GCL Swedish Meatball Division #125: It's Just a Game
Andrew
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Welcome to this week's discussion list for the Swedish Meatballs, a division of BGG's GameChat League. Only members are to add items (please add your weekly games played), but civil comments from non-members are welcome.

Rotation:
qwertymartin
Sorp222
lacxox
cymric
Jugular
bnordeng
NateStraight
ellephai
johnbandettini
Osirus
jythier
aaarg_ink
fateswanderer

On Hold:
ldsdbomber
rarevos

This Week:
I recently saw the movie adaption of the old sci-fi novel "Ender's Game"; it contains a depiction of a "strategic genius" and touches on the line between games and "real life". This week the topics cover those subjects, and contain questions about both gaming and real-life.
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1. Board Game: Reality [Average Rating:4.71 Unranked]
Andrew
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A central question in gaming is the extent to which players respond as if the situation were real. Frequently a game is treated as an exploitable system of rules (and some people even lawyer those rules); other times it's an opportunity to roleplay situations and behaviours uncommon to daily life. Sometimes games are power fantasies, where the "realism" of certain aspects are prioritised much more highly than others (eg detailed combat systems versus the ethics of plundering tombs); and sometimes games are a place to channel anti-social impulses (see the Grand Theft Auto series).

To what extent do you believe people's behaviour in-game reflect their behaviour out-of-game? Do you behave differently when you are playing a game? Are there other contexts in your life where you behave significantly differently to normal?
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2. Board Game: Suspect Behavior [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Andrew
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While this is changing, the denizens of BGG tend to prefer analytical Euros about careful moves and low metagaming. Deception, diplomacy, and trading/negotiation games are not just about on-the-board moves; players' statements, advice, proposals, reputations, and reactions are calculated and scrutinised as well.

Do you have favourite games in these genres? Are there situations in your normal life when you plan or rehearse what to say or how to behave? Is there a line for you where things cross into "manipulation"?
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3. Board Game: Mind War [Average Rating:5.50 Unranked]
Andrew
Japan
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Psychology features prominently in the popular understanding of games: Poker is famous for bluffs and tells; Sirlin has written about his "yomi levels". A good strategist supposedly gets into opponents' minds and outsmarts them (as opposed to merely being more organised or efficient).

How much do you get into opponent's heads - to figure them out, play against them specifically (eg an "exploitation strategy", maybe even an overplay), or to mess with them? What games do you enjoy that involve deception, anticipation of opponents' moves, or using opponents' styles against them? When in your own life has figuring out someone else been important?
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4. Board Game: Power Play: Schemes & Skulduggery [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:10328]
Andrew
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Another popular view of games and strategy is that of elaborate planning and clockwork precision. Patrick has made the astute observation that this is seldom the case in actual military operations, due to how easily things can be miscommunicated or go wrong - real life is highly random.

What games do you like in which you can pull off an elaborate plan? What about the game makes that possible? Are there times in your normal life when you managed to execute an amazing feat of organisation or logistics?
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5. Board Game: PIX [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:2716]
Brad N
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
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_9_ Pandemic: On the Brink - 2 Players
_7_ Snowdonia - 3 Players
_7_ Roll Through the Ages: The Late Bronze Age - 2 Players
_6_ 10 Days in the USA - 2 Players (x2)
_5_ Space Cadets - 4 Players
_5_ PIX - 4 Players
_5_ Ticket to Ride: The Card Game - 4 Players


I didn't play a lot of games I rate highly this week, but it was a fun week of gaming.

(1) Pandemic - My 8 year old daughter, Azalea, and I cured the world against 5 virulent strain epidemics. We were around a 50/50 shot to lose to outbreaks on the last turn of flipping city cards to infect, but we survived and cured the fourth disease. She was a very effective Operations Specialist and I was the Medic but switched to the Scientist at the very end for the win. Another great play of this game after we barely lost 2 weeks ago.

(2) Snowdonia - I find this to be one of the finest lightish Euro games to come out last year. I've enjoyed every play and look forward to more. I've played with 2 and 3 players, but would like to see how it goes with 4 or 5.

(3) Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age - Roll Through the Ages is a fun game. It's just better with The Bronze Age "expansion." There aren't a lot of changes, but it seems like a game that was probably designed too quickly and The Bronze Age adds in and fixes the stuff the way it should have been originally.

(4) Space Cadets - I need another name to describes games like this. It looks pretty good, I like the idea and it's just too much for what it is. Gamers aren't interested because they don't see enough interesting choices for a longer game; non-gamers aren't interested because it's too complicated and involved. Bridge Troll was the first game I remember really fitting this description; Space Cadets is another and my rating actually dropped from 8 down to 5. 8 was obviously too high, but it just has never met my expectations; it falls FLAT. I will trade it away.

(5) PIX - This party game doesn't really work all that well. Maybe it would if you were playing with artists who have some idea how to make images out of a few dots. We aren't those people and so the game isn't that good. We still had fun and it was interesting. When we looked at the examples of how to make a picture on the side and back of the box, they looked great. We just weren't capable of doing that. Neat idea that just didn't work for us... or at least for me.
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6. Board Game: Eclipse [Average Rating:7.95 Overall Rank:39]
Lori
United States
Durham
North Carolina
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10 Days in Africa
Botswana
Dominion
Eclipse
Flash Point: Fire Rescue
x4

We played so much Flash Point this week because I just acquired it (and Botswana) at a con flea market. I couldn't resist getting Flash Point when I saw this guy had the version with all the Kickstarter extras.

And I finally got around to learning Eclipse, which was doubly interesting because I'd just learnt Twilight Imperium last week. To anyone who has played both, what does Eclipse have that Twilight Imperium doesn't?
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7. Board Game: Innovation [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:304]
Justus
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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Another week where we didn't go to game night. But we did get several games of innovation in this week. My wife is not superfond of the game but I'm losing my bleeping mind over it.

Hopefully once she gets over the hesitancy to discard cards she'll enjoy it more. This was a big hangup I had to get over before becoming a big fan of Glory To Rome. A card is only as good as it can be efficiently deployed un the current circumstances. Once she realizes trying to set up the killer combo over several actions is usually an inefficient play (unless it is actually a KILLER combo) I think she'll really get into this game.
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8. Board Game: Asgard's Chosen [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:7156]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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Finally got in a 3p game of this, which meant I could get around to writing my review. Our third player didn't care for the game overmuch and felt there was too much going on. (also, he got the fuzzy end of the stick on a few militia flips, which I think may have biased him a bit.) There IS a lot going on in the game, but Debbie and I enjoy that, and played another 2p soon after.

I just wish the rules were clearer and less contradictory. I think it's a game with lots of cool stuff going on, but I couldn't blame anyone for deciding it's not worth the effort.
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9. Board Game: Prosperity [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:1629]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Lacxox wrote:
I have high hopes for this week. Things are going to change.

So yes, they did. This week was about Essen. I'm partly going to quote, or rework my New to You entry for the first two games.

Wednesday, gaming club:

Prosperity 1x
This is a game by Reiner Knizia and Sebastian Bleasdale (of Keyflower fame) who’s contributed a lot to other Knizias as a playtester in the past decade. This is obviously not a game for everyone, also it’s not very interactive – but it already makes me happy that it’s an Eurogame without worker placement in 2013.
The keyword is sustainable development. The game consists of 36 turns (which means you can have 18/12/9 turns in a 4/3/2-player game: I’d guess this game is better with fewer players than with more. Each turn starts with an event that has an effect on everyone, then the active player takes two actions just as usual from Knizia. There are 5 different kind of events and these turn up in every decade (5 turns). You try to find the balance between research, income, pollution, ecology and energy in your country. And while the game is pretty simple and abstract, this theme is strongly represented by these tiles – you do have to feel and see how hard it is to be juggling between these aims: almost all developments have their benefits and bad sides as well, also you don’t even have enough space on your board for everything, so you constantly have to destroy something to add something else instead. Luck does play a role but the fewer the players the more you can count on the events that are to come. In the end it’s rather balanced: our 3-player game ended with a 32:31:30 score.
(footnote: the rulebook is rather bad – even though everything is written there, it’s hard to understand and sometimes you can get the meaning of some sentences only from the examples; also when it refers to blue tiles those are grey tiles etc.)
So, do I like it? I'm not perfectly sure yet. While the structure is pure Knizia, it also has a bit of Bleasdale fiddliness. On the other hand, this helps theme. Eh, I don't know, I must play it more.

Coal Baron 1x
It’s a worker placement game from Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling. Have they ever designed any worker placement games? Oh yes, they did, that was Asara, and that is my only problem with this game –although it’s not obvious at first sight, this is about 60% the same game as Asara (even though it’s a bit more complex and it even incorporates some action point allowance like the games in their famous Mask trilogy). Glück Auf is a game about mining and it features a worker placement mechanism that might have seemed a novel idea when they started to develop the game but after games like Lancaster, Vanuatu and Keyflower it isn’t very new anymore: in order to use an action space that someone else has already used, you have to kick them from there – with more workers than what they have there. Otherwise it’s a pretty standard worker placement where you collect tiles, deliver cubes, go to bank etc. It works fine but it just didn’t feel very new. I mean, most of what you are doing can be found in Asara as well. this lack of novelty and feeling of been there, done that was a bit of a letdown while the game itself played smoothly.
Quite interestingly, while it’s a game from this strong designer duo, the saving grace of the game is the components and especially the graphic design which is detailed, clear but still captures the theme perfectly.

Finally I played Spyrium which I still think is fine, also I still think this is the best (non-expansion) 2013 game I have played.


Sunday, at home:
It was raining all day so the kids slept more than usual during their daytime sleep. So we played two new games - two new expansions.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 4 – Nederland is interesting. It does not have tunnels nor boats, not even collect the most tickets/longest route cards - what it has is bridge tolls: money. Each route needs some money. Most of these are double routes: the first player to place trains there pays to the bank and the second player pays to the first player. It brings some interesting timing aspect to the game. What I don't know yet is if it's good that the ticket points are a lot higher - in a usual TtR game you score as many points for the connection as the number of trains needed for this; here you score as many as the number of trains + the numerical value of the bridge tolls. So, in the end, we both scored over 200 points so the 35 points that the player with more remaining coins got didn't feel that high.

Kingdom Builder: Crossroads was fine; after one play (knowing half of the boards and one third of the task cards) I do like the expansion fine; it's interesting and provides lots of new possibilities. Details and images of this game: Item for Geeklist "Building Donald X.'s Kingdom - A 100 Play Challenge (now at 30%)"

I also wanted to try Qin: Toad and Dragon Turtle Game Boards but the kids woke up while I started to play it against myself. Then my son watched me as I played and started to ask me about the rules. Then he was playing with me with open tiles so I could help him and explain him the possibilities. Then, in the last third of the game he started to hide his tiles. I started to gain advantage but then my wife started to help Miska. Finally I won, but just barely. After this not-really-serious play of the game I like the new boards fine; they are just like the FITS Official Expansion boards, not changing the game at all but providing new and interesting geography so you have to adjust your strategies/tactics to these.


I also played a few children's games like Viva Topo! and Lord of the Rings on Sunday.
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10. Board Game: Monopoly: Essen [Average Rating:4.25 Unranked]
Paul Lister
United Kingdom
London
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The last couple of week's gaming have been exclusively Essen 13 releases. I loved my 3 days at the show and have got my gaming mojo back.

Nations - 4 plays. This years Civ. game. It's like a Through the Ages tribute band, restyled for the easy listening market.

Prosperity2 plays. Tedious, linear, lacking tension, appalling graphic design. How could these 2 designers produce such tosh?

Coal Baron, what it does so well is force you to focus on what others want, when they want it and hoe much they will pay for it. Brilliant middle weight Euro from the masters. 1 play. Who also made this...

NauticusTake a heavy dose of Puerto Rico actions selection, add a splash of Feldian linked actions/rewards and add Kramer Scoring and you have a recipe for another magnificent middle weight. This is heavier than Coal Baron but feels no less polished as a design. 1 play

Glass Road.I am in a minority of 1 as everyone I have spoke to who has played it likes it. The Rosenburg wall of options in a game just gets bigger and bigger...you have 15 actions cards to select from, and there are 15 tiles on display to buy )plus the ones you might add to your private display) It's really a multiplayer solitaire optimizer with a veneer of interaction though the action selection mechanic (which would be cool if you could second guess what any one else is doing).

Concordia. A good development of Navegador with the scoring tiles replaced by action cards which also score multiples of game achievements. Simple mechanics, lots to explore, Interesting interaction with the card drafting (when you know the game) and leaching off others production actions. 1 Play (many more to come)

Origin Possibly played too late at night - a simple civ style game with annoying overproduced phallic totems.

Japan rules Essen!

Donburiko - 5 plays. Genius game of 16 cards and a few tokens.

Machi Kori. Dominion meets Settlers, and over in 20 minutes. Fantastic.

Sukimono - real time thrifting game +market manipulation and a dose of luck. Very entertaining.

Sail to India, Say Bye to the Villains, Eat me if you can....

Games purchased but not played yet

Russian Railroads, Caverna(impulse buy as it was cheap because it has a damaged box, I think it's just going to be Gabba to Agricola's techno), Sushi Draft, Heart of Crown, Five cucumbers, S-evolution(unplayable with current rule set), Wildcatters (the game looked so gorgeous I succumbed - I was glad to hear afterwards that its an interesting game)
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11. Board Game: Pala [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:5019]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Thursday: games night at the veggie cafe

One of the guys had brought along Divinare and so had I. That seemed like an omen so off we went. The others had played once and no times before, and I was pleased to see that experience paid off with a good win.

I'd been bringing Pala along for a while and finally got it played. Great little trick-taker! The twist is that you can play pairs of cards together to 'mix' their colours into a third colour. I didn't really get the hang of it at all but I definitely liked it.

Finally, Tinners' Trail, my second play after a gap of a few years. I really want to like this because parts of it are great, but it annoyed me for the same reasons as the first time (plus a bit of lack of focus in the group made it drag). On the plus side, it is very accessible for a Wallace - we had a couple of newbie games players (playing as a team) and they seemed to understand it and play credibly.

Friday: at home

I got Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small – Even More Buildings Big and Small for my birthday and Sarah and I broke it in. Three of the four new buildings on offer this game were worth lots of VP but come with a penalty in how you build your farm. I foundered in the mid-game and Sarah kept taking the action I wanted just before I got to it, including screwing me out of feeding troughs in rounds 7 and 8. She got her highest ever score and won 55-44.

Saturday: in the pub

Lunch with Sarah and the Italian cards. I was getting killed at Scopa 7-1 but then won the next 3 rounds 3-2, 5-0, 5-1 for a 14-10 victory! Then we returned to Briscola for the first time in a while. I've been playing a bit on my iPhone and feel like I've got the hang of it now. Sarah's decided she doesn't really like it though. Too bad, it's a neat little game!
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12. Board Game: Rococo [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:200]
John Bandettini
United Kingdom
London
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Two sessions last week. Only one visit to LoB but also managed to spend most of Saturday at a friends home.

28th October at LoB

Only one game played but it should have been more. I like to play fast, but managed to get into a 5 player game with very slow players. I still enjoyed the game, particularly beating them all despite the time they took. But it did drag a bit. One of the players did express concern about committing to a game that would take all night. I said, no worries it’s an hour and a half game, or at least it would be if you played like me.

So onto Rococo

The players are all Dress Makers at the court of Louis XV of France. The idea is the players are all making dresses (and men’s jackets) for the upcoming ball. Each player starts of with 5 cards representing their tailors. Two masters, one journeyman and two apprentices. Each turn you have three cards and each player plays a card at a time and takes one of six actions.

You can get the Queens favour, which gives you five coins and start player next round. (Apprentices can not do this)

You can buy a cloth or yarn/lace tile. Amount you pay depends on how many tiles have already been sold this round.

You can make a dress as long as you have the required cloth, yarns and lace. You can the either sell the dress for cash or place it on a floor of the palace. Money helps you buy things, placing the dress earns you points at the end of the game. (Apprentice can not do this)

Recruit a new tailor. (A number of new tailors are available each round to recruit.) (Can only be performed by a master). Cost depends on how many have already been recruited this round.

Sell one of your tailors. Get 10, 7 or 4 coins depending on rank.

Build a decoration. There are various types of decorations in the palace you can build which give a variety of bonuses at the end of the game.

Each tailor you play also has a bonus action on it (apart from the two masters you start with) which you play after taking you main actions. They are very varied, with things like, buy a yarn or lace for 1 coin, make a red dress for one less bale of red cotton, earn coins depending on how many tailors you currently employ and many more.

Although you only have three cards per round (maybe more as any cards you recruit go into your hand and are playable that round.) and six actions to choose from, there are a lot of moving parts so it is quite tricky.

2nd November at Tom’s

As I was the first to arrive (by a good hour or so) Tom and I started with a play of a game designed by a friend of his, Amalgimal Zoo which was OK. I didn’t feel compelled to play a copy but happy to play again.

As there was still no one else there we played a game of Battle Line. Battle Line is a game that has really clicked with me. Maybe I should have warned Tom that I hardly ever lose at it. Instead I just kicked his butt.

A couple of others had now turned up so we played Rococo. This time it was played at a lot better pace and was all the better for it. I am a little worried about this game though. I did the same as I did in my first play and won again. It might have just one strategy that is better than any others. Hope I am wrong though.

By now we were up to six, so we played Say Bye to the Villains. As you know by now I am not a fan of Japanese games and although this was OK it will take something a lot better to convert me.

We played a couple of games of Ugg-Tect, which is always fun. Especially playing with Sherrine who seemed to have trouble telling the difference between left and right and back and front.

Finished the day with a three player game of New Haven (The other three were playing Origin). A game I had dismissed as an abstract and it is, but it was OK and I did manage to win, so that made it even a little bit better.

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13. Board Game: Quantum [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:397]
George Leach
United Kingdom
Godalming
Surrey
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So I missed a week. Whoops!

At the start of the previous week John kindly came over and we played Star Wars X-Wing (or whatever it's called) which was good fun. I'm still on the fence over whether to buy it or not. I enjoyed it but I'm not sure how balanced it is nor how much replay value it has for me. I think it does things better than Wings of War since the templates are more dynamic and the rules are fairly simple but allow for a fair bit of flexibility regardless.

The week went and I jumped on a plane to Essen. Lots of games to played! (I didn't play many) Lots of friend to be seen! (I didn't see many) Lots of bargains to be had! (everything was so expensive, even the 2nd hand stalls)

Nevertheless I did have fun most of the time and I did come back with a little pile of games and a relatively unpunished wallet.

I brought back:

Euphrate & Tigris - Traded for. Must have the Meatballs top game! It's the dutch version and it's a bit grey I would have preferred the Mayfair one but it's sold out now and not easily found it seems.

Cartagena - Bought for €8. A little classic that will probably find the trade pile fairly soon.

Lifeboats - A negotiation game I've got a feeling I'll enjoy. It's of a weight I think I need more of.

Once Upon a Time - A nice story telling game that we tried out tonight. We're looking forward to Sophie telling us our story is wrong or silly.

Love Letter (original art) - Played it a fwe times already but only two player. Few laughs provoked so far.

Coup (Indie Board & Cards edition) - Played it once at the fair and didn't find it all that enjoyable as I remember. It probably depends on the crowd.

Dungeon Raiders - A recent republication of this fun 'cooperative' dungeon crawl. It's very trimmed down. I'm not sure how much replay it has. It could certainly live with some character development. I've already posted some ideas for expansion.

American Rails - The Chicago Express redevelopment. This allowed me to avoid Queen and Bohrer in one fell swoop while picking up a game I've been interested in for some time. I am by no means an expert on the original so I can't say whether the changes are fundamental, or for better or worse but I'm looking forward to trying it out some more.

Carson City expansion - I love the original and felt a little left out when I returned and found the expansion had already sold out. Made sure to pick it up from source and hoping that it adds to the game variety.

Rampage - Brilliant dexterity game. A lot of fun and surprisingly more strategic than I expected. The rules aren't perfectly clear but their short and the answers are all in there somewhere.

Obstgarten - An investment for the future. I figured Sophie might might be up for this before I get to Essen again so figured I'd pick it up while I had a good opportunity.

Hanabi Deluxe! - Played the hell out of this already. Only problem is that Kathryn and I get fed up with each other when we forget an earlier clue. Thinking about adding note taking. Worth every penny so far.

Quantum - Game of the fair by a long stretch. I mentioned to Vee in her geeklist that I felt like Nexus Ops could be better and more strategic. This game fills something like that niche for me. Using dice in solid (not original) ways that hold together nicely. The dice are ships. The pips tell you how far it moves and it's strength. Fights work by adding a die roll to the ship strength, lowest wins. To win the game you need to colonize 5 planets. Either surround planets with dice with pips summing to the value of the planet. Here high valued dice are more useful. Or dominate. Dominance increases by one when you destroy a ship and decreases when one of you ships is destroyed. This is represented by a die and when you hit 6 you get a free colonisation. Every time you achieve colonisation you get an advancement card. These cause the game to accelerate and the rich get richer to some extent. This means a nicely paced game for me.

Other new games I played:
A study in Emerald - The next best game I played at the fair. Very thematic (apparently) but it holds together really nicely. You are secretly either an agent for or against the Cthulhu Old Ones who have colonised Earth. You place influence cubes in cities in order to control them in a two step process. You place influence cubes on cards (located at cities) to add them to your deck (again in a two step process). You can murder old ones. Controlling cities, murdering old ones, murdering agents and their minions all give you VPs but will only count toward your victory at game end depending on your allegiance. There are also two tracks that add VPs to either the loyalists or revolutionaries at game end. The most important twist is that the team to whom the player with the lowest VPs belongs immediately loses leaving the player who has the highest VPs on the opposing team to win the game. All very clever and very good.

Shadow over the Empire - I couldn't begin to review this game since we had the worst explanation of a game I've ever come across. Almost as if the guy picked random paragraphs from the rulebook to relay to us.

Mission Combat! - Reasonable little card game. Not entirely unlike Battle for Hill 218. Cards form a battlefield, cards played to represent units that have three types of attack and defense.

Ka-Boom - Each player in turn is the builder. The builder tries to construct towers depicted on cards on the table. Everyone else fires a (limited number of) dice are the towers to knock them down. Completed towers at the end of the timer score the cards beneath them. First to a set number of points wins. Lots of laughs, good price, what's not to like?!

Friese's Landlord - Maclusky artwork can make even a turd shine.

Desktopia - This would have been first in the bag if it was published. Great strategic little flicking game. I might manage to hold off depending on the price though. Take Catacombs and make it a more freeform battle. Provide your own surface!

The Rats in the Walls - Must have convinced this publisher to make this frankly crap game.

Canalis - Could make for a vicious spatial game but the sandbox element of the game turned me off a lot. Throughout the game the stall people kept mentioning that you could play with this or that included or removed or tweak the rules like this, or that. Just publish a good game and put it in the box! That's what I'm paying for!

Cuboro Tricky Ways - Some more super expensive spatial puzzling. This time in a game format. It's a neat spatial puzzle but just on another planet for price.

World of Tanks: Rush - Nice little quick deckbuilder. Three cards only per turn makes it supremely swingy but all in all it works reasonably well.

Assault on DoomRock - Playtested this game which I think I might back on indiegogo. It's an RPG-lite in a similar vein to Runebound or Claustrophobia. In this one as you develop you get new abilities that give you new dice and new values to assign your dice against. Fight monsters, collect loot defeat the big baddy. Definitely interested.

Other games I played:
Tichu - Teaching some newbies.
On The Cards - Slightly too often the 'game' produced is very convoluted but with few deicision points.
Mascarade - Not bad but not as good as Resistance or Coup.
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14. Board Game: Container [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:616]
Andrew
Japan
Tokyo
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Hmmm, have been dragging my feet answering my own list...

Played 5p Container and ended up 4th, with the newbies taking 1st and 2nd place. They invested heavily, moved lots of goods, and bid high, and the two other veterans followed, but with poorer positioning. I held back and tried to cool the economy, but you can't play against 4 people.

The winner had 4 factories for most of the game and had been selling goods at $3 each! Due to group issues the game dragged, so I didn't pay as much attention as I should have; at the very least I should have tried to shake up the economy. I think I underinvest early on, and give up being a major player in a role - staying out of a hot economy is a poor idea (especially as I don't know what countermeasures to take).

I also played some Apples to Apples, due to the company rather than the game.
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15. Board Game: Java [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:815]
Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
Zaandam
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The Alphabet challenge continues unabated... No, we weren't going to do a Spiel-special as we felt we had too few games to become really enthusiastic about. Besides, there's a game day coming up, and some of the games we purchased at Spiel will hit the table there.

Java — Game #2 of the Mask Trilogy. My partner made a run for the lakes while I got drawn into a losing turf war over control of valuable cities. I had forgotten how easy it is to muscle in into a city especially when the terrace level is still low, so all sorts of defensive positioning simply did not pay off for me. In addition I noticed somewhat uncomfortably that Java has a strong element of making a move so your opponent can do a better one: something that it shares with Game #3 of the Trilogy, Mexica. Tikal is better behaved in this respect as you can make access to juicy temples prohibitively expensive, thus incentivising others to look for their fortune elsewhere. Not so in this game, unfortunately. I'd need to play more often to find out how to circumvent this pattern... if it is at all possible. Still the game remains an impressive achievement, even more given its age (nearly 15 years already!).

Web of Power + Web of Power: The Vatican — I've played many games of Web of Power to date, but never with the Vatican expansion which I've owned since the dawn of Time. I was rather curious as to how it would affect the game; and I was happy to note that I thought the effect was, in fact, good. In exchange for one of your council members, you get to double the value of your cloisters in a province, or double the value of all council members in a province. If placed correctly these Vatican pieces can provide an important boost to your score, thus creating a bit of incentive to play the game in a slightly different way with subtly different strategies. I'm happy playing Web of Power without the expansion, but with in no way diminishes what is a good game already. It also speaks volumes that a game this old is still good enough to be played remaining full of tiny tactical tricks.
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