GCL Eclipse 172: In Depth - Game Designer Reiner Knizia
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The next installment that focuses on a single game designer.

In the early days of BGG, Reiner Knizia was held in very high esteem. He was producing a series of "heavy Euros" and so very prolific. I think his games were synonymous with Euro gaming, and dominated the tops of the rankings for a long time.

These days many of them have either fallen out of favor, or just become too old to interest new players. The style of what a "Euro" game is has evolved. A few months ago, during a holiday with family we rediscovered a few of his older designs. I was pleasantly surprised at the short rule sets and fun game play. I found it was easy to teach them to new players, and we have the same level of fun I remembered from years past.
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1. Board Game Designer: Reiner Knizia
Chester
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I have posted a few categories of his designs below, inviting comment.

I'll be pretty surprised if not all of us have played multiple of his titles.

I'd like everyone to post:
1) add your favorite Knizia from among his noteable games
2) add a Knizia that you like which is not among the well-known group
3) Go through his list of games. How many have you played?
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2. Board Game: Colossal Arena [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:753]
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This was the first Knizia game I ever played, though I didn't have a clue who the designer was at the time.

Titan: The Arena is an Avalon Hill production released in 1997. I remember finding the hidden bidding to be very tense and exciting. Played it recently, and the game still works!

For a little filler card game, its a winner.
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3. Board Game: Medici [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:442]
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Category One: auction!

Feel free to add others, but some of the more noteworthy of his auction games are:
Ra
Medici
Traumfabrik
Modern Art
Amun-Re
Merchants of Amsterdam

My very favorite actually might be the little filler: High Society.

Here I select Medici. Its more of "pure" auction game in that the entire game consists of only a series of auctions. But there are some small factors which change the value of lots among the players. The real key to this game is the fact that you can only store 5 goods each round, and each auction is for a lot of 1-3 goods (decided by the auctioneer). Figuring out which lots to put up, getting people to fill up their capacity with stuff YOU don't want, and not running out of goods before you get something good. It works very well.

Most auction games can have a fragility where one player who evaluates the values of items very poorly can unwittingly throw the game to another player. But if you are at a table of all shrewd players, I think this group of games is full of winners.
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4. Board Game: Blue Moon [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:882]
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Category: 2 player cardgame

Blue Moon
Battle Line
Duell
Lost Cities

Here was Knizia's biggest effort at a customizable card game. Its comparable to the LCGs that came later (though with fewer cards, and much higher production quality). The thing that makes Blue Moon work so well is the asymmetry of the factions, and the fantastic art.

Ultimately, this isn't really my kind of thing. Perhaps if I had a clever opponent committed to playing over time, willing to put effort into deck creation, then I might be seduced to play this a lot. But that never happened.

Maybe Battle Line would have been a stronger choice for this category.
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5. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:70]
Chester
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Category: tile-laying

Tigris and Euphrates
Samurai
I always kind of thought of Through the Desert in this same family
There are others
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6. Board Game: Lord of the Rings [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:703]
Chester
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Category: thematic

I know...Knizia games are supposedly math exercises with only tacked on themes. But I found a few of them to really hold up well.

Lord of the Rings (the co-op)
Beowulf the Legend
Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation
Clash of Gladiators
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7. Board Game: Ingenious [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:334]
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Category: abstract

FITS
Ingenious
I know some would argue ALL his games belong on this list. I'm sure I could add many others if I looked much.
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8. Board Game: Clash of the Gladiators [Average Rating:5.88 Overall Rank:4596]
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I came up with 81 titles of his that I've played.

We recently rediscovered Beowulf the Legend, which was an enjoyable family game. I find that games with more luck have an important role now with the family, that I found as a negative in the earlier days of my game-playing with Euros.

Thought about listing Taj Mahal here. Also Amun-Re, which I think is a brilliant game.

But for the neglected title of his that I chose:
Clash of the Gladiators

Its a dice-driven battle-royale. Its well-themed, and has large amounts of luck. But underneath it is this odds-analysis that you can do in forming your teams and choosing which opponents to challenge. You can do a more sophisticated analysis, and then lose on an unkind roll. That can be frustrating, or it can allow a father and young child to both do their best and either have a chance to win.

For my true favorite of his, I'll go with Tigris and Euphrates. I got the most enjoyment from that title, though I don't play much any more. I'd love to play again, and not really sure why it doesn't come out more.
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9. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:70]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Among Knizia's more popular games, this is my favorite, and one of his two designs I rate a 10. But - it's not quite my favorite among his designs.

What I most love about E&T - as the one true version is named - is how thematic the game is; the rise and fall of civilizations, in particular, is brilliantly modeled.
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10. Board Game: Res Publica [Average Rating:5.95 Overall Rank:4214]
Joe Huber

Westborough
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My very favorite Reiner Knizia game, however, is more obscure - and much less popular. I first played Res Publica in 1997, and while I've never played it more than 10 times in a year - I've played it at least twice every year since 1997, and usually more than that.

I've played - as I count it - 114 different games by Knizia. I count different releases of the same game together - but I count the individual games in Neue Spiele im alten Rom (of which I've played 10) separately, since, after all, they're different games. I don't count expansions at all.
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11. Board Game: Samurai [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:172]
EGG Head
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Well I like quite a few of his drier titles.

I remember trying to teach Tigris and Ephrates to a couple of friends back in the day. I still have my German edition. Needless to say it wasn't a big success at the time most of us were fairly new into gaming and the whole internal external conflict melted some brains. I still like it anyway.
Other favs Samurai, Through the Desert, and Amun Re.

Lord of the Rings the co-op game was quite a novelty when it came out we played it several times it wasn't easy to win.

Medici I love for it's simplicity, bid or don't, that's the game.

Of his lighter games I like Fits, Turf Horse Racing, Ingenious
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12. Board Game: Domino Knobelspass [Average Rating:6.03 Unranked]
Kevin Whitmore
United States
Albuquerque
New Mexico
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Domino Knobelspass (Domino Puzzles) barely qualifies as a game, but components for playing with a friend are included so it squeaks in as a game. This is an enjoyable puzzle package that I have explored twice. The # of puzzles is finite, so you will run through the material at some point. But I just put it up on a shelf, and after a long enough wait, it is fun to explore again.

When it comes to Reiner, Joe Huber and I are on similar wavelengths, liking many of the same games. I also hold Res Publica in high regard. I own and have enjoyed the "New Games in Old Rome" collection.

More recently we have been enjoying the very inspired Duckomenta Art. This is a version of Master's Gallery/Modern Art: The Card Game.

The image above gives you a taste of the specialized artwork. I gave this as a gift to a friend who uses ducks as his "totem animal". Hugely successful gift. We've had so much fun playing this game that I just ordered another copy of Duckomenta Art for my own collection. With 95 famous paintings all rendered into "Duck Art" this edition is inspired, and the game works well as a nice filler.
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13. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.34 Overall Rank:4]
Froggy McFrogface
United States
FORT COLLINS
CO
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When green is all there is to be, it could make you wonder why. But why wonder? I'm green, and it'll do fine: it's beautiful, and I think it's what I want to be.
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January 5-11

Panamax January 6: Once & Future Gamers. Other than a quick 2 turn demo at BGG.Con (which underwhelmed me) this was my first play of this, and what a difference! The nuance to this game quickly became clear, and I was very effective at shipping just enough, keeping my dice out of the warehouse and keeping my operating expenses low to eek out a 6 point victory, at 90 points. I really enjoyed this one.



Viticulture January 9: 2P with Matt Cook. Another first play, this having arrived recently from the Kickstarter campaign. Intriguing worker placement game, deserving of further exploration.


Splendor: After Viticulture I taught this to Matt, who clobbered me.



Twilight Struggle January 10: Having a 'free' day, (my wife was visiting her childhood friends at a short getaway in the mountains,) I encouraged my friend Mo to play this with me. It was his first time, so it was definitely a learning game, and I tried my best to give him good advice all the way through, even if it made my position more difficult. We made it through 4 complete turns, but I wound up winning (as the Soviets) with over 20 points in the first Action Round of Turn 5. Still, I think he liked it, and I hope he and I can play some more.

The Duke: I had heard great things about this game, and I can see why - chess-like but with pieces whose movement ability change each time they move. I'll always be crappy at this kind of game, but I'm glad I gave it a try, and wouldn't hesitate to play it again.

1st & Goal: In honor of the Broncos playoff game on the 11th (which I will attend in person!) we played this. WOW! Where have you been all my life? I found this to be an incredibly fun game! Went straight to my wishlist!! We only played one half, after which I was leading 17-0.



Acquisitions: Both Captains of Industry and Scoville arrived this week. Also, Gary, owner of my FLGS, gave me Thunder Alley for Christmas! Yay! LOVE THIS GAME!!



In Other News:
I'm not sure whether I've ever shared it here, but I was adopted at birth. In 1963, in a Catholic hospital in South Carolina, such matters were very secretive and 'discrete.' I've always wanted to know about where I came from, but this information was simply closed to me.

Until now.

For Christmas, my wife gave me a DNA test from 23andMe. About 2 weeks ago I sent them a saliva sample. Yesterday I discovered my geographic heritage (predominately northern European - no surprise there,) and I found a likely 1st cousin! I immediately messaged her through the site, and she promptly replied. She's sending me a more detailed message tonight. I can't tell you how exciting and emotional this is for me. I can hardly wait!!
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14. Board Game: Frischfleisch [Average Rating:6.10 Overall Rank:7183]
Kevin Whitmore
United States
Albuquerque
New Mexico
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Recent Gaming Report:

Frischfleisch - Obscure older game from Friedeman Friese. This is a game about cannibalism. Quite odd. I can see why it is obscure. Still, I enjoyed getting the chance to play it. But I do not need to try it again.

Roll for the Galaxy - I've played this twice. Jay Tummelson kindly gave me an early copy of this, and the club has been enjoying it. I cannot compare it to Race for the Galaxy, as I've never played enough of that title to really grok it. But I am assured it is related. Roll for the Galaxy plays almost as a solitaire game, merely needing to share the tile bag, and ensure everyone knows what they are doing. I'd good for a few more plays at least.

Manila - First play in 8+ years. Nice game. I used to own it, and I'd be happy to play again. But I still don't need to own it.

Rallyman - Quite fun. I'd like to find a regular way of playing more of this.

Mahjong - This is a game some friends get excited to play. These same friends will happily play Poker or Bridge. But ask them to play anything else, and their enthusiasm level drops to zero. For me, Mahjonng is a nice rummy variant that has cool playing pieces and some youthful nostalgia imbued into the game. So it is mildly fun, and I'm glad I can enjoy a game with the friends who are very loyal to this game.

Medieval Merchant - one of my earliest "German Game" purchases, and still beloved. This game has been derided a lot over the years (tired theme, a RR game that got re-purposed, etc) but I really enjoy it, and fortunately so do a few of my friends.

Hol's der Geier - I finally tried this game, better known as RAJ or BEAT THE BUZZARD. Super simple, but quite good at what it is seeking to accomplish. The central mechanism has been re-used in more complex games, but it works nicely as a 10 minute game.

Concordia - Finally got back to this. I tried it once at the Gathering of Friends quite a while back, and thought it was possibly a game for me/the club. But I never bought a copy. A friend brought his copy over recently, and I relearned the game. (I got it a bit better this time too.) Seems worthy, I hope he keeps bringing it for a while. I could play a few more times, at least.

Duckomenta Art - I mentioned this above. Quite good and the 95 unique artwork cards - all ducks! - makes the game. As a card game version of Modern Art, it is surprising this game has no auctions. But it explores the scoring mechanism from Modern Art, and this proves to be pretty interesting. it also plays in 20 minutes or so, so it is working well as a closer/filler.

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15. Board Game: Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection [Average Rating:7.95 Overall Rank:821]
Travis Hill
United States
Dallas
Texas
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ACQUISITIONS
I love Math Trades. As mentioned before, I really enjoy constantly refining my collection. So this week the latest Math Trade finished up and I received a copy of Bora Bora and the Caverna: Mini Expansion. I'm not really a huge Feld fan, but have heard so many good things about Bora Bora, that it was his heavier game, so I opted to trade for it. We'll see if it holds up to what I've heard.


Plays for 5 Jan - 11 Jan

7 January
Ora et Labora
A 10x10 play. My first of O&L. I've always really enjoyed this game, but have not been able to get many plays of it. Along with that, every time I've played it solo I've determined I'm absolutely horrendous at it. Apparently 500 points is a good score. This time I logged a solid 305. I guess that's more than 50%. But that's why I'm doing the 10x10; I want to get better at these games.

8 January
Enemy Coast Ahead is such a strange game. Five lines onto page one of the rulebook it gives instructions to "newbies" to setup scenario 5 and simply follow the player aid. I didn't think that was possible, but it is. So I spent some time going through scenarios 5 and 3. Each scenario adds a little more each time until you get to the campaign scenarios at the end. Who knew going through some simulated Dambuster Raids could be fun?

The Lord of the Rings Card Game: Black Riders Saga Expansion
Another 10x10 play. I simply wanted to set this up to start the long process of figuring out how this expansion works. Lost in the middle of the first quest.

Onirim
This game is so beautiful, as in I can space out, watch TV, and play it if I want, which is exactly what I did for these two games. One win, one loss. The base game is fairly easy after getting it put together. The neat part of the second edition is that it comes with seven expansions. Soon I will start adding these in.

9 January
Navajo Wars
Setup for a second run-through without the playbook of the firs scenario. Suffered a Minor Defeat with 0 points. I'm really enjoying this game and need to get many more plays of this in. I was told that the second game in the series (Comancheria) is even better, but I need loads more plays in of this one before I even consider the next one. What a fantastic solo game!

Panamax
Yep. I love this game. It's great with two as long as you play aggressively. With three or four this game sings wonderfully. Now I have taught this to three people, so let's try and get all four of us together.


DFW Nerd Night
DFWNN is an organization that was created for board gamers to help people. It's a great concept. Once or twice a month, DFWNN puts on a Nerd Night that benefits a specific charity, and you attend and donate. That's it. You continue to build community with others while playing games.

So I attended the DFW Nerd Night event this past Friday with some friends and played:

The Downfall of Pompeii
I won't lie, I was exceptionally hesitant about it. But, it was actually quite fun. You are basically using an area majority/control mechanic that is distributed through cards. But when you get to the second phase, the lava starts flooding out and the only way to win is to be quicker than the person behind you. Rather fun!

Versailles
Though I wasn't too thrilled with the game, I am glad I played it. Versailles is simply a worker placement/mancala game. You move your dudes around in a clockwise manner to build the palace of Versailles. It's pretty neat, but I think I don't have to play it again.

Viticulture
This was a funny play. I taught this to three people, two of whom owned the game but had not played it and the other one awaiting his Kickstarter rewards. They loved the game, but it amazes me how people will purchase a game (especially a crazy deluxe Kickstarter version) without having played it. I guess I'm super frugal with my purchases...

Glass Road
One of my favorite Rosenberg games. Taught this to two people. This time I did the exact opposite of what I normally do. Typically I just plow through, burning down forests, and building buildings. This time, though, I opted to not take that strategy. I built three buildings that gave me insane multipliers and ended up winning with 21 points. I like that I can try entirely different things and still do well.


10 January
Freedom: the Underground Railroad
Another 10x10 play. I'm getting closer...


11 January
Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection
This! This I was the most excited about. The designer (Harold Buchanan) of this upcoming COIN game was going to be in town and reached out for a playtest. I was one of the lucky people who signed up quickly enough to get in, so yesterday, myself, three others, and Harold all sat down to playtest a copy of Liberty or Death. Wow! What a great game. It's incredibly streamlined, but with ridiculously tough decisions. I feel that this can be an incredibly great entry point into the COIN system if you have any interest, but haven't tried it yet. I'm glad my buddy preordered this game from GMT already because I have a sneaking suspicion this will hit the table frequently.
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16. Board Game: Kanban: Driver's Edition [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:221]
John Bandettini
United Kingdom
London
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Survived a game of Kanban: Driver's Edition at LoB last Monday.

It’s one of the most complicated games I have played in a long time. As I owned it I had to teach it. I had read the rule book several times and played a few turns solo to get my head around it. It went pretty well with no obvious gaffes. Mind you I did terrible at it. Liked it enough to try again soon though.

Finished the evening with a two player game of DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Forever Evil. As I was playing the realisation hit me that I had now bought the same game three times.

A bit of a mini Wallace-a-thon last Tuesday at LoB. Played both of his latest games.

One of my friends received his subscription copies of both of the new games. So we decided to play them both. We started with Onward to Venus. I have owned a copy of this since October, but it remains unplayed.

One of the reasons I had not played Onward was that reading the rule book it really did not sound that exciting. Happily it was one of those games that played better than it read. Whilst it’s no Brass: Lancashire it was quite fun. I will say there is a lot of Randomness in the game. Tiles are placed on planets at random at the start of each round. (there are three). Cards are drawn at random and some are so much better than others. And there is a lot of dice rolling.

Not recommended for players who just have to win every game they play, but if you are the type of gamer who can enjoy a light but fairly lucky game with good friends, this may be perfect for you.

Second game was Mythotopia

I won this which is great and everything, but I can’t help thinking it was more luck than skilful play. At the start of the game each player gets dealt six province cards, which give you starting positions and also cards for your deck to gain you resources. I got three cards that gave me bricks. Initially I thought that was a bit crap, but then realised that it meant I could upgrade my towns easily because of it and one of the random cards that awarded points was giving two points for an upgrade. I think I got all but one of them.

This combined with two ship cards I had, which also provided lots of bonus points was pretty much the game.


Acquisitions DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Forever Evil, Greenland

PS4 (Maybe I should not mention that)
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17. Board Game: AquaSphere [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:355]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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Highlights (and one lowlight) of games played 1/6-1/12:

OK, normally I tend to list a game that's a highlight. But I also like to list a new-to-me game, and the only new game I've played in 2015 so far - wasn't a highlight for me.

Keltis: Der Weg der Steine Mitbringspiel (Joe=29), To Court the King (Joe=24), and Airships (Joe=15) - one list I'm working on currently is those games I own but failed to play in 2014. In many cases, they aren't favorites - but there's a reason each of these games is in my collection. (Well, and if there no longer is - playing them is a great way to find out...)

Eggs of Ostrich (Joe=29) - for a while now I've been tracking which games have - at any point in time - been my most played game of any particular year. The results are only briefly interesting - usually, Bridge has a lead in January that's never touched. But I'm often surprised by which games make the list. This year's surprise is Eggs of Ostrich - though it's not a big surprise, as the game has really grown on me.

Elfenroads (Joe=8) - this game really has a much better map than Elfenland.

La Città (Joe=38) - I'm now up to 14 of the 18 games I rate a 10 played in 2015. Not bad for January. Oddly, one of the four I haven't played is Fresh Fish, one of the 10s I played most in 2014. (Advanced Civilization and 2038 aren't such surprises, and I don't play Freight Train as often as most of my 10s.)

AquaSphere (Joe=1) - boy, did this not work for me. At all. The theme didn't work, the limitations on options didn't work, and most importantly there wasn't anything _clever_ about the game. Feld, for me, is a fascinating designer; he doesn't tend to do _theme_ well, but he often makes up for this via really clever mechanisms. Macao has this; Trajan too. But - for me, it's entirely missing here. And without that cleverness, the game just isn't fun. I think that needs to be the measure by which I consider Feld games - do they sound clever? If so, try them; if not, pass them by.
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18. Board Game: Concordia [Average Rating:8.07 Overall Rank:23]
Geeky McGeekface
United States
Manassas
Virginia
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Here's what I played at last Saturday's game session:

Orleans - This continues to be well received. It was a 4-player game and I focused on Scholars and combined that with the tile that pays you coins equal to your Development Status. An opponent threw me a curve ball by grabbing the tile that turns Scholars into wild cards before I could take it. The strategy wasn't as robust as I thought it would be, but I managed to eke out a 130-129 victory. The first of several close wins on the day!

Concordia - I love Gerdts' games, but I've been uncertain if this one really works for me. Up until now, the games have been won by the player who acquired the most cards, which makes the game less interesting. This is the first game where I thought I had a clue about what I was doing. As it turned out, I was tied for last in cards acquired, but built more houses than anyone else. It gave me the victory in a very close game (113-107-103-102-95). I think I'm now starting to see why this game is so well regarded, making it yet another good title from 2013.

AquaSphere - After two games, I'm still undecided about this one. I love Feld and this one has all the elements of a game I should really enjoy. But I haven't figured out how to get things accomplished yet. After reading some reviews, I think I need to focus more on accumulating time so that I can buy more actions (which may sound obvious, but there's so much going on in this title). I also wonder if luck might play too big a role. Sure, it only affects where the Lab Expansions and the Research Cards appear, but those are the main ways of setting up your strategy and if the things you need don't appear (or don't appear where you need them to be), I'd think it would really hurt you. Anyway, it may be like Concordia--I may just need to play it a few more times to figure things out. Hope so! My last place finish in this game shows that I have yet to discover my inner Jacques Cousteau.

Subdivision - My first true play of this. It's reasonably clever, but it's almost entirely a true multi-player solitaire. If you combine the complete lack of interaction with a fairly opaque set of objectives, you have a game that I'm kind of meh about, although I'd play it again if others were interested. I figured out just in time the importance of roads and my well-connected city was just good enough for me to sneak out a 104-99-96 win.
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19. Board Game: Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:124] [Average Rating:7.62 Unranked]
Chester
United States
Temple
Texas
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Games Played (1/4 - 1/10)

It was a pretty crazy week for me, including a surprise rush to the ER. I won't share the details here, but I'll need a procedure to correct a problem that will probably keep happening. But it was tumultuous, and I'm fine now.

We didn't get much gaming done.

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game x2

We're playing through each Scheme in order of publication. They aren't all that unique, but several of the ones that were in expansions are more creative and challenging. If my wife didn't like this game so much, I'd probably be ready to move on from it. I think we'll keep playing for a few more weeks. I think there are maybe 10 schemes we haven't played yet.

I also have been preparing to restart LOTR LCG. I got my cards all organized with fancy dividers. I got a plastic tray for deck-building. I printed the errata cards to replace a bunch with updates. But Char is my partner, and I won't start until we're ready to move on from Marvel Legendary.
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