GCL Phoenix 150 - Post-Essen, Pre-BGG Con
Mark Johnson
Canada
St.John's
Newfoundland
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“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done, the Dornishman’s taken my life, But what does it matter, for all men must die, and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!”
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1. Board Game: A Study in Emerald [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:673]
Mark Johnson
Canada
St.John's
Newfoundland
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“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done, the Dornishman’s taken my life, But what does it matter, for all men must die, and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!”
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For people that have had a chance to play some of the new Essen hotness:

1) What was your biggest surprise?

2) What was your biggest disappointment?

3) What was your favorite title?

4) Which Essen titles do you own and plan on keeping? Are there any games you didn't acquire that you plan on?
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2. Board Game: Lewis & Clark [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:159]
Mark Johnson
Canada
St.John's
Newfoundland
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“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done, the Dornishman’s taken my life, But what does it matter, for all men must die, and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!”
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For those that have just been watching videos and reading comments about Essen titles:

1) Are there any games that you were previously interested in, that have now diminished in your esteem?

2) What game were you not really interested in that you are now eager to try?

3) Do you have any Essen games on pre-order? If so, which ones?
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3. Board Game: One Night Ultimate Werewolf [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:320] [Average Rating:7.22 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
Canada
St.John's
Newfoundland
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“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done, the Dornishman’s taken my life, But what does it matter, for all men must die, and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!”
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BGG Con is coming next week...

1) Who's attending?

2) What Essen titles are you most looking forward to trying?

3) What non-Essen titles do you have planned to play or hope to play?
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4. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:76] [Average Rating:7.65 Unranked]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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Well, a little bit of gaming this week:

Monday night at Y!

1830 3p.

Me, Alex, JC.

I had 3 companies with 5/6/6 and would have been in great shape to double trains and pull out a D, but I got paged and sucked into a work issue.

Alex continues to be afraid of selling shares to buy a train out of pocket, which makes our games run rather long.

Friday night at Jeremy's

Dominion 3p., just the base set

Me, Jeremy, Greg.

I was surprised to find that just the base set can still be interesting.

Race for the Galaxy: The Brink of War 2p.

Just me and Jeremy. 2 hands with goals, and one without.

After 118 plays logged and more unlogged there's not much more to say about this, I'll just keep playing. :-)
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5. Board Game: Copycat [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:1341]
W M
United Kingdom
Rugby
Warwickshire
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_7.5_Copycat x3

It makes sense to replicate last week's headline game image . We played this another couple of times. The first game we played started late in the evening, we were both tired, making slow decisions, and as it got later we got slower and a little grouchy. While we finished the game it wasn't the best experience and S. felt rushed.

We were refreshed yesterday and gave it another go. This was much better, played very fast and my big money strategy vs S. who focussed upon extra actions and points, made for a tense race to the finish. I won by a small margin of 12 points on the last turn despite S. buying up both PhD cards. There was a bit of a disagreement early in the game when I used the double money card - S. had thought that as the victory point doubler only doubles the wooden chips, the money doubler would only double money on cards. The rules however show that it also doubles the money gained through board spaces. We disallowed this the turn I tried it first but S. reluctantly allowed me to double money thereafter. So this gave a marginally begrudged victory .

We rarely talk much about games following their playing but this sparked a discussion on what we thought about Copycat and to what it most closely relates. We both like it, more so after the third play and I think we'll play it again this week. While the Friedman has stated the game borrows from Agricola, Dominion and Through the Ages, the game it seems to resemble most is Saint Petersburg. While the implementation and mechanics are quite different it shares the same balancing act between the need to purchase money and victory point cards, combined with a similar ability to influence the game length through card purchase. The moving down card row also feels as much St Pete as it is Through the Ages. Copycat is perhaps more tactical with decisions based upon turn to turn best options rather than end game majorities. This for us, is a good thing in this type of game.

Waiting to see if this stands up to multiple plays. If we like a game we tend to play it exclusively for a while, getting quicker as we become more familiar, so this might see many more plays over the coming weeks.


_10_ Magic the gathering x6

Made it to Friday Night Magic again and my tweaked Red/Blue control went 3-1 to come fourth overall. I beat Black/Green dredge, Black/White devotion, and Blue/Green devotion losing only to mono-black control (probably my worst match-up). All of these were 'serious' decks and I learnt quite a lot. I still don't think Red/Blue is competitive enough to be standard viable outside of FNM but I'm having fun with it and I hope a few minor changes to the sideboard will help against mono-black.

Just to look in detail at one card in my deck: Steam Augury - (a red/blue instant that lets you draw five cards and split them into two piles, with the opponent deciding which one you draw) is really interesting to play with and against. It is still under debate as a tournament level card (and much less preferred than its foreshadow Fact or Fiction - in which your opponent splits the piles and you decide) but I think it is very powerful, leading to bluff and mind games.

In two games I split the five cards with an Aetherling (a near indestructible, unblock-able creature) in one pile and four spells in the other, and both times I was handed the four cards. Drawing four cards at the end of your opponent's turn is often game-winning. The opponent though fears the Aetherling and doesn't know that I play three other finishers (creatures with evasion capable of winning the game for me), seeing the removal of perhaps a singular Aetherling from my deck as worth the disadvantage of handing me four cards - more so because of my feigned desperation for the card. For more on Steam Augury decisions see http://www.starcitygames.com/article/27023_Between-Love-Hate....


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6. Board Game: Concordia [Average Rating:8.10 Overall Rank:19]
Mark Johnson
Canada
St.John's
Newfoundland
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“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done, the Dornishman’s taken my life, But what does it matter, for all men must die, and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!”
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Played Games from 4 Nov through 17 Nov 2013

Digital plays:

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer (33)


Face-to-Face plays:

Concordia (2)
Koryŏ (2)
Caverna: The Cave Farmers (1)
Coup (1)
King of Tokyo + Expansion (1)
Pandemic + Expansions (1)
Seasons + Expansion (1)
Ticket to Ride: Europe (1)

---

Not much to say on the digital front. I guess there's some interesting news with Lords of Waterdeep on the horizon next week. Playing the physical game has been pleasant enough, but I don't think I'll want to pay full price for the game. I'll probably wait for it to go on sale because Playdek eventually does that with all of their titles.

So, over the weekend, I had a chance to play some of the Essen titles I've imported. I'll talk about Koryo first. Koryo kind of feels like an area majority micro-game but it can't really be classified as such because it has about 70 cards or so. I feel this way because I could explain the game extremely quickly and it probably plays in 15 to 20 minutes. I think it presents some interesting decisions for the quick time frame. Each card has a number (1-9) and each unique number has a special ability associated with it. Each unique numbered card has a number of cards in the deck equal to it's number. There are also 10 events included in the deck (6 of one type and 4 of another). The game is played over 8 rounds. Each round, the round card will tell you how many cards you draw and how many cards in your tableau you must discard down to at the end of the round. Cards drawn decrease each round and tableau limits increase. Each round is played like this: (1) draws cards equal to the number on the round card. (2) in turn order, each player plays face-down as many cards of the same type (events or non-events) that they would like. (3) in turn order, each player adds their face-down cards to their tableau and resolves any abilities they would like, in whatever order they choose. You may only resolve abilities of the 1-9 cards that you have the majority of. Each event card played is resolved regardless. (4) in turn order, each player discards down to their tableau limit if they exceed the amount. If you have any events in your tableau, you may not choose to discard these cards. Then, the 1st player token is passed to the next player.

All cards in players hands and discarded from tableau (due to limits/events) are shuffled back into the deck from round-to-round. At the end of the 8 rounds there is final scoring. Any 1-9 cards you have in your tableau you have majority in, provides VP equal to it's number. Each event provides -1 VP. Each VP coin you have is worth 1 VP. The player with the most VP is the winner. Here are the card powers:

(1) Breaks majority in this players favor only for card powers, not end of game scoring.
(2) Steal a VP coin from a player and Become immune to the swap event IF you have no 7's in your tableau
(3) +2 to Tableau Size
(4) Discard an event from your tableau
(5) During the play card phase, instead of placing as many cards of 1 type you may instead place exactly two cards of two different types
(6) Take a VP coin
(7) Become immune to the character killing event
(8) Draw an extra card during the draw phase
(9) No ability (but worth 9 points at the end if you have majority)
-Kill Event: Choose a character of a player not protected by the majority of 7's and kill it. That's a single character, no all characters of the same number. There are 6 copies.
-Swap Event: Choose two characters between two different players that are not protected by the 2 and swap those characters. That's a single character, no all characters of the same number. There are 4 copies.

I consider this to be pretty fun and some interesting decisions despite being so quick. I also haven't decided whether I like being first or not... if you go first your face-down cards will be in play first which could mean temporary majority in a number. On the other hand, if you're late in turn order, you're face down cards can't be targeted by events. Also, reducing your tableau is done in order, so being later in turn order means you can react to what others do. It's not an amazing game but definitely a solid filler with a micro-game sort of feel.

---

A lot has been said about Concordia, so I'll just add a few quick thoughts and opinions. I thought it was a solid game, with really easy rules for teaching. It seems like it would be good regardless of whether you play from 3 - 5. Two may even be decent but I would just rather play one of my other two player games. I find there to be a lot of indirect interaction in this one: taking cards from the display that others want, jockying to end the game for bonus points, trying to build in places before your opponents so they have to pay more to build in the same city, trying to build in regions where your opponents are so when they produce so you will get something out of it, and of course paying attention to what others have played so you can diplomat appropriate cards. I like that the only scoring is done at the end of the game, so it's kind of hard to tell who's winning. One would think that a game with cards would have great replay value, but there is very little randomness to the cards. You use the same cards based on the number of players, it's just the order they come out in the display (which technically could change things up). While it's a solid game, I worry that it will feel very samey after 5 - 7 games, so it may not be long for my collection. That said, this game has replaced Macchu Pichu in my collection as I feel they do similar things and I'm unsure if I will keep enjoying Macchu Pichu's end game after repeated played. Concordia also has better graphic design... yes, even the cover!!

---

After playing Ora et Labora and hearing about Caverna I kept wondering if Le Havre : Ora et Labora :: Agricola : Caverna. For me, it's true. Caverna would completely replace Agricola in my collection if I owned it. The biggest thing for me is that there is just a lot of good options to take, even if you get blocked from your ideal choice. The expedition is perhaps the most interesting addition to the game. Getting different resources from a single action space is not that interesting, but how your arm your dwarves, how they level and the fact that lower-level dwarves have to be placed before higher level ones is really interesting. It's also great that it's a lot easier to feed your family and the scoring differences mean you don't have to diversify if you don't want to.

It's not all sunshine and lollipops though... I still don't like that people can have uneven number of workers. They've partially addressed this in that it's easier to build rooms for extra people and there are more action spaces that will grow your family. I like that there is a lot of building available, but I don't like how they're all available right from the get-go... it reminds me that I dislike a lot of front-loaded decisions like a set of 10 cards in dominion. Even worse is the fact that there is no player-aid for people sitting further away from the buildings. After the lovely resource wheel of OeL, it's tiresome to go back to filling all of the action spaces each round. Speaking of resources, I find it weird that there are so many bloody components, but we almost ran out of stone and wood multiple times throughout the game and we only played a 4-player game. Granted, we didn't use the multipliers but I think you would definitely need to when playing with more than 4. This game is a beast to set up. So, while I think Caverna is a solid title and an amzing improvement over Agricola, I'm not going to keep it in my collection. I would rather play OeL. I have already sold it and it has funded my purchase of God's Playground... a good choice?

---

So, I played some of the usual suspects over the weekend: Seasons and Pandemic. Seasons was a pretty crushing defeat for me, but I always enjoy playing it. Speaking of Seasons, there is a video that actually spoiled about 5 of the 20 new cards of the new 'Paths of Destiny' expansion. I can safely say that I can't wait for Paths of Destiny. In Pandemic, my friend and I played the Worldwide Panic Mutation scenario and lost. I have never beaten this scenario yet and wonder if it's perhaps more challenging than the Lab challenge.

I also played 3 games with the lighter games group. First up was Coup. I had sold my copy a while back, but I actually had a fair bit of fun and wonder if I had made a mistake giving my 1st edition copy away (especially since there is a expansion for it released). Well, I did kickstart the Resistance version which looks pretty decent and has the new Inquisitor role. I'm sure they will eventually come out with the expansion for that one too so no big deal. In fact, I think I'm going to axe Avalon and actually keep Coup when it arrives. We also played King of Tokyo. It was my first time playing with the Power-Up expansion which made it more interesting. That said, I don't regret getting rid of King of Tokyo. The final game we played was Ticket to Ride: Europe. I liked it it, but not enough to own it or any of the other versions. I ended up having the longest route and won.

---

In Other News...

Well, I had a fairly large Feld culling recently. I sold: Trajan, Bruges and Notre Dame. Notre Dame is a relatively quick strategy game, but there are other games I would rather play and I had to sell it while it's between print runs. I enjoyed Trajan but I don't feels it has long term replay value and think it would feel samey after 5 plays. Also a friend owns this one if I feel like playing it again. I like Bruges and it has replay value, but the scoring is way more tight than I prefer in my games.

I've also sold all of the Sentinels of the Multiverse stuff I currently own. I like it, but the overhead of things to track and recalculate is downright bothersome. I didn't include the remainder of the kickstarter that will be shipped in Feb: Sentinels of the Multiverse: Vengeance. I'll probably give that a try before selling it. I am greatly looking forward to when Sentinels is released on iOS and everything is tracked digitally by the iPad.

Here's what I have coming in the mail:

-Sentinels of the Multiverse: Vengeance
-Pixel Tactics/Pixel Tactics 2 (well, the arrived in St.John's, but I won't be there until Dec)
-God's Playground (Selling Caverna got me this one... a good 'trade,' and if I don't like it, I'll sell it towards something else)
-Coup (probably going to actually keep this one after all)
-Haggis (Wanted to have a more 'traditional' style card game that plays with two, so I kickstarted it)
-Rococo (Won this from a BGG contest... who knows when this one will arrive, but I'm glad to try it for free).

So, I've been toiling at school and it's going excellent so far! Even better, I have found out that my transfer request has been accepted and I will be moving back to St.John's in December for school. Yay! Well, kind of yay... I hope my school work doesn't suffer with having access to my gaming buddies.
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7. Board Game: Bruges [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:217]
Bryan Maxwell
United States
Burtchville
Michigan
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Age of Renaissance x 1

This long, sprawling 90's Avalon Hill empire game isn't my cup of tea. It's too long and the cards are too swingy. We played 1 of the game's 3 epochs last week. Some of the guys want to play it again this week.

Ugh.

Viticulture x 1

We had a 3-player game of this on Friday morning. It's definitely looser with 3. My wife likes this one a little more than I do. For me, it's more of the "Let's play this a few times per year" than "Let's play this a few times per month".

Bruges x 1


Good, tight 3-player game came down to a money tiebreaker - 47/2, 47/0, 45. My wife feels about Bruges the way I feel about Viticulture.

Magnate x 1

The wife and I sat down for a little gaming this afternoon while Levi napped. We started with this old favorite. I won handily.

Plato 3000 x 2


We then played a couple of games of Plato. I know my wife was off her game today, as I won both plays.



I survived my presentation in Developmental Psych class the other day. I'm struggling a bit to get my head around the math we're doing now (various means of factoring). Once I understand it logically in my head I do great, but simply following steps to get an answer without really understanding it frustrates the heck out of me.

Gaming-wise, it's been kind of crappy lately. The Wednesday nights have been compromising due to player count or differing tastes. I realize that some of you don't have any regular gaming groups to complain about, so this makes me kind of a dildo. I just want to play Tammany Hall, dammit.
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8. Board Game: Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small – Even More Buildings Big and Small [Average Rating:7.78 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.78 Unranked]
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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We always have time for the things we put first.
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Sunday
The City
Simply Catan
Bazaar
Paradise Fallen x3 - new

Wednesday
The City
Paradise Fallen x2

Thursday
Khmer - new

Saturday
The City x3
Khmer
All Creatures Big and Small with 2nd expansion - new
Suburbia


Last night I opened a second birthday present, the second expansion for All Creatures... and we played that. I got an early lead on horses, which was my main source of points. In the last round, I had enough wood to build a feeding trough on each of the 3 squares of my second expansion strip, but Sam got to the spot first, and he ended up winning.

In Suburbia, Sam played a very yellow strategy, which was good for me, because my secret goal was fewest yellows. I played a very green strategy, as well as several blue buildings that built up my income. The public goals were most green and lowest reputation, both of which I got. Sam got his private goal of fewest lakes (I had 2, he had one, he said at the end he was worried about it for a while when we each had one).
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9. Board Game: Flash Point: Fire Rescue [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:279]
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
Ebeltoft
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Games Played Week 46:
A slower week, V. is feeling the pressure on her thesis...

Monday with V.:
1x _8.0_ Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy
We were given the same patron cards as previous game, so we drew new ones. Potential for long-term fun? Could be a hindrance, though time will tell. We seem to be getting about 1/3 of our points from the patron cards so you cannot ignore them.

It clocks in at 60 minutes and I think we will have a hard time getting that down much, still V. loves it.

Thursday gaming at Uni:
I introduced Ugg-Tect and while the 3 of us were eating lunch, the other 2 played a game or two. It was amazing fun, tears rolled.

1x _6.8_ Flash Point: Fire Rescue
It had been a looooooong time since our last play, yet I seem to keep collecting expansions for this game. I am not sure how people thought of the game. Perhaps the family game is too easy? One or two seemed to enjoy the heroic nature of the game and there was some "trash-talk".

We then had to cut the afternoon short as there was an election debate people wanted to attend.

Saturday with M.:
1x _7.8_ King of Tokyo w/ Power Up!
Really doesn't work that well with just 2 players...

2x _6.0_ By Golly!
M. loves this game, he is super awesome at the memory aspect of the game, which is the game. That makes all the more proud to say I won the second game...

The Week in Review:
V. working on her thesis. I had a couple of engagements in Aarhus and even managed to catch a movie on Saturday when the kids had sleep-overs elsewere and V. was working - La Grande Bellezza - I LOVED it.

The Week Ahead:
More work for V. and more time for me to delve into Uni and all it entails. We will make time for the kids too, in fact that is and has always been our priority when they are with us.

I hope we can sit down and play a game or two tomorrow afternoon.
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10. Board Game: Princes of the Renaissance [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:676]
Daniel Kenel
United States
New London
Iowa
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My family was lucky to host Jon and his daughter for a fun filled weekend. We had a ton of fun and of course gamed a lot. Instead of filling up this header with all the details, I'll just post the plays and details in the comments below.
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11. Board Game: Sail to India [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1272]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 16Nov2013:

8/36/395 plays of 8/26/183 total games, with 4/4/39 expansions employed.
Plays with 7/16/95 distinct opponents.

2/3/31 games acquired (plus 0/2/16 expansions.) - Re-acquired Empires of the Ancient World and Sail to India appeared on my desk.
0/0/14 games ordered (plus 0/0/5 expansions.)

With friend Dave:
1x _7.3_ Amyitis (38 months dusty) - I had a vague memory that an early Banker-2 advance would be useful. So, in this game, I pushed for it very quickly. It paid back handsomely - to the degree that the two of us wondered a bit at its power level relative to the rest of the game. I think we convinced ourselves that it's not (completely) overpowered: but also that it requires the opponent(s) to take steps to shorten the game so as not to heighten its power. In any event, this wasn't quite as cool as my memory of the game: I think I've now added it to the trade-or-sell list.

With my family:
1x _6.7_ 7 Wonders (with Cities, Leaders and Louis) - Again, not nearly my favourite. But my two youngsters (with whom this play was executed) enjoy it. I went with a totally non-canonical (for me, at least) all-blue collection this time; and managed a win on the strength of Rome and more leaders than I normally get to look at.
1x _7.3_ Ligretto - Again my younger two. I'm logging this as Ligretto rather than Dutch Blitz because we happened to use the Ligretto cards. (I admit to being perplexed about the DB split there: they're "the same" game, as far as I can tell.)
1x _7.7_ Starship Merchants - This was with son #2: and it was really quite nice with 2. Fast; sensible; interesting non-trivial decisions. In contrast, my previous play (with 4) took rather more time than it deserved, and it felt like many of the decisions were overshadowed by butterfly effects from other folks' decisions. I'm vaguely interested to give this a shot with 3: but if it proves to be one of those "don't play with 4" 2-4 player games (like Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization!) I think I can live with it happily. In any event: much much better (for me) with 2 than 4 players.
1x _7.7_ Rise of Empires (37 months dusty) - Again son #2. And, again, a game that plays very well with 2. In this case (more than the previous title, at least) surprisingly well with 2. I'd naively thought that this was one of those play-with-five titles where much of the game play comes from the interplayer tensions. Yet while it presents a totally different aesthetic when two are playing, the game worked (mechanically; engagingly; thematically) really very well.
1x _7.7_ Big Boggle - With son #2 and lovely wife. As expected, she demolished us. But the youngster and I did manage to win a round each; and, moreover, the youngster lost his three-letter-word privileges as a result of demonstrating Far Too Much Competence to be coddled with the kiddy rules. So a banner day: the whole family is now together on the Adult Rules (that is, a minimum of four letters in each word found.)

With the Wednesday Night guys:
1x _8_ Sail to India New! - Delightful. It's very cool. I don't think we played well (our winning score was 29!) but the constraints and flow of the game were really quite charming. I'd hoped to inflict it on the Friday Lunch gang - but ended up teaching classes all day Thursday and Friday and didn't have a lunch break for game playing as a result. Hopefully I'll get this back to the table again this week.
1x _7.7_ Age of Industry (on the USSR New! map) - It ain't Brass: Lancashire. But it's an engaging, tight, compelling game nonetheless. The USSR map was charming and thematically sound (more so than the default AoI maps, at least): my compliments to Claude Sirois for his excellent work there.

Owned-and-unplayed: 9 (+1/-1) - Sail to India appeared and was promptly played.

Outlook for the week: Hopefully more play with family; another shot at Sail to India; something Wednesday Night; and perhaps a game or two Friday noon. I've an unaccountable hankering for some Imperial or Imperial 2030; we'll see if one of those finds the table.
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12. Board Game: Cover to Cover [Average Rating:5.33 Unranked]
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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I'll be giving details for each game shortly, but for now, here's the dance card for my week.


At Home, Earlier in the Week:

The Palaces of Carrara x1
Mission: Red Planet x1 New!

At DJ’s Friday Night:

Xanadú x1
Machi Koro x1
Sail to India x1
Pax Porfiriana x1
Osaki ni Shitsurei Shima-su!! x1
The Palaces of Carrara x1

At DJ’s Saturday Morning:

Mythe x1
Machi Koro x1

At Iowa City Game Day, Saturday Afternoon and Evening:

Princes of the Renaissance x1 New!
One Night Werewolf x1
Kaispeicher x1
The Palaces of Carrara x1
Machi Koro x2
Patronize x1
Sail to India x1
The Palaces of Carrara x1

At DJ’s Sunday:

The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet x1
Innovation x1
Mythe x1
Gulo Gulo x1 New!
Giro Galoppo x1
Mai-Star x1

At Home Sunday Night:

Lost Legacy x3 New!
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13. Board Game: Yedo [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:510]
Lo
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

_7_ Bruges x1
_7_ Trains x1
_7_ Yedo x1


The Week in Review

Only three games this week and all with S. Just one play of Bruges as S surprised me with an omission that she liked the game even less than I. In spite of liking very random games like Ascension, she didn't like the randomness of the cards in this one. Go figure.

So rather than playing Bruges again this week, we switched to Trains. But the novelty has gone on this one and I'm thinking I might even prefer playing Ascension to get my quick, deck-building fix.

So Friday night, we played something a bit heavier. Yedo. Of the three games this week, it was the most memorable. As usual, S won. But only because she had recruited a house full of geisha.
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14. Board Game: Russian Railroads [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:71]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Last week's plays:

-10- Magic: the Gathering
|9| Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
-8- The Castles of Burgundy (+New Player Boards; 2nd Expansion)
-7- The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet
-6.5- Trajan
-6- Mice & Mystics New!
-6- Russian Railroads (x3) New!
? Ticket to Ride: Netherlands New!

A couple of Felds to fit in with last week's theme and a load of not-really train games.

I was looking forward to Russian Railroads as it read like the sort of thing I'd enjoy. However, I found our first two-player game underwhelming. With two, the Engineer majority subgame is weak and your potential to specialise is reduced because many of the action spaces are blocked off. It felt like you'd have to do a bit of everything and so there wouldn't be much variety between games. I was sad because I'd had such hopes for the game and agreed to give it another go later in the week when Kate suggested it. I think she liked it a lot more than me, so I reasoned it wasn't entirely a wasted purchase.

In the second game, we both picked a strategy each and went all out for that route, to see if it was viable. This time it was more fun - it played a lot quicker since we weren't having to refer to the rulebook and as a fast-paced game it worked well. We also figured out a few combos and little tricks you can pull off. It's still not going to be my choice with only two players but it did improve on replaying.

I took it along to the games club at the weekend and played a three-player game, which as I'd suspected played a lot better. I'm now looking forward to trying it with four. One thing we found with the three player game was that it took the new player some time to understand what was going on, during which time Kate and I had both kickstarted our engines and were way ahead. There really was no catching up for him, but he put in a valiant effort competing for the 40 point Engineer bonus and getting multiple endgame scoring cards to make up some of the deficit.

So, although I've rated it a 6 for now, there's potential for it to rise after a few good games with more players. I don't know how much replayability there is here - there don't seem to be too many paths to go down - but I'm intrigued by some small additions which suggest there may be more depth to discover. For example, a few of the scoring cards seem of distinctly marginal utility which has me wondering whether they're universally useless or instead subtle or situational. The card that counts as an extra Engineer could make for a sneaky gotcha at the last moment: your opponent thinks they've won that contest and you reveal your secret Engineer.

This week's new game that I'm really unsure about rating is the Netherlands map for Ticket to Ride. Although the box says it works for two players, and there are even special rules to add a neutral player into the game, it really failed with that number. The rulebook warned us the game would be "cut-throat" with the neutral trains, but it wasn't at all, it was random and annoying. The neutral player didn't get in our way but awarded Kate a few bonus points by chance. The new rules for bridges look like they'd be most suitable for more players. Briefly, the twist on this map is you have to spend bridge tokens from your supply whenever you build track, either paying them to the general supply or to your opponent if they have built on that section of track before you. There are large numbers of bonus points available for the player with the most bridge tokens remaining at the end of the game. The trouble is with two players, we were hardly ever exchanging tokens and the result is zero sum. With four players I can see this making for an interesting closed economy.

The other big change on this map is that tickets are worth a lot more than usual (probably to make up for you having to spend bridge tokens to build your track). So while it's often a bad sign when your opponent is repeatedly drawing new tickets, it's doubly so here when the tickets can be worth so much. I learned this the hard way, trying to find the last few cards I needed to complete one of my initial routes while Kate was plundering the ticket deck. She nearly lapped me in the final scoring. Something to remember for next time, but I can't see us bringing this out with less than three people in future.

More later...
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15. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:47]
Tom Shields
United States
Tacoma
Washington
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RftG x6

I learned the robot from The Gathering Storm this week, and it surprised me at being easier to pick up than I'd thought.

The first four, I won each one by exactly one point. Which was freaky. Then we each swapped blowouts. So I took 5 of 6.

I've always struggled with rating RftG, and more than any other game I could rate it from 5 to 10 really. Is this a game or a brilliant feedback mechanism? I'm still uncertain of the answer, but that doesn't deny it's brilliance.

I once played the keldon AI for about three weeks, my one & only obsessive computer game experience since the release of CivII. I became horrified & set it aside. Not that I'm any less susceptible to such flick mesmerism, face in a screen, as anyone. I just can't handle what this sort of thing does to my consciousness.

Anyway, it's been a few years since that now, but that defined what this game meant to me. Playing with the cards & the robot rather than the keldon AI, I got away from this being it's central question & enjoyed the pleasure of it's rapidly developed synergies and - pop! - those moments when their intricacies slide together into a full, interrelated tableau. Very cool! I'm looking forward to the orb release.
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16. Board Game: Steam [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:132]
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
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Games Played

.10! Hanabi 1
_8_ Kingdom Builder 1
_6_ Steam 1
_6_ Betrayal at House on the Hill 1

Week in Review

A quiet week for gaming, owing mostly to the interruption of judging a major Magic tournament over the weekend. This cut heavily into my time and energy, so little else happened.

Mid-week, I brought Steam to the table to compare it to the Age of Steam game from three days prior (as seen on last week's list). One player commented on the extreme power of the Urbanization option. That the new city brings with it three goods and that those goods are chosen from a variety of known options makes this far more dramatic an ability than the AoS equivalent. Although I agree it is probably overpowered, I resisted it through stubbornness. I won anyway, which I attribute to my recent play of AoS and the rest of the table having no real experience with the game.

In spite of JC's stipulation, I consider the entry of goods cubes onto the board to be the weak point of AoS and Steam both. AoS's option ends up being better I think, but I still wish there were some less random method. Steam is a good game, but probably not worth having over AoS. The simplifications do not measurably simplify the game, but only change it.

Sunday, I taught three games to people who hadn't played them, beginning with Kingdom Builder. I'm upping its rating at this point. This is a very good game that gets better with age for me (though I'm only 15 plays in). I recently acquired the second expansion but this was played with only base game components. It went over quite well.

Afterward I broke out Betrayal at House on the Hill by request and it went quite well. The traitor apparently bred a blob and it began expanding through the house at breakneck speed, engulfing all it touched. We were able to determine its weakness and find a few ingredients for what might kill it, but we lost the race and were absorbed into its oneness. I raised the rating of this game a point as well, realizing that this is the way to play the game: with light-hearted RPG fans rather than hardcore gamers. Min-maxed, the imbalances in this game make for boring endings; played as a story, it is much more fun.

I finished with a teaching game of Hanabi, which is always awesome of course.
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17. Board Game: Jet Set [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:2067]
Ben
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Ben
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Games Played:
A Study in Emerald (x2) New!
Glass Road (x2)
Mush! Mush! Snow Tails 2 (x2)
Yunnan (x2)
Wildcatters (x2)
Auf Teufel komm raus! New!
Bruxelles 1893
Café Melange New!
Caverna: The Cave Farmers
Citrus
Coal Baron
Field of Glory: The Card Game
Glory to Rome
Koryŏ New!
Letnisko New!
Patchistory
Poker
Steam Park
Strajk! Skok do wolności New!
Terra Mystica
Vanuatu


Gaming Notes:

This past weekend was LobsterTrap, an intimate invite-only gaming convention in Boston. It's always nice to get up there and see old friends while playing great games. I am still pretty massively sleep deprived, and I haven't really reached conclusions about a few of the games on the list. But I've had some great sessions and I hope to add a few more notes in the coming days. In the interim, feel free to ask me any questions that come to mind.


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