GCL Swedish Meatball Division: Further Seasonal Miscellany
Lori
United States
Durham
North Carolina
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This is the weekly geeklist for the Swedish Meatball GeekChat League! Only members are to add items (please add your weekly games played), but civil comments from non-members are welcome, as always.


Next up:
The return of rarevos

Coming attractions:
johnbandettini
Osirus
jythier
fateswanderer
qwertymartin
Sorp222
lacxox
cymric
Jugular
bnordeng
NateStraight
aaarg_ink
ellephai

Secret weapon:
ldsdbomber

"The only way of catching a train I have ever discovered is to miss the train before." -- G.K. Chesterton
This quote is (or used to be) posted up on a large billboard in London's Paddington Station, where I have seen it while waiting for the next train after the one I'd missed.

If we have learned anything so far, it surely is that anything can be warped into a gaming theme. So this week I'm translating some of my own seasonal traditions into gaming terms.
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1. Board Game: A Christmas Carol [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Lori
United States
Durham
North Carolina
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I love A Christmas Carol. It constitutes a lot of my idea of the best side of Christmas. I usually read it every year. A couple years ago my book club read it, which was a lot of fun. This is one of those things that has so sunk into popular culture that most people at least vaguely know the story, but increasingly few have actually read the book. People were delighted to discover the richness of the original.

This year I was deployed with the morale unit of our family decorating brigade. My mission: Read A Christmas Carol to us out loud while my brother trimmed the tree. (Actually, my parents grinched off into the other room because they could not appreciate the awesomeness, but my brother and I had a great time.)

I made a great find this year in the shape of a tiny pocket edition of A Christmas Carol. And when I say pocket in this case, I mean this book fits in a glove. I immediately stashed this in my coat pocket so I'd have something good to read for idle moments this holiday season.

Is there any game you like that's tiny enough to put in a pocket? Do you ever carry some small game with you just in case a need arises? What's your favorite very small game?
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2. Board Game: The Nutcracker [Average Rating:6.30 Unranked]
Lori
United States
Durham
North Carolina
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I also love the Nutcracker. I went with a friend on Boxing Day, and while we were chatting at intermission she asked me why I like the Nutcracker. I thought about it and came up with a number of reasons.

The Nutcracker is a perennial classic, but I've seen a number of different productions by different companies over the years. The music and the basic storyline are always the same, but each production is a bit different--the choreography, the staging, the costumes, et cetera. So it combines the pleasurable anticipation of seeing an old favorite with the interest of seeing what's new and unique each time.

Is there a game you like that you find always the same, yet always different? Is this the effect of variable setup, or something else?

Another thing I like about the Nutcracker is its traditional nature, both as a general cultural thing and in my personal life. When I go to the Nutcracker, I'm not enjoying only the performance I'm currently watching; I'm also savoring the memory of all the past Nutcrackers I've seen and anticipating the joy of all the future ones I hope to see.

Is there a game that has a connection to the past and future for you? Maybe something you played as a child and hope to teach to your children? Or in some completely different way?
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3. Board Game: 12 Days [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:2208]
Lori
United States
Durham
North Carolina
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American Meatballs at least will be familiar with the custom of towns decorating the streetlights at Christmas. The town where we used to live had one street where the lights had banners depicting the 12 days of Christmas. My brother and I used to drive down this street and sing the song in time to the banners, getting to the appropriate verse as we passed each one. As you can imagine, toward the end we had to drive more slowly and sing faster and faster.

How do you feel about games that are played in a fixed number of rounds? Do you like this structure? What's your favorite such game? Do the later rounds make you feel like the game is going faster and faster and you don't have time to do everything?
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4. Board Game: Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire [Average Rating:4.90 Unranked]
Lori
United States
Durham
North Carolina
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Roasted chestnuts to me mean winter in Paris. The street vendors roast chestnuts on homemade contraptions and sell them to you in a paper cone. This may be memory improving on reality, but my recollection from when I lived in Paris is that the chestnuts were always perfectly cooked, delicious, and there was never a bad one. These days it's a constant seasonal vexation to me that we can't seem to get good chestnuts where I live now.

Is there anything in your gaming life that was better somewhere you used to live, and that you miss? Maybe your old game group, maybe a great FLGS, or that one gaming buddy you got together with to play the game nobody else you know likes. Or maybe you're among the many who recall some period of your youth when you had so much more time to play games. What are you nostalgic for in your gaming past?
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5. Board Game: Solitaire Frenzy [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:4496]
Lori
United States
Durham
North Carolina
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I play a game of double solitaire with my sister-in-law every year. We play some whenever we meet during the year, and keep a running score. We used to finish the game on New Year's Eve, but sadly we can't be together for New Year's Eve these days.

We have been doing this since 2005, and she leads 7 to 2. (It's also worth noting that both years I've won were in the post-New-Year's-Eve era, when the game ends randomly depending on when we last see each other, and she doesn't have that final chance to close it out.) This year's final score: she crushes me 686 to 524.

Is there a game you really like even though you mostly lose at it? Is there someone in your gaming life you enjoy playing with even though they mostly defeat you? These two might go together (i.e. this person always beats me at this game), or both might be more generally true.
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6. Board Game: Frosty The Snowman [Average Rating:4.50 Unranked]
Lori
United States
Durham
North Carolina
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I spent my childhood dreaming of a white Christmas. Unfortunately but predictably, since my youth was spent in central Alabama, this never materialized.

I only remember ever getting a "snow day" off from school one time. Of course a mere handful of snow in the deep South can cause hilarious public hysteria, but our headmaster was a hard-boiled type who always insisted that he had gone out early, driven around, and the roads seemed fine to him. The one time our school ever had an adverse weather closing, the headmaster was out of town and it was the assistant headmaster making the call. And he clearly brought a different perspective to it, because he was from Hawaii! I always secretly wondered whether he got in trouble for closing the school when the headmaster got back. ;-)

Have you ever had a "grail" game that you dreamed of getting to play for a long time? Did it live up to your hopes, or did it disappoint you, or are you still seeking?
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7. Board Game: Conundrum [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Lori
United States
Durham
North Carolina
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BONUS QUESTION:

A nongamer friend has sought my advice on a gaming-related issue, and I in turn, dear Meatballs, seek yours. My friend has an 11-year-old nephew who is smart, thoughtful, and fun to be with. One of the things this kid enjoys, and his aunt enjoys doing with him, is playing games. Note that Nephew has just recently relocated to the area where Aunt and I live, so there's not a lot of historical data in terms of what they've been doing.

I know they've played chess, and also when Aunt told me about this, she was reporting on an excruciating family game of Monopoly over the holidays. Nephew owns other games, but I don't know what--likely the usual mass-market fare. I suggested to Aunt that, if compelled to play Monopoly again, she might abbreviate and enliven it by playing by the actual rules. I mentioned a couple of the main changes that would produce, and she was intrigued by the idea.

Her further problem is that, while she and Nephew get along great on their own, playing games while his parent, Aunt's sibling, is a participant or even present results in Aunt getting the evil eye. Nephew's parent is a proponent of the "let him win, he's a child!" school of thought, and becomes disgruntled if other adults don't appear to be throwing games to the kid.

Aunt reports that Nephew won the chess game fair and square despite her best efforts. Aunt considers her sibling's philosophy to be unnecessary, fun-murdering, destructive of character, and pretty much completely misguided.

My brief in this, as expert boardgaming consultant, is to (a) suggest games that might be fun to play with Nephew, and which might make either good gifts from Aunt, or good games for Aunt to have for when Nephew comes over; and (b) furnish any advice I can for dealing with the Nephew's-parent situation, so that Aunt and Nephew can have fun playing games without starting a major family feud.

The first thing that has occurred to me so far was to try games where the scoring is wholly or partially hidden until the end of the game. The second thing, though, was to refer this matter to a panel of experts. Please bring forth your advice and recommendations!

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8. Board Game: Rise of Augustus [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:771]
Lori
United States
Durham
North Carolina
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I have already reported on my New Year's eve game of Bonnie and Clyde.

One of my gaming friends had New Year's Day gaming, and we played:
Lords of Waterdeep. From my previous few plays of this, I thought all the Lord cards were related to quest types, so I was amazed at the start of this game to draw one that gave bonuses for buildings built. I also got a plot quest with a bonus for buildings, so that was a nice combination. My victory was crushing.
Notre Dame. I like this and hadn't played it in too long.
Sleuth x2. Good times with a deduction favorite! We played first the host's copy of the same edition I own:

One of the sleuths had brought her copy of the newer edition:

so we decided to play again and give that a try. It addresses some of the design failures of my edition, and I like the cards, but I don't think I like the sleuth sheets so much.

Wits & Wagers x2. I have heard gamer praise for this for so long, and had not tried it until now. None of the descriptions I ever read made it sound fun. Now I get it. It didn't knock me out, but I can see its merits.

And one more game night this week. My friend had gotten some games for Xmas, and we started by punching, learning, and playing Village. We enjoyed this pretty well, but were confounded by how quickly the game ended and our ineptitude in preventing this. Next we turned to her new copy of Rise of Augustus, which we enjoyed so much we played it twice more. Then I challenged her to a Ubongo Duel. This was played on the harder (5-piece-puzzle) side. I won the first duel, and as it was quite late by this point, we decided to conduct the rematch on the 4-piece side.
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9. Board Game: Kingdom Builder: Crossroads [Average Rating:7.64 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.64 Unranked]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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A quiet week with Sarah

Kingdom Builder x2
We used two Crossroads boards in the first and one in the second. I had an easy 73-53 win in the first and a 68-64 defeat in the second. Loving the expansion and enjoying the game just as much as I ever have after 60 plays. And everything still fits inside one of the expansion boxes!

Backgammon x2
I was surprised Sarah picked this as I nearly always win and then she gets frustrated. We played twice. I won both. She got frustrated
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10. Board Game: Innovation [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:277]
Johannes cum Grano Salis
United States
Finger Lakes
New York
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"It's not hard to design a game that works, the real challenge is making one that people want to play again and again."--Martin Wallace
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Innovation (2p)
Finca (2p)
Commands & Colors: Ancients x4 (solo)


Last night I taught my wife Innovation. I was a little concerned because her eyes were a bit glazed over for the rules explanation, and she didn't understand what she was doing for a good chunk of the opening few ages. But at a certain point, it clicked, and her questions got a little more detailed. Her eyes lit up when she realized she could dogma Fermenting, and then do it again, and next turn do it again, and she cackled at her huge hand of options. Innovation is about cackling, right? Then at one point she deliberately shared a dogma with me so that I'd draw the last 5 and she could move into Age 6. On her first play she got that!

She won 6-5. It was awesome. She liked it a lot, and said she'd need to play it again soon so it could sink in.

We also managed a game of Finca before the new year. I won, but it was a weird game because all the 2 tiles were buried deep, and consequently we only finished one 1-6 sequence. Low scoring game.

C&C:A was solo a few times, as my wife took Boy to her parents' house for a few days and I got some alone time as last week I went back to work. So I played through a few scenarios, all the way this time and by the right rules, and my opinion of it has changed a bit. It's not my kind of game at all, but for a solo Activity, it's fine. It's quick to set up, quick to play, and despite not having any interest in the historical battles or figures, it was neat to learn some stuff. It solos just fine. I'm also predicting that it ends up rocketing to the top of my Most Played list by the end of the year. With something like 20 scenarios in the base game box, played 3 times each, I'll get a lot of mileage out of it.

For an opposed game, there's too much chaos. By myself, I don't care that all 5 dice missed their target and the Battle Back was devastating. I'm closer to understanding why people enjoy this kind of experience, but I also get why they also tend to enjoy wargames by themselves. As an Activity, this is neat, and I found it more satisfying than I once thought I would. It's unsatisfying based on what I look for in a game, though, if that makes any sense.
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11. Board Game: Times Square [Average Rating:6.31 Overall Rank:2520]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Another whole week with the family (unfortunately tomorrow it’s time to go to work).

New year’s eve, party with the parents of our godson and with the godparents of our daughter (aka friends). Playing started quite late so we didn’t play that much. When 6 nimmt! was suggested, I taught them a new to me game, Turn the Tide instead, saying it’s a bit like 6 nimmt!. So now I can compare three games: 6 nimmt!, Yin & Yang/Relationship Tightrope and Turn the Tide. 6 nimmt! is a game I happily play whenever we are a lot but it feels a bit bland to me. I like the decisions in Yin Yang more, but it’s true that the game is not as much fun as 6 nimmt! (as Martin noted, here it’s not that clear if the results are good or bad for the players which takes away from the fun). Fun vs. more interesting decisions – I rate the two games quite the same. But Turn the Tide is, in my eyes, better than both. It remains fun (it’s always clear what is good for players and what isn’t), the decisions are always interesting because every time you play a card your situation is different from all the other players’ situation so you might be going for different things. And it even looks very nice with a fun (thin) theme. It’s a winner, another Stefan Dorra game I really like.
Then we played Dixit (mainly the decks of Dixit 3 and 4) for about 2 hours (yes), until one player reached 70 points while my wife had only 39 and I had only 40 (so he made one more lap on the scoretrack than we did). I don’t know, these new sets didn’t feel that inspiring as Marie Cardouat’s drawings, but maybe it was just us – by this time we were really tired.

New year’s day
traditionally starts with the kids getting up rather early. Then they watch dvd while I play games with the father of our godson.
Times Square 4x – Damn, his winning ratio has just grown to 23:3 against me.
Samurai 1x – It was a tie until the last move. Unfortunately he also saw what I did, so he won.
Keltis: Das Kartenspiel 1x– a fast two-player game where I played very badly.

Friday, playing with my wife:

Kingdom Builder with Crossroads – I don’t want to repeat myself, details of the play can be found here.

Sunday, a very little playing with my wife:
Keltis: Neue Wege, Neue Ziele– this wonderful episode of the Keltis Saga is one where the game itself is very cruel to the players. I love this tension, my wife is always complaining – but she wins quite often. She won again.

Gaming with kids during the week:

Catch-a-Roo 5x
Da ist der Wurm drin 2x
Alles Kanone! 1x
Gold Nuggets1x
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Das Kartenspiel1x
The Kids of Carcassonne 1x
Trap the Cap 1x – My wife had fond memories about this game from the ’90s. Now we played it. Well… It’s a Pachisi-like game with about the same luck level (here you have to catch other figures – caps – and take them home so they are out of the game; if you catch a cap that has already caught your cap, you can save your caps by taking them home). It’s moderately fun for what it is, except it’s almost a pure luck game with player elimination (last man standing is the winner). I rated it low, even though maybe I would have enjoyed it as well 20 years ago.
Car race 1x – some even simpler roll and move on the other side of the board, too long with no decision at all
Nacht der Magier 3x A game that gets better the more you play. It’s a bit more tactical when played in light, but more fun with the kids when played in the dark – the pieces are glowing.
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12. Board Game: Escape: The Curse of the Temple – Quest [Average Rating:7.71 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.71 Unranked]
Brad N
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
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.NA. Theseus: The Dark Orbit - 3 Players
.NA. Eruption - 4 Players
.NA. Hedbanz for Kids - 5 Players
_9_ Terra Mystica - 4 Players
_9_ Ra - 4 Players
_9_ Pandemic - 2 Players (x2)
_8_ Russian Railroads - 3 Players
_8_ Legendary: Fantastic Four - 2 Players
_8_ Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar - 3 Players
_8_ Dominion - 4 Players
_7_ Trajan - 4 Players
_7_ Escape: The Curse of the Temple – Quest - 2 Players (x9)
_7_ Saboteur 2 (expansion-only editions) - 4 Players
_7_ High Society - 4 Players
_7_ Trains - 2 Players
_7_ Eat Poop You Cat - 6 Players (x3)
_7_ The Resistance - 6 Players (x2)
_7_ Click Clack Lumberjack - 3 Players
_7_ Banjooli Xeet - 3 Players
_7_ Kingdom Builder - 2 Players
_6_ Der schwarze Pirat - 4 Players; 2 Players (x2)
_6_ The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac - 2 Players
_6_ Tsuro - 4 Players
_6_ Angry Birds: Knock on Wood - 2 Players
_6_ Chicken Cha Cha Cha - 3 Players (x2)
_5_ Monster Factory - 2 Players
_4_ Zeus on the Loose - 4 Players; 2 Players


Next to BGG.con, this must have been my biggest gaming week of the year... for both titles played and total number of plays. Time off of work and kids home from school and others off of work and New Year's eve and a bunch of new games all added up to a lot of plays and it was all good too.

(1) Russian Railroads, Tzolk'in, Theseus - My week pretty much started off with playing 2 of the better recent games in my opinion (RR and Tzolk'in). Theseus seemed like it good be a decent 2 player, but the 3 player (especially for learning) was not great.

(2) Escape: Quest - I wasn't sure about this expansion, but it's made the game better for me. My wife and I played this 9 times with everything from the original and Quest and we removed most of the Illusions stuff.

(3) Eruption, Hedbanz - My daughter wanted Hedbanz and received it for Christmas and it went horribly. We were astonished at our kids' inability to ask questions to get them closer to the answer. Eruption was a big hit... it's a pretty simple, tile-laying take-that which isn't overly painful and mostly a lot of fun.

(4) Kingdom Builder, Dominion, Ra, Resistance, Eat Poop You Cat, Toc Toc Woodman - Adults played this group of good games on New Year's eve. Resistance is a huge hit with the family and Eat Poop You Cat created absolute hilarity of an indecent variety.

(5) Trajan - I liked this game enough when I first played it, but didn't think it would amount to anything too good. After four plays, I like it more and have more respect for it than I did originally. It may move to an 8 rating for me.

(6) Legendary: Fantastic Four - I wasn't interested in this when I first heard about it, but I'm enjoying Legendary so much that I did get it and it does add more interesting heroes and villains to the game.

(7) High Society - This is a good, little filler game that I like more the more I play it. It isn't a great game, but it is one of the more clever Knizia, simple designs out there. I'm always intrigued by how the game plays out. I upped my rating from 6 to 7.

(8) Saboteur 2 - After hearing Martin mention that his game of this with 4 players went well, I decided to give it a try. I'd tried it with 2 players before which didn't work (and I didn't expect it to). It does work well with 4. We had a lot of fun and did remove the Boss and Profiteer cards because the rest of the players thought they were dumb and weren't totally getting them. I'll definitely play this with 4 again and might remove most of the new stuff when playing with 6 or more.
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13. Board Game: About Nothing [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
Zaandam
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Niks, nakkers, nada, nothing, rien, nichts, you get the idea. For two weeks running.

We've all been ill and debilitated with various painful illnesses which in my case at one point physically prevented me from leaving the house because I couldn't wear socks and shoes. It was a most depressing holiday season.

On the bright side, I have made a start in shrinking down my collection by registering various lots for an upcoming game auction. (No, you can't participate unless you physically visit the Netherlands at the end of January.) It's quite a voluminous stack comprising games with lots of expansions, and I hope more are soon to follow. My partner has become a lot more cooperative in selling off games... but the 'price' is that I don't argue about games she wants to keep.



Oh wait: Merkator at 2. While I still think the running around on the graph with its roapy junctions is rather soothing, the fact seems to remain that at 2 you miss out on travelling together. It is altogether too easy to strive for contracts which have little overlap with those of your fellow player, and that makes the game a tad dull. In this particular episode, I had some good VP cards yielding quite a lot of VP for me as opposed to my partner who just had a bit of VPs here and there. But she had twice as many as I did and her contracts were better, so she won at 82 to 75. When I cleaned up I realised, stupid me, that I could have used my heap of time markers (worth 10 VP, not too shabby) easily as jokers in the 4:1 trade rule. This would have meant more contract fulfillments and thus more VP and money. Really rather stupid to forget this particular use. Oh well, better luck next time.
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14. Board Game: CV [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:887]
John Bandettini
United Kingdom
London
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That one not so much
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Ohh that tickles
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Another super quiet week for gaming. Only game of the week was CV with a friend of mine from Los Angeles. We grew up in the same street but he moved to LA over 30 years ago where he works as a photographer, covering Oscars and big movie, show openings and various music gigs. He visits the UK two or three times a year to visit his elderly father. He's not really a gamer but he plays games with me.
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15. Board Game: Nada! [Average Rating:5.68 Overall Rank:9869]
Andrew
United States
San Francisco
California
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Nothing this week, and probably the next one.
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16. Board Game: Zero! [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:2113] [Average Rating:6.97 Unranked]
Justus
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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Like Caverna, lets start a string of nothing!

Its been a quiet new year!
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17. Board Game: Skip-Bo [Average Rating:5.37 Overall Rank:15141]
Agent J
United States
Coldwater
Michigan
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He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
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He's a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action. He's a furry little flat-foot who'll never flinch from a fray. He's got more than just mad skills, he's got a beaver tail and a bill.
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If only it had been nothing.

This and a game of Monopoly Deal were it for me.

I was taught Skip-Bo and found a hole in the rules that let the game stall out completely, so that no-one could do anything - looked at the rules and discovered that we had not been taught correctly about discard piles. By then we just wanted to be done though.
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18. Board Game: Lewis & Clark [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:138]
Paul Lister
United Kingdom
London
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Donna's new year resolution was to play more board games. Thank you!

Three plays of Lewis and Clark. For a game that was not designed with a theme in mind the mechanics gel with the aim of being the first to recreate the 1804 expedition.
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