GCL Phoenix 125: Crunching Numbers like Granola (5/26/13)
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Morganza - next week
My quest this week is to take a look at how similar we are, to BGG and to each other (and also, how different).
In The Geek Annual User Poll 2011, the first poll looks at ages. The largest group of respondents (40.7%) fell into the 26-35 category. The 36-45 category was close behind, with 35.3%.
Here's a version for us, to see how we compare to BGG as a whole:
The next poll looked at country of residence, with 51.9% of users from the US, 7.9% from the UK, 7.8% from Canada, and 0.9% from Denmark.
GCL Phoenix: 73.3% from the US, 13.3% from Canada, 6.7% from the UK, and 6.7 from Denmark. The UK numbers are, perhaps surprisingly, the closest.
94.3% of respondents in the User Poll were male, 5.7% were female. 2.4% of respondents would have selected Other if that had been an option.
GCL Phoenix: 86.7% male, 13.3% female.
I don't have any numbers with which to compare, but I did notice that all of us had patron badges.
A little further down the User Poll, there was a question about the length of time we have been a user of the site, with the slices pretty even, all between about 8-14% for all of the year increments.
As you might expect, we are shifted a bit higher on the scale:
3 years: 20%
4 years: 20%
5 years: 13.3%
6 years: 6.7%
7 years: 13.3%
8 years: 6.7%
9 years: 0%
10 years: 20%
Our average is 5.9 years.
Collection size. In the User Poll, 48.5% had 100 or fewer games, 23.5% had 101-200, 10.7% had 201-300, and 17.8% had more than 300.
I was surprised/impressed with the range of collection sizes, at both ends of the spectrum. Our average collection size is 313.
Next I looked at logged plays. 43.4% of the respondents in the User Poll said that they logged their plays all of the time, and 27.1% never did.
As we all log our plays, I looked at the number of plays. As a group, we've logged over 49,000 plays! Our average is 3277.
We have been members for different lengths of time, so I also looked at plays logged per year. The average there was 613, almost 2 games a day. About half of us log at least 365 games/year, an average of a game a day.
Board Game: Rate it!
[Average Rating:5.90 Unranked]
Logged plays give us an idea of total plays, while ratings give an idea of individual titles played. Our average is 422 ratings.
I also wanted to look at number of ratings as a percentage of collection size. On average, we have rated games equal to 165% of our collection. That tells me that we are good at moving on games that don't suit us, and/or trying other people's copies of games.
Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper 7
We got a little bit of gaming in before Sam left for Ithaca. I have been working on another prototype with my double-ended cards, this time with a food theme.
Board Game: Yedo
[Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:463]
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Games Played Week 21:
What a week... I have one amazing wife.
Sweet long-weekend ending Monday:
2x _8.4_ Innovation
A delightful session with 1 game seing me hanging in there and ending it with self-service fuelling bioengineering. The second game was a tight fought game with me edging it in the end.
Wednesday home alone with E.:
2x _7.0_ Animal Upon Animal
Home alone with E. so we played some animal fun.
Friday with V.:
1x _7.6_ Puerto Rico
Another great session on the shores of Puerto Rico. I am really digging this game and contemplating upping the score. A great way to start the weekend and given since Spring is finally here we played it outdoors.
2x _8.4_ Innovation
Our first game was tense and it went right down to the wire, V. getting the win one turn before I would have. Aweseome game. The second game saw me trash her.
Only downside was the wind picked up a bit so we had to watch the cards flying all over the place.
Gaming marathon Saturday with V.:
1x _8.0_ Key Market
We began the day with one of my favourites. I just enjoy this game, working the guilds, the market and the fields. It makes sense for me and I dig it every time. V. is less enthused with it but still finds it fun and is trying her best to improve.
1x _8.2_ Jet Set w/ Distant Lands
V. got to pick the game and out comes her favourite game of the longer variety. This game was a little strange. I had a commanding lead by the time the 1st Vacation card came out and scored a bunch of cash which helped me speed towards the win.
1x _8.0_ A Few Acres of Snow
A long time coming and I really want to like this game and part of me does too, but this time I crushed V. by winning a siege at Quebec in short time despite V. making a valiant comeback.
Considering lowering the rating on this one... time will tell.
1x _8.0_ Yedo
The sun came out and we moved things outside.
This is a great game, it has a wonderful thematic integration. Sure, it can be frustrating at times when V. picks that spot you were going for or when I pick both spots in the Harbour and V. is hosed in the final round and still, when we pack up the game we have had a wonderful time and are looking forward to playing again.
The 2 player game works great and comes highly recommended from our side.
1x _7.4_ Suburbia
We finished a fantastic day with a new favourite with a very tight game with both of us fighting over the public goals with me nailing Aquatic Engineer and winning by 5 points.
A Quiet Sunday with V.:
1x _7.4_ Agricola
Morning special, after serving V. with fresh bread and Cocio, was a return to the farm. I seemed to be going slow but with a few choice Minor Improvements and the Chief I managed to blow V. out of the water.
2x _7.8_ Kingdom Builder
V.'s second favourite game and I caved. I seem to be burned out on it for the time beeing. Our first game was tight but I sneaked the win in the end. The second game was a blow-out. We called it quits then.
2x _8.4_ Innovation
I opted for my favourite card game and we had fun. The first game was odd. I quickly raced into a 3-0 lead only for V. to race ahead in the Eras and begin scoring, so it was 3-2. At this point I decimated her board and points. I then managed to jump ahead in Eras while scoring through Agriculture and closed the game for a 6-3 win.
Second game was more to the point, me racing ahead and winning 6-2.
The Week Ahead:
Kids get back home Tuesday and take off again on Friday to spend time with their aunt, so I am hoping for some gaming time, though not expecting it to top this weekend.
_7_ Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer x1
_7_ Ascension: Return of the Fallen x1
The Gaming Week in Review
One lousy game. The end.
The Week Ahead
Brass: Lancashire is everywhere but on my table.
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.
That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 25May2013:
7/19/200 plays of 5/14/103 total games, with 0/0/22 expansions employed.
Plays with 6/17/61 distinct opponents.
2/3/13 games acquired (plus 0/3/4 expansions.)
0/2/8 games ordered (plus 0/2/3 expansions.)
Orders for 4 games and 1 expansions still outstanding.
Monday with son #2:
1x _7.7_ Big Boggle - A strange game. Son #2 is still playing by the "youngster rules" - so he's permitted to find 3-letter words (while I need to consider words of at least 4 letters.) To give him a handicap, I tried to concentrate on 5-letter words and longer, and - as a result - we didn't overlap on anything. While it could easily have been otherwise (had the grids been a bit more sparsely populated with words) my long-word bias game me a distinctly larger score. So we bailed in favour of a less intellectually taxing pastime...
2x _6.7_ Kineti-Go Magnetic Shuffleboard - This was its usual self: a mix of randomness and strategy, with the strange you-must-score-exactly-20-to-win rule slowing the leader down dramatically as the end of the game approached. We had some fun with it; but I think I wasn't as easily defeated as he'd hoped.
With a couple of the Wednesday Night guys:
1x _7.7_ Manifest Destiny - It's not a very genteel game; nor one without significant volatility. But it makes sense, and tells a pretty cool story. I rather enjoyed it - even if it ran a bit longer than I'd expected. We took some rather different paths through the game: Tim concentrated on cities and breakthroughs (and to very good effect; he probably deserved the win); Paul built resource synergies and played cards for buckets of cash; and I went for rural dominance with a correspondingly large profit. It was cool. I'd be really happy to add another player or two to the mix to see how the addition of Mexico or Canada might change the dynamics.
One of the Friday Lunch guys with son #1 and I:
2x _7.3_ Mogul - The games were fun. Son #1 was happy to hang out with my colleagues, and acquitted himself well - both in the game-playing sense and on the interpersonal interaction front. But in a moment of inattention, I left my backpack of games in the company cafeteria - and it's not been seen since. So I'm (at least momentarily; the backpack could be turned in to lost & found tomorrow or Tuesday) down a copy of Die Dolmengötter, Mogul, Condottiere, Sticheln, and Mü & More. Bizarrely, the one I'll miss the least from that collection is Mogul - even though the set (with Crazy Race and Station Manager) will miss their sibling.
Saturday with my younger two:
1x _7.3_ Hinkel & Stein New! - I'd originally convinced the kids that we should play Cobra; but the bits in Hinkel & Stein were so cool that they wanted to see how it worked. And after I'd explained the rules, they wanted to play. And so, we did. It's very odd. The informal logic puzzle (coupled with the hard-to-estimate special powers of each pool of objects) left us amused by the system, but not completely compelled by it. On the good side, it's really pretty - and the decisions the game provokes are interestingly non-obvious. On the downside, the logic puzzles are a bit fuzzier than they need to be: I think I might print up English player aid cards (to replace the German ones that detail the special powers of each stone set) that additionally have a table listing the weights of all the objects. While it wouldn't be enough information to move the game to an abstract logic puzzle, it'd allow us to avoid manoeuvres that were Clearly Not Going to Work.
Owned-and-unplayed: 16 (+2/-1) Cobra and Hinkel & Stein arrived (thanks, Jon!) but only the latter has been played so far. Definitely looking forward to trying the other (and replaying H&S.)
Outlook for the week: Games on Tuesday night this week, I think. We might play Ur: 1830 BC; we might play Terra Mystica; we might play something else entirely. Tremendously unlikely that I'll see any of Kublacon, though.
A lot of quality and variety this week!
Hanabi x 3
We scored 18 (with a new player), 28 and 24. The 28 is an all-time high score for us!
Flash Point: Fire Rescue x 2
Two plays on the starter board with a new player. We split the 2 plays, losing the first by building collapse then winning the second.
Flash Point: Fire Rescue w/2nd Story expansion x 1
We played on the Villa board and lost by losing 4 victims.
Mice and Mystics x 2
Played a pair of 2-player games, going through Chapter 1 each time.
First with my neighbor, we had a few tight spots but generally did really well. We did the optional side quest, and dealing with Brody the cat was tough. We ended up winning this one pretty handily.
Kat and I played the same Chapter this morning, and this game was much closer - close enough that we didn't have time to go for the optional kitchen side quest. We still won, but we had 2 injured going into the courtyard. Maginos used a Teleport scroll to get us to the tree and the crow made short work of the enemies.
All of us enjoyed the game quite a bit. The cards, artwork and descriptions are all really adorable. I'm not sure firstborn has the attention span for it, but the adults are enjoying it.
Il Vecchio x 1
I was not entirely sold on this after a 3-player game, but it's been on my mind quite a bit since, and that's always a good sign. I do want to play it again, and soon. It feels like a textbook, old-school eurogame. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I like muted colors and wooden pieces.
Shadow Hunters x 2
We played a pair of 6-player games using the new cards I got from Artscow. I won the first game as Bryan (Win by killing a character who has 13+ HP). One of the hunters was a loose cannon, attacking all willynilly with a machine gun. He had revealed a George (14HP) so he was my target. Carl, sitting to my right, drew Dynamite, chucked it and blew up George (damn) and injured himself. He was Daniel (13HP) who must reveal when a character dies. I moved to his location on my turn and finished him off for the win.
I was the Unknown in the second game. I tricked some folks, but my partner died first and I followed shortly after.
Innovation x 1
2-player Innovation with my buddy Jimbob. I went over it in details last week, so I'll just hit the high points here. I was up 5-0, he tied it up 5-5. I drew and tucked my 12th clock to claim The World (? - 12 clocks global achievement) in the middle of the action and win the game. Had the action concluded, the 10's were gone and he would have won on score.
Just a fantastic play of my favorite game.
Plato 3000 x 1
Kat has been asking for this one lately. I jumped out to a big lead before she came back and stole it from me. This is not unusual for this game. As I said to her "You are Lucy, I am Charlie Brown and Plato 3000 is the football."
Betrayal at House on the Hill x 1
Angie brought a friend over for game night this week. She said "I like board games, but no one wants to play them with me." When asked what she liked, she said "Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit...I just got Apples to Apples..."
We introduced her to the hobby with Flash Point and Hanabi, and I was having a tough time trying to figure out a game to play that everyone would like. She said a few times that she likes horror movies and also mentioned that she likes video games, so I Betrayal at House on the Hill might work out. And it did. It's been about 2.5 years since I last played this, but it was really fun. It's an experience game, which is a term that usually makes me run screaming from the room.
Sometimes the haunts fail horribly, and sometimes they make for really memorable sessions. This game was something in between. The new player ended up being the traitor due to a rules error on my part* but she took to it with gusto. It was the Voodoo scenario, where she had made voodoo dolls of the other players and had hidden them in the house. Each turn she would give a clue to each player about their whereabouts, and the longer it took the players to find them, the more damage they did. The players ended up winning a close one.
Dominion x 3
Kat and I had a morning session of Dominion, she took 2 of 3 games from me. After all this time there are still cards I haven't played with (from Dark Ages).
Castles of Burgundy x 1
This has become a comfort game for the wife and I. This time she won by quite a bit: 202-178.
God's Playground x 1
I spent a few hours at the neighbor's place doing some 3-player gaming yesterday. We started off with God's Playground:
God's Playground Take 2, this time we were a little more experienced. We also played the Habsburg rules properly this time. I think we had screwed up the Enemies Attack phase the first time we played (we had troops at home rolling against enemies that got through).
I started off as the only one in Little Poland and stayed that way for much of the game. I was defending it alone (often poorly - I rolled multiple 1's multiple times). That also meant I had the 5VP from invading the Ottomans every round. I activated Jesuit Schools in rounds 3 & 4 for 7 points each time.
I also bid heavy on turn order in round 3 (hoping to take the valuable City action) and lost to Carl, but still got it 2nd in turn order. In round 4 I bid hard at first player again and got it this time, so I had both Cities. I put them in Lithuania where Carl & Bryan had more valuable properties, so I figured they'd be well-defended and I was right.
Bryan stole one of my Estates in round 4, but it wasn't enough - I won with a score of 73, about 15 points ahead of 2nd place.
What a terrific game. I saw some bad luck for sure, as twice I invaded the Ottomans with a strong force only to roll a bunch of ones and lose a lot of my forces. I'm okay with that, though. That element of uncertainty needs to be there.
Garden Competition x 1
We got about halfway through the game and had to restart. We had some rules wrong. Very wrong. Turns out that my first play had some rules wrong too.
I finished a distant last. I think the rules SNAFU brought the table down a bit for this one. Oops.
Maria x 1
It's been 2 years since my last play of this. We played the introductory game yesterday in hopes of trying out the full game today. I had France/Bavaria. The Austria player really got beaten up. I don't think he won a single battle. I won a couple of big ones against him that cost us both a lot of cards, then he had nothing left to use against Prussia. The Prussian player walked all over him, winning with 12 areas controlled in round 5.
We all clearly have much to learn with this one. I'm looking forward to the full game.
I started on medication this week, something I've never wanted to do. We'll see how it plays out. It's a brave new world.
My wife is getting closer to graduation, firstborn is closer to summer vacation, Levi's birthday is near, our daughter is coming and so is my triumphant return to college. It's gonna be a busy few months.
As for gaming, we're hoping to play a full game of Maria later today. We also have a game of Terra Mystica scheduled for Wednesday, and we'll no doubt get some games in during the weekday nights as well.
*My character died just before the haunt began. It turns out that can't happen. The haunt specified my character to be the traitor if available. Whoops.
“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!”
"Oak and iron guard me well, or else I'm dead and doomed to hell." - Andal proverb.
Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer (22)
Core Worlds + Expansion (1)
Il Vecchio (1)
Not much to say about Ascension except that I'm still waiting for Immortal Heroes to come out because while Ascension has tons of replay value, after literally thousands of games more cards in the mix would be really welcome. Every time I list digital games I've played, I keep thinking that I should get into learning/playing Neuroshima Hex. I guess it just annoys me that you can't double-tap a tile to see what it does. Instead you have to click a side bar, then the info button, then the tile. It would also be nice if Summoner Wars would get an update with additional factions. I guess Playdek have a lot on their plate since they aren't really updating many of their apps (random start player for Can't Stop please??) and just putting out new ones. I guess people will be happy when Agricola releases but I'd personally rather updates/expansions to games they already have released.
While I'm not the most keen Core Worlds for multiple reasons I agreed and was actually looking forward to trying the game with the Galactic Orders expansion. What do I think?
Galactic Orders adds the following to Core Worlds: more cards to draft/conquer for each phase including the pre-game draft, a new ability ability for each home world (same amongst all factions: if worlds > units draw an extra card), an advancement card which connects to your home world (same amongst all factions: If you have 3 worlds in your tableau, you can put a card under this during the energy phase to purge something from your deck), a new faction with it's own starting deck, event cards, a variant that makes it possible to not be screwed by turn order to get the Core World you've been building towards, and the Galactic Orders themselves.
The new ability for the home worlds is actually a pretty good addition because it allows you to cycle through your deck faster if you keep a low number of troops or if you conquer a lot of planets. The advancement card also helps you cycle through your deck but more importantly you can purge cards that don't fit into your strategy (ie if I don't care about ground strength, I can purge the tactics card that boosts infantry strength). Previously there was no way to purge tactics cards. The new faction is just added variety which is nice, as is the new cards for each of the phases. That said, there does seem to be one card in the pre-game draft that seems pretty overpowered: the Phantom Ship. It's easy enough to remove that card however. The variant addresses one of the issues I had with the base game: If you are building towards the CW that gives you bonuses for Starfighters but come 2nd or last in turn order when CW's are available, it could be that someone could conquer that home world before you. This variant simply states that if someone conquers a CW, other players can put one of their player tokens on that CW and when it comes to their turn, they must conquer it or lose that opportunity and remove their token. If they conquer it, all players with tokens on the CW are considered to have it for end of game/prestige card purposes. Event cards have a phase number and are added into the respective deck, when they come up, their overwrite the previous event. Early events can be good, later events are generally bad. The events kind of balance again the bonuses provided by the Galactic Orders.
The meat of the expansion is the Galactic Orders. There are 6 types of faction symbols that come on cards. When unit cards are deployed or tactics cards are played that has a faction symbol on it, you add a player token to the tile associated with that faction. Tokens there can later be removed for special abilities or left on the tiles of end of game scoring bonuses. The different factions give the following abilities: draw 3 cards, +2 fleet or ground strength, -3 energy to draft costs, -3 energy to deploy costs, +1 action, +2 energy. At the end of the game, each faction tile is scored as follows: Most tokens gets points equal to their tokens on the tile, second most tokens get half (rounded up) the number of points equal to their tokens on the tile (not the 1st players tokens). Tie for first sees both players get full points and no 2nd place. Tie for second means tied players get no points.
Overall thoughts? Core Worlds is a much better game with the expansion. The game feels more like a deckbuilding game with more ways to purge unneeded cards for your deck and additional opportunities to draw cards which causes you to cycle through your deck more. Players are able to accomplish a fair but more in a round due to the Galactic Orders. Events do poke at you but the benefits of the Orders far exceed what negatives the events cause. There is basically a lot more to consider with the game: do I draft this card for it's strength type/amount, it's special ability, it's card type, or because it gives me a token on a particular faction tile? Do I use my tokens on the faction tiles for benefits and if so when, or leave them there for scoring at the end of the game? While the game is MUCH better, it still has some issues: I still feel the game is simply too long. I feel like the designer should have cut 2 - 4 rounds out of the game and added more drafting to speed things up. What shows up in the draft area is still problematic in that the card types you want may not show up. In fact some cards play off of the faction tokens/icons, so, you may want to focus on a particular faction based on a card drafted in the past but not see any/many of those cards. While the faction tiles are fantastic, sometimes everything from the draft area can be conquered/drafted in a single turn due to the use of their special abilities. I feel like more cards should be added to the draft area with these capabilities. I also worry that the new Core World (Raven: 8 Fleet/8 Ground = 4 Points +1 Point/token on a faction tile of your choice) is better than most of the other CW's. If using the variant though, everyone can focus on it. Then again some people may been able to focus more on a single faction symbol than others. So, the expansion is mostly really good, but it doesn't make me want to buy Core Worlds myself.
I also managed to get Il Vecchio played. Il Vecchio, is an interesting, quick and relatively easy to learn euro game where every player starts with a unique player power. I definitely feel like it has some similarities to Hansa Teutonica in the following ways: there is a spatial aspect to the game, sometimes players will sacrifice the use of their player pieces permanently for scoring opportunities, each player will have unique capabilities as the game progresses, every now and again players have to use an action to refresh their player pieces, players can influence how quickly the game can end, and both feel like multiplayer abstract games even compared to other euros. Il Vecchio has more luck involved in the game than Hansa Teutonica due to the dice as well as tile draw. There is a variant in the book that removes dice from the game, but then some of the tiles that provide special abilities literally have no special benefit. On the up side, Il Vecchio seems less volatile. What I mean by that is, in Hansa if players don't keep other players in check (ie allowing a player to amass too many action early in the game) it can lead to a less than stellar game experience. Thus far, Il Vecchio definitely seems worthy for exploration but I based on what I've seen, I worry that it lacks the variety from game-to-game to stay permanently in my collection.
In Other News...
I actually started playing some video games this week. I started playing the campaign for Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm. It's pretty decent so far but I'm not completely enthralled with it the way I was with Wings of Liberty. I'm hoping I'll finish it and move onto some other video games. Fez perhaps? As for TV shows, Sunday coming is probably going to be the most important episode of Game of Thrones past, present, or future. I can't wait to see the reactions on the internet after it airs.
As for board games... I expect I will be doing some 3 player games tomorrow. I think I also have some games planned for Saturday. So, it should be a much better week for gaming. In addition to that, I didn't think I was going to get my packaged that contains the Seasons Expansion and Pax Paraphrasing until next week, but after checking the tracking number, it looks like I should receive it tomorrow or Wed at the latest. I can't repeat enough how much I'm looking forward to the Seasons expansion. What else? I'm considering holding another auction soon. I have some left overs from the previous auction and there are other games in my collection I'm considering moving along:
Bloood Bowl + Expansion - I like this but I find it too long for what it offers. I thought the expansion would save the game for me (as expansion often do), but I was really underwhelmed by it. There are a bunch of other card games I would rather play than it. In fact, there are 3 player board games I own that probably take up a similar amount of time, that I would rather play. It's sad, as I really love the theme and artwork. Maybe I should give it one more try with the shorter game variant but it's doubtful.
A Game of Thrones - I have both the 2nd and 1st edition. That said I've only played it once in about the past 3 or 4 years. I guess it's because, I rarely have 4 or 6 people and with 5 I would rather play BSG. Even though I like it, I know that at least 2 of the people I regularly game with aren't very enamoured with the game which will make it even harder/next to impossible to get to the table. I have considered keeping it because I personally like it and it is Game of Thrones after all, but I very much dislike having games that just sit on the shelf.
Imperial/Imperial 2030 - Four players seems very hard for me to get and the game has been sitting on the shelf literally years before getting the opportunity to play it. Maybe I'll try pushing for a 3 player game tomorrow and/or just sell one of them... but which one??!?!?!
Louis XIV - Like Imperial, 4 player games just never get to the table. Even if I had the opportunity to play with 4 regularly, I think I have some good choices: Age of Steam, Brass, Glory to Rome, Glen More, Taj Mahal (I haven't played it yet, but of all the best with 4 games I've yet to play, that one interests me the most and is not on the chopping block), Imperial (if I decide to keep it), etc.
Piece o' Cake - I'm wishy-washy on this one. I like it, but I think there are other filler games I would rather play. Now that I have San Marco back in my collection, it's not as if I won't have the opportunity to enjoy the 'I split, you choose' mechanism in the future either. I think this will will at least see one more play before I make a final decision.
Rune Age - I didn't see any real negatives to this one. It's serviceable. The problem is, even with as many scenarios/game modes as this comes with, I would probably rather play a specific game of that type that I love rather than a serviceable version offered by Rune Age.
_9_ Terra Mystica - I finally beat the unbeatable Charlie (on my 31st play of the game). I was the Swarmlings, wearing my Swarmlings t-shirt, and won a surprisingly low-scoring game with something like 135 points.
_7_ Bora Bora - My first time playing Bora Bora in a while. I ran away with the game because I'm good at Bora Bora (and, in truth, I always seem to be teaching the game).
_7_ Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar - Three player game of Tzolk'in. Another "first time in a while" game, but this time I crashed and burned with my lowest-ever score. I had fun, but I missed the fourth player and I really need to shake the rust off more frequently if I'm going to get full enjoyment out of this one.
For some reason, I've had three 2012 games on my mind a lot lately. One -- The Great Zimbabwe -- is a very good game (perhaps a great game), but everyone else here hates it, so I got rid of it. Still, I miss it.
A second -- Al Rashid -- only got one play at BGG.Con. I think there is more there than I gave it credit for, and would like the opportunity to play it again. What's the game's ceiling, though? At best, it's probably a 7 or 8. Is that worth the effort to reacquire the title? Wouldn't I be better off pushing Vanuatu back to the table?
The last one -- The Palaces of Carrara -- is the weirdest. I've probably only been thinking about it because of its Kennerspiel nomination, but I get the sense that I underestimated this title. For some reason, I just have an urge to dig in and master this game. There's not much of interest in terms of "solving" the game's puzzle. But getting to the point of really understanding the game so that all my decisions are deeply purposeful would be the draw. Is it possible? Would it even be interesting? Ponderous.
_7_ Hanabi & Ikebana x1
Played with both boys and their cousin. We only scored 13 but had fun!
_7_ The Great Heartland Hauling Co. x1
My daughter wanted to play this. Her aunt E. won with 30, while I had 26, my daughter 20, my wife 10, and my daughter's uncle T. had 9. This was the first play for E. and T. and they seemed to enjoy it.
_8_ Caylus x1
Played with both my boys. My youngest had tried this on iOS device and had played the card game Magna Carta but this was his first official Caylus game. I won with 110, while youngest son had 81 and oldest son 70.
_8_ Power Grid: Brazil/Spain & Portugal x1
First time playing the Brazil map. We ended the game with three of us able to power 17 cities. I won with 211 coins in the tie-breaker, while oldest son had 199 and youngest son 144. Meanwhile, my wife was one city behind at 16.
Tabled: 8 unplayed.
Removed: 28 removed.
Acquired: 24 acquired.
Cultish: 09 worthy / 10 played.
Kudos: 03 achieved / 16 progress.
2013 TRACK - Tabled, Removed, Acquired, Cultish and Kudos
Board Game: Bus
[Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:1866]
"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
.10! Hanabi 5
_8_ Bus 1 New!
_8_ Say Bye to the Villains 4 New!
_8_ Seasons 1
_8_ MadoMagion 1 New!
_7_ Pax Porfiriana 1
_7_ Vanuatu 1
_7_ Macao 1
_5_ Kobayakawa 2 New!
_5_ Die Dolmengötter 1 New!
_5_ The major four of Heizei New!
Week in Review
With Tom and DJ in town, there were many new games. Mostly these were the little Japanese games they've been exploring lately, but with a couple of larger games mixed in. Amusingly, my reactions to them were sharply divided, with half being 8s and the other half 5s. None seemed like bad games, but the lower-ranked ones were poor fits for my preferred gaming.
I also seemed to be playing better this weekend than I have been recently.
MadoMagion is the Hanabi variant. I enjoyed it as a riff on Hanabi, though I consider the original to be better. Tom also quite enjoyed it and was drawn into the theme and art. We also played a game of Hanabi with DJ, which was a fun and satisfying play. We ended on 26, though a couple small errors were made and we could have had at least 27.
Say Bye to the Villains was a major highlight of the week. We broke it out twice and played twice each time. All four plays were the three of us and we won two of our four games. This game is fairly typical of coops in general, but has great art and theme. I would happily buy this game if it were readily available. It reminded me of Sentinels of the Multiverse.
Kobayakawa was a very simple game that felt a bit too calculable to me. I found myself calculating my odds every turn and betting when I had over 50% to win. Our second game was stronger, with some table reading going on. I actually won this game on the sixth of eight hands with a spot on read of Tom and DJ and we didn't bother to play the final hands since the score couldn't shift me out of first.
The Major Four of Heizei had similar card counting issues, though in a stock ownership shell that reminded me of Paris Connection without a map. I won this game but found it a boring exercise.
I wanted to pick up the Seasons expansion, so they went with me to my FLGS game day and we played Bus and Die Dolmengötter there. I really liked Bus a lot, though I was aware that I didn't know how to play. Toward the end, I felt like I had a kingmaker moment between Tom and DJ. I played it out for my best possible score and it ended up with DJ at 9 and Tom and I tied with 8. The taste of that decision was sour, but I really enjoyed the game and the things it did different from other games I have played.
Die Dolmengotter was too abstract for my liking, but it was fast which was nice. I tied with DJ. Our game of Pax Porfiriana was very short when Tom didn't notice I had the win on board and passed to me for my only win in seven plays. Tom got his revenge today.
Vanuatu was a strong showing by Tom, who walked away in a 5P game. He learned two major rules errors he'd been playing with and revealed afterward he had been about to give up on the game for being too straightforward. This seemed to rekindle a bit of love for the game in him.
Lots of good times were had and we even played a few more games today (which will show up on my list for next week).
Board Game: 1817
[Average Rating:8.63 Overall Rank:2040]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
Just imagine the red offboard up here. I'll create it Real Soon Now...
Yes, I know a proper 18XX tile should have a tile number.
I attended Kublacon over the long weekend:
1817 2x (!!!) 6p and 4p
18C2C 5p (aborted with me in a very strong position after the third stock round, as we discovered that half of the table had been playing with a major rule error.)
Nieuw Amsterdam 5p disaster
Playtest of "a variation of of Pandemic" with Matt Leacock. (4p, and sorry, I can't really talk about it.)
Oh, and some Win, Lose, or Banana, which I had never played before.
SUTAKKU (purchased with Kublabucks; played 2p while waiting for the NA game to start; cute push-your-luck dice game.)
The preceding week wasn't bad either:
Outpost 5p, a come-from-behind win
St. Pete 2x 2p (on different nights with different outcomes.)
Innovation 2p (did not go over well, in fact got a comparison to Fluxx; I lost on points while ahead 5 achievements to 2.)
I didn't know what to do with my UberBadge, so I left it as a GeekBadge.
This was last week:
|9.5| Race for the Galaxy (+all expansions) (x2)
|9| Hansa Teutonica
-7- Blood Bowl: Team Manager (+Sudden Death New!)
-6.5- King of Tokyo (+Power Up! New!)
-6- Suburbia (+Essen Spiel expansion New!)
-6- Summoners New!
-6- Thebes: The Tomb Raiders New!
-4- Mansions of Madness
London On Board
John Bandettini's Best of 2012 geeklist had the notable omission of Ginkgopolis, so I offered to teach him at London on Board. It was a strange four-player game, probably the longest I've played, where nobody had many tile-collecting powers so the stacks took time to deplete. Between ensuring three other players understood what was going on and handling the game's administrative tasks, I didn't have the capacity to concentrate on winning. That's my excuse for coming third! John picked up on the benefits of getting good combos of special powers and pulled in a lot of points from Exploiting throughout the game. Mike stuck with what he knew and Urbanised repeatedly, giving him control of lots of small areas at the end of the game. I know that new players tend to create large areas of one colour, and who controls it when the game ends can be a little unpredictable, so I tried to break up the bigger areas and bring that scoring down. I was the only one taking these kinds of control measures and it probably hurt my game, leaving me with a few orphaned areas that wouldn’t score. Still, as a teaching game I think it was a success. Mike commented that it was a very quiet game, and it's true there wasn't a lot of table talk as everyone was concentrating hard.
John then taught me and Mike Thebes: The Tomb Raiders. After playing Jenseits von Theben last week, I was keen to see how this version of the game worked. Essentially, they're the same thing, but this is a bit more streamlined. The time track is still there, but there's no moving between locations. Instead, you spend time to draft cards from a central pool and they are replenished from a single stack of cards. The cards include potential treasures in them with different coloured backs and when they appear, they're placed onto their respective archaeological dig sites. You acquire knowledge and choose when you want to go digging, just like in its predecessor. Go too early, and there might not be many treasures in the pile, or wait until the digs have filled up a bit and run the risk that someone will get there before you. That's the essential tension of the game - it's a race to the best treasures but you need to study before you dig to maximise your chances of finding them. There are a couple of cards that you can use to cheat your way into treasures: the tomb raider and the robber. Both let you look through the cards at a dig site and take one of them. As someone who is very familiar with the frustration of discovering only dirt in Jenseits von Theben, I grabbed these cards at every opportunity.
There are a couple of tweaks and additions to this version that I thought were really good. First, the Museums give you a way of permanently trading away artefacts for a specified number of bonus points. This gives you something useful to do with your low-value treasures if you haven't got enough to put them into Exhibits. The Exhibits themselves have changed too: instead of requiring a large set of coloured treasures, you can claim an exhibit with fewer treasures but you have to spend more time to do so. Adding extra treasures as indicated on the Exhibit card will reduce the length of time taken to grab the card. Both nice improvements on the system. Quick and fun but not sufficiently different from Thebes to own both.
Suburbia with John, Nathan and Miguel was good fun. I won with a secret bonus for most lakes (which seemed quite a high reward compared to some of the other bonuses) but I thought I'd have competition for it when John bought and invested in an early Waterfront Realty. It turned out the money he got from it meant he didn't need to buy many lakes. Nathan and Miguel unwittingly fought over the same category - one wanted the most grey tiles, the other wanted the most contiguous grey tiles. This run through was more enjoyable than my previous two games, I think because we played it quickly and John and I handled the admin, rather than it just being down to me. I'm more interested in giving this a few more goes now, whereas before it had been edging towards the trade pile.
Hansa Teutonica was another disastrous teaching game. Well, disastrous only in that I finished resoundingly last, mistiming the ending. I suppose it was successful in that I taught two new players so well they trounced me. In future, I'll point out that being displaced is not necessarily a bad thing and can quite often be something you want to happen. Very little displacement was going on this time, even though I was specifically leaving traders to make tempting targets. Stewart improved his Actions and played a sort of blitz strategy, each turn placing and claiming a single route then leaving the board. Robert was not keen on displacing me, even while I was displacing him to show him that it wasn't a bad thing. Since he didn't take the hint, I came off worse from the deal. Nevertheless, it was great to get this back to the table.
A quick round of Ingenious showed that experience with the "App" pays dividends in the real world: Stewart thrashed us while I feel like I still only have a rudimentary grasp of the tactics.
UK Games Expo
On Saturday, I trekked down to Birmingham to see what games were on offer and to support my tournament-entering friends. This year was bigger than in the past, in terms of space and crowd numbers (it certainly felt more crowded) but also much easier to get to - in an accessible location just off the motorway. I was a little unenthusiastic this year: there were no new games I was keen to try out and nothing I wanted to buy - in fact, if I hadn't needed to fulfil my side of the Maths Trade, I might not have gone at all, but I hoped something exciting would grab my attention when I got there. It was great seeing gamers I knew from all around the country in one place; I hadn't realised so many familiar faces would be there. I bought one new game (Map It! World Edition) and one mini expansion (Keyflower: Key Celeste) and participated in the Maths Trade, swapping Mutant Meeples and Citadels for Capitol and Fowl Play!
In addition to investigating the new expansions for Galaxy Trucker (more boards) and Dungeon Petz (more everything), I had the chance to try out Vlaada Chvatil's new game, which used to be called Summoners but is now looking for a new name. Summary: it's very abstract. You have three types of piece: common, hero and legendary. You have two actions each turn to place them onto a grid trying to get them onto specific spaces or into formations that will allow you to score one of the three goal cards available. Claiming a goal sees it replaced with a new one. You have a hand of cards which can only be played if your pieces form the pattern depicted on the card (a bit like in The Stars are Right) and they allow you to place new pieces, upgrade or move existing pieces, destroy opponent's pieces etc. I played a two-player game with both of us having the same deck of cards but I believe there are different decks available. You play until someone has run through their deck or reached 9 VPs from goals (1-3VPs) and legendary pieces on the board (1VP each).
It has the forward planning and pattern recognition of some abstract games but also the uncertainty of random cards. After a few games, I think you could come to learn the formations required for the more common cards and predict what your opponent is going for. Like The Stars are Right, I can see this having the potential for downtime as players look for the optimal placement and formation of their pieces. There's a decent catch-up mechanism whereby you can play a special card for free at the beginning of your turn if you meet its requirements (typically being behind by a certain number of pieces). It was OK but felt very Chess-like to me and lacked some of the fun and wonder that Vlaada usually brings to his games. I don't doubt that it's very clever and works as a cerebral battle of wits but it didn't hit the heights of his previous work. There's a multiplayer variant where you ignore the goals and play free-for-all, scoring points for attacking your opponents' pieces instead. Picking on the weakest player is minimised because your score for each opponent attacked separately and your final score is the lowest of those. I'd play it again, but it's not a priority purchase, unlike some of Vlaada's games. I'd like to see what the finished product looks like and whether they manage to theme it sufficiently to disguise its abstract core.
The rest of the Expo was spent with a couple of friends from my game group. We tried to get into a game of Mice and Mystics, which looks like it would go down well back home, but there was only one table and it was very popular. It's not a cheap game, either, so wasn't the ideal choice for an impulse buy for any of us. Jake had been in two minds about whether to buy an expansion for Mansions of Madness, while I pointed out that he hasn't played the base game enough to need one yet. He tried to remedy that and I agreed to play once more, this time without a traitor in the mix. We set up the board wrongly and although we noticed there was no obvious way to access half of the board, we thought it was part of the scenario and would be resolved at some point! Luckily, nothing on that side of the board was integral to the plot. Again, the game was very difficult for the investigators: cultists bogged us down with combat and Fear Checks while the Keeper messed with us at every opportunity. I liked it more than on my first play, but not by much - it still dragged, just not as badly as last time! The other three players were new to the game and weren't impressed by it, I think mainly because it was so difficult. The highlight once again was the mechanical puzzle we found, although Nik's Scientist staring down and distracting a Hound of Tindalos was quite impressive - the idea of a predatory being from beyond time and space being troubled by her stern gaze was comical.
I got in one play of Blood Bowl: Team Manager with the expansion. I agree with Mark's comment above that it takes a bit too long, but I like it. I just need to play with quick players or be prepared for it to take time. This was at the Fantasy Flight demo booth and they hadn't taken out the overpowered Team Upgrade cards, so it was possible to ride them to victory. I tried the Dark Elf team, whose Downed Skills seem very strong. Wood Elves also made a good showing, with plenty of Sprint to find their Star Players. Dwarfs struggled as usual - I've no idea how you're supposed to win with them, they just seem weak compared to other teams.
I saw some of the Agricola tournament: Braggart seemed to be winning every game for anyone lucky enough to be dealt it. Bah-roken!
Say Bye to the Villains x4
Pax Porfiriana x2
Die Dolmengötter x1
The major four of Heizei x1
The Great Zimbabwe x1
I had an extraordinary time in Louisiana - exploration, art, music, new friendships & the bloom of a new romance - so I ate tons of crawfish, danced the zydeco at breakfast & under a sweaty moon, paddled up to a gator, and explored plantations, gorgeous gardens, & some cypress swamplands I'll never forget.
Here we are in a garden. Falling in love is lovely, yes?:
After a week out there, I flew into Portland & met DJ & Max.
Here's my favorite picture from that part of my trip of DJ at a streetfair on Portland looking worried. Should he be? I'd say yes, given what's looming over his shoulder his gamer instincts should be flairing.
And here's my favorite shot of Max, let's just pretend he's looking up from Pax with his "This game is so broken" look on his face.
Bus was a pleasant surprise, a keeper, and DJ took the win in a fashion that made me want to play again. Khmer continues to be a favorite, I think this is the best (by far) of these recent 'small games' and my early enthusiasm is well vested.
My Pax Porfiriana-fu was strong in the second game with a 2nd topple win that - from both Max's & DJ's feedback - may prompt a card ban from their decks. I'll let them sell you on that idea, I liked pinning them for a bit & watching them squirm before kicking them to the curb with a bloody revolution.
My first play of Die Dolmengötter intrigued greatly. As it didn't go over well with Max I can't say yet, but I think this'd be a '9' for me. So, an introduction to a great game I'm unlikely to see again until I see either Dave or DJ. I wish I could play 4 in a row; it's that sort of goodness.
I'm wondering if The major four of Heizei is what I'd hoped Trick of the Rails would be, a somewhat opaque but maleable stock taking card game with a twist on the back end. Very intriguing first play and one I think Ben Draper might go for - definitely a Winsome-feeling card game with a fast set-up & play time. This could be another gold strike in this recent Japanese gaming exploration and join Khmer as a favorite, but I really can't tell without a few plays. Fortunately it teaches & plays much easier than Trick/Rails, so maybe I'll get another look. I'll be very curious to hear from Joel & DJ if it stays on the Iowa table.
Say Bye to the Villains is charming as all get out & actually led to one of those hilarious, improbable coop finishes that had us cheering. Did we really play this four times Max? The production is excellent, a very smooth & easy playing coop meant to be played for the experience rather than shark maneuvers, and one non-gamers could enjoy as well. I think this could be a hit if the game say general release, but I'm not the good judge of this sort of thing so check-in with Max & DJ to triangulate on a possible recommendation.
Holy crap, I won a game of Vanuatu.
The Great Zimbabwe was anti-clamatic & I was scratching my head. Intrigued, it plays so quickly that it strikes me as ripe for a speedy re-play cycle with a given table to sniff out the gaming perimeter.