GCL Amoeba 120 - Sleeping in Traffic (2013-05-19)
Jens KH
Germany
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GameChat League - Amoeba Division 120
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Here in Germany, people are currently discussing introducing a speed limit of 120 km/h on the Autobahn. Sacrilege! Hm? Oh, no, I don't have car. Why does that matter? A speed limit on the Autobahn is not something that can be discussed and dissected with reason. It is a spiritual matter. Where does it leave our freedom when we can't go as fast as we want to?

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.

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1. Board Game: Ligretto [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:2333]
Jens KH
Germany
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So, speed games. It's a genre I don't like overly much. I think the only game with real-time play that's gotten better than a 6 from me is Space Alert, and that is arguably not a speed game at all because the goal isn't to finish as quickly as possible. Are there any good speed games? Failing that, are real-time games better? Are they even different?
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2. Board Game: No Speed Limit [Average Rating:5.58 Unranked]
Jens KH
Germany
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As I have mentioned on occasion, in one of my groups we have a few "speed bumps." We're usually delighted to finish a game with those particular players in a time shorter than double what's printed on the box. Some games suffer worse than others being stretched out this much but it's rare that I don't mind at all. One member of the group likes to pull out an egg timer when things get really bad, to moderate success, but I'm not overly fond of this. Who wants to feel rushed and stressed out when gaming? Besides I usually don't have an egg timer with me. I rather resort to heckling people but the results are not really better, I think, although comments like 'but I've played faster than X' do happen so maybe there is some sort of effect. And they might still feel stressed out but I'm feeling better, so who cares.

Are there speed limit countermeasures that work?
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3. Board Game: Long Short [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:9697]
Jens KH
Germany
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Are short games better than long games? The other way around? Does the question even make sense?

Compared to longer games, I rate short games (ie. up to ~30 minutes or so) fairly low. Even if I like them (e.g. 6 nimmt!) they don't normally get anything better than a 6 or at most a 7 from me while longer games that I enjoy as much can easily get a 7 or 8. Is that game-lengthism?
 
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4. Board Game: Kingdom Builder [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:456]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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d10-8 Kingdom Builder 3x
d10-0 Galaxy Trucker 2x
d10-0 Race for the Galaxy 2x
d10-6 Eight-Minute Empire 2x
d10-7 For Sale 1x
d10-6 Igloo Pop 1x
d10-7 Manila 1x
d10-7 Monolith: The Strategy Game 1x
d10-6 Qwixx 1x
d10-5 Takenoko 1x
d10-9 Troyes 1x
d10-7 Yedo 1x

New Games for me:

None, but I did finally play the card deck of the fourth round and mega-ship for Galaxy Trucker which was quite enjoyable. I love building the large ships! Now I want to mix in the remainder of the tiles and see how those add to the game play!

Comments about the other games:

Yedo may be out of the rotation for a bit. My last game became a bit contentious when the person in last place got hit twice by the action cards...and he was far back. Understandably, he was less than happy. Another player decided he was done with the game as well as he doesn't enjoy the action card "take that" aspect - he's been hit hard with one action card each game he's played that has taken him out of contention each time.

Taught Kingdom Builder to some new gamers and they enjoyed the game quite a bit...to the point where we played it three times and they experienced all the tiles and most goal cards. Wednesday night I play with friends who are relatively new to the hobby.

I continue to enjoy Monolith for the quick dice placement filler that it is. With three players, we completed a play in 30 minutes. There are definitely take that elements in game play, but after 4-5 plays, I feel that it is fairly well implemented. I acquired my own copy of the game to continue to explore it more.
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5. Board Game: Prêt-à-Porter [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:1021]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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Just two games so far this week, though more are probably on the way soon. My wife and I played two games Saturday, both the first with our copies, though my wife had played someone else's copy of the first one before.

_6_ Kings of Air and Steam -- This is a pick-up and deliver game, a genre we both enjoy. Claire played it at the Gathering and liked it a lot. It has a simultaneous move programming aspect, something like Himalaya, which is a favorite of mine. The game certainly works, but the basic game (which is what we played) is missing a certain spark for me. We'll play the regular game (which introduces various special powers) and see how it goes. We may also play it with more than 2 people, but although that's probably a better format, I don't think my evaluation of the game is distorted by only playing it with 2---I believe I can project how it would play with 3 or 4.

_7_ Prêt-à-Porter -- This is an economic worker placement game with a novel theme and very nice bits. I will say that we had a lot of trouble understanding the rules. There are many things that are not explained, and the person who wrote the rules doesn't seem to have spoken with the person who laid out the art, especially on the cards. There is supposedly an FAQ available, but my computer (a Mac) couldn't download it (odd since it's a .pdf file.) Even so, I liked this game a lot more than many of the modern "point salad" games. Even after one play, I'm sure I like it more than The Castles of Burgundy, Trajan, Hansa Teutonica or Vinhos. But I don't want to play a second time until I know the rules. So I'm currently in a bit of a pickle.

I played 4 more games Monday night:

.10! Outpost -- This is a favorite game of mine. I strongly dispute claims that it's a game of luck; you have be a pretty good player to take advantage of the amount of luck that you get. Steph (actually, I don't know how she spells her name) suggested that we play it. She has been playing it a lot in New Hampshire and wanted to test her skill against a different group of opponents. Well, she did fine, winning the game with a score of 84. I was in 2nd place with 80. She bought an early Warehouse and saved up to get a cheap Orbital Lab in the first Era II Auction, then the first Laboratory (and the only one until near the end of Era II.) It's possible that I might have overtaken her with good luck, but she was the favorite all through Eras II and III. The game is terrific with strong players, so I'm sure we'll be asking her to play again.

_7_ Walnut Grove -- I took this out to play with a new group of people (my wife and I played with our daughter and son-in-law the first time I played.) Everyone had played before, though I was the only one who had played recently. I tend to dislike the modern wave of games that throws every mechanism known to man into the mix, but this is a game that's fast and in which you can't do everything. I bought a barn and collected coins, ending the game with five gold coins and one silver coin for a total of 11 VP in coins. That was more than enough to win. My opponents both had four workers at the end while I had only three. I don't think it makes sense to hire workers unless you have value-added work for them to do.

.10! Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm -- We had a brief wait while we waited for the other games to progress, so we played a 4-player game of this favorite (in French, as we often do.) Several of us had train wrecks, but Joe Huber got the full Terraforming engine going (Terraforming Guild, Terraforming Engineers and Improved Logistics) to finish with 36. His nearest rival (not me) finished with 24.

_7_ Cinque Terre -- At the end of the evening, Bill Masek taught me and Joe Rushanan this colorful pickup-and-deliver game. I liked it quite a bit. You draw colored food cards, using a mechanism like Ticket to Ride. You harvest food using the cards and take it to market in your truck for delivery. Deliveries earn points on their own, but they also help you claim contract cards for more points if you get the right goods to the right cities. You then take the truck back to the farm to gather another harvest. You need to think about the efficiency of harvesting (better to pick up four food items in one place than one each in three places.) You need to think about the efficiency of selling (better to deliver four food items in one place than one each in four places.) But you also have to think about fulfilling contracts before your opponents do. It's difficult to optimize all of these at once, so you must decide which areas to focus on. I'm fairly picky about games like this, but Cinque Terre works pretty well.

Claire and I played another game Tuesday evening:

_8_ Russian Rails -- Don't confuse this with Russian Railroads, the game by Ohley that Hans im Gluck is developing. This is one of the crayon rails games. Claire and I often play crayon rails 2-player in the evening. The twist in this game is the breakup of the USSR, which is an event card that affects many things. When it is drawn, every player loses 20% of cash on hand to reflect the devaluation of the currency. This is like, but different than, the Rail Tax cards that are common in crayon rails (though there is a Rail Tax card too.) There are also event cards that represent demands anyone can satisfy, creating a potential race situation, though all such cards vanish if the USSR breaks up. Claire started in the west, as people typically do, but I started in the east, taking Chemicals from Tashkent to Novosibirsk and another nearby city. I didn't go west for quite some time. I drew some big cards, not spec loads but great draws for me, including Fur to Rostov and Fur to Odessa while I was near Omsk. Claire was over $150 when I made it to $250, so it wasn't a blowout, but it was never really close. I finished by delivering two loads of Fish to Moscow to earn $20 from an event.
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6. 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]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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1 x _9_Battle Line
1 x _8_Spooky Stairs
1 x _9_Gulo Gulo
2 x _8_Das Kleine Gespenst
2 x _7_Memory
1 x _8_Marrakech
2 x _7_Fleeting Foxes
1 x _9_Suburbia
3 x _9_The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Deck-Building Game

A decent week, considering I had to skip our Thursday games. My son had a circus school dress rehearsal (for the Spring Circus, which was yesterday and was really good –  here's some photos). The dress rehearsal took 90 minutes or so, so we had more time to play games during it than usual, so I got a chance to try Suburbia with two players (it was good) and we also played a three-player game of Fellowship of the Ring.

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7. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:35]
Jens KH
Germany
Karben
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Games played

_9_ Brass: Lancashire
_9_ Container
_8_ Clippers
_8_ Space Alert
_7_ Fearsome Floors
_6_ Nyet!
_6_ Pick Picknic
_6_ Tichu
_6_ Totemo
_5_ The City x3
_5_ Skyline
_3_ Tasso x2

Skyline: Continues to be the filler of choice for some people. I've yet to see it not end with the player who gets the 6-storey skycraper first winning...

Pick Picknic: Was my attempt to avoid a second play of Skyline, and even though 4p is kind of borderline in my opinion it went over quite well.

Clippers: A bit of an odd play with lots of scrambling for connection bonuses early, and lots of obstructive play and ship-building in the later stages (where it was pretty much too late to actually prevent to big island from being connected; it did cause some jumping through hoops, though). (Aside: I've now played Clippers 13 times, and we've given out the nations randomly each and every time. Out of those 13 plays, I've played France a whopping 7 times.)

Space Alert: Another training mission with some new recruits. It may have been a little late in the day for this, and we had to hurry through the explanations a bit. Suffice to say, if this hadn't been a training mission, I don't think we would have come back alive.

Lakota: I only submit to this because it's mercifully short.

Fearsome Floors: If some people don't understand how the monster moves and accidently destroy your well-laid traps by walking straight into harm's way this is only half the fun...

Container: I went into production right away, and everybody else went in different directions so I pretty much had a monopoly early on which meant my cashflow was excellent while the others were just scraping by for a while. Prices on the island were exceptionally low for most of the game, and many a shipment got bought by the shipper himself. I had actually thought about trying to ignore the island and win on cash alone but I couldn't really ignore the cheap shipments with my early cashflow advantage and ended up with a sizeable assortment of containers after all.

Brass: I decided to go cotton and ports but my hads wasn't all that great for ports and didn't get much better. I was therefore happy to abandon that route when everybody else started building ports as well and turned to iron instead. After the canal phase I was last but didn't have a bad board position. When I overbuilt the second player's level 3 iron works two turns before the end the game was decided.
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8. Board Game: British Rails [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:2195]
Doug Faust
United States
Malverne
New York
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I'm at a week-long gaming retreat in North Carolina. I'm taking a short break from the action to post this, so I'm going to be brief. At least, I'll try to. Anyway, here's what went down during the first weekend:

_7_ British Rails - This was a four-player game with me, Anni, Jeff, and Tucker. I started by connecting the central two large cities and then building into Wales. I had planned to immediate build north so I could pick up oats for a nice delivery, but Anni and Tucker beat me to the punch and built to that city (which could only take two) first. I decided to scrap those plans instead of paying people, and built down to London and Dover instead. From there out, I was having a lot of trouble getting any synergy from my cards. I had given up on trying to go out on Cornwell early, since Jeff and later Anni were already out there, but it seemed like a lot of my larger payouts required it. I ended up messing around in the middle of the board a lot, investing way to much in tracks because it seemed like every worthwhile delivery needed me to extend to one more city. I ended up being the last person to Glasgow, which was expensive. In any case, I finished in last.

_7_ Factory Fun - Sunday morning after breakfast, I was invited to a game of Factory Fun. It was me, Anni, Sara, Ben, and Jeff. The speed aspect of this game doesn't bother me so much any more now that I know what to look for--inputs that match up to what my machines are outputting. I was doing a very good job at this in the beginning, and after the seventh round, I had seven machines that were all connected with 30 points worth of bonus chips. I looked at my board, and I only had one output left, a 1-red. As the machines in the last three rounds came out, I computed that I couldn't place any of the available ones without taking a loss, and none of them provided much opportunity for future scoring, either. So my last three turns were completely wasted. Despite this, I ended up in 3rd place, in a big clump between 2nd and 5th (Sara blew us all away).

_7_ Walnut Grove - This was with Jeff, Sheila, and Emily. This game was a lot harsher than I remember it. I managed to get a bonus tile early, as well as a house for my second worker, but I burned all my resources and money in order to do that. After that, it seemed like I needed to spend far more turns subsistence farming than was ideal, so while my opponents got more workers, I was stuck at two. Additionally, it always seemed like the building I wanted to use in town was occupied, so I actually spent turns not advancing at all. However, being only at two people, the I was less susceptible to the harsh feeding conditions, which my opponents were struggling with. This allowed me to catch up some at the end, and I managed to get a second bonus tile. I guess everyone else had poor games too, because I ended up winning my one point over Jeff, with the others two and three points behind.

_9_ Navegador - Anni suggested that we break out Navegador next. It was me, Anni, Emily, John, and Ben. I tried to execute a Colony/Church strategy that I have been doing a lot lately, never exploring and using my two start ships to go in behind the explorers and take all the colonies. This actually worked very well, as I finished the game with 8 gold colonies and 2 spice colonies. This time my problem was priviledges, though, as through the first two rounds of the game, I had only gotten 1 colony priviledge and 1 church priviledge. The churches turned out to be less important, as I could only get three of them before the supply ran out. The game ended very early, as the buildings ran out as we were still at Madagascar. So, no more priviledge tokens for me. On the last turn, Emily actually triggered stage 3 with clever use of the Henry token, but only John got another turn, so he was the only one to get a stage 3 token. Emily won pretty decisively, as she was really the only one doing exploration, and had filled up her priviledge track with those tokens that no one else wanted.

_9_ Terra Mystica - In this game, I was the Engineers, Matt was the Halflings, Ben was the Witches, and Tucker (who hadn't played before) was the Swarmlings. I started with one house in the middle, and another on the bottom, hoping to link them up at the end for end-game scoring. Unfortunately, Ben's Witches quickly eliminated my most likely routes for linking. I was still determined to execute that plan, though, and ended up spending an arm and a leg terraforming the middle of the board. In retrospect, if I knew I would be doing that much terraforming, I should have moved up on the track. In any case, I was resource-poor for most of the game, because I had to spend so much on terraforming. However, I did meet my start goals: I made both of my initial settlements into cities, and I linked them for end-game scoring. That was about all I did, though, and the 8-large cluster was only the third-largest. I pretty much ignored the cult tracks, so despite having a small lead for most of the game, I ended up tied for last with the new player.

_7_ - Kingdom Builder: Nomads (new!) - I had played Kingdom Builder before, but not the expansion. This was with me, John, Rob, and Ben. The scoring conditions were being next to special hexes, connecting special hexes, and a bonus that gave you two points each time you placed a house at the very end of a terrain group. The latter caused a bit more downtime than I was expecting, both from trying to think out moves, and actually having to score people in-game. I did pretty well at creating a long diagonal down the board connecting a bunch of special hexes, but John surprisingly cut me off as I was about to connect everything. Fortunately, it was only one special hex that I wasn't able to connect because of that. John had some nice connections themselves, but the other players couldn't make the connections work for them. John won the game, and I finished a decently close second, with the other players trailing behind.

_7_ Australian Rails (new!) - This was one of the few crayon rails I hadn't tried before. It was me, Jeff, and Emily. I started off with some easy deliveries to Sydney, using the copious starting funds to connect a bunch of the cities along the east coast. I then built up the the northeastern tip for a big delivery, and out to the north central for another big delivery. At that point, I felt like my rail network was in good shape, with a decent supply of capital, but with no cards that really made sense for me at the time, so I flushed--and got two deliveries to Darwin (which was only a few spaces away from the end of my network) for goods that I had already connected and were close to one another. The amazing thing was, each of those deliveries was worth 52! So after spending a large amount of time getting and delivering those goods, I used the proceeds to build out to Perth. After that I was on a roll for the rest of the game, though because of Australia's large expanses of nothing, it took a while. I won, but it was very close--Emily finished with 248, and Jeff wasn't that far behind either.
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