That Boardgaming Thing #10 (TBGT 2013), and the Days Preceding
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Wow, 10 years!!

Sarah had work-related travels so she had to skip this year's event. Brian, however, came down the Saturday before and stayed with us till Thursday morning (start of TBGT). I happened to have a few lighter days at work so we were able to play several games -- more than normally possible!

- 28 games (10 before, 18 at TBGT)
- 13 games new to me (4 before, 9 at TBGT including 5 Age of Steam maps)

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1. Board Game: Tournay [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:813]
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Saturday September 7: PreCon

Brian Eggert
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Mary Prasad
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I think this was new to Brian? I'd only played a few (3?) times previously, and it had been a while. Fortunately, it's not that complicated and I managed to remember how. Eventually. But sadly, not well enough -- Mary won this again (36) while Brian and I tied at 32.

This really is a cool little game! If only we could play it more often! Then we could move on to the advanced cards! The Ladies expansion was kind of cool, but I'd be happy to just play this more.

--- Summary ---
There are 3 sets of cards (yellow, red, white) in 3 groups (I, II, III); also, a set of black event cards. There are always 3 face-up event cards, most of which are bad. Players start with 2 meeples in 3 colors (yellow, red, white), placed on their Plaza card.

On your turn, use your meeples to:
- first, may play a card from hand to your display (3x3 grid) by paying the appropriate cost (some combination of coins, meeples, cards, etc). May play a card on top of another of the same color; if different color, discard older card.
- then take one action:
... draw a card; move 1-3 meeples off Plaza card to draw level I-III card; may pay others 2 coins to use their worker(s). If you draw the event card of that deck, place a coin on each event card, then trigger all event cards once/coin
... activate a building card by moving a meeple from your Plaza to the building card (max 1 Meeple/building); cards do a variety of things like give you coins, recruit an additional meeple, use someone else's card, etc.
... combat an event by paying the cost (usually 1 Meeple, 1 coin, +1/coin on the card; or, 2 meeples) shown; take the card as a reward. Later, when events trigger, may play this from hand to cancel an event for you.
... reactivate all workers: return them all to your Plaza, and remove all markers from building cards

The game ends at the start of the Start Player's turn if 2+ players have all 9 cards in their display; OR if only 1 player has, but at least n-1 Town Crier cards have been revealed. Everyone then gets to play one final card (paying normal costs). Earn VPs for all cards in display, and for all Event cards you've combated. Most VP wins!
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2. Board Game: Pluckin' Pairs [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:3015]
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Another new-to-Brian game. It was getting late and I/we just wanted something a bit light. This is definitely not at its best with just 3 players! Of course, it's not all that awesome anyway; it's decent, just not great; there are other party games I would much rather play!

I did well most of the game, but scored a big fat 0 in round 1 and never really could overcome that round. What was I thinking??

--- Summary ---
Each round, put 11 cards on display, each with a random picture on top. Under time pressure (30-second hourglass?), players simultaneously group these into 5 pairs and one left-over. Then, announce your pairs: get 1VP per player with the same pair, unless every player has that pair. We also played with a variant where matching the odd-card-out also scored VP. To set up the next round, just flip the cards over (they're double-sided). Every odd-numbered round, you of course need a new set of cards. The player with the highest sum after 6? rounds wins.

The fun comes from seeing how and why people paired the various photos. But there are some problems:
- the cards and really tiny: bigger would be better (easier to see at distance; less likely to be totally confused about what you're looking at)
- the paper pad could use some simplification
- may not be so much fun if you aren't thinking like everyone else in the group
- the box is HUGE relative to the contents; really, you just need a deck of picture cards, a timer, and some scrap paper
 
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3. Board Game: Ice Cream [Average Rating:5.49 Overall Rank:13664]
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Sunday September 8: PreCon

Brian Eggert
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Mary Prasad
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New to all of us. This is a cute little filler with set-collection and a bit of bluffing, and a fun theme -- ice cream! The main decisions to be made are in the scoop-allocation: do you try to fill orders, or mess with other people's orders? Of course, that's a bit harder since one card is face down so you don't know everything they actually have. Also, when it's time to fulfill orders, you need to balance getting more ice cream (to set up for next round) against claiming cones before the other players take them away from you. The rule requiring you to claim exact matches is interesting: it limits your play somewhat in the claiming step, but it allows you to mess with other people's plans in the allocating step where, for example, you may be able to set up a bunch of low-value cones that others must claim while you grab the high-value ones.

Kind of interesting, but is really too light for my tastes.

I ended up in a tie with Mary, winning the tiebreaker -- yay!

--- Rules Summary ---
Setup
- remove 5 or 6 scoop cards if playing with 3-4 or 5 players, respectively
- random dealer
- deal each player a random ice cream gallon card: face up in their display
- place cone cards nearby

Each Day (4 in game)
1. Deal each player a face down ice cream card; in order, starting with dealer, they may discard it and take a new card from top of deck. The kept card is face down. All discards are shuffled back into ice cream deck
2. Place the 12 cones onto the table. Starting with dealer and going clockwise, players draw the top scoop card and place it on a cone (max 4 scoops per cone). Continue until all scoops have been placed.
3. Reveal your face down gallon. Then, starting with dealer and going clockwise:
- if you have any exact matches (where you have ice cream gallons in every flavor of a cone on the table), you MUST claim one of the exact matches: place the scoops near your matching gallons and discard the cone.
- if not, you may either take a new ice cream card from the top of the deck OR claim a cone where you are only 1 scoop short.
If a player can do neither of these, this step ends immediately.
4. Cleanup.
- Players discard one ice cream gallon of every type that has scoop card(s).
- Score 1 VP per scoop, and discard all scoops
- For any ice cream gallons with duplicates, discard all but one; score 1 VP per discarded gallon
- New dealer = player with fewest VP. If tied, first tied player clockwise from the person who ended Step 3.

Winner
After 4 days, the person with the most VP wins. Tiebreaker = number of leftover gallons.
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4. Board Game: Cavum [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:1663]
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New to both of us. I bought a copy of this in Essen (2008 Spiel), and ended up giving that copy away after hearing a lot of mixed (and poor) reviews, and hearing about how complicated the game was. Anyway, the game had just sat on our shelf for a long time anyway. Of course, I later got another copy; that's the one we played.

Neither of us had read the rules before so we sort of did it together. Well, despite what I'd heard, it didn't actually seem all that complicated; in fact, the rulebook seemed to be pretty clear - hurray for us! Or maybe we just got lucky, 'cause there sure do seem to be a lot of rules questions in the forums! Of course, this is the latest reprint (FRED), so maybe all those questions have been clarified?

Anyway, this is a pretty cool game, sort of a route-building and pick-up-and-deliver with action points. Each turn, players get 12 actions. They are largely the same, except for one (auctioned). These are taken in chunks of 1-4 actions, decided by players as they go -- makes for some interesting choices about timing when to do what. You try to collect gems, either to sell them to the market or fulfill contracts of specific gems for a (usually) larger VP return.

Brian wasn't as much of a fan as I was, despite beating me (by 2 points!). But I do want to try this again -- it seems to be my kind of game! The only thing I'm not so sure about is the need to remember where the dynamite tiles are buried; they can really mess with your connections when you uncover one that you'd forgotten about!

--- Summary ---
The board is a hex grid, with city spaces along most of the edges. The center hex is a vein of yellow gems: place all 9 in a stack there.

Each round (3 in game), add 5 contracts (showing gem combinations; score big VP if completing them; lose some VP if cannot) to the display. Then auction (using VP) turn order chips 1-4. Players then each get the same set of tiles (hexes with various numbers of track exits, prospecting tiles, veins, option tiles, etc.) plus a dynamite hex based on their turn order chip. Take turns taking contracts until everyone passes.

Then, on your turn, play 1-4 of your 12 actions. These allow you to place tracks (expanding previous tunnels; you can also cover track tiles with tiles having more exits), stations, or veins (which you supply with gems of your choice). Gems (6 types, 9 tokens each) each have their own market where they are stored and which set their max sell price. The last action is prospecting, where you create a path from one of your stations to another, passing through as many veins as possible: take one gem from each vein.

After everyone's 12 actions are used, any exposed dynamite tracks explode and take the adjacent tracks as well (all these are placed in the Buy Pool, which can be accessed by turning in Option tiles)! You score for stations in cities based on the number of empty hexes. Then, players bid (Dutch auction style, bidding for the lowest price they'll accept) and sell their gems for VP.

Most VP wins!
 
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5. Board Game: Letters from Whitechapel [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:191]
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VERSUS
Brian Eggert
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New Jersey
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Mary Prasad
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I got this in a trade, after hearing all they hype and seeing how much these games were going for (before the reprint). I'm glad I didn't pay a lot for it (traded Road to Canterbury) ... it was SO BORING!! I was Jack, and it was sort of fun at first. Tense, certainly. But we quit after 2 rounds ... I can't imagine doing this over and over again!

Were you at 79?
No
78?
No
80?
Yes

Wow, that's some fun play right there!

--- Summary ---
One player is Jack. The others control the 5 detective pawns in the game. The board is a map of Whitechapel, with streets creating blocks. There are stops on all the streets, different for investigators and for Jack/victims. At the start of the game, Jack picks a location as his secret hideout.

Each day (of 5!), Jack places the potential victims and, over the next several rounds, decides which one to kill. Then, he starts to make his getaway, recording his every step on a secret sheet one by one (may use a carriage or alleyway a limited 0-2times, depending on which round it is, to take multiple steps or a shortcut). At the same time, the other players move their detectives and search for clues: when they stop moving, they ask Jack if he was at an adjacent location (may keep asking until they hear "yes"). If they think he's there now, they can try to capture him instead of investigating (if successful, they win; otherwise, Jack does).

If Jack makes it to his hideout, the day ends and you repeat the above. The detectives can shift the position of 2 of their pawns, and Jack cannot use a starting location where he's already killed. And on one of the days, there are 2 murders instead (with detectives getting to move in between). Otherwise, though, you repeat the above until all the murders are complete and Jack makes it home again, or until Jack is found.

I kind of like the hidden movement mechanism, but it felt really repetitive and boring despite the tension of having the detectives SO close to Jack many times! Scotland Yard might me more to my liking -- from what I hear, it has similar mechanics but plays much more quickly?
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6. Board Game: Rolling Freight [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:2135]
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Monday September 9: PreCon

Brian Eggert
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Mary Prasad
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I'd learned this recently (Gulf Games?) and had been wanting to try it again. New to Brian and Mary (who, I thought, would like this much better than Age of Steam).

My comments after the previous play:
After 1 play, I wrote:
This is a cube-delivering train game, like Age of Steam (or maybe more like Canal Mania) but with dice. There's more randomness than AoS:
- routes available to be built come up randomly
- there are special power cards (e.g., extra dice; cheaper builds; bonuses during cube moves; etc.), also coming in random order
- you roll dice at the end of your turns; nice idea, but the board can change a lot while you wait so planning isn't as helpful as you'd think. The dice can be used to buy those power cards, or incrementally build matching-colored routes

Fun, but I'm not sure if the level of randomness will be too much for me? And I tend to dislike random route building (like in the Lancashire Rail games). Also that first game was a bit too long (of course, near the end, I finally hit upon a technique to speed the game up a bit: when delivering cubes, place player markers on each track used -- makes it MUCH easier to remember who is earning what!). Still, it's a pretty neat system that I'd like to try again, maybe with just 4 players.


One play later: the game is still WAY too long. Granted, Brian is an especially slow player, and I wasn't all that fast myself; but this is never going to be a fast game! There are just too many changes that happen between your turns! I also don't like some of the production choices:
- the cards are TOO DAMN SMALL!
- some colors (blue/gray) are a bit hard to distinguish in our lighting
- those little demand circles are REALLY little; would've been nicer if you could actually see them more easily
- setup, where you have to take out a bunch of cards from the deck, is a pain (especially with those little cards)
- is there some pattern in the way routes are numbered (other than by phase of game)? It was annoying having to search for them every turn!

I do enjoy the game, so I'll probably be willing to play it again; just not sure I'll ask for it myself.
 
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7. Board Game: Kings of Air and Steam [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:1441]
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Tuesday September 10: PreCon

Brian Eggert
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Mary Prasad
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This was another game, new to the others, that I'd played once before and wanted to try again. This is a pretty straightforward pick-up-and-deliver game, on the lighter end of the scale. The twists are:
1. There are 2 modes of transportation (air and steam): you use airships to pick up goods produced out in the country, and deliver them to your depots. Then you use trains to deliver the goods to their destinations.
2. Goods prices steadily increase (all $8 at end) but in an unpredictable sequence.
3. You can use variable player powers
4. Programmed movement (RoboRally style)

My last game was on the "cutthroat" map -- the game was OK, not great. This time, we used the normal map as well as the unique character powers. Again, the game was just OK: there was hardly any player interaction at all! The map was wide open and we were largely able to grab cubes from our own portions of the map. In both games, the outcome seemed to be heavily dependent on who got lucky enough to choose to grab cubes early in the game, which went on to have an early boost in prices.

I'd be happy getting rid of this one, but Mary (the eventual winner) seemed to like it enough to hold on to, at least for a while. It's gotta be better with more players, maybe?
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8. Board Game: Qin [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:1315]
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Wednesday September 11: PreCon

Brian Eggert
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I had the day off, sort of; but I did have a meeting to go to in the afternoon. I think we whiled away most of the morning working out, eating, and/or laying around. Brian and I decided to squeeze one quick game in before I left. It was almost quick enough (only a little late to my meeting)! I'd played twice earlier, but it was new to Brian.

after 2 plays, I wrote:
2 plays

The double-tiles are extremely powerful since they allow you to immediately place a pagoda, and to extend your province to connect to another smaller province. The luck of the draw in the basic game can be huge. A nice variant to reduce the randomness: give each player the same set of tiles and either they arrange their personal decks or randomize their own decks. I'd prefer the latter, since I don't know the best way to stack the deck!

It's a good game, I suppose, but it's just a bit too abstract for my tastes.

--- Summary ---
The board is double-sided, with an easy side and a hard one. It shows a grid of squares, with 3 colored squares (provinces), and several 1-2 square villages. There are 12 copies of each tile, which show either 2 of the same color or 2 different colors. Shuffle all the tiles and give each player 3. Players get a number of pagodas based on player count.

On your turn, play a tile then draw a tile. When playing a tile, must play it adjacent to a colored square already on the board. If you create a 2-square area of one color, place your pagoda on it. If you grow an area to 5 spaces, the owner places a second pagoda there and it is save the rest of the game. If you connect to a similar-colored region with fewer squares, the pagoda there is returned to the player (sort of like Acquire acquisition) -- double-pagodas are, of course, immune. You may not connect provinces of equal size and same color. If you connect province to a village, place a pagoda there (if others connect later, the player with more pagodas touching the village controls it and places their pagoda there).

The first player to play all their pagodas wins. Otherwise, play until all legal plays done, then player with fewest remaining pagodas wins.


Brian ended up winning this one in a pretty close game. Yeah, still too abstract for my tastes. The variant maps out there do look pretty cool, but this will never be a go-to game for me.
 
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9. Board Game: Venture Forth [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:5565]
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After I got back home, and after a delicious dinner (good thing Mary's a good cook!), Brian brought this game down. I had recently traded away Galactic Emperor for it -- a pretty good game, but one I was sure Mary would never play, and probably one that even I wouldn't play often.

This is an adventure game that's sort of like a combination of Fantastiqa -- where there are locations connected to by paths and you play stuff (obstacles, adventurers) on the steps of that path -- and Talisman-like games -- where you build a little adventure party and roam around the board doing stuff. It should play pretty quickly once you're familiar with the rules (and there aren't a lot of those!), but our first game seemed to last too long: the end just dragged as Mary sat there with nothing to do (since Brian and I were actively stalling her, keeping her from venturing forth and getting a bunch of VP).

The major downsides:
- the game is a bit too long
- combat is nice and simple, but it's weird that you can eventually kill everything so easiliy
- also, odd that once your party is full it is pretty much unchangeable
- you can get stuck in a situation where you can't do much yourself, unless the other player(s) let you. If, for example, you end up in the same temple as another player, as soon as a path is full one of you will be able to venture forth. If it's that other player, then you're stuck sitting there trying to recreate that path; and when you're done, they can venture back -- again leaving you stuck sitting there, creating paths for the other player to take advantage of!

I'd like to try it again, but I don't think this will be a keeper for me.

--- Rules Summary ---
The board shows several temple locations, and paths connecting them to each other. Shuffle the treasure and encounter decks. To start the game, players get coins and 6 cards (monsters and adventurers): in turn order, play one adventurer to your display (your party); these start as Level 1 (card indicators available as needed). In turn, place your pawn in different starting locations.

On Your Turn
1. You MAY play a treasure card for its effect (a variety of powers: e.g., teleport to a location, convert coins to VP, etc.); it's then removed from the game.
2. Then, you MUST take ONE action:
- Play a Card, then draw a card. The locations are color coded (e.g., wilderness, green). You may play a card onto a step on the path if it's adjacent to another card of that color, or the location itself. Depending on the icon on the step, you'll get either a coin or a will (white cube; place on one character in your party). You may also get to draw an adventure token and place on an available spot (one per path) on the board.
- Use a Temple (where you're standing). These allow you to buy will, sell a treasure card for coins, take TWO more actions (but not using this temple again), teleport to another temple, etc.
- Venture Forth. Once a path is completely full of cards, you may travel along it to the next location. At each step:
... if you encounter an adventurer, you may add it to your party (max size 5) by paying the cost (coins) indicated. If you don't, tap it. If it was already tapped, discard it.
... if you encounter a monster, must equal or exceed it's strength to beat it; strength of each adventurer is the same as its cost, which you can double by having an adventurer spend one will -- just add up all your adventurer's strengths. If you lose, you must pay the penalty shown (coin, will, etc.) or take despair (black cube) for every item you cannot pay. The monster card is discarded.
... when you get to the other location, if there was an Explorer token on that path, take it: they generally give you coins, will, or treasure; may give you despair. Save for end-game scoring.
... along the way, at any time you may fulfill one of your adventurer's ambitions (e.g., encounter a specific type of monster, travel to a specific location, etc.); if so, you may have that character spend will to earn VP or level up (which will later allow you to earn more VP at once). There are 3 levels in the game; Level 3 cards are unique, and split into 3 face up piles -- you choose which card to take (from the top) when you level up.
- Regroup. Discard as many cards as you want, draw as many back into your hand.

End of Game
- When the last Explorer token is placed on the board, everyone (including that player) gets one more turn.
- Final scoring:
... adventurers may have end-game abilities to score VP
... Explorer tokens: most, 2VP; second-most, 1VP
... every 2 coins: 1VP
... each despair: -3VP

 
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10. Board Game: A Fool's Fortune [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:6385]
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Hillsborough
North Carolina
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Brian Eggert
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Piscataway
New Jersey
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One last game before bed time! I'd tried to learn this with Mary, but had only managed to get incredibly frustrated with the stupid rules and terminology! But I'd recently watched the teaching videos, or at least part of them, and thought I had a better handle on the rules.

This is a thematic twist on Rummy. It seems like there might be something here, but the rules are truly awful! Theme is nice, but way overused in this case: instead of using standard card game terms, EVERYTHING has a themed alternative name. For example, fortunes and characters instead of cards, realms and domains instead of colors and suits, fees instead of sets, and on an on ... it makes it really tough trying to learn the rules! And it's a relatively complicated game, too, so there are a lot of rules to learn! They do split them up into 3 ”acts" each with several "scenes", so that should at least make it a bit easier. Act 1 is really really simple; we skipped it and jumped into Act 2.

I ended up winning -- yay! It still seems like a cool version of Rummy, but at this point I'd rather play Mystery Rummy! Of course, I haven't played the full ruleset of this game yet, so I guess I'll keep trying to learn more of these rules.

--- Summary ---
The deck has 2 types of cards:
- Fortunes (horizontal art): 5 suits (colors), each with 11 cards (1 wild icon, and 2 each of 5 different icons)
- Characters (vertical art): 22 unique people, split evenly into 2 types (Skilled/Saavy; used for more advanced rules)
Each player has their own display area, separated from one another by the "Faire" -- where Fortunes will be discarded -- and the "Road" where Characters will be discarded. Your play area is split into 3 parts: Cache (where you can work on up to 2-3 sets, depending on ruleset being used), Crew (where you can have a max of 3 Characters), and Camp (which is sort of a workspace during your turn; all cards still here at end of your turn are discarded).

SET = group of cards all the same color but different symbol, or all the same symbol but different colors. Wild icons may substitute for other icons.

At the start of your turn, untap all your Characters, draw up to your hand limit (3?), and draw an additional card (from "Fate" = deck). Then, may play cards and take card actions.

To play a Character to your Crew area, must pay a Fee = set of 2 cards; these remain under the Character card, which comes into play tapped.

To play a set into your Cache area, must have at least 3 cards in it. May also add cards, from hand or Camp, to previously played sets.

Character actions vary depending on how much of the rules you're using. They require you to tap the character, and allow you to draw cards from the deck, take a card from the Faire, move a card from a Fee, trade a card with the other player, etc. The characters themselves, with the most advanced ruleset, also have unique character powers.

At end of your turn, you must discard a card from your hand or Camp. If you complete a turn with 3 complete sets, you win!
 
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11. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Robot & Hexpansion [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked] [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Thursday September 12: DAY 1

We woke up a bit later than planned (at least, Brian and Mary did ...), and headed out for some breakfast on the way to the con. Mary and I used to go to Brigs fairly often when we lived nearby, but we hadn't been there in several years. They have great waffles, skillet egg dishes, almond nutmuffs (english muffin buttered, covered with sweet stuff and sliced almonds, and served with cream cheese) ... YUM! We walked in to some lady having a DFO (done-fell-out) episode! She'd gotten lightheaded and nearly passed out, although she was feeling a bit better when we arrived. She and her husband thought it was because she'd accidentally taken his meds (claimed she was otherwise healthy, although that was definitely not true!). I couldn't actually do much for her, especially when I couldn't get much information out of either person! Anyway,t she seemed to be getting better on her own and didn't seem to want to do anything but sit there and wait to recover on her own. EMS arrived soon, and she eventually (reluctantly!) agreed to go to the hospital with them. So, a lot of hubbub without any actual work on my part. But the restaurant did comp my breakfast, so that was nice! Of course, Brian was treating us anyway, so it was nice for him more than me!

------- And now, Back to Gaming -------
After breakfast, we headed over to the hotel. There were already a bunch of people gaming! By the time we had unloaded our games (Mary has built a library of games donated by companies, which we take to any conventions we can drive to; if we fly, we try to take some of the newest additions to the library), it was just before 1pm -- time for some Age of Steam! I had planned (hoped, more accurately) to play Age of Steam expansion maps all day every day. Or at least one map every day at 1pm-ish: there aren't a huge number of Age of Steam players here, and people mostly want to play new stuff at game conventions. I wasn't sure that even I would be up for only one game! But several people had shown some interest, and it was 1pm, and I managed to gather 4 of us ... great start to the convention!

Douglas Damron
United States
Danville
West Virginia
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Edward Burr
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Cary
North Carolina
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David Howard
United States
North Carolina
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Part of my Quest to Play Age of Steam


Hexpansion on Rust Belt map

This was my first game at That BoardGaming Thing. I managed to get a group of four of us together, but a couple of people had not really played the game very much. In fact, one (Edward) had never played. David and Doug had played only a few games. So, I decided to try a map with very few rule changes. We went back to the Rust Belt map, but with the Hexpansion expansion. And this one, there are several new city tiles, each of which may have a different color distribution in each of the six wedges of the hexagon. A city is considered to be the color of the wedge through which a good is entering that city.

Well, we sort of ended up playing two games. In the very first turn of the first game, I had planned on starting right where everyone else ended up starting. But being fourth player, and having everyone else start clustered close to one another, I decided to go on the west side of the board. However, the Hexpansion tile goodness threw me off. I failed to realize that I could not deliver the cubes that I was counting on and would in fact go bankrupt on the very first turn! So chalk it up as a win for everybody else. Or, a take-back for me: I had built last and wasn't competing for cubes -- they allowed me to rearrange my tracks so that I could in fact make the deliveries to the correct wedge of the cities!

In the asterisked/second game, I was able to build a nice loop right in the center of the board. Bob, unfortunately, ended up competing with Scott from the very first turn. He was then forced to start a new segment of track in the far corner up in the Northwest part of the board. It took him quite some time to connect the two networks together, and in fact he spent much of the game messing with my moves. Or trying to mess with them, anyway. Edward built largely by himself on the eastern side of the map, while David largely controlled the center. But in the end, the others couldn't keep up with me: my engine level ramped up more quickly, and I had a nice central loop with the cubes I needed.

I'm not so crazy about this expansion map. It's an interesting idea, but it really is kind of strange. I like strange, so it might just be a matter of playing it more and getting used to it. But on the first play, it's difficult trying to see exactly where to build. Also, I simply placed the city tiles over the cities on the board matching the same number and oriented the same already present. It might be more interesting if players took turns choosing the cities and placing them, as noted in the Hexpansion rules. In our game, for example, there was an odd distribution of cities with all the yellow ones on the east side, and blue on the west. This might get some play again, but probably not for a long time. There are plenty of maps already, and this might be a nice change of pace -- but only after having played a map MANY times; that's not likely on anything but the Rust Belt map!
 
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12. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansions: Southern US & Pittsburgh [Average Rating:7.55 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.55 Unranked]
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Part of my Quest to Play Age of Steam

PITTSBURGH


(from image gallery, not our board)

There were only 3 of us available (me, Josh, and Doug) so I brought this out -- my oldest unplayed 3er-only map. This may not have been the best choice, it turns out: Josh had not played much (or any?) Age of Steam, while Doug has only played some (but has played a bunch of Steam).
Douglas Damron
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Danville
West Virginia
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Josh Dudley
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Simpsonville
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The main changes here are:
- Build costs:
... all builds on town hexes are free
... any other tile that introduces a straight track is $10
... simple (gentle or sharp) curved track is $3
... complex track (without straight track) is $4
- Turn Order action: instead, now just reduces the cost of one $10 track to $7
- 8 turns in game
- the 6 cities get goods from both sides of the chart

The board is a tiny little thing, and it fills up quickly. Because straights are so expensive, you end up with a mess of track winding around all over place -- it's hard to see what is connected to what! You also use a bunch of the short-in-supply tracks (sharp curves, complex crossings with curved track), which is rarely a problem on most other maps (and even here, may not be much of a problem until late in the game anyway). And because towns and cities are so close to one another, it's possible to create long deliveries fairly quickly in the game. With goods coming out so fast (same rate as usual, but concentrated into half the number of cities) you might even be able to make those deliveries throughout -- if you built the right connections, upgraded your engine, and can move them before the other players (who are also building right in your face) can do so!

In a game with only 8 turns and many links, loco becomes especially important. Of course, Engineer and Urbanize are also nice since they help complete links more cheaply (especially Engineer).

Unfortunately for them, Josh and Doug didn't keep up in that race and I was able to get my engine level up much earlier. I also had a nice loop going by the end, so was able to keep shipping for 5 or 6 each time.

Overall, I kind of like the map -- but I don't love it, and it's not for beginners! I would like to return to this one at least one more time, but I'm not sure that it's going to be a keeper.
 
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13. Board Game: TransAmerica [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:925]
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United States
Hillsborough
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We decided on squeezing in one quick game before dinner. This was new to both of them; we started after I quickly went over the rules (there aren't a lot of them!). This set was an older version, without the Vexation expansion.

Douglas Damron
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Danville
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Simpsonville
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This is a simple network-building, connection game. Players start with 13 points. Each player gets 5 semi-random (1 from each of 5 groups) city cards. In turn order, place your starting marker. On your turn, lay 1 or 2 tracks (the map is a hex grid; hex sides have 1 or 2 lines, and you can cover 2 lines on your turn) that are contiguous with your start marker. If you connect to another track network, you can build off of it as well -- all track markers are simple black sticks. The first player to connect all their cities ends the round -- others lose points for each track they still need to lay to connect. After 2 rounds, you move the end-game marker to 2 spaces ahead of whoever has the fewest points; the game ends when someone crashes through that barrier. The player with the most points remaining wins!

The Vexation expansion gives each player 3 player-specific sticks; when used, they only count as track for the owning player.

You need to build efficiently, hoping that everyone else will build the track you need so you don't have to waste your own build turns doing so. Game play is quick, and this is not a bad gateway-type game. It's just not terribly exciting! The Vexation expansion, however, does kick it up a notch.

After a bad start, it ended up being a close game in the end -- I think I won by just one point of so!
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14. Board Game: Spyrium [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:512]
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Hillsborough
North Carolina
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Bob Aarhus
United States
Centreville
VA
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Mary Prasad
United States
Hillsborough
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After dinner, we found Bob available to play something! No Christin this trip, but hey what can you do? Mary and I had both played this before, in prototype form; this was our 1st play of a production copy: it looks really good! It's a cheap little card game (retails for $35, sells for $25 or so?) that packs a lot of thinking into the game play!

This is a pretty cool worker-placement resource-management type of game, with a neat placement mechanism I've only seen once before, at the airport on the way home from GenCon last year when we'd run into the designer of Stones of Fate (failed run on on Kickstarter; publisher's website). Of course, the games went in very different directions. Spyrium is a pretty meaty game that gives you a lot to think about!

Bob crushed us! I did especially poorly, far far behind Bob and Mary. But I'll just say I was mostly relearning the rules!

--- Summary ---
Players start with some money, spyrium tokens, and workers. Each turn, players first collect income. Then, create a market board: 3x3 grid of cards (different deck each round of the game). Players take turns either placing a worker in the spaces between cards, or going to phase 2 when they can start retrieving workers. When you retrieve a worker, you either earn one money per other worker there, or
- pay one/worker to use the character card (for VP, or more workers, spyrium, etc.)
- pay one/worker + card cost to buy a technology card; place in your tableau
- pay one/worker + one/building you already have to buy the building card and place it in your tableau
You can also use one of your buildings (to earn VP, spyrium, etc.).

When you get to 8 VP, you either get another worker or 5 money. When you get to 20VP, you get the other thing.

After 6 turns (three with era 1 cards, two with era 2, one with era 3), the player with the most VP (earned during game, and from values of cards purchased) wins.
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15. Board Game: Bora Bora [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:163]
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Hillsborough
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Friday September 13: DAY 2

Bob Aarhus
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Centreville
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lynn dunbar
United States
durham
North Carolina
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I love me some Feld games -- especially the ones with dice! It's not an Age of Steam map, but it's still a great way to start Day 2! Lynn had never played before so we went through the rules first; she crushed us! How? HOW? But then, she does seem to do that a lot. Well played, Lynn!

Another great dice game by Feld, where there are lots of things to do which interact with each other! As usual, the theme is pretty meaningless, but the game play is very interesting. The dice-allocation mechanism works great -- yet another very cool way to used dice! High rolls give you better actions, but fewer choices of which actions to take. It seems to be a nice balance ... I think this could be one of my favorite Feld games so far!


--- Rules Summary ---
The (very busy) board shows 5 islands divided into a total of 12 regions, connected to one another by a die showing value 1-6. Regions are in one of 4 colors and can provide resources (wood, stone, sand, offering) if you have a hut there. Each region has a randomly chosen fish token (one of 3 types, value 1-6 VP) associated with it. There is also:
- a typical Feld turn order track (but this resets every game round), a priest track (spaces 1-6, with a stack of 6 god tiles nearby)
- a 4x6 grid of randomly chosen jewelery (each priced 1-5 clams and worth 1-9VP; a column of 4 used for each of the 6 rounds of the game)
- space for up to 6 task tiles (randomly chosen)
- space for up to 6 man tiles
- space for up to 6 woman tiles
Players have individual boards with:
- 12 village spaces, with 2-11 having 1 village token and 12 having 2 village tokens
- a 3x4 grid of spaces marked with the 3 building materials. 6 1x2 planks numbered 1-6 are placed below this area
- space for 3 current tasks (start the game with 1 random one chosen from a set of easy tasks) and completed tasks

SETUP
- A set of action tiles (5-7 depending on player count) is placed nearby; these are where the dice will be placed to choose an action.
- Create a card display like Ticket to Ride: 5 face up; when players choose a card, may take either from top of deck or from display, which is immediately replenished.
- Place n+2 task, man, and woman tiles on the board in the appropriate spaces
- Give each player
... 2 god cards (5 colors, each with a different power; may use 2 matching cards as a wild card)
... 2 offerings (required to play a god card)
... 1 god tile (functions as an offering + a wild god card)
... 4 priesteeples
... 3d6 in their color
... 1 easy (light green) task tile and 2 random task tiles
... a random turn order tile (1-4 based on player count)

At the start of the game, players (in reverse turn order) each place a village token (taken in numerical order from their player boards) in a different one of the 4 1-fish regions. Collect the appropriate resource and place it on player board in a matching space.

ROUND SEQUENCE
Each of the 6 rounds plays in a sequence of phases. God cards may be played at various times to modify the basic rules; must spend an offering token to do so (or, play a god tile instead of a card and offering).

Phase A
- players roll their dice simultaneously.
- in player order, place one die on an action tile to take the action immediately. The die must be lower than any die already present (may play a blue god card to break that rule). If you play a white god card on a legally placed die, treat the die as a 6 when determining the strength of the action. The actions include:
... expand by land or sea (may use a route valued less than or equal to the die you place); place your next available village in the region, near the fish token (any village in the region remains there, but yours will be closest to the fish token); if you play a red god card, score the VP on the fish token immediately
... choose a man or woman tile in a space numbered less than or equal to your die; place on your board in an empty space (i.e., without a village token there)
... place one of your priests on the priest track in a space number equal to or less than your die; if a priest is already there, displace it one space lower (may cause chain reaction; tokens displaced off the 1-space are returned to the player)
... build one of your 1x2 planks with a number no higher than your die
... use the pips on your die to buy additional god cards, acquire resources, or use the 1-time powers of your men (advance along the turn order track) or women (earn clams)
Several of these actions give you a fire action: take either a god card or an offering, AND either a clam or one advancement on the turn order track.
- Alternatively, may place your die on a space on the board (essentially discarding the die this round) for 2 VP.

Phase B
In turn order, players use one of their man-powers and one of their woman-powers. Playing a green god card allows you to either use a third power, or double the power of one of the man- or woman- powers you used. These powers can do a variety of things (e.g., allow you to collect an additional man/woman, expand by land/sea, advance on the turn order track, build a plank). If you have several men or women with the same power, may combine them to increase the strength (e.g., if 2 men each allow you to expand over sea with power 2, may combine them to expand over sea with power 4); however men and women never combine with the opposite gender.

Phase C
- Turn Order: players earn VP according to their place on the track. Then, immediately adjust the turn order and reset everyone's markers to the 0 space.
- Priest Track: priesteeples earn 1, 2, or 3 VP each (for rounds 1-2, 3-4, 5-6). The player with the most priests (ties broken by higher numbered priest) earns a god tile. These STAY on the board in their current positions.
- Jewelery: in the new turn order, may spend clams to acquire ONE of the jewels in the column for the current round; any unpurchased jewels are removed from the game
- Task Tiles: in turn order, players either complete ONE of their tasks (e.g., show a specific combination of god cards in hand, have villages in specific regions of the board, have purchased specific jewels) or discard a task. May play a yellow god card to complete a task where you are one item short (e.g., you only have 2 rings instead of the required 3 rings). Completed tasks score you 6VP; partially-completed tasks played with yellow god card score 4FP; discarded tasks are worth 0VP. Immediately chose a replacement task from the display on the board.

At the end of the round:
- remove all remaining jewelery (for the current round), task tiles, man- and woman- tiles from the board; replace with new tiles from supply
- retrieve your dice
- Repeat

END OF GAME
- On the 6th round, players may complete ALL their remaining task tiles
- Score bonus VP for a variety of conditions (e.g., having played all your villages, bought 6 jewels, completed 9 tasks, built all 6 planks, filled all 12 spaces of your resource collection area, acquired 12 men/women)
Most VP wins!
 
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16. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Secret Blueprints of Steam Plans 1 & 2 [Average Rating:6.58 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.58 Unranked]
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Part of my Quest to Play Age of Steam at TBGT

PLAN 1


My board and goods display (light cities 1-3) after turn 3. I went bankrupt the next turn.

Jon and I had been trying to get together for an Age of Steam game at TBGT, and this was the day! But he had a possible time conflict so I chose this map, which was supposed to be a quick one. We recruited a couple more and ended up with the full complement of players:
Bob Aarhus
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Centreville
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lynn dunbar
United States
durham
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Jon McDunn
United States
University City
Missouri
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The main changes here:
- Players each have their own board, which they keep hidden from everyone else. Each board has 3 cities (1-3 or 4-6, light or dark).
- At the start of the game, draw 6 random cubes and distribute on your board, 2/city; THEN, fill the Goods Display
- After action selection (Turn Order, First Build, and First Move are not available) , players build track and move goods simultaneously on their own boards; simply announce the results -- how much you paid, which cubes you moved, income, etc.
- Production is changed: you announce a color; if other players have that color cube on their board, they must give you one. You place all cubes received onto the Goods Display, and may REPLACE cubes already present!
- 7-turn game for either 3 or 4 players

What an interesting idea! The only interaction with other players is in the auction, and with the Production action. That, the simultaneous builds/moves, and the shorter game length could make this a nice, quick map.

But no so interesting in execution! It seems as if the initial cube draw has a HUGE impact on how you will do in the game. If you don't draw cubes you can deliver, you're in trouble! Goods Growth is also potentially a big problem: if your 3 numbers don't come up, you're in trouble! Plan 1 has pretty high build costs; if you don't get early deliveries you can start your death spiral right on turn 1 or 2! Urbanization, as a way to get a new color (and help reduce build costs) can become hugely, overwhelmingly important. The Production action can me much more useful here, which is a good thing; but it could also be quite an attack on the victim(s) if they were counting on making some key deliveries.

I started this game with only 2 possible deliveries, one to each of the cities on either end of my board. Urb went for $10 or $11 on the first turn, which I guess I should've planned for but didn't -- hadn't taken enough shares to bid that high and be able to pay for the tracks I wanted. Then, over the next 3 turns, I got exactly ONE cube from the production rolls (the display is full because I chose Production to try to optimize my cubes)! I had to take shares just to pay for builds and interest, quickly getting up to the 15-limit without any significant income and no delivery prospects. In the meanwhile, people who had better initial cube draws were ramping up on income and had money to actually bid (generally for Urb).

It's an interesting idea for sure. And I grant that those production rolls were a bit of a fluke. But I really don't like the fact that you can get so screwed by chance (initial draw, production rolls, the way the Goods Display fills relative to the 3 cities you start with), or that some people get a major boost by happening to draw the right mix of cubes at the start! In a normal game you have access to all the cities (and all parts of the Goods Display); you can try to work around particular distribution oddities. Here, you can be hamstrung for no good reason. I think the rules need some tweaks, maybe something along the lines of this (off the top of my head):
- don't make the initial cube draws totally random
- weigh your columns of the Goods Display towards your 3 colors.
- for Goods Growth, maybe have every player roll 2d3 each turn?
- rename Plan #2, which has much easier terrain, as Plan #1 so fools like me have their initial play on an easier board!

I also don't like what this map takes away: you can't steal cubes from other players, or build track to block them! Both of these help balance the luck of the dice in a typical map; their lack amplifies the luck problems here. Maybe the time savings are worth that cost? Maybe, but only if there is something to improve game balance issues.

Lynn ended up winning this one pretty easily. She had a good cube draw at the start, bid high for Urb and got her income rising early, and benefited from excellent rolls in Goods Growth (her part of the display, above, is empty!). No one else (and maybe not even she) thought much of this map -- YUCK! No more Age of Steam for me today ... need to forget this little experience!
 
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17. Board Game: Spyrium [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:512]
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Hillsborough
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Bob Aarhus
United States
Centreville
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Jon McDunn
United States
University City
Missouri
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Lynn went off to play something else, leaving the three of us to find something. And hey, I just relearned this last night -- perfect time to try it again! Well, I did much better than last time, but I still came in third place. But it was a lot closer! Jon won with 61, then Bob at 59, and finally me at 55 -- I'm getting better!

I want to like this game, but if I keep sucking at it I may get discouraged!

Nah, probably not; it's a cool game! I just wish I could play it better!
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18. Board Game: Il Vecchio [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:1290]
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Hillsborough
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Bob Aarhus
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Centreville
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Ted Cheatham
United States
Charleston
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Richard Bethany
United States
Roswell
Georgia
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As we discovered at Gulf Games recently, Richard and I have very similar tastes in games. He was setting this up and I happily joined in.

This is sort of a worker placement game, where you move your workers around on the board to various locations where they collect resources, but only if the appropriate pawn is on that location. And if so, the pawn moves clockwise along a circuit to its next location. The paths were a bit hard for me to see -- I did NOT take advantage of the path in my initial worker placements. I wish the paths were marked better! It would mess with the aesthetics of the board, but having a faint colored line showing the circuit sure would be helpful!

In addition to collecting resources, other options on your turn include:
- recruit a new worker from Supply
- recover all your workers (when you collect a resource, you lay the token down)
- you can go to 4 locations where you place a worker for the rest of the game. You gain a single-use tile to help you during the game, a tile that gives you a bonus power (everyone starts with one of these as well), or a way to score bonus VP at the end of the game. Each worker placed also earns you VP, and may trigger an event (some spaces are marked); after a certain number of events, the game end is triggered: everyone gets one more turn, then you do the final VP tally.

It took me quite some time to "get" the way pawns move, and understand the timing required in the game. Pretty cool game, with nice art (though it could be more functional) ... hope to try it again!
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19. Board Game: When Zombies Attack! [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:10404]
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Hillsborough
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There were 7 of us going to dinner. Mary was finishing up her Terra Mystica game, so Ted pulled this one out: a quick filler before the meat fest at Brasa.

Ted Cheatham
United States
Charleston
West Virginia
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What a silly game! It's almost totally random, but it's a 5-minute game with a fun theme and it does have a decision or two each turn. Not bad if you have 5 minutes to kill! We played with optional rules:

--- Summary (Ted's version) ---
The dice show gravestones, zombies, or EAT symbols. Divide the dice between all players. On your turn, you may only roll 4 dice:
- graveyards: may set these aside in a personal pool
- zombies: may allocate these to other players or common pool
- EAT: if all your dice EAT, you must feed -- take ONE die from the common pool or your graveyard pool (if you cannot, you lose)

If you start your turn with no dice left, you win!

Actual rules are slightly different, but this worked well enough.

----------
We had a great time at dinner! Of course, we all overstuffed ourselves (although I think Ted did a better job with moderation)! The grilled, cinnamon-coated pineapples were delicious, but so were the chocolate-covered strawberries! And of course, all the MEAT! It's a good thing we don't go to these Brazilian places more than once a year or so!
 
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20. Board Game: The Dutch Golden Age [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:3350]
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Hillsborough
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There was a little craziness around leaving for dinner, arranging rides, etc. But we made it and we had a great time! They have 14 different kinds of meat, although I was partial to the chicken (wrapped in bacon, or parmesan encrusted -- both were delicious!). Their specialty, "planca" or something like that -- was also quite good, and people seemed to like their bacon-wrapped filet a lot (or alot, if you prefer), too. We had a HUGE meal, but I was pacing myself pretty well. Right until the end, when I:
- simply had to have more of their cinnamon pineapple
- found their (white and dark) chocolate-dipped strawberries
- split the creme brulee with Mary
Wow, that was kind of an uncomfortable car ride back to the hotel -- good thing it was so short, and that pants have buttons!

--------
Cynthia Landon
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Orlando
Florida
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Charleston
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Josh Dudley
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Simpsonville
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After dinner, Earl and Michelle went off to do That Trivia Thing. Cynthia, staying with them during the con, had usually been doing stuff with them as well -- this was the first time I'd seen her unattached! We recruited her and finally settled on this game, which Ted had played once before and thought was cute enough to purchase for $10. That's a decent recommendation, right?

Well, the rules explanation was enough to show Cynthia this wouldn't be her type of game -- but she soldiered on anyway! I, however, enjoy Settlers; this is sort of like that game (random income, based on spreading presence in different locations; race to VP target), with a different kind of trading (selling your actions) and with a bunch of extra stuff going on. I had been wanting to try this for a long time, so yay! It's a Colovini game, but surprisingly doesn't feel totally abstracted -- I guess we have to thank Giuseppe Baù for that?

After a bit of a slow start, I ended up winning this game. Of course, looking at the FAQ now, we played several rules incorrectly (e.g., auctioning guild actions, moving used influence markers). I hope Cynthia had more fun than she'd expected! There really is more going on here, although there's no denying that there's a big random component to this game. It took us over 90 minutes to play, but part of that was due to unfamiliarity with the game: I think it will go faster next time.

I quite like the game! It feels a lot like Settlers, but with many more options. The luck of the dice also seems to be much less important here: you get only marginal income from them, especially early on. Instead, you're going to make money by auctioning your actions and by turning in sets of cards. You have multiple paths to victory, too: income from tulips or goods, VP from Indies or art (maybe from provinces?). Definitely would play this one again.

--- Rules Summary ---
Look HERE

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21. Board Game: Archipelago [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:290]
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Hillsborough
North Carolina
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Saturday September 14: DAY 3

Bob Aarhus
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Centreville
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Ted Cheatham
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Charleston
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Ted and I had played this at Gulf Games recently. It seemed like a cool game, but that particular session wasn't exactly satisfying -- we wanted to try it again. So we arranged for an early(ish) morning start; this was it! We recruited Bob to join us; we also had Charlie, but he was going to be tied up with the Flea Market so we decided, to have any shot at finishing this, that we would have to go with just the three of us. We played the friendly variant, where there's no traitor objective and there is an extra public one -- the one that awards VP to people who spend their cubes on catastrophes.

It turned out to be Bob, with the purchase of a final person, who triggered his end condition and ended the game. But it was Ted who actually won, with me just behind; he had, for some reason, built a church to tie me for my own VP objective card. Why, why?!

Fun game, although I don't think it'll end up being terribly high in my ratings; a pretty solid 7, though, and maybe a bit higher.

We did pause briefly for the Flea Market, where Mary and I ended up with Legacy, Netrunner, How to Host a Murder, and another copy of Buffy for her sister. I'm not exactly excited about all that, but I have wanted to try that time game so that's not so bad! Next year, we'll have to prepare better and bring a bunch of stuff to sell.

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22. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: 1867 Georgia Reconstruction, South Carolina & Oklahoma Land Rush [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked]
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Hillsborough
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Part of my Quest to Play Age of Steam at TBGT



I was trying to get together with Jon again, but I was in a game of Archipelago earlier and ran late -- unbeknownst to me, he'd gone off to play something else! Justin, however, was available at the planned 1pm (actually, at the later-than-planned 1:30 -- Archipelago ran a bit long!). After failing to find Jon, Justin and I decided to just play a 2-player map. This is my last unplayed 2er, I think! Justin hadn't played Age of Steam in about 5 years, so this ended up being a decent reintroduction (albeit with a lot of rule changes!).
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This is one of Ted's maps that fiddles with the turn order auction: you start with all 20 cubes of a color, adding any cubes you deliver to that pool. You bid with cubes, not cash (all bids spent). Other changes:
- bid for turn order first, THEN issue shares
- players place New Cities A-D on the board at the start (divide randomly, place in alphabetical order)
- only action = Engineer (to first player)
- must pay $1 cash per delivery
- roll 4d6 for production; ALL cubes go to Charleston!
- 8-turn game

Justin bid VERY high on turn 1 and claimed the blue city in the northwest. I didn't make any deliveries that turn, but I did connect to Charleston. That turned out to be key: stuck in the NW, Justin didn't have as easy access to all those cubes as I did. Of course, that should have been obvious given the rules of the map -- but I don't think either of us appreciated it at first; we both just saw the red and blue cities, and the initial cubes on the board. We called it early, maybe around turn 4 or 5, when it was obvious my lead would hold.

This is a solid map. I don't generally like blind bidding but it seems to work well here (and in his other maps using this mechanism). Charleston is crucial, and it would seem that both players need to build there right from the start, or maybe on turn 2? Early builds may, however, be disproportionately important if you can manage to make Charleston less accessible to the other player? Initial city placement also requires some long-range planning based on the goods distribution in the Display and your planned builds -- and I'm not so good at that, generally preferring more tactical play.

It's hard to judge the map after just one play, but I think this will be a keeper though not necessarily a star.
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23. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Switzerland [Average Rating:6.80 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.80 Unranked]
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Hillsborough
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Part of my Quest to Play Age of Steam at TBGT


The end of our game.

shumyum
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United States
University City
Missouri
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Justin and I had just about finished cleaning up when Jon showed up! He'd been by earlier, saw me immersed in my game of Archipelago, and gone off to do his own thing. His timing was almost perfect ... close enough, though, so we unpacked everything and I chose my oldest unplayed 3-player map: Switzerland.

The main changes here are:
- expensive builds (every tile is $4)
- lots of impassable hex sides
- a town and some tiles with pre-built tracks that are out of the game until turn 5 begins
- tracks worth 2VP each at end of game
- Zurich gets one random good every turn
- 3 rainbow cities (accept everything) are in the distant corners of the country
- must issue a minimum of 2 shares; if none issued, may buy back ONE for $8

Justin and I started in northern central area, while Jon went northwest. That southeast corner seems pretty much dead, being largely inaccessible (except for a local network, which would hardly be profitable) until turn 5; even after then, though, we pretty much only built there for the track points. As you can see from the rail map above, our builds (directed by the map conditions) were true to life.

Jon had early control of the NW rainbow city, but then spent resources (money, time) connecting to Zurich. With its guaranteed cube every turn, I guess it seemed important to him. Justin and I seemed to agree, too, although as it turned out we pulled a lot of cubes that just sat there until quite late in the game! My connection to the SW rainbow came somewhat late -- we were all fighting in the north earlier -- but was extremely helpful; with only blue cities en route (and color New Cities already placed), I could deliver a bunch of cubes from Zurich over 6 links! Justin also got his engine level up there, but ran out of good cubes (esp after I Urb-bombed with that black city in the middle of the board!) until he finally connected to Chur (SE yellow) on the final turn.

I like this map, although the track builds are extremely constrained. it doesn't seem as if there would be a lot of variation in builds from game to game -- only in timing, depending on which cubes came out when. Three players was pretty tight; this must be REALLY tough with four -- probably end up sharing deliveries a lot more in that case. I do wish I'd done a better job printing this (I think my image is 2-3% shrunk, so the hexes don't quite fit), and they'd done a better job marking off impassable terrain! And I'm not sure how important the buy-back rules will be; we weren't in position to buy anything back until quite late in the game, and I'm not sure it made all that much of a difference? Maybe it did, though, since you could run out of space for tracks by the end and it's one way to eke out a few more VP with your cash.

Definitely worth more play, although I may have to reprint my map with some altered art!

I came home to see that this year's expansions from the Age of Steam Team had arrived!
 
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24. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.21 Overall Rank:9]
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United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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Mary Prasad
United States
Hillsborough
North Carolina
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Janna Nelson
United States
Greenwood
South Carolina
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Jon McDunn
United States
University City
Missouri
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Finally, a game with Janna! We hadn't played anything with her at any convention in ... forever! We started this in the evening but had to take a break for the events: Jon and I Puzzled while Mary and Janna went for dinner. This was the first year that I hadn't done ANY of the pre-event puzzles -- having too much fun! I was barely able to help in the group puzzle, but that was still fun, too. And fortunately, it was quick! We finished so early, in fact, that Mary and Janna were still not back from dinner. I had time to teach a group Bora Bora (although I don't think they actually ended up playing it!), but that made me a bit late for the ceremonies and raffles and such.

I've played this game many times http://terra.snellman.net/" target="_blank" class="postlink" rel="nofollow">online, Mary had played 3(?) times before, Janna some number in between, and it was new to Jon. We played with the regular game rules: a random setup, then draft races: Mary=Chaos Magicians, Janna=Dwarves, Me=Swarmlings, Jon=Halflings. Experience clearly showed: we ranked the same as our play experience!

Fun game, and there are clearly many decisions to be made throughout the game; but so much of the outcome seems to depend on the initial choice of race and bonus card!
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25. Board Game: Pass-Ackwords [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:10356]
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Hillsborough
North Carolina
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Mary Prasad
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Hillsborough
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Greenwood
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United States
University City
Missouri
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Time to squeeze one last game in before heading home for the evening. Something light would be just the thing, and I'd heard that this was a lot of fun. I teamed with Jon against the ladies.

The game is like Password, but you're giving clues (from a preset list) to your opponents, and choosing the worst clue still available. Kind of fun, I suppose, but a bit more thinky than I would like. Also, it requires a bit of knowledge -- trivia. Not exactly my idea of a party game after all.

--- Summary ---
Players sit across from one opponent, and next to the other. One player takes a card, placed it in the display, and gives one of the 10 clues to the opponent across them. They get 1 guess; if wrong, pass display to the opponent next to you, who does the same (clue to your partner). Team guessing correctly keeps the card, and the other team begins the next round. The first team to win 5 cards wins the game!
 
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