GCL Phoenix 149 - FEEEEEEEEEEEELD!
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Welcome to the Phoenix Game Chat League
Don't know what this GeekList is? Find out here: Gamechat League: Phoenix Division!

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Taibi
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This weeks topics for discussion:
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1. Board Game: Munchkin Greeting Cards [Average Rating:6.22 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.22 Unranked]
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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There's still time to sign up for the Phoenix holiday card exchange!

It's simple, just geekmail me your address, I'll draw names out of a hat and geekmail you your target. Just one name, one card, one stamp.
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2. Board Game Designer: Stefan Feld
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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I was thinking recently that it would be interesting to do a survey of a designer of many games and Feld seemed like a perfect first one. He has a big enough catalog to make meaningful observations, without being too large (Knizia). He has a relatively consistent style that is easier to break down, while some designers are much quirkier from game to game (Wallace). I'm not looking at his lighter games, such as Roma and It Happens.., because I think they are not what he is most known and appreciated for.

So how can we break down Feld's "gamer games" that have made him so well known in the last few years? Here is the list of games I think best exemplify his catalog of games as most people view it:

2007
Notre Dame
In the Year of the Dragon
2009
Macao
2010
The Speicherstadt
Luna
2011
The Castles of Burgundy
Strasbourg
Trajan
2013
Bora Bora
Rialto
Bruges
Amerigo

Throughout the week, I will pose questions and discussion topics related to the games of Feld and how we feel about them.
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3. RPG Item: Mythic Variations [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:1014]
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Versions and variations

Now that the Essen crop is being digested, how does everyone feel about games that are variations or new versions of things they've seen before?

Some would say any Stefan Feld game is another variation on his very consistent style. Uwe Rosenberg provokes a similar response.

In the particular case of Rosenberg's Caverna, many have called it Agricola II. Assuming you like Agricola, does this make you more or less excited to try it? What if you don't like Agricola? Do you stay away or think this might be the version for you?

Or do you find any games like this too derivative and look more intently at games that feel completely new to you?
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4. Board Game: Patchistory [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:921]
Ben
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Games Played:
_9_ Patchistory New!
_7_ Bruxelles 1893 New!
_6_ Citrus
_6_ Yunnan (x2)
_6_ Glass Road
_5_ Steam Park
_5_ Prosperity (x2)
N/A Boom Boom Balloon


Gaming Notes: Another busy week of gaming for me. (It doesn't seem that busy when I write it out, but I hosted gamers on Tuesday night, Thursday night, and all-day Saturday.

Patchistory was the new hotness at Essen this year. I picked up a copy, but I did not expect to like it enough to keep it (especially with second-hand copies selling in the triple figures). I generally don't like civ games, and I rarely even like civ-themed games, such as 7 Wonders. Yet something about Patchistory struck a chord with me. The game itself is rather simple. Over the course of 15 turns, players purchase 4x4 landscape tiles at auction and "patch" those tiles in their civilization by overlaying or tucking under current tiles. The tiles produce resources that can be used to produce the standard civ-game accomplishments, such as population, money, culture, and military might. The "patching" mechanism is really interesting and very challenging. We also played the "hard" game, which was deliciously brutal in the early ages (we quite literally couldn't do anything vaguely useful some rounds). Our first game took around 5 hours with 4 players, and we had plenty of rules questions to suss out. I'm sure it will go much faster in the future, though probably never under 3 hours with 4 players, unless we become more comfortable with simultaneous play in a game like this. I can't wait to get it back to the table, and I've already purchased sleeves for all the landscape tiles. With any luck, this will be a game that sees plenty of play around these parts.

Bruxelles 1893 was the other new title this week, and it was more-or-less what I expected from the crew that brought us
Troyes. The game is rather abstract, and the mechanisms are somewhat disconnected. It's nothing you wouldn't expect from a first-time designer - a few elements here or there could likely have been refined - and overall the game appealed to me much more than most of this year's dry, solitary Eurogames (*cough*Concordia*cough*). There is a lot of engagement with other players, and plenty of room for pursuing a deeply specialized strategy.


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5. Board Game: Machi Koro [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:840]
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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Games Played:

Thursday:
_8_ Machi Koro x1 Cult! New!
First game with the entire family, with my wife and daughter teaming up for one position. My oldest son won although it was pretty close. Everyone loved this!

Friday:
_7_ Patronize x2 Cult! New!
My boys learned Patronize with me and we did two games back to back. In the first game, my oldest son won 75 to his brother’s 72 and to my 70. In the second game, My youngest son won 81 to his brother’s 73 and I again scored 70.
Pretty cool that you have a hand of less cards than the number of rounds, so some rounds you need to pass on, and when you do you can get another player’s character in that round. A bit to think about between the tricks and the set collection scoring as well as all the character different abilities.

_8_ Sail to India x2 Cult! New!
We then played Sail to India, and that got played a second time later in the day. In the first game my oldest son and I tied with 17 but I won the tiebreaker as I had got to India in the last round and he didn’t. If he had, he would have won the second tiebreaker for most money at end. My youngest son scored 11 in the first game, and in the second game he made a rush to India which almost won him the game. I managed to figure out his plan and grabbed a tech for some end game points, winning 8 to his 7 to my oldest son’s 4 points. Crazy game.

_8_ Machi Koro x3
I tried this two players with my youngest son. It works and is fast but not quite as fun as four players. I won with my son having two buildings left. In the second game later in the day, the whole family participated again (daughter teaming up with one of us) and my youngest son won, then we played again and my wife took a win.

_7_ The City x1
My boys and I ended the night with a game of the City, to show the Japanese that German engineering can do city building too. It was too late for me as I scored 36 to youngest son’s 55, but it was my oldest son who got the win with 66.

Second Saturday at Urbana Free Library:

_8_ Mai-Star x1 New!
A long time ago I got Mai Star with some other games, started to put the cards in sleeves and ran out about two thirds through. I didn’t want to unsleeve the cards I did and I didn’t want to play without the rest sleeved and then I got distracted. Well, I finally got that fixed and my son learned this with me as we got to the library early. This was great and really easy to understand as I thought it would be harder. In three rounds I managed to get 60 to my son’s 30, but he had a 22 to 7 advantage in the first round. I came back by forcing cards on him and ending quickly giving him a -14 penalty in the second round.

_8_ Machi Koro x2
My youngest son and I got to the library early and set up Machi Koro with the card marker on a window sill to save some room, thinking it would be popular. It was! In the first game we were joined by Byron and Caleb and my son totally dominated the game and won. Caleb then sat out and Ed joined us. Halfway through that game Peter had arrived and I decided to abandon the second game to start something else. My son took over my position as well as his own and won again with his own hand, apparently I didn’t leave him anything good at me seat. He went on to play a third game of this, and maybe a fourth? He also played Council of Verona which he says he liked.

_8_ Sail to India x1
I taught this to Peter and Caleb who both took to it pretty quickly. Peter went for the marketplaces, I went for churches and exploring, Caleb went for bases and I won 23 while they both had 21.

_7_ String Railway x1
Byron and Ed joined me on this, after Ed declined Inotaizu (but Byron wants to try, so I need to bring that one again). Some wacky hijinks and crazy string placement made for a close endgame, but Ed won 27 to my 26 and Byron’s 24.

_9_ Xanadú x1
Finished the library event with this one, which Caleb had played before but Ed had not. Ed seemed a bit confused on how the game worked but he scored 23 to my 22 shoe seemed to figure it out in the end. Caleb beat both of us though with 35, and my youngest son who did a lot of sabotaging perhaps did too much as he ended with 16.

Late Saturday:

_8_ Machi Koro x1
Later that evening, my sister in law joined my daughter to learn Machi Koro, with my oldest son and wife joining us. My youngest son was done with games for the day! This was a close game where I won but if I had missed my last roll, my daughter and her aunt would have been up next and won for sure. This makes the seventh game in three days!

_7_ Mythe x1 New!
My oldest son and daughter played this with me. We had tried it once before but messed up the rules so I didn’t record it but now I know how this works. Everyone is a mouse knight on a quest to save the princess from the dragon. There is a deck of cards (with very nice art work) most of which have a number value from 0-3, and a few cards with a skull. These are dealt to all players who hold them so they can see the cards like a traditional game.

However, on one’s turn, you take a card from another player’s hand to play to the center of the table. If it is a number, you get experience points, but if it is a skull your turn ends. If it is a number, you can draw another card — always from another player — to get more experience points until you decide to stop or get a skull. Once you choose to stop, the points you get move you on the pop-up board to get closer to the dragon.

When your turn is done, you take all the cards played, add to your hand, then give cards to other players, except not to the next player in line. Since you never draw your own cards, it is worthwhile to keep the skulls to trap other players, and usually you want to give the high number cards away so you can draw them yourself. However, at the end of the game, to defeat the dragon, you have to show one of the legendary items (the highest number cards) from your own hand (which is not used for movement in this case), then draw experience points as normal from other players.

It’s really cute and a bit clever, although I don’t think it is a great three player game as at the end of your turn you only have one player to give cards. It also just feels like it would be more fun to play with more players. My oldest son won this game after several rounds of one of us trying to get a legendary item at the right time.
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6. Board Game: Power Grid: The Robots [Average Rating:7.14 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.14 Unranked]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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Damn, y'all got the hotness, and I've got... the oldness. Lots of gaming, though. Lots of time trying to match games to player counts/affinities, unfortunately.

Monday night at Y!
1830 3p. Me, JC, Alex T.
Tuesday night at SVB
Metropolis 4p.
Charon Inc. 5p.
Wednesday night
Eight-Minute Empire 2p.
Power Grid: The Robots 2p plus 1 robot, Benelux map.
Thursday night at Dave's
Hare & Tortoise 6p as it should be played
The Princes of Florence 5p as it should be played
Friday night at Jeremy's
Power Grid: The Robots 4p plus 1 robot, green deck, US map
Race for the Galaxy: The Brink of War 3p 1 hand
Saturday Andy hosted short-notice gaming
Saint Petersburg: New Society & Banquet Expansion 5p
Rolling Freight 5p
Clash of the Gladiators 5p
The City 3x 5p
Race for the Galaxy: The Brink of War 4 hands assorted players


Monday night at Y!

1830 3p. Me, JC, Alex T.

I was somewhat out of it and gave up hope after my clever/lucky purchase of all three 5T was wiped out by losing the brown Penn to Alex in the next SR, who used it to rescue a failed position. Ended 6% behind JC but had long since checked out.

Tuesday night at SVB

Metropolis 4p.

4p. New to all: Brian, me, Shelby, Eric P.

I made it to SVB for the first time in 6 weeks or so and what hits the table? This watered-down child of Acquire and distant ancestor of Chinatown. Sid Sackson, this game is proof you can also put out mush.

There's an asymmetrical city grid. On your turn, claim one of the 4 available lots on the grid (if legal, otherwise give one to a legal owner), then optionally place/claim one or more Tetris-ish buildings on your lots. Buildings score points based not just on size, but also on affinities (for example houses are more valuable near shops and less valuable near factories, something any SimCity player will instinctively understand.)

We crossed it off Brian's unplayed list and it goes back to his closet for a few years.

Charon Inc. 5p.

5p: Chris G., Shelby, me, Brian, Eve. New to all but me, I think.

We played half of this 45-minute game in 2 hours before calling it on time. Yeah, that about sums it up. (To be fair, this was a thinkier and more confrontational table than average.)

The turn-order mechanism where those with more gems go first really hurts people shooting for cards out of the common row. I assume the answer is not to be seduced by the common row.

Chris didn't seem to be enjoying the game but crushed us anyway with his hemisphere (trito-sphere?) domination strategy.

Wednesday night

Eight-Minute Empire 2p.

2p - I taught Douglas. In 2p there are NPC cubes on the board, and while it's pretty obvious how they affect area majority, the rules are silent on impact on continent majority. Still a cute short micro-civ.

Power Grid: The Robots 2p plus 1 robot, Benelux map.

Me, Douglas, and a robot that could have been a contender until we fed it 2 Nuke plants. Well, it was a little better than 2p. A little.

And a shameful confession -- in the endgame Douglas tried to starve me of coal, and I was rooting for his plan to succeed, but he could only buy 12 of the 15 available coal. (It's probably the first time I've been hoping someone would beat me...)

Thursday night at Dave's

Hare & Tortoise 6p as it should be played

6p: Kevin, me, Dave, Eric P., John, Brian.

Always fun to get this on the table with the full 6 players.

The Princes of Florence 5p as it should be played

Brian, me, Dave, John, Kevin.

Dave and Kevin are very good at this game, but at least we made them work at it. I think. ;-)

Friday night at Jeremy's

Power Grid: The Robots 4p plus 1 robot, green deck, US map

Jeremy, me, Don, Jeremy's cow-orker Greg, and a reasonably effective robot. US map, green power deck that kept showering us with unwanted plants.

By a few dollars Jeremy managed to end the game early and win with 14/15 cities powered.

Race for the Galaxy: The Brink of War 3p 1 hand

Saturday Andy hosted short-notice gaming

Saint Petersburg: New Society & Banquet Expansion 5p

Me, Andy, Candy, John, Michelle.

It had been a long time since I'd played this 5p, and I'd forgotten how tight everything gets.

The ugly side of the Banquet was visible in full force as people late in turn order got a purple card instead of that phase's card instead.

John wrote:

The first Observatory won, as usual.


Rolling Freight 5p

5p: me, Andy, Michelle, Candy, John. First play for everyone except Andy who struggled through trying to teach the important parts without getting bogged down in the many fiddly bits.

Take all the worst fiddliest bits out of Age of Steam and Ticket to Ride, combine them with a graphic design artist who has not played the game, and hand the combination over to be developed by a very young Alan R. Moon who has not yet learned how to design good games.

You'd still get something better than this.

We called the game at the end of Era B because nobody was having fun.

Mel wrote:
I walked past some people playing this at Kublacon and they were swearing at it.


Rated 2.9 ; Winner of my oh-so-prestigious played-once tag.

Clash of the Gladiators 5p

Me, Mel, Andy, John, Michelle. First play for all but Mel and Andy, I think, but very easy to set up and teach.

The key skill in this combat game is to roll your dice well.

You're going to die. Who can you take down with you? Find someone weaker to prey on.

Fortunately, there's no player elimination, as once you have all your gladiator chariots die you get to attack with NPCs.

The City 3x 5p

5p: me, Jeremy, Andy, John, Mel (first play).

3 hands: won by Stadtvillas, Stadtvillas, Shopping Carts.

Race for the Galaxy: The Brink of War 4 hands assorted players
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7. Board Game: Paradise Fallen: The Card Game [Average Rating:5.87 Overall Rank:10549]
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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Thursday
Weilong - new
The City

Friday
Financier - new
The City x3

Saturday
The City x6

Sunday
Simply Catan
Bazaar
Paradise Fallen x3 - new
The City


We continued our Sid Sackson week with a play of Bazaar. I had thrifted the 3M edition a few years ago and we had played it, but I had traded it away. This was the first time we had played the glass gems version that I had re-thrifted. Playing Sid Sackson's games, I almost feel like I am opening the back of a clock, and seeing how things work, watching the gears go 'round. I feel like I am playing a game for the sake of the mechanics, and not because of the artwork or theme or components (which I like as much as the next person, but our recent plays of the Sackson games are a very different sort of experience). I brought it to the table to see if we should keep it or pass it along, especially given that it's Thrifty Santa season, and the vote was to keep it for the times when the mood strikes.





Paradise Fallen: The Card Game

Sam asked me if I wanted to open a birthday present. I said yes (it's the 20th, mark your calendars!)

It was a small, long, very sturdy box (and by very sturdy, I mean, VERY STURDY). It was a game I had never heard of, Paradise Fallen. Sam had Kickstarted it as a surprise, and gotten the drawstring bag add-on. We also got the thick cardboard island tiles (the islands are a grid of cards like in Heartland Hauling, and we have thick card tiles to replace them).

There is a 3 x 3 grid of islands, and instead of the gas cards of Heartland Hauling, you have ration cards. The idea is to explore 8 of the islands (with 2 players). You do that by getting to the island and playing a card for that island. Unlike Heartland Hauling, you can play cards to make it more difficult for your opponent, and the islands you explore allow you one-time-use special powers. (You track that by adding an orange disc to the island card in front of you when you explore it, and remove it once you've used that power. Those orange discs are a tie-breaker, so there's a reason to conserve them.)

In the image above, we added colored cubes to the islands that we had explored, to quickly be able to see what was what. It was enough of a pain trying to sort out which 2 islands you still needed, and even more of a pain looking across the table to try to figure out what islands your opponent still needed. It was a whole different game once we added the cubes, much smoother.

Would anyone here like it? I don't know. It's pretty light, Heartland Hauling but with more direct interaction. It's compact and pretty quick to set up. I could see it as a light wait-for-people-to-show-up-at-game-night game, perhaps. There's a little screwage but I think if you play it for the screwage you'd be disappointed.

I enjoy the artwork, especially on the ration cards. I like the quick setup. It does expand on some ideas in Heartland Hauling, but I think the points for innovation have to go to Heartland Hauling, and Heartland Hauling seems more polished. Paradise's rulebook isn't as precise as it might have been, there are already rules questions (we had some, ourselves), so expect an errata sheet or a revision for a second printing. It seems like they had playtesters that were familiar with the game, but they never had a fresh batch of playtesters try it cold before it went to press. If they had, I think the unclear and missing bits would have been caught.

The cards have a very noticeable linen finish, so it seems like they were trying to make them high quality, though they seem a tad thin. One of the Kickstarter bonuses is a pair of dice, which is sort of odd given that dice aren't used in the game. Neither is the draw bag, although supposedly it's so you can carry the game components in it and leave the (very compact) box at home. I do like the thick island tiles.
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8. Board Game: Caylus [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:48]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 9Nov2013:

17/28/387 plays of 9/19/179 total games, with 0/0/37 expansions employed.
Plays with 9/16/95 distinct opponents.

1/1/29 games acquired (plus 2/2/16 expansions.) - Love Letter (Kanai Art Edition) arrived.
0/0/14 games ordered (plus 0/0/5 expansions.)
Orders for 6 games and 1 expansions still outstanding.

With my family:
4x _7_ Hamsterrolle (59 months dusty) - (with son #2) It was fun to get this one back in play. The youngster had been too little the last time it was out to play viably: this time, he enjoyed the dynamics - and wanted to Keep Playing. (I think he dragged his sister into a bunch more afterschool games of this, too.)
1x _7.3_ San Marco (130 months dusty) - Son #2 and I went with the BGG-posted 2p rules; worked pretty well. It's a cute game - though not remotely significant. While it seemed like something worth playing eleven years ago, it's a good deal lighter and more volatile than things I'd choose today.
4x _7.3_ Dutch Blitz - With my lovely wife, daughter #1 and son #2 (son #1, you'll recall, is off in New York.) Though not all at the same time: most of these were 3p games. We enjoy this frenetic crazy thing: for reasons that escape me, it's one of the few games that everyone in my family will play.

With the Wednesday Night guys:
1x _7.3_ Love Letter (Kanai Art Edition) - Player summoning ritual: worked well, too; only one round, and our fourth player arrived.
1x _7.7_ Age of Industry (24 months dusty) - I'm not certain, but this one didn't feel quite like our previous plays. I wonder a bit whether this was the first time I've ever played the rules correctly! In any event, it worked pretty well, and I suspect the guys may want to try an expansion map in the next few weeks. (The new USSR map looks amusing.)
1x _7.3_ Fast Food Franchise - It ran a bit longer than my previous Fast Food Franchise game did; but I think that the player that made the best decisions (not vaguely me in this instance) won. And that despite the randomness: it's a cool design.

With the back-on-Fridays lunch gang:
1x _7.3_ Love Letter (Kanai Art Edition) - An unsuccessful summoning ritual: we played the Full Game, and didn't manage to pick up another player. The other guys found it amusing - perhaps amusing enough to play for its own sake.
2x _7.3_ Hey, That's My Fish! - We found this pretty entertaining - though in this pair of games there was a very substantial correlation between player order and score: our first player had the largest score in each play; the last player had the smallest score. Thinking of the Age of Industry game, I wonder (idly) whether I've always been playing it incorrectly!

With friend Dave:
1x _7.7_ Caylus (40 months dusty) - Very cool to get this one back in play. Unlike San Marco, this one played very compellingly: it was great. Cool dynamics; significant decisions; excellent.
1x _7.3_ Kriegbot New! - We added son #2 for this one. It had worried the Wednesday Night guys: the rather large collection of components looked quite overwhelming. But it turned out that the game was surprisingly smooth. The rules got out of the way; things made sense; it was great. I'd be really happy to play this one again, and am looking forward to integrating the expansion.


Owned-and-unplayed: 9 (+0/-1) - Kriegbot was played.

Outlook for the week: Hopefully gaming with family; Wednesday Night guys; Friday lunch gaming. Not clear what else might occur.
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9. Board Game: Copycat [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:1342]
W M
United Kingdom
Rugby
Warwickshire
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_8_ Copycat x1

I bought this 'cold' (no research, no knowledge) back in May at the UK Games Expo and was somewhat deflated when I saw the mixed ratings on BGG.

It sat unloved on my shelf until Friday night when I started going through the Rahdo Runs Through it list. Copycat was the first game that was on my unplayed list and I persuaded S to watch his play-through with me. While I knew Rahdo via London on Board and through game trading over the years I'd never watched one of his videos before. They are exactly what I need for motivating me to learn a game. After the ten minute run through and a brief skim of the rules we were ready to go.

Copycat was much simpler and much better than I had anticipated. I liked the mechanics, and the dry theme didn't put us off in the slightest. S. compared it to St Petersburg and I think it might fill a similar gap for us - a game that plays in around 45 minutes when both players are tired, that is above the simple filler. I'm hoping it will hold up to further plays, and that the focussed aim - to score points as quickly and efficiently as possible, isn't too narrow.

_10_ Magic the Gathering x 6

I arrived late at FNM, thereby missing the tournament, but stayed to trade with people and then picked up a few games. I was able to help out a couple of new players with random card decks who had just got themselves crushed in their first couple of matches. I'm hoping they'll be back again as over the last few weeks I've seen people turn up, get trounced and never come again, put off by the field which is more than 80% net decks.

_8.5_ Caverna

Second play of this at Rugby on Board tonight and another five player. After the first game we'd discussed strategies and I pondered that growing a big family, arming all with weapons and going on lots of missions seemed strong. I put this into practice tonight. Starting in last place isn't as bad as in Agricola - there are more good options open - even so, I had hoped to take start player with my first action - instead third place grabbed it, and then continued to do as first or second action on all but three turns for the rest of the game (the other two were player four x2 and myself once). As you might imagine this made things easier for player four and me, and less good for the first player and Stuart in second place - and indeed the third player who ended with by far the lowest score.

It certainly left me with lots of free space and opportunity to tool up and expand. Early on, Stuart helpfully pointed out the section in the game rules which states allowing one person to dominate weapons will likely lead to their victory - thereby prompting Neil in fourth position to start competing for me in the questing. Neil looked fairly strong - he was going second every turn and had some good mining going on we both family grew on the same turn despite tight food, but my lead on the weapons began to tell in mid game when I was carrying out the more powerful questing actions (filling in field and cavern spaces, and breeding two types of animals). I also snagged the weapons bonus room, the cattle bonus room and then filled in the rest of the gaps in my farm.

Player one had gone big into animal rearing, growing a single extra dwarf, Stuart (player two) had developed an infrastructure furnishing a number of caverns with the cheaper rooms which combo'd together and was also heavily invested in ruby mining stockpiling rubies and getting the ruby bonus room before I could stop him. Player three was mainly taking start player leaving big wholes in the farm.

Final scoring revealed me as the winner with 82, Neil with 71, Stuart 70, player one 61 and player three in the 30s.

Thoughts? Well I'm prepared to go out on a limb and state that Caverna is not as good as Agricola. It seems more slightly simpler but more fiddly and as lengthy. Yes, aspects (scoring) is slightly easier to understand, and competition for spaces (blocking) is less fierce, but there remains the pressing need to feed your family and the multitude of available options sometimes overwhelms. It is much more difficult for example to predict which actions your opponents will take, combined with the potential to play your choice of your weapon wielding dwarfs (by paying a ruby, rather than playing them from weakest to strongest) and imitating (paying food to copy) other's actions, this lends a slightly chaotic feeling to the game.

I'm not arrogant enough to state that a strategy of growing a big family and arming them all with weapons is dominant, it does however seem strong. I found one major problem with this - not only was I having more turns than everyone else (due to having more family members), those turns were also necessarily longer. This is because the adventuring mechanic opens up a multitude of decisions - which dwarf will go on which space - where do you place your dwarves with the stronger weapons? When you adventure you take items up to the level of your current weapon - this requires choosing up to four actions in the order of your choosing - again exponentially increasing decisions compared to those without weapons. The presence of the Ruby mechanic, (allowing the playing of dwarfs out of order), adds a further strata of potential actions, as do the 'imitate' spaces. At the same time food is much more closely associated with end game points: - everything is convertible to food, (apart from the dogs), meaning there is a constant weighing up of current and future food requirements against game end points.

I'm sure some of this will come with more plays. I can certainly see a significant depth to the game which is good, and there are a host of interesting decisions. However, to play Caverna well (or near any level of optimisation) is beyond my ability while simultaneously taking a reasonable length for turns (say 30-60 seconds). This meant I felt the pressure to rush conscious that I was taking longer than others and would lead me to adopt a smaller family strategy in the future.

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10. Board Game: The Resistance: Avalon [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:98]
Bryan Maxwell
United States
Burtchville
Michigan
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Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension x 1

Learned this game from the designer who happened to show up to our FLGS for game night. Not my kind of game, too much guesswork, too beer & pretzels, but certainly not a bad game. It was interesting to talk with someone who has a published game as well.

Shadow Hunters x 1

This was an odd one as there was little aggression for a long time, and what aggression there was often yielded little to no damage. The player who ultimately won was one of the neutrals, a new one from the fan-made Artscow deck that I hadn't seen: Aubrey, who has only 8HP but wins when 3 or more characters are revealed. We played with 7 - the perfect number for Shadow Hunters.

The Resistance: Avalon x 1

We then proceeded to play 4 games of Avalon since we had 7 players. This was fun as always, and I think I slightly prefer it over the original game and its plot cards, simply because Avalon doesn't have the certainty of letting you actually look at someone's loyalty card or mission card (though, to be fair, when you look at a card you can still say whatever you want about that card to the rest of the table). The opening "Spies open your eyes" bit gets a little convoluted and long with Avalon as we were making sure that Merlin and the Assassin were in the mix, then just shuffling in other roles blindly. Might be an Oberron, might be Perceval, might only be vanilla characters. This meant that we had to go through the entire opening script as though everyone was in play though. surprise

A fun enough game night, but I'm always a little disappointed when we get together and don't wind up playing anything substantial. Thankfully the company is good.



My wife is (understandably) not up for much in the way of gaming these days, so it's just Wednesday nights and Friday mornings for me at the moment. This Friday morning didn't happen because my wife had a couple of massages scheduled - her first in a few months.

I'm still hoping to get Tammany Hall and Santiago played, and there's a push to play Age of Renaissance at the shop. I also have to give a presentation in my Psych class this week. May as well just take my pants off and have a nightmare.
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11. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:127]
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Games Played

_8_ Age of Steam 1 New!
_8_ Pandemic 2
_8_ Troyes 1
_8_ Letters from Whitechapel 1
_7_ Yggdrasil 1
_7_ The Castles of Burgundy 1


Week in Review

Mid-week, I played Troyes with the goodies from Troyes: The Ladies of Troyes for the first time. I left out the purple die because I don't believe it's a good idea, but maybe I will try it next time since one player said he would have liked it. This was a brutal grindy game of Troyes, in which yellow dice were especially undesirable. My favorite feature of the expansion, quite unexpectedly, was the new hidden victory condition cards. They work at right angles to the six from the base game and make it much, much trickier to guess what other players are going for. I liked that a lot.

I think I have finally figured out what I don't like about the Castles of Burgundy and that is playing it with four players. It is much, much better as a two player game, even though you have no idea which tiles will come out. In spite of that variance, the four player game is the one that feels very random to me. Two player is much more manageable and fun. I haven't played three player nearly as much and I'm not sure on which side of the fence it would land.

I finally got a chance to play Age of Steam. I had previously played Steam one time and failed to see the play in it (although it was a poor table for it). Age of Steam seemed to have quite a bit more play. Although some of its added complexity didn't add much for me (the way cubes are added to the board, for example), the turn order bidding and power selection was much different in feel. I played well in the early game, then got a bad turn order position and made a "minor" miscalculation that almost sent me to bankruptcy. I was able to salvage it but ended in last place, out of five players. I think I did ok for a first play and without that one oversight my score would have been much more competitive.

I liked Age of Steam a lot and it actually made me curious to revisit Steam one more time to see if it changed how I see it as well. Hopefully I can do so soon and decide whether to keep Steam or swap it out. One thing about Age of Steam that doesn't appeal to me as much is all the variant maps. I know many Age of Steam players love these, but this is generally not something I love in games. I tend to gravitate to base games without expansions.
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12. Board Game: Concept [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:631]
Ben Draper
United States
Seattle
Washington
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Games Played

Thursday @ Sasquatch Board Games Festival
_6_ Field of Glory: The Card Game New!
_6_ Patchistory New!

Friday @ Sasquatch Board Games Festival
_2_ Castaways New!
_6_ Glass Road New!
_6_ Sail to India New!
_4_ Machi Koro New!

Saturday @ Sasquatch Board Games Festival
_4_ Terror in Meeple City New!
_6_ Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends New!
_6_ Nauticus New!
_6_ Wildcatters New!
_6_ Sail to India
_4_ Crokinole New!
_4_ Eight-Minute Empire New!

Sunday @ Sasquatch Board Games Festival
_4_ CV New!
_6_ Yunnan New!
_8_ Concept x2 New!
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13. Board Game: Bruges [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:217]
Lo
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

_7_ Bruges x4 New to Me!
_7_ Carcassonne x1


The Week in Review

A lightly played week, beginning with Carcassonne and ending with a string of Bruges.

Our first play of Bruges was fairly flat. Only at the very end of the game did I begin to warm to it. As I mentioned last week, the game is far too tactical. I think it's accentuated in the two-player game with the three majority bonus tiles as they force you to go "tit-for-tat" with your opponent rather than pursue some sort of strategy...although the last game S and I played, I very nearly won it ignoring the bonus tiles.

In Bruges favour: it plays fast (always a good thing with S who gets impatient easily) and takes less than an hour (good for a week night). The tension does rise as the decks empty and you wonder if there'll be another turn or not.


The Week Ahead

Probably more Bruges, but there may be a few surprises.
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14. Board Game: Mice and Mystics [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:248] [Average Rating:7.38 Unranked]
Daniel Kenel
United States
New London
Iowa
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11/7/13

Mice and Mystics x3

Tori had conferences at school so I had to take the afternoon off in order to be home with my girls. We had decided in advance to dedicate a rare free afternoon to Mice and Mystics. It had been a while since we last played so we had to spend a bit of time to refresh on the rules. We ended up cruising to a very quick and very easy win on chapter 7. I haven't found that to be the norm. We often lose and repeat the same chapter at least twice and they usually run a bit longer as well.

We decided to quickly jump into chapter 8 and got crushed in the very 1st room. I think it lasted all of 10-15 minutes tops. Another highly unusual outcome. We had another go and this time had a much better result. We ended up winning but it was a longer, harder fought affair. We have now finished chapters 1-8 and have only 3 left before finishing up with the base game.

I have the 1st expansion on pre-order already for a Christmas gift for the girls. While the game doesn't thrill me, it really has proven to be a big hit as a family game and has been well worth the cost. I think we have about 20 plays in at this point.

11/9/13

We had a couples game day with a young lady (Allie), that teaches with Tori, and her husband (Joel).

Hanabi x2
We found out in our prior couples game day that they have a strong preference for cooperative games. I just had to teach them Hanabi. They made a number of rookie errors but greatly enjoyed the game. It can be a bit frustrating with different experience levels in this game and trying to tailor your clues to fit the players but that's a part of the game, right? I hope we can get some more plays in and watch them climb the learning curve.

Kakerlakenpoker Royal x2
My daughters joined us for a couple of silly games. I don't think this one was as big of a hit. Allie really struggled with the lying aspect of the game and as a result was a really easy mark.

Love Letter x2
Tori jumped out to make supper so I taught Joel and Allie this favorite. We were joined by my oldest daughter since it's her favorite game. A couple of really fun sessions that went the distance with everyone tied till the last match. Good stuff.

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island x1
This was a bit rough to get liftoff but once we played a couple of rounds it started to click for everyone. A flurry of rules questions that had me reeling since I only have a couple of plays myself. I need to find a better way to teach this one. I always get a bit frustrated when I don't feel like I can give a game the proper introduction.

We played scenario 1 and ended up cruising to a win on the 11th round. We really got lucky with some dice rolls when we pushed our luck and some critical items that we got. The story unfolded that we ended up needing the Cook to make us hooch each night to help us deal with the weather and the Soldier ended up going hunting each day and going into a furry (craving more alcohol?) to help us stay feed and get furs. Lots of laughs and getting into the story. Without doing that the game is a bit too bloated and tedious for me.

Tori and I were talking this the next morning and I think this might stay as a 2p game for me. With 4 it seemed to really drag out more and fall into the normal trap of 1 or 2 more vocal players leading the way.
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15. Board Game: Bunny Bunny Moose Moose [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:3586]
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
Ebeltoft
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Games Played Week 46:
A slow week that turned into a Cult of the (semi-)New session.

V. is busy with work and her thesis and I have been busy with Uni and various social and Uni-related activities. Sometimes we just manage to greet going to and fro... I am having fun though, not sure V. is with her thesis deadline looming, though she will be glad to see the end of it.

On to the gaming...

Thursday with V.:
1x _8.0_ Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy (see, rated already...)
First play and some concern about the random draw of additional worker/ action token. Fears alleviated by designer and proposed bidding variant instead. That said, not getting into a fuzz about it after just one play.

The game itself was fun. Whimsical theme in part due to the nature of the drawings. Sometimes it is really hard to tell man from woman due to some very ugly women and very effiminate men. It plays in 60 minutes for us. There are Patron cards which can help set a course for your game, though you are free to go off course. You want to do a lot more than you have actions for (minimum of 18 + 3 extra optional) and you sometimes puzzle your way to the end.

V. loves it.

Friday night with V.:
1x _8.0_ Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy
We left it on the table and played a rematch.

1x _8.0_ Snowdonia (see, rated already...)
We then got this one out which I just got from Essen. Another winner it seems with V. though the game playing along did fool us a bit, especially early on as we were hoarding stuff and V. pulled a lot of events.

I adapted best and ran off with the game.

Saturday morning with V. after breakfast:
1x _8.0_ Snowdonia
We left this one out too and played a rematch. It went a lot better for V. though she was ambitious in trying to get 5 tracks laid. She managed 4 but the game took the last one, I took the 2nd to last...

She enjoys this one too, though the theme of Legacy probably has the upper hand.

Sunday gaming with V.:
1x _8.0_ Key Market
I tried something different this time out and was rewarded with a big win. Playing off Marshals (no payment for workers) and Mercers (+1 for squares, also in winter) I had a big output and managed to retire 5 workers by the end of the game. Fun.

1x _8.2_ Jet Set w/ Distant Lands
Our 40th play of this game...

2x _8.0_ Viticulture w/ mini-expansion
We played a double session of this with a mini-expansion coming next year. It does not change a lot but makes it different.

Our recent games have been with the amended rules where you can use the Grande Worker to take an action with bonus (not originally available in a 2 player game) or to take an action already taken by the other.

This makes a great, yet sometimes frustrating game, great.

The Week Ahead:
Thesis, social engagements for me and hopefully some family time too.

My item for the week is a new game I bought to play with the family and at Uni. Hopefully it will be here soon (actually just waiting for Suburbia Inc to arrive, then I will pick up both).
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16. Board Game: Innovation [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:304]
Tom Shields
United States
Tacoma
Washington
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_10_Innovation x1
_8 _Traders of Osaka x1
_7 _Neos x2

Innovation was as good as always, but another win and I think my longtime opponent has fallen into a sort of overcautious play pattern whereas he loses tempo (wastes actions) trying to find something rather than using what he has. This is a bad habit to emerge in an experienced player. But I do get it, I think this is the result of his bad mojo streak, and I've done that in a game before, have you? You get all self-conscious and overthink things. He hasn't pulled out a win since we restarted our play of the game.

Anyway, he caught me in the late game, bagged my scoring and pinned me with his leaves and started to open up a superior icon tableau (he had Skyscrapers in play & damn that's an ugly m*therf*cker to face across the table!) but it was too late, I melded two eights in my hand to take the Special Achievement for the win before he could trample me.

I'm glad I've kept my Traders of Carthage, it seems to be going for over $50 these days as an OOP game. I pulled it out to shake off the dust and (after 3 years) I feel it plays very well and it stands up to the recent Japanese wave. I think it may be an excellent couples game, it has that right infusion of luck that can keep both a gamer and no-gamer vested in the outcome, and a nice tension between tactical & longer term planning that suggests a nice metagame could evolve between two players.

Neos is the best 'patience' style, keep your hands busy card game in the world. Not my style of gaming, but it's something I grab to riffle the cards and it always sucks me in. So this is usually when the apartment is clean, the candles are lit, the laundry is being done while I hang out on the sofa and watch bad TV... and the game is just gorgeous as it plays out on the ottoman... Hmmm, something I've played over 80 times really needs to go to an 8, yes?

Oh, and I finally broke down the rules to The Master of the Merchant in the Sakai last night and solo'd it to understanding. I think it might be an awesome, very fast playing Japanese micro game. The mechanic to decide turn order is remarkable, what a cool interaction. I'm clueless when I can get it played, but I'm ready to teach it.
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17. Board Game: Agricola: World Championship Deck – 2011 [Average Rating:7.89 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.89 Unranked]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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-10- Agricola (+WM Deck) (x3)
-7.5- No Thanks! (x2)
-7- 6 Nimmt!
-7- Concordia
-7- The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet (x2) New!
-6- Tea Time

Phil and I played Tea Time while waiting for others to arrive. It seems like the sort of abstract game where it's very hard to avoid draws if players are paying attention. It's rather like Nim played over multiple rounds. Our game was decided by whoever had Alice for +4 points, since we both had the exact same set of tiles. After this and Parade, I wondered how many more essentially abstract games can be given an Alice in Wonderland theme through art alone.

I've been waiting ages for an English edition of The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet to turn up, so when I was making a post-Essen order from Germany I gave up waiting and added it to my basket. First play was two-player and involved more swearing than you'd expect from a kids' game! It's mean. I tried it again four-player the next day and it feels like a different game (on account of the rules for tile selection being different). It's a simple game but the "choose who picks next" idea works well. I'd heard this mechanism had the potential for making some devilish plays, so I was forewarned while the others came into the game with no preconceived notions. It was fun seeing them pick up on the nasty subtleties as the game went along. Less fun was when I was saddled with a fourth volcano in the last round, taking me entirely out of contention!

Concordia
I felt I really missed out on brick during my first play through, so this time I made sure to get plenty of brick cities to enable building other types of city later on. Meanwhile, Simon refined the strategy I'd inadvertantly followed in the first game, ignoring brick cities but buying the resources he needed on the market, collecting as many colonists and Mars cards as he could. He showed that such a plan can work, winning by a comfortable margin.

The game is surprisingly easy to teach and I think the Intermediate Scoring is a great idea to help new players understand what goals they might want to try for. We didn't actually award any bonus money for the Intermediate Scoring, just used it to explain endgame scoring.

Afterwards, we had a ridiculous game of No Thanks! where all the cards I needed to lower my score came up at the right time, followed by 6 Nimmt! where the opposite happened.

*****

I was in Vienna for the weekend at the Agricola World Championships. I hadn't been to Vienna before and arriving on Friday night, the city seemed oddly quiet. There were few people on the streets and many shops were closed all weekend. Maybe it's because I wasn't quite in the centre but it was one of the quietest capital cities I've ever visited. There was little time for sightseeing though, I had three rounds of intense Agricola to play.

The event was part of the Austrian Spielefest, a three day gaming show with an emphasis on playing rather than buying. In fact, it wasn't possible to buy any games there at all. The focus seemed to be on families and there were lots of kids around and events aimed at youngsters. They had a big game library where you could check out games and lots of tables to play on, but it seemed like you'd have to come as part of a group to be able to join in a game. At the very least, you'd need to be able to speak German to ask if you could join an existing group and I'm not sure this is even the done thing. There didn't seem to be any helpful "Players Wanted" signs like you get at BGG.Con, instead the method seemed to be to come with your friends, check out a stack of games and sit at a table playing through them. Some publishers had their own booths with game explainers, but they tended to be lighter games and larger companies (Ravensburger, Drei Magier Spiele etc.). It might be a good event for a group of locals wanting to try lots of new games at once, provided they don't mind reading the rules themselves, but for a lone foreigner... well let's just say I'm glad I had another reason to be there.


Game One
The WM-Deck is split into five pre-constructed mini decks and in the first game we were required to bid VPs before the game started to determine who would get which one. Highest bidder got first pick of deck and so on. Ties for bidding would be broken by seating position, which seemed a little unfair on the 4th player, already at a disadvantage in the game. Luckily, I was Start Player. Although I'd played plenty of WM games, most had been two-player and none had been with the mini decks, so I did a bit of research beforehand. Beta and Delta seemed best, Alpha and Gamma were some way behind with pros and cons to each, Epsilon was obviously weakest. Most players seemed to have come to the same conclusion. I'd already decided not to bid any VPs regardless of what seating position I was in: VPs are how you win, right? And none of the decks were so bad that they would be impossible to win with. I thought I'd just let the others decide which deck I ended up with through their bids. It turned out I got third choice: two players had bid 1, two had bid 0. I went for Alpha because I like Keys to jump the queue on Family Growth.

Keys lets you take the Build Rooms/Stables space even if it's occupied, and there's a nice (read: mean) trick you can do with it whereby you wait until someone builds their first new room, then take Start Player, playing Keys and following up by building your own room. You've then guaranteed you have space to family grow and the opportunity to do so next turn if the Family Growth card turns up. Funnily enough, I ended up doing this in all three of my games. It's about the only thing I got right all day!

I was doing quite well to start with, then sort of petered out and struggled to feed in the last couple of harvests. This would become something of a theme throughout my games. While the rest of us were competing with each other, it seemed to me that Kasper (Netherlands) had positioned himself to avoid conflict in the last few rounds and had rather an easy time of completing his plans. I could see his win coming a long way off and it was well deserved. He finished 3rd in the tournament overall.

I had plans to play Cloister Dweller and had built my farm in such a formation to be able to score points from it (stuff in vertical lines). But when it came to the last few actions, I realised I couldn't spare a family member to play that Occupation. I had more important things to do to get me back in the game, like Renovate and play Ruins for +7 points. If I'd realised I was never going to have chance to play Cloister Dweller, I could have built my fences differently and covered an extra farmyard space for +1 point. Shame. Final scores were 39-33-33-28. I was joint 2nd, with Robin (Belgium), so the extra point would have made a slight difference. Realistically, you needed to win all three games to win the tournament, so being knocked out here meant I could try and enjoy the unusual draft formats instead.


Game Two
The tournament used a Swiss system; Robin and I were the only two players with 4 points so we were paired against each other again. I questioned whether this was intentional. I didn't mind playing him again, it just seemed weird - I thought it should be possible to avoid repeat pairings, at least in the second game. But addressing this oddity was clearly very low priority for the organisers, so we carried on.

This game used a Stack Draft. All the WM cards were mixed together (Occupations and Improvements) and the top four cards dealt out into four "stacks". The first player took one card, then a new card was added to each stack. The second player took a stack and each was refilled. This carried on until we'd each picked seven stacks, although some were bigger than others. Quite a fun format, although also perhaps quite luck-based, as we were all hoping Lady in Waiting would come out on the refresh just before our pick. I ended up drafting 14 Occupations and 12 Improvements and I wasn't even deliberately taking the largest stack each time. I had to discard down to 7 of each anyway.

I had a silly Renovation combo which I was planning to play if Renovate came up early in Stage 2, but it came out late so I didn't bother with it. Walt's pre-tournament advice not to try any wacky combos was running through my head! My mistake this game was being too nice. I'd got off to another good start, had a Donkey to power out my ploughing and a small combo of Bee Keeper into Remodeler. (Bee Keeper gives you a free stable to represent a beehive; Remodeler lets you turn that into an extra room.) I felt a bit of a target and my opponents were putting pressure on food. I needed to upgrade my Fireplace to a Cooking Hearth to get best value out of my Wild Boar. Everyone else had some way of feeding, so I wasn't expecting the Hearth to be taken and built fences instead. There was an audible sigh of relief from two opponents, who had expected a fight for fencing in the last couple of rounds. I wanted to make sure I'd built my fences to distance myself from that battle, but it made things too easy for the eventual winner. He took the duplicate Cooking Hearth with his next action, so I had to eat a few more animals than I'd have liked. He fenced for 8 points or so in the last round, which I could have easily blocked if I'd waited to build my fences. I guess I was too risk averse here, when an all-or-nothing strategy would have been better.

Final scores were 44-42-42-36. Yes, bizarrely, Robin and I had tied for 2nd place again! We laughed. This was the game I felt I could have won with just slightly tighter play.


Game Three
Now Robin and I went our separate ways and I saw three new players. This time we used a "Love Your Neighbour" draft. It was like a regular draft only on each pass you'd pick a card for yourself and a card for the player sat next to you - right for Occupations, left for Improvements. This led to some surprises: I was given Engineer by my Japanese neighbour. I thanked her for it, but we didn't have enough of a shared language for me to explain why. It's one of my favourite cards in the set, giving you 1 food for playing Improvements, or 2 food if they have Stone in their cost. I like playing Improvements so the rest of my draft concentrated on getting as many as possible with a Stone cost.

So again, I got off to a nice start, plenty of food from the Engineer, early Family Growth and so on. Then tiredness began to hit me. I wasn't the only player affected. One of my opponents forgot to Family Grow when he had the chance and took a couple of sheep instead. I was so exhausted I hadn't noticed his mistake at the time either. It wasn't just that we'd had a long day, even though we'd only played two games, but I hadn't slept well the night before. My hotel room was very hot, so I put the aircon on, which was very noisy, so I put earplugs in, then worried that I'd miss my alarm so kept waking up every hour or so... Anyway, on one of my turns I found my head swimming and suddenly had no idea what I was doing. I couldn't focus on a plan and was unable to evaluate my options properly. In that state, I just opted to take the largest pile of resources available, which happened to be 4 Clay. I'm convinced that was a huge mistake - 3 Stone was the correct choice, enabling a follow-up Well for 4 points and 7 food. I snapped out of my fug when the Stone was taken by someone else, but I never really recovered. I finished fourth and scores were 46-43-41-36. Sad times.


Afterwords
It was an interesting experience and somehow it felt less high pressure than the qualifying round back in the UK - it was also one round shorter. Everyone I played with was friendly and play was generally quick (although one player took so long over her first turn of the game that I thought she hadn't realised we'd started!). I got the impression that many of the players there play online, which I haven't done and have no interest in doing, but it seems like that's the kind of practice you need to put in to do well here.

Everyone received a copy of the WM deck for turning up. I already own it, and was actually hoping there'd be a new deck revealed at the tournament, but it wasn't ready in time. We also got a lovely poster showing a giant Agricola board (pictured above). I guess you could play a mega game with it, but I'll frame it and put it up somewhere in the house. The Top 5 got a LookOut game and certificate and the Top 3 also got a framed piece of Klemens Franz art.

I'm glad I went, but it wasn't so exciting that I feel the need to return and try again. The countries that sent a team of four seemed to be having the most fun - with people that speak their language and more familiar faces to share the ups and downs with. I'm impressed the Japanese made the effort to come all that way.

I flew back into the UK on Sunday night, starving, so grabbed a pasty at the airport. It was lukewarm and gave me food poisoning! The End.
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