GCL Swedish Meatball Division #126: Back to School
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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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:
Sorp222
lacxox
cymric
Jugular
bnordeng
NateStraight
ellephai
johnbandettini
Osirus
jythier
aaarg_ink
fateswanderer
qwertymartin

On Hold:
ldsdbomber
rarevos

This Week:
Ironically, my turn has fallen on probably my lightest week of gaming since I've been in the hobby. I'm teaching several lessons a week at school now, and all the planning and evaluating means I'm working late until the evenings and at weekends. It's interesting and rewarding but also exhausting and all-consuming. So here are a few discussion items about games, kids, schools and education.
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1. Board Game: The High School Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Did you play board/card games at school (as opposed to at home while you were school age)? At organised sessions (e.g. chess club) or with friends in break time? Anything you still play now? Anything unusual you can tell us about?
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Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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What do you think of the idea of 'educational games'? Any experiences of using games to teach or to learn?
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Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Just couldn't resist adding this as an entry when it came up in my search!

Any other thoughts about school days? The 'best days of your life' or something you just had to get through?
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4. Board Game: Spot it! [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:952] [Average Rating:6.66 Unranked]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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I volunteered to help out with my school's board and card games club and the first event of the year was on Tuesday lunchtime. Turns out that all the school provided was a plastic crate with some chess boards and a big heap of pieces all mixed together. I brought along a couple of packs of cards, plus Dobble, Risk Express, Liars Dice and FlowerFall.

About a dozen kids turned up (all boys) and they mostly wanted to play Chess. Some used the cards: I saw whist and blackjack being played, and one kid is a Cribbage player so I'm going to take a board next week. I taught Dobble and it went down really well - that was the only one of my games this time though.

Yesterday, Sarah and I played a couple of hands of Scopa and won one each. And that's it
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5. Board Game: RoboRally: Armed and Dangerous [Average Rating:7.78 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.78 Unranked]
Lori
United States
Durham
North Carolina
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Settlers of Catan
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Not much gaming so far this week, but I'll have to update later, because there's 12 hours of Roborally scheduled today. Woohoo!
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6. Board Game: Innovation [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:304]
Justus
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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Still in love with the game. The wife not as much but she puts up with it.

Also a game of Taluva, what a tight pretty abstract. I'm happy it's back in print now!

And many rounds of Mamma Mia plus. As you know I typically dislike expansions et al but this larger set of orders is quite nice. Maybe it works particularly well 2P or something but I found the slightly additional overhead actually the right amount of complexity to support repeated plays.

Oh and a game of Upwords. I don't like word games.
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7. Board Game: Madeira [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:327]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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I had only one gaming day this week, and lots of small gaming with the kids. So now I start with the kids's stuff.

Chicken Cha Cha Cha 1x - my daughter is getting better at this
Orchard 1x - just when you'd think your son has grown old for these pure luck 3+ games, he demands and enjoys a play of it.
My First Carcassonne 2x - still a favorite of my son; now we played it with my godson as well; they owned the game since last Christmas and they have never played it according to the rules.
Labyrinth 1x - with my godson, his father any my son; it's strange to me that people keep playing their favorites with the kids while they don't teach the rules of games that fit them more. It wasn't the first time my godson played it but my son learned it just now. Both of the kids were too young for this.
Kangaroo 1x - surprisingly good for their age, also my daughter played and enjoyed it (she is usually ready to play games that are for age 4). It's a "play a colored kangaroo card, take the same colored kangaroo" game for kids with the twist that if the owner of the kangaroo can play a same-colored kangaroo then they can defend the attack; in this case the attacking player can play another card of the same color and so on. Each color has 5 cards and it took me a while until I found out why this thing felt familiar - it's the En Garde idea in a kids' game. My daughter wants it for Christmas, partly because it even has a pink kangaroo in the box.
King Arthur: The Card Game 1x - It becomes a lot more interesting with the advanced rules (I didn't force it on my son; he wanted to learn it). With the advanced rules it does become a real Knizia, even if not one of his finest.

And now, the gaming club on Wednesday:

Prosperity 1x - with the advanced board. After my first play my "buy/no buy" decision rate was at 60%/40%, now it's 35%/65%. The tension is a lot higher, you have to juggle a lot more effectively while trying to make wonders with your risk analysis. I taught it to two hardcore gamers and while I barely won my first game (32/31/30), I won with a lot more points in my second game (42/37/22). I think it has to do a lot with the fact it's a Knizia.

Madeira 1x - This is a Portuguese board game. The only other Portuguese board game I've played is Vinhos which I found unnecessarily complex. Madeira is slightly, barely less complex. But it has quite an interesting structure; I definitely like it more than I like Vinhos which was a game where too much was built on a very small basis. This game is simply a very complex system that works quite fine - but is still too complex for my taste. It seems to be simple statistics: while I prefer somewhat lighter games, I like and/or admire many games with 3.5 zo 3.9 complexity (like Caylus, Agricola, Le Havre, Brass, Terra Mystica, Ora et Labora, De Vulgari Eloquentia) but not games above. Right now Madeira has a 4.1 weight rating and I believe it won't go below 3.9 for a long time.
Still, I quite liked what I was doing, even if it wasn't my comfort zone. What I didn't like that it seems the game lasts 60 minutes per player (and I believe it won't go below 45 minutes with experienced players) which is clearly more than what I like; also maybe - but only maybe - the randomization/luck might be slightly bit higher than what you'd expect from a game of this complexity. Still, I don't like Vinhos and do like Madeira, but after one play I just can't tell why (and I'm not sure there will be a second play...)
(fun fact: the facebook page of the game has shared my image of this one play:


Pasha 1x - Stefan Dorra does Poker Dice. If that does not sound good to you, this is not a game for you. He does to Poker Dice about the same what he did to simple trick-taking/bidding games in Turn the Tide and For Sale: each round, a different loot is offered, players have (slightly) different motivations and some hand management is also added to the mix. Actually I like it but it's not a game for gamers, especially not for those who don't like dice games.
... but the dice look great
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8. Board Game: Donburiko [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:7605]
Paul Lister
United Kingdom
London
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Eastbourne London on Board weekend and ,sadly, I was the only meatball there.

20 different games played (13 from Essen 13) for a a total of 35 plays - mainly short games though and LOBsters wanted to try the Japanese 'hipster' games - Sail to India and Donburiko being the faves. No real stand outs from new games I played and some games that I had loved on a first play at Essen (coal baron and Nauticus) not quite as good on 2nd play. Got to try Lobster Chris Marling's Empire Engine and was very impressed. It deserves to be published.
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9. Board Game: Eclipse [Average Rating:7.95 Overall Rank:39]
Brad N
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
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.NA. Eclipse - 4 Players
_7_ Lancaster - 4 Players
_7_ Diamant - 4 Players (x2)
_7_ Cardline: Animals - 2 Players; 3 Players
_7_ Kingdom Builder - 2 Players
_6_ Fleeting Foxes - 4 Players (x2)


I played Eclipse for the first time this week and I was able to get Lancaster to the table again for the first time in two years.

(1) Eclipse - I'm glad I was finally able to play this. I'm not a huge fan of civilization-type games which this pretty much is, but I played with a group that was satisfied with knowing that the threat of force was enough to not have to destroy everyone at the table and have the game devolve to a dice-fest. That worked best for me. With the wrong group, this game could have been an utter mess for what I prefer. As a side note, this was the last of the current BGG top 10 games that I had not played and I've played all in the top 20 except Dominant Species (which I'm not really interested in).

(2) Lancaster - A fun game of Lancaster that was pretty tight until the 5th round ended. I played very poorly and it showed in my 3rd place finish. Nonetheless, I like this game and will likely keep it around with the hope that I can play it again at least once per year or so. If it sits on the shelf another year then I'll eventually get rid of it.

(3) Kingdom Builder - I'm appreciating this as a quick two player game for my wife and I to play at times. She beat me 71-70 in a great game.
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Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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This weekend was Homecoming for me, so I had roughly a dozen old college friends in town visiting. In spite of this, the vast majority of my gaming this weekend was just with one of them, who co-created Zeddemore Format with me. This is a draft variant where you draft cards directly into your hand during the game, and it is the most addictive game I've ever played. He and I played well over a dozen games of this during the weekend, as well as a 3p game with another friend of ours.

Tried Love Letter for a couple rounds, but wasn't terribly impressed. I guess you could do worse for fast games with few cards, but I did not enjoy it at all.

Also played 7 Wonders with both expansions in a Team variant, which was interesting but not worth the vastly increased playtime; to me a main draw of 7 wonders is that it moves along at a decent pace.

Playtested a random game my friend had brought from an unknown friend of his; it was functional but uninteresting.

A few rounds of Flash Duel, which has a similar tiny size and fast play to Love Letter, but is to my mind a lot more fun.

And finally got in a 3p game of The Witches, for which (witch) I can now write up a review, which I think I will do as soon as I post this. EDIT: Here it is!
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11. Board Game: Eclipse [Average Rating:7.95 Overall Rank:39]
Agent J
United States
Coldwater
Michigan
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
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He's a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action. He's a furry little flat-foot who'll never flinch from a fray. He's got more than just mad skills, he's got a beaver tail and a bill.
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I didn't play Eclipse.

My friends played my copy of Eclipse without me.

So I'm getting ready to go to game night Friday, and I already know I'm not going, but hope springs eternal. Anyway, I'm pulling out my games, like you do, and I'm getting the kids ready for bed (directing traffic and such) and Samantha has just gotten the baby to sleep (primary way to get to game night - babies need to be sleeping when you leave). Then, one of my DARLING CHILDREN wakes up the baby.

Cue end of game night hopes and dreams.

End up playing EVE.

They also played Acquire, Empire Builder, and Empire Builder. Two copies.

There were 14 at game night. It's gotten crazy-pants popular, and with decent games.

Next month I'm hoping Container.
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12. Board Game: Concordia [Average Rating:8.10 Overall Rank:19]
John Bandettini
United Kingdom
London
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Two visits to LoB accounted for all of my gaming last week.

4th November. At LoB

Played Concordia, one of the very hottest Essen games. And the hype is worth it. Everyone at the table loved it. And it’s a very easy game to teach. On your turn, play a card, do what it says on the card. There you can all play it now.

That really is what you do, but within such a simple frame work the game does offer a huge amount of choice. One of the cleverest cards is the Diplomat, this allows you to copy any card on the top of another players discard pile.

Everyone starts with an identical hand of seven cards but as the game progresses players acquire more and different cards. Another player got the card you want. No problem, wait for them to play it and use your diplomat so you can use it to. (This is not quite as good as it sounds as they played it at a time that suited them, it might not be such good timing for you, but you get the idea)

Great game though and I declare that you all need to try it.

Although a longish game we did have time to play a four player, two team game of Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends. It’s much too abstract to ever be a favourite game but I found it interesting and reasonably enjoyable. My team mate agreed. Funnily the other team, who we beat, did not think that much of it.

5th November

I have a colleague I work with who loves Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game. He has taken to coming to LoB with me as long as I bring it. As I had just got the Fantastic Four Expansion, I was more than happy to oblige. We played with the Fantastic Four plus the Silver Surfer against Galactus. And we got our buts kicked. I’m thinking decks with the expansion characters don’t get going as quickly as the base set making the game a bit harder. Either that or we are rubbish at it. It could be either.

Also got a first chance to play Suburbia Inc. If you don’t like Suburbia there is nothing in the expansion to change your mind and if you do like it, you probably have it already.

The expansion adds the odd shaped borders, a few new tiles and some challenges. Good stuff but not really game changing.
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13. Board Game: OddVille [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:1417]
Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
Zaandam
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A full Sunday of gaming, and with the regular Alphabet gaming yet to come.

OddVille (4P) — This title is a neat little adjacency game with lots of little twists and whirls. It may not amount to much in the end, but its speed and variety make up for a lot. In other words: I want this game to remain in my collection. Yet at every occasion, it more or less moons me by having one player just run away with the victory. I can also pinpoint why: the existence of a powerful combination of characters which cannot be matched by any other combination of characters; and requires immediate and selfless sacrifice of many options at the opponents' end in order to be neutralised. The fact that they have no option but to take that course—if the card row even allows it!—means that this combination is too powerful to remain in existence.

So I've decided to introduce a house rule to weaken the affected cards. They will remain useful, but cannot be used anymore to such devastating effect. Perhaps the fix I've devised is too powerful; fortunately there are several halfway solutions possible. I'll have to experiment a bit in order to find the correct balance. And once that has been found, I expect OddVille to get to the table more often.

Quantum (4P) — Played with a minor rules error (I forgot that placing a cube yields a card) which meant that the game was a little more drawn-out than need be. But it remained sufficiently attractive for the newcomers that one asked to play again, and that the other placed it on her wishlist. The game itself remains good-natured and fast-paced leader bashing with a set of tactics which are attractive to the family- and semi-serious enthusiast gamers: I think it will see a lot more play in the future because it's good at what it does, and doesn't overstay its welcome. Really, the way to kill this title is to expect to be able to strategise your way out of predicaments. It's not unlike Pack & Stack in this regard: just disengage your grizzled and cynical game reflexes and enjoy the ride.

Tournay (4P) — My appreciation for this game is slowly growing now that I am becoming more comfortable with the ridiculous iconography. Still didn't stop me from making two rules booboos which will be fixed in subsequent plays, though. Now, however, comes the hard part of learning to play well. I had literally no idea where I was heading with my cards and buildings, and faced incessant financial shortages while my opponents were wallowing in cash. Unfortunately using copycat buildings was not always effective because they didn't allow me to use occupied buildings —and those money-bringing buildings were the first to be occupied by the owners. That said, money-bringing buildings are worth very little, and this apparently brought some balance to the whole. I finished in a shared second position, at a delta-veep of about 6 or 7 points, which I was actually quite pleased with. The fact that I still am looking forward to more plays is a Good Thing™.

Dixit (6P) — Bit of a GCD-game. The owner promised to bring along his expansion cards the next time around; we're beginning to feel a bit burned out on the originals which contain images which are just too surrealistic to spin a tale on top of. Consequently always the same cards get played.



Owing to a bit of a problem with Junior's sleep schedule, the Alphabet challenge was met with just two players instead of three. So we worked through some 2 player-titles.

Saint Malo (2P) — Spiel 2013 purchase. I had a strong feeling that the dice were jinxed, because getting them to roll green personas was hard. Consequently there was little money in the game; and too many pirates. They came in at such a prodiguous rate that it proved a waste of resources to defend against them. All of our cannons were disabled; I managed to save one causing a delta-VP with in the end proved to be decisive. I plan on doing a simple experiment to determine the dice's fairness: rolling the five buggers 180 times should result in 150 +/- 12 green heads. Significant deviations will cause me to contact alea. But still, the game is friendly and relatively easy.

Robot Master (2P) — A simple Knizia card game. My opponent understood that the lowest scores would be compared, but failed to make the connection to proper tactics, causing me to win easily the two times we played. At the same time playing this little card game always saddens me, because once you devise the most logical strategy the game dies because of luck of the draw and unpredictable card placement. It's more or less the same thing which eventually killed Lost Cities for me. I don't really know why I keep holding on to both titles, really.

Babel (2P) — An ancient Rosenberg game. Back in the days when I still owned a copy of my own, it was my partner who got fed up with the see-sawing in this game; I sort-of liked it. But now, many years later... the pattern is far from engaging. Look for small tactical combos, execute them, and hope that your opponent cannot retaliate sufficiently quickly before the end conditions apply. The fact that the secondary victory condition is also defined by a sudden death loss highlights this unsatisfactory approach to matters. Not a game I need to play ever again; its owner has decided to try and sell it off.

Balloon Cup (2P) — I never really liked the game when I still owned it, and so replaying it was an interesting experience. There is very little game here; frankly I don't know why the game wasn't simplified a little more and sold as a children's game. I have decided to treat the game as such in the future: then it is agreeable pastime. Asking it to do serious stuff for serious gamers is overasking it greatly.

Hellas (2P) — Another game in which the players are see-sawing back and forth in an uninteresting pattern until someone cannot be stopped anymore and wins. Since combat is completely deterministic and very localised, the only variation is offered by random tile and card draws. Yawn; a sentiment echoed by the owner who moved the title to the trade tile. Just like Babel it clearly shows that back in 2000 and thereabout designers still had to learn to incorporate multiple strategic paths into their designs to keep matters interesting. Now as a matter of fact there are two different paths here: one is withdrawing yourself from the world and work hard at discovering new tiles in your own back yard. The problem is that the other player then has no choice but to attack you head-on, and this eventually becomes the see-saw I mentioned earlier. There is no sense of development here... just a smell of stale cardboard dust.
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14. Board Game: Taluva [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:443]
 
George Leach
United Kingdom
Godalming
Surrey
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Since the baby arrived I've not been able to go to any sort of regular meetup. Essen was the beacon in the dark and now that's passed prospects are looking grim. If, that is, Kathryn hadn't stepped up and been willing to play lots more 2p games with me. We're struggling for a really solid game we both enjoy but we've been trying a few out.

This week we played Taluva twice with half the tiles in the box (I'd quite like to play with a double set sometime). I found it fairly non-interactive and the first player would appear to have an advantage. This may be because neither of us is particularly good at the game yet. Kathryn liked it since it's pretty and fairly constructive with just a touch of screwage.

We also played a game of Pandemic. We're still enjoying this game from time to time and had a little preview of some of the expansion stuff we've never touched so perhaps we'll try that out next time. I'm really strict about not seeing the details of Kathryn's cards. We only discuss numbers of cards of a colour. I think this helps hugely in restricting the Alpha player issue. It's such a subtle change but it makes a huge difference.
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15. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:72]
Andrew
Japan
Tokyo
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I'm falling behind!

Anyway, I played Tigris & Euphrates online with a friend plus 2 AIs - I drew and entire hand of red tiles just after the beginning, and I attacked my friend. Unfortunately he had drawn a hand of red tiles too, and I never recovered.

I don't think I logged it properly, but I played Eclipse on my iPad. I had heard murmurs about missiles being too strong, but I tend to be a "trust the designer" kind of guy. I got wiped out by the missiles, in particular I attacked two dreadnaughts with a large fleet, and my opponent upgraded them with 4 missiles after I had passed. Maybe it's still balanced somehow, but the missiles appear to be game-warping.

I had a look through the expansion and it seems like there are a few technologies intended to be anti-missile - still it seems that they are a fairly specific reactive counter.
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