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GCL Mafia 279: Titles Are Stupid
Grace P.
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Welcome to GCL Mafia Division's weekly geeklist!

GCL Mafia Members:
• Please add an item to represent your gaming life for the week of May 23-29, 2016.
• List any games played along with your thoughts/opinions.
• Also, feel free to share gaming news, life updates, random thoughts, or anything else you deem appropriate.

GCL Mafia Geeklist Format:
• We mostly just post whatever we want. This includes a lot of animated gifs.

Current Roster:
dragondice4lyfe
Great Leader
moddin aint easy
Ding
Cat Lover
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1. Board Game: Codenames [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:53] [Average Rating:7.74 Unranked]
Grace P.
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We're going to play Codenames: Board Game edition. If you haven't seen this, it's where people have used board games in lieu of words. We'll start with the top 25 games (and I will post a picture soon).

I will be the spymaster for the red team.

Post here whether or not you want to play, then I'll split the teams using random.org. Also, mention if you want to be the spymaster and if there's more than one person wanting it, I'll randomize that too.

We'll start on Tuesday morning (PST) so as to give everyone a chance on Monday to see the list and decide whether or not they want to play.
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2. Video Game: 7he Code [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Grace P.
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Note: I took out Dominion: Intrigue since it's the same as Dominion.

Grace
Matt
Jim
Dave
Philip

Raf
Travis
Jeffrey
Charlie
Robin

Bold = spymasters

Original image.
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3. Board Game: Red7 [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:563]
Grace P.
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Red team talk here.
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4. Board Game: Blue Max [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:1770]
Grace P.
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Blue team talk here.
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5. Video Game: Summer Camp [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
Grace P.
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Summer is upon us. I know some of you went to summer camp as a kid. Apparently, there are summer camps for adults. Here some lists of the different kinds: here, two.

Which would you be most interested in going to?

What do you think a board game camp would be like?
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6. Board Game: World of Movies [Average Rating:5.26 Unranked]
Grace P.
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What summer movie (or TV) releases are you looking forward to?
 
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7. RPG Item: DC1: Tales from the Laughing Dragon [Average Rating:4.33 Unranked]
Grace P.
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Post a funny video.
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8. Board Game: Dragon Dice [Average Rating:5.80 Overall Rank:7622]
Travis Dean
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5x Dragon Dice
2x No Thanks!
La Boca
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork
Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age
Stone Age

Dragon Dice
This was obviously the highlight of my week. I went to Strategicon on Saturday in LA to aid in Dragon Dice demos and their Novice tournament.

I had never met our LA group of Dragon Dice players, so that alone was awesome. And seeing the degree of excitement by people who either always wanted to play but never had the chance, or from those who were discovering it for the first time was just awesome. We even had a father/son brand new to the game find it and love it. After a demo, they went to check out other stuff, but the son just wanted to come back and play more Dragon Dice! I'm actually really impressed by how often I've seen this become a father/son game at conventions. The game overall is pretty complex, but the kid and dad were smart, and the basic rules really are very simple. This is a great demonstration of how simple the game can be to understand.

Speaking of simple, SFR finally released a new starter with a new starter rulebook for the game. It's about 10 pages, colored, instead of the 100+ black and white out of date rulebook. The latter is overwhelming, but it's also the comprehensive rules of everything plus all expansions plus references to all dice, icons, special die results, all spells, glossary, etc. All that additional material is just overwhelming. The 10 page document is simply everything a new player needs to know about the game to start playing, and it is incredibly easy to understand. I am very excited to see this.

I got to play in the Novice Tournament, which was basically a sealed starter tournament. You get 60 health of units (30 firewalker and 30 treefolk) and build a 30 point army. Easiest is to go all firewalker or all treefolk, but I decided to mix. I got a lot of firewalker spellcasters, so I grabbed those, and some heavy melee hitters along with my heaviest melee hitters in treefolk and two rares that let me promote my treefolk units up. In my first game, I decimated my opponent. I got a lucky starting position letting me cast magic right away with my magic army, summoning a dragon that eliminated my opponent's strongest force. I quickly whittled him down from there with melee and powerful spells until he was eliminated.

In my second game, I was dominating pretty well as well, but we did both have an 8th face very quickly. I was whittling down her units, but never could get her off her 8th face to take it for myself. Finally, I miraged her (3) commons back to her reserves, and hit really hard with melee to eliminate her entire force. The match unfortunately ended on time, but one more turn would've been a deciding victory for me, instead of a win-on-time victory. All she had left were those 3 one health units (I shouldn't have miraged them), and I had an 8 face and a second turn unopposed at the 7th face (since I eliminated her force there, it dropped immediately to 7).

In my final game, it was against the aforementioned kid, who easily eliminated his first two opponents. We guessed he was around 10, and he only ever lost one or two dice in each match. I didn't know what to expect. Had people gone easy? Or was this kid a prodigy? I wanted us both to have fun, but I didn't want to go easy on him.

Early on, I got some good strikes in, but was not able to stop him from taking the first 8th face. Eventually, I had to resort to facing him there to try to pull him off, or smash him with my powerful melee army. Then he made a powerful attack on me. He counted his melee results, and it was small, less than 10. But I reminded him how firewalkers count their saves as melee. Over 20! Every single die was contributing to the fight, and I lost half my force there. I was forced into strategic maneuvering, lots of spellcasting, and chancy attacks. I started to turn the tide and take out many of his opponents, especially with multiple Smite rolls on my melee attacks. We were both tearing each other apart, and the time limit for the game was getting close (time limit btw was 30 minutes for this tournament). Finally, I made a big strike against him. I think he had 3 or 4 units left alive. One small guy alone at another terrain, and 2 monsters and I think a small unit at his 8th face. I killed one of his monsters, a Phoenix (an awesome rare pull btw!), which meant he got to roll it to see if it would "Rise from the ashes" which it dead, and went to reserves. Then on his turn, he fought with the unit he had, I couldn't save with my last unit, and lost. But man, that was my best game in years. We all had so much fun. Due to the time out on the second game, I got 3rd place by points, missing out on prizes. But I'm pleased because the two people who got prizes were new to the game, and I didn't need any of the prizes.

I picked up some dice on the way out, and scored some really rare pulls, an Unseelie Faerie (1 in 40 chance) and an Inferno (1 in 35 chance) out of 3 Scalders packs, and both are highly sought after dice for both their rarity and for being incredibly powerful. So that was awesome. I can now build a killer Scalders army with powerful magic!


My last game played before heading home was a pick up game against the guy who organizes the LA players. I had my standard Firewalker build, the only army I'd brought, and told him to play whatever army was his favorite. He went with Frostwings (magic) and Amazon (killer at missile attacks). We both got the magic we wanted in the center terrain, but unfortunately the magic negation power of the Frostwings stopped me from ever casting any powerful spells. Also, I brought a Flatland Standing Stones terrain for my home because a) it gave me access to terrain flight and b) it'll give me access to gold magic and path, which is a powerful game-winner spell in the end game and c) the terrain is only bad for me if I'm playing Amazons. Oh. Great... He actually brought the same terrain for his home terrain as well.

He ended up winning my home to the 8th face. I was able to terrain flight from/to any terrain as I wished with my firewalkers, so I was incredibly mobile and took advantage of it, but I just could not make good use of my position to stop him. Once I got a really good melee strike and took out tons of his units after he made a poor reinforcement decision, but after he slew a dragon that he summoned, he got nearly everything back. I put up a good fight, but he had the advantage all game and eventually took a second 8 face with good strategy and magic.

La Boca
We played this to fill in the time while we waited for people to show up. We started with 3 players and added a fourth before we finished. Everybody seemed to really enjoy. I have a lot of fun with this title.

Discworld: Ankh-Morpork
Got to try this for the second time, and this time we reviewed possible win conditions before playing. Unfortunately, I was spreading trouble to slow down others from being able to build. I realized at the end of my turn that there were 7 trouble markers, and was worried, too late. The next player placed a trouble marker and claimed victory, forgetting that he can only get victory at the start of his turn. Still, he was able to bring the number up to 9, and the next player could only remove one. I couldn't remove any trouble markers, so he still won the game. We all had fun with this.

Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age
I've never played this version. This one adds warfare against neutral third parties and ships worth potentially many bonus points. We started the first round or two with no idea of how to play, so I ended up in a warfare strategy. I unlocked several dice and scored lots of tribute points over time. I ended up winning with about 24 points. Had another player not ended the game right then, I would've scored at least 20 more on my next turn (more tribute points + completing the largest monument.)

I think this one is neat and very different than The Bronze Age. I don't yet like it any better or less. I'd be happy to play either. I feel like this does a good job of simplifying some of the extra complexity in Bronze Age, and I like the two significantly different strategies (boats vs warfare). I don't know how well balanced they are, but it'd be interesting to explore further. It's also nice to have equal turns. That always bugged me about Bronze Age.

Stone Age
This was requested so we played it 3 player. I'd never tried, seen, nor read about the starvation strategy other than to know that it exists. So I decided to try it. I figured it'd be interesting to see how well I did using that strategy without knowing it. I think I scored 223 points, and second place scored 221. One of the biggest reasons I didn't get more points was because one other player was really good at taking all the cards with symbols on them, so I couldn't get a set of 8, I only ever got 5. Still, that's a really high score for never collecting food the entire game.


EDIT:
D&D Session Recap
So the last thing outstanding was the evil captain of the guard from Silvervale.

We got on the boat and rowed over to Silvervale, but as we got close, we saw smoke rising up. There were barricades at the docks, and we arrived to find and learn that most of the city guard turned on the town. Barricades were set up throughout town as miners and townspeople tried to fight back the guards who were targeting specific townsfolk to kill off. The mayor was holed up in his office with only his two massive personal guards to protect him.

On the way, my prized crystal skull was getting warm. That's a concern, but we didn't know what it was or what to do about it.

There were 4 main areas of note where fighting was going on. The inn with the half-elf innkeeper and her patrons, the blacksmiths (where we had our weapons we paid for), the marketplace, and the mayor's. I convinced the party to split up (huzzah!), but not in the way I wanted to. I emphasized the import of saving the mayor (the only thing my character prizes over wealth is power and influence, and that comes from saving the most important people in charge of course), and they felt the inn was most important to save Miriam, the half-elf innkeeper.

So we settled on splitting. Two going to the marketplace, and two going to the blacksmith. Wait, what? Yup. That's what we did.

Myself and our cleric took out guards in under 2 rounds, but the clerics wind spells spread the flames about the marketplace much more quickly. We then led the villagers in the marketplace away from the flames.

The mayor's was further away (essentially we had to stop at one of the three other locations before the mayor's cause he was so far away, but we obviously couldn't take too long cause the battle was ongoing in all locations). But due to the expanded flames, we'd either have to jump through flame, or go to the blacksmith's to avoid going through flame. And we only had one combat round to decide. The cleric went to the Blacksmith's while I jumped through the flames to save the mayor (if the mayor dies, I get influence with no one! If he lives, I get all the cred). I arrive to find the captain of the guard with a lieutenant and normal guard fighting the bodyguard. The other bodyguard had already been killed. I threw a dagger from range and moved back to serve as a distraction, helping the bodyguard get by longer. Fortunate for me, the cleric was able to quickly clean up where our barbarian and monk were slow to kill off guards and he joined me. They went to the inn (fair enough, the elven monk made good friends with the innkeeper and she was the one he cared about).

Back at the mayor's we were mostly causing distractions and re-positioning. Eventually, the others finished enough at the inn to come join us (leaving a few guards behind or something, oh and Miriam the innkeeper came up from a downstairs personal bedroom behind the bar as a flying demon of some sort, and some undead started to come up alongside her or something). At the mayor's, I ran around a house corner to hide so I could try to get a sneak attack in, and also to not be killed straight off. Somewhere around this time, the second bodyguard fell.

The other two joined us. The barbarian was our noble. The captain of the guard came up to him, harassing him and saying about how famous he'll be for slaying the Great Monkent's son (Barthaloo) (second son, not the eldest, so not quite so famous). His swing was pitiful. Barthaloo took a big swing and connected hard, knocking the captain flat on his back. The cleric also hit him hard with some powerful magic. At this time, the skull in my bag was really burning. It felt like my bag would catch fire. I really needed to dump it out of my bag, but I am prideful, I need this kill, and the captain is weak. I rush out and make a massive strike with my rapier, dealing a ton of damage and killing the captain of the guard (turns out I needed to do 1 damage as we'd already done 39/40 damage). So the captain never got to do any of the many cool moves that the DM had planned out for him. We seem to be good at that.

As a result of not getting rid of the skull, my bag burst into flames and I took 2 damage. I was then struck down by the guard or lieutenant. I knew I wouldn't stand long, but I needed to be able to take credit for the heroic slaying of the evil captain of the guard. I should add that prior to this, I heavily emphasized how we need to heal the mayor's last bodyguard. He fell, but shouldn't be dead yet, we should be able to restore him if we act quickly.

The others spent a lot of time fighting off the other guards, and the undead that eventually caught up to us were fighting off the guards as well (hooray). Once the guards were down, the undead started attacking us. Still nobody would heal me. I seriously thought my rogue was gonna die there, forgotten.

Oh, and you may recall that the other heroes abandoned the inn with a battle amongst guards and undead? Yeah, one guard survived that and started killing villagers at the inn followed by happily killing villagers at port. He was having tons of fun while we were off doing our own thing

Ooh, and then Miriam the demon shows up, and she's still not paying us any mind. She takes my crystal skull and it catches fire. I decide to start rolling up a new character, just to be prepared. I've never played a Bard, but what more thematic way to introduce a new character than to sing of the exploits of the brave Shamus the Rogue, slayer of guard captains and hero of mayors everywhere!

Fortunately (or unfortunately), I was revived finally by the paladin's touch. I awoke to discover no guards, but combat between undead, a demon lady, and our heroes. I sprint into action and run into the Town Hall! The team is yelling at me asking what I'm doing, when the next action was the demon flying into the Town Hall crashing through a second floor window. A noise is heard and the mayor is seen toppling down the stairs. I nod knowingly to the rest of the party "Saving the mayor, as I seem to be the only one intent on doing so!"

I can't see the demon, so I run up the stairs and prepare to strike with both my swords as she passes overhead, which happens exactly as planned.

The battle continues with attacks made, some at Miriam, some at trying to get rid of that Crystal Skull. Miriam picks up the mayor and he's getting clearly hot like he's about to combust. Then our Paladin uses his first ever spell quite effective, commanding her to "Drop". He may have just saved his life right there. She also dropped the skull. I run up on my action to kick the skull out the door. I roll a 1. But I'm a Halfling! lucky reroll! 1. I jokingly suggest I pull a Charlie Brown football punt. Here's the GM's description

"You run up to kick the skull. It bounces off the wall, comes back, and smacks you in the head. You take 2 points of damage. The skull falls to the ground resting exactly where it was before you kicked it."

Eventually, the other party members were able to shatter the skull, which released Miriam from her trance, and eventually somebody went to port to take out that last guard before he killed everybody.

We explored Miriam's room to see that she'd been studying dark magic, but all the spells are wrong, as thought they've been intentionally written incorrectly.

We discover that she mistakenly thought the mayor was to blame for the town's troubles, when the blame resided with the captain of the guard. She had also acquired this magic from a strange traveler who we recognized as the guy we killed and got the skull from. I was upset about the shattering of the crystal skull, but we were assured that there would be more. We were also chastised cause we "could've simply used water to put the skull out" like we did in the first adventure... but the entire town was kind of in flames. There was no water away from port, which we couldn't get to.
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9. Board Game: 1880: China [Average Rating:8.25 Overall Rank:2236]
Dave K
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Austin
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This weekend I was lucky enough to attend HeavyCon (run by an alum of our GCL, Ed Uhler). Had a wonderful time and played many, many GAMEZ.

 7   Web of Power NEW!
 4   Sneaks & Snitches
 8   Quadropolis
 8.5   West Riding NEW!
 9   1857 NEW!
 N/A   Unpublished Prototype
 9   Paris Connection x2
 7   Karuba
 9   Harzbahn 1873 NEW!
 9.5   Arkwright NEW!
 6   Saturn
 9.5   Roads & Boats NEW!
 9   Ora et Labora
 8   Codenames x3
 5   Cockroach Poker NEW!
 7.5   Ponzi Scheme NEW!
 8   Concordia
 9.5   1880: China NEW!

I'm still recovering from the trip so full write-up pending. To keep this to a reasonable size I'll try to keep the entries short.

If there are any games you want me to give more details on please say so.

Short thoughts:

Web of Power is a nice game, and I'd give it a higher score if China didn't also exist. China is a re-implementation of the same system and I think I like the cardplay more in China - hence the score for Web is lower than it would otherwise be. But it's a perfectly nice area control game that has some neat twists via placement restrictions.

Sneaks & Snitches is not one of my favorites. It's a "wine in front of me" game where you try to guess what others will do and hope they don't guess what you will do. I feel like there's barely any interesting game here and it's more or less arbitrary. (I feel a little bad saying this because I know both Robin and Kristen like it, but hey, I can't like everything. )

I think the reason this one is such a miss for me is that you can have multiple turns in a row where you get absolutely nothing. I realize the goal of the game is to remain simple, so that's why there's nothing else going on, but the fact that you can spend a chunk of time getting and doing nothing is just really unfulfilling to me.

Quadropolis continues to cement itself as an 8 for now. We played a 4p game in expert mode and there were definitely wasted moves at the end of rounds, which hadn't come up with the basic game or with expert at fewer players. My plans didn't really work well but it was still entertaining. The short length of this plus the "I want it all but can only take a tiny amount" feeling that permeates this game keeps me playing it.

West Riding was my first game at HeavyCon, and it's an older (~2000?) Winsome title. It looks like a crayon rails game (because, well, you use crayons to draw routes), but it's definitely a Winsome title because it has auctions, stock holdings, and a quirky scoring system. You buy shares in 6 companies, but those companies can "upgrade" into two "holding companies" that pay out based on connecting multiple companies into the same cities. The only real downside to it was the end of the game trigger seemed to be a bit "far off," which extended the length more than was needed.

I enjoyed this one quite a bit and am curious to try West Riding Revisited, which came out a decade later and uses the same basic ideas but significantly changes how things are valued.

1857 was my first 18XX of the weekend. It's a small 1830 rules-based one that, unlike 1879, has private companies. I enjoyed this one much more than 1879 - it has a more interesting map layout (no "haha cut you off turn one" issue like 1879 can have) and the private companies give it more personality. Slight downside: it really seems like the southern cities are more valuable than the northern ones. I feel like those will start first most of the time? (This is based on one play so I could be way off, of course.)

The train rush is harsh and the game seems practically certain to end in a bankruptcy (and ours did). This is either good or bad depending on how you look at it. I don't mind it because it keeps the game short and sharp - there are plenty of long 18XX titles and having more small ones that are good is a net plus.

I got in multiple games (I forget if it was 2 or 3) of Paris Connection over the weekend as well. This is one of my favorite short Winsome games - mechanically it is extremely simple (you only have two actions), yet it has depth and substance to it. Tony (former HC personality) brought a new map along to the con that we got to play on as well, and it was a very enjoyable coast-to-coast "join the continental divide" one. I believe my plays of this were all with either 5 or 6 players, and I prefer it with 4 (it's a bit less chaotic), but it's still enjoyable at any of those counts.

Tony, his wife, and one other person and I snuck in a game of Karuba while we were waiting to start another 18XX. Karuba remains quite fun and very short - especially if everyone knows how to play already. It's an enjoyable filler that is mostly multiplayer solitaire but there's a bit of racing the others (keeping an eye on which meeples they have moved) involved in determining which things you move and when.

The second 18XX of the weekend was Harzbahn 1873, which is... well, it's probably the most unusual 18XX I have played. The game started out as a non-18XX, but the map and stock systems from that family were added in later, and the result is a fascinating yet somewhat obtuse hybrid. The game starts with only two train companies, but a whole lot of small private mining companies, which can later merge into larger mining companies. The trains can be bought either as trains (surprise) or as mining equipment, meaning that the mining companies are heavily relied upon to help with the train progress.

On top of that, the trains are all basically "mini-diesels," as the numbers are the number of routes, not stops like normal. There are some restrictions on that, but it still leads to things like train runs for 300+ in the second OR, which is just weird.

I really want to explore the game more. Our first play was heavily lopsided in favor of the train companies since most of the mining ones were played very conservatively, but it shows a lot of potential to be a very intriguing game that rewards repeat play.

Arkwright was something I was pretty sure I would enjoy. And I was right. This game is fantastic. It's a rich, deep, and multi-layered economic game with market fluctuations, asymmetric powers, careful financial management, and a hint of engine building. The length is a bit of an obstacle, but I don't want the game to be stripped down to make it shorter. This is a meaty, chunky game that is worth the time, but I can easily see it being 90 minutes per player and easily an hour to teach.

Saturn is on the opposite end of the gaming spectrum. It's a dexterity game that plays in 15 minutes and takes 5 minutes to teach. As a Theta game, it's lavishly produced and has stunning visuals - it's a set of interlocking wooden rings that balance on little rods/platforms between each other, creating a series of balanced out "gravitational rings" that you place spheres on. Unfortunately, due to the components and being a Theta game, it's rare and crazy expensive.

Is it worth playing? At a con, yes. It's quick, fun, and a little indulgent. Is it worth buying? No, not really, unless you want a fancy centerpiece for a room. BGG.CON has a copy as well I think, so give it a try there and save yourself a few hundred dollars.

Back to heavy games I knew I'd like but hadn't yet played, Roads & Boats is a terrific logistics game from good ol' Splotter. It's very strategic and requires you to plan things out far in advance, which is something I enjoy (as many games focus on tactical decisions). However, once the players cross paths and start messing with each other (since all resources and buildings have no owners), it seems like it would force you to shift gears frequently to stay on top.

We played a "friendly" (no direct aggression) learning game and a great time. I can definitely see the more interactive and aggressive variants being fascinating - but also considerably longer, since you won't be able to do what you want nearly as consistently.

Ora & Labora is a Rosenberg resource management title that I really enjoy, although it seems to have a slightly mixed reputation. It clearly was made around the same time as Le Havre, as it shares several similarities - upgradeable resources, heavy emphasis on building & using buildings, and a "one, maybe two actions per cycle" setup for the rounds. The big difference is, of course, that you have three workers instead of one, and you are forced to take them back when they're used.

I like it. A lot. It doesn't have randomized setup (boo) but it does have two rather different versions, Ireland and France, in the game (yay). Right now I think I'd pick this over Le Havre, but that's more because I've played LH considerably more and I kind of feel I've had my fill of it, whereas I haven't played O&L nearly as much.

A great title if you've never played it and you like Rosenberg.

Codenames we played with a special set of Heavy Cardboard cards that Tony made, which primarily had boardgames, designers, and game terms on them. It was a blast. I accidentally led our team to pick the assassin twice. Whoooops... but still had a great time.

Cockroach Poker was okay. It's a pure bluffing game, with nothing else to it. I definitely see the "pick on the loser" issue with the game though, even after just one play. It felt like there wasn't a lot for you to actually go on in the game, so there was a lot of arbitrary guessing, but it didn't seem to have quite as much "you did nothing but other players did" feel to it as Sneaks & Snitches above.

I'd probably play again if asked, but I don't think I'd ever request this one.

Ponzi Scheme has a terrifically neat setup, where all players must keep taking loans that can never be paid off, and use the money to buy up things worth points in the hopes that they can stave off inevitable bankruptcy longer than the other players. I've heard it called an "economic party game," which I wouldn't quite agree with, but it's definitely a bit more casual of a title. There's a lot of pushing your luck, but it also has a neat "hidden economy" since all sales between players are conducted secretly.

Fun and I'll probably look into the upcoming TMG Kickstarter for it since there's not really any other games like this.

On a side note, I was horrible at this game and ended with tons of cash and almost no points. Doh. Need to be more aggressive next time.

Concordia has been out for a while and I think most people here on the GCL who would like it have played it. It's a very euro-y euro that is well constructed and interesting. The other players enjoyed it as well, and the Italy map worked very nicely with 4. I think I might actually prefer this with 4 on the small map rather than 5 on the large, as it feels very similar and the extra player seems to just add length rather than interesting board situations.

I really want to try this with the variable powers from the Salsa expansion sometime. Those sound like they could really shake the game up in an interesting way.

And Finally... 1880: China. What a game. This is a fantastic 18XX game in the "run good companies" vein. It has an 1830-ish stock market, but the game makes it considerably easier to keep money for trains, so stock shenanigans are more limited and people tend to want to keep the companies they have when they're doing well.

It has a large amount of exceptions to the usual 18XX rules, such as companies operating in a fixed order, stock rounds only happening at irregular times when train types switch, semi-full capitalization, and some other twists.

It's also very long - this took us 9.5 hours clock time / about 8 hours game time with 3. It claims to support 7 players... and I can't even imagine playing with that many. It would take forever. I do this this would be excellent with 4 or 5 though - and it actually worked really well with 3 too.

I'd highly recommend this to 18XX fans but I would not recommend it as a title for people not used to the series due to the length and the large amount of rules differences.

-----

So overall I had a fantastic time. I don't want to give games a 10 based on one play, but all of Arkwright, Roads & Boats, and 1880 have a good chance of becoming a 10 once I get a couple more games in. I don't know if 1857 would be a 10 but it's definitely a great one and I think it's really what I wanted out of 1879 that I didn't quite get. (Although I should give 1879 a couple more chances, admittedly.)

Viva la gaming!
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10. Board Game: Codenames [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:53] [Average Rating:7.74 Unranked]
Jeffrey Drozek-Fitzwater
United States
Houston
Texas
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Codenames x6: If someone gives the clue of "Energizer: 0," why in the world would you guess "rabbit"? (mutters)

Age of Steam: Knowing how the scoring works makes it a lot better. Half the players were new, but everyone played pretty competently. I started out in the middle of the board (I like Engineer as a first role pick) and just kinda mostly treaded water until I suddenly shot out. I'm not sure exactly what did it, but I was beasting all of a sudden. I won pretty handily and it was obvious with a couple rounds still to go. It's good to have the highest income AND the fewest shares.

1830: Railways & Robber Barons x1.5: I did a two-player game with a friend just so he could learn the rules and what to do. Because it wasn't a real game and he was new, I got to do my favorite thing: Take the B&O private, sit on it to collect income, and start the PRR to build rails for a the future B&O. After he got the hang of things, Abbie joined us for a three-player game. She started the B&O and was a total jerk when she went north out of Baltimore instead of south, forcing me (PRR) to go west instead of east.

I was doing quite well, but I think starting the B&M was probably a bad idea. I don't think it ever made money. Abbie managed to make Erie profitable, which was far from a given. I thought for sure the bank was going to break the second time we went through three operating rounds, but it still had $200 or so left. Ugh. That really hurt me, as I was over the certificate limit and a couple corporations came out of the yellow then. Despite having the most valuable corporation (NYC made it to the end of the stock market), I very narrowly- like by $125 when we both had more than $11k- lost.

Suburbia: A three-player game in which the winner just played a very good game. Hat tip to him.

Eclipse: I haven't played this in years, so it was fun to give it another spin. I was an expansion race, the kind that makes money from battles. The stupid Planta were on the opposite side from me. I really struggled with getting resources, especially ore. But I had some powerful ships- my cruisers had the shard hull and improved hull, making them extremely hard to blow up. But the Planta being so far away was annoying, as nobody wanted to take them on. And by the time I got to them, they had a strong defensive wall built up. I was close, something like 43-48.

The Resistance: Avalon x3: 0-3. Ouch. I lost once as evil because none of us could get on a single team and twice as good because Percival either didn't speak up or was wrong about who Merlin was.

Steam over Holland: I didn't think you could do well setting a low par value, but a guy managed to make a lot of money with that and was able to raise just enough capital to keep itself in trains. I opened a very successful second rail (my first kind of languished), but the low par guy was able to invest in other companies and that put him over the top. Still, I didn't suck, and that was something.
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11. Board Game: Cthulhu Wars [Average Rating:7.97 Overall Rank:229] [Average Rating:7.97 Unranked]
James Keith
United States
Oakland
California
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Keep x2
Cosmic Encounter
Blood Bound x2
Guns & Steel
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
Cthulhu Wars NEW!

The big play this week was my first go at Cthulhu Wars: I'd bought a KS pledge off of someone which was base game + some handful of extras (sadly not the three expansion factions, but two of the neutral GOO packs + High Priests and assorted extra plastic), and have been eager to get it to the table. I and some interested players in my regular group scheduled some game time out or FLGS and spent about 2 hours on a 4p game with the base factions.

In short, I really like it! I resonated with me in a way that Chaos in the Old World doesn't (it's oddly less over-chromed, rules-wise, than the latter), and I liked how asymmetric the factions were. Cthulhu took an easy victory with Yellow Sign (me) close behind, though we were the only two factions to get all of our spell books. The Crawling Chaos and Black Goat players were still getting a hang of their factions, with the former trying to go for a single sweep spending of power for their last two spellbooks (and spending too much time capturing cultists with their nightgaunts rather than building gates) and the latter struggling to get both the "be in 8 areas" and "have a unit in an area with at least one unit from each other player" spellbooks, despite making good use of Frenzy/Red Sign/Avatar.

There was definitely some learning pains in this play, though everyone enjoyed themselves enough that I hope we can get more plays in. The odd thing was that the Black Goat player felt that they were at the most disadvantage (because getting at least 3 other players all in the same area was very rare and dependent on the other players), though most of the strategy articles on the geek seem to think BG is over-powered. I'm sure there are some subtleties and nuance that would become more apparent with more play, so I'm eager to get it to the table again.

I'm really sad that I have to wait until Petersen Games produces another round of units to be able to get my hands on the expansion factions! (I read that they only produced enough in Onslaught 2 to satisfy the backers, and wouldn't be going full retail until much later).
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12. Board Game: Taste of Poland [Average Rating:5.60 Overall Rank:13105]
Grace P.
United States
Turlock
California
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I went to Poland, so no games played (other than on my iPad). I'll post some pictures soon.

Edit: http://imgur.com/a/yGkuV

You won't get my commentary to go with it, but there's a picture dump.
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13. Board Game: Nippon [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:253]
Fabrice Dubois
France
La Garenne Colombes
Hauts de Seine
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 9  Shakespeare x1 (21 plays so far)
 9  Nippon x1 (2 plays so far)
 8  Assyria x1 (4 plays so far)
 8  Goa x1 (6 plays so far)

On Shakespeare :
Despite its straightforward and simple gameplay, it is all about timing and agony : "choose-is-to-renounce" is the perfect sentence that would define this game. The theme is pretty there but i would say a little less than in the preceeding Ystari's eurogame, Myrmes. The 3 acts are more tracks than anything else.

The game is really scarce on VP : every VP counts and the victory is around 20/25 VP (the track is graduaded to 30). Don't search to score big points at once : it is much more a matter of scoring 1 or 2 points here and there ; 3 points at once is a very big deal. Also, there is only 2 scoring in the game, on turns 4 and 6 (there is only 6 turns in the game).

But there is meat around bones and lot of decision :
- how many tokens to bid ? this will decide the number of actions but also 1 VP for the player who bid the less : 6 turns is 6 VP so it is recommended to not give these 6 VP to the same player
- what characters/craftmen to recruit ? actors are focused on rehearsals while craftmen are focused on stage and costume
- how to manage ambience ? some actors are specialized on screwing ambience (Hamlet) and other on improving it (Falstaff)
- how to costume actors ? ragged for money or with luxury for prestige ?
- when to visit the queen ? for money or for objectives ?
....

There are 3 main strategies : costume, stage set and rehearsals and 2 sub strategies : queen and goldsmith.

Since it is mandatory to recruit a character/craftman each turn (you can always recruit an extra), you will have 11 characters/craftmen/extras at the end of the game (you start with 4 printed characters/craftmen and there is a first
recruitment before the first turn). Will you be more focused on actors than craftmen ? or the opposite ? or a mix/balanced strategy ?

Money is only here for the end of the game when it is time to pay each character/craftman (extra are free of charge). You can choose to not pay a guy but it will be a malus of 2 VP.

All in all, a solid game, well crafted. And it is playable solo out of the box.

On Nippon :
This game is very well done. I really enjoy the meeple management and consolidation action. It's all about timing.
I also like the tech tree and majority system on the board. For now, i like it less than Madeira but i still want to dig it as it represents a concentrate of everything i like in a game:
- personal development
- map occupation with majority system
- "coopetition" (struggle to eject foreign competitors while fighting for majority)
- straightforward gameplay
- game which gets to the point
- hyper tense management

On Assyria :
This game is all about elegance and purity. Nothing could be took of the game. The nomadism is very well integrated into the game : it is a matter of how many huts to keep on board (and where) from turn to turn in order to serve your strategy :
- camels for influence on Assur, ziggurat or favor of the gods
- direct VP and wells
- flood management
- board occupation

Also, there is a decent interaction : you can prevent other players to expand by putting wells, ziggurats and huts at their front doors. Turn order is very important in this regard since fed huts remain on board for the entire turn.

On Goa :
I enjoy this development and auction game but i must recon that it is very very dry.
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14. Board Game: This War of Mine: The Board Game [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:160]
Raf Cordero
United States
Bolingbrook
Illinois
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This War of Mine: The Board Game New!
Letter Tycoon
Mysterium

This War of Mine
A couple weeks ago, one of the leads at Awaken Realms messaged me because he thought I was a mod of /r/boardgames and wanted to set up an AMA. I figured I'd take the opportunity to ask if they had media plans for the retail release way down the road, and ended up with a prototype for this guy. I wrote up a longer review-ish, but in short the game looks pretty good. Design isn't complete, there are some missing mechanics, but it's very much got a Robinson Crusose meets Dead of Winter vibe so it's totally up my alley. It's got that sense of "not enough actions/people", and the sample of the book of scripts I have is really good so far. It's punishing though. I brought some fists to a gunfight and lost 2 people on a single combat round. When they never returned, a 3rd succumbed to misery and was lost.

Letter Tycoon
Some friends came over to hangout on Sunday and we played a quick game of Letter Tycoon in which I promptly focused on the low-value cards with abilities that I was never able to trigger and came in last...again. I like the core mechanic of LT, but I wonder if the right "strategy" might be a little too simple. Going to play it with the Dads and try that and see what happens.

Mysterium
Ha! Amazing. I used some of the exact clues I used when I played at Geekway and got dramatically different results. I also gave a clue based on what some people at Geekway thought I was saying and it backfired totally. It was funny for me, though I'm not sure our friends had a great 1st experience. They were thinking very literally and I never got any of the literal ones.

On my Mind
I often dive into craft projects with little regard for my skill or experience. "Better in Concept than Execution" will be the name of my autobiography. This is relevant because I worked on my Tak board all weekend. I finally got it to a place I'm happy, but it was a pain. It's etched slate with gold leaf overlay for the grid. The "slate" I bought is particularly porous, and the vinyl stencil didn't stick well, so the leaf adhesive leached underneath the vinyl and discolored the etching. I was able to clean that up using acetone but that somehow removed some of the etching. I don't know why; science probably. So overall I'm happy with the distressed look but it isn't *quite* what I envisioned. Next step is to dye half the glass tiles green and it will complete my "dwarven mine" inspired board.



If I could do it again, I'd say fuck the leaf and just use the pots of miniature paints I have in the basement...duh Raf.

Raffi won't stop moving, and won't stop eating. He continues to be a super good eater and I think he's in a growth spurt because he's eating crazy amounts at dinner. Steak, tortillas, pozole chicken, green beans by the pound, etc. It's pretty fun. He also tries to drink water out of grown up glasses which amounts to him trying to chew the rim of the glass, spilling whatever everywhere, and looking up with a very big very satisfied smile.
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15. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.10 Overall Rank:24]
Jim Parkin
United States
Stow
Ohio
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 6   Exploding Kittens x2 NEW!
 8   Ora et Labora
 6   Akrotiri NEW!
 N/A   Brass NEW!

My wife came back from a long trip with my son and we had a lot of projects to work on. Then we celebrated my son's FIRST BIRTHDAY on Friday and Memorial Day plans rolled out with friends and family--not a lot of games were played.

Exploding Kittens -- It's just Uno with a twist. I played this with my cousin and five-year-old nephew twice. I liked it more than I thought, but I'm not averse to light games. The unique card content is legitimately very amusing. Ultimately, it's easy to get blown away early, but it was still humorous.

Ora et Labora -- I never tire of this Rosenberg gem. The spacial thinking and conversion chains are so fun. Typically most folks dislike this after a while because there is no variation to the buildings. While I'd like more of them to come out and be randomized, I've yet to play even remotely the same game twice. This go-around my wife went all-in for cracking out wonders through her Sacristy (and spamming my buildings over and over again to do it) while I ignored wonders altogether and instead used Castle and Palace to throw down every settlement possible and generate almost all of my points through buildings and spacial scoring. I also made EVERY SINGLE AVAILABLE WINE IN THE GAME, so that was fun. In the end, I lost by less than ten points. Love it!

Akrotiri -- I borrowed this from a friend at our last meetup, and its... meh. I had higher expectations for this one. The idea of cartography and exploration, as well as pickup-and-deliver, is very appealing to me, and the art is FANTASTIC. In the end, however, my wife and I agreed that the game is too long for what it's trying to be, and the routes were extremely clunky. The tiles came out in such a way that despite attempting to make it streamlined, all of the islands were stuck between boring portage routes and most of our turns were moving from dock to dock and doing nothing else. The map cards were not as compelling as I thought they would be. Normally, we give every new game two plays before making a final verdict, but we are just not interested in playing this one again.

Brass: Lancashire -- Per Matt's recommendation to my question over on /r/boardgames, I am now very much interested in Brass. I downloaded the app version and played through the tutorial and a single beginner game... and got my posterior handed to me on a silver brass platter. Martin Wallace was simply never on my radar--I can't put my finger on why, really, but I recall first learning about Vital Lacerda years ago and eventually getting CO₂, and noticed that Brass is his only "10" after something like 200+ plays. I was dumbfounded by that, and at face-value, Brass didn't look that interesting to me when I looked into it at that point. Now, however, I feel an inner economic gamer emerging and even my shoddy digital session was pretty riveting. I think I'm going to wait for the new Roxley edition to hit Kickstarter and back that. Your thoughts and feedback are welcome!


On my mind:

I built a small raised-bed garden over the weekend and smeared my year's worth of compost all over the bottom and plan to mix some fresh soil into it. We're going to start small, as we've always been container gardeners up to this point.

I'm currently taking an "Enlightenment to Postmodernity" intellectual history course through Reformed Theological Seminary, and it's extremely interesting. Plenty of reading and writing will be necessary for this one, so I've no doubt that usual weeknight gaming/print-and-playing will slow a bit over the next few months. I hope to be finished with this degree sometime in the next three years, as I'm taking it slowly on a part-time basis.

I just finished reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Suzanna Clarke, which was a blast, and I'm now reading The Physiology of Taste, or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. I'm lovin' it already.

My son is one year old as of Friday, and I'm enjoying his rapid developmental progression and the blooming of his wacky personality. Very fun! We'll be playing Eclipse together in no time...
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16. Board Game: Prime Time [Average Rating:6.03 Overall Rank:6241]
Matt C
United States
Ypsilanti
MI
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 N/A   Prime Time NEW!
 N/A   FUSE x2 NEW!
 N/A   Between Two Cities

Prime Time -- This was a terrible experience (one that had nothing to do with the game). After playing Between Two Cities, our group of 7 people split into two games. I scoffed at the other group which went to play Le Havre, stated "I'd rather actually finish a game tonight..." Boy, were those the wrong words to say. The guy who owned this game apparently has a reputation for bringing games he's skimmed the rules for. So, for 45 minutes I got to listen to him read the rules out loud, cover to cover. Once we started, it was clear that he still didn't know how to play the game, so what was supposed to be a 90 minute game took 2 hours before we called it half way through the game. gulp That said, I think the game itself has some interesting potential. You basically run shows on days of the week in order to compete for prestige and demographics. You're rewarded by combining good programs and good actors/directors/writers/etc. This works really well, and I found it quite compelling. However, the pace of the game was sluggish at best, and killed any joy in this experience.

FUSE -- Clever little dice game that properly rushes you into a perpetually panicked stake so you mess up, rather than making proper decisions. I really enjoyed it, since it didn't take itself too seriously.

On my mind:

One of the people at my company bartered with my bosses so that they could pull me full time on a complicated project they have. Basically, someone overthought their program and then quit before it was fully realized. I have to come back behind them, clean it up and maintain it for the future. It's a particularly interesting project, and I'm pleased that someone within the company specifically asked for me. As is expected, this has left me with more work and less free time to internet.
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