Gathering Seven -- Finally!
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Hillsborough
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We love our pups!! Misu, RIP 28 Nov 2010. Tikka, RIP 11 Aug 2011.
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Last year's report here.

It seems as if my face-to-face gaming time this past year has been extremely limited, so I have been looking especially forward to this for quite a while!

I didn't play as much as I did my first few times here (when I basically gamed all day every day), but if I counted correctly ...
Number of New Games Played: 28
Number of Different Games Played: 41
Total Number of Games Played: 60

I didn't do too badly at all! And I finally got to play one of the hits from Essen 2012 (Terra Mystica), taught William Clash of Cultures and decided I'm likely done with it, and played a few recent favorites as well. It was cool to see PeterH's games in production form (they look great, although the prototypes looked pretty damned good, too!). Sad to miss this year's Friday Project game. Next time, maybe a few more prototypes?

As usual, we had a GREAT time playing games, going out to eat, and hanging out with a bunch of great people! There were a lot of newbies this time around, and they were all (except for that one loud guy who won my Can't Stop! game ... well, I suppose he's all right ) great to play with! Thanks to Alan, of course, for organizing the whole thing -- I'm glad someone does the work so the rest of us can relax and have fun! To Ted for the company and all the car rides (and a bit of shopping, too)! To Peter for the teaching, conversation, and generous offer -- hope to see you down under in a year or two! To William for the entertaining commentary and game play. To Tom, of course, for the company, excellent wings eating, and gaming (but more prototypes next time!). And to all the game teachers, who hopefully didn't screw the rules up too badly this year!

Registration in, hotel reservations made ... can't wait for 2014!!
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1. Board Game: United Square [Average Rating:5.73 Overall Rank:12380]
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United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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FRIDAY

That should read United "Air"

Our flight was scheduled for 10am Friday. Around 10pm Thursday, when we were trying to check in (and failing), we got an email from United: our flight had been canceled! Soon after that, while we were on terminal hold trying to talk to an agent, we got the net notice: yay, they had a flight for us again! Of course, instead of a one hour layover in Newark, we now had a 14 hour one -- we would arrive at the airport at a nice and early 7:30am the following day!

After Mary spent some time on the phone, we finally ended up having them move us to a Delta flight on the way out. The schedule was even better -- we'd get there a bit earlier than originally planned. In fact, we'd be on the same flight as Warren and Sharon, with whom we had planned to share a cab ride! But the flight change meant no more free bag-check, so we decided not to bring any extra games to play; and we thought the box already packed, full of (math) trade stuff, would end up costing us an extra $25! Fortunately, Delta let us get our free bag checks anyway -- yay Delta/Skymiles!

We got to the hotel, checked in, dropped our bags off, and marched on down to the game room -- yay, games! Err ... no. We chatted with folks for a bit, then decided to head off to dinner with William. It was a bit early (I'd had a cup of yogurt and half a cheesecake and strawberry crepe in Atlanta a few hours ago - yum!) but he hadn't eaten anything but a cookie all day! So off we went to Hard Rock Cafe, for the salad Mary had been craving all day long.
 
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2. Board Game: Concept [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:575]
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Hillsborough
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Game #1 -- Unpublished Prototype!

After dinner and a few more hellos, we joined a big party game just starting up with the folks from Repos. It's an interesting IDEA, but full of long pauses as people try to think how to get started each time. While this may just be a newbie thing, I suspect that this game is not going to be for me. Of course, I don't play a lot of party games anyway.
 
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3. Board Game: Spyrium [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:494]
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Hillsborough
North Carolina
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Ted taught Mary and me this game, which he'd just learned earlier (4-player).

It's a pretty cool worker-placement resource-management type of game, with a neat placement mechanism I've only seen once before, at the airport on the way home from GenCon last year when we'd run into the designer of Stones of Fate. If you end up liking that mechanism, you should check that game out on Kickstarter (May 24 launch, according to the publisher's website). Of course, the games went in very different directions. This is a pretty meaty game that gives you a lot to think about!

--- Summary ---
Players start with some money (for buying cards, etc.), spyrium tokens (for powering card actions), and workers. Each turn, players first collect income. Then, create a market board: 3x3 grid of cards (different deck each round of the game). Players take turns either placing a worker in the spaces between cards, or going to phase 2 when they can start retrieving workers. When you retrieve a worker, you either earn one money per other worker there, or
- pay one/worker to use the character card (for VP, or more workers, spyrium, etc.)
- pay one/worker + card cost to buy a technology card; place in your tableau
- pay one/worker + one/building you already have to buy the building card and place it in your tableau
You can also use one of your buildings (to earn VP, spyrium, etc.).

When you get to 8 VP, you either get another worker or 5 money. When you get to 20 VP, you get the other thing.

After 6 turns (three with era 1 cards, two with era 2, one with era 3), the player with the most VP (earned during game, and from values of cards purchased) wins.
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4. Board Game: La Boca [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:1052]
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Hillsborough
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Someone had left this on the table next door, so we grabbed William and the four of us played it (new to just me and Mary). I won!

This was a pretty enjoyable filler, although it's tough when you're seated next to your partner (on the same side of the table): hard having the card and all the blocks in a convenient location. Still, surprisingly fun game!

--- Summary ---
It's a cool changing-partnership 3-d puzzle game. There are a bunch of colored wooden blocks in varying sizes and shapes. Also, 2 decks of cards -- easy or hard -- showing different configurations on either side of the card. On your turn, you'll partner with someone else (during the game, every pair plays together twice). On your turn, a random card is revealed such that each partner sees only one side. Sitting across from each other and working together, you lay the blocks such that the view from your side shows only the blocks pictured on your side of the card (and nothing else). Each partner scores VP based on the time required (shorter time = more VP). At the end of the game, the player with the most VP wins!

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5. Board Game: You Suck [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:8436]
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United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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Next up: Ted's new trick-taking game. He taught the three of us and we gave it a spin! I was a distant 3rd.

My comments (written after 2nd play later in the week) are HERE
 
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6. Board Game: Tichu [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:123]
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Hillsborough
North Carolina
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We decided to end the night with some Tichu (of course!). Tom and I played against Mary and Ted, who would be partnering for the tourney and wanted to play a bit together. We won the first game fairly quickly (50 minutes), so we decided to go again -- Mary just cannot resist the call! This time, though, it was not so quick ... the game dragged on for just over 2 hours! Ug, I was really really tired (1am is WAY past my bedtime, especially this early in the convention)!
 
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7. Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age – The Mediterranean Expansion [Average Rating:6.98 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.98 Unranked]
Snooze Fest
United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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SATURDAY

Awoke around 7:30am or so, fairly late for me (but not too bad for having gotten to sleep around 2). I was going to sneak off for an extra workout but Mary woke up so we both headed down for X2 Plyocide after a light breakfast (leftover salad for me). After our workout, we headed down to the game room around 10:00 or so. I did have a nice white mocha from the Starbucks downstairs -- nice to feel a bit more awake than I did last night!

I ran into Tom at Starbucks, and we decided to play one of his games. It ended up being two plays (the short game and the full game) of a dice game + expansion, 2-player. I had forgotten that I 'd played this last year as well! It has changed slightly since then, but I'm still enjoying this one!
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8. Board Game: Bora Bora [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:157]
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Hillsborough
North Carolina
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Wandering around a bit, I found Ian and newbie Kris setting up Bora Bora -- perfect! I'd just learned this a few weeks ago and had been wanting to play it again! BrianL also joined us, then Kris gave a nice rundown of the rules. It's not complicated once you've played the game, but there is certainly a lot going on here -- hard to pick up before actually playing a game!

Fun game, and I even ended up winning this time!

--- Comments ---
Another great dice game by Feld, where there are lots of things to do which interact with each other! As usual, the theme is pretty meaningless, but the game play is very interesting. The dice-allocation mechanism works great -- yet another very cool way to used dice! High rolls give you better actions, but fewer choices of which actions to take. It seems to be a nice balance ... I think this could be one of my favorite Feld games so far!

--- Summary ---
The (very busy) board shows 5 islands divided into a total of 12 regions, connected to one another by a die showing value 1-6. Regions are in one of 4 colors and can provide resources (wood, stone, sand, offering) if you have a hut there. Each region has a randomly chosen fish token (one of 3 types, value 1-6 VP) associated with it. There is also:
- a typical Feld turn order track (but this resets every game round), a priest track (spaces 1-6, with a stack of 6 god tiles nearby)
- a 4x6 grid of randomly chosen jewelery (each priced 1-5 clams and worth 1-9VP; a column of 4 used for each of the 6 rounds of the game)
- space for up to 6 task tiles (randomly chosen)
- space for up to 6 man tiles
- space for up to 6 woman tiles
Players have individual boards with:
- 12 village spaces, with 2-11 having 1 village token and 12 having 2 village tokens
- a 3x4 grid of spaces marked with the 3 building materials. 6 1x2 planks numbered 1-6 are placed below this area
- space for 3 current tasks (start the game with 1 random one chosen from a set of easy tasks) and completed tasks

SETUP
- A set of action tiles (5-7 depending on player count) is placed nearby; these are where the dice will be placed to choose an action.
- Create a card display like Ticket to Ride: 5 face up; when players choose a card, may take either from top of deck or from display, which is immediately replenished.
- Place n+2 task, man, and woman tiles on the board in the appropriate spaces
- Give each player
... 2 god cards (5 colors, each with a different power; may use 2 matching cards as a wild card)
... 2 offerings (required to play a god card)
... 1 god tile (functions as an offering + a wild god card)
... 4 priesteeples
... 3d6 in their color
... 1 easy (light green) task tile and 2 random task tiles
... a random turn order tile (1-4 based on player count)

At the start of the game, players (in reverse turn order) each place a village token (taken in numerical order from their player boards) in a different one of the 4 1-fish regions. Collect the appropriate resource and place it on player board in a matching space.

ROUND SEQUENCE
Each of the 6 rounds plays in a sequence of phases. God cards may be played at various times to modify the basic rules; must spend an offering token to do so (or, play a god tile instead of a card and offering).

Phase A
- players roll their dice simultaneously.
- in player order, place one die on an action tile to take the action immediately. The die must be lower than any die already present (may play a blue god card to break that rule). If you play a white god card on a legally placed die, treat the die as a 6 when determining the strength of the action. The actions include:
... expand by land or sea (may use a route valued less than or equal to the die you place); place your next available village in the region, near the fish token (any village in the region remains there, but yours will be closest to the fish token); if you play a red god card, score the VP on the fish token immediately
... choose a man or woman tile in a space numbered less than or equal to your die; place on your board in an empty space (i.e., without a village token there)
... place one of your priests on the priest track in a space number equal to or less than your die; if a priest is already there, displace it one space lower (may cause chain reaction; tokens displaced off the 1-space are returned to the player)
... build one of your 1x2 planks with a number no higher than your die
... use the pips on your die to buy additional god cards, acquire resources, or use the 1-time powers of your men (advance along the turn order track) or women (earn clams)
Several of these actions give you a fire action: take either a god card or an offering, AND either a clam or one advancement on the turn order track.
- Alternatively, may place your die on a space on the board (essentially discarding the die this round) for 2 VP.

Phase B
In turn order, players use one of their man-powers and one of their woman-powers. Playing a green god card allows you to either use a third power, or double the power of one of the man- or woman- powers you used. These powers can do a variety of things (e.g., allow you to collect an additional man/woman, expand by land/sea, advance on the turn order track, build a plank). If you have several men or women with the same power, may combine them to increase the strength (e.g., if 2 men each allow you to expand over sea with power 2, may combine them to expand over sea with power 4); however men and women never combine with the opposite gender.

Phase C
- Turn Order: players earn VP according to their place on the track. Then, immediately adjust the turn order and reset everyone's markers to the 0 space.
- Priest Track: priesteeples earn 1, 2, or 3 VP each (for rounds 1-2, 3-4, 5-6). The player with the most priests (ties broken by higher numbered priest) earns a god tile. These STAY on the board in their current positions.
- Jewelery: in the new turn order, may spend clams to acquire ONE of the jewels in the column for the current round; any unpurchased jewels are removed from the game
- Task Tiles: in turn order, players either complete ONE of their tasks (e.g., show a specific combination of god cards in hand, have villages in specific regions of the board, have purchased specific jewels) or discard a task. May play a yellow god card to complete a task where you are one item short (e.g., you only have 2 rings instead of the required 3 rings). Completed tasks score you 6VP; partially-completed tasks played with yellow god card score 4FP; discarded tasks are worth 0VP. Immediately chose a replacement task from the display on the board.

At the end of the round:
- remove all remaining jewelery (for the current round), task tiles, man- and woman- tiles from the board; replace with new tiles from supply
- retrieve your dice
- Repeat

END OF GAME
- On the 6th round, players may complete ALL their remaining task tiles
- Score bonus VP for a variety of conditions (e.g., having played all your villages, bought 6 jewels, completed 9 tasks, built all 6 planks, filled all 12 spaces of your resource collection area, acquired 12 men/women)
Most VP wins!
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9. Board Game: Dice Devils [Average Rating:5.10 Overall Rank:14603]
Snooze Fest
United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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A bit more wandering and I ran into Lotte, back with a fresh cup of coffee and looking for a game. As we tried to pick one, someone from Abacus (Matthias, I think) recruited us to join him and M___ (from Filosofia) to try this new game.

The game is pretty simple: there are 6 devils (2 removed in a 4er game), each with a different power and set of dice. There are several tokens worth 1-3VP, each with a drawing: shuffle these face down. Each round, reveal n-1 tokens. Next, players roll their (2) dice in their custom devil-shaped dice cups; keep hidden. Then, in descending rank order, players choose one of the tokens. Next, any uncontested tokens are claimed. For contested tokens, reveal dice and use any special power if you like: each devil has a different power (e.g., rank 1 = roll 3 dice and take the top 2; rank 2 = force opponent to reroll; rank 6 = take the discarded die from the rank 1 player). If there's a tie, both players reroll all their dice; if not, higher sum wins and claims the token. The game ends after a player has claimed their 10th token. Then, sum all your tokens; triplets (same drawing) give 3 bonus VP; most VP wins.

It's a quick, easy game, but there are much better dice-rolling fillers out there!

Oh, and I was in last place, but I don't think I would've liked it much more if I had done any better!
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10. Board Game: Snowdonia [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:350]
Snooze Fest
United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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This was the game that Lotte and I had settled upon: we'd both played it once and wanted to give it another try. We recruited Stance and Gord, then started trying to remember how to play! Fortunately, Kris came along and took care of the rules explanation -- thanks!!

I won this play -- hurray! I'm still enjoying this one, although Mary played it earlier with 3 different people, and none of them thought much of it! But I'd gladly play it again: need to explore the game a bit more!

My comments after my previous play:
This was a really cool game! I had thought it was a train game, which I love, but it's as much of a train game as Ticket to Ride! But it's a really good worker placement game! Maybe the best worker placement game? Let's see ...
- better theme (trains!) than Agricola, Caylus, etc.
- a good amount of randomness (not too little, like Caylus; not too much, like Carson City) in the order of track cards, pull of resources, play of events
- thoughtful decisions, but not overly painful/frustrating play (as in Agricola)
- nice play time, even on a first play
Yeah, it could be one of my favorite worker-placement type games at the moment!
 
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11. Board Game: Tichu [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:123]
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Hillsborough
North Carolina
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And that was the end of gaming, pretty much! Ted drove a bunch of us over to Duff's Wings around 6:45pm or so. I think it was 30 minutes away? We had not realized, though, that it was Saturday and it would be very busy! We had a total of 8 people (me and Mary, Dan and Julie, Ted, Tom, Rick, Christine) and the wait would have been an hour! Even splitting up into 2 groups of four, it was 45 minutes or so!

When we did finally get seated, Tom, Rick, Christine, and I played a few hands of Tichu -- I finally made a Grand call this trip! -- while waiting for our wings. Tom and I split 30 wings; we were a bit ambitious! After gorging on wings, we all went to Anderson's custard place for desert ... gluttons for punishment!

We didn't get back to the hotel till a bit after 10pm ... BED TIME!
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12. Board Game: Panic Lab [Average Rating:6.16 Overall Rank:3094]
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Hillsborough
North Carolina
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SUNDAY

After getting to bed at a more reasonable hour last night (11pm or so), I woke up around 5:30 so I headed down for a workout: P90X Chest and Shoulders (and Abs). Mary finally got down there just as I was finishing up, around 7:40? So then we did P90X Core, finishing just before 9am -- whew, I am tired! Maybe I worked off a wing or two? So then I had leftover wings (and reuben) for breakfast.

We headed downstairs intending to play CO2 (Mary wanted to try it, and I wanted to play a full game this time around). As we were looking for other CO2 players, we ended up being recruited ourselves for this quick game.

This is a speed pattern-recognition follow-the-path game along the lines of Bongo, but different. There are 3 colored lab cards, mixed in amongst a bunch of other cards, all in a big circle. The cards show either:
- amoebas with one/two eyes, with strips/spots, in one of the three colors
- a vent (3 in game)
- a transmogrifier: one for eye number, one for skin pattern, and one for each pair of colors

You roll 4 dice:
- lab die, indicating which lab the amoeba is escaping from, and which direction it runs
- dice for eye number, skin pattern, and color

Players simultaneously determine which amoeba they are looking for, then follow the path from the lab out wards. If they hit a vent, they pop out the next vent in the circle in that direction. If they hit a transmogrifier, the target amoeba changes accordingly. When you think you've found the right target, put your finger on it. Wait till everyone has a target. Whoever was the first person to find the correct target scores a VP. Play till one player wins a certain (4?) number of VP.

Fun game, but pretty challenging for most of us! Tom, however, crushed us pretty handily! Neat game, but not one I'm likely to play too often!
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13. Board Game: CO₂ [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:554]
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I had played this recently, or at least part of a game, on one of my trips to Madison, WI. I'd enjoyed it very much and was happy to join Christian and Allan. It was also on Mary's list of games to try, so the four of us gave it a whirl. Christian has also played it just once, so really we all had to learn it (again).

I know we got a few things wrong (e.g., max CEP in each continent, how to handle your own scientists when installing a project), and probably others we don't even know about. But I am still taken with the game and wouldn't mind having a copy!

--- Comments ---
What a cool game! A lot of interweaving stuff is going on, and it's hard to appreciate the connections until playing a bit. I like the semi-(semi-)cooperative nature of it: you can all lose, but you don't have to cooperate _that_ much, really!

Definitely need to play this some more!

--- Summary ---
The board shows 6 continents, each with 3-6 spaces for power plants, and with a random set of 3 types of power plants it will allow. There are also several summit tiles, each showing 2-3 types of technology, placed in a ring around the center of the board. The center is the Carbon Emissions Permit market, showing a price 1-8 (starts at 2?) and up to 2 available CEPs. There are also several tracks:
- a Decade track records each of the 5 (or 6) game turns
- a Round track (7-n rounds per decade)
- score track for players
- global CO2 track
- a technology track for 5 different tech types (solar, recycling, grain, forest, fusion)

At the start of the game, draw one random fossil fuel plant (gas, coal or oil) for each continent, and mark the sum of CO2 production on the CO2 track. The rest of the plants are sorted by type and cost (cheapest at top) and placed nearby in Supply. Players each get some CEPs, money, lobby cards, a scientist token, and one secret Company Goal card. Place several UN goal cards in a public display. Shuffle the deck of continent cards, place one card face up (= current region at risk) as well as the next card on top of the deck (= next decade's region at risk).

GAME SUMMARY
- 5 (or 6 in a 5er game) decades
- Each decade: Supply step (income, energy, event - skipped first decade), then Operation Step (7-n rounds, with players taking their actions)
- After decade ends, pass Start Player marker left
- Game ends
... after Ops Step at end of 5th (or 6th) decade, or earlier if 2 regions are completely green or if CO2 goes above 350, then returns below 350
... after Supply step if CO2 500+ (everyone loses)

DECADE SUMMARY
- Each Decade, players collect income (any combination of money and VP) for each of the 5 tech tracks where they are first or second.
- If any continent has fewer plants than the current turn number, and empty power plant spaces, place a random fossil fuel plant there and add to the CO2 total; the player controlling that region pays 1 CEP (from personal supply or any region you control) to the bank
- Any region with technology cubes pays one
- If CO2 is 350 or higher, DISASTER! Players without a plant there must pay 1 tech cube (placed on board near region)
- If CO2 is 500 or higher, everyone loses!
- Then, for (7-n) rounds, players take their turns

TURN SUMMARY
Players may take a single action + free actions.
Action Choices
- Propose Project: place a project of one of power types acceptable to a region in one of the 3 spaces available for the region; collect the appropriate reward ($1/CEP, 2 tech cubes, or a scientist token)
- Install Project: pay 1 CEP (from personal supply or any region you control) to flip a previously proposed project; collect the reward on the back (e.g., tech cubes). If another player's scientist was there, pay them $1; they immediately take a free Scientist Move. If your own scientist was there, you must take a Scientist Move as one of your free actions, and move that scientist.
- Build Plant: you must have knowledge in that tech greater or equal to the number of tech resources needed to build it
... remove the previously installed project, pay the costs (money and tech), and place the top plant from that tech group in the leftmost empty space of the region (if no empty spaces, replace the leftmost fossil fuel plant)
... if another player's scientist was on project, they get free Scientist Move
... place ownership marker on plant; if you now control the region (based on number of different types of plants there; then rank of plant types; then expertise in highest ranked tech type etc.), place marker in indicated space
... score VP for plant (shown on tile)
... gain 1 expertise in that tech type
... I'd suggest giving every player a cube or bead in their color; place one of these on every UN Goal Card with that type of plant (if you don't have a marker there already) -- it'll be a lot easier to see when you (or another player) is eligible to claim a card!

Free Actions
May only take each of these actions once/turn
- Scientist Move: move from your hand to a project; project to project ; project to hand; or project to summit (same energy type); all project/summit targets must be vacant. If all spaces on summit become occupied by scientists, resolve at end of your turn: each scientist earns 1 knowledge in the tech type where they stand; each player with any scientists present earns 1 knowledge in any type discussed at summit
- Market: buy 1 CEP (if market empties, raise price by 1 and refill market from bank) or sell 1 CEP (but not if price changed this turn)
- Card Action: either play a lobby card for its one-time benefit or for its bonus effect based on the type of action you took; or claim a UN goal card (shows a combination of plant types which you must have built, and a VP reward - scored immediately)

End of Turn
Choose one of your scientists on a project: score 1 knowledge in that tech type. This may give you other bonuses (depicted on tech tracks), e.g., advance in a tech, earn a CEP, add a CEP to a region

END OF GAME
- Players collect CEP from all regions they control; sell all CEP at current market price
- Earn 1 VP / 2 coins
- 3 VP to player with most tech cubes
- 3 VP to player with most UN goal cards
Most VP wins!
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14. Board Game: Black Spy [Average Rating:6.27 Overall Rank:3451]
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2 plays.

This is basically a Hearts variant. The main changes are: being able to match suit OR number, variable point values for the pain suit, and different point card distribution. The suit/number thing is the biggest change, and you'd think it would be an interesting one. Actually, it is ... but it sure does make it harder to figure out what's going to be played! I enjoy this one, but not much more than basic Hearts; and I'm a bit tired of that as it is.

Filosofia is hosting a big tourney: play as many games as you want; for each game, get 3 or 2 VP for 1st or 2nd place, and 1 VP just for playing. It's a pretty simple tourney, really; but there are so many other newer games, I really doubt I'll be playing this again (during this event, at least).

--- Summary ---
There are 5 suits, although the only one that matters is black. Suits go from 1-11 but there are 6 7s in black. Each hand starts with each player passing 3 cards (alternate left and right). Then, the player to the left of the dealer leads a card; players follow with a card of matching suit OR RANK (if no such cards in hand, may slough anything). The highest card in the led suit takes the trick and leads next.

At the end of the hand, score points for all black cards taken (1-5 each; 7s are worth 10), unless one player manages to take ALL the black cards; in that case, every other player gets 60(?) points. The deal passes left.

The game ends when any player has at least 200 points; the player with the FEWEST points wins.

--------
After the games, we went for dinner at the sandwich place that Mary loves. But it's just OK. Really!
 
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15. Board Game: Suburbia [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:94]
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With the expansion (being released this year), which is "more than just additional building tiles". Mary had never played even the base game, and I hadn't played it since last year (in prototype form) so we were glad join the group (Ted and John were teaching Bob how to play).

I thought I was doing horribly but ended up in 3rd place, just ahead of the newbies and far back from Ted and John (who won the game despite Ted's PR firm).

-----------------
This is a tile-laying city-building economic game for 2-4. It's sort of SimCity, in board game form (but no monsters - yet)! The rules are very thematic, so that you end up designing a city that more or less makes sense and fits with what you expect a city to look like. Thanks to varying end game bonuses (objectives) and the fact that only a subset of tiles are used each game, every game should be different.

Game play is quite fun, but it's a bit annoying having to count the number of some specific tiles in play in any players' cities, or everyone's progress towards all the objectives. Also, some buildings, like the PR Firm and the Casino, seem VERY powerful. On the other hand, Ted, with the PR Firm, still lost -- maybe they're not overly powerful? I suppose I need to play this one some more. As far as tile-laying games go, this one would rank pretty high up there (I'd certainly rather play this than Carcassonne!)

--- Summary ---
The central board has:
- 7 face-up tiles in a row which, in Showmanager style, are available for purchase by paying the tile's base cost plus an additional cost that rises as you get further back in the line.
- several additional copies of the starting tiles, also available for purchase (if bought, the player still discards one of the 7 face-up tiles)
- 3 groups of tiles (A, B, C), which are the Stock from which to replenish the supply line of tiles. They are also the game timer: an end-of-game tile is shuffled into the bottom portion of the C deck. When this tile comes up, finish that round AND ONE MORE, then the game ends.
- several end-game objective tiles, chosen at random (the single player achieving each objective will score the indicated VP)
Each player starts with
- the same set of tiles, creating a little city with income (cash earned each turn) and reputation (population, or VP, earned each turn)
- cash
- 2 personal, secret goal tiles (for end-game VP): after seeing the public objectives, keep ONE of them

On your turn, buy a tile (you do have the option to reduce the base cost to $0 if you buy it face down, as water) and place it in your city. Then, apply the effects printed on the tile you placed AND any other related tile on your or any other players' boards. Tiles may give you cash (e.g., earn $2 when some tiles are adjacent to water), or modify your income or reputation; or they may modify the effect of other tiles (e.g., every restaurant in play increases the income bonus of every farm in play by $1). Income and reputation are tracked on your personal board.

At the end of your turn, gain/lose cash (based on income) and population (based on reputation, and tracked on the score board). As your pop increases, you'll cross one or more red lines; for each line crossed, you must reduce your income and rep by 1. Replenish the tiles available for purchase by sliding them to fill in the gap, and adding a new tile from the (A, B, or C) stack of city tiles to the back of the line.

At the end of the game, players earn VP for:
- goals: the public objectives and their private objective, if they are the ONLY player to achieve the goal.
- money: each $5 buys 1 pop
Most VP wins (tiebreakers: rep, then income, then remaining cash)!
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16. Board Game: Kakerlakenpoker Royal [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:1728]
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We ended the night with this, which Ted seems to love. I really liked its predecessor, Kakerlakenpoker, and looked forward to trying this out.

Unfortunately, I'm not a huge fan. I still like the game, but this to me just seems to take the fun of the original Kakerlakenpoker game and adds a layer of depth and confusion. The extra cards (a royal in each suit; a wild-royal; a nothing) do give you more to think about, but for me they don't add enough to what was already a pretty fun little game. Really, neither game is my style (light, fluffy, with only one loser) so I prefer the simpler version for when I do play it. Anyway, I can't read people at all so it's always just a guess!
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17. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.23 Overall Rank:8]
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MONDAY

I woke up late (7:30?), making up for some sleep, I guess. We both headed down for a P90X Kenpo workout. That's not exactly a strenuous one unless you have a heavy bag to kick and punch, but it turns out that adding just a bit of weight (10 lbs per arm) makes it pretty challenging! I couldn't do the whole workout with the weights, but I did manage to get most of it done with at least one weight in hand! After breakfast (leftover Philly cheesesteak from Submasters, last night's dinner) and cleanup, we headed down where Ted suggested this (I'd told him I was interested yesterday).

Me, Mary, Ted, Ian (new to me and Mary) played this one, using a set of races Ted thought worked better than the recommended setup. We also therefore skipped the recommended setup locations and played the game with the normal rules, using a Settlers-style switchback setup. Unfortunately, I made what turned out to be pretty poor choices in my initial setup, and then failed to take advantage of my race power (Mermaids; shipping). We all ended up using about two-thirds of the map, and all of my buildings were on a ring at the outskirts! I only rarely benefited from adjacent builds and had a hard time developing on the board. I ended up in last place while Ian's Chaos Magicians won. On the plus side, I did manage to cripple Ted's growth (he was the game teacher, and therefore target number one, right?) by closing off the cluster he was planning on using to build a town devil !

But Wow, what a cool game! The rules take quite a while to get through, but game play is actually pretty smooth. There is a lot of variability in the races chosen, the random bonus tiles in the game, and the random selection and order of the per-turn scoring tiles. I'm really looking forward to playing this one again -- no wonder it was such a hit at Essen! And a good thing, too, that Z-man is finally making it available here in the US!

--- Summary ---
Setup
- Shuffle the bonus cards and remove 6-n at random; place the rest on display. Also, all Favor tokens and the 10 town tiles are available in display.
- Place 6 random scoring tiles on the turn track; these show ways to earn bonus VP that turn (e.g., dig, build dwellings), as well as bonuses earned at the end of the turn depending on players' positions on one of the cult tracks (e.g., for every space on the earth track, earn a coin).
- Choose random start player
- In turn order, players choose a race; the associated player mat has places for nearly all their wooden bits (all but their priests and bridges) and shows starting workers, coins, and/or priests, the initial distribution of 12 power tokens, and a summary of their two unique race powers (one becomes available only when the Stronghold is built)
- Players place their track markers on the starting spaces of the shipping and digging tracks, the specified spaces of the 4 cult tracks, and the 20VP space
- Switchback style, players place their starting dwelling(s) (take from left side of player mat) onto their home terrain spaces on the board
- In reverse turn order, players take one of the bonus cards (these generally increase your income; some give you VP at the end of your turn, or give you an extra action option during the turn); add 1 coin to the remaining 3 bonus cards.

Overview
6 rounds:
- Income: as players build structures, icons are revealed on their player boards = income in coins, workers, priests, or power (move power tokens from bowl 1 to 2, then 2 to 3). In addition, the players' bonus cards may provide additional income.
- Actions: in turn order, players take one action or pass; the first player to pass becomes Start Player for the next round. If passing, some bonus cards may earn the player VP. Players immediately choose a new bonus card, returning their previous one.
- Cleanup: players earn bonuses based on the current turn's score card and their positions on the matching cult track, then flip the card over; add 1 coin to the 3 remaining bonus cards

Actions
- (Terraform and) Build: transform terrain adjacent to any of your structures, paying with shovels (number based on how far it is from your home terrain) which you acquire by spending workers (1-3 per, depending on your status on your digging track); you may transform to intermediate terrains. To build, pay workers and coins (as indicated on your mat) to place one dwelling on a space adjacent to one of your pieces that is in a space of your home terrain type. Shipping and bridges make hexes further away "adjacent".
- Upgrade: player mats show costs for upgrading a Dwelling to Trading Post; TP to either Temple or Stronghold; Temple to Sanctuary. When building Temp or Sanct, immediately take one of the available Favor tokens (advance on associated cult track; may give you additional income or powers for the rest of the game).
- Tech Advance: advance on shipping or digging tracks, paying shown costs (coins, workers, priests) and immediately earning the VP shown
- Cult: send priest to one of 4 available numbered (2 or 3) spaces, immediately advancing that many steps on the track; passing over some spaces immediately earns you power. NOTE: the final space (10) only accommodates one player's token, and may only be unlocked if you have formed a town - one town per cult track
- Power Action: there are 6 available spaces on the board, each available once per round; spend power (from bowl 3) to take one of these (to earn coins, workers, or priest; place bridge; or dig 1 or 2 shovels worth, which may be supplemented with your own workers
- Special Action: may be earned from bonus cards, favor tiles, or race abilities (when Stronghold is built)
-NOTES
... whenever you build or upgrade, players with structures adjacent may earn power: x = sum of the levels (1-3) of their adjacent buildings; may pay x-1 VP to earn x power.
... if you build a group of 4 or more directly adjacent (i.e., may not use shipping) structures with 7+ total levels (Dwellings are level 1, Trading Posts and Temples level 2, Strongholds and Sanctuaries level 3) they form a town: select one of the available town tiles, earn the indicated bonuses (VP and either cult advances, coins/workers/priest, or power)
... whenever needed, you may spend power in bowl 3 to earn coins, workers, or priests; also, may burn x power (remove those tokens from the game) from bowl 2 to move x power tokens from bowl 2 to bowl 3
... freely convert priests to workers or workers to coins

End of Game
After 6 rounds (no cult bonuses at end of 6th round)
- Final VP (for ties, divide points between players):
... For largest contiguous grouping (shipping and bridges can be used): 18-12-6 VP for 1st-2nd-3rd
... For each cult track: 8-4-2 VP for 1st-2nd-3rd highest
- Convert all resources to coins, then earn 1VP per 3 coins
Most VP wins!
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18. Board Game: Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:2324]
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Hillsborough
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Me, Mary, Ted, Ian, Michael, Anthony, and Josie (new to everyone but Ted)

Next, Ted taught us how to play this game. I am most definitely not a fan of Werewolf: the few times I have played it (and it's been years now, so I'm a bit fuzzy on the details) I ended up being killed early on, forced to sit there for what seemed like forever, bored. Ted organizes the Werewolf events here, and made a really cool set of movie posters to go with all the sessions ... almost makes me want to try again! Everyone says Werewolf at the Gathering is not like Werewolf anywhere else. If only they didn't play so damn late at night!

Anyway, Inquisition is like Werewolf but not quite. The main job is still figuring out who is lying, but everyone remains in the (shorter) game until the end. Instead of being assigned a role, players pick a role/power each turn. Instead of killing players, you're killing cards from the table. These could be villagers, or werewolves; when one group outnumbers the other by a certain margin, they win. The killing is either by vote -- each round, players use voting chips (which they earn either by passing or choosing certain characters) to publicly vote on the village cards on display -- or by selection from the wolves (although there is a pretty unique selection process for them, involving the player currently in the Inquisitor role). If a villager is killed, their role card is also removed from the game.

So the game is a nice twist, different from Werewolf, but it's still too much of a psychological game for my tastes: I'd prefer to play the game rather than the people. However, it's enough of a twist that I'm more likely to play this again than Werewolf.
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19. Board Game: Bruges [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:199]
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Me, Mary, and Ian. After complaining all game about her bad luck, Mary beat me by one point (50-49-44)!!

There was one pasted-up copy of this game floating around, and the owner was going to leave early in the week -- good thing we were able to play it! Ian taught Mary and me how to play. It's another Feldian game, with plenty of ways to score, but this is on the lighter, faster, more tactical end of the scale. It's lighter than I prefer -- I would much rather play his other longer, heavier games -- but it's pretty solid for it's play time.

A significant part of the game is managing the cards: without the right cards, you're going to have a hard time accomplishing anything! The cards come in 5 colors, and are people that allow you to do stuff (use colored workers to do something, earn coins or VP or something, etc.). The cards are available for drafting from 2 face up decks: you can see the topmost cards from both decks. You need appropriately colored cards to do the various things in the game: build canals, earn like-colored workers, advance on a VP track, etc. The cards can be placed face down as buildings (using those workers), or played face up onto previously placed buildings -- at which point you can use the varied character powers.

Sadly, I don't remember more details. There was some kind of catastrophe thing where you could see it coming, there were dice you rolled which set the prices of each of the colored cards (and advanced a catastrophe), there was a track that everyone wanted to move forward on ... it all worked well and I'd like to try it again, but given the choice I'd go for a longer game.
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20. Board Game: Rialto [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:768]
 
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Me, Mary, Ian (teaching), and Ian. Afterwards, dinner at Texas Roadhouse!

Here's another Feld game I've been wanting to play! Ian had played this before and taught us the rules - thanks!

The game is sort of like San Marco crossed with Taj Mahal: area control, managed across regions in random order, based on a series of auctions. There are more types of auctions, building tiles, and extra stuff here. Still, although I like San Marco OK I'm not a huge fan of Taj Mahal. The game works, but I wasn't really excited by it. And there are an awful lot of auctions here (clever though they are)!

--- Summary ---
The board shows 6 regions, with numbered chips arranged in random positions; in turn, each region will be the main focus.

Each turn begins by allocating cards: n+1 rows of 8 cards (6 face-up, 2 face-down) are placed in display. In turn order (determined by a Feldian track; random at first), players take one row then discard down to 7 cards. Some buildings they may have built earlier may allow them draw additional cards (either from deck or from the unchosen row) and/or increase the hand limit. The cards are of 6 types, plus a joker.

Next, play through 6 steps in order, one per card type. Each time, players will bid using that card type (jokers can be used as wilds to supplement a bid, but need 2 jokers for the first bid if using only jokers). You are bidding on things like moving up on the turn order (and tie-breaker) track, collecting coins, taking your tokens from supply, placing your tokens into the current round's region, placing a bridge, build a building. The more you bid, the better the effect; there is a bonus for the high bidder (usually increasing the value of your bid by 1).

Finally, players may use their buildings, paying 1 coin each.

Players collect VPs during the game from some buildings and by placing bridges, and at the end of the game based on majority of tokens in each region (by rank: full value, half that, half that, etc.). The value of each region is based on the specific bridges and gondolas placed during the game. Bridges come up in random order, have different values 3-6 on either end, and are placed across the canals connecting regions; gondolas have 1s at either end. There are specific locations for all bridges and gondolas.
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21. Board Game: Bora Bora [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:157]
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(detailed game description above)

Me, Mary, Ian, and Daryl -- everyone else new to the game. I was about to teach this, but Mary seemed to lack confidence in my ability to do so ... fortunately for her, Rodney was walking by and volunteered to teach the game. So I went and wandered off, chatted with some people, maybe got a drink or something? It takes a while going through these rules!

As you'd expect for the first play of this, it took us quite a while to finish the game -- 10 minutes shy of 3 hours (it was nearly 1am when we ended, WAY past our bed time!). I ended up winning, with Mary pretty close behind me. But I don't think she's quite the fan of the game that I am ... of course, her taste in games isn't nearly as refined as mine
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22. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.23 Overall Rank:8]
Snooze Fest
United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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We love our pups!! Misu, RIP 28 Nov 2010. Tikka, RIP 11 Aug 2011.
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TUESDAY

I woke up early, around 6:00 after about 4 hours of sleep -- looks like I'm sticking with the every other night sleep well pattern! Mary stayed in bed while I did the P90X Chest and Back workout. I thought she'd come down later and we'd do the Plyometrics workout, but she slept in today. Michael did come in, though, and I ended up doing part of his cardio routine (maybe 30-35 minutes?): killer! After more ribs for breakfast, we headed down.

Michael was interested in this, and I've been wanting to try it again. We also pulled Josie into the game (it wasn't so hard to do!). After my lengthy rules explanation, we finally started actually playing at 11:18 (there are a lot of rules to go through for this one!). We went with the recommended 3-player setup (I played Nomads). An hour and 40 minutes later, we were done!

Wow, still a really cool game -- I really want to try all the other races!
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23. Board Game: Kings of Air and Steam [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:1391]
Snooze Fest
United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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We love our pups!! Misu, RIP 28 Nov 2010. Tikka, RIP 11 Aug 2011.
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After running up to the room for a quick break (and more ribs for lunch!), I joined Ian and Chris for this game, new to all of us. I Kickstarted this, and it's been sitting on my table, unplayed, for a while -- happy to get this played!

This is a pretty straightforward pick-up-and-deliver game, on the lighter end of the scale. The twists are that there are 2 modes of transportation (air and steam), and the price for goods steadily increase but in an unpredictable sequence. I wouldn't mind playing this again, especially with the advanced variant (characters with special powers) and maybe with more people.

--- Summary ---
The board is constructed from a number of large hexagonal tiles (varies with player count and desired board tightness) and a number of connector/edge pieces, all covered with a hex grid of terrain, tracks, factories, and cities. Factories will produce a specific color of good, the prices of which are shown on a sideboard (all start at minimum price and gradually increase during game; on final turn, all at maximum price). Goods are placed on all factories on the board. Cities each demand a specific type and number of goods.

Players each get:
- a set of tokens in their color
- a matching set of movement cards (some with diamonds on them)
- money
- a personal board showing tracks for the distance their airships can move, airship cargo capacity, the number of links goods can be moved by train, and their diamond limit (limit on the number of diamonds they may use each turn). Each of these can be improved during the game.
- choose random start player

Round Summary
1. New Market: draw 3 market tiles, increase prices of those goods by $1
2. Plan Airship Movement: players simultaneously select 4 of their movement cards and place them face down. These show a letter (turns will be taken in alphabetical order), a number (hexes to move), and 0-2 diamonds.
3. Move & Action (x4): players reveal their next movement card. In order based on card (alpha; ties broken by turn order), take your turn:

Your Turn
In order (complete each step then move to the next):
1. Check Diamonds: if your diamond limit exceeded, END TURN IMMEDIATELY.
2. Movement (Airship):
- use ALL movement on card
- may start with any facing, then turn 30 degrees each step
- may not end on city, partial hexes on edge, or space with another player's airship
- AFTER moving, may load cubes to/from factory/depot and airship (blimp has cargo limit)
3. Action:
- Build Depot: $4 for first on that link; $7 for second; 2 max per link
- Upgrade Airship: pay $ shown on your board; improves diamond limit and cargo capacity
- Upgrade Train: pay $ shown on your board; improves train link level
- Ship Good(s):
... move any number of ONE TYPE of good from one of your depots to another depot or city demanding good; collect market price per good
... every link must have at least one depot; if any other players' depots on link, pay each depot $1 per good (after receiving your cash)
... number of links limited by train link level
... place cube on city marker; when spaces filled, draw random Demand Tile and place on the city; if Demand Tile filled, flip tile over - city closed
- Route Adjustment: move airship 1 space in any direction
- Solicit Funds: take $3 from bank
4. Slide Card under player board, leaving only diamond showing

4. Upkeep
- pay $1 per cube in all depots and your cargo
- pass Start Player marker to left

5. Production
- factories produce 1 good each, plus 1 bonus good for the 3 tiles in the Market
- remove Market Tiles, place face down and shuffle; these are now Demand Tiles

END OF GAME
After 5 rounds, players may sell all goods still in depots at minimum ($4) price. Then score VP:
- 1VP per $1
- 10VP per built depot
- 15VP if airship at level 6
- 5/15/30VP if train link level is 4/5/6
Most VP wins! Tiebreaker = money.


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24. Board Game: Triassic Terror [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:1861]
Snooze Fest
United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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Today is the American release date for this game. I'd played it last year in prototype form and wanted to try it in its final version. I don't think anything changed, except for the artwork and really cool bits. There was a 2-round tournament, with 8 copies of the game being given away as well as gift certificates from Eagle/Gryphon. With 20 people, there were 5 tables of 4: winners advance to finals round and play for the various gift certificates (and a prize table pick); top 8 overall take home a copy of the game!

I came in second in the first round. At the losers' table, I unfortunately took an early lead. As in El Grande, that meant I ended up taking a big hit in the final parts of the game -- went from leading to fourth place, just out of prize range cry.

Ah well, at the rate we have game days, it's not likely that it would get a ton of play anyway ...

--- Summary ---
This is an role selection, area-control game where players are groups of dinosaurs roaming around the world fighting for majorities while targeting other players with predators (T. rex, pterodactyls, raptors) and volcano eruptions! It doesn't have the evolution/gene type mechanism you might expect from a game in this setting. Instead, the theme comes through from all the rampaging and killing going on! Like El Grande, though, players need to be aware not only of the current score but also current board position -- gotta know who to target with your killing!

The board (double-sided for differing player counts) shows 4 environments (quarters of the board: mountain, desert, forest, swamp), each divided into 3 areas (concentric arcs within each quarter) which all have 3 habitats. Each habitat can hold one player's herd (= any number of dinos of that player), is ranked (move players herds to positions by area majority; tiebreaker = first in that area) and worth VP (3rd spot only worth VP in 4-6er games). Players will start with dinos on the board in specific locations (based on player count and initial turn order). They also have a Hatch Counter and a Volcano Counter. The game T rex, raptors, and pterodactyl start in specific areas as well. There is a track of 6 role cards, shuffled and placed in random order (add a bonus dino to the last 1-2 roles); and a deck of environment cards matching the 4 environs, with one face-up card on display.

Game Flow
There are 2 (in 6er game) or 3 Eras (the eras have 3 Turns, 3 Turns, then 2 or 3 Turns depending on player count) in the game.
- At the start of each Era, players draw one environment card (the face up one, or top of deck); at the end, there is a scoring.
- At the start of each Turn, players take one of the 6 action tiles -- that also sets the new player order.
- In player order, players take their Player Turn
- At the end of each Turn (after all players have taken their turn), slide unused role cards down to the end of the track and add a dino to it. Shuffle the used cards and place in random order on the track.

Your Turn
In any order:
- play your environment card (if any): add 3 dinos to the matching environment
- add the extra dino, if you got any with your role card, to your existing herd(s)
- use your role:
... New Environment: add 3 dinos to any single environment
... Herd Growth: add 3 dinos to one of your herds, 2 to another
... Herd Migration: migrate 2 of your (different) herds (some or all dinos in each herd). Take 1 dino from every other player in the original environment (convert them to your color), then may move to the same or different adjacent areas. If moving to a new environment, one dino dies.
... Hatch: add 3 dinos to one of your herds. Also, move the pterodactly up to 2 areas, then kill up to 2 dinos there.
... T-Rex: replace the current T-rex with your own colored miniature, move it 1 space and eat up to 5 dinos, or 2 spaces and up to 3 dinos. After eating, place the T-rex with your herd in that area; it counts as 3 dinos for area majority
.. Raptors: move one of them 1 area, and the other 2. After each move, eat up to 2 dinos, then scatter up to 2 dinos (move them to an available habitat in an adjacent area -- may only switch environments if no habitat available)
- if still available, use your Hatch Counter (same as Hatch action) or Volcano Counter; max one of these per Era. Volano: place in an area; 2 dinos from primary habitat, and 1 from any others there, die. The counter remains in the area till the start of your next turn. Predators may not enter, and dinos may neither enter nor leave, that area while counter is present.

Scoring
- Score VP shown for habitats
- Score for Presence or Domination (depending on Era and player count):
... Presence: 8VP if you have dinos/T-rex in all 4 environments
... Domination: for each environment, score 8/4/2VP based on players' totals of of dinos/T-rex

Game End
After final scoring, the player with the most VP wins (tiebreakers: most dinos/T-rex, then number of Primary Habitats, then Secondary, then Tertiary).
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25. Board Game: La Boca [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:1052]
Snooze Fest
United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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We love our pups!! Misu, RIP 28 Nov 2010. Tikka, RIP 11 Aug 2011.
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There was some time in between the 2 rounds of the Triassic Terror tourney, so Sean and I went off to find some fillers. Bob was also free so we got him to join us. I went through the rules and we did a demo round using the more difficult cards. Unfortunately, it was too difficult -- we couldn't find a solution after several minutes! So we decided to play with the easy cards.

Still fun!
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