Games played at my first Lobster Trap
Geki
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Over this weekend I attended Lobster Trap, which constituted a wonderful occasion to play a ton of games, meet some new people (although I am terrible at networking, even in gaming, thus I did not get any personal contact) and spend some time with friends from the local gaming group.

I was able to attend due to the zealous kindness of
Adam Smiles
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Dedham
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The ratio of people to cake is too big.
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Jack Francisco
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without whom all of this would not have happened, for me at least.

The convention is actually still going on, but I had to come back yesterday night, full of excitement and new experiences.

Some of the games are recent hotness, some were classics, some were new only to me. So here we go.
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1. Board Game: Rise of Augustus [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:845]
Geki
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On Thursday, after getting stuck in the traffic, I arrived at the Con at 9.50, missing the first sitting of games.

While I was looking around quite disoriented (the environment being pleasantly informal and event-free - it's a gaming convention, after all), I noticed another gamer wandering around, Dave. We barely had time to properly introduce ourself when we were co-opted by the super friendly and super active (and super tall, but that just made it easier to spot him) Evan, who introduced us to Augustus.

I had no great expectations, since it is often referred to as "gamers bingo" and indeed the basic mechanism is the same.

Nonetheless, the special abilities of the cards, the points for various combinations and, most importantly, the skewed distribution of symbols made for some interesting choices, thus making the game a super fast but still interesting game.

Dave won with 65 points, with me at 61 and Evan at 55.
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2. Board Game: Trains and Stations [Average Rating:5.86 Overall Rank:5378]
Geki
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We were then joined by Dustin and when asked what we wanted to play next, I told him, Dave and Evan that anything was good, but Train games.

How we ended up playing this then, you will ask.

Well, Trains and Stations is not a "Train game" with stocks, competition about tracks and overly complicated spreadsheet like mechanisms.

It's instead, as Evan quickly pointed out, a train version of Quarriors!.

Actually, I liked this far better than Quarriors, but I still doubt it would have a long run with any group. The choices you can make are extremely limited, rerolling dice is risky, the consequences for rolling badly are drastic and apparently (judging from this sole game, mind you) some of the routes are far better than others.

Still, I had fun, but I am not sure I would like to play this again, if something else was around.

And being submerged in cows (or pickaxes as happened to Evan) seems to be quite useless.

Geki 43, Dustin 41, Evan 38, Dave 27
 
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3. Board Game: Nations [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:110]
Geki
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I had heard so much about this that, when I saw a group getting ready to learn it, I could not pass the occasion to join them.

Kevin did a good job explaining the rules and we started with the full mode (individual boards with different starting position and all the cards).

Kevin decided to adopt a military strategy and was snatching colonies (permanent strong bonuses you need a bunch of military for), while Scott was only focusing on the raiding part (one shot cards with military requirements and an easy way to get resources) while I was building a money engine and Dave was... what were you doing, dave? A little bit of everything, I reckon.

The game had to be call short after 80 minutes since Kevin was starving, but we were almost midway, so it did not look as a 4+ hour game.

I really liked it, but asking around I was probably the only one at Lobster Con who liked this better than Through the Ages.

Scores calculated at the premature end were Geki 23, Dave and Kevin 17, Scott 14.
 
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4. Board Game: Bruges [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:217]
Geki
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Around 2 pm I joined a game of Bruges. I am a fan of Feld, but I am not an "up-to-date" gamer, so I had not tried any of his 2013 releases.

Nate explained it clearly and fast, so we were soon playing. It was a blast.

Although I find it a little less refined compared to Macao and Burgundy (and even Bora Bora), given to the multitude of effects on cards, the variability made for a very original game (though still distinctly Feldian, with the necessity to keep an eye on everything and the punishing calamities).

I decided to opt for the risky strategy of not containing the threat tokens (but the purple ones), which allowed me to snatch all majorities early on and bring out an amazing amount of people and houses (11, I believe), thanks in particularly to a card allowing me to get more workers and another doubling the effects of my one shot cards.

Geki 67, Nate 46, William 43, Mike 44
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5. Board Game: Fleet [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:772]
Geki
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I joined a game of Fleet just when they were done with the rules and ready to start. Luckily, I had played this before.

The game went a little long, and Shrey won the game with a huge amount of fish (he had 8 or 9 captained boats) with 79, while I came in second at 74 with a license-heavy strategy.

I must say I had enjoyed fleet more the first time I played it. It felt too repetitive, I was doing exactly the same things over and over again.

It left a sour taste in my mouth, although I enjoyed meeting Shrey, Dan and Jim.
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6. Board Game: Las Vegas [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:480]
Geki
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It was 4.45 pm and both myself and
John Flood
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had to leave before six, so Linda proposed a game of Las Vegas. Explaining the rules was a 5 minutes affair and we started playing immediately.

The game is fast, silly and very fun. You constantly ruin other people's plans just for the sake of it (like Linda did), there is a lot of whining (me and John) and efforts to divert attention (scott).

I did poorly in the first two rounds (out of four) but this allowed me to snatch some very good deals while the others were pounding on Scott, thus allowing me to come back and win.

I had then to go back to Boston for a lecture, and was thus forced to call it a night.

Geki 370k, Scott 310k, John 330k, Linda 260k
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7. Board Game: Prosperity [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:1629]
Geki
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When I entered the gaming hall on Friday morning, there was already some gaming going on, but not that much. I joined three friendly gamers and we started a game of Prosperity (which I would later discover to be a Knizia game), with Reiner (no, not THAT reiner), Ron and David.

Prosperity is a nice fast game (an hour or so) about running a country balancing industrial and ecological needs. It has a very original blend of mechanics, although nothing groundbreaking. You buy buildings from a constantly increasing offer, while trying to time your developments in time for the next "check", since positive and negative effects of buildings are not activated immediately, but only once every 5-turns or so, depending on the specific effect and on a random tile drawing. Thus, if you are good at money and bad at ecology, you really want the money to activate first, in order to fix your pollution before it gets activated.

The graphic design is sim-city like, which I do not particularly appreciate, and the score track is among the worst I have ever seen (although apparently Capitol is worse, they tell me).

Research (allowing you to buy things cheaper) was determinant to my game and allowed me the win.

Geki 38, David 31, Reiner 30, Ron 20
 
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8. Board Game: Rattus Cartus [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:3335]
Geki
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Jack Francisco
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was finally in the house, so I had to play a game with him, to breath some fresh, familiar air of Cheating!

We joined
Steven Bass
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Jake and Matthew for a game of Rattus Cartus.

We made fun of Matthew for weirdly explaining the rules, but I must confess that reading them was a weird experience indeed.

Card advantage appears to be a dominant strategy, but I enjoyed the game. I suspect that playing the "advanced" version with more special cards would greatly improve it, but it still is a fun combination of auctions (to win cards and gain priority on tracks) and risk management (with the increasing number of Rats which can cause your demise).

Geki 27, Steve 21, Jack 10, Matthew and Jake were devoured by rats...
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9. Board Game: 23 [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:3749]
Geki
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I joined Ron, Reiner and David again. Since I only claim veto power on games I dislike, I did not propose anything, so we played a couple of super fast games of 23.

Ron likes it better than No Thanks, I disagree, but it is still fun.

You're trying to get rid of all your cards while playing into a common pool. You can only play a card which is equal or 1 greater than the previous, though, unless you want to get negative points. Easy, quick, fun.

Geki Ron David Reiner
7 1 -11 -10
2 -16 -2 -4
 
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10. Board Game: Alea Iacta Est [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:1367]
Geki
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Another fast game (although not AS fast as 23) followed, and I got to learn Alea Iacta Est.

I liked it quite a bit, it had some similarities to Las Vegas, but build a game on top of the mechanism. I went for a province-heavy strategy, that did not pay out. David won accumulating Horns of Plenty and gathering all the citizens he needed in the last round, when everyone else was focusing on something else.

David 46, Ron 41, Geki 39, Reiner 31
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11. Board Game: Amerigo [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:302]
Geki
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It was time for one more Feld.

I did not particularly like this one, but it is a well thought game. I think the spacial dimension introduced by the islands does not fit well into the Feldian "a little bit of everything" since building and planning become useless without navigation, which gets priority.

The cannons, as well, feel quite boring. You simply must gather them, when you can. Boring.

On top of that, I don't like the cube tower.

Still, I had fun, due mainly to the players, more than the game.

Mark 120, Wystan 116, Geki 105, Kreig 92
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12. Board Game: Shadows over the Empire [Average Rating:6.00 Overall Rank:5121]
Geki
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I discovered this game shortly before Lobster Con, so my wait was short.

Luckily, the game was short as well.

It felt totally bland, with everyone activating everything every round, very limited choices and worst of all the possibility for a player to be almost immediately extremely limited in his options as happened to Felix. Both him and Aaron claimed the game to be broken, I don't know if it is, I certainly don't want to play it again.

The art was phenomenal, though, thus I will gladly look into Archon: Glory & Machination, which I understand being set in the same universe/country.

Aaron won easily against Felix and me.
 
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13. Board Game: Infamy [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:3108]
Geki
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I joined John and his daughter Jillian for a game of this newly received Kickstarter game. Ben joined us for this game with a cool cyberpunkish setting, with Drug dealers, Technological Corporations and young rebels competing for the control of Mars.

Unfortunately, the game was a failure. After a uselessly complicated auction phase, you selected a "sector" (out of 5 available) to take actions in, so you wanted to avoid the sector chosen by people coming before you in turn order. Unfortunately, this often resolved in a random affair, with a lot of hoping and very little planning possible, since everyone needed a little bit of everything.

The victory conditions (sudden win when someone gains total control -level 5- over one faction or when someone become absolutely infamous with 15 infamy points) were very cool and probably the only thing that saved it from being a horrible experience, for me, since the tension stayed high all the way through.

I won with control over the Drug Cartel, although slightly different circumstances could have helped Ben win instead with control of the Rebel Militia.
 
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14. Board Game: Chronicle [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:1462]
Geki
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John, Jillian, and I engaged what was probably the longest game of chronicle ever, since we had dinner at the same time

They were ahead in points, but then I was able to pull the 4-evil for 2 points and win the game.

I know chronicle is not deep or balanced, but I find it fun, all the times.
 
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15. Board Game: Bruges [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:217]
Geki
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With our bellies full of food, but our metaphorical mouths still disturbed by the aftertaste of Infamy, I taught John and Jillian Bruges, with a tight game ensuing.

I liked it again, got to see some more cards and overestimated my possibility of getting money.

John focused on endgame points, but what gave him the win was ultimately planning for and hiring the guy who lets you win majorities on ties.

John 45, Geki 43, Jillian 42
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16. Board Game: Courtier [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:2246]
Geki
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Evan (I started to see people I had played with everywhere, which made for an incredibly friendly environment) invited me to join him and Matthew for a game, and I ended up teaching them courtier.

Evan did not particularly like the tactical nature of it, while I think he appreciated the mechanism of the shifting control over the different factions.

Matthew was less vocal, but I had the impression he liked the game ok.

I like Courtier, especially when played fast and lightly as we did.

Geki 51, Evan 21, Matthew 23
 
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17. Board Game: Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:492]
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This game was ruined unwillingly by your truly.

The game is marked at 30 minutes length, and after playing for a hour and a half I had to go, it was almost midnight and the friend I was staying at was ready to go to sleep. My deepest apologies to the 3 players (Bryan, Dan and Ian, if I am not mistaken) involved.

I liked the principle of the game, but I will need to play some more before having an opinion of it.
 
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18. Board Game: Macao [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:265]
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Few things in the world are more pleasant than walking into a game hall at 8 in the morning on a Saturday and being invited to not only to assist at, but even take part in a match of the World Macao Championship, between who else if not

Jack Francisco
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and

bob cranshaw
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Bob got a money engine running soon, which caused Jack to whine uninterruptedly throughout the game.

I focused on delivering goods and building buildings, while Jack was doing some shenanigans. I misremembered the value of districts, and this almost gave me a surprise victory

In the end, Bob managed to snatch the win at 111, but we came close at 109 (me) and 102 (Jack).

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19. Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:38]
Geki
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We were joined by John to play Tzolkin and I tried a no-skulls strategy, but a crucial mistake (I wasted a pawn, not being able to build/advance anything) gave Bob the victory once more.

Once again, Jack cried us a river, but then scored a whole bunch of points with the corn-monument, coming far closer than expected.


We opted to leave out the expansions, so I have no direct experience of it, but it does not look interesting, since from a superficial reading the tribe powers could end up railroading one's strategy.

Final scores were Bob 81, Geki 74, Jack 69, John 30.
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20. Board Game: Glen More [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:282]
Geki
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While I was wandering around without a goal in life, eyeing a bunch of games but staying out of Dungeon Lords (which I like, but which feels too long with the expansion), I was lucky enough to find Marsha, who was keen on explaining me Glen More, which I had heard of, but never played before.

I am generally not a fan of tile laying games, but the selection track and the activation system made for an enjoyable experience and I really appreciated this design.

Geki 97, Marsha 35
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21. Board Game: Glass Road [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:227]
Geki
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Marsha and Scott taught me and Mike Glassroad, which turned out to be my favourite Rosenberg. No big deal, though, since I don't particularly like Le Havre, I have never tried Ora et Labora and I am only mildly thrilled when I play Agricola.

Glassroad is less serious than those, with a serious amount of luck camouflaged as clever outguessing your opponents.

But with 5 cards out of 12 or so, and 4 persons picking them, it appears to be almost impossible to really outguess others, and you end up "outlucking" them, in the best scenario.

There is some strategy in the building options and the brick/glass boards are very clever.

Some of the building I got look overpowered, but after a single play this is probably more a shortcoming of mine then a flaw of the game.

I enjoyed it and it's not very long, so thumbs up!

Geki 25, Scott 21, Marsha 20, Mike 19
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22. Board Game: Relic Runners [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:1586]
Geki
United States
Providence
Rhode Island
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Marsha taught me and Karl to play this.

I got the gist of it quite quickly and the component looked superb (but for the explorers, ugly as sin), but the game did not click for me.

Thumbs down.

Geki 104, Karl 76, Marsha 42
 
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23. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:2336]
Geki
United States
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Rhode Island
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Bryan Johnson
United States
Salem
Massachusetts
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,

designer of Island Fortress, introduced me to his new design, Aviary, which is going to be published in a year or so.

Unfortunately, I forgot to ask if I could publicly comment on that, so I will refrain any further comment.

(Bryan, I hope this little note is appropriate, if it is not just let me know and I'll delete it)
 
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24. Board Game: Prosperity [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:1629]
Geki
United States
Providence
Rhode Island
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Finding open games was becoming harder, but Evan and Wystan were available, so I taught them Prosperity.

Evan tried a dangerous strategy, going full ecology and ignoring energy, It almost paid out, but the final scoring saw me coming from behind with a late surge in research.

Geki 36, Evan 35, Wystan 34, Corey 21
 
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25. Board Game: Snoopy Come Home [Average Rating:4.68 Unranked]
Geki
United States
Providence
Rhode Island
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I was not finding open games (but for an alluring BSG) and my lovely wife was waiting for me at home.

So I had to head home, and that was all.
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