GCL Phoenix 120: Setting down the scalpel (2013-4-20)
Tom Shields
United States
Tacoma
Washington
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Welcome to the Phoenix Game Chat League.

If you're a regular visitor, please thumb this list so we know you're lurking, it's how we discover new friends. If you wandered here by accident, this link will tell you about us: Phoenix Chat League.

*



I was in Seattle a few weeks ago. I sat over coffee struggling with a difficult philosophy text, trying to follow the writer's scalpel. I looked up and saw this and took the picture.

I didn't return to the book. There are moments to struggle, moments we dissect things to understand them. And there are moments you just see a thing and the understanding is just there, simple really, there to see. Such as these two couples, love new & love grown, love urgent & love with feet up looking out the window talking. It's all the same thing but it isn't.

I put away the scalpel (it won't help me here).

Meaning can be discovered in how things resonate, with each other, with us & our psyches. Sometimes contemplating the whole of a thing leads to a nice subjective fugue. Sometimes it's best to keep something whole, protect it even, from the analytic scalpel. To look at it & notice your reaction in the framing of meaning.

This week, an invitation to talk about games in the whole, your subjective experience of them rather than in terms of mechanics and categories, to talk about qualities of games & yourself as a gamer.

*

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1. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:31]
Tom Shields
United States
Tacoma
Washington
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What's your news, Aliza?!
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2. Board Game: Elements [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:2864]
Tom Shields
United States
Tacoma
Washington
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Is there a game that provokes a singular passion for you in terms of the aesthetics, the mood, how it came to you?

I have a number of them, one of them is Khmer. How it came to me - a mysterious gift in a box from Japan on a solitary Christmas Eve - is part of it's personal charm. I play it with a feeling of gratitude. That I can play it with non-gamers, that it can then be in the larger world rather than the self-conscious-gamer-world has a high value to me. It has a way of stilling the mind, whereas so many games & gaming tables are the clamor for stimulation.

Someone, I can't remember who, said something like "it didn't have enough game to be considered a game." My thought was that sometimes the brush of your fingertips can be a perfect thing.
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3. Board Game: Pax Porfiriana [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:377]
Tom Shields
United States
Tacoma
Washington
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Is there games that survived those first plays to deepen & excite you all the more? That you've played into depth, that you've played with others equally passionate?

Are there qualities they have in common? Are their subjective experiences that they share? Does your experience of them say anything about your personality, or what you seek, or about the conditions of your life?

Do you feel a game you love is misunderstood? Talk about it!

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4. Board Game: Andean Abyss [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:765]
Tom Shields
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Tacoma
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Right now, what new-to-you game(s) are you passionate about? I mean, games you are actively playing but you're still getting to know? Talk about it (or them) if you'd like.

Looking back, have your passions changed? Refined? Are there games you were passionate about that you appreciate but they dimmed? Why has it dimmed? Have you changed, or has your knowlege of gaming changed your view, or have your circumstances or focus changed & this shifted what you seek in gaming?
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5. Board Game: Lincoln's War [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:6677]
Tom Shields
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Any games you're looking forward to for purely subjective reasons?

I'm looking forward to Lincoln's War - assuming it succeeds in it's Kickstarter campaign, it's still short but has over a week to go - because I imagine playing it with DJ. There'll be that extra experience-game effect, that DJ is designing a game on this era, that my visit to Iowa informs the historical significance, that we'd both read & see documentaries & be vested in the whole era & history.
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6. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:49]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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Details to follow...

It was quite a week of gaming. God's Playground, 1830, Brass, Power Grid, teaching one of my favorite iPad video games to an excited 5-year-old... but top honors just have to go to the three plays of Race for the Galaxy.

Week Summary:

2013-04-14, Sunday night.

_8.6_ Race for the Galaxy, base game only, 2p
_7.3_ Xactika, first play, 6 hands, 2p

2013-04-15, Monday night at Y!
_7.8_ 1830, 4p

2013-04-16, Tuesday night at SVB
_6.1_ Last Will, 4p, first play
_7.1_ 6 Nimmt!, 7p and 6p, rating raised

2013-04-17, Wednesday night at John's
_7.9_ God's Playground 3p

2013-04-18, Dukefish
_6.3_ Factory Fun 5p
_8.1_ Power Grid US map, 4p

2013-04-19, Friday night with Jeremy
_9.2_ RftG (all expansions), 2x4p
_7.3_ Xactika, 4p, 4 hand game
_8.9_ Saint Petersburg (expanded), 4p (old exuberant rating does need to be toned down a bit)

2013-04-20, Palo Alto Library
_8.8_ Brass: Lancashire 4p ... and maybe this rating needs to be raised

2013-04-20, Santa Clara
(unrated) Where's My Water?
_8.2_ The Creeps! (but I don't seem to rate video games on the same scale as board games.)

Week Commentary:

I'm getting there...

Week Details

2013-04-14, Sunday night.

_8.6_ Race for the Galaxy, base game only, 2p
Teaching game with canned starting hands.
_7.3_ Xactika, first play, 6 hands, 2p
Exact-bid trick-taking game with an odd deck. (I think you'd like this one, DJ; I should get a copy to bring in May. That's less than a month out...)

I managed to miss my bid on every single hand. Lots of growling. :-)

2013-04-15, Monday night at Y!
_7.8_ 1830, 4p

Me, JC, Dayton (first 1830), Alex (new opponent, first 18xx)

Dayton dumped a company on me and I struggled, though I was fairly close to second; if the component clutter of the Mayfair 18xx hadn't gotten in the way I'd have bought cheap IPO shares instead of expensive and revenue-stealing pool shares and done MUCH better.

Not playing the Mayfair version again if I can help it.

2013-04-16, Tuesday night at SVB
_6.1_ Last Will, 4p, first play

Me (first play), Mark Biggar, Brian D., Chris G.

When we were sorting out into games Mark suggested this and I declined, saying "it's lighter than what I usually like to play", but as it shook out I ended up playing it after all.

I had an agent that let me do to free property buy/sell actions, and an agent that let me activate a property for free, so I went heavy into property, but that has risks -- I ended up (after some initial misunderstanding of the rules) with a manor house with a $10 activation, but saddled with property worth (after the chit shuffle) just low enough that I didn't have the $10 liquidity. I switched gears and got a friend pulling 3 events a turn, which let me cash out and go far negative in Turn 6 (due in part to my fancy coachman who made both of my carriage rides more expensive) while everyone else was still positive.

It was fun, but I still assert that this is a lighter and more luck-driven game than I usually enjoy playing.

(And for the record, this is the same Mark who taught me Smallworld when it was new and shiny, and I rushed to buy it that night. It's not like our tastes *never* overlap.)

_7.1_ 6 Nimmt!, 7p and 6p, rating raised

6p and 7p: Brian, me, JC, Eve, Shelby (first plays for the two of them), Sergei, Chris G.

There's more strategy here than people give this game credit for.

The chaos is a lot of fun, though.

2013-04-17, Wednesday night at John's
_7.9_ God's Playground 3p

As the last hurrah for the wargaming group, at least for a while, I taught this to John and Chris Dodd. *We* had a great game. *Poland* had a terrible game -- absurd die rolling had 2 of the 4 treaties break, and the Sejm was dissolved twice by sour grapes. Then we all started raising Jesuits instead of armies. John's surviving estates in the Ukraine gave him a narrow victory.

One of John's comments was that this avoided the multiplayer wargame problem because we weren't directly fighting each other.

2013-04-18, Dukefish
_6.3_ Factory Fun 5p

me, Dante, Albert, Dave D., John Hart.

I ended up with only 8 machines on board but a lot of bonuses for second place; better than I was expecting. Albert had an early lead but then his setup clogged.

_8.1_ Power Grid US map, 4p

4p: me, John, Albert, Dante (first play)

After Factory Fun we were looking for another game to play; Dante had never played Power Grid so that became the obvious choice.

US map including the ugly Southwest and excluding the Northeast and Northwest. Dante started in Chicago, got two other midwestern cities, and then took Minneapolis etc. at his convenience, beating us all to 6 cities. John, trapped at 4 cities, leapfrogged me to the West, then I leapfrogged him, jumping to 9 cities in the process and getting to Step 2 and Step 3 in the same turn.

Game exploded and Dante ended it early with a 16-city win. Yeah, he played his first game against me and Albert (a pair of the local sharks) and won. Embarassing, that.

2013-04-19, Friday night with Jeremy
_9.2_ RftG (all expansions), 2x4p

2x4p: me, Jeremy, Don, Douglas (first exposure to expansions.)

As usual Prestige engines dominated. Douglas wants to go back to the 2p base game until he understands the synergies better.

_7.3_ Xactika, 4p, 4 hand game

4p: me, Douglas, Don, Jeremy ( new to both of them, though Jeremy knows and is fond of Oh Hell.)

Something clicked for me; I made 3 of my 4 bids and won decisively.

_8.9_ Saint Petersburg (expanded), 4p (old exuberant rating does need to be toned down a bit)

4p: Jeremy, Don, me, Douglas (first play).

Very close game; I had heavy buildings but only 6 unique nobles, Jeremy had 8 and won, Douglas had 8 (double observatories) but money problems that kept him from getting many buildings. First-turn Judge was what got me within 2 points of winning...

2013-04-20, Palo Alto Library
_8.8_ Brass: Lancashire 4p ... and maybe this rating needs to be raised

Me and Alex (I don't know his last name, but he's Alex the youngish round-faced Chinese guy, the one I played 1830 with last week) (the sharks) teaching Dayton and Sergei.

I had first seat, looked at my hand, and developed Cotton. I'm not an experienced cotton-rusher, no. Alex developed ports, and we pretended uneasily that we were going to be friends. Then Sergei developed ports. Dayton, too. And there was coal, lots of coal. Alex developed Cotton. Dayton got out his Level 1 Shipyard in spite of my and Alex both pointing out the drawbacks. I digressed from Cotton into iron, flipping my Level 1 coal, and the board went weird, with only 2 ports played. When the dust settled on Canal Era Alex had 2 level 3 Cotton and 1 Level 1 Cotton flipped, Sergei had flipped a single Level 1, and I had a single unflipped Level 3 Cotton on the board, ignored in favor of an insta-flip of my Level 4 Iron.

I was sure Alex had it, especially after he flipped all 3 Level 4 Cotton to my triple-level-3.

But Alex spent a lot of actions taking loans, and not all at the right times; in spite of having to completely pass my last turn I came out 10 points ahead of him on the strength of my iron and far better rails. I won with 136 and Dayton, the low score, was still over 100.

Better yet, both Dayton and Sergei want to play again. Sharp guys to add to the local talent pool. That was worth driving to Palo Alto for.

2013-04-20, Santa Clara
(unrated) Where's My Water?

W. (age 5) taught me how to play this (though I'd played one or two easy levels on a demo copy on someone else's iPad a few years ago, this was my first exposure to advanced concepts like algae and poisoned water.)

Cute puzzle game where you are trying to dig a path from a reservoir to a gravity-fed shower so the alligator can bathe.

_8.2_ The Creeps! (but I don't seem to rate video games on the same scale as board games.)

I don't normally record plays of video games, in fact my default URL for viewing play logs doesn't even show them, but this was kind of special -- after having dinner with Brian and Alia and W. (age 5) and R. (age 4) and M. (age 6 months) I showed this game to W., who loved it, and then R. wanted to play, and I ended up installing it on both of the family's iPads, and then Brian said "this is like Defenders", and he pulled it up on his laptop to show me, and we ended up sitting around in companionable solitude with W. playing The Creeps at the desk, Alia and R. team-playing The Creeps on the bed, Brian sitting in a comfy chair playing The Defenders, and me across the foot of the bed playing Angry Birds.

Almost like the old pre-kid and pre-move times where the three of us sat in their living room in Mountain View reading or doing stuff on our laptops.
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7. Board Game: God's Playground [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:1407]
Bryan Maxwell
United States
Burtchville
Michigan
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Dominion x 4

ShuffleShuffleShuffleShuffleShuffleShuffleShuffleShuffleShuffleShuffleShuffleShuffleShuffleShuffle
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Hanabi x 10

Yep, 10 plays over 3 sessions - all scored between 22 and 26 out of 30. We're close to leveling up again, I can feel it.

Keyflower x 1

Play log:

5-player Keyflower. Things didn't work as well for me this time. I had the Quarry (3 stone) and the 2 (or 3) VP per stone building, but had no way to move the stone as Paul had the only non-basic carriage and it filled to capacity very quickly in the final round.

I managed to place 3rd with 45 and keep the 10VP/set of skills tile from Bryan. Carl won by stockpiling gold and getting the 2VP/gold building.


Palastgefluster x 1

Another 5-player session, which I won on a tiebreaker.

King of Tokyo x 3


We played a trio of 6-player games of this and it was really fun, a nice change of pace after the quiet focus of Keyflower.

Erie x 1


Finally got to try Ryan's prototype out as a 3-player game. It had things that worked for me and things that didn't (like just about every other game, right?). It was played with a cranky child all up in my grill, as the kids say, so that made things a little rough.

God's Playground x 1

Play log:

Learned this along with Carl and Bryan. Wow, what a game. The first round was a sort of throwaway as we were learning as we went along without understanding the ramifications of our actions or even how the rest of the round would play out.

Carl built an army in Greater Poland but was unable to invade the Habsburgs, nor was the army any good for defense. Things were gravy from the 2nd round on though, as we turned the knobs and figured out the ebb and flow of the game. Carl had 4 of the 5 estates in Greater Poland as, unless I'm mistaken (very possible) the Habsburgs can't destroy them until the final round.

There is a lot of tension in the game, and it's one of those where everything affects everything else. I can make sure Lithuania is defended from Russia, but if no one protects the Ukraine, I might have Tartars invading from the south. So it's in everyone's best interest to make sure ALL of the borders are protected, at least somewhat. Of course, we need to pay attention to building estates to get money and VP as well...

Carl and I, on the final round, too the Jesuit School special action and scored 7 points each. I invaded the Ottomans with the Polish Army in the last round solely with the hope of denying Carl 5VP (he had 2 cubes in the Ottoman box) and it worked. Of course, had the Ottomans invaded Greater Poland, they may have destroyed Carl's 5VP estate anyhow. And using the Polish Army cost me 2VP (I have to spend a disc from the Sejim to do this).

In the end, the scored came down to 52/52/49, and I won on the Nobles tiebreaker 10/9.

I was very pleased to see that the game took us less than 3 hours. What an interesting, tense game!




As of yesterday I am officially unemployed. We have an attack plan, but there are definitely grey areas within it. How do I feel about being unemployed? The following words come to mind: Exciting Terrifying Selfish Necessary.

Yep, that about sums that up.

Gaming-wise, God's Playground went over really, really well. Hopefully it can see more play soon. I think that will happen. My plans for the day include playing with my kids, cleaning the kitchen, reading the rules for God's Playground again to find out what we did wrong, listening to Dream Theater's "Scenes from a Memory" in its entirety, and possibly sitting down to do some writing (it's been a while). I wrote up a sort of script for a sitcom/web thing I'd like to watch, about a bunch of people who frequent a game shop.
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8. Board Game: Railways of the World [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:95] [Average Rating:7.69 Unranked]
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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We played Cottonwood more, but it doesn't have its own entry yet, so I'm going with RotW as my entry.

The Cottonwood Challenge 4
Railways of the World 1

The ArtsCow cards arrived for Cottonwood, and it's fun to play with them.

I talked about the RotW game on last week's list. Perhaps my favorite game of it to date.
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9. Board Game: Cobra [Average Rating:5.69 Overall Rank:12244]
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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Games Played

_7_ Hinkel & Stein x1 New!
I had received this from Chili Spiel earlier in the day and was happy to get it to the table quickly. None of us played very well as people would forget what abilities they had in the round and there was some funny confusion, but we got through the game and will probably play again soon. My oldest son won with 16, my youngest son 14, my wife 5 and myself 4.

_7_ Cobra x1 New!
My wife left gaming for a bit to join my daughter so my boys learned Cobra with me. I thought this was quite clever and has two different push your luck elements. The first is building the snake towers up. The second is the ability to try to stop someone from moving the snake head to a tower by guessing what their secret color is. If you guess right, they don't get to move it. If you guess wrong, they can move it, and you can no longer try to stop someone from moving the snake head nor can you move it yourself. We played three rounds. In the last round I was set to get 6 points but knocked over a tower and got no points for the round, so my youngest son won with 11, my oldest son 5, and myself 5.

_8_ The Palaces of Carrara x1
After Cobra, my wife returned and wanted to play a game she already knew and we settled on Carrara with my younger son joining me. The goal cards included getting two buildings in three cities and collecting three sets of two objects. My son jumped out to an early lead in scoring while my wife and I collected more money, then a bit later I thought my wife was going to end the game for sure as I could see she had two of the three goals. However, the game went two more rounds more than I suspected which allowed to get more scoring done. In the end I won with 90, my youngest son 81, and my wife 60.

_7_ String Railway x1 New!
My youngest son and I learned this with both of us playing two colors. By the end of the game we had a wacky tangle of strings, and my son was able to come from behind to win 54 to my 53.

TRACK:

Tabled: 13 unplayed. (+/- Cobra, +Fiji, +/- Hinkel and Stein, + Maka Bana, +/- String Railway)
Removed: 23 removed.
Acquired: 24 acquired. (Cobra, Fiji, Hinkel and Stein, Maka Bana, Peloponnes, String Railway)

Cultish: 07 worthy / 08 played.
Kudos: 03 achieved / 15 progress.

2013 TRACK - Tabled, Removed, Acquired, Cultish and Kudos
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10. Board Game: Kapitän Wackelpudding [Average Rating:6.24 Overall Rank:5752]
Daniel Kenel
United States
New London
Iowa
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Games Played

Tuesday:
My oldest daughter had a stomach bug so I stayed home with her. By the afternoon she was feeling decent enough that she brought an armload of games upstairs and asked if we could play.

Pecking Order x2
Würfel Bohnanza x2
The Great Heartland Hauling Co. x1
Love Letter x2 (joined by Tori for a couple of quick games before bed)

After the kids headed to bed I was able to teach Tori this new title.
Suburbia x2

Wednesday:
Ginkgopolis x1 (with Tori)
This is our 3rd time playing and every game has been really close. Tori edged me out by 3 points in this one for the win. I really enjoy how much game is packed into an hour in this one for us.

Friday:
We hosted another couple for some games after a long week at work.

Die Dolmengötter x2
We had all played this gem before so we broke it out for a couple of quick games. Tori edged me out in the 1st game by 1 point but I was able to come back in the second game for a close win.

The major four of Heizei x1
Everyone was kind enough to let me get an initial play for this game I recently imported from Japan. A clever little card game that I spent the majority of the game trying to figure out what exactly "good play" should look like. I finished second by just 1 lousy point! I look forward to playing it again now that we all have a little better understanding of how the game plays.

Crokinole x2
Dusted off this old favorite to end the evening. The guys crushed the gals 100-0 in 2 quick games.

Saturday:
Mice and Mystics x2
A couple of quick sessions to defeat chapter 8! We are nearing the end of the chapters in the main game and will be looking forward to the first expansion.

Escape from the Hidden Castle x1
A favorite game of my youngest daughter and as a result it is always a joy to play. She just beams during the game and loves Hugo.

Kapitän Wackelpudding x2
We finally got the english cards printed and laminated so that we could explore this new game. A fantastic little dexterity game that the kids loved. So damn cute and fun to play. Bryan you have to try to find a copy. It takes the stacking element of Animal Upon Animal but puts it on a ship that you have to move around to various islands to load with new goods.

Another really fun part of the game is that one island features cards instead of goods. Each card will have some wacky thing that either the player that draws it has to do or introduces a new rule that the entire table has to play by. For example, one card we had was "dense fog" and so whenever a player had to load goods onto the ship they had to do it with their eyes closed!

Divinare x2
I was happy to try this one out with only 2 players. My prior experience was with 4 and it failed to impress the table. I was very pleased with how it played with 2 and Tori had a more favorable impression of the game as well. It might help that she beat me twice in a row as well.

Sunday:
Yedo x1 (with Tori)
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11. Board Game: Equinox [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:4564]
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
Ebeltoft
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Games Played Week 16:

It has been a great week in terms of gaming. V. felt good about her Thesis (too good to be true) and took Monday off so we managed to get a few games in, we will kick off with those.

Monday with my wife...:
1x _7.6_Puerto Rico w/ Puerto Rico: Expansion I – New Buildings
A wonderful game that might be due a raise. Tried a different approach this game and went in with a plan which worked but it was still a tight game.

2x _8.4_ Innovation
A 2 game session without the expansion. I find the expansion brings some freshness to the game but given our lack of time to commit to the game in this new state we have put it on the shelf until the summer.

I am still very eager to learn the cards and become familiar with it and thus hopefully shave some time off the game which currently runs at 45 minutes and that is too long for me.

Friday on a Romantic get-away with my wife:
1x Equinox (rating pending)
So, V. finally handed in her Thesis and for a "surprise" I took her away to a Castle (Kokkedal Castle) for an overnight stay with tea and cake in the saloon, a 5-course gourmet dinner with candlelight and a romantic night in a old-fashioned bridal bed.

Along with tea and cake we also set up and played out a game of Equinox - given the setting and the circumstances this wins the spotlight for the week. It was a great way to celebrate and we had a wonderful time just the two of us.

Sunday with my wife, might have been better spent outside in the sun:
7x _8.0_ Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia
This is a wonderful game, quick (30 minutes for our 2 player games), dice, cards and great legs.

The Week Ahead:
It is a 4-day workweek due to a National Holdiay next Friday so I hope we will see more gaming by the weekend, perhaps even one or two longer games.

Until we get that far I will take a game of Kingdom Builder or two...
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12. Board Game: Ground Floor [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:1016]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 20Apr2013:

4/23/174 plays of 3/19/90 total games, with 3/3/22 expansions employed.
Plays with 12/20/58 distinct opponents.

0/1/10 games acquired (plus 0/0/1 expansions.)
0/0/2 games ordered (plus 0/0/0 expansions.)
Orders for 5 games and 1 expansions still outstanding.

With youngsters & friends:
1x _7.3_ Ligretto - With son #2. Yeah, it doesn't play two: but we simulated a 4p game, by running two decks each. (We shuffled the colors together and merged the Blitz piles - so 7 single piles and a pile of 19 cards to get through. It might have been cool to run two seperate decks and take the smaller score between the two colors, too. Maybe next time!) It worked really well for us.
1x _7_ Kaleidos: 2009 Expansion - Silly and cute; this game belongs to daughter #1, and she was my opponent. We had a lot of fun finding things on the strangely detailed pictures. We ad-libbed the rules a bit, too: if we finished a round without finding any appropriate words (Words beginning with an X? Really?) we just chose another letter and ran the picture again rather than moving on to the next image.
1x _7_ Dixit: Odyssey - There were eight of us - including my lovely wife, son #1 and daughter #1. It was cool to play the "two votes per turn" rule; my previous plays of Odyssey were with fewer than seven players, so we'd only had one vote each in those cases. I think there was general approval of the game; it played well to this audience (and, fortunately, one of the guests won: so we were "good hosts".)

With the back-on-Fridays gamers:
2x _7.7_ Metropolys (with extra cards) - I think this is really quite cute - though I see there are some significant detractors among the GCL faithful. I've not noticed that the bonus cards are particularly unbalanced (though I've only played a dozen times, and there could be something subtle there that I've not enough data to see yet. On that front, I'm reminded of my few plays of Merchants of the Middle Ages: after each play, a participant has declared that one or two of the initial powers are "Far Stronger than the Others". Yet, strangely, it's been a different special power so identified each time. In that game, the powers that coincide with the players' groupthink are overpowered: so, naturally, part of the game is to swing the groupthink toward one's own set of powers. I'm not sure that the same couldn't be true for Metropolys. But more on that later...)

With the Wednesday Night bunch:
1x _6.7_ Ground Floor New! - My rating is perhaps a little over-grumpy: our game took most of five hours, and didn't seem worth that time expenditure in the end. (In that regard, it was a bit like my first game of Caylus with four other relative newbies. We were over five hours before that one was done, too.) It's an attractive package, and the game is quite interesting too: so why the relatively low rating?

Perhaps I'm wrong - and will need to rewrite my last paragraph before submitting this. But it rubbed me the wrong way in a couple places. I found the randomness of the pre-selected economic condition cards to be a bit offputting: and that as someone that likes Automobile. (Doesn't seem fair, does it? Am I biased by a liking for some Martin Wallace games? Or biased with grumpiness against Tasty Minstrel Games for the damp, peeling and mis-cut version of Homesteaders I bought some years ago? Or is there something(s) categorically different between the risk profiles presented by the two games? I think the latter, but it's still not quite clear to me.) I found the PR Department (which I'd been finessed into buying early: it wasn't at all my plan at that point, but I'd made a howling blunder that left me only able to buy a Tenant Improvement on the second or third turn, and that looked to be the best of the set that were still available) to be dramatically overpowered in the context of our particular groupthink. (Yeah; I said I'd get back to the topic. I'm completely unwilling to make the claim categorically: but, equally, I'm not sure how else we might have played!) I also found the scaling of the game odd: the bands of factory sales are independent of the number of players (again, unless we did something wrong!) and that results in a market that puts a vice on the least-popular company's ability to sell. (It's consistent with the case of more players, but a less attractive condition when one third of the players are "least popular" each turn than when one fifth of the players are.) There were a couple other trivial things that also made me grumpy: I'm a relatively unconcious card-counter; and that played me in good stead in this game, too. Which seemed more than slightly out of place.

But why do the risk profiles seem different in this than Automobile? Simple: in that latter title, there's a (mostly) unknown demand for each price band of car; but within that band, the factories (modulo advertising and discounting) will sell roughly as many cars as one another. Slightly more for the newer/cooler factories than the older & fustier ones; but, to the first approximation, only an off-by-one difference. Unless we played it wrong (and, again, that's a possibility) we thought that factory goods were sold in Ground Floor strictly in price-band then popularity order. So if a rude player (such as myself) chose to price all his popular goods in the lowest price band, there'd be no sales left for anyone else. When one adds in the PR Department (which made it distinctly easier for me to remain the "most popular" company throughout the game) it seemed more than a bit lopsided.

Owned-and-unplayed: 14 (+0/-0)

Outlook for the week: Oncall mid-week, which limits me a bit; I'll go off-call Friday afternoon, and then will be looking forward to BAP. I'm hoping we'll get to try something cool this Wednesday: perhaps Mage Knight Board Game with expansion; perhaps Container (since I clearly under-value it, if the recent Madness Tournament is any judge); perhaps Confucius or Terra Mystica or Ys. (That last one is taunting me from my shelf because I've not played it in many many years.)
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13. Board Game: Magic Realm [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:942]
Albatros
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

_7_ Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer x4
_6_ Ginkgopolis x1
_6_ Thebes x1


Expansions Used

_7_ Ascension: Return of the Fallen x4


The Gaming Week in Review

Magic Realm? WTF?!? It wasn't even listed as a play this week so why's it headlining?

It wasn't listed because I was stumbling around solo using the Realm Speak Java Implementation of it. Without having done a refresher on the rules before hand, I've sent a number of characters to their untimely deaths (although I'm rather surprised at how much I do remember considering I haven't played it since the early '80s). Played mainly using the Berserker, but have also tried the White Knight and Captain so as to avoid using magic (and all the additional rules for it). So far, I'm happy just to survive a "month" - gaining a few of my requirements is just gravy.

In other gaming news, S and I had four plays of Ascension: Deckbuilding Game. She took three of them, I ran away with one.

I secured a copy of Ginkgopolis through the latest Canadian Math Trade so S and I played it Friday for the first time. I can't say I really enjoyed it; it's abstractness and fighting for area majority didn't excite me much. And for a 45 minute game, it seemed to go on for twice that amount of time.

We'll give Ginkgopolis a few more tries, but there are a lot of other games I like better including two of Xavier Georges other games: Carson City and Troyes.

The only other game this week was a three-player jaunt of Thebes, it being my one "true" gateway game and our friend B not having had a lot (if any) experience with Euros.

The game went over pretty well (even if I won by a large margin) so maybe we'll get B to the table again for something a little more meatier.


The Week Ahead

I'll certainly get some more plays of Realm Speak in. I might even pull out the rules to the physical copy of Magic Realm that I own and give them a read.

Would also like to play Ginkgopolis again. The game can only trend up, can't it?
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14. Board Game: Archipelago [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:285]
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
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Games Played

.10! Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization 1
_8_ Archipelago 1

Week in Review

Very slow week for gaming, with only one face-to-face play. Through the Ages continues to be online play with the same 3 other people (usually in groupings of three at a time) over the last few weeks.

Archipelago was a very fun session with the full five people and we explored more of the extortionist elements of the game than I have previously experienced. I also saw the first Separatist win in games I've played. I look forward to another couple plays soon, if I can arrange them.

This weekend I was in Lynnwood (a suburb north of Seattle) judging at a major Magic event. This pretty well killed my weekend gaming, which is the primary reason I didn't play more games this week.
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15. Board Game: Ascension: Rise of Vigil [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:1003] [Average Rating:7.24 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
Canada
St.John's
Newfoundland
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“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done, the Dornishman’s taken my life, But what does it matter, for all men must die, and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!”
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"Oak and iron guard me well, or else I'm dead and doomed to hell." - Andal proverb.
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iOS Ascension + Expansions (33)
Crokinole (11)
iOS Carcassonne (4)
Ascension: Rise of Vigil (3)
The Castles of Burgundy (2)
Mage Knight Board Game + Expansion (2)
Pandemic + Expansion (2)
Race for the Galaxy + Expansions (2)
Seasons (2)

---

More iOS Ascension. Some of these were games with friends but mostly the AI as usual. It's alright but I'm kind of hankering for a new iOS addiction. Carcassonne is also ok but hoping to move onto something else. Maybe it's time I actually start playing Neuroshima Hex on my iPhone.

I had a great night of two player card games: Race for the Galaxy, Seasons, and Ascension: Rise of Vigil. I lost all the games I'm pretty sure but a good time was still had. Race is always a bit of sting as I am just craving the new expansion so bad. I keep wanting to pre-order it but I question why I would bother considering it's been pushed back so many times in the past. I'm lacking a huge craving for Seasons due to the impending expansion. I still always have great fun with it when I play it but want the new cards, the errata'ed cards and all of the other stuff. I'll talk about Rise of Vigil in a bit.

I'm so happy to be having more of an opportunity to play Crokinole. My friend has really taken to it. Instead of just playing Crokinole and Castle of Burgundy this week, I also taught her Pandemic which was good. As for Burgundy, at first I thought Burgundy was a point salad type game where everyone will get relatively close to one another because virtually everything gives you points. This has been the case for me when playing the game with other people. That said, with this person, there tends to be a much larger scoring disparity which is a good thing. Speaking of Feld, due to the fact that I like drafting and good 3er games that aren't overly long (ie Ginkgopolis & Troyes) I have Notre Dame being shipped to me and it will arrive early next week. In addition, I've also decided to give another Feld game a second chance: Macao. I had a strong negative reaction to it the first time, but I've been thinking a lot about it recently due to other Feld Dice Euros (Burgundy & Bora Bora) and want to try it again. The card replay value was a strong incentive for the repurchase. We'll see how things go after they arrive.

One of the other two player games nights involved Rise of Vigil & Mage Knight. Mage Knight was a 2 player full conquest. It was a good time. I think it was about 3 1/2 hours but my opponent conceded after I took 2/2 cities know that he wouldn't catch up in scoring. I think I prefer Mage Knight as a 2 player game since the 3 generally will go 5 - 6 hours as I had the opportunity to do that this week. I'm surprised I even stay engaged at any 5+ hour game, but Mage Knight does it for me. Recently we've upped the difficulty on the cities from level 4 to 6 as it makes it more difficult to one-shot cities. People still can one-shot them but it's more difficult to do so and may require more wounds which is a good thing. The expansion is so necessary for this game for the added variety. I love it. As for Rise of Vigil...

---

Ascension: Rise of Vigil

Rise of Vigil is the latest base set for Ascension. What it adds to the mix is a new resource called energy which is attained from some card powers and treasure cards. Energy isn't expended but rather is used to meet a threshold to unlock abilities on various cards. The treasure cards generate 1 energy and allow you to draw one card (so it doesn't take up space in your deck). Your initial deck starts with a treasure card in addition to your 2 militia and 8 apprentices. Treasure cards are mixed into the center deck and when they are placed into the center row you add more cards to that space from the center deck until there is a non-treasure card. When that card is defeated or acquired, you also gain the treasure underneath. RoV has some of the Storm of Souls/Return of the Fallen mechanisms: Fate & Trophy Monsters, but there are no Fanatics, Events or Ongoing Trophies. The Fate mechanism only triggers on cards that have treasure below them, but the fate effects have a larger impact on the game.

I'm not really impressed by this set. Part of the reason is that it seems like whoever can get the most energy is the winner. I don't think this is necessarily the case but that's been my experience with the 3 games so far. Even if greater number of treasure doesn't equal a win, I feel like the game is more swingy in who can get their energy synced with card abilities when something good is in the center row. Another con for me is that there doesn't really feel like many 'new' abilities. Yeah, most of the unique cards are different than cards in other sets, but they feel like combinations of previously released cards (Lifebound Muse = Druids of the Stone Circle + Cetra) or cards that require energy instead of different requirement (ie unite) to make them into previous iterations. This feeling of new mechanisms but not many new card effects was a killer for me in Immortal Heroes and it also doesn't bode well here either. In addition to that, it seems like some of the energy thresholds should have been higher for certain effects. Part of the problem I could have with this and possibly future sets of Ascension is my love of custom highlander cubes with a ton a variety. If there were good cards I could add to the Cube from this set it would possibly be worthwhile keeping, but there are literally only about 4 - 5 cards in the whole set that don't relate to Treasure and Energy.

The biggest positive for of this set for me was how great the artwork is. The artist for the cards has really honed his craft and I'm sad not to be keeping this set. I should say that I don't think it's a bad set but one that I personally would rather play on iOS than in person. I think most future Ascension purchases will be tested on iOS before I actually buy them based on my disappointment of this set and Immortal Heroes.

---

In Other News

Game of Thrones Season III: Fuck yeah!!!

I just received an order which contained the following games: Arctic Scavengers, The Resistance: Avalon, Palastgeflüster, Piece o' Cake, Guildhall, and Rune Age: Oath and Anvil. My copy of Rune Age and PAX haven't arrived yet from the math trade, but it should arrive either late this week or early next week and as mentioned earlier, I should also have Notre Dame and Macao arriving as well. Plenty of things to keep me busy if I can get the optimal number of people.

I think I'm gaming this Thursday but other than that, I think it's going to be a pretty slow week for gaming. Maybe should be much better and I think BSG should get back into the mix.

I'm accepted to the 3-year Business Management Accounting program at College. I am looking forward to be moving in a more positive direction for my prosperity but it's also sad in that the past year has saw me make a bunch of new friends and gamers and this College is not located in my city which means I'll have to move away. I'm sure I'll a lot more new people but its annoying to have to start from scratch when I finally felt like things were just getting back to being stable.
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16. Family: Alea Big Box
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Planning...
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Last Week's Plays

-10- The Princes of Florence
|9| Notre Dame (+alea Treasure Chest)
|9| The Traders of Genoa
-8- The Castles of Burgundy (+2nd Expansion)
-8- Love Letter (x3)
-8- Macao
-8- Puerto Rico
-7- Adel Verpflichtet
-7- Bora Bora
-7- In the Year of the Dragon
-7- Ra
-6- Fifth Avenue New!
-6- Qwixx (x2)
-6- Rum & Pirates New!
-5- Eiszeit/Mammoth Hunters New!


It all started with a game of Castles of Burgundy on Wednesday, at Kate's suggestion. My board nudged me towards completing lots of small areas early but Jake and I then competed heavily with each other for ships while Kate did well out of a large pasture full of sheep (and some goats). Next, we breezed through a session of Ra, where I took a lead with plenty of Nile and gold tiles only to be overtaken by Kate's amazing monuments (all 8 types and 3 sets of 3). Jake stuck it out to the bitter end, hoping for some bargains before the Ra track filled up, but was rewarded only with disasters.

Afterwards, we realised we'd played two of the alea Big Box series and so the "alea Challenge" was born. Our mission: play all 15 games over the next week, including three we'd never tried before. Kate and I played Macao next. Being first on the wall track the whole game really helped me but my star player was the Jester, allowing me to double the use of every joker tile. It's cheap to play (only two cubes) and gained me about 12 coins over the course of the game, allowing me to buy points each turn.


Next up, four player Traders of Genoa. Kate's tactic of never making a deal that involved paying out money seemed to work well for her. The game felt longer than usual - we only once rolled a market place start, pushing the turn track forward - and it was almost one turn too long for Kate. She should have used her "Any Start Space" tile to start in the market and hasten the end of the game because the extra turn nearly allowed me to overtake her. It worked out OK for her, though, and she won by a mere 40 ducats.


Eiszeit (Mammoth Hunters) was new to all of us. I'd picked it up in a maths trade but didn't expect much from it. It's quite chaotic, with plenty of bashing the leader and kingmaking potential. It's an area control game with an interesting mechanism - in order to play good cards on yourself you need to spend stones, but to earn the stones in the first place, you need to play bad cards which allow your opponents to benefit or screw someone over. A similar system is used in Android, I believe. I'd read comments on BGG that it could take a long time to play and that the early rounds were almost pointless, so I'd primed myself to play quickly to mitigate this. Having played it, I think those criticisms are a little unfair. The game sped by; we were surprised how fast rounds were going and the number of rounds seemed about right. Although I'd planned to not make a target of myself and stay at the back of the pack, somehow I found myself leading after the second round and so bore the brunt of most of the attacks. I didn't feel particularly picked on, though, usually a couple of players were affected and the game is too frivolous to take very seriously. I came in dead last, of course, but it was fun. Not a great game by any means, but not terrible either.


After the new game, it was great to play something we all know and love: Notre Dame. We mixed in some of the new characters from the Treasure Chest expansion and got the guy that lets you use messages a second time. Consequently, the Carriage House was a popular choice. Always a pleasure to play this group favourite.


It was getting late, but there was just time for Adel Verpflichtet. Jake, as ever, read everyone's minds like he had a psychic link and ran away with the game. Meanwhile, Kate steadfastly played the Detective turn after turn in the hope of catching up from the back. My initially promising set of antiques was gradually pilfered as the game went on and I soon had no chance of winning any exhibitions. Even worse, I got myself into a situation where I had no cheques left to buy more antiques, nor thieves to steal any. I was stuck until they got out of jail. Bad times but an entertaining bit of silliness nonetheless.


We reconvened the next day to continue the challenge. I should have known The Princes of Florence was a bad idea with only three. Jake and I clashed over a Builder strategy, leaving Kate to scoop up some bargains in our wake and play a load of Bonus-boosted works. 70:54:54 was quite the drubbing. I love the game but this play confirmed it really only works at higher player counts.


In the Year of the Dragon works better with three, so we gave that a go next. Jake went for the unorthodox strategy of letting all his people die and all his palaces decay, reasoning that without any of those things to worry about, he wouldn't be affected by the negative events each round. You can imagine how that turned out. laugh Both droughts came out early, so after those, Kate and I battled for building opportunities. I'd bought a dragon scroll and was resting on my 2VP-per-turn laurels while Kate was putting in the effort to catch up. She made it, too, kind of. On the last turn she took money, remembering that it could be converted into VPs. However, she'd forgotten what the endgame conversion rate for food to points was, and she’d have actually been better off if she'd taken food with her last action. We tied on 107 and I won on the tiebreaker, but if we say she took food with her last action, she'd have won with 108. Asterisk.


Puerto Rico was excellent. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy it. I always find myself heading towards an obvious Factory strategy, so this time I challenged myself to do something different, getting a Harbour and Wharf to do some shipping. It could have worked, but Kate was buying up large buildings at pace to drive the game forward. She got three, Simon got two, so the ones Jake and I were working towards were snatched away from us. Kate filled up all her building spaces surprisingly quickly; the shippers didn’t have time to run their engines sufficiently.


Rum & Pirates rounded out the evening. A daft game of dice, treasure chests and shipboard brawling to get the best bunk. You can tell it's a Stefan Feld game from the smorgasbord of ways to get points, but this one has some wackiness injected into it. It was interesting to try one of his earlier designs and compare it to what he's doing now. There are some similarities, but he seems to have moved more towards actions based on the results of random effects rather than the randomness occurring after you’ve chosen your action, as seen in this game.


The next day we tried out Fifth Avenue, the lowest rated of all the alea Big Box games. I'd read that it's a particularly fragile game, prone to quick, unsatisfactory endings due to new players over-valuing one particular action. So, despite the fact that it was our first play, we decided to use a popular house rule to restrict that action and slow the game down a little. It still felt a little short. I expected to have more skyscrapers built and more auctions taking place, but once we'd set up our base positions with a few skyscrapers, it seemed sensible to improve their values by adding business tokens nearby. It was a bit odd that very little in-game scoring took place, despite there being an action allowing you to do that, but we were constantly making it difficult for the next player to use that action to good effect. It felt very prone to group-think and when it ended we all had a kind of "oh... well that was weird" reaction. It was intriguing enough that we all wanted to play again, but not so much that we wanted to do so immediately. Anyway, we had other games to move on to.


Bora Bora saw lots of competition in the temple - two of us had related goals to complete while Kate values presence there very highly anyway. I pulled off a nice combo by getting three Women who award 2VPs each per turn, then doubling their use with a Green God for 12VPs per turn. That was decisive, but the others weren't tempted to block me by taking one of the Women themselves, since they're weak unless you have multiples. After this game, we were left with just Taj Mahal and Chinatown to complete the set.


Outside of the alea Challenge, we played a few rounds of Love Letter and two games of Qwixx. The latter was brought back to my attention by Dale Yu's positive comments in one of his Gathering of Friends reports. He calls it "a cute and simple dice game" where "you are constantly involved in the game as you have something to do on every roll of the dice". I agree with that, but it's not a game rich with decisions; there's a bit of risk management but it's often obvious what the best move is for you. Pleasant but not compelling.
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