My Euro Quest 2013 Chronicle (enzo622)
Kurt R
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Below is a chronicle of my days and then my game comments for each. I’m recording some of the non-gaming details as a way of helping me remember all this years from now.

I only have a few pictures, so if you have any to share, please post them to the list. Those of us of a certain age realize how much of your own damn life you forget as you get older. I now understand the value of taking pictures and recording things.
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1. Board Game: Nations [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:95]
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WEDNESDAY NIGHT

My friend, Mark, and I drove down together in an extreme state of excitement. We both had volunteered to be part of the “new games library” and were demo’ing games. EQ has done a great job of sending a courier to Essen to bring back loads of new games, and I enjoy being part of the committee who decides the priority of which games to bring back. Through official library copies and personal on-loan copies, we had what I thought was a great selection, and everything except one game (Madeira) that I really wanted to try (not that I got them all in).

We dove into Nations since Mark wanted a test run before he demo'd. It started off quite interesting for me in terms of what cards to take and which path to go down, but it soon devolved and deflated into an experience that felt samey and uninspiring.

Quote:
This one didn't impress. I get what the design was going for in terms of the tension of the card display in TtA, but reducing the game to that one element removes far too much. Furthermore, if you're going to tilt the game this heavily towards the card drafting, then the cards need to be far, far more differentiated so at to provide different paths. A good counter-example is Lewis & Clark that I also recently tried; there, the cards offer very different benefits and ways to go about your business. The cards in Nations were very mild upgrades and differences from previous ones. I also recorded these notes after my play:

-- You aren't rewarded for going down any particular path b/c all new cards must be paid for in full, so even though you have a military unit, that new one will cost you the same it costs a player who has no military. This is a huge diff from TtA, of course, and the result is, ostensibly, the flexibility to buy any card at any time and shift gears easily. The price for that is any sense of investment in your "civilization."

-- New cards that you acquire go anywhere, so I covered up a Wall with a Cathedral with Something Else I Don't Recall. As per above, I think they valued streamlining the game at the expense of any fiddliness but also streamlined the richness IMO.

-- The game boils down to the card drafting part of Tta. That part is certainly a lot of fun, but when it's the entire experience over 3+ hours, it gets samey.

-- There still is a heavy emphasis on military here which I thought was what they wanted to nerf from TtA? Military cards got drafted first due to the ability to raid and colonize as well as the ability to stay in first place so you could take more military cards. Raids are very beneficial in game boons, and colonies score at game end without having to be manned.

I mean, there's even more of a military slant in this game than TtA. At least let the player last in military go first, for heaven's sake! On a positive note, the war mechanism is quite clever.

Not a horrible game, but the response it evoked in my friend and I was that the game was a missed opportunity. It could have been a quicker alternative to TtA when you don't have the time or don't want to go that deep. But it occupies that dreaded middle ground; may as well just play TtA with experienced players in roughly the same amount of time.

Now, in all fairness, we played with the suggested basic cards; maybe the advanced cards provide more differentiation, but even so I don’t see the point of picking this one up due to the overall same-ness of the experience and time footprint relative to TtA.
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2. Board Game: A Study in Emerald [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:593]
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THURSDAY

As Nations took all night, we retired for the evening. After brunch in the hotel the next morning, we dove into a 4P game of A Study in Emerald. It was a thrilling play with my friend, Mark, and I on the same “side”, but Mark had a card whereby he could potentially end the game (by killing a Restorationist agent). I had to target him as a bigger threat than the Restorationist players, so he and I went about leap-frogging each other while those pesky rebels ran around doing … whatever. Then we looked up and one of them won the game. We just had to laugh at each other.

Quote:
After two plays of the final version, here's my summary: Martin might have been taking batting practice with A Few Acres, but he hit a home run with Emerald.

Fantastic game in terms of tension, card play, and originality. As someone who's a bit jaded in the hobby after years of playing everything, finding a game that surprises and delights me is precious. It's like walking on a moving floor in a funhouse. You're trying to keep your balance but make progress all the while laughing at your friends and yourself and secretly hoping you don't sprain a knee.

The hook of the game is the way the game is split into secret teams, but only one player wins, and the player with the lowest score eliminates his entire team. So, you can't just rush out to victory without paying attention to what's going on with the other players.

The start of the game is informed by the secret roles, but the game is not predicated on them remaining secret. At some point, you have to reveal your intentions via the actions you take, and then the tensions shifts to who can end the game on their terms. It's an absolutely delicious experience with laughter, slick moves, and cursing.

The cards are wonderfully varied and come out differently (or not at all) each game such that every game should offer different ways to go about winning as well as tell a different story. Could very well be a 10 for me.

All that gushing aside, I don't think the game will appeal to everyone. I wrote this elsewhere on BGG: Hmm, I wasn't there so I can't speak to it, but that made me think of my game where it was 2 vs 2, and my "teammate" and I got to that point where we were trading points back and forth and then we realized by doing so, we were neglecting those pesky Restorationists who blew by us and ended the game via the Revolution track for the victory. We just had to laugh at each other. I can see people not liking that situation, but for me the fun is in trying to hold the wolf by the throat and the tiger by the tail. This situation will probably be the dividing line for the game.

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3. Board Game: Glass Road [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:210]
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Then it was on to Glass Road. After the tension of Emerald, this one fell flat. Completely flat. The other two people we played it with were left cold as well. I felt pretty blah about it during the game, and then the last turn was so anticlimactic, I welled up in nerd rage and wrote this diatribe the next morning:

enzo622 in a nerd rage wrote wrote:
The game was so constrained a take on the euro as to be lifeless. To play on the "knife fight in a phone booth" analogy, it was a "spork fight in a school cafeteria" with ever present hall monitors to make sure nothing is getting out of hand. Young man, do you have more than 7 wood? Put 3 back! We never have more than 7 of anything here, young man!

The way the resource rondel works limits you to 3 glass/brick or 7 basic goods, and when you go up in one, you go down in the others. So, I increase my food which then makes all my other stuff go down. And yeah, I get that in theory I'm increasing my glass or bricks but once you max out, you're just lowering your other stuff. You'll see.

I went a "pond strategy" and was able to get a lot of sand and water if I wanted to. Then I got a VP building for 1 VP per 2 water. I had 5 water and could get 5 more, but 7 is the limit, of which only 6 will score for 3 points. And thus ends the Great Pond Strategy. Go to hell.

On the last turn, my decisions were like this: get a VP building to give me 1 VP per 1 wood. Oh nice, I have 5 wood! But I have to give up 2 wood (WTF?) and something else I can't recall but I think maybe a glass which is also a VP. Oh, let me find something else then. I can give up 1 point for 1.5 points or I can take this building that kicks me in the nuts and calls my mom a whore. What to do, what to do...

So while the card play is mildly interesting, the space for any kind of imaginative play has been bounded so rigidly as to suck the life out of it. It felt joyless. No, seriously, is this all there is? Between this and the re-implementation of Agricola, I seriously wonder if our boy Rosenberg has played his hand. Thanks, Uwe, it was a fun ride.

That bit of over-reaction aside, in the cold light of day, I’m still not curious about the game. The dividing line seems to be eeking out increments relative to your opponents; either that is challenging or dreadfully dull. While the card play was reasonably interesting, the scoring – give up X to get X.x didn’t inspire me at all.
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4. Board Game: Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:455]
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Then a play of Tash Kalar: Arena of Legend where I put a beatdown on Mark but failed to score any points. In fact, I could’ve taken a 2 point card but chose to just keep beating him down. It was more fun than getting 6 guys in a row and taking a card.

The gist of the game is playing cards with patterns on them, like an L, after you’ve put your pieces in that pattern. Then you get to execute the power. Since you can play the cards in mirror fashion, I had to flip the cards sometimes and imagine what it would look like. This type of abstract brain-burner hurt my brain after about 10 minutes, and it’s not my type of game at all, so I figured that people who like this type would love it, but I haven’t read much good from my geekbuds. :shrug:
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5. Board Game: Lewis & Clark [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:138]
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After Tash, Mark went to deliver his Nations demo, and a bit later I scored the copy of Lewis & Clark from the library. I’d watched Rahdo’s review, but wanted to read the rules. Mark’s demo wrapped up, and jumped into L&C which would be the hit of the convention for me.

Quote:
This was the hit of Euro Quest 2013 for me, and possibly my choice for best new game of 2013. The design delights me in several ways. I was talking with a friend about how L&C could've stopped with just the worker placement mechanism (whereby workers placed on the communal board can be retrieved by any player) and been a reasonably good game. The Manhattan Project comes to mind in this regard, but they added the cards that offer distinctly different powers and ways to go about your business, a unique way to power these cards, and then a race that enforces lean resource collection and consumption.

I find every aspect of the design tight and relevant. For example, the boats are hugely important. In a game that punishes your progress for hoarding resources, getting boats to store extra resources means you can collect more but still make progress. Or get more workers and have a place to put them. In our two games, they ran out before people could get all they wanted. In my first game, I prioritized the extra worker boats, but in my 2nd game, I found a preference for the resource boats; either way, they're both very helpful.

And while this is a game powered by cards of variable powers that allow for many, many different ways to go about your business, it’s not all about the cards such that the game is too luck dependent. Only two plays in, but they both offered such varying paths that leaves me excited to see how I can do it next time. Parsing out which ones will help you now vs later vs what you can actually afford is large part of this game's DNA. If the card choices are anything but a delight to consider, then I'd say this isn't a game for you.

There's a big "wow" factor there for me when you add all these elements into one game. Like I said, they could've stopped at any point and had a fairly good game but by putting so many innovations together, the game goes up a notch. And as someone who's somewhat jaded about the hobby, finding something like this is precious.

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6. Board Game: Rococo [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:196]
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We finished the evening with a latenight play of Rokoko that went till after 1am, taught by our buddy, Rik Van Horn, and including local buddy, Tom DeMarco. I’m enamored with the current trend of boardgames with deckbuilding as an element, so I was very curious to try this one. I quite liked it and am considering picking up a copy.

Quote:
Rokoko is a mildly interesting medium weight game that falls into that category a geekbuddy described (about another game): "Ultimately, whether you like it or not is going to be based on small distinctions in euro preference."

I liked it well enough, but I'm not sure the way to go about things is going to vary substantially enough to keep me interested for more than a few plays. Or maybe I'm wrong and there are a lot of different ways to win. I'm still deciding if it's worth ordering (hey, free shipping from Eagle) for those few plays.

To elaborate: I'm concerned that the way I went about my first game is the best way: secure the best board positions first since they're limited (top row dress spots/majority and rooftop 3x space(s), then go about getting everything else. I found the gameplay itself actually fun, and I'm enamored with deckbuilding as part of a larger game.



Mark isn't good at goods-matching games, Rik was teaching, and Tom was off his game. I won by default.
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7. Board Game: Caverna: The Cave Farmers [Average Rating:8.13 Overall Rank:13]
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FRIDAY

Off to bed with Mark and I debriefing the day before drifting off to barely restful sleep. I woke on Friday way before I got the rest I needed but my mind was racing about the previous day and what was to come.

It didn’t help my tired brain that we jumped into Caverna, taught by the very patient Brian Stallings. The 5P learning game with newbs felt bloated and sluggish, so it took me a while to sort out how I truly felt about the game. Mark and I discussed the new stuff that felt neat vs what, if anything was missing. I eventually settled on sticking with Agricola for the following reasons:

It's not fair for me to expect this, I know, but when the game started, I expected there to be a quest path vs farming path vs animal path, but in the end, we all pretty much ended in the same space.

Of course, that's just like Agricola in how it enforces you to balance and not specialize, but I was hoping for more differentiation after I heard the rules explanation. But something else bothered me. While it was too similar to Agricola, it was even more constrained. I've always felt the genius of 'Gric is the way it gives you the cards to create an imaginative playing space in addition to the tight worker placement. To fully explain what I'm trying to say, I have to quote myself:

enzo622's Agricola comment wrote:
The cards break rules or give you bonus powers such that the w-p decision space is different every time. Caylus, conversely, is the same decision space but (enjoyably) different in how you all go about exchanging tempo and blocking each other. Here, you get 14 secret powers at the start of the game which adds another dimension of figuring out how to play them in concert with each other as well as board actions. While you'll do some of the same things each game, you'll do a lot differently based on which cards you play. The power of those cards generates a feeling of promise and an excitement unique to Agricola. I've always thought Agricola is a game about which cards you do not play, i.e., which ones you decide aren't worth the benefit they confer relative to good old, boring board actions. I've seen players plop down an occupation a turn and have all these cool benefits only to see the game end before they could make use of them. Smarter players will play just enough at just the right times and not be seduced into more.

So what I'm saying is while the worker placement in Agricola would probably be an interesting enough game, it's the cards that make the game transcend to a level of constant fascination. To be adept at this game, you need great worker placement skills along with card discernment.

Removing the cards may satisfy some players, but since my group drafts them, we manage the card balance. Caverna trades some innovations (the questing is quite neat) for the ability to creatively manifest your own strategy. Agricola/Caverna will always be about everyone trying to end up in the same hyper-balanced place, and I'm OK with that, but I want to go about getting there quite differently.


Carl, pictured in the top right, would win this game in the raffle. Lucky sod.
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8. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:2240]
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After Caverna, we finally got to get a game with buddy, Geof Gambill, and his crew. It was an unpublished prototype that I’m not supposed to discuss. It involved secret roles, and was one of those epic plays. Geof was pretty much on to me from the start, but since he aimed his suspicion at everyone at one point, he never rallied the group against me. The game was very much about me and Geof going back and forth as to who was really the traitor in a way that each of us was “game annoyed” at each other.

I played an extremely low-key traitor and convinced them to trust me enough to “help” them in a critical task. Of course, I betrayed them and the traitors won, after which I jumped up, and yelled, “F*ck you! Hahahaha!” which may not have been the best decorum, and a family with a child apparently gave us a look (sorry!). While it was fun to be sneaky (one of my favorite ploys in any game), Geof and Mark, both of whom I was able to deceive, will certainly exact their revenge on me in good time. I can feel them plotting it now. Gears are in motion. An ancient evil has been released.

Oh, and the game is a big winner for this genre. I predict it will be quite popular.
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9. Board Game: Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:528]
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After Unpublished Prototype, it was demos of Legacy: Testimony of Duke de Crecy, [dinner], and Cornish Smuggler. Don’t have much to say here, so:

Quote:
This rating and comment are based watching part of a demo before bailing as it couldn't hold my attention. It's a cute theme, and maybe it would work as a light offering at the end of the day with a partner, but there's very little game play for more serious gamers.

It needed to be developed in a way that offered a) better worker placement options and b) far, far richer card play. One suggestion was that traits could be passed down to future generations such that it would actually matter which parents you match up, and that sounds like a good (and thematic) place to start. The cards don't combo much at all such that the decisions are painlessly easy.

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10. Board Game: Cornish Smuggler [Average Rating:5.98 Overall Rank:5867]
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The demo of Cornish Smuggler was abandoned as people didn't feel there was much of interest to do in the game. This on the heels of watching people abandon a play earlier in the day due to the extreme capriciousness of the cards. You spend a lot of time getting your goods somewhere they can be sold handsomely, and then two people play cards that blow that all up. There was gamer rage.

While I like the concept, I'm afraid I find the design to be yet another under-developed Kickstarter project that would've benefited from some constructive criticism. It commits one of my greatest gaming sins by having imbalanced aspects. Getting goods onto your boat and then getting them on land and possibly transported somewhere for a handsome price all takes planning, time, and a bit of push-your-luck. But then somebody just flips a card and undoes all your work. Since the above board actions are mildly interesting (all the logistics) and the below board actions are simply frustrating and overpowered relative to the above board actions, there's little satisfying game space left.

On a positive note, I quite like the different prices you can select for your goods, the way the goods have to fit on your boat, and the increasing pressure of the customs agents.

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11. Board Game: Concordia [Average Rating:8.07 Overall Rank:23]
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Bruce had showed up by this point and we went to dinner in the hotel restaurant with Geof and his crew where we traded stories, favorite games, and a lot of laughs. Also, Geof had demo’d his brilliant game, Black Diamonds, and gotten some feedback that he related. We resolved to think on it.

Then, after Smuggler, we borrowed Tom McCorry’s copy of Concordia (thanks, Tom), and got a latenight play in. Mark and I both collected big sets, and even though I ended with 119 points and expected a crushing victory, Mark came flying back to a nail-biting finish of 112 – the difference being exactly the 7 point card I got for ending the game. I was already planning on buying, and I liked it, but it didn’t reach the depths that both L&C and Emerald did.

Quote:
Concordia was very good. I'm not quite as high on it as a friend (even though I won), as I wonder about the solitaire nature of it and replayability. I mean, you look at other players' cards so you can mimic them with a special card, but otherwise, not much. I think people need to take cards away from players who are collecting big sets; maybe that awareness happens with repeated plays.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still definitely buying, but I found Lewis & Clark to be far more interesting and rich.

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12. Board Game: A Study in Emerald [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:593]
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SATURDAY

I awoke Saturday feeling like rough trade. I realized I had burnt myself out; part of my problem is I’ve been dealing with a herniated disc in my neck and even though I’m on the mend, I’m on meds and still not sleeping as well as I should. Did the caffeine route, and then I taught Emerald again to Charlie (?) and Skip Sizemore.

We had a thrilling play where all the players held back on the 0 space so they couldn’t be messed with, I declared myself pretty early my actions, then jumped out to a lead. Then the VP rush happened and my “teammate” jumped ahead of me. I was able to tie him, kill a Restorationist agent to end the game and get 1VP to tip me over. Thrilling play, and everyone enjoyed it. They all played quite savvy, especially for newbs.
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13. Board Game: Lewis & Clark [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:138]
Kurt R
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
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All life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward dreamings, and no cause to value the one above the other.
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After Emerald, I was fried, so I went back to the room for a much needed nap. I woke after a couple hours and walked back to find some friends just starting Lewis & Clark again, and I was able to jump in. Perfect timing! I went on to pull of an 18 space move from the last mountain range for the victory that felt pretty sweet! My appreciation for the game deepened, however, I am concerned about this comment:

”Runkst” wrote:
In my one game so far, a three card combo allowed me to win the game with a big lead while ignoring 75% of the game. I never went to the village, didn't buy any boats, never had to worry about time delays and didn't care which symbols the others played. That left a sour taste in my mouth but I hope it was a fluke.

I hope that doesn’t turn out to be the case, as I’ll be crushed. I’m loving this game.


Look at them. I'm about to crush their spirits.
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14. Board Game: Ladies & Gentlemen [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:1873]
Kurt R
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
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After L&C, we broke for dinner to one of my all-time favorite Indian restaurants, Akbar Palace. Bruce, Mark, and I discovered this a couple years ago and make a pilgrimage there each year. We had Patrick and Geof's crew with us to make a large party and we had a blast.

Geof told me about some tweaks to Black Diamonds he'd like to make, and they do sound good. I'm happy to see him continue to not be afraid to listen to constructive criticism, refine the game, and not just rush to Kickstarter. This is the point, IMO, that defines a game and where a lot of Kickstarter games fail.

After dinner, it was on to a disappointing attempt at Ladies & Gentlemen; I had picked up a copy on a whim from the vendor as I thought we’d have a hoot with it. And we did, all 10 of us, split between “ladies” and gentlemen, have a few laughs though the game itself never got going. I found the rules very clunky (being as tired as I was probably didn't help), and something was off in the game. We didn't break through to any type of roleplaying or play acting so we just sat there and made crude and rude comments.

The best part was when my friend, Mark, thought that you could only have 1 clothing card; upon realizing he could collect more, he seriously asked: "Oh, so you can have more than one article of clothing?" and you could see his face realize the stupidity of what he'd said and try to capture the words that had left his mouth. I laughed till I cried, as did Mark.

But seriously, F those rules. I gave the game to Geof to play with his family. Good luck, Geof.
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15. Board Game: Ultimate Werewolf: Ultimate Edition [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:666] [Average Rating:7.10 Unranked]
Kurt R
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
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Then it was a couple of excellent late night plays of Werewolf. We found an open conference room and used it rather than play in the noise of the main playroom. There was some excellent play by all, and I moderated both games to much enjoyment. Sometimes that game is just fun to sit back and watch your friends at play.
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16. Board Game: Liar's Dice [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:560]
Kurt R
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
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SUNDAY

Sunday, I sat down with Rob White’s crew to play Liar’s Dice which I’d actually never played. How have I not played this game before? Lots of fun, and I hung there for a bit; at least I wasn’t first guy out.
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17. Board Game: Key Market [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:1417]
Kurt R
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
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All life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward dreamings, and no cause to value the one above the other.
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Then I got to teach one of my all-time faves, Key Market to Rob White and Rich Shay. Rich nipped me by 3 points, but it was still a satisfying play as I’ve been thinking about where I was wasteful and could’ve squeezed more points. Love that game.
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18. Board Game: Home Sweet Home [Average Rating:6.14 Overall Rank:8574]
Kurt R
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
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All life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward dreamings, and no cause to value the one above the other.
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The ride home with Mark was a rich discussion about games, gaming, and the psychology of gaming and game discussion. We both agreed that as we get deeper into the hobby, the experience becomes not so much about winning but about competing, and how even a loss can be satisfying if you played well and gave the winner a run for his money. And the winner's victory is only sweet if you did indeed play well, and there's a value to acknowledging not just the play of the winner, but to all players. I plan to do this more.

THANK YOU to the organizers and all my friends, local and far away, for helping to make a great convention. God willing, let's all meet again next year if not sooner.
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19. Board Game: Getaway [Average Rating:4.75 Unranked]
Kurt R
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
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THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY

I didn't get to try:

Madeira -- not there

Bruxelles -- hearing conflicting reports of unnecessary complexity and quite intricately interesting; would have to try for myself

Spyrium -- probably not a purchase for me, but then again, I really wanted to try for myself

Francis Drake -- I didn't make this a priority as it didn't wow me, but I would still like to try

Coal Baron -- the elevator looked fun

Rockwell -- I can try a local copy

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20. Board Game: Hotel Life [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:4300]
Kurt R
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
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Just want to give a public shout out to the Doubletree Hotel. I found it very well run, the water stations were well stocked, and when one was emtpy and I informed them, they jumped on it. The staff was really friendly everywhere we went. They said I should be receiving a survey email, and I plan to give them great feedback.
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