GCL Amoeba 117 -- Thoughts from the Gathering (2013-04-28)
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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GameChat League - Amoeba Division 117
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Welcome to this week's discussion list!

If you stumbled into this geeklist by accident take a look at the pointers provided at the top. Constructive on-topic comments from visitors are welcome and we're happy about new regular contributors, but please refrain from adding items if you are not a member of this GCL.

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Joshua (Joshuaaaaaa)
Mikko (msaari)
Doug Faust (phrim)
Larry (larryjrice)
Eric Brosius

Earlier this month, I attended the Gathering of Friends in Niagara Falls NY. While I was there, I was suffering from a cold, and this gave me more time than usual to think, since I didn't play as many games. I also spent time just chatting with old and new friends, which was enjoyable. This week's topic is a collection of thoughts and questions from that trip.

Here's a GeekList devoted to my Gathering experiences; you're welcome to read it:

http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/156536/my-favorite-2013-ga...
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1. Board Game: 1880: China [Average Rating:8.29 Overall Rank:2248]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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If you're sick, tired, or otherwise less energetic than usual, what do you cut out of your life and what do you keep doing? (You can answer this question from a gaming perspective or more broadly.)

At the Gathering, I am now in the habit of playing an 18xx game every morning at 9am. Most years, I follow the morning 18xx game with an assortment of other games, most of them shorter, and wind up playing about 8 games a day for the 10-day period. This year, I continued to play the morning 18xx game, but played far fewer short games afterward. Often I quit gaming by dinner time and I went to bed early several nights. For some reason, it seemed to take less energy to play one 18xx game than to fit in another seven short games after it.

In life, I've been gradually training myself to take it easy when I'm not feeling well. I'm a naturally lazy person, and I had to learn to force myself to do things. Only recently have I felt comfortable giving myself a break when I need to recover. I'm a big fan of my company's Flexible Time Off system, because I no longer need to ask myself "am I too sick to go to work?"
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2. Board Game: Hanabi [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:276]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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How often does a game move from "okay, willing to play again" to "really enjoyed that and want to play again" for you?

It doesn't happen often for me. One recent exception is Hanabi. I played for the first time at last year's Gathering, and although the company was enjoyable, the game didn't really stand out for me. A few months ago, the regular Hanabi group at work (!) had a player who needed to leave unexpectedly, and they called me to fill in. I enjoyed that game more than I had remembered. This year I played a third game at the Gathering and liked it even more.

In fact, I've come up with the concept of a duplicate Hanabi tournament in which each team gets the same cards and compares scores with the other teams for each set of cards. I'd like to try it.
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3. Board Game: 18Ruhr [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:6767]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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How do you feel when you play a game for the first time and later discover that you've made significant rules mistakes?

I played this title at the Gathering (my second play after an initial play earlier in April) and learned that we made some significant mistakes (to be fair, the rule book isn't perfectly clear.) It's a fascinating game, but unfortunately, the error we made seriously hurt the person who ran the BME railroad (it was Joe Rushanan, not me.)

I agree with the statement that games are about trying to win and not so much about winning. The game was challenging and enjoyable to play, and whether I'm on the side that benefits from an error or the side that is hurt, I don't usually feel emotionally affected. I realize that others may feel differently.
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4. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:49]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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How do you feel about teaching a game to a new player? Do you try to avoid it, do it because it's the right thing to do, or enjoy it? (Or something else?)

I got to teach Race for the Galaxy to Dawn Hunt at the Gathering. I positively enjoy teaching new games. I began my working life as a teacher and I still love teaching. I will often write out a "teaching guide" for a new, complex game so I can do a better job teaching it. (The most notable example is Paths of Glory, for which I uploaded a teaching guide file that has helped a lot of people: http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/26514/paths_of_glory_guide... )

As a matter of fact, my favorite way to learn a new game is to read the rules aloud while an experienced player listens and corrects any misapprehensions I may have. This is somewhat profligate with time, so I don't usually do it, but I learn better when I'm teaching than when I'm listening.
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5. Board Game: Legacy: Gears of Time [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:1557]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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How often do you modify the rules of a game when you play it?

At the Gathering, three of us played Legacy: Gears of Time, and I thought the special power cards were too strong. I'd happily play again without those cards. I know that some people consider the published rules sacrosanct, but the groups I usually play with aren't very fussy about this.

We also modify rules for games like Viva Pamplona! (moving the starting player each turn) and Rails of New England (taking the "take that" cards out of the deck, which is a listed variant.)
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6. Board Game: 1846: The Race for the Midwest [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:522]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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When a game requires various types of skill, such as both tactical and strategic decision making, which do you focus on first? (Or do you focus on other skills, such as memory or negotiation?)

I played 1846: The Race for the Midwest four times at the Gathering, teaching new players twice. During one of the teaching games I was struck by the way the game requires tactical and strategic decision making, and by the fact that, although they are integrated (and you must do a good job in both areas play your best,) people usually start with one or the other.

I tend to focus on tactical decision making first, because I seem to learn faster that way, but I know others, some of them strong gamers, who do the opposite. I also tell the story of a game of Alhambra I played at WBC in which one player memorized every card in everyone's hand, but still finished last by a mile. It appears that, for him, the memory skill didn't prove as valuable as he thought it would be. But I'm not sure he even considered the trade-offs; he may have put all his effort into memorization simply because he could do it.
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7. Board Game: Kingdom Builder [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:454]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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Played games almost nearly every day last week! Won't be playing as much this week as work will be busy with checking students out of the residence halls and graduation on Saturday!

d10-8 Kingdom Builder 2x
d10-7 Sentinels of the Multiverse 2x
d10-8 Bora Bora
d10-8 The Castles of Burgundy
d10-6 City of Iron
d10-7 City of Remnants
d10-6 The Great Heartland Hauling Co.
d10-6 Harry's Grand Slam Baseball Game 2x
d10-2 The Lost Dutchman
d10-7 Nyet!
d10-6 Qwixx
d10-6 Salmon Run
d10-5 Spellbound

Spellbound was a visually stunning presentation, but setup takes a fair bit of time and while the game play was solid, I'm fine with playing either Pandemic or Flashpoint instead.

City of Iron is interesting with the slight deckbuilding aspect and managing resources well. Still not convinced it has legs to maintain interest after a second play today that I'm not recording as yet...

City of Remnants has some FAQ issues regarding cards but is an interesting dudes on a map game mixed with deckbuilding with asynchronous decks/factions.

Will never play Lost Dutchman again as there are precious few interesting decisions to make. Let's see, which tile do I flip and confront with little to no information? Hmmm...where's the game?
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8. Board Game: German Railways [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:1885]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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1 x _8_Das Kleine Gespenst
1 x .10!Dominion
1 x .10!German Railways
1 x _7_Trans Europa
1 x _5_Burg der 1000 Spiegel
1 x _7_Château Roquefort
1 x _7_Kraken-Alarm
1 x _7_Fleeting Foxes
3 x _9_The City
1 x _8_Love Letter
2 x _7_Coup

The meat of the week was my first five-player game of Preußische Ostbahn. That was fun. It also showed how a strong lead just isn't enough. I started going for strong second, then fell to third place, but in the end managed a win by a healthy $5 margin (582-577). Excellent game.

My rating of Burg der 1000 Spiegel dived a bit. The game is kind of neat, but falls in a very difficult niche: it's at the same time too difficult and too easy. Finding the right players for the game is difficult. For adults, it's very simple, for kids it can easily be too difficult.

In other news, I'm now at 99 GeoCaches found, so next one will be even hundred. Hooray.
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9. Board Game: Tenka [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:10031]
Joshua Gottesman
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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With tax season and GMT West done, I'm getting back to gaming, although its still not to my ideal level. Our Saturday group started with Kemet, which 3 had played before. I was the only one who didn't. As discussed above, I was more focused on figuring out the mechanics than a coherent plan, so I didn't win. I enjoyed the game and would play it again, although it didn't blow me away as OMG Awesome!

Then we played Colonial: Europe's Empires Overseas again. We had played it a couple of weeks ago, and 2 of us enjoyed it, one didn't, and the 4th seemed to be okay with it (and happened to win it). This time, the guy who didn't enjoy it wasn't there, we had a new 4th. Again, I greatly enjoyed it, I think there's a lot to figure out in the game, and the new person didn't enjoy it. Also, the player who won the 1st time won again, sneaking in after we all had knocked down our diplomacy with wars and weren't able to stop him. 3 people had a chance to win, I really wasn't one of them as an early attack really crippled my expansion. I didn't do badly, I just was a turn off the pace from everyone else.

Next up was Tenka, a 3-4 player card game from VPG. It was originally released in 2008 with no fanfare, and the old style VPG cards which, for a card game, made it tougher. The new version has full sized cards (although they are not playing card stock) and gorgeous art. Its a game where you win by having X number of provinces under your control at the start of your turn. So, if the winning number is 5 and I get that on my turn, the other 2-3 players have a chance to knock me down. Well, unfortunately, while I like that style of game, 2 of the players at the table don't. One claims it wasn't playtested, which is code for "I didn't listen to the rule during the explanation." His gripe was that if one player gets ahead, there's nothing you can do. I calmly pointed out that 3 other players had a chance to knock him down, and there are the purple "cheating cards" that allow players to make headway in other ways. However, he was stuck on being "right" about the game not being any good, so I was wasting my breath. Needless to say I won't be playing the game with him again. The other guy who didn't like it didn't like the "take-that" aspect of the game, and he's also the one who didn't like Colonial for the same reason.

Then we played Fleet, about which I had heard pretty good things. As much as Tenka left 2 players cold, Fleet ended up not impressing me. I was the only one who didn't get a Processing Vessel license early, so my boats were stuck accumulating fish and once 4 turns went by, they were doing nothing. I was way behind on the card/money curve because of this. The 3 King Crab licenses didn't come out until the last turn. I think I finally got a processing vessel license with 2 turns left. A very frustrating game. Oh, I came in 2nd because I had a crapton of fish on my boats, and that didn't make the game enjoyable. However, I can see where the King Crab licenses coming out earlier could put a different spin on the game, so I'm willing to try it again. I just don't expect much. In contrast to those who didn't like Tenka because of the "take that", I didn't like Fleet because, except for the auction, its multi-player solitaire. There's zero competition for resources or anything like that.

I was fighting off a small cold, so my visit to the evening group was relatively short. We played a 6 player game of Catchphrase (electronic) which was a hoot, as always, then when more people showed up we went off to play a 4 player game of Agricola. 2 of the players had a lot more experience than me, 1 had a lot less than me. The 2 with more experience came in 1-2, the one with less came in last...no big shocker, and I like playing Agricola with more experienced players as I learn from the experience.

A good gaming Saturday, yesterday was catching up on life.
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10. Board Game: Formula D [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:428]
Jens KH
Germany
Karben
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.10. Agricola
_7_ Formula D
_7_ Odin's Ravens
_6_ 6 nimmt!

Not a lot of gaming this past week.

In our game of Agricola one of the players had a great card combo on hand that solved all of his food problems into the next millenium. I think he had something like 26 grain left over at the end. He also won the game, although, as that number suggests, I think it could have been more decisive if he had managed his resources a little better.

Odin's Ravens seemed to be pretty much decided after I won the first race 8-0. I then lost the next two 0-5 each, though, and it suddenly no longer looked that great. The last one ended 5-3 in my favour so we both tied with 13 points. Having won the last race, I won on tiebreaker.

On Thursday we had 10 players for a race of Formula D. While I hadn't played this edition before the rules are all but unchanged from Formula Dé, another instance of questionable BGG policy decisions. Even the Grand Prix of Monaco that we played is identical, as far as I could see. We decided on two laps with optional pit stops and random starting grid order that had me on 3. As usual with that many players there were lots of collisions in the first two corners and it was quite a surprise to me that everybody made it through the first lap in one part. Three cars even decided to skip the pits though one of them regretted it soon after when he bumped into some of the debris left on the track from the first lap and one other had to drive very carefully to not share this fate. In the end we lost one other car but that was one of those that had stopped. In the third-to-last corner it actually briefly took the lead but apparently had miscalculated the remaining strength of his brakes a little... In the second-to-last corner I was a close third with the two other cars ahead of me on the same turn. They both had to downshift to make their required number of stops, though, while I could remain in a higher gear that (by burning through a couple of tyre points) allowed my to zip ahead and cross the line first.
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11. Board Game: Kemet [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:77]
Doug Faust
United States
Malverne
New York
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Friday night was a monthly game night, this time at Marc Z's house. Gregory mentioned he was bringing Pax Porfiriana, which I was interested in learning, so I held out until he showed up. Unfortunately, I was the only other person interested, so we gave up, and he snuck into the last spot in Power Grid.

_7_ Flash Point: Fire Rescue - Since most of the gaming had already started, Flash Point was the only thing left. I don't really like coops, but this one isn't so bad. I was the rescue specialist. Oddly, I started out by chopping a hole in the outside wall, so that I could rescue someone and so that the hazmat guy could clear out the two hazmat in that room (makes you wonder what the victim was doing in there). In the mid-game, we got fairly lucky in that new victims kept showing up right at the back door. At the end, a victim turned up in the bathroom, so I had to chop through the wall so that people could get at her too. We ended up winning, but it was a close thing, as I think 3 people died in the process.

_7_ Tichu - I'm also not a huge Tichu nut, but I think I play competantly at least. The random pairing pitting the two less experienced players (including myself) against two more experienced players, and it proceeded as you might expect. I never ended up calling Tichu, as my hands never seemed particularly strong. Had a bit of a laugh when my partner passed me the Mahjongg (what's that supposed to indicate?). Finished on the losing end, 500 to 1000.

Saturday gaming at Mike M's was billed as "Space Cadets day", but was really Space Cadets followed by whatever people wanted to play.

_7_ Space Cadets - I played this as a prototype at ConnCon last year, and it doesn't seem to have changed very much from that point. I took the Engineering and Jump Drive roles. Engineering really wasn't that challenging, given at least a little direction on what was needed from the rest of the crew. The time pressure was a little more significant with the Jump Drive, though, as the more cards you activate, the more permutations you have to go through. I was a little worried about being able to do the final jump at the end. It never came to that though. After coming out victorious in an engagement with what looked like a Borg Cube, our helmsman decided that flying circles around a crystal would be more effective than picking it up. As the Nemesis and other ships continued to attack us, we ended up with one Core Breach too many, and boom.

_6_ Escape: The Curse of the Temple (new!) - Apparently we hadn't had enough real-time gaming. Brian enhanced our experience by replacing the normal game music with Super Mario music, with the accompanying speed-up at the end. We pretty much all went the same way, and worked together pretty well--until the very end. We had enough crystals to get through the exit, so we began exiting one by one, until the last person got stuck. Oops.

_6_ Escape: The Curse of the Temple - Steve only had 40 minutes left until he had to go, so we tried again. This time we split up, with Steve and I going in one direction, and Brian, Mike, and Anni going in the other. This didn't work nearly as well, as the two directions did not converge, and important stuff showed up in my direction while the exit showed up in the other. The two of us couldn't really do any big challenges, as we kept having to unstuck each other in the process. This one was pretty much an epic fail.

_7_ Kemet (new!) - I'm not that big on multiplayer combat games, but Kemet was so new and shiny that I suggested it. I started out with two points worth of white pyramid, and spent the first turn going to the 3rd level and buying the upgrade that gives you free pyramid points. Despite this, I found I was still short on cash, so I got the 5-cash per turn upgrade. I spent some time trying to occupy a nearby temple, but kept getting kicked out. Seeing that everyone was going for creature upgrades except me, I got myself a mummy and teleported to attack one of the central temples. Amazingly, I didn't lose a single unit there, and occupied that temple for the rest of the game. That didn't stop Mike from attacking me though, as he used to Phoenix to invade my home city. I responded by getting the scorpion and kicking him out. We were getting close to the end, and Anni, Mike, and I were over hovering around 6 or 7 points, while Brian was lagging behind. Brian distracted Mike (who had attacked Anni) by bringing a large force near his home city, and then attacked Mike's temple position successfully. This took away Mike's temple point, meaning I could just occupy a second temple and secure the victory that way. Anni actually finished with the same number of points as me, but I won on tiebreakers.

_9_ Vegas Showdown - Mike actually decided to buy Vegas Showdown based on our play last week, which is awesome because it's one of my favorite games. I was the start player, and drew a first turn Visionary, so I decided just to bid on a Restaurant to avoid giving away free points (it worked). High-Rollers Room came out before a Table Games, so I was able to get that for cheap and save it for later. It wasn't too long before I got a Table Games, and I followed that up with a Sports Book to give me a good income not very far into the game. At that point I turned my attention to points--unfortunately, Brian was able to grab a Fancy Lounge while I was still scrambling to get a Lounge. The Theater came up right in the middle of the game--when it dropped to 25, I was the only one who had that much money, so I grabbed it for later knowing that I'd have another change at a Fancy Lounge. And I did--but it turned out I had to forgo bidding on a Space-Age Sports Book to get it. Try as I might though, I could not figure out a configuration that would allow me to connect my two sides by putting the Fancy Lounge and Theater in the middle. Additionally, I needed one more square to fill in my hotel section. This came to me in the form of the Five-Star Steakhouse. Mike got a Pull Strings in the next turn and decided to end the game by choosing an empty tile. I ended up winning by 5 points, though apparently the next card that would have been drawn was the Slot King, which would have given him the victory.
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12. Board Game: Hamsterrolle [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:1195]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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Five games for me last night, two of them new to me and two others I have never entered a rating for on BGG.

_6_ Little Devils -- We started with this card game. I could describe it as 6 nimmt! converted into a trick-taking card game. Like 6 nimmt!, there's a deck of numbered cards, each with a different number, and with a number of devils on it from 0 to 5. Devils are bad, so ideally you take no tricks. The person on lead plays a card, and the next person plays any card. If the second card is higher, you must follow suit higher if possible and lower cards are trump. If the second card is lower, you must follow suit lower if possible and higher cards are trump. I was struck by the odd observation that, like in Foppen, the person who is the loser for one trick can never be the loser for the next.

The highlight came when I led the 15 and Michael (to my left) played the 10. The next card was the 13 and I said, "it'll be 15-10-13-12-11!" That's exactly what was played, leaving Michael with the trick and all its devils. This game certainly works and has some interest. I'd willingly play it, but I wouldn't be likely to ask for it.

_7_ Hamsterrolle -- I have certainly played this dexterity game before, but it must have been before I started recording my plays back on 1/1/2002. The game was released in 2000, so I must have played it in 2000 or 2001. I remembered it as a well-designed dexterity game and have been looking for it ever since, but it's been out of print and not easy to get, and I didn't want it badly enough to work hard to get it. It has now been re-released, but I obtained it in a math trade (trading a copy of Andean Abyss for it.) We broke it out and played a 3-player game last night. Ron was on the brink of victory when his last placement caused a number of pieces to spill out, and this allowed me to sneak in for the win.

_7_ Copycat -- I had played this once as a prototype, with my wife Claire, who beat me by a wide margin. If I remember correctly, Claire focused on getting victory points while I tried many clever tactics that did not involve victory points. Neither Ron nor Marsha had played before, so I taught them, using the rule book because I didn't remember everything (and didn't know what rules might have changed.) It was a close game, but my "double the 10 VP card" strategy was slightly more effective. None of us made it to 95 VP (we were probably all inefficient.) This game is enjoyable, but not enough to make me buy it.

.10! Lost Cities -- After Marsha left, Ron and I played a quick game of Lost Cities while we waited for the other table to finish. I really like this game.

_3_ Check the Ripper -- Dan has a talent for bringing little known games to the table. Sometimes we understand why they are little known. This rare game, designed by Alex Randolph, who is better known for designing Ricochet Robots, features a large map of England and player pawns that move using Chess dice. You can tell this is a bad idea when you look at the board---it's a grid of about 18 by 24 squares, with some parts representing water areas missing. If you roll kings and knights, it is going to take you forever to get to where you want to go. Hint for prospective designers: if you use Chess dice, keep your board small! The game also features chips with different symbols that you turn up in an attempt to match certain cards. If they don't match, you turn them back to their hidden sides and have to remember what was where. I'm not completely opposed to memory games, but I really dislike memory games embedded in other games. My rating of _3_ for this one is generous.
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