GCL Amoeba 102 — All the Modern Things (2013-01-14)
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 :-) )

Current host rotation::
Jevon (cadavaca)
Jens (fizzle)
Joshua (Joshuaaaaaa)
James (jdludlow)
Aliza (Morganza)
Mikko (msaari)
John (verandi) mb

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

I started a project this year: I'm going to become a real materialist and really love stuff. I will love stuff so much that I will really value the stuff I love and toss the rest aside, so I can appreciate the good stuff more.

To get a concrete goal, I'll try to get rid of 1000 items during 2013. I'll keep score, marking down everything I acquire and everything I get rid of. My current balance is -69, so I'm well on the target.

So, how about getting rid of things?

(But please, do not get rid of Finland: http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/224689/we-gotta-get-ri...)

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1. Board Game: Loser's Game [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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Part of my drive to lose stuff is of course to prune my game collection. I've gotten rid of several good games I just don't expect to play. For example games like Ascending Empires, Lords of Vegas, 1853... I've been rather ruthless.

It's not new to me. I've always been an avid recycler of games. My ratio of owned to previously owned is 301:360, so I've gotten rid of more games than I currently own.

What's your ratio? What kind of game owner are you? Are you a hoarder, collector, active trader? Has your relationship to owning and trading games changed? How?
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2. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:210]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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What about your life in general? Are you a pack rat or a minimalist?

There's this Finnish guy who made an interesting experiment. He was thinking about shedding stuff but couldn't decide what to lose and what to keep: in the beginning of the year he put everything he owned in storage. Every day, he was allowed to fetch one item from the storage. So, the first day he ran naked to the storage to get a coat, and before the new year vacation was over he had enough clothes so he could go to his workplace, and so on...

How little could you have and still do just fine? Do you have too much stuff, or are you happy with what you have?
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3. Board Game: Go For Broke [Average Rating:4.61 Overall Rank:15719]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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How about games that focus on losing stuff? I remember this classic from my childhood. For a more modern version of the same, there's Last Will. Many card games are about getting rid of your cards. Come up with anything else, where instead of acquiring wealth and property you're more interested in losing it?
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4. Board Game: Power Grid: Northern Europe/United Kingdom & Ireland [Average Rating:7.93 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.93 Unranked]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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I finally got the new Power Grid maps, and they are fun.

Sunday, Jan. 6, my first trip to Eric's new place in SF:
1817
8p 1817, with most of the players not having played before. It was a wild ride. When we called it on time I think I was winning, mostly because Daniel had bought a company I put up for sale with 2x2T, 2 loans, and a single (though very nice) token. The 2Ts never ran again...
One player all-but-bankrupted on the 4T, two or three would have bankrupted on the 6T, I was very happy with two 2-share companies with 4 pretty tokens and 3Ts, and a big chunk of money to float a sacrificial lamb to feed in another train. (the tokens would have gotten even prettier when one company ate the other.)

Monday at Y!:
Locomotive Werks
me, John, JC

The Great Zimbabwe
Me, JC, Erich (second play). A very frustrating game where Erich kept ignoring both me and JC telling him that his actions were handing JC an uncontested victory. I nearly resigned on the spot when Erich put out a diamond mine before any of the second-level craftspeople were built...

Tuesday, SVB meeting at Red Rock:
Terra Mystica
4p: Me (Alchimists), Dave E. (Giants), Eric R. (Auren), Shelby (Nomads, first play).

We were on the last round when it was called for a venue-driven hard stop on time. Pity that.

I got 2 towns founded on one turn when I snagged the easier-town-founding favor tile; that was 26 points of fun. Don't think I was winning, though.

Wednesday night in cyberspace:
1856
Me (at home), Daniel, Rich Northey (at Daniel's), Mike Calhoon (in Florida)

An experimental real-time distributed game played by video chat and webcam. Suffered dramatically from poor technology.

Called on time because Daniel objected to Mike "wasting time" trashing stock prices during the last stock round before the CGR formation; said trashing would have determined which companies got to operate before the CGR formation and whether Mike or I won.

1856 is one of my very favorite games and I am not willing to play it with Daniel again, not if he thinks the important stock price adjustments in the stock round before the CGR forms are a waste of time.

Thursday night at Dukefish:
Power Grid: United Kingdom & Ireland
me, Albert, Dave D., Ryn

First play for all of us on the brand-new Britain/Ireland map.

We had all of Ireland and two regions of Britain in play, and the game key turned out to be paying the $20 price for island-jumping sooner rather than later. Fuel got VERY expensive at the endgame, as well, though it never ran all the way out for any commodities.

Friday night at my place:

6 Nimmt x5
3p: me, John, Kevin.
4p: me, John, Kevin, Hugh
5px3: me, John, Hugh, Don, Jeremy

This was just plain fun. A good balance between luck of the card draw and guessing what other people are going to do.

We played a progressive variant where the piles stay on the table at the end of the round, making new hands dangerous right from the start.

Power Grid: Northern Europe
me, Don, John, Jeremy, Hugh. Northern Europe map.

The new power plants shook things up quite a bit; coal of all things was plentiful and cheap in the endgame, and garbage was contested and expensive.

Puerto Rico
Me, John, Kevin

We had an hour before three other people were expected to show up, so we pulled this out. A 45 minute battle between tons of corn and a pair of quarries.

Sunday evening at Daniel's:
1830
5p: me, Mark Meuser, Daniel, JC, Rich Northey.

Mostly-uncontested auction except that the C&A went for 210. D&H was +10, M&H was +5, C&SL went for face and was never used (so CanPac could be suitcased.)

Bankruptcy on the second Diesel.
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5. Board Game: Amun-Re [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:261]
Jens KH
Germany
Karben
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Games played

_8_ Amun-Re
_8_ Hansa Teutonica
_7_ Kingdom Builder
_7_ Ra
_6_ Glen More
_6_ Neuland
_4_ Alhambra
_4_ Dominion
_3_ Würfel Bohnanza


Started the week with an Egyptian game night with Amun-Re and Ra. Let's say Amun Re wasn't the least bit amused and leave it at that. If you score worse than everybody else and harvest less than everybody else you must have offended the sun god mightily...

I find the end of a game of Neuland rather unsatisfactory. I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe it's because it always seems to come down to minute details and often the vagaries of turn order rather than a triumph of planning, really. In all my games so far there have been at least two players (and often more) within striking distance. One more turn and everyone would have finished.

In Hansa Teutonica I finally managed to get some network action going with keys up to the max. Still missed the win by a point but I'll count that as progress.

Glen More with 5 feels pretty crowded. There's not a lot of forward-plannning to be had when a horde of whiskey drinkers gobbles tiles up like crazy. My minimal village forced everyone down to my level, though (~18 penalty points for everyone else), and I tied for first.

The play of Kingdom Builder was rather boring, and if this had been my first exposure to the game, I might not be as fond of the game as I currently am. (For the record: we had Citizens, Hermits, and Explorers, and no interesting special tiles, either.)
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6. Board Game: Trains [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:378] [Average Rating:7.22 Unranked]

Eugene
Oregon
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Played this week

Netrunner x 3
Trains x 2
The New Science
PÜNCT
Oregon
Lost Cities
Bali x 2
Die Fugger
Moderne Zeiten
Love Letter
Traverse
Mosaix
Ave Caesar
Notre Dame
Kingdom Builder
Ginkgopolis
Mogul
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
Seasons

Some quick comments. Sorry for the negligence in my list contributions of late.

The New Science is an eye-catching beauty. Very nice visual design work here. The game itself is light action drafting in a Dominant Species mode. The game's metaphor is that we're all scientists racing to experiment and publish research, with the novel twist that publishing opens up further scoring opportunities for all. Standing on the shoulders of giants and all that. Possibly interesting incentive structures in this, but be warned: There are die rolls and random events in this euro. And they have the potential to be devastating.

My little current obsession with connection games continues with PÜNCT. I like this one a lot. Much heavier than the others in the GIPF series.

Revisited a couple older shareholding games this week, Die Fugger and Moderne Zeiten. Both were much more satisfying this time around. In fact, I'm now kind of keen on them at the moment.

Kingdom Builder with the Nomads expansion, my first time with it. I sense that KB may venture down that path toward bloat and complexity much like Dominion has, rendering it a game that can be played with complete newcomers only in base-game form. Nevertheless, the added stuff that Nomads offers proved interesting. We had that fantasy animal power in our game, a horned and trunked thing that I dubbed a gamel, part goat and part camel. It works as a verb to: "I'll gamel this piece over here."

OK, I really like Ginkgopolis.

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small, however, is ignorable euro optimizing.
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7. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.23 Overall Rank:8]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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Las Vegas 3

This works as a 10 minute time waster as you wait for people to arrive to game night but make sure to use the white dice variant. Otherwise, precious little to recommend this one. I picked this one up more because I pick up each game in the Alea series...(see a previous comment on the geeklist...)

7 Wonders 1

Seven players with several new and all the expansions. This game dragged but I had a good social time conversing with the veterans at my end of the table...

A la carte 1
A la carte: Dessert 1

This one always makes me laugh. The gimmick makes this one fun as people do all sorts of things trying to get the perfect shake of the different ingredient bottles. First play with the expansion which really is quite unnecessary except for the fifth player addition.

Agents of SMERSH 1

I enjoy story telling "games". This one plays faster than Tales of Arabian Nights, but I much prefer the theme to Tales of Arabian Nights.

Ginkgopolis 1

This is fairly abstract. Wouldn't recommend five player and would primarily stick to three player. Everyone but me was new. Common complaint on this one seems to be end game district scoring. My response to that complaint would be that everyone else needs to do a better job of destroying the districts so they either don't score or score precious few points. Don't blame the game for what you choose not to do. This one also usually has proven difficult for people to wrap their heads around on their first play...

Noblemen 1

Five player games play very quickly! Happy to play someone else's copy, but don't need to own. Feels very much like JASE to me...

Saint Malo 1

Another dice set collection game but with a city building theme. I wouldn't recommend with five as there is a fair bit of down-time. Alea so it remains in my collection. Found the different ways to score interesting, but there isn't much depth to explore here.

Small World 1

Played with three college students. I taught. They figured since I knew what was going on they weren't going to let me win. They succeeded quite well in that regard...

Suburbia 1

I enjoyed my one play but look forward to more competitive matches. In this particular game, my opponents didn't really consider the four end game bonus tiles and I won all four of them to win quite convincingly. Again, this is nothing deep but I am curious to explore the different tile combos that exist.

Terra Mystica 1

Always enjoy Terra Mystica! Played with five although one player joined for reasons unknown and fared poorly...which meant that I being on his right usually went last in turn order...which really gave me a lot of difficulty. Didn't help matters that I chose a race (Swarmlings) which really wasn't a good match for the point bonuses as there was no trade center construction bonuses. Despite being locked out of majority scoring, I still finished within two points of the winner and came in second.
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8. Board Game: Napoleon's Triumph [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:398]
Jason Reid
United States
Brooklyn
New York
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In-laws were visiting, so I was able to get in a bit of gaming on 2 separate occasions.

1x Napoleon's Triumph new to me, 4p (2v2)
1x The Castles of Burgundy 4p won!
1x Eclipse 4p
1x Puerto Rico 4p

A local recently acquired a copy of Napoleon's Triumph and wanted to teach as many people the system as possible, so he set up a 2v2 game. This is a diceless wargame very reminiscent of Stratego, though certainly much more advanced. I was extremely pleased by the movement rules and their interactions with the terrain, the combat rules, and the orders system. However, much like Stratego, this game has a very heavy fog-of-war element and I was a bit put off by the degree of that. I don't know much about Napoleonic warfare, but my readings of more Ancient battles tell me that good commanders knew far more about the makeup and positioning of their enemies than Napoleon's Triumph offers its players. So that sat a little funny with me. Still, an interesting game that I'd happily play again. Due to some victory condition misunderstandings we set ourselves up for a loss about halfway through the game, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

Castles of Burgundy is a breezy enough way for me to spend 90 minutes. Unfortunately, this game had 2 new players (one of which was a new gamer in general), so it took closer to 3 hours, which is beyond my pain threshold for such a victory point soup. I won because people didn't pay attention to my big chicken farm.

The next day I got in a game of 4p Eclipse, which was relatively conflict-free. I've decided that I only like 3p Eclipse, as I don't care for Diplomats and all the "peace" they negotiate I lost to the player that held onto the Galactic Center and ended up tied for second. I find it funny that no matter what your exploration tile draws are in this game, it's reasonable to complain about them

Wrapped up with one of my stranger games of Puerto Rico. 1 new player and 3 old-hands that were apparently hellbent on preventing any sort of growth whatsoever. Funnily enough, the person who sat across from the new player carried the day. Final scores 31, 28 (me), 25, 16 (newbie) after we burned through the colonists.
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9. Board Game: Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:64] [Average Rating:7.81 Unranked]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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2 x _7_Das Kleine Gespenst
2 x _7_Click Clack
1 x _9_Ribbit
3 x .10!Oregon
1 x _7_The Kids of Catan
1 x _9_The City
1 x _9_Kingdom Builder
1 x _7_Da ist der Wurm drin
1 x _9_Suburbia
1 x _6_Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game

Another game of Suburbia. I'm upping my rating to 9 – I quite like the game.

X-Wing, in the other hand, was incredibly hollow two-round affair that screams for more content.
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10. Board Game: Titan [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:811]
Jevon Heath
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
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_9_ 3x Android: Netrunner
_9_ 3x For the Crown
_6_ 2x Wits and Wagers
_7_ 1x Tichu
_9_ 1x Ora et Labora
_8_ 1x Titan
_7_ 1x Unpublished Prototype
 
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11. Board Game: Panzer Grenadier: Sinister Forces [Average Rating:7.20 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.20 Unranked]
Joshua Gottesman
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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I had a miserable cold all of last week. In fact, today is the day where it's on its last legs. The only gaming I got done was 1 turn of Panzer Grenadier: Sinister Forces trying to finish a December Scenario of the Month. So far this week I've played 1 more turn and that's all. However, I feel human again and there's a lot of gaming planned for the upcoming weekend.
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12. Board Game: 1812: The Cradle of Steam Railways [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:6937]
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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I'm late this week, but maybe that will have given me more time to think about the games I've been playing. I have 9 games to report on, but that includes two Monday nights (my most regular game-playing time.)

.10! Outpost -- I arrived a little late the first Monday night, as traffic on Route 128 was awful, and by the time I got there, two games were already set up. I had the option of playing in either one, and it won't surprise anyone who knows me to hear that I picked Outpost, which is one of my favorite games. After 23 plays in 2011, I played in only 7 times in 2012. I think 23 was a faster pace than I want to maintain year after year (2011 was the 20th anniversary of the game's publication,) but 7 wasn't quite enough, so I was glad to be able to start the year off right. I didn't get my first play in until Memorial Day last year.

The game didn't start off very well for me, as I got mediocre starting cards and then was the target of some Wily Traders (we were playing a 5-player game with the Kicker expansion.) I found it hard to choose a path, and decided to save up for the start of Era II in the hope of getting a cheapish Scientists or Orbital Lab. This worked; I didn't get one at list price, but I did get one in the first turn of Era II and then in the second turn as well. I was still far behind, but Era III starts at only 30 VP in a 5-player game, so I was soon in position to save up for an Era III upgrade and was successful, buying a Planetary Cruiser at list price out of the first set. I still didn't think I had a chance, but when a turn ended with the highest opponent at 74 VP (one short of ending the game,) I thought I might succeed, since I had saved a significant number of cards. The following turn saw high bidding on upgrades, with me passing at the end of the turn order. Finally, when everyone else had spent their cards, I was able to buy a Biosphere, worth 25 VP, and this put me into the lead for the first time all game. It was an eventful game and one I feel lucky to have been able to win.

.10! Saint Petersburg -- The other table had finished their game too, so we re-shuffled, and I wound up in a 3-player game of Saint Petersburg, which is another favorite, as you can tell from my avatar! Marsha considers herself a beginner, and she loudly expressed her belief that she was sure to finish last (but she was happy to play it as a learning game.) But on the first turn, Marsha was first in the orange phase when a Judge came up---not as good as a Mistress of Ceremonies on Turn 1, but a fine start. She then bought a number of small blue cards for points, and got off to a big lead. Joe and I collected more orange cards than Marsha did, but her early lead was too big for us to overcome and she won by a wide margin. I hear people say that the only way to win Saint Petersburg is to collect the most nobles, but it isn't true (I've won a game in which I was out-nobled by a margin of 10 to 3.)

The final game of the evening was a card game prototype by Joe Huber. We played Foppen in December---a game that has a 60-card deck, allowing cards to be dealt evenly to any number of players up to 6 (though you need at least 3 to play.) I joked that if you used a 420-card deck, the game would take 7 players. It's always dangerous to joke in front of Joe, because he enjoys taking jokes seriously (a few years ago, someone joked about playing 1846: The Race for the Midwest in 90 minutes...) Joe developed a card game with a 42-card deck that supports 6 to 7 players. It's not ready yet, but it's an interesting game.

.10! 1846: The Race for the Midwest -- On Saturday I went over to Brian's house to play 18xx with Brian and Mike. Our first game was 1846: The Race for the Midwest. Brian got the GT with the Mail Contract, Mike got the NYC with the Big 4, and I got the IC with the Michigan Southern. Even though GT only had 3 tokens, its routes never got blocked (Cleveland wound up tokened out by the GT, IC and B&O, which wasn't helpful to Mike.) Even though I got the higher stock price early, Brian ran two permanent trains with the Mail Contract and double- and triple-jumped up the stock chart to win convincingly. Once again, it was a game unlike any I've played before.

_8_ 1812: The Cradle of Steam Railways -- This is the first rated game in my report that I've rated less than .10!---that can't be a bad thing! Mike had to go, but Brian and I decided to play a 2-player 18xx game---1812: The Cradle of Steam Railways, which I got in my latest order from Deep Thought Games, LLC. It's a tiny game, with a board only half the size of the 1846: The Race for the Midwest board, and it takes 2 to 4 players. The game is a mixture of 1861: The Railways of the Russian Empire by the same designer and 1846: The Race for the Midwest, probably with a number of other games thrown in as well. When I played 1861: The Railways of the Russian Empire I complained that it is "too sprawling," but this far more compact version is more enjoyable for me. I like the challenge of getting the right trains matched up with the right routes for those trains.

The game starts with a private company auction. You start with £195, and it costs £100 to start a minor, so you'd better not spend more than £95 on privates or you won't be starting a minor in SR1 (in theory this might be okay, but I'd have to be convinced.) Brian and I got two minors each, but he got the one that increases payouts for Sheffield and the permanent one that increases payouts for Hull, and somehow he ran away with the game (his minor ran for £130 in OR1.2 while mine only ran for £60, which told me I was already in big trouble!) He also did a great job building routes for a pair of 2+2GD trains that both ran through Hull for the £20 bonus. He finished with a net worth of about £6,000 and I had about £4,500.

_9_ The Princes of Florence -- On Monday the 14th we met at my house, as Joe Rushanan was away on business. Marsha suggested The Princes of Florence to start off the evening, yet another of my favorites. Kevin and Michael hadn't played the game for a long time but were willing to give it a shot. It was an odd game. Joe Huber got 8 cream-colored cards, including 6 professions and 2 recruitment cards, and he walked the tightrope of not buying Jesters too soon (costing a fortune) or too late (wasting their value) so he won by a margin of about 59-50 over the second place player.

The next game was another Joe Huber prototype, one I've played a number of times in various forms. You may have played Starship Merchants by Joe and Tom Lehmann, an 18xx game without the stock or the map. Well, this one's an 18xx game without money (I can't explain too much about it, but it's thematically accurate!) As I mentioned, Joe likes a challenge.

We moved on to yet another Joe Huber prototype. This was far more normal; it's a pickup and deliver game with a nice clean set of rules, and one that I liked immediately.

_9_ Web of Power -- There were only 3 of us left, and we had only a half hour to play, so I suggested Web of Power, one of the many Michael Schacht games I like. Kevin mentioned that he had gotten rid of the game because his wife always called it "WEB of POWER!" like a boxing announcer, but he was willing enough to play my copy. Joe concentrated on advisors and Kevin on cloisters, while I tried to play a mix of both. In the end Joe won by a 1-VP margin, though thinking about it afterward, I think I could have beaten him by playing a single cloister into Franken rather than what I actually did on the final turn. For a simple game, it sure gives you a lot of things to think about!
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