GCL Mafia 217: Gaming and the Spouse
Robin Levins
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Round Rock
TX
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Welcome to GCL Mafia Division's weekly list! If you stumbled onto this list by accident (or on purpose!) and want to know more about the Game Chat League concept, please see the GCL wiki and/or the Mafia wiki. If you want to look at past GCL Mafia lists, go here: GameChat League: Mafia Division Subscription Thread. Also, if you want an easy-to-use tool for collating your plays for the week, try out Thesp's GCL Games Played Tool!


Our current roster in order of preparation (next week's poster in bold):

Dolus
ecargo
Epsilon_Balls
Beloch
Happymrdave
captainraffi
fdubois
touchstonethefool
bobcatpoet
charlest
Thesp

Please add an item to represent your gaming life for the week of March 16-22, 2015. List any games played along with your thoughts/opinions. Also, feel free to share gaming news, life updates, random thoughts, or anything else you deem appropriate.

Rules for the list are:
1) A weekly game is spotlighted and discussed. The poster will pose questions about it to encourage conversation.

2) Themed questions are optional. They can be gaming-related topics or non-gaming-related topics.

3) A top five question is posed by the previous poster and answered by the current poster. These top fives are usually game-related, but can include other topics as well.
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1. Board Game: Empire Builder [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:964]
Robin Levins
United States
Round Rock
TX
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This week I want to discuss Empire Builder, which for Kristen and I is one of the most quintessential couple games. Have you played it, or any others in the series? What are your thoughts on it? Do you play rules-as-written, or with and variants?
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2. Board Game: Can You Survive Spring Break [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Robin Levins
United States
Round Rock
TX
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Anyone do anything interesting for Spring Break this year? Anyone have any particularly memorable stories about Spring Break they want to share?
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3. Board Game: Time's Up! Deluxe [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:1085]
Robin Levins
United States
Round Rock
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I know this is sort of an off the wall question, but I was watching The Boondocks, and it got me thinking. (And knowing the media consumption of several members, I bet there's a wealth of possibilities here!) Do you have any fictional characters that you particularly identify with and/or aspire to be like? I'm intensely curious.
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4. Board Game: The Newlywed Game [Average Rating:4.86 Overall Rank:15159]
Robin Levins
United States
Round Rock
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Top 5 Games to Play with Your Spouse

Now, let me begin with a couple of assumptions. This is a bit of a broad category. After all, what do we mean by "your spouse"? I mean, if Dave is asking the question, the top 5 games I'm going to play with Madeline are substantially different than if it was the top 5 games I was going to play with my spouse! I'm just going to assume it's Kristen we're talking about for this list. To that end, this really is a customized list, as if I were married to another woman, it's likely my answers would be quite different based on her interests and tastes. The enthusiasm of my opponent(s) for a game goes a long way towards making a great play experience.

I'm also assuming that when we talk about playing games with our spouse (in this case, with Kristen), what we really mean is with only our spouse. In truth, most of the time I'd rather play a game with more than 2 players that also involves Kristen. 3 player RftG with Craig and Kristen is probably my generic favorite gaming experience. But usually when these sorts of questions are asked, we're really looking for something we might ourselves play when we have just our spouse to play with. I'll be operating under the assumption that we're thinking about games to play when it's only the two of us. So, games that would certainly make a list involving more than 2 players (Power Grid, Bridge, Settlers of Catan) won't appear in this list.

That means that the games in this list are going to necessarily fit several conditions:
- I enjoy the game a lot.
- Kristen enjoys the game a lot.
- It plays well with 2 players.

There's another facet that shows itself as I've made this list. Games on this list are games that reward (or at least withstand) repeated plays. Games with depth truly shine, as Kristen is the gaming partner I've had longer and more often than any other person, and that's not going to change.



5. Firefly: The Game
We both share a love of the TV series, and the game has a lot of the feel of its namesake. We'll play episodes of Firefly in the background while we play to add to the ambiance. Plus, Kristen's a sucker for pickup and deliver games (can't blame her!), so mechanically this one's interesting as well. It's a great story game, and plays at a great clip with 2 players. It's definitely a swingy game and luck can sometimes hose you or give you significant advantages, but you know it going in. And admittedly, if there's ever a time when you spectacularly crash and burn in a blaze of glory / terrible ball of defeat, the best time for that to happen is when your beloved is the only other one involved in the game.



4. Suburbia
The best city building game out there, hands-down. Its quick playtime and variable tiles extend its replayability (and even moreso with Suburbia Inc). It's incredibly back-and-forth with 2 players in ways that can be lost with 3 or 4 (even if it's still fantastic at those player counts). Invariably by the end of the game, we have distinct cities built from very tense purchasing choices and usually have very competitive games. The quick-ish setup and teardown don't hurt it either. This one will be in the collection a long time, if not forever.



3. Empire Builder
We first discovered this game from Stephen & Christine (Stephen being a longtime GCLer here who still contributes occasionally!). It has proved to be a lovely couples game, and I miss the day-long Empire Builder affairs we would have with the two of them, playing ~4 games in the series in a single day. We have quite a few of the games in the series now, and have even made a variant for the original game which we frequently use called the Ten Card Challenge. It's a lovely laid-back game of route building and crayons, and in stark contrast to the other games on this list, has very little tension throughout the game. It's perfect for a lazy weekend afternoon where you don't want to be too taxed, but play a game which needs some thought, but just want to be together and enjoy each others' company.



2. Mage Knight Board Game
Perhaps Kristen's greatest failing is that she doesn't play this enough with me. But really, if that's among her greatest faults, I'll take it. In fairness, the setup on this game is a bear, and it's been harder in the last 3 years to get 2-3 uninterrupted hours to play this. But when we do get to play it, it's such a fantastic game, and Kristen's mutual love of it makes it doubly amazing. We used to do roleplaying games together, but AnnaMarie has really put an end to that for the foreseeable future. This (and Pathfinder Adventure Card Game) are the closest we get to having adventuring people who kill baddies and level up getting cooler along the way. The way the game handles this competition while not being direct competition is lovely and perfect for us.



1. Race for the Galaxy
What can I say? It's my favorite game, and one of Kristen's favorites. It's absolutely a game that rewards multiple plays and knowing the game well, and we've both had time to explore it and learn it well. It plays quickly, so we can play several times in a row. It handles 2 players fabulously. It has the potential for longer arcs of games - we typically play campaigns. In a campaign, you are dealt 4 starting planets, and can only play one each game. If you win the game, you get rid of that starting planet, and you win the campaign then you have won with each of the 4 starting planets you were dealt at the beginning. The diversity of cards and variety of how games can progress gives the game such incredible replayability. Race for the Galaxy will forever hold a special place on our family's boardgaming bookshelf.

I can't wait until AnnaMarie is old enough to learn it. She's got a lot of catching up to do.


Honorable Mentions
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Base Set (Don't seem to have the same passion for S&S, but RotR was amazing.)
Castles of Mad King Ludwig (Better with more players, Suburbia takes its slot on the list.)
Roll for the Galaxy (might make this list next year?)
Dominion (when Kristen's in the right mood)
Merchant of Venus (second edition) (I need more than 1 play to determine this.)
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5. Board Game: Marrying Mr. Darcy [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:2888]
Kristen Levins
United States
Round Rock
Texas
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Top 5 Games to Play with Your Spouse

Hi y’all! I’m glad to be posting in GCL again. Pregnancy and a baby turned toddler turned preschooler has sucked most of my game time away. But I still get to play games with Robin. Not as much as either of us would like, but enough to keep my skills semi-sharp. On the times we do get to play a game together, I hope it is one of these:



5) Rolling Freight
Who doesn't love a great train game with a pick-up-and-deliver mechanism that involves dice? Pick-up-and-deliver and route building are two of my favorite mechanisms while Robin loves efficiency engines, so this is a perfect game for us.

[We usually don’t buy games at BGG.Con because it is at the beginning of birthday/holiday season. But in 2012, when we were walking around with the library copy of this game, a man approached us and asked if we would like him to sign it. A quick glance at his badge confirmed he was Kevin Nunn, the designer. We explained it was a library copy, so he decided against signing. But after we played it, we knew we had to own. So we bought a copy and found him to sign our brand new game.] I’m unsure about this paragraph.



4) Firefly: The Game
I love the vast exploration of this game. Again, pick-up-and-deliver, so it was no surprise that this one captured my heart. I love the ‘verse, so the game’s immersive worlds to explore, contacts to become solid with, and Reavers to evade made this an instant favorite. The scenarios in the game are awesome, but there are some fan scenarios that we like a lot as well. We love to play with a DVD of the series going on in the background. It has led to some interesting coincidences between the game and show.



3) Suburbia
Suburbia is probably the #1 game I force Robin to play multiple times in a row. He usually cuts me off after three. ;P Robin loves his efficiency engines, and I love trying to find a strategy (or usually just stumbling on one) that will edge his out. I like this game best with two because long-term strategy is possible. Or maybe it is because I don’t have to convince more than just Robin to play a second (or third) time in a row.



2) Empire Builder
Is anyone surprised that a route builder with pick-up-and-deliver made it to the second spot? Defacing a game is surprisingly fun. Generally my preferred way to play is our variant Ten Card Challenge. You are dealt ten cards at the beginning of the game and must complete all 30 deliveries and meet the other win conditions to win. I don’t know if we have ever suckered someone else into playing this way, but it is awesome!


1) Race for the Galaxy
I think I’m closing in on 1000 in-person plays of this game. I very clearly remember the first time we played it at Scotty's. It was impossibly dense and confusing, and I couldn't wait to play again. While I love playing one-off games, “campaigns” are my favorite. You are dealt two red and two blue start planets and must win with them all. We have all the good expansions thrown in together, so it is rare that we get through the deck in a two player game. Robin wins 85% of the time, so my wins are especially sweet. But I love this game and if there were time, we’d play daily.


Honorable mention:
I considered, and dismissed, the following:
- Castles of Mad King Ludwig – I love this game, but I’ve really started liking it better with more than two.
- Dominion – I have to be in the right mood for this one. And you have to play with all the cards available. I don’t see combos quickly, so I hated the game before the expansions and never again want to play with the base cards alone.
- Alhambra – It’s always fun to come in third in a two player game. I’ve never actually achieved that goal, but I want to some day.
- Trajan – This one is much better online because then you don’t have to worry about the fiddly bits. We don’t get this out very much though.
- Starship Catan – My very favorite two-player-only game. It doesn’t get much play anymore, but we played it a lot when it first came out.
- Mage Knight Board Game – I love this game, but Robin always wins, so I love it a bit less than the others on my list.

Robin and I worked on these lists independently and shared after they were done. We were not surprised with the redundancy, but it was interesting how closely aligned the lists are.
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6. Board Game: Animal Upon Animal [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:734] [Average Rating:6.86 Unranked]
Robin Levins
United States
Round Rock
TX
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 10   Notre Dame
 10   Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium x3
 7   Animal Upon Animal*
 5   Troyes
 N/A   Dungeons & Dragons Dice Masters: Battle for Faerûn*

* - new to me

Race for the Galaxy and Dice Masters with the wife, and Notre Dame and Troyes at game night, with Animal Upon Animal as a first game for AnnaMarie.

So I got me Dungeons & Dragons Dice Masters: Battle for Faerûn stuff in, and tried the basic starter game with Kristen. It looks intriguing, and it looks like it has a lot of potential, but I'm still a bit uncertain as to how to actually start with all of it. There are so many cards and possibilities, that I might have to just sit down and look through it all and make up some decks and try them out. I dunno. I did pull to SRs in my booster box (the Mind Flayer and the Stirge), so I'm happy with that.

I played Troyes three times years ago, and it's been a while before I played it again. The first time was a compelling experience, the next time was kind of so-so, and after my third play I'm not sure I really wanted to play it again. I played it again Thursday night to cement some feelings about it. It's just so haphazard, dice dependent, and so much changes before it's your turn again that planning for the future seems so pointless. Notre Dame and Feld in general get criticized for being point-salady, but in those games there are paths you take to get efficient points that make sense. In Troyes, there really are so many ways to get points that seem very similar except for what's available at the moment you're taking your turn. At the end, I figured I'd be a distant third to a player who seemed to have quite a good approach to the game, but by happenstance I narrowly took first place. Glad to have played, but uncertain I will again.

This weekend threatened to be a rainy one (and did not disappoint!), so Kristen and I decided to get some AnnaMarie friendly games. We acquired Animal Upon Animal and Orchard, though we only played the firs this weekend so far. AnnaMarie is great with turns and seemed to enjoy it (including rolling the die), but wasn't too keen yet on the rules for how to stack them. She did enjoy stacking the animals on her own, though. I imagine this will get better over more plays. I'm really looking forward to trying Orchard, though.
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7. Board Game: Navegador [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:169]
Jeffrey Drozek-Fitzwater
United States
Houston
Texas
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NOIR: Deductive Mystery Game x2: Played this on Monday evening with Abbie using the seldom-chosen Master Thief version. It's a decent change of pace. I managed to steal more than half of the available treasure, which is a solid showing. The next day, we played it with four. A friend's girlfriend will sometimes join us. She's a perfectly competent player, but she gets frazzled easily and will declare she's confused and doesn't know what to do almost every turn. It gets annoying after a while, especially when she ends up winning.

Navegador: Finally figured out my problem with the game. The central mechanic has no justification. There's no apparent reason why, for instance, if I colonize, I can't sail next turn (it's possible in theory, but you know what I mean). The limits exist not through integration but through artifice. I don't like that. And I just think the things you have to do in order to win are plain not fun. Don't believe I'll play this one again.

Suburbia x2: One game was won by the aforementioned "I don't know what to do!" girl. The other I won pretty handily. I had my focus in shape and simply didn't make any mistakes. I went a little unorthodox by laking twice in a row to hit the money challenge going into the C stack, but I knew I had ways to ramp up my reputation quickly. A timely Mountains appearance was icing on that cake.

Red7: I think I want to play with the basic rules again because I suspect it's more fun.

Betrayal at House on the Hill: Woot, I was the traitor. Because the game is so terribly imbalanced, I won easily. This is fun if you don't care about winning and losing and just want to get into theme. Otherwise, it's really lacking.

Article 27: The UN Security Council Game: This is getting a lot of play lately. I had this one. I had it. Then someone vetoed the final round and I lost by a point. I went against my usual strategy by bribing heavily in the final round and that cost me.

Loopin' Louie: Still fun!
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8. Board Game: Ca$h 'n Guns (Second Edition) [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:517]
James Keith
United States
Oakland
California
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New Games

Ca$h 'n Guns (Second Edition) x3
Hamburgum: Antverpia x1

Old Games

Felicity: The Cat in the Sack x1
Mundus Novus x1
Keltis: Das Würfelspiel x1
Little Devils x1
Hive Pocket (with Hive: The Pillbug) x5

Two new games this past week!

While I was mildly amused by the original Ca$h 'n Gun$, I was very much more interested in the refurbished Ca$h 'n Guns (Second Edition) after reading a few reviews. It's turned out to be a big hit with a number of groups: it's still the silly press-your-luck game with foam guns that non-gamers enjoy, and there's a bit more game there for the hobbyists to sink their teeth into. I like that all "Bang!" cards now function like the "Bang! Bang! Bang!" cards of the first edition (wounding you AND knocking you out of the loot sharing), which does away with the need for cowardice tokens. I like that there's a variety of items up for grab that score differently from each other, thus giving good incentives to think about what loot you take when. And I absolutely adore the Godfather mechanic that is so freaking simple yet adds another interesting layer of "who's pointing at who and why."

If I have one complaint, it's that the game gets a bit stale after a few plays (though the special powers do spice things up a little). I'm looking forward to the next expansion to come out, as it looks to give the game some extra legs. I'm really glad I picked up a copy of this one!

I also finally got the Antverpia board for Hamburgum to the table, and while it's not as bad as some have painted it to be, it isn't necessarily any better, either. Being able to hoard resources and complete a church in a single go feels like it circumvents one of the more interesting aspects of the base game (when do you jump in to complete one or two levels of a church to deny other players the opportunity). That said, it did make the game go very quickly, which is always a good thing. I've always enjoyed how snappy Hamburgum plays (even if it's a bit on the simple side) because it's the promise of the rondel done right. The expansion board is certainly different from the base game, but I'm not certain it's a necessity.
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9. Board Game: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – Khazad-dûm [Average Rating:7.96 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.96 Unranked]
Paul S
United Kingdom
Leeds
West Yorks
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Another week with a good few hours spent gaming:

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – Khazad-dûm x 4

Mage Knight Board Game x 2

I've had the Khazad Dum expansion for ages, but never mixed it in; nor have I played the base game for months, so I thought it was time to give both a try.

It's punishingly hard (quest 1) - almost to the point of killing interest. But I had the same experience with the base game, and finally overcame that by playing with others, co-op, or in multi-handed solo games, like this week.

Still. Lost game 1 in rather less time than it took me to set up. Encounter deck generating 17+ threat, increasing each turn, against a maximum value in my hands of about 10. Not good.

But I persevered, and started tweaking the decks a little, even just swapping out for different mono-decks, and by game 4 I managed to get to the 3rd quest in one piece. And then was torn to bits.

I think I need either to start playing on "easy mode" or just to give up. I don't really have time to finesse the decks as I'd like, and without that time investment winning is never going to be easy.

Still. I had fun (after the first couple of games/annihilations, anyway), and there was some progress made.

Mage Knight continues to float my boat. One game (incomplete, but long enough) with a pal who I am teaching, then another full 5-hour monster solo conquest failure but with a reasonably improved (148pt) score despite only taking down one city.

I don't see me ever getting very quick at this. In solo AP is really not an issue, and I just take the time it takes to look at all the options. I see the odd post where a player just plays off the cuff and disallows take-backs; but I would find that hard. I get a real buzz out of discovering that not only can I can both enemies this turn, but with this card played in that way I can do so with no wounds and 2 cards left over. It is clever stuff indeed.

Other stuff:

I saw Interstellar and Nightcrawler. To my surprise I thought the latter was enormously better than the former. But enjoyed both, and they ticked some "need to see" boxes.

The new Avengers 2 TV spot trailer is awesome. Roll on 1/5. Or 5/1, even.

Finished Neal Asher's latest novel. Terrific. Always a shame to be up to date with the authors you like, when you know it'll be a year or 2 before the next book in the series.



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10. Board Game: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:260]
Travis Dean
United States
Escondido
CA
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 7   7 Wonders x2
 N/A   City Blocks
 N/A   Cthulhu Wars
 8   Dracula
 8   Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (Deluxe Edition)
 N/A   Targi
 N/A   The Rivals for Catan

Using Robin's new tool, though I should've excluded Sunday since some plays were recorded Saturday after midnight.. I'll fix that later.

At game night I played two games of 7 wonders 3 player which I won, but it's not a game I choose to play. I then got sick in a 3 hour overly long game of Cthulhu Wars where I was about to get a good strong lead but was does by Cthulhu. Then, when they recognized the next big that, they continued pummel me, who want going to even become a threat again until I could summon my ancient one, which is near impossible late game as the yellow player, and the other that ran away with the game uncontested.

Friday was a two player game day with all of the two player games. More on that later.
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11. Board Game: The Battle of Five Armies [Average Rating:7.94 Overall Rank:383]
Charlie Theel
United States
St. Louis
Missouri
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The Battle of Five Armies x1
One Night Ultimate Werewolf Daybreak x2
Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game x1



BoFA
I introduced this to the one of the guys I occasionally play Gumshoe with. He's a minis gamer at heart and doesn't play many board games, often growing inpatient from lengthy rules explanations. He's a Tolkien fan though and he requested I bring this over so we tore into it. I was Free People and he was Shadow and it was actually a close, tense game that was exceptional. I barely pulled out a win, despite making some early mistakes in the game, thanks to a Fate track that kind of took some giant leaps near the end of game. I tore some shit up with the Eagles too which is always fun.

X-Wing
More Wave 6 Scum action. This wave is very interesting and if I had to commit at this point to one faction I'd be tempted to choose Scum, not sure if that's the shiny new feel or if they're truly that much fun. Either way, fantastic game that I don't ever see myself getting bored of.



On My Mind
I already described our Chicago trip in one of the sections above so I won't rehash that, though it was a good time.

Lots of movie/TV stuff going on as always. Finished up House of Cards which may have been the best season yet, I don't care what people on social media and IMDB say, great stuff. Starting up the last season of Game of Thrones (4?) next. Also Black Sails Blu-Ray sitting by after that.

In terms of shows we're actively watching/DVRing, Justified is about to end and I'll slightly miss it. Mostly just miss Olyphant and Goggins. As I posted on Facebook yesterday, I don't really care about The Black List anymore, except I will probably stick around and just watch it for Spader. Maybe fast forward through parts which is something I would never normally consider doing. I'm also losing interesting in Vikings, something about the British storyline and characters is just kind of meh. They're attacking Paris soon though, that should be good.

I did watch a couple of really good movies this weekend though. First was Fury on Saturday night. After being really excited for it months ago, that excitement kind of faded due to hearing some mixed stuff about it. However, I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed it. It wasn't quite as good as Saving Private Ryan, of course, but it was excellent. It was kind of a more dreary, stark look at an often glorified war and the bond between the crew was riveting. While extremely uncomfortable, that meal scene in the German home was fantastic. I also loved the opening scene where they start riding each other and nearly lose it. Established the dynamic quickly.

I'm a Brad Pitt fan and for some unfathomable reason a Shia Lebouf fan as well so I loved both of their performances. Reading some of the IMDB trivia afterwards was kind of shocking, Lebouf seems to have gone even further off the deep end. Anyway, great flick even with the ridiculously unrealistic ending.

The second movie I caught was Birdman. It was kind of what I expected, although perhaps ever so slightly more weird. I liked the final scene a lot and I enjoyed the everything was one long shot Hitchcock/Rope gimmick. Acting was great and some good dialogue too. It's not a movie I'd probably go back to and I didn't have as much fun as Fury, but I'm glad I saw it.
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12. Board Game: Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:50]
 
Raf Cordero
United States
Bolingbrook
Illinois
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Catan
Love Letter
Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) New!

Catan
Playing games at lunch is better than not playing games at lunch, but Catan still doesn't really do it for me. I spent most of the game not rolling any resources despite having a decent spread and some 6's and just fizzled for about an hour. I get that it's a classic, but there are just so many other games I'd rather spend an hour playing these days.

Love Letter
2p game with Katie. She had a horrendous week at [-]the worst company ever[/i]work so we played a light game of Love Letter one night.

I was supposed to have another game night on Thursday and Sunday, but I got sick and Katie had to cancel her weekend trip due to work/being exhausted from work so that got in the way. I did still go out for TI3 though...

Twilight Imperium 3
Oh lordy what a game. Gather around GCLers and allow me to tell you the story of the single most boneheaded play of my life...

It's been on my list for a very long time so when a guy from Netrunner said he was running a game this Saturday, I jumped at the chance. We played 6 players, and everyone else had played at least once but there was still a lot of rules refreshing. My races was the Xxcha Kingdom, who are pipe smoking Space Turtles. Excellent. We used a fixed set up and just sort of randomly assigned starting areas.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the game is actually pretty simple to play and understand. The base mechanic is quickly grasped, however the strategy is relatively opaque at first. I sent my turtles out into the void conquering planets and hoping to make headway on the numerous public goals associated with Technology. That seemed to go inline with my defensive principles anyway. After a couple of rounds, one of the guys began complaining that he was dead, had no options, was out of the game, and tried to concede despite the fact that I was actually in last. 2 rounds in. This guy has a pattern of doing this and then winning, and I know a few people who just quietly avoid games at the FLGS he's involved in due to that.

Anyway, I was attacked by a neighbor, and got retribution over a few turns. I managed to snag a couple 2p public objectives, and spent a few rounds rebolstering myself and trying to politick my way into getting enough people to attack the leader, my ally, but not piss him off to the point of crushing me. Pretty successful over all. Then, suddenly, the dude from above is in 1st place sitting on 9 VPs going into the last round. We look at his board and he can claim a 1 point goal at the end of the round, so victory is almost assured. I look at my just-drawn secret objectives. "A ha!" I think. I have a chance, a small one but a chance. I grab Initiative, I play well, I play some action cards, and I manage to build 3 technologies at once. At this point, if I hadn't gotten tunnel visioned on my Secret Goal I would have noticed that the other 2 VP public goal was to have 5 techs of the same color. I thought it was only a 1 VP goal. All I had to do was buy 3 green techs and the game is mine. I, of course, buy 2 greens and a yellow. My long shot fails and my space turtles are not victorious.

The game however, was amazing. A little less wheeling and dealing due to the technology related nature of almost all of the public goals, but that's just random chance. It was an 8 hour game and I would have set up and played again. It was great, barring the annoyances of the first 1/4-1/3 of the game. To that guy's credit, once you get out of that sort of whiny phase, he's fine to play with. Very helpful and understanding, and he doesn't gloat or anything when he wins. He just...whines early and gets mad if he's targeted when he thinks he's down. Oh well.

On my mind

I'm a real gamer now! mb

We weren't going to do a baby shower or registry or anything but our moms were having none of that. So we went to Baby's R Us and did the registry, and funny enough that's what really made me sit up and take notice. Putting together the baby's room, seeing it on the ultra sound, etc has all been exciting, but for some reason it was looking at bottles that brought it all home. Katie was like "We need lots of bottles, but let's try a bunch of different brands because we don't know which will work.". I thought to myself Why do we need like 15 bottle....OHHHHHHHHHHHHH. So yeah fun times. Side note: anyone know any good places to find geek-culture baby stuff? So far all I have is an unlicensed Han Solo onesie but I'd love a baby mobile that was X-Wings chasing Tie Fighters or other cool geek-dad stuff. I feel like there is a hole in the licensing world here.

And last of all, I finally finished this mini I'd been working at on and off since October:

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13. Board Game: The Republic of Rome [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:350]
Matt C
United States
Ypsilanti
MI
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 N/A   Trajan
 7   Splendor
 9   Roll for the Galaxy
 9   Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts
 9   One Night Ultimate Werewolf
 6   Among the Stars
 3   The Republic of Rome
 7   Eight-Minute Empire: Legends
 6   Coin Age

Trajan -- This was new to me, and frankly it confused the hell out of me the first half hour we played. Sitting through the description I didn't understand how actions connected with points, or what symbols meant what. However, by the end I felt I had a much better grasp of the game. Although I scored very well during the game, I lacked end-game scoring to keep my lead, and got blown out by the guy who'd thought he was in last place (until realizing he had 80 end game points (he'd assumed everyone would)). Shows promise.

Roll for the Galaxy -- Won my first match, so I've decided I like it. Every day since Wednesday I've thought to myself "Who can I call over so I have an excuse to play Roll for the Galaxy?" I can't think of many games I've had that reaction to. While calling/guessing actions is different than in Race, I like the way this has handled it.

 9   One Night Ultimate Werewolf -- Played for the first time with my regular game group (all other times have been randos/conventions). We did a 4-player game, and I thought it worked nicely with that player count. We played with Troublemaker, Seer, Robber, and Drunk. By chance, the Robber, Seer, and Drunk were all in the middle, and I was the Troublemaker. This led to an interesting situation where one of the two werewolves claimed they were the seer and called out the other wolf. However, I then revealed that I'd swapped them so that they were the wolf now. So, despite now having many/any of the roles in play, we still managed to find a werewolf.

 6   Among the Stars -- We played this along with the expansion. However, the owner of the game did not sort and select by type; they were all just shuffled together. That meant things like Turret were neigh useless. Also, I don't understand how people are pulling in scores that average 4-5 points a turn. I get there's some set collection, but despite feeling confident about my choices I'm consistently placing last every game.

 3   The Republic of Rome -- Hosted a big game day yesterday, and this was the main course. This is my second time playing the game; my recollection was the first time took about 3-4 hours, but this was a whopping 6 hour game. Had I realized that, I would have veto'd this game into oblivion. Our game was pretty much dead from turn 3, when the 2nd Punic War game out along with Hannibal. That meant we needed about 20 boats and 30 troops just to have a chance, which was highly unlikely. Then, I was sent on an incredibly easy military campaign and rolled a disaster (2% chance), lost half of our troops, and my military leader was killed. During that particular turn I lost three of my senators, due to military, and an epidemic. So, after hours of play I was in a substantially worse place than were I'd started. Crippling.

After our failed military campaign, we had manpower shortages, so we couldn't replace the troops and basically the game just toyed with us until three hours later the citizens revolted. This would have been fine in a 2 hour game, but 6 hours of commitment for a demoralizing end is just bad. I will very likely avoid this in the future.
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14. Board Game: Le Havre [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:38]
Grace P.
United States
Turlock
California
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Colt Express 2 NEW!
Le Havre 2
Alhambra: The Card Game 1
Kakerlaken Poker 1
Trans Europa 1

Colt Express was a pleasant surprise. I didn't think I'd like the game, but it was actually rather entertaining. The light programming and general silliness of the games makes the somewhat chaotic nature of the game itself inoffensive. It made for a nice filler. The two plays were with three and then five players, so it also seemed to scale fairly well. More players added a bit more chaoticness, but again, nothing too bad considering how light the game is to begin with.

Although not new, getting in two plays of Le Havre with Matt was awesome. We played the short game both times. Now that we both remember the game better (since it had been nearly three years since playing it in-person), I hope to try out the full game soon. Shoutout to James for inspiring me to play on my iPad/in-preson!

On My Mind
I've been fairly productive this academic year in terms of my research. In my first two years, I prepped six new classes, which took up the majority of my time. Now, I'm able to start focusing on making my CV look good for when a tenure-track position opens up.

/start shameless promotion

I'm currently working on a study with a friend of mine on interethnic* couples. If this applies to you and you're interested in taking our survey, I would love you forever and shower you with gifs. (Don't worry. I won't be analyzing your responses specifically.) Also, you'll have a chance to win $50. Let me know if you're willing to do this so I can send you the survey link.

*Interethnic refers to being in a relationship with someone else who is of a different ethnicity than you. For example, this would include being Japanese and your significant other being Chinese. Although both are Asian, it is still an interethnic relationship.

/end shameless promotion
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15. Board Game: Panamax [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:476]
Dave K
United States
Austin
Texas
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Love 'em even if a few games get scuttled from time to time.
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A quality week of gaming.

New:

 9   Panamax
 4.5   Unexploded Cow

Repeat:

 9.5   Notre Dame
 9.5   Troyes
 9   Saint Petersburg
 7.5   Alchemists
 4   Munchkin


The big new one for me was Panamax, which I was really looking forward to and it came through. It shares some things in common with Madeira (which shouldn't be surprising, as it's the same designers) in that you have a pool of dice that determine what actions are available, but here since it's one giant shared pool the main effect is encouraging people to do certain things before others.

There's a lot of interesting interplay between people in this, and I liked how much the game encouraged you to put things in the way of other people for your own benefit (which reminded me a tad of Hansa Teutonica, although the rest of the game didn't share anything in common with HT).

We played with 3 and agreed that it seemed like 4 would be the best. I don't foresee this being fun with 2, and I don't think I'll try it at that number.

Troyes was a great time for me and one other person and Robin didn't seem to dislike it at the time, but upon reflection here in the forums he doesn't seem to have enjoyed it much. Boooo - although hey, we have plenty of favorites in common. meeple

I like Troyes a lot and hope to play some more again soon.

Notre Dame was a joy as usual. I goofed up big time early game and it took me out of the final standings but I was able to recover more points than I expected. Pro tip: be very careful about contributing to ND itself until you have a good way to recover that money.

Alchemists was played at the insistence of one of my friends and I got a not-so-great combination of ingredients & experiments early on. I probably could have recovered but I made some sort of major deductive error and totally took myself out of the running afterwards. Doh.

Later I went to a gaming event at our church and played some stuff with a few not-quite-as-hardcore gamers. They really enjoyed Saint Petersburg, which made me glad. We had a lot of expensive workers early game so the advantage of buying them was muted quite a bit compared to normal.

To be a good sport I played Unexploded Cow afterwards, which was... well, it's not my type of game. It's a very haphazard card game with a cute theme. I got a lot of laughs out of it but as far as gameiness goes, it's just alright.

Finally, there was a person who hadn't played Munchkin yet so his friends wanted him to try it. We were also able to convince a person who was there just to let her kids play some stuff to try out the game (even though she was very concerned it would be too complicated).

It was... Munchkin. I wasn't able to even find 10 monsters to fight the whole game (I kept getting other cards on the doors), but the game did its job and there were lots of laughs and the woman who wasn't sure she'd enjoy a game had fun.

I can't begrudge Munchkin because of how many people it brings into the hobby, no matter what I might think of the arbitrariness of the game itself.
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16. Video Game: Bloodborne [Average Rating:8.75 Overall Rank:324] [Average Rating:8.75 Unranked]
Dave K
United States
Austin
Texas
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Today Bloodborne for the PS4 came out. Although not part of the Souls series "technically," this is essentially the 4th in the series started by Demons Souls, and then followed by Dark Souls and Dark Souls II.

This is possibly my favorite ongoing game series right now - my longtime favorites of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Tales have been flailing about trying to find their footing in the new gaming marketplace of today. Somehow the Souls series manages to be absolutely amazing by not making any real concessions to modern gaming - they're very difficult, with obtuse game mechanics, worlds that are full of lore & atmosphere but none of it is freely given (you must look all over to get information), and online play that significantly limits what you can do to relay information to others.

But despite all that, the games are fantastic and engrossing. I'm pretty sure I'll get less boardgaming for the next couple months due to this game...
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17. Board Game: League of Hackers [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:10599]
Raf Cordero
United States
Bolingbrook
Illinois
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I mentioned last week that we've gone through a few iterations of league format for Netrunner and the highs and lows of running and organizing one, and a couple people said they'd be interested in it so I though I'd share the experiences we've had.

Note: sprinkled in through all of this are one off weekend tournaments.

The Bridge Dynasty
The Netrunner league started up in January of 2013, only a few months after the general release. The guy who ran it has ended up becoming a good friend and is the guy who introduced me to my primary gaming group (who have also become good friends). It's run at the FLGS, and the owners of the shop are very firmly in favor of "casual competitiveness" over the more hardcore stuff, and that extends even into their Magic events. In the initial incarnation, we met every other week and it was done in a round robin format. Everyone was supposed to play everyone at least once and standings were used to establish picking order for the prize kit. We ran this way for about a year, eventually increasing the frequency to every Monday. In between league "season" we just have casual play.

We oscillated between 6-10 people for a while using this format. The pros were that everyone played everyone, and in terms of league standings it was the best way to declare a "winner" in terms of skill in playing the game. The downside was that a schedule might get lopsided if someone didn't attend and you ended up playing one of the stronger players twice simply to get a game in that night. From the FLGS' perspective, they had some people who were interested in organized play who didn't want to "join in the middle", even though they were welcome. I think it's sort more of a personal mental barrier.

The Cordero Dynasty
At some point, I took over running the league. My first season was run in the traditional way. It worked as usual, but by this point those of us who had been playing for a while had gotten to be much better than those starting new or discovering the game. Netrunner has an issue that there are some "rules" you learn as you play that sort of move you into a skill level where you're going to beat someone 9/10 times no matter how well they play, until they also reach that skill level. Someone who has been playing for years is going to beat a new player barring a crazy string of RNG luck with shuffling. While attendance stayed steady or grew during my first season, there were some people getting frustrated that they didn't feel they could compete for prizes or "always lost" to certain other players. At this time, I introduced achievement challenges. The idea behind the system was that you could score points for certain achievements even if you lost. For example, if you managed to have 30+ credits in your pool, or break 5 ICE in a single run, etc you could cross out an achievement on a Bingo Sheet. The nice thing about the game night kits is that they often come with multiples of most prizes so we were able to award prizes to the people who won the most, and the people who did the most achievements. This also led to greater deck variety as people monkeyed around with different decks.

This worked really well, and our numbers grew a little bit, until the Premiere tournaments started that year. With Regionals and the first Store Championships, people became frustrated that the achievements league was pretty bad at preparing us for playing Netrunner outside the friendly confines. People were showing up with highly tuned competitive decks and we'd been faffing about with janky decks designed to win with no ICE or whatever. After polling the group, we went back to standard league standings with achievements. Unfortunately, our numbers started to decline as the same people who had initial frustrations with the standings method discovered they still were having those problems. In conjunction with the FLGS I tried lots of things like having each night have an individual winner/achievement combo so you could get a gift card and not worry about weekly standings and other stuff. It kind of worked, and we got back to 6-8 players before I stepped down.

The De La Rosa Dynasty
The next guy who followed me kept the "each night is a tournament" format, with one awesome change. Right around when he started running the league FFG changed the tourney rules to create a double-elimination format where you only played a 30 minute half-match before getting a new opponent. We now run the nights like that, and it means you get far more games in against far more players each night. Where you used to play maybe 2 or 3 games against 2 or 3 different people, you now get to play against 5-6 different people. You still play the same amount of Netrunner, there is just more variety and more camaraderie. It's great! It's still ending with the same few people ending up at the top of the standings, but another change designed to award attendance has mixed it up a few times. We've started regularly seeing 12+ Netrunners and are showing up in greater numbers than Monday Night Magic.

The Future
The guy from above has just stepped down, as he got tired of running/organizing because it's a ton of work. The new organizer is keeping the 30 minute match format, but returning to achievements. The group we have is a lot of fun, and no one really runs the Top Meta decks anyway so we weren't necessarily any more prepared than last time. We'll see how the new changes work. I'm looking forward to it. It's also really cool that this is the first person who will be running it who wasn't part of the original members. We've passed the torch.

_______________

Overall I enjoyed running the league, but it was a little frustrating to feel like I couldn't make people happy. After every season we send out emails to the group to see if anyone has any issues/problems/suggestions and we've gotten mixed results. I think at the end of the day, the right thing is for the organizer to take feedback but run it the way they want that works for the most people. The most important thing is to create a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

Whew. Sorry for the wall of text
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Stephen Smith
United States
Jackson
MS
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Plays for the weekend:

Empire Builder
Australian Rails x 2
Great Lakes Rails (prototype)
India Rails
Spike
Thurn and Taxis
Express
Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Istanbul
Alhambra
Can't Stop
King of New York
Harry Potter Hogwarts (Lego)

We spent the weekend in Jacksonville, FL at get-together called Hausfest hosted by Darwin and Trella Bromley. For those who don't recognize the name, Darwin Bromley is one of the designers of Empire Builder. Needless to say, a lot of EB games get played, as well as train games in general. My birthday was on Saturday, so this ended up being a nice celebration.

Highlights include being able to play Empire Builder with Darwin and meeting Jay Tummelson.
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