GCL Phoenix 176 - Il Mystera del Tempo (2014-05-18)
R. Eric Reuss
United States
Arlington
Massachusetts
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Welcome to GameChat League, Phoenix Division, week #176!

Non-members are welcome (and encouraged!) to participate, but please leave adding new items to the members. If you're a regular reader, please thumb this list; it's a way we find new friends.

Active Phoenix roster:
archivists
chally
darker
Dormammu - next week
indigopotter
Lowengrin
Morganza
Mr_Nuts
ravenskana
rynelf
tjshields
woodnoggin

Less active, still Phoenixes: BennyD, Bruzza, enzo622, Eeeville, Hawkeye77, JohnRayJr, judoka, leroy43, Taibi, topherr, and Yokiboy

This week's topic is inspired by Max's recent commentary on Marvel Dice Masters and my own musings on For the Crown and A Study in Emerald.



Tempo.

At its simplest: Who has time? Who has the initiative, and is dictating the pace of the game? More subtly: The timing of surges, pushes, maneuvers. Whether a player has the potential for those things, and whether opponents have the potential for response.

Tempo.

Turn-based board games have an unusual relationship with time. There is a instant of action, of change, followed by an interstitial pondering during which nearly everything is static - everything but the players, who dance unconstrained between twitches of the second-hand, able to ponder concepts and consequence at leisure. The same game, same rules, may play out in forty minutes face-to-face, or over forty days in play-by-forum.

Tempo.

But within the game - inside the world constrained by action-ticks - time is its own fundamental resource, even if it's never mentioned in the rulebook. In many games, you have a finite number of moves, and must make the most of each. In the others, your infinite potential doesn't matter, because you're in a Red Queen's Race against the other players. Perhaps a true race, first to reach some goal; perhaps a race of advantage or positioning.

Or maybe it's more complex than that. Sometimes it's not just a race to get the most done in the least amount of time, but a struggle over control of timing itself: over 'when' as much as 'what'.

Tempo.

Some games separate matters further, with time as an in-game concept as well its inevitable presence in any structure of sequential turns. Two different types of time to deal with.

Then there's the real-time and turnless games, which go the other direction: chaining real clock and game clock together, yanking players from their comfortable vantage-point outside of time back into its unstoppable flow.

Tempo.

Let's talk about time: not the players' time, but time within the framework of the game.
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1. Board Game: For the Crown (Second edition) [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:3030]
R. Eric Reuss
United States
Arlington
Massachusetts
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How much do you tend pay attention to tempo in games?

Are there games - or types of games - where you focus on it more than others?

Any you've discovered recently that feature it prominently?
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2. Board Game: A Study in Emerald [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:594]
R. Eric Reuss
United States
Arlington
Massachusetts
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As mentioned above, there are games where you're trying to control 'when' as much as 'what'. What are some games you've played which have this dynamic? Do you like how the dynamic feels in those games?

(Bonus points for discussing games where it's more than simply the question of "when will the game end?", which is a fairly common form of this thing.)
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3. Board Game: TAMSK [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:1506] [Average Rating:6.79 Unranked]
R. Eric Reuss
United States
Arlington
Massachusetts
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Stepping away from tempo proper: what are some games you find interesting which have distinctive treatments of time? If you have a moment to elaborate, what are those treatments?

This can go many places, from the generations and bridge in Village, to turn order in Red November or Thebes, to the minute-timer constraints of TAMSK. However, "is real-time" or "contains time travel" are each easily broad enough for their own discussions, so let's omit such games unless they also treat 'time' in some unusual or distinctive fashion.
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4. Board Game: Tempo Tempo [Average Rating:4.60 Unranked]
R. Eric Reuss
United States
Arlington
Massachusetts
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Outside of gaming: how would you describe the tempo of your life?
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5. Board Game: Jaipur [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:106]
Dice bags!
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Wurtsboro
NY
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Last night we sat down for a game of Jaipur. We hadn't played for a while, and I enjoyed the simple things that I always appreciate about this game, like the colors and the artwork on the cards and the nifty, bright pink, box insert. I was glad that it took all 3 rounds. It would have been a little disappointing to have one person have gone one-two-done.
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6. Board Game: Traditional Card Games [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:2544]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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Yeah, it's been a while -- I've been off playing in the garden of broken dreams.

Lots and lots of games since I've been here to report.

Clearly the most important one was the game of Casino, a traditional trick-taking (or at least card-capture) game that I played across several sessions with my oldest sister, who taught it to me and all my siblings back when I was about ten. We ended with the score tied 34-34, that seemed fitting. (There are 11 points per deal but we played with the optional sweeps that are worth a point each.)

Other games, a fair many of them:

1846 with Dave, Dave, Dave, and Jeroen. Pretty close to my dream table, even if I played outside my comfort zone, floundered badly, and came in last. (Built the best railroad, wasn't good enough.)

A game of 18MEX with JC, Daniel, and Sergey that was... the opposite.

A first play of Cuba Libre, with Dave, Dave, and Erich. I was the revolutionaries, and the game hurtles along at a breakneck pace (at least compared to Andean Abyss), it was half over by the time I found my optimal strategy of constant terrorism and extortion.

A game of Rising Sun Railroads with Dave, Dave, and John (?) that I won by being left alone and constantly merging my child railroads as fast as possible.

(And I'm really regretful that I wasn't part of the conversation when Dave talked about those lovely games I played with him.)

Three games in a row of Outpost won by the player who got over 30 on their first draw. Who wasn't me. (Including teaching some folks from work.) I'm thinking of house-ruling it to give three rounds of production on the first turn.

A game of Can't Stop on my iPad with Douglas, he was one easy step away from winning, didn't get a 10 on his next turn, and then one of the bots won. Ouch!

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7. Board Game: 1775: Rebellion [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:247]
Bryan Maxwell
United States
Burtchville
Michigan
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Bruges x 3

We're continuing to enjoy this one; we've started fiddling with the majorities in the game, as I think that's the weak point in the 2p game. We played where losing the majority means losing the associated 4VP and I think it's a bit better that way.

Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy x 5

Been enjoying this one too, but I think it's going to hit the shelf for a while. It needs some variety with the Patron cards, Contributions and Titles.

2 de Mayo x 1


I talked a bit about this last week. This first play showed potential and we need to revisit it soon.

1775: Rebellion x 1


It's been nice exploring this one with the missus. This game saw me leading the entire way, then I played my 2nd truce card and Kat blindsided me and narrowly grabbed a 5-4 win.

Elemental Blast x 1


What a piece of shit. It's an extremely light set collection card game with too much chaos and take-that. I rarely give games a 2 rating, but this one earned it.

Shadow Hunters x 4

Wednesday night was kind of a wash; after Elemental Blast, we ended up playing 6-player Shadow Hunters for the rest of the night. I like Shadow Hunters a lot, but when I get together for game night I want something substantial. Doesn't help that I lost all 4 games. blush

Merkator x 1


Kat and I dusted off a couple of favorites that have been gathering dust today. Kat busted my ass 74-47.5 in this one. Woof. It was good to play it again.

London x 1

We followed Merkator with London and I got my revenge to the tune of 182-139. 182 may be our high score. I had an 11-card city, 7 of which did not flip. I also had Parliament, so I just ran my city turn after turn. 15 coins, 4 VP, -3 poverty. Over and over.



Steady as she goes.
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8. Board Game: Samurai Gardener [Average Rating:6.23 Overall Rank:7128]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 17May2014:

7/16/194 plays of 6/15/90 total games, with 0/0/13 expansions employed.
Plays with 6/15/57 distinct opponents.

3/3/20 games acquired (plus 0/0/7 expansions.) - Alley Thieves, Welcome to the Dungeon and Samurai Gardener.
0/0/8 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/6 expansions.)
0/0/7 games ordered (plus 0/0/3 expansions.)
Orders for 8 games and 0 expansions still outstanding.

With youngsters:
2x _7.3_ Welcome to the Dungeon New! - This one has much of the deductive chops of Love Letter, and is a tiny card & tile game of about equivalent magnitude. The difference here is that the dungeon-adventuring conceit is far more plausible than the chain of palace attendants through which one's lettre d'amour is passed on the way to the prince(ss). My kids were initially dubious, then they embraced it in a frenzy of trash-talking and delight.
1x _7.7_ Samurai Gardener New! - Daughter #1 loved this. It's got overtones of Factory Fun (or Jungle Speed; or Eiertanz) where a fast-twitch reflex could be advantageous, but one is shading closer to the first of those three: it's not just a fast reaction, it's also being able to evaluate a fairly difficult optimization in realtime. And that's not to say one couldn't do well with the item the opponents don't want, either: I suspect it's too difficult to evaluate each card against each player's tableau, then choose the one that maximizes delta score - so one needs a much simpler heuristic. And in the end - it works (mostly.) We're still trying to figure out our favoured protocol for grabbing some pretty thin cards quickly without damaging them.
1x ??? Alley Thieves New! - Don't really know how to rate this one: the first game was quite flat, but it was with 2 players (which I suspect isn't remotely the best count) and, additionally, there are a lot of optional rules present which permit one to select the game closest to one's taste. So until I've played with 4, and with (at very least) the most plausible sounding of the optional rules - because, frankly, I think there'll be a substantial skew in the appeal of the various variants for me - I think I'll refrain from rating it.
1x _7.3_ Love Letter - Still a favourite amongst the younger set: it's fast, and amusing, and doesn't begin to outstay its welcome.

With the lunch gang from work:
1x _6.3_ Pickomino (24 months dusty) - There was some amusement had: mostly that we were so inept at rolling anything like what we "wanted." I can't remember the last game where the table (as a whole, I mean) scored so dismally.
1x _7.7_ Web of Power - I think I've come to the conclusion that while this plays with 5; that's really not it's best count. It was still fun, and I came dead last, which is always a good thing. But I think I'll try it next with fewer players.

Owned-and-unplayed: 5 (+3/-3) - Alley Thieves, Welcome to the Dungeon and Samurai Gardener arrived and all were prompty played.

Outlook for the week: Gaming on Monday (perhaps one of those new Japanese titles!); the gang at my place on Wednesday (not sure what we'll play - though probably not Age of Renaissance: I need more sleep than I got two weeks ago!)
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9. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:139] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
Albatros
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

_7_ Carcassonne x1


The Week in Review

Our single play of Carcassonne goes into the annuals as our 100 recorded play. I'm sure we've played it a couple dozen more times, but that was before I started tracking them on BGG.

Ordered Roads & Boats and Bruxelles 1893. I'm fairly certain the latter will crash and burn, but it triggered free shipping so it's good for something.


The Week Ahead

I threw some games into the Spring 2014 Canadian Math Trade. The one game I'd like to score from it is Stephenson's Rocket. Other than that, there's a few 2013 games from my "maybe" wish list and, if nothing else, some gift certificates. The math trade wraps up on Tuesday so we'll see what happens. Other than that, no game related events are planned.
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10. Board Game: Kaigan [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:2388]
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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Games Played:

All games this week were at Geekway to the West. Originally I had hoped to spend more time there, but we ended up getting in so late Friday night I just said hi to people and went to sleep relatively early at 11PM or so.

When I came in DJ, Joel, Erik and BGG's own Chad were playing Wildcatters which looked interesting. I saw a lot of people playing Coal Baron (which was a featured "play and win" game) but when I looked to get it out of the library all copies were checked out. I saw Caverna: The Cave Farmers and Bruxelles 1893 but didn't get those played either. Here's what I did play:

_8_ Glass Road x1
Woke up early and was out and about around 6AM. There was a few people who were still playing from the previous day, and a few people up early like me. I met Mark who had an interest in Glass Road and within a few minutes had Jon B. and Patrick roped in to play. Mark managed to win this with 24, I had 23, Jon B. 17, and Patrick 12.

_8_ Snowdonia x1
Got some more coffee and a few minutes later ran into Michael Pogel from Iowa who I've played many games with during DJ's AMSP and Iowa Cita game day. Michael also owned Snowdonia but had not had a chance to play it yet, so we got Kristin and gave it a whirl. I ended up winning this with 130, Michael had 106, and Kristin 90.

_8_ Samurai Gardener x2 New!
This was the one game I brought I hadn't played yet but I had gone over the rules and it looked easy enough to teach and was very small, having shipping in a plastic bag. Michael also likes some of these wacky Japanese games and agreed to play. The first game was with basic rules and scores were Jon 33, my oldest son 29, Michael 25, but we accidently played an extra round (thought it ended when one got to the end of the score track 29, but the rule is to end when one hits 25) and if we had stopped when we should, we think my son would have won. The second game was with advanced rules and this time Michael won with 27, my oldest son and I both 23.

_6_ CV x1 New!
My son found this in the Geekway library and we talked Michael and Dale into playing. Despite claiming to not like dice games, Michael won this with 46, I had 45, my oldest son 44, and Dale 21. It's cute and I'd play it from time to time but I think after a few plays the charm of it would wear off.

_6_ Field of Glory: The Card Game x2 New!
Michael had brought this and despite owning it myself I hadn't played it yet. We played two games and both times I did wacky things with elephants. Jon 3 Michael 2, then Jon 3 Michael 0.

_6_ Takenoko x1
My wife and daughter had been exploring St. Louis but came in to bring me pizza and I showed my daughter the giant Takenoko the library had and she asked to play it. My wife joined in and I ended up winning with 34, my wife 29, and my daughter 28.

_10_ Troyes x1
Saw Eric with some others and a "teacher wanted" sign for this so I offered to give some advice. After a minute of explaining, Eric noticed the game would take longer than he had hoped, and he had another game planned in a bit so couldn't stay for this. I sat in his place which worked out pretty well as I was able to explain some nuances of the rules as it went along. Trevor Wolf ended up winning with a "collect events" strategy with 37, my cathedral building netted me 32, Kevin Eilens (kazzle) 31, and Jeff Wells 28.

_9_ Inotaizu x1
After Troyes, Jeff had to go but my oldest son showed back up and the two of us taught Trevor and Kevin Inotaizu which is a game I really enjoy and want to get played more. I ended up winning on the strength of the farmer track with 44, Kevin 41, Trevor 37, and my son had 36. I was happy with all the games I played at Geekway but I really liked teaching this to new people and it was a joy to play it again after a long time.

_8_ Sail to India x1
My son didn't have a ton of energy left for a long game but agreed to sit in on this. Kevin pushed ahead with exploring and racked up points with the Map tech and selling one item at a time to pay the Map cost. We should have blocked the first couple of cards trade goods to slow him down but did other things instead so he won with 17, although my son tied him, Kevin won the tie breaker by getting to the end. I was farther back with 13 and Trevor had 11.

_8_ Glass Road x1
My son called it a night and I taught this to Kevin and Trevor who both had been interested in playing. It took them a round or so to get the hang of the wheel, and about two-thirds into it Kevin was claiming he wasn't accomplishing very much, but he ended up winning with 22 while Trevor and I both tied at 19.

Called it a day and a night after that and crashed in my hotel room about 2AM or so. Somewhere in there my son and I had lunch with Mchael as well as Dale and his wife which was enjoyable, but it was a lot of games in a short period of time. The next day my clan went to the City Museum where I did some vaulting, wall climbs, 10-story slides, and other kinetic activities. By the time I got back to Illinois I was tired in both mind and body.
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11. Board Game: Void [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
R. Eric Reuss
United States
Arlington
Massachusetts
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No gaming this past week. Doesn't look likely to be any this week, either. Sad!

Origins is barreling closer like a freight train, though, and my pre-con TODO list does not compare favorably to the amount of free time in which to get it all done. So the spare time is in some ways a boon.

Outside of gaming: the 3 of us went hiking for the first time since my son was born. Very locally, and not very far, but it was really good to get out in the woods.
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12. Board Game: Space Cadets: Dice Duel [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:933]
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
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Games Played

_9_ Magic: The Gathering 9
_8_ Sentinels of the Multiverse 1
_7_ Space Cadets: Dice Duel 1 New!
_7_ Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men 2
_7_ Targi 1
_7_ Archipelago 1
_7_ Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends 2
_7_ The Capitals 1
_6_ Fantastiqa 1
_6_ Love Letter 1

Week in Review

Some social Magic events this week, with several EDH games and several more games with a friend testing the latest Duel Deck release. It's not an especially well designed Duel Deck set, but it has some neat reprints so I don't regret getting it.

I got in a couple of good games of Marvel Dice Masters, which I mentioned last week. These games were quite fun and showed some solid strategy options. My only concern with the game: it occupies the same play space as Magic, so how often will I find time to play it?

I had a chance to play Tash-Kalar twice on different days, doubling my play total. I also played 2P High Form and 3P Melee once each, doubling my total of each style of play. I think the game works a bit better at 2P, with the 3P mode being extremely vulnerable to swings of fortune. Both times I've played it 3P, one player has been hit hardest early and has never had a chance to get back into the game. The first time this was me, and I tried not to be bitter about it. This time, I was the eventual winner and I saw the table victim going through what I had previously. I believe the 3P can be good, but it probably needs a full table of experienced players.

Two favorites slipped a bit for me this week. I played the Capitals for the seventh time and for the first time did not have a lot of fun with it. Now that I have played Suburbia more as well, Capitals is starting to feel like too much work for the improvements it offers. It may be 20% better but it takes 200% longer to play. I simply don't enjoy watching players churn and churn over marginal differences. And that's the trouble with the Capitals: it puts a very high tax on the players' efforts to see all the changes that take place with each building. Often these are very similar but calculated in different ways. It might be a stronger game if money weren't worth points at game end. I think I would like it better if money gave flexibility but not points; as is, it ends up with the point salad feel in which everything is worth points.

The other was Archipelago, which I won. This was my first try of the long game, which was something of a treat. But as much as I like this game, I have the distinct feeling that its balance is too delicate. I still quite like it, but it always seems to end suddenly with players caught unaware. The scoring often ends up feeling almost random. I'm sure good play has one positioning themselves for score early and often, but the arc simply feels like it ends too quickly. I may need to adjust my perspective on the game's flow.

Space Cadets: Dice Duel turned out to be a welcome surprise. I played a 4-on-4 game, with three players per side controlling ship systems and the fourth acting as a Captain and directing play flow for their side. It was gripping and hectic and a great party game overall. I was a top notch engineer for my side and after our victory, the Captain gave me special props for keeping our ship running well. Yeah, MVP right here.
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13. Board Game: Unconditional Surrender! World War 2 in Europe [Average Rating:8.39 Overall Rank:1195]
Tom Shields
United States
Tacoma
Washington
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Unconditional Surrender x2

I'm two scenarios through the learning process developed by the designer, and I'm really enjoying this. This takes on the complexity of strategy on an enormous scale with relatively simple mechanics that incorporate satisfying granularity of so many aspects of conflict, the whole projection of force idea also layers in the specifics of supply, politics, and economies. You get to structure a difficult amphibious invasion & influence political alliances.... you can be Germany dealing with Italy going with the Allies.

Another more complex scenario ahead & I hope to be taking on the full map & the main event.

This is not a game set-up; post-clipped chits grouped to set up the full game. I've finished the Poland scenario, and about to invade Denmark & Norway, both short efforts to learn the movement, amphibious, convoy, & air rules. The third scenario will ratchet up the learning into multiple turns with an invasion of France & more mechanics to practice, including the BEF's evacuation across the channel, then, perhaps the leap into the full game this weekend, with politics & economies.

A large scale wargame that addresses so many aspects of a historical conflict without exceptions is quite a design challenge. As you learn the game, the rules get put aside and you play. You get to read the map & think, not rifle through stacks & consult the rules for exceptions & lawyering every idea. You get to have the idea & do it & see what happens.

I leave it set up for morning coffee & evening moves with an IPA.

*

I don't solo monster wargames, the mark of a confident grownup. My opponent, Sven...

...who, if you look carefully, you may notice across the table in the images above. Don't mention he's short because he plays the German's, it's early in the war, so he's packing an awful lot of positive roll modifiers & it's not good to get him riled. Wargaming takes the gravitas of the likes of Sven and I. That's one thing we both just get, you know?

He wears that helmet because I spit. With accuracy. My modifier.

I've been listening to Donavan as the soundtrack for this one. It shouldn't work but it does.

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14. Board Game: Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 3 – The Heart of Africa [Average Rating:7.49 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.49 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.49 Unranked]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Last week's plays:

|9| Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
|9| Terra Mystica (+4 Town Tiles)
-8- Fauna
-8- Kingdom Builder (+Crossroads) (x2)
-8- Ra
-7- Qwixx: The Card Game New!
-7- Ticket to Ride: Legendary Asia (x2)
-7- Ticket to Ride: The Heart of Africa (x2)
-7- Union Pacific
-6.5- Trajan
-6- Coup (x2)
-6- Taluva
-6- Paperback New!
-5- Splendor New!

At least being stuck in London for work meant I could get to London on Board a couple of times. I got to try Splendor right before it was announced as an SdJ nominee. I'm not sure why, it works but is quite uninteresting. It reminded me of Airships without the dice, and consequently without much excitement or opportunity to push your luck. There was a bit of tension around when the game was going to end and whether someone would claim a card you were planning to take but only very mild tension. I felt there should have been some sort of penalty for ending the game with cards in your hand but I guess that would have made it too complicated for the SdJ jury.

Paperback was more interesting but I've only tried one two-player game so far. I ordered it based on positive comments from fellow Phoenixes, so I can blame you if it turns out to be crap! I like the idea of the game and it's a nice twist on deck-building. Kate and I are fans of word games but the word-building part of this one seemed quite easy and it often didn't really matter what word you made, so long as you found something suitable. I'm interested in finding out how much your skill at creating words affects your potential to score more points and I think the best way to do this might be to add a timer to the game to put some pressure on players and also reduce downtime. In our game, Kate got the first Common card for making a 7-letter word, which wasn't too hard (start player advantage?). It gave her an extra vowel for her deck and kickstarted her game. Although I'm not sure about the balance of this one, it was a lot of fun and so far I'm not regretting the purchase.

Qwixx: Das Kartenspiel is a surprising example of a cash-in reimplementation of a SdJ nominee that is actually as good as the original. I already enjoy Qwixx, but this card game version feels different enough to stand as its own game. I like the idea that the cards have their values on the back but not their colour, so you can decide which ones to take based on which numbers you need and which colours you've seen go past already. In this play, familiarity with the original dice game meant I could speed things to a close before the others were ready.

I stuck a load of games into the UK Games Expo no-postage required Maths Trade, although there were only two or three games on the list I was interested in. We'll see what happens when the results come out this weekend...
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