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GCL Phoenix 292 - Conversational games (August 7th 2016)
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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Welcome to the Phoenix Game Chat League
Don't know what this GeekList is? Find out here: Gamechat League: Phoenix Division!

If you're visiting, thumb the list so we know you stopped by. Feel free to chat along with us, but please leave the posting of list items to members only.

Prattling Phoenixes:
archivists
darker
Dormammu
familygaming
hawk-x-
indigopotter
karlfast
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ravenskana
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Talking in the back room:
BennyD, Bruzza, chally, Eeeville, enzo622, Hawkeye77, JohnRayJr, judoka, leroy43, Mr_Nuts, topherr, Yokiboy

This week's topic: Conversational games
Now, there are a few different ways to understand what is meant by conversational games. Particularly, I'm talking about games which aesthetically feel like a conversation (which, in turn, might promote or provoke actual conversation). Of course, there are many different ways to have a conversation, but for the most part, they involve at least another person and strong responsiveness to what is being thrown down (note: although we might all have moments in which we are simply waiting for our turn to speak to change the conversation altogether!).

The whole concept is somewhat inspired from the following comment (for Power & Weakness):
Duchamp wrote:
This is a unique design requiring two real fresh minds. Gameflow is more like discussing a real difficiel philosophical point than just playing a game. Outstanding.


So this week, let's talk games which have that back-and-forth flow to them that might feel like a gentle back and forth, a cross-cultural exchange, a debate, you name it.

In line with the theme of the week, I'm not asking questions, but rather sharing some thoughts in hopes of drifting into a conversation -- keeping things directed, but not prescriptive
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1. Board Game: Go [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:129]
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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I keep hearing that Go is likely to be the most conversational game out there in that it is one that is highly responsive -- that there is but a simple yet deep set of rules between players to facilitate a deep back and forth. I understand that even notions of tactics and strategy seem to be conversing in this game as they are in constant tension between one another!
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2. Board Game: Clans [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:1199]
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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Clans to me feels like sort of an inter-cultural exchange (in which culture can be read in terms of *big* cultural groups or even sub-cultural groups) in which difference persists. The whole crux of the game is trying to figure out what the other(s) are saying with their moves! And you never *fully* get to make sense of it, but you can get close enough ( pragmatically achieving "close enough" is usually what wins the game). But sometimes, you get it wrong, and wish you hadn't just assumed you understood things the way you did (and acted on it!). Plus the back and forth nature of the play promotes each player giving the other(s) opportunities for a conversing space (albeit not always successful!).
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3. Board Game: Nyet! [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:1269]
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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Here's a funny one, quite the opposite of the lost-in-translation of Clans above, Nyet! is like a precursor conversation to making a collective grocery list: "don't add brocoli because we still have some in the fridge" Everything is communicated in the negative -- what you don't want and don't need -- never wholly communicating what it is that will *actually* make it onto the list!
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4. Board Game: Tichu [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:125]
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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Furthermore, partnership trick-takers also come to be strongly conversational in nature as it is all about communication and mis-communication but across multiple lines often! It's like developing a code for leaving an unsavary party early - but without having had the conversation first - how do you communicate that "eggplant" is the "safe" word when you haven't established one (without the social disgrace of leaving! gasp).
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5. Board Game: Potato Man [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:2397]
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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Last one with trick-takers, they just feel like a light and pleasant conversation -- room for a few funny flubs, meaningful but float-y back-and-forths, and maybe a few good-natured (and good) ribings.
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6. Board Game: Twilight Squabble [Average Rating:5.73 Overall Rank:10214]
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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Of course, who could forget about card-driven wargames that feel like you're actually the one participating in the Kitchen Debates -- games like Twilight Struggle, 1989, and Wir sind das Volk!. These feel like a strongly worded debate in which adversariality is at once playful and potent: which points do you belabore, drop, drive home, pick up, or introduce. The conversational nature of the game prevents the whole thing from feeling like a puffy monologue and brings it into a lively exchanges.
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7. Board Game: Pax Porfiriana [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:387]
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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To pull through the metaphor one last time, there are games which seem to place you in a conversational relationship with things that extend far beyond what is already at the table -- the materiality of the game acts as a cultural pivot to connect you, the players, with something beyond the immmediacy of the table.

In some cases, this may be the author of the game: folks like Eklund, Chudyk, or Simmons who have idiosyncratic designs which tell deeply of how their minds work (and maybe of how they *are* in the world, inviting you to take a glimpse at and with them).

Perhaps the game puts you in conversation with history: again with Eklund(-style) games, as well as with wargames, and some historically-informed Euros. Or geography (I get a big whiff of South America playing Kiesling and Kramer's Mask Trilogy!), or fictional-space-times!
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8. Board Game: The Palaces of Carrara [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:573]
Lo
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

_7_ Carcassonne x1
_7_ The Palaces of Carrara x1
_6_ World's Fair 1893 x1


The Week in Review

A slow week with just three games and none of them were 51st State: Master Set (though it might have been if the icecream hadn't started melting so fast in the heat). Instead, it was Carcassonne, in which S and I played to a dead tie. In over a hundred games, I think that's only happened twice.


The Palaces of Carrara is much more interesting with four than with two. And it plays in about the same amount of time unlike a lot of games where each player increases the play time significantly.

I've waffled about keeping it, but our play with SG and P has convinced me to keep it around. It's light enough (using the basic rules) to use with casual players and more interesting (to me) than a lot of other gateway games, for example, the game we played immediately after: World's Fair 1893.


While World's Fair 1893 is more interesting with four, it's still too simple to really excite me. Even SR, who is not a gamer in the least, said she found Carrara the more interesting of the two games.

I suspect World's Fair 1893 days are doomed in my collection. I keep thinking of taking it into work as it's short enough to play at lunch, but it being Summer, most of my co-workers aren't interested in playing a board game when they can walk the Inner Harbour in the sun. (Seems hordes of zombie-tourists don't deter them from enjoying themselves; I wish I could say the same.)


The Week Ahead

Still waiting for Arkwright and The Voyages of Marco Polo to arrive. As for gaming, we're trying something new this week. S and I will be hosting JR and his partner on Friday night. Should be interesting as he's just getting back into Euros and she's a casual player at best.

Unplayed games of note in shrink: The U.S. Civil War, German Railways, Pax Pamir and Revolution: The Dutch Revolt 1568-1648.

Unplayed games not in shrink: Normandy '44.

Expansions unplayed and in shrink: The Hobbit saga expansions for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game: Over Hill and Under Hill and On the Doorstep.
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9. Board Game: The Guns of Gettysburg [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:1486]
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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I haven't posted games played in two weeks, so here's a *quick* overview of it all:

General gaming here and there
 8   Friday x3
 8   Potato Man x2

Monday night games with David
 8   Triumvirate
 8   Push It x3
 9   Haggis
 9   1989: Dawn of Freedom
 7   Parade x2
 8   Innovation

Tom's weekend visit (with a trick-taking night with David!)
 9   The Guns of Gettysburg x2
 8   Scharfe Schoten NEW!
 8   Power & Weakness NEW!
 8   Nyet!
 10   Java
 8   The Bottle Imp

Lots of great games which *totally* fit the theme of the week -- I'm putting up Guns of Gettysburg as the game of the week however because it is an event unto itself (and it totally fits the theme) and Tom and I almost played it twice through! Being stubborn as I can be (a bit of a pugnacious streak?), I wanted to give the Confederacy a run twice (as Tom thoroughly put his knowledge of history and geography to amazing use to slaughter me the first game!) - I love the challenge of taking up what might otherwise seem like an untenable position! The second game went much better but Tom knows how (and more importantly where) to hold a line (e.g., holding reserve units behind to fill gaps in strength!).

Anyways, the whole system itself is so amazing -- there's so much that is encapsulated within the diverse parts of the map (e.g., the size of the spaces on the board are relative to how long it might take to make it through the space, based on elevation changes, rivers and streams, trees, buildings, etc.). It's a bit of a slog to make it through the rules, but it's worth it -- part chess, part poker, all tension. Rachel Simmons is brilliant but totally in her own league -- which makes rocking up to her games a chore. The reward is sweet though: no promise of a transcendental experience, but rather one of proximity with the other across the table, Rachel Simmons, and the most famous battle of the civil war (e.g., I love how the game tells a story of an accidental/unexpected battle - but one with much gravitas).


SJ : you'll notice I've increased the rating for Parade! Two *is* the way to go for that one.
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10. Board Game: Hanabi [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:290]
Bryan Maxwell
United States
Burtchville
Michigan
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I'm not sure that this fits in with your intent for the weekly discussion, but Hanabi immediately came to mind. Hanabi isn't like a conversation, it's like a symphony. Everyone needs to communicate and get on the same page, but you have to use in-game signalling to do it.

Sure, you'll occasionally get the clowns who can't help but game the system with weighted clues ("you have ones here, here and HERE.") These people are philistines. A well-played game of Hanabi is a shared work of art, a conversation with no words. That feeling of connection you get when you give a somewhat opaque clue and the table understands it, that's part of what makes this such a special game.

It's a fascinating look into how the other players' minds work. Sometimes I'd do something in the game that would fluster my wife, and I'd have to later explain my reasoning. She thought I was just a loose cannon, but I'd explain my thought process to her and she'd say "Huh, I never would have thought about it that way." Play the game a lot with the same group and you'll learn how their brains work. It's fascinating.

Now, on to the week that was.

7 Wonders: Duel x 1

Kat and I got to try this one out this past week. She was more enamored with it than I was, as was expected. She says that 7 Wonders was one of her favorites and she was bummed when I got rid of it way back when. This one helps scratch that itch.

It's essentially 7 Wonders, but with the Valley of the Kings card acquisition instead of drafting. There's a little more to it, but that's the gist. In this play, I went pretty hard at the military while she went after blue VP cards. We did end up building 7 wonders, and I think that pursuing those a little earlier may be a good idea.

This feels like a good example of a game where if you sit down and go through the motions, you're going to get a decent amount of points. You have to apply some effort and look to squeeze the system, to be as calculating and efficient as possible. I can see people going through the motions and wondering why they don't win, feeling like it's down to chance.

It feels like a Feld game in that way. You're going to score 40 points just by sitting down and taking turns. Beyond that it's a question of how much effort you put in. I'm not sure I like the game enough to warrant that effort, but it's quick and it was inexpensive, and the wife likes it so I expect it will see more exploration.



The more I've gamed lately, the more I miss gaming. We've been trying to work it into our schedules more often, which is rough. I'm a nighttime gamer and she isn't. My Wednesday night group isn't around anymore, and I'm jonesing to get back to a regular gaming thing.

On the upside, we have gotten into the habit of visiting the beach every Sunday morning. This has been a godsend, a very healthy thing for everyone involved. My wife and firstborn get to swim, and I get to enjoy my 2 youngest and enjoy the sounds and smells of the beach.
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11. Board Game: The Great Zimbabwe [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:331]
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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Games Played:

_8_ Tragedy Looper x1
Introduced the first scenario to Christian, Meg, and Austin with my oldest son joining me as mastermind. They had almost everything figured out by the final loop but masterminds were still able to end the loops and win.

_6_ Flash Point Fire Rescue x1
Dusted this off and used the expansion Brownstone board as the others had played the game before.
Meg, Christian, my oldest son and myself managed to win, losing only one victim in the process.

_8_ Mottainai x1
A quick game waiting for people to arrive. Oldest son won 16 to my 11.

_10_ The Great Zimbabwe x1
New to Jermone while Amos had played long ago. Everyone other than myself build different craftsmen the first round so I went for quik upgrading, using the herd to get income and the god who makes all prices one cattle to also control costs. I screwed up the bidding in the final round and went last and didn't have enough resources left to upgrade a win. Jerome took the god that allows two new monuments a turn but was the last to select one in about round three or four.
Oldest son won 29 of 27 (+2)
Jon 31 of 33 (-2)
Jerome 24 of 29 (-5)
Amos 25 of 31 (-6)

_7_ Key Harvest x1
Another game dusted off and new to the others.
Han 42
Joel 36
Jon 28

_10_ Innovation x1
My wife and I won 6 achievements to our two sons combined 5
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12. Board Game: Monster Factory [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:3988]
R. Eric Reuss
United States
Massachusetts
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 10   Argent: The Consortium (with Mancers of the University)
 9   Innovation x2 (once with Figures in the Sand)
 8   Monster Factory x4 NEW!
 8   Blink x2 NEW!
 6   Fantastiqa NEW!

We're back!

I'm a bit sad I missed Max's list from two weeks ago; I'd been thinking very similar things about wanting to see more in-depth description / discussion. I'm thinking that from here on, while I'll list all my plays, I'll default to talking more about one game that's caught my interest - y'all can always inquire if you're curious about other games or my ratings thereof.

The big discovery of the last few weeks has been Monster Factory, a lovely kids' game with just enough to it to make it a fun time for the adults too.

Game overview: The only game components are tiles which show monstrous bits and pieces - perhaps just a claw, or a giant eye, or a hand holding a frantic-looking human. (It's all cartoony.) Each tile has connections on 1-4 of its edges; connections are either thin and green (most often tentacle-y things) or thick and purple (more meaty-body-type things). On your turn, you draw a tile and add it to any player's board. Your first creation is a monster; any further creations are "minions". (You start a minion when the thing you're working on is "completed" - no more free connections.)

The game ends when you run out of tiles, or when all players have completed their main monster. Complete monsters score 1 point per tile. Complete minions score 1 point per tile with eyes on it. Incomplete monsters/minions score nothing.

Thoughts: Mechanically, it's a push-your-luck game with spatial elements: if your main monster is too small, you're not going to score many points, but if it branches too much, you'll never complete it by endgame. With each tile you draw, you have to decide whether its connections (and possibly placement) work better to take your monster in the direction you'd like, or if it's better served in pushing an opponent's monster towards early completion / unrecoverable expansion. The game biases towards using tiles yourself, since that gives (potential) points, but the decisions aren't always obvious... and if a tile doesn't fit on your monster you'll have to play it elsewhere.

(BTW, the green and purple connections are not "equivalent but different"; they have rather different connection dynamics. I'll avoid giving details because I think finding this out via play is more entertaining.)

But IMO, the primary fun of the game isn't mechanical - it's artistic. The monster-pieces combine together in really entertaining ways; our first game, my wife wandered by, and made me promise to take pictures of the final monsters at the end of the game. And I think everyone who tried the game made at least one play because it seemed strikingly fitting/awesome rather than because it offered a tactical advantage. And one night after the kids were in bed, two of us just started playing around with the tiles to try and make the biggest only-green/only-purple monsters we could, just to see what they'd look like.

~ ~ ~

Outside of gaming: Vacation included some really good times, but overall was an energy sink rather than a recharge. I'd expected that might be the case, but the reality was a bit harder than my anticipation, partly because all 4 kids on the trip consecutively came down with a 36-hour bug involving a 104-degree fever.

Apparently it didn't rain at all during the 2.5 weeks we were gone. We owe the continued survival of our garden to the good graces of my sister, who came by and watered every other evening.

And by the gods, I want this - but they aren't taking any more orders for preassembled books, and if you assemble it yourself you spoil several of the puzzles. *shakes fist*
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13. Board Game: Wits & Wagers [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:535]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 6Aug2016:

6/6/294 plays of 6/6/151 total games, with 2/2/27 expansions employed.
Plays with 5/5/105 distinct opponents.

0/0/25 games acquired (plus 0/0/18 expansions.)
0/0/2 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/0 expansions.)
0/0/14 games ordered (plus 0/0/5 expansions.)
Orders for 2 games and 2 expansions still outstanding.

With family:
1x _7⅓_ Geschenkt - My Mom had forgotten how to play a few of her (little) games: so we revisited them in order to remind her. We tried them in (roughly) increasing order of time-to-explain (not that any of the three are difficult to explain, of course!) We conscripted my younger two to join us: and all of us found it amusing.
Since the four of us were all (mostly) rational actors, it reminded me that this is a game where I've seen distinctly non-rational play: If someone has the 33 and 35 in front of them, and the 34 comes up, one might well expect to be able to send it around the table a few times to collect tokens - since it's a huge loss otherwise for whoever else takes it. But - more than any other game that comes immediately to mind - I've seen someone take a card in outrage? protest? of the extortion, even though it means they'll lose. It was fun to play with a group that didn't roll that way.
1x _7⅓_ Loco! - I'd given this one to my folks after finding a copy of Quandary. (I like the tile version better in nearly all respects - except portability. The Loco! version definitely has that!)
We again played with 4. My youngsters found this more entertaining than I'd expected. I'd thought it wasn't at all a new title for them - but they reacted to it as if seeing it for the first time. (It's possible that while they had played years ago, some of the ramifications of their decisions were newly apparent of course!) It seemed to go over well.
1x _7⅓_ For Sale - This, too, is rather trivial to explain. But I'm used to playing my old Ravensburger copy, while my Mom has the Überplay one: and the rules aren't quite the same. So, barbarian that I am, we played with rules that weren't quite those in the box. Hopefully that doesn't throw Mom off too much if she tries to play again!
For this one, we grabbed all three kids (and played with 5.) I was entertained by how much my boys were willing to overpay (in the auction stage) for the larger buildings. And particularly since the sale stage didn't begin to justify the premiums.

1x __ Wits & Wagers - Whole family plus my Mom. It works delightfully for the lot of us; and we had fun with the dynamics. Son #2 mock-complained that the early-2000s anchor for many of the statistical questions made it difficult for him to be competitive: how could he - born in 2002 - be expected to have any idea of the answers? We reassured him that none of us had any idea about the vast majority of the answers, but he'd not really needed the argument: he was indulging in recreational complaining (perhaps as one might expect from someone born in 2002!)
In the end, there was a modest correlation between age and results: my wife and Mom placed well ahead of the rest of us.

1x _7⅓_ Ticket to Ride (with Switzerland (38 months dusty) and the USA 1910 cards) - This is a tradition for daughter #1 and my mom and I. We've played a bunch of times over the years, and all of us have won. (Though not necessarily "our share": I think daughter #1 has won some of my share, too!)
This one fell out weirdly: instead of a tight distribution, our leader had 3x the points of the trailer. I'm not expecting to see that ever again!

1x _7⅔_ 横濱紳商伝 Yokohama Shin-shō-den 'Yokohama' - This was a bit anticlimactic after last week's (very successful) game. My sons played this with me - and while son #1 seemed to enjoy himself (and won!) son #2 was less impressed. I think he'll want to avoid this for a few years.

Owned-and-unplayed: 0 (+0/-0)
Owned-and-played-once: 91 (+0/-0)

Outlook for the week: Home today from vacation. A bit more gaming with friends and family, but pretty low-key in total.
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