GCL Amoeba 142 - Gizmos and Doodads (2013-11-10)
Doug Faust
United States
Malverne
New York
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Welcome to this week's Game Chat League Amoeba discussion group!

Visitors are welcome and encouraged to post constructive comments, but please leave posting new items to the members. We're friendly symbiotes in real life, though vicious competitors at the game table. (Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most dangerous predator on earth!) For more info on GCL and the Amoebas, please use the links above.

Current hosts:
Max (MD1616) mb
Larry (larryjrice)
Jeroen (jmdsplotter)
Eric (Eric Brosius)
Carlos (Sprocket314)
Jevon (cadavaca)
Jens (fizzle)
Joshua (Joshuaaaaaa)
Mikko (msaari)
Doug (Phrim)


mb This week's list is about strange components found in games. mb
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1. Board Game: Inkognito [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:1496]
Doug Faust
United States
Malverne
New York
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What's the strangest game component that you've ever played with? Did it really help make the game shine for you, or did it get in the way of actual gameplay?
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2. Board Game: The Inventors [Average Rating:5.50 Overall Rank:15514]
Doug Faust
United States
Malverne
New York
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Are there any strange game components that you know are total gimmicks, but they're so awesome that you love them anyway?
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3. Board Game: Coloretto [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:501]
Doug Faust
United States
Malverne
New York
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Can you think of any odd game components that were included in games, but don't appear to have any use whatsoever in the game?
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4. Board Game: Phantoms vs Phantoms [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:2476]
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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http://www.lautapeliopas.fi/ - the best Finnish board game resource!
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2 x _4_Afrikan tähti
1 x _5_The Mysteries of Peking
1 x _8_Spooky Stairs
2 x _9_Gulo Gulo
1 x _8_Das Kleine Gespenst
1 x _7_Die Siedler von Catan: Junior
1 x _8_Animal Upon Animal
1 x _7_Mouse Match
1 x _7_King of Tokyo
2 x _6_CLACK!
1 x _7_Indigo
1 x _7_Die kleinen Drachenritter
1 x _7_La Boca
1 x _7_Ab in die Tonne
1 x _7_Bugs in the Kitchen
1 x _7_Rise of Augustus
2 x _8_Machi Koro
4 x _7_Phantoms vs Phantoms (new!)
2 x _7_Forbidden Desert (new!)
2 x _7_Escape: The Curse of the Temple (new!)

Lots of games with the family this week. It turns out my son digs Machi koro, which is nice. The effort put into a DIY version that's in Finnish has not gone to waste, then. Looking forward to that, but meanwhile the English version is quite playable as well.

Ghosts! is an old classic. I'm not sure if I really dig it, actually. The 7 rating is probably as high as it can get, and probably too high. I'm not that keen on the bluffing aspect of the game, it seems.

Escape seems like a fun game. It's a bit too hard for my son (7 years old): to do well, he needs a bit too much guidance from me. The game is fun, though, so I'm quite willing to play it with him occasionally and keep the game until he gets better with it.
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5. Board Game: Sentinels of the Multiverse [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:311] [Average Rating:7.28 Unranked]
Jeroen Doumen
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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Continuing to play through all the new Essen games .

2x _7.00_ R
1x _7.25_ Sentinels of the Multiverse
1x _6.75_ Yunnan
1x _6.50_ Mascarade
1x _6.50_ Suburbia
1x _6.50_ Madeira
1x _6.25_ Coal Baron
1x _6.00_ Carcassonne: South Seas
1x _4.50_ Sigismundus Augustus: Dei gratia rex Poloniae
1x _4.00_ S-Evolution

The Suburbia Inc. expansion has some nice additions, and I think especially the mid-term goals add to the game.

Madeira was a pleasant play, though it may run a bit long for what it offers. There is quite a bit going on, and the combination of the character actions with the associated building actions is especially neat. In the end, none of us ended up with any pirates - they were all removed as soon as we got them. Also, the scoring tiles seemed a tad easy - except for the ones in the first round, I think we scored the maximum for each of the other ones...

Glück Auf (Coal Baron) is a pleasant worker placement game. However, adding the Glück Auf: Phasenkarten adds a very interesting twist: the available actions have to be taken in a certain (player-controlled) order, which delightfully can prevent you from placing your workers in the most efficient order.
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6. Board Game: France '40 [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:2515]
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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_7_ France '40 -- Only 2 plays so far this week, both solo plays of this new wargame by Mark Simonitch. It's not easy to design a wargame about a situation in which the historical outcome was a stunning victory by one side or the other, but I have a lot of respect for Mark as a designer (he's responsible for the classic Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage as well as the very fine Ardennes '44.)

The box actually contains two separate games, each with its own map. One game is on the German breakthrough at Sedan and subsequent dash to Abbeville and the sea to cut off a large portion of the Allied armies. The other is the attempt to evacuate the British Army by sea at Dunkirk. I played each scenario once, making it only a short way before the situation seemed to get out of hand (I'm sure I wasn't playing optimally for either side---I was just learning how the mechanisms work.)

Mark now has a series containing Ardennes '44, Ukraine '43, The Caucasus Campaign, Normandy '44, and France '40, although it doesn't seem to be recognized as such on BGG.


Tonight I got to play three more new games from Essen.

_7_ Nauticus -- I'm certainly a big fan of some of the Kramer and Kiesling games (most notably The Princes of Florence,) so I was happy to give this one a shot. It works fine, with many options that are of differing values, and some tactics together with longer-term planning. In this game my eyes were bigger than my stomach (I didn't realize at the start how tight things would be) and I finished last in a game that ended roughly 107-99-90-80. But I certainly know some things I'd do better the next time.

_5_ Strajk! Skok do wolności -- The current Holy Grail of boardgame design seems to be Dominion with a board. Well, this game tries to do that, but doesn't offer interesting enough choices to be worth more than one play. I'm sure there are tactical decisions (almost entirely of the "what do I Chapel away and when?" variety, as far as I can see) but I can't imagine one play being very different from another. I could be wrong.

_4_ Steam Park -- In this game, players construct amusement parks using die-rolling similar to that in Escape: The Curse of the Temple, with a substantial reward for being first to finish rolling your dice and a substantial penalty for being last. Once that's done (it takes only a few seconds,) each player uses his or her dice to take various actions to construct and populate his or her park. The rules governing the latter activity are quite detailed. To me, it was a complete mismatch (sort of like watching NFL football with its endless committee meetings punctuated by brief bursts of action.)
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7. Board Game: Archipelago [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:314]
Joshua Gottesman
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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Lot's o'Saturday gaming this week, Sunday I was going to do some, but ended up being a lazy bum instead.

And before Saturday, I did get in a Skype/VASSAL scenario from Combat Commander: Battle Pack #1 – Paratroopers. I took a big risk that did not pay off and the scenario went downhill from there. My opponent had the right cards at the wrong time (for me, anyway). It was a good scenario (Peiper's SS trying to sneak by the Americans - I was the latter) and I'd try it again.

So Saturday started off with Bora Bora. Even if I wasn't told it was a Stefan Feld game I might have guessed it. I was even referring to it as "Castles of Bora Bora" at times. Like most Feld games I've played, I really enjoyed it. The multiple ways to score points, the variability of the men/women and task tiles that come out, the reasonable playing time. We played with 4 players. Although I led most of the way, I've played enough Feld games to know that meant nothing. A good play by another player knocked me out, and I actually finished last. However, the distance between 1st and last was about 6 points out of over 150. It should hit the table again soon.

Next up was Spyrium, which is, at heart, a worker placement game. I liked this one, too,the "when to activate" and "how much to build" decisions made the game interesting. If I was pushed to choose which of these 1st 2 games I liked better, I'd definitely go with Bora Bora, which really isn't a knock on Spyrium. Again, the difference between 1st and last was not much, and knowing the deck better would help in a 2nd playing.

Next we played the introductory adventure in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Base Set. 3 of us had played this before, but it was a month plus ago, and the 4th player was new. We were running out of time, however with only 3 locations left I was able to defeat the villain after other characters sealed off his last 2 escape routes and we won by the skin of our teeth. Good fun, and we'll be moving on to the 2nd scenario next week.

For the evening group, I got there a little late and we started off with Lemonade Stand. Words cannot describe how little I liked this game. I mean, it's a light game, I wasn't expecting much, and at heart it's just a guessing game. The strategy is so minimal that it's ridiculous. Not one I'd be in a rush to play again.

Then we played Eight-Minute Empire which, true to it's name, took about 25 minutes. Everyone was close at the end (2 were tied with 10, 2 had 9 and 1 had 8, IIRC). This one was fun and looks to add the filler rotation.

Next, 5 of us played the short game of Archipelago although we didn't finish before the shop closed. We were probably 1-2 turns from the end. I really like this game, a couple of people didn't like the exploration mechanism, because there is a chance you can have a wasted action. From my standpoint, that's the risk you take. One player said "You have to find something or you should lose the guy!" I mean, it's a game mechanism. Yes, it's random screwage, and everyone is potentially subject to it. To me, if you just accept that, it shouldn't be a big deal. One player also got hit real hard when we couldn't resolve a crisis, and that's probably more inexperience with the game and lack of planning than an issue with the game itself. Hey, I get this game won't be for everyone, and I think there's a lot of meat to this one, and a good blend of strategy and luck.
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8. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:47]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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Attended Great Lakes Games this last week for the 8-9th time (not sure exactly when I was invited and started coming - now I look forward to this extended weekend every year despite having to fly back to the Midwest. When I first started going, I remember going largely because I wanted to try all the latest Essen hotness and didn't focus as much on the friendships. Now, while I still play a good number of games new to me, I also find myself sitting around chatting for a while and catching up with friends both new and old. There were a few more games played on Sunday, but since I tally my games on a Sunday through Saturday schedule for these lists, Sunday's games aren't included. Due to the number of games played, I'm going to be considerably brief in my thoughts although I'm happy to elaborate if asked!

New to Me:

d10-6 Machi Koro - Settlers without trading involving a transition from rolling one die to two. Played 3x.
d10-8 Amerigo - Cube tower determines quantity and choice of actions. Queen big box. Played 2x.
d10-8 Russian Railroads - Not hugely innovative, but this is a solid, workmanlike, enjoyable worker placement game with lots of space to explore different strategies. Played 3x.
d10-4 BancoBanco - Collect cards according to suit and number and lock down the safes with different locking powers. Don't need to play again. Played once.
d10-4 Gear & Piston - Didn't care for this one. I may try again if played with advanced rules, but I'm not going to rush out to play this one again. Have plenty of other games that do what this one does better.
d10-7 Glass Road - Jury is out for me on this one. Solid design, but not sure if I had fun. There's quite a bit to think about in playing of action cards, particularly to be careful in your planning as you may be forced to play them out of your desired sequence.
d10-6 Master Thieves - A friend brought this to the con at my request and we played a 6 player game. Ran a bit long, but we had a blast. Pricepoint is daunting, but the main game bit is amazing!
d10-8 Nauticus - This was the surprise hit for me. Had heard of it previously but had written it off for some reason. Thought the wheel/worker/free stuff must go to warehouse first pieces clever.
d10-9 Sail to India - Awesome games sometimes come in small packages! There is a lot of decision space in this game! Played twice.
d10-4 What's He Building in There? - Theme was fun, but the game play was a bit repetitive and tedious. Thankfully, playing with good friends helped to make it still an enjoyable time.

Return Visits:

d10-0 Race for the Galaxy - One of my favorite games of all time - always enjoy playing two player with my friend Bruce. Played 5x
d10-7 Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small - Played twice - Agricola lite.
d10-9 Patchistory - Still enjoying this creative Civilization game...and so have others! Played twice.
d10-6 Ubongo - Played twice.
d10-6 Circus Flohcati
d10-7 Escape: The Curse of the Temple - I'm sure we annoyed a couple people around as the pressure mounted...we didn't make it.
d10-6 Firenze - I do not like the rush strategy in this game...if a game is about building towers, let's build towers!
d10-7 Speculation - Glad Queen reprinted this one - I like the extra action tiles and board to spice up game play!
d10-7 Suburbia - I'm not very good at this game...
d10-6 Unspeakable Words - Spelling game with mini Cthulus...fun game where two of us went "insane".

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9. Board Game: Glass Road [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:227]
Jens KH
Germany
Karben
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Games played

_7_ Glass Road (new!)
_6_ Palastgeflüster x2
_6_ Die Sieben Siegel
_6_ Street Illegal (new!)
_6_ Zwickern (new!)
_5_ Krosmaster: Arena (new!)
_5_ Das Labyrinth des Pharao (new!)
_4_ Drako (new!)
_4_ Wrong Chemistry (new!)
_4_ Yu x5 (new!)

Quite a few new games this week.

Street Illegal (6p) is a little fiddly for such a simple game of blind bidding. Not bad, but probably not a keeper, either.

Glass Road (4p) was the best of the lot, a fairly quick-playing mix of Ora et Labora and Witch's Brew, or Diet Ora et Labora. Less puzzly optimization, more guessing what actions other players might be choosing and when. I suspect it can get a little tedious with AP tendencies, but with a reasonably fast set of players it should be over in an hour or slightly more.

Das Labyrinth des Pharao (4p) is Take It Easy with a bit more wagering and a dollop of thematic sauce. Not bad if you're into that kind of game but still just a solitary puzzle.

Wrong Chemistry (4p) is probably a little better with fewer players but in this configuration the winner is determined entirely by the card draws. Get synergies - win. Don't - lose.

Zwickern (4p) was maybe the biggest surprise. A fishing card game I had in my games cupboard for a while. After reading the rules it sounded a little strange and I never quite had the right circumstances to spring it on some unsuspecting players until this weekend. Sure enough, it is a little strange. You try to buy cards from a shared card pool but since you cannot overpay you need to manipulate prices in a way that allows you to buy, but there is a risk associated with that as everyone else gets a chance to buy before you and if you don't buy until the end of the round you'll be fined quite heavily. With 4 players it's played as a team game which makes things a little more interesting still. I'm somewhat intrigued.

Krosmaster: Arena (4p) was played 2vs2 as well. It looks gorgeous (the miniatures, anyway) but gameplay is only so-so. Too open and free-form and too few constraints make for very few meaningful tactical decisions.

Drako (2p) has similar issues on a somewhat smaller scale, only it constrains players so much there are hardly any decisions left to make.

Yu (2p) is a 2p abstract that's not yet in the database. Kind of a distant relative of Nine Men's Morris and 4-In-A-Row. Works but is fairly unexciting.
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10. Board Game: Hammer of the Scots [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:350]
Doug Faust
United States
Malverne
New York
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_7_ Hammer of the Scots (new!) - On Saturday, Anni and I got a chance to try out another longer two-player game that we had traded for, Hammer of the Scots. I was playing as the English, and Anni was playing as the Scots, using the Braveheart scenario. As we set up the game, we noticed that I controlled almost all of the units to start off with, which would seem to be a pretty big advantage. In the first few years the tide quickly turned though, as Anni turned most of the northern nobles against me, not because of winning battles, but simply by sitting in their castles when winter came around. I'm not sure whether this was carelessness on my part, or whether this always happens, but to my defense, I couldn't always predict when winter would happen. I spent the early part of the game simply converting Bruce and Galloway to my side, but seeing Anni's success in the north, I knew I needed a better long-term plan. I simplified what I was trying to do into two major objectives: 1) kill Wallace, and 2) try to get as many infantry units into Scotland as I can. Anni was using Wallace pretty aggressively on the front lines, and fortunately I was able to envelop Wallace and cut off his northern escape route. It was only a matter of time then, and I killed him just north of the English border. As for getting more infantry units, that mostly involved sending Edward I back to England every winter to make sure I got my feudal levy. While Anni was having some success in the middle of the country, she was eventually encountering more and more fortified positions. I started to take back territories one by one and immediately filling the castles with infantry. At this point, my position looked very strong, and I didn't see how I would lose. As the time started running out, Anni began to make desperation attacks. In the last year, she sailed the Norse around to make an attack on Galloway, but failed. She then spent a turn using an event card to heal the Norse, and then tried again, this time successfully. I was still up 8-6 in nobles and held the tiebreaker, so I wasn't too worried. On the very last turn of the game, she made another attack with the Norse, this time on Lennox, and won again. Furthermore, she made an attack on Angus, which still had some units injured from previous battles, and won. So when we did the final tally, she had 8 nobles to my 6, and won the game. Seems like I was just way too overconfident in the end--I could've spent more time reinforcing weak points, especially since the castle limit no longer mattered.
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11. Board Game: Risk: Godstorm [Average Rating:6.27 Overall Rank:2602]
Max DuBoff
United States
New Brunswick
New Jersey
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Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.
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Sorry for being a bit terse and late, but I really have had a lot of work this week.

Last week was a good week for gaming, however; having some time off, I was able to get together with a friend and go to the FLGS.

_6 _ Risk: Godstorm (new!): I tried this one out at the FLGS. As a fan of ancient history and mythology, I had a fantastic time playing this one, perhaps more than my rating suggests, but I'm worried about its replayability. In the game I played, I set up in England and took over Gaul and Atlantis. We didn't finish, but the game was called in my favor.


_8.8_ Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage: Ah, this one was tragic. I was doing well the entire game as Carthage, but Rome had a fantastic final turn and stole the game. Rome was a great player though, so I didn't feel too bad.


_8.6_ Commands & Colors: Ancients: My Slaves beat the Romans 6-3 at Scirthaea, a battle from the little-remembered Second Servile War.


_10_ Chess: Nothing particularly unusual with the chess this week, but I will note that I've been closely following thw World Championship between Anand and Carlsen.


_8_ Unpublished Prototype: I help playtest a game designed by one of the regulars on Wargameroom. Unfortunately, I can't talk about it, but it's quite exciting. While the rating is, obviously, purely theoretical at this point, that's probably what I would rate it.


_8.3_ Dominion: I love Dominion; it has great replayability and strategy. In the game last week, my friend won a 3-player game, but I beat my brother, so all is well.


3x _6.5_ Beat the Buzzard: Just for you, Eric. Anyway, some of my friends don't seem to grasp that the way to go is to play high for the mid-range tiles, so I generally do fairly well in this one. In any cases, it's rather amusing.


_6.5_ Poker: Let's just say I'm a bad liar...
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