GCL Swedish Meatball Division #127: Chat amongst yourselves
Paul Lister
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London
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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 - I am feeling a lack of inspiration combined with tiredness from it being the busiest period of the year in the shop. One comment caught my eye this week and its going to, I hope , be a starting point for you all to have a lively discusion
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1. Board Game: Theme Park [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Paul Lister
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I only played 2 games last week - One Russian Railroads I found rather disappointing - it had nothing to do with Railroads and there was lots of Feldian solitaire manoeuvring up 4 tracks. I also played Amerigo which I enjoyed because despite it being a Point Salad its got a map. islands, competition for map space, even a bit of screwage..even a...theme! The cube tower also injects a certain amount of choice from randomness that I like without the 3,000 ways to get round the action constraints that Feld usually puts into a game. I then read

Ben
United States
Ann Arbor
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comments in a thread on Russian Railroads that chimed with the way I felt about the games I played last week. Ben's comment :-

'There is another aspect that I forgot to mention. I'm not sure it is an integral part of the "point salad" metaphor, but it seems to be true of most games at which the term is levelled.

First, we can distinguish between representational games, which attempt to model (however abstractly) some comprehensible scenario, and arbitrary games (for lack of a better term), which exist primarily as a system of rules without a conceptual analog. For example, Agricola is a representational game: your workers leave their home to go out into the world to work; you build new rooms to make space for new workers; you plant grain in a field and it literally grows. Goa is an arbitrary game. It presents you with a series of systems or mechanisms that don't really map to anything external to the game. Puerto Rico is somewhere in between.

In representational games, victory points can be seen as a way of quantifying in-game accomplishments: you want to grow a healthy family, and build a sustainable farm; we assign values to those activities solely so that you can see who did it best. In arbitrary games, the victory points are the accomplishments: they motivate your choice among mechanisms that otherwise would have no intuitive value. (I could imagine teaching someone how to play Agricola without ever telling them about what is worth points; I could not imaging doing the same with Goa.)

It seems to me that the "point salad" metaphor most frequently applies to arbitrary games. Because players' actions in those games are more blatantly motivated by victory points, players experience the game as a sequence of points-acquisitions rather than as the performance of some substantive activity that also happens to be worth points.

Here, again, I think Russian Railroads occupies something of a middle ground. The points I score for moving track along each route feels (abstractly) representational. I get that. Scoring points for having the most Engineers seems reasonable, as well. Other scorings, however, feel arbitrary. The bonus points on the Kiev track are not tied to anything that I as a player can identify with. The fact that the Kiev line has these bonuses, but not say, the St. Petersburg line only underscores the sense that the points are arbitrary (i.e., that they exist to make a well-designed game, rather than to quantify good player behavior within the narrative context).

Anyway, just another thought that occurred to me.'

If you would like to read the full thread it it is here

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1068892/point-salad

So my one and only question/request for you this week is to discuss Ben's comment above. Do you prefer 'representational' or 'arbitrary' games? Do you draw a distinction? Happy with either?


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2. Board Game: Romans Go Home! [Average Rating:6.06 Overall Rank:5160]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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So far in November, I have played games only with Sarah and with schoolchildren. I'm pretty sure if Lee was still around, he'd be laughing

Tuesday: board games club at school

Most of the boys from last week came back and there was a group of loud older girls too. Dobble got plenty of play again. One kid described it as the 'best game ever' and said he had asked for it for Christmas I also played a hand of Cribbage with the kid who said he played last week. We played up to 60 and I just pipped him.

Friday: after a damn tough week, Sarah offered to play some games with me on Friday night.

Sarah requested an old favourite Thurn and Taxis. I've never been very good at it, which might be why she likes it so much, but this time everything went well, including an extremely fortunate blind draw. Even then, I only pipped her 28-27.

After that, a quick game of Romans Go Home!. The combination of double-think and simultaneous programming makes for a pretty hilarious little filler. I managed to win by collecting three of the four negative forts, which seems a little too easy in 2p perhaps.
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3. Board Game: WYSIWYG [Average Rating:7.24 Unranked]
George Leach
United Kingdom
Godalming
Surrey
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3x Lines of Action - I'm not great at this but I'm enjoying having a few games.
1x Mini Shogi - Love it and I'm improving which is good.

Played with Kathryn
2x Love Letter - Not been all that happy with this purchase so far. Played it once with three and it didn't improve much. I might sell this one on again quite soon.
1x 6 Nimmt! - Enjoyed another play of this excellent 2p game.
1x Odin's Ravens - Played this for the first time with the rules wrong and it fell a little flat I think with the correct rules it might bear a few more plays. Not sure it will earn long term spot though.
1x Vom Kap bis Kairo - Played this for the first time as well and I enjoyed this far more. It's a blind bid all pay auction which is not most people's cup of tea. In this case it works quite nicely since there isn't much more to the game.

Played at work
2x WYSIWYG - I've found a keen opponent for WYSIWYG which is very pleasing. We only managed to fit in a couple of rounds each lunchtime but it's been fun so far. There's another friend who has played Dominion a few times. Between them I might begin a fledgling lunchtime group.

I've just written a [thread=14018789]review[/thread] for Quantum as well
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4. Board Game: The BoardGameGeek Game [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:4558]
Andrew
Japan
Tokyo
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I didn't play anything this week!! surprise cry

Though I drooled over French Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts spoilers... laugh (Is it just me, or does it seem like there are very few cards?)

I also fell for a Kickstarter for a RttA sequel - Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age. I'm hugely sceptical of Kickstarter in general, and am ambivalent about established publishers using it. However the design is by Tom Lehmann, and I wanted but never got around to acquiring RttA, so my fingers are crossed.

Anyway, so as not to dwell on games unplayed and unacquired, who else is going to BGG Con??
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5. Board Game: RoboRally [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:368]
Lori
United States
Durham
North Carolina
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Tzolk'in
Roborally
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6. Board Game: Dungeon Twister 2: Prison [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:1198]
Brad N
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
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_8_ Dungeon Twister 2: Prison - 2 Players (x2)
_8_ Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game – Dark City - 2 Players (x1); 3 Players (x1)
_7_ Kingdom Builder - 2 Players
_7_ Forbidden Desert - 2 Players
_7_ Escape: The Curse of the Temple - 2 Players (x5)
_7_ Duck, Duck, Bruce - 2 Players (x2)
_5_ Ave Caesar - 5 Players


Good games and all with family this week.

(1) Dungeon Twister 2: Prison - My brother and I were able to play the board game after trying the card game a few weeks ago. We both liked this quite a bit better and look forward to more match ups in the future. He especially liked it because he outplayed me both times and won.

(2) Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game - I played this once with my son (5) and daughter (8) and once with just my daughter. I'm very impressed with their ability to build up a deck and make very wise choices throughout this game. While I recognize that this game is designed as a competitive game which cannot be won by any player unless the good guys win, we play it more as a true cooperative. They do always want to add up our points at the end (because they do know how the game really works) and they always tell me that I won, but I remind them that "we" won.

(3) Escape: The Curse of the Temple - My wife and I played 5 times with the Illusions and Fountain expansions. The first 3 games, we accidentally had left too many tiles in the stack and were never close. Then we tried it 2 more times with the right stack of tiles and were closer but still lost. She isn't as excited to play after losing as I am. We'll get 'em next time....

(4) Ave Caesar - This was a whole family game and that's really the only way I see playing this anymore. For the whole family, it's pretty good. We had a lot of back and forth in this race with mom taking first place.

(5) Forbidden Desert - My son and I found the buried flying ship and flew out of the desert on the normal difficulty level. This game is still along the lines of Forbidden Island and a great cooperative game to play with kids. I'm actually liking it more after 6 plays than I did after 2 or 3 plays.
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7. Board Game: Cheaty Mages! [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:2382]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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I wanted to choose Russian Railroads for this entry but I don't want to repeat the first entry of this list...

Tuesday - Gaming with colleagues

Gravediggers – is the game I taught the players at the other table; they were confused during the first play but enjoyed the replay.

Dominion – is the game I taught the players at my table. As usual, this first game went quite slow but if was fun; I haven’t played Dominion for quite long. We had the Chapel and the Village and all the attack cards of the first box without any reaction cards so it was obvious ‘the’ Chapel strategy would not work – the thief was used very often. Still, the game was quite fun.

K2 – learning game, so easy side and sunny weather. No one died, although I had to help two players showing them how they can survive. One of them won the game.


Wednesday – gaming in the gaming club

Russian Railroads - is right now the #2/#1 ranked Essen game. Don’t ask me why – while I did more or less like it I just did not get nearly as enthusiastic as all the other players at the table. It’s a rather complex Euro, a clearer design than Madeira and I think I like it a bit more. But it’s still just a worker placement-based cube pusher where most of your actions are about moving markers on four different tracks. The theme is very weak here, even though three of these tracks are rails and you buy trains for these rails. (okay, I wrote this before reading the first entry here.)
So what are the more interesting aspects of the game? 1. On each track you can send more than one marker (5/4/3/2) after each other and this way they can score more for you. 2. The worker placement mechanism is rather basic but it’s still a tiny bit like an action point allowance system – for some actions you need two workers, for some you need three. 3. The scoring is the most interesting part: instead of checking your scores in the end of each of the seven rounds, you score everything – so the earlier you reach a point on a track the more points they are worth. Whatever scoring spaces you reach during a round, you are going to get the points for that in each subsequent round. So while it could be a usual Euro where you try to make an engine work by the end of the game, you are actually trying to make as many points as you can during the game so you can score a lot. It’s quite an unforgiving game where it’s quite hard to catch up once you start to fall behind. The two gamers playing their second game of RR got the most points (the winner scored 386) but I was rather satisfied with my 315 points So, all in all, I’m not that fond of just pushing those cubes on the tracks but otherwise the game is quite tense and I must admit sometimes it's even a bit fun.

Cheaty Mages – a ‘new’ (Essen ’13) Seiji Kanai game which is actually one of his oldest games (it just got an English-language repring from AEG, luckily keeping the original Noboru Sugiura artwork). As usual, it’s not a great or deep or meaty game – it’s simply fun and short, a perfect filler. The story is rather like Colossal Arena (5 species fighting, we make our bets on which one is going to win and place cards to change their power) with some Chronicle-like special rules for each round. It was fast, mildly exciting, I liked it.

Samurai – well, a hardcore gamer just wanted to play something short in the end of the day and it seemed only I was available for play so he suggested a handful of old games. Samurai included. So I just could not choose anything else, especially after the last time I played I was quite weak. He is a good gamer, also someone who likes classic Knizias (for example you can’t win Medici, Ra or Taj Mahal against him) but I ended the game with two majorities (4:3:3) while he had zero (1:2:3). So I regained some confidence…


Saturday – gaming with my kids

Alles Kanone! – hey, when did my kid get so fast? Miska won this game of memory and fast reactions with quite a big advantage.

Gold Nuggets – and this dice game with an even bigger advantage.

Viva Topo! – well, I won this one against Borcsa. Yay, I defeated a 3-year-old!

Zoowaboo – My main focus was forcing them play cooperatively and I succeeded.


Sunday – a little bit of gaming with my wife

Ingenious 2x. She won once, then I did.
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8. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:25]
Justus
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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All two player games again.

I really don't get the appeal of this game. I mean it's not a bad game, but damn it's a soulless cube pushing machine with a really cute theme and art. It's well crafted and balanced but it doesn't have any elegance to it. I hate how the brain burns in such trivial ways because the decision tree is so extended...too much of the princess bride I do this you do this I do this, but you know I want to do this and so I'll do this first bullshit. But it was kind of enjoyable for the nostalgia. Nothing I'd want to revisit per se, but if the wife wants to play it again I'll do so. It's been a long week.

Maybe I don't like Agricola cause we've only played it two player? Is it better with more? I've diligently avoided the game at any events I've been to.

As for other stuff, we played kakerlaken suppe and salad. Both are fun, the suppe being easier than the salad.

Revisited can't stop. Which we had maybe played out a bit but after a long break was really awesome as a great push yer luck game.

More mamma Mia plus, which truly is an excellent two player game.

And one game of innovation. Which I really still I like but y wife is not enjoying so much. Bummer.
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9. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:251]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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Visiting my family this weekend. Played a 4p of San Juan for the first time in a while. Didn't manage to get my usual Guild Hall juggernaut going, but fed a first-turn Chapel all game for 11 bonus points and the win.

Abalone, which although I am not particularly good at it, remains a very aesthetically pleasing game in many ways, and easily ranks among my favorite abstracts.

Innovation, a pair of 4p games which both seemed to be decided by early Metalworking points. Still an awesome game though.

Coloretto, which is A+ for accessibility, and remains a pretty solid game.
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10. Board Game: American Rails [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:1283]
Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
Zaandam
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American Rails (4P) — My Alphabet challenge gaming buddy bought this game during Spiel and wanted me and a few others to play it, partially because we'd all played Chicago Express at some point(s), and partially because it was a new game which ought to be played. American Rails is indeed rather like CE: the core idea is share evaluation of growing train track on a map, and making as much money from the dividend as possible. As such the games play remarkably alike. But there are differences too. The map is much more open in that companies can start anywhere; there are more of them; there are no inactive companies like the Wabash Cannonball; there are more 'long route' bonuses; development of squares is limited to cities; money can be inserted into a company as an action; money can be taken out of all other players' personal reserves as an action; and quite a few more.

I played with my eyes open, and tried to apply as many heuristics from Chicago Express as I possibly could. A small list:
— money = VP;
— don't invest a single action save for defensive ones if one's share count in a company is a minority: it benefits the majority shareholder more than it does me, after all;
— don't get all worked up for a lack of shares: having a lot of them costs money (= VP);
— shares which are so expensive that the estimated ROI is negative are not worth it (obviously a better player can come up with a better estimate)—but see below!;
— force the game to an end if someone is raking in dividend hand over fist and there is no easy and quick means to match this level (usually this person has invested heavily in companies and needs several payouts to make it all work out);
— dilute shares of other players if you have the opportunity: be an instigator!;
— and several others.

There was at some point a player who managed to get a company pay out large sums really quickly, so I simply put up all shares for auction really quick in succession with the result that he sunk too much money in the company in order to hold on to his hefty dividend. And in order to make up, the company had to build very quickly, thus forcing him into a predictable action pattern. Another player broke into a company I owned, and invested heavily to do so, so I let him, and turned into a leech. He used all of his actions extending that company: fine with me. And player three made the mistake of extending companies in which he had a minority share: he shortened the game by doing so (great), but of course his financial position suffered in a relative sense. In the end the game went on longer than I wanted, but the problem was that I couldn't actually hasten it myself because it would require investments in stock which would not yield a healthy ROI (or so I thought). This turned out to be a double-edged sword, and made me realise I should have purchased a share in company of the heavy dividend player, even though it'd have cost me. The point is, I realised, that you can use minority shares as a weapon too, but it is a precarious balancing act because you must be careful that you don't let others catch up too much with respect to cash position. Something for the next game! As luck would have it my own singular company never attracted the attention of the other players, which was silly because it generated a lot of cash for me, and me only. But since I'd been hogging the auction share-action, the others left it alone because they felt the ROI wouldn't be sufficient.

In the end, it turned out I had eeked out a victory by just under $10. I was satisfied in that I had, in my opinion, played wisely, although I'll be the first to admit it wasn't only my skill which saw me win: I made mistakes, and profited from lucky breaks. But even if I hadn't won: this was the first game in a string of CE-like episodes in which I had an idea of what I was doing and what needed to be done, and that made it a pleasant experience for me.

During the post mortem the owner wondered out loud whether American Rails was a game for him. He could immediately see that it was a good game—and he'd be right. There is a lot of interplay here where blatant investment needn't be the wisest course of action. He just wasn't sure he would grow to like it, because it required repeat plays (also correct), and he didn't know what the game would be like if all players had an idea of what they were doing. This in turn made me wonder how Steel Driver would stack up because it does something similar: players must put a value on the future options of a company; only in SD the big payout is just one single time so the ROI calculation is much messier.

Quantum (4P) — Next we played one of my new games: Quantum. The rules went over pretty easily, but it was hard for the n00bs to wrap their heads around the abilities the ships had, and make effective combos out of these. Initially everyone stayed in their own little corner, but as the need for having access to those few planets bit more and more on everyone's ass, heavy combat began to ensue. Here I made a rules error (messing up the special ability of the 1-ship) but this wasn't too disastrous, and everyone was having fun irrespective of the special ability. Everyone made good use of cards, and in the end someone won with a sneaky swap thanks to a 3-ship. Immediately everyone recognised the value of such a vessel if it was parked far from enemy lines, so it'll be fun to find out what happens during the next game. People did remark that although it was all a fairly random business, the speed and ease with which you could transform your fleet was rather fun which made you forget the combat rolls.
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11. Board Game: Madeira [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:324]
John Bandettini
United Kingdom
London
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I managed three gaming sessions last week. Two visits to London on Board and a brief visit to Isleworth Board Gamers

11th November at LoB.

Just the one game played and it was Madeira. Trying to entice (or maybe frighten off) I had mentioned on our meetup page that I felt that complexity wise it was on a par with Terra Mystica. Having now played it, I still think that.

It might sound a little strange to say about a game I chose to buy, but I enjoyed the game more than I thought I would. As I can’t manage to get to Essen, for the last couple of years I have popped up to Leisure Games on the last Sunday of the show and they have got in some of the games.

In the past this has meant some quite difficult choices as they have had more games I wanted than I could afford. This year though I thought they bought back a pretty poor selection. I was expecting to buy at least four or five games instead I struggled to get two. I got Madeira and Rokoko, but neither was particularly high on my wants list, more the pick of a bad bunch.

So I was a bit apprehensive of my second Portuguese designed game (the awful Vinhos being the first). But it all actually hangs together well and plays well. It’s not as smooth as Terra Mystica, but once we started playing what looked like a lot of disparate rules started to come together as a reasonable cohesive whole game.

I did make a couple of rules mistakes (Stop smirking Martin) and so the same four players are going to play it again next week. I just hope the Polish guy stops moaning about it being too random as the characters move around the board each turn. I don’t consider having to adapt to a slightly different board configuration each turn random, I call it interesting.

I like it but it is heavy and it is long and it’s not as good as Terra Mystica so I can’t see me playing it that many times.

12th November at Lob

A second go at Concordia and it looks like it might be another game that I am wildly inconsistent at. I won my first game and came fifth on my second. It now seems to be just about the only Essen game I have not read any bad comments about.

Had my second game of Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends after wards. One of the players hated it, the others thought it was OK. It is a rather bland game considering it’s a Vlaada game. The art on the cards is very good but overall it’s a so so game.

13th November at Isleworth Board Gamers

I don’t get to IBG very often now as they only meet on Wednesdays and Wednesday is usually Dad’s taxi day. No Taxi duty though meant I could drop off a game I had sold to someone there. And of course while I was there it would be rude not to play a game.

First up was Blueprints. Each player gets a Blueprint each round (There are three rounds) and tries to build the construction on there blueprint using up to 6 dice.

The dice come in different colours and all score differently. You can only put a die on top of another one if it has a higher value.

Players take it in turns to choose a dice from a selection of seven dice, and after choosing take a new dice and roll it and add it to available dice.

After everyone has had the opportunity to take six dice, the round ends and building are revealed (you build behind shields) and then dice are scored. You don’t have to build what is on the blueprints but you score 6 points if you do. Cards are given to the three highest scoring players. (Gold, Silver, Bronze).

VPs come from cards you earn not the points your builds earn. Each round there are also a number of bonus cards available, for having four dice with the same number, five dice with consecutive numbers, five dice the same colour etc.

I liked the game a lot. Going into the last round I had a one point lead. When I removed my shield to show a completed building with six green dice, it was all over.

We then played Donburiko, which lots of people are raving about. I have no idea why as it’s yet another crap Japanese game. On your turn you either play a card or pick up a pile. (A bit like Coloretto). Cards can be played either face up or face down. When you pick up a pile you are trying to get cards that total 6 or as near to as possible, but less. 6 or less you gain points, more than six you loose points.

I played one card all game and that was because I was first player. The thing is on pretty much every round someone tried to ‘sneak’ a six around the table. (Play a card face down that combined with the face up card came to six) I just tried to work out each round who was trying that. I got it right three out of four times.


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