GCL Swedish Meatball Division #168: Compact Games
Andrew
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San Francisco
California
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Welcome to this week's discussion list for the Swedish Meatballs, a division of BGG's GameChat League. If you wish to follow us, the subscription list is here.

Civil contributions from non-members are fine (leave the incivility to members, please), and we do ask that nonmembers please not add list items. Members are to add list items to discuss what they played that week.

Rotation:
Jythier ← up next (maybe)
sgosaric ← might actually be up next
qwertymartin
Hanibalicious
lacxox
cymric
Jugular
bnordeng
NateStraight
ellephai
AAArg_ink
rarevos
Osirus
fateswanderer

I was hoping Henrik or Patrick or another ex-Meatball would slip in and deliver me from having to think up questions this week, but it was not to be!

Anyway, I recently purchased a larger bag to carry more games to meetups I attend (unfortunately the bag isn't as broad as I'd like...) and it struck me that most of the games I really like are quite bulky or contain lots of pieces. So this week's topic is compactness, in a few different ways.
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1. Board Game: Pack & Stack [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:1617]
Andrew
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When travelling, bringing newly purchased games back from a convention, or just taking games to the local game night, there's a limit to what you can pack.

How do you usually transport your games? What's the biggest haul of games you've transported?

Are there some games that you bring more infrequently than you would like, due to their bulkiness? Have you ever passed up on buying a game because it's too big?

Conversely, are there some games that you bring more often because they are compact?
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2. Board Game: Big Aisle, Small Cart [Average Rating:6.26 Unranked]
Andrew
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San Francisco
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What's your favourite large, bulky game?

What's your favourite small, compact game?

Do those games' size affect your opinion of them?
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3. Board Game: Pick Up Sticks [Average Rating:4.23 Overall Rank:15429]
Andrew
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Some games occupy a moderate amount of space, but still contain a lot of little pieces that could be dropped or lost during travel.

What's your favourite game with too many pieces for its own good? Do you travel with it or bring it to gaming sessions?

What's your favourite game with components that are hard to lose (due to size and number)? Do you travel with it or bring it to gaming sessions?

Have you ever lost pieces from a game when travelling or in general?
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4. Board Game: Simplexity [Average Rating:5.79 Unranked]
Andrew
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Game rules can also be described as compact (or not) - typically referring to how much you need to learn or teach to get started.

What's your favourite game with extensive, complex rules?

What's your favourite game with simple, compact rules?

Do those games' rule compactness affect your opinion of them?
 
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5. Board Game: Up Against Time [Average Rating:5.31 Unranked]
Andrew
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Games can also be compact (or not) in time, when you include setup and packup time.

What's your favourite long game, including setup/packup time?

What's your favourite short game, including setup/packup time?

Do you have a favourite long game that's quick to set up, or a favourite short-to-play game that takes a while to prepare or pack up?
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6. Board Game: The Mini Quest [Average Rating:6.41 Unranked]
Andrew
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There have been many mini-versions of popular games released over the last few years, in particular dice versions (including fan-made "express" versions), compact travel versions, or simpler redesigns.

Do you have any favourite mini-versions of games? How do you think they compare to the originals?
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7. Board Game: Android: Netrunner [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:39]
Andrew
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Surprise, Android: Netrunner is my headline game again - but there was something a bit different this week though.

So I tested out my new Foundry and Noise decks, and they were terrible - they lost every game, except for a hilarious flatline. The Runner (an extremely good player) hit an Ichi 1.0, Clone Chipped a non-fatal Parasite (which was immediately trashed), and took the trace - I was sad at losing every game that night, so I dumped all my money into it to force brain damage (which would normally be a terrible move). Both of us had forgotten until that point that he had no cards in hand, and he died. I've given up on the Foundry for now (especially with Parasites everywhere), and am trying to get Stronger Together working with Heinlein Grid.

I got to play my dedicated NEH hate-deck - it was a bit unlucky in the first game and lost (but managed to smash HQ and R&D with Demo Run, which was fun), unfortunately after that I kept getting non-NEH matchups, which is really not the deck's strong suit!

Finally, I played in a Draft Tournament, which I quite enjoyed. It's pricey, but on the plus side you get to use unreleased cards, and more importantly see combinations that are just not viable in the current environment. For example, there's no Account Siphon in the draft packs, so turn 1 HQ protection isn't a necessity; the Anarch breakers, Parasite, and the standard economy cards are missing too, so players have to be a lot more creative in what they come up with, and how they use the not-so-coherent cards in their deck.

It was a half-draft and I was on the Runner side; I spent the first (of four) draft rounds just taking economy, as I had heard it's tight in Draft (and the much reviled "Hard at Work" card is actually pretty good shake ), and my deck actually ended up pretty good.

Three Zona Sul Shipping, a Tri-Maf, two Ghost Runners, three Lockpicks (yes, I didn't realise I put three in!), a Dyson Fractal Generator, and the two starting Sure Gambles ensured I was rich the entire game (especially given it was a 30 card deck). Retrieval Run and Scavenge gave me recursion, and I had a pile of great stealth breakers, particularly Refractor.

It was also fun to see the Corp players peer at the unreleased cards I was using, though that backfired when I misread the Cujo card (assumed it was a fracter due to its faction and colour, when it was a killer) and lost a game I was doing well in. The Corps weren't as interesting because I knew their few unreleased cards pretty well, though one used Off the Grid effectively, and another killed me with some old-school Jinteki traps that I haven't seen in ages.

Due to the tiny size of the tournament, I finagled my way to 2nd place Runner, so now I have a little Reina deck box and a bit of store credit.

Finally, I played a bunch of Tokaido online - it really is a great game to play with more casual gamers.
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8. Board Game: Rheinländer [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:1686]
Lori
United States
Durham
North Carolina
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Rheinlander
Hex Hex
Dominion
x2

Very little gaming lately because work is so busy. I unleashed Hex Hex on my Monday night group and sadly, they did not like it. Oh well, can't please everyone.
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9. Board Game: Times Square [Average Rating:6.31 Overall Rank:2528]
Justus
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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Fear not Laszlo! I love this excellent little game. I put this in with Aton as a favorite short little 2P game with a surprising amount of meat. Unless some dominant strategy takes over our game playing, I suspect it will end up in the 8-9 range for me...though unfortunately there is a chance I will not get to play it too much because I fear it may be a bit too confrontational for my wife.

8 plays this week!
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10. Board Game: Kingdom Hearts TCG [Average Rating:5.93 Overall Rank:12218]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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Yep. My giant box of cards arrived, so Debbie and I have built decks. She led in the first few games, and then we each revised our decks, after which I won most of our games -- which I'll lay equally at the feet of my removing more cards and making a smaller deck, and being much more willing to dump my whole hand to churn faster. It certainly lacks the depth of Magic, but it's fun for now and I hope it will continue to be fun for a while.

Speaking of Magic, today I went to a gathering of old college friends, and we got some gaming in, including two rounds of the ArchEnemy format of Magic the Gathering, where one player is the Evil Overlord (with a special deck of oversized Scheme cards), and the other players all team up to defeat him. My friend Tom who brought the cards had made special themed adventurer decks which were pretty funny, including the Cleric (only creature enchantments), the simple warrior (only vanilla creatures and spells with 7 or fewer words), the distracted artificer (artifact-only deck with no creatures), and the squire (1-cost spells only).

Also played two 4p rounds of Eminent Domain, which was pleasant as always, even if our second game ended faster than almost any game I can remember; nobody had gotten anywhere by the time the second pile disappeared, and the high score was 13 (low of 11).
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11. Board Game: Magic Hill [Average Rating:5.99 Overall Rank:6188]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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With my sister, a night session (from 11:25 p.m. to 2:10 a.m.)

Forbidden Island 2x – The first one was her learning game; we still chose 2nd level for playing. We used the skull island layout and Fool’s landing started to sink already before our arrival… Then one of the first two treasures was the water level rising, so it’s almost a miracle that we did not fail in the beginning. But we did later, with 3 treasures already at hand, when we were at 4 location cards drawn each turn and the water level rising in two subsequent turns, with Fool’s landing included again. Luckily we won the second game rather easily.

Qin 2x
– at last, after 20 plays I have found someone who got enthusiastic about this little game. “I love it!” she kept saying while grinning, even though she suffered quite a defeat both times. She’s my blood…

With my wife, who wasn’t really in playing mood this week, one play:
Lost Cities – which I even won (a rare occurrence).

Alone:
Escape: The Curse of the Temple with Escape: The Curse of the Temple – Illusions and Escape: The Curse of the Temple – The Pit and Escape: The Curse of the Temple – Fountain 2x, solo plays to try out the two promos that just arrived from the BGG store. I liked them, the chambers provide variety while the curses are really strong.

With kids:
King Arthur: The Card Game 2x – once we played 3-player with Saci and Miska and he won while we were tied with 10 points less.
Magic Hill 1x – A funny little family game from 2001 Rüdiger Dorn who only designed family games up until that point. This one fits in the list of family games that I’m even trying to identify and categorize as they become really relevant for me in the upcoming years – games that are rated rather low on BGG because they aren’t really much fun for gamers and probably no gamer would want to play them when playing with other gamers, but these games are rather good and fun as family games. This one has a few interesting ideas – and a heavy dose of luck and memory element (yes). I can’t recommend it to gamers but as a family game, I like it!
Alles Kanone! 1x
Da ist der Wurm drin 1x
Kangaroo 1x
Kunterbunte Autorelli 1x
The Little Orchard 1x
Magician’s Kitchen 1x
Master Labyrinth 1x – with Miska and Saci; I still won but Miska came as 2nd
Nacht der Magier 1x – always fun in the dark.
Ribbit 1x – secret information combined with a 4-year-old is not necessarily a great combination: my daughter Borcsa has already learned that she should not tell her color until the end of the game, but when Miska accidentally flipped his color tile for a second during game and only she saw the color, she was ready to tell it loudly to everyone, resulting in my son leaving the table angry and sad…
Der verzauberte Turm 1x
Viva Topo! 1x
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12. Board Game: Finca [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:536]
Johannes cum Grano Salis
United States
Finger Lakes
New York
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"It's not hard to design a game that works, the real challenge is making one that people want to play again and again."--Martin Wallace
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Finca (2p)
Coconuts (4p)
Qwixx (4p)
Red (4p)
Spot It (4p)
Connect 4 (2p)


Some friends of ours got a babysitter the other night and came over to our house for some beer and ice cream after we put our son down. It was light social gaming night. Red went over well once we made it around the table once or twice; it was a bit hard for my friend's wife to grasp, but she got it eventually and the game really was between the two of us. I don't think my wife likes it much. Oh well.

Connect 4 was against my wife. There's a frozen yogurt bar in town that has make-your-own sundaes, plus Connect 4 at every table. So we brought our son the other night. He had a blast. I managed one "real" game of Connect 4 against my wife (she beat me) before my son wanted to take turns putting pieces in the rack, so we did that.

Rounded out the week losing to my wife in Finca 80-72 in what was a pretty close game. Apropos of this week's list, we can set it up, play it, and take it down in 30 minutes now, which is what 16 plays gets you.
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13. Board Game: Potato Man [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:2341]
EXTRA AVOCADO! Sonderegger
United States
Folsom
CA
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Potato Man 2p ww a bunch.
Well, uh, this happened. It arrived, and we played it, and holy shit it's great. It takes one of the two basic tenets of trick-taking (follow suit) and turns it on its head (you must NOT play a card of a suit previously played), and thus appears fresh and exciting without being obfuscatingly alien. Sure, there's a lot of luck, but with the variable end-game, we're even learning how to mitigate that (play your hand so that you can't break suit to end the game early), and, in a tertiary analysis, learning how to mitigate that mitigation. I think you, Martin, should definitely give it a look, as it seems like the sort of game you might carry in your small-card-game-loving pocket. Also, who doesn't love the theme of potatoes? It makes me think of Jass (wherein you play for sticks and potatoes!) Anyway, This game kind of blew us both away, and the people that played it at the other table of my game night seemed to quite enjoy it. So, it'll be a staple for me, for sure.


Her taunting.

Her absolutely annihilating me.

Istanbul 2p ww x1
Great fun. Two player is interesting, because like Singapore, the extended goal shakes you out of that perfect engine-building&switch-to-point-production timeframe by extending the last little bit longer. Played on the "long route", where-in the neighbouring tiles had absolutely no synergies, and the neutral merchants really put the dampeners on. Megan had a headache, and was trying some new stuff, so I pounded out some synergy with bonus cards, and squeaked out a win, 6-5. I probably would have lost, had she not pointed out how my engine was slowing down on the top row. Ah, I'll take it.



Discworld: Ankh-Morpork 3p ww x1
Juh-eezus. I mean, I don't know if I like it 3p, as the gossamer-thin web that keeps the game from being lopsided seems to heavily favour certain things more in 3p, but it was still hella fun. I, being Vimes, and another player being Vetinari, we both saw the wizards as a way to victory via disruption and random events. I had also peeked at the unused character cards via a card, and knew the dragon king was not in play, so trouble was a non-issue.
Shit.
Got.
Real.

I have never seen such a chaotic board, and it was incredible. Things kept blowing up non-sensically, and everyone kept dying- hilariously, the game ended right before I would have won, due to riots, but I still ended up winning, as the demons negated the lion's share of my wife's points. In the back of my head, I kept thinking how Samo would go nuts for this narrative- and I enjoyed it because those events were a player choice, not the game just being random for shits'n'giggles.


See how few buildings there are right now? Everything exploded or was earthquaked into oblivion.

Maskmen 4p ww x1, 3p ww x1
I take back anything I said about maskMen being an "autopilot game". We got to explore it some more, and it is much deeper than it appears. Holding back can be crucial, and there are interesting ways to mitigate your wrestler being shit-canned. I played with an old high school tien len buddy for both games, and she was getting more and more enamoured with it. It's also breathtakingly gorgeous, so, you know. Yay!

Imperial Settlers 4p ww x1
What a disappointment. A streamlined Winter ruleset , beautiful art, asymmetric player powers, and great meeples- all wrapped up in a tableau builder should be my thing, but in the end I traded it JUST LAST NIGHT for Tigris & Euphrates. I can't believe how much it missed the mark. Megan said 10 times out of 10 she would just rather play Winter, and I had to agree. And just like in Chaos in the Old World, I feel like the game forces you into a particular optimal path depending on your faction and card draw, and in a game that's this long, I need more agency and freedom to explore the strategic space. I want to make my choices, not have them made for me.
It's too bad, because I was looking forward to using it as a gateway Ignacy, but I just can't bring myself to any more. It's such a shame, as it could have been fantastic.
All of the vitriol I spewed towards CitOW, I realize now, I have to redirect to Imperial Settlers. It's too bad, as it had potential. It's still an excellent game, I think, but not one for me (I extend this olive branch to CitOW as well).

ebbes 4p ww x1, 3p ww x.5
I can't wait to explore it more, especially using the advanced rules. It's a brilliant little trick taker (oh what an overused phrase, Hanibal), that takes the moving trump of Jass, and, well, applies it to every goddamn part of the game it can. I can't wait to try it some more.
The .5 game was because game night was starting up, and it got interrupted with new arrivals.
My wife was pretty chuffed that it was about the Rheinland-Pfalz, which is where her family is from. Ebbes is Palatinate slang for Etwas! Yay for idiosyncratic German!

Star Realms 2p x1, 2p ww x1
Woooooo! I won both games. What a great little deck builder! I enjoy it so much, and even though luck is far more a deciding factor here than in, say, non-treasure map dominion games, it's still really fun, and packs some really interesting decisions.
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14. Board Game: The Ungame [Average Rating:2.83 Overall Rank:15413]
Samo Oleami
Slovenia
Ljubljana
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Didn't feel like gamin', gamin'
Even if I found nothin' better to do
Didn't feel like gamin', gamin'
Why'd you pick up a box when I'm not in the mood?
Didn't feel like gamin', gamin'
Rather be home sippin' tea wandering around my room.


Nothing more profound really. Or, you know, introspection time. Reading about my Briggs-Myers profile and realising INTPs are really stupid sometimes and had thought of developing the E to slip into the more relaxed ENTP club.

But here's a comic - about gaming introspection (kinda, sorta).


http://threepanelsoul.com/2014/09/01/identity/
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15. Board Game: Imperial Settlers [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:128]
Brad N
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
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.NA. Imperial Settlers - 3 Players
_8_ Dominion - 2 Players (x3)
_8_ Kingdom Builder - 2 Players
_7_ Louis XIV - 4 Players
_7_ Shadow Hunters - 7 Players
_6_ King of Tokyo - 4 Players

With the kids...
_8_ Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game - 2 Players
_6_ A la carte - 2 Players
_6_ Dungeon! - 3 Players; 2 Players
_5_ Sharp Shooters - 2 Players


Back to Friday game night for the first time in a while, plus some games with my wife and games with the kids.

(1) Imperial Settlers - I thought this looked pretty good; I'd watched a review and it intrigued me. Having played it, I realize that it's not for me. I invested in production and then had it decimated by the Romans on the second turn and my game was basically over. That's the aspect of a Euro game that doesn't work for me. The player was absolutely right to do it and had I been paying better attention, I probably could have made sure not to let that happen. But, I didn't do that and it wasn't a great experience. Even if I could handle it in the future, I'd probably not want to bother trying.

(2) Shadow Hunters - This is a good game for a large number of gamers. I also realize now that for a large number of non-gamers, it really wouldn't work.

(3) Sharp Shooters - I've practically given this away a lot of times, but kept it for some reason and my son liked it. It's just very, very simple push-your-luck.

(4) Dungeon - My son (6) and I played it once and then my daughter (8) wanted to play. She had a lot of fun with it.
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16. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:72] [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
George Leach
United Kingdom
Godalming
Surrey
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It appears to be the return of the Dominion this week. I've been trying to get Kathryn into playing this with me and she's been more willing recently since she realises it's been a favourite of mine for some time.
I managed to get it played twice which is helping toward my 10x10!

Another goal knocked off the list, Coloretto pushes up to 32 plays toward increasing my H-index to match my age. I played this two player with my SiL and it's still a great game with this number.

I finally managed to get Pick Picknic off my unplayed list and it's straight into the trade pile. It's very much part of the glut of card games that were released around that time, some of which are still the best fillers out there and some of which are just totally forgettable.

I managed to get another play of Rattus in after a long break. I was hoping it would be four player but only managed three. I enjoyed it better than with two and I'd like to play it to death since I think there are some interesting set ups to explore and a few strategies to try out.

On littlegolem I played Go, Slither and StreetSoccer. I looked up some of my rankings and found I'm in the top20 at Slither on littlegolem which must mean I'm reasonably high worldwide. Let's not mention that there probably isn't much of a player base though...
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17. Board Game: Impulse [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:1163]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Not a huge amount of gaming.

There were three of us at Tuesday games night and I was keen to give Impulse another run. One guy had played last time, the other was new to it. This time I played a more aggressive game, with several battles and sabotages. The guy who'd played before was eliminated shortly before I ended the game with 20VP to my other opponent's 3...

I'd really like to explore this some more but it will take a like-minded group.

Apart from that, a couple of games of Red and a couple of Love Letter. Sarah and I tried out the new trial rule for Red, which lets you draw new cards in certain circumstances. I quite liked it: it makes the game a little less unforgiving.
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18. Board Game: Carcassonne: The Castle [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:499]
Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
Zaandam
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Given that this list only now appeared in my subscriptions—I have no idea why—I'm not sure I won't risk awakening the ire of George for adding things Very Late In The Week and therefore Triggering Him. (Or rather his subscriptions. But since 'triggering' is a hot buzzword at the moment I decided to phrase it like so. Man, I really should stop from explaining the joke, right...?)

Rather curiously, I managed to entice my partner into playing a game with me. We settled on the 2 player-only games which are still waiting to hit the table as part of, you guessed it, the Alphabet Challenge.

Carcassonne: The Castle (2P, AC) — This shoot from the Carcassonne tree remains my favourite. And I say that in the knowledge that it's been at least 4 years, and possibly nearly 6, since I played this game for the last time blush. I like how the playing area can be started at several points thus giving more of a sense of 'filling in' rather than 'spiralling out'. I like how there are various waypoints along the scoring track which present an interesting trade-off on the short term. I like how the game entices you to join everything together, but then strikes back by awarding points based on the the largest remaining gap. The game is zero sum, and the number of tiles to be placed isn't all that large, too. I think it speaks volumes that in the time I haven't played this game I started to look at games in completely different ways, even preferring different genres... my opinion on this title apparently didn't change.

To be honest I have only played a small subset of all things Carc. But I see no reason to given that I've got H&G and The Castle in my possession.

DVONN (2P, AC) — Usually I win this game against my partner, but not on this occasion, much to her amusement. I was trying too hard to avoid capture of my 2-stacks that I mostly got tied up in working out the I take-you retake-I reretake aspect, ignoring capturing orange discs thus allowing my partner to control important aspects of the board. I still managed to squeeze ahead, and would have won were it not for one particular move which would hand the game squarely to her. Needless to say, she saw it too, and reversed a 2,5 to 1 loss for her into a 3 to 1 win.

I'm never sure about DVONN, to be honest. It has its share of followers, but I find the gameplay very opaque. In the beginning it is hard to say whether or even how moves will lead to a better position in the end; and by the time the state tree has collapsed sufficiently far to make the analysis easier, you're not in a position to do much with the results. Consequently I'm not convinced that it is as good as many think it is.
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