GCL Phoenix 177 - The Doctor Is In (25 May 2014)
Max Maloney
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Portland
Oregon
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Welcome to the Phoenix Game Chat League
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archivists
chally
darker
Dormammu
indigopotter - next week's host
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Mr_Nuts
ravenskana
rynelf
tjshields
Woodnoggin

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BennyD, Bruzza, Eeeville, enzo622, Hawkeye77, JohnRayJr, judoka, leroy43, Taibi, topherr, Yokiboy

This weeks topics for discussion:
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1. Board Game Designer: Reiner Knizia
Max Maloney
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Portland
Oregon
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Welcome to part three in my "Discuss a Designer" series.

Reiner Knizia has 43 pages of games to his credit on BGG. Those in the top 500, sorted by rank, are:

028 Tigris & Euphrates
076 Ra
108 Samurai
117 Battle Line
142 Amun-Re
156 Modern Art
158 Taj Mahal
182 Ingenious
221 Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation
238 Lost Cities
271 Through the Desert
302 Medici
306 Blue Moon City
309 Dream Factory
316 Carcassonne: the Castle
317 Schotten-Totten
413 Lord of the Rings
432 Winner's Circle
454 Colossal Arena

When you look at this list, what is your overall impression of Knizia?

Do you like his games in general, find them uninteresting, or is it a mixed bag? Do you have a favorite Knizia that is outside the Top 500?
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2. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:134]
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Knizia is often described as designing games with pasted on themes. On our very Phoenix GCL, clearclaw once related having read that Knizia designed Tigris & Euphrates beginning with the theme.

Do Knizia games feel thematic to you, or do you agree with the common refrain that his themes are pasted on? Either way, does it matter to you?
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3. Board Game: Samurai [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:172]
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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The other thing Knizia is perhaps best known for is his scoring systems. They arguably reveal his background in mathematics and often seem to be the core around which a game is built.

How do you like the various Knizia scoring systems? Do they seem unique and intriguing or like a series of arbitrary numerical manipulations?
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4. Board Game: Elder Sign [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:463]
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Wurtsboro
NY
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Just our two plays of Elder Sign this week.

I clicked on an H-index geeklist the other day, which inspired me to check my plays. My H-index is currently 23 (23 games I've played at least 23 times). That seems pretty decent.
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5. Board Game: Nada! [Average Rating:5.69 Overall Rank:9851]
R. Eric Reuss
United States
Arlington
Massachusetts
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Again, no gaming this past week; possibly none at all until June 7th. (Oi.)

But then I have two game gatherings and all of Origins in the space of 8 calendar days, which ought to make up for this dry spell.

Work on Spirit Island continues apace. I'm past the layout grind, and into reworking some of the teaching spirits. It's tricky to hit that balance of "straightforward enough to be easy to learn with, but complex enough that they feel thematically interesting and differentiated".

Outside of games: This last week had a lot of great with-my-son days: some family visits with friends, and some solo parenting that was tiring-but-rewarding in the way that I'd hoped it'd be when I took on being a stay-at-home-dad. Most of it involved being out and about; hallelujah for spring!
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6. Board Game: Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:62]
Bryan Maxwell
United States
Burtchville
Michigan
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Really great gaming week! I'm taking advantage of having a few weeks off from everything and getting to spend some time with the wife and kids. I got to play 3 games in my top 10 this week!

Seeland x 2

My wife asked for this, thinking maybe this time it would be different.

It wasn't. I won both games.

Snowdonia w/Zugspitzebahn scenario x 2

I'm liking this game more and more every time we play it (we did so twice today as well). This scenario involves using a cable car to move your surveyor from station to station (whether they're complete or not) and you can only build/dig/lay track at or adjacent to your surveyors. We've now tried all 6 scenarios that we have, and I like the variety that they offer. Only one I didn't care for was the advanced scenario that comes with the base game, and that's only because it was lackluster for 2 players; I imagine it would be pretty good with 4 or 5.

Bibios x 2

I've gotten quite a bit of Biblios this month. My 10 rating stands. These were back-to-back 3-player games, both of which saw me lose and 1 of which I scored a cool zero (0) points.

Tom, this so seems like your kind of game. Can't remember whether you've played it or not.

Terra Mystica x 1


Terra Mystica has cooled off for my Wednesday group, largely because we got a new member who doesn't care for it.This week we kind of said "Well, this is what we're playing" (not led by me).

This was a 5-player game with one new player. He took to it very well and finished second, some 30 points behind the Swarmlings player who ran away with it (scored 119). I finished 3rd with the Halflings. Teaching games are always tough for me, plus the lack of the "Gain VP for using shovels this turn" scoring marker hurt me.

This was my 20th play of TM.

King of Tokyo x 1

This was a 5-player warmup to BSG, unusual in that it saw a VP victory and only one player elimination (and he died with 17VP, nearly winning before getting KO'd).

Battlestar Galactica x 1


A 6-player game, so I took the role of Cylon leader (Cavil). We also played with Pegasus and the Cylon Fleet option. Things started off well for the humans (don't they always?) but started going south after the sleeper phase. I was infiltrating Galactica the entire time and didn't encounter any resistance. Good thing too, as I had the secret agenda card that says "You win if the humans win and you are infiltrating and not in the brig" so I was essentially a human player.

This game saw one of the humans' nightmare scenarios: a cylon holding both the admiral title and the presidency. When our president (Ellen Tigh, har har) revealed as a cylon she passed the presidency off to our admiral Karl Agathon (again, har har). He promptly launched our last nuke into an area containing only civilian ships (no casualties, but still not very nice) so we knew she was a cylon. Our airlock was broken, so I had to fix it then we had a pricey skill check to put her out the airlock. And she had gotten to shaft us on a few "president chooses" and "admiral chooses" cards in the meantime.

We decided early on to do a shorter game - 3/6/end rather than 4/8/end. I neglected to lower the dials accordingly though. So we had more resources than we should have had, and we essentially had 4 humans to 2 cylons. And the cylons still won.

Innovation x 1

The wife and I dusted this one off. It was a bit lackluster, I won 6-2 by running off achievements 1-6 while she advanced and splayed.

Viticulture x 1


Dusted this one off and played with the wife, winning a narrow 21-20 play. I experimented and went with the windmill early this time and it (apparently) worked. I like this one for what it is, but I feel like it has a little bit too much luck for the type/length of game it is.

A la Carte x 1

Maybe it's uncool to say this with a kid's game, but I kicked my wife and daughters ASSES at this game. I won with 3 perfect dishes, the last of which would have ended the game and I'd have won on score 23-11-11. Oh, and I cooked a crepe.

YEAH.



Last week of freedom before my summer job begins next Monday.

Today I rode my bike for the first time this year. I got overzealous, went too far and really got my ass handed to me. Exercise 1, Bryan 0.

Game on.
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7. Board Game: Trollmaster [Average Rating:6.89 Unranked]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 24May2014:

9/25/203 plays of 7/17/92 total games, with 0/0/13 expansions employed.
Plays with 9/16/57 distinct opponents.

0/3/20 games acquired (plus 0/0/7 expansions.)
0/0/8 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/6 expansions.)
1/1/8 games ordered (plus 2/2/5 expansions.) - Clash of Cultures, PAX: Nocturnus and Peloponnes: Sacrum Expansion.
Orders for 9 games and 2 expansions still outstanding.

With the Monday Lunch bunch:
1x _7.3_ Welcome to the Dungeon - Fast, pretty random; didn't overstay its welcome. The difficulty with the first play is that it's fundamentally a play-your-opponents exercise - and the game is over when one is beginning to discover how your opponents might play.
1x _6_ Alley Thieves - We tried the City of Fate optional rule, and ended up (Rule Question: (City of Fate variant) What value is recruited?) a bit confused about what the rules meant. There are some cute and at least slightly unexpected dynamics here - which was fun. But in the end, despite the fact that it's really cute and I'm pretty sure the City of Fate is the variant I'd prefer, the gang and I weren't completely convinced.
1x _7.7_ Blokus (75 months dusty) - I've played a bunch of times against the Android app: but this is my first live play in quite a while. It was fun to discover that the AI opponents aren't too terrible.

With family:
1x _7.7_ Trollmaster - With my two boys. They agreed it was fast, and mostly harmless; but weren't as convinced as I of its merits. The lack of english text is a problem: I really need to work on the paste-ups.
1x _7.7_ Russian Railroads - With my two boys: the elder is less convinced than the younger as to its merits. It was also my first 3p play - and our scores were much larger than I've ever seen before. All three of us were well past 400; and our winner closer to 600 than 500.
1x _7.3_ Welcome to the Dungeon - My kids and I are perhaps better suited to the game: we've got a clue about one another's potential silliness before the game starts - so our ability to play the game playing the opponents has a leg up. This one worked pretty well.

With the Wednesday Night gang:
1x _7.3_ Conquest of Paradise New! - Quite charming, and cleaner in play than the 13 pages of errata suggested. I'd be delighted to play again. But the asymmetry of the starting locations and the randomness of the exporation step make me wonder whether it's possible to be handed an untenable position: I think my approval of the game would wane a bit, if that proved to be the case.
1x _7.3_ Welcome to the Dungeon - Again, here, we know one another pretty well - so the game worked quite nicely. I'm not convinced it's great; but it's certainly a short filler of comparable fun and accessibility to the rather-more-popular Love Letter.
1x _7.3_ Samurai Gardener - It's cute, and fast, and likely a bit more random than I might prefer. As some of you have noticed, it's pretty easy for the active player to just get the card they want: so then it's a question of how good the best card in a given round is for the active player. And the evidence of this game - which admittedly isn't a large sample - is that that variance is pretty big.

Owned-and-unplayed: 4 (+0/-1) - Conquest of Paradise was played. The other four will take a bit more work to get played. 1856: Railroading in Upper Canada from 1856 might be the easiest to get played.

Outlook for the week: No lunchtime gaming this Monday (since it's a holiday, and I won't be at work.) Wednesday night gang at my place again this week; then BAP on Saturday. Hopefully something amusing will get played.
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8. Board Game: Innovation [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:277]
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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Games Played:

_10_ Innovation x1

Three players with my wife and youngest son. My wife ran away from us and won fairly easily with a few funny moments of me trying things hoping to catch up and ended up helping them more than myself.


Other:

Not much playing this week as we took off for my son's birthday and went to the Wisconsin Dells where we had adventures on water slides, laser tag, wizard quests, wall climbing, bumper cars, more laser tag, duck tour (duck being a kind of vehicle that goes on land and water), and more. Great times!
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9. Board Game: Carolus Magnus [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:899]
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Games Played

.10! Hanabi 2
_8_ Paris Connection 2
_7_ Carolus Magnus 1 New!
_7_ Luna 1
_6_ Sail to India 1 New!
_5_ Russian Railroads 1
_4_ Mogul 1 New!

Week in Review

My third play of Luna, and its quirkiness is becoming less of a barrier to good play. But my times playing it are widely spread out over time so I'm hardly learning quickly. This was hated by one of my good gaming buddies, so it doesn't have a good outlook on heavy repeat play. Still, I find it one of Feld's more unique designs.

Mogul is not my sort of game. I would try it again with 4P, but 6P was pretty miserable.

Sail to India was cute and enjoyable. I played the AEG version and was pleasantly surprised that it didn't look awful, as so many of their recent adaptations of microgames have. Overall however, the microgame thing simply isn't in my wheelhouse. I'd rather play something with more teeth.

My favorite game of the week was Carolus Magnus, played 2v2 with the Spielbox variant that reduces randomness. This game is very abstract, but the team play was interesting and I enjoyed thinking through the different options each turn (which also prevented perfect look ahead). I am cautious with the rating after a single play, but I could see this being an 8. I'd love to play it with Tom.

This was one of the prized times when I got to play Paris Connection back-to-back. One player ran away with the first game, we discussed why, and the second game was much tighter. That second play was really fun and satisfying.
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10. Board Game: Roads & Boats [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:271]
Albatros
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

_8_ Roads & Boats x1 New to Me!
_8_ A Study in Emerald x1


The Week in Review

S, P and I played out our third A Study in Emerald this past Friday. It was the second time that S was alone in her faction (Loyalist this time) and the second time that she broke away on the VP track to win. It's convinced both S and P that being the only one in a faction is a good thing; I think they've forgotten how badly I bunged it up when I was the singleton. So while I don't completely agree with them, I am curious to see how the game plays at higher counts.

P also commented that the Lovecraft theme really doesn't come through that well on this one. That it could have just as well been about 19th Century anarchists blowing up European royalty. I have to agree and I'd have probably enjoyed it just as much (although Wallace may have not sold as many copies sans Lovecraft theme).

Roads & Boats...

I had genuinely believed S would enjoy the logistic puzzles of this game in spite of the game clocking in at three hours (maybe two with more plays). She commented that it took too long and it was too much like work. That said, we did not play with walls (so no blocking one another) nor did we venture into each other's areas. There was no stealing of geese nor plundering excess goods. Nor did we build bridges or boats even though a large part of the map was separated by rivers. So it was a bit like two-player solitaire.

Also, as neither of us knew the production chain and didn't really know where we were trying to get too, it was less about creating an efficient network and more about just trying to get any network down.

All that said, I really liked what I saw and really look forward to playing it some more - perhaps even solo. And like S said, P might like it....


The Week Ahead

S is very busy this week with work so I doubt much will happen before the weekend. However, this weekend, we do have K scheduled to come over on Saturday for another adventure into Moria (The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game), then a Sunday gaming afternoon with L and C, and P supposed to come over Sunday night for more gaming.

In the mean time, there's just a few loose ends left with the math trades. I'm still waiting for Alhambra to arrive for one. And I have $110 of credits to spend on new games....

Unplayed games of note still in shrink: De Vulgari Eloquentia, Bruxelles 1893, 1861: The Railways of the Russian Empire and Revolution: The Dutch Revolt 1568-1648. Chance of any of them getting played this week: nil.
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11. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.24 Overall Rank:8]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Last week's platypus:

-10- Agricola (+Farmers of the Moor)
|9| Terra Mystica (+4 Town Tiles) (x2)
|9| Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
-8- Ticket to Ride: Europe
-7.5- Bohnanza (x2)
-7- 7 Wonders
-7- Assyria
-6- Paperback
-6- Port Royal
-6- Ticket to Ride: India
-6- Timeline: Inventions New!
N/A Start Player (x3)

Two back-to-back games of Terra Mystica was a highlight of the week. I won the first with a new high score of 169 as Chaos Magicians. Building a Sanctuary in the first round gave me four favour tiles and a nice income boost. In the second game I tried Alchemists and narrowly lost out to Kate's Engineers who had early favour tiles and cult bonuses over me.

Agricola was a two-player game with Phil and we used the Farmers of the Moor expansion for a change. It had been a while since either of us had played it but I remembered how useful two of the new Major Improvements are (Peat Charcoal Kiln and Forester's Lodge) and grabbed both. With other Improvements to give bonuses for the Cut Peat and Fell Trees actions, I ended up with lots of extra fuel and wood and could trade it in for other resources with my Peat Boat.

Our second game of Paperback was very short, with Kate taking enough VP cards to end things quickly. We considered adding a couple of extra VP cards to the piles to bulk the game out a bit. Afterwards, we discussed whether there was actually much of a game here - are you really making any meaningful decisions? It feels too easy to make words, we'd prefer more of a challenge. I guess the challenge is in trying to buy the VP cards before your opponent but this seems to be at the mercy of the card draw much more than based on which letters you add to your deck. I thought about adding the Theme cards to the game, but our games have ended long before we'd be able to spell any of the words listed on those cards. If one player concentrated on adding letters to their deck specifically to spell one of the Theme words, their opponent could simply go for the standard VPs and end the game first. I'd want the Theme card to be worth at least 20VPs itself to make it worth the risk. I want to like this game, but I think it's not quite there.

A last-minute change of plans meant I made it to one London On Board meetup for a bizarre game of Ticket to Ride: Europe. Everyone hoarded train cards mostly by drawing them randomly, and it was nigh on impossible to find any Locomotives. Since I had Edinburgh-Athens (my least favourite ticket!), I needed some jokers for ferry routes and by the time it became apparent I wasn't going to be able to get any, it was too late to go another way. Dismal, but at least stations meant I wouldn't lose the ticket points. I've never seen a game where jokers were so hard to get.

I haven't played Assyria in a long while and this two-player game did it no favours. At such a low player count, the evenness of the game is exposed and it almost feels too balanced. As long as we didn't do something entirely stupid, we remained within a few points of each other whatever choices we made. But it wasn't a close, neck-and-neck struggle, instead he did his thing, I did mine and we saw who came out ahead in the end. He went for Intrigue tracks, I made ziggurats, we both built a few wells. My 7 rating is based on some early plays and it's probably too generous. Perhaps there's more interaction and competition with more players.

Timeline: Inventions was new to me, although the premise of the game is similar to Map It! It was pretty fun, prompting some discussion about the inventions we saw. I got unlucky with guessing when the cheque was invented, placing it on the wrong side of another invention by just one year. 18th century, apparently, although Wikipedia tells me the ancient Romans had cheque equivalents.

I'm looking forward to the UK Games Expo this weekend. The no-shipping Maths Trade resulted in one trade for me: El Capitán out, Lost Valley in. We found El Capitan to be a bit too dry and mathematical and it's been sat on my shelf for too long, it's time it moved on. I've read good things about Lost Valley so I added it to my list, although reading about it now, it sounds quite similar to Lewis & Clark.
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