Geek Chat League Gelato 99 - Intelligent Design?
Cole Wehrle
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Policy: If you're a lurker or have otherwise discovered GCL Gelato, feel free to read along with us and see what the members have to say on everything under the sun. If you have a constructive comment or something else you think would add to the discussion, consider posting it — if it's helpful, respectful, and polite to the discussion group as a whole, as well as to its individual members.

First Cause:
leroy 43 (Roger)

What followed:
ad79 (Stig)
alex352 (Alex)
Capt_S (Jon)
cmontgo2 (Chris)
Cole Wehrle (Cole)
csottk (Skippen) ***
DocStryder (Doc)
leroy43 (Roger)
licinius (Carl)
lil red head (Nikki)
oeolycus (Dan)
pete belli (Pete)
PzVIE (Ron)
Sluggonics (Kyle)
tommynomad (T. Nomad)
wifwendell (Wendell)

Next Up: Skippen!

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1. Board Game: Pax Pamir [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:1046]
Cole Wehrle
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This is a selfish list. Sorry. I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about game design, which has in turn made me think more critically about the reasons I play games and the reasons I feel compelled to design them. So, I thought we might take the subject of design as this week's topic.

Have you ever begun a game design project (or finished one)? What inspired you to sink so much time into a project?
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2. Board Game: Ingenious [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:327]
Cole Wehrle
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When thinking about design I feel like folks often use certain watchwords, like "clever" to describe play. When I comb through my own game comments, I see the word pop up with some regularity, especially among my older comments.

What games impress you? And, in particular, what elements of the design stand out?
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3. Board Game: Gulf, Mobile & Ohio [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:4368]
Cole Wehrle
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This week I've been playing a lot (a LOT) of Gulf, Mobile & Ohio which is a strange and wonderful little train game from Winsome. One of the things I like about Winsome games is the way that they demand a lot from their players. Good play tends to be thoroughly non-obvious and is not only arrived at through experience alone but the application of those lessons to the situation at hand.

Is it possible for a design to demand too much of its players? This seems like a question with an obvious answer for wargamers, but I don't mean just in rules overhead. How do you understand a game's difficulty?
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4. Board Game: Risk [Average Rating:5.58 Overall Rank:14516]
Cole Wehrle
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Are there certain design elements that turn you off? Why don't they work for you? Is it simply that they are being misapplied or is the design element intrinsically flawed?

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5. Board Game: Modern Art [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:227]
Cole Wehrle
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Okay, I forgot to add this one. I thought it might be nice to put graphic design in the mix. What, for you, makes for good graphic design. I find that wargamers and train gamers have a much better understanding of good graphic design than the vast majority of gamers out there. I'm not just talking about aesthetic sense either.

Are there companies or artists that you expect excellent work from? What makes their work so good? Do they have any notable failures?
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6. Board Game: Combat Commander: Battle Pack #6 – Sea Lion [Average Rating:8.33 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.33 Unranked]
"L'état, c'est moi."
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This is the week that was:
Djibouti 3
Combat Commander: Europe 1
Power Grid 1
Scrabble 1
Trajan 1

Home with a head cold. But that means I have time to update my entry...

Not a lot of gaming in the past week, but it was good.

Thursday saw a reprise of the Australia map in Power Grid, and I managed to win convincingly with a 61 Elektro cash pile and 15 cities powered. The game had an unusual distribution of plants where in the early game lots of the high 20 and low 30 plants came out, and I was able to snap up the 35 nuke plant to mine uranium and milk the dividends for quite a few rounds before more nukes came up. In fact, I recouped my investment in two rounds and then with the profits after the third round was able to buy three cities.

The Australia map is also particularly interesting in that you can connect to any other city anywhere on the map for a cost of 20 Elektro (or by the standard connector costs if you have adjacency). So there's no barrier to jumping to other regions, meaning it's very hard to get a monopoly in any particular area, other than being able to spread out in the early rounds. Western Australia seems to be one area that's a good place to start since there are five (or is it six?) cities in a clump with decent connector fees, and if you are first in there, people will leave you be which means you can usually safely expand there at your leisure, knowing you'll have to make a jump somewhere later on, and if you're lucky, when step 2 happens.

Having to do a valuation on a uranium mine (nuke plant) is an interesting add on to the game because they don't count towards your plant limit, but they do count toward player order.

Of the expansion maps so far, this set is absolutely my favourite. I really like Baden and Northern Europe as well, but this pair is definitely king. I think I like India a smidge more than Australia, but really, this is a top notch expansion for Power Grid.

Speaking of Power Grid, it's the 10th anniversary this year and there's apparently going to be a deluxe edition - Power Grid Deluxe: Europe/North America. It's going to replace garbage with natural gas, and have a map of North America on one side and Europe on the other. It's meant to be a standalone in the Power Grid "family", but I'm definitely going to be getting it.

The other 10th anniversary edition game I'm thinking very seriously of buying is the deluxe Ticket to Ride.



I know it's a lighter game, but I really enjoy playing it.

Back to gaming, after our PG game, we played a round of Djibouti, and my friend John actually won for the first time (he's the designer).

The Sea Lion battle pack arrived this week and Jonathan and I promptly got together to play one of the scenarios. It was remarkably tense and I managed to lose by giving up objective 5 which was worth a bucket of points when time expired and the objectives revealed... As good as the play test matches as I'd played in the past (although this was a first for me and this scenario).

I then introduced Jonathan to Djibouti and we played back to back games, and split the results. He gave it a thumbs up. This game definitely needs a Kickstarter or publisher to take it on because it's honestly overpriced at Game Crafter, but definitely deserves a wider audience. Nobody I've introduced it to has disliked it, and it really accomplishes its goal of being a nice short game that's worth the time invested in playing.

We finished the night off with Trajan, which is a game I like, but I think isn't ideal with only two players. I did managed to actually make a game of it this time with the final score being 128-124. It is a classic Feld victory point salad game. I'm mixed on his designs. Castles of Burgundy is one I really like, Notre Dame is one I really don't, and the others are all somewhere in between.

More stuff
PBEM
1989x2: Tommy's got some technical problems - he has a new PC and so it's not letting him do anything with our 1989 game except join as an observer. Anyone have any insights? The other game is going ok.

Twilight Struggle: My ladder game is at the point where things go south for the USSR as the late war cards punish them. But we shall see.

Cuba Libre: One game (the learning one) is going swimmingly. The other with Jon and Wendell and some other guy has stalled because the other guy (Government) hasn't responded to prompts it's his turn.

Pax: I still love this game. I seem to have misplaced my player mat though. Yet another sign the games closet needs to be reamed out.

UKCx2: UKC. Still one of my favourites.

Everything else:
My copy of Fleet: Arctic Bounty has arrived. And in a moment of I'm at home with a cold what shall I do with myself today, I Kickstarted The Ancient World, which is from the same guy who did the two Eight Minute Empire games as well as Empires of the Void.
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7. Board Game: Eclipse [Average Rating:7.98 Overall Rank:31]
Ron
Austria
Vienna
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Gaming Week

On Monday I played a game of Relic with Andrea (Scenario Chaos Manufactorum). It was a very close game and it was decided on the Scenario card itself - Andrea won by a nose ...!


At Saturday two friends came over and Eclipse was requested. Speaking about great game design - here's one! We used the full monty, with both expansions. Things went well for me in the beginning, as I had no contact to Andrea's Imperium and I managed to kill all the Ancient ships and had some small skirmishes with my other neighbor, but nothing serious. But meanwhile Andrea developed those Antimatter Cannons for her Cruisers, equipped them with target computers and and a thick hull and went for the Galactic Center (which she crushed easily) and then for my planets ... how sneaky is that? Attacking in the last two turns when I was a little exhausted from my constant quarreling with Sascha ... and with her incredible cruisers, she blasted me out of the sky! I should have seen that coming, but I didn't. She won the game.

After that, we played a game of Kingsburg (using the Kingsburg: To Forge a Realm expansion). This is an interesting and very good design, although I think it has some two minor flaws: miltiary is a little too important and checking out all the possibilities what the others can do with their dice (and you should do that!) can slow the game down. Apart from that, a very enjoyable game. Oh, and I won! meeple

Finally we played a game of 6 nimmt! - a very simple card game, explainable in 2 minutes. Game design-wise very effective - you do have influence, you can calculate a little what card is more or less useful to play, and it is fast. No great design, but a very clever one. Perfect for a "small game".



Other News

I always wanted to transfer my music collection into the digital age, but I never found HiFi components that did satisfy all my needs. Now, I have found it! I bought a NAS server with a Raid system and copied all my FLAC files onto it. I also got me the SONOS Connect and SONOS Bridge cubes to feed my new Yamaha A-S2000 with digital music. The whole thing is controllable with an app on my Android pad! Fantastic! Andrea and I, we're totally happy with that new toy and are both frantically busy in creating new playlists!
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8. Board Game: Star Wars: The Card Game [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:447]
Ron
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Vienna
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Ok, as threatened earlier in this geeklist, here's my first (and probably my last) game design ever. It's from 1992 and while it was created, there was alcohol involved. I wonder if should submit it to the database and request a designer bar ... meeple


BEER WARS

A minimalistic pub game for 2 players by PzVIE

1 Game material

3 dice (two white, one in another color)
18 beer coasters with different back and front designs
a salt cellar and pepper pot (you should find them on any pub table)

2 How to Win

You win the game by removing beer coasters from your opponent’s grid so that he is unable to execute his full move.

3 Game Preparation

Every player takes 9 beer coasters and puts them in front of him, in a 3x3 raster layout. This is now called your “Grid”. One player gets the salt cellar, the other the pepper pot as their playing pawn. Each player puts his pawn onto the beer coaster in the middle of his grid. The player who drank the most alcohol is the starting player.

4 The Dice

All dice are considered to be d3.

(For any non-gamers reading this, it means that a roll of 1, 2 or 3 is considered to be exactly that, but a 4 becomes a roll of 1, a 5 becomes a 2 and a 6 becomes a 3. Pretty complex, isn’t it?)

5 Your Turn

On your turn, you roll all three dice and then execute the following two actions:

51 Coordinate Action

The white dice give you an X and a Y coordinate for a certain beer coaster. You can choose which dice is the X and which is the Y coordinate. With these coordinates, you can now do one of four things:
Remove the beer coaster on that coordinates from your opponent’s grid. This action will limit your opponent’s movement. You may not remove the coaster on which his pawn is currently located.
If that coordinate in your grid is empty, you can insert a coaster there.
If that coordinate in your grid contains a coaster, you can invert it (turn it around – see rule 5.2)
Do nothing. It’s possible that you are unable or unwilling to do any of the three things above.

52 Movement Action

After you did your Coordinate Action, you have to move your pawn a number of movement points dictated by the coloured die roll. Each beer coaster costs one movement point to enter; each inverted beer coaster costs 1 or two 2 movement points to enter, player’s choice. You may only move orthogonally. You are not allowed to move onto or over empty slots in your grid. You are not allowed to enter the same beer coaster twice in your move. Changes in direction are allowed.

If you are unable to execute your move, you have lost the game! Get your opponent and yourself a fresh pint and play again!
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9. Board Game: Eldritch Horror [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:46]
Alex H.
Germany
Berlin
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Played Eldritch Horror for the first time last week. It's a nice little adventure game but I think I prefer Arkham Horror. AH fells much more chaotic, you are really the plaything of powers beyond you and more often than not your party will fail miserably. Eldritch is a more modern game, probably often more satisfying but we'll only know 20+ expansions are out for EH how to really compare the two games.

Also, another game of Through the Ages. Came in dead last but enjoyed pulling a few aggressions off.

Lastly, our Andean Abyss pbem ended. Surprisingly, I won this one by a very narrow margin. I still don't really like the COIN system so this was probably the last I played of this game.
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10. Board Game: Flash Point: Fire Rescue [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:255]
Stig Morten
Norway
Kvernaland
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Played this 4 times. A fun game.

Also got in a session of The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43

Also spent a night in hospital with daughter for observation due to a suspected appendivitis. Turned out to be harmless. The clown that had a show at the childrens departement at the hospital opened the show with "Are you feeling alright?" The response was to say "measured enthusiasm". Us parents laughed abit and so did the clown when he understood what he had asked the kids. Daughter enjoyed the show.

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11. Board Game: The Napoleonic Wars [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:1804]
Cole Wehrle
United States
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Minnesota
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x2 Gulf, Mobile & Ohio
x1 Pax Pamir
x1 The Napoleonic Wars

It was a lighter week of gaming here in Austin. What with the impending festival, I spent most of my time getting my house in order work-wise. I plan on going to the first set of shows tonight. I'll be sure to report back any good finds.

Anyway, I managed two game nights, one virtual and one with local folks. The first was just a playtest of Pax Pamir with a few modifications. I've got some hard choices to make about the design that I am resisting so that project is on hold until I can figure out a way forward. We also knocked back a quick game of GM&O which was characteristically delightful.

The highlight of the week though was a game of the Napoleonic Wars. It had been nearly a year (maybe even two!) since my last play. I messed up a couple of small rules here and there, but largely played the game from memory. What a great design-it's just so expansive and colorful; I can hardly help but get wrapped up in its narrative.

The game ended up just going 1 turn, but it was a long and wild turn with a few cards gave folks draws and not a lot of double-card play. The French ended up pulling out a victory and were in a beautiful position. Not only had they subdued the Austrians, but they very nearly had the Prussians under their control (we were playing a 4 player game as well as the Danes). The Spanish were in trouble but they are damned hard to conquer with that -2 DRM. At any rate, they had a very minimal and pulled a lucky peace die roll.

With the game's early end, we debated playing again but settled for a match of GM&O. I think that was my 6th play in two weeks. Mmmmm Winsome.

The Week Ahead:
Cati demands a round of Titan. We will likely do some Magic Realm as well. She's leaving for the midwest with Owen next week so we'll be spending a lot of time together this week.
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12. Board Game: Unhappy King Charles! [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:1318]
Chris Montgomery
United States
Joliet
Illinois
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Weekend Round-Up

This past week, these games were played face-to-face:
None.

This past week, these games started:
None.

This past week, these games continued:
Stonewall Jackson's Way II, Scenario 5 v. Patrick
Battle Above the Clouds, Scenario 1 v. Robert
Burnside Takes Command, Scenario 1 v. Carsten
Battle Above the Clouds,Scenario 3 v. Lawrence
Unhappy King Charles v. Roger
Unhappy King Charles v. Randy
The Napoleonic Wars, 2nd Edition v. Five-Player Game
Battle Above the Clouds, Scenario 1 v. Gordon (continuation of Game from 04/2013)
1889 v. 5-Player (GCL Gelato!) (New Year's Resolution!)
Battle Above the Clouds, Scenario 3 v. Jon (Teaching Game)
Amateurs to Arms! v. Chris (New Year's Resolution!)

This past week, these games concluded:
None.

This past week, these games/accessories were acquired:
Eight-Minute Empire
Gettysburg 150
Letters from Whitechapel
Red Winter
Wizard Kings Maps 9-12

This past week, these interesting things happened in my games and my life:

1 ---> Purchases. I have heard too many good things about Red Winter to sit on the sidelines anymore. Since I have P500'd the next game in the series Operation Dauntless, I figured I might be able to take a good look at the system and see how I like it. I have never had much interest in the Soviet invasion of Finland, though, so we shall see. Letters from Whitechapel just looked too cool to pass up. And I had heard really good things about both Gettysburg 150 and Eight-Minute Empire, but we will see.

2 ---> Smoking Cessation. Thanks for bearing with me as I count each week. 69 days and counting. I'll probably remove this reminder once I hit 90 days - so just a couple more weeks - I figure that after that I will be mostly in the clear. The biggest challenge is coming up on St. Patrick's Day. Around Chicagoland, St. Pat's Day is a *huge* day of partying, starting with corned beef and cabbage for lunch, and going until the wee hours. This year I *plan* on being home a bit after dinner time, but it's one of the few days of the year that I really let myself have it.

3 ---> 100-Game Play Challenge. After quite some time with the current scenarios, several of them are nearing their end, so there will be a flurry of new AARs in the coming weeks. I think I am getting better at the game, and the little nuances of the game are really starting to sink in. I can't remember the last time I knew a game's rules this well - I am slowly starting to internalize the charts and tables, too - I still refer to them, but find that my first impression was right.

4 ---> Civil War Campaign Series. I haven't finished loading up all the materials onto the Geek, but this entry will help remind me.

5 ---> New Baby. Six weeks to go! Wife had a doctor's visit today and all is well. No news is good news. We now enter the final stretch!

6 ---> The Napoleonic Wars Vassal Module. One of my New Year's resolutions - to update the module. Never having done a Vassal module before, this one was (and continues to be) a daunting task. I must get more work done on it, though, if I intend to have it finished before the end of June.

7 ---> Another Auction. I'm leaving this here as a placeholder to remind me to get that auction going. From a previous list: I was looking at my shelves today, crammed with games, and picked out four or five title right off the bat that I know I should dump. So an auction will be coming soon. I may offer a GCL Gelato discount for bids . . . just tossing the idea around - I try to only sell games I don't want, but my auctions usually include some pretty good stuff, just stuff that's not for me. Stay tuned.

Cheers!
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13. Board Game: The Dark Valley [Average Rating:7.94 Overall Rank:2692]
Kyle Seely
United States
Carmel
IN
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WEEKLY ROUND-UP!

Been alternating between being sick and being really busy at work, so I kind of sat out of last week's GCL in terms of posting a gaming update. Still been gaming, though, both at home and at the club.

The Dark Valley

Watching Kev's videos on his website, and reading the sometimes-contentious conversation over on CSW between Ted Raicer and the East Front sharks regarding balance in the game put this one in my head enough to get it to the table.

Only on the first turn, because I'm really taking my time. This, like many East Front games I've found, even if they're at the strategic level, like A World at War or The Supreme Commander, demand a lot of precise movement by the Germans in order to allow for any chance of ultimate success. You can never just wing it in these games. Which I tend not to like in my wargames - I like games to be open to a lot of improvisation and still provide some kind of chance to meet the victory conditions. Games that are locked into rigid, prescribed movements, where, if you don't move x guys into hex y just so on turn z, so goes the game - I just don't take any pleasure in that. Here, you've still got benchmarks you want to hit at certain times, but there are plenty of choices on getting there.



Finished the 8:00 AM turn at the club. I've started doing video recaps of the turns and posting them here on the Geek if anyone's interested. The first real fighting has begun near the Great Redoubt. I charged elements of the IV Corps kind of early, in the hopes of displacing the Raevsky line before the Russian Guard Artillery is released. Some initial success, but I don't think I have the troops or cav up enough to support my success. We'll see how it turns out. Assembling grand batteries in the center before attacking there, and Poniatowski has just arrived on the right - it'll take him a while to get in position.



Acquired this last week, and am punching the counters now. I did a long, rambling inside the box video on BGG, where I go on more about wargame box art than really look into the components. I do lay the maps out, though. Looking forward to getting to this one, as 1914: Twilight in the East was a seminal monster gaming experience for me - the game that gave me the confidence to tackle even the biggest, most complex games. I'm not exactly hitting War in the Pacific (second edition) anytime soon, but hey, I've got La Bat on the table!



I got outbid on this on a BGG Auction - was hoping to sneak a copy for about $30 and was outbid at $35. After I lost the auction, a kindly fellow BGG grognard sent me a GM and asked if I was interested in his unpunched copy, for just below the outbid price! Is this a great community or what?


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14. Board Game: Copycat [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:1163]
Nikki Ebright
United States
Centennial
Colorado (CO)
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New Avatar! So much Excite! Photo credit to Debbie Ohi, who is Awesome!
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I've been working full time since the beginning of March, and I'm used to having more free time, so my evenings are full *every single night* right now. I know, people would be grateful to have full time work fall in their laps; I just prefer part time because then I can work on other things, like my convention and Shaklee (and reading and sleeping).

Anyway, on Thursday night I got in two games of King of Tokyo at a monthly boardgaming meetup that I'm in charge of (the game night, not the whole meetup, although I am moderating the March 27 discussion group meeting).

Then Friday night we went to a friend's house and played AttrAction and Copycat, which is one of our 10x10 challenge games. I think we're up to around 15 of 100 plays.

I'm only working full time this month, thank goodness! Then I'll go back to my normal 8-10 full days of working for someone else and the rest of the time is mine.

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15. Board Game: Cruel Necessity [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:1601]
T. Nomad
Netherlands
Den Bosch
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This Week


Woo-HOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

So I'm in the middle of my first game of Cruel Necessity and am completely smitten. The map, the historicity, the mechanisms: it's all wonderful. To add monetary insult to exhilaration, my mule has just informed me of his willingness to reprise his role this summer. Naturally that led to me scanning the entire Victory Point Catalogue, and coming up with these titles:

Mound Builders - I have a thing for burial mounds, dolmens, and any other megaliths

I Say, Holmes! - I was a Sherlockian back when it *couldn't* get me girls

Swing States 2012 - Power is my favourite Richard Gere movie

Advice on any of these titles, Gelati?
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16. Board Game: Cataclysm: A Second World War [Average Rating:7.89 Unranked]
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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Si non potes reperire Berolini in tabula, ludens essetis non WIF.
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Hey, get your stinking cursor off my face! I got nukes, you know.
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Been busy so I'm a bit late. We finished our playtest game of Cataclysm. My Democracies ended up winning over the Axis and Soviets; those two sides really exhausted one another fighting in Central Europe and in Siberia.

PBEM game of Andean Abyss ended. Alex' FARC won in a close game, with cartels and AUC right behind.

A Distant Plain and Cuba Libre PBEMs also continue.

Jon's mean Yankees and Brits keep attacking me in Fire in the Sky: The Great Pacific War 1941-1945. And Daniel and I finished our PBEM game of Polis: Fight for the Hegemony. My Spartans made a bit of a comeback in the final round (I was bouncing against a zero-prestige wall in the third round which paralyzed me for a while) but couldn't pull it off, lost 29-27. Fun game, want to play again but I'm not taking on any more vassal for a while, things are too busy.

Oh and last Saturday continued my World in Flames vassal/skype game...

Edit: Oh yeah, another game of Tsuro. Once again, I finished last, with a five-year-old child ahead of me.
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17. Board Game: Pathfinder [Average Rating:6.16 Overall Rank:5357]
Pete Belli
United States
Florida
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"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
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Found this interesting vintage game at the thrift store.

It was a fun, quick challenge of our powers of intuition.
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