That Boardgaming Thing #11 (TBGT 2014)
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This year, it was FIVE days of fun! As usual, this was all preceded by a lot of emails and notices, planning on the forums, etc. I don't really care about all the hints in the lead up -- I'm just as happy to wait and see what the theme is going to be. And this year, it was TRAINS! I love trains! Well, train games, anyway: something about the network building, connections, pick-up-and-deliver ... I'm not necessarily drawn to the trains themselves. But the games sure are fun! As far as the con goes, though, the theme is used in the badge design and all the puzzles.

As usual, we stayed home and drove in every day. It's about a 30 minute drive. That's not bad, except that Mary wakes up and gets ready so LATE we didn't get there until about 10-10:30 every day! That's not too bad, I suppose, but there are enough early risers that surely I'd have found some games to play a bit earlier! Still, I guess that's early enough: we had several full days of gaming!

As usual, a great time was had by all! We got to see a bunch of people (although several, like Justin, Ted, Michelle, Earl, were sadly missing) and play a bunch of games. We went back to Brasa for our annual meatfest (miss you, Doug!) and had plenty of other good meals, too.

Thanks to all the organizers. As usual, this was another great event! I'm looking forward to the winter version #2 !
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1. Board Game: Maskmen [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:3704]
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WEDNESDAY

Valerie, Clay, and me (new to them). My Game of Thrones version.

Mary was doing some photography so I came alone and unpacked our games -- probably got there around 10am? Several people were playing, but the place wasn't what I'd call crowded. By the time I finished, there were a few people available to play! I suggested this as a quick little warm up.

It's a pretty fun little game, but it is kind of odd to explain! I was unclear on one rule but I think I was just having a little mini-stroke: if 2 colors have debuted but their relative strengths are unknown, and one player plays one of them, the other color must be played with exactly one more card -- right? For some reason I was confused about that on Wednesday, and I think we played it wrong. But at least we were consistent!

--- Rules (for my Game of Thrones version) ---
Players represent powers secretly manipulating the great Houses through a series of Wars (each hand is a War). In a 2-player game, the first player to win 2 Wars wins the game. With 3-6 players, the player with the most VP after 4 Wars wins the game!

1. Each hand, shuffle the entire deck and deal cards to each player (2-4 players = 10, 5er = 9, 6er = 8). Set all House banner tokens aside.
2. In the first hand, a random player plays first. In later hands, the player who went out last in the previous hand leads. Play each hand until everyone has sloughed all their cards.
3. Whenever LEADING in a trick, play n cards of same House; n =
a. ONE if that suit that has not debuted (i.e., been played before during this hand; it’s House banner token is still set aside). Immediately place that House’s banner in the play area.
b. 1, 2, or 3 if that suit has debuted.
4. Whenever FOLLOWING in a trick, you may either pass for the rest of trick, or play. If playing, play a set of House cards:
a. You must play a House that has not been played yet during this trick.
b. If your House is stronger than House currently winning the trick, you must play exactly n cards.
c. If your House strength is unknown relative to the led house, you must play exactly n + 1 cards (max. 3). House’s strength is now known to be greater than the House currently winning the trick: use the House banners to indicate the Houses’ relative strengths, placing the stronger House to the left.
5. The trick winner leads for the next trick.
6. The first player to slough all their cards gets a +2 VP card. The next gets a +1 VP card. The last player to go out gets a -1 VP card and will lead in the next hand: repeat above. (In 2-player game, ignore VP cards; just play for 2 wins.)
 
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2. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:128] [Average Rating:7.64 Unranked]
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Clay, Valerie, and me. New to Valerie (this map)

I hadn't played this in a LONG time, but it's totally new to V. In fact, she's only played the base game! You don't find too many gamers like that! Or maybe you do? I don't play TTR very much so I really have no idea.

In any case, this is a good map for three! I lost this one, too (Clay won this time) ... great start to the con! But it was a good game, so yeah -- great start!
 
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3. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Finland & Portugal [Average Rating:7.31 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.31 Unranked]
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Finland

Stratamir, Adam, Clay, and me.

Last year, I was able to arrange plays of several Age of Steam maps so I tried again this year -- have to get those unplayed maps to the table! I think everyone had played AoS before, although not necessarily very much? I thought this would be a good map because there are only a few rule changes -- it's really a pretty basic map.

The biggest feature of this expansion is not the rules, which pretty much only add 2 things: 2 locations that can receive 5 cubes of any color, and a few preexisting public links that provide no income. Rather, it's the map: impassable hexsides abound! It's sort of like the Switzerland map but supporting more players -- from all the lakes.

Unfortunately, it's been long enough that I don't remember the details. And I didn't get a picture, either ! All of us started in the south, where all the cities are, so it got crowded very quickly! Strat built east-west to Russia and had a consistent set of deliveries early on ... but those petered out. Adam, from an early miscalculation, nearly went bankrupt in the beginning. Fortunately, though, he managed to save himself. I built in the south, seduced by cubes in that cluster of 3 cities. Initial delivers, though, were tough for me. I was eventually able to build north a bit, and had a decent (though little) loop earlier than the rest. I ended up winning, but not by much. Clay started in the SW, I think. He didn't get huge deliveries, but he saved money on bids, managed to move cubes consistently, and finished the game with just 3 shares. THREE!! A-MA-ZING! I suppose he would have had a harder time if we'd had more players -- and more cube poaching. Still, it was pretty unbelievable ... none of us had ever seen someone end the game with such a low share count!

It's a solid map, but when looking at AoS expansions I don't like constrained track building nearly as much as I like other rule changes. It does change the auction quite a bit, though: first build and engineer become much more important. Turn order too, I suppose? I wonder if it would be better with 5 or 6 players? There would be more intense bidding, and more forced track sharing for cube deliveries. And surely no one would get away with just 3 shares!

Probably a 6 or 7 rating, for me? Need to try it again ... if only there weren't so many other maps to try!
 
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4. Board Game: Pass-Ackwords [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:10996]
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Tae, Curt, Janna, and me.

Janna and Tae (and Curt?) had dinner plans so we needed to find something not too long. We've owned this game for a while now and I've heard good things about, and Janna was willing to teach!

I'd always assumed it was a light, quick playing party game. It's not -- there's a lot of thinking going on! The basic idea is that teams of two will alternate giving clues. But you're giving them to the OTHER team, and you must choose from the supplied list of clues! So you end up choosing the most obscure clues you can find, hoping that eventually your partner will figure it out (when the other team gives them a clue). The first team to get five words correct wins the game!

I was pretty horrible at this game! It seemed really easy during the rules explanation when I could see all the clues at once. But during play, hearing only one clue at a time, it was much more difficult! This is the worst kind of party game -- the kind seemingly designed to make you feel stupid. And maybe you are ... shouldn't everyone know that Yoshi is a f-ing dinosaur?

OK, so actually it's a pretty neat design. I wouldn't mind trying it again, at least once. But I doubt it'll become a favorite; I think I'd prefer straight up Password?
 
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5. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:2346]
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Bezier prototype. With trains, sort of. Still in development, although it seems to be pretty far along. Ted won, and I came in second. So really that's a win, right?

Gotta love trains, especially at a train-themed TBGT!
 
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6. Board Game: Diamonds [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:729]
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Ted, Toni, Mary, and me

This has been getting a lot of positive reviews on podcasts and online. And people seemed to really like it when I tried it in prototype form back in April. Ted and Toni wanted to try, so we gave it a whirl -- partly because it always seemed just OK.

And it's still just OK ... I don't get it! It just seems so random! I'm sure there's more to it, that there is more thinking required than is apparent at first (or second) glance. But I am not seeing it. My games always seem just kind of blah. The designer is a great guy, and I love his Mystery Rummy games, but this latest crop of games are just not for me!
 
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7. Board Game: Tichu [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:133]
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Ted and Mary vs. Me and Toni

Ended the night with a loss ... boo!

It's a really good game design, but I think I'm probably getting a little tired of it? I'll usually play it, but would almost always rather play something else.
 
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8. Board Game: Suburbia [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:106]
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THURSDAY

Me, Mary, Ted, and Chris.
Base game, plus expansion. Fun!

I won, so you know this is good -- I'm such a star!
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9. Board Game: Subdivision [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:2321]
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Me and Ted.

This is sort of like Take It Easy, set in the world of Suburbia, with drafting.

Each player has their own board. Each round starts by giving each player a hand of ZONE tiles (in the usual Suburbia styles). Each turn, roll a die; players must place one of their tiles in one of the spaces on the board matching the symbol rolled on the die. All adjacent zones may be activated for various abilities (e.g., place sidewalk pieces, earn money, place IMPROVEMENT tiles, etc.). Then, pass the remaining tiles and repeat turns until each player has placed 4 (of 5) tiles. Repeat that whole round sequence until all tiles in the game have been placed.

Scoring is based on several things:
+ points for tiles adjacent to park
+ (# of zone types adjacent to sidewalk) x (# of improvement types adjacent to that sidewalk)
+ points for schools
+ 5 points per zone tile with access to pictured highway, via empty hexes or road tiles
+ points for leftover money
- points for empty board spaces (-1 to -3)

Most points wins!

The game works, I suppose, but it's not my kind of thing: way too puzzle-y! It's nice that the player boards are double-sided, with alternate layouts. Also, there are several scenarios, with alternate starting setups, that should add to the game's replayability. Of course, the drafting already kind of does that.

So, a good game but not for me.
 
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10. Board Game: Splendor [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:131]
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April, George, Dennis, and me.

I'd kind of been wanting to try this again anyway. New to April. We even played it twice -- wow!

My comments from previous plays:
I wrote:
This is a fun little filler with some gem-related theme pasted on. Basically, though, it's a game of set collection where you're racing to score 15 VP to trigger the end of the game (equal turns) and likely win the game.

The 3 decks of cards have gems with various costs in other gems. On your turn, either collect poker chips (3 different ones, or 2 of one color as long as you leave at least 2 behind) or claim a card from the display by paying it's cost in gems. Cards you collect remain face up in your display, and act as discounts (essentially, virtual poker chips). OR, you can reserve a card from the display, adding it to your hand and taking one gold chip (acts as a wild color chip). At the start of the game, several bonus tiles were randomly selected; these show particular card combinations. At the end of your turn, if you have any of these combos, you may claim 1 tile. These tiles, and many of the cards, are worth VP; if anyone gets to 15+ VP, finish the current round (even turns): the player with the most VP wins.

It's kind of a cool little game that plays quickly (30-45 minutes) and has some decisions to make without taxing your brain too much. You have to pay attention to what other people are collecting towards, so you can snake those cards/tiles away from them!

April, brand new to the game, won the first time out -- things went just right! And she was before me, and kept taking what I wanted, too! I'd tried something new (reserving cards some, going for higher cards) but it did not work. At least, I couldn't make it work. The second game went better and I managed to win - yay!

Yeah, it's an OK game. But I'd rather play something else.
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11. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: The Alps [Average Rating:7.19 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.19 Unranked]
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First Age of Steam map -- yay!

I'd tried putting together a game at 1, but ended up stuck at lunch a bit later than planned -- the crew I'd rounded up went off to other things by the time we returned (about 1:20). But we still managed to get together (different group) a few hours later.

Ted, Luann, Lynn, and me. We played on the Alps.

The expansion consists of 4 individual map sheets, and tunnel stickers for the box bottom. In the 3-4er game, you play with 3 sheets: one, with mountain terrain, is on the top surface of the upside down box bottom (Alps); the other two are on either side of the box. In the 5-6er version, all 4 sheets are around the box (top is empty). Tunnels connect the various lowland boards, but not as you'd expect: they take odd turns in the "mountain" such that the topography is weird and all topsy turvey! The rule changes are pretty minimal:
- mountains cost $3
- may only build straight track into (or out of) a tunnel
- tunnels connect boards on opposite sides of mountain; but not straight across ... weird!
- may climb up to top of mountain only from hexes not in front of the tunnels
- moving goods from mountain-top origin to lowland destination earns +1 income; opposite direction is -1 income!

Everyone started in the plains, but I was tempted by that +1 income and immediately built up to the top. Ted, Luann, and I were all on one side of the Alps, while Lynn went to the other. Unfortunately, she didn't have a good supply of cubes, didn't get her engine level up quickly enough, and had a hard time staying ahead of expenses (until later in the game, at least). Ted, and then Luann, did finally join me up on high, but by then it was too late -- all those +1 deliveries had already put me out front!

This was a pretty enjoyable map, with the main changes being the bonus/penalty on certain goods deliveries and the weird tunnel-related topography (which is totally different in the 5-6er game). There are some problems, though:
- the box makes it hard to see the map on the other side!
- the bonus/penalty seemed somewhat non-intuitive. I guess the justification is that the mountains are hard/expensive to get to, so bringing cubes down is worth more. But we also thought that since it's tough getting up to the mountains, so you might get a bonus for taking cubes up! It might make (thematic) sense to award all deliveries involving mountains (in either direction, or even just up top) and penalize those only in the plains (those deliveries being so easy, after all)? In that case, though, you'd probably have to bump up the mountain build costs a bit.
- the odd tunnel connections also make it somewhat challenging seeing where the loops are.

These issues are pretty minor, really (and that last one may even be a good thing!). It's a solid design that seems to work pretty well. It just didn't seem as innovative as I had expected, based on the use of the box bottom! Even the weird tunnel connections kind of remind me of the older Time Traveler expansions (in AoS and Railroad Tycoon/Railways of the World), where you can get tracks popping out of odd locations and connecting to other boards in weird ways.

Overall a pretty good map, but not necessarily outstanding. I'd like to try the 5-6 player layout some time, too.
 
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12. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.19 Overall Rank:11]
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I thought I got a text from Ted saying he wanted to play this, but no -- I have no idea why this was in my head! But he's a fan so we, Marcel, and Dennis gave it a go.

We did it with random race assignments! That is definitely NOT the way to play this game since so much depends on the initial setup! The 6 round modifiers, the set of bonus tiles available, and turn order all should affect your race choice. I even wrote a geeklist about it back when I was more enamored with the game. After the initial plays and several online games, though, I realized I prefer a bit more randomness during game play. Anyway, both M and D were pretty new to the game so it was the simplest way to go.

We had Ted (Swarmlings), Dennis (Fakirs), Marcel (Witches), and me (Cultists). Marcel was very new to the game and built one of his starting settlements all alone. Unfortunately, he also never built his stronghold. The Fakirs and Swarmlings did build theirs, and I think both built their 2 cities. But while doing that, everyone was taking power from the innocent, harmless little Cultists. And hardly anyone, other than the Cultists, were doing much in the temple tracks!

The Cultists ruled the day! In the end, the Swarmlings won the building points at the end, but I came in a close second. I did, however, manage to win all 4 cult tracks. Hurray, Cultists! Now, what was that rule change supposed to be?

I can understand why the game is so highly regarded. For me, though, it misses by just a little bit. I prefer games with some in-game randomness (vs. setup randomness). Games like TM and Dominion feel to much as if the heart of the game happens at the start, where you look at what's out there and make a plan -- the rest is just execution. Clearly, there's more to it than "just" execution, but the bulk of the game is decided at the beginning. Not for me -- I prefer somewhat more tactical games.
 
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13. Board Game: Tragedy Looper [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:585]
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Falcon, Stratamir, and I gave this a try -- new to all of us.

Cool concept, time travel, but through inexperience and luck Strat and I managed to survive the scenario through the very first loop! I wouldn't mind trying this again, but probably not without reading the rules myself or, even better, have an experienced player teaching it!

--- Summary ---
Before game, some event(s) happened - a murder, suicide, whatever. You've rewound the clock and are going to try to get through the key days, preventing the key problems. But someone is working against you, so you don't know the details: each loop through, you'll try to learn what you actually need to do to stop this horrible event from happening.

There's a scenario specific setup, with certain characters positioned in specific locations on the board. Each round, the Mastermind plays some cards (on people and/or locations), then the players do the same. Then, you reveal the cards and resolve their actions: e.g., move from location to location, add/remove paranoia/intrigue/influence(?) counters. Accumulating counters allows other things to happen: specific events, powers, etc. After cards and effects are done, the Mastermind tells you if anything happened (based on specific conditions set out in the script -- e.g., if the right 2 people ended up in the right location with the right counters on them, one of them gets killed). If the key event happens, you rewind time and repeat -- with players trying to figure out what the event was, and prevent it in the next loop.

If the players manage to get through a loop without the key events happening, they win; if they fail to do so after a scenario-specified number of loops, the Mastermind wins.
 
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14. Board Game: To Court the King [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:1523]
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Ted, Falcon, and me.

A variant, actually (proto). Not sure how I like it after just one play ... will hopefully get to play it again!
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15. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Australia & Tasmania [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked]
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FRIDAY

Australia

Craig, Beth, Peter, Andy, and me. Everyone else prefers Steam so we played with those rules (Base) instead. Should this play even be on this geeklist? Well, I'll leave it here for now.... We also may have gotten one rule wrong! We were awarding +3 for deliveries to Perth, in either income or VP depending on what the player chose for that delivery. The strict wording, however, could be interpreted as only giving an income bonus. Actually, I think we got it right.

Changes:
- Most blue cubes (2 per dark cities 1-6), start on east coast; ALL cities get 2 (AoS) or 3 (Steam) random cubes as well ... lots of cubes in the east!
- Perth (west coast) is the only blue city on the map. Delivering blue cubes to Perth gives you +3 income
- Expensive builds (many coastal mountains, $4)
- Urb weakened: build max 2 track tile builds
- Engineering: build one tile (of max 3) for free

This game was ALL about Perth! Just as 1830PA is about shipping coal to the gray cities, this one REALLY rewards you for shipping blue -- you just have to survive the early game while you build your network! It may be even stronger here, since there's only one target delivery city!

Four of us built in the east, where most of the cities are located and there were some turn 1 deliveries (even 2-linkers). Craig, though, built out west all by himself. He went heavily into debt in the early turns, but that's not nearly so bad in Steam! And then, before any of us could make the long cross-country trek ourselves, he was set to make long deliveries of blue cubes to Perth. He even built a helpful connection out towards us, so we'd be forced to use at least one of his links (initially) to get to Perth! And with all of us fighting each other for precious cubes and connections, Craig was even able to get Goods Growth (with a few blue cubes scattered here and there) a few times! He was just asking to be urb-bombed, and I complied by putting the blue city right next to Perth, on his main route in ... you're welcome!

It turned out to be a pretty close game, with Craig just a bit behind me at the end. We were all able to eventually ship across to Perth, and this game is all about the blue cubes!

Pretty enjoyable map, although I guess I need to play it with the AoS rules, too. Hopefully before we actually go to Australia!
 
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16. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Las Vegas and Korea (N&S) [Average Rating:7.60 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.60 Unranked]
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North and South Korea

Peter, Bob, and me.

With just 3 of us, I wanted something made specifically for 3; but I couldn't find any! Well, I could, but it was one of those weird maps that Bob's not crazy about. But he does love all things Korean and I had thought this was supposed to be good with 3 or 4 so we gave it a spin!

The list of rule changes is pretty short:
- more expensive builds in S Korea
- more cubes at start in S Korea
- max 2 tracks (3 with engineer)
- every third turn, may not deliver from S to N, or N to S, or across border in either direction (except turn 10: no restrictions). At the time it was not clear whether this was intended to consider only start/end cities (how we played it) or entire delivery route (which is the actual rule).

Bob and Peter both began building in the South, where all the cubes were. I started just north of the border, dipping below it only for one city connection in the beginning. Later, I built a little further south, but most of my network was in the north. Bob did later join me up there, both extending his own network and simply taking some key links from me. Very early, we had to decide what the border crossing ban meant. Having just played on the Alps map, I thought only starting and ending cities mattered. That is, that you could cross the border in any direction en route, but the starting and ending cities needed to be on the correct and opposite sides of the border according to the current turn's rules). This is similar to the Alps rule where you only look at starting and ending cities to determine if you get the +1 or -1 income modification. We all agreed, initially, that that made sense -- it would be too restrictive otherwise! But later, it became obvious that such a ban on border crossing wasn't really much of a ban at all! With my network largely in the north, the little dip into SK just gave me extra links to help make those long deliveries. But since we'd played the game one way so far, we decided to finish playing the same way and I ended up winning this *'d game!

The main feature is the presence of the border, and the limitations on crossing it during goods delivery. It's hard to evaluate the map since we played this key rule wrong! It seems pretty tough, though! The limits on building (2/turn) and moving (border crossing) are going to make it difficult getting long deliveries quickly. Loco in the early game may not be so relevant here (which seems to be a common "feature" of many AoS Team maps?). This map is supposed to be for 3-5 players, but wow it must be tough at the higher player counts! If people are largely respecting the border, you'd probably end up with a N/S 2/2 or 2/3 split in 4/5er games. There are NOT a lot of cubes up in the North (and cities are spread out -- better start urbanizing)! I'd like to try this with 4, though ... maybe after I get through 50+ more maps ....



 
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17. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Beer & Pretzels [Average Rating:6.46 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.46 Unranked]
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DavidH, Holly, Tracy, me (H new to AoS, T pretty new)

I was pressed for time (dinner plans for meatfest at Brasa) and we had 2 very inexperienced players, and I thought this would be a good map in those circumstances: it's AoS, but seems to be greatly simplified.

Rule changes:
- no income, expenses, or shares!
- start with $20 cash
- moving cube immediately pays link owner $5 cash
- the player with the most money wins!

We all went our separate ways in the beginning: Tracy in the SE, me the north, David in the NW, and Holly in the SW (in a spot, based on initial cube distribution, where there was a very nice loop in the making). Now why didn't I see that when I was building, just before her?! But yeah, I'll take credit for showing it to her -- she did, after all, win the game as a total newbie ... nice work! Anyway, early on we played on our own networks, although Tracy did a bang up job stealing my cubes from me while saving his own for later in the game! And Holly did very well saving money in the early game auctions. We did meet eventually, of course, and started fighting a bit more for those common central cubes.

Surprisingly, the map works pretty well. The auctions are really wonky, though, since there is SO much money in the game. It still feels somewhat like Age of Steam. Or actually, maybe more like Steam? It's not bad if you want to play a very quick game, but I think it might be better with 5 or 6 -- so that more money gets sucked away in the auctions for turn order? Or maybe try this with Base Steam rules?
 
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18. Board Game: Bora Bora [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:169]
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Chris, Beth, Craig, and me.

After the meatfest. Was hoping for a faster game -- this took us 160 minutes of play time, after a rules run-through! -- but I do enjoy the game. But I sure was tired by the end of it! Craig won thanks to some very nice end-game scoring (although he was really in the lead pretty much the whole game)!
 
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19. Board Game: Circus Flohcati [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:1503]
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I joined Mary, Toni, and Valerie (who had just started this) before we FINALLY left for the night!
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20. Board Game: Arctic Scavengers [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:1077]
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SATURDAY

Me, Mary, Astra (and briefly Malachi, but he decided to pass after listening to part of the rules!). All newbies.

This is a pretty interesting twist on the Dominion-style game ... too bad Rio took so long getting this game out! Too bad for me, anyway, since I haven't really been a big fan of Dominion. Generally, I prefer games that have more going on -- where deck-building may be a component, but is not the whole point of the game. And so I think I prefer AS over D.

We played just the basic game. Like Dominion, everyone starts with the same deck of 10 cards. There are also a display of cards available for purchase. But in addition, there are 2 other face-down, shuffled decks:
- a "junkyard", with a mix of useless junk cards and better ones
- a "contested resources" deck, with better cards.
All cards give you some combination of card drawing ability (from your own deck), points towards searching the junkyard (keep one, discard the rest), currency for buying from the display, fight (at the end of each round, there's an auction using these points), special powers (e.g., make someone remove a card from the end-of-turn fight, etc.), and VP (number of tribe members). The contested deck has better versions of everything, of course. It's also a game timer: the game ends when that last card has been won.

It's a pretty fun game, and perhaps even better with the included expansion.

 
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21. Board Game: Istanbul [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:95]
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Luann, Beth, Craig, and me. New to Luann, essentially new to Beth.

Fun game. Craig won 2 turns before I would've -- nicely done!

The rules are very simple: set the tiles, each showing a different location/power, in some order (3 specific ones included in game, or random). Everyone's stack starts at the Fountain. On your turn, move your stack of tokens (sort of like in Traders of Genoa, but not really: there's a big enough twist to make it feel very fresh). Take the action on the space you land, as long as you either covered your own piece or are able to leave one piece there. Actions give you more goods (4 types), improve your storage capacity, acquire bonus action tiles, trade gems, gamble, etc. If you encounter other players' merchants, pay them. If you encounter the neutral Governor and/or Smuggler tokens (randomly placed at start of game), use them to gain a card and/or cube, respectively, then move them to a new random location. But it's all about acquiring gems - the first player to have 5 wins - and several actions get you those (in various ways: buy them for money, trade gems for them, acquire enough other stuff from the board for them).

The board, made of a bunch of different tiles, is highly modular for high replayability -- different layouts would change the relationships, optimal routes, etc.

With such a simple rule set, you still get a lot of game play! Turns move along quickly but you have interesting decisions to make almost every time.
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22. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Paris & Moscow [Average Rating:7.07 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.07 Unranked]
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DanF (finally! we'd been trying to get an AoS game in all week), Luann, and David (fresh after finishing a Railways of the World game!)
Inhabitants per house, 1850 (original pic)


And one showing income in 2010:


And one for the sights (original pic):

This is a WEIRD looking map. However, that is purely cosmetic. Functionally, this is equivalent to the much more typical one pictured here.
In our game, I (yellow) started in the center, Dan (black) in the center/north east, Luann (purple) in the north, and David (green) in west. Deliveries were difficult in the beginning, especially with those yellows and blues directly adjacent to one another! But the Fly Boat helped get through that early drought, even though we were probably playing it wrong (we assumed it was limited to deliveries for exactly 1 income). I think my initial builds ended up essentially cutting the board in half: since no one wanted to share deliveries with me, they built elsewhere; I had the south pretty much to myself! Luann tried a low-share strategy, keeping behind the rest of us for most of the game. But then, when she ran out of cash, she had to go big in debt -- she ended up maxing out at 15! David tried to build an east-west corridor, but corridors are not loops! Dan had a lot of trouble visualizing on this crazy map but still (eventually) did manage to build a loop. He also benefited from many of Luann's deliveries, where one link was his (he also used her link from time to time). However, my early income growth allowed me to keep winning the auctions when I needed to. That, and the fact that no one ever went south, gave me the win!

The Paris map is to Age of Steam what Power Grid is to Funkenschlag: the main difference is that routes are fixed and players just pay to claim them. But there is one other important change: the limit to claiming one link per turn (without Engineer). That makes it much more difficult ramping up income from early multi-link deliveries. The Fly Boat might be very good if it basically turns the river into a link (which, now that I've been thinking about it, is probably what it was meant to be).

Our game, near the end (not many cubes left!):


Overall, this is a pretty good map but I generally prefer having bigger rule changes, rather than just cosmetic ones. Eliminating track builds should, however, make this a speedier map to play. And in fact, the limited links and early deliveries are kind of interesting! I wouldn't mind trying this again, especially after getting some rules questions answered! I think I'll go ahead and try putting together a play-by-web version using Steam base rules (once I figure out how powerful the Fly Boat is, and where to put it in the turn order)!

--- Rule Summary ---
- Setup: New cities start with 1 cube on them. Colored districts along Seine get 2 cubes, not along Seine get 1 cube.
- Turn Order changed to Fly Boat: allows you to move ONE cube along river; requires engine level 1 if going downstream, or 2 if upstream; only earns ONE income. I am NOT CLEAR if this is supposed to be the entirety of the delivery (which is how we played it), or if it can be just one part of a longer route -- hopefully Alban will answer soon!
- Build: no track lays. Instead, just take control of ONE link for $6; Engineer may take TWO links for total $10
- Urbanize: place New City tile, along with the cube on it, into a white district; it becomes the color of the New City
- End of game: We guessed district connections were worth 3VP since they cost $6 = 3 plain tracks in typical AoS. Looks like it's now been answered in another post for Alban -- we were right, 3VP each!
 
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23. Board Game: Shipyard [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:476]
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Dan, Luann, Greg, and me.

Dan taught us -- I'd played once before, 3 years and 3 days prior, but D and L were new. And we were interrupted for the Puzzle event, but very briefly -- it was over in less than 30 minutes! The rest had set up a game of Traumfabrik to play while I was gone, but the puzzling finished so quickly they didn't get the chance! This ended up being my last game of the night. Actual play time was probably around 2.5 hours?

Three years was definitely too long between plays! This was a very fun game, probably one of the best I played at this TBGT! I enjoy the rondel mechanism, where you take small actions in a specific sequence. They're really almost micro actions -- you have to decide what to do, then do it over several turns. This game is a game of rondels (and set collection, tile laying, auctioning, and timing).

The main rondel (random order initially, then based on player choices) is where you choose which action to take. Unlike most rondels, though, you may choose any action (except the one you were on last turn); and the further back you go, the more cash you earn. Most of those actions correspond to other rondels (or at least displays) where you can buy or acquire a variety of technology (to modify rules or actions), or ship-related stuff like hulls (with a variety of features), crew, propellers, sails, smokestacks, etc. You also acquire little tiles with rivers and icons on them -- use to build a little test track river for the boats you build. Eventually, you finish building the hull, add equipment and crew, and send your boat on a test run on your little river. The various additions determine the speed of your boat, which sets the distance traveled along the test river and give you VP. As you go, you pass over icons which may give you VP as well (depending on what's on your ship).

Each lap around the main rondel is one round; the game ends after one round/player. At the start of the game, everyone gets a hand of VP cards. Part way through the game, everyone must discard all but two for their end-game VP. These contracts have wide-ranging VP values, which are added to points earned during the game. Others have complained about imbalanced final contracts, and Dan had the one that's apparently the worst offender (he chose to ignore it and do something else).

This is a very enjoyable game with tension in the Glen More-like action selection, set collection, and multiple rondel goodness! I hope it's not another 3 years before the next play!
 
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24. Board Game: Imperial Settlers [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:155]
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SUNDAY

Mary (teacher), John, and me.

We got there at 10:30 -- WAKE UP, Babe!! -- and soon rounded up someone. Mary had played this yesterday (?) as the Japanese and NOT had a good time. But it's getting so much buzz (and currently rated 7.99)! So I convinced her to give it a try. She took Egyptians, vs. Barbarians (me) and Romans (John).

Players each have their own, nation-specific deck. In addition, there's a common deck of cards. There are 5 rounds in the game, each with the same sequence:
1. Draw one card from your own deck, then draft 2 cards from the common deck.
2. Produce resources based on your race and the cards in your tableau
3. In turn order, players use their resources and cards in their display to take a single action, continuing until everyone passes. Actions allow you to draw more cards, play cards into your display, activate cards (for resources, cards, VP, etc.), convert resources, etc.
4. Cleanup: discard all your remaining resources, except whatever your nation can store.

Each nationality plays differently, with cards that give everyone different abilities. The common cards can be built into your display, like the nation cards, but can also be raided to get more resources. You can also raze other players' common cards (and the Japanese player's cards) for resources. If a player's card is raided, as compensation they get one wood (resource). Also, razed cards are not totally useless: they flip upside down to become foundations, which can be used the help play other cards. Still, you do lose the card's special ability! Fortunately, there's not necessarily a lot of raiding -- the required swords are not so plentiful!

Wow, cool game! It doesn't seem particularly balanced, but that could just be inexperience talking. Or maybe the Egyptians are just too easy to play / strong? I definitely want to play this again! I had a copy in my hand about a week ago, but returned it because of box damage ... I wonder if Amazon has any more?
 
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25. Board Game: De Vulgari Eloquentia [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:904]
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Luann, Christian, Jyoti, Lori, and me

Upon returning from lunch at Dim Sum House (yummy!), Lori kindly found me and invited me to join. Yay! She had set up a game previously but I had to bail (Age of Steam commitment time conflict). I got this some time ago, but never opened it hoping to play it first. So it worked out! Jyoti had played once before (last year?) but the rest of us were new -- thanks for teaching, Lori!

The game reminds me of Siena, but cleaned up quite a bit (although I think I only played that once, years ago). Here, everyone starts out as a merchant in Italy during the middle ages. You can stay a merchant, or enter the religious life by becoming a friar (then possibly advancing to a Cardinal, Camerlengo, or Pope). There are a variety of options with varying costs, basically 1-5 action points (here, you use discs) you spend each turn. You go about visiting cities, gaining knowledge and/or money the first time you visit each city. You can get support from politicians and nobles (cubes), research at the Papal Library (for VP), etc. At the end of the game, players use their cubes to buy some (or a lot!) of VP. You get additional VP for the various things you've done during the game -- collecting manuscripts, advancing along various tracks, leftover cubes and money, etc. Most VP wins.

Fun game! It took us nearly 3 hours, but I'd expect things to be faster after the first play. In some ways it feels very thematic: traveling around, living life, studying to gain knowledge, paying your way into the higher ranks! But the game is supposed to be about the development of the common language in Italy, with players doing their parts in creating that language. That part of the theme is, for me, almost completely absent -- I just feel like I'm running around doing stuff to earn VP! Maybe if I knew more about the history here, it would me feel the theme more? Regardless, it was fun; may have to break the shrink on my copy of the game!
 
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