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GCL Phoenix 300: Storytelling (2nd October 2016)
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Welcome to the 300th GCL Phoenix list. More information about the group can be found here and info on GCLs in general is here.

Members are encouraged to add an item to the list and we love comments and discussion from visitors too. Please thumb the list so we know you stopped by. If you're interested in joining the group, contact indigopotter about the possibility.

The first Phoenix list was back in September 2011. A little over 5 years later and we've reached list 300. I guess we should celebrate somehow. Maybe have a small cake.



Some of our current roster have been here since the beginning - you guys can have a big cake.



Phoenix Roster:
darker Next!
Dormammu
hawk-x-
indigopotter
karlfast
Lowengrin
ravenskana
rynelf
Smintie
Taibi
tjshields
woodnoggin

List of Alumni:
archivists, BennyD, Bruzza, chally, Eeeville, enzo622, familygaming, Hawkeye77, JohnRayJr, judoka, leroy43, Morganza, Mr_Nuts, topherr, Yokiboy
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1. Board Game: Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.57 Overall Rank:3]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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This week I've been thinking about the stories games can tell. How interested are you in the storytelling side of boardgames? Are there any games you particularly enjoy for the stories they tell? Perhaps this not really something you look for in a boardgame. Or maybe you consider any game able to tell a story of some sort.

Through the Ages has the word story right there in its name - "A Story of Civilization". Does it really tell a story? Is the latest version really different enough to tell "A New Story of Civilization"? For me, although I feel I could relate the story of what happened during a game of Through the Ages, I find it abstracts events just a step too far to immerse me in the story. Quirks of the game - such as my civilisation having only four leaders spanning the time from antiquity to the 20th century - make for an unrealistic story. Perhaps I need a level of realism, or at least internal logic, to make for a satisfying story.

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2. Board Game: Rory's Story Cubes: Moomin [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:11610] [Average Rating:6.43 Unranked]
Rich P
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United Kingdom
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How about pure storytelling games - ones which involve your own creativity in telling a tale? Have you enjoyed any of these sorts of games or do they fill you with dread?

I know some people who love and some who hate things like Rory's Story Cubes, Nanofictionary, Snake Oil or The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. They do tend to require being in a certain frame of mind to play well.

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3. RPG Item: Story Engine Universal Rules (Revised Edition) [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:6253]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Roleplaying may be the area of gaming with the heaviest focus on stories. Do you play or have you played any roleplaying games? If so, how important was the story in the sessions you played? In the RPGs I've played, I've found that people enjoy different aspects of the games, with a greater or lesser focus on storytelling. For example, they might like:

i) exploring the world, regardless of any plot or narrative;
ii) piecing together a story designed and presented by the GM;
iii) telling a story collaboratively with the other players;
iv) concentrating on the story of their character;
v) the tactical challenge of combat situations.

Those are just some examples, there are undoubtedly others. Does your experience of roleplaying games fit into any of those categories?

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4. Board Game: Story Time Dice [Average Rating:5.83 Unranked] [Average Rating:5.83 Unranked]
Rich P
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Sheffield
United Kingdom
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As an aside, one thing a lot of roleplaying games have is interestingly-shaped polyhedral dice. I've always been fond of the D12 because of how pleasingly they roll. Which is your favourite shape of dice?
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5. Board Game: Arkham Horror [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:248] [Average Rating:7.30 Unranked]
Rich P
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United Kingdom
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Arkham Horror and related games are often cited as being RPG-like - you have individual player characters, levelling up, quests and challenges etc. For me, they're a pale imitation. Whenever I've played Arkham Horror, I always wish I was playing the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game instead which tells a more coherent story, can keep all players involved as much as they want and where the mechanisms get out of the way of the narrative. But I know people who have effectively replaced RPGs with Arkham Horror, so it must be scratching the same itch for them somehow. Could it be the need for a GM to run the game is a huge barrier given the preparation required?

Which boardgames would you say come closest to replicating the feel of a roleplaying game? Is that even something that could be reasonably expected of a boardgame?
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6. Board Game: Tell-A-Story [Average Rating:4.81 Unranked]
Rich P
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United Kingdom
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Is storytelling a part of your life outside of gaming? Did it feature heavily in your childhood? Have you ever sat around a campfire in the wilderness telling spooky ghost stories? Feel free to share any of them!

Speaking of which, I've just finished watching the TV series 'Stranger Things' which is both a scary story and features roleplaying games. It was pretty good.
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7. Board Game: Magic: The Gathering [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:150] [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked]
Rich P
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Last week's plays:

-10- Agricola
-10- Magic: The Gathering (x7)
-8- Concordia
-6- Orléans (+Orléans: Neue Ortskarten N°1, Orléans: Neue Ortskarten N°2, Orléans: Neue Ortskarten N°3)

Agricola was a rare 5-player game to bid farewell to two friends who are leaving Sheffield and moving to Scotland. Because of the cards played, we were in a land of plenty and scored highly all round. I won with something like 62 points.

I played in a couple of Magic drafts for the latest set, Kaladesh. It has a vibrant, Indian steampunk theme and I was excited to try out some of the powerful new cards. However, I didn't find the draft format to be all that great: there are a few fun "build-around" cards to try out but the power level of the set is high enough that decks of generic good stuff can often win before any clever synergies start coming into play. I've seen both sides of that in my two drafts so far.

Orleans was by request and I like it a little more each time I play. It helps that I've added in a few promo buildings to spice things up, although this game featured the Goldsmith which seemed overpowered and propelled me to an easy victory. It could be that it caught the others unawares and in future we'd play to block whoever has that building.

Concordia was a tight 4-player game on the Britannia map (always good for reminding ourselves of the Roman names for familiar cities). I was the Vintner with a sideline in Colonist cards, enough to give me second place by one point. Kate's winning strategy appeared to be take whatever move I had planned just one step before me!
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8. Board Game: Target [Average Rating:6.04 Overall Rank:8971]
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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We played something other than Canasta!

We dusted Target - last played almost 5 years ago, October 9, 2011. While the idea seems like something that would fits us, it's a little too slow. The hand limit is too small, and the hand replenishment is a little too tedious. It is destined for the bulging auction shelves. But, it gives me an item for the "games only YOU played this month" geeklist.

We also played 8 games of Canasta.

Sam ordered Grand Austria Hotel off of Amazon for my birthday present, but apparently it came from a seller in the UK,, who thought that a plastic bag was enough to protect it as it crossed the Atlantic. The box arrived damaged/punctured. Sam showed it to me to see what I thought, and we agreed that it was too much money to have it be damaged like that, especially when someone tried to cheap out and throw it in a bag. He contacted the seller, we'll see what happens.
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9. Board Game: Power & Weakness [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:4261]
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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Ok, so it's not like I haven't gamed *at all* in the last .... since June 30th (when I last updated), but it's been a slow stretch!

Here's the full list:


 8   Potato Man x3
 8   Friday x2
 8   Triumvirate x2
 8   Push It x3
 9   Haggis x7
 9   1989: Dawn of Freedom
 7   Parade x2
 8   Innovation
 9   The Guns of Gettysburg x2
 8   Scharfe Schoten NEW!
 8   Power & Weakness NEW!
 8   Nyet!
 10   Java
 8   The Bottle Imp
 8   Tichu
 7   Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers
 7   Pocket Civ
 8   Twilight Struggle
 10   Blue Moon x3
 7   Polarity x2
 9   Impulse x3
 8   Elements x6
 7   BraveRats x7
 8   Villa Paletti x2
 6   Secret Hitler x2 NEW!
 7   Broom Service NEW!
 8   Castellion x4

Highlights here include:
- Haggis while camping with Brooke (who has recently taken to Khmer as well).
- Twilight Struggle, 1989, and Blue Moon with David before leaving town.
- The Guns of Gettysburg with Tom (finally? playing with the rules correctly -- and two tense matches!), as well as a rematch (lost) at Java.
- Impulse with Patrick before clearing out of town.
- Power and Weakness being a my best "new to me" for the summer, being an area majority game of ebbs and flows for two (the most difficult number it seems).
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10. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.21 Overall Rank:10]
Lo
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

_7_ Terra Mystica x1 New!


The Week in Review

Just the one play of Terra Mystica. Even though this game has been around for more than a few years now and ranks extremely high on BGG, I haven't had any interest in playing it. In fact, I only played it this past week because it was my nephew's choice and it was his birthday.

Now that I've played it, I'd probably play it again although I'm not sure I'd ever suggest it. The terraforming mechanic (and how one can transform in a clockwise or counter-clockwise order) was okay. Somehow I assumed it would just be linear. The mancala-like power mechanic also added some frustration as the actions that could be activated by powers could be quite strong, but building up enough power could be costly.

The individual race powers (and the boards) were also interesting (if not a bit overwhelming at first). And the incentive to build next to another player (for cheaper trading post upgrades) was also nice as was the power bonus for a neighbour when an upgrade was done. I also liked the decision making around which action to take and when - particularly when an opponent could mess with it before you have a chance to act.

But, all in all, I just found the game a bit too abstract to really get excited about. Kind of the way I feel about Power Grid. I appreciate the genius of it, but I don't find it has a "wow" factor for me.


In unrelated news, S and I are just back from a week down in Oregon. We went down to visit friends from our Japan days (J & E and their two boys), who we haven't seen in about 10 years. We played Betrayal at House on the Hill with them and I got to sample a lot of great craft beer from the Salem area. One day we ducked into Portland to catch the market and Powell Books (and J and I popped into Time Vault Games, but didn't have time to check out any others).

Then we spent a few days exploring the coast, before popping up to Seattle and checking out the Museum of Flight. From there it was a quick visit to the Fraser Valley to see family (play Terra Mystica) and then home.


The Week Ahead

S and I aren't back to work until after (Canadian) Thanksgiving (next Monday), so I hope we will get some plays in. And Saturday, JR and I have a meet up planned (which hopefully JS and MR will also make).

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

Unplayed games not in shrink: 1844/1854 and 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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11. Board Game: Through the Desert [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:443]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 1Oct2016:

11/1/347 plays of 10/1/178 total games, with 1/0/36 expansions employed.
Plays with 16/1/126 distinct opponents.

0/0/28 games acquired (plus 0/0/19 expansions.)
0/0/4 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/2 expansions.)
0/0/20 games ordered (plus 0/0/7 expansions.)
Orders for 6 games and 4 expansions still outstanding.

With son#2 and his friends:
2x _7_ Loopin' Louie - (Several tournament-style games, with at least seven different participants.) Not only did this work well for the teens, it was taken over by the younger siblings as the teenagers tried some of the other games, too. In the end it was successful in a couple ways: the game was well-enjoyed, and it survived the predations of the (much) younger set, too!
1x _7⅓_ Jungle Speed - (Two rounds; five players.) I wasn't sure what degree of contact to expect from the young persons: would they go with the "full-contact" version, and wrestle the totem one from the other (the young football player might well have been happy with that choice!) or go with some other protocol. Son #2 points out that the lowest point of contact with the Totem wins the tiebreaker (according to the rules, at least!) and that carried the day: so it became a pretty clean speed grab endeavour.
It went over quite well: the lack of opportunity to check a phone (or chat with a neighbour) didn't hurt, either.
1x _6⅔_ Toc Toc Woodman (with Golden Core and Bark) - (Five or six rounds; six players.) Speaking of our young football player, he managed to knock the entire tree down the first several times he attempted a strike with the axe. We (the table, that is) encouraged him to try to win, rather than lose; and he went with that aesthetic for a while. It went well overall: the "victories" (such as they are) were pretty well distributed amongst the players.
1x _7⅓_ Telestrations: 12 Player Party Pack - (Three rounds, and six players.) We were a bit sillier with respect to scoring than the rules strictly specify: but it went well nonetheless. This was very successful: it gathered an audience of parents as they came to pick their youngsters up (and the young folk didn't want to leave, saying "Let's play one more round!")
1x _8_ Schnapsen - (Ok; this one was just son #2 and I.) It was entertaining: I think both of us managed to improve our play level. (From our most recent baseline, at least; I don't believe that either of us are good yet.) It's a lovely little thing, and I remain thankful to John for introducing me to it.

With Eric's gang in MA:
0x _7⅓_ あやつり殺人事件 Ayatsuri satsujin jiken 'Puppet Murder' - 0x since I didn't play! It was still amusing to watch it in action: I really enjoyed watching the participants think about their options and try to execute a plan that might leave them with victory. It's not great by any means: but I still think it is amusing.
1x _8_ Through the Desert - (Not my Durch die Wüste this time.) I really enjoyed this, even if the result is deeply in the irreproducible zone. Both of Eric's esteemed colleagues, given the choice to attack him or me, went with him. And while that is entirely sensible in the abstract (why not constrain the known threat in preference to the one of unknown quality?) it left me with far more slack than I deserved.
1x _8_ トロルマスター Tororumasutā 'Trollmaster' - While I really enjoy this, I was also amused by the (mock-?)complaints of some of the participants. The game doesn't offer as much control as they wanted. And so they wanted to propose variants that would increase that control.
Some of that discussion was wonderfully perceptive. For example, the notion that the game might reward unlikely extremal strategies by a sufficient margin that one should play that way (rather than toward a more-generally-plausible (but weaker) non extremal strategy) is intriguing. And I don't have nearly the experience with the game (I've only played 18 times, and I mean that specifically in comparison with many hundreds of plays of Race for the Galaxy!) to have any sense as to the strength of the argument.
And a bit of it was the sort of complaint that I come up with all too often. "The thing I tried didn't work! Surely that's the game's fault." While it might be in this instance, it usually isn't when I say that: I've just tried something that I shouldn't've attempted. And, sure; there's an interesting question there about herding. If the game requires one to do Exactly One Thing - it's not very interesting: there needs to be some variance in the options that can be pursued with any success. I'm still of the delusion that variance is available here. And could - of course -be wrong.
1x _6⅓_ O Zoo le Mio [New (on a technicality)] - (The "New" quibble is that I'd played Zoo Sim back before I started recording plays.) This one quickly became unstable as one of Eric's colleagues established a dramatic lead over the other and I. It was a cool side effect of a faulty groupthink (and some sloppiness - at least on my part - with respect to valuations.)
I expect the game can be dramatically better than the one I played - particularly if the players are more competent than I! But the potential for one player (read: me) to throw the game toward another because of their errors of judgment is a bit sad.
1x _7⅔_ Sail to India - (Normally I mark this up as セイルトゥインディア; but we played the AEG edition, which is most definitely an English-language game!) This was cool: Eric tried a play (from the third seat) that I'd never seen before. The end result was close: well within the butterfly effects' constraints for everyone - so it could easily have gone some other way.
I was amused/provoked to discover that the rules don't guarantee the players an even number of turns. And, in particular - though it didn't happen in this game - if the second seat discovers India, then the first seat gets one more turn than everyone else. I find myself wondering (modestly) what would happen to the likelihood of victory if all the seats (save the one that triggered the endgame: that person gets one fewer!) had the same number of turns.
(The third seat begins with ¥3, and generally doesn't have the opportunity to sail for goods - because the first two seats have already claimed those ports. So they often buy a technology or upgrade ship speed. Eric chose the Factory; which isn't one I've previously seen picked that early in the game. It worked well enough that I'd be willing to give it a shot some day.)

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

Outlook for the week: Three choir practices (yeah; all but one of the choirs is back in action). Back in California, so lunch games today; something with the youngsters; and (hopefully) something Wednesday night.
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12. Board Game: Prêt-à-Porter [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:1061]
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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Games Played:

Games Played:

_7_ Indigo x1
At request of my daughter, and Joel joined us; this was new to him, I ended up winning 12 to Joel’s 11 and daughter’s 8.

_5_ Sushi Go x1
I’d seen this before and knew it was a simple drafting game but I had not played before. My daughter had and we borrowed a copy to try it out. I won with 59 and my daughter edged out Joel 46 to his 45.

_8_ Mottainai x1
A quick game with my daughter which I won 10 to 9.

_7_ Prêt-à-Porter x1
Will had acquired this sometime ago and once tried to get it to the table and got intimidated by the rules. He let me borrow it so I could learn it and then teach him. My wife and youngest son joined me in learning it. Even with a FAQ printed out there were a lot of questions starting with the components where various cards are not explained, and the setup tells you to give out starting cards but they can’t have certain symbols and thanks to a misprint or some misunderstanding one could read it to mean none of the cards in the deck can be used. Simply weird. Still by the end of the first fashion show we more or less had everything down except we’d still have to look up effects of some of the new cards. I won 290 to son’s 215 and wife’s 160 mostly on the strength of a card that gives benefits for tying.

_8_ Porta Nigra x1
New to Seth. A nice entertaining game with good decisions. I ended up winning but it was closer than the scores might seem, as I got lucky in some late game opportunities. I had 210, my wife 190, and Seth 171.

_5_ Love Letter x1
A quick match with my wife and daughter; my wife won.

_9_ Red 7 x1
Taught this quickly to Seth who proceeded to win.

_7_ The King of Frontier x1
This was new to the others. My quest to teach this to everyone continues. This time Seth won with 40, I had 38, David 25 and James 17

_7_ Prêt-à-Porter x1
Taught to Will, James, and Katie. My win was again mostly due to the Spokesman card that gives benefits for ties; I don’t think it is a broken card but it is very powerful, especially in games where people are new to everything. I did explain how it was easy to be tied when teaching the game and noted there were cards that triggered on that and stars, but that wasn’t a lot of help. Still, the relative closeness of the scores I think indicates that with experienced players this would not be an issue.
Jon 224
Will 179
James 199
Katie 188
I’m curious about the forthcoming reprint. I’m not excited about a new theme involving designing video games — I actually like the fashion theme of this version — but I do hope that rules are cleaned up significantly and there are a few things I’d like to tweak. In the current game, all cards are used for contracts, buildings, and employees, and I’d prefer more cards so that each game would have some uncertainty of what would be in the game. This would also allow removing spokesman or any other perceived high powered card for new players.

_8_ Food Chain Magnate x1
Youngest son joined Will, James, and myself to play; this was new to Will. Both James and my son took the standard recruiting girl opening. I went crazy and took errand boy due to weird placement of drinks on the map and wanting to get the freezer and locking out everyone else. Will, unfortunately, followed me and shared in that milestone. Neither of us recovered from not taking the faster start. My son blocked James from income for a round by dropping a second restaurant down, which I think James said he hadn’t seen used before, but James recovered, and put down his own restaurants and ran away with the game.
James 652, my son 146, Will 131, Jon 105

_10_ Glen More x1
Everyone had played before but long ago enough a rules refresher was required.
Jon 62, Han 50, Joel 39, Will 31, my wife 17

_9_ Indonesia x1
New to everyone else and my quest to get more Splotter games played continues! Game took several hours to complete which was a bit unexpected; more players tends to have faster games due to eras ending quickly but a few of us didn’t upgrade our slots to take on new companies fast enough. I was an agent of chaos proposing mergers left and right but rarely did it work to my advantage. Still, I was happy to get this played even with my poor showing. I just hope the others were happy enough with the game given it took twice as long as I had told them.
Han 1928
Joel 1761
James 1060
Jon 886
Will 858
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13. Board Game: Dark Horse [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:3939]
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
Ebeltoft
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Games Played Week 39:

 NA 2x Dark Horse

2 plays of 1 distinct game with 1 game New to Me
New to Me

The Week in Review:
Ok, so not the most impressive of weeks, but for us a great week in the sense that we actually played a game, even twice - namely Dark Horse.

This was a game I bought with Hands in the Sea and possibly had me more excited than the Kickstarter I backed. Mind you, that was based upon the Rahdo video, so temper that as you see fit.

It did not disappoint, though nor could it entirely live up to my own hype. We played without the 2 player variant where you add an extra neutral die on both sides. That might make it more tight. We decided against it to get a feel for the mechanics and the flow of the game.

There really is not much variety in the simple game though. So in that sense it is very much a more advanced gateway game.

I have higher hopes for it once we add the expansion, which I think might spice it up a great deal. All that said, still very pleased with it. The game does what it sets out to do and all in 60 minutes while staying fairly true to the theme of wild-west exploration (even if it could be any place, anywhere.

The Week Ahead:
This week has already seen gaming, oh yes, so another list-item for me next week.

My brother might visit this weekend, in which case more games should be played.
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14. Board Game: Through the Desert [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:443]
R. Eric Reuss
United States
Massachusetts
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 9   Through the Desert x2
 9   Factory Funner NEW!
 8   Race for the Galaxy (with Xeno Invasion)
 8   Sail to India x2
 7   Trollmaster NEW!
 7   Hey, That's My Fish! x2
 6   Puppet Murder NEW!

A week with three great highlights:

1. Meeting up with Dave for boardgames when he was out in MA! He was kind enough to bring along some titles I very much doubt I'd otherwise have gotten a chance to play. I enjoyed both, and have been thinking about Trollmaster off and on since then. He also helped break in my newly-acquired copy of Through the Desert.

2. Playing Factory Funner, which scratched the same itch as Factory Fun but (for whatever reason) I enjoyed a lot more. Sadly, it looks like I just missed being able to buy this at normal retail price; it's now out of print and selling for $100+. I'm trying to figure out if I liked it enough to spring for a copy at the higher price-point.

3. Summerpup (my 4-year-old) asked to play Hey, That's My Fish! - not just once but again (and then requesting that his sitter and his mom play it with him too).

I have more thoughts on games, but no time/brain to get them meandering out of my head into text. :-(
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