GCL Phoenix 219: Party Time! (16th March 2015)
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This week I'd like to discuss party games
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1. Board Game: Winner's Circle [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:679]
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How do you define 'Party Game' - games you play at a party seems logical, but then different parties, different games. I think that length, number of players, formality, competitiveness, ability to come in / drop out without being detrimental to other players might all factor into a definition.

I'd argue that Winner's Circle is a party game - reasonably quick, fun, plays 6, appeals to non gamers. Thoughts on this? How far can definitions be stretched? - (I'm sure that 18XXX make for some diverting parties...)

I note telestrations is in the top 20 - is that even a game? Does the hardcore gamer in you roll their eyes at such frivolities?
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2. Board Game: Apples to Apples [Average Rating:5.89 Overall Rank:3206] [Average Rating:5.89 Unranked]
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What party games do you own? Which do you enjoy?

Times up: Title Recall is a firm favourite in our house. I really enjoy Cash and Guns but S. detests it.
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3. Board Game: Once Upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:1284]
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This weekend we hosted a birthday party for our 3 year and 16 of his friends. We spent some time thinking about what games might work and with his input selected Once Upon a Time as one of the planned activities.

We used the cards to aid a storytelling session with each child taking a card describing it and adding to the story - these were semi random as I'd taken out some of the more difficult, scary or abstract concepts.

I wasn't sure how it was going to go, but it was a hit! The story centred on a farmer whose animals ran off in search of cake, and who needed help from a witch, troll, fairy and giant to get them back.

How much time do you spend planning games for particular groups. I've found that party games are usually easiest to edit/house rule, is this your experience?
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4. Board Game: Cockroach Poker [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1213]
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What are your absolute favourite party games - top 10 please (or top 5 if that is to hard)?

I'll add mine in comments later...

BGG party games by ranK :- http://bgg.cc/partygames/browse/boardgame/page/1?sort=rank

There are 4 versions of Times Up! 3 Dixit's and 2 each of the Resistance and Werewolf in the top 20, clearly success brings success.
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5. Board Game: Fluxx [Average Rating:5.69 Overall Rank:6668]
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Least favourite party game(s)

I've never played Fluxx but can't imagine I'd have much fun at it.

Apples to Apples was pretty terrible, S. detests Wits and Wagers.

I don't think I could play Resistance Avalon again - (and recently sold my copy) and please don't get me started on Love Letter.
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6. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:155] [Average Rating:7.45 Unranked]
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I'm conscious of people's boredom thresholds, so I'll make this brief. Last weekend I went to a massive ~2000 player mtg tournament in Liverpool, which was sealed format (you have 20 minutes to build a 40 card deck out of 6 random 15 card boosters you open on the day plus basic land - [cards used to generate resources to 'cast' your 'spells']).

I did reasonably well, winning 5 matches, drawing 1 and losing 1 before a loss to the champion of Norway in the penultimate round meant I was unable to qualify for the second day. I feel pretty happy with my performance and was able to identify a number of mistakes that lost me a game or two.

I put in a lot of time preparing for the tournament - learning cards, building decks and practising, and on the day I built a solid deck from an above average pool of cards. Despite this preparation, my mediocre play sometimes let me down.

I did slightly better with a worse deck in a similar event the following day - winning 6 and losing 3 matches - comes 42nd overall out of 500+ players, and I think this was a fair reflection upon my abilities. Basically I'm an ok player without the spark needed to achieve at the higher competitive levels and I'm ok with that. I think I'll go to GPrixs again, but will go more for the fun, and put less pressure on myself to achieve in the main competition.
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7. Board Game: Machi Koro: Harbor [Average Rating:7.13 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.13 Unranked]
Dice bags!
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Wurtsboro
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We played two games of Machi Koro last night with the Harbor expansion. The first game felt like a bit of a slow slog for me; Sam had more cards and was getting more income, while I was stuck, but then somehow I zoomed ahead and won.

In the second game, we both concentrated on getting cards, ignoring the cards you need to build to win, for a long time, so we both had about twice as many cards as the previous game, and there were bigger turns and bigger number swings. I had built all of my end-of-game developments except the $22 one, and I was a dollar short. Sam took a couple of dollars from me, making me even farther from my goal (but not by a meaningful amount, at that point). I had a couple of bad rolls, not getting income from my cards, but forgetting that I should have gotten $10 since I didn't build anything (from the $30 development), so I should have been able to win on the next turn.

The game was a few turns longer than it needed to be, but it let me roll a 12 again, which activated three of my cards. One gave me $2 for each grain symbol, so $8. One gave me something else, to the tune of about $6. And I had two boats that gave me a dollar for each pip on the dice after I rolled them. I think I rolled a nine that time, giving me $18. Plus I had rolled doubles, so I took another turn (another power of a development card). So I went out with a huge bang, totally over the top.
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8. Board Game: Antiquity [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:207]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 14Mar2015:

17/33/203 plays of 10/16/80 total games, with 2/2/13 expansions employed.
Plays with 9/12/67 distinct opponents.

1/3/14 games acquired (plus 0/0/4 expansions.) - Yavalath.
0/0/3 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/0 expansions.)
1/1/6 games ordered (plus 0/0/0 expansions.) - Triumph & Tragedy (saw it on the Heavy Game Guild list and was tempted.)
Orders for 3 games and 0 expansions still outstanding.

With son #2:
4x _7_ Machi Koro (with Harbor Expansion) - (one including daughter #1) It's a weird thing. My rating is definitely too high for me alone: but son #2 is very fond of this, and it's fun to play against him.
1x _9_ Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization - A kindness to me. This is at the outer edge of the duration he can tolerate, but he recognizes it's one of my favourites (and he rather enjoys it too.) Better still, he's been getting distinctly better at it over the past few games. In this one, he had a modest lead prior to the reveal of the final four bonus cards. Sadly for him, though, each one of them favoured me. I wouldn't be surprised if he wins one of the next few games; he's playing this at least as well as I do (which, for the record, isn't very good.)
1x _7_ Neuroshima Hex! (with Babel13) - We've played this a lot - but not at all in 2014. So it was fun to get it back to the table. Son #2 chose the Neojungle (his favoured "over-powered" faction.) I was tempted by The Dancer, but ended up randomly selecting Moloch, and managed to eke out a lucky win. I'm impressed by the balance of these factions: while they're not necessarily all of equal power, any one of them can plausibly beat any other.
1x _7.3_ Yavalath - Woot! Finally a "real" play (that is, on a real Yavalath board, rather than that Android App that we'd been using to moderate.) Néstor's presentation is charmingly minimal, but best of all - the set can be used to play a whole bunch of other things he describes in Yavalath & Co.. We tried one of them...
4x _7.3_ Yavalanchor New! - ...which worked out very well. It's a significantly different feel from Yavalath - even if the goal is similar. (In the other, one tries to get four in a row, without ever previously having three in a row. In this one, one tries to get five in a row - where one counts both one's own colour and the neutral colour. But the trick is that the non-neutral colours may only ever be played adjacent a piece of the neutral colour - so the first play is necessarily a neutral piece.) We're looking forward to trying Pentalath and Yavalade, and there's lots more possible too.

With the Wednesday Night guys:
1x _7.7_ Roll for the Galaxy - We started this with son #2, who handed his place to the last-arriving participant. The "team" won; which is cool, too. It went over very well with everyone, and it's very easy to get into motion; I expect this is something we'll play regularly.
1x _9_ Antiquity (54 months dusty) - Probably also a kindness to me. The guys agreed to play one of my favourite four Splotters; and since this one is at the top of my list, they decided to indulge me. (I would have been nearly as happy with Bus, The Great Zimbabwe, or Indonesia - but I've played all of those more recently than this one.) We all venerated different saints; all mutated our surroundings differently. And while we all could have played better, I think it went well: certainly well enough that a rematch is liable to be requested, which is about as good as I could hope.
2x _6.3_ Birth - This, surprisingly, went over very well. Who could have guessed? I think they're susceptible to little quirky Japanese games. It might well have failed as a main event. But as a "dessert" course, it was very well received.

With the Monday Lunch gang:
1x _6.7_ Harbour New! - It was fun to try, but I'm still a bit dubious about this one. It was quite clear (yay!) and very volatile (boo!) And I really have no idea which of those two reactions will win out in the long run. I'm not (at this point) at all clear that long-term planning is viable. If I were to guess, while one could simply play conservatively with reasonable success, I expect that it's a game that rewards the person that best predicts a profoundly random process. Which isn't completely compelling.

With excellent GCL folk online:
1x _8.5_ Brass: Lancashire - While I (again) was very happy to be included, I think I let the team down a bit on this one. I made rather poor decisions in the Canal Age, and was quite distinctly out of the running by the latter two thirds of the game. So I tried not to play kingmaker. Definitely hoping to do better (at least in the sense of not embarrasing anyone) in the rematch!

Owned-and-unplayed: 1 (+0/-0).

Outlook for the week: Regular set of games, plus another online Brass: Lancashire. I go on call next Friday for a week (boo!) so I'll try to jam as many activities in this week as possible (including draggingbeing dragged by daughter #1 to the opening showing of Insurgent.)
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9. Board Game: Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:64] [Average Rating:7.75 Unranked]
Bryan Maxwell
United States
Burtchville
Michigan
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Dead of Winter x 2

My usual game night didn't happen this week, but we had friends over for a game night at our house this past weekend. We ended up with 5 people and tried out Dead of Winter; Kat and I had played previously, but only the 2-player full coop mode.

We played a pair of games; the first was a short session, won without too much difficulty. We had to work at it, but it never felt like we were in real danger of losing. We had no betrayer. We used the suggested "2 normal secret objective cards per player + a single betrayer card" to make the pool of secret agenda cards.

We immediately played a 2nd game, this time using the variant of "1 normal card per player + 1 betrayer card" to make the pool of secret agenda cards. Of course there was a betrayer. Of course it was me.

We did one of the medium scenarios this time, the one that requires 2 medicine, 2 tools, 2 fuel, 10 extra food and 6 barricades at the colony. So (for those of you who are unfamiliar with the game) that means that every player wants to accomplish the above, plus a secondary, secret goal unique to each player. The exception is for the betrayer; he or she wants to drop morale to 0, plus a secondary condition (mine was to have 6 food cards in hand).

Each turn also has a crisis to deal with. The crisis is revealed at the start of the round, and it usually involves needing a certain number of resource cards to be contributed face down. The right type of card helps, the wrong type of card hurts. If you exceed the requested total by 2, you gain morale (a big deal). I spiked the first check, bringing the total from 7 to the required 5; so we passed, but we didn't gain the +1 morale. Only 1 person didn't contribute, and I realized a key difference between DoW and BSG: the person who didn't contribute was cleared of any possible guilt, because there is only 1 traitor. Not a bad thing, but good to keep in mind.

2 rounds later, we had a crisis that would cause us to lose all barricades at the colony (we had 8) and add 10 zombies (18 is max capacity, so this is another Big Deal). I was last to contribute. We had 1 suspicious player (the pirate who was using his ability to steal cards at random from fellow players). Problem is, he only put in 1 card, so it would be hard for me to ruin it badly AND pin it on him. Still, I couldn't afford pass up the opportunity to damage the colony so badly. I put in 3 cards and it failed.

Starting player moves to the right in DoW, so I was first player (yes, back-to-back turns, my fellow cylons). Again, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. During the previous turn's shenanigans, the colony was overrun - this means they kill the survivor with the lowest influence. In this case, it was one of my 2 characters (the mall Santa).

I sent my remaining character to the colony, then used Attract (move 2 zombies from any 1 location to your current location) as my first action. The colony was overrun, so that meant that 2 more survivors were killed, and 2 more morale lost. That left them with 1 morale. All I had to do was another Attract action and they would lose. I then realized another key difference between DoW and BSG: as a traitor, you don't simply win by making the others lose. I could have brought morale to 0, but I hadn't achieved my secondary goal of gathering 6 food.

The morale at the table was very low, just like in the game. There was talk of "we can't win" and "there's no way to fix this" and "we should just end the game so Bryan can't win either". I (and another player) reminded them that the most memorable victories are those that come against long odds. They voted to exile me (of course). Another key difference versus BSG, in DoW I don't get a bunch of cool traitor powers. I'm banished to the outer locations, and I get an "Exiled" card. This changes my secondary win condition, which really screwed things up for me. Instead of gathering 6 food, I now had to have more weapons equipped to my survivors than any other player. I was down to 1 survivor (who was unarmed) and a couple of players had armed themselves to the teeth.

So I started looking for survivors while the others started repairing the damage I'd done. Every time someone moves to a new location or kills a zombie, they roll the exposure die. With that comes a 1/12 chance of being bitten, which means a survivor is killed and a morale is lost. Every time the die was rolled, everyone held their breath.

They had everything but the food surplus. Ryan said "forget it, we'd need to pull the "3 Food" and "2 Food" cards from the grocery store to make it. He moved and drew...3 food and something else. The on Tyler's turn, he also moved to the grocery store (he requested Fuel, which can be used to avoid rolling the exposure die when moving, but no one had any Fuel to give). He seemed to struggle with this for a moment, then moved (without being bitten) to the grocery store and drew...2 food. That put them over and they won with 1 morale remaining. Tyler then revealed that he the Fuel card in his hand, but needed it for his secret agenda.

Everybody won except for me. And it. Was. AWESOME.

Eldritch Horror x 2

My wife and I tried this out yesterday. First we jumped up and down on Azathoth. Then we got our shit kicked in my Cthulhu. It's very similar to Arkham Horror, of course. More streamlined. Gone is the idea of "monster trophies". You can now hand the starting player token to anyone (or keep it) as needed. I like that. Copies of condition cards and spell cards will have the same front, but will be flipped and have unique effects on the reverse side. Another cool idea.

We had fun, but I'm wondering how much shorter it will be than Arkham Horror (if at all). Our Cthulhu game felt like it could have dragged on had we not called it (Cthulhu awoke and we hadn't solved the first of the 3 needed mysteries).

It may get played on Wednesdays in part because it scales from 1-8.



I got accepted to Wayne State University last week, so that's a thing that happened. Now I need to apply to their school of social work.

Tomorrow we're having a belated Pi Day celebration in the Math Center at the school where I work. I've been put in charge of games. Will probably bring Hanabi and some GIPF games. Possibly Blokus and Can't Stop. Light, easy to teach things.

Oh, and I ordered a copy of R (thanks, Dave).
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10. Board Game: Villa Paletti [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:1400]
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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Games Played:

_5_ Villa Paletti x1 New!
A few weeks ago my daughter met a new friend in her classroom, a young girl who had moved here from China with her mother. I had mentioned the local library's second Saturday gaming event to the mother and they said they would join in so I brought a few games that had no or little English requirements and asked others if they could do the same. Mindy brought Villa Paletti, which was played by many people at the tables although no score was kept. We used the die to randomly determine which color stick would be moved next and both my daughter and her friend laughed a lot at this.

_6_ Ubongo Extreme x1
I brought the Extreme version of Ubongo rather than the regular one as I like the scoring in it better and thought the difficulty wasn't too different. I might have been wrong at that as even with the easy side some of these puzzles were tricky! I supervised the game but didn't play a position myself. Caleb played half the game then let Katie take over his position, and the two of them won with 44, my daughter had 35, daughter's friend A. scored 23, while A.'s Mom had 28.

_6_ Ingenious x1
I screwed up the rules to this and people were scoring higher than they should have been (they were counting the colors on the new piece placed in addition to the matching colors connecting them) but everyone scored the same way so it was just an easy variant I guess? My daughter's friend A. ending up maxing out all her colors with this silly scoring method so we declared her winner, with Katie one step from doing the same and both my daughter and A. mom not too far behind.
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11. Board Game: Roll for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:60]
Albatros
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

_8_ Roll for the Galaxy x3
_7_ Carcassonne x1
_7_ Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients x1


The Week in Review

Roll for the Galaxy continues to entertain. It works well for S and I as a week-night game due to it's short length and quick set up/tear down times. However, I do think that with just two players, colonizing and developing will beat producing and shipping most of the time. At least with novice/average players, because I think it's much easier to play the whole game just settling planets and developing technologies than to have to figure out when to change gears from doing just that to producing and shipping. I mean, you could try a shipping strategy with just your starting dice, but that would be insane. An effective shipping strategy really needs some dice of a matching colour to really work and preferably with some developments that give additional cash or victory point bonuses.

I'll keep trying a shipping strategy, but I don't think it's the easiest way to win with two players.


Carcassonne, as I mentioned last week, was more of an excuse to eat almond croissants than play a game. But even after 100 plays of this game, I still find it has interesting moments. The screwage factor in this game is really quite high and I'd never have guessed it from our first play.


Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients is getting more and more burdensome. All our heroes are now 4th Level with lots of items and special abilities that we always forget to use. And the monsters now have two "elite" abilities so there's more tracking and modifying what they can and can't do. And there's more dice rolling than ever. All this detracts from what should be a silly retro-RPG romp through the Weird West.

Not that it doesn't have it's silly moments. My bandito character has a reputation for holding back and being the last to arrive in a fight. But that's because he moves last due to his slow initiative...and I have a tendency to roll a one or two for movement. S calls it "running" when I get to move two spaces on a turn, but I laugh and wave the "grit" (bonus) token I get for rolling a two (or a one).

By the way, the next time we play, it'll even be worse as my character will get a -1 modifier for moving from his mutation. whistle


The Week Ahead

Hope to play something 18xx this weekend. Meanwhile, Eldritch Horror and Doomtown: Reloaded are due to arrive this week. I'm really hoping the latter game will catch on with S, though I highly doubt it. Neither Magic nor Netrunner appealed to her.

Unplayed games of note still in shrink: Yunnan, De Vulgari Eloquentia, Marvel Dice Masters: Uncanny X-Men and Revolution: The Dutch Revolt 1568-1648. Also two saga expansions for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game: The Road Darkens and Over Hill and Under Hill.

Edit: Added ratings to my games played.
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12. Board Game: Loony Quest [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:651]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Last week's plays:

-8- Time's Up! Title Recall!
-7.5- Bohnanza
-7- Container
-7- Roll for the Galaxy (x2)
-6.5- Loony Quest (x4) New!
-6- Trivial Pursuit
-4- Trivial Pursuit: Star Wars Trilogy edition

Topically, we played a few party games last weekend at a pudding party we'd arranged. The puddings were the highlight! The Star Wars Trivial Pursuit game had 13 players in one large team, and because the questions are typically easy, we tried to see how few turns it would take us to win. We got a couple of tricky questions about producers and very specific pieces of dialogue, but it still only took us four turns. What was interesting with such a large group was discovering how different people remembered different parts of the films. Sample question: "Which character released the landing claw on the Millennium Falcon?"

It was my birthday, so I was allowed to get Container to the table and the others were kind enough to allow me to win. Mind you, two of them hadn't played before and one chose the unusual goal of building all his factories and warehouses instead of getting any containers onto his island.

I'd been on the lookout for Loony Quest at Essen last year, but it didn't make it to the fair and took this long for it to appear over here. It's like a Sonic the Hedgehog video game converted into a drawing game, complete with different worlds, power-ups and even secret levels. Typically, the idea is to draw a route through the level on your personal board, trying to hit as many point-scoring items as possible while avoiding the bad guys. Once you've completed your drawing, you overlay it onto the level and see how well you did. Most levels shake up this formula to greater or lesser degrees. It's against the clock, time's pretty tight and your opponents can mess with you if they've picked up the relevant bonus tiles. I was expecting to love this game – it sounded like frantic silliness – but it's just OK. That could be because we've only played through the first two worlds so far, training players up, but it hasn't been as big a hit as I'd hoped. It's highly dependent on spatial awareness, so some players felt outclassed. Perhaps to level the playing field somewhat, the scoring has spikes of randomness injected into it, so not one to play seriously. I'd like to try it with my nephews, I think they'd enjoy it. The designers have ported over some traditional videogame elements in creative ways, which I appreciate, but the gameplay itself wasn't as addictive as a good console platformer can be.
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13. Board Game: Argent: The Consortium [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:452]
R. Eric Reuss
United States
Massachusetts
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Got out of the house[1] last Sunday for the third-ish time since winterpup[2] was born. Arrived just too late to join in on Paperback, but got to see friends and play Argent, so it was an awesome evening nonetheless!

I again tried a 4-round game as a teaching tool / to keep game length down on that first play. It worked OK, though not as well as last time, I think due to room and faction choices.

Each time I play this game, I feel more in control of the apparent chaos.

~ ~ ~

Outside of gaming: Lots of time sitting under a baby / caring for a baby in the middle of the night. Said baby is beginning to smile and take interest in learning how to use his meat-clubs (arms/hands), which is nice.

Our usual weekly babysitter is out recovering from foot surgery. And both kids have colds right now, so are extra bonus cranky / goopy.

Thankfully, it has only snowed a few inches in the past few weeks, and we've had some meltoff from the ridiculousness of February. I don't think I have ever looked forward to spring weather more.

~ ~ ~

[1] = For socializing / fun rather than errands, that is. Though February was so stupidly snowy, I think I spent 100% of it within a 1-mile radius of our house.

[2] = Our nickname for our first son was "wolfpup". Since our second, we've started calling son #1 summerpup and son #2 winterpup.
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14. Board Game: Super Motherload [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:491]
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
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Games Played

_8_ Olympos 1
_8_ Fauna 1 New!
_7_ Super Motherload 1 New!
_6_ Hyperborea 1

Week in Review

These are last week's plays, posted very late.

After Rich's constant talking about Fauna, I got it off Amazon using some credit. I really enjoyed it. Animals were my favorite subject to read about when I was a young lad, but of course that isn't even important with the way this game plays. It certainly didn't help me win! It was quite fun to make educated guesses and sometimes be completely wrong. I'd like to try it with more players (this was a 3P game).

For the second time, I played Hyperborea. For the second time, I was very excited to play. This was somewhat surprising even to me, because I had ended my previous play disappointed. But I wanted to go back into it with a better idea of the gameplay and see how it felt. For the second time, I was disappointed. Though this time it was clearly a player count issue that tanked the game. Hyperborea says 2-6 players, but do not play with 5 or 6 ever! Way too much downtime with no additional play vectors. I think 3 is probably the sweet spot, with significant drop off at any other player count. I still haven't tried the advanced asymmetrical rules.

I'll talk more about Super Motherload in this week's list, because it got played a lot over the weekend.
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