GCL Swedish Meatballs #143 — Faites vos votes!
Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
Zaandam
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Introduction
Welcome to this week's Swedish Meatballs discussion list, episode #143. The Meatballs are a division of BGG's GameChat League, where groups of geeks blabber in a semi-open format quasi-intelligently (and sometimes even intelligently) about topics they find interesting. Civil comments from non-members are fine and even encouraged, but only members should add items, usually your weekly games played or anything else you find interesting to add.



Rotation
Jugularup next
bnordeng
NateStraight
aaarg_ink
ellephai
rarevos
JohnBandettini
Osirus
Jythier
fateswanderer
qwertymartin
Sorp222
lacxox
cymric



This week's topic
On March 19, the Netherlands will whip out their red pencils again, and engage in the most dangerous activity possible in a democracy: elections. At stake here are positions and coalitions for the 403 town councils the country has. These elections are the second most important to be held (parliament is of course king), and are a curious mix of nation-wide sentiments tied in with very local issues. Because town councils have quite a lot of room to fill in their own policies, it can very well be the case that you vote for one party in the parliamentary elections, and for another during the town council ones.

Votes are weird things. We don't use them often, yet they form a cornerstone of society. We also don't see them often in games. Time to give them a little thought. Ladies and gentlemen, faites vos votes!
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1. Board Game: Voter's Choice Election Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
Zaandam
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So, what do you think of this week's topic?
Poll
What do you think of this week's topic?
Brill!
What topic? (I never read the header.)
Oh. I C. Meh.
Lee's were better.
No, this is actually pretty cool.
Eh, why is that even an option?
See?! This topic is better.
Nah, Lee for teh win.
      15 answers
Poll created by cymric
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2. Board Game: Poll: The Game of Politics [Average Rating:6.33 Unranked]
Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
Zaandam
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Do you vote when the occasion arises? If not, in what votes do you participate? And if you don't vote at all, why?

(Keep it clean, boys and girls, this is not the slyme pit that is RSP. I'd like to think we are better than that: responsible and rational adults. ...! Anyway: if you pose a challenging statement, be prepared to explain it in detail if so requested; and if you challenge a statement, know when to quit.)
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3. Board Game: Election Quest [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
Zaandam
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To be honest I am hard-pressed to name games containing voting or elections. Which titles come to your mind? Is there perhaps a title you could qualify as being a favourite? Why?
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4. Board Game: The Poll Game [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:10762]
Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
Zaandam
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Voting and elections are without doubt rare mechanisms in boardgaming land. Why do you think that is the case? Could the mechanism be made more popular, or is it a lost cause to try?
 
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5. Board Game: Home Improvement [Average Rating:5.22 Overall Rank:12909]
Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
Zaandam
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Are there existing games which in your opinion would benefit from the inclusion of a voting or election system?
 
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6. Board Game: Raj [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:1861]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
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Tuesday: games night at Sam's

Tsuro - not sure why this one has been coming out so often recently, it's terribly forgettable.

Municipium - Sam acquired this lesser-known Knizia in a trade and I was happy to teach. It's neat and quick, but pretty samey, so I wouldn't want to play too often.

Raj - I owned this a few years ago and traded it after a couple of plays. In the light of the recent bluffing microgames though, it looks well ahead of its time. Pure psychology, and the tournament version (escalating bonus points for the winner of each round) really brings out the metagame.

Love Letter - still nowhere near tired of it.

Take it Easy! - still tickling me nicely.

Tuesday/Thursday: lunchtime games with Joe

Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts - Joe overwhelmed me with big blue production, despite my 5-card leech on produce.

Aton x4 - this is so great with a regular opponent! We've seen all the different types of victory (mostly for Joe).

Saturday/Sunday: with Sarah

Scopa - first time in a while

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small x2 - both with buildings from the 2nd expansion. The first game had lots of buildings that did things with fences. My free fence-builds when expanding overpowered Sarah's free fence-builds when building a Stall. The second I set up a weird grid of small pastures to maximise the Organic Farm (one free animal in each pasture that contains only one animal). I got 5 sheep out of it (and 19 by the end of the game) but only one cow and no horses. Sarah's more balanced farm took it.
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7. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:207]
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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Went to my friend's 40th Birthday Game Bash to play games. We played 7 Wonders, Acquire, and then half a game of Empire Builder. Good times!

The next day I introduced Android: Netrunner to my eldest son, who enjoyed it but saw that it was very complex. Not sure if it's going to stick yet but we'll try.
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8. Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:26]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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Sadly not a full game of this, but taught the beginner game to a friend of mine who had wanted to learn how to play. I always find it difficult to go back and play the basic game instead of the full version, it's just not as deliciously deep.

Also played the free Print and Play of Harbor, a game that Tasty Minstrel was giving away to raise awareness for an upcoming kickstarter. I don't know if I'll be playing it enough times to write a review, and it seems wrong to review a beta p&p version of a game anyway, but suffice to say this one had some flaws.
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9. Board Game: The Blue Lion [Average Rating:5.92 Overall Rank:6229]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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Wednesday, gaming club:
The Blue Lion 2x - a 10-minute 2-player filler from Bruno Cathala (edit: and the yet unknown Sylvain Duchêne) that we played twice before someone who was half an hour late arrived. I really liked it for what it is. In the beginning there is some luck involved, later it's more about memory so the game is definitely not for everyone, but if you accept these two elements it becomes a nice game of tactics by the second half of it. It's really good, interesting and fun for a 10-minute game.
Concordia 1x - Playing 5-player, I think, was a bit too much. There are just too many things changing by the time it's your turn again; also downtime can get a bit too long AND the cards run out way too fast - the game was over before I could have focused on them enough. Still, it's a fine design, but I guess 4 players might be the sweet spot.
Lewis & Clark 1x - A 2-player game with the guy who owns it. Last time when I played it (first), we played 4-player and the other two guys were really slow (and still were left behind). Now the game lasted exactly one hour (just like indicated on the box - 30'/player) and this way it was A LOT better. By the second play I didn't even feel like the rules are very fiddly (even though it's a novel mix of several popular mechanism ideas). Now I can say I really like it - but you need fast players to play.
Forbidden Island 1x - A 2-player game of it. Well, it's really not a very deep one, it's really Pandemic lite without many interesting decisions but the tension is there. I can also see how it can be played with a 5-year-old but I guess I'm going to wait a bit until I play it with Miska (now 5 and a half), until he can make most of his decisions on his own in this game. Maybe tomorrow I can play it with colleagues, we'll see how it works with the gateway crowd.
Yōkaï no Mori 1x - played Let's Catch the lion - fun as always, a bit more interesting when played with an adult.

On Thursday evening
I played a 2-player game of Lord of the Rings against myself, using the correct ruleset. Now I made it to the fourth board, but I failed at the beginning of it, drawing 5 event cards in a row...

On Saturday we went on a 3-day holiday with my wife to lake Balaton. Since we came home today, my week was longer than usual... In the hotel, we played
Cthulhu Rising 2x - Forget the dreadfully silly theme (the main reason why it has so low ratings). Also, use a red and a blue felt pen to mark the number '6' and '9' tiles - the terrible graphic designer forgot to make them really different. So what do you get? Nothing extraordinary, but a fine little numbers game in the vein of Robot Master but with two boards and a scoring where timing is the key. I like it as a 20-minute filler.
Balloon Cup 1x - where I won mostly because I had so bad cards that I had to discard and re-draw 4 cards twice during the game.
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small with the first expansion 2x - I guess I really have to make those tile mats with Hungarian translation; during the two games I used 5 of the 8 expansion tiles and Saci used none. And I won both games, although she seemed like catching up in the second game.
Kahuna 1x - An outrageous game where the first round was, for me, about re-learning how I should play, so I lost it right there - we played three rounds but the score was 10:0 for Saci.
Then, on the way home, on the train we played
Sushizock im Gockelwok 3x - I like this stepbrother of Pickomino. I won the first and lost the next two.
Love Letter 1x - following the AEG rules it means playing until 7 games won (I won by 7:4). Well, while it's not completely unplayable 2-player, this game is definitely better with more...


Also, playing with the kids during the week, before we gave them to the grandparents: The Kids of Carcassonne, Kangaroo, Geistertreppe, Orchard, The Little Orchard, Cards4You, Memory, My Beautiful Pony.
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10. Board Game: Linko! [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:704]
Paul Lister
United Kingdom
London
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After last week's orgy of gaming it has been back to normal. Well apart from finding my best new to me game of 2014. Ridiculously simple - a deck of 8 cards each of 1 to 13 plus 5 jokers, each player dealt 13 cards. on your turn you play any number of the same number cards, if what you play matches the number of cards last played any one else and your card numbers are higher you Abluxxen them - either take their cards in to your hand, if you don't want them they can either take them back into their hand or discard and draw replacement cards from 6 cads in a TTR like display. Game finishes when a player empties their hand and cards on table are 1 point per card and cards in hand are minus points. Some gamers have struggled with the simplicity - what I don't have to follow the numbers/cards played?, whereas casuals have loved it. I have played it about 12 times since Saturday and can see why Eric Martin has tipped it for this years SDJ.
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11. Board Game: Glass Road [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:210]
Andrew
United States
San Francisco
California
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This week I finally played a face-to-face 3p game of Tournay (basic rules) - when scoring isn't zero-sum it becomes much more complicated. My opponents set up strong white and yellow combos, but neglected pushing for scoring; I messed up and built the score-for-yellow/white-buildings prestige building (due to my heavy character use it gave a negligible VP advantage), but replaced it with the meeple-sets building (with 4 sets, perhaps the first time I've seen this building score well) and the rampart-cards building (with 3 ramparts).

I played the game 8 times on BGA as well, including a few character-reliant fast tempo games that left the common meeple-scoring strategy in the dust (which is nice to see, as meeple-scoring seemed like such a staple), as well as a few sloppy games where I wasn't paying attention.

Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts hit the table 9 times this week, including a mammoth multi-hour series of games in which I taught several new players (and someone spilled guacamole on my cards but was too far away for me to yell at her). I ended up using the same Alien Artifact Hunters plus Galactic News Hub combo in two games to consume for bucketloads of VP without deliberately pursuing a p/c path; it seems that with the right opening, pivoting strategies is quite easy, but we'll see how things shake out.

Glass Road is my headline game for the week - a 3p play where the other players didn't spend 10 minutes on each action made me consider purchasing the game for myself (and put it on the purchase list of the other two). For me its appeal is quite similar to Homesteaders: quick, non-aggressive, streamlined resource management with strategic differentiation and to a lesser extent some tactics that require you to figure out what your opponents want and whether you can exploit that. This is the kind of interaction I enjoy, as opposed to just taking stuff.

I did not like Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia very much - having played What's He Building in There? a couple of days before, the similar weaknesses of these Kickstarter games stood out for me.

Both are action-drafting games where you grab resources to flat-out build VP - in both cases lots of grabbing and conversion is required, and there's little opportunity to invest for more income or stronger actions later, making the designs feel like tactical action-selection marathons where you repeat the same resource gathering process round after round. The constraints on strategic positioning weakened any narrative arc, and hurt inter-play variety. Euphoria's efforts in this area (recruits and faction tracks) were perhaps its best mechanical feature, but they were both limited (recruits gave small, situational bonuses) and linear (if you have a Wastelander recruit you push the Wastelander track); WHBIT had secondary inventions (built for their special powers) but their strength seemed questionable given the pressure to scrape together resources for the primary (required) inventions.

Both games have themes with excellent potential (a future dystopia and Despicable Me supervillain schemes) that are not pursued in a focused manner. WHBIT spent the bulk of its length building stuff and occasionally expressing supervillainy by advancing on abstract VP tracks. While Euphoria was unfortunately explained to me in a completely abstract way, I struggled to create a narrative about what was going on. Am I trying to free the citizens? I can't be because they can escape my control. Then why am I digging tunnels? Are the factions part of the dystopian society? Why am I constructing markets (given trade is usually associated with economic freedom)? Why do I have a choice between supporting and subverting the regime? The use of dice as workers felt underdeveloped: supposedly the numbers represented their intelligence, coarsely affecting a few of the action spaces, and creating a possibility that you'll lose them, but surprisingly for a game about dystopia that was it. Well, you reroll the dice when you take them back, and if you roll multiples you get extra actions, which seemed not only gamey but an uncharacteristic intrusion of luck.

Both games had amazing components that nevertheless suffered from usability issues: WHBIT had something like 14 resources manifested as piles and piles of cards, plus cards for patents and their licenses; Euphoria had beautiful custom wooden pieces, but the board was cluttered with icons and took a while to figure out.

I appreciated the attempts at innovation of the interactive mechanics, but they seemed to dwell at the edges of much more conventional designs. In WHBIT you can either build an invention first (using lots of resources) or license it from the inventor (using fewer resources but paying that player money); however due to how primary inventions are secret from other players, there wasn't a way to work this into a strategy. (I did like the Caylus delayed worker-placement resolution though - it forces you to prioritise not only the actions but when they are executed.) Euphoria substituted bumping for blocking with some interesting potential (being bumped can return a worker without spending an action and potentially a resource, but it can also risk the loss of a worker); but there didn't see to be enough contention make this a major skill in the game (perhaps this was because it was 3p), so it just seemed a very friendly action-pseudo-drafting game. The markets seemed like a fascinating twist (structures that gave penalties to non-builders when collaboratively built) but it turned out that anyone penalised by a market would almost immediately lift the penalty (using another action).

To sum up runaway blather, these Kickstarter games:
* were mostly tactical, with weak strategic arcs;
* had interesting themes that lacked in execution;
* were beautifully produced, but had usability flaws; and
* were mostly mechanically conventional, the innovations being pretty peripheral or insubstantial.
The apparent pattern manifests the apocryphal Samuel Johnson quotation "the parts that are original are not good, and the parts that are good are not original" - enthusiasm and ambition for the "easier" parts of the game (theme, components), but a lack of polish in the more difficult areas (arcs, development). Compared side-by-side to recent releases by Rosenburg or Feld (the old and new betes noires of BGG hipsters), the value of experience on the core game design is undeniable.

Of course, all of that is on the basis of a single game each, likely at suboptimal player counts, and I'm sure the respective designers/self-publishers believe in their products and have treated their backers well. But I think the most likely outcome of a successful Kickstarter is something along the lines of Lords of Waterdeep rather than a Caylus.

Origin was an unusual game I had an eye out for when I first heard about it last year. While the gameplay is abstracted and reasonably positional, I'm a sucker for unusual, globe-spanning themes. The game is about spawning (from a limited pool) and moving large wooden tribes around a map of the Earth, where each new tribe spawned must be one characteristic different from its progenitor in terms of height (movement), fatness (ability to displace), or colour (no difference). As you land on different regions you pick once-off actions, scoring objectives, and special powers. It's not a long game; at the beginning it felt like you had no restrictions, but by the end I was painfully aware of the objectives had no chance of completing. Due to its length, I'd play this game again, though it's actually not my kind of thing mechanically, and finding the right tribe marker when spawning was a pain.

After an extended hiatus, Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small hit the table again with both its expansions. My opponent must have been practising in the interim, because while I got distracted with a silly special building, he crushed me with a gigantic score far beyond what we had scored in the past.

It's official, tricky-ish games like Coup and Shadow Hunters work for me, while outright lying games like The Resistance don't. I played one quick game, and though I was eliminated early on, it was decent.

Online I tried Expedition: Northwest Passage, only working out how the sled and ice worked after I messed them up. It's a different kind of game, nice for variety but not something I'll be seeking out.

I also finished an online (iPad) 2p game of Suburbia which I won easily with ongoing advantages in both public goals, income, and reputation. I'm looking forward to an iOS release of the expansion, as the base game has lost some its freshness for me, with all the AI play.

Tokaido: Crossroads was released on BGA; I played it and liked it but still treat it lightly. Certainly there's more depth in there - the good players win consistently, and by solid margins - but I don't aim to pursue it.
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12. Board Game: Olympus [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:1372]
Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
Zaandam
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A Sunday's worth of gaming with the parents of the host watching over the lil' one saw me upping the total play count by 5, spread over 3 distinct titles.

Olympus (3P) — My gaming friend had purchased a copy of this game and had asked interested parties to prepare themselves so that explanation would be a little easier. I'm not sure this approach worked, but still we found ourselves playing without too much hassle fairly quickly. There was the occasional question about a card's power, but that was it.

After I played Olympus at Stratelibri's booth at Spiel 2010 (see the image, I'm the guy on the right in the grey T-shirt), I continued to remember the game as a nasty piece of work because of its agression—Ares and Apollo could really bite. In addition the deck of personalised cards was not easy on newcomers. It also came with a far too hefty price tag to purchase just like that. So it never got to the table again, at least not until retailers and publishers started liquidating stock... which happened last Spiel. So I was a tad nervous about this game.

I needn't have worried, though. Probably because we came prepared, we were careful not to let someone build up a major military difference until the end, and quickly got rid of our resources so that raids would not result in a large bounty. Ares was a pretty useless god in this game, that much was obvious. But this is probably fully due to us playing with 3 when there is barely any contention for action spaces and almost no pressure to play a β-space in order to get a priest out the door you would otherwise have no use for because all α-spaces are taken. There was other nastiness, though. I built the Temple of Athena, a very nasty piece of work which caused the others to back up one of their discs every time I worshipped her... but necessary because others had built temples which treated one resource as a permanent Joker, which is just as dangerous. There were a few plagues, but as soon as the extra priest was in the bag people stopped defending against plagues and faced on grabbing points. It's somewhat insidious that Apollo also doubles as a VP-giver. At the end of the game it transpired that my strong balanced development could make up for a lot, but not all difference to the the specialised approach of my opponents. I lost at 40-44-45 VP.

The main complaint about the game was that it was too friendly, and that the player count needed to be upped to 4 at least (to which I agree); another complaint was that the game for a significant part seems to force the players down the same way until some differentiation sets in through the temples. I find it harder to agree or disagree with that as a lot depends on how you combine all buildings. As the game is over when 4 fame cards have been taken, you could take the option of sprinting to the finish by maxing out the resource tracks. They are shorter than the others for a reason.

All in all, a nice time was had, and there was clear potential for an interesting rematch.

Atlantis (3P + 4P) — The first game of Atlantis was played at 3, which saw a rather balanced approach to matters with noone sprinting to the mainland, and an acceptable point spread as the result (all at 15-ish). The 4P game was different: my partner did not exactly sprint to the mainland, but she was the first to arrive there and profited considerably from the influx of cards this brought. The annoying thing seemed to be that lagging behind is also not really an option because at some point you need to cross water, and spending cards and tiles to end up picking a 1-tile is not a clever deal, pointwise. And because everyone had placed a bridge, the winner (my partner) could just walk across all bridges, paying a somewhat larger sum to skip gaps. The end scores were sorely out of whack at 40-ish - 20 - 17 and 15-ish.

I really have no idea whether this game will survive long in my collection if it doesn't shape up soon. It is simply not fun to fight the game as well as opponents at the same time.

King of Tokyo (6P + 4P) — I came in second in the 6P-game by being killed in Tokyo, although it was very close thanks to a card with game me 2 extra damage when I rolled 2-2-2 (very useful); I won the 4P-game by killing the opposition in Tokyo outright. I'm making more use of the power cards these days: they are better than no cards at all, and they can be quite effective.

And the game is over more quickly than 7 Wonders.



A rare game event with my partner: Municipium (2P). A slightly curious, but still quick game of majorities. At 2, there is too much bickering over the Temple and the Baths (for resolving ties and making meeples count for 2, respectively) to play this often, but to be honest I'm not sure that my favourite majority games (Mykerinos, Louis XIV) would stand up to repeated attempts at this number too. There is a touch of Knizia-like set collection in Municipium in that you cash in sets of meeples for the winning 'decurion tokens' (really just VP); at the same time the draw deck makes it all more fluid and unpredictable. For now I'm inclined to say that it is better than a nice-for-once-every-while title, but not by much.

Only sad thing is that my copy is not in good shape. I didn't pay much for it so it all evens out, but the board has definitely seen better days. And I think the game is sufficiently nice to warrant a decent playing surface. Perhaps I'll make a board of my own.



Game night at the local game club, the first time in half a year or so.

The Palaces of Carrara (3P, advanced rules) — Has been on my radar for a while after it appeared at Spiel 2012... and could be played on two or three tables at most. How table allocation works is something I'll probably never comprehend.

My first impression of the game was one of distaste, as the rulebook treats its reader like a moron, and is horribly garish with all sorts of information boxes, colours, arrows, small examples, repetitions, and many other stylistic faux pas. Putting the advanced version in an envelope with a stern warning not to open it before a number of 'basic' games had been played felt rather patronising. The artwork, while beautiful, is not made for ergonomics. Looking at what others have from a distance is difficult.

The authors have created a very streamlined game of resource gathering on a rotating wheel which determines their price, subsequently spending them on buildings, and then scoring various aspects of the player's little world in two, and in the advanced version three, ways. The varying end goals are a major plus in my book as they provide an easy way for people to play the game differently. It's almost as if the Dynamic Duo wanted to create a simple resource converter Kingdom Builder-style, which is as good an idea as any, I suppose. But I didn't much care for the artificial calculative nature of the game, especially with the city modifier tiles in effect. They help in various ways, of course, but quickly establishing how well you're doing compared to the opposition is not easy. Money's influence is indirect for your final score, but it is most certainly important in a game with relatively expensive resources. Interfering with another player's revenue stream is wise. And it goes without saying that calling the game before milking your own little empire sufficiently well VP-wise is probably not such a good idea either. (Although there is another timing question to be answered here, of course: prolonging the game allows others to catch up.) All in all I just don't know. I think I have some idea of what the game is about—meticulous timing—but the execution doesn't make it easy to read the dial.

In the game I played I was 'allowed' by my fellow players to gather nearly all villas at Lerici (the rightmost village) and add the 1VP+1€ modifier to it. Since the goals were >= 25€, two triplets of wooden tokens and one 8-building, I could finish the game in three scoring turns (Lerici, villas, and country buildings) at some point, so I did. I lapped the scoring track twice where the others barely achieved one lap. Of course this is a mistake they will not make again soon. Inexperience played a role, certainly, but also the aforementioned problem of not being able to read another's position easily... although, adding insult to injury, my position was crystal clear.

Municipium (3P) — More fun than with 2, but this game was unfortunately held back by unfamiliarity with the special actions. Players need to know these by heart, otherwise the interaction never gets off the ground properly. Also, Martin said above that Municipium can get kinda samey, and I understand why now too. Still, a rematch was requested, although not immediately.

Goa (3P) — A quiet but interesting match, with lots of expedition cards, and one 'annoying' player who simply bought the tiles he needed instead of accepting offers from his fellow players. Despite having had quite a lot of 'extra action' cards, he was't as efficient as could be, resulting in a surprisingly low score. The third player was tired and made a few errors (for example forgetting to play a specific expedition card alongside an action) which cost him the game too. That left me in a winning position which didn't feel like I should have deserved it. Oh well meeple.



And now for the pièce de résistance: Alphabet challengers! Yes, it's been a busy week of gaming.

Il Principe (3P) — It's been ages since I played this game for the first and only time. It's a majorities game dating back to the previous era in boardgaming when this mechanism was still in vogue. The game bears Emanele Ornella's characteristic of cramming a game full of choices which turn out to be not quite important in the end.

The game itself is a double majority game. One is simply influence in provinces: stock standard stuff, nothing to see, move along. The other is a five-coloured majorities game for obtaining special powers which has the curious trick that obtaining the main prize has you losing half your active influence. The two subgames are linked because in order to place influence on the map, you need to play cards which subsequently get used to determine who gets what special power. All in all not a bad idea. The problem is that, at least with 3 players, it is fairly easy to compensate an advantage gained in one area with a special power; and that there isn't much of a shortage of funds either. It's not zero sum, but it sure seems to approach it. Perhaps the game would be better with more players, but then another problem surfaces: ties are broken with auctions instead of simple rules, and it seems awkward to start auctioning the right to turn over a card, or to gain 2 moneys. Okay, admittedly such a card will give you points if in the subsequent round people place influence (via 'building a city') using cards of the colour of your special power, but it is not a certainty. It feels rather gamey. And what do you do it for, in the end? Lots of little points gathered along the way because of the city building mentioned previously, and a few majorities in provices. Not just gamey, but somewhat overwrought too, and difficult to control.

Il Principe does not appear to be a truly bad game, but neither is it a title one would want to play often. I understand the owner's sentiment in wanting to reschedule the game, but I'm not very keen on the rematch. Luna and Liberté have a higher priority.

Kreta (3P) — We skipped Industria for the time being because we wanted simple games after the arduous Il Principe. Another ancient majorities game, but a simple one with plain although movable influence, and a somewhat regular evaluation of randomly drawn but known in advance provinces. Nothing special, nothing bad save for, perhaps, the haphazard evaluation sequence. The owner thought it too bland and will move it to the trade pile.

Isis & Osiris (3P) — Forgettable fluff. Tradepile material.
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13. Board Game: Pickomino [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:1068]
Brad N
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
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_8_ Crokinole - 2 Players
_8_ Kingdom Builder - 2 Players
_8_ Palazzo - 2 Players
_8_ Race for the Galaxy - 2 Players
_8_ Carcassonne - 2 Players
_7_ Escape: The Curse of the Temple - 2 Players (x5)
_7_ For Sale - 3 Players
_7_ Can't Stop - 2 Players
_7_ No Thanks! - 4 Players
_6_ Pickomino - 3 Players
_6_ Long Shot - 5 Players
_6_ Coup - 5 Players (x4)
_5_ Danger - 3 Players

With the kids...
_7_ Forbidden Island - 2 Players
_7_ Gulo Gulo - 2 Players
_6_ Tumblin-Dice - 2 Players (x1); 3 Players (x1)


One game night with 5 of us playing Long Shot and Coup and a lot of 2 player games this week, especially with my wife.

(1) Pickomino - A cute little dice game that I don't play often, but enjoy enough to keep around. It's a fair amount of push-your-luck that can see big swings at game end.

(2) Palazzo - This is a game that just isn't going to get much love. It is Knizia and it has enough little rules to confuse non-gamers. For gamers who explore the game, I think there is a bit more depth than meets the eye. In our opinion, it works with two and my wife and I always enjoy it. She often ends up with 3 perfect buildings made of the same material and I often end up with a variety of buildings, but the scores are usually close.

(3) Long Shot, Coup - These make for good, lighter gaming with 5 and this group appreciated the subtleties of Coup. I'm still not a huge fan of Coup, but it is cleverly put together and it moves so fast so I'm keeping it around for now.

(4) Carcassonne - My 50th play of Carcassonne and I still like the game - I seem to be just about the only gamer-type who feels that way. I won't play it frequently though and prefer it with Inns & Cathedrals and Traders & Builders. This was also the 101st different title I've played this year already.

(5) Forbidden Island - My boy and I won on the Elite level with the Messenger and the Navigator and just a couple of tiles remaining in the island. The helicopter showed up just in time!
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14. Board Game: Pack & Stack [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:1607]
Justus
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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My sister was in town so I had a mini-three day gaming (primarily 2P) / baby convention which was nice.

Pack and Stack was her gift, and it works fine 2P (played by the rules with the exception that you can pick from all four tiles, not just the opponent's two tiles).

So does Kakerlaken Suppe/Salat which is brilliant if you've got a silly mood. Pro Tip: in English, Suppe with Leek/Carrot/Pepper/Mushroom rolls way more smoothly than Salat with Bell Pepper/Lettuce/Cauliflower/Tomato. So if you have a choice to by essentially the same game, go with Suppe. OR go with the about to be published Dance version which includes busting out your hottest moves. Kakerlakentanz

And not as much but not aweful we came up with a 2P version of Kakerlaken Poker which is better than the varaint in the box (basically you have half the deck in front of you but at any time you only have five cards in hand).

A round of Mamma Mia, which went over great.

A round of Bohnanza with my wife which proves its an excellent 3P game also. I'd like to try the 2P bean duel some time.

A game of Space Beans. I really, really like this game. Uwe really was kicking ass at one point in his career. Its a nice development of Bohnanza but also distinctly its own game.

Also a 3P game of Wurfel Bohnanza...yeah this turned out to be a Uwe heavy weekend!

A few rounds of Spot it! and I now have a couple good 2P variants. 1) Play like the Tower but you must name both the icon that match on your top card and the center pile and icon that matches the center pile and the opponent's top card "dinosaur-snowman". 2) Triplets but the icon must be in a straight line. Like the decktet its a great thing to find a robust playing deck and figure out ways to make it fun.

A couple games of Flowerfall. It fell flat with my wife but my sister who is a sillier soul loved it like I did!

A round of Hanabi. Wow its hard to play with a n00b, especially after having played so many games with the same partner. But still fun, though maybe a bit thinkier than my sister liked.

And one round of Coloretto - I had bought the 10th anniversary edition so the original deck was redundant and went back to Portland with my sis. This is truly a great little game.

So yeah, it was nice...a bunch of light games, the way things are at the house i don't think anything heavy would work anyways!
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15. Board Game: Finca [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:534]
Johannes cum Grano Salis
United States
Finger Lakes
New York
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Coal Baron (2p)
Pandemic (2p)
Zooloretto Dice Game (2p)
1846 (4p, PBEM)
Urbion (LunchCon)
Innovation (2p)
Glory to Rome (2p)
Finca (2p)


It's one of "those weeks" at work. So, briefly:

Had a 2p night with some new-to-me stuff. Pandemic was more fun than I thought it would be. We still lost, but it was better than Forbidden Island and it was actually rather exciting, as we cured three diseases. I was the Contingency Planner.

Coal Baron was solitairish but I liked the action gimmick. Not as good as Palaces of Carrara, but still good and oh so silky smooth.

Zooloretto Dice Game isn't as good as Coloretto.

1846 was PBEM and I came third running two companies, the IC and B&O.

Urbion was over lunch; I have never won, and I lost this particular game with so few cards in the draw deck that I'm beginning to wonder how it's even possible to win.

I had rather emphatic Innovation (6-0) and Glory to Rome (70-something to 30-something) wins over my neighbor, and then beat my wife in Finca.


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16. Board Game: Starship Merchants [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:2856]

Lacombe
Louisiana
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Suddenly a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed. Suddenly a pirate ship appeared on the horizon! While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury. Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up.
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Played a 2p first game of Starship Merchants earlier this week. I was a little surprised that the "destinations" were just bonuses; I think I was expecting a little something different there. Still, a nice game. Midway between an 18xx card game and a Merchant of Venus card game, while still being quite a bit removed from either. I think it's a more effective MoV-lite than Perry Rhodan, at least; the decisions regarding infrastructure and pursuit of bonuses vis-a-vis timing trade-offs are quite a bit more involved [as they are in MoV].

There seems to be quite a bit of room here for experimentation with the system; we didn't buy any ships with loans, nor did either of us [that I recall] wait around to buy 2 ships in one go around the wheel. The timing game here is kind of strange; I wonder if it wouldn't be better with some kind of way to skip a phase / action [at a cost, of course]. I think the claiming / movement of mines would be more meaningful / interesting in a multiplayer game where players are more likely to be out of sync with each other in interesting ways.

Put together a funny trade this week. I'm sending out Shipyard, Caylus Magna Carta, and Livingstone [available cheaply in the local Tuesday Morning still]--two and a half efficiency-engine euros--plus a bit of cash for Alexandros, Magna Grecia, Capitol, Maya, Cheops--five dryly themed yet highly interactive Euros all more than 10 years old. I'll probably reacquire Shipyard at some point, but I think I prefer other action-efficiency titles and I've really never met an auction-/card-driven dry-as-dust classic-style Euro I didn't like.
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17. Board Game: Concordia [Average Rating:8.07 Overall Rank:23]
John Bandettini
United Kingdom
London
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Two gaming sessions last week. So an average week. (I’m not complaining I know a lot of gamers would love two sessions a week)

3rd March at London On Board

Highlight of the evening was Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy. It’s a game that has had a bit of a roller coaster ride on BGG. Prior to release there was quite a buzz and a lot of interest, but a few less than glowing reviews seem to have taken the sheen off of it.

I happen to think it’s an excellent game, it’s a medium weight worker placement game with (I think anyway) a great theme. I realise in a universe where a lot of players have an orgasm when they hear the word zombie, a game about breeding French Nobles won’t appeal to everyone, but those who do find it an interesting idea will find it’s one of the best games of 2013.

Prior to playing it I had introduced a few more players to the simple delights of Qwixx

Finished the evening with a game of DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Heroes Unite. It’s the second game in the series and can be played as a stand alone or combined with the original. To be honest it’s a complete rip-off of Ascension game play wise, but easier. (And Ascension is not the most original or complex deck builder anyway). And this version has mostly b-list heroes and villains in it. But somehow it still manages to be fun to play. I don’t think I will play it as much as the original, but I am sure it will see plenty of play. Leading candidate for best bad game of the year already

5th March at Isleworth Board Gamers

IBG is a lot smaller group than LoB and while I like the guys there, due to the size of the group I have often found myself playing games that I am not very keen on. I have been on a pretty good run lately and luckily it continued last week.

The main game I played was Concordia. Even though I managed to win my first game of Concordia, I could not claim I knew what I was doing. It was more try a few things and see how it goes. This was my third play and this time I had a plan. The plan was to get most of my points from specialists and colonists.

Amazingly it actually worked. We scored up at the end of the game in the order on the player aid card, so all the way up to specialists (the last to score) I was trailing at least a couple of other players. However 40 points from my specialists saw me finish in first place.

I was a little surprised to find nobody at IBG had played Rise of Augustus so we ended the evening with it. I did poorly and the game went down like a lead balloon.
 
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18. Board Game: Archipelago [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:283]
Lori
United States
Durham
North Carolina
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Archipelago
Biblios x3
Friese's Landlord
Hab & Gut
Hanabi
Hattari
Princes of the Renaissance
Tichu

Great list this week, but I haven't been chiming in because I've been on an amazing gaming vacation! I'll be home tomorrow and will hope to catch up.
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