Council of 5 Nations XXXVI - What Games Did You Play?
Eric Alexopoulos
United States
Clifton Park
New York
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This past weekend the Schenectady Wargamers Association (SWA) held the 36th Council of 5 Nations (C5N) gaming convention at Protor's Theater in Schenectady, NY. This year C5N expanded by 50% more space and had events scheduled all day Friday! Over 400 attendees took part in nearly 210 game events over the course of 3 days. It was a good crowd for C5N despite a lackluster economy and a local college orientation event which caused a hotel snafu. The expanded space provided a very enjoyable gaming experience and I had a blast! Nice job to all of those who made this convention possible at SWA!!
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1. Board Game: Archipelago [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:314]
Eric Alexopoulos
United States
Clifton Park
New York
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Once again I did not start the convention on the right foot as a personal issue held me up, forcing me to arrive a bit late to my Friday afternoon game. Fortunately, the GM had just begun the rules explanation when I arrived and I jumped right in. There's a lot going on in this game and I muddled through it for the first two turns. I started to get the hang of things the third turn but the rebels rose up and defeated the players at the end of the turn. Game over. I'd really like to give this one another try.
 
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2. Board Game: Wellington [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:2348]
Eric Alexopoulos
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Clifton Park
New York
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GM and British player in this one on Friday evening. It was the Spanish player's first play, but the French player had a few plays under his belt. The French player knew the potency of Wellington and did a great job bottling him up. I took heavy battle casualties and could not break out. However, the Spanish player had a blast going wild and eventually invaded France. Despite Wellington's lackluster performance, the Coalition managed to defeat the French. Fun game!
 
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3. Board Game: Hansa Teutonica [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:120]
Eric Alexopoulos
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Clifton Park
New York
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GM for this game on Saturday morning. I had a sold out session (5 players). We easily completed two games in the session. The players were a bit tentative at first but quickly learned the value of the many options in the game and an entertaining battle for control ensued. It was fun just watching the two games play out!
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4. Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:38]
Eric Alexopoulos
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Clifton Park
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Played this one Saturday afternoon. This game was also sold out. Another one I have never played and interested in possibly picking up. This game has a nice blend of mechanics, many possible strategies, and a bit more player interaction than most euros. We easily completed two games in the session - even with 4 newbies. I managed to take second in the two really fun plays. Good game, I'd certainly play this one again.
 
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5. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:23]
Eric Alexopoulos
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Clifton Park
New York
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This game was my Saturday evening event. I've never played this one but I own Age of Industry and have been wondering if the two games play similarly. I heard that Brass is a very dry, complicated and long play. IMHO, it did not live up to that reputation at all. It isn't really more complicated than AoI, just has more mechanics and we easily completed one game in the session even with four players - two of which had never played. Even though I was familiar with most of the mechanics, I stumbled through this one to finish dead last. I like the game but would not pick it up as AoI is very similar.
 
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6. Board Game: Here I Stand [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:195]
Eric Alexopoulos
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Clifton Park
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Finished another good con with this one on Sunday. This game is rapidly becoming one of my favorites. There are so many aspects (military, religious, diplomacy) in this game and each power plays very differently so that no two games are alike. We had the full compliment of 6 players for the 3 turn tournament scenario. We took our time, coached the new players, and ended up playing through the break and auction into the next session. I played France for the first time. England and I managed to avoid conflict until the last turn, but the Hapsburgs and I clashed a few times. There was also a ferocious religious battle raging over most of Europe. It was an insanely close, tense game which came down to the turn 3 New World phase. My French explorer discovered the Mississippi River and ended up netting me the victory! Great game, can't wait for my next play!
 
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7. Board Game: At the Gates of Loyang [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:258]
Benjamin Maggi
United States
Loudonville
NY
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I had signed up to play this game with only a slight recognition of the title. In general, I am not a big fan of Agricola or other straight worker-placement games because I usually feel as if I am playing a form of solitaire instead of a truly interactive game. This one was fun, however, in part because the I felt more in control of my destiny. Instead of seeing options I wanted taken by others, I usually found what I wanted in the cards drawn into my own hand and having the ability to always take at least one of them was nice. The pieces were well done, the game wasn't too long, and the other players were fun to game with. The GM was a little rough on the rules we we got through okay and that was fine. I squeaked out a win based on a total remaining money tie-breaker, though the 3rd-place player was only one VP behind if I recall.

I think I like this game more than Agricola not only because I am not as dependent on what spaces are available after other players go (and no, having other players take your spots doesn't count as meaningful "player interaction" in my books) and can decide how I want my farm to go. It is a slow economic engine to build for sure, but it plays quick and the theme is fun.
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8. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Europe [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:100] [Average Rating:7.56 Unranked]
Benjamin Maggi
United States
Loudonville
NY
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The game I wanted was cancelled for no apparent reason so I scrambled to find something else. One person had what looked like every version of TTR available to play so I chose to join him. Five of us first played TTR Europe, and then TTR Asia, and finaly TTR Africa. As a real-life train fan I enjoy TTR games even though deep down they don't remind me at all of a train experience (unlike, say, 18xx or Chicago Express). However, a pasted on train theme is still better than a pasted on plane or boat theme! The games were fun though in the end I am not sure that any of them really resulted in a better game.

Europe was nice because it added tunnels and stations, but to me this only resulted in a game where had an easier time in completing routes (stations) or took penalty-free chances (tunnels). Sure, if you couldn't complete your route based on a card draw for the tunnel you lost a turn, but since multiple players weren't competing for the same tunnel losing a turn didn't mean much. I usually tried with just the bare number of cards and sometimes failed but rarely did it set me back overall.

Asia was interesting but I didn't like how many of the routes resulted in cars being lost to the mountains. In real like equipment wear did result from grades but I never felt as if this carried through theme wise in the implementation of the game. Part of the problem was that losing pieces resulted in a shorter game (it triggers the end game) and so the board seems to have been designed to play fast. Artifically rushing the game wasn't enjoyable for me. And, this board was poorly designed in my opinion because the route cards listed cities in a East/West order, instead of West/East. Not only were the Asian towns' locations unfamiliar to me, but having to read the cards backwards in my mind didn't help.

Africa was the most interesting of the bunch, even if the theme felt the most pasted on. Here, you could build routes and also double their value by playing essentially bonus cards. The board had fewer cities and routes, and building trains clearly was less of a focus then on optimizing the ones you actually built. This somewhat mimics the real-life railroad development in Africa but here is where TTR turned into a "collect cards" game instead of a train-themed game. Never did I feel more like I was just collecting cards (instead of laying railroad tracks and delivering goods) than in TTR Africa.

All in all, I am glad I chose this. I have been a big fan of TTR and wanted to see what all of the expansions are about. Now I know. Will I buy any of them? Probably not, as I don't think they add to what I really enjoy about TTR. However, if I had to pick I liked the Asia one a bit more than the rest because the Asian cities on the board evoked a sense of struggling to build through the jungles of Thailand or the rugged plains of Tibet. Orient Express anyone?

I also saw that Days of Wonder released a special pumpkin Halloween train which was cute enough that I might pick it up.
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9. Board Game: Shadows over Camelot [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:349]
Benjamin Maggi
United States
Loudonville
NY
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This is a game I GM every year, and every year it feels different. This year was no exception. For one thing, I had some repeat players from the year before and they not only knew some good strategies but also remembered who was the traitor from 2012 (in fact, the same guy has been a traitor in three of the games I have run... talk about bad luck?) Some new players and a few experienced ones rounded out the table and I never got to play because it was full. I always play at a round table which I think enhances things, and I only address people by their Knight's name (it saves me from having to remember their real names!)

I looked at the remaining loyalty card before I put it in the box and saw that it was the traitor card, so I knew that everyone was loyal. I have never had this happen before. Frankly, usually the game beats the players without a traitor so having a traitor makes it even harder for the loyal knights. Since the players change every year they cannot develop sound strategies from just one or two plays, and I don't tell them optimal strategies- so I let them figure it out themselves even if it results in their death.

The game was very shaky for a while though they ganged up and finished the Grail Quest and then Quest for Excaliber. After that, they beat back some Picts and defeated both the Black Knight and the Sir Lancelot's Quest. I have never seen anyone do so well in the game and was very proud of them. Many times they were one seige engine away from losing (and thus pulling a completed grail quest card or a excalibur card would have ended it) but they instead lost life points to prevent the bad cards.

In the end, they won by a tremendous margin (I don't recall a single quest failing, nor a single black sword on the table) which was also a new thing. Had there been a traitor, he could have ended the game easily.

The game never developed where players were accusing one another, which I think is an interesting aspect of SoC. The players were so sure that everyone was loyal and their selfless gameplay only reinforced that. (A perfect time for a traitor to stab them in the heart, me thinks) One thing for sure though is next time I won't look at the remaining loyalty card at all. I was careful to not give away any information when I answered questions, but I missed the tension of wondering whether we had a traitor or not (and I wasn't even playing!)

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10. Board Game: Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:784]
Chris B
United States
Schenectady
NY
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This was my 5th or 6th year attending. I didn't get to as many sessions this year as I normally do, but as always I did have have a good time. Had a great game of FANG- Tom(GM) knew the game real well and did a good job explaining the rules. I lost on the last turn as the scoundrel character stole my artifact- earning enough Fortune for the win.
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11. Board Game Publisher: Eden Studios
Chris B
United States
Schenectady
NY
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On Saturday morning I ran Eden's soon to be released RPG Adventure MAXIMUS!. I don't get to play rpg's as much I used to, so it was great to be able to play this with my daughter. This game was designed with kids in mind and the group had a great time working together(for the most part) using creativity and their imagination to overcome obstacles(and killer chicken nuggets).
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12. Board Game: Titan [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:864]
Steve Bachman
United States
Colonie
New York
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Friday night I was GMing die Macher, but despite having the game set up and 2 of there ready to go, the game was cancelled because the two people who had pre-reg'd didn't show up (or turn in their tickets). So I packed the game up and the two of us jumped into the Titan league game.

I got to play two games of Titan as a critical error (removing a split in my Titan legion before a die roll in a bad location) got me eliminated in the 5-player game about 2 hours into it. I didn't fare much better in the second game, a 2-player game, but had fun in each game.
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13. Board Game: Railways of the World [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:102] [Average Rating:7.69 Unranked]
Steve Bachman
United States
Colonie
New York
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I had several top choices to pick from on Saturday night and opted for Railways of the World as I hadn't played it in awhile. Played two 4-player games, one in Europe and one in Mexico. Fared poorly in the first game and a bit closer finish in the second, but enjoyed losing as always. shake
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14. Board Game: Container [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:616]
Steve Bachman
United States
Colonie
New York
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Sunday morning I GM'd Container, with The Second Shipment available. The game was sold out up until Sunday morning when two players - a 10-year-old son of one player and a 12-year-old son of another - opted out for other choices. This allowed me to play in a 4-player game with one returning player from last year and two new players. Before we made it an hour in, the new players were gushing over how much they liked the game and lamenting over its OOP prices. I'll have to remember to run it again next year, although maybe in the Sunday afternoon session so Ben can play.

I was able to win the game by $10 over 2nd place, so at least I have a winning streak going in one game!
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