GCL Mafia 189: Your Underdog Game
James Keith
United States
Oakland
California
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Welcome to GCL Mafia Division's weekly list! If you stumbled onto this list by accident (or on purpose!) and want to know more about the Game Chat League concept, please see the wiki. If you want to look at past GCL Mafia lists, go here: GameChat League: Mafia Division Subscription Thread

Dolus
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eapeas
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fdubois
touchstonethefool
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Thesp

The first few items are intended to foster discussion.

Please add an item to represent your gaming life for the week of August 25th - August 31st, 2014 (Note: Fabrice seems to be a time traveler, he used the same dates for last week's list! - Ed.). List any games played along with any other information that you deem appropriate. Also, feel free to give life updates, fun facts, or any other super exciting and utterly interesting thoughts you may have.

Rules for the List are:
1) A weekly game is spotlighted and discussed. The poster will choose which questions are asked about it (whether its merits, drawbacks, experiences, etc.).

2) Themed questions are optional. They can be gaming-related topics (current news, trends, etc.) or non-gaming-related topics (food, vacation, unicorns, cleaning the gutters, etc.)
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1. Board Game: Labors of the Gods [Average Rating:7.50 Unranked]
James Keith
United States
Oakland
California
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"Watch, but do not govern; stop war, but do not wage it; protect, but do not control; and first, survive!" - Cordwainer Smith
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I originally had a whole multi-paragraph, deeply thought out question for you all this week, but then I thought it through some more and realized it would have resulted in single-sentence answers that wouldn't have generated much discussion, so I scrapped it

So, what'd you all do for Labor day weekend? (For those of you outside the US, do anything fun this past weekend?)
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2. Board Game: Underdog Game [Average Rating:3.00 Unranked]
James Keith
United States
Oakland
California
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As for a more game related question, what's your "underdog game," either not highly regarded or by some obscure designer, but that you nonetheless really enjoy and happily proselytize?

As you may have heard me say before, mine's Ostia, a clever little auction game that seems to have flown mostly under the radar that offers a variety of interesting (though not revolutionary) choices that's always been a hit with people I've introduced it to.
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3. Board Game: Pandemic: Contagion [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:1575]
James Keith
United States
Oakland
California
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New Games

Linko! x3
The New Era x1
Winter x1
Diamonds x2
Panamax x1
Pandemic: Contagion x1
Abyss x1
Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game – TIE Bomber Expansion Pack x2
Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game – TIE Defender Expansion Pack x2

Old Games

Cosmic Encounter x1
Glass Road x1
51st State x1
Shitenno (with Shitenno: Geisha Promo Card) x1
Android: Netrunner x4
Sushi Go! x1
VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game x1
Lifeboats x1
Little Devils x1
Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game x2

A heaping helping of games this past week, thanks to a handful of full blown game days including a visit to Our Dear Leader in Turlock.

First off was Linko! (which I keep wanting to show up as Abluxxen, as that's its original German name and coincidentally the name on the box I own), a decent little family-weight game from Kramer and Kiesling. You're laying down cards to get points and to empty your hand, but you can force other players to pick them back up (or to take them yourself) if you match the number of cards played and play a higher set. There's a small amount of tactical play where you want to hold on to sets that you can use to force the snatching (or "abluxx"ing) of other players cards, and in that vein there's a tiny bit of leader bashing in an otherwise simple card game. Not bad at all for what it is, but I want to play it a few more times before I decide if it's a keeper or not. The plus side is that it's gone down well with everyone I've played it with so far!

One of my local game group is a huge 51st State fan and wanted to try it with both The New Era and Winter expansions, which I joined in on. I'm lukewarm on the game series to begin with, but I can't deny that the system is a very clever one and one that captures the theme of scavenging the last useful scraps of material from a blasted wasteland in surprising ways. The expansions do nothing to help an already icon-heavy game (one of my main complaints and one shared by my friend), but if you're a fan of the base game, you'll like the expansions.

Grace had gotten me a copy of Diamonds from GenCon, and we cracked the shrink pretty early on during our game day on Saturday. It was an interesting take on trick-taking, in that it felt in the same mold as the other classic trick-takers yet had its own spin on getting suit powers by breaking suie, winning tricks, and collecting the most of each suit over a hand. The point of the game is collect diamonds, which are worth points based on whether they're in your "show room" (in front of your player shield and vulnerable to being stolen) or your "vault" (behind your player shield and safe, and also worth more points). The main game doesn't have you using the entire 60 card deck which I think makes it a bit more family-friendly and adds some uncertainty to lighten the proceedings. Having lower valued cards still be "good" in that you can play them for their ability if you can't follow suit does give some more interesting decisions in what to play when. Like Linko above, I think I like it, but want to play it a few more times to be sure. Oddly enough I think I might like it less (though that may be partially due to the trick-taking sharks in one of my groups getting thrown off by the changes to standard trick-taking game play).

The good news is that Panamax is a much better game than Madeira. While the latter suffered from a distressing lack of a narrative through line and a complexity-for-complexity's-sake design aesthetic, Panamax has a much stronger and more unifying central mechanism of pick-up-and-deliver mixed with a very light market/stocks-and-shares game that, to it's credit, does work to add a bit of spice to the partially cooperative efficiency puzzle of the lock system. That being said, Sentieiro and Soledade's accretionary design style is still very much here (along with another dice selection mechanism that recoils at the idea of randomness getting in the way of the carefully positioned Rube Goldberg machine of mechanics). In the end, my complaints about Madiera are still very much in play for Panamax, even though I can more heartily recommend the latter as a better game all around.

In happier news, Pandemic: Contagion delivers a wonderfully svelte area-majorities game somewhat in the realm of Smash Up, Arcana, and Dark Minions. Players are the diseases from Pandemic, working to infect and bring down the big cities of the world by playing cards while strengthening their own abilities and dealing with good and bad events. There's a good balance between gaining board (well, card) presence and improving your ability to do so, all while the event deck spits out small pluses and minuses for you to both deal with and take advantage of. It plays in a very comfortable half hour to 45 minutes, and the amount of game jives well with the time frame. I'm currently quite positive about it, but we'll see if the small variety of randomized event cards are enough to give it legs.

Speaking of slim designs, Abyss is a nice stripped down conversion game from Cathala that also features a good ratio of playtime to game complexity. It's main draw is the mechanism for acquiring ally cards (one of the games two main currencies), which sees players sequentially flipping them face-up from a deck and deciding whether to take them or not. The main wrinkle is that the inactive players get first pick of each card (by paying the main player in pearls, the games second "wild" currency, but can only buy one per active players turn) and any un-chosen cards go into stacks of like-types that can be taken all at once on subsequent turns. This does turn inside-out and a little upside-down what would be a fairly rote set collection game and as such is definitely worthy of a try. I agree with Grace in that it occupies the same sort of decision-space that Ticket to Ride does, though it does get a bit more nasty on it's own as a result of the aforementioned twists. The art sure is lovely!

And finally I got a chance to play Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game with both the TIE Bomber and the TIE Defender. The Bomber, true to its name, can load up a terrifying amount of ordinance in the form of secondary weapons, but isn't terribly agile. It also has some pilots who are heavy on the support abilities, making it similar in style to the HWK-290. The Defender, on the other hand, is crazy maneuverable (even boasting white-arrow K-turn movement! Insanity!) and can be very deadly in the right circumstances. However, even the base rookie pilot costs 30 points without any upgrades, so it's an expensive ship to have around. As always, I love the variety that the new ships give to the game, and I'm eagerly looking forward to playing with the Rebel Transport and the Tantive-IV.

Edit: Speeling.
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4. Board Game: Kingdom Builder: Crossroads [Average Rating:7.63 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.63 Unranked]
Fabrice Dubois
France
La Garenne Colombes
Hauts de Seine
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 10  Android:Netrunner x6 (159 plays so far)
 9  Kingdom Builder: Crossroads x1 (6 plays so far)
 7  Takenoko x1 New!

On Kingdom Builder: Crossroads : first play with this expansion. It was a 2 players game. Interesting but i will have to play it again and again in order to figure out the ins and the outs of this expansion...

On Takenoko : like i said above, my mother is starting to buy games.... She said to me that she bought Takenoko to play with my nephew during vacation. After the family meal, she put the game on the table and has explained the rules. I didn't know anything about this game, apart the designer, and it was pretty interesting and relaxing. A little bit chaotic but since it is relatively quick to play....

On Android:Netrunner : i have played my Ken Temna-central-dedicated deck and a NBN deck (a netdeck). I was flatlined 3 times as a runner since my opponent went for a Jinteki deck with :
1) only 8 ICEs
2) nasty agenda (Fetal AI, The future perfect, House of Knives...)
3) agendas, economy assets, trap assets and upgrades that all "masquerade" as one another in this deck
Very nasty....gulp

Also, i have played a Nasir Meidan deck. Fun but very touchy to play. The deck is heavily dependant on Personal Workshop and Jinteki is a very bad matchup.yuk

I have great expectation around the new NBN ID, Near-Earth Hub.
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5. Board Game: Space Cadets: Dice Duel – Die Fighter [Average Rating:7.52 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.52 Unranked]
Charlie Theel
United States
St. Louis
Missouri
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Space Cadets: Dice Duel – Die Fighter x6
One Night Ultimate Werewolf x2
Race for the Galaxy x2
Fire in the Lake (new to me)
Thunder Road (new to me)
Unpublished Prototype

Space Cadets: Dice Duel - Die Fighter Expansion
This thing rocks. The fighters are insanely maneuverable and pack a hell of a punch. They can be utilized in multiple different scenarios supporting a wide variety of player counts as well which is a nice addition. I was able to wrangle 10 players total to repeatedly play this last Wednesday and we loved it (although 6 games of high stress furious die rolling can wear on you).

Review went up this weekend: http://www.2d6.org/2014/08/space-cadets-dice-duel-die-fighte...

ONUW
I lost both games! That never happens.

Fire in the Lake (solo)
I don't get it. This series gets talked about repeatedly and everybody loves it. It's lauded over as one of the best solo wargames and even appears on everyone's game of the year lists the past couple of years. Total bore, total snoozefest, overrated. Just kidding, game fucking rocks.

Thunder Road (solo)
Solo'd this one to try it out and it's fun. Very simple and elegant as you drive your team of cars down the beaten up highway and blast the hell out of your opponents. Game totally lives and succeeds on its atmosphere and setting and fun factor. This is completely one of those games where you'll be yelling at the other players and harrassing each other, maybe even building temporary alliances. My kind of game.

Prototype
Very successful 4 player game of one of my prototypes. Two people had never played it before and one in particular really liked it, messaging me about it a couple times afterwards.


On My Mind
I signed up for Twitter this weekend(@CharlieTheel). My intention is to use it for 95% boardgame/industry related stuff (tweeting out my reviews, pics of new games, etc.). So, what are your guys twitter handles? I need to follow more people and also to get more than 5 people following me to up my cred.

My Netrunner collection has one foot out the door. I feel like I should be holding a funeral or something as it's one of my top 10 games but I just can't justify keeping it with my lifestyle (which won't be changing anytime soon). The ebay auction is gathering watchers like a corpse drawing flies so it should sell.

Cash 'N Guns 2nd edition arrived. I used to own the first edition but sold it when people started going crazy paying $75+ for it. 2nd edition looks interesting, probably won't get to play it for awhile but I'd like to try out the changes.

Put in another pre-order to CSI this weekend for the X-Wing Wave 5 stuff, threw in King of New York to fill out the order. Think I will be selling my King of Tokyo stuff because of it.

Lastly, Tragedy Looper should arrive tomorrow. I'm going to have to refrain from opening it until I can completely devour Fire in the Lake though.
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6. Board Game: Hansa Teutonica [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:108]
Matt C
United States
Ypsilanti
MI
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Few games played this week, but all of them in my Top 5:

Puerto Rico -- We had only three players this week for game night. One was new, so we busted out Puerto Rico to see how he felt about euros. Adam, the not-new guy, and I spent too much time attacking and planning our moves to not benefit the other, and Phil, the new guy, won this 44-35-32. Phil managed to put together a strong shipping strategy with a few nice plants to leech money when we traded. He ended the game with two of the 10-cost buildings.

Hansa Teutonica -- You can't have a new player and not play this. I was first player, so I chose not to make a decision and clogged up the actions route. When nobody had displaced me the second turn, I went ahead, claimed my third action, and again blocked that route.

It was then that I decided to see whether I could keep other people from getting a third action. I proceeded to snag the 3-Pieces-Removal token, and never end a turn where another player could bump-claim the third action. With three actions, unless the other two players actively coordinate, you can maintain a clog on two routes, and be obnoxious on a third. When I was displaced, I would move the pieces elsewhere and claim routes for the offices. Effective and obnoxious strategy to players who don't know how to counter it. Quote of the night goes to Phil, who after about an hour and being bumped the 30th time, "This game, and you, have broken my spirit."

I suspect it may be a few weeks before we play again. Phil did say he enjoyed the game after the fact though.

Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium -- Final game of the night. I started with Galactic Developers and an Interstellar Bank in my hand, so 1st turn I was making 2 cards on every develop phase. I then dropped Teraforming Robots, and started pumping out cheap Rare Goods which I then consumed with a Mining Conglomerate. The G-Dev I-Bank start with Teraforming Robots rapidly accelerated my tableau and the others never caught up.
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7. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:29]
Dave K
United States
Austin
Texas
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Relatively light week for me but a few quality plays and a few ... that taught me some things I don't like in games.

New to me:

Hoity Toity
Sneaks & Snitches
Bridge

Repeats:

Power Grid
Notre Dame
Coup

On my mind:

Dungeon Saga: Dwarf King's Quest, which I just backed on Kickstarter. Wasn't interested at first when it looked like a fairly simple game but as it grew it got an advanced mode, campaigns, full co-op, and multiple types of enemies. Rules info right now is very sparse so I'm more or less just betting on the designer. Have wanted a good full co-op dungeon crawler for a while (was a fan of Warhammer Quest years ago), Descent is a good game but not interested in one-vs-many. (I realize a full co-op module just came out, but it's very limited in scope still.)

Bayonetta 2, which is a sequel to one of the best video games in recent years. It now has a late October USA release date. Very excited.

The Evil Within, a horror video game also coming out in late October. It's the new one from Shinji Mikami of Resident Evil fame - my wife and I adored playing RE4 together; RE5 and 6 were disappointing (but did not involve Mikami, as he had left). Here's hoping TEW delivers.


-----

Power Grid is still a really fun game and has held up well. Upon revisiting it we had a couple small rules questions since we hadn't played in a while and I discovered that the manual - at least in the older release, not sure if it has changed - actually isn't very good. The game still is.


Notre Dame was great as always. One of Feld's finest and I'm glad I got a copy when they were easy to obtain.

Hoity Toity was one I was looking forward to but thought it was "just okay." It was easy to play and silly but the "guess what I'm doing" mechanic got old. The doublethink aspect is fun, but getting nothing if you guess wrong is frustrating. Might try to get my copy to the table a couple times but this is almost certainly going to leave my collection.

Speaking of which, Sneaks & Snitches came next, which... yet again, was "guess what I'm going to do" and if you are wrong... you get nothing. Oh goody. Except this game had little of the humor of Hoity Toity. Others at the table seemed to enjoy this game a lot but I was happy it ended quickly.

Coup came next and I enjoyed it more than I did the previous time. I think it's now at "okay" in my rankings. Bluffing is more interesting than blind guessing to me I guess. Coup still is very random and punishing - it's possible to get knocked out very early and oftentimes the cards you have at the end will determine the final winner out of the last few players, not bluffing or planning. But that said, it's easy to play and rounds go relatively quickly in most cases.

Closed out the week with Robin teaching Bridge. It was quite fun and I would play again, although I don't think I'd be able to do so without a cheat sheet describing the bidding conventions. It's definitely the most complicated game I have played with a standard playing card deck.

It's interesting to me that some would balk games like Settlers of Catan and say they're "too complicated" yet Bridge, which I think is arguably more complicated, isn't seen as scary.
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8. Board Game: The Downfall of Pompeii [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:445]
Raf Cordero
United States
Bolingbrook
Illinois
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Android: Netrunner
The Downfall of Pompeii
Love Letter

Started the week with the league Netrunner championship. I was eliminated in a game in which I made three ridiculously poor decisions in a row. Playing a Noise mill machine, I had my opponent down to 9 cards in his RD. I should have just waited nine turns but my opponent had a beat down look on his face so decided to run archives to end it. Wrong decision as he rezzed a nice that nuked my hand and then did one point of damage with a scored agenda. The entire game I'd been careful about that particular ice. The next morning, I realized I'd had an icebreaker on the table with the money to prevent that occurrence, I just forgot to use it because...I have no idea. Anyway, my heart isn't in this game anymore. It's a fantastic game, I've just burned out now playing for 2 years.

My wife asked to play something Thursday night to relax, which was awesome. She isn't a gamer really, but knows how much I enjoy it so it means a lot to me when she initiates it. Pompeii is a fun game, and throwing meeples in the Volcano is always enjoyable. She won as she usually does, by 1 point.

Sunday night we were having cocktails in a Victorian lounge/speakeasy and I mentioned how much it reminded me of Love Letter. Later that night we decided to play a couple games, as we weren't up for a third straight night of pub crawling. She won the first game by winning the last 4 in a row, and I won the second. I don't understand the crap this game gets for 2 players...it plays fine with 2. Its a 15 dollar filler game, not sure what people are expecting out of it.
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9. Board Game: Sneaks & Snitches [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:2718]
Robin Levins
United States
Round Rock
Texas
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GAMING! BAM!

Notre Dame
Hoity Toity
*Sneaks & Snitches
Coup x6
Eurorails
Bridge
Splendor
Dominion x6

I'm counting games from yesterday due to timing of the the posting of this list, and 'cause it's about Labor Day.

It was good to play Notre Dame again as always, and same for Hoity Toity (though we had someone bail out midway leaving us at 4, which isn't an ideal game size, it still played well enough). Sneaks & Snitches was my lone new play this week - I enjoyed it a good bit even though you could get entirely hosed in this game, as its brevity and silliness absolves it of this crime. (What can I say? I'm a sucker for Wine In Front Of Me games. Coup finished out the night (MOAR WIFOM) and was lively and fun.

The big thing this week, though, was Bridge Day. I hosted ~8 people at my house and taught them all how to play Bridge. I haven't played it in a good while (at the least since moving to Texas, and certainly for some time before that as well), so it was good to play, and several players indicated a desire to play more. Once upon a time Kristen and I had regular Bridge partners and could play quite a bit. It would be lovely if we could get anything like that going again. At the very least, it won't be 3 years before my next game, I think.

Kristen and I have made even more progress on our 10x10 challenge, getting in games of Eurorails, Splendor, and 6 (!) games of Dominion to complete our Dominion set. We're nearing the end of our owned Empire Builder series (with Iron Dragon being the only one left unplayed), so we may end up replaying some maps in our 10x10 challenge with 5 left to play. (Stephen, why did you have to move away? =P )
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10. Board Game: 1861: The Railways of the Russian Empire [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:1731]
Travis Dean
United States
Escondido
CA
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3x Spot it!
2x Betrayal at House on the Hill
*1861: The Railways of the Russian Empire
*Bus (online)
The Castles of Burgundy (BAJ)
The Downfall of Pompeii
*Frank's Zoo
A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition) w/A Dance with Dragons Expansion
Innovation
*Luna (Yucata)
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
*Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium
Rampage
Saint Petersburg (Yucata)
Space Empires: 4X
*Templar Intrigue
Terra Mystica (online)

*new to me

As you can see, it's been a good two weeks of gaming.

1861: The Railways of the Russian Empire
1861 Session Report wrote:
We played a 4-player game. 2 of us were new to 18xx, and 1 had only played 1800 once before. We started rules explanation probably around 1:15pm, and completed the game around 6:45pm, so 5.5 hours for a 4-player game with new players and a rules explanation. This is about on par or slightly longer than what I've heard from others, and can be brought down to 3-3.5 hours with experienced play.

Of the three big 18xx nights I've hosted, this one was by far the most successful. Most of us come from eurogame or ameritrash backgrounds, and the tame stock market and focus on route building of 1861 is a much friendlier introduction to the 18xx series. Plus, the shorter length compared to 1830 and 1870 (actually, comparable to 1830 if not marginally shorter) is also an appeal. I definitely look forward to playing 1861 some more to get some repeated plays with the same people and to start digging into some different strategies.

The privates went, IMO, a little on the cheap side. Not too much, and we are inexperienced players, so overall it was fine. In the first stock round, 9 of the 10 minors started, and 9 of the 10 2-trains were sold. In the second SR, the last yellow minor started. When bidding, I was trying to think of how much I would need to bid minimum to afford a 3-train (R135), but for some reason I couldn't formulate the question in my mind and didn't want to delay the game trying to figure out what I was trying to think of, so I won the minor with 125. Then of course another minor bought the last 2-train, forcing me to buy a 3-train, but I screwed up the bidding so I took a net loss of R20 and got a minor closed immediately. Due to this, we had a third SR where nothing happened, and it wasn't until the third set of ORs where the first 3 train was bought. In the fourth SR, 5 of the 6 green minors were started, and the 6th minor never started.

Now, I haven't yet talked about what companies players were getting into. My focus was on the Northeast of the map, working the Moscow-Ekaterinburg connection. This resulted in some great runs late game, but it took a long time to make and at best was about on par with routes on the NorthWestern and Sourthern parts of the map. One player took the three yellow minors in the Southern part of Moscow. The other two players were split between the Western minors. One tried to start a company in the SouthEast, but it didn't last more than a turn or two before becoming nationalized.

Somewhat early on, probably around phase 3-4, we saw 3 majors start up. The NorthWestern and SouthWestern Railroads, in respective places, started up from mergers, but had limited mobility due to blocks from other station markers. The player with the three minors south of Moscow merged all three to form one big major that was immediately very profitable. It had runs to some of the most profitable cities and didn't have to compete for station marker locations.

The start of Phase 4 also brought ill luck on one player who had 3 minors, only 1 of which had a 3-train. With some forethought and shuffling, he could've had 2 of the minors survive each with a 3-train, but they would've been very weak companies. As it was, he lost the companies funds to the RSR national, and was in a very weak spot. He tried opening a major during the stock round, our fourth major of the game, but this proved a difficult and money-poor company to run. Even so, he managed enough of a comeback to not be entirely out of the game.

I intentionally kept my minors as minors for a few reasons.
1.) 50% payouts are great.
2.) I didn't have sufficient capital to buy up to 50-60% shares.
3.) I preferred to buy up in companies of other players with my capital while I could, so I'd be sharing in their profits, but hoarding my own profits.
4.) 3 track laying turns per OR is >> 1 track laying turn per OR, especially when making the Moscow to Ekaterinburg run.
Since I waited until the late game to merge, I struggled to afford new trains and keep my minors, and I selectively allowed the RSR to nationalize my companies. Eventually, I think around phase 6, I merged two companies and allowed the rest of my minors be nationalized (no funds or trains).

The last major decision I had to make in the late game, the round we knew an 8-train would be purchased (so we'd have 3 ORs total, this one plus 2 more), was whether to withhold and buy an 8-train, or to pay out. I decided to withhold, and I think it was worth it. My 6-train was probably gaining around 350/run. I set up a lot of cities to pass through in my M-E connection, but they were all worth little. The 8 train was purchased in time to finish my second connection which allowed me to visit Poland, St Petersburg, and other high profit cities. In fact, I reached R860/run, which is the last space of the dividend tracker.

In the end, the scores were:
R5194 (me)
R4939 (player with the 3 minors South of Moscow)
R4005 (Player who lost 2 of 3 miniors to Phase 4 nationalization)
R3788 (Player with NW and SW Railroads)

So many lessons learned which, if we play again, will make our next game very different. I think waiting to grow up my minors and buying up ownership of other players' profitable companies definitely helped me win, but it was still close. Growing up early also means an influx of cash in order to buy those more profitable trains. And I learned that the M-E connection is not very valuable unless you can skip most of the cities in between, and still hit St Petersburg and other cities.



2x Betrayal at House on the Hill
Two nights in a row. I miss this game and wish I could play it more. The first one, we got the aging haunt, and I was an old man who was already physically weak, so the start-of-haunt aging immediately killed me off. The second haunt was the suckers and tentacles one, and we had the advantage and should've one, but due to mostly careless mistakes and partially bad rolls (and arguments over different interpretations of the scenarios ) we died off and lost. Only one more roll to win, too!

Bus (online)
I finally got to play this, an online implementation. I was so lost, despite the simple rules. But by the end, I now understand the rules and the interface. I showed this by increasing my score from 0 to 3 on the last turn. The winner has something crazy like 7.

The Downfall of Pompeii
This was a shockingly close game of Pompeii. I wasn't expecting that. The end scores were 9-9-8-8. I had the 9, but lost to a tiebreaker. One of the 8 players would've won had it reached tiebreaker and she got one more out, though.

Frank's Zoo
I've heard of this but never played it before. This was a really cool ladder game. I generally went out second or third, but scooped up a point or two along the way. My strategy was basically to pass on everything until there were points or people had used up their good cards, then start dumping my cards and taking control. In the second game of this, I picked up a trick that had 3 or 4 hedgehogs and a lion or two! I scored 5 points each hand, tying in the first hand for first, and getting first in the second hand.

A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition) w/A Dance with Dragons Expansion
I was really hoping to get to try A Feast for Crows, but shockingly, 8 players wanted to play this at game night! So we had two observers for a while. Not exactly what I wanted, but everybody seemed happy with it. I definitely like DwD better than the base game. At least, if playing the base game means I'm playing Lannister, I'd rather play DwD. There were runs were people would get up to 6 castles, and then get quickly knocked back down to 3. Overreaching led to this wide swing in point values, but it didn't help that we seemed to never have any supplies, musters, or bids on the influence tracks until the last 2 turns of the game. That meant me, as Greyjoy, had only 3 land units nearly the entire game! I couldn't muster since I wasn't up on the tracks. But also, my first time playing somebody other than Martell, and I think I learned a little about how to play Greyjoys this game. i.e. They should plan on winning a battle with their 2 to load something up on the top of a Westeros stack. Either they should plan to put bidding on the influence tracks up there and collect power tokens, or they should put mustering up and spread to the many vacant castles spread about Westeros.

Luna (Yucata)
I got to play this on Yucata. I need to reread the rules now and see if I can make sense of what I was doing, cause I was lost the entire game.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf
This was an excellent game. We played with pretty much every role. I was one of the werewolves. Early, we determined there was no troublemaker. Then the insomniac claimed, and encouraged somebody to speak up as to what he is now. I spoke up, and said he was the robber (logically the only remaining role that he could be since there was no troublemaker). He confirmed this, thus confirming that I was the robber. A minute or two later, somebody else claimed to be the robber (the actual robber), and said I was lying. Since he was so slow to claim, and I was so quick to claim and confirm that the insomniac was targeted by the robber, I was the one who was believed. As the timer was ticking down, another player spoke up, giving me a golden opportunity. He claimed he was the troublemaker, and swapped the roles of the two of us (myself and the actual robber). That happens after the robber, so I came forward. Yes, I lied, I was the werewolf. So he actually was the robber, actually stole the insomniac, and then the robber-now-insomniac was then traded with my werewolf card thanks to the troublemaker. So thanks to that troublemaker claim, we sealed the deal in what was already a likely lynch, and killed off the robber-then insomniac-now werewolf. He was the insomniac. The player who claimed troublemaker was actually the minion. Oh how sweet. devil

Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium
I finally got to play all three expansion for RftG. I'm still not crazy about the game, and adding in the expansion, I start feeling overwhelmed like I did in the base game when I first played it. eh.

Rampage
Another fun game of Rampage. Unfortunately, one of my rubble tiles shifted dramatically on the board, changing the game significantly. Since they are sticky, I can't simply remove it and replace it...

Space Empires: 4X
I really really really love this game! I want to play it more. I was afraid I was behind early in the game with few planets and minerals, but apparently I caught up quickly and actually got ahead of the ship race. I had battleships and even dreadnoughts well before the other players. I moved in on one players home and was mopping up the place until I reached his home base. I was too foolish. I probably should've taken down all of his shipyards and retreated, then taken pot shots over time weakening his forces. Instead, I lost my fleet, and spent the rest of the game sending in smaller, weaker fleets around. I forced both of my opponents into fighter technologies as the cheaper effective solution, but I foresaw this and already had point defense scouts to battle the fighters. After a long game, we left it unfinished. All three of us, at the point of concluding, at about an equal footing.

Templar Intrigue
This came from TMG, and so we got in a 7-player game of it. The gameplay mechanics and rules reminds me of Are You the Traitor?, which was IMO a horrible game. But Templar Intrigue was great. It was formulated very well, and putting it into the hands of only one player to make the decision is a great responsibility, but cuts out the tension of trying to quick-guess who to target before anybody else does. A quick rundown of gameplay, there are two sides, the monks and the templars. Each side also has traitors who appear to be on your side, but are really on the opposing side. The king is on the monks side and is public. He needs to identify the traitor on his side, as well as the leader of the templars. If he does this successfully, he wins. He can direct each of his monks (which includes 1 traitor monk) to inspect one other player, and report what they see. I was a traitor monk, inspected a regular templar knight, and claimed the templar knight was the traitor knight. In other words, I made a claim that she knows who the templar leader is, and is really on our side and can say who it is. But she didn't get my hints, and said she wasn't what I said she was. So she openly said she was a bad guy and a nobody, which also painted me as the obvious liar. So that didn't go over too well.
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11. Board Game: Sushi Go! [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:340]
Grace P.
United States
Turlock
California
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New games:
Abluxxen 2
Diamonds 1
On Guard 1
Panamax 1
Pandemic: Contagion 1
Sushi Go! 1
VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game 1

Old games:
Abyss 3
Bang! The Dice Game 2
Bohnanza 1
Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game 1
Imperial Settlers 1
King of New York 1
Martian Dice 1
Vegas 1

Games with James this past Saturday! Lots of new plays to talk about.

Abluxxen was a little tricky to try to wrap my head around at first, but ended up being a pretty neat card game. I likely won't buy it, but I would be glad to play it again.

I was let down by Diamonds. I really like trick-taking games and thought I'd for sure like this, but instead found it to be far too random / difficult to control your hand and screw-your-opponents (i.e., the stealing points) to enjoy.

One of the guys at my game group sometimes brings these random old games he has as a joke. On Guard was one of them. It's like those labyrinth games meets a tilting table meets pinball. The picture below should be pretty self-explanatory. It was good for providing some laughs, especially since we played in pairs on either side.



When James told me Pandemic: Contagion was supposed to be like Smash Up without the suck, I went from 0% to 100% curiosity about it. I definitely enjoyed the game, though unlike Smash Up, I wished it had gone on a little longer.

We all know my disdain of 7 Wonders, so it's rather surprising that I enjoyed Sushi Go!, which was made better by us yelling out the name of each item we chose when we revealed cards. I'm thinking about picking up a copy of this for myself! I thought I didn't like drafting (especially after my Among the Stars play last week), but now I am thoroughly confused as to whether or not I enjoy the mechanic.

VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game is a vast improvement on its predecessor despite its pretentious use of two colons. Although it sounded like a convoluted game, it was actually rather simple to play once we got started. Overall, it's just okay. There are some neat ideas in it, but my impression is that it needed further development (just like the original).

Finally, I have a lot of thoughts on Panamax so I will try to make this as succint as possible. First of all, it's better than Madeira (same designers if you're wondering about the comparison). I think there's some very interesting ideas in the game, however it ultimately felt like two games that they tried smashing together: a game consisting of pushing boats through the Panama Canal and a market game based on delivering cargo. I think both parts are really cool, but the "games" failed. The dice selection was interesting (and better than Madeira's) but like Madeira, I felt the game suffered from complexity for complexity's sake. Nothing really felt like it was smoothly integrated, but rather forced together into this three hour movement of bits without any real fun attached. I kept thinking that in the time we spent trying to figure out how things worked and the minute details of different actions/consequences, I could have spent that time playing one of the longer Winsome games which would offer the same market/stock element, planning, and strategy but in a more streamlined game.

All that said, I ultimately do not think Panamax is a bad game. (I think the rulebook could use some organizational help, but that's off topic.) The following is what I told Edward in our geekmail conversation about why I currently have it up for auction:

Me, the Great Leader wrote:
So, the first play was a rough one, however that alone is not the reason I'm getting rid of it. I'm sure it needs more plays to really understand everything that is going on, but the work/time investment in doing that far outweighs the potential for fun that I think I'm going to gain from it. When there are so many other games that I enjoy more (and even playable in that timespan of 2-3 hours), I can't see choosing to stumble through Panamax again just so that I can see if I like it on the second play, or third, fourth, etc. Ideally, I would play each game at least five times or so to really determine if I like it, but there just isn't the time (both in terms of actual playtime and having a group to do that with). So, I have learned that with games like Panamax, although I would like to explore the game more, it just won't happen. Instead, it'll sit on my shelves where I keep looking at it going "yeah, I should give it another try but ugh, too much work" and grab something more familiar/fun. This is mostly just a product of being in the hobby for awhile and knowing my habits pretty well at this point.
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12. Board Game: Tragedy Looper [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:509]
Paul S
United Kingdom
Leeds
West Yorks
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Another week without a gaming session, so I'm currently drooling at some of the terrific game lists, above.

So, knowing that I was unlikely to get any real gaming in, I decided to sign up for a PBF here on BGG.

I'm half way through my first game of Tragedy Looper and loving it - though we are a pretty worldwide crew, so time differences are slowing us down.

I know I'll pick up the game when it's released here in the next week or two - but I'll end up playing as the MasterMind every time. The PBF offer was too good to resist - a chance to see what it's like as Protagonist.

Good fun, pretty brain-burny, and one I'm really looking forward to trying for real.

Also picked up Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game but haven't had time to get stuck into it.

And was impressed today to read that ONUW has a sequel see here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/16773188#16773188

Looking great.

Next week I'm away at a conference, so unlikely to get any gaming in, again, and probably won't post here. The week after, with luck, normal service will resume.
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13. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.24 Overall Rank:8]
Fabrice Dubois
France
La Garenne Colombes
Hauts de Seine
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Today, TM is #3, just above Agricola. And #2 is really closed.

Mage Knight is also about to become #9, just above Funkenschlag.

Any thoughts ?
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14. Board Game: The Awful Green Things From Outer Space [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:1628]
Matt C
United States
Ypsilanti
MI
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Since we have the question of what games are underrated, it would be unfortunate not to list the games we believe are overrated. Much like the Underrated Games, you can find which games you find are most overrated by going to:

http://boardgamegeek.com/user/<;YOUR USERNAME HERE>/stats and clicking on Overrated Games. Along with saying what games you find overrated, please discuss what you particularly don't like or find overrated.
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15. Board Game: Panamax [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:466]
Edward Uhler
United States
Commerce City
Colorado
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So yeah, y'all know about the drama last week with Amanda and Asher getting attacked. All are healing well and life is finally getting back to somewhat 'normal'. God knows we could use that for a few days now, heh.

Regarding Panamax, before I start, let me preface that I'm not talking about anyone specific and I realize that my taste in games is pretty different from many in this GCL and that's ok. You like what you like and that's what makes this hobby so cool...there's plenty of room for all of us. Below, I used what Grace said about Panamax as a way to explain my opinions w/o giving too much since that is what our next podcast is dedicated to and I don't want to say too much, yet. It was just convenient to use that and in no ways an attack on our fearless leader, I promise!

Game plays from the last 2 weekends (since I haven't posted recently):

Panamax x4
Craftsmen
Hammer of the Scots
Bus
Pax Porfiriana
Saint Petersburg
The Downfall of Pompeii
Impulse
Colonialism
Takenoko
Facts in Five x2


bold = new to us


The obvious big one was Panamax, but I'll get to that one last since it's going to roll into the bigger discussion of heavy vs complex.

Craftsmen - I had heard about this @ Essen time last year, when it was released. However, it never really got a US distribution, so it flew WAY, WAY under-the-radar. That was until Vasel reviewed is and H-A-T-E-D it. Which, obviously, puts it higher on my radar than it already was. An i-buddy (from Twitter & here) wrote a good review of it, so those two reviews drove me to obtain a reasonably cheap copy of the game. It's longer than most here are going to be willing to play (an hour per player), plus, this is the ONE game I'll agree with that has aspects that are 'complex for complexities sake', which doesn't bother me, but will y'all. In a nutshell, though, man this was really, really enjoyable. So much so that it's one of my co-host's Top 3 games of all time. I wouldn't put it that high on my list, but it's one I'm excited to play a lot more of. Go watch Vasel's vid if you're curious, but y'all won't like it. laugh

Hammer of the Scots - FINALLY got a block wargame played! Super, S-U-P-E-R simple rulebook (8 pages) that is easy to grok and the mechanics and battle system are, again, simple, yet it is a damn interesting game. With it being a block game, combat losses are as simple as rotating the block to a different side. Also, there is inherent 'fog of war' since all you see is the backs of your opponents blocks, which are blank. The two sides, (Scots and English) are quite asymmetrical and it's driven by cards, but not a CDG. The wintering rules (in which everyone goes back home and the next turn is almost reset-ish, but not. I hate using the term "elegant", but it applies here, imo. I have most of the other games from Columbia Games from this system (Julius Caesar, Richard III, & Wizard Kings), so I'm curious to try them all out and see which I enjoy the most. Again, all of them have 8 page rulebooks. Hard to beat that, esp for a wargame. HIGHLY recommended if you have any interest at all in 2-player wargames.

Bus - More Splotter fun! I had been curious about the game, but the artwork has...well, let me put it to you this way: you either love it or hate it and I don't love it. But my buddy Chad brought it with him this weekend and we gave it a go. Simplish rules and a cool premise: Folks want to go to work then hit the pub, then go home. And it's your job to create bus lines for them and pick them up and deliver them to those various locations. But you can stop time and make folks want to stay/go to the pub, even though some are still at the pub (or home or the office). But if that happens too often, you rip the space/time continuum and the game ends. Action selection and route building and logistics. Lots to figure out, but has that 'Splotter-feel' that Amanda and I call it. We really enjoyed it and would love to play it some more. I'm sure, eventually, we'll get a copy, too.

Colonialism - I've talked about it quite a bit previously, but I wanted to add just a couple of things here:

1) My above mentioned fellow heavy gamer buddy, Chad, loves him some El Grande and after playing this for the first time said they are nothing alike. Period.

2) This game is much better as a 4-player game than with 3. It's not bad, but much more interesting with max players, but that is usually the case w/ area majority games, so yeah, same w/ El Grande, too.


Panamax - We've played it 4 times and absolutely love this game, to no ones surprise. I really don't want to rehash rules or go TOO in-depth since this is the big podcast for us and it drops Thursday. That said, I will give counter-points to Grace's points in her post:

Quote:
Finally, I have a lot of thoughts on Panamax so I will try to make this as succint as possible. First of all, it's better than Madeira (same designers if you're wondering about the comparison). I think there's some very interesting ideas in the game, however it ultimately felt like two games that they tried smashing together: a game consisting of pushing boats through the Panama Canal and a market game based on delivering cargo. I think both parts are really cool, but the "games" failed. The dice selection was interesting (and better than Madeira's) but like Madeira, I felt the game suffered from complexity for complexity's sake. Nothing really felt like it was smoothly integrated, but rather forced together into this three hour movement of bits without any real fun attached. I kept thinking that in the time we spent trying to figure out how things worked and the minute details of different actions/consequences, I could have spent that time playing one of the longer Winsome games which would offer the same market/stock element, planning, and strategy but in a more streamlined game.


I completely disagree with the 'two games smooshed together' notion as I feel that the stock market is not only well integrated into the flow of the game, but it's ESSENTIAL to the game. Everything in the game is built around boosting share prices and getting paid for investing in the companies. If that weren't there, there just isn't a game. The shipping of containers is the 'meat' of the game, but the purpose of doing so is to create a wealthier company, which in turn, hopefully, makes you the wealthiest CEO. Both of those come together seamlessly to create this heavy, deep, game.

I agree with Grace in that the dice mechanic is cool (although I enjoyed the different dice mechanic in Madeira as well) and again, completely disagree about the lack of integration and the complexity for complexity's sake comment. Just like in Madeira, I simply don't see that as the case. If you 'streamlined' and removed Part X or Y, you don't have the game that it is. It would just be...bleh.

And this brings me to my last point about the game that I want to touch on & I have no way to not come across as a douche canoe, but I have no idea how to not be blunt:

How/Why are people having such a hard time learning the rules to this game? The rulebook is plain and simple to LEARN from. Amanda has never in her life read a rulebook and the night we sat to play this the first time, Amanda, Tony, and myself all had a copy of the rulebook and we sat and read it outloud and had zero problems. Yet, there are a plethora of questions that people are having w/ the rules and none of us understand it. Please understand that I am NOT saying that everyone is dumb and we're the smart ones (hell, I'm a Marine, after all, so we know that's NOT the case), but please help me out here...what are we getting that no one else seems to be getting? Now, with that said, for REFERENCING, if/when you do have questions, it's not laid out well. I'll wholeheartedly agree with that. But for learning the game, we found it fine. Every single question that we've had, thru 4 games, has been covered in the rules.

So overall, gaming-wise, it's been a fantastic couple of weeks and with everyone on the mend, hard to be too down-in-the-dumps. Both Amanda and I are getting excited for BGGCon and looking forward to meeting so many folks who I 'know' from here. Gonna be a blast!

Blast away, now.
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