Geekway to the West Notes: 2013 Edition
Jason Nachtrab
United States
St. Charles
Missouri
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My eighth Geekway, I've seen this grow from about 50 people at Wapelhorst Park in St. Charles to its current format of 700 people and four days of peace, love, and boardgames. Aww, and I forgot to buy the T-shirt.

Once again, I was joined by my brother-in-law

Jeremy Smith
United States
Kansas
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Jeremy wasn't able to make it last year due to having another kid (priorities, man!) so it was great to have him back out to visit this year.
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1. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.23 Overall Rank:8]
Jason Nachtrab
United States
St. Charles
Missouri
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I had no idea what to start things off with Thursday morning. I always walk into Geekway with a mind swirling with possibilities and plans, most of which never come into fruition. On the way back from getting coffee, Aaron Belmer called with an invitation to join him, Chris Darden and Jay Moore for everyone's favorite game-you-can't-buy-right-now, Terra Mystica. Getting to try out a super-popular game? Nice. Getting to play games with the guys who run the weekend? Bonus.

As for the game, it's pretty good. I think its reputation is a bit inflated, or maybe it's just not quite the type of game I most enjoy. For a territory control Euro with interesting variable player powers and multiple ways to win, it's good. Add in some direct player conflict beyond "Ha, I put my piece there first!" and it'd be great.
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2. Board Game: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Deck-Building Game [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:1608] [Average Rating:6.83 Unranked]
Jason Nachtrab
United States
St. Charles
Missouri
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Aaron pulled this out after lunch and suggested it as a good "quick" game (note to self: Aaron's idea of "quick" is occasionally 2+ hours - see Colonial). He was right about the "good" part, I quite enjoyed it. Just enough deck building to keep choices interesting, and allow for planning beyond just deciding "how to use what's in my hand this turn?"

We played twice, once using "normal" mode and once using "Impossible" mode, which is hereafter re-named "Do Not Play This Mode" mode. Good grief. I was doing okay, until a random card draw destroyed half my deck, and completely took me out of the game. With no way to mitigate that event, the severity was way overbalanced. Against regular enemies, this is pretty good and something I might even pick up to play with my kids. Impossible mode shall never again see the light of day, at least not in my house. I mean, seriously - the winner (Aaron) had something like 45 points, whereas I had 4. He's good, but he's not THAT good. ;-)
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3. Board Game: Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:516]
Jason Nachtrab
United States
St. Charles
Missouri
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This is an odd game - it's one of the first board games I bought when I started building my collection, it's way up in the 200s in the BGG rankings, has fascinating decisions, twists, turns, and hardly anybody owns or has played it. I brought my copy with me, and suggested it later in the day as something our group might enjoy.

Most of the rest of the group took to it fairly quickly, and Sean pulled out a win late in the game (turn 8, maybe?). Aaron had to leave early and bow out of the last turn, but I think I hooked him. It's been years since I've played this, and I had forgotten how good it is.
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4. Board Game: Coup [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:383]
Jason Nachtrab
United States
St. Charles
Missouri
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For Friday morning, we got a 6-player game of this going right off the bat. I backed the recent Kickstarter reprint of this, and I'm really glad I did. Super simple, tons of great decisions and lots of fun.
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5. Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:36]
Jason Nachtrab
United States
St. Charles
Missouri
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Tzolk'in is another game I have heard about over and over, and was on my list of things to be taught (along with Clash of Cultures and Kemet, neither of which saw the table). Aaron got a game of this going with me, Jeremy Smith and Brian Homan.

I like the different mechanics going on here, but I'll admit the first game of this is almost guaranteed to be a complete mess. There are too many interdependent activities, and knowing how to score points seems to be pretty critical. In the end Aaron blew way past the rest of us and I'm pretty sure we called this one early. I marked it as a game I wanted to try again, though.
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6. Board Game: Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:280]
Jason Nachtrab
United States
St. Charles
Missouri
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After Tzolk'in Jeremy and I grabbed a Play and Win copy of Spartacus along with Chuck Easterlin and Sean Carson and set about bloodying some sand. I can't say enough great things about this game - it's fantastic, and has everything I like about board games (mostly lots of ways to laugh or groan about the way the game goes). In the end Chuck and I went to the arena, me with Spartacus, 9 Influence, and a chance to win. Chuck's champion Gannicus would have none of it, and Spartacus fell to the executioner's blade.

That SHOULD have marked the end of the game and my victory, as I held the Intrigue card granting +1 Influence to the Dominus whose gladiator dies in the arena. Sadly, you have to remember that you HAVE these cards to get their benefits.

One round later saw Chuck and I tied with 10 Influence, and a final match to win the game. With Spartacus gone, it was no contest. Boo. Hiss. :-D
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7. Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:36]
Jason Nachtrab
United States
St. Charles
Missouri
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Sat down near the bar for another game of Tzolk'in, as I'd been wanting to teach Chuck - this seemed like it would be right up his alley. I had figured out the game well enough the first time to teach it, and Jeremy and I both agreed that the second game was WAY better - things just made more sense. Knowing where the game was going, it made everything much easier to plan and it was possible to get a strategy going.

I fear that Chuck and Sean (this being their first game) were as lost as I was in my first game, but hopefully they'll give it another shot as it's much better with familiarity. I pulled out a win despite Chuck focusing on corn and its supporting monument.

It's not going to change my mind on mid-weight Euros like this but it'll stay on my shelf and it's definitely something I'll pull out from time to time.

Side note - thanks to Sean for picking up the tab.
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8. Board Game: Egizia [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:282]
Jason Nachtrab
United States
St. Charles
Missouri
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I'm not sure when exactly this game occurred, but I think it was the last game of the day on Friday. Egizia is another Euro that - for some reason - hits the right buttons for me. I don't remember who won this one, Jeremy was taking notes for the day and missed this one on his list.

That's probably indicative of my feelings on most of these types of games - fun at the time, but not all that memorable.
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9. Board Game: Bootleggers [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:1146]
Jason Nachtrab
United States
St. Charles
Missouri
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Now you want to talk about memorable - hoo boy. Bootleggers has seen regular rotation in our group for years, and for good reason. What a great mix of deal-making, deal-breaking, conflict, bribery, theft, you name it. Aaron had never played this, which made this a MUST PLAY.

Due to a fairly anemic flow of influence and production, this went on a lot longer than most of our games, and after 7 or 8 turns it felt like nobody was getting close to the $100,000 win mark. Every time someone made a move to get a huge payday, someone else would swoop in and shut them down. I made a couple of tactical blunders - letting Aaron get majority influence in one of the larger speakeasies was stupid - and could never quite get things running smoothly.

Finally Jeff Tilden drops a major score in about turn 10 or 11 and makes $56,000 in one turn - BOOM. Game over, with Jeff just inching over the finish line at $101,000. Sean and I were close in the $90s, but Jeff had been hanging back out of the limelight for so long I never saw that coming. Well played, sir. Well played.

Great way to get Saturday started.
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10. Board Game: Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:280]
Jason Nachtrab
United States
St. Charles
Missouri
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After Bootleggers, we were joined by SJ Benoist for a game of Spartacus which Aaron had been wanting to get in again. In many of our games, whoever plays Solonius seems to always have a good shot at winning because his special ability - discard a slave, gladiator, and guard for +1 Influence - is so easy to overlook. We dealt out random Dominuses (Dominii?) and I ended up with...Solonius. Time to continue that streak.

The game was really back and forth, with Aaron dominating the arena matches with Crixus. No one else really had a decent gladiator, so Aaron focused on winning the Host bid and inviting himself. He was very close to winning at one point, making it up to 10 Influence (our designated win point) but the rest of us managed to Scheme and connive and knock him down to 9 Influence before the end of that Phase. So close...

In the end I was able to hoard my cash and get a couple of Influence from my house ability and then dump my entire stash on the Host bid. That took me to 10, and I was able to put on a great show in the arena without any Schemes bringing shame or embarrassment on my house. Love, love this game.
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11. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.23 Overall Rank:8]
Jason Nachtrab
United States
St. Charles
Missouri
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After this we sat down for another game of Terra Mystica. I do like that it's much quicker once everyone knows what they're doing, and using the experience from the first game I played the same faction (Nomads) and focused on building as much as possible, and getting points from the turn bonuses and endgame scoring. Aaron kept right on my heels, but in the end I was able to win by a handful. This will probably make its way to my game shelf at some point.
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12. Board Game: Colonial: Europe's Empires Overseas [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:1586]
Jason Nachtrab
United States
St. Charles
Missouri
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After TM Aaron suggested Colonial, a Kickstarter game that involved European powers colonizing and trading throughout the new world, a game Aaron put forth as "plays quick". This was a full five players with me, Jeremy, Chuck, Brian, and Aaron.

It took awhile to get the hang of some of the mechanics, but this is a pretty interesting game. I made inroads colonizing several locations and had multiple monopolies on goods before the other players (namely Aaron and Brian) started hitting me where it hurt. I made it up to eight victory points (out of ten) when Brian shifted gears into full on Naval Assault mode and started attacking anyone he could. My benevolent, peaceful empire was no match for his ruthless armada of cutthroats, and my fortunes fell as he slaughtered my navy and blithely stole my spoils. This opened the door for Aaron to swoop in and claim victory. Typical.

Do like this game, and I suspect it's even better with the advanced rules that give each nation unique attributes and abilities. On top of that, the game board is gorgeous. This is definitely a large multiplayer game in the vein of Mare Nostrum though, so not sure it's worth it to add to my collection.

Also, pretty sure Chuck hated this game, but it's admittedly not really his kind of game. Sorry, man.
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13. Board Game: Merchants & Marauders [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:201]
Jason Nachtrab
United States
St. Charles
Missouri
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Friday night saw a quick jaunt out for pizza, then back to the hotel for a game of Merchants and Marauders. This was the hit of Geekway for me last year, and I really wanted to get in another game this time around.

Everyone was well versed in the game (me, Aaron, Jeremy and Brian) so things went full speed right away. I love this game, but I really need to figure out how to combat the players who rush off to get the galleon early. Seems to make them nearly invincible for the rest of the game, and those players tend to do really, really well.

Aaron pulled off the win pretty easily with plenty of cash banked in his chest. It's telling that I can lose this game almost every time and still never tire of playing.
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14. Board Game: Catacombs [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:695]
Jason Nachtrab
United States
St. Charles
Missouri
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We wrapped up Saturday night with a game of Catacombs, starting sometime around midnight (maybe later). This is basically fantasy crokinole with some added abilities and twists thrown in. Our manual dexterity at midnight after a full day of gaming was about as good as you would expect. I.e., not very.
 
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15. Board Game: D-Day Dice [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:884]
Jason Nachtrab
United States
St. Charles
Missouri
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Sunday morning Jeremy and I arrived before the rest of our friends, so we grabbed D-Day Dice off the Play and Win and sat down for one of the earlier scenarios. Sean arrived just as we were about to start, so we had three players to try to storm the beach. It was touch and go early, but we ended up succeeding rather handily.

Later in the day our group was drawn for the Play and Win copy, and Jeremy won it. Nice to see him get a prize for the weekend.
 
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16. Board Game: Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:239]
Jason Nachtrab
United States
St. Charles
Missouri
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After D-Day Dice we were joined by SJ Benoist for a game of Blood Bowl Team Manager. I only vaguely remembered this from being taught by Jay Little last year, but gave it a shot (partly violating Rule 1, but I gave myself a pass this time). We managed a couple of turns through the game, but Sean remarked later that he was compeletely confused. We had to return the game for the Play and Win drawings so we didn't get to finish. It's still a great design and I could see myself picking this up someday.

Final thoughts - there were a few games I really wanted to play that I didn't get a chance to (I'm looking at you, Clash of Cultures), but that always happens. Overall, another fantastic Geekway. Looking forward to seeing what the change of venue and continued growth brings for next year.
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