The Great Monopoly Escape (WBC Edition)
Matthew Morgal
United States
Elkridge
Maryland
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Earlier this year I made a Geeklist chronicling my never-ending quest to find board games my girlfriend would like to play. Being a regular WBC attendee, I decided to use my 2013 trip to unearth some new ideas for the gaming table with the +1 in my life. The end result gave me some great ideas for games that I own, but never thought to try.

I still have a few more items to add, but this at least covers the main tournament events I played. I also played Ticket to Ride and Ra: The Dice Game; however, I already covered those in the previous list.
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1. Board Game: Formula Motor Racing [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:1938]
Matthew Morgal
United States
Elkridge
Maryland
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This game missed my previous Geeklist, and I am kicking myself for it. All the more because I've been playing this at WBC for years before I met my girlfriend. Formula Motor Racing is fast, chaotic, and tons of fun. I've made it to the semi-finals based on some lucky positioning in the heats; I've lost games due to a bad luck with the crash cards. Every game is so much fun, regardless of the outcome. And while there is a little bit of strategy (I.E. luck manipulation), this game is big on luck and reversals of fortune no matter how prepared you are.

Then I realized why Formula Motor Racing missed the previous cut. While not every game is best played with the max number of players. Formula Motor Racing is an exception to this rule. While 3-6 players can play, you really need six for maximum effectiveness. Six is unfortunately a hard number of players to come by when you are not at a gaming convention. Still, this one is on my short list once I get enough players to join us. Maybe I can try a parental/sibling gathering from both families? Hmm...

By the way, major thanks to Chris for running such an awesome event. I have no doubt that this GM has seen everything there is to happen in this game at least three times, but he always brings lots of excitement and good-nature cheer over any in-game scenario.
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2. Board Game: Pirate's Cove [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1018]
Matthew Morgal
United States
Elkridge
Maryland
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A new event at the WBC for me. I attended the demo and subsequent first heat mainly because I thought this might be a good game to play with the plus one in my life. I turned out to be correct. Although I did play Pirate’s Cove once before, it was a couple years ago and I don’t think we played it correctly. Thank goodness for demos run by great GMs and their assistants!

Pirate's Cove has all the makings of a nice gateway Eurogame. Not too complicated, colorful visuals, parrots, mutiny, player vs. player combat, treasure...ok maybe you won't find all of those in any Eurogame, but the point stands.

The tricky aspect to Pirate's Cove, and what definitely scared away my gamer group a few years ago is the ship to ship combat. If you are not paying attention, it's very easy to accomplish nothing every turn due to getting your ship blasted by other players. Note that I said "not paying attention."

As was explained at the demo, if you are watching what other players are doing, and the status of their ships, you can get a pretty good idea on where they will go each turn. If a tablecloth is doubling as the green player's sails then they will probably go to Sail Island. If the red player only has one cannon firing forks, they will probably be arming their weapons. Following this logic I engaged in minimal fighting, usually over high loot cards.

By the way, did I mention parrots? Who doesn't love parrots?
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3. Board Game: History of the World [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:597]
Matthew Morgal
United States
Elkridge
Maryland
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Just kidding. This is not a game I would introduce to my girlfriend. I start with the fact that it takes 3-6 hours to play (depending on number of players) and end with the fact that it’s rather complex and not particularly interesting to someone that isn’t into History and warfare.
However since this list includes games I play at WBC, I feel the need to include a few words on this classic as it is one of the few games I’ve played every year at the convention.

Although this tournament usually opens my WBC experience as the single Tuesday night game, 2013 marked the first time I skipped the first heat and opted instead for the second one Wednesday night. I blame the plethora of Tuesday night events along with my inability to sit through a five hour game two nights in a row only to get hosed with the United States in the last epic.

Whether it is due to me doing just well enough, or a really bad last card draw passed to me with no better options, History of the World at WBC is not kind to me in the last epoch. On the bright side, the 7th epoch curse did not hit me too badly this time around. You could certainly do worse than Russia and the first play, if only I had a better board position to utilize it. At least I could turn my brain off early.

Five hour games tend to be made or broken by the people you play with, and I played at a great table with players well versed in both light-hearted personality and skill. This also marks the first time I played in which someone did not confuse the old rules with the new ones (I can’t place armies sea tiles in this one?).

I wish the tournament rules utilized the popular variant of “1 minor empire and two major events.” I feel like the game is a lot more balanced when you don’t have people with zero or three minor empires running around, but that’s just me being nitpicky. Preeminence chips are used, and that is good enough for me.
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4. Board Game: Small World [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:183] [Average Rating:7.33 Unranked]
Matthew Morgal
United States
Elkridge
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Small World contains an amusing hidden joke within the game mechanics. That pretty colorful exterior hides a somewhat complex strategy game with lots of those tile things you find in ye olde Avalon Hill war games made before I was born. Small World is not nearly on the level of said Avalon Hill games or something like History of the World, but the complexity level is slightly beyond your typical gateway game like Ticket to Ride.

Feels strange saying all that when considering the base rules are very simple. Following the golden rule of “2 + however many tiles of whatever is in the square” and you have 50% of the game figured out. What gets complicated is the myriad of possible racial and ability combos that add lots of wrenches into the monkey works. Not to mention that each player will quickly have two races to keep track of at once when declining comes into play.

Keeping track of it all with two players is not too hard, but when you have four players and a list of potential combos waiting in the wings to select, the average gamer does not necessarily realize that they are thinking on multiple levels. The multiple levels required to play more advanced games. Very clever, Days of Wonder.

I decided to give this one a shot with my girlfriend after WBC. I didn't tell her what I wrote above. I simply showed her the rules and we dived in, figuring that the cute pictures would do the rest. The results were spectacular. Although she was disappointed that the trolls did not have colorful hair like a certain classic toy model, she quickly picked up the mechanics and we played a close game that I narrowly won by 6 points. And I didn't hold back. In fact, if it weren't for a lucky Triton/Farmer combo that let me sweep the coast during the mid-game, she’d have probably won.

The WBC tournament stuck to 4-player games, which I feel is optimal for this game. As I quickly discovered when I played my first two-player game with my girlfriend, a two-player game simply lacks the confined space needed for forced conflict. We never engaged in direct combat until our second empires (the first going into decline simply because we reached our limits of expansion). And even then, conflict remained pretty light throughout the game compared to a four-player rumble.

So Small World was a success.
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5. Board Game: Atlantic Storm [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:3075]
Matthew Morgal
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Elkridge
Maryland
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Technically this is an easy game to learn and play. It also works decently well with a larger group of people (5 or 6). So while it technically would be a fun easy game to play, there is the whole subject matter thing.

I feel safe saying that my girlfriend would much rather enjoy building railroad tracks and fielding armies of flying trolls than deciding whether or not to play the Hood now or save it for a 1940 convoy.
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