Butterfly0038's 2015 Games of Interest
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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I try to wait till around the summer to start adding games that I'm interested in. With Origins a bit earlier this year, I decided to start now.

At this point, there's only one 2015 game that I've acquired and not too many more that I'm interested in at this point. However, I have no doubt that will change as Origins, GenCon, and Essen Spiele get closer.



So, here's my current Spiele release list:
Pre-ordered (for delivery to my house): Food Chain Magnate, Pax Pamir, 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis, The Foreign King, Ships, Factory Funner, Nippon
BGG.Con purchase: Stingy, RevoltaaA
US Order: Russian Railroads: German Railroads, Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania, 7 Wonders Duel, DRCongo
Funagain order for BGG.Con: Witkacy, Hack Trick
Friend picked up for me at Spiele: Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization (CGE edition), Visby

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1. Board Game: Food Chain Magnate [Average Rating:8.22 Overall Rank:28]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 9
Number of Plays: 7
Status: Own

Shamelessly stolen from a geekbuddy...

Quote:

It's a drafting game where the desired object is only gradually manifested through the play of others. I often felt like I was building a car while not knowing exactly what course it would have to run. The Milestones provide some nice strategic pressure, and, of course, in my own car building I was determining the course as well. The balance between overarching strategy and tactical maneuver is fabulous (especially because tactical pivoting can be drafted as well). Couple that drafting game with a killer spatial element, and I think Splotter may have its best game yet.


To this I'll add that tactical pivoting can't be over-stated. After 2 plays, I could be wrong, but I think it may be the majority of the game. Players must have a strategy but they also have to be able to pivot and adjust based on other players' strategies. The player that's able to do that best will win.

15-Apr-2016: Bumped my rating to 9 from 8.5. It's a bear to teach (because I teach all the cards) and the first game is a throw-away. But, I absolutely love it. I'm beginning to think it'll rival Roads & Boats and Antiquity as one of my top 3 Splotters. Varied strategy, economy, special power card game with network building... absolutely outstanding. Probably my top game of 2015.
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2. Board Game: Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.61 Overall Rank:3]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 9
Number of Plays: 3
Status: Own

It's probably not fair having a reboot of a game I love competing with everything else. I absolutely loved my play of this new edition. The components are a major step up (except for the player boards) and the nerfing of the cards means it plays differently enough that Amanda is competitive. I also really like the tactics change as well as the reversing of production/corruption. Definitely a keeper.

15-Apr-2016 Update: Not sure if I'm just getting better at teaching, but teaching this wasn't as awful as I remembered. Two more plays and I really like the changes. Someone was hosed without a rock upgrade till Age 3 and still was leading till the final impacts.
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3. Board Game: Enemy Action: Ardennes [Average Rating:8.74 Overall Rank:2010]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 9
Number of Plays: 5
Status: Own

After 5 plays, it's quickly become one of my top games of 2015. It's a 2-player wargame that has an AI that works equally well for either side. While I disagree in 3 games in one, there's no denying the amount of effort that went into creating this game. There are three different boards to make the AI smoother and three different rulebooks so players can focus on the game they're playing and not have to keep scanning to find the exceptions to the exceptions for their particular scenario/AI. Super quality!

Then there's the game itself. While I acknowledge the AI is an investment, the multi-player is slick. Chit pulls instead of lots of CRTs does a bunch of things. First off, in a given battle you don't know what the deciding factor will be. Will terrain be important? artillery? strength advantage? depends on what chits get pulled. It can be annoying having a 5:1 advantage and not seeing a single chit that cares about your strength, but that's reality. Sometimes it's all about the terrain. In any case, it makes the game much smoother. Then there's the CDG nature. Cards can either be used to activate units, deploy reinforcements, or for tactics in battles. In addition, the faster you burn threw your cards, the sooner the rounds over. So, there's a game pace aspect too. Tough decisions, smooth game play.

I'm new into wargames. I played them as a kid (mainly Ambush -- another Butterfield game). So, maybe everything I see as innovative is only 10/20 year innovative, but it's sure seems streamlined to me.

My 5 plays have all been solo and all but the first have been against the German AI (3 times with the right rules) and we seem very well matched. I'm playing the 3-day scenario so games are taking right at 3 hours. I can easily see this topping 10 plays in 2016 and even more if I get another human to play this with.
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4. Board Game: Arboretum [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:357]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 7
Status: Own

I find myself gravitating more and more to card games. They're compact so it's easier to store and transport them. They're (generally) easier to teach and learn. And they're generally shorter to play which means more games to play and no one has to wait for 2 hours knowing they've already lost.

Arboretum is a very clever new card game Dan Cassar and after six plays, I'm still impressed. Players are trying to build a tableau of cards in multiple suits. At the end of the game, if you have the most value of a suit in your hand, you can score a path for that suit that's in your tableau. The path must be a strictly ascending sequence of cards arranged orthogonally with that suit as the first and last card (e.g., if I have the Oak 7 and Oak 4 in my hand and no one else has more than 11 in Oaks in their hand, I get to score my longest Oak path which may start with Oak 2, end with Oak 6 and include Willow 3 and Olive 5). So, it's this balance of trying to lay cards in front of you while also keeping high cards in your hand so that you can score them, and simultaneously trying to keep high cards for other suits that other players can score.

This would be interesting enough by itself, but the designer adds a further twist. Each round, players draw 2 cards, play 1 and discard 1 (normal so far) to their personal discard pile. So with 3 players, there are three discard piles. When players draw cards, they can draw the top card from any discard pile or the draw deck. So, if Joe is collecting Oak and Steve goes after me, I could discard an oak. If Steve picks it up from my discard pile, he's in a better position to stop Joe from scoring Oak. Will he? That sort of thing is what makes me wonder if ultimately I'll prefer it with 2 or 3 (I think 4 would be too chaotic unless played with a partners variant). With 2, it's much more of a Chess match with bluffing.

Despite having too many short 2-player games, Arboretum is too good to let go. I'll be holding onto it and hoping to get many plays. Of the game released pre-Essen 2015, it's probably my favorite.

15-Apr-2016: played it for the first time last weekend in a really long time and I love it as much as ever. I love the tension of balancing your hand and your tableau and your discards. Unfortunately, for some reason, no one loves it as much as me. That's why it's an 8 instead of a 9 (but it still may move up). In my personal top 5 of 2015.
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5. Board Game: W1815 [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:2025]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 7
Status: Own

What a neat game! A "wargame" playable in 15 minutes! Units don't move and attacks are decided by CRTs with almost no modifiers but it's still an interesting game. Each unit has it's own CRT. Results include friendly/enemy casualties as friendly/enemy morale. After a certain number of casualties, players roll for routs which happen if the die roll is higher than the remaining morale. The luck of the dice obviously play a large role, but there's more strategy than you'd think. It's also really sparked my interest in the battle of Waterloo. While I've only done a very little bit of reading, my interest is piqued to do more which is unusual for me. Also, although it's more fun with 2, it's also a very good schizophrenic solo game as players have to react to the dice and can't just carry out their plans. I'm very curious to see where my rating of this is by the end of the year. It might go down a point to 7, but it also might go up a point or two.
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6. Board Game: Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania [Average Rating:8.07 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.07 Unranked]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 4
Status: Own

I've only played the PA map so far, but I loved it. It adds another dimension to TtR with shares. Shares are yet another source of points (along with tickets and connections). What's more, like Longest Train/Most Tickets, scoring most shares means someone else isn't.

I was expecting to enjoy UK more and it's possible I will in the short run, but after one play of PA, I expect it'll have more longevity for me. It's also clearly a lot less intimidating to get to the table.

15-Apr-2016: one play of UK and three of PA. UK isn't bad, but it feels like it adds complexity without adding interesting decisions. PA is outstanding. The shares turn the game on its ear as players now have an incentive to put connections down early as majority of shares can give lots of points. Not sure if it's my favorite, but it's the one I'm currently most excited about.
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7. Board Game: Churchill [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:500]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 6
Status: Own

My first two plays were the same day. The first was a 3 round teaching game and the second was the normal 5 round game. My third play I was the teacher and I underestimated how much there was to teach. In between games, it seems so easy. You have a hand of cards, you pick issues, you play cards to move the issues. Then, when all the cards are played, you resolve the issues you won on the war board. How hard could that be to teach? Yep, harder than you might think. I still like it. I still want to get it played. But, I won't underestimate the time to teach again.

The game itself feels a bit like Twilight Struggle, but plays very differently. Probably the one thing about the game I love is the 3-player fight. The USSR has a lot of ways to score points, but the UK and US can band together to make his life very difficult. My one disappointment is that after 3 plays, we have yet to defeat the Axes. That tells me we need to be working together more than we are.

I really like the 3 end-game conditions and the historical flavor of the game. My rating may still go up or down and I'm not sure how often I'll get it played, but I'm really glad I've got it.

After two more plays of this at BGG.Con, I think I'm locking in the "8" rating. Like Twilight Struggle, I'm concerned about when I'll get the plays in to make this monster shine, but it's slowly revealing its brilliance to me. In our last game, Russia and the US were far behind England but rather than band together, push for the end of the war and force Churchill to ally with one of us, we messed with each other and lost in glorious fashion. With luck, the next time we play, there will be agreement on what to do.

Update: finally got to play the campaign game and loved it. It provides space for players to have scenarios different from the tournament one. Other than that, the tournament game is probably just as good.

15-Apr-2016: Rating dropped from a 9 to an 8 but I doubt it'll drop any lower. Very solid 3-player game but it needs repeated plays with the same people to get past the mechanics and into exploiting the victory conditions. Still a keeper
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8. Board Game: Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:153]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 12
Status: Own

While this game doesn't "Wow" me, it's currently either #1 or #2 for games published in 2015. It feels like Kingdom Builder meets Carcassonne meets Key Harvest. It's easy to teach. The components are great. And it plays fairly quick (around an hour, give or take).

The game starts with 4 goals being shown where each goal scores in 3 of the 5 rounds. Each round, players get 3 tiles and simultaneously use their money to designate prices for 2 of them and throw away the third. Then, in turn order, players get to buy one tile from another player using money they didn't use to designate prices (the receiving player also gets to pick up the money he used to designate the price). After everyone has bought a tile, players get any tiles remaining in front of them but lose the money they used to designate prices. Then everyone places the tiles they just received Carc-style and scores points. Rinse and repeat.

It's a game I always enjoy and may suggest, but not one I'm in love with.

11/30/15: Early guess: this will at least get a KDJ nomination (assuming it's got a German release)

15-Apr-2016: Despite not getting played much, this remains an 8 because I'm constantly wanting to play it... need to keep working on turning wishes into reality.
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9. Board Game: Hack Trick [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:3365]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 4
Status: Own

Have you ever played a game and thought, "I'm not sure I get it, but I think there's something there?" That's my feeling with Hack Trick. I needed to see the video to understand how to play it, but once I saw the video, the game was simple. On your turn, you can either draw a card or play a card. If you play a card, you play it next to the last card played and place a marker on the tic-tac-toe board that represents the sum of the two cards. If you get 3-in-a-row or 3 on a single space, you win. If you place a marker on a spot with your opponent's markers, you get his markers. All of this sounds simple and makes me think luck-of-the-draw plays a big part. There are three more rules. First, if you've previously captured one of your opponent's markers, you can spend it to get him to tell you the sum of his cards. Second, you can spend one of your markers to either force your opponent to play a card or to not force you on your next turn. Those two things make me think there's a lot of game here. I'm not sure and it'll take several more plays to decide, but it's got me very curious.

NB: there's also an advanced 2-player variant along with a 3- and 4-player variant, but I'm going to be sticking with this as a 2-player for as long as I can.

15-Apr-2016: Played it with Amanda last week and I still really like it. It has a Khmer feel but with a bit a lot more luck and a bit more going on. Unlike Khmer, it feels more fun so while Khmer may be the better game, Hack Trick may get as many plays.

27-Apr-2016: The more I play this, the more I like it. I still don't Play/Block much nor spend a captured piece to get a sum, but now I'm watching out for the opportunities. Even without those things, there's a lot to consider. Players need to be paying attention to what's been played, where your opponents pieces are, how many cards they've got and, therefore, what they're hoping you do. My last two plays have just been single or double hands which makes it a quick 5ish minute game. At this point, it's moving up to be one of my better 2015 purchases. I'm not sure if it'll get enough plays to stay so highly rated or not, but I'm hopeful.
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10. Board Game: Elfenroads [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:2818]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 6
Status: Owned

So, my interest in Elfenland has peaked and ebbed over the years. For a while I was very interested in it as it was OOP. Then I played some Alan Moon games and decided Elfenland would be too simple. Then a couple of months ago, I played Ticket to Ride and fell in love with it. Now, Elfenland is getting a new release. I'm not sure where I stand on it. Pick up and Deliver with simple rules sounds good but I'm not sure if it's enough.... definitely tempted though

Finally got to read the rules.... I get the "pick up and deliver" label, but this is really a network building/route optimization game. It also sounds like a game where bad draws can really mess with you. Getting cards first and then auctioning off transportation chits looks like it would fix that and then just leave it to accidental and intentional screwage. :shrug: I don't see this as a kid's game at all and am not sure if it'd be good enough as a gamer's game or not. Definitely curious, but not sure it falls into the purchase category.

15-Apr-2016: I finally broke down and picked it up. Beautiful components. Relatively light, short game play. It's a bit more brain-burny than TtR but shorter (so less room for screwage). After 2 plays, I really like it. I have yet to play the Elfenroads expansion and I'm in no rush to. It feels like this game is meant to be about the same wait as TtR and the Elfenroads expansion sounds like it adds gamer weight (and time) to a game that doesn't need it. The Elfensea expansion is a second map that reads very similar to Elfenroads. I'm looking forward to trying it at some point. (note: I do play with the destination cards which I think adds a nice little wrinkle to Elfenland).

11-Jul-2016: This game continues to grow on me. I still haven't played anything but Elfenland. It feels more and more like multiplayer solitaire the same as Ticket to Ride or Race for the Galaxy do, i.e., you can do just fine in your own world but once you start paying attention to what other people are doing and what that means they're likely to do in the future, you can do much better.
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11. Board Game: Grand Austria Hotel [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:103]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 6
Status: owned

This is the first game that I had no plans to acquire till I saw some geekbuddy feedback. It sounded like just another modern euro and I figured I had enough of those. After two plays, it is just another modern euro and I do have enough of them... however, it may be good enough to make space for one more. It reminds me a bit of Russian Railroads from a couple of years ago. That was another game that was nothing special, except it was... and I played it about 25 times that year.

Here are some comments after two plays.
1. Mostly MPS. You could take dice or customers just because someone else needs them, but with only 14 actions all game, I can't see doing that.
2. Lots of things to increase replayability (variable helper cards, boards, in-game and end-game goals) but I expect the "feel" will be the same game to game.
3. Feels like so many other, gets cubes to complete orders and use helper cards (and completed order cards) to make actions more efficient. That said, rules are easy to understand and game play is smooth.
4. I don't see the downtime issue. That is to say, I can see it showing up but it hasn't been a problem for me and I don't expect it with the people I play with.

15-Apr-2016: Rating dropped to a 7 due to lack of playtime. My opinions above are unchanged, but if it's not getting played, I have trouble rating it an 8.

11-Jul-2016: Bumped rating back to a 8 due to more playtime. With more plays, this feels more brain-burny but with less chrome than most of the recent entries.
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12. Board Game: Small City [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:1731]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 4
Status: Own

As 2016 Spiele approaches, I've begun to acquire a few games I had initially dismissed until seeing geekbuddy comments. Small City is probably the biggest surprise. After the mess that was the initial release of Clinic, I chose to stay far away from Small City. However, Small City didn't seem to have any similar issues so I got a copy in the Spring. Since then, I've managed to get it played 4 times and enjoyed every play. It reminds me of a cross between Town Center and Antiquity but with more chrome and rough edges. There's some of Town Center's spatial puzzle but with a lot more of Antiquity's special power buildings. There's room for different strategies (e.g., strong commercial, strong residential, etc.) which is nice. While I think the interaction is on the low side, it's no worse than Antiquity or Town Center. In other words, it's not a big deal, until it is. Very happy to have a copy and on the strength of Small City's release, I've preordered Tramways.
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13. Board Game: Nippon [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:245]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 8
Status: Own
Interest Level: High

If you looked at which designers I have multiple games of, you'd generally find the regular suspects: Knizia, Rosenberg, Kramer & Kiesling, Wallace, Doumen and Wiersinga, Lehmann, Donald X, Bauza, Breese, Schacht, and even Chudyk.

However there are two pairs of designers that are less likely to be in the average collection. The first, Sylvester and Silva, produced last year's masterpiece, Wir Sind das Volk. While I'd jump on anything they publish this year, I have yet to hear of anything. The second pair, Soledade and Sentieiro, came on the scene two years ago with Madeira. Many people have described it as unholy mess, but I find the pieces are more interlocking than any other game I can think of. It takes a little bit to wrap your head around, and it is very much a puzzly euro, but I find it absolutely delightful. Then last year, they produced what I have long called the best game of 2014, Panamax. Given all the great games of 2014, it's hard for me to pick one game that is "best of 2014" but Panamax comes close. It takes the shared incentive mechanic that I love as the underlying game mechanic and then adds a puzzly euro on top. Although it's been a while, since I've gotten either Panamax or Madeira played, I'm still a huge fan of both.

Thoughts after reading the rules (updated after first play): Where's the Interaction? Initial impressions from Reading the Rules

Thoughts after one play:
Wow! Gamer porn but really good gamer porn. Feels like Madeira streamlined.

There are 3 way to score VPs: area majority, achievements with acquired multipliers, and completing contracts. Players will almost certainly do a little on achievements and area majority but looks like multiple focuses are possible.

Players need to acquire factories to fulfill contracts and place influence for area majority. Each factory also has a unique special power, so what you get first and how you synergize your factories will also drive strategies.

Interaction is mostly the standard modern-euro indirect elbow-throwing, but there's some more direct teeth-kicking as you take away people's influence in regions just prior to region scoring.

Really enjoyed my first play and looking forward to more

Update: 5 plays in and still really enjoying it. While my opinion hasn't changed, I still find myself jonesing for plays of this. It's just got so much room for trying different things that I expect it has the space for a lot of plays. Whether I get them or not is another question.

Update: 8 plays in and I expect I'll always enjoy it. Lots of cool combinations of things. I personally find it competitive with 2. Not planning to increase my rating, but also not planning on dropping it.
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14. Board Game: Trambahn [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:1159]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 10
Status: Own

I still haven't made up my mind about this one.

It reminds me a lot of Russian Railroads. Not in the way it plays; it's completely different. It's in how smooth the game is. One game and the rules are internalized. Then it's all about figuring out a strategy early and controlling the game pace so your strategy works better than your opponent's. Just like Arboretum (also released in 2015), it has a string Lost Cities/Keltis feel to it. However, the twist in this one is that players have a much greater control over game pace. It's possible to adopt different strategies and control the pace to make them more or less successful. I enjoy it and expect it'll be a keeper, but it's not a game I love.

15-Apr-2016: This has become my and Stella's game. While it has Arboretum's mechanic, the focus in Trambahn is much more about game pace. It is a card game and the cards can win/lose you the game, but it's quick and fairly light so it doesn't bother me. Like Russian Railroads, the more I play it, the more I like it.
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15. Board Game: Sylvion [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:772]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 28
Status: Own

Like all solo games, it feels like a puzzle. I've now played (and won) with all the expansions. I love the art and the theme and the game itself is lots of fun. Glad I picked this up and looking for lots of plays of it.

15-Apr-2016: Dropped to an 8 due to lack of plays. Still probably my favorite in the Oniverse. Just burned out on the Oniverse for a while.
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16. Board Game: Factory Funner [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:2243]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 6
Status: Owned

I'm still waffling on this. I own Factory Fun and rarely play it because it's hard which is discouraging to a lot of people. Factory Funner is supposed to be a bit more intuitive, a bit more graphically pleasing, and hopefully a bit easier. My thought is that even if it doesn't work out, it shouldn't be too difficult to pass on and Cwali holds its value very well.

15-Apr-2016: So glad I backed this. It takes Factory Fun and makes it better -- better components, shorter play time, slightly less brain-burny, more long term commitments. Definite keeper. Even though solo is frustrating, I'm actually enjoying it as a solo.
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17. Board Game: Triumph & Tragedy [Average Rating:8.33 Overall Rank:412]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 3
Status: Don't own; considering 2ed

I'm still not sure what I think about it. It's a solid asymmetric wargame that can (theoretically) end without anyone going to war. In fact, in my last play, Germany won via a nuclear victory without ever going to war with anyone (USSR declared war on the Allies in the late game but declined to mess with Germany). So, I think it's got real potential, but like so many other games I've played lately (Fire in the Lake, Churchill, Liberty or Death, Food Chain Magnate, Napoleon's Triumph, etc, etc, etc), it's only going to be worth playing if I'm playing with people invested in multiple plays. Unfortunately, as a 3-player game, the only people I've got a shot with are my 14 yro son and my life partner and I'm not sure that my son will want to do it regularly enough (particularly at times when my 10 yro daughter doesn't also want to play). That's not a knock on the game, just my only opportunity to get it played.

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18. Board Game: King Chocolate [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:3599]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 8
Status: Owned

Had a chance to try this at BGG.Con and it was my surprise of the Con. Incredibly simple supply chain game with a lot of room for clever play. I played it 2-player and loved it. I've now played it with 3 and find it very similar. Despite a geekbuddy saying 4 player was too tactical, I'm curious to see it with 4. Right now, 2-player is my favorite since 3-player doesn't open up too much for shared incentives.

15-Apr-2016: Rating is now an 8 (been floating between 8.5 and 9 previously) but may still change. It's an outstanding shared incentive game with 3 players (have yet to play with more). With 2, it's a really neat aggressive tile laying game. I feel like it should be a 9 but it's just to dry for me. I like the challenge of the game, but miss the fun.
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19. Board Game: Pax Pamir [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:1047]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 1
Status: Owned

I've only gotten this played once and we made a significant omission (didn't reset after a failed topple). However, I really loved my first play. It has the same basic feel of PaxPo without the unique cards. My hope is that will make it less intimidating to teach. I also like how the alliances feel more explicit in Pax Pamir. Determining which faction wins is based, in part, on the resources of the players allied with it. So if you're not the most influential in an alliance and it's set to win, switch alliances.

Looking forward to many more plays.
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20. Board Game: Russian Railroads: German Railroads [Average Rating:8.28 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.28 Unranked]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 8
Number of Plays: 1
Status: Owned

I have yet to play Russian Railroads this year, so this should be a definite no-go, but I'm waffling. I like RR and I've suggested it several times, I've just never been able to get it played.

Just read the rules... For some reason it didn't grab me. Basically, there are several expansions in the box. The first replaces the player map with a new one. With the new one, you've got choices of how to customize you're routes, taking the 3 different types of customizations from a pool of 6. Assuming they're more or less balanced depending on strategy, it'll improve replayability.

The second expansion adds coal. You get coal a couple of ways and spend it to either makes your locomotive one longer, reactivate an industry, or do a special engineer-like action. Myeh. It should add another dimension, but for some reason it's not jumping out at me.

Third, there's a solo expansion (haven't read the rules).

Fourth, there are some new engineers and a new question mark token (excluding the ones for coal).

I expect I'll get it because Amanda has refused to play this anymore unless we change it up (I always win now), but I'm less excited than I was hoping. It feels like the expansion will mostly just add replayability without adding new elements. Arguably, the coal is new, but I'm not convinced till I play it.

15-Apr-2016: it does what I was hoping it would. It evens out the tracks and messes with things enough that Amanda and I are on similar footing. Only one play, but I'm glad I've got it. (I haven't tried the coal yet).
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21. Board Game: 1857 [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:5509]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 7.5
Number of Plays: 1
Status: Own

An 1830-clone but one that's much better than Winsome's 2014 offering. This one is quick and nasty. Have only played once so I'm not sure of replayability, but I'm optimistic.
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22. Board Game: 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:505]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 7
Number of Plays: 1
Status: Owned

It must be me not
I'm not sure if this will make it in 2015 or not, but it's ordered!

Got to play a demo at Origins and then another demo as a PnP. I really like it. Reminds me a lot of TS in 30 minutes. It's all about bluffing and playing the player. So, there's no steep learning curve. Players should know the cards by game 2 or 3 and the combinations by game 5 - 10. Can't wait to get my hands on it.

15-Apr-2016: My first play in 9 months and I was a bit disappointed. Don't get me wrong; I really liked it, but I think I'd built it up in my head since Origins. It's definitely what I was thinking: 2 kids standing toe-to-toe in a playground trying to get the other guy to throw the first punch. Twilight Struggle with a lot less play time and a lot more bluffing. Probably with more plays, my rating will go up, but at this point, I'm not sure (it's currently a 7 which is high for me).
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23. Board Game: Codenames [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:44] [Average Rating:7.79 Unranked]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 7
Number of Plays: 7
Status: Own

Codenames is one of the few games I've gotten solely on the buzz of my geekbuddies. The idea of a modern Password just didn't excite me. Then I got it and played 4 games of it with 3 people. Now, 3 player is probably the worst player count for it, but it still enthralled us. Mechanically simple, it provides a lot of space for clever clues. It's not necessarily the person with the biggest vocabulary, it's the person that knows how to link things together.

I've since played it with 6 and loved the teams concept. The hardest part is keeping your mouth shut when you're the codemaster. Teams can talk trash but the codemasters can't engage. Tough! (it's also tough coming up with good clues )

11/30/15: Early guess: this will at least get a SDJ nomination (assuming it's got a German release)
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24. Board Game: New York 1901 [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:735]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 6
Number of Plays: 4
Status: Own

After my third play, my opinion has slipped. However, I'm not sure if it's the game or the player count. My first two plays were with 2 and I really enjoyed it. The rules are super simple, but with 2 players, each player has enough control to influence the game pace. So if one player is trying to score lots of points by placing buildings and then demolishing them, the other player can push for an early game end and the points for endgame bonuses. That mechanic -- do your own thing but make sure you're messing with your opponent's strategy at the same time -- is something I love. With 2, there's not that much blocking (although there can be some) so you're able to build something that you can admire at the end of the game. All-in-all, a very good game. Probably not a 9 or 10, but potentially a long-term 8.

Then there's the 4 player game. First off, the ease-of-teaching remains. I taught this to my two kids and a friend around 9:30 at night when my 10 yro daughter was already tired. It took about 5 minutes and she got it right away. Players can still focus on multiple things, either endgame points or in-game points, but there's less ability to influence game pace. Compare that to Palaces of Carrara where I feel like game pace is as easy to compare with 4 as with 2. There's also a bunch more blocking, some intentional but some inadvertent, which isn't a mechanic I particularly enjoy. So, with 4, I'll play it and it's still an outstanding gateway game, but I probably won't ask to.

Overall, at this point, I'm still rating it a cautious 8 and still planning on holding onto it, but I'm no longer as confident as I was.

11-July-2016: Dropped my rating to a 6. I still enjoy it, but it doesn't do enough to distinguish itself.
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25. Board Game: Castellion [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:1264]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Current Rating: 7
Number of Plays: 23
Status: owned

The second solo game from Oniverse released in 2015 and another winner. This one has a smaller footprint and is a tile laying game. What's more most of the decision space revolves around trying to manipulate tile placement and discards to move tiles around on a 6x6 grid to get the patterns you need to win. All of that sounds great and it's much quicker to set up than Sylvion (especially with a bag to hold the tiles).

Unfortunately at this point, I'm still finding it too easy. I have yet to add the expansion or the variant to make it harder so hopefully those will help. If so, this could easily be a 9 or 10. Otherwise, it'll probably stay as an 8. It's fun. It's quick. It's got a relatively small footprint. And it's tile laying which I love.

15-Apr-2016: Rating dropped to a 7 because it remained too easy. I don't win every time, but I win most times and that's reduced my interest. Still a great game.
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