GCL Phoenix 154: Pick One (2013-12-15)
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
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Sunnyvale
California
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mb Welcome to the Phoenix Game Chat League! mb

mb ABOUT GCL mb PHOENIX DIVISION mb SUBSCRIPTION THREAD mb

If you stumbled upon this geeklist by accident or through your subscriptions, please read the GameChat League Wiki page for information about what this is all about. Visitors are welcome to make constructive comments, but please leave adding items to members.

This week I'm asking people to pick sides. Mwa-ha-ha.




Phoenix Roster:
archivists
chally
Dormammu
Eeeville
indigopotter
Lowengrin
Morganza
Mr_Nuts mb up next week mb
ravenskana
rynelf
Taibi
tjshields
woodnoggin
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1. Board Game: GiftTRAP Geek Edition [Average Rating:6.79 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.79 Unranked]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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Which is geekier, Set or Settlers of Catan?

(My cow-orker J.B. asked me this at lunch a few weeks ago, and inspired this week's GCL.)
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2. Board Game: Massive Multiplayer Rock, Paper, Scissors [Average Rating:5.33 Unranked]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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Paper or Plastic?



No, not that question... would you rather have plastic minis or cardboard chits/tokens in a game?
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3. Board Game: So Long Sucker [Average Rating:6.30 Overall Rank:8159]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
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Friendly or unfriendly?



Would you rather attack other players or try to just do better? (Assume multi-player games. 2p is different.)
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4. Board Game: Chaos [Average Rating:5.97 Overall Rank:7989]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
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Chaos or order?



(Or maybe do they need to balance each other out?)
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5. Board Game: No Middle Ground [Average Rating:6.38 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.38 Unranked]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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Imagine you're sitting down to play a 5-player game you rate an 8. Would you rather play with two people who rate it a 10, and two people who rate it a 6, or four people who also rate it an 8? (Assume that your game group balances things out so that in the long run, everyone gets to play their 10s.)
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6. Board Game: Win, Lose, or Banana [Average Rating:5.40 Overall Rank:14643]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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I played Patchistory twice more this week. Both sessions were two-player and were mostly exquisite (I say "mostly" because in the first game I was really enjoying everything until we counted score and I saw how badly I had lost).


Would you rather follow a plan and see it all work out, or win the game?
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7. Board Game: Age of Arguments [Average Rating:5.57 Unranked]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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In a cooperative or partnership game, do you prefer discussion or silence (i.e. rules in Hanabi and King of Siam that prevent discussion.)
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8. Board Game: Martinique [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:2720]
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United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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Sunday
Catan Dice with Extra map x2
Flinke Pinke (Botswana) (with Rage cards) x4 - new

Monday
NOIR: BGG.Con edition x2 - new
Parade (with Rage cards) x 6 - new

Tuesday
Catan Dice with Extra map
Parade (with Rage cards) x3

Thursday
Circus Flohcati (ArtsCow cards) - new
Schotten Totten (with Rage cards) x4 - new
Blueprints - new

Friday
Malta x2 - new
Schotten Totten (with Rage cards)
NCIS (Thrifty Santa) - new
Mountain Climb (Thrifty Santa) - new

Saturday
Gumball Rally x2 - new
Mystery Rummy: Jekyll & Hyde x3 - new
Qwirkle (Thrifty Santa) x2 - new

Sunday
Level X x3 - new
Martinique - new





Sam is a rat bastard!

Today's unwrapping was Martinique, a Z-MAN game that Sam bought on the Cyber Monday clearance because you draw things out of a bag (one of my major game criteria).

There is a grid of souvenir and map tiles; when the souvenir tiles match the groupings of treasure tiles, you get to place them in your hold, which helps for scoring (if no one guesses the location of the treasure). The primary way to win is to accumulate map tiles. Because only one of each number and letter exists, you can rule them out as coordinates. If you go through the other player's spot on the board, they must turn one of their map tiles over so the information is public. A very important aspect that we didn't do this time, but surely will next time.

When you end on a blank spot, you get to go to a spot at the bar. These numbered spots indicate the order in which players will guess the location of the treasure. The first spots also give a bonus (wild or map tile). Sam took the first four spots, which left me to leisurely walk around picking up tiles. I matched the treasure tiles several times, filling my hold (I had something like 9 piles and he had 3). If he didn't pick the location of the treasure, he was screwed.

As he began selecting possible coordinates of the treasure, he realized something that I had already figured out - if he placed in a row or column, I'd know he didn't have that row or column. Combined with my hidden tiles, this was a huge one-sided advantage.

So, he did a very evil thing. He placed a marker on 5-G, even though he had the G tile. I knew 3 of his 4 markers couldn't be correct, because I had contradictory information, but I thought 5-G was it. I placed my other markers in the G row, on numbers that I didn't have, just in case. When I was done placing, Sam revealed his trap (and laughed. Did I mention he laughed?)

Since neither of us had gotten the placement right, it was now time to count our holds. I had most piles of treasure, so +2. Each tile was counted, +41, and then I got 10 points for 5 pairs of treasure in my supply, for a total of 53 (the scoretrack only goes up to 40, so I went back around and almost lapped Sam, who ended at 16).

Part of it was blind luck of the first play, Sam wouldn't be in such a hurry to get to the spots in the bar, especially not all of them. He'd leave a marker or two behind, to take more tiles and to take advantage of the information I gave through my placement.

We weren't sure what to expect, but it was different than the rest of our collection, with very high production quality, plus there are things to draw our of a bag, and it resulted in a lot of laughs and a story to tell, so I consider it a success.
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9. Board Game: Cheaty Mages! [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:2101]
Bryan Maxwell
United States
Burtchville
Michigan
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Coup x 1

Coup with 2 new players. They were afraid to stand up to the thief (Captain) or retaliate. I called him on it (someone had to) and he had it. He did a coup on me the next turn and I was out. The aggressor was down to $1. Did the other 2 try to rob him? Nope.

First play inexperience.

Cheaty Mages x 5

I played this one with 6 players then later with 4. It worked pretty well at both counts. I'm pretty fond of this one so far. The quick and dirty version is this:

Players are mages betting on monsters that are fighting in an arena. The mages will, of course, try to use their magic to help their monsters win. Complicating things is that each round there is a judge who has his/her own particular limits on how much interference is allowed. Some will also disallow particular types of spells. Some spells are played face-down (but they can be checked at the cost of discarding a card). Players can hedge their bets between multiple monsters as well, further complicating things.

Most spells simple boost or reduce a monster, but some can swap the monster out with a new one, or swap out the judge or a variety of other effects. On paper it's too chaotic for me, but in practice it works. You end up playing the other players, trying to figure out their bets while trying to conceal your own. It's not exactly a deep, meaty experience but for a light, short game that seats up to 6 it's pretty great.

Castles of Burgundy x 2


The Castles of Burgundy: 4th Expansion – Monastery Boards arrived this week and we tried them out. I won our 3-player game and then lost a 2-player session to my wife. The new boards are really nothing special beyond being simply more variety for the game (which I'm happy about). There's one more ingredient in the point salad - there are 3 shrines printed on these boards. Connecting any 2 of them in a straight line is worth 5 points; connecting all 3 of them together is worth 5/6/7 points in a 2/3/4 player game.

Terra Mystica x 1

This one was a bit of a dud, as one player ran away with the game. I played as the Witches and had a real problem getting into a rhythm. The player who won (by 30+) played the Halflings and scored 130 - a new high for our group. The previous high was 124 (also with the Halflings).



Finals are this week. Game-wise, my Kickstarter for Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia should arrive this week.
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10. Board Game: Keltis [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:1340]
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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Games Played:

_8_ Sail to India x1
There's a local Wednesday Game Night I almost always miss due to kids but made it out this week and played two games. Taught Sail to India first and it went over fairly well. Kyle triggered the end game by discovering India, and those two points won the game with 19, John and I tied at 17 but I had more money, and Jacob had 15.

_8_ Lewis & Clark x1
After Sail to India we lost Jacob. The other group playing wasn't close enough to being finished so I taught this to John and Kyle. I discovered some minor errors I had made on my previous play. John ended up winning with myself stuck in the mountains, but overall this game suffered from AP on Kyle's part so the game took much longer than anticipated. I don't blame Kyle at all, but I'll have to remember this when teaching others. I thought only playing with three again, rather than four or five, wouldn't be too bad for a first game, but depending on the group it can suffer.

_7_ Keltis x1
My daughter requested this and my wife joined us for a game. For once I approached the game with something resembling a strategy and won with 48 points, due to early grabbing of stones and keeping everyone out of negative territory. My wife scored 31 and my daughter lost ground by penalties to end with 16.

_8_ Gonzaga x1
My daughter also requested this right after Keltis and she very quickly made it known she wanted the Gonzaga bonus as her early moves played close together. She also got all her secret cities for the maximum 35 point bonus and scored 88 overall. However, I also got all my cities, plus some sea harbors which won me the day with 102 points, while my wife had 81. I realize I need to talk to my daughter a bit about the sea league scoring. With the cities she has her secret card to look at, and there's a big 15 point token for the Gonzage bonus to remind her of that, but the 10 points for each sea league isn't highlighted as strongly in the game.

_8_ Lewis & Clark x2
Two player with my youngest son so I could teach him correctly due to a few rules errors from our first game. i also wanted to see how the time of this would be. We ended up at 75 minutes, which included a 10 minute break to help my wife with groceries. I was able to get a few cards dealing with horses that made me get through the first mountain range quickly, and by the time my son was almost through there I had the win, with my last move getting right on top of the fort and setting up camp with no penalties. This play redeemed the game a bit from the last game from Wednesday which annoyed me.

Later that night, my daughter joined me as a team to play against my wife and oldest son, which was both of the kids first time for learning the game. While my daughter understood much of how the game worked, she didn't have a lot of input into the actual moves of the game, and I suspect this is a bit too much for her to play without a partner right now. My oldest son handled himself fine, and ended up winning the game as he figured a way to time his final actions to not get a penalty and sneaked in the win.
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11. Board Game: Lewis & Clark [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:138]
Albatros
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

_7_ Lewis & Clark x3 New to Me!
_7_ Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer x1


Expansions Used

_7_ Ascension: Return of the Fallen x1


The Week in Review

After a long break, we revisited Ascension. We really hadn't played it since picking it up on the iPad a few months back. And though S still plays it almost daily on the iPad, I've pretty much stopped. So, in theory, she should be so much better at it than me...or not. Seems playing it on the iPad, made her forget some of the basics; like how many cards to draw (five) and that certain cards let her banish from the centre row. So I actually won this one.

On the whole, I found the game rather dull.

Fortunately, Lewis & Clark and Madeira arrived from France this week, so I didn't have to play Ascension again.

Over the weekend, S and I played Lewis & Clark three times. Each time, even though we pursued quite different strategies, ended up being decided by a single turn. How can we be so equally good or equally bad to end up so close each time? It makes me wonder if the range of actions is merely between good and somewhat better. Or S and I have a bad case of couples-think going on.

In spite of the closeness of our games and that the game is a "race", I really don't feel a lot of tension in Lewis & Clark. Certainly, it's a clever game and there's lots of interesting card combinations, and a bit of interaction playing off the other's cards. But there's very little "Take that!" in it. Sure, there's the occasional time you can recruit all the natives knowing your opponent wants them, but beyond that, it's quite solitary. And a bit flat.


The Week Ahead

Russian Railroads, Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy and Glass Road are in the mail. I should get them before Christmas if not before the end of the week.

And as K is set to come over this Saturday, we'll almost certainly play some The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game.
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12. Board Game: 1862: Railway Mania in the Eastern Counties [Average Rating:8.20 Overall Rank:2332]
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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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 14Dec2013:

5/11/434 plays of 4/8/197 total games, with 4/4/43 expansions employed.
Plays with 6/9/95 distinct opponents.

1/1/33 games acquired (plus 3/3/19 expansions.) - (Reacquired Pax Porfiriana; I'd intended to give away the new copy; but it proved easier to give my old one away and keep the new.)
0/0/14 games ordered (plus 0/6/11 expansions.)
Orders for 6 games and 4 expansions still outstanding.

With son #2:
1x _7_ Toledo (40 months dusty) - This one didn't work that well for the youngster. He wasn't prepared for the rather abrupt game end conditions, and as a consequence, finished a ways off the pace. It surprised me; I'd thought it would work as a casual family game; but it seems there's more Gamer's DNA in there than I'd remembered. I'm not convinced it's excellent; but it's fast, and might work for the Friday guys. (Though not this week.)
2x _7_ Galaxy Trucker (with The Big Expansion) - A couple games; a couple defeats at the hands of the youngster. In both, it's been the (common) random events that have decided the game: and the ones from that hidden fourth Pile of Perils (both of us have tended to check out the three visible piles in order to prepare our ship. But the Sabotage and Robosmokeys cards aren't (yet) ones that we've got in the habit of preparing for.

With a couple of the Wednesday Night guys:
1x _8.5_ 1862: Railway Mania in the Eastern Counties New! - Wow; this was completely cool. I really enjoyed it. I'm still not remotely clear on when one wants to merge and when one doesn't (I think I managed to demonstrate both of those!) But I think both the other guys were sufficiently amused that we'll try it again. And hopefully a few times, too.

Friday lunch gaming:
1x _10_ Race for the Galaxy (with three expansions) - Fun to try with all the expansions after playing only with the basic cards the first time out. We didn't use takeovers (and, probably foolishly, I didn't explain - or use - the Prestige subsystem in this game, which was likely a mistake. The other guys are willing to give it a shot the next time out.)

Owned-and-unplayed: 9 (+0/-1) - 1862: Railway Mania in the Eastern Counties was played, and it was good.

Outlook for the week: No evening gaming this week (welcoming son #1 home from college, and a set of choral concerts to attend.) Should get to play a Longer Cool Game friday lunch-to-mid-afternoon. We played The Great Zimbabwe last year in a similar event. Perhaps we'll try Princes of the Renaissance this year? Who knows.
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13. Board Game: Lewis & Clark [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:138]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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Game of the week: Two plays of Lewis & Clark this week, one successful, one not so much. (The rules say "Don't play this the first time with 5". Listen.)

Runner-up: A 7p playtest of my game based on Dave's March Madness from last year.

Fail of the week: A 5p game of The Capitals where the 5 players had a total of 3 games of experience among them.

Monday night at Y!:

1830 4p

Newcomer Lance, JC, Dayton, me.

A teaching game (long on the teaching and strategy exposition, short on the game) for newcomer Lance, who had previously muddled through part of the "beginners' game" in the Mayfair 1830 box.

He left us with a better idea of what the game was about, though not sure it was right for him and his wife.

We called in around 11:15 with 6 of the 8 companies operated and 2 of the 5-trains sold (one to me, one to JC.)

Saturday at Andy's:

Formula D - Monaco map 8p

We started with 6 but added a few latecomers at the back of the pack. It was a bit long for what it offered, especially since we used the new Formula D Monaco track instead of one of the old good tracks from Formula D.

Me, Andy, Alex T. (first play?), Hilary (first play), Michelle, John, Chris D. (first play?), Kevin

Lewis & Clark 5p

The rules very explicitly say "don't play with 5 if there are any new players at the table." They are right.

Me (second play) teaching Barbara, Hilary, Alex, Chris.

Sadly, we had a number of rules errors, and called the game when we looked up clarifications on the 1x and infinity cards.

Pity that, because I had a good set of 8 cards that was moving me along nicely. Never took a single red meeple ("Indian") the whole game.

Brass 4p

Me, Alex T., Andy, Hilary (first play).

I needed to build to B-i-F and get my Level 4 iron down; that would have let Andy build his second shipyard, but would have stopped Alex from getting the overbuild on my iron. For some reason I thought Andy was a threat, but he wasn't.

Alex is a shark. Must play more with him.

Sunday was Games Day

The Capitals 5p

Dave E., me, Greg, Patrick, Brian. 5.5 hours including teaching. We drafted Prosperity times, which was fun. Less fun: my strategy depended on Industry but they came out sparse when I needed them clumpy (and couldn't get turn order to get them) and clumpy when I needed them sparse.

Unless we learn to run things a lot more in parallel (i.e. taking tiles before seeing how previous choices affected the other players' positions on the tracks) this game is just way too long to play with 5.

Lewis & Clark 4p

Me, Brian, Patrick, Stephen. (new to all but me.)

Patrick thought it was a bit long for what it offered, not sure I agree.

This time I let my deck balloon up to 13 cards, with a chain of "buy a card to activate my next turn with." It almost killed me, but my fur/equipment theme deck won. (Sheesh, I feel almost like a Magic player typing that...)

Not only did I never take a single Indian, but I shredded the card that could have gotten me onto that path a third of the way through the game.

Twin Tin Bots 6p

6p: me, Michael, assorted others. New to all.

A different sort of chaos than RoboRally, but clearly related.

You have two robots, each of which runs a three-line program. Each turn you get to modify *one* instruction on *one* robot. Goal is to pick up crystals scattered on the board and bring them back to your base. Much interference and mayhem, especially since there are "zap" instructions that let you force someone else's robot to take an action of your choice (for example, drop a crystal into your own arms...)

I could see this becoming a favorite for late at night when people aren't taking the gaming so seriously anyway.

(And besides, I got to play pink...)

Marching Madness (prototype) 7p

7p, first play for all. My own prototype based on Dave's March Madness tournament from last year.

It was actually fun enough that we played through the whole game and tallied final scores for 3 players. There's a game there. (What we played wasn't it, but close enough that I can see that there's a game to be made out of it.)

(In addition, I lent someone my copy of The Little Prince to open and play.)

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14. Board Game: Krypto [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:8959]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Last week's plays:

|9| Boggle (x8)
-7- Fauna
-6- Krypto New!
-6- Mysteries of Old Peking
-6- Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (+Skinsaw Murders) (x2)
-5.5- Othello
-5.5- Word Wheel (x2)
-5- Genius New!
-5- Matching Pairs
-5- Super Cluedo Challenge
-4- Giant Dice
-4- Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game New!
-3- Bewitched

Only one proper game session this week. We played the next couple of adventures in the Pathfinder series and they're all starting to feel the same now. It wasn't too bad for my character, who discovered some powerful new spells to add to the deck, but the others found little of interest so were just going through the motions for no reward. We aren't finding the adventures a challenge any more - we never come close to losing so it's not very exciting. I hope they include some interesting twists in the next pack of scenarios, but with the announcement of a new pirate-themed base game, I suspect they'll save the major tweaks for that. With the novelty wearing off, this game will likely get too repetitive for me and I'm not sure I'll make it through the whole campaign.

Still, it was better than Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game. I'm not a fan of comics, and if I was, I'd probably be more disappointed by the pasted-on theme - the cards could really be anything. Access to deck improvement options and scoring opportunities is fickle and determined by turn order. This is something Dominion learned during design and development, so it's hard to see how they got it wrong here. Another flaw is using card trashing as a punishment - a bad guy escaped so I have to trash a card? Woe is me. This game is boring and poorly thought through. Our session involved Magneto opening portals to other dimensions, but you didn't get a sense of this from the game play, it was just a random rules card putting some other cards onto the board, which would end the game if it happened seven times. Some more cards came out from a deck of bad cards and they slid along a row. We added cards to our decks for the first half of the game and removed cards from the row in the second half. Although it looked like we would lose, we actually beat the super villain just in time but let too many cards slide off the row so our scores were negative. I'm not sure if that meant we won or lost, individually or as a team as this competitive co-operative thing makes no sense. zombie

I needed some Boggle to wash away the taste.

It was bugging me that loads of old family games in my collection are marked as zero plays, even though I played them plenty of times when I was younger. I don't like to log plays if I don't know exactly when I played it, so I'm not going to go back and approximate a number of plays for each. (It annoys me when people do that as it messes with the stats and human brains are generally not very good at remembering exact quantities from many years ago - I tend to be doubtful of people logging 1000 plays of something from their youth.) So, while I was over at my parents' house for the weekend, I decided to play as many of these old games as I could to get them off my 'Appears to be Unplayed' list. I'll see if I can try a few more over Christmas. They're going to give me plenty of food for the Games Only You Have Played This Month geeklist.

It actually led to me discovering a couple of games I don't recall having ever played: Genius and Krypto. Genius is a mediocre trivia game based around World Records. Krypto was more interesting - speed mathematical puzzles. Each player is dealt a hand of five number cards ranging from 1 to 24 and must use all of them in an equation that reaches a target number, placed face up on the table for all players to try and achieve. You can use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division (advanced rules allow you to use square roots too) and the first to solve the puzzle wins the round. A full game consists of ten rounds. It's quite fun but the scoring system is silly: you score more points for winning consecutive rounds - 1 for the first, 2 for the second, 4 for the third, 8 for the fourth and so on. This can lead to a runaway winner after the first few rounds with no way of catching up. The version we have is from the early '80s and has some funny claims on the box as to the mental benefits of playing this game and how you can enter the world championships in Monte Carlo! The Krypto Pro Tour awaits...
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15. Board Game: Rise of Augustus [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:771]
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

_8_ Le Havre 1
_8_ Pandemic 1
_7_ (Rise of) Augustus 3 New!
_6_ Smash Up 1
_6_ Sleuth 1 New!
_5_ I'm the Boss! 1 New!

Week in Review

Mid-week I played Le Havre, amusingly the very night we had been discussing it on last week's list. I don't have too much to say about Le Havre. It's my favorite Rosenberg (though I stated that as a truism last week only to needle the Agricola fans) and it was a pleasure to play it after a long time on the shelf. Sadly, it is not wise to start a four-player full game on a weeknight when two of the four players have relatively little experience with the game. We had to call the game for time only 60% of the way through to completion. I think I was on track to take second place.

I learned a couple of new Sid Sackson games. Though I respect his legacy, I am not a tremendous fan of his designs. I quite dislike Acquire. I'm the Boss was another non-starter for me. Though I appreciate the simplicity of the player-driven negotiations and deal structures, the cards felt excessively random. The table is able to balance this randomness but only with constant table talk. At one point, people were offering very favorable deals to players with tons of money and I had to call them out on paying attention to who had the most cash thus far. Though I usually support hidden information in games, this game's hidden cash made for continual misplays. And yet, I think it would be nearly non-functional with open cash. Meh.

Sleuth was much more interesting; I tend to enjoy deduction games, after all. The problem with this particular game is that it presents its greatest challenge in the form of note-taking. The game has a deck of cards, each of which has one of four colors, one of three gem types and 1-3 of the given gem. One is hidden and the goal is to be the first player to deduce the hidden card (eg, Blue Diamond Pair).

Each player has a set of hidden cards and then another set of revealed cards from a different deck. This second deck determines what questions you can ask. A card from this deck might have one variable on it (eg, red or sapphire), in which case you may ask another player how many of that type are in their hidden hand of cards. Every player hears the answer. If the guessing card has two variables (eg, yellow opals), you get to see the cards that match it in that players hand while the other players only know how many you have seen.

So the problem with this game is tracking all the information on a small piece of paper (provided with the game). You are tracking on three axes and eliminating information from one player's hand at a time. We made it harder on ourselves by playing with 7 players. I would try this again, but I think it would be a much better game at the 3 and 4-player counts.

Amazon had lightning deals on Rise of Augustus and Smash Up and I got these two lighter games mostly based on the interests of people I play with. I played both this weekend. First was Smash Up, which I had played once before.

What is good about Smash Up? For people that like card combo games, Smash Up serves up varied combo exercises with no set up. Each faction deck has a fairly clear gimmick (zombies come back from their discard pile, pirates blow up their enemies) and you shuffle two of them together. Your game plan becomes executing your two strategies cleanly on their own and finding ways in which they work together especially well (my pirate powder keg can blow up my zombie to kill everyone else's dudes and then I can get the zombie back!).

What is bad about Smash Up? It takes too long. The box says 45 minutes. Sounds perfect. My experience is 90+ is more realistic. I'm sure some would say it is a game about silly fun so just play! But the truth is that gamers will try to win and that becomes about finding the scoring breakpoints, determining when you can afford to give another player some points, carefully choosing which card to play (you normally only play two cards per turn). I like it, but it needs to play faster to be a better game.

And finally, (Rise of) Augustus. Why did they change the name of this game for the US market? Hell with it: I'm calling it simply Augustus. This is the game often called gamer bingo which was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres Lite. I had heard many critiques of the mindless random gameplay. But at the price I got it, it seemed worth a try for Saturday nights when I often play with the light gamer crowd. Turns out I thought it was pretty good!

I played three games back-to-back featuring a few different players. 75-80% of them liked the game and no one really disliked it. One player wanted it to be a little faster, but it already plays quite quickly so that's not very realistic. Ultimately, this is a game of gambling and push your luck. You are taking chances on what you think will finish first and get you the most points. Sometimes luck beats this decision making; for example if one player gets all their symbols quickly throughout the game. But skill will tell over the course of multiple games. If you wanted to make the game "serious," I'd recommend playing multiple games in one sitting and adding up each players scores from all games to determine a final winner.

But that is an aside. The game itself is good at what it does and offers enough decisions to be entertaining while you're (watching people) drinking beer and chatting. After that first evening, I think this was a great pick-up. It's my best semi-light game since 7 Wonders for gaining acceptance with light gamers and still being some fun for me.

P.S. Pandemic was an iPad play.
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16. Board Game: Twin Tin Bots [Average Rating:6.42 Overall Rank:2944]
Ben
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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I felt bad about not putting up an item in this week's list, but I've been distracted this week with a combination of stuff. Here are some highlights (including this week):

Twin Tin Bots is fun, but maybe too expensive to keep.

Machi Koro (plus expansion) ran far too long, but I really enjoyed my first play.

Legacy: The Testament of Duke du Crecy was pretty darn fun for a boring Euro. I put it in a similar category as Glass Road, but this may have been a little more enjoyable.

Keyflower: The Farmers seems like a decent addition, but you have to be much more careful about tile placement. I was sloppy and placed several tiles illegally, which put a huge asterisk on my win.

I'm probably through with Caverna.

I reacquired Glory to Rome's Black Box and am glad I did. I really like this game, suddenly.


My ratings from this year's Essen crop are still a mess. I tend to rate interesting but flawed games lower than uninteresting but polished games. That doesn't strike me as ideal. I need to clean all that up at some point.

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17. Board Game: Lewis & Clark [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:138]
W M
United Kingdom
Rugby
Warwickshire
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_8_ Lewis and Clark x1

Stuart bought Lewis and Clark to our last Rugby on Board meet of 2013. We were five players, two of whom had played before. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and the game flowed well with an interesting blend of mechanisms. I don't really like the first past the post win condition, it could perhaps do with everyone having an equal number of turns or some opportunity to catch the first player to cross the line. Then again, I've only played the once so this criticism may be completely unfounded. I'm looking forward to trying it again.

_8_ Animal lines x2

Part of the timelines series. This one requires you to place animals based upon length, weight or average age. We played an elimination variant apparently invented accidentally which worked rather well with three (start with a pile of four cards and only draw a new card if you place successfully when you run out of cards you're out). Enjoyable, though probably limited replayability. Will buy this if it becomes cheaply available over here.

_8_ Kingdom builder x3

We've continued to play this a lot in the evenings. Also fits well into toddler's nap break - we even managed to play it twice when he went down for 40 minutes on Sunday afternoon.





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18. Board Game: Bunny Bunny Moose Moose [Average Rating:6.16 Overall Rank:3251]
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
Ebeltoft
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Just in...
Sorry for being quiet these past 2 weeks or so. I had a written Latin exam yesterday that I have spent a lot of time preparing for, perhaps even too much (or certainly not spread out properly). I think I did good and expect to pass, no grades, just pass or no pass.

Today I am coming down with the flu or something, it has been waiting to come out since Tuesday so I must have been running on fumes and will-power these past few days. Unfortunately that means I have had to cancel my appearance at the Uni institute Christmas party. I am struggling to let go of the concert V. and I have been looking forward to since August tonight too.

I will just do a quick re-cap of the past 2 weeks then...

Games Played Week 49:
6x Kingdom Builder w/ Nomads
2x Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy
1x Jet Set w/ Distant Lands
1x Snowdonia

Games Played Week 50:
5x Kingdom Builder w/ Nomads
1x Age of Exploration
1x Glen More
1x Key Market
1x Puerto Rico w/ Expansion

The Weekend Ahead:
Getting over this damn flu, which probably takes getting in bed and sleeping the day away...

I have received a few kickstarter games (Cornish Smuggler and Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia), plus a shipment from my Secret Santa (waiting for the 24th to open that one), though I am perhpas most excited about the item of the week which we are bringing to the party on the 24th.
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