My favorite 2014 Gathering experiences
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The 2014 Gathering of Friends was held once again in Niagara Falls NY. My wife, who is the AWANA Commander at our church, did the awards night on Friday and we drove up on Saturday April 12. We drove back home today, Sunday April 20.

I had a serious cold last year (or at least, that's what I thought I had.) This year I also had cold-like symptoms, but the nurse practitioner I saw told me it seemed more like allergies than a cold. I have never been aware of having allergies, but my mother had them, so maybe it's just late onset allergies. Fortunately, although it sounded serious, it wasn't nearly as bad as it was last year.

It was a lot of fun, as usual. Alan Moon, the host, does an enormous amount of work to make this a success, as do many people who help him. Thanks to all of them, and to the people I played games with and just talked and had a good time with.
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1. Board Game: Jump Drive [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:969]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I always want to play something the evening I arrive, even if I'm tired from the drive (it's about 8 hours from my home to Niagara Falls.) This year I played two games of a fairly short Tom Lehmann prototype. After the first game, I went and recruited my wife, Claire, to play a second game, because I thought she would like it too, and she did. I can't say anything about the game, but I enjoyed it.

(Note also that I've selected my microbadges this week as a tribute to Tom Lehmann, though I haven't yet commissioned the one with the $411 poker chip.)

whistle

[I suppose I can now reveal that this game was Jump Drive!]
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2. Board Game: 1862: Railway Mania in the Eastern Counties [Average Rating:8.20 Overall Rank:2334]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The very first Kickstarter campaign I have ever backed was the one for 1862: Railway Mania in the Eastern Counties, Mike Hutton's game about railroading in East Anglia. The game has been very well received by the people I've introduced it to, and as a result, I've already been able to play it 8 times since my first play in late November.

I ordered several extra copies (getting a slightly lower price as a result) and Claire and I brought two of those copies as our contributions to the Gathering Prize Table. This proved to be a good choice, as the game seemed to be on the table almost every day during the week.

On my first morning there was quite a clamor for the game, and I joined Doug Walker, Joe Rushanan and one other person [Edit: Jeroen Doumen] for a 4-player game. People talk about all the unusual rules, but in practice it hasn't been hard to teach. One reason is that the rule changes are in your face from the very start of the game, so you get used to them. It's almost worse if a key rule change in a game doesn't really matter until halfway through, after you've forgotten to account for it in your strategy.

The setup for this game featured some very attractive companies, and there were bids of £25 (or perhaps more; I can't remember) to start these as chartered companies. I'm a cheapskate by nature and decided to start a single non-chartered company instead, hoping to cross-invest in the better shares of others as they presented themselves. But two of my opponents sold off all their holdings in one company each in the midgame and this put them ahead of Joe and me at the end, with Doug winning a fairly competitive game.

I am still of the opinion that winning strategies can vary widely in this game, depending on the random opening setup. That's a very good feature in an 18xx game.
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3. Board Game: Splendor [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:112]
Eric Brosius
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Needham Heights
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I played a few more games on Sunday, but one game kept catching my attention, partly because the one copy that seemed to be on hand and not still in shrink wrap was constantly in use. You know how it is: when people are lining up to play a game, others want to try it as well. I finally made my way into a game, and the rules explanation was remarkably short---this is a simple game.

In this game, you buy cards, each of which is worth 0 to 5 VPs. You pay for the cards using colored chips that are very much like poker chips. The chips supplied with the game are not the cheap plastic chips I'm used to in a board game. They're lovely, chunky chips that have a bit of a rubbery feel, and this attracts people to the game.

On your turn, you have only a few options. The obvious ones involve (1) taking chips and (2) using chips to pay for cards.

Why would you buy a card that is worth 0 VPs? Because each card confers a discount on future card purchases, assuming the colors needed for the future cards match the card you already have.

I played this twice, including a play with my wife. She immediately decided that it's a game we ought to get (and I don't disagree.) It's a fine light game, suitable for play while you wait for others to arrive, or when one table finished before the other.
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4. Board Game: Rise of Augustus [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:773]
Eric Brosius
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Needham Heights
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As Claire and I packed for The Gathering, I put a lot of games into the box and she put just a few in. One she packed was Rise of Augustus, a game we've both played more than a dozen times, mostly but not entirely with each other.

You often find yourself wandering around the ballroom with a few others, looking for a good game to play together. I suggested Rise of Augustus to two other people and we played a quick pair of games. Of course there's a ton of luck in the game, but when you can play 2, 3 or 4 times in an hour, bad luck doesn't sting quite as much.

I won the first game, and Bob Menzel, who had never played it before that day, won the second by a huge margin.
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5. Board Game: Spike [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:2847]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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You tend to see Unpublished Prototype a lot in Gathering GeekLists. In this case it's not because of any secrecy requirement---the person who taught the game encouraged us to talk about it---but because I don't think there's a BGG entry for it. The game is called "Spike", and it's about railroad building and contract delivery in the eastern US.

I love railroad games, but it must be admitted that many of them can be long-ish, if not downright long. (I admit that there are games like Ticket to Ride and TransAmerica that are short, but still.) Spike is a very simple game with some clever ideas. Of course, it's still in the prototype stage, so I can't be sure the final version will be the same as the version I played, but it had interesting ideas in it. I'm looking forward to hearing about its progress.

[Update: The game is now in the BGG database, so I've replaced "Unpublished Prototype" with the actual game.]
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6. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:116]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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On Monday morning, Tom Lehmann told me that he and William Attia wanted to arrange a game of The Princes of Florence and asked me if I wanted to play. I love The Princes of Florence and eagerly agreed. I also suggested that Tom DeMarco would like to play---I know he loves the game, and in fact Tom played in my very first game of The Princes of Florence, probably back in 1991. Dave Eisen rounded out our fivesome.

The Princes of Florence is a game that demands more out of the players than many people today are comfortable with. It is not balanced in and of itself---the person who gets a lot of Jesters will win by a mile unless he or she pays more in the auctions than the people who get other items. And you don't get that price adjustment unless everyone is playing well. But it's a fabulous game when they are, and we had an excellent game.

I have compared The Princes of Florence to a road race on a narrow mountain road. If you drive too slowly, you will never win, but if you drive too fast, you'll plunge to your death. The trick is taking as much risk as you can without paying the price. Of course, your opponents nudge you toward the edge at the most inopportune times.

I played a fairly cautious game as my opponents seemed to be taking risks. I was hoping to some extent that the carnage would take people out. And it did, to some extent, but Tom DeMarco didn't make that fatal mistake. He won with 59 PP on the tie breaker over Dave. I was just 2 PP behind at 57.

Over the years I've played a lot of great The Princes of Florence games at The Gathering. It's great to play the new games, but some of the old ones are a real treat.
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7. Board Game: 18EU [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:2246]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
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On Tuesday morning Joe Rushanan asked to play a game of 18EU with a variant. Instead of distributing the minor companies in the usual way, via auction, the variant includes 15 separate "powers", each giving a company an advantage. The lower-numbered powers are weaker (to the extent that the power of #1 is "be first") while the higher-numbered powers are stronger. After these powers are distributed, the player with power #1 selects any of the 15 minor company starting spots and starts company #1 there. Then the player with power #2 starts company #2 in any of the 14 spots that are left, and so on. In this way the companies that get the best powers have the last choice of starting spots, and so on. We also ruled that no minor could be cut off from making a route by another company building in its way during OR1.

Ed Bryan, Mark Geary and Jeroen Doumen joined Joe and me to play this variant. We briefly discussed how to distribute the privates and decided to distribute them 7 Wonders style: We gave each player 3 powers at random, and each player simultaneously took one and then passed the others left. This may or may not produce a balanced start, but it certainly produced a different game.

I took the following powers:

#7: After the company converts to a major, gain cash equal to current market value once during the game

#8: Get a dit upgrade (in addition to normal tile lay) once per set of ORs once upgrades are available

#9: Buy trains at 10% off from the bank

It was nice getting three in a row, though this was at least partly luck.

Joe drafted #1 and started it in Brussels (where the #2 usually starts.) When it came around to me, I put #7 in Paris (N), #8 in Lyon (near a bunch of dits it could upgrade in the future) and #9 in Paris (S). Jeroen took some strong powers and as a result, wound up with the three Italian companies (#5, 10, and 11.) He started a major in SR 2 (he, being Dutch, wanted to start the Nederlandsche Spoorwegen in Italy, but Joe is a stickler and insisted that he start the Ferrovie Dello Stato, the Italian company.) I invested in Jeroen's company, buying 2 shares, as did Ed, and at the end of the next set of ORs, Jeroen dumped the company.

Now, it seemed that this would bankrupt me and cripple Ed (who would become President of the FS after I went bankrupt.) But Ed really didn't want to play for several more hours with no chance to win, so he bought another share of the FS to make sure he went bankrupt, sparing me from that fate. I did lose the value of one FS share I couldn't unload, but I didn't go bankrupt. Ed bowed out and left the other 4 of us to finish the game.

Despite these travails, I had three well-situated minors that could work well together, and I turned them into two Corporations that could work well together. Then, after the start of the brown phase, I started the Deutsche Reichsbahn in Berlin and my three companies were able to work together effectively enough to win the game by a narrow margin. Part of the reason was a stretch of dit-laden track all the way from Lyon to Berlin without any cities on it, allowing them all to share without having to worry about tokens.

So I had a company dumped on me, was headed for bankruptcy, and recovered not only to survive (as a result of Ed's action) but actually win the game! I sure didn't expect that. Ed heard about the outcome later and apologized for being a kingmaker, but I'm sure that was the last thing on his mind (and an unexpected outcome at that.)

One of the great thing about playing not only 18xx games but any games at the Gathering or any other convention is that people try things you never see at home.

I also have to award high marks to the variant Joe suggested. It really made the game play differently. I'd be happy to play it again in the future.
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8. Board Game: Doctor Panic [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:4375]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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On Tuesday afternoon, Larry Chong recruited me to participate in a playtest of a real-time cooperative game. I'm not a big fan of the cooperative genre, but hey! I'll play a game with Larry almost any time. Again, I can't go into the details, but this game involved a team of 6 of us standing (not sitting) around a long table and frantically trying to bring our team to success amid an uproar of suggestions shouted back and forth. As it turned out, we did not succeed.

I'm not sure this is the game for me, given my genre preferences, but I did enjoy the experience of testing it.

[Edit: This game has now been published under the name Doctor Panic.]
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9. Board Game: Linko! [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:704]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
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Another game that seemed to be on a lot of tables is Abluxxen. It's a card game in which players are trying to get rid of their hands of cards (like The Great Dalmuti or Frank's Zoo or Tichu, except that getting rid of your hand doesn't actually guarantee victory.) Instead, you play cards into a pile on the table and your score is the number of cards in your pile minus the number left in your hand at the end. Obviously it's an advantage to have zero left in your hand, because you went out, but someone with a bigger pile might outscore you. This is because you can take cards from someone else under the right circumstances. This is bad if you don't play those cards, but perhaps you'll get a huge set of cards you can play all at once.

It's a risk-taking game, and I think that ideally you'd play several hands and add up the scores, like you do for Lost Cities. I played three games in a row, with different groups. I'm not sure how much staying power it has, but it certainly is an interesting game.

[Edited to make it say Abluxxen instead of Linko (but I can't fix the item title, as far as I know.)]
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10. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:2240]
Eric Brosius
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Needham Heights
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My last game for Tuesday was yet another Tom Lehmann prototype. This is an extremely interesting game. Joe Huber has been a big fan of this prototype for several years, and I wanted to try it. I'm not sure when or even whether it will be published, but at least I got to try it at The Gathering (and I will probably be able to try it again in the future.)

I wanted to play it with Claire, who I think would also enjoy it, but we didn't fit it in. Maybe in a future year.
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11. Board Game: 1837: Rail Building in the Austro-Hungarian Empire [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:6029]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I obtained this 1994 design in a trade last year and got a partial play in October, but I really wanted to play an entire game. It's funny---people see us playing 18xx games and think we're doing the same old thing, but often people are actually getting the chance to try something they never get to play at home. It's just that this happens within a particular game genre. I had posted a note saying I wanted to play it and Jeroen Doumen said he wanted to play as well. I scheduled a game for Wednesday morning and we were joined by Michael Tsuk and Joe Rushanan.

1837: Rail Building in the Austro-Hungarian Empire is a sprawling monster of a game. There are 7 mountain privates, 10 coal railway minors, 11 pre-staatsbahn minors, 7 regional railways and 3 staatsbahnen (government railways.) The game begins with an opaque Dutch auction (of course, we told Jeroen he had a natural advantage, since he is from the Netherlands) and the train progression is relatively stately. There are many types of trains: Normal trains of many different types, like 3, 3+1, 4, 4+1, 4E, etc., and goods trains that can only run to coal mines. It's a veritable Cambrian Explosion of trains. I have played 1824: Austria-Hungary, which is a streamlined version of 1837: Rail Building in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but I think I like this monster better, if I have the time.

I brought a 27" x 40" poster frame to put the map in and we pushed two tables together to give us enough room to play. Michael brought his laptop to record dividends (one tool we use to speed play) and we began the auction. It seemed to go reasonably well. I took 4 coal railways and got three of the 5 parts of the Sudbahn government railway. Jeroen saved his money until late and got 80% of the Hungarian pre-staatsbahn, and Joe and Michael played more mixed strategies.

I discovered this week that Jeroen has a lot in common with Joe Huber. He is extremely inventive (something that can bring success or failure, but always makes for an interesting game.) In this game he spent a lot of time in the early game building barriers to divide the map into three sections that could not easily communicate with each other. He then dumped a regional railway on me. In faster moving games this can be devastating, but 1837: Rail Building in the Austro-Hungarian Empire gives you a chance to move trains around as needed. The problem was that the company he dumped had been walled off in the northwest corner of the board. I had only two shares, so got the single President's certificate, and for one certificate toward my certificate limit it wasn't too bad. I just kept a train in it with help from my other companies and steadily moved the price up.

This is a big game. It took us 6 1/2 hours to finish (I'm sure our inexperience contributed.) But when we added up the money, I once again won a narrow victory. I had no idea who was winning, and indeed the scores were once again close.

Two days, two companies dumped on my by Jeroen, and two wins. It was quite odd, but I started feeling that no game would be complete without having a company dumped on me!

Another note: the spot where we played didn't easily lend itself to plugging the laptop in. Michael has a laptop with some sort of memory that doesn't use a lot of power. After our long game, he was delighted to see that the battery still had more than half of its capacity left. We could play 18OE: On the Rails of the Orient Express using that laptop!
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12. Board Game: 18OE: On the Rails of the Orient Express [Average Rating:8.21 Overall Rank:2565]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Speaking of 18OE: On the Rails of the Orient Express, I brought my copy of this monster 18xx game to the Gathering, because I knew people would want to see it and perhaps play it. It is a gorgeous production. I didn't play it, but it was played at least twice during the week (perhaps more.)

When you set this up on a table (or tables,) people stop by and remark on how nice it looks. You wouldn't think a game this big would attract people, but it does. I have seen the same with big wargames---the spectacle is its own attraction. And 18OE: On the Rails of the Orient Express has quite a few smaller scenarios for 2 through 4 players that play in a much shorter time than the full game.
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13. Board Game: 1846: The Race for the Midwest [Average Rating:8.09 Overall Rank:562]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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First-time Gathering attendee Tucker Taylor had contacted me before the Gathering and asked to play a game of 1846: The Race for the Midwest. He had played a few 18xx games before and wanted to broaden his horizons. (It takes several tries before you know whether you like the series or just admire it.) On Thursday morning we started off with a 3-player game as Ed Bryan joined us. I taught the features that are new to 1846: The Race for the Midwest and we began.

Tucker was randomly selected to have the Priority Deal. Ed was second and I was last. The random draw brought the Erie, Michigan Central and Tunnel Blasting Company into the game. After the draft, positions were as follows:

Tucker: Big 4, C&WI, $240
Ed: Michigan Southern, Mail Contract, $180
Eric: Michigan Central, Tunnel Blasting, $300

Tucker started us off by floating the NYC @ $80 and bought 3 shares. Ed floated the GT @ $40 and bought 4 shares. This is really cool---no one starts a company at $40 in my normal group, so I am already "off book". I didn't want to start the IC, because it was a long way to the East. I didn't want to start the B&O either. So I floated the Erie @ $60 and bought 5 shares. I knew Ed would be earning big money and wanted not to fall too far behind. I also wanted to take advantage of track building the NYC might do.

Ed ran the MS, laying one tile to Port Huron and across to Sarnia, spending all $60 and running for $30/$30. [Edited!] I don't think I've ever seen that! The Big 4 built straight to Chicago, hooking up to the C&WI spot. And then Ed didn't build any track with GT, instead buying a pair of 2Ts that he planned to run Port Huron - Detroit and Port Huron - Sarnia. Wasn't that cool?

I bought a pair of 2Ts with the Erie and built straight west to Cleveland. Tucker then bought C&WI in and built from there, deciding that I had messed the east up too much for the time being and that things were better in the west.

In SR 2, Ed floated the IC and went on to buy MS in with the IC, getting two companies with Detroit tokens, though at the cost of having both parred low.

It was a game that was completely different from any of the 100+ games of 1846: The Race for the Midwest I had played before. Of course, it was Tucker's first game of the title, so I'm sure his next will feel different from his first! But best of all, he did well and enjoyed the game. I think we have made another 18xx convert.
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14. Board Game: Eurorails [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:1041]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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During the week, William Attia, famous game designer (most notably for Caylus, but also for Spyrium and other games) mentioned to me that he would like to try Empire Builder or another "crayon rails" game. I have played a number of games with William, and he is a delight to play with. First, he is a very pleasant person, even though he is obviously a brilliant player. Second, he is interested in games by other designers, a quality I admire. I think the way boardgaming or almost any other field of human endeavor advances is by cross-pollination of ideas.

Claire and I set up a game for Thursday evening. We could not find a copy of Empire Builder, but we did find a copy of Eurorails. I explained the rules, and we started in. It was a bit of an unusual game, as I delivered my first three loads in the UK, William did his down south, and Claire had a more traditional route in the northern part of continental Europe. Later on, William got several huge contracts to Scandinavia. Generally, you try to avoid Scandinavia in Eurorails, but not if you have enough big contracts.

The game was relatively close, but William made it past $250 million while I was still just over $200 million, and Claire a little further back. There's certainly luck in crayon rails, but he made very good decisions to take advantage of it.

Claire and I often play 2-player games of crayon rails at home. It's nice when we can be part of a game with more than 2 players, and I always look to play at least one game from the series at The Gathering.
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15. Board Game: 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt Expansion Set [Average Rating:7.29 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.29 Unranked]
Eric Brosius
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Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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So are other people playing 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt with the expansion? Joe Huber has had a copy for a long time, but it's only recently that it became more widely available thanks to Ron Krantz's work with Tom Lehmann to get the files up on BGG. I like the base game, but I like the game even more with the expansion.

Joe Huber is on an 18 x 3 quest: to get 3 plays of each of his '10'-rated games in this year. Some games are easy to play 3 times, but games like Advanced Civilization and 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt take some work. Jeroen joined us for a 3-player game.

In the opening auction, Jeroen started by buying the "trigger" straight out. As second player, I spent $140 to get Fast Buck with $120 in treasury, hoping to buy a second ship at the end of the second OR---a hope that came to fruition. I then picked up Ore Crusher for $100 and put a bid of $160 in on Space Transportation (the TSI President's certificate.) Jeroen bid on the Asteroid League presidency, and the two of us then passed as Joe Huber bought privates 7, 8 and 9 for list price. It was an odd start that no one would see in the base game. But I was saving $300 so I could float TSI even if no one helped me.

And indeed I did float TSI. Joe started not RU but Mining Robotics (one of the expansion corporations) and Jeroen went in with him. MR went on to become the highest valued corporation in the game, and this hurt me, because I had none of it. On the other hand, TSI was finding Rare mines like nobody's business. I wound up placing every single TSI claim on a Rare mine and running as many as I had the ability to run into the +20 Rare spot. My real problem was that I generally didn't have the ships and transport capacity to run them all (I failed to place a refueling station at the Ore Crusher base on my first opportunity, and Joe swooped in with MR to take it.)

But it was a close and unusual game. Joe won, with Jeroen about $300 behind him and me about $300 behind Jeroen. It was the first game I played with Jeroen in several in which he didn't dump a company on me---perhaps that's what I was missing!

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16. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:2240]
Eric Brosius
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Needham Heights
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I had been seeing Tom Lehmann demoing yet another prototype all week, so I asked him if he would teach the game to Claire and me. Ian and Ed joined us. It was another interesting design, and Claire in particular took right to it. In fact, it seemed that she might win the game, but the timing didn't quite work out for her and Tom won, with Claire coming in fairly close behind.

Claire was really excited about this prototype and we both agree we want a copy as soon as it becomes available (I'm assuming that it will be at some point.)
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17. Board Game: Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #5 – Epic Ancients II [Average Rating:8.39 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.39 Unranked]
Eric Brosius
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Needham Heights
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One of my most treasured Gathering traditions is the annual Commands & Colors: Ancients game that Walter Hunt organizes. Walt owns the whole set, including doubles of some things, and has printed out player aid charts. He keeps the whole thing in a giant plastic tub. We started playing these games in 2008, and I've been one of the supreme commanders every year. I really love this system, partly because it seems to recreate the feel of an ancients battle, with the fragile army morale, and partly because it has elephants.

Another tradition is that Jim McCarthy will be one of the subordinate commanders that command elephants. When Jim rolls attack dice for those elephants, he trumpets like an elephant in heat, and people come from neighboring rooms to join in the fun!

Walt selected the battle of Hydaspes River, which Alexander the Great fought during his campaign in India. The Indian army has many elephants, including four elephant units in the center, where Jim was assigned command. The Indians also have a strong force of bowman and four chariot units on the flanks.

I was selected to command the Macedonians. We had no elephants. cry

But we did have Alexander himself, together with the Companion cavalry on our right flank. My subordinates were Peter Card, Jim Scheiderich and Gary Libby. In past years Peter always seemed to get the weak flank, so I put him on the right where he could be the hammer after years of being the anvil. Jim had seen quite a bit of service in the center, so I put him on the left flank (our weak spot, to be honest.) And that left Gary in the center.

In our pre-game planning, I pointed out to my team-mates that we faced a difficult challenge. We had by far the strongest infantry force, with massed heavy infantry in the center and toward the left. But this infantry is slow and would have to spend a long time under archery fire to close with the Indian center, and even then they would face Jim's elephants. We couldn't send our cavalry to clear the bowman out, because cavalry are afraid of elephants and would suffer greatly. Our left could not contend with the Indian right. This meant Peter would have to carry the weight of attack with his cavalry force. But the further they advanced, the closer they would come to the left-most elephants, which they were ill-prepared to defeat.

I started by playing a waiting game while I looked for the right cards. We moved some horse archers up to annoy the Indians, even though they would in turn receive fire from Indian archers. Then I drew a Mounted Charge card---just what I needed for Peter. And, mirabile dictu, the Indian left wing moved some of their own horse archers, backed by chariots, toward us! I gave Peter the Mounted Charge card and he dealt some serious damage. Then, a turn or two later, I got another Mounted Charge card, and Peter used it to further disarrange the Indian left.

On the flip side, the Indian right, commanded by Walt, was stronger than our left. Walt advanced his heavy chariots, and after Jim fired some shots at them, Walt charged right in for some close order attacks. The attacker has the advantage in this game, because if the defending unit is destroyed or forced to retreat, they never get to battle back. But just as Walt was about to roll the dice, I whipped out a "First Strike" card, allowing Jim to roll his dice first. And what do you know? He got two hits on the chariots, killing them outright and ruining Walt's attack. This was a demoralizing blow to the opposing side. We were getting better cards, but the Macedonians do have a hand of 9 cards compared with 7 cards for the Indians, giving a card quality advantage on average.

To win this scenario you need to kill 13 enemy units, and we were up by a margin of about 6 to 1. We had them on the ropes and just needed to finish them off. Peter's assault rampaged on, but when they hit the left-most elephant, it broke their momentum and they were forced to retire and limit their attacks to bowshots for a while. Fortunately for us, Peter's forces, while weakened, did not lose many units. Jim advanced some of his elephants nearest Walt, and they did some damage, but also took heavy casualties as we fired at them from long range whenever we could.

Finally we made it to 12 killed units, with only about 7 units lost on our side. One of Gary's archer units spotted an Indian light infantry unit with just 2 blocks left. Gary decided to fire on that unit, rolling two dice. When using long-range fire, you must roll the color of the target (a 1 in 6 chance) to cause a casualty. Archery is less deadly than close in, hand-to-hand combat. Gary picked up two dice, needing greens to hit and rolled ... TWO GREENS! It was a 1 in 36 chance, but the enemy unit vanished in a hail of deadly arrows and we gained that 13th kill we needed for victory!

Here's the traditional game-end photo:



Every time we play this game we create a story.
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18. Board Game: 1846: The Race for the Midwest [Average Rating:8.09 Overall Rank:562]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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When our game of Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #5 – Epic Ancients II was over, Joe Huber came to me and asked whether I wanted to play a late night game of 1846: The Race for the Midwest. It was almost 11:00; it's a good thing we can play quickly. What was even more surprising is that Michael Tsuk is the one who suggested the game. Usually Michael goes to bed early, but I guess things change when you're at the Gathering.

We played a 4-player game. I received the Priority Deal, followed by Jeroen, Joe Huber and Michael. The company removed from the game was the Erie. We did the draft and came out with the following holdings:

Eric: Lake Shore, Tunnel, $300
Jeroen: Big 4, C&WI, $240
Joe: Michigan Southern, Mail, $180
Michael: Meat, O&I, $300

I started NYC @ $100 and bought 3 shares
Jeroen started C&O @ $80 and bought 3 shares
Joe started IC @ $90 and bought 2 shares
Michael started PRR @ $100 and bought 3 shares

You don't often see the C&O as a starting company, but Jeroen was planning to base his company on the C&WI token so it didn't matter too much what company he started, and the C&O might provide a convenient early game East/West run.

After the privates paid out and the minors ran, Jeroen bought in the C&WI token, built to Indianapolis and bought a pair of 2Ts. Joe built free track from Cairo toward Terre Haute and bought a pair of 2Ts. I started the typical NYC Erie to Cleveland and back route and bought a pair of 2Ts and a 4T (issuing two shares to fund this.) Michael then teleported to Fort Wayne, built toward Chicago (E) and bought a pair of 4Ts (issuing to fund the purchase.)

In OR 1.2, I took one look at the developing furball around Chicago and Detroit and thought it might be best to steer clear. I completed the circuit, bought in LSL, used it to upgrade Cleveland to an X, upgraded Erie, and ran for $25 a share. What's remarkable is that Joe and Jeroen were soon out-earning me. Michael's PRR, however, struggled to find good runs for the pair of 4Ts, earning only $8 a share in OR 1.2. Because NYC was only the third most profitable railroad, it was able to keep treasury shares for several pairs of ORs, helping fund future trains.

Another cool thing that happened in this game is that the C&O and NYC shared a lot of token spaces. We both tokened: Erie, Cleveland, Indianapolis (the C&O by buying in the Big 4) and Chicago (he in Chicago (SE) and I in Chicago (SW).) This meant we were cooperating in building routes. We very quickly had a route from Cleveland to Indianapolis with no cities on it; I de-emphasized upgrading to build a second route that ran Cleveland - Dayton - Cincinnati - Indianapolis, preparing for a pair of E/W runs.

NYC broke the brown trains, buying a 4/6 to run Buffalo - [Erie] - Cleveland - [Indianapolis] - Chicago - Chicago Connections. Then IC bought a pair of 4/6 trains because that's what it could afford. C&O bought the last brown train as a 4/6 to run the same route as NYC (in effect.) As a result, no 5 trains were bought in this game. It was my 120th game of 1846: The Race for the Midwest, and it was the first in which no 5 trains were bought! And I'm not sure I've ever seen 4 trains all running through Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland and Indianapolis before.

Later in the game, both NYC and C&O got 7/8 trains, running them Buffalo - Erie - Cleveland - [Dayton] - Cincinnati - Indianapolis - Chicago - Chicago Connections while the 4/6 trains ran Buffalo - [Erie] - Cleveland - Indianapolis - [Centralia] - St. Louis. But I had a small early lead and was also able to start the B&O which ran better than the GT which Jeroen started to give me a small edge.

Any game that you play 120 times and still see new things in is a bargain!
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19. Board Game: Ur: 1830 BC [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:4148]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Saturday morning features the Flea Market. Attendees (or at least many of them) bring games they no longer want, sell them to other attendees, and often use the money to buy other games. It's the circle of life.

I always look at all the items for sale, though I don't tend to buy many things. We do have over 700 games already! But this year I spotted a copy of Ur: 1830 BC for a reasonable price. And one of the designers is Jeroen Doumen, the person I probably played more games with than anyone else this year. How could I go wrong?!

Claire bought a copy of Cinque Terre, a game we have both played and wanted to get a copy of.

We also succeeded in not buying hundreds of other games. That was a victory in a way!

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20. Board Game: 18Ruhr [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:6805]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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After the flea market, Claire and I went out for lunch with some friends. By the time we returned it was nearly 3pm. But Jeroen had asked Joe or Joe whether he might get a game of 18Ruhr in during the week, and Joe Huber asked me to add it to my box, which I did at the last minute, just before leaving. So Joe Rushanan and Jeroen and I set the game up and I went quickly through the Teaching Guide (a copy of which I have uploaded to BGG, if anyone is interested.) There's a new version of the rules, v 1.2, which I hadn't read yet, so we played with v 1.1. We played with the North/South setup, which has all the coal mine minors in the north and all the steel works minors in the south.

This is a very interesting game. For one thing, you always seem to want to make two purchases in a single OR for one of your montan companies, and this is not allowed (all 5 of the games I've played have seen at least one player stymied to some extent by this rule.) It worked out okay, though, and we finished in about 3 1/2 hours, just in time to move back to the main ballroom for the Prize Ceremony.

Well, actually, Jay Tummelson from Rio Grande Games generously contributed the funds for an ice cream social prior to the Prize Table ceremony. We finished early enough to get some ice cream before things started!
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21. Board Game: Concept [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:566]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The big Saturday night event is the Prize Table. Each attendee who participates brings a game for the table. Tournament winners get first pick, and everyone else is chosen in a random order. As mentioned above, Claire and I brought copies of 1862: Railway Mania in the Eastern Counties, and we were pleased to see them taken early.

I took a copy of Concept, a game I have read about and been intrigued by. There was only one copy on the Prize Table, so I was happy to get it. Claire took a copy of Terror in Meeple City, a late-night fun sort of game that we think will go over well when we host conventions at our house. She was hoping to get a copy of Splendor, but there were none available when it was her turn to choose. Fortunately, the game should be broadly available.
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