GCL Phoenix 164: Timeline - Reflection
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Eeeville (next week, since we skipped him last week)
Some of you on Facebook may have seen that my grandfather passed away recently. He was 95. When someone passes, it's a time of reflection, of considering the time they spent here, and the time we ourselves have been here. One of the things I thought about is how my grandmother passed away almost 20 years ago (it would have been 20 years in May). 20 years is a significant portion of his life to have been without her.
I thought about my own life, and what the chapters look like compared to the whole.
I've been part of the GCL for four years, the same length of time I was in college. Although college is a somewhat small-looking segment in the middle, the people I met in college I've now known for more than half of my life.
I was in a timeline making mood, so I also made one of the current Phoenixes:
It doesn't really give the sense of 4 years to me, but this format worked better for the information I wanted to include. (I'd like to take credit for Morganza getting the pink space, but Excel assigned the colors and it just worked out that way.)
When I first started thinking about this week's list, and great expanses of time, and my grandfather's life, I was reminded of a project that we did in 9th grade Earth Science. We drew the ocean to scale. We used strips of paper about 3 inches wide by 6 feet long (maybe 10 cm by 2 meters, for the metric readers among us).
(This is a rough sketch from memory, to give you an example of what I mean.)
As deep and dark as we think of the ocean, and it is, when viewed as a whole, it almost looks like a flat line. I've had deep and dark days that felt unbearably deep and dark at the time, and yet, as the years pass, the more I can see them as variations in my life line rather than bottomless.
I'm not done playing with Excel yet.
Still thinking about timelines, I thought about activities over time, specifically, for our purposes, plays of specific games.
Some hot new games look like this; a ton of plays in a short amount of time.
Some good games look more like this; a medium amount of plays over a somewhat longer amount of time.
And some games come out periodically, sometimes in clumps of plays, sometimes just one now and then.
Those, you may notice, all have
6 8 "units of play" to illustrate them being the same amount of play. Real life isn't quite that neat and perfect.
A hot new game might look more like this:
A bunch of plays, then nothing for a bit, then a play, then nothing, then perhaps some renewed interest down the road, maybe when you get a new member of your gaming group.
And here's more of a steady old faithful, maybe it's Catan you played all through college, or your opening filler at game night. Or cribbage that you play with your wife every week over Sunday brunch.
Assuming equal plays, which timeline would you rather have? A burst of plays to submerge yourself, or a steady familiarity? Does one make you feel like you got your money's worth/time's worth out of a game, and the other doesn't? Are there games where you feel like you must get plays in right away, otherwise their newness/hotness might wear off and you'll miss your chance? Are there games you know will be back on your table over the long haul?
(Edit: counting is hard)
We played two new games this week (my Valentine's Day presents), Glass Road and Concordia. Glass Road was good, but Concordia is the winner for both of us.
In yesterday's game, I went for wineries. I had all of them, along with the card that let me produce (and get 4 VPs for each one). They were my main source of income.
I was somewhat bolder in buying cards this time, which let me score more with what I had, putting me out a bit ahead of Sam in the end (though not as far as the first game, this one was definitely closer). I look forward to playing again.
_10_ Innovation x1
Only one game of Innovation this week, but it was a good one against my younger son. He claimed the first couple of achievements, I caught up and we went back and forth until I won with six to his four.
_6_ Neuland x1
This week I decided to go over the logistical games in my collection, and we started with this one. We did mostly second edition rules not having recalled what we used before (and my being too lazy to look at my notes here), which worked out ok even with the silly pulling things out of a bag routine. My oldest son ending up winning by placing his twelfth icon while his brother and I only had eight accomplished.
_7_ Helvetia x1
I wanted to play Helvetia to compare it to Neuland and I liked this a lot better. Both have this virtual goods thing going on, but this uses weird mechanics and bonuses that make it feel more unique to me. I ended up winning this with 29 while youngest son had 22 and oldest son 14. So far I think we've only ever played this three player, and I think it would be better with four, but other than that this is a clever game that I feel needs more exploring.
_9_ Roads & Boats x1 New!
After a long time punching and sorting chits, and going over rules, I finally got this on the board with my two boys to explore. We used the triangle scenario from the book (I think that's the name, it's the first one for three players and a pretty gentle map) with a sort of "gentlemen's learning rules" in effect where we were going to mostly be doing solitaire thing and not try to steal each other's geese, although I noted we should try to take advantage of using things others have built as in Neuland. The boys started with similar moves while I did some things different, which turned out to be a mistake as it slowed me down. We played one thing wrong for the first part of the game, where we were contributing to the wonder without having the goods in question by on a home tile, just on a transporter, but we fixed that by the time the costs increased for the wonder.
In the end my youngest son won with 73, oldest son 66 and I a mere 60 and we all felt pretty inefficient. We all thought it was a great game though and we learned a lot of lessons with it. I plan to play the same map again and see how we can do better. We also have the & Cetera expansion bits and I explained what they all did but no one tried to do anything with them. Next time we'll see if any of that gets used.
I'm agressively rating this because this is really in my wheelhouse. I love the spatial aspects and all the different bits. The ability to make different maps is great and something I was trying to do with Catan and its expansions that never came together as nicely as this does.
The result of playing all three game this week is I think we've decided that Neuland isn't as necesary. One of my goals is to get the collection reduced overall and get great games played more. Neuland is nice and I'm happy to play, but if I want this kind of thing in a shorter time period Helvetia appeals more to me now. Most of the things Neuland does that Helvetia doesn't do are things I would rather do in Roads and Boats, mostly in the different worldmap setup. I also don't think the time track in Neuland is as interesting as it is in Glen More and other places. Usually we would just take all the actions we could, or take all the actions to the point where you could stop, because first player again, and then take a ton of actions. I much prefer the simultaneous play in Roads and Boats.
I've also noticed Craftsmen as another take on the "virtual goods in a production chain" line, and that has some wackiness with Alhambra-like multiple curriencies, so I wouldn't mind trying that or other games I don't know about that do similar things. It does seem like initial reactions to Craftsmen is that it takes a long time, and depending on how long, eventually it would become a question of "why not just play Roads and Boats then?"
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.
That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 22Feb2014:
15/31/70 plays of 11/17/41 total games, with 1/5/7 expansions employed.
Plays with 10/12/37 distinct opponents.
2/3/5 games acquired (plus 1/2/7 expansions.) - Ace of Aces: Flying Machines (in trade), Scalawag! (a gift) and Terra Mystica: 4 Town Tiles.
3/4/5 games sold/traded (plus 2/3/3 expansions.) - The omnibus edition of Origins: How We Became Human (with American Megafauna and both expansions) and Battle Beyond Space.
0/0/5 games ordered (plus 1/1/3 expansions.) - Terra Mystica: 4 Town Tiles.
Orders for 9 games and 0 expansions still outstanding.
With my two younger children:
2x _7.3_ Love Letter - Both youngsters play well; I love watching them enjoy the deduction and inference parts of the game. And they seem to enjoy it, regardless of its triviality.
1x _7.3_ Ligretto - We're pretty well matched at this one, the three of us; so it ends up working out pretty well. Thinking of last week's "House Rules" question, we use some here to make the game work better for three than the default rules provide (basically we all put out more piles of cards, so that the total number of face-up cards is roughly equivalent to what a four-player game would expect.)
With son #2:
3x _7.3_ Love Letter - It even works pretty well for two. (Better with three or four, though.)
1x _7_ Duck Dealer (54 months dusty) - Heh. Best game of Duck Dealer I've ever played. (I'd rank it significantly higher, in fact, if this had been a representative play! And who knows; perhaps it will be in future: the youngster enjoyed it.) Son #2 is immune to Analysis Paralysis. So he plays quickly; intuitively; happily. And I (when playing with him, at least; I'm much slower in other contexts) played this one at his pace. It was quite charming: none of that "Oh, I must plan this perfectly" feeling. We went with absurd (and often incorrect) approximations of correctness, and were happy with the results, however imperfect.
1x _8.5_ The Great Zimbabwe - I'd not previously played it with two; and found myself amused by how viable the game was. Yeah, I know the game claims to play with two; and I generally trust Splotter's work; but I'm a bit embarrassed to have resigned its two-player prospects to something near the depths of the two-player game of Die Dolmengötter (which is dramatically less interesting than the four-player game.) In any event; this was pretty cool.
1x _6.7_ Catan - The two of us against a couple Android AIs. Things broke my way, but the game still did its job: blew fifteen minutes while waiting for the Pentatonix concert to start last night.
With the Wednesday Night guys:
1x _9_ Indonesia - The highlight of my Splotter Week games (though Antiquity would have taken the crown if I'd got that played.) I made a couple early blunders, then stormed back to take the lead in (what proved to be) the penultimate turn. I arranged things so that one of my opponents had the opportunity to end the game at that point - but, sadly for me, he didn't. Amusingly, it didn't work out so well for him, either: by extending the game a turn, he fell from $2 off first place (and in second) back to ~$800 off the pace (and in third.) It's a cool game, and mutated quite amusingly in this instance.
With the Friday Lunch gang (plus Bruce):
1x _8.5_ Bus - I was the only one that had played this before. It's ferocious, but sensible; so the other guys were able to engage with the game and have a pretty good idea what was going on. I'm finding this one increasingly engaging every time I play, which is quite delightful.
With cool folk at BAP:
1x _7.7_ Concordia New! - Fun to overlap in a play with Carol; it's been several months since that's happened. I found my first play of this one quite charming. I can't say I played well - but there seemed to be possibilities of cleverness and subtlety that was (either modestly or significantly) out of reach. It's something I'd be delighted to play again (and might end up buying.)
1x _7.3_ Key Market - Play was a bit flat. I tried a pathology that didn't work that well, in truth; and it constrained the game for the other guys to their detriment, too. I think the game can manifest better than this one, to the degree that I'd be disappointed if this play proved to be the rule (rather than the exception.)
1x _7.7_ Caylus - I'm pretty terrible at this. And - sure enough - came dead last, too. I really enjoyed the play: I just hope I didn't mess up the enjoyment of the others.
1x _7.7_ Too Many Cooks - Well within my top 5 Knizias (along with Taj Mahal, Through the Desert, Schotten Totten/Battle Line, and Stephenson's Rocket.) It's not serious; but, equally, it's tractable, cute, and presents a set of interestingly variable challenges. I find I'm often happy to play this, and enjoy the results, win or loss.
Owned-and-unplayed: 9 (+2/-1) - Ace of Aces: Flying Machines and Scalawag! arrived (and American Megafauna traded away unplayed.)
Outlook for the week: I'm on call this week, which will constrain things a bit. I'll take any game-playing I can find
Lots of new stuff this week owing to some new purchases from last week's terrific MittenCon as well as one of my Kickstarter games arriving.
Rampage x 3
This is an extremely fun, highly ridiculous game. Setup involves building a city by placing meeples on top of the foundations on the game board, placing floors on top of those meeples and repeating. There are various sizes of buildings and 6 colors of meeples. Each player gets a a character card and a power card as well as a secret super power card. The first 2 are public knowledge. That last one is super secret.
The players then proceed to spend the next 45 minutes destroying everything. You turn consists of 2 actions chosen from the following 4:
- Move: You move by flicking a disc a la Crokinole. After moving, you set your big heavy monster meeple on top of the disc.
- Demolish: If your disc is touching the sidewalk of a building, you can pick up your monster and drop it on top of the building, scattering floors and meeples everywhere.
- Throw a bus: If there is a vehicle in your neighborhood, you can place is on top of your monster's head and flick it.
- Blow: You can rest your chin on top of your monster's head and blow, attempting to scatter things.
After your 2 actions, you claim any floors on the board that have nothing on them, then you automatically eat meeples that are lying in your neighborhood. Any meeples that go off the board are placed on separate sheet that acts as a sort of game timer and occasionally penalizes players. You start with 6 teeth, and you can eat 1 meeple per remaining tooth (if you know another monster down, you take one of their teeth).
It's silly and fun. There's skill, but it's pretty chaotic as you can imagine. It's so fun though. Last night we played, and Charles played a card that let him pick up another monster (me) and throw him like a bus (knocking the other 2 monsters down and taking a tooth from each).
If this sounds terrible to you, it will be. If this sounds fun to you, it will be.
Firefly: Out to the Black x 1
I talked a bit about this on last week's list. Here's the summary:
Cooperative card game with nothing particularly interesting going on. Morganza thought it looked like Battlestar Galactica without the traitor aspect, which is pretty accurate. Also pretty dull. A good theme does not make a good game.
Paperback x 5
My wife and I are both extremely enthusiastic about this deckuilding word game. It's dead simple, particularly if you've played deckbuilders before. You stock your deck with letters, make words and buy more letters. There are VP cards that act as wild cards in your hand (but have no buying power).
Like the above game, I think that one could read the description and have a good idea of whether or not they'd enjoy this. I could see this one working for gamers and muggles alike.
Hanabi x 2
Basic Hanabi with 2 inexperienced players got us scores of 19 and 20. Not much to say at this point other than that I love this game.
Amerigo x 2
Stefan Feld scores another winner for the wife and I. The cube tower is fun, the exploration is enjoyable. Everything will feel somewhat familiar to fans of Feld's other games, but that doesn't feel like a bad thing to me. After 2 plays today it's a strong 8 for me, which is the rating that shows that I'm excited about a game.
Pretty terrific, varied week gaming-wise. Very much a Cult of the New week for me. I had Wednesday at the shop, gaming last night with friends and lots of game time with my wife (more than we've done in months). I got to play 3 new games I rate an 8 and my copy of Snowdonia arrived in the mail yesterday.
No complaints here!
Board Game: Dixit
[Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:193]
[Average Rating:7.32 Unranked]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
Just imagine the red offboard up here. I'll create it Real Soon Now...
Yes, I know a proper 18XX tile should have a tile number.
The Great Zimbabwe - Me, Dave E., Dave D. (HDTVDave)
I botched my choice of specialist and deity; saddled with an unviable combo, I played happy friendly craftspeople who slowed the game down for everyone, notably a second-level Vessel Maker sharing a far-off corner with a Potter and a single source of clay. Dr. E. crushed us.
My first 18xx in many months and it did not go well.
1849: The Game of Sicilian Railways - me, JC, Bruce (thepackrat)
I had big privates and didn't want to float an early company to get stolen. I held out for the RCS, but, oh, oops, with the $130 for tokens, I couldn't make that viable either. I over-invested in Burce's Akragas and he dumped it on me with no future. I was very happy to sell in my privates and toss the company into the black hole, but even with $500 in cash I didn't see a viable path. Fortunately we called the game on time.
Dixit + Dixit 2 (once around with simplified scoring): me, my sisters Ora and Debbie, Debbie's kids A. and B. (not sequence letters, their real initials), and oh-my-goodness my 84-year-old mother, who came up with an awesome one-word clue (Strathmore) that had all of us thinking and wondering.
Love Letter: This one, unfortunately, was a bit more complex than the audience could handle.
_7_ Carcassonne x1
_8_ Russian Railroads x1
The Week in Review
Not much of a week for gaming. As a mentioned already, Carcassonne was an excuse to sit together and sample macarons. They weren't however, so distracting that S let her guard down. In truth, she played quite aggressively and tried to mess with my cities on a number of occasions. For the most part, I fended off her meeples and managed to win even though I lost the farming war.
Yesterday's game of Russian Railroads was much more civilized though, yet again, she won the Engineer majority. Between that and scoring more points from her bonus card, she won by quite a large margin.
Russian Railroads remains my favourite from last year's Essen crop even though I've yet to play it with more than S, and I'm quite sure it plays better with more than two. Madeira is probably better with two (it's dice placing mechanic makes it scale nicely depending on the number of players), but I find it just a bit too long and just a bit too procedural. Just a bit.
The Week Ahead
Indigo and Dave's comments on Concordia has pushed it to the top of my unplayed list, above both Outpost and De Vulgari Eloquentia. Might get it played this week if I can bother to read the rules.
K has tentatively locked in Saturday for another romp through Middle Earth. If he comes over, we'll tackle The Watcher in the Water. It'll be the first time playing with two base sets of The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, which means I can finally toss the two 10-sided dice I've been using as my threat markers and use the wheels like everyone else (not to mention we'll have eight Gandalf cards in the mix and duplicates of some of the other rarer cards). So I look forward to seeing if we can manage things a little easier.
Board Game: Kemet
[Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:77]
"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
.10! Hanabi 2
_8_ Carnival Zombie 1
_8_ Arkham Horror 1
_7_ Tweeeet 1
_7_ One Night Ultimate Werewolf 7
_7_ Kemet 1 New!
_7_ Edo 1
Week in Review
I broke out my new copy of Kemet midweek, which I had received as a kind gift. This game is good fun and doesn't overstay its welcome. In our first play it did suffer from the problem that we could see 2/3 of the way through that the game was between two particular players and the other two were along for the ride. The last turn came down to the trailing players carefully avoiding kingmaking while the leaders bashed it out. It was won on tie-breakers.
I taught Arkham Horror to some old friends who had expressed interest in the game. We had a rollicking four-player affair that was enjoyed by all. This was an afternoon game and a great way to spend four hours with prized people.
Saturday I finally had some time to break in One Night Ultimate Werewolf and we all quite enjoyed it. I can't say every game was good, as a couple of the games had awkward card deals that left one player pretty hosed. It's much harder to be the werewolf than a villager and these early plays are about learning how to bluff from the minority side.
Hanabi was played with my new version, Hanabi Extra. I love the oversized cards and racks, even if they are not always as easy to manipulate as ordinary cards.
R. Eric Reuss
I finally got to try Pax Porfiriana, a favorite of some hereabouts! We had 3 players: me, M, and N, all veteran gamers. Early-game was very tentative, as the market was about 50% orange and black cards; N and I actually acquired Enterprises and started building income streams while M just parasited off of us with robbery and extortion until eventually expanding into ranching, just as we plunged into a short depression.
The first two topples came and went with nobody having nearly enough prestige to make use of them - in most cases, we didn't even have enough to overcome Diaz' base defense. I then pulled into a lead on Outrage, cementing it with nationalization of 2-3 of my own enterprises. (This hammered my income, but also destroyed a gold railway link of N's, so the pain was somewhat shared.)
I made a play for the 3rd topple, but failed due to over-eagerness. The turn before I went for broke, M threw us out of Anarchy and into Martial Law, leaving my Intervention-enacting US troops unplayable(1). I bought Teddy Roosevelt as an expensive back-up way to get into US Intervention, but hadn't reckoned on the # of "discard to support Diaz" defenses my opponents had in play, and they were able to stop me. Had I retained the US troops, I'd then have been nicely positioned for the 4th topple - but I'd sold them to acquire Teddy. Whoops.
Endgame was a money race, which M won by 20-30 gold over N. M could also have made a reasonable try at winning on Loyalty, but the money was a surer bet.
(1) = Except they weren't; in the moment, I forgot I could play them straight onto someone else's Enterprise.
Overall, I enjoyed it - but man, the high card-count of the deck leads to a lot of streakiness and unpredictability. I'd imagine that this is an active benefit for veterans (very different-feeling games) but it seems pretty nasty to new players. Not only do you need multiple fallback plans (in a complex game you're just learning) in case the cards for your primary plans never materialize, but you can end up with some... odd dynamics. Ours included:
* Our early-game was saturated with Orange and Black - and in particular, Black cards that stole or eliminated Partners.
* But only 2-3 Partners came out before the 1st topple did.
* Even worse, only *one* Troop came out before the 2nd topple. (Or maybe 2, but I think 1.)
* Our early-game was mostly devoid of Prestige other than victim-awarded.
Also, the first 3 troops out all had machine-guns (the 1st naturally, the 2nd/3rd from German Arms Dealers)... though we never saw enough troops to have any idea what the usual sort of dynamic among them was, so I can't tell if the high firepower distorted it.
I want to try it out again, though if I'm playing with new players (a near-certainty), I may do a pre-sort to keep the distribution of card-types in the game near the average; the simple act of shuffling a 70-90 card deck ought to be streaky enough for interesting within-game variation. I'll also definitely be using the "how much [Prestige] does each player have?" play aids from BGG; having to repeatedly count that got old around mid-game.
~ ~ ~
I learned Pala (Pontillism version) that same evening, a lovely color-based card game where in the right circumstances, you can combine Red/Yellow/Blue cards together to make Orange/Green/Purple cards. I'm a fan of odd trick-taking games, and the changes from mixing and smearing colors shakes up play in some interesting ways: most of the fundamentals of trick-taking strategy are still present, but warped, and there are new maneuvers you can make, like mixing to guard a secondary color singleton, or mixing needlessly to void your hand of a primary. The bidding/scoring is also interestingly different; you bid a set of colors. If you take at least one trick of each of those colors, you earn (# of colors bid) x (# of tricks taken) points; if you fail your bid, you gain nothing. Taking more tricks is always good, but there's an element of judgment / risk involved, too.
(There's option for a null bid, which gives you points on success but costs you points on failure. The amount varies with the number of players, which is excellent; most games don't address the varying difficulty of null bids.)
The host had an extra copy he offered to me, as he's moving soon; I'm quite happy to add it to my collection.
~ ~ ~
After a 1-2 week break from playtesting, I started back in on Spirit Island, trying out some Spirit changes as a warmup before I dive into a rework of the Event Cards and Fright Effects. I have opportunities for face-to-face playtests this weekend and next, and want to make good use of them.
~ ~ ~
Outside of games: My wife's had a rough on-call week, and I've brought our car to the shop 4 of the last 5 days. But we had nearly a week of 40-50 degree weather, nobody in the household is sick, I got to go to an awesome acroyoga class (and do a touch of rock climbing) last Friday, and spring is coming. Kind of a yo-yo of a week, but looking up!
“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done, the Dornishman’s taken my life, But what does it matter, for all men must die, and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!”
"Oak and iron guard me well, or else I'm dead and doomed to hell." - Andal proverb.
Just digital plays of Seasons and Ascension last week. Not really much to say other than I love the 5 new cards from the new expansion and can't wait for it to arrive in March.
The rulebook for Seasons: Path of Destiny is no available. If you zoom the pdf, all of the cards have been spoiled and I can't wait to own this. The rulebook is also interesting in that it announced a new game in the seasons 'universe' called Lords of Xidit (not currently in the database). I think this may be the reprint of Himalaya because all of the pictures of the characters are riding some sort of animal, though the description doesn't really sound much like Himalaya. I was just about to type 'maybe it isn't because the designer's name is the same as the designer of Seasons,' but just checked and see that the designer of Seasons is the designer of Himalaya. If it is the reprint, it's interesting in that it plays 5 players right out of the box instead of 4. I guess they'll eventually do an expansion that will add the 6 player. The ad also says this will be released in Aug. I'm definitely willing to give this one a go... same designer as Seasons and also the same Artist (I love his work).
I received an order in Grand Falls as I'm probably heading there this weekend. It includes: One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Council of Verona, and Eight Minute Empire Legends. I had to pick up ONUW because it's so very awesome. I picked up the other two as filler options as I don't really like Love Letter and people trending towards it.
I didn't know what to do with my UberBadge, so I left it as a GeekBadge.
Last week's plays:
-10- Agricola (+Belgium deck) (x3)
|9.5| Mage Knight (+The Lost Legion; Krang)
-8- Hanabi (x2)
-8- Space Alert (x4) (+The New Frontier (x2))
-7- 6 Nimmt!
-7- Archipelago (x3) New!
-7- Carcassonne (+Inns & Cathedrals; The Phantom)
-7- Dominion (+Walled Village) (x2)
-6- Coup (x3)
-6- Khmer New!
-6- Paris Connection New!
-4- Eldritch Horror New!
-3- another damn Civilization game New!
Mage Knight involved leaving work early to fit in a full co-op scenario one evening. D is now a convert, after his first couple of interminable four player games had him doubting. I played Wolfhawk and for the first time made good use of her skills that require you to ignore units. It's a big disadvantage not interacting with that part of the game, so you need the right combination of skills to come out to make it worth it. I think the biggest problem was I ended up taking more wounds that ordinarily my units would have soaked up, so had to prioritise getting healing effects into my deck. We won in good time (at least in terms of game time; in real time it still took five hours).
We had a small Agricola resurgence over the weekend playing three two-player games with the Belgium deck. As usual for this deck, there were a couple of cases of ambiguous wording that we needed to sort out. These games brought back to me how I struggle with getting baking up and running in two player games because Clay is so tight; it's much easier in multiplayer. I tried out the Military Leader (skip the last two Rounds and Harvests of the game in exchange for 13 Bonus Points) in a game that I was comfortably winning while Kate was feeling bad about her chances. It was a mistake. Giving her uncontested access to any actions she wanted allowed her to catch up easily. It's probably a better card in multiplayer but I like to try these things out to see what happens. There are three cards I can think of that have you sacrificing late game actions for VPs and they all seem terrible (Holiday Home, Honeymoon and Military Leader) but one day I'll get all three of them together and be unstoppable!
We taught Space Alert to two friends and they were a bit overwhelmed. I'd forgotten how long it takes to actually get to the proper game, running through some of the tutorials and simulation missions first. We managed to get a win on the easiest setting but I felt like Kate and I were prompting them too much and it was hard to get the new players involved in decision-making. Not sure they'll be asking to play it again.
Saturday evening was full of quick fillers, with a rotating cast of players. Coup saw one player shake his head in disgust and leave the table rather than play another round (even though he'd come in second). In Hanabi, I felt like I was playing mediator as well as the actual game: one player was very vocal with his opinions on other players' choices and I had to defend the less experienced players otherwise they might never play it again. I think it's a difficult game to get everyone playing at the same level, but there's no need to make people feel bad because they haven't played it as much and haven't picked up on some of the tricks you can pull.
I played five new games last week!
I was intrigued by the idea of SNCF, pleased to see it reprinted by Queen but unprepared to pay the price they were charging for it. When it came up in a recent Maths Trade, I jumped at the chance. This was a three-player session and was good fun. It was pretty obvious which train colours we were going for but I particularly enjoyed the moment when we all realised how we could screw over colours we had little interest in by sending their trains out into the wilderness. Kate was clearly aiming the purple trains at Marseille, so I wasted lots of them on going nowhere so the company could no longer make it to the finish line unless she gave up some of her shares. Interesting game in a short time frame.
With Skip-Bo cards, so we missed out on the aesthetic charm that has so enraptured Tom. However, I can see what he's getting at here and can imagine that if you had nice looking cards and took your time over it, this could be a peaceful, contemplative game. We just played one hand to learn the rules and have discovered none of its subtleties. I like that it's a compact game that works with two and could be played almost anywhere. It seems like the sort of thing we could take travelling with us as it doesn't take up much space when stored or in play. As for the game play, well I'd like to explore it more because I didn't really get a feel for the possibilities. Presumably you can use deduction to improve your chances, but with four cards removed from the game, isn't that quite difficult? I knocked when the central total was just one point higher than my own total but was it luck that I won then, or had Kate made a critical error? Neither of us knew. We'll give it another go.
Just two of us for this one, since I read here it works OK with that number and it has sat unplayed for too long (since Essen 2012). This took real effort to teach. So many wrinkles, what-ifs and card abilities not explicated in the rulebook. We started on Wednesday night, set it up and went through everything but ran out of time so had to leave it set up on the kitchen table overnight. It made breakfast difficult but on Thursday evening we played two games using the short scenario. This is really too short but it gave us an idea of what's going on and we liked it. We used two scoring cards each, plus the Benefactor and one other Trend card and we didn't bother bidding for turn order, we just alternated to keep things simple. I can see how the auction would play an interesting part of the multiplayer game but with two we decided it wasn't really worth the effort. Rebellion was never really a risk in these two plays - population was increasing quickly enough that the rebels wouldn't catch up. We were just playing with the possibilities of the game here, aiming for our goals but also trying things out to see what would happen and learn the rules.
The third game was a Medium length scenario and a few wonders came out that offered VPs. I went for these, having access to lots of stone for building the Lighthouse and Cathedral. The rebel threat was much more real here and a few crises came up that we couldn't deal with. I had the opportunity to spend some of my stone to quell a rebellion, but I preferred to keep it to build the Cathedral and moved the burden onto Kate. She didn't have any stone or exploration tokens left and the game was lost! That was a bit anti-climactic as we were both concentrating on pursuing our goals and planning for a longer game, but it will make us take notice of the crises in future. I thought this almost push-your-luck element was quite clever - how far can you transfer responsibility for averting disaster onto the other player? With the Benefactor card, you want to be involved in preventing some crises, but finding the right balance is an interesting challenge.
I really like the open-endedness of this game. It presents you with lots of options to choose from and what you're aiming for could be different each time. There's a bit of deduction in trying to work out what scoring cards your opponent has and playing towards them while considering what the game ending conditions might be. Regarding how the game ends, the designer clarified that you must declare when one of the conditions on your cards has been met, but what if you just don't notice? I can easily see it happening that we get carried away with what we're doing and miss the fact that four Character cards have been purchased, for example.
The scoring is a little wonky in two player. First place gets 3VPs, second place 2VPs, but having none of whatever is being scored for will get you no VPs. So mostly there'll be a 1VP swing in each category unless you've played so inscrutably that your opponent doesn't guess your scoring cards. You could cover all bases by building one of everything, I suppose. This small difference in scores was what prompted me to grab whatever wonders I could - the one or two VPs they provide could be enough to win.
Archipelago was a pain to teach, but now that we've learned it I can see it getting plenty of plays. I'm really keen to try it with more than two, and eventually to get the Pacifist and Rebel scoring cards into circulation, but I'm wary of teaching it after this week’s experience.
At time of writing, this game is ranked 69 on BGG, which is preposterous - selection bias in action. Arkham Horror fans will probably enjoy this as a quicker version of the same but there's more than a little Tales of the Arabian Nights to it too. Our game took three hours and the decisions were minimal and self-evident. Despite that, it was a good time spent with friends, all of whom I think enjoyed it more than I did. My biggest gripe with the game is that there's just not enough of it. Even though it has dozens of different stacks of cards, the stacks are pretty small and it didn't take us long before we were seeing the same encounters repeated. For a flavour-filled storytelling game, that's a big problem. You find another laboratory of covert scientists investigating a mysterious glowing rock from space, only this time in Sydney instead of Rome? What a coincidence! It's nothing that can't be fixed with expansions, and I'm sure FFG are rubbing their hands together at the thought.
We thwarted Azathoth whose story cards have something of a meteor and Shan theme running through them. I'd play this again to see how substantially a different badguy changes the game, but really for Mythos horror storytelling, I'll stick to the Call of Cthulhu RPG and for an actual good boardgame with a Mythos theme, I've got A Study in Emerald.
another damn Civilization game
Since last week's Geeklist was a Wallace special, I thought I'd honour the theme by trying out one of his games I hadn't played yet. After struggling to interpret the rules, which are vague in places and downright wrong in others, we had to restart. All seemed well until we reached the War spaces, at which point our previous efforts were wasted as they were just knocked off the board. We'd be better off just racing up the track to the finish, since the last space can't be stopped with War and has lots of VPs on it. It felt like whoever could move further up the track had an advantage, so rolling 4s or 5s (giving you a movement ability) was very powerful. I don't know whether the strategy of getting a piece or two on the board and then using as many movement powers as possible is unbeatable, but the game wasn't sufficiently interesting to play again and find out. Disappointing, even when it came free with a magazine.
This is going to be a two (three) for one for the last couple of weeks...
I went up to Sheffield with a load of the Rugby Magic players to compete in the Pro Tour Qualifier. For various reasons not a lot of sleep was had the night before and a six am start didn't help. I ended up going 3-3 and dropping out. This wasn't my target, and I think better rested, and possibly as a better player I would have done somewhat better. I could have grinded on for a few more boosters but by that point I'd stopped having fun. Rich had come over to see how various friends were getting on and I went back to his for a much needed cup of tea, some fine food, and a couple of games Tsuro which I'd been wanting to try for ages, and Vikings an old favourite which I'd not played for some years after selling my copy.
They were good enough to let me win .
On the following Tuesday we played Russian Railroads at Rugby on Board, a three player game. This was my second play and I went all in on Engineers, not building a single factory. This was a mistake. While Engineers are great, factory points seem to be crucial, and, at least in the 3-player game, the board is open enough that there is less incentive to invest in your own private spaces. I came second, though Stuart in first place had me almost lapped.
The Friday (F)NM was 2 Headed Giant, which is quickly turning into my favourite magic format - two vs two with separate decks, shared turns and a shared life total of 30. I built two near mono red decks to play alongside another older returnee player, matching my monored devotion with his red burn deck, splashing white for additional removal and some hard to beat token generators. This mixed up the Red/Black devotion decks that I'd played the last couple of times to victory. This time we won the first three matches and then paired up against the only other 3-0 for the finals. Both our opponents decks were mill based - strong in 2HG where decking one of the opponents wins the game. We died to a combination of milling planeswalkers and a fifth copy of a library mill card - tome scour. Having more than four copies between the two decks is illegal in 2HG and we spent a while deciding what to do. In the end we agreed to give them the game, - they were new players unaware of the rules (which hadn't been stated at the start of the evening), the fifth tomescour was the only instance and making a fuss would also impact their previous games. Still, it was somewhat annoying for everyone concerned - second place took the sting out a bit.
On Tuesday at Rugby on Board we played: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar. This was a three player, two of us on our second play and one more experienced. It was close to the end, resources and food were tight due to the neutral pieces and none of us were able to afford a monument. I'm not sure how I feel about Tzolk'in. Some turns you have little or nothing to do, while others you face agonising decisions which create exponential variables drifting off into the distance. This can be frustrating as due to the core on/off mechanic of the game each player has their own cycle of difficult turns. I went big into buildings taking an early the lead on two of the god tracks sustained through the game. Only with the last play of the game Hugh snuck past the necessary rung on the God track taking a well earned victory.
Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts. We've had a few more plays of this in the evenings. Still not using the orb, but enjoying the new cards. I really like this expansion.
Upcoming there is more Magic forecast on Friday and maybe also Sunday. If I can get the cards together I'm going to try to put together a new deck. I'm also trying to put together a draft group so will either need to integrate that with FNM or more likely switch out with the Friday.