Sixth Annual Alphabetic Boardgaming Challenge
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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It's the most wonderful time... of the year. For us, anyway, because it's the sixth time that my partner and I have set aside a few days in September to play 26 boardgames in a row, one for each letter of the alphabet. Wheeeeeeeee!

If this is your first Alphabetic Boardgaming Challenge geeklist, you can see what to expect by looking at the Fifth Annual ABC. (or, for completists, the geeklist of all ABCs). At this point my collection is approaching 300 games, so if you know anyone who lives or travels near NW MA looking to buy some used games, please send them my way. I think if I can just sell 30-40, we'll be able to sit on our loveseat again.

But true love is obviously about playing 26 boardgames with your partner over the course of a few days. The ever-expanding collection only gives us more options (including, finally, a game we don't hate for Q). The official ABC rules dictate that the loser of each round chooses the game and parameters (e.g. whether to use variants/expansions, whether victory is best-of-three or total score, etc.) for the next letter.

Usually we select the first game by matrix method, but we were talking about possible matrix strategy and I said, "You'll probably choose a column to avoid Agricola, because it's a long game. Which is too bad, as I'd love to play Agricola." And Debbie said, "I wouldn't avoid it, we haven't played Agricola in too long, and I'd love to play it too." At that point we decided to dispense with the usual A-game matrix and just start with Agricola, since the whole point of the event is playing games we like together.

As always, I'll be livegeeklisting the event so you can enjoy the gaming marathon vicariously.
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1. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:25]
Seth Brown
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North Adams
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Agriiiiiiiiiiiiiicola! It had been so long since we'd played with only the standard E-deck, that we decided to do just that.

Debbie opened with the Grocer and got a Fireplace fairly early, setting her up to cook sheep and turn them into every good. Round 2 I dropped a Tutor, and Round 3 the Clay Mixer, who is basically like Clay Xzibit ("Yo dawg, I heard you like clay, so I added some clay to your clay so you can take clay when you take clay.") I was the first to three family members, but Debbie was first to four and five. We both played the majority of our cards. Debbie managed to build out a six-room stone house, but it came at the expense of any fences whatsoever. I meanwhile rode my clay horse through a lot of improvements, ending with 14 bonus points just from improvements and Tutor. The combination of these two things led to my victory, 50-43.

Guess she'll have to send her guys back to the farm team.

Victory: Seth

Seth: 1
Debbie: 0
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2. Board Game: Bombay [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:2383]
Seth Brown
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I'll admit, I was surprised to see this one as Debbie's next choice, as it plays better with 3-4 players, and we hadn't played it in ages. I basically started by gathering cubes and just turning them into palaces to wall off the left half of the board with tollbooths (and grab some bonuses). Debbie cagily waited until I was standing on a goods depot with one cube left, then built a palace on a bonus tile to take the last good of that color, leaving me high and dry. She claims she was just doing her own thing, but in the last round she grabbed the orange cube a turn before I could, went to the palace where I wanted to sell my blue cube first, and took the money I so desperately needed... I got the palaces bonus, but it wasn't nearly enough, and I lost 24-19.

Last year's victory has emboldened Debbie to gloat about her victory here. Days of her staying Mum? Bye.

Victory: Debbie

Seth: 1
Debbie: 1
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3. Board Game: Caesar & Cleopatra [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:1584]
Seth Brown
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Haven't played this one in a while either. I threw subtlety to the winds early in staking a claim on my Senators for the bonus points, while Debbie was more subtle in staking out her Praetors, but the end result was that we each got 3 of our respective bonus type. I Spied some choice action cards out of her hand early, but at the end of the game I got Philosophized. I used Castling to shift my pile elsewhere, but when my only other remaining pile had 5 cards already, I was forced to add cards to the pile that OBVIOUSLY had a philosopher on her side. Indeed, she took that with a philosopher, and amidst all the orgies, squeaked by and won the game by a single Quaestor.

Debbie kicked my asp again. I won't even mention the other pun I thought of (that's what we call "Praetoritio")

Victory: Debbie

Seth: 1
Debbie: 2
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4. Board Game: Ligretto [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:2473]
Seth Brown
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Ah, Dutch Blitz. I started out way ahead, but then Debbie caught up. And then I got ahead again, and then she somewhat caught up, and then there was a round where 9 points would have won me the game, and I got 8 points, so we had to have one final round. And in that round, Debbie got waaaay too many points, and I got 3, and so I ended up losing 82-77.

Of course I feel disappointment about this; wooden shoe?

Victory: Debbie

Seth: 1
Debbie: 3
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5. Board Game: Eminent Domain [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:467]
Seth Brown
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North Adams
Massachusetts
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I decided we would play a single game of Eminent Domain. Debbie played heavy warfare early on, while I went colonize/research. I spent most of my early research actions filling my hand with survey symbols, while Debbie expanded metallic worlds and kept the warfare pressure on. While we both felt like my research/colonize engine was outpacing her warfare/survey engine (especially since I nabbed two of the 5-point ultimate techs), in the end I'm glad I'd used a few improved trade actions, as I only won by a point with the final score 47-46.

Master of all I Survey.

Victory: Seth

Seth: 2
Debbie: 3
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6. Board Game: Power Grid: Factory Manager [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:762]
Seth Brown
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North Adams
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Factory Manager (power grid) is one of those games that has so few actual turns, but each one is agonizing. We both played a very defensive game, often not pulling things we needed if we knew the other person needed them more. Consequently, production was very low until the last round. I was trying to save money and upgrade only while required, while Debbie was upgrading everything left and right. In the last round she spent a lot more than me, pushed her production 30 past mine, but was using $20 more worth of energy. The game ended in a squeaker, with me losing 278-281.

Frugal fellow feels few francs' failure, fiesty fraulien frolics finding first.

Victory: Debbie

Seth: 2
Debbie: 4
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7. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:126]
Seth Brown
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North Adams
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Conveniently, we still have this one on loan, so I eagerly decided we should take advantage of it, and not just because I usually win. Debbie spent out early to get both spice-a-turn and ship-a-turn, strong tiles indeed, but they came at the expense of both early plantations and early money. I got my cards up to draw2, then focused on the harvest track almost exclusively. This may be the first game I've played where I never advanced my ship track until the very last turn (and then just because it was a free action). Debbie, meanwhile, advanced money to the bottom very early. By the end, we both had two tracks and the colonies at 10 points, but I'd picked up a mission tile and had abused some harvest ships cards to scoot ahead, and ended up winning 45-39.

Debbie gingerly tried to avoid handing me the game, but I peppered her with clever bids and clove to victory.

Victory: Seth

Seth: 3
Debbie: 4
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8. Board Game: Hansa [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:786]
Seth Brown
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North Adams
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Ye Olde Hanseatic Trade League, aka Hansa without the Teutonica. I placed my opening markets in a circle to the north and left of Copenhagen, while Debbie claimed the east bank. I kept leaving the ship trapped in the left bank, however, and piled up a lot of market stalls early. At least twice I simply passed my turn with 3 taler, so I could have 6 on the following turn and tromp all over the board. At the end of the game we tied on market stalls, but I had so many more scored barrels that we didn't even bother counting my final score because it was obvious I had won.

My score pile was just that much taler.

Victory: Seth

Seth: 4
Debbie: 4
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9. Board Game: Innovation [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:304]
Seth Brown
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This is totally better than any I-game we've had for this event before. I open with The Wheel, and Debbie with Masonry, leaving us an uneasy struggle for castle icon dominance. I eventually claim that, and run the Wheel A WHOLE LOT, drawing a ridiculously large hand of cards. We're back and forth for a while, but then I draw into Machine Tools, use it to score tons of points, and achieve an easy victory. (Debbie has also declared tired, so we'll pick up tomorrow.)

She managed to steal the card at the end of the game, but it was Tool ittle, Tool ate.

Victory: Seth

Seth: 5
Debbie: 4
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10. Board Game: Jambo [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:550] [Average Rating:7.03 Unranked]
Seth Brown
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North Adams
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Well, I was hoping for JAB: Realtime Boxing, but Debbie selected our usual J-game in the form of Jambo. And frankly, she might have had more luck with JAB. I got 3 good utilities early. She managed to destroy 2, but I just got 2 more, while she languished with none for most of the game. I almost feel bad about how I managed to draw a billion cards and accumulate gold easily while she struggled to draw anything useful, but then she complained that I'd had ridiculous luck in drawing all the cards I needed, which reminded me that it must have been my raw card-drawing skill that led me to a blowout victory, hitting 61 gold while she was barely at 40.

Given my utilities though, the result was not really a Supplies.

Victory: Seth

Seth: 6
Debbie: 4
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11. Board Game: Kingsburg [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:297]
Seth Brown
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North Adams
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So, I usually rush to Market and then stack defense, but I really wanted to gain some ground this game, so I decided to be clever and rush the Embassy for tons of points. Debbie, who claims she had a similar idea but was obviously just copying me, rushed the Embassy for tons of points. The first winter, we'd both have lost a building on a 1 roll, but such did not occur. Our boards were nearly mirror imaged, but the last round before the second winter, Debbie managed to grab the single soldier spot before I could, so I would lose a building on a 1, and she wouldn't. Naturally, I rolled a 1, because dice hate me. This caused me to lose my Embassy, and frankly the game, because I never recovered, and ended up losing by a dozen points. I should have taken more seriously the fact that Winter was coming.

The difference in our points was Stark.

Victory: Debbie

Seth: 6
Debbie: 5
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12. Board Game: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:289]
Seth Brown
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North Adams
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Debbie doesn't love this game, but we haven't played it in forever, and I think it's pretty cool, and it was my turn to choose. The first game I was the fellowship, and after a lot of attrition and annoying Gandalf-powered retreating, I snuck Frodo into Mordor with an end run. On my turn as the forces of evil, I had Shelob cut a swath through the enemy lines, relentlessly attacking Gandalf until he was out of good cards, and then pretty much outnumbered and surrounded Frodo to death.

That's what I'm Tolkein about. (Some people consider my puns a bad hobbit, but people who like them, I hope there are Moria.)

Victory: Seth

Seth: 7
Debbie: 5
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13. Board Game: Merchants of Amsterdam [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:1687]
Seth Brown
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North Adams
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While not particularly made for 2 players, there's no reason it doesn't work with 2 thanks to the Dutch auction, it just turns it into a scary staring match game of chicken. With both of us too lazy to calculate expected value, we're sort of bidding on instinct and gut, with prices that ranged from $60k to $200k. I ended up gaining warehouse and commodity dominance, and in regaining equilibrium, Debbie paid a lot for many cards. In the end, I had $1830k to Debbie's $1740k -- much lower than our usual scores in this game -- but a decisive victory nonetheless.

One of these guys was just on the Goa box, I guess here they decided to go Dutch. (That may seem cheesey, but that's how it is on Holland days.)

Victory: Seth

Seth: 8
Debbie: 5
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14. Board Game: Nightfall [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:1450] [Average Rating:6.52 Unranked]
Seth Brown
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North Adams
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Another one we haven't played in too long. We decided to play best of three. First game I got a ridiculous chain on her turn, leaving me with an attack force of 15 power to start my turn when she had very little in the way of blockers. Second game I bought Alton Hickman and Marcus Toth exclusively, which meant that I was soon able to chain 4 or so of them every turn, half of which were unblockable, and with no removal on the table this proved unstoppable.

Debbie's just glad after dusting off this game, we weren't playing for high stakes. (I know, I just can't help vamping.)

Victory: Seth

Seth: 9
Debbie: 5
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15. Board Game: Oregon [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1093]
Seth Brown
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North Adams
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A tasty clump of buildings gathered in buffalo people land, and we fared pretty evenly with claiming it. Debbie leapt ahead for a while, thanks to a bunch of 5-point bonuses for 3 in a row. But towards the end of the game I staged what I consider a valiant comeback, caught right up to her on the score board. Where I didn't catch right up was all the gold and coal that had been mined, and those few points propelled her to a 100-95 victory.

Next time, I need to keep better track where the ore gon'.

Victory: Debbie

Seth: 9
Debbie: 6
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16. Board Game: Puzzle Strike [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:1544]
Seth Brown
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North Adams
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One of the reasons I love this event is that it inspires us to play games we haven't played in too long. This game, buried under a pile and untouched for at least a year, is fantastic and should see more play. It really does feel like a puzzle video game with the screen slowly filling up. Anyway, I declared best of 3, loser can opt to change characters. Round 1 I took Setsuki and defeated DeGrey quite handily, still having a very low pile when I won thanks to many combines/crashes. Round 2 she swapped out for Rook, my old nemesis, whose defensive reflection ability combined with Big Rocks/Strength of Earth to improve 1s in hand and pile was just too strong for me. Round 3 I swapped out for Lum, because I love Living on the Edge. I had a 4 crashed at me (and amusedly realized that my screen illustrated 4s being un-counter-crashable with Rook attacking Lum), and managed to fight my way back thanks to extra actions and Living on the Edge. But the second time I had so many gems crashed at me, even after combining up to a 4 and crashing them away, I had 10 at the end of my turn, and thus full screen death.

Losing with Lum means I suffered Panda-moan-ium, but this is still a gem of a game.

Victory: Debbie

Seth: 9
Debbie: 7
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17. Board Game: Quarriors! [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:738] [Average Rating:6.78 Unranked]
Seth Brown
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North Adams
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Finally a Q game we don't hate! Huzzah! I declared it would be best of 3 with the same setup. Round 1 I loaded up on portals and quake dragons, and although Debbie leapt ahead to an early lead with deathdealers, I passed her and won by many points. Round 2 Debbie added portals and defense spells to her arsenal, leapt out to an early lead, and maintained it. Round 3 we both had 2 portals and 2 quake dragons, and were tied at 17. I summoned a dragon (wins game if scores), and a defense spell, and felt pretty smug pointing out how it was highly unlikely she'd roll enough attack to kill it. Debbie, at this point, wanted it noted in the write-up that the game was valiantly faught.

Using one of her dragons and some other creatures, she managed the 11 attack. Now I needed huge attack to stop her dragon from scoring. I drew both portals, grabbed many more dice, and rolled BOTH of my dragons. I wiped out her side, and it was pretty clear that my victory was in the bag. She drew a mediocre hand, and would need to roll the highest side on every single one of her creatures in order to stop me from winning.

Against all odds, she did. And my next draw simply didn't have enough creatures to kill hers, and she ended up winning. But I am under orders to tell you that it was valiantly faught.

Debbie is on a roll these last few games, and I am quaking in my boots.

Victory: Debbie

Seth: 9
Debbie: 8
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18. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:47]
Seth Brown
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North Adams
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Along with the first expansion, we decided on a best of 3. Game 1 Debbie was dealt New Sparta and Drop Ships, so went heavy military, but my produce/consume engine rocketed me to victory 47-38. Game 2, I got two of the alien enablers, along with the 6-cost alien development, but only managed 2 actual alien worlds before Debbie grabbed all the goals and ended the game winning 41-30. In the final round, I was dealt a hand of dreck and played the worst game of Race I think I have ever played, or at least if you don't include my first two games ever, and finished with a pathetic 23 to Debbie's 33, thanks to her improved logistics end-game rush.

Do you-a read these writeups for the pun part-a, or the News part-a?

Victory: Debbie

Seth: 9
Debbie: 9
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19. Board Game: Stone Age [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:84] [Average Rating:7.60 Unranked]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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Thag want play game. Play game with mans from cave.

Mans seek wood. Roll dice, dice make bads.

Thag make farm. Thag make more farm. Thag hate hunt food.

Thag gets more dice with more mans. Thag take wood.

Thag give wood, take card. Thag take more wood.

Thag make huts.

Girl gets civs. Thag gets more card. Thag wins. Thag rock.


Victory: Thag Seth

Seth: 10
Debbie: 9
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20. Board Game: Thunderstone [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:589] [Average Rating:6.97 Unranked]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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As easily the most time-intensive deck-builder we own, I'm just glad Debbie didn't try to declare best of 3. We had a random setup including expansion monsters that destroy heroes from deck on Breach, so it was a dangerous world which we approached only with our Clerics, Tempests, Clan Champions, and Thieves. I wasn't quite clear on the rules for one of the expansion cards, but once we decided that all "Dungeon:" effects fire, Spirit Hunters are basically a free +1 attack since they also draw you a card. So we stocked up on those, and powered through the Magic-Attack-only monsters. It was a tight race, which made me decide to spend my last few turns buying all the glowberries in town, for 1 VP each. We played with only the 1 point Thunderstone which I still managed to claim, but when the smoke cleared, I had all but one of the glowberries, and a strong 55 points in total, while Debbie only had a mere pathetic 55 points. It turns out the tiebreaker is whoever holds the Thunderstone wins, so I squeak out a victory.

Debbie didn't want to hear it and plugged her ears with her starting food cards, but I think she's just being ear-ration-al.

Victory: Seth

Seth: 11
Debbie: 9
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21. Board Game: Ubongo: Duel [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:1764]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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Debbie set the parameters at best of 3, no delayed advancement (win=move), loser chooses whether we switch boards after each round. Round 1 we played on an A board and I won handily. Debbie chose to switch to a different A board. Round 2 was hard fought, but Debbie ended up winning. I chose to flip the board over and play on the 5-piece B board. Halfway through we hit one that neither of us could get after 5 minutes, so we called a truce and abandoned it, but I had some very fast solves late in the round and claimed victory.

Debbie's hopes of winning, meanwhilst, have been blocked.

Victory: Seth

Seth: 12
Debbie: 9
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22. Board Game: Vegas Showdown [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:461]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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Ah, Vegas Showdown. I outbid Debbie to buy $12 slots on the first turn, hoping to get my usual income advantage. As the game progresses, oddly, Debbie ends up with most of the slots, while I buy most of the lounges. So my point advantage makes up for her income advantage. Where the game really turns, though, is the round where a Fancy Lounge, Fancy Restaurant, and 5-Star Steakhouse are all up for bid. Debbie lets me win the Fancy Restaurant even though she has more money, which a turn or two later she immediately identifies as a game-losing mistake. I am hard-pressed to argue, as it lets me buy the Steakhouse largely uncontested, and as we end the game tied before bonus points, it is precisely the population and diamonds from those two buildings that pushes me over the edge to victory.

Letting your opponent walk away with cheap Fancy buildings is Neva da right move.

Victory: Seth

Seth: 13
Debbie: 9
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23. Board Game: Wyatt Earp [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:912]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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Winner is first to $25k, but unclaimed reward money piles up. After the first round, I had $14k to Debbie's $13k. Round 2, she landed a hideout I couldn't get rid of in time, and sneaked ahead $23k to $21k. It was pretty obvious the next round would end it, especially as Bob Dalton was still hiding out from the previous round with a lot of reward money. Unfortunately, Debbie managed to not only claim all the Bob Dalton money, but in a single turn sneak ahead of me on two outlaws we were sharing and then end the round before I could respond. The result was a $41k to $23k drubbing, which I received.

I don't know Wyatt went down this way, but Debbie gathered a lot more of those wild bills.

Victory: Debbie

Seth: 13
Debbie: 10
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24. Board Game: Xēko Mission: Madagascar [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:10931] [Average Rating:6.44 Unranked]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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Okay, so admittedly Debbie always wins this game, but I am simply better at CCGs, so I think this time I should be able to win. No drafting this year, just playing the pre-cons best of 3. Game 1 I manage a Bullhorn Blockade to force Debbie to skip a turn of playing Species cards, which is enough to seal the deal for me. Game 2 Debbie fires off a lot of forest fires, and my deck runs out very early into the game so I lose.

Game 3 I have this special creature called the Indri, which lets you immediately play another creature if you win a turf war. In a stroke of genius, I manage to play this in a spot that gives it power, and then add a +6 boost to it, which is essentially a game-winning play. Or would have been if Debbie didn't ALSO have a +6 boost, counter-act mine, and ruin everything. The rest of the round had a few fires and fights, but I never recovered from that ruination, and Debbie took the third game and the match.

I proclaim that creature would look good on necklaces though; consider that my declaration of Indri pendants.

Victory: Debbie

Seth: 13
Debbie: 11
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25. Board Game: Yspahan [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:487]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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Early on in the game, soon after building the camel building, with no yellow dice, Debbie rolled an unlikely FIVE 1s, allowing her to grab six camels in a single action. This, I have to say, was pretty damn strong. I built the caravanserai early and drew a few cards, but we both built the hoist in the second week. I was likewise late to the party on building the extra gold building, but then used it to take even more gold so I could roll yellow dice. My first attempt yielded nothing but more gold so I could try again, a calculated risk. My second attempt was exactly what I wanted, 3 dice on vases, giving me 4 cubes in vaseville, an astounding 20 points thanks to my souk-improver building. Sadly, I was completely out of camels, and so I had to waste another turn grabbing a camel so Debbie didn't remove one of my buildings there to cost me 14 points. In the end, while it was an awesome 20-point play, the build-up and protection for it took me too many actions that Debbie spent claiming small souks on the board, and although we both built all six buildings, she ended up winning by 10 points after we both rounded the 100 mark.

Our table may be octagonal instead of round, but Debbie got the camel lot.

Victory: Debbie

Seth: 13
Debbie: 12
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