GCL Amoeba 139 - All On A Sunday (2013-10-20)
Jens KH
Germany
Karben
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GameChat League - Amoeba Division 139
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Jevon
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Jeroen
Eric
Carlos

Essen's opening the doors this week, and I'll be there on Sunday. Taking everything in on one day only is quite a challenge. Or maybe I should rather say, is simply not possible. The day's going to be pretty packed regardless. I've been thinking about how to decide what to take a look at. The results so far are inconclusive but I'll pass on some of the questions I've been asking myself. On your visit to Essen, do you...
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1. Board Game: Starship Troopers: Prepare For Battle! [Average Rating:5.74 Overall Rank:10486]
Jens KH
Germany
Karben
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Diligently plan out your trip and the visit to the fair, or simply turn up and see where the flow takes you?
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2. Board Game: Bargain Hunter [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:2192]
Jens KH
Germany
Karben
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Hunt for bargains on older titles or get a feel of the new hotness?
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3. Board Game: Famous Name Us! [Average Rating:4.00 Unranked]
Jens KH
Germany
Karben
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If you do decide to go for the new hotness, focus on the big names or ignore those and look at all the one-off small publishers instead?
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4. Board Game: I Don't Know, What Do You Want To Play? [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:6375]
Jens KH
Germany
Karben
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Look around and check out as many games as possible, or concentrate on a few titles and actually get to play a few?
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5. Board Game: Long Short [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:10085]
Jens KH
Germany
Karben
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Long games or short games?
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6. Board Game: Pile On [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Jens KH
Germany
Karben
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Games with lots of components and gorgeous artwork, or minimalist games that reduce everything to the bare minimum?
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7. Board Game: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Base Set [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:300]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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New to me:

d10-6 Rise of Augustus x1
d10-4 Clocks x1

Return visits:

d10-7 Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Base Set x2
d10-8 Yedo x1

Rise of Augustus is very much gamer bingo. I enjoyed my one play although I expect I will prefer this with more players. With less players, I suspect that the rush strategy will generally win which takes away a good bit of the tension. This one will likely be a staple filler in the next few months. Clocks was a disappointment to some degree. I wanted more from this game than was delivered - perhaps not enough dice are rolled each turn to truly split the pie to make that key mechanic interesting?

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Base Set is surprising me in how much I'm enjoying my plays. It really is quite simple, but with this group, I'm having a great time adventuring and building up my character. Yedo was fun to revisit again - the two nastiest cards in the event deck did occur which set everyone back in our game and probably allowed me to win as a result as I recovered more quickly than the others.


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8. Board Game: Spyrium [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:513]
Jeroen Doumen
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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4x _8.50_ Bridge
1x _7.50_ Town Center
1x _7.25_ Spyrium
1x _7.00_ The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
1x _6.50_ Taj Mahal
1x _6.50_ Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords - Base Set
1x _6.50_ Canterbury
1x _6.25_ Quarantine
1x _5.75_ Blackbeard
1x _5.50_ Monolith: The Strategy Game
1x _5.00_ Rum & Pirates

_7.25_ Spyrium came on our table for the first time. A quite enjoyable game - the use of meeples for both increasing income and the card costs works quite well. Having extra meeples is not always good, since the other player may already be taking his actions while you are still placing your meeples. Need to play more .


_7.50_ Town Center: played with the newly arrived 3rd edition copy. Having actually big enough blocks to stack up makes quite a difference . A nicely mean little city building game.


_6.50_ Canterbury An interesting city builder, where you race to provide more and more services to the growing city. Bigger and more expensive buildings serve more city blocks, but the first one to deliver the service wins that block. We played one round too many (until 400 city influence instead of 300) blush, though it didn't influence the end results too much - but we got all the biggest buildings built (which usually won't occur I think).
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9. Board Game: Qwixx [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:680]
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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http://www.lautapeliopas.fi/ - the best Finnish board game resource!
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1 x _8_Catan
2 x _4_Chess
1 x _7_Glen More
2 x _8_Las Vegas
2 x _7_Viticulture
5 x _8_Qwixx

It was fun to play Catan, after just six years from the previous game. I won, too. Cool.

Viticulture is now seen, and will be gone in a math trade, hopefully. Not bad, but not a keeper either.
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10. Board Game: Nauticus [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:1452]
Jens KH
Germany
Karben
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Games played

_8_ König von Siam
_7_ Homesteaders
_6_ Ground Floor
_6_ Nauticus (new!)
_6_ Spyrium (new!)
_6_ Wizard
_5_ Eketorp
_5_ Qwixx
_4_ Time's Up!
_3_ Würfel Bohnanza


Nauticus is the illegitimate bastard child of Puerto Rico and Shipyard but doesn't hold a candle to either. It's solid but less punishing than the former and less complex than the latter.

Spyrium is a generic and simplistic resource conversion engine in a box. It's probably okay for a few plays but I have some serious doubts about its longevity.

Ground Floor is still too long for its own good.
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11. Board Game: Starship Merchants [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:3064]
Doug Faust
United States
Malverne
New York
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This weekend, I was down at Tom DeMarco's for one of his "game weekends". Unfortunately, Anni had to work, so she did not accompany me.

_7_ Starship Merchants (new!) - They were looking for a fourth for this right when I arrived, so I quickly jumped in. It was me, Marsha, Pete, and Nick--Nick and I were the new players. After the explanation I decided to try to go as fast around the rondel as possible, trying to go for more trips than more money per trip. I started out with the ship with more energy, and luckily got an extra hold on my first turn. I tried to specialize in Deuterium and got a pair of goods and a refinery, but Nick was going after Deuterium too and grabbed the pilot. I avoided buying another ship for a while, thinking it would slow me down. Unfortunately, we got one of the cheap level 2 ships mixed in with the level 1 ships, so no one wanted to buy very many ships as everyone was waiting for the level 2's. After I got my second ship, I decided to diversify into cobalt as there were a couple in "known space", and I didn't want Pete to get ALL the cobalt. I also grabbed a cobalt refinery before Pete could. Marsha, who was operating a veritable fleet, pulled into the Docks and declared the end of the game right after I had gotten to the docks, so I could take another entire trip. At this point I decided to spring for a third ship, calculating that I could probably make back the $10 in a single trip. Unfortunately, no one told me that everyone else gets $5 for each additional turn I spend, making the payback less advantageous. Marsha won, I came in last.

_6_ Anno 1503 - This was with the same group, as everyone else was in the middle of games. Nick was the only new player, though the rest of us were a little cloudy on the rules. I decided early on to go heavy on ship production, and try to fill up my island sections. Accordingly, when I worked my way out to my first building, I got pirate insurance, which turned out to save me about $10 over the course of the game. Pete and Nick both got the building that made their ships fast, but they were being more picky about which islands to take, and grabbing all the plantation upgrades and $12 tiles, so it didn't bother me that much. As a result, though, I never saw a tobacco all game, so I decided to forgo that goal. I did manage to build myself up a nice little spice engine, though. Toward the end of the game, I had already filled up my top island section, and was looking for one more cost reduction island--but so was Nick, and his ship was faster. There were two spots that Nick hadn't looked at, so I chose one and found what would be the last reduction tile. I just needed one more turn of making lots of money off of spice, and I would be the winner. However, right before me, Pete managed to upgrade a bunch of his plantations to level 4 for the victory.

_7_ Web of Power - This was with me, Pete, Nick, and Tom V, with Nick being the new player. I tried to focus on road chains, and was actually pretty successful with that, amassing one chain of five and another of six. At one point in the middle of the game, I was in a 3-way tie for first in France, so I scrapped my plan for the turn and burned two cards as a wild to take that last spot. Unfortunately, I forgot the rule where you need diplomats on both sides of the border to score them, so I scored a whole zero points in diplomats. Pete got a ton of diplomat points at the end, and won easily, while I managed 2nd place with my board points.

_9_ Terra Mystica - This was with me (Cultists), Don (Witches), Derek (Darklings), Rob (Nomads), and Marissa (Swarmlings). Marissa was new, and Rob was new-ish, but the rest of us were pretty experienced. I know the Cultists aren't very good, but I haven't played them yet and wanted to give them a fair shake, so I tried it. True to form, I got a grand total of two bumps of the cult tracks the entire game despite starting next to lots of people; every other time people decided to forgo the power to deny me. I panicked a little on my opening placement, as Don placed next to where I was going to go, and I didn't want to be sandwiched between two players, so I ended up taking a very suboptimal placement. As a result, I needed to do a lot of digging to expand at all. I upgraded to a temple on my first turn and took the points for building a trading house bonus. I used the resultant priests to go all the way up on my shovel track as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, at that point I just ran out of resources. Despite the shovel upgrades, I still needed 3 workers to terraform and one more to put out a house, and because it was so hard to put out any houses, I didn't have any worker income. In the end, I decided to just link my two opening spots with a bridge to get a single city. I managed to push the points as well as I could, greatly helped with a points-per-shovel bonus on the last turn. Ended up in third, which was a lot better than I felt I was doing. Derek won easily, also thanks to the points-per-shovel bonus on the last turn.

_9_ Power Grid: Northern Europe (new!) - Obviously, Northern Europe is new, not Power Grid. This was with me, Jim, Rod, and Tom V. I don't think any of us had done Northern Europe before. If you're not familiar with this one, basically you replace base-game plants with certain new plants depending on what regions are in the game. Oddly, the lower-numbered and higher-numbered replacement seemed better, but the middle-numbered replacements were much worse, particular #25 and #26. We all seemed hesitant to exclude these great mid-range plants, so we ended up playing in a giant donut around unused Sweden. My first three plants were actually eco-plants, getting the replacement #7 (1 power), the #13 (1 power), and the replacement #22 (3 power). I also did a good job at boxing Tom in on the board; he eventually had to leapfrog 3 cities to break out, but it didn't really hurt my position when he did. I got in a bidding war, but on the #26 plant (3 oil powers 5), expanded to 6 cities, and tried to milk that for as long as I could, despite quickly increasing oil costs. I managed to amass about $250 before Tom broke us into Step 2. Jim got really screwed on plants (turns out #25 was one of the four taken out of the game), and decided to spend his amassed money to go up to 14 cities to blow up a plant and trigger Step 3. After a bidding war, I grabbed a 7-power plant, but didn't have enough money to build to 17 to end the game. The next turn, I got a 6-power plant, taking my capacity to 18, but I was $6 short of expanding to my 18th city. Jim powered 17 and had a ton of money left over for the win, and no one except the two of us could built to 17.

_6_ Guildhall: Job Faire (new!) - This was with me, Pete, Brian, and Dave. Again, the expansion was new to me, the base game was not. We decided to play with all six cards from the expansion, instead of doing some sort of mix-and-match. I was a little befuddled in the beginning, because I didn't remember the game that well and there wasn't a refresher. I tried to just get as many cards down as I could, but it didn't seem like my plans were very effective. The expansion cards were a little more confusing than the base game cards, and I think everyone stumbled a bit on that. Brian built up a fairly commanding lead, and no one could stop his inevitable victory.

_7_ Village - Same group, Dave was new. I once again utilized my turbo-death strategy, placing my first-gen workers in the workshops to produce grain-making equipment, and then killing them off as quickly as possible. I kept the pedal to the metal and killed off a guy at home to fill up that section of the book, and a churchman. I kept recruiting extra guys, sometimes using 3 cubes, and sending them into the church. I did send one second-gen guy into the town hall, and advanced him all the way. I spent a lot of time turning grain into gold, and I used the gold to get my guys into the church. Later, I turned about 4-5 gold into points using the top spot in the town hall. I got my fifth guy into book, and then just waiting for the game to end. I sold off my grain-making equipment in the market. The game ended shortly thereafter, and I won by a decent amount. Dave came in second with by visiting all the distant lands.

_6_ Love Letter - Same group again. I wasn't too interested, but decided to play until the other group broke up. That ended up being 2 rounds worth of this. I was eliminated midway through the first round, which ended with Brian winning. In the second round, I stayed in until the end and won with a Princess that I just drew.

_6_ Tempus (new!) - This was with me, Rod, Steve, and Dave. Dave and I were new. I was a little befuddled in this game, as I came out of the rules explanation thinking that the best thing to do was to try to win the end-of-turn competitions. So I tried to do that, and found that it often didn't give me much of an advantage. Also, it seemed like no matter how many cards I drew, I just kept getting more and more military cards. Turns out those are useful late, when you're fighting over the last few spots on the board, but early on, not so much. With my mostly useless hand, I was probably too hesitant to draw cards and discard the useless ones, but it just didn't seem efficient at the time. I turned to building cities, but ended up building the small ones first as it was really hard to get stacks bigger than 2 without much movement. The board filled up quickly, and being in the middle, I ran out of room to create new cities. The only spot still available that didn't involve conquering someone else's city was a spot Dave had with two discs on it. I managed to get four discs next to it and attacked, using lots of attack cards from my hand. Turns out Dave had a bunch of defense cards in his hand, and managed to fend me off. Rod suggested that I could try again, since I still had a 3-on-2 advantage, so I did, hoping that Dave had spent his cards. Nope, he had another, and I lost another disc. I drew more cards, and got 2 more attack cards, so I decided to try again 2-on-2. Dave had even more defense cards so I was foiled a third time. Ah, well. I came in last; Rod won.
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12. Board Game: First Train to Nuremberg [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:1460]
Joshua Gottesman
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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A good amount of gaming this weekend. Even though my Saturday morning group was canceled, I had Saturday night at the FLGS and Sunday there was a birthday day of gaming for one of the other guys in the gaming group (another Josh).

Saturday we started off with the brand new Compounded, straight off the Kickstarter truck. I enjoyed this one and would like to play it again. That being said, there is a tremendous amount of luck in the game (drawing chemicals from the bag, which compounds come out, random lab fires) which may turn some people off. However, there's enough strategy to make me want to give it at least one more shot. I came in a distant 2nd in this one.

Next we played The New Science, once again with 5 people. I got some crap for "king making" because I pointed out a move to a new player who was really struggling with the game. As it turns out, the move hurt 2 people. One still won the game, the other wasn't really in contention. I came in 3rd. I stand by my decision to help someone get more out of the game. At heart, TNS is just a worker placement game with a neat theme, and I'm really enjoying it.

Then we moved on to another game of Gem Rush, once again with 5 players. We played it competitive, and created a HUGE mine this time around. I came in a close 2nd here, unable to quite get the cards I needed on the last turn. I don't think anyone was more than a couple of points behind. This game is getting a lot of table time because of the easy rules and enjoyable play. That being said, as much as I enjoy it, I still consider it closer to a filler than a brain burner.

That doesn't seem like 6 hours of games, and I don't remember playing anything else...so if I did, it wasn't memorable.

Sunday we started off with a 5 player game of Glory to Rome, which hadn't hit the table in a while. There was at least 1 new player in the game. I won this one, just barely. One player had a forum started and all 6 of the clients needed, but I was able to run the deck out on the turn before he could finish the building. Even with that, I just escaped with a 2 or 3 point victory.

Next up was a 5 player game of Imperial 2030. While running China, I made one of the 2 classic blunders. I got involved in a land war in Asia. China and my 11 shares never recovered. I did have a bunch of Brazil, which was the x5 country, but lost control of it for the lack of $5MM and I came in tied for a distant 3rd.

After dinner, we played First Train to Nuremberg, which I was happy to see get back to the table. It was me and 3 new players. I was last in track building every turn, and was really lagging in train points, too. I thought I was going to do worse than I did, however the 2 players racking up the most early points also had a lot of track they could not sell and bad profits, and their negative points knocked them behind me. I ended up with 15, the 2 early leaders with 14. My 15 didn't win it, though, the winner had 18 or 19. I really like this game, and will keep pushing it to the table.

We also played some bizarre golf balls on a string game outside during the day, where I choked on my last throw to lose...but it was fun.
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13. Board Game: Breakout: Normandy [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:1021]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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_8_ Breakout: Normandy -- Andy Young and I have enjoyed learning and playing a number of wargames together (starting, I think, with Paths of Glory, which became my favorite wargame.) When we were discussing what to learn next, we settled on Breakout: Normandy, a wonderful Avalon Hill area control game with no hidden information and a huge amount of luck to manage. The thing that makes this game so enjoyable is that the luck forces agonizing decisions that balance opportunity with risk management. The best players win against weaker players almost every time regardless of the luck. We started a game and have played on two separate evenings for about two hours each time, completing four of the seven turns (that's June 6 through June 9 if you're following along at home.) Andy took the Allies and I took the Germans, so he is the puncher and I am the counter puncher. His landings on the American beaches, Omaha and Utah, ran into a world of hurt, but he did great on the British beaches, taking Brettville and Bayeaux and racing south down the middle of the board. That's typical of this game, where great luck in one area is usually balanced by terrible luck in another (and if one side gets all the luck, the other player can concede and you can set it up again.)

_4_ Uncle Happy's Train Game -- This is a kids game from Mayfair that resembles their crayon rails games to a degree while teaching US geography. The amount of building each player may do is governed by a spinner that gives you from 1 to 8 building points on your turn. The idea is good, but there's too much luck in the spinner. A child who spins 1s and 2s is going to be frustrated, even though I understand the desire to have some luck so kids can beat the adults some of the time. I got this game in a math trade, trading a lousy game for a lousy game about trains. I still feel that is an upgrade!

_6_ London (first edition) -- My wife and I decided to play a game Sunday afternoon, and she chose Martin Wallace's London (first edition), a game she hadn't played before. It's quite different with only 2 players---in particular, there's a lot of money in the game. I'm not quite a fan of London (first edition), but I haven't wanted to get rid of it because my wife is a fan of things English, and as I had expected, she liked the flavor in the game.

.10! Outpost -- On Monday night we played this favorite of mine. Steph plays in Salem NH with a very strong group, and she got off to a great start. John, Marsha and I squabbled over upgrades while Steph managed to buy hers at list price. She saved cards for the start of Era II and got the first Orbital Lab, but John used his Data Library to snag a Laboratory on the very first turn of Era II, which was also a great start. He lost his way a bit, though, and Steph passed him (she was collecting 10 Research cards a turn by the end.) I lagged behind by a significant margin. I'm not likely to play 10 times this year, but I have played it 5 times.

_7_ Industria -- I'm a big Michael Schacht fan in general, with Web of Power and Paris Paris being my favorites among his games, and Hansa and Coloretto not far behind. For some reason, though, after playing Industria 14 times in 24 months when it first came out, I didn't play it for the next seven years. When someone suggested it, I was happy to give it another try. This game doesn't quite work the way I think it should, but it's different and interesting, and it plays quickly with 3 players (it's a little longer with 4, but still isn't long.) The auction mechanism allows the auctioneer to take any item without paying for it, at the cost of allowing the person to the left to auction off any remaining items. The game breaks down if one or more players doesn't think carefully about his or her bids, but our game worked fine. I raised my rating once again from _6_ to _7_ (and not just so I would have an odd rating in this list of games played!)

.10! Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm -- We finished the evening off with one hand of this favorite. Joe played a full military strategy, picking up Rebel Homeworld with Interstellar Bank on the last turn to end it with a bang.

Note: I've checked, and I only give even ratings to 53% of the games I've rated. The other 47% have odd ratings.
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14. Board Game: Chess [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:416] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
Max DuBoff
United States
New Brunswick
New Jersey
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"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: / Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
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Habeo in animo vivere in perpetuum aut mori dum conor.
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Not a big gaming week for me, but...


_10_ Chess: I was playing chess about a week ago, and I suddenly realized that I never put chess on my weekly contributions! I play chess 4-5 times a week at least (mostly blitz and bullet). G/1 is my favorite, but there's some G/2 and bughouse too. I'm actually a Class B tournament player (USCF 1647), but I don't get much time to play in tournaments during the school year, unfortunately.

Interesting enough, chess is the only game I ever intend on rating a 10 (except perhaps if I ever get into Go). Even though there are some games I probably enjoy more than chess, nothing can compare to the complexity of chess, not even a game with a 40-60 page rulebook. Whenever I get down about how steep the learning curve is in Paths of Glory, I just remember how steep the learning curve is in chess, and that provides a little comfort.


_7.5_ Ascension: Deckbuilding Game: I've been playing a series of this with my friend (on my iPod). Currently we're tied 3-3. This game may not have the highest skill-to-luck ratio in the world, but I very much enjoy it. Now that I've been playing more 2-player, though, I'm finally getting used to the very different strategy. In 2-player games, strategies that ignore military are bound to fail, whereas in a 3- or 4-player game they can be really potent.


_6_ SET (new!): I learned this one at a gathering of non-gamers this week. Hey, it's not the best game in the world, but it's a good puzzle, and when in the company of non-gamers, it's better than nothing. I have to admit, though, that I play some rather complicated games, but I had trouble doing well at this one. Needless to say I didn't win, but it was pretty enjoyable.


_6.5_ Stratego: When my friend claimed that she was undefeated in this game, I felt compelled to attempt to prove her wrong, notwithstanding the fact that I hadn't played in a full two years. I failed. In the 5 games we've played online, though, I have won 2, so not too bad. Although I can play a competent chess game, I realized I'm just not very good at this one. It's still rather interesting to play though, again, especially with non-gamers. I'll just have to train up and hit her when she's not expecting it...
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