GCL Amoeba 198 – Are you Finnished? (2014-12-07)
Mikko Saari
Finland
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Welcome to this week's Game Chat League Amoeba discussion group!

If you found us randomly (via subscription, perhaps), you're welcome to join in with constructive conversation -- we're friendly symbiotes in real life, though vicious competitors at the game table. (Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most dangerous predator on earth!) Read the links above for more info. (If you're shy, just thumb the list so we can see who's stalking us :-) )

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It was the Finnish Independence Day yesterday. Hooray for the 97 years of Finnish independence! In honour of that merry fact, this list is all about Finland.

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1. Board Game: Suomi Tietopeli [Average Rating:4.00 Overall Rank:14778]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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List five random things you know about Finland.
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2. Board Game: Eclipse [Average Rating:7.98 Overall Rank:31]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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Are you aware of any Finnish board games, game designers or publishers? Since there's some overlap there, let's count video games as well.

(Eclipse, of course, is the high point of Finnish board game design and publishing - and of course doesn't actually have a Finnish edition available.)
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3. Board Game: Nations: Grand Duchy of Finland promo card [Average Rating:7.14 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.14 Unranked]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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What do you know of the Finnish history? For example, since Finnish has only been independent for 97 years so far, who ruled Finland before the independence? What about before that?
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4. Board Game Designer: Kari Mannerla
Mikko Saari
Finland
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Any famous Finns come to mind? If you think of Finnish people you know - well, do you know any?
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5. Board Game: Ask Anything [Average Rating:6.81 Unranked]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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If there's anything about Finland you want to know, just ask, and I (or some other Finn lurking around here) will answer.
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6. Board Game: Roll for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:60]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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New to Me:

d10-8 Roll for the Galaxy x2
d10-7 El Gaucho x1
d10-6 Sheep & Thief x1

Return Visits:

d10-8 Age of Industry Expansion #1: Japan and Minnesota x1
d10-8 Age of Assassins x1
d10-8 Hyperborea x2
d10-7 Vikings x1
d10-7 Evolution x1

Random Musings:

Roll for the Galaxy at first glance is quite a clever dice game that also manages to carry over the feel of the card game in many aspects. I likely would still prefer to play the card game slightly, but the dice game is certainly easier to teach/play and uses dice in interesting fashion. There is also a fair bit of space to explore in this one. Looking forward to receiving my copy whenever the issues are fixed.

El Gaucho was more fun than I was expecting. While it is no deep thinker of a game, it was light fun with some decisions to be made. I didn't find the theft aspect of the game all that disagreeable and the way the dice mechanic was used felt decently implemented in that valid options were almost always available. The special actions were interesting and had to be claimed at least a turn ahead before being able to be used was an interesting touch. Also, the touch of having four fences that are put in slots in the board which served as the dice tray was nicely thematic!

Sheep & Thief is a cute Japanese game with little fluffballs for sheep which mixes a bit of drafting with Carc style placement although roads don't have to connect. Want to try 3-4 player to see if the card distribution is more likely to be better.

Continuing to enjoy my guilty pleasure/favorite Japanese filler in a game of Age of Assassins.

Enjoyed returning to Age of Industry Expansion #1: Japan and Minnesota and trying the Minnesota map for the first time. Felt tight, low scoring, and the selling of iron felt odd. Interesting expansion but I'm not sure if it would be one of my first choices moving forward.
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7. Board Game: Doctor, Doctor! [Average Rating:4.67 Unranked]
Joshua Gottesman
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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No gaming for me this week. I've been down with a miserable cold which won't give up the ghost. Maybe something solo today, otherwise mostly bed rest.
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8. Board Game: Eurorails [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:1052]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Just one game to report on this time, though I may get another in when my daughter comes over this evening:

.10! Eurorails -- Yesterday evening my wife suggested that we play a crayon rails game, and I got this one out, because we haven't played it for a while and it's one of our favorites. There can sometimes be an issue with this game, because the contracts for Iberia (to and from) are so lucrative that people who build there seem to win a disproportionate amount of the time. Don't confuse correlation with causation, though---I don't think simply building there causes you to win; I think having the contract cards that impel you to build there increase your winning chances.

In this game, I started with contracts for Steel to Bruxelles, Steel to Paris and Beer to Paris. So I built a line Frankfurt [Beer] - Ruhr [Steel] - Bruxelles - Paris and bought a Heavy Freight on my second building turn. (For eagle eyed rule checkers, I actually connected the final milepost to Paris on my third turn, because you can only build two segments out of major city mileposts in a turn.) I'm almost sure I have never bought a Heavy Freight during the building turns before! I completed these runs in 2 turns and drew a Chocolate to London contract, which I built a ferry to complete. I then had a pair of Fish contracts and an Oil contract and built all the way up the east coast of Britain to Aberdeen via Newcastle to get the three loads I needed.

Claire started by building from Milano to Lodz to do a Potato run with Marble coming back, so neither of us went anywhere near Iberia at the start. But I had such great contract combinations that I made it to $250 million in less than an hour. And I never got any closer to Iberia than that connection to Paris I made in the first operating turn. [Edit: Claire never got closer than Marseille.] I built the Chunnel because my track network in Britain was so extensive that I used it over and over. Claire had good cards, too, finishing with about $185 million.
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9. Video Game: The Crew [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:5585]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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1 x _8_Puerto Rico
1 x _8_Bunte Runde
2 x _8_Das Kleine Gespenst
2 x _8_The Magic Labyrinth
1 x _8_Marrakech
1 x _8_Coconuts
1 x _8_Lewis & Clark
3 x _7_Memory
2 x _7_Fleeting Foxes
1 x _6_Taki

No new games this week, and only games with the family, but not a bad set at all. Playing Puerto Rico has been fun, after the very long break.

There's no doubt about my game of the week, though, as it must be The Crew. I got a PS4 a while ago, and finally got my first driving game. Driving and racing games have constantly been my favourites on any platform. The Crew offers a huge playground in the form of a compacted continental USA (90 minutes real time to drive from coast to coast in a fast car), which suits me for a relaxed game (these days I prefer relaxed, non-stressful video games for some reason).
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10. Board Game: TAMSK [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:1508] [Average Rating:6.79 Unranked]
Jeroen Doumen
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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1x _7.00_ TAMSK
1x _6.50_ Quarriors! Light vs. Dark
1x _5.25_ Melee
1x _5.25_ Darkover
1x _5.25_ Vampire: The Eternal Struggle
1x _5.00_ Logan Stones
1x _5.00_ Army of Frogs
1x _5.00_ Dreaming Spires

Not too much gaming last week, but still got a couple in.

Dreaming Spires disappointed me personally - it seems that luck plays a disproportionately big role. Or maybe I'm just telling myself that, as I mostly fumbled through the game...

Played some of the older abstract(-ish) games as well - TAMSK, Army of Frogs, and Logan Stones. Fun to pull out once in a while. I still quite like TAMSK .

I'm not sure I like what they did with Quarriors! Light vs. Dark. They streamlined the original game a bit, as you'll now always roll two "standard" dice plus three others, instead of having a couple of standard dice in your initial pool. But you cannot get rid of dice as easily anymore, and that was quite the charming aspect in the game. We'll see, I'm sure we'll play this more.

Melee was ok. The mechanism of determining the outcome of an attack by guessing what your opponent bid is interesting, but I think the game needs a bit more than basically just this.
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11. Board Game: Colosseum [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:352]
Toms Leikums
Latvia
Jelgava
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2 x Alias
1 x Colosseum
1 x Small World
1 x Hey, That's My Fish!
1 x Twilight Struggle

I violated my own rules and bought a game on Saturday. I'd never do that in time of Secret Santa activity, but:
1. It was in local supermarket (you know, have to show them that games can be sold);
2. It had 40% discount;
3. It was Hey, That's My Fish!, which is not present in my wishlist.

So lets hope me Secret Santa didn't want to surprise me with this filler. Talking about fillers - we also already played one game of Hey, That's My Fish!. And if you remember, some time ago I wrote that haven't found my filler of choice, and all of them feel either too long (Bohnanza) or too bland for me (Love Letter, Coloretto). Now this finally might be the one. Quick (not including setup, of course), a little mean, lots of player interaction, somehow thematic.
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12. Board Game: On the Underground [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:957]
Doug Faust
United States
Malverne
New York
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Saturday was a monthly game day at Mike's house.

_8_ On the Underground (new!) - This was with me, Anni, Micah, Brian, and Richie; everyone was new. Without having a good understanding of the game, I almost cut off one of my lines trying to get a point or two going after the passenger. Fortunately, I was able to salvage it and build a half decent line (though I was cut off on the other end). Anni wasn't so fortunate, though, as she had a line that was completely cut off right away. I tried to build on my black line, extending from the northeast part of the city to the south, thinking I could bounce back up and have a really good line. Unfortunately, as soon as I got a little bit south, I got completely walled in, so I needed to focus on my gray line, which was a bit stunted as I mentioned above. I did manage to worm my way in to the main line across the north end of the city. Richie and Brian really capitalized on having central routes; it seemed like people were feeding them points each round. Micah waited until late to place his second line, but it ended up being just a spur in the northwest that got him some passenger points. Anni, quite impressively, took her non-cut-off line and managed to loop off the entire center part of the city, earning her an 8-point bonus. Richie won in the end though, I believe beating Anni by one point.

_8_ Castles of Mad King Ludwig - This was with me, Anni, Micah, and Richie; only Micah was new. Two of the public goals in this game were for purple rooms and orange rooms, and who of my starting private goals happened to be for those two things, so I decided to go all-out for those room types. The purple rooms in particular always seemed to be worth a ton of points. I paired them up with activity rooms, which always gave me a small negative for being next to the purple room, but I got a bigger bonus on the purple room for being next to the activity room. So I quickly zoomed ahead in points, and scored very well in end-game scoring for an easy win.

_7_ Kanban: Driver's Edition - This was with me, Brian, and Tom; only I had played before. From my last game, I remembered it being important to get tested designs, so I made getting one my first priority. However, I did so at the expense of going up on the certification tracks at all early on. After I got a tested design, I tried to go after the Sandra points--getting two of the requirements in a lot of departments, and then going up the certification tracks. Despite my efforts, I don't think I got that many Sandra points, but the extra seats definitely helped (not to mention the end-game track bonuses). I made sure to be certified in the two departments that got me end game points from the bonus tile, too. Unfortunately, I was a bit slow on the uptake of actually doing stuff in the factory, particularly parking cars in my garage. Tom really excelled in this area, getting I believe 4 cars in his garage by the end of the game, and also having a whole bunch of upgraded designs. He ended up winning the game by a fair margin.

_8_ Castles of Mad King Ludwig - I think this game was played a total of four times today, it was kind of nuts. Anyway, this play was with me, Anni, Mike, and Micah; everyone had played before. The public goals weren't so fortuitously aligned this time, but I still ended up going after purple and orange buildings. This scored me quite a few in-game points, and I think I ended up with like 7 goal cards at the end (none of these were worth a ton of points, but most of them were worth a few). What was really impressive about this game was Mike's play. He was also playing off a few key purple rooms, but paired it with blue rooms to stack the deck and yellow rooms to get a ton of extra turns. I'm not quite sure exactly how it worked, but it was really impressive--at one point he was like, okay, I'm going to buy all of the remaining buildings. Because he was stacking the deck, he was able to squeeze every last drop out of his goal cards. Everyone had really high scores because Mike made the game a lot longer, but he blew us away.

_6_ Steam Park (new!) - This was with me, Anni, Brian, and Emma; everyone was new except Brian. This game didn't go so well for me. Each turn, I tried to formulate a plan before starting to roll the dice, but I kept confusing the die symbols and had trouble adjusting my plan under time pressure--the result was that I finished rolling last in the final four rounds of the game (and I was trying not to!). I thought getting lots of different colors of rides would give me flexibility for robot colors, and while I was able to get a good amount of robots early, I really had no way of mitigating the dirt, and my play of bonus cards was haphazard at best. I guess the time pressure really got to me here--I found the whole experience pretty stressful. At the end of the game, I still had like 30-some dirt. Brian won handily.
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