What I tried at Origins 2014 (with my family's help)
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Once again the kids just squeezed under the wire to come to Origins with my husband and me, with the end of school in our county on Tuesday 6/10/14. In 2015 they won't be so lucky since Origins is moving earlier in June again. As usual they spent most of their energy playing minis like Dad, so I went off to do my own thing playing mostly new (to me at least) board games. This list covers what I tried at Origins 2014 and my impressions.
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1. Board Game Publisher: Mayfair Games
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Drove in from PA first thing Wednesday morning with the car full of family, snacks, beverages, and games to trade at Saturday's Math Trade as well as a bonus trade with
Layne Lanpher
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North Carolina
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and to sell at the silent auction. My husband Doug and our next generation Elizabeth and Benjamin trotted off to kill some WWII tanks with the Armored Predator folks in the minis area and I was free to check out some board games.

I started off Wednesday afternoon with the Mayfair Games New Game Review. This was mostly because I didn't have a chance to stalk my Origins buddy Lori and play Alhambra: The Dice Game because it had filled up before I could sign up. This was the first time I had seen so many games fill up on Wed-Thu in pre-registration, even though it seemed like there were a lot of good games being run. I was hoping to try out Caverna and/or Global Mogul in the 4 hour time-frame. Some folks had grabbed the copy of Caverna, so I went and joined them. Unfortunately two were unfamiliar with Agricola, there was no-one to teach the game (and it has a LOT of options), and all 4 other players were looking to play a quantity of games over a single quality game. In the end we played a couple rounds and then they voted to quit. Sad start to the day. I forgot to take a picture, but here is a shot from the database emphasizing how busy the game gets:


After the truncated Caverna game, I found another couple of folks looking for someone to join their game of Monuments and then Lascaux, a couple of good set matching filler games. Santa gave us the run-down on Monuments, and another Mayfair regular assistant covered the rules for Lascaux, each of which I had played once years ago and were new to the other couple. I lost both badly, which I attribute to lack of sleep and not my own errors
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2. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:279] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Doug went off after dinner to learn a new minis system (Kings of War), and finally go back to an old favorite - Sailpower. I borrowed my son Ben and played 4-player Settlers of New York with Amorphous Blob Games. It was close for three of us, due to some stagnation on the part of the leading player in the last few rounds. Under the assumption that I wouldn't get another turn, I failed to listen to my son and take my chances on a development card (I was 2 points away and had a chance to get largest army for the win on the following turn), and instead built another city. Ben caught up to my 11 point second place score and the lead player failed to get what he needed again. So one turn too late and with no other options I bought the development card and it WAS a soldier, but the lead player hit 12 points on his next turn. Sorry, Ben, next time I will listen to you. Best Settlers game I had played in a while.
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3. Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:1974]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Last up for Wed night was Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age, in the WVHGA area. We own and enjoy the Bronze Age, so I was curious about how the next era would play.

Iron Age was not quite the finished version - this had the wooden pegs and boards and dice, but the rules were truncated (what could we use the Mediterranean board expansion for?) and the box was borrowed from another game. The lead player pursued a military/tribute strategy and the rest of us spent much of the game bowing down to his superior might. I was all over the figurative map with my lack of strategy, due to funky dice rolls and not any mental failures on my part at all, nope, nope nope. Good game, but without trying the map expansion I don't think this would supplant The Bronze Age version for us.

I obviously need some sleep if I am going to do better the next day.
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4. Board Game: Kingsburg [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:266]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Thursday morning I wanted to catch up on Kingsburg back with the Amorphous Blob group, a popular game I had never tried. We played with 5 people, ranging from an experienced woman to a couple of us who were newbies, to a couple kids who knew the game fairly well. I did respectably and came in second to the experienced woman.

This was probably my favorite game of the convention, and it would be a good fit with our gaming group - it is fun for a wide range of gamers, you get to build your own thing and have several options each round, but you cannot think too far ahead.
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5. Board Game: Alhambra: The Dice Game [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:3021]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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A short break for shopping, and then Happy Day! Lori Wallace was teaching Alhambra: The Dice Game again and there was room for me this time.

I wanted to check this game out for a friend's Christmas present. She loves Alhambra, but I assume doesn't want the base game because we always bring it over. I was hoping this version should fit the bill for her because it is just different enough but still keeps the "react to what is available on your turn" vibe she likes. Lori's game got upgraded so we were moved to the room behind the food court and given free beverages.

It took a while for folks to find us, so Lori had to play the part of two of the other players to start, and one of the other players to finish when we ran late. Lesson Learned - no matter how many scheduled events you want to cram in, it is good to keep an hour pad between games so you can play them all the way to the end (and any slack time can be filled with a run to the North Market for some amazing food). Ben played for the missing mystery guest who never showed. We had fun trying to beat the other players luck with the dice, and I ended up tied for first with one of the late arrivals. Ben enjoyed it so much he decided to skip the Minis game he had signed up for, in order to stay late and finish this one even though he wasn't doing so hot, and ended up in 5th place. In the end I decided my friend would enjoy Kingsburg's dice rolling more than the dice in this game because you actually get to feel like you are building something in Kingsburg; Alhambra: The Dice Game is too abstract compared to the original Alhambra.
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6. Board Game: Desperados of Dice Town [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:3693]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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With a little extra time, Ben and I decided to try a game in the Asmodee booth in Hall D. I wanted to try Splendor, but all those tables were busy so we went with an even shorter game, Desperados of Dice Town. In this game you try to free your Wild West gang from the hoosegow while preventing your opponents from doing the same. The GM played as well, to make things more interesting. Each player has one gang member in each skill-set, including brains, melee, knives, guns, etc, and once a particular member is freed (by rolling the right dice, naturally) you can use him to attack the other players and deplete their funds. The first player with their whole gang freed, or the only gang with money left, wins. I won our game, but although we enjoyed it I didn't have any urge to buy a copy.
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7. Board Game: Spurs: A Tale in the Old West [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:3279]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Thursday afternoon I tried a new release at the convention, Spurs. It had a rich Western theme with all the actions available to you making sense for your character depending on their abilities - herding cattle, breaking horses, hunting game or outlaws, attacking other players and becoming Wanted, and/or going to town for supplies, to rob a bank, to see the Doc, or gamble, or turn in pelts, unwanted equipment, and/or captured outlaws. I could go on and on.

Your character heads for the hills with his trusty sidearms, and chooses which challenges to face. Several involve "mini-games" accomplished on a little side board, that do not feel as in-line as they could be. Herding cattle or capturing a horse feels more like a Roborally dance than a test of your strength and endurance. Other actions are closer to the theme, like a real-time dueling mechanic that has two players drawing the correct bullets from their bag as fast as possible to try and shoot the other guy first. In the end of our game, the Most Wanted man won after shooting another player and robbing a bank full of money. My character, on the other hand, avoided the other humans and instead got run over by an elk. Ignominious end to a lonely hunter.
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8. Board Game: Rivet Wars: Eastern Front [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:1731]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Rivet Wars is a game my husband Doug tried, and he randomly won a copy. Guess he will be playing this with Ben and/or Elizabeth. They had several battles running at once:

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9. Board Game: Cowards and Carrots [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Another brand new game by Sean Garrity, Cowards and Carrots is currently on Kickstarter. This game ran for 3 hours until midnight, using the game designer's hand-drawn boards and cards. My daughter Elizabeth joined us to confront the Dragonbunny.


Backstory - Since all the manly men have left for the crusades, there are only village elders and cowards left to handle the menace when a dragonbunny moves in to the castle and demands a regular (every 2 rounds) tribute of carrots (I am overlooking the fact that women were left behind too, since we all know we women would kick the dragonbunny's ass far faster than a bunch of cowards would). Lacking enough carrots, he will eat your horses and then your cowardly workers. So as a village elder you must send your workers to both grow carrots to stave off the hunger of your new overlord and to increase the cowards' range and melee skills (by hunting and fighting in tilting tournaments with other cowards). It takes two cowards of sufficient skill to fight the dragonbunny, and they need the correct combination of skills or they will get eaten. So you need to dedicate some of your workers efforts to researching the nature of your opponent by visiting the local monasteries (with the side benefit of getting a relic to help you). Of course there is too much to do, and thieving neighbors stealing your carrot crop doesn't help. In our game, the other two players had the correct combination of skills and the research made it clear which particular dragonbunny would be in the castle, if not which way he would be facing, so they were able to confront him and win the day. Mind you, one coward WILL be eaten in each confrontation so if a single player isn't in charge of both cowards then it will be a 50-50 shot even when you do know the nature of your opponent.

I appreciate the humor, and there were several laughs along the way, but all-in-all it seemed like a little too much effort and slightly too much luck in this game for my tastes.

Edit to add a couple more prototype pictures:
 
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10. Board Game: Rococo [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:197]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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First game of Friday morning was Rococo. Time to play dress up. Please note I was playing against a woman involved with the Society for Creative Anachronism who was also (with her male companion) a heavy Euro-gamer so you can guess who won.

I had heard good things about this game, but had trouble with my timing as I was routinely one step too late or one dollar/thread/lace/color fabric too short to construct the dresses I wanted. I tried hiring more apprentices, journeymen, and masters to overcome my failings which helped a bit, but by the end of the game I had 53 points compared to something like 60+ points for the winning score and had to race off to my next game. I have a feeling it would take me several plays to get the hang of this one, and with many other games to choose from I had no urge to buy this one.
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11. Board Game: The Witches: A Discworld Game [Average Rating:6.13 Overall Rank:3035]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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The Witches: A Discworld Game was running in the Mayfair area, and worth a resource ribbon. Luckily my daughter (and her new plushy friend Corpsey Puff) joined me so I could play even though no other folks showed up.

The Witches is semi-cooperative, because if every Witch doesn't clean up various crises around Lancre soon enough then everyone will lose. We chose not to have tea together during the game (we were anti-social witches), and instead went our separate ways and faced our own challenges. Luckily Elizabeth was well equipped when she faced the Cunning Man so we didn't get sent to the dungeon, and I had the Power of Three when I went after the Count de Magpyr, keeping us ahead of the crisis buildup long enough to finish the game. It was close but I squeaked out a win.

I had played Discworld: Ankh-Morpork before, and this is a very different game. The Witches has more of a family vibe with the main goal to help the locals as opposed to Ankh-Morpork's area control/take over the city competitive feel. Good games, but not a great fit for my group.
 
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12. Board Game: Freedom: The Underground Railroad [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:304]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Time to get serious (the opposite of the previous silly game). Freedom was the first game I had signed up for when Origins events opened up, and I knew it would be difficult for me because I tend to take the theme of most games too seriously. That is why I like standard Euros, because they are not too intense, and I can whittle away my time building something up. This game is very different from that; a cooperative game that involves trying to save some individual slaves while allowing others to be lost to the slavers so we could spend sufficient time playing abolitionist politics. Tough choices. I played with
Dan Nelson
United States
Columbus
Ohio
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and two others, and Lori taught this game.

We played on the "easy" board, and by the end of our 2 hour time slot we had saved only 12 slaves, lost 12 by overcrowding in the slave market, and progressed most of the way through the second era. Our end condition would have been tough to make had we been able to continue playing, since we were short on money and fundraising tokens by this point and might have been unable to buy our way into the final era for another round. This continues my streak of never having actually won an entirely co-op game.

This is a terrific game, with the theme (difficult as it is) really well integrated into the gameplay. We played the upgraded version with better slave catcher markers that the other players said really helped the game (I understand the standard colored discs don't jump out and threaten you the same way). I am glad I tried it, and would be willing to play it again, but continue to be too intimidated by cooperative games to choose to buy this one for our group.

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13. Board Game: Eminent Domain [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:425]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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I like Race for the Galaxy, and had never tried this similar game before. It seems to combine RftG with Dominion-like deck building. I was a little worried at the start because I had signed up to do the basic version with Grand Gaming Academy in order to learn the game, but a rather obsessive fellow who obviously loves this game and knows it well showed up prior to the start. He tended to step all over the GM's explanations and be looking for specific cards to play. Luckily for the rest of us, and sadly for him, the game tickets had sold out and he only had a generic, so he headed off and the rest of us were able to learn it without the GM being talked over or us being totally crushed.

I started off colonizing planets because that is what my cards told me to do, followed by all the other players. OK. By the end of the first round we had significantly depleted the colonize deck. Hmm, maybe it was time to try something else. One player focused on a military strategy, two of us tried technologies, and the fourth fellow tried a more balanced approach. With no challengers, the military guy got a good planet conquering strategy going, compared to the rest of us. In the end although I had jumped up to technologies that gave victory points I saw myself getting further behind, so I decided to end the game before it got too embarrassing. I ended up tied for second with the balanced approach guy at 14 points, the military leader won with a couple points more, and the other technology player was a few points behind because he had not managed to get his tech-engine up to the point-generators yet.

I really enjoyed this game, but since I already have RftG and Dominion this one falls in the "happy to play someone else's copy, but won't buy" category.
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Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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I had a little break between scheduled games, so I decided to shop and go paint my free mini (one per badge-holder) in the Exhibit Hall. There were several to choose from, so I went with a mysterious cloaked figure, seen here lurking in my daughter's abstract sculpture...
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15. Board Game: Auction [Average Rating:5.15 Unranked]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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I had been checking in at the silent auction all day Friday, as had my family members. It is a game in and of itself. My son didn't bid, but Doug wanted some war games and Elizabeth bid on Magic cards and some 4th edition D&D books. I of course was there for board games that had caught my eye.

I had a little time after Eminent Domain finished, so I did one last run through the silent auction room for final bids on my most wanted games before dinner. In the last hour, they limit each bidder to 2 minutes before kicking them back out, so that everyone will get a last chance to bid on their items. Luckily I remembered where my favorites were located and upped my bids. At shortly after 9pm they announced the bid numbers that had won something and we got to line up to pay for and collect our wins. I scored Cuba and What's He Building in There?, both of which have been on my wish list for a while, and also got my daughter's D&D books. Happy me, happy daughter, sad husband. Sorry, Doug.

Side note - we had put 10 older kids and party games in the silent auction since they no longer get played. After paying the $1/game fee, we came out with $31 and 4 unsold games that will be going to Goodwill later this week. That helps put a dent in the $80 I spent at the auction
 
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16. Board Game: LACORSA Grand Prix Game [Average Rating:6.10 Unranked]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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I wanted to start off Saturday morning with a demo of Lacorsa. I enjoy race games a lot more than my game group, so Origins is a good place to get my fix. Some different demo games were running 4 hours long, so they didn't fit into my schedule. This was the only game on the premier track that would fit in with my schedule. I was glad this would be a quick one, only taking one hour. Sadly, the game was not set up when I arrived and there was no sign of the GM. Anyone know what happened?
 
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Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Time for the Math Trade meet up. I gave up 5 unwanted games and got 7 (5 wanted, plus 2 sweeteners) in return. I was done in 15 minutes with the help of my runner Elizabeth. Best Math Trade so far!

I didn't get a chance to tell
Amos Dillman
United States
Bement
IL
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but his Hornet sweetener will be going to my friend's 10-year-old son Josh who is battling aplastic anemia and hopefully getting a bone marrow transplant from his 6-year-old sister (who, thankfully, is a match) next month if all goes well. Right now he is stuck alternately in the hospital and at home in as sterile environment as possible, depending on his health on any given day and his need for regular transfusions. When he is home Josh is itching for things to do, so an aggressive game like Hornet should give him an additional outlet for his frustration. Not sure if or how his folks will have to clean the game before he can play it.
 
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18. Board Game: The Great Heartland Hauling Co. [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:993]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Sweet tiny little delivery game. We had 4 players, making it very crowded, but since the playing area shrinks with fewer player I assume every game has the players getting in each other's way. Sadly I missed that some commodities are more rare than others and loaded up on stuff I couldn't deliver.

After several rounds of scrapping cards and getting completely unmatched cards in return, and having to pay for movement because I couldn't get movement cards either (note that the lady next to me had only movement cards and not commodity cards for several rounds so she was hurting as well) by the last round I had 5 things in my truck and no way to deliver them. So since I was going to be in last place anyway I decided to try and go negative on my score by picking up more items I couldn't deliver. I failed at that as well, ending the game with +2 points. I definitely should not go into the hauling business. Fun, even though I was crushed.
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19. Board Game: Canalis [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:4578]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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AEG ran Canalis. This is the first game I have tried in the Tempest series. I love the trickiness of trying to build the different shaped buildings into the limited space, but then again I tend to enjoy any spatially challenging games. There is also a pass the trash/treasure card mechanic like Notre Dame, where you can only do one action or build one building for the cards in hand before giving the remainder to your opponent. Do you go for person goals or limiting the other players options? Also a plus for me, each player has their own faction ability and their own missions to achieve. Hooray for replayability!

We played with three, including the GM. I lagged during the first part of the game, and was hurting for money, but used my faction's ability to get and play up to 3 total random additional cards during the course of the game to take the lead midway through, and keep it for the rest of the game. By now I had realized that between the games I had already bought in the Exhibit Hall and silent auction, and the ones I had gotten in the Math Trade, I would not have the opportunity to play any more purchases for quite a while so I held off on buying this one and instead just put it on my wish list.
 
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20. Board Game: Cubist [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:2326]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Brand new game, presented by Eagle/Griffon Games. Cubist uses dice to build modern art commissions. Ben joined me again for this fairly short game, after a little hunt for a missing purple die. Luckily the company provided extra copies of this game, since more folks showed up to try it who Eagle/Griffon were able to accommodate. Good planning!

Three of us used our die rolls to try and build up commissioned sculptures in given patterns. Same numbered dice can be stacked, while only +1 or -1 value dice can be placed next to each other. The first artist to complete a commission card from the common pool can claim it, and receive extra dice of certain set values that they can use to complete later commissions or add to the main installation in the museum. Pretty and quite fun, although Ben got frustrated when we were able to beat him to the commissions and he had to waste turns scrapping his aborted sculptures. He still liked the game, though. Cubist was not for sale yet, sadly, because I think the price point is a little high (due to all the dice) for the amount we would actually play the game. I would have bought this with my Eagle/Griffon playing card discount or the coupon book "roll 2 Tumbling Dice for a percentage off" discount but do not intend to get it full price. Maybe as a present for Ben with next year's discount.
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21. Board Game: The Downfall of Pompeii [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:447]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Quick demo at the Mayfair booth to kill some time and get my Sheep resource ribbon, although we own the earlier, bigger box version of this game. Lack of shuffling meant one player got about 5 Omen cards in a row, slaughtering our people before we even invited our relatives in to the city to be safe from the rumbling volcano. This made the GM have to reshuffle to balance things out, but unsurprisingly that one player ended up winning. Oh well, I still had a full Mayfair ribbon set after gathering my family's extras and doing some trading so we used our 50% off coupon to get a game expansion for a friend for Christmas.
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22. Board Game: Trains [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:368] [Average Rating:7.22 Unranked]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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There were a lot of groups running Trains. I chose to play with the AEG folks, which was a good choice because during my 2-player game (the GM sat out) another AEG employee came over to announce Trains had won the 2014 Origins Game of the Year Award! After some high-fives, I took a couple pictures of our happy GM with the game in progress, and with the Origins trophy:


Trains uses a double-sided map board (with more map boards coming soon, and currently one additional Gen-Con promo board available) and a Dominion-like card-deck-building mechanic to allow each player to customize how they want their train company to operate. Every time they place track or stations on the board (per card actions from their hands), the players accumulate waste cards in their decks. Waste takes up hand-space, limiting future actions unless the player takes a turn to clean up the waste in their 5-card hand by removing it from their decks.

For our game the other player took a lot of bridges and track to expand most efficiently on the map and regularly cleaned up the excess waste he generated, while I went for upgraded trains (that act as the "money" in the game, like the gold in Dominion) and the higher priced Wagon Factory to support increasing my train levels but mostly ignoring my waste build-up, followed by buying the gold city cards for victory points. Luckily we didn't have to lose points for waste, or I would have lost badly. As it was I just barely passed the other player for a win. Another good game, but since we already own a lot of rail-building games I will hold off on buying this one.
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23. Board Game: Sail to India [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:1117]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Sail to India was the last game of the convention for me Sunday morning. It was so LITTLE! I had seen pictures of the box, and read the description of this euro, and assumed it was the usual big heavy game. Instead it all fits in the same little box as many other AEG games like Valley of Kings or their version of Love Letter.

Cards are laid out randomly in a line to simulate the ports that your ships will discover and interact with on the way to India. There are sail-related technology cards above those cards. There is a collection of worker cubes in your color set off to the side in oh, let's call it the Job Fair area. Each player has a turn description/trade value card, and starts with a little money and a couple more worker cubes. Workers can be used to sail ships, act as merchants, bankers or historians, hire more workers, learn technologies, or build buildings in ports (churches, strongholds, or markets). The catch is that most worker actions except for trading, sailing, and banking use them up permanently as well as cost money, but you need those workers to hire more worker cubes. This means the game involves a careful balancing act. That is a lot of agonizing in a tiny box. Another game for my wishlist, since AEG sold out mid-way through the convention.

After this I finally rounded up my family, made a last few gift purchases, failed to win at the annual Mayfair raffle, and hit the road for the long haul back to Virginia.
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