GCL Phoenix 201: Lost in translation (2014-11-09)
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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mb Welcome to the Phoenix Game Chat League! mb

mb ABOUT GCL mb PHOENIX DIVISION mb SUBSCRIPTION THREAD mb

If you stumbled upon this geeklist by accident or through your subscriptions, please read the GameChat League Wiki page for information about what this is all about. Visitors are welcome to make constructive comments, or at least thumb the list so we can see who's been by, but please leave adding items to members.

rynelf kindly reminded me that it was my turn to host a list. I've been... meaning to rejoin the party, but these days if I'm not at work or forcing myself to be social I'm curled up with my iPad playing games too silly to admit to. I don't know what's good out of Essen or what to get excited about for BGG.con or what to buy of the new games...

So, that does invite a theme... What we've loved, what we've lost, what we don't we've got till it's gone.

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1. Board Game: A Box of Silly Word Games [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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Are there any games you play that you wouldn't normally admit to, perhaps a silly pleasure on your smartphone or online?

Feel free to set up a new BGG account just for the purpose of an anonymous confessional.

For example, I don't log that I've had Candy Crush on every iOS device (iPhone, iPad) I've ever owned.
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2. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:294]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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What games, gamers, or gaming circles have you lost that you'd like to have back?

I miss the social environment of Dukefish where I really got my gaming start...
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3. Board Game: Chantilly: Jackson's Missed Opportunity [Average Rating:5.48 Unranked]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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Are there any games you would have really liked to try, but you missed the phase where your buddies all got into it and by the time you got a chance, nobody else around you wanted to play it any more? (Or worse yet, they were all so far above your skill level that you had no chance to learn it on an even footing?)

For example, I missed most of the Agricola wave when it was new and was so uncompetitive when I tried to pick it up that it wasn't any fun.
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4. Board Game: MarraCash [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:1735]
Bryan Maxwell
United States
Burtchville
Michigan
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MarraCash x 1

Introduced the game to 3 more people, all of whom were impressed with it. I finished last. Like a boss.

Hoyuk x 1

Just another eurogame. I went into detail last week, but I found Hoyuk neither good nor bad. It just is.

Dominion x 2

I won a couple of 3-player games today. Thinking about bumping this and Race out of my top 10. I love both, but the lack of lasting, memorable plays bugs me about both.

Snowdonia x 1

3-player Snowdonia saw it end 132-99-91 with me in the middle. We played the basic scenario, with the least experienced player winning. I do love me some Snowdonia.



"November has tied me to an old, dead tree
Get word to April to rescue me"
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5. Board Game: Neue Heimat [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:1537]
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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Despite being sick for a couple days I managed to get some games played. laugh

Games Played:

_9_ Age of Industry x1
Japan map with my boys. Youngest son grabbed the majority of ship spaces and got all his packaging industry out to win with 45 while my rails infrastructure got me 37 and oldest son had 28.

_8_ Abluxxen x1
First game played at Second Saturday event. My daughter joined me and we had a five player game with Caleb, Ross, and Will. We only played one round with Ross, my daughter, and myself scored 12 while Caleb and Will tied at 16.

_9_ Neue Heimat x1
My daughter teamed up with youngest son and Will, Ross, and Caleb joined in for this one. I tried all smuggling all the time but got hit with the mayor and incomplete row to be farthest back at -22. Ross scored -8 while Caleb sneaked into positive territory with 1, and my son had second place with 24 while Will edged him out to win with 25.

_6_ Love Letter x1
Two quick rounds of Love Letter with five of us (youngest son/daughter team, Ross, Caleb, Will and myself).

_5_ Camel Up x1 New!
Mindy arrived a little late but brought this and we played with seven players, with youngest son sitting out but oldest son joining in. It played pretty quickly and scores were all over the place:
Mindy 6, Ross 6, Jon 10, my oldest son 13, Caleb 16, Will 16, and my daughter won with 21. She liked it and thought the camels were funny. I would play again but didn't feel the need to pick it up.

_5_ Concept x1 New!
Mindy also brought this one and we did a round with Will picking up the most light bulbs but most of us got at least one clue right. Scoring doesn't seem to make sense for this and it falls into the same categoy as something like Dixit for me. Another one I'm happy to play but don't need to have.
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6. Board Game: Boom: Runaway [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:7778]
SJ S
United States
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Konig von Siam x1 3P
the game came down to the tiebreaker of the tiebreaker rule! (not in my favor, sadly) nail biter! every time i play this i'm amazed at how much tension can be created with 8 little cards. i'm still not sure whether the best approach is to play this analytically, or intuitively. would love to try the 4P partnership of this game.

Potato Man x3 3P
did not enjoy these plays. all three of us had very odd card draws... all low cards that couldn't catch a darn thing.... or only one or two cards of a color. the session was distinctly lacking in fun.

Boom Runaway x3 3P
loved this! it's a simple, simultaneous action card game with a hilarious "theme" and fun art. so much laughter!!! i was a little worried as i had read negative reviews while my copy was en route to me, and some folks that i consistently agree with found it lacking. eeek! but, thankfully, this one was a big winner for our group! good silly fun. i also learned some interesting information about my game group - apparently none of us can add.

Red7 x2 3P
introduced this to two new players and they both loved it. one would sing a chorus of the BeeGee's Stayin' Alive after his turn. we played with the scoring variant. in the second game, the first hand was won using "most cards of a different color" rule and racked up an enormous score (they had two each of 6's and 7's) which felt kind of unsatisfying. we did not play with the draw more cards variant since opponents were learning for the first time. i like the game both with and without that variant.

Carcassonne: The Castle x2 2P
i love this game ridiculously!! i like building and claiming the structures, i like the tension of continuing to expand a structure or finishing it to get a wall bonus, and i like the combination of short term and long term scoring goals. i am thinking of trying it with a 3-tile draw based on a recommendation i saw elsewhere. has anyone tried that?

Ra x1 4P
this went so. much. better. than my first play. i actually understood what to do on my turn! and why my monument tiles were being taken away. (!!!) i must have been overtired on my first play. i thought of it like "Piece O'Cake Pie" per Eric's suggestion last week.

Pandemic: The Cure x1 4P
this one is going up for trade/sale. i don't enjoy it. i was hoping it would be a portable version of the original but it doesn't even feel like the same game, at least not to me. as i mentioned, i play a lot with my family and with non-gamers so i was very hopeful for this... :super-disappointed-emoticon:

non-gaming: i had a work catastrophe wednesday and worked 2 almost-all-nighters. i haven't done that in... well, a very long time. i'm still sleepy

the week ahead: i have some games coming in from Japan. they were supposed to arrive Friday, so hopefully i'll see them Monday. really really looking forward to trying these out!
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7. Board Game: Viticulture [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:121]
Albatros
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

_8_ Viticulture x3 New!
_7_ Greenland x2 New!


The Week in Review

The arrival of two parcels this week was celebrated by playing two of the games that they contained (although I'm quite eager to try Panamax and Sail to India as well).

Viticulture was received quite well by S. Even before she admitted it was one of the better ones we'd played of late, I got a sense that she was engaged by it when I watch her examine and re-examine her cards like the old days of London.

Our three plays have been enjoyable although I find, with the cards, there's quite a bit of chance and though you might suss out some short term strategy to fill a contract or best use a card, it's very tactical in nature.

There are a few mechanics that jar my thematic sensibilities. The one that bothers me the most is that the grapes age. Never mind that you have to wait until the Spring to sell them, they get better with age. Shouldn't they just rot if they don't sell immediately or get turned into wine?


Greenland's two plays were both today between just S and I. Now that we've learned it, I'm almost certain it'd be more interesting as a three-player so hopefully we can convince P that hunting walrus and narwhal is more interesting that fighting zombies or sealing gates to the Outer World.

I'm not certain that Greenland has a lot of replayability in spite of the randomness of the event cards and the North/South Greenland cards. I think it could get "samey" fairly fast since at it's core, it's a dice rolling game - a sort of sophisticated Ancient Terrible Things. Although I have never played Pax Porfiriana, I just sense it's a deeper, heavier game.


The Week Ahead

S and I have both tomorrow and Tuesday off this week (Tuesday is Remembrance Day) so hopefully we'll be able to explore the new games a bit more. Other than that, no real plans at this point.

Unplayed games of note still in shrink: Yunnan, De Vulgari Eloquentia, Revolution: The Dutch Revolt 1568-1648, Panamax, and Sail to India. Also two expansions for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game: The Black Riders and The Road Darkens.
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8. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:50]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 8Nov2014:

20/20/496 plays of 15/15/200 total games, with 4/4/23 expansions employed.
Plays with 16/16/81 distinct opponents.

2/2/46 games acquired (plus 3/3/15 expansions.) - Lords of Creation, Panamax, Stone Age: Casino, Terra Mystica: Bonus Card Shipping Value and Russian Railroads: Mini-Expansion.
0/0/15 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/6 expansions.)
0/0/21 games ordered (plus 0/0/11 expansions.)
Orders for 6 games and 3 expansions still outstanding.

With son #2:
3x _7_ Tumblin-Dice - Multiple days of play: we flung the dice; we pretended we knew what we were doing; and it was a load of fun. The naive assertions of competence were perhaps a bit less than completely truthful, but we certainly managed the occasional fling that went roughly where we intended. Just enough for confirmation bias to set in.
2x _7.7_ The City - Forgot to include this one. This is one of his favourites: he likes the fact that the decisions are significant; the duration is short; that there's sufficient randomness that each game both of us have a chance to win. It's really quite cute.
1x _9_ Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization - I really like this one: and son #2 was a charming and competent opponent. We finished four points apart, despite taking dramatically different paths through the decision space.
...and adding daughter #1:
2x _7.3_ Nacht der Magier (43 months dusty) - This one is dramatically over-rated due to the historic delight of my youngsters with the game. I can't claim it's great; but I can assert that it's charming and also quite a bit unlike anything else we regularly play.

With the Wednesday Night guys (and son #2):
1x _7.7_ Trollmaster - I'd not played this for a couple months. And since no-one else is recording a play of it - it seemed like a reasonable idea. Fortunately, I rather like it - and this bunch is happy to play, too.
1x _7.7_ Russian Railroads (with Mini-Expansion New!) - Many thanks to Rich for the expansion: we found it charming. I failed miserably at the game in the context of the new options - and came a dismal last place - but the other guys all did well (and they enjoyed my incompetence: and why not?)

With the Lunch gang (both Monday and Friday in this week):
1x _7.3_ 11 nimmt! - Cute; entertaining; I'd be happy to pick up a copy at some point. It's a pleasant comfort game.
1x _7.7_ (76 months dusty) - This is one of my favourite trick-takers. It's a bit hard to get to the table, because it (pretty much) only works with 5; and it requires some practice; and it's not particularly simple to explain. But in the right context it's very very charming. And this was a good instance of the game.
1x _8_ Sticheln - I suspect this is my favourite trick-taker of all. It's primal, and (optionally) nasty, and easy to explain, and I've had fun with it at its complete range of players (and though it's arguably "better" with fewer players it's silly fun at the full completment.)
1x _7.7_ China (111 months dusty) - Jeff played this one really well: and I enjoyed it. The changes from Web of Power are interesting: the insistance that everyone has an even collection of turns is a good one; making each province only score once is probably reasonable; but I'm still not quite convinced about the four card display.

With some of Aliza's gang:
1x _6.7_ Can't Stop - Quick two-player game as a summoning ritual. Successful, too: there were a bunch of us by the time this was done.
3x _7_ Escape from the Hidden Castle - One of our participants is a youngster - so this one is chosen to amuse her. It does: she's a gracious winner, happy when she comes abjectly last, finds (along with her distinctly-older opponents) the game charming.
1x _5.5_ Martian Dice New! - I wasn't completely convinced by this one. Push-one's-luck dice games aren't my idea of quality gaming. I'm certainly willing to play: but even ones I "like" (Pickomino and Can't Stop for example) I don't rate very highly.
1x _6_ Sunken City New! - It's cute and harmless. And there's probably good play and bad amidst the multiplayer chaos, but it wasn't exceptionally in evidence this time out.
1x _10_ Race for the Galaxy (with first arc) - I was soundly defeated in this one, which was excellent. I'm (usually) not a terrible RftG player, but I couldn't get anything going in this instance. It was still delightful to play.

With SJ and other GCL folk on orderofthehammer.com:
1x _8.5_ Brass: Lancashire - Many thanks to the gang on this one: it was my best finish ever for Brass (I don't think I'd ever placed better than 3rd of 4 before.) More than that, I began to see some traction in the way I think about the game. Not that I'll do as well again anytime soon - but I think I have some new tools for reasoning about the way the game mutates.

Owned-and-unplayed: 3 (+2/-0) - Lords of Creation and Panamax arrived.

Outlook for the week: Hopefully we play Panamax this Wednesday. It'd be great if a couple of us show up for games this coming Friday, too. And son #2 and I will probably have a lovely game of Mage Knight. Anything else is bonus.
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9. Board Game: Panamax [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:466]
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Games Played

.10! Race for the Galaxy 1
.10! Hanabi 1
_9_ Magic: The Gathering 1
_8_ Hansa Teutonica 1
_8_ Space Alert 3
_7_ Lagoon: Land of Druids 1 New!
_7_ Imperial Settlers 1
_7_ Greed 1
_5_ Panamax 1 New!
_4_ Abluxxen 1 New!

Week in Review

Space Alert Tuesdays returned after a week off. We have been playing with the campaign system and the three of us who have played the most are now up to level 3, which means next week we can use the fancy split cards for our primary skillset. I'm loving getting more plays of this. I also caved in and got Zombie 15', based on intriguing reviews from Shut Up & Sit Down and Marco Arnaudo. I may play some of this on an upcoming Tuesday with the Space Alert crew.

I kickstarted Lagoon in large part because the designer was local and I liked that the backer reward was a simple and elegant upgrade of the cardboard chits to wooden tokens. The game arrived this week and I got it the table for a 2P game. It's quite interesting though I do have a concern that good play is very slow. The game quickly provides a LOT of options for manipulating the positions of your pieces and doing this well is key. I am never comfortable with staring at a board for five minutes while my opponent waits for their turn so this can be a major impediment to play. Still, it is gorgeous and interesting so I should get to play it at least a couple more times before the final verdict rolls in. I hope to try the 3P and 4P games (the latter being a team game).

Imperial Settlers has settled down to a 7 and I think I like it there. That feels about right. I've now played four times, twice each at 2P and 4P and once as each faction. I like the 4P game more but the 2P game has a great pace. I should make an effort to do this 3P as it might be a good sweet spot. I seem to be very sensitive to player count lately!

Panamax and Abluxxen I discussed in comments below.

Race for the Galaxy was a pleasure as I played a good friend who usually curb stomps me; she's played about 800 more times than I have. I beat her, which felt great until I found out she was sick and went to the hospital the next day. So that's how I did it... I'll take what I can get!

Magic was a single EDH play with the new Commander 2014 release. We played a 3P affair with the black, green and red decks right out of the box. These decks are more pushed in power level than the 2011 and 2013 sets, seeming to have fewer weak filler cards. The red deck in particular had very dangerous-seeming artifact recursion abilities. Bojuka Bog did good work against him but we both lost to the green deck's swarm of elves with multiple Overrun effects.
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10. Board Game: Progress: Evolution of Technology [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:1622]
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United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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Good gaming week:

Sunday
Machi Koro x2

Monday
Machi Koro x3

Tuesday
Machi Koro
Mille Sabords

Wednesday
Mille Sabords x2

Thursday
Roll Through the Ages: Iron Age

Friday
Progress - new

Saturday
Progress

Sunday
Progress


We had two questions about the rulebook for Progress; in posting them to the forums, someone gave an answer which didn't answer my question, but did make us realize we'd been missing another rule. Our third game was noticeably different with that rule in place (using cards under construction as prerequisites, rather than waiting for them to be finished).

I did an unexpected things in Iron Age; I built my developments quickly and stopped the game before Sam had a chance to really start using his mighty navy. It worked, and I won the game.

Yesterday we drove to a new town to check out a house listing, and discovered we really liked the town. Unfortunately, our realtor told us the house already has an accepted offer on it, but we'll be watching closely for another one.
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11. Board Game: Glass Road [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:207]
R. Eric Reuss
United States
Massachusetts
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_9_ Innovation: Figures in the Sand
_7_ Glass Road (new!)
_6_ Rialto

My first game of Glass Road. The automatic conversion of resources on the wheel was an interesting / infuriating twist on the usual Uwe Rosenberg Festival of Resources. The role selection-and-playing head-games were faintly interesting, with promise of more once everyone at the table internalized the 15 different roles. (As it was, most of the predictions and clever plays were limited to roles involving building.) I appreciate that the game's only 4 rounds: it felt like not enough time, in a positive sort of way. (Contrast to Castles of Burgundy, which goes 5 rounds but I always feel like should end at 4.)

My second game of Rialto. I started with 3 money (3rd in turn seating), so concentrated on Doge / Buildings / Money early on, only placing councilors in one of the first four districts. I won by roughly the value of my buildings (22 points). I see how cards invested in councilors can in theory be much more efficient point-wise than buildings are, but it seems much dicier in practice.

And an impromptu game of Innovation: Figures in the Sand (no Echoes of the Past) which turned into one of the most enjoyable Innovation games I've ever played - a lovely two-player head-to-head that went the full distance, with deliberate interaction (board/icon threats, board/hand attacks, counters and counterattacks, age/tempo shenanigans, etc) the whole way along.

~ ~ ~

Spirit Island development goes well, though I'm about half a week behind where I'd hoped to be with BGG.CON barreling down. I'm in the middle of addressing some undesirable dynamics - too much tempo acceleration, and a dominant strategy on spirit growth - that snuck in during changes earlier this year. They're mostly relevant with experienced players, but the fixes involve things that will impact new players, so I want to try and get at least one or two demo/tests in to verify that they're not problematic.

~ ~ ~

Outside of games: Our son went over to play at my sister + brother-in-law's place a pair of times while my wife was away. It went really well - he's asked to go back - which is awesome. And they got to see him at a time other than just before bedtime; he was apparently happy pretty much the whole time he was there. Hooray!
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12. Board Game: Concert Hall [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
Ebeltoft
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Games Played Week 45:

7.6 Archipelago x4
8.0 Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy x2
8.0 Yedo x3

The Week in Review:
Great week in terms of gaming and for edging closer to completing my 10x10 challenge. Also, a couple of concerts, one so-so and one AWESOME, plus a stand-up show, hence the item of the week.

It wasn't before the weekend we got going in terms of gaming, though. Saturday we were both very tired after the concert Friday (the AWESOME one) but we still had 2 tight games of Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy and in between a game of Yedo.

Sunday was more relaxed and we managed a total of 6 plays, split between Archipelago and Yedo. The former is interesting. I think we have settled on the medium game which is about 50-55 minutes for us and gives us enough in terms of exploration but not so much that you feel bad when you lose the game because you just sold your last fish. The latter was one blow-out and one tight affair. We enjoy the game and I think it is one we will continue to play.

The Week Ahead:
No planned events, though we do get the kids home. M. today and E. on Friday. I am looking forward to a weekend with no plans.

A Kickstarter shipment arrived yesterday with 3 games, though they will have to wait. That said, I am getting eager to play some new games soon.
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13. Board Game: AquaSphere [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:355]
W M
United Kingdom
Rugby
Warwickshire
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I made it to Rugby on Board last night and we played new hotness Rolling Japan (geek links not working for me) and AquaSphere - one Feld's latest offerings.

Why do I keep subjecting myself to Feld? I almost never enjoy his games. I warned the others that I would probably grump through it, and did, though somewhat good naturedly. The game is complex, exhausting and not my cup of tea. You are running around an undersea research base harvesting points,, and aiming for an efficiency in actions, which, through the nature of available choices dictated by the game and changing each round, are always unobtainable. There is a certain amount of take-that - when taking actions you are also gaining areas to score majority points, and can be knocked out by others. This can be a somewhat poisoned chalice as those areas are infiltrated by invading octopi which detract from end round scoring.

The points element was brushed over during our quick rules review, and I wasn't entirely appraised of the dangers of gaining areas with large numbers of the purple octopus. The three other players scores surged ahead, while I stayed just above zero for the first three rounds of the game as the invading hordes multiplied instead concentrating on collecting cards for in game bonuses and building a ship for end game points. On the final turn I pulled off a huge point swing, gaining an overall majority of areas and completing my ship. It wasn't quite sufficient - final scores were very close 75,74, my 73 and a tailgating 55.

Rolling Japan was a bit like reverse suduko bingo - quick, mathy and painful.


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14. Board Game: Patchistory [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:790]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Last week's plays:

|9| Boggle (x10)
|9| Terra Mystica (+Fire & Ice New!; 4 Town Tiles)
|9| Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
-7- Abraca... what?
-7- Can't Stop (+Rollin' Down the Highway New!) (x2)
-7- Dragon Run
-7- Identik
-6- Doodle City
-6- La Isla New!
-6- Patchistory New! (x2)
-6- Roll Through the Ages
-6- String Railway
-5- Tragedy Looper
N/A Start Player

The big new game this week was Patchistory. In the first game, we only got through the rules and the first era before we ran out of time. That experience made teaching the next game a lot easier and we finished a three-player game in 3 hours. I think I might prefer it with four, despite the extra time, because it felt like the game needed more competition for some of the strategies. Kate had a combination of wonders that allowed her to honour them for 10VPs a turn. I was able to threaten her militarily but it seemed like we needed another military player to keep her culture engine in check or someone else also bidding for key wonders.

There are some nice mechanisms here. I enjoyed the patching of tiles and the spatial elements involved there. Trade routes are interesting, but I wonder how much they'll come into play given that it seems so expensive to buy the extra workers you'd need to use more than one or two. There are a lot of optional actions you can use Politics for, which suggests the game can play out in many different ways – we didn't do any Aid or very much Building in our game. We were all very taken by the scoring of Progress cards at the end of each era, but the shine was taken off that somewhat when I learned that there was an error in the rulebook in the section about tied votes. The Stuntkite rules indicate that if more than one Progress card is tied for the fewest votes, all cards are discarded. I thought that created some tense decisions about what to vote for, because some players would want to create ties when they weren't scoring highly, others would try to avoid a tie and vote accordingly. It turns out the rule is you only discard the tied cards, which is a more predictable mechanism.

In the first game, Politics felt very important and none of us had enough. In the second game, I concentrated on getting the most Politics only to find that coins were extremely important too. Matt was rolling in money and was able to win whatever card he chose in each auction. I usually ended up taking the least popular choice of tile, which tended to be the one with military on it. So I went down the route of attacking others where I could, but that wasn't easy because they could top up their strength with defence bonuses or by paying resources.

Another point of confusion in the Stuntkite rulebook: Early on in the rulebook, Defence is defined as being the total of your military swords and defensive shields, but during conflicts it says to add Military and Defence values together to give the defender's total strength, which would then equal swords + (swords + shields). Does it really mean you should count swords twice in that way? It didn't make sense to us, so we assumed that Defence = Swords + Shields, although that's not what the rulebook says. I can't see how you could win a battle as the attacker otherwise.

All in all, I thought it was quite good but it didn't have the spark that Through the Ages showed on its first couple of plays. It felt closer to Nations which was fair for a couple of plays but I've never been enthused enough to play frequently.

The other new game this week was La Isla, a very light mix of stock holding, area influence and constructing card combos. Collect animals of five types by surrounding them on the board, manipulate their values on a simple stock market and, with typical Feldian generosity, score points for doing almost anything. It's an extremely simple game. The challenge, I suppose, comes in hand management and watching that you're collecting a better set of animals than your opponents, or leeching off their stock manipulation.

I played a couple of new expansions. Our game of Terra Mystica: Fire & Ice added too many new options for my liking: we had a new board, three new factions out of four players and additional endgame scoring rules. It was hard to judge each element on its own and I'd have preferred to play with just the new factions on the old board. I tried the Yetis - their power-related abilities appealed to me. I made good use of them too, with an early Temple giving me a 4 power income. Unfortunately, poor initial placement led to me being hemmed in and unable to compete adequately for either of the endgame scoring criteria (I blame the fact that I was making everyone tea while the crucial first pieces were being played!). Kate won with Shapeshifters but the result has an asterisk against it since we played a rule wrong early on and couldn't think of a good way to correct it. The first time she shapeshifted to a different terrain, she immediately built on that terrain, blocking me in in the process. We didn't realise until later that I should have had a turn to build there in response to her move. Shapeshifters seemed powerful in this game. I'm keen to try more of the new factions and introduce the other new elements slowly too.

After two plays of Can't Stop: Rollin' Down the Highway, I can't say I was impressed. Now whenever you stop moving your runners, you pick up the tiles from the spaces you ended up on, some good, some bad. The best ones you can save to manipulate dice values on future throws. The winning tactic here seemed to be to stop early on your first turn or two, collect a few of the special tokens, then use them to blitz your way to the top of the tracks. There was much less risk management than usual and our games were over faster. The expansion makes the game a little different, I don't think it makes it better, it's just a novelty which I guess we might add in occasionally.

We squeezed Roll Through the Ages into a spare twenty minutes. From what little I've seen of it, I prefer the Late Bronze Age expansion, but I couldn't remember all the rules for it and didn't have the score sheets printed off, so we stuck with the base game.

I gave Tragedy Looper a third play. This time I was the Mastermind for three new players and we just had time for the first scenario. It went much smoother and was enjoyed by all. I was better able to explain the game and get us up and running quickly, but I'd forgotten any of the strategic conclusions I'd drawn from the first time I ran it. So I went back to the Mastermind handbook and followed the hints there for the first day. After that, I recalled enough to make my own plans. I now think that following the suggested plays in the handbook gives too much information away to the Protagonists too soon. When I run it again, I'll try a more subtle strategy. The Protagonists looked like they'd beat me easily on Day Loop 2 of 3, but made a fatal mistake and tried to move a character into an illegal location. That gave me another chance but they were still able to win on Day Loop 3.

We were playing with full table talk, which is fine for a learning game but makes things way too easy for the Protagonists. The rulebook suggests banning all talk except between loops, but I think that would spoil the experience if nobody could say anything most of the time. One idea I've read about on BGG is permitting table talk at all points except when cards are being played. So as soon as the Mastermind plays their first card, there's to be no talking until the last Protagonist has played. I think that would work nicely, leaving open the possibility that Protagonists make mistakes but not being too difficult for them. This scenario felt too hard for me to win: three minds against one with freedom to discuss anything they liked. I just had to hope they'd overlook one of my options and make the wrong responses. On the other hand, I was teaching them how to play so I corrected their mistakes which resulted from not having remembered the rules properly, but not the ones that came from errors of logic.
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