GCL Phoenix 142: International House of Phoenix
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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Sorry folks. Was out hiking most of the day.


-------

Bryan knew it was a bad day because he wasn't going to get his Shirley Temple.

He had asked for his usual but Walt had served him a Vesper instead. A signal of trouble. As the pale man with the crewcut tapped his shoulder for attention, he caught the glint of the gun under his jacket, so introduced the man's chin to his elbow, then took off for the back door.

Outside, Walt had started his car and Bryan jumped in the open window into the shotgun seat without any need for the vehicle to stop. Funny accent aside, Walt was good people.

A few minutes later, their escape seemed certain as they entered the highway. Then they saw the roadblock up ahead to spoil their plans. "The glove compartment, Bryan," Walt said quickly and glanced toward it. It opened quickly. Inside... a deck of cards? "Shuffle, then draw."

What the hell. Bryan complied, noting this was an Agricola W Deck, which he hadn't seen before. He shuffled, drew, looked, read: "Occupation card -- Demolition Man," Bryan, said, confusedly. "Hurry," Walt responded, "hold it out the window," and as Bryan did so, the card transformed into a bazooka.

Moments later, the roadblock was no more. They quickly took the next exit, right turn, right turn into parking lot, and ran into the building.

Rich nodded to the men as he pressed a button at the front desk. His shift was over now. The last bench in the back slid aside, revealing stairs leading underground. After the three men went down the stairs, the table moved back into place, and when the enemy finally made it in, there was no evidence anyone was there.

"Welcome to IHOP," the new greeter said uncertainly to the armed troops, "Table for... a dozen?"




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1. Board Game: Pancakes [Average Rating:5.50 Unranked]
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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You find yourself in an international house of pancakes, but not in your home country. Where are you and what are you playing there?
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2. Board Game: Beat the Buzzard [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:2023]
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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History lessons! Old phoenixes checking in, what have you been up to lately? All phoenixes, what is the oldest game in the dust you'd like to bring out to play again?
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3. Board Game: Casper the Friendly Ghost Game [Average Rating:4.44 Unranked]
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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Ghosts of Essens past! What previous Essen releases surprised you?
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4. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:326] [Average Rating:7.19 Unranked]
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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Games Played:

_8_ Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan x1 New!
Learned game with my youngest son and due to both of us being too conservative we went the whole game and added victory points. I had one more victory point than him so won.

_8_ Endeavor x1 New!
Learned game with both boys and my wife. We messed up a couple things and score probably wasn't added right, but I think the relative winner would be myself, then youngest son, then my wife then oldest son. Looking forward to trying this again with rules mistakes corrected.

_5_ Catan x1
My wife had been asking to play this to teach our daughter so we all got together for the basic game with one addition: the Harbormaster. My daughter teamed up with me and we won with 13 doing a big build on our last move (a settlement and a city and revealed development card), oldest son and wife both had 8, and youngest son 5.
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5. Board Game: Duck Dealer [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:3778]
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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We played two games of Duck Dealer, and then on Friday night, we broke out the other game in Sam's Miniature Market order, Cities



It's Carc: The Castle meets FITS - like in FITS, someone calls out the current tile, and both players must add it to their area. You can add a meeple to the tile you've just places, or move a previous tile (with some restrictions). Only one meeple scores per area (continuous color). There are three levels of difficulty, the simplest one being that green and yellow areas score. Cute enough for what it was, as a mild diversion. We played twice and I won both times.

Today I set up The Castles of Burgundy, and it was a real back-and-forth game, our score pieces kept hopping over each other, and we kept taking start player. We were about 2 points apart in the final scoring until the very end, counting the yellow bonus tiles, and Sam got a point for each of his sold goods and shot ahead and won.
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6. Board Game: Kremlin [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:946]
W M
United Kingdom
Rugby
Warwickshire
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Just submitted the final draft of a report that's been hanging over me for months. This hopefully means I get to play some games this week .

_7_ Boggle X 3

My mum stayed last night and I was trying to think of a game that might work. We've played Raj, Hey that's my Fish and K2, in the past with some success. In the end we decided on Boggle which turned out to be a pretty good choice. My notable made up words included: Farp (a cross between a fart and a parp?) and Frow - a cross stare - from furrowed brow.

_7.5_ Kremlin

Only six of us at Rugby on Board this week, and one of our number was busy with cataloguing Pokemon cards, and decided to sit out. I'd wanted to play Kremlin for a while after seeing it on my first visit to London on Board, and it did not disappoint, in fact, it was better than I'd imagined.

At the start of the game you secretly allocate influence to politicians, and then reveal this during the game in order to use the actions of politicians in certain key roles (Party leader, head of KGB, etc). Each round candidates age a certain number of years, more if at the top or under suspicion, and a D20 is rolled for health - high roles mean good health, even improvement, while low rolls can result in sudden death, particularly for older candidates. This happened to two of my main contenders, and my third, potential, a spring Chicken aged 65, where I had placed my highest influence, was purged early and sent to Siberia. I tried to bring her back a couple of times, and she was returned again to the Gulag.

Revealing interest is crucial in that it allows you to vote for purges at higher levels, carry out the purging, and bring people up the ranks (or back from a purge) but at the same time, revealing that influence puts a target on your back- unless others are riding on your laurels, waiting for your candidate's ascendancy before revealing they in fact have more influence than you.

Once a candidate reaches the top they must stay in power and successfully 'wave in a parade' three times to win. All the while, everyone else is dong their best to remove them.

This was a fun game, and despite removing myself from contention very early on in the process, there was a nail-biting finish as Joel, our new player constructed a power structure at the top, removed all contenders and sent his best candidate straight to the top where he succumbed to ill health, squeaking the win by the skin of his teeth.

_9_ Time's Up! Title Recall.

The six of us then played Time's Up! which I'd been bringing along for a few weeks but until now not had the chance to play. Amazingly no-one else had played before, and like many first games, some could not quite believe the premise for the second round - "only one and word one guess? Impossible!". Our normally quiet corner on the pub descended into uproar by the third (Charade) round with some memorable actions for 'Desperate Housewives' and 'Unbearable lightness of being' particularly. At one point somebody got their cards turned around and began on blues rather than yellows resulting in howls of consternation. Brilliant fun and a great ice breaker for the newbies.
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7. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:152] [Average Rating:7.48 Unranked]
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
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Games Played

_9_ Magic: The Gathering 8
_4_ Ascension: Deckbuilding Game 7

Week in Review

A busy week for non-gaming with a family wedding and associated gatherings. Come the weekend, I was able to fit in a little bit of Magic around the prerelease of Theros.

Mostly I played a two-headed giant tournament on Sunday, though I did judge after the wedding on Saturday and so I got to see a lot of the new cards. It looks like an interesting set, with more sophisticated interactions than I had expected from looking at the card spoilers.

On Friday and Saturday, I played some Ascension with the gf who got it when it was made free for a limited time. We sat on the couch and played face-to-face with our iPads. It's still a pretty dumb game from my perspective, with most games being entirely decided based on luck and key powerful cards (yay, I got an early Master Dhartha!).
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8. Board Game: Puerto Rico (with two expansions) [Average Rating:8.50 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.50 Unranked]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 21Sep2013:

9/32/316 plays of 6/14/154 total games, with 1/2/28 expansions employed.
Plays with 11/20/86 distinct opponents.

0/1/23 games acquired (plus 0/0/7 expansions.)
0/0/14 games ordered (plus 0/0/5 expansions.)
Orders for 6 games and 2 expansions still outstanding.

Back at home with son #2:
1x _7.7_ Hawaii - I'd noticed in the September version of the "New to You a Year Ago" list that I'd not played this for (most of) the year since my first play. And realized that I'd enjoyed it last year, and had wanted to get it played again. So I inflicted it on son #2 last Sunday afternoon.
He was only a bit dubious since I'd forced him to play Feudo the previous week: a game that neither of us had enjoyed.
Fortunately (for both of us!) he enjoyed himself. He thought the game was cool, and that the constraints made sense. He liked the fact that neither of us were trying to do the same thing, too - and even though we were competing for the same set of stuff, we were doing different things with them in our respective village-empires. I liked it too; and was pleased to discover that the game played pretty reasonably with 2.

With colleagues in Zurich:
1x _7.7_ Power Grid (on the Central Europe Map New!) - Probably my first play (ever) of Power Grid with 6 players. It worked pretty well; though the Central Europe didn't really present a dramatically different experience (other than enjoying the fact that the map topology was a bit different than other maps I'd played.) I found myself wondering whether someone like me who has no particular experience on any one map might have a tiny advantage over someone whose board play is informed/coloured/twisted by many plays on a single different map?
1x _6.3_ The Castle of the Devil New! - As hidden role partial negotiation games go, I'm not sure this was at its best. I think we both communicated too little and too much: too little during the game, compared with the huge public negotiations that accompanied the object cards running out. I think it might work better if we were a bit more careful with what is permitted and what isn't.
1x _8.5_ Chicago Express - Delightful play: with significant in-play discussions of the previous turn, and what might have happened with a slightly different (historic) decision. I admit that kind of thing isn't for everyone: but (in this case) all three of us seemed to be enjoying both the game and the discussion of it.
4x _6.7_ Coup New! - It's trivial; random; capricious; but also doesn't last long enough for any of those things to get particularly in its way. If a game lasted longer, I think I'd be much less interested in playing.
1x _9_ Puerto Rico - I didn't play particularly well (I mis-read the groupthink on a couple instances, so there weren't the actions to draft that I was hoping would be present.) But I really enjoyed the play: I need to work harder on getting this to the table - at least enough that I could acquit myself reasonably on a random play.

Owned-and-unplayed: 11 (+0/-0)

Outlook for the week: Perhaps one or two game nights again this week, then I'm back home on Friday. Looking forward to seeing my family.
(Revised outlook: no gaming so far this week. But BAP is on Saturday. I wonder how I'll do with the time change? It'll feel like the 10AM start is 7PM!)
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9. Board Game: Viticulture [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:138]
Bryan Maxwell
United States
Burtchville
Michigan
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No Wednesday nights for me at the moment, so a little lighter than usual in the games department.

Krosmaster Arena x 1

I lost our first game played with the full 12 points/team rules. My opponent killed my lvl 5 character and took me down to 1VP, and I rolled doubles (both players lose 1VP) before I could kill his lvl 6 on the following turn. Drat.

This was my 4000th play logged.

Dominion x 2


We then hammered out a couple of plays of Dominion. It was fun as always and I won. devil

Castles of Burgundy x 1

I owed my wife a play of Burgundy, so we did that. I won using the The Castles of Burgundy: 3rd Expansion – German Board Game Championship Board 2013 192-158. She had to take workers several times which always foreshadows doom.

Viticulture x 1

My wife was nearby when I was watching the How to Play video on this game and expressed interest, so we tried it out. We used the designer's proposed rules for the Grande worker and I think it worked very well. It's still very tight, but the Grande worker means that you can't be totally shut out from an action. You plant and harvest grapes, then turn those grapes into wine. There are red and white grapes (they have actual names in the game) that can be made into red, white, blush or sparkling wines. Most grapes need you to own a trellis and/or irrigation before they can be planted. Grapes and wines age at the end of each year, but you must build a larger cellar to age the wines very far or to brew (brew?) the blush wines or sparkling wines.

In the 2-player game, each action may only be taken by one player (except when using your Grande worker) so it can be pretty cutthroat. Just as much as being a worker placement game, Viticulture is a card game. Cards determine which vines you have access to for planting and which wine(s) you can sell. There are also "visitor" cards for Summer and Winter, and these have a variety of effects for getting cash, building improvements for cheaper and so on.

This can be a bit frustrating when you're looking for a certain type of vine or an order for a specific type of wine, but I think it's more about building your plans around your cards rather than trying to draw cards that fit your plans.

A player reaching 20VP triggers the end of the game (you finish out the round) but you cannot go above 25. Cash is a tiebreaker. I won our game 20-19. I had a wine order that I was ready to fulfill, but Kat blocked me out of the Selling action (I had already used my Grande worker). She was able to do that because she went first - the turn order is interesting (probably more so with more players). At the beginning of the round, the starting player gets first choice of where to place their rooster (or COCK if you prefer). There are 7 spaces from which to choose, with the 1 space granting no bonus but guaranteeing that you go first down to 7 which grants an extra worker to use for the round. The spaces in between grant money, VP or cards. You have to weigh which bonus you want vs how early you want to go in the round.

We both liked it quite a lot.



Got through a busy school week last week where I had lots of homework due and tests in each class. Back to the grindstone this week.
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10. Board Game: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Base Set [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:331]
Lo
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

_9_ Archipelago x3
_8_ Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords - Base Set x1 New to Me!


The Week in Review

Archipelago has become one of my favourites from last year's Essen crop. Whether it survives the honeymoon stage, it's too early to tell, but it certainly surpassed my initial expectations.

Two of S and my three games of Archipelago were very quick - ending before the third turn. From those two, we anticipated that even if we played a "medium" length game, it would end fairly fast. However, that game ended up running extremely long as neither of us were able to trigger an end game condition. In spite of the length, it kept S's interest (a difficult task once a game passes the one hour mark).

The other game of the week was our initiation to the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. P joined us on this adventure. Though I was a little put off by the generic fantasy theme and some silliness that randomly generated decks can cause, I did find it entertaining. And that's the most important thing, right?

The other gaming news of the week was the arrival of a box of Magic: The Gathering cards from Max. Thanks, Max! Hopefully I'll get some use out of them in the not too distant future...although the next two weeks are not looking good as my main opponent is trying to take advantage of the mild weather to get as much biking in as he can before things get really cold and wet around here. And S and I are probably taking a quick trip to the mainland in the next week or two.

This week also saw S distracted by Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer on the iPad. And Sunday night, I gave Football Seasons a try after seeing a blurb on it in BGG News. It's not a bad little deckbuilder, but the rewards suck so if you aren't prepared to spend some money, it's very slow to unlock new cards. And it's buggy so sometimes it crashes.


The Week Ahead

I'll probably play some more of Football Seasons. S and I already played another game of Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (tonight). More on that later. But nothing is planned at this point.
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11. Board Game: Kingdom Builder [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:489]
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
Ebeltoft
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Games Played Week 38:
Still nothing...

The Week in Review:
Hungover from our trip and stressed out about school and work and life in general. I have been sleeping like a baby though and am slowly finding my feet again.

If Bryan can make life work with a 2 week old baby, surely I can too...

The Week Ahead:
Weekend soon. A trip to the movies on Friday with V. and hopefully a game or two. I am slowly getting the urge to play again. I have been getting a few games ready for Essen so we have something to play for the holidays.
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12. Board Game: Ascension: Storm of Souls – Ender of Days Promo [Average Rating:6.84 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.84 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
Canada
St.John's
Newfoundland
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“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done, the Dornishman’s taken my life, But what does it matter, for all men must die, and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!”
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"Oak and iron guard me well, or else I'm dead and doomed to hell." - Andal proverb.
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Digital plays:

Ascension + Expansions (12)


Face-to-Face plays:

Bruges (1)
Pandemic + Expansions (1)
Ascension + Expansions (1)

---

I bought the new promos for Ascension on iOS and played that a bit but gaming at school is tapering off in favor of school work and socializing. Interesting that Yasumi Matsuno is the designer of games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, and Final Fantasy XII will be working with Playdek to produce an iOS title. Also, looking forward to Tanto Cuore being released by Playdek as well. Pandemic will be releasing on iOS next week. Regardless of how good the app could possible be, I won't purchase it until it gets significantly discounted or an expansion is released for it. Base Pandemic is just too dull, even though it will be the version with the Contingency Planner and the Quarantine Specialist.

Only played 3 physical games this week. Not much to say about them, but I see a steady decline in gaming now that school work is picking up.
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13. Board Game: Cuba Libre [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:481]
Tom Shields
United States
Tacoma
Washington
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Cuba Libre x1 (Volume 2 of the COIN Series)

My first game of Cuba Libre ended with a gov't win, but primarily due to a freakish back-to-back pair of first and second Propaganda Cards. I'll save you all the thematic details, but despite Batista fleeing the country - or maybe because of that inflammatory bastard leaving - the gov't kept Castro, the Mob, and the liberal democrats (prisses!) in the meat-pie & snuck in a cheap early win. It still took a few hours; slow, pouring out IPA's and staring out the window like I do playing solo. It'll move faster playing humans instead of soloing all four sides with the 'bots. So it's still not quite the easy Euro to get under way, yet as a wargame is smooth as pie.

I remember both Aliza & Dave liking Andean Abyss, and I think they'll like this the more for it's greater accessibility just in terms of length. I cannot say this means a first play 2-hour length tho, more like a 3-hour game by second play. So that won't cut the Euro-crossover crowd, I don't think. Although I've had TS games go 3 and 4 hours without flinching.

A few late-night thoughts:

It's not any less complex than it's predecessor, Andean Abyss, in that you need to grok the actions for each faction to play well or feel in control, so the first game definitely bring an "experience game" attitude to the table and it'll deliver; so while it's a smooth & intuitive ruleset for wargamers or those Euro player's accepting of longer games or Ecklund-like fecundity (tho coherent in a way Ecklund may not always be!), it really also needs a learning game which may frustrate the Euro set.

Yes it's a more compact game than it's COIN lineage, the tight quarters of the map has everyone sitting on each others face from the get go and things get pretty hot with sudden cross-table friction. This is an entangled, in-your-face style of gaming that begs a tactical grace to push a tempo rather than discover the perfect move.

As a CDG, I do think the whole deck + lookahead driving the game, rather than each drawing their own hand, does make for a speedier up & running & coherent first game than Twilight Struggle or 1989 first plays. As far as I could tell anyway. Perceptions like that are tricky, so your disagreement will be welcome(!). TS had tons of beginners things to prepare you (open by couping Iran, etc etc) yet Cuba is a fresh, unknown face but quite seeable coming off the line.

(Which really makes me realize how special Sekigahara really is, in the wargame world I don't think there's a smoother ruleset. Not that I have the plays to lay claim to knowing it as DJ does).

I'm still not ready to think Martin would like it, or DJ & Joel for that matter. Mainly because it still takes an Andean Abyss like complexity in absorbing the faction sets of actions, asynchronous wonder that it is, something I like but others will not. But I think Dave and Aliza will. But everyone deserves (at least) an exposure to the incredible design mechanic of this COIN system of CDG & how it's wedded to the board, if not by a play at least a look-see at a game underway. Just amazing. And the difference in tone the slight changes from Andean Abyss accomplish made me consider ordering A Distant Plain in as well. I'll wait just a bit, but... maybe not.


This is just one play, and I'm rusty. Hopefully by my next play I can provide a more specific comparison to AA and how the faction dynamics compare. Hopefully such opinions are on their way from many sources. I cannot attest to the designers claim this deck makes for a wider & more dramatic range of events & thus replayability.

Oh, I can add the quality of materials - playaides, the gorgeous aesthetics & practicality both of the map & bits, the thought behind it all - are the equivalent of GMT's best productions. Another fantastic product of design maturity, development, and production.

For those of that nasty bent, it has exceptional solo-ability.
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