GCL Amoeba 138 - A Great Feat of Ridiculousness (2013/10/13)
Jevon Heath
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Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
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GameChat League - Amoeba Division 138

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Welcome to this week's Amoeba discussion list. If you have found us through a subscription and are wondering where you are, see the links above. If you stumbled into this geeklist by accident take a look at the pointers provided at the top. Constructive on-topic comments from visitors are welcome and we're happy about new regular contributors, but please obtain permission before adding items if you are not a member of this GCL. Jump on in, the water's fine!

Jens mb(fizzle)
Joshua (Joshuaaaaaa)
Mikko (msaari)
Doug (Phrim)
Max (MD1616)
Larry (larryjrice)
Jeroen (jmdsplotter)
Eric (Eric Brosius)
Carlos (sprocket314)
Jevon (cadavaca)

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1. Board Game: 30 [Average Rating:5.44 Unranked]
Jevon Heath
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
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Yesterday was my thirtieth birthday, and I celebrated by playing thirty different games over the course of the day. Thing is, I had forgotten entirely that it was to be my birthday until this past Wednesday, when my girlfriend reminded me. This whole shebang was conceived and executed in the space of four days - and man was it satisfying to see it work. (And also to play all those games.) I also got to see one old friend I hadn't in over a decade, which was an unexpectedly wonderful consequence.

For me this was a successful gaming project. What kinds of gaming projects do you embark upon? How often are they successful? How often are they consequential?
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2. Board Game: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:67] [Average Rating:7.80 Unranked]
Jevon Heath
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
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The day started at 6AM with a three-hour Skype session with my girlfriend on the East Coast, in which we played Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. We played Joshua (Martin Vetter)'s fan expansion #1, which I've had lying around for over three years but hadn't played. We ended up going five out of nine on the answers (got almost all of the events down, misattributed a couple of actions to individuals). I think it was a well-written case, but some of the prose was a little repetitive in the wrong way.

This, to me, is a successful gaming project on Martin's part. And he's apparently got a second case now, which I didn't know about! How do you feel about "professional" fan expansions, user-added content, etc? Is there a threshold of notability for you?
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3. Board Game: 1000 Blank White Cards [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:3163]
Jevon Heath
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
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We ended the evening with a game of 1000 Blank White Cards, which finished up at 11:57PM. As I've recently mentioned, this game is one of my sentimental favorites, although it's not something I want to play too often. [Paragraph accidentally deleted, will try to rebuild later this week].

To me this game represents the other end of a continuum of gaming project from professionally done fan content. It's a concentrated orgasmic burst of creativity, purely for its own purposes. How do you feel about such endeavors, particularly in gaming?
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4. Board Game: Veritas [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:7962]
Joshua Gottesman
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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I spent the early part of my birthday at the Ren Faire here in Las Vegas with a friend of mine and then we met up with another friend. Despite putting a pounding on my legs, it was a great day. I had a lot of fun. The fact that I'm interested in the friend didn't hurt and spending a big chunk of time with each other (the other friend didn't show up until we had been there about 4 hours) and had a great time didn't hurt...but I digress.

When we finally got to the FLGS for gaming (yes, she's a gamer) I got into a game of Dominion with 2 experienced players and one new player. We played the starter set from the base game and I won handily. I think the new player enjoyed the game.

Next up, I played my first Cheapass game in years. At heart, Veritas is about burning monasteries in France. Okay, so its about saving books from being burned...I think. The game has some clever mechanisms in terms of area control, however we found the scoring to not have a great catch-up mechanism. That being said, it could just be the strategy we used. I'd play it again.

Next up was another game of Gem Rush. As usual, I didn't do great, however with 4 new players the game still went smoothly and everyone had fun. I think this will keep hitting the table. Finally, 4 of us played Takenoko, a game I have always enjoyed more than I expected to. It's not an every week game, and as a light filler its fun. After that, I was exhausted and ready to cut out, so my friend and I left and grabbed some desperately needed dinner....it was a good birthday.
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5. Board Game: Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:82]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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New to me:

d10-7 Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) x2
d10-8 A Distant Plain x0.3
d10-5 Pyramidion x1

Return visits:

d10-6 Harry's Grand Slam Baseball Game x2
d10-6 Spyrium x2
d10-8 Glen More x1
d10-6 Igloo Pop x1
d10-8 Manila x1
d10-8 The Palaces of Carrara x1
d10-8 Small World x1

Comments:

A Distant Plain is a fascinating war game with four very unique factions that operate very differently from each other with just a few similarities. There is quite a bit of push and pull as you "ally" yourself with another person one moment and drop them like a hot potato the next in order to make your plans work and keep the others in check. This was my first experience with a COIN game; I suspect based on reading comments by others that this is the most complex COIN game to date and therefore not the easiest one to learn. I'm sure we made mistakes. We played through 15 cards in the deck with a robot warlords player (another no-no for new players according to the rules but we thought we knew better..ummm..yeah, about that...) I want to revisit this one again with three other human players - I hope that this can happen, we'll see.

Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) is not a game I would generally select to play but the Monday Five voted otherwise, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed the game. We started a campaign and played the introductory level first and we've been successful thus far against the DM and the leveling up of our characters has been fun. I expect we'll revisit this one again on a future Monday. On the other hand, Pyramidion pretty much bombed. There are interesting aspects to the game, but with quite a few similarities in concept to Taj Mahal, I feel little desire to revisit this one instead of just playing Taj Mahal which feels much more balanced and tense. Also, this one proved daunting for one of our deeper thinkers in the group who struggled to work through all the different options and as a result, our learning game took waaaaay to looooong.

Spyrium is a game which I think is clever, but my interest if fading. I'm struggling to find the fun in this game, and I'm not sure if there are more than two paths to victory. On the other hand, The Palaces of Carrara is growing on me and I'm really enjoying exploring this one more using different sets of victory conditions. Manila is always fun although I think I prefer four players to three and Small World and Glen More are titles I'm always happy to play.

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6. Board Game: Eclipse [Average Rating:7.95 Overall Rank:39]
Max DuBoff
United States
New Brunswick
New Jersey
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First off, happy birthday to Joshua and Jevon! Now for my week's gaming...


_8.6_ Paths of Glory I took another beating in this one at the beginning of the week. I played CP this time, and, although I'm woefully inexperienced as CP and thus resigned at the end of Turn 7, it was an interesting game. I was doing fine overall, but I sent too many armies over to Italy, so I was destroyed in southern Russia. The Russians reached the gates of Budapest, and my offensive in Italy fizzled after a timely retreat on the part of the Italians.


_8.6_ Commands & Colors: Ancients I got in another few rounds of this online this week.

Crocus Plain--Phocians--Yeah, if you're at all familiar with this scenario, you should know it's not going to end well. The Phocians are hopelessly outmatched on this one, but I was very happy to get 4 banners (compared to my opponent's winning 6). The last time I played this one as the Phocians I got a mere 1 banner, so it was an improvement.

Cynocephalae--Rome--Ah, facing the Macedonians again. Except this time, I had the historical victor. Actually this scenario can really go either way (I've won and lost as both sides). Oftentimes, this scenario can actually come down to whether Philip mobilizes his heavy infantry corps in the back of the battlefield. It's not easy to do, but they can make a big difference. In this one, the heavies didn't get in the game, and I won by three banners.


_8.6_ 1989: Dawn of Freedom Hmmm, I sense a numerical theme here. Anyway, I played the Democrat in this game. I'm a little better with Communist, but this game is definitely a bit more balanced out-of-the-box than Twilight Struggle is. I managed to win handily in Poland, and I had complete control of Hungary, but I couldn't quite reach 20 VPs. (I was at 16 at one point, I think.) As can often happen, my score slipped when the Mid Year regions came in the game. In Turn 7 a combination of Communist control of Czechoslovakia and domination of Bulgaria pushed the score to -20.


(new!) _8_ Eclipse Well, my friends were going to have a game day, but it didn't quite work out, BUT they still said people could come at night. I had been interested in learning a 4X game for a while, and this seemed like a perfect one to start with, so we settled down for a 3-player game at around 8:30 pm after a rues explanation. I had the Orion Hegemony. I (obviously) had no idea what race to pick, and I didn't want to be boring humans (G-d forbid!), so I asked about the first one I saw, which happened to be Orion, and when I found out it was a "militaristic" race, I was satisfied. We were also playing with the expansion, so I might mention techs or races not in the base game. One player was the "shrine" power (the name escapes me) that builds a shrine at the end of each turn and then gets bonuses when there's a shrine on each type of planet, and the other player was the power that can buy two techs at one time (which, perhaps needless to say, ended up being huge). My power had no bonus per se (so I guess it did end up being good for a new player), but it had really nice ships that started with Gauss Shields and more slots on each ship.

I got the Conical Shields tech relatively early (I think that's the name of the 3-hull upgrade), and I made my ships rather resilient. After not building ships for a couple turns, I brought out two Dreadnoughts and took the center of the galaxy. Hooray! (Side note: I gave myself the title "Master of the Galaxy" after taking the center. Not that it meant anything, but I thought it was funny.) Anyway, I soon made sent ambassadors to my opponents' worlds while threatening to backstab. (SPOILER ALERT: This doesn't work out quite as planned.) I built up my ships a little, but I still had my basic guns, which was a problem when the tech player got guns 4 times the power of mine. On the bright side, I got some great battle VP awards. (I ended with a 4, 4, 3, 3, and 2.) I made some pretty good defensive space stations (although my tech-savvy neighbor had even better ones) and some computer-assisted cruisers, but my Dreadnoughts were lacking a bit comparatively. On the last turn, sadly, it happened to be in both of the other players' best interests to attack me. I might've been a bit more vulnerable though, since I didn't know how to defend as well. I spent a long time thinking about how to maneuver on the last turn (perhaps my first true case of AP), and I did manage to take some territory. Although my home world was captured, I retained the center of the galaxy. The score ended with both of the other players tied at 39 and me at 36. The game was accidentally partly cleaned up before the last person calculated her score, so the tiebreaker was undetermined, but I was really happy with the result. We finished around 11:30. It was a really fun game, and I very much hope to play again soon.
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7. Board Game: Las Vegas [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:480]
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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1 x _6_Lord of the Rings
1 x _7_Monster Trap
1 x _8_Las Vegas
1 x _7_Skunk
1 x _7_Die kleinen Drachenritter

A quiet week. I skipped the Thursday games, because my brother came to visit. We did play Skunk and Las Vegas with him, though. Rest is games with the kids, but we've been busy enough for that to be a bit quiet as well.

Las Vegas, I have to say, is really growing on me, I quite like it.
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8. Board Game: 1837: Rail Building in the Austro-Hungarian Empire [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:6302]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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_8_ 1837: Rail Building in the Austro-Hungarian Empire -- My first game this week is 1837: Rail Building in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a sprawling monstrosity of an 18xx game that was released in 1994 by designer Lonny Orgler. He has since teamed up with fellow designer Helmut Ohley under the name "Double-O Games", and the two have published some beautiful games, including the extremely innovative 1880: China, but 1837: Rail Building in the Austro-Hungarian Empire was very much a "print and play" effort.

Herr Orgler is from Austria, and he has designed or codesigned not just one, but three separate 18xx games set in Austria. The first is 1837: Rail Building in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, whose map covers the entire Austro-Hungarian Empire. The second is the 2003 design 1854, with a map set in modern-day Austria. It has tunnel tiles printed on clear plastic, a feature it shares with another Double-O title, 1844: Switzerland, and this may be why there is talk of Lookout Games publishing a combined 1844: Switzerland and 1854 game. The third game in the set is 1824: Austria-Hungary from 2005, which once again covers all of Austria-Hungary, and in fact shares many ideas with 1837: Rail Building in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but is much smaller and plays very differently.

We had just 3 of us on hand to play (a 4th player spaced out and forgot he was planning to play with us,) less than I think would be ideal for the game. It's a big game, and I imagine it would work adequately for 6 or 7, though of course there's more waiting in a game with more players. It starts with a quirky Dutch auction that distributes 17 lots among the players, and the start of the game involves running mountain railroads and various other small companies. If you're used to games where the 2-trains have the lifespans of mayflies, you'll be surprised to learn that 2-trains last a long time in 1837: Rail Building in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

I really enjoy games with interesting decisions about what trains to buy and how to set up ideal routes for them, and this is one of them. We didn't have time to finish (we knew this at the start,) but we got the feel of the game and I'd like to play again soon.

_7_ Lunar Rails -- After the 18xx group left, my wife and I played a game of Lunar Rails. It's not my favorite, but I enjoy it enough, and it is one of Claire's favorites.

_6_ Escape from the Hidden Castle -- As we assembled for game night on Monday, we looked for a game that would accommodate 6 while we waited for the last 2 to arrive. I had never played this, even though it's fairly well known. It seemed decent enough for a game of its type, and I wouldn't mind playing it again, but I'm not sure I need to. For example, if I want to play a "press your luck" game that will take 6 or more, I'd pick Diamant ahead of this one almost every time.

_6_ Forbidden Desert -- Michael was back from his honeymoon in Rome, and he had this new cooperative game with him (complete with tin.) John and I agreed to join him. He explained it deftly, so that it seemed easy even though I could see as we played it that it wasn't as easy as Michael made it seem (for example, he kept reminding us what to do with the cards, something we might easily have messed up on our own.) This is quite a clever game, and it seems to work very smoothly. We played the novice difficulty level and had some good sandstorm draws, and the first two well tiles we excavated both were real (so we didn't need to worry about the third one.) As a result, we managed to beat the game with a little room to spare (though without a water carrier in our group, we would no doubt have succumbed to thirst soon if we hadn't managed to fly out.)

_6_ Forbidden Island -- It seemed only right that we move on to this earlier game by the same designer, with the same 3 players, but at regular difficulty this time (Michael said after winning the previous game, we should give ourselves more of a challenge.) This is of course a well-known game, and it too worked well, though I think I liked it slightly less than Forbidden Desert (it was my first play for both of them.) Once again we made it to safety (by a smaller margin this time.) I guess it was just a good day for us.

_9_ Paris Paris -- We re-formed our groups and, to my delight, Joe Rushanan suggested this favorite of mine. Everyone said that I ought to win, because I have a lot of experience with it, but Joe went on to win by about 20 points over the 2nd place finisher (who wasn't me.)

_8_ 6 nimmt! -- Next we played just one hand of this quick filler while waiting for the other table to finish.

.10! Eurorails -- When we re-formed, I suggested a crayon rails game, and Kevin and Joe Rushanan agreed to join me. Kevin and I gave Joe his choice of games, and he picked Eurorails, which is also a favorite of mine. The boring strategy in Eurorails is to build to Spain (of course, you need the cards.) Boy, did I have the cards. I mostly did huge runs, dumping cards only once and completing a few short contracts to fish for spec load cards. I made it to $262 before Joe or Kevin made it to $150. But we finished in about 75 minutes---this isn't a long game if you play it briskly.
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9. Board Game: Baltimore & Ohio [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:1975]
Jeroen Doumen
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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5x _8.50_ Bridge
2x _6.50_ Crazy Lab
2x _5.75_ Cards Against Humanity
1x _8.50_ Baltimore & Ohio
1x _7.25_ Sentinels of the Multiverse
1x _6.75_ Snow Tails
1x _6.25_ Web of Power
1x _5.75_ Eight-Minute Empire
1x _5.50_ Titanium Wars

_6.50_ Crazy Lab was a decent little cardgame filler. It was new to us, so we didn't play it too well. It uses player-selected trump colors (coming out randomly), combined with a public (fixed) negative and hidden (chosen) positive color to collect for each player. Finally, the cards are some combination of colors (e.g. 6 green and 5 orange). It makes for an interesting little game, more complicated than it appears at first sight.

_8.50_ Baltimore & Ohio Glad to have this make an appearance at the Friday gamers table again. We played with all four expansions for the first time. I particularly liked the robber barons, which spiced up the game in a good way. One of my non-18xx favorites .

_5.75_ Eight-Minute Empire unfortunately disappointed a little, but perhaps my expectations were too high for a light civ-game. It's a decent area-majority game, fueled by selecting cards in turn that give actions and collectable items.

_5.50_ Titanium Wars needs a bit more variety. All players fight over a single new planet each turn. On the one hand, the game is over a bit too soon (two or three planets is generally enough to win), and the income you get is enough to build up a quite good fleet each turn (as it has to be). But there's not too much choice, so the fleets that people bought were quite similar, and the battles were decided by table diplomacy and luck of the battle card draws. Maybe the announced expansion will improve it, but I'm not sure I'll bother getting it...
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10. Board Game: Rococo [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:200]
Jens KH
Germany
Karben
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Games played

_8_ Race for the Galaxy x2
_7_ Lancaster
_7_ Rococo (new!)
_7_ Witch's Brew
_6_ Der Herr der Ringe: Die Gefährten – Das Kartenspiel
_5_ Escape: The Curse of the Temple (new!)
_5_ Ginkgopolis

Rokoko is a fairly standard Euro optimizer but it's solidly built with a few interesting twists (e.g. deck-building where you can choose your next hand (with a couple of restrictions, obviously)). Although it's not exactly close in either theme or mechanics it reminded me a lot of Pillars of the Earth during play.

Escape is a quick treasure hunting romp that I suppose is quite entertaining for a game or two but I can't see this not getting old very quickly.
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11. Board Game: Bananagrams [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:1627] [Average Rating:6.35 Unranked]
Jevon Heath
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
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_7_ Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective - The Burglary at the Bellamys
_6_ WWE Raw Deal
_8_ 2x 7th Sea
_6_ Android: Netrunner
_6_ Netrunner
_6_ Call of Cthulhu LCG
_7_ ZÈRTZ
_6_ YINSH
_8_ For the Crown (w/Shock & Awe)
_7_ Wise and Otherwise
_6_ Wits & Wagers
_5_ Set
_7_ SNCF
_7_ Dominion w/Dark Ages, Intrigue, and Cornucopia
_7_ Bananagrams
_6_ Magic: The Gathering (with Unglued/Unhinged cards)
_7_ Yomi
_7_ TZAAR
_8_ DVONN
_6_ PÜNCT
_7_ Cube or Train?
_7_ Trains
_7_ JAB: Realtime Boxing
_7_ Taboo
_7_ Hanabi
_9_ The Resistance
_9_ The Resistance: Avalon
_8_ Time's Up!
_6_ Hive
_9_ 2x1000 Blank White Cards

And earlier in the week...

_5_ Erie Railroad
_8_ Dutch InterCity
_8_ Hanabi
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12. Board Game: Catskills [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Doug Faust
United States
Malverne
New York
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No gaming for me this week. Anni and I spent the weekend hiking in the Catskill mountains of NY. Got to see some astounding views, but now my feet hurt quite a bit.
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