GCL Swedish Meatball Division #283: Emergence (A Tale of Two Levels)
David P
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Welcome to the latest instalment of the Meatballs discussion list. Members know the drill, but if you're just joining us, consider thumbing the list so that we can see you're following along. Non-members are always welcome to participate, so feel free to comment, but please leave adding items on the list to members.

Do your best to keep the discussion fun and the debates civil, and we'll do the same.

Roster:

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qwertymartin
smorange

***************

One of my favourite books is Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach. It's greatly influenced the way I think about the world, particularly the function and adequacy of an explanation.

Hofstadter showed me how to analyze the world at different levels of description. The important point is emergence: the idea that properties can emerge from complex structures of simple components. These emergent properties need not share the same properties between levels of description. Individual ants need not understand the behaviour of the colony, yet the colony behaves in predictable (and meaningful) ways. In fact, you can't see the one while staring at the other. A useful explanation of ants and ant colonies must shift between different levels of description.

It can be very hard for us to recognize and shift between levels of complexity. A lot of sloppy thinking arises out of confusing (or ignoring) the bounds within which an explanation properly functions. At the same time, a lot of genius arises out of switching between them, recognizing structures as isomorphic, and separating them out where they are not.

So that's our theme for this list.
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1. Board Game: Bach [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
David P
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One of the most powerful metaphors of GEB is the fugue, where multiple pieces are interwoven to create something greater. Concentrate on the parts and you miss the whole, and vice versa. Are there fugue-like games?
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2. Board Game Designer: Reiner Knizia
David P
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Reiner Knizia is often said to be the king of emergent depth: where simple rules create difficult decisions. That's true in a sense, but what about emergence in another sense: where simple rules create complex structures, and there are at least two "layers" to the game? I'm thinking of games where there's a "layering" of information, and this necessities multiple levels of description and analysis. Most of Knizia's games, it seems to me, aren't like this. Or are they?
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3. Board Game: Go [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:124]
David P
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Vancouver
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I am far from an accomplished Go player, but I can see that the main reason for my deficiency is that I have trouble seeing the complex patterns emerge out of individual moves before it's too late. I think I can see that there are "waves" in the game which are more than the sum of individual moves, but I can't see how they develop. I can't see the game the way I need to to do well. It's what keeps me interested. Is Go unique in this respect? Am I right to think about it in this way? Do you like games with emergent properties in this sense, where you need to switch between different "levels", but it is difficult to do so? Is this just a mark of a heavily strategic (rather than tactical) game?
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4. Board Game: YINSH [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:133] [Average Rating:7.69 Unranked]
David P
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I'm much better at simpler abstracts, but I don't play by thinking many moves ahead. I don't enjoy playing that way. Instead I look ahead two or three moves and play by "feel". How about you? I'm a bit puzzled by my success at this sort of reasoning with the GIPF series, and YINSH in particular, and my abject failure with Go.
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5. Board Game: Chicago Express [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:362]
David P
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Another group of games (seemingly) in the emergent category is that occupied by Chicago Express, Imperial, and similarly opaque stock games. It can be very difficult to win without analyzing the effects of particular actions and considering those actions in the larger scheme of things. In a sense, there are two "stories" playing out: those of the individual players, and those of the companies, with the former creating the latter, Though it is necessary to do so to play well, it is difficult to connect the stories together. Are you good at these games? Do you like them?
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6. Board Game: Hanabi [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:276]
David P
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Hanabi is a good example of complexity emerging from comparatively simple rules. Simply reading and understanding the rules isn't good enough if you want to do well. You need to understand the players at the table too. I haven't found that the game requires a particularly experienced group to do well, but I have found that certain groups of people are a lot better at the game than others. The game seems to require a certain kind of person, to look for and exploit the emergent structure of the game. Is the result more than the sum of the parts?
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7. Board Game: Emergence Event [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:5498]
David P
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Are there other examples of emergence in the sense I have been discussing that come to mind? What are your thoughts on this generally?
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8. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:69]
David P
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 10   Tigris & Euphrates x2
 6   The Game
 7   You're Bluffing! NEW!
 8   Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 1 – Team Asia & Legendary Asia
 6   Pit NEW!
 6   Mord im Arosa
 4   Colt Express NEW!

It's been a while since I checked in. I managed to play T&E twice at the nearby meetup. I taught the game to some new players and apparently converted them reasonably successfully since they immediately demanded to play again. I won both games, but the second was quite a bit closer. We wrapped up with a round of The Game.

I played the other games with some friends. I had been meaning to play You're Bluffing for a long time, since I got it as a throw-in in a trade earlier this year. I really liked it, and it was anybody's game right down to the end. It's a 7 or 8 for me.

Pit was quite fun too, though I was hilariously bad at it. I couldn't believe it was released so long ago when I logged the play at BGG.

Colt Express was pretty bad, but not as bad as RoboRally, which it could be compared to.
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9. Board Game: What's Rubbish [Average Rating:4.07 Unranked]
Paul Lister
United Kingdom
London
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No games played but about 100 sold from my 'collection' last week. Though I kept finding games that I had not listed on BGG. Liberating.
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10. Board Game: Paperback [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:310]
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Twice at lunch with Joe and several more on the app. I'm quite impressed! If you don't know already, this is Dominion crossed with Scrabble. Draw 5 letter cards from your deck, make as good a word as you can from them, use their cash value and special powers to buy more letters/special powers, repeat.

It's a brilliant idea, possibly not quite perfectly implemented. Scoring cards are wild letters worth no money, the idea being that you can still make words but they choke your buying power. The game seems to end slightly before that really happens though, so I've added more to the piles in the app.

I really like that, unlike Scrabble, two-letter-words are almost useless, and you can get rewarded for making huge words (there's a bonus for the first 7/8/9/10-letter word). Good stuff!
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11. Board Game: Dice City [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:864]
Brad N
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
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_8_ Dominion - 2 Players
_7_ Eat Poop You Cat - 5 Players
_6_ Around the World in 80 Days - 5 Players

With the kids...
.NA. Dice City - 2 Players
_8_ Vegas Showdown - 4 Players
_8_ Kingdom Builder - 3 Players
_5_ Beep! Beep! - 3 Players (x2)


(1) Dice City - My expectations were not real high after reading the rules and checking out some of the cards. Dane and I played the game store's copy and we both liked it. I was able to get the engine going a bit better and I'm not sure about replayability, but it was a good time. He fought bandits and I traded via ships. On the last turn, I took the 20 point ship and won by a decent amount. This is a better game than you might expect, giving options and such... I'm just not sure how good it really is.

(2) Vegas Showdown - Azalea and Dane like this game and play it well. We got in our second play in about a month. Not bad.
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12. Board Game: Trains: Gen Con 2014 [Average Rating:7.74 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.74 Unranked]
EXTRA AVOCADO! Sonderegger
United States
Folsom
CA
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Was sick with a rollicking sinus infection this past week, so my plays bottomed out, and I had to miss a game night I'd been particularly looking forward to.

However, the two little games that were had were excellent.

Fight for Olympus 2p ww x1

An interesting battle. I took an early points lead, as she was holding back. Who was she holding back? Why, Heracles of course. It's ok, I had a one shot that I'd been holding back... but she slowly and inevitably turned the tide, and even though I had come within 2 points of winning, she won on timeout. It's not the greatest, but there's something very charming about it. Also, the fact that it plays in about 15 minutes means I had the energy to actually play it.

Trains 2p ww x1 (Saitama + Route Bonuses)

Wowee! This was an excellent map, with 2 excellent route cards, and an interesting market. With only 7 cards in each pile, it quickly morphed into a race-to-silver, after we realized that there were no draw or big engine cards. Megan won the split, 4-3, and as a result, she won the buy battle. The board battle was a totally different affair that ended the same way- I hunkered down in the middle, grabbing an early route bonus, and then switched to tourist trains. With the lack of draws or big engines, she ended up just hitting all of the upper right remote locations, and at the end, bursting through my middle to pick up the other route bonus.

Super fun, even though she lapped the score track.
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13. Board Game: PitchCar [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:317]
chearns
Canada
Montréal
Québec
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GAMES

PitchCar - Only played with two, but wow, what a blast. We were on a date and between a walk on mount Royal and the restaurant, we had a bit of time on our hands, so we went to La Récréation. She had a coffee while we played some games. The game zoomed along. Great fun. There is a good chance I will purchase myself a copy. Part of me is saying it's okay as I just sold GtR. Also, because this thing will get played with some frequency. I can't imagine the group that won't enjoy it.

Code 777 - The other game we played. Also, tremendously fun, for different reasons of course. I really enjoyed how the slightly off kilter questions create a logic puzzle that you need to solve.

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small - MC saw me grab a second expansion so she changed her plan in order to do it as well. Unfortunately, you can't do that, and as a result she went down in flames. I felt bad for her because the end result was a very low score. Well, it's only her second game, she's bound to make mistakes as she learns.

TELLY

Breaking Bad - Finally finished this. Solid all the way through, start to finish. It actually is the anti-Dexter, something I first said in during the second season, running pretty much the exact opposite narrative.

Luther - The new show on the block for me (I always have a show on the go). Simply fantastic. All the screws the characters put to each other. The moral tests they fail. It's awesome. It had me within the first ten minutes.

MUSIC

Sleater Kinney - Sleater Kinney - Never heard their debut album before. I don't tend to listen to a lot of albums from the same artists, as I find they tend to be too similar to one another (and, thus, I get bored). But their harmonies over punk music really does it for me. Doesn't hurt that their lyrics are often quite feminist.

FAMILY

My second nephew was born this morning. I was at hospital today to give him his very first birth day card. He didn't seem to really appreciate it.
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14. Board Game: Arboretum [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:358]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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The (after Brexit, our shameful referendum and other things happening in the world, sadly not that surprising) news made most people speechless so I talk about my last week instead.

Playing with the kids in the first half of the week
national holiday on the first days of the week, autumn holiday for the older kids the whole week, I was also on holiday.
 
 

6.7 Sushizock im Gockelwok
On a train travelling home from my nieces on Monday. They: 8 and 9 points. Me: 1 point.

7.2 Quoridor x3
With Miska on Tuesday. I won each but he also enjoyed it.

7.9 Codenames: Pictures x2

2-player rules. First I played with Saci, then with Miska (who wanted to be the Spy master; it took time until he started to get the hang of it and needed a little help from me and mom, but we won in the end).

7.3 Spot it! Star Wars
Okay, there is no different entry for this version in the database as it's obviously the same game. I watched Trolls in cinema with the kids on Wednesday, then we walked by the FLGS I used to play in so we went in a bit and played a bit. They won this one easily (well, as they have not seen the prequel trilogy yet, I let them point at the things they did not know yet). It's okay but I prefer the original artwork by far.

7.8 Spinderella

Last year I borrowed Spinderella from the club to try it with the kids. They liked it pretty much but what I did not expect is they still want to play it - actually they keep saying they want to play it at home. So now that we were in the club they could play again. Now that they are 6 and 8, I did not even have the one concern I had with the game 20ish months ago: it was not too long for them, just perfect.

6.5 Monkeyland
The very simple Knizia memory game where you keep changing the location of the pieces was great success with them, and obviously they won big time.

8 Captain Black
When we got home we even had some time to play this (medium level, short route) before granny and grandpa arrived and took them to their place for three days.


(Too little) gaming on a con:
On Thursday I travelled to a con for the third time in my life - if I don't visit Essen it's good to go there and learn a few of the games I would not otherwise. This was the first time I booked two days at the hotel. Unfortunately I got sick by the time I arrived there, and while I could have played 15+ games there I ended up playing only five, two of them I took there with myself, and I spent the rest of the two days in my room. Also slept and stayed in bed for the most of Sunday when I was at home and could have been with the kids instead.

6.8 Fields of Green NEW!
Fields of Green is to Among the Stars what Imperial Settlers is to 51st State. But I haven't played Among the Stars., but I know it brings the game down to Earth with some nice, clear visuals, somewhat colorful artwork and possibility to combine stuff for ten minutes, looking at your own display. But there's nothing wrong with it, it's quite good for what it is (even with its blatant way of copying the 7 wonders mechanism for a tile-laying game), and even though I can't name anything I can really recommend it for, I don't really have any problems with it either. Water towers bring water, fields use water to grow food, animals eat food to produce money, constructions help you in different ways (even with equipments) and buildings score you points in the end (and optionally you can even add event cards to the mix). It's rather straightforward; not bad. I think I enjoyed it more when I met it the second time, explaining the rules to some other players on Saturday (but not playing).

6.7 Honshu NEW!

Collect cards Pi mal Pflaumen-style (I wonder what game used the idea of bidding with the cards for the right to choose earlier from the cards first), place them Hanging Gardens-style, score them a few ways. Harmless filler, nothing ground-breaking but it does work. I wonder what if I had liked it better, had I not played it sick.

8 Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails
This is my fourth play with it and I have not played it with the same people before. And maybe it's because I explained the game , but I've yet to meet anyone in person who did not like it. It's good, whatever fiddliness it has. And net playing time (after set-up, before scoring was less than 90 minutes for four players on the World Map (the 'bigger, longer, uncut' one). I'm happy to own it.

7.8 Arboretum NEW!
Thank you all for your recommendations. The game was published in a German edition for Essen so it was easier for me to grab a copy. It's beautiful and after 1 play I can say I really like it. The world of different Knizia games (yes, mainly Keltis/Lost Cities) meets some unique ideas (I really like the definition of a path) in a challenging and quite a bit mean, but beautiful game... Hm, I must introduce Saci to it.

7.4 The Oracle of Delphi NEW!
At last, again a Feld game that I can quite enjoy. As you know in the past five years I wasn't really impressed by his output as most of his games felt like they were designed by an autopilot instead of him. Bora Bora offered some interesting strategies and a bit of fun by the dice and Aquasphere was not bad, but the only game of the past five years I could enjoy was Amerigo, mostly because I generally enjoy what I was doing there (also the cube tower was a nice mechanism idea). (I really could not like the rest, however hard I tried, giving them extra chances.) Maybe it's no wonder that I enjoyed Delphi as well now, as it's once again about moving around islands with our ships on a map randomised with tiles. Also it has a bit of rolling the dice but that does not make it completely random (especially as they can be changed following a kind of rondel for this). Fate cards are also a lot better controllable than those damned small tiles in Bruges. And the 12 tasks offer a somewhat enjoyable variety of pick up and delivery, some exploring and even some light ATish dice fight against monsters. Also individual ship abilities are rather strong which seem to be trending since Marco Polo. And all these serve a racing game. All the things I listed here are more or less to my liking which helps me accept the more boring "complex Eurogamey" stuff as well (moving those gods along an excel sheet - actually important part of the strategy; different helping cards and tiles to be collected...). Overall, I liked it.
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15. Board Game: Chicago Express [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:362]
George Leach
United Kingdom
Godalming
Surrey
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So here's a whole month of my plays. I can't quite remember when I last posted plays but here they are. And I'm going to a gaming group at work tonight too. So my gaming is well and truly recovering from having young children (mother's and father's there's light at the end of the tunnel!)

LittleGolem

 8   TZAAR x7
 8   Twixt x10
 7   EinStein würfelt nicht! x2
 9   Catchup x12
 8   Blokus Duo x10
 9   Slither x2
 9   Shogi x6
 9   Mini Shogi x2
 5   Dameo x5
 8   Amazons x3
 8   Hex
 10   Go
 9   Connect6 x4
 7   Boxes x3

For some reason I signed up to lots of additional tournaments, monthly cups and championships on LG and now I'm beginning to regret it. Finding time to make 60+ moves on asynchronous games per day is quite tough. However, it'll hopefully rduce on qualms I have built up over rankings.

I can't remember where exactly I played all of the following but it's a mixture of with friends, work group, guildford gamers and home. But first here's all the new stuff!

 6   Kemet NEW!

I enjoyed this but we played with the expansion which I felt was overkill for a first play. Even the base game seems a little overwrought. There are clear imbalances in the power cards available as well. Certain cards will give significantly different paybacks over the course of a game in ankh's for example. This is obviously easily learnt but, still, smacks of underdevelopment and overstuffing.

 7   Blood Rage NEW!

I thought this was excellent. For me it's another El Grande killer (the list grows ever longer!). The draft works nicely - I saw hands repeatedly and knew what people may find useful and hate-drafting was rarely of no value to myself as my rage (a currency in the game) ran out usually a little earlier than the number of cards I had available. Overall the artwork almost certainly gets in the way of clarity but as an item in itself it has a certain beauty. The minis are very nice and helped to pass a little of the minor downtime.

 6   Scythe NEW!

The artwork in this game is unsuitable for a game it's too amorphous and really hurts the understanding of board position. The player boards are quite nice but given the amount of box space taken up by the board, pieces and various cards it all seems a little bit out of balance. I'll play it again but I'm not fussed if that doesn't happen.

 3   The Dragon & Flagon NEW!

Obviously I felt worse about it immediately after playing than I now do but it's just a programmed action game that is a little overcomplicated and poorly developed. I imagine it's somewhat comparable to that western 3D game thing people are raving about. It's all a pale comparison of Roborally.

 5   Bruges NEW!

Wow all the cards are unique! Oh... wait... is that actually a good thing. Not really. Very tactical, solitaire and overwrought. Thurn and Taxis has this beat any day of the week and that's only an ok game. The building houses action in particular is a pathetic get-out-of-trouble mechanic.

 6   Mombasa NEW!

Some realy nice ideas in here just needed more development. The regions of the map that offer slightly different icons, the book requirements and there being only one gem dealer per company are all fairly flawed for an otherwise interesting and fun game. Again it could do with stripping out a few things and it could be a great game.

Here's stuff I've played before. I'll give +, - or = signs after each to show my prevailing opinion since my last plays relative to the rating I've currently given them.

 6   Quadropolis -
 9   Hanabi =
 7   Cartagena +
 8   Spot it! =
 8   Loopin' Louie x3 -
 8   Linko! =
 9   Container =
 6   Sushi Go! -
 7   German Whist =
 7   Chicago Express +
 8   6 nimmt! +
 9   Spooky Stairs x2 -

So how are y'all, apart from, you know, impending birth, being shot at and all that jazz?
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16. Board Game: Special Delivery: A Baby Shower Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Vivienne Raper
United Kingdom
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I didn't play many games last weekend as I was kind-of busy.



This is Hector (Hubert) Raper Monroe, who was born on Sunday night weighing 8lb 3oz.

Jon and I got halfway through a game of Pandemic: The Cure while waiting around to be discharged from the hospital.
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