My First BGG.con - with comments on various new games
Zoe M
Canada
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I arrived with Mark on Tuesday evening for my very first BGG.con. He had attended before in 2011, but this was a brand new experience for me. So of course I had to record every detail.

We had prepared in advance with a list of games that we wanted to try, and Mark had also arranged several sales and purchases at the Virtual Flea Market (of course, the purchases outnumbered the sales). And we also wanted to leave plenty of unscheduled time just to wander around and see where the con would take us.

We knew we were off to a good start when we got to our hotel room and found that it included an amazing gaming table with two chairs:



I've almost never seen something like this before. Usually there's only one normal chair and one immobile armchair, and usually the desk can't be moved either. But this arrangement was just perfect for gaming. It was nice to know that we'd be able to retreat on occasion from the chaos of the con and play a few games in our room, without even sitting on the floor. (There would be plenty of sitting on the floor while waiting to get started on Wednesday morning....)

Anyway, we had a great time at the con; many games were played and many others were acquired.

These are our games played each day; my favourites are marked with an asterisk:

Tuesday
Vye

Wednesday
Fields of Arle
CV x2
*Steam Park
Crokinole x2
(Pitchcar x 3 - Mark only)

Thursday
*Trains: Rising Sun
Legacy: Gears of Time
Blueprints
*Mysterium (Tajemnicze Domostwo)
Ginkgopolis
SOS Titanic

Friday
Deus
Samurai Spirit x2
Orléans
Coconuts
*Evolution
Alchemists

Saturday
*Tiny Epic Galaxies
Nations: The Dice Game
*Roads and Boats
Legacy: Gears of Time

Sunday
Quantum
Equinox
*Roll for the Galaxy

I'm adding comments on all these games below, along with entries for games acquired and other fun things like the puzzle hunt.
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1. Board Game: Vye: The Card Game of Capture and Control [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:2892]
Zoe M
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As we wandered around looking for one quick game to play on Tuesday evening, Debbie invited us to try out their print-n-play of this Kickstarter game that's been funded but not yet produced. It was easy to learn and quick to play, so it was exactly what we needed. I'd be interested in trying it with fewer players as well, because there was a lot of chaos and unpredictability with five.

I really appreciated Debbie's friendliness as we looked for a group to join on our first night. Most people were absorbed in their heavier games, but Debbie and Travis had deliberately brought something quick and accessible and were actively welcoming anyone passing by. Thank you! We also ended up running into each other multiple times during the con, and eventually managed to play another game together on Saturday evening.

Verdict: Would be interesting to try with two, but don't need to rush out and buy
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2. Board Game: Fealty [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:2391]
Zoe M
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On Wednesday morning, when the con was officially scheduled to begin, we went down for an 8:00 breakfast and then headed over to the check-in line. We got there shortly before 9, and the doors were opening at 10. I had expected it to feel like a long wait, but the time actually flew by. I had brought a good book to read, and there were occasional trivia questions or other challenges to pass the time (I received a coupon for 10 GG, which I need to remember to redeem). But what really made the time fly by was when someone announced that there was a display of the free games at a table by the front. We could go and look and plan in advance what we'd like to choose: one each from Group A and Group B.




These were the groups, though I have no idea which one was A and which one was B:

Milestones
Rialto
Il Vecchio
Sparta
Caveman Curling
Revolver 2
World Conquerors
Vampire Empire

Fealty
Money
Uptown
Train of Thought
Jab
Pirates TacDex
FlowerFall
For the Win
RoboTroc
Mückenstich, Danger, Zwickern
Blazing Aces (book)
Castles of Burgundy expansion boards

I was really excited to see Fealty there, because I think it's a great game that tends to be overlooked. We're actually planning to include it in our 10x10 challenge next year. My first instinct was that I should choose that one, even though of course it would make no sense to choose a game that we already own.

Instead, I sat down with my iPad and started researching. This was made more challenging by the fact that BGG kept seeming to go down during this time period, but I did eventually manage to find out what I needed to know about all the games. I had two basic criteria: is it reasonably highly rated, and does it play well with two? This helped guide me away from my initial impulse to choose the games with the largest boxes--and now I see why publishers tend to make game boxes too big, because it really does increase the games' appeal :/

Anyway, the upshot is that trying to investigate all the games in the limited time available made it feel like the time was just flying by. We also spent some time engaged in conversation with a lovely woman from Israel whose name I unfortunately didn't catch, and even spotted our new Vye friends from the night before just a couple of spots ahead of us in line.
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3. Board Game: Outside the Scope of BGG [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:2544]
Zoe M
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Also while waiting in line, we met up with the woman selling meeple ornaments to pick up the ornaments that we had ordered in advance. So cute . They made me feel so happy and Christmas-y, especially because she included some home-baked cookies as well! Mmm. And we even got a bonus ornament because she wasn't sure which shade of blue we had wanted. Thanks,

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San Antonio
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4. Board Game: Rialto [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:756]
Zoe M
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As soon as Mark saw this game in the display, he felt a bit silly because he had already arranged to purchase it in the Virtual Flea Market (I'm listing it out of order here because it's obviously relevant at this point in the story, even though the VFM is on Thursday night).

But it turned out there was no cause for regret, because this game was actually gone from the selection already by the time we got to the front of the line around 10:30 or 10:40. So the moral of the story is that you should just buy the games you want and not worry that they may be available for less money in the future.

Price paid: $15
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5. Board Game: Revolver 2: Last Stand at Malpaso [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:2790]
Zoe M
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This wasn't one of the games that initially stood out to me, because it was in a tin and not in a big box. But as I started researching, my impressions changed dramatically.

Vampire Empire had looked sort of silly, but when I looked it up it actually seemed like one of the more promising options: a 7.17 average rating, for a 30-minute game specifically intended for two players. We always need more shorter games. And I generally enjoy bluffing and deduction, though I don't have much experience with those aspects in two-player format.

Anyway, that game sounded pretty promising. And then I looked up Revolver 2, which sounded almost the same but better. It's another strictly two-player game, with an element of bluffing, and a pretty reasonable playtime at 45 minutes. Even more importantly, it has a very respectable average rating of 7.37. I also think I may slightly prefer a wild west theme to a vampire theme, and so I made my choice.

It's a good thing I wanted one of the less obvious choices, because several of the games were gone by the time we got to the front: both Rialto and Il Vecchio from this group, and seemingly Fealty from the other group, although that one did turn out to have some copies still available on the shelves themselves.

Price paid: $0
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6. Board Game: Milestones [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:2122]
Zoe M
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Meanwhile, Mark had been facing a tough choice between Milestones and Il Vecchio, both of which appealed for different reasons. Il Vecchio has the higher rating at 7.05, while Milestones is only at 6.66. But Milestones involves route/network-building, which I like, while the general concept of Il Vecchio (Italian nobles trying to gain influence) didn't sound particularly appealing to me, and I don't love worker placement.

It turned out the decision didn't matter, though, because there was no decision. There were no more copies of Il Vecchio available, so Mark selected Milestones as the next most-appealing option to him.

Price paid: $0
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7. Board Game: FlowerFall [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:3846]
Zoe M
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Mark loves silly games, and is also a fan of Asmadi and Carl Chudyk, so his selection from the next group was easy. This is a party/dexterity game that involves placing flowers in your patch by dropping them and "letting them flutter through the air". We definitely don't have anything else like this in our collection.

Price paid: $0
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8. Board Game: Blockers! [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:1381]
Zoe M
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I had more trouble with the next selection. On the one hand, RoboTroc had a small box and a 15-minute playtime, and was recommended with either 2, 3, or 4 players (no particular best number). But Uptown (a 1920s re-theme of the abstract Blockers!) had a higher rating (6.73 as opposed to 6.50), and was still recommended with 2 even if it was best with 4 or 5. The mechanics appeal to me as well: area control/area influence and area enclosure always make me think happily of Go. This game was also recommended for the Spiel des Jahres in 2011, which is always a good sign. So for a variety of reasons, I decided to go with Uptown. Hopefully we'll like it with two, but we do sometimes get to play with more players as well.

Price paid: $0
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9. Board Game: Fields of Arle [Average Rating:8.17 Overall Rank:54]
Zoe M
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Well, free games are always exciting, but we did actually come to this convention to play games as well. So after getting our name tags and wristbands, we headed straight to the hot games room. Most of the games were already underway, but we found empty spots at the Arler Erde table (I know this game is supposed to be called Fields of Arle in English, but I don't like the rhythm of that English name at all). I had thought this might happen, because it's a strictly two-player game (well, two or one), so it's probably harder to get a game underway with a group of strangers.

This wasn't one of the top games on our want-to-play list, but it seemed worth a try. I have mixed feelings about Uwe's games: Agricola can be very frustrating, while Le Havre is a bit more laid back, but tends to take too long. I've never tried Caverna because the price is just too high, and I don't know anyone who owns it; it's also not at the top of my list to check out from the BGG library.

Anyway, I figured this would be a game that I would like but not love, but that was enough incentive to try it. There was just one problem: when we sat down at the table, there was no one around to teach. We picked up the rule book and prepared to struggle through. Fortunately, someone did come by after about ten minutes and was able to explain the game to us, for which I am immensely grateful. Thank you, saviour teacher! The game turned out to be so much more straightforward than the rulebook made it seem.

I'd probably rate it as comparable to Le Havre: relatively stress-free and easy to play, but a bit too long. I didn't feel the time at all while playing it, but I was surprised to look at my watch at the end and realize that it was already 1:30.

One thing I particularly liked about this game as opposed to Agricola is that I didn't feel like there was quite as much min/max-ing at the end. I was still able to look for significant points on my last turn and didn't feel like I needed to calculate 10 different possible chains of events, where I could lose one point here and one point there in order to net three points in the end.

Anyway, I was happy enough to play this game, and would play it again, but I didn't feel like I needed to run out and buy it. This is in sharp contrast to the people playing the other copy of the game beside us at the table, who packed it up after a few rounds and rushed off to buy their own copy before it sold out.

After we were done, Mark passed on the good deed of our generous teacher by teaching the game to the people beside us, while I cleaned up the copy we had been playing and set it up again for the next players.

Verdict: Would be willing to play again, but don't need to own it

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10. Board Game: Cowtown [Average Rating:4.98 Overall Rank:14116]
Zoe M
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After eating a quick lunch, we headed for the exhibitors' hall, where Mark picked up this cheap game on the basis of its cute cows. Then we wandered among the exhibitors' hall for a couple of hours, both looking at games and trying to get stamps on our bingo cards. In retrospect, the bingo cards weren't worth it at all, especially if you tried to do them properly, by interacting with each vendor for 5-10 minutes or else making a purchase. The reward at the end was 120 GG and an entry into a drawing, but I think we could have used our time better. After this first huge chunk of exhibitor time, I was completely overwhelmed and we resolved to do the rest in much smaller visits, just a few stickers at a time. It was fun to browse the games for sale, though.

Price paid (for Cowtown): $5
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11. Board Game: Empire Engine [Average Rating:5.92 Overall Rank:4698]
Zoe M
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This was another of Mark's purchases, so I don't know much about it. But the highlight of the purchase for me was the ridiculously oversized bag that it came in. I actually don't think I've seen a bag so big before.

Price paid: $10
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12. Board Game: CV [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:893]
Zoe M
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After the overstimulation of the exhibition hall, we decided to pick up some light games and head up to our room to rest for a bit. The first game we chose was CV, which I had been hoping to try for a while because of its appealing theme: you build up your life story by choosing careers, life events, etc. You roll dice to buy cards, and the dice element means that it's not a very heavy game, which is why I was reluctant to buy it at import prices--this 2013 Essen release still doesn't have a North American publisher, even though an expansion came out at Essen this year.

After playing the game, I'm glad I didn't pay $45 for it, though I would still consider buying it at a significantly lower price to play on occasion with non-gaming friends. I do find the theme entertaining, but I felt like the game went on a bit too long, especially the first time (we ended up playing it twice because of my extreme runaway victory in our first game). As with any Yahtzee-like game, there's not a lot of thinking to do on other people's turns. But I think this is something that bothers me way more than it bothers other people, as evidenced by the popularity of King of Tokyo.

Anyway, I'm glad we had a chance to try this one. It confirms my decision not to buy it at current prices, but we'd still be interested in a US release.

Verdict: Not something we need to own at the current price point. We definitely wouldn't play this much by ourselves, but for the right price it might be worth owning to play with non-gamer friends
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13. Board Game: Steam Park [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:675]
Zoe M
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After playing two games of CV, we realized that we should probably head back downstairs to get in one more multiplayer game before Mark headed off to the Pitchcar tournament at 8. Steam Park is another 2013 release that we had wanted to try, and we knew it was set up in the demo room, so we were happy to find it available for playing as soon as we stepped in the door. Someone else joined us for a three-player game, taught and supervised by the helpful demo leader.

All I had known about this game going in was that it had a realtime element and involved building theme parks. I was really impressed with the actual gameplay, which is both quick and satisfying. Steam Park feels very different from the other games out there, in a good way. There's a satisfying element of building up your own thing, but the race to finish rolling your dice means that the other players' presence is critically important. I'm pretty sure we'll buy our own copy of this game eventually, especially since the $35 Amazon price is so reasonable.

Verdict: Will probably buy eventually
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14. Board Game: Crokinole [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:75]
Zoe M
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The BGG.con crokinole boards were so pretty that we had to play a couple of games.

But the real crokinole story of the con is that this board was raffled off at the closing ceremonies, along with another board--or so it seemed. They told the winners to come up to the stage for photos and video because these were special items. The second crokinole board had some Gaelic writing on it, which could be interpreted as.... "Will you marry me?"

This is the one time when I wished I was close enough to actually see the stage. Such a great proposal idea!
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15. Board Game: PitchCar [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:316]
Zoe M
Canada
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Mark had signed up for the PitchCar tournament, but I wasn't interested in an event that could potentially go on until midnight, so I checked out a couple of solitaire games and headed up to the room to rest.

(Of course, "rest" = "start making this GeekList")

Even though I didn't personally play this game, I think it's worth mentioning as part of our joint BGG.con experience.
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16. Board Game: Trains: Rising Sun [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:699] [Average Rating:7.56 Unranked]
Zoe M
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We had been interested in this one for a while, because route-building and deck-building sounded like a good combination. But by the time it was on our radar, this other version had already been announced, with its maps specific to two players, so it seemed like it would be a much better option for us and we held off on even trying the basic version.

When we headed down to Hot Games/Demo Land first thing this morning, we saw an open table with this game laid out on it almost as soon as we walked in the door. I enjoyed the mechanics, but our first game was pretty rough because I let too much waste accumulate in my deck and generally didn't build up my deck enough, focusing instead on laying routes to distant locations. So in the end it felt like I couldn't do anything, while Mark was accomplishing anything he wanted. But when it came to the final scoring, I wasn't actually as far behind as I'd thought, losing 29 to 36. I guess my early investments were good for something, even if not for deck efficiency.

So we had to play again, and the second game went much better; I actually spent some time developing my deck before rushing off to build all the things. I won this one 30 to 20.

It seemed like this was a game we would probably buy eventually, but then the demo-er happened to mention that if we bought it at the con, they were including the GenCon promo board, which included two more two-player maps. The price was $50, compared to an MSRP of $60, Amazon price of $45, and CSI price of $40. We headed over to the exhibitor's booth and asked about future availability of the GenCon boards, and were told that they could be downloaded from the website, but I decided the properly-printed boards were worth $10 for me, so we bought the game on the spot.

Verdict: bought at BGG.con
Price paid: $50 (includes GenCon promo board)
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17. Board Game: Legacy: Gears of Time [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:1529]
Zoe M
Canada
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Debbie and Travis recommended this one very highly, so we went down to the Exhibitors' Hall to hear an explanation, and were sufficiently intrigued that we immediately checked it out from the library. We both like technology trees, and the time travel theme and the reverse development make this one particularly interesting.

We missed one important rule, though, so it's hard to assess how the first play went. We thought that failed technologies disappeared immediately, which made it particularly rough at the beginning of the game when it felt like more advanced technologies were completely useless.

Fortunately we had a chance to try this game again with Debbie and Travis on Saturday evening. They very generously offered us a spot at their table for the closing ceremony, which they had been saving since around 3pm. The game definitely works much better when played properly (surprise!), though it was also a lot slower with four players. I've heard that the sweet spot is three.

I'd like to try this game again with two players, and maybe with three as well. The steampunk-themed expansion is also very appealing. But for the moment, I don't feel like I need to own it.

Definitely worth playing again, but not something we immediately need to buy
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18. Board Game: Blueprints [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:722]
Zoe M
Canada
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Blueprints is a game about selected dice from the supply in order to build structures meeting certain scoring criteria (four of the same number, all six different numbers, five of the same colour, etc.) Unfortunately I found it sort of meh, though Mark enjoyed it more than I did. I prefer less abstract games, unless they happen to have an area control element, which this one does not. I'm also just not a fan of trying to remember every choice my opponent has made, in order to deduce which goals he's going for. I don't mind that if the opponent's actions were somehow thematic (like in games with hidden roles/traitors), but remembering which dice someone else selected just wasn't interesting to me. But this game was Mark's choice, and he did enjoy it, so I have no regrets about playing.

Verdict: I don't need to play this one again
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19. Board Game: Tajemnicze Domostwo [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:411]
Zoe M
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This game felt sort of magical. It's one of the "hot games" at the con, but we weren't even looking to play a game right at that moment. We were in one of the exhibitor rooms when we happened to see an open table with this game set up at the Portal Games booth. Merry Trzewiczek explained the game to us, and the mysterious atmosphere was heightened by the fact that the game itself was in Polish. It's extremely language-independent, but there were some basic Polish words on the character cards: what, where, and who.

I didn't know a lot about this game going in, except that it was relatively short and not a typical Euro: some of the key terms from the BGG page include deduction, murder/mystery, acting, and cooperative play. I was a bit dubious about the acting element, but it turned out there wasn't really any acting at all.

One player is the ghost, trying to communicate with the others about how, where, and by whom he was murdered. But the ghost can't speak, and can only communicate via dreams. During each round, he shows each player an image that they use to figure out which of the weapons/places/people he's trying to tell them about. It's a cooperative game, so there's plenty of conversation and joint reasoning. Also, the artwork is beautiful.

Look at those gorgeous cards! Photo by alexnev

I was immediately intrigued by this game and thought that I might want to buy it, but I wasn't quite sure about the replay value, so I initially thought that I should probably try it again before making a decision. Then I got back to my hotel room that night and saw that it was basically at the top of the GeekBuzz list, and I became very worried that it would sell out. I might even say that the game haunted my sleep that night . But I went to the exhibitors' hall as soon as it opened the next morning, and purchased the game, and all was well. It sold out a few hours later.

Verdict: bought at BGG.con
Price paid: $50


Brisk business at the Portal Games booth, with rapidly diminishing stacks of Tajemnicze Domostwo
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20. Board Game: Ginkgopolis [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:321]
Zoe M
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We enjoy city/civ-building games, and this one is supposed to play well with two. So we thought we should try it out, and actually ended up playing it two times. It's definitely an interesting game, if a bit abstract, and if we actually needed another two-player game with a 45-minute playtime then this would be a strong contender. But we already have plenty of games, and this one didn't wow me enough that I feel a need to own it.

Verdict: A solid game. If we owned it and didn't already own lots of other games, I could see it getting a lot of play. But it doesn't quite manage to stand out above the rest.
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21. Board Game: Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Victim with Oxygen Tank [Average Rating:7.85 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.85 Unranked]
Zoe M
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We paused in the middle of a game of Ginkgopolis to go down to the Virtual Flea Market, where Mark had arranged a bunch of purchases and some sales as well. The next eight items are purchases from the VFM, generally inexpensive older games rather than the shiny newness. In many cases, Mark bought games that I don't really know anything about it. So the upshot is that you can skim over these items to get back to the more interesting game commentary, which resumes at SOS Titanic, but I'm including everything here because I do want a record of the full BGG.con experience.

So, this entry. We bought a set of the Kickstarter exclusive Flash Point POIs, which I think includes everything but the goldfish and ferret. There are also no locked doors.

I love Flash Point, so I figured these would introduce some nice variety to the more familiar boards. It remains to be seen to what extent the different punching direction poses a problem, but I think we'll have to play with all these POIs anyway, rather than mixing and matching, just because the backs of our usual set are so worn after 100+ plays.

I think this is the one VFM purchase that I strongly encouraged; everything else was selected by Mark without any input from me.

Price paid: $5
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22. Board Game: Leonardo da Vinci [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:971]
Zoe M
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Price paid: $5
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23. Board Game: Neuland [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:1895]
Zoe M
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Price paid: $10
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24. Board Game: Renaissance Man [Average Rating:5.81 Overall Rank:7434]
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Price paid: $5, plus $5 extra since it was a charity auction
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25. Board Game: Sheepland [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:2450]
Zoe M
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Did I mention that Mark likes games with cute sheep and cows?

This is the most expensive game he bought--he chose a lot of cheap games, while I bought only two games at the con, but they were $50 each.

Price paid: $20
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