Gathering Nine is Fine
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We love our pups!! Misu, RIP 28 Nov 2010. Tikka, RIP 11 Aug 2011.
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Last year's report here

Bad storms causing delays all over the country. Fortunately, not bad for us -- minor delay, and a dash through ATL to connect. At least we didn't have to drive from Chicago like some people!
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1. Board Game: Historia [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:997]
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Hillsborough
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FRIDAY, APRIL 10



After dropping our stuff off, we said our hellos to the relatively few people here already, eh watched a game of Arboretum being played. Very interesting game, actually -- will definitely need to try this later! We were waiting for a couple of the players to finish, so we could go to dinner. It was almost done. Well, maybe a few more minutes. Nearly there now! Etc -- it was a while! Then, when that ended, we waited a "few" more minutes for Frank, who was in an entirely different game! Fortunately the company was good, but after an hour (plus?) of chatting and waiting, we were HUNGRY! So, off to Kohinoor for dinner: yummy Indian food!!

When we (me, Mary, Rodney, Alvin) got back, we decided to play Historia, along with Aeos as well. This was new to everyone, although Rodney had played part of a solo turn just to learn the game. It's supposed to be a two hour game but, after a lengthy rules explanation, it took we newbies about 3.5 hours to finish this thing. We played with one mid-strength bot, which ended up beating everyone but me (I think -- we gave it a bunch of points after first round, but should have only given it 9; that would've placed its final score a few points behind me, if I remember correctly).

This seems as if it could be a pretty cool civ game! It is abstracted, but there definitely is a geographical element here, there's a tech track, types of government, all driven by a action selection mechanism sort of like Rococo, Concordia, and Lewis & Clark -- except without a deck-building element. And it's all quite different from TTA, my favorite of the genre. A definite must-try-again, although maybe just with 4 (unless everyone is experienced), and try going without military this time? Or the advanced game, where you do more pre-planning at the start of game.

Update: I ended up buying this at the flea market on Saturday -- hopefully we'll get to play this soon!

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2. Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:27]
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SATURDAY, APRIL 11

With Vlaada and MatthewM.

I've played the original game many times, mostly online. It's always tricky going back to face-to-face since you have to remember all the little details! Fortunately, though, it comes back; and the game is worth it! There are several little changes ... looking forward to seeing the final version!
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3. Board Game: La Granja [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:117]
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With Mary, Michelle, and Rob -- all new. Thanks to Rik for teaching (while playing another game!)

Interesting, thinky game that sort of feels like a mix of Agricola (theme, with stuff you grow/harvest/use; occupations, sort of) and Glory to Rome (multi-use cards where you slide the card in different areas of your board to show how you're using it). On the first play, seems a bit overwrought -- there is a LOT going on! But I think things would flow much better the next time around.
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4. Board Game: Cacao [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:494]
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After dinner at Texas Roadhouse (thanks for driving, Ted!). For once, M and I did the sensible thing: we split the ribs and other appetizers -- if only we could remember to do that at all our meals!

Lotte taught, then went off to bed (after a 30 hour travel time, pretty tired!). Me, Mary, Toni, and Matt.

This is a neat little tile-laying / worker-placement game. It plays pretty quickly and has some interesting choices, although too short and bland for my tastes. It did, however, seem pretty popular in the room. I wonder if they have variants like for Qin, where players each set the order of their own tiles, or pick starting hand, etc?

--- Summary ---
Players each have identical decks of player-tiles, shuffled -- draw a hand of 3 from your own deck. These have 4 workers distributed around the edges -- 1/3, 1/2/1, or 1/1/1/1. Two exploration-tiles start in the center of the table, touching diagonally. The rest of these tiles are shuffled into a deck, putting 2 on display. These tiles show one of a variety of things:
- 1 or 2 VP
- 1 or 2 cacao
- cacao market, where you can sell a cacao for 2/3/4 VP
- water, to advance your Meeple on the water track of your player board
- coin, to collect a coin (sabe max 3 at a time)
- temple, worth 6/3 at end of game to 1st/2nd place area control

On your turn, play a tile from your hsnd onto the table, orthogonal to another tile. If you create an L with another player-tile, take one of the exploration tiles from display and place it there. Then, all workers adjacent to the newest tile(s) work, each producing whatever is on the tile (eg if your 3-worker edge touches a 1 VP tile, you get 3 VP). Once all exploration tiles have been played, you may spend a coin to play on top of one of your previously placed tiles (max one tile high).

The game ends when everyone has played all their player tiles. Score VP for temples (area influence) and distance traveled on water. Most VP wins.
 
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5. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:2226]
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SUNDAY, APRIL 12

Me, Mike, and Ian

MikeF's tile laying prototype. A chaotic, swingy, strategy game that plays in about 20 minutes/player. Everything he said as he described the game made it less appealing, but it still turned out to be kind of a neat, fun game! If I have time, I might need to try this one again....
 
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6. Board Game: Commands & Colors: Napoleonics [Average Rating:7.98 Overall Rank:299]
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Paul had posted about this on the forums, and it actually worked! He found me finishing up the previous game and set this up to play right after -- awesome! I enjoy the system, but hardly ever get to play it at home. This version was totally new to me so he went over the rules and picked a pretty basic scenario.

This is a cool take of the C&C system! It is certainly the most complicated version I've tried (I think? Don't really remember much about BattleLore), but it all works well. It includes everything I remember from the other historical versions -- battle back, leaders, multiple troop subtypes -- but also modifies the combat strength of units according to the number of figures present ("finally!", some might say), alters the board configuration (wider center, narrower flanks), and adds in some Napoleonic flavor (combined arms, square formations). If I could play it enough to internalize all the differences between the troop types, the game would flow much better. Still, very enjoyable!
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7. Board Game: 7 Wonders Duel [Average Rating:8.15 Overall Rank:12]
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With StefanB from Asmodee.

The game is still in development, but I like it -- and I'm not even particularly a fan of the original game! In this version it is much easier to see what the other player is doing, and the change they made to replace drafting works quite well -- especially since you no longer have to try to remember what cards you passed! Each era's cards are placed in a display of alternating face up/down cards, in a different pattern each era. Players alternate taking them, so you have some planning based on a little foreknowledge. As usual, you can use the card for money, build it, or build a wonder (of which only 7 are available), or turn it in for money. There's even military stuff going on, simplified to a little track sitting between the players.

Good version!
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8. Board Game: Meow [Average Rating:4.77 Overall Rank:15276]
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With RachelG, DavidT, and Mary -- new to M and me

What a cute little game! It's a simple simple bluffing game that plays in less than 5 minutes.

Fun!

--- Summary ---
The deck of cards, showing mostly "Meow" but with a bunch (third?) "Not Meow", is shuffled and placed in the center. Players take turns drawing a card, looking at it, Assur it to their pile face down, and saying "Meow". The next player either believes you are a cat, and takes their own turn, or does not -- you're an imposter! In that case, they challenge: you reveal all your cards: if any are "Not Meow", you are eliminated! Continue until only one person remains = winner!
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9. Board Game: Adorable Pandaring [Average Rating:5.79 Overall Rank:10321]
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x2, with same group as above.

It's adorable! Another 5-minute game. Here, the deck has pandas numbered 1-10 (4 copies?), each with a unique power. Each player is dealt a hand of (4?) cards. At the start of the game, one player chooses a rule for most adorable panda: low/high/even/odd numbers. On your turn, play one card face down and another face up. The face up power -- e.g., change the rule, discard someone's panda, trade a panda with someone -- activates. If the total number of pandas reaches 5, reveal pandas: all players with 2+ adorable pandas get one bamboo, and the player with the most number of adorable pandas earns a bonus bamboo. One type of panda always scores regardless of adorable-ness. First player to 5 bamboo wins.

Or something like that -- I've surely screwed up the details, but it is a pretty light, silly game with cute art and it is fun to play.
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10. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: Las Vegas and Korea (N&S) [Average Rating:7.80 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.80 Unranked]
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New to all of us. The other players were:
BLUE
Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
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Ted Alspach
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Louisville
Tennessee
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Preorder Ultimate Werewolf Legacy now from beziergames.com
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Ultimate Werewolf Legacy
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(end of game)

--- Rule Summary ---
Setup
• Casino Center: 5 cubes
• Other cities: 2 cubes
• Place $5 coin under every red cube on the board or on the Goods Display
• 3er: cover Engineer Action with marker
Action Selection
• May not choose the covered Action
Build Track
• Simple Track on Plains: $3
• Complex Tracks and Towns: usual costs
Move Goods
• If delivering any cube to a city with 1+ coins, take one of those coins
Goods Growth
• Production: if a player places red cube(s), also place a $5 coin with it (as in Setup).
• If a Red cube is being placed onto the board, also add the $5 coin to that city.
Advance Turn Marker
• 3er: move marker between Engineer and Urbanize

----------

We all started the game going after the money -- those $5 cash payouts were very tempting! We were even moving cubes over mostly other people's tracks from time to time, just to get the cash in hand! You sort of have to do that, it seems, since cities are pretty far apart and 2-link deliveries, at least at the beginning, are hard to come by (especially with half as many urbanizations).

At some point, though, you can't ignore the fact that you have to advance your actual income. Plus, the $5 sweeteners do eventually run out. After that, it's pretty much a regular game. The 3er modification of alternately eliminating Engineer/Urbanize is a nice change, though.

I ended up winning this one, although I don't remember the specifics. Overall, though:
- It's a pretty vanilla expansion with just a few changes.
- Probably a good newbie map? Extra cash should help, and also provide some direction at beginning of game.
- First Move becomes much more interesting than usual!
 
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11. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:118]
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Australia

The Rosewater print and play version, not the Bezier Games one.

New to all of us. I was YELLOW. The other players were:
..........RED..........
Rodney Somerstein
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Willow Grove
Pennsylvania
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.........GREEN.........
Paul Skrabut
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Miami
Florida
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..........BLUE.........
david grainger

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----------
A more detailed play summary is here. I didn’t record scores, but final positions were: me, Adam, David, Rodney, and Paul. Especially good play for David, new to map AND the game itself! This seems like a pretty good map, although maybe not the best for new players. It’s also a bit tight with 5 players, although that may be exactly what you’re looking for! Subvention wasn’t used very much in our game, although I think in general it would be a good catch-up mechanism — especially in a tight game like this one. Overall, this is a good, tough map and a nice alternative to the Bezier Games version.


 
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12. Board Game: Wir sind das Volk! [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:539]
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I played this as West, against Paul. I'd only recently learned the game and had been wanting to try it again ... time to get my war game on! Well, it's not really a war game, but still.

This was a lot of fun! The Western strategy seems kind of straightforward: build up your economy, fast. But Paul did a great job staying ahead of me, building enough factories and infrastructure to survive the repeated dismantles. He managed to get a socialist victory at the end of decade 4, just a phase or two before I would have won by unrest! And I was trying to keep on top of that track, too!

Fun game that I hope I can get back to soon! It doesn't feel as thematic as Twilight Struggle, though, with all the icons and lack of event text. But it's still pretty cool!
 
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13. Board Game: Elysium [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:318]
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This game was getting a lot of play and positive buzz. It's been compared to Deus, although I really don't see a strong connection. In Deus, you acquire cards pretty randomly, the cards are only in 5 basic flavors, they activate only when you play something of the same type (plus initially), and there is a board with relevant positional play. Elysium has none of those things. Instead, you acquire cards more or less in a draft (5 times), there are many different card effects, and there is no board play at all! The most interesting thing, I think, is the draft: you are constrained by your remaining columns, which everyone can see. So you have some guidance in choosing which cards to take, and when.

Interesting game, but I would like to try with the "advanced" gods -- the recommended first game setup leaves out the 3 more complicated gods.

--- Summary ---
At the start of the game, place 2-4 tiles (1/player) in the display. Players each get a random turn order tile. Choose 5 gods to play; shuffle all those cards to create a draw deck. Each player gets a pedestal board.

At the start of each (of 5) round, create an "agora" of 3n+1 cards. Players each get 4 column tokens (red, blue, green, yellow).

In turn order, take either a tile (if you have none already) or a card from the agora. To claim something, you must have an available column of the color(s) shown on the card. After claiming, discard any one of your available columns. After 4 turns, everyone must have claimed 1 tile and 3 cards. If you cannot claim a card (missing appropriate columns), take a face down "citizen" card from the draw deck. May not have multiple copies of exactly the same card in your domain. If you cannot claim a tile, claim one of the remaining tiles face down. All claimed cards go ABOVE your pedestal, in your "Domain".

During those turns, you may use card powers of cards in your Domain. These range from single-use to once/turn to always-on powers, and do a variety of things like give you money, earn VP, force players to discard cards, etc. -- each god has its own flavor of power.

After the 4 claims, adjust turn order based on the tiles taken. Then, in turn order, players may make transfers of cards from their domain to their Elysium -- the area below the pedestal -- up to the number of cards specified on the tile. Each transfer costs 1 gold per card number (1-3 total). In the Elysium, cards go in sets: either all the same color (god) but different numbers (1-3), or all the same number but different colors (5 in game). Once in a set ("legend"), they never move. Citizens are wild; pay 1-3 gold depending on what they are substituting for The first 2 complete sets of each god type earn the player(s) bonus VP chits (5/2 for 1st/2nd). For sets of 1s, 2s, and 3s, a different bonus chit goes to the player with the largest set (min size 2; keep token unless size of set is exceeded).

At the end of the game, all cards in the Domain are discarded, as are Elysium sets with only 1 card. Then, score VP according to type and size of set. Lose 2VP per citizen in your Elysium. The player with the highest sum of in-game and end-game VP wins!
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14. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:2226]
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Mike F's tile game again, 2er this time (against M). Fast (32 min)!
 
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15. Board Game: 504 [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:2051]
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Wow, this is SUCH a cool design! Just in concept alone, it is so ... ambitious! It's called '504' because there are 504 possible games here: each digit represents one of 9 different mechanisms (e.g., area majority, race, economy, etc.). To pick a game, pick a 3-digit number where each digit is different. The first number represents the main focus of the game, the second is less important, and the third is even less; or something like that.
Quote:
The first spot is responsible for the main game, victory points, game end condition.

The second module takes card of the economy - the idea how money will be earned in the game.

The third module is more or less flavor.
9 x 8 x 7 = 504 combinations!

Apparently the game mostly works, but the race games are still in need of tweaking; so we played one of those (672, I think). Experience proved itself, with F winning convincingly against the two of us. I hope I can come back and try the pick-up-and-deliver and/or stock game ... I do love those mechanisms!

Unfortunately, I never managed to get back to this in time to join another game . I guess I'll have to wait for the published version!
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16. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:2226]
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TUESDAY, APRIL 14

Adrenaline, from CGE

Quick-playing, light first-person-shooter in board game format. With Mary, James, and Vlaada.

Fun game, but like all FPSs, I suck: a distant last place
 
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17. Board Game: Ciúb [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:4705]
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Hillsborough
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With Mary, Rodney, and LarryC.

A(nother!) reworking of To Court the King. This time, the available cards become available for acquisition stepwise (3 decks, in order) and are each worth VP. Also, the powers are on the dice instead of the cards. Maybe it's better to say it's a reworking of e Yahtzee type mechanic? Anyway, I can see the potential but it was way too long with we 4 newbies (80 min). Hope to try it with 2 some time.
 
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18. Board Game: Royals [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:850]
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2 games, in the tournament. I won the first game (and consequently that copy of the game, too!) but lost in the next round.

This is an excellent lighter, streamlined take on Heads of State: card drawing, set collection, area majorities, a whiff of take-that ... sort of like a nice mix of Ticket to Ride and Web of Power. Very well done -- needs an English release, which is coming soon! I hadn't played this for a few months, but my first impressions haven't really changed: fun game!
 
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19. Board Game: Lumis: Der Pfad des Feuers [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:7428]
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Paul, William, Mary, and I went across the street to the casino buffet for dinner: wide selection, but quality was pretty hit or miss ... should've gone to the fancy steak place instead! But we had a good time. Getting back to the hotel, we settled on this game: W had played 2er before and wanted to try the team version. Sadly, W and I lost; but still fun!

This is basically Hex, but with several very nice additions that make it more interesting for those of us who don't love abstracts.
- The team game, especially, seems to be pretty cool! You cannot overtly communicate about what cards you need or what you want your partner to do. Instead, like in Tichu, you have to infer that based on their behavior and come up with some kind of strategy as you play.
- The tower play, too, is interesting: how many cards should you play to try to secure a space? Are you wasting cards with a big tower, or securing board position?
- And the card management, too: should you fill up your own hand, or leave the juicy 4 out so your partner can do so? Will he figure out what you want him to do?

--- Summary ---
A game for 2 or 4 (in teams of 2, alternate seating around the table). The board is pretty much the basic Hex board, but with the hexes in a variety of colors/symbols and with some larger Tower hexes. A deck of cards (each card showing one of those symbols) is shuffled; players start with x cards each. Each team has 2 cards showing 1/4 and 2/3 on front/back: place these nearby.

On your turn, you may do one of the following:
- draw cards: pick one of your team's cards and draw the number showing, then flip the card to the other side
- give cards to partner: as above
- play cards:
... play a set of matching cards to place a tower (height = number of cards) on a matching Tower hex on the board; if other team's tower there, must play a higher tower. -- OR --
... play a combination of cards that create a path from one of your towers to another, with the cards matching the spaces on the path; place flame markers in your team color on that path.

The first team to connect their 2 sides of the board to one another wins immediately!
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20. Board Game: Tichu [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:123]
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Hillsborough
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Last game of the evening! William wasn't interested so Zev took his place: he and I vs. Mary and Paul. It was one of those long, slow games that finally finished after 2 hours and 8 minutes. Very good game, with Z and I taking an early (small lead), then M and P almost winning, before we turned it around with a grand Tichu followed by a grand tichu one-two (the good guys won 1265-935)! The best play was when, right after a discussion about how Zev doesn't call Tichu often enough, he called and made a Tichu while simultaneously setting Mary's grand Tichu call, which he had completely forgotten about when he called!
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21. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:2226]
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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15

I was supposed to play SeaFall -- even managed to get downstairs on time -- but sadly, it didn't happen: Rob's podcast interview ran long, and anyway he'd also booked a group for a different game at the same time! While I waited (before finally giving up), I tried a proto: Very cool bits, but not at all my kind of game ... roll and move, trivia, randomness. The little mini games were kind of fun, but I think it needs a lot of reworking.
 
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22. Board Game: Beasty Bar [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:1070] [Average Rating:6.85 Unranked]
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When M and I were working out this morning, there was a woman running the heck out of a machine: on and on and on. Hey, it turns out she's one of us! I ran into Andrea again while I was waiting for SeaFall, and again after leaving that previous game (which she very smartly declined to play!). She brought this one here and I joined her, Donna, and Jim. We played with the super secret promo (no pictures/discussion allowed).

This is a cute little filler along the lines of Guillotine: there's a line of cards where periodically the ones up front score, and the cards do various manipulations. The twist here is that each player has an identical deck of cards (with nice illustrations and great, clear, icons) which they shuffle and draw over the course of the game. There is a little control, but it's mostly a light, random, chaotic little card game. Or at least it felt that way, since I did so poorly!

--- Summary ---
Each player shuffles their deck of cards and draws a hand of 4 (or 5?) cards. On your turn, play a card to the back of the line and apply its effect. Then, any cards already in line activate their ongoing effects (if any). Cards have a variety of effects like rearranging the line, flipping front/back, discarding other cards, etc. If the line has 5 cards, the first 2 get into Beasty Bar and the last one is removed from the game. The game then continues, until it is no longer possible to have a full line.

At the end, score the cards that made it into the Bar. Basic scoring is just to count the number of cards of each player, but other variants score different points depending on the card scored. Most animals/points wins!

There are also other variants where you start with random cards removed, or with a customized deck.
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23. Board Game: Jungle Rumble [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:5123]
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Hillsborough
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Andrea also had this with her, a result of this year's math trade. D'oh! How did I miss it?! I totally forgot about it this time around! Hopefully next year ...

Anyway, Steffan very kindly volunteered to teach this to the four of us (Jim, Donna, Andrea, and me), all new to the game. It's a role selection game (like Puerto Rico) where one player chooses, but everyone else can follow that action. This is a very streamlined version, though, playing in just 45 minutes or so. And it's got a great theme and artwork: you are sending workers (cats! each player has different art) to do the roles. The roles are weird jungle animals like Beaver Man, Tiger Boss, etc! When it's your turn to choose, you can send as many cats as you like: the more sent, the more powerful the action. Everyone else can either send one cat, if they have any awake, or wake up a cat. The actions do things like: add field tiles to your area; add water sticks to your fields; get food; get gold; make more cat workers; convert one cat into a shopkeeper, to whom you can later send gold or food (for end-game VP). At the end of the turn, you must feed your cats using your food tokens (requirement decreased by the number of watered fields you have).

The game can end surprisingly quickly, when the field tiles or water sticks run out, or when one player hires their 7th cat worker. So you have to pay attention to what others are doing and be as efficient as possible.

I wouldn't mind owning this one!
 
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24. Board Game: Concordia [Average Rating:8.07 Overall Rank:21]
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Hillsborough
North Carolina
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I've been playing this a bit online lately and wasn't really looking to play it again. But I was now without a game, and Wolfgang was looking for players! I joined him (new to the game), Nils, and Scott. In fact, I was the one who'd played most recently and had the rules pretty clear in my head, so I taught.

After my earlier play, I wrote:
This is an economic, card-management game, this time without a rondel! Card handling is sort of like Rococo: everyone starts with the same mix, but can acquire more by buying from a card row. Here, though, you can pick up your discard pile any time, by using the right action card. Cards allow you to do different actions, like moving pieces on the board, building settlements, collecting resources, etc.

There's an interesting type of timing thing: you want to be able to work with the pace others are, to take advantage of producing at the right time so you can sell at the right time. You also want to delay taking the income action, so you get more money; but don't wait so long that someone else gets it! You want to expand early, to claim key territory; but the longer you wait (to collect the necessary resources), the more you'll be able to expand at once.

Also interesting is the end-game VP awards, which are based on the cards you've collected during the game. Cards are associated with one of the gods; each god scores VP a different way, with each card being a multiplier, e.g. (# cards) x (# brick settlements you have). So you're balancing end-game VP awards with in-game card action powers.


I ended up winning a pretty close game. I am getting a better feel for the game, although I doubt it will be one of my favorites. But thanks for the game!
 
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25. Board Game: Fields of Arle [Average Rating:8.17 Overall Rank:53]
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One of the hits from this past Essen: yet another farming-type game of converting resources into other resources and victory points, by Uwe Rosenberg. William and I decided to give this a whirl (new to both of us)!

There are a LOT of cardboard bits in this game -- setup alone will take some time! It took us more than an hour to set up, then work our way through the rules. Then, another 2.5 hours (almost) to actually play the game! But actually, the game rules are not all that complex: alternate taking placing workers to take actions, clearly marked on the board, for each half of the year. Then, do some maintenance. After 4.5 years (9 rounds), calculate final scores in an almost Feldian way, i.e., based on a wide variety of things you could have done during the game. The complexity comes from trying to figure out which path to take, and reacting to your opponent's actions. The paths include expanding your farm (in a new way, different from Agricola), acquiring and upgrading goods (similar to Le Havre but with now you may be putting together sets of improved goods), selling items to different cities (also via a new mechanism), build buildings (for in-game benefits and/or end-game VP), etc. Almost everything you do is worth _some_ VP -- you just have to choose the best combination.

So, an interesting, heavy game with straightforward rules but complex game play, partially because of the wide open game play: there are almost too many options available, right from the start of the game. With absolutely no randomness, this seems to be more like a puzzle than a game: a complex machine to figure out and put away. I guess that's why it's a good game for 1, too. I'd like to play it more, I guess, if only to figure the game out. But I'm not particularly excited about the prospect, and I doubt it will be a long-term favorite.

 
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