas and then three more times during the con proper. Twice we played with the King of Tokyo: Power Up! expansion, another Christmas gift for me. It's clever, but I think I like the base game better. The bonus for rolling 3 hearts encourages defensive play and slows the game down as a result.

_7_ Lords of Waterdeep -- I played this game 10 times in 2012 (actually I played it 10 times in the second half of 2012.) I don't think I suggested it more than once, because Claire keeps suggesting it. The picture on the cover alone makes me think I won't like the game, but oddly enough, I found it quite enjoyable to play, if not quite enjoyable enough to suggest regularly.

_6_ Jambo -- I played this five times when it first came out, all in 2005, but I still have it on the shelf in my game room and someone asked me to play it when there were just two of us not in a game. It works fine and is an interesting challenge, but it doesn't have the "hook" I need to keep bringing me back to a game.

_7_ Gear's Knights -- This is a rarity. It's a game designed by Kenichi Tanabe, who I know best as the designer of Inotaizu which was re-issued as Kaigan. At this moment, there are only 6 owners listed on BGG, and only 2 ratings (one of them mine.) I played the game twice, and Claire played in a third game I wasn't in. We got an important rule wrong (you can buy the white cards using any color weapon card, so they're not as hard to get as we thought.) I'm going to try again using the correct rule if I can find a few people willing to give it another try.

_7_ The Hanging Gardens -- Yet another game I'm happy to play, even though I almost never suggest it. One of the con attendees owned a copy he had never played, so Joe Huber and I sat down and played it with him. I have never liked the game quite enough to buy it, but I'm up to 9 plays over the course of 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012.

.10! Saint Petersburg -- Now this is a game I love and often suggest, as you have probably deduced from my avatar. A few months ago I decided to start asking for this game more often when people ask what folks want to play, and it has resulted in a few opportunities to play the game. The first game was a 2-player game in which everything went right for me and I won by two whole sides of the game board on the scoring track. The second game was a 4-player game that was about as close as any I've ever seen: the winner ended with 83 and the player in last had 78. (I finished in 3rd with 80.)
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13. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:35]

Eugene
Oregon
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Played this week

Defenders of the Realm
Kingdom Builder
Netrunner/Android: Netrunner
Brass: Lancashire
Railways of the World: The Card Game
Santiago de Cuba
Railways Through Time
Glory to Rome
Age of Steam: St. Lucia
Acquire
Boomtown
Oregon
Take it Easy!
Unexpected Treasures
Can't Stop

Quick comments before the week ends. God, I'm busy lately...

Defenders of the Realm is fantasy flavored Pandemic with more stuff and longer playing time. This should make for a dreadful concoction that I would spit out on first taste. But I played with my very good friends on Christmas Eve, and with those people and that setting, I enjoyed myself tremendously.

Netrunner: Era Clash! I put one of my original NR corporate decks against a friend's newfangled FF runner deck. We used the new rules for traces. And the game worked. Very well, in fact. Came down to the very last agenda. I prefer playing the corporation with a 60-card deck, which is currently not possible in the new Android format.

Thrilling endgame scoring in our 3p Brass: Lancashire game on New Year's day. Scored Anna first, then me. Tie game. But I had greater income, so I win! Wait, Anna had $12 left and we forgot to give her a point for money. So she wins! Damn her!

Railways of the World: The Card Game was a surprise. As a distillation of colored-cube-delivery games, it succeeds. My opponent went as far as saying that it blows plain vanilla Ticket to Ride out of the water.

Does anyone here like Santiago de Cuba? I didn't.

Acquire on my 1968 3M edition. Open everything. Always enjoyable.

"Take It Easy"? Bite me. Hurling obscenities in your direction is the only opportunity for player interaction this game allows.
 
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14. Board Game: Das Kleine Gespenst [Average Rating:6.10 Overall Rank:7467]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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1 x _7_Das Kleine Gespenst
1 x _5_UNO

That wasn't much of a week.
 
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15. Board Game: Loopin' Louie [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:704]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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Loopin' Louie 20
Pick Two! 10
Coup 7
No Thanks! 5
Sorry! Sliders 4
King of Tokyo 3
FlowerFall 2
Got It! 2
Q•bitz 2
Flash Point: Fire Rescue 1
Hand and Foot 1
Healthy Heart Hospital 1
The Hobbit 1
La Loire 1
Stich-Meister 1
Ticket to Ride 1
Tweeeet 1

This is a little more than week but since I was home with the family for the holidays, most of the games are family friendly. Looping Louie was very popular at the New Year's Eve Party. Pick Two using Scrabble tiles is a family favorite. Coup was the hit of the family gathering.
 
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16. Board Game: For Sale [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:259]
Max Jamelli
United States
Chambersburg
Pennsylvania
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If anyone can add something this week ... I'll jump in if that's cool.


last week's plays:
For Sale x2
Electronic Mall Madness

My nieces were in town for Christmas. They are 8 and 6 respectively. The 8 year old got the Hannah Montana Mall Madness game. As strange as it sounds, it's not an "awful" game ... however the electronic randomizer is frustrating. For those of you who may not have had the awesome pleasure of trying this one .. you push the button and a voice tells you how many spaces to move. (this in lieu of dice) If you land in a store and you try to buy something, you swipe your credit card. If the machine chings you can buy it. Sometimes it'll tell you the store is having a sale or clearance so you get it cheaper ... sometimes they tell you the item is out of stock.

Here I am after the machine told me the nail salon was out of stock and I lost a turn.


(did I really type that much about mall madness AND post a picture??? ... sorry guys)


I did coerce them into learning For Sale. I thought the 8 year old could definitely handle that one and it's true - she did very well. She came in second both games and both were pretty close. Her parents are game players too and I'm sure they'll nourish the gamer in her as well. It's up to me to work on my 4 year old.

Online plays finished:
Santiago de Cuba
Hacienda
Stone Age


I'm a big Yucata fan. I usually have about a dozen or so games going at once. I'll play in the evenings on the Ipad while sitting with the wife. I'm also getting more into some online Ios games like Stone Age and Carcassonne.
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17. Board Game: Monster Trap [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:4787]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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It was still Wednesday, December 26---Boxing Day to some of you---and Joe Huber brought a few games out of his travel box that were more than a bit obscure. It seems Friedemann Friese was running a competition GeekList for unheralded games, and Joe had two of these games with him so we could try them out.

_6_ Schützenfest -- First up was this simple card game with the nominal theme of shooting various types of wild animals. What it actually is is a game in which you try to match certain cards turned up at random in the center of the table. It's not bad for what it is, and there certainly are some decisions to be made. Like many card games, luck plays a significant role in the results of any one game, but I'm sure that over many plays, the better players would win more often. I don't expect to play often enough to try it out, though I wouldn't object too much if Joe asked me to play it again in the future.

_6_ Rapa Nui -- The title probably makes you think of a 2011 release by Kosmos, but this is the 2005 game of the same name from Edition Perlhuhn. It currently has 17 ratings on BGG (the same number as Schützenfest, as it turns out,) including two from friends of Joe (Joe rates games, but doesn't enter the ratings on BGG.) This game is of a type I usually dislike---a multi-player abstract-ish game in which each player can choose which opponent or opponents to attack. It does have a clever die-rolling mechanism, however, that prevents exact calculation, and as a result it's one of the better games of this type that I've played.

_8_ For Sale -- We moved on to this quick little classic. Its biggest downside is the fact that so many publishers have released versions with rules that ruin it or cards that have the wrong numbers. I own the original FX Schmid version, which is the one I recommend, and we played a quick game that broke exactly right for me, allowing me to sell the real estate I had collected for the highest prices.

_8_ Monster Trap -- After another game of King of Tokyo, I set up this unusual team dexterity game. It's billed as a children's game, but it's fun for anyone (if you don't enjoy this game, you don't understand fun!) There's a trick to moving the monster piece along fast, but not so fast that you knock it over. I mentioned that this is the only team dexterity game I know of in which the teammates perform a feat of dexterity together. Of course, Dan Blum immediately came up with another example: Packen Wir's!. Now I have to try a game of Packen Wir's! (maybe the next time I'm at Joe's house.)

_7_ Snowdonia -- For the last game of the day, we decided on Snowdonia, another game Joe had brought. It was my second play, and I liked it well enough to want to give it another shot. In my first play, I took some cards that required me to build a lot of track and stations, but the government stepped in and snatched the work away before I could complete my plans. This time I decided to pursue a rubble-clearing strategy instead, and it worked a lot better. I'm still not sure how much I will like this game in the long run, but I'm also fairly sure I'll play it at least a few more times.

_9_ Loopin' Louie -- We started Thursday off with another dexterity game---this time the estimable Loopin' Louie. I picked up a new copy recently at Toys R Us; get yours while they're still in stock! People hadn't all had their coffee yet, and as a non-coffee drinker, I thought it might be my best chance to win. We usually play with the rules used at the Gathering of Friends: when you win a round by being the last one with chickens left, you give up a chicken permanently and must play with one fewer chicken. This evens things out a bit, since the players who have had the most success start with fewer chickens. It also makes the rounds go faster as you proceed. To win the game, you must win a round starting with only one chicken, thus giving up your last chicken. It was a close match, and it came down to a round in which all four of us were down to one chicken each. And it was a happy ending, as I succeeded in knocking all three opponents' chickens out of their barns to take a hard-earned victory.
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18. Board Game: Thebes [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:384]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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_9_ Thebes -- I really enjoy this strongly-themed archaeology game, and I hadn't played it for 16 months. Some people don't like the amount of luck in this game, but to me, an archaeology game needs luck or it isn't faithful to its theme! Before the con I made up a list of "Games I want to play" and posted it on the cork board. I've found that people often ask me, "what do you want to play next?" and it's good to have an answer already written up. There was an added bonus, in that people would peruse the list (which had 46 games on it) and spot something they wanted to play too and let me know. During the week I managed to play 15 of the 46. Bruce Linsey brought a list too, and played all of them, but it was a little easier for him, since he only had four games on his list! It was a close game. Joe Huber went digging and found a remarkable number of good artifacts (he usually turns up a lot of sand) while I hung around in Europe and spoke at conferences to gain fame the clean, easy way. It's probably a good thing for the nation's work ethic that Joe edged past me by a single VP for the win.

_8_ Foppen -- This game appears to be a contradiction in terms---it's a trick-taking card game in which your goal is to play your last card to a trick, but to leave your opponents with left-over cards when the trick is finished. The way this is possible is that a wooden disk with a picture of a fool is given to the person who plays the low card, and that person must play the fool instead of a card on the next trick. It's valuable to win a trick, but what's really important is not playing the lowest card. Bruce got out to a big lead, but I roared back to tie the game on the last hand.

_7_ ConHex -- I played this game twice with the designer Michail Antonow back in 2004 and liked it, but it took me until just recently to obtain a copy on the BGG Marketplace. Bruce and I were looking for a 2-player game, since everyone else was playing something, and after a quick look at my list, I suggested ConHex. It's a game in which each player tries to connect two sides of the board using his or her own pieces (like Twixt or Hex.) I won the first game, but Bruce picked up the tactics quickly and won the second game with a twisty, spiraling path that eluded my attempts to stop him. If you're an abstract game fan at all, I recommend ConHex.

_6_ Pacal -- I played this tiny 2-player card game a number of times when I first got it, but I haven't played it since I started recording my plays on 1/1/2002. Bruce and I needed one more 2-player game and we decided to give this a try. It's a clever game of timing and forcing your opponent to do something he or she doesn't want to do. Bruce proved better at this than I did, and he took the game 3-1.

.10! Outpost -- If you follow my contributions to BGG, you'll know that I'm a huge Outpost fan (I think it's my 4th favorite game.) But as big a fan as I am, Marsha Hamel is an even bigger fan. Marsha arrived and suggested a game of Outpost and I joined in. It was a close, competitive 4-player game. Marsha bought all three Data Libraries. I had poor cards early and started with Water, then converted, later than I'd have preferred, to Titanium. When the Era 3 rush came, we all made it past 75 VPs on the same turn, but Marsha won with 82 VP, followed by scores of 79, 76 (me) and 75. Many of our games end something like this, which is why I'm a bit incredulous at claims that Outpost always has a runaway leader. Boxing often has a runaway leader too, but that doesn't mean it's not balanced!

_9_ Funkenschlag: EnBW -- A number of my daughter's college friends had arrived by now, and someone asked for a game of some Power Grid variant. My list included Funkenschlag: EnBW, a Power Grid game published by the German power company EnBW (with a blue box rather than Friedemann's customary green.) It's a game with slightly simpler rules than the base game, so it's good for teaching new people, and it offers a twist to experts---the turn order is rearranged after the auction each round rather than before the auction starting in Round 2. The trick in teaching this game is that new players who are used to auction games do not usually put enough emphasis on getting the power generation capacity they need to win, and I'm reluctant to play their games for them. In this game, the beginners fell behind early but did a reasonable job of catching up. The key to victory was the extensive use of oil and the relatively light use of coal (as a result of the plants that came out,) so there was a late-game oil shortage rather than the usual late-game coal shortage. I tied with Bruce at 16 cities powered, but I had 35 electros left and he was broke. As they say, "money isn't everything, but it is a tie-breaker in Power Grid!"
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19. Board Game: Starship Merchants [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:2920]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Here are some more games from our con (it looks like I may not finish for this week's list; if I don't, I'll put them in next week's list):

_7_ Ticket to Ride: Alvin & Dexter -- I got two small expansions for Ticket to Ride as Christmas gifts. One is the Alvin & Dexter expansion and the other is the Halloween Freighter expansion. Alvin & Dexter are two plastic miniatures (an alien and a dinosaur, respectively) that sit in cities on the map. They block link building to those cities, and they halve the value of routes to cities they are sitting in at game end (whether connected or not.) You can spend locomotive cards to move them in addition to your normal turn, and the person who moves each one most gets 15 VP. Halloween Freighter (which doesn't seem to be shown in the BGG database) is simply a new set of trains (and, for Europe, stations) that are orange. The trains are shaped differently from the usual trains; they are tan flat cars with orange pumpkins piled on them. We played a game using both expansions. It works fine, but I'm not sure the additional chaos provided by Alvin & Dexter is necessary (maybe I already got my "dinosaurs in cities" fix from King of Tokyo.)

_8_ FlowerFall -- I got a copy of this game from Brian Hanecak, who Kickstarted it and ordered several copies. It's a dexterity game that involves dropping cards, ideally into the right locations. It takes 5 or 10 minutes (the longer time is for people who spend time complaining about the premise of the game while they play.) It's possible that the game might degenerate when played by "experts", but fortunately neither I nor the people I have played with fit that description, so we've enjoyed it. It's one of the handful of games published in 2012 that I've rated as high as _8_. My rating for a game is based on how well it works when played in the right situation, and this is great as a filler when you have half a dozen people and 5 minutes.

_5_ Win, Lose, or Banana -- I've played FlowerFall a number of times, but always with other people's copies, so the con was the first time I opened my copy. When I did, I spotted a free game included in the box---Win, Lose, or Banana, which consists of 3 cards (actually, they included two copies of Win, Lose, or Banana inside FlowerFall.) At least it only takes 3 minutes.

_8_ Starship Merchants -- My most anticipated game for 2012 was Starship Merchants, a game I had helped playtest. (Actually, my most anticipated game was Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts, but it never made it out.) If you've played 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt, a member of the 18xx family, you'll recognize that Starship Merchants is a greatly simplified grandchild of 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt, a game I really like, though it's too quirky for many 18xx fans. In fact, you could describe it as "2038 without the stock or the map". This may sound like "Go without the board or the stones" but there's a real game here. I taught two experienced gamers who hadn't played before, and they enjoyed it quite a bit. I started with a '2' cobalt and a '3' cobalt (fairly poor mines) while they each started with average quality mines, but experience matters in this game, and I managed to get an extra spin around the board running two permanent spaceships to win by a comfortable margin. If you know people who wonder about 18xx but are hesitant to try it, you might try playing Starship Merchants with them. Most people don't think it's an 18xx game (a viewpoint I have sympathy with,) but it would be easier to learn 18xx after you've played it a few times. This is currently my favorite game published in 2012.

_9_ Snow Tails -- I'm not usually a race game fan, but Snow Tails is an exception. It has just the right amount of control, something most race games get wrong. We played with 5 players and the lead bounced back and forth quite a bit (something the game's detractors deny ever happens.) As we were starting to set up for the final curves and the run for the finish line, I saw that at the cost of some sled damage I could shoot through a gap and into the lead. I crossed a '4' speed limit line at a speed of 7, adding three dent cards to my hand and bringing me to 4 dents. One more dent would have put me out of the race, but I had enough cards left to make it across the line as the winner. My hand at the end of the game looked like the one in the following image, except this time I had a '3' and not a '2' as my last non-dent card:



_7_ Ab die Post! -- I've talked about one Huber design in this post already (Tom Lehmann and Joe Huber's Starship Merchants,) but this is a different Huber design, this time by Helga and Hermann Huber and published by Goldsieber. It's a delightfully wacky game about trying to deliver air mail in a region that suffers from frequent hurricanes. This game has all the toys, including a plastic hurricane that you shake to reveal a colored ball that allows to move a certain distance or a black ball that damages every plane that's in the air. Most of what you know about boardgame strategy is useless in this one, so you have to figure it out from scratch.
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20. Board Game: Taj Mahal [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:313]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The idea of posting a list of Games I Want to Play was working well. After a second game of Gear's Knights (still with the wrong rules for buying colorless cards,) someone suggested Notre Dame, another game on my list.

_9_ Notre Dame -- This is my favorite Stefan Feld game, just ahead of In the Year of the Dragon. Some people complain that it helps to sit to the left of the new player, but Andy Latto sat to my left (in a 4-player game) and won by a 10 VP margin. Maybe I passed the wrong cards, but maybe Andy played pretty well. One thing that hurt me is that I got hit by the plague on each of the last 6 rounds of the game, and it never seemed to make sense to do anything about it. That's a hefty price to pay for lack of sanitation!

.10! Taj Mahal -- This is my second favorite game (just after Medici.) It's hard to get to the table because it's a nasty game, full of little fights that are really games of chicken. When your game is going well, it seems like everything just falls into place, but when you go off the rails, nothing works. Cally Perry rode the Princess for all she was worth, gaining points for her on most of the turns of the game, and won by about 10 VP. Bruce Linsey had a nice connection chain going, but Cally's "get VPs whenever you can" strategy beat him out.

_7_ Andean Abyss -- I picked this up in GMT's half-price-off sale for loyal customers, and I had read through the rules. Several of the people at the con saw it on the list and expressed a willingness to play it, so we scheduled a game for Saturday morning. We drew sides randomly before explaining the rules and I took the helm of the drug cartels. The theory was that it would be easier to learn the rules if you knew up front what faction you were playing (like in Here I Stand.) There's a lot to like in the game. The principle mechanism works very well, and the graphic design is superb. It's a typical "everyone needs to keep anyone from getting out to too big a lead" game but there are enough constraints to prevent it from being a pure bash fest. The other three players were bashing each other and me, but I was a peaceful businessman, just trying to expand my commercial empire. At the end of the third part of the game (out of four,) three of us had achieved the victory conditions, so the game ended at that point. It took us about 3 1/2 hours. I'm still not sure what I will think in the long run; it depends on how it plays with more skilled players.

_7_ Thurn and Taxis -- When Andean Abyss broke up, we re-arranged ourselves, and four of us were left without a game. Someone suggested one game and someone else another, but we weren't finding just the right game. I suggested that we play Thurn and Taxis, a game I only rate as a _7_ but that I'm happy to play. It was the right choice. Andy Latto won (he always wins Thurn and Taxis,) but Kate and I were just one point behind him, so at least we made him work for his victory.

.10! 1846: The Race for the Midwest -- After we finished, everyone was ready for a new game. One person wanted to learn the 18xx system, and another who had played just one 18xx game before wanted to try another, so Joe Huber and I sat down with them to play. In my first set of private drafting options I (as 4th player out of 4) mistakenly took Michigan Central thinking it was Michigan Southern. This would have been fine except that I didn't realize which private I had when I made my second choice. I started the Pennsylvania in an attempt to get a route to Chicago, and though I did indeed get one, the whole Chicago area was a big mess that made all our lives difficult. Joe Huber had Meat Packing, Big 4 and IC and ignored all the silliness, running for big money and winning by about $1100. I have to say, for all those people who think all 1846: The Race for the Midwest games are the same, that I've never seen a C&O token in Detroit in OR 1.1 before.
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