GCL Amoeba 224 -- Dates with Meaning (2015-06-07)
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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GameChat League - Amoeba Division 224
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Welcome to this week's discussion list!

If you stumbled into this geeklist by accident, take a look at the links provided at the top. Constructive on-topic comments from visitors are welcome and we're happy about new regular contributors, but please refrain from adding items if you are not a member of this GCL.

The hosting rotation:

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Joshua (Joshuaaaaaa)
Mikko (msaari)
Doug Faust (phrim)
Toms Leikums (painkiller)
Carlos Moreno Serrano (Sprocket314) Garry Rice (garry_rice)
Larry (larryjrice)
Jeroen Doumen (jmdsplotter)
Eric Brosius (Eric Brosius)

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There are two dates this month that got my attention, enough to make me think about pre-scheduling games explicitly to be played on dates that are meaningful for those games. This doesn't happen for me very often. I do participate in regular gaming events at certain times of the year, because I and others have holidays at those times, but that's not what I'm thinking about.

Rather, I'm asking whether you have tried to play a game on a specific date because of the historical significance of that date. How did it work out?

I'll list two dates that have gotten my attention; let us know if there are others that get yours.
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1. Board Game: Napoleon at Waterloo [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:3402]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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The date that has my attention at the moment is June 18, 2015. It's the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo. One of my two favorite wargames is Napoleon at Waterloo, a very simple game I received as a giveaway with my subscription to Strategy & Tactics magazine. In fact, I received a number of copies because I kept re-subscribing (eventually they used other games as giveaways.) However, I enjoy this, and have played it more often, than any game I actually paid for from this publisher.

I'd love to get a game of this in on June 18th, which is a week from Thursday. It's not a regular gaming night for me, but maybe I can get someone to play it with me. After all, I'm highly unlikely to be around for the 300th anniversary! And it's a game one can finish in an hour.
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2. Board Game: D-Day [Average Rating:5.66 Overall Rank:11482]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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Another date that has just gone by is June 6. It was the 71st anniversary of the D-Day invasion. The number 71 doesn't have the same impact as the number 200, but I still notice the date. Perhaps one reason is that my very first real game was this Avalon Hill design from 1961. I didn't receive it until 1964, the year that was the 20th anniversary of the invasion. It really seems odd to me that it was 20 years from the invasion until I got the game, but it has been more than 50 years now since I got the game. It must be a time warp!

I did manage to play a game on June 6 (yesterday.) It was a solo run through the very start of Scenario 6.6 from Beyond the Rhine, but that is the Battle of the Bulge scenario, so it had no particular connection with the D-Day landings. I thought about playing a D-Day game, but it didn't seem to make sense.

Now, I have played a D-Day game on June 6 before. On June 6, 2009 I played Breakout: Normandy, a fine tense game with a lot of skill. It was my very first play of the game. And I just missed in 2010, playing The Battle for Normandy on June 5 (the original date for the landing, which was pushed back a day because of storms.)
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3. Board Game: 1829 [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:3725]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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No such dates for me, but then I started thinking what kind of dates could be meaningful, and this was the first thing to come to my mind: the Rainhill Trials were run on October 6th in 1829.

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4. Board Game: Liberté [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:713]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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I have a friend who would try to get this played on July 14th, particularly if it fell on a Tuesday or Saturday (game nights) for Bastille Day. I think I remember doing so once or twice.

Honestly, I never really focus my gaming based on dates, but do try to oblige friends their requests if I enjoy the game.
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5. Board Game: Winner's Circle [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:681]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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When I was in Michigan, a good friend would usually host on Saturday of the Kentucky Derby. This was one game that had to be played that day! He'd also serve mint juleps that day for those interested (which were usually quite few).
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6. Board Game: Swedish Parliament 2014 [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:8150]
Carlos Moreno Serrano
United Kingdom
Guildford
Surrey
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I played Swedish Parliament 2014 and Die Macher on general election day (7th May) here in the UK.

We started at 7pm and finished at 5am with me going to the office 2 hours later. Let's say it was a bit tiring the next day, but worth it!
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7. Board Game: Istanbul [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:91]
Mikko Saari
Finland
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1 x .10!Dominion
3 x _9_The City
1 x _8_Attika
1 x _8_Stich-Meister
4 x _8_Linko!
3 x _8_Istanbul
1 x _7_Indigo
1 x _7_Bugs in the Kitchen
1 x _7_Camel Up
1 x _7_Colt Express
1 x _4_Age of War (new!)

Not a bad week! I got my copy of Istanbul and ended up playing it three times: once with my son, once with my gaming group and once when my mother visited. It was success in all three cases, least so with the gaming group. I like it quite a bit.

Age of War arrived with it, and turned out to be a flop. It's frustrating and annoying game, where you will constantly fail your rolls. The dice have one of each of arrow, rider and daimyo, and you'll often need to roll two particular symbols – with two dice, it's 1/36 odds and with three dice, not much better... So, lots of failure. Very annoying.

I got a nice box of games today:



This should keep me happy for a while... though I just found a copy of Imperial Settlers with the Imperial Settlers: Why Can't We Be Friends expansion for sale on the Finnish Board Game Society forum, so hopefully I'll get that. I've been interested in it. It's from the same guy who sold me Istanbul.

What else... I've been playing PBEM 18xx, it's been a while. I've got two games going on, two-player games of 1860 and 1825 Unit 3, using this new 18xx app. The app was originally designed for route calculation while playing games on board, but I got the developer to add some PBEM features, because it's pretty good for that. Here's our 1825 Unit 3 game:

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8. Board Game: Bruges [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:199]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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New to Me:

d10-8 Arboretum x2
d10-6 Cacao
d10-7 Saint Petersburg (second edition)
d10-7 Samara

Return Visits:

d10-7 Bruges: The City on the Zwin x3
d10-5 Nations: The Dice Game x3
d10-4 One Night Ultimate Werewolf x3
d10-7 Coup x2
d10-8 Elysium x2
d10-8 Bargain Hunter
d10-8 La Granja
d10-7 La Isla
d10-7 The King of Frontier
d10-6 Ubongo Extreme
d10-7 Welcome to the Dungeon
d10-8 The Voyages of Marco Polo

Musings:

Didn't realize just how many games I played this week! Some, of course, are of the very short variety.

Of the new games, I really enjoyed Arboretum. I really love the art and the game is quite interesting to play and it has been interesting to see group think evolve a bit. The spatial aspect is quite creative if one chooses to explore it, and the aspect of only scoring a color/tree if you have the majority value in cards in hand of that color can make it tense to choose what to play on the table versus in hands, particularly once the scoring rules encourage riskier play to score high! Two player game is quite a bit different from a four player game. Denial plays a much larger role in a 2 player game.

Nations: The Dice Game was a disappointment. I thought it clever my first play, started getting bored in my second play, and decided I had seen all there was to see by my third play. There just isn't enough variety/creativity in the tile mix to keep my interest and relatively few strategies in the game to explore. I'll happily play the original boardgame, but the dice game left me cold.

Played a friend's PnP copy of Samara and enjoyed the time track mechanic. Basically, consider Thebes/Glen More for when taking turns except there are multiple workers per player so you turns are quite interspersed...or can be. My greatest concern is limited replay value with the tile mix - one uses 30 of 36 tiles in the base game and I'm not certain that creates enough variety in game play from game to game.

I can't decide what to think about the addition of the market phase in Saint Petersburg (second edition). It was interesting once, but it also led to quite a bit of a longer game experience (although in all fairness, one player was new and was analyzing everything much more than he usually does). Verdict remains undecided here.

The new version of Welcome to the Dungeon was well put together. I appreciate that they included three additional characters with different items to spice up game play and make things a bit different.

I like the ships module of Bruges: The City on the Zwin but perhaps now it makes canal building potentially too powerful to ignore? It also potentially creates more "take that" in the game since there is one ship in each color that allows a re-use of an instant power. Let's just say that losing 4 workers in one round to an opponent was annoying. As such, I made sure he lost his gold by giving everyone a threat marker. It was the meanest game of Bruges I've ever played and the lowest high score I've ever seen win a game with 49 points.

Cacao was fine but didn't set the world on fire. I expect two player vs multiplayer to be quite different in game play.

I am continuing to enjoy exploring Elysium and The Voyages of Marco Polo. Both are very good in my book. Elysium can be quite different from game to game depending on the god mix in play. Failing a quest is painful.
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9. Board Game: Star Realms [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:87] [Average Rating:7.63 Unranked]
Toms Leikums
Latvia
Jelgava
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4 x Star Realms
1 x Stone Age
1 x Revolver Expansion 1.1: Ambush on Gunshot Trail

Star Realms still is current hotness, and no surprise. Last weekend we played it even in countryside. Spaceships passed the test of wind. Same can not be said about poor Skinny Landel from Revolver, and after one blast we had to search for him and other cards under pergolas table.
Before all the countryside gaming experience - one 4 player game of Stone Age, which convinced me that this game can't be called gateway. First of all there are lots of things going on; secondly the game is really long. I can't imagine non-boardgamers placing workers for ~2 hours. I know we are quite slow players, but so are the Muggles.
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10. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:69]
Doug Faust
United States
Malverne
New York
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Can't say I have much to add to the "playing games on historical dates" discussion. I've played horror-themed games on Halloween, but that's a bit of a stretch. I remember a few months ago someone suggested playing Star Trek games in honor of Leonard Nimoy's passing, but I don't think we actually did.

Anyway, Saturday I went to a monthly game day at Mike's house.

_8_ Saint Petersburg: New Society & Banquet Expansion - This was with me, Anni, and Lynn. Everyone had played before, but I think the expansion was new to Lynn. I picked up the Debtor's Prison early on, and really focused on building up my income. The Coffee House was helpful there. I took an Observatory that Anni passed on in the middle of the game--turns out there's a lot more game left in the middle of a 3-player game than the middle of a 4-player game, so I got some good use out of it. I lagged behind in points all game, but toward the end I was able to play a bunch of high-point buildings, as well as the Czar. The Debtor's Prison really helped me get the variety of aristocrats I needed, and at the end of the game, I had one more than Anni. That was enough to secure the victory, but it was only by a few points over Anni.

_6_ Elysium (new!) - This was with me, Anni, Richie, and Richie's friend whose name I forget. Everybody except Richie was new. We were playing the recommended starting setup. I started out by grabbing a card that gave me coins whenever I took or transferred a Zeus card, but I only got to use it a few times before someone else played a card that made me discard a level-3 card. From there, I started building a set of 2's, but got stalled out on the last one. I also started building a set of Athena cards, and picked up a card that was worth extra points for Athena cards in a set. I also finally picked up the last 2, but at that point Richie used a card that said I had to discard either the 2 or the extra-point Athena card. I picked the 2, and Richie soon after overtook me in 2's. I tried to pick up another set, and got myself a citizen to replace the last 2, but the citizen got nuked by some other card, and something prevented me from playing the last card in the other set. I finished in last; Richie's friend won.

_8_ Libertalia - This was with me, Anni, Ken, Brian, and James. Everyone except me and Anni were new, but Ken had read the rules (it was his copy). The first turn was pretty funny, as 3 players played the Beggar, each stealing 3 gold from Ken. I used the Merchant in the first round to get rid of two mask tokens, but maybe I should have saved him for later. In the first turn of the second round, I played the Cook, and ended up taking 2 masks! I didn't have any way of getting rid of masks left, so I had to just eat that. In the last round, I did some manipulation to play a Voodoo Witch on the last turn for 12 gold. Turns out that was enough to give me the win.

_7_ Unnamed Object - This was with me, Anni, Mike, Micah, Ken, Lynn, and Brian. Not sure who was new, but at least me, Anni, Mike, and Micah had played before. An artifact flipped on the very first turn, and both me and Micah tried to get away with it and canceled each other out. Later in the game, I similarly canceled out with Mike. Suffice to say, I didn't do so well, and I may have come in last. I don't recall who won.

_7_ Tigris & Euphrates - This was with me, Anni, Micah, and Lynn; Lynn was new. There wasn't very much conflict early on, as everyone mostly concentrated on getting the treasures. No one built a monument all game. Toward the mid-game, people were starting to have external conflicts with the sole intent of sniping treasures from one another. I had my green pawn on the board for most of the game, but somehow couldn't finagle myself any treasure. I kept looking for ways to externally conflict to get myself a bunch of cubes, but I was only able to do that with blue, and then immediately drew a bunch more blue tiles, which limited me some. I kept on the lookout for clever ways to use my catastrophe tiles, but came up empty--I spent most of the latter half of the game just playing tiles for their points. I did take a couple of risks in the game, challenging Micah both times, and both times he had the tiles he needed to fend me off. I thought feeding Micah points that way would give him the game, but he fed Anni a bunch of points on the last round, and her 3 treasures gave her a total of 6 points, compared to 4 each for Micah and myself.
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11. Board Game: Beyond the Rhine [Average Rating:8.45 Overall Rank:4432]
 
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I suppose I should mention that I only managed to play a single game in the week corresponding to this GeekList. I was busy with a number of meetings for work and for my church, and I posted the GeekList a bit early so it would be up before Claire and I left for London. We just got back this afternoon and are trying to stay up so we can time-shift back to US time.

The one game I played was, as mentioned above, the newest game in the Operational Combat Series, which is Beyond the Rhine. It's a fascinating game. Although I have read a lot about this campaign, and have played quite a few games on the topic (especially Battle of the Bulge games,) I've never really had a clear view of how all the little actions I read about and played games about fit into what each side was trying to do. This game provide the context for all that.

The one session this week (on Saturday) was a quick run through the first turn of "A Time For Trumpets", the 9-turn scenario about the Battle of the Bulge. The game as a whole is a 4-mapper, but there's a fifth map, set square in the middle of where the others are, used specifically for this scenario. Even though it's a "zoom in" map, the area shown is much larger than what is usually shown on Bulge game maps. This map included Trier and Verdun in the south and goes to and past Antwerp in the north. Of course, the big prize for the Germans in this battle was Antwerp, but most games have at most arrows at the north end of their maps saying "Antwerp is thataway."

Here, when you set up the scenario, you can see how thin the American lines were in the Ardennes, and how they had massed so many of their forces around and just east of Aachen, where they had pierced the Westwall after a month of hard fighting and were trying to exploit this success with a drive to the Rhine. This in turn helps you understand how difficult it was to pull troops out of that battle to stop the German thrust through the Ardennes. It also shows you how terrible the terrain in the Ardennes is for armored forces, which were the spearhead of the German attack.

In my first sessions I played a bit of Scenario 6.4, "Operation Queen", but stopped when I realized I had missed some key rules---most notably that a unit's combat factor is halved when it is Disorganized. Without that, the scenario is totally impossible for the US to win! This time I played through the German thrust, but it feels a bit like a puzzle, or a chess problem, to figure out the best way for the Germans to run their first turn. In addition, you come in in media res rather than having the chance to make your own problems.

Joe Rushanan and I are going to play this game together, but we're going to play Scenario 6.2 instead (the start of the campaign, using only the northern half of the map set.) People have suggested playing only the month of September, and that's probably what we will do.

Our trip was great. For one thing, we spent five days in London and the weather was excellent. I don't know whether it's usually like this in June. Most of my previous trips were in the autumn, with rain almost all the time. We got to do some very interesting things, including tours of the Household Cavalry and Abbey Road Studio Number 2. We ate more than we should, but that's because the food was very good (in contrast to the reputation of British cuisine.) Now we're recovering from jet lag.
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12. Board Game: Guns & Steel [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:2867] [Average Rating:6.51 Unranked]
Jeroen Doumen
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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2x _5.50_ SUPER ABDUCTION
1x _6.25_ Guns & Steel
1x _6.00_ The Voyages of Marco Polo
1x _6.00_ Qwixx
1x _6.00_ Fan & Mallet (団扇と小槌)
1x _5.50_ Anno Domini: Spiel des Jahres
1x _5.50_ San Juan (second edition)
1x _5.25_ Orléans
1x _5.25_ Eminent Domain: Microcosm
1x _5.00_ Mythotopia
1x _5.00_ Wrong Chemistry
1x _5.00_ The Game: Spiel... so lange du kannst!
1x _5.00_ San Juan
1x _4.00_ Groo: The Game
1x _3.00_ Arkham Horror


A slightly late addition, as I'm cooped up on a business trip...


Got to play some of the TGM game shipment. Guns & Steel is quite interesting - though I would hardly call it a civ game. But the card play mechanism is fascinating - I hope an expansion comes along with some more card variety.

Fan & Mallet (団扇と小槌) also was very interesting. Much more tactical than it appeared at first - you have to keep an eye on what cards your opponent has played of each color, and where he can still go with those... Need to make a copy of the English rules, as you need to keep referring to the ghost kid abilities for each color.

I'm not yet sure about SUPER ABDUCTION - most of all whether I played it correctly. But I hear a real English rules translation is no the horizon, so will be patient for that one.

I got Orléans since it was nominated for the KedJ, and am glad I did. Even though B. fumbled a bit through the strategic part, she quite enjoyed it. I'm not yet sure whether some of the options (i.e. knights for getting more discs per turn) are not simply necessary...

Likewise with The Voyages of Marco Polo, though I would have gotten that anyhow given the positive buzz it got at the last Gathering. Quite interesting, with your strategy very much shaped by the character you get.

And Groo: The Game is still silly fun .
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