GCL Amoeba 173 -- Unexpected Upsets! (2014-06-15)
My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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Welcome to this week's discussion list!
If you stumbled into this geeklist by accident take a look at the pointers provided at the top. Constructive on-topic comments from visitors are welcome and we're happy about new regular contributors, but please refrain from adding items if you are not a member of this GCL.
The hosting rotation:
Carlos Moreno Serrano (Sprocket314)
Doug Faust (phrim)
Max DuBoff (MD1616)
Jeroen Doumen (jmdsplotter)
Eric Brosius (Eric Brosius)
It looks like our rotation got a bit disordered, but I think what I've listed above is about as right as it's going to be. Jevon, if you're still swamped, just let us know and we can move you down a bit. (How did your conference go, if it has already happened?)
Since it's World Cup time, with all of the unexpected upsets that entails, I thought I'd make this week's topic match. Some of the surprises are positive and some are negative. (Of course, in the World Cup, one country's positive surprise is another's negative surprise, something that isn't necessarily the case here.) I'd like you to describe two games:
(1) (Positive surprise) What is a game you didn't think there was much chance you would like, based on what you knew about it before you tried it, but that you have come to like a lot?
(2) (Negative surprise) What is a game you thought you would almost certainly like, based on what you knew about it before you tried it, but that you did not like very much at all?
You can describe more than one in either category if you want.
My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
I have three big positive surprises that I enjoy so much I rate them all as .10!s.
The biggest of these surprises is 1846: The Race for the Midwest, because before I tried it, I had already played two other games from the 18xx family and didn't enjoy them. The first was 1830: Railways & Robber Barons, which I played several times in the last 1980s and didn't like at all. And I still don't like it! The second was 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt, which I played once in 2006, the Short Game. We broke the bank early (largely because we weren't aggressive enough buying
trains spaceships,) and the game seemed really weird and off kilter. I have since played it 8 more times, with people who know the game better, and it's now one of my favorites. But my favorite in the series is 1846: The Race for the Midwest, which is the next 18xx game I played and the game that changed my mind about this series. After my very first game, which I lost by a large margin by trying to play it too safe, I spent the entire next month and a half thinking about it and couldn't wait to play my second game!
My two runners-up for unexpected positive surprises are both wargames.
The first is a game I received free with my brand-new subscription to Strategy & Tactics magazine back in 1972 (the game itself was published in 1971, but I didn't get my copy until I subscribed.) It was a tiny little game with a small map and not many counters---much smaller than any of the wargames I had previously come across. "How can this game be any fun?", I asked myself. "It's hardly a real game!" But it was compact and had a short playing time, so I set it up and played solitaire, and I played again the next day, and then 7 times in a single month not long after that, and I realized that it was well balanced and tense. Good things (sometimes) come in small packages.
The other is a game I was sure I wouldn't enjoy. It was a "card driven wargame", a genre that seemed crazy to me. How could a wargame that used cards as a primary mechanism be enjoyable? The real generals didn't use cards! (Of course, they didn't roll dice, either, but I hadn't thought about that point!) But I had started attending WBC, the World Boardgaming Championships, in 2003, and I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to attend the pre-Con, which featured a small number of tournaments before the main Con started. I realized that it would make sense to learn one of the games that were played in the pre-Con. There were four options: Advanced Squad Leader, Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage, Paths of Glory and 18xx. I was pretty sure I didn't want to take on the Advanced Squad Leader lifestyle, it was tough to get a copy of Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage at the time, and (as mentioned above) I sure didn't want to play 18xx. So, by default, I bought a copy of Paths of Glory and set in to learn it, playing games with my friends Andy Young and Nick Avtges (on line at first using Vassal.) And it turned out that I really love this game, cards or no cards! I enjoy other card-driven games, but this is still my favorite.
My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
There's no question that my biggest unhappy surprise was PanzerBlitz. When I was a kid, there was no way I could buy as many games as I can buy today. I had to save up for a long time to buy a game, or else wait for Christmas or my birthday. I got a number of Avalon Hill games---D-Day as a gift from neighbors who didn't want it, Gettysburg for Christmas (the only wargame my father ever played with me,) Jutland, and so forth---but this was different. It was a tactical game, with individual tank counters that had silhouettes, it had a really cool cover, and it was about the Eastern Front, a topic that I knew of only one game about, Stalingrad.
I think I saved my money for this one. It cost $7.00 in an era during which most Avalon Hill games cost only $4.00 or $5.00, so it took longer to save the money, but this was going to be special. It was going to be great!
When the game arrived, I opened it, oohed and aahed at the components, set up the first scenario, and started reading the rules (which I think came on a giant piece of paper folded into sections like one of the road maps of the time. I haven't used a road map for years, now that I think of it.) And that's where the problems started.
First of all, you couldn't fire at a unit unless you had a line of sight (this was my first game with lines of sight.) An enemy unit could hide behind a bush so you couldn't fire at it. Okay. But then another unit could hide behind that and more behind those, and so forth, so that the entire Russian army could hide behind a single bush and you couldn't see any of them. (Supposedly.) This just seemed wrong.
Second, the enemy could send a unit, perhaps even an unarmored truck, up right near your units (perhaps to spot for artillery fire) and you couldn't fire at them. I understand that this made the game simpler, but the idea of moving right past a whole arsenal of enemy forces without them having a chance to shoot at you seemed absurd to me.
Another thing that bugged me was how artillery fire worked. The game used a traditional "odds resolution" procedure, in which you divided the strength of the artillery barrage by the defense of the target to determine how effective the barrage was. This meant that you could "harden" your units against artillery by cramming as many as possible into a single hex. "They're firing artillery? Great! Let's all cram into a tiny spot, all together. Their artillery will never be able to hurt us then!"
Given the investment I had in the game, I did play it with friends a few times, but I just couldn't make it feel like it represented reality in any way. It was a bitter disappointment.
(If anyone wants to trade for or buy a vintage copy of PanzerBlitz, just send me a GeekMail!)
New to me:
Café Melange x1
The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet x1
Busstop: The Boardgame x1
Kingdom Builder x2
Potato Man x1
Chicago Express x1
The Hanging Gardens x1
Harry's Grand Slam Baseball Game x1
The Majority x1
Terror in Meeple City x1
Scharfe Schoten x1
Terra Mystica x1
Through the Desert x1
VivaJava: The Coffee Game x1
Prosperity is named such for a reason - ignore prosperity tiles at your peril. I was hoping for a game with different paths to victory and was disappointed to find a game that requires everyone to take prosperity tiles to keep up and rewards whomever is best at the secondary options. This does not interest me. I'm guessing there was too much influence by Knizia here... (Mind you, I enjoy early Knizia designs but the last 4-5 years have left quite a bit to be desired.)
Café Melange is another interesting "create your own deduction" game where you use logic and place clues to isolate where something/someone is located which appears to be Clicker Spiele's focus in game design. I'm not certain this game shines with four and would be interested in trying again with 2-3 players. After my first play, I'm thinking I prefer some of Clicker's other designs.
Besides being fun to pronunciate, Kobayakawa was a hoot to play with the college student group who instantly wanted to play again. Like many of the Japanese mini-games, this one appears to have little depth and then the metagame and doublethink can come into play. Not convinced this one has legs, but since the college group enjoyed their plays, I'll keep it around for a while.
The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet was way more fun than I was expecting. I almost used this one to answer Eric's question but since I've only played once felt it might be a bit premature. This one has fun art, game play is simple, and turn order can be nasty as you force people to take the undesirable tiles. At the end, everyone has built a planet and will score four facets of the board (along with penalty points for whomever has the most volcanoes). This looks like a children's game but may not play well with kids...
Played what I understood was an unappreciated and harder to find classic in Kogge. It wasn't well received and I offered the group the chance to quit but we kept grinding away until the bitter end. There's a bit too much nastiness here for a game that appears to be about planning ahead and strategy (you cannot really plan on much anything until your turn as routes can change, cities/ships can get plundered, and more of the like. Ultimately, I think this game might have been better received if the raids were not part of the game. I'm still curious and want to play again but it will have to be a different group...
Busstop: The Boardgame is apparently forgettable. I didn't really know what to think after my one play. I'm not running out and trying to track this one down for my collection at the moment though.
My perspective of Tichu didn't change much after a 5 year hiatus. When a game of Tichu takes as long as a game of Age of Steam, I'd rather be playing Age of Steam. Enough said. I made a mistake choosing not to play AoS that day.
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: / Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Habeo in animo vivere in perpetuum aut mori dum conor.
_7.5_ 5x Russian Railroads: After learning this a week ago, I wanted to keep playing it. I played 2 2P games on Tuesday, 2 2P games on Thursday, and a 3P game on Friday. In each of the 2P sessions, I won one and my brother won one. A few different strategies won the 2Ps--Kiev-industrialization, different strands of Vladivostok, etc. The one thing I haven't been using/seeing a lot is pushing St. Petersburg (except to get the question mark chips). Perhaps the most interesting 2P was when both of us went for Vladivostok and very few locomotives were bought. It was a rough game, and my handling of it proved less efficient. The 3P was notable because one player went for rapid industrialization and then took a second cylinder to garner more points. He was unopposed since the other two of us were pushing Vladivostok. I managed to get almost all the doublers, however, and squeaked out a win by a mere 1 point.
I got in some nice gaming on Friday (albeit all 3P).
_7_ Thurn and Taxis: I picked this for the GeekList item because I finally convinced my good buddy to give this another try. Apparently, the first time he played it, the game took 3 hours (!). Anyone who's played Thurn and Taxis knows this game takes 45 minutes on average and even less time with experienced players. Needless to say, this game didn't take 3 hours (it was about 50 minutes). I picked up grey cards in the north but couldn't find much to continue my route with, so I ended it at 3 and started collecting cards for the southwest. I got green and purple bonuses and was the first to reach all colors, but someone else got the grey chip and more length bonuses to win 28-20-7.
_8_ 2x Dominion: I got too fancy in the first one with a Chapel strategy and lost but came back to win the second.
_7_ Alhambra: This is one of the few games for which 3P just might be the ideal count. 3P Alhambra really forces you to pay exactly as much as possible. In this game, I got a great wall formation early. One player established himself as the early leader by dominating red, brown, and white, but he was soon challenged by the third player, who bought very few tiles in the beginning but had a mid-game buying spree. I managed to get a ton of greens early and then in the midgame a bunch of purples. Those colors and my walls were enough to carry me to a solid victory.
_8_ Wits & Wagers: Always a good one. There happened to be a lot of close/exact answers with these questions, for some reason. I personally had two answers that were just over the correct one, and I lost everything on the last question in style.
_9.5_ Here I Stand: I was French/Ottomans in a 3P. The Ottomans couldn't get going, and the French attacked the Haps with too few cards. The Catholic powers won.
_8.5_ Paths of Glory: I was the CP and the Allies didn't plug the Melun hole at the beginning. I normally would never take advantage of that, but it was a WGR league game. It went downhill from there for the Allies.
EDIT: fixed the ratings (with colors)
Board Game: 1825 Unit 1
[Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:3512]
[Average Rating:6.81 Unranked]
Click to see this player's page
2x _7.25_ Lost Legacy: Binbo Tantei to Inbo no Shiro
2x _7.00_ Mystery Rummy: Al Capone and the Chicago Underworld
1x _8.25_ 1825 Unit 2
1x _8.25_ 1825 Unit 1
1x _8.00_ 1825 Unit 3
1x _7.25_ StreetSoccer
1x _7.00_ Navegador
1x _6.25_ Battle of LITS
1x _6.00_ Diplomacy
1x _5.50_ Button Up!
1x _4.50_ Sword of Rome
I finally got a small group together to play the full 1825 (including all expansions). It was great fun, everyone enjoyed himself. I managed to get an early 100% Midland holding, and build that out to a great route and railroad. Maybe it's a bit too easy here to start and loot a new company, just to feed your old one some new trains - especially when you start minors at 400+...
The new Lost Legacy did not disappoint: the new base set has a nice new mechanisms. You can only play cards if directly before a higher card has been played (or no card), otherwise you play them face down in front of you with no effect. Of course, you always play the Lost Legacy itself face down in front of you...
I liked Sword of Rome better than Wellington, but somehow most of the CDGs don't get me that much (sorry Max!). Here I Stand is a notable exception, but that probably is due to the enormous asymmetry between the players.
Credit to David J. Kelly
This image is not mine – message me if you know who made it!
_9_ 1x The Great Zimbabwe
_8_ 1x 1989
_8_ 1x A Study in Emerald
_7_ 1x Caverna
_7_ 1x Upwords
_5_ 1x Pax Porfiriana (solo)
The first four games listed were all on Friday, basically the best gaming day I've had since my birthday.
Caverna is neat, but as yet it feels too free-form to be a game. We're all just wandering around doing our own thing, and then there's a winner. I imagine this feeling goes away once players know the game better, or else with different player counts (we had three).
The Great Zimbabwe was as advertised. Interlocking systems are apparently my favorite thing. Unlike Caverna, our play of TGZ felt like we were getting wound up in each other, and then there was a winner. Caverna felt like we didn't affect each other; TGZ felt like we affected each other without controlling it.
I won A Study in Emerald so handily it was almost an exercise. We had three players, one new. My first card was Burtsev, who always pulls his weight, I feel. Other than that all my cards were cube manipulation or deck thinning: Okhrana, Holy Brotherhood, Freemasons, Third Section. The other experienced player tried to fight me on these, but he'd already cluttered his deck up with a bunch of agents, so I was able to outrace him. Thanks to Burtsev I knew that when the new player bought Change of Heart he was joining the side that the other two of us were already on, making the game purely about points; since my deck was so sleek it was easy for me to win.
http://www.lautapeliopas.fi/ - the best Finnish board game resource!
1 x _7_10 Days in Europe
1 x _7_Trans Europa
1 x _7_Memory
What a thoroughly slow week. We've been in a process of selling our apartment (we bought a house recently – that was a bit crazy, going from "hey, why don't we buy a new apartment" to "hey, we bought a house" in less than three weeks, but sometimes you need a bit of excitement), and there's all sorts of stuff going on - typical Summer rush, really, so this week isn't going to be any better, really.
(As a side note, I think it's absurd that Father's Day is celebrated now in many places. In Finland, it's in November, which is a lot better, because a) there's nothing else happening in November and b) June is full of events anyway (school graduations, the Midsummer feast, several large festivals every weekend and so on).)
During my (abbreviated) Origins trip last weekend, I got to play 12 new (to me) games. Here they are, in the order in which I liked them:
_8_ Pay Dirt (Crash Games, Tory Niemann) - In this game, you're operating a modern-day gold mine. You have three pieces of equipment, each with 3 slots, and you have to move dirt from your claims over those 9 slots conveyor belt-style in order to flip it over and see how much gold you get. You have a number of workers that you can use to advance the dirt or repair the equipment once you've used them too much. Each turn, you'll auction off new equipment (that might have fewer slots to move things along quicker, or maybe more durability), new workers (that might also have special abilities), and new claims with various qualities of dirt. Additionally, you'll have to deal with a hardship each turn, which are drafted in reverse-winning order. This was my favorite game of the con, I loved planning out my moves and dealing with the unexpected.
_8_ Sail to India (AEG/Japon Brand, Hisashi Hayashi) - This one is component-light in the tradition of Japanese micro-games, but the gameplay feels more like a medium Euro. You're operating a trading company out of Portugal, and you sail along the queue of cards, stopping to claim goods or buildings. Your pawn at that point becomes that good or building, so you have to create a new ship to advance again. It really becomes a game about managing your pawns, as not only do you need them to claim items in the card queue, but also to mark your money and even victory points.
_7_ Kashgar: Merchants of the Silk Road (KOSMOS, Gerhard Hecht) - I thought this one was pretty innovative, as it uses deckbuilding elements in a new way. Instead of adding cards to your deck, you're adding them to three face-up piles in front of you. Each turn, you can use the top card of any pile, and then move it to the back, so you have to go through the cards in your pile in order. Each pile starts with a Patriarch, who forces you to add a card, but through clever play you can manage the size of your piles so that you can use specific cards more often. This is built on top of a fairly standard order-fulfillment mechanism, where you accumulate various goods and cash them in for contracts worth points. Unfortunately, the game hasn't been picked up by a company in the English-speaking world, and there was a ton of German text to cheatsheet through.
_7_ Edo (Queen, Louis & Stefan Malz) - This game reminded me a lot of Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India, except it was nowhere near as difficult. Like in Maharaja, players secretly decide their actions, and then build buildings around the various cities to gain income via area majority. All the cities score each turn though, and money is useful but not tight at all. The real limiting factor is collecting other resources, as you send your pawns around the board to do that and build the buildings. Of course, you have to feed them each turn, too. The actions come in the form of large square tiles--you choose a side of the tile to execute its action, preventing you from using multiple actions on the same tile. You can also acquire new, better tiles, giving you some more interesting choices.
_7_ Istanbul (AEG/Pegasus, Rüdiger Dorn) - Istanbul uses Dorn's patented "stack of discs" also found in games like Genoa and Robber Knights. Here, you're moving around a 4 by 4 grid of tiles that you can interact with. You have to leave a disc on each tile you use, giving you a limited time before you have to go back to the Fountain to collect all of your discs. However, if you use a tile you've already used, you can pick up a disc you left there previously instead of leaving a new one, extending your run. So you're incentivized to use the same tiles over and over, but the scoring system really encourages players to use lots of different tiles. You get a ruby (victory point) for obtaining various sets of special abilities, as well as trading in your goods or money in increasingly difficult contracts--first one to a set number wins.
_7_ Compounded (Dice Hate Me, Darrell Louder) - Compounded is an order-fulfillment game with common contracts, using claim tokens to avoid the sniping issues often present in such games. Players draw random elements from a bag, and place them on the board to complete compounds to gain points and advance on your tech tracks. The tracks allow you to draw more elements, claim more compounds, place more elements, and store more elements from turn to turn. There was a fair amount of take-that, as players could gain tokens or complete compounds to set some unfinished compounds on fire, which hurt specific players with vulnerable compounds. I still enjoyed it though, as working on the tracks and managing the element resources was a lot of fun.
_6_ Greed (Queen, Donald Vaccarino) - This is a 7 Wonders-style drafting game in which you play 10 cards over 12 rounds--on the first two rounds you just draw to build up a hand of three, and you're left with two unused cards at the end of the game. The cards consist of people, who provide you with icons for prerequisites and possible special text, buildings, which also provide icons as well as score tokens (worth $10k) for the icons Taj Mahal-style (1 for the first one, 2 for the second one, etc), or actions that give you a one-time benefit. Whoever has the most money at the end wins. I liked having a hand, so I could have some control over the order stuff came out. My main complaint with this game is that it became less exciting as the game progressed, since all the best cards were already taken.
_6_ Burger Joint (Rio Grande, Joe Huber) - This is a two-player resource management game. Players are trying to build up their player board by creating buildings with different but equivalent costs, each of which will give them an advantage in collecting or trading resources, as well as possibly being worth points. Players can also invest in advertising, which allows them to steal from the opponent, as well as being worth points. It was a decent system, but there seemed to be a lot of stall and wasted turns as players tried to build up to the biggest buildings, but then hit the resource limit or got stolen from.
_6_ Milestones (Stronghold/eggertspiele, Stefan Dorra & Ralf zur Linde) - In this game, players had player board that featured a rondel on which a player could move his pawn as far as he wanted, but had to stop in a penalty spot (a lot like Walnut Grove). The interesting thing here is that you buy action space tiles to put on your rondel that you can stop on and collect resources; if you pass by a spot that produces the same resource as the one you land on, you also collect that resource. The penalty space forces you to "retire" a spot, but you can build over it on a later turn. The resources are used to extend a common road network, placing over various spots on the board that give you points. I found this one to be very dry and not particularly exciting.
_6_ Triassic Terror (Eagle/Kayal, Peter Hawes) - This is a very straightforward role selection/area majority game. Each turn, players select a role that allows you to place some pieces in particular areas, and possibly move one of the carnivore pieces to remove pieces in particular areas. After each three rounds, players score for area majorities. Not much else to say about this one. It's like El Grande without many of the interesting parts.
_5_ Camel Up (Z-Man/eggertspiele, Steffen Bogen) - Okay, this one was just silly. You're betting on a bunch of camels involved in a race, but the camels pretty much move randomly. Camels that land on the same space as other camels actually land on top of them, and are considered ahead. Furthermore, if a camel with another camel on top moves, the one on top moves with it. You get money by betting on each "leg" (a round of each camel moving once) and on the winner and loser of the entire race. The game featured chunky stackable wooden camels and an elaborate pyramid-shaped dice cup that concealed not only the distance the camel would move but also the identity of the camel that would move. These gimmicks made the game feel very silly, but really, there wasn't much game here.
_5_ Tortuga (Queen, Jay Cormier & Sen-Foong Lim) - This is a Yahtzee-style dice-rolling game in which you're trying to get majorities of different die faces, much like Dice Town. You're trying to collect sets of colored treasure chest tokens, but I found it very frustrating, as only one treasure chest token comes out per turn, and two of the six die faces allow you to steal chests from other players, so the few chests that are around constantly bounce from player to player. As the game didn't end until a player collected a certain amount of chests and got them in his "safe area" (meaning they were unstolen for two turns), the game lasted longer than I really cared for.
Also played: _8_ Shipyard
Acquisitions: Constantinopolis (trade), Gearworld: The Borderlands (trade), League of Six (trade), Merchants of the Middle Ages (trade), Pizza Box Football (giveaway), Power Grid: Australia & Indian Subcontinent (purchase), Principato (trade), Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm (trade), Sail to India (purchase), Typo (trade)
My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
Joe Huber hosted gaming at his house on Saturday. It was a small crowd, since summer is now virtually underway and people are going places.
.10! Saint Petersburg -- I was the first to arrive, so Joe and I knocked out a quick game of this classic, which we both rate highly (in fact, we did a podcast episode about it on The Long View last year.) Both Observatories came out on the first turn, and I used mine to get an orange card that turned out to be the Mistress of Ceremonies, which I unfortunately couldn't afford, given that I had spent money on the Observatory. Greed will kill you in this game. Joe won by about 12 or 15 VP.
_9_ Indonesia -- Two more people arrived, Wystan and William, and we decided a game with a Dutch connection would be appropriate, given the spectacular victory of the Dutch team in their World Cup opener against Spain. Neither Wystan nor William had played before, so we taught them the game. Joe bid last and got first player on Turn 1, and he took the western rice company, which was ideally situated. He improved expansion first, then turn order (so he could afford to outbid the other rice player) and went on to earn an unusual victory (at least, unusual for our group.) I pursued spice and siap faji monopolies, but that was only good for second place. The game was unusual for me in that I lost but still mostly understood what was happening.
_3_ Let's Take a Hike -- Matt arrived, making 5 of us, and he brought this little card game. He explained that he had gotten a good deal on a pair of games, and the other one was horrible, so he was hoping this was the good one. It didn't work out that way. It wasn't a good sign when the game I immediately compared it to was Mille Bornes. But this game is one notch better than Mille Bornes for me because the pain ends more quickly. Joe also rated it a _3_, so we both rated it higher than Wystan, who rated it a _2_ (I don't think the others assign ratings.) Sorry, Matt.
_7_ Istanbul -- Wystan brought a copy of this Kennerspiel des Jahres nominee, and we tried it. This game reminded me of Royal Palace in that you move pieces around a board that is created by randomly arranging a set of rectangular pieces of cardboard. It was better than I expected (I expect to dislike popular games these days.) It's reasonably short and offers choices. I won't be buying the game, but I won't wail and gnash my teeth if someone asks me to play it.
_7_ Mamma Mia! -- This is another game in the "don't seek out but don't avoid" category, though it's so small that I own this one (like Joe, I consider box size when deciding whether to buy a game.) Both Joe and I had ridiculous card luck (I was the olive player and drew almost no olives,) but Joe benefited from other people playing the cards he needed and won comfortably. It is a clever game---I think this and Bohnanza are his cleverest games partly because they're so simple.
(No rating yet) 1914: Offensive à outrance -- I picked up this monster wargame about the beginning of WWI in the West as an item in GMT's recent half-price sale. I have always been interested in WWI, and while I'm not sure I'll play it much, I'll enjoy setting it up, playing a little, and learning more about the history. If I decide to sell it, my net cost will almost certainly be less than the value of the enjoyment I get out of it. There's a tiny introductory scenario that lasts 4 turns and is played on one 8.5 x 11" map you can download and print. I played this scenario solo on Sunday and made plenty of rules mistakes, but I'll play the same scenario again and do better. After I entered my play, I saw on Friendless's stats site that I had been credited with 288 hours of play time. I guess that's for the campaign game!
_8_ For Sale -- On Monday night, Pied Piper Joe Huber got 4 people to start a game of A Brief History of the World early while the rest of us waited for Bill. While we waited, we played a 5-player game. You only get 4 properties, and thus 4 checks, so it's always especially swingy with 5, but this game was cool because every round there were two nearly equal big properties and some little ones. As a result, the person who got the big property was always unhappy (because you have to pay all the chips you bid rather than getting half back.) I didn't ever get the big property, but I misplayed the second part of the game, getting badly outguessed.
_9_ 18EU -- After For Sale, Joe Rushanan, Kevin and I decided to play another game of this using the "minor powers" variant that we tried back in April. I'm now a big fan of this variant---it creates a lot of variety.
The variant adds 15 "powers" numbered 1 through 15 that the players distribute at the start of the game. The higher numbers get stronger powers. We still aren't sure how to distribute the powers; we tried a different kind of draft than we used the first time, but we aren't quite happy with our approach yet. Once the powers are distributed, the players place their minors in the 15 spots where minors start in the standard game, but you don't have to place #1 in Paris(N), where #1 starts in the regular game. You can put it anywhere. The power of #1 is "go first", which is weak other than the fact that it lets you go first.
In our game, Joe drafted #1 and started in Brussels (where #2 starts in the standard game.) This is certainly a fine spot. I drafted #4 (place one extra yellow tile once per OR pair, but not in the very first OR,) #7 (a major this minor folds into can get one share's worth of cash from the bank once in the game,) #8 (one free dit upgrade per OR pair,) #9 (buy one train from the bank at 10% off each OR,) and #10 (add one city to the length of one train's maximum run.) I placed #4 in Munich, then #7 in Paris (S), #8 in Strasbourg, #9 in Berlin (E) and #10 in Lyon. I saw the opportunity to draft four minors in a row and this enabled me to get a line of minors across the board that could cooperate. The best powers, with the highest-numbered minors, went in Italy, since those were the last spots taken, but of course this helps balance the game. And in fact I got all three token spots in Berlin for the 3 majors I ended up running. It helped me build track for multiple railroads at the same time.
I hope this variant gets posted as a PnP on BGG; it's really worth trying even though it probably needs a bit more development.