GCL Amoeba 113 - The Other Me (2013-03-31)
Jens KH
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GameChat League - Amoeba Division 113
ABOUT | AMOEBA DIVISION | SUBSCRIBE

Welcome to this week's discussion list!

If you found us by accident you're welcome to join in the conversation -- we're friendly symbiotes in real life (and, in fact, we're looking for more interested and interesting people). If you want more info about the GCL in general or the Amoeba division in particular, follow the links above for more info. (If you're shy, just thumb the list so we can see who's stalking us.)

The current hosting rotation:

Eric
Carlos
Jevon
Jens
Joshua mb
Mikko
Doug



When I was thinking about what to choose as a topic for this list I also browsed Dave's GCL correlations page. I hadn't looked at it in a while, and some of what I saw came as quite a surprise. For example, I was expecting to correlate pretty well with Eric, but it turns out we only have a 0.28. And my overall Amoeba score at 0.73 (the highest of the entire league) is curiously much, much higher than any of my individual scores.

Quite clearly (here I am readily assuming I am not the only one to be totally wrong about this stuff), this means we need some more education about who among us likes what kinds of games. To this end, I'll post a couple of items below on various topics and I invite everyone to post their top five games for each entry. Feel free to add other categories if there are others you'd like to know to about. Hopefully there will be a couple of new games to discover.
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1. Board Game: 7 [Average Rating:5.10 Overall Rank:15328]
Jens KH
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Top five games with 7 players.

At numbers greater than 5, things often start to become difficult. Hereabouts, 7 players means splitting in two tables in most cases. What if that isn't an option, though?
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2. Board Game: Pocket Battles: Elves vs. Orcs [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:2467] [Average Rating:6.62 Unranked]
Jens KH
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Top five games with orcs and/or elves.

The theme isn't strong with everyone, I know, but "top" doesn't necessarily have to mean "great", does it?
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3. Board Game Designer: Reiner Knizia
Jens KH
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Top five games by Knizia.

With a portfolio as big as this, I'd like to think there should be something for everyone here. Even if you're into theme.
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4. Board Game: 1989: Dawn of Freedom [Average Rating:7.85 Overall Rank:429]
Jens KH
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Top five games published before 1990.

At least for the Eurogamer portion, 1995 is often mentioned as the formative year with the release of Catan. Was it only abstracts and wargames before?
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5. Board Game: Ranking [Average Rating:5.56 Overall Rank:12732]
Jens KH
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Top five games with a BGG rank lower than 1000.

I wasn't quite sure about a good cut-off point for this, but looking at my own data this still seems to yield some relevant results.
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6. Board Game: We Didn't Playtest This At All [Average Rating:5.58 Overall Rank:12956] [Average Rating:5.58 Unranked]
Jens KH
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Top five games you haven't played yet but would like to try.
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7. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:48]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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Played quite a few board games this week thanks to having off for Easter, including some two player games I've been wanting to get to the table!

Played at Brookhurst Hobbies for Tabletop Day! Received a fun little goodies bag with several promos including the bunny promo for Dixit. Sadly, I did not win any of the raffles for the game giveaways (although I wasn't sorry to lose the Munchkin raffle!)

Troyes

Played three player with all the expansions. There was very little red dice used in this game for battle outside of countering black dice. Most battles were fought via a couple different characters on the board. I focused on the yellow characters and scored almost 30 points off one of them during the course of the game. My end game bonuses weren't great but were bolstered by winning the wall tile which gave me 8 points! I won with 72 points, 2 points ahead of K. Not sure what J had in third.


Race for the Galaxy x2

Played three player and I won both games. First one I won via consume and the second I won via military although R made me nervous as he scored like 15 points in his final card play!


Ginkgopolis

Three player game where K & I tied once again for the win, this time with 52 points or so. I gained most all of my points during the game for urbanizing as I scored at least 4 points every time I did so.


Kingdom Builder

Three player with Nomads. Miners, workers, and 2 points every time you placed a house without any of the same terrain around were the scoring cards. This was a tight game with J winning by 3 points over me and K only 2 points behind me.


Glen More

Four player game which I played poorly. I ended up scoring 43 points which was around 8 behind the leader. I made a mistake on my second to last tile which was fatal.


Caylus Magna Carta

Three player game with all of us new. K ended up winning by a few points over me. J was far behind as he never competed for building the dungeon. We played without the provost and the expansion.

=======================================================================

Played at a friend's house on Friday:

Rum & Pirates

Been a long time since I tried this early Feldian design. It is quite light, but we had a good time playing. I do think the moving mechanism is quite smart. I won with 105 points despite taking the first four cursed treasure points. Second had around 80 and the other two were in the 70s. I earned a ton of points from the pubs.


Frank's Zoo

Four player game with all the partnership rules. I had a terrible final hand and fell to second as a result. Winner had 21 points while I had 19. The other two were 15 and 11 respectively I think.


Samarkand: Routes to Riches x2

Quick enough game so we played twice. I won both times.

FIRST GAME:

I had a couple cards score me 8 points each as I won with 49 points, a couple points ahead of second place in our four player game.

SECOND GAME:

I won this one with 61 points as I spread out and scored in a variety of ways. Had quite a bit of money at the end as well. Invested in only three families. In this one I focused on spreading out one family early and didn't invest in a second family until closer to midgame. This game went longer as well with more turns.


Race for the Galaxy x2

Two plays with all the expansions but no takeovers. I won once and Jim won once. The game I won I ended just in time as Jim was about to go crazy his next turn.


Tooth & Nail: Factions

J and I played. I was the pack and I don't remember who he was. Early on I made a mistake with using up my guys in the command zone and lost the initiative. As a result, J was able to pound me into submission a turn or two before I was about to do the same to him.


Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small

J taught me the game and we also used expansion buildings. He indicated the game would get boring without the expansion buildings which I can see as they breathe spice and difference into what otherwise would be the same game over and over. We tied 47-47 and the lame rules indicate the winner of a tie is the player who was not the first player to begin the game. LAME! I lost the tiebreaker.


Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan

I taught J as we both played a learning game. I was Tokugawa. As Tokugawa, I destroyed all presence of my enemy in the East while he was slowly decimating me in the West. In the final couple rounds, I moved my forces into combat in the middle and whittled his main force down to minimal levels where he conceded before his final action since he could not compete. I would have won by a couple points and was very close to taking out his main leader.


Poseidon's Kingdom

Taught three others the game. I was able to build up my coral reef to the point where I could eat four dice on a turn and earned the 8 point tile for eating four different dice and the 6 point tile for three of a kind. I won fairly easily with 29 points. Two others had low 20s and another had 6. Always seems like someone gets hosed in this game.


The Great Heartland Hauling Co.
This game: All plays | User plays
Taught a couple others the game in our four player game that also included the four special cards involving weight checks/obstructions/tolls. This game took a little longer and there was quite a bit of hosing each other by going where someone else wanted to be. In the end, I was able to pull this one out with exactly $30. The others had low 20s.


The Hanging Gardens
This game: All plays | User plays
Jim and I played a quick two player game. I won easily with 140 points or so. The last few rounds I had the garden set up in such a way that I was taking temples off of 3-4 space regions to add to make other regions which helped me considerably.

=======================================================================

At a friend's house playing two player games...and then on to Paradise Perks for a game night for those games that involve more than two!

Race for the Galaxy x2

Played twice with all the expansions without takeovers. I won both games although the second one was very tight.

FIRST GAME:

L 58
J 39

I went military and stuck with it despite getting horrible explore draws the first few times. J kept changing his strategy and never got things going.

SECOND GAME:

L 73
J 72

J focused on alien worlds and prestige. He was very effective with spending a prestige for 6 points with consume 2x along to earn 12 points or so each time he double consumed. However, my military operation with two 6 developments focused on military/rebel worlds came out on top in the end.


Sentinels of the Multiverse

J and I played after J taught me the game. I played as the wraith and J played as the hulk type player against the omegatron. Things looked a bit bleak early, but the two of us finally got things relatively under control midway through the game and we won with relative ease. I was able to use a one use card quite effectively to deal 14 damage to finish off the villain. I had 9 lifepoints left and J had around 11.


Polis: Fight for the Hegemony

J and I played a learning game. I learned what not to do. I lost badly and conceded without playing the final round of the game (not that I would have played much anyway since I only had one prestige to use). I would have finished with around 12 points and J as Sparta would have around 20+. I entered an ill advised attack where I lost half of my hoplites mid game which meant I lost my work force and economy in the same blow. Bad choice. One really has to carefully balance military action vs economy in this game!


Africana

J taught three of us how to play. I won with 44 points and J had 43. The other two had in the upper 30s. Meh.


Ginkgopolis

Three player game where I just couldn't get my engine working...didn't help that I got impatient and then would play a tile before I should have. L had a nice urbanization engine going and won going away with 61 points, I was second with 35 and J had 31.

=======================================================================

My place with college students and roommate:

Small World

Played with three college students. I came in third with 81 points. The winner had 102 when no one else helped me keep him in check...poor me! ;-) Second place had 96. Fourth place had 73.


WeyKick x3

I beat K 2 out of 3.

9-10
10-9
10-8

======================================================================

At another friend's house for Monday night game night where we usually play longer Ameritrash five player games. However, one member is currently staying home to support his wife who is coming due with a child so we've been playing other games...

Tanz der Hornochsen!

Four player game. L won with around 31 points. I was second with 40 or so. M ended the game by hitting 60.


Palastgeflüster

Four player game which J won with 5 points as he was able to go out alone on the final hand. I finished second with 4, M had 3, and poor L had only 1 or 2 points.


Union Pacific

Taught the other three the game. I focused primarily on the UP stock and two other medium level stocks finishing with $125. L finished second with the UP and also focused on the red stock and a number of second places as he finagled a tie with me for the victory. The other two were over 100, but I don't remember their exact scores.


Gnadenlos!

M took a strong lead halfway through the game that was pretty much unstoppable. I couldn't get characters and keep them the first half and struggled to get anything going. In the end, J triggered the end of the game going bankrupt for the third time allowing me to tie with L for a distant second behind the runaway leader, M.
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8. Board Game: Northern Pacific [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:5595]

Eugene
Oregon
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Played this week

Northern Pacific x 6
Trains
Lines of Action x 3
Fission x 2
Manhattan
23
Clippers
Desire
Cat Hiding
Blokus
Ticket to Ride: USA 1910
Alhambra
Netrunner
Rheinländer
Die Dolmengötter
Rhino Hero

I'm shaking things up when I'm first player in Northern Pacific -- I chose train!

Our game of Trains was a bit of a test to see whether Tourist Train (1vp each time card is played, +$1) is broken. I did win with three in my deck, but just barely.

If you haven't played Lines of Action, you really should. Best use of Checkers set ever.

Fission, also played with a Checkers set, doesn't seem worth exploring.

Manhattan, 3p, Godzilla variant, naturally. Deborah got tallest building and amazingly held on to it for the entire game.

We're starting to exploit the hard pass in 23, to much amusement of everyone.

A rare opportunity to play Clippers was shuttled when one of our players up and left, saying she was not engaged at all. I should have started her out with Northern Pacific.

I'm pro-objectification. Anything that frustrates the pernicious fixation on The Self is fine in my book. But I'm also pro-sophistication, and the low, tawdry art for the somewhat-Knizian Taiwanese card game curiosity Desire is without any nuance.


Cat Hiding, however, has nuance! It's a memory game that looks like it came from Japan, but that's just pure artifice. It's completely Taiwanese. That's kind of nuanced. But you know how it could have more nuance? If the pictures were neko-mimi Japanese maids. Or rather parts thereof.

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9. Board Game: Himalaya [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:962]
Jens KH
Germany
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Games played

_9_ Brass: Lancashire
_7_ Himalaya (new!)
_7_ Rheinländer
_7_ Snowdonia
_7_ Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar (new!)
_7_ Witch's Brew x2
_6_ Caylus Magna Carta (new!)
_6_ For Sale
_6_ Love Letter
_5_ Cities (new!)
_5_ New England Railways (new!)
_5_ Skyline x2
_5_ Urbanization (new!)

In Brass I went heavy into ports, with the idea of branching out into shipyards in time. It turned out other people were more intent on those shipyards than me, though, and my shipyards became iron ore instead (which isn't necessarily a bad change in my book). Cotton is often the most contested industry in our games. This time, however, nobody went heavy cotton which was quite surprising to say the least.
I actually had to dabble in cotton, myself, in order to make sure all of my ports actually flipped in time, which cost me a bit since I didn't have much in the way of cotton cards. On the other hand, being able to use your own mills with your own ports isn't too shabby, either, and even though my early push for shipyards went to waste entirely and my level 3 iron was overbuilt shortly before the end I still won with a comfortable margin.

Skyline, however, pretty much runs along the same lines every time. I've yet to see someone win without building a 6-storey high-rise. Even though we got fairly close in one of our games those rolls were statistically highly unlikely and we only got close.

With the Thursday group I continued last week's habit of coming dead last in every single game we played. I felt pretty good about Snowdonia but totally failed to get my hands on a scoring card that matched my achievements which made the end result look even worse than the others.

I was quite surprised by how close Caylus Magna Carta felt to Caylus with just a couple of cards. That's a very faithful conversion for once. Still, the reduced strategic space coupled with not much of a reduction in playtime make me prefer the original. CMC is probably better with fewer than 4, though.

Cities is Take It Easy meets Carcassonne. As I commented on it, the scoring is probably to complicated for those who enjoy the former and still too light for everyone else.

Saturday was New Games Day. And I thought I was doing pretty well this month, sticking mostly to replaying older stuff. Oh well.

First off was New England Railways, and it was a pretty miserable play for me from the get-go. In turn 5 or so I still hadn't made a single dollar, and it only got worse from there. Probably not a surprise that the game dragged pretty badly for me, when the only question for the last hour was whether I'd be able to get out of the negatives (I wasn't). I had played Lancashire Railways before and wasn't overly fond of that one, either, and since NER is the same thing with a new board (and what an ugly board the Eagle Games edition has). I just don't like the restricted route-building here that can easily leave you in the dust with nothing much to do than twiddle your thumbs.

It got better with Tzolkin, however. The giant plastic cogwheels are still a gimmick (after all, games like Le Havre or Macao did fine without them) but it's a great engineering solution regardless. That game feels a lot more tactical than I would have expected, but not in a bad way. And it's one of the few worker-placement-games-with-a-twist from recent years that I've played that doesn't feel like it would have benefitted from involvement of a proper game developer or two. That has to count for something.

Himalaya would have featured highly on my top 5 most anticipated plays before Saturday, and it didn't disappoint even though it was quite a bit more chaotic than I had expected. It is a quick game, however, and I do enjoy programming, and maybe that shows.

Urbanization is not a worker placement game and it's been published by Queen which makes the very obvious flaws with it all the more surprising. The rules are much-maligned on the Geek already, and the starting setup punishes the last player right from the start which is rather odd to say the least. If it weren't for those rough edges I'd rate it as a solid but unspectacular economic optimization game with little that you wouldn't find elsewhere in more interesting forms. That actual city-building is only tangentially related to what's happening in the game is just another disappointment on top. Yes, I'm still looking for the board game incarnation of Sim City...
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10. Board Game: 18EU [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:2328]
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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Just one day of gaming this week. Joe Huber has a monthly game day, and after realizing that none of the other Saturdays in April would work, he decided to hold the April game day on April the MINUS FIRST! People talk about how fast Joe plays games, but he's pretty fast at game day organizing too---he finished his April game day before the month even started.

When I arrived it was only Joe and me, and he started to set up a game of Targi, but before anyone could say "Bob's your uncle", we had 6.

_5_ Make 'n' Break Party -- With 6, we played a game of Make 'n' Break Party. I've played the regular game (or actually, Make 'n' Break Extreme) and enjoyed it reasonably well, but I don't think it carries over to a party game format very well. It's a team game, with a score track that tells you what kind of challenge you face on your next turn based on your current score. There's the regular version, where one teammate holds a card showing the desired block configuration and tells the other teammate what to build (without showing the card.) There's a harder version with a Taboo-like element. There's a version in which the builder wears a blindfold. And then there's a mostly-unrelated version that's like Catchphrase. Although it's amusing watching the other teams struggle, it goes on way too long (and has no catchup mechanism, which IMO is a problem for a party game.)

_6_ Astron -- Previously I only knew this game as a source of colored metal spaceships to use with Merchant of Venus (though Wide World, which has the same ships but is much easier to find, is a better source. Speaking of which, Wide World is the only BGG rated game from my birth year, and is also the first game entered into the BGG database whose gameid can be expressed as a sum of two integer cubes in more than one way. But I digress.) This is undoubtedly a cute game. It has a world map that is on rollers and under a clear plastic sheet, so that you can roll the map without moving the ships, in effect moving the ships without touching them (something like Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar, but 57 years earlier.) You also have a hand of cards that you use to move your ship, attempting to land on airports (for positive VPs) and avoid bad weather (causing negative VPs.) My first hand was four cards that all moved me backwards (and were thus illegal to play.) We checked the rules and I simply had to discard one and draw a replacement, losing my turn. This was highly unlikely, but it illustrates the highly random nature of the game. Even so, it's fun and quick. Marsha killed us all. I'd play this again.

_7_ Extra! -- We went looking for a short game, and I suggested this little Sid Sackson dice game, which I had never played (in contrast to Excape, a/k/a "Exxtra", which is a favorite of mine.) Extra! is reminiscent of Can't Stop, and while it doesn't measure up to that great game (it's not a press your luck game, for that matter,) it's an interesting game with real choices to make.

_6_ Cubus -- Next we played this elegant Reinhold Wittig design that uses nothing but a set of 48 rhombuses with 60° and 120° angles (it's definitely my favorite game using pieces of that shape.) The pieces are tops, right sides and left sides of packing boxes, and the players gain points for building structures with more volume. I would have liked it more than I did if not for the fact that it's hard to participate in a meaningful way when you aren't skilled, and we had a bit of players like me gifting points to the players on our left. But I'll play this one again without complaint too.

_8_ Puerto Rico -- After four new games in a row, we played a 5-player game of this, which is a "Dollar" for me with 115 plays after yesterday. I got a pretty good Coffee/Corn combination working, but crafted too much and came in second to Joe, who was sitting to my left. He scored about 65 VP in a 5-player game, which is quite impressive. I got 34 shipping VP, but he had 28 himself, together with two manned large buildings.

_9_ 18EU -- My final game of the day was a 4-player game of this 18XX title, one of my favorites. The initial minor company auction always has the potential to create a runaway winner, but it didn't happen here. With 15 minors, one player is bound to get only 3, and it was Aaron in our game. I got off to a great start, but made a few timing mistakes, and when the table sold my stock and drove the prices down one set of ORs from the end, I finished in 2nd in a game that was close from top to bottom. Aaron was 3rd, and didn't seem to suffer a great deal of harm as a result of getting only 3 minors.

===============

.10! 1846: The Race for the Midwest -- I played just one game last night. I seem to be suffering from the aftereffects of a cold and I was tired. We played a 5-player game of 1846: The Race for the Midwest and it took us about 3 hours, or perhaps a little more. The game was slower than usual for our group not so much because we were playing slower, but because a lot of odd things happened that we needed to think about---it was certainly the oddest game of 1846: The Race for the Midwest that I've ever played that didn't have Joe Huber in it.

The private draft was notable mostly because Geoff, in 5th seat, got lots of good choices: MS, C&WI, Steamboat, O&I, LSL, MC and a blank. He took the MS, especially valuable in 5th seat because it frees you from having to get a company in a good spot with its token in Detroit. Brett in 4th seat was visibly unhappy: he got Tunnel Blasting, Big 4, Mail and 4 blanks. He decided to take Tunnel Blasting, which at least pays $20 in income. I was in 3rd seat and got everything Geoff didn't take, plus Meat Packing. I chose Steamboat. After the private draft, holdings were:

JoeR: Meat Packing, MC, $300
John: Big 4, Mail, $220
Eric: Steamboat, O&I, $320
Brett: Tunnel Blasting, LSL, $300
Geoff: MS, C&WI, $200

All perfectly reasonable. And JoeR, who is what they call in cricket a "safe pair of hands", played to form by opening the IC at $100, gaining a $100 extra contribution into the treasury from the citizens of Illinois. As Steamboat owner, I was wondering where I would par the B&O (I expected to get it) in order to be able to get 2-trains, which the B&O loves. I was surprised when John started the NYC at $50. Now, we don't par our companies as high as some groups, but $50 is unusually low. I wasn't going to get into that game! The obvious move for me was to par the B&O at $80 and buy four shares, but I like to try things, so I parred it at $70, leaving me with $180. I thought I might buy someone else's stock, leaving more in the B&O to build the treasury (something the B&O often has a problem with.)

The next surprise came from Brett, who started the GT at $50. He could have started it at $100 and bought 3 shares, not bad with his $35 in private income, but he wanted more income. And Geoff capped it off by starting the PRR at $50. This meant that three of the five companies floated at only $50 a share. I immediately thought about how I would manage the transition from 2Ts to permanent trains, and decided I could invest in those small companies with the intent of selling when the time was right so I could start a second company.

Joe didn't buy any more IC in SR1, taking a GT and a NYC instead at $50 each. John bought two more NYC, and I bought a NYC, a PRR and a third B&O. Brett bought four more shares of GT, giving him six, and Geoff bought two more shares of PRR. It was only SR1, and Joe and I each had shares in two companies run by opponents. At $50, how could we pass them up?

OR1.1 and 1.2 were fairly uneventful in comparison. NYC built to Cleveland and bought a pair of trains. GT didn't build (since MS was doing the work) and bought a pair of trains. PRR bought in the C&WI token and built east to hook up with the MS track. He then bought only one 2T, making me happy, because it left two for me. IC built to Centralia and St. Louis and bought a 4T.

The game continued with quite a bit of cross-purchasing until Brett got fed up with the stock he had and sold some to allow him to start buying B&Os. I wasn't happy to have the stock sold so early, but it's typical for the B&O. I had 4 shares and wasn't paying attention, and before I woke up, Brett had bought the 5th B&O share to take the Presidency away from me! It was a rookie mistake, partly due to the fact that I was enjoying a share count lead and didn't want to sell those cheap PRR and NYC shares to buy fewer more expensive shares. But the damage wasn't immediate, because the B&O was going to pay excellent dividends whether Brett owned it or me, and the other lines were paying well too. As a result, I spent one whole pair of ORs not running a company, yet collecting high dividends. The other players joked that, if I won the game, I would claim that letting Brett take the B&O was all part of my master plan.

Despite this, I wanted to run a company, and I needed to move the train rush, so I started the Erie at $150 at the last moment at which I could do so and be sure of going first in the subsequent OR. The brown trains had already broken, and John had upgraded Erie, so there was a path from Salamanca to Chicago, through Detroit, with no tokens. I sold 3 of my four B&O (I could foresee some withholding in its future) and my pair of NYC (since the NYC was running three 2Ts that had only one more run in them.) I didn't sell my 2 PRR shares because it was a beast, with an E/W run from Windsor to Chicago Connections and lots of tokens. I had enough cash to buy 4 Erie shares, a second IC share, and a GT share. In its first OR, the Erie tokened Detroit and bought a 5T. In its second OR, it connected and tokened Chicago (SW). In its third OR, with the stock now sold out, it tokened Toledo and bought a 6T. Somehow I managed to duck all the dividend withholding drama and come out in good shape, except that Geoff's PRR was so strong.

Brett had already generated a large part of the story line in this game, and he played another card, stripping the GT and dumping it on Geoff with no money and a soon-to-rust green train. Geoff chipped in about $400 out of pocket and this, combined with some full withholding, avoided the need to sell shares. Then, in the next SR, John bought the GT, with its new 6T, away from Geoff, who couldn't afford to sell shares to make space to defend it.

It was a bizarre game. Three companies started at $50. I started the B&O and lost it to Brett due to inattention. Brett started the GT and dumped it on Geoff, who funded a permanent train and then let it go to John. And Joe---you'll notice I haven't mentioned him much---kept running the IC, but with no track building help from anyone, since all the other companies were focusing on the other side of the board. The IC ran two 4Ts and then added a 4/6T for a long time, but never once ran 12 cities with them. Oddly, the NYC bought in the Big 4 and connected Terre Haute to Chicago (E), while the PRR bought in the C&WI and connected Detroit to Chicago (SE), but there was no way to get from Chicago (E) to Chicago (SE) for the longest time, leaving the IC stuck in an underdeveloped part of the board. It wasn't train poor, but track poor. The one thing you have to admit is that the citizens of Illinois got a lot out of their $100 investment in the IC!

When we counted the net worth at the end, I had managed to finish in first by about $250 despite my lapse. Brett was second and Joe only $35 behind. Geoff's brief dalliance with the GT had cost him the victory. And we've never seen a game anything like that before, even though it was the 98th recorded game for both Joe and me.

Oh. And just for the record, it was not all a clever plan by me. It was an oversight caused by carelessness.
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11. Board Game: Belfort [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:371]
Doug Faust
United States
Malverne
New York
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-FRIDAY-

Friday was my local group's monthly game night. Anni and I are used to going to be fairly early, so we ended up bowing out at around 11pm despite the fact that games were still going on.

_7_ No Thanks! - Marc suggested this as a filler while people slowly filtered in. Playing were me, Anni, Marc, Debbie, and Rebecca--we had all played before. I ended up taking the first card, which was the 19, after a few rounds of chips. A while, later, I took a risk and grabbed the 17. Anni, meanwhile, had gotten all the cards from 30-33, and had accumulated a fair number of chips in the process. Luckily for me, the last card to be flipped was the 18, which I scooped up as soon as I could. Turns out Anni had 22 chips to take her to a score of 8, and my 8 chips for a total score of 9 wasn't quite enough.

_7_ Belfort - Gregory had arrived, and was trying to recruit people for Belfort. I enjoyed my previous play of the game (though it was long), so I joined in. Playing were me, Anni, Gregory, Marc, and Debbie--Marc and Debbie were new. I remember being frustrated about being beat out often on the resource bonuses in my previous play, so this time I tried to focus on getting lots of workers. I started in the 5th position and stayed there for almost the entire game. My first building was the one that let you get more workers for cheap. Many of the other players, however, started out by taking control of a guild; that combined with my poor turn order meant that I ended up not using a guild action all game. I tried to focus on playing out cards from my hand and dominating the resource gathering spots (which I was good at since I had lots of workers, and others spent workers going to guilds). Because of that, the late turn order didn't bother me too much. I was actually having some trouble accumulating money, but fortunately I found a Market which solved that problem. I concentrated my area control in two of the five sectors, plus I did well at the "most workers" scoring, so my point total was near the lead the entire game. Despite this, I broke even on taxes for the whole game. What I didn't focus on was gnomes--I only got one for the entire game. Toward the end, this caused people to have better building actions than me, so others were able to collect resources more effectively. On the last turn, I realized that I'd be able to buy two walls if I could win the bonus stone; unfortunately, Anni ended up placing the same number of dwarves as me on the quarry. In retrospect, I realize that I should've placed an elf on the market, and used those two coins at the trader for the last stone, but alas. I'm not sure if it would have changed the final scores (I flipped turn order on the last turn to make sure the wall spots would be available). In any case, Anni took the victory, and I came in 3rd on a tiebreaker.

-SATURDAY-

On Saturday, we went out to a local game store, Game Master Games, for Wil Wheaton's Tabletop Day. I'm not a huge fan of the show, but hey, it's an excuse for gaming. It's been a while since I've gamed at a store; they had actually scheduled a large Naruto CCG tournament at the same time, and while the store was large and had plenty of tables, the 60-ish people there to play Naruto made it very loud and crowded. There was actually some sort of incident that involved calling the cops, but it was way at the other end of the store--I don't even know what happened.

_6_ Police Precinct (new!) - Brian had arrived earlier, and was disappointed that the only games that looked imminent were Munchkin and 7 Wonders (I get the impression he wasn't a big fan), so when we showed up, he was happy to play with us. I'm not a fan of coops, but I'll try anything once, Brian broke out his yet-to-be-played copy. Tom showed up afterward to be our fourth. We did not play with the "dirty cop" variant. We basically fell into roles--I took care of the emergencies, Anni arrested street thugs, while Brian and Tom worked on the murder case. Of course, things got hairy at some points, so often even the non-specialist took a break to deal with an emergency or arrest some thugs so prevent us from losing. In the end everything worked out pretty well--we were able to fight off the losing conditions for long enough to win. Seemed pretty standard for a cooperative game, though after playing it I have a hard time imagining the secret traitor variant.

_6_ Love Letter (new!) - Tom was really anxious to play Tzolk'in, a game that I had brought, but somehow we ended up playing Love Letter, with the plans to play Tzolk'in afterward. I hadn't played this game before; it felt a little like Citadels but without all the building stuff. Kind of refreshing how streamlined it was, but on the other hand, it was super duper light. Anyway, we ended up playing four rounds, and then Micah showed up, so we stopped so we could include him in a game (which at that point couldn't be Tzolk'in).

_8_ Lancaster - Tom volunteered to teach the game despite the fact that I brought it, which is fine with me, I'm not great at teaching anyway. Unfortunately, neither of us remembered the rules correctly, and we ended up playing with it costing 2 money to take both an action and a chit instead of 3. Micah and Brian were new, everyone else had played before. I did my usual strategy of trying to get all the chits by spending money; but I wasn't scrambling for money, so it was a lot easier than usual. Unfortunately for me, the laws didn't go my way so I ended up missing on a lot of early points. Micah was doing a strategy of trying to get a lot of chits by going to war early and taking the chit bonus. No one else really concentrated on chits. At the end of the game, it was the chits that really mattered though, as both Micah and I had gotten them all. Micah won and I came in second. I wish we had played with the correct rules, as this way makes the chits overpowered and removes the tension of trying to build up money.

_9_ Ra - I love Ra, but don't often suggest it, as there seem to be quite a few people who just don't like the game, and it's a bit obtuse to new players. So when someone else suggested it, I was definitely on board. Brian left to play something else; the rest of us were all experienced. We had one of those games where the first epoch went on forever. Micah exited early, but had amassed an impressive number of monuments and 3 pharoahs in doing so. Both Tom and Anni got the four-civ bonus. I shared Micah's lead in pharoahs after the first epoch, and had a good number of rivers with 2 floods. I was a bit concerned, because 5 floods went by in that epoch, making future floods all the less likely. As expected, the next few rounds went very quickly. I don't think Anni won a single bid in the second epoch. At one point, I ended up eating a drought tile, mainly because I wasn't convinced there'd be that many more floods (and also I got some good stuff). I managed to maintain my lead in pharoahs for the entire game, while Micah ended up with over 30 points worth of monuments. I got more points during the game, though, and Micah took some negatives at the end, so I came out on top.

_9_ Puerto Rico - Puerto Rico was suggested next, and everyone quickly agreed. Much to my dismay, I ended up going first. Last time I went first, I tried the settler-quarry thing, which worked well, but I didn't win. This time, I tried taking the builder first and grabbing a construction hut. Anni took the settler from the 2 spot, so the best I could do for a plantation was a sugar. Indigo-sugar didn't get me a ton of income, and the settler action was very unpopular, making the construction hut not particularly powerful (maybe it's just something that's better in 5-player games). Anyway, what followed was my worst game of Puerto Rico that I've played in years. I ended up taking the mayor a whole bunch of times just because there weren't better options. I got beat out on the guild hall by a mile, and to top things off, I got beat out on the residence by Tom, who took it before me in the builder phase when I would have built it. I ended up taking the big building that gives points for filled fields, despite having not very many fields. I tried to pivot by taking the hacienda, and I did finish the game with a fully filled plantation area--but only because the game lasted longer than I would have liked it to. I ended up in dead last, with Tom edging out Micah's large pile of shipping points with his guild hall and residence.

_7_ Flash Point: Fire Rescue (new!) - After dinner, there were 6 boardgamers from our group left, so we all got in a big game of Flash Point. Marc, his son Cary, and Brian had all played before, while Anni, Micah, and I had not. We were actually playing with the "Urban Structures" expansion, but I hadn't played the base game, so it was all the same to me. I got the rescue specialist role; to me, it seemed like she would be better named the sprinter. I started by rushing to the center of the board, only to discover my target was a red herring. So I moved back to my side of the board and rescued a few people with the help of Micah who had a power that could move me around. The other side of the board was having some serious issues; fortunately that's not where most of the people were. Unfortunately, that's where the next few people showed up, and they quickly burned to death. Marc and Cary finally managed to get that side under control, but at that point, a room with a bunch of smoke and hazardous materials suddenly burst into flames. Brian did his best to take care of the hazardous materials and get the person out of that room, but he couldn't get out in time, as fire took out him and the victim he was trying to rescue. At that point, we had lost too many people, so the game ended in a loss.

_9_ Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar - Gregory showed up while we were playing Flash Point, so we split into two groups again, with Marc, Cary, and Brian in Ghost Stories, while Gregory, Micah, Anni, and I finally got to play Tzolk'in. Anni did her usual excellent job of explaining to Gregory and Micah, who hadn't played before. I didn't get anything noteworthy among my start tiles, so I ended up just taking a ton of corn and a pair of wood and stone. That worked well when I built two buildings at once for those wood and stone, allowing one person to eat free, and moving me up on two temple tracks. I seemed okay on food for the time being, so I turned my attention to getting skulls. Anni and I competed to get skulls on the skull track; I think she ended up getting more points out of the deal. I was building up gold to work toward a monument, though. Gregory worked really hard to get more workers, but then he struggled a lot with food for the rest of the game. Micah also got a lot of workers, but also focused on moving up on the temple tracks by taking the last spot on the building track. By the end, he was pretty much dominating the temple. I ended up grabbing the monument that gives 3 points per skull placed, while Micah got the points for workers monument, and Gregory got the points for being advanced in the tech tracks monument. Anni didn't get a monument, but she had gotten the most points otherwise in the game. In the end, I edged out Micah by a few points, followed by Anni and Gregory.
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12. Board Game: London (first edition) [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:270]
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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1 x _8_Das Kleine Gespenst
1 x _7_Qwirkle
3 x _9_Innovation
2 x _9_The City
1 x _8_Bargain Hunter
1 x _9_Suburbia
1 x _7_Indigo (new)
1 x _7_Biblios (new)
1 x _6_The Hobbit (new)
4 x _8_London (first edition) (new)

Last Thursday we played Suburbia, where a newbie won with a surprisingly awful play - well, it wasn't awful, as she won, obviously, but it looked pretty bad at the time - and I got to try Biblios (scored 0 points, next time I'll have a clue). Bargain Hunter, too, which was fun.

I impulse purchased Indigo, which matched my expectations pretty much spot-on. It's fun, but not tremendously impressive. Something for the kids, pretty much.

I asked for a review copy of Hobbit. It's ok. I'm not sure if it's a fun game or not, I'll have to investigate a bit more, but my son likes it and it's ok with two players, so no problems. I might've actually bumped the rating to 7 already.

I took London to Jyväskylä - where, by the way, I had the best Geocaching day so far, with 12 caches found on Friday, and we checked out a cache in a sewer tunnel, requiring half a kilometer of crouched walking, leaving me with very sore thighs for the next couple of days - and it was well received, we played four games in two days.

London seems like a fun game, it's a bit different from anything else, and I quite like the decision space it offers. Also, like Brass, I like the subtle graphic design quite a lot, really.
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13. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.22 Overall Rank:9]
Joshua Gottesman
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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A pretty light gaming weekend for me, all on Saturday. Tax season is taking a toll, and I'm still behind on things.

The Saturday morning group started out with Power Grid: Northern Europe/United Kingdom & Ireland on the Northern Europe map. As far as maps go, these are nothing special, except perhaps for the "no-nuke" countries. What was more interesting was that the game substitutes in power plants from the expansion, 2 per country in play, and they definitely had an effect on play. I really like Power Grid, I just don't play it enough to really get the timing aspects (which I believe are key to the game) down correctly and there are a couple of very sharp players in our group. I also made a totally moronic bid on the last turn (miscounting the number of cities I could power) that doomed me, although a lucky drop propelled one player to victory. It was funny, the guy who hosts Saturday morning gaming said "I should sleeve my power plant cards, we play this game a lot." In our Saturday morning world, "a lot" means 4x/year because this guy is always buying new games.

We next continued our Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) – Lair of the Wyrm campaign with the interlude scenario. Our resident "I must be in control" player flipped out when I did a move he didn't think was the absolutely most efficient for the group (it was really a minor, minor move, and he didn't like my "I'm doing this because its my character" answer). To his credit, he later acknowledged that he overreacted and apologized. Anyway, the players were really running rampant over the Overlord's forces and the Overlord was getting frustrated (his defense die rolls were terrible). At the end, though, due to an unlucky die roll by yours truly, the Overlord escaped with the victory. I love the concept of Descent, I'm not sure its worth the raised blood pressure.

After that, a bunch of us headed over to the FLGS for International Tabletop Day. The store was crowded with more people than I like (I do not do well with large crowds in small spaces). There was nowhere to sit initially, and eventually I finished out a game of Imperial 2030 for someone who had to leave. Having now "claimed" the space, we went on to play Terra Mystica. We used the standard set-up with non-standard races, kind of forcing the positions. I was the Auren, and the initial set-up may have doomed me as I was unable to get much in the way of power points as people expanded. I also didn't get any sort of cash flow going, it was a sloppy game for me. It was nice to play this game again, I'd like to see it hit the table more...and I could say that about 1,000 games....okay, maybe 100.
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