GCL Phoenix 326: Here To Pump You Up
John Rogers
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Yakima
WA
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Welcome to the Phoenix Game Chat League!

If you stumbled upon this geeklist by accident or through your subscriptions, please read the GameChat League wiki page for information about what this is all about. Visitors are welcome to make constructive comments, but please leave the adding of items to members.


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This week's topic: Summer Bodes

With warm weather just around the corner, everyone is looking to get into summer shape. I don't know about you but my workout routine follows certain patterns and I thought it might be fun to explore our gaming habits through this lens.

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1. Board Game: Nuns on the Run [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1376]
John Rogers
United States
Yakima
WA
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My workout routinely begins with a 30min run. I spend the first minute walking then its off to the races, slowing every mile to a brisk walk for a minute or so until I reach 30mins. In this way, the tempo of my run varies.

Think about your favorite games. Is there a common tempo pattern you enjoy? Do you like games that start in 6th gear right out the gate? A sprint from the beginning to the end? Or do you like more of a slow-burn with a big finish? Maybe like my run you enjoy intervals of fast and slow. Why do you enjoy this particular pattern over others?
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2. Board Game: Workout [Average Rating:2.00 Unranked]
John Rogers
United States
Yakima
WA
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My weekday routines are typically no more than 60mins. Cardio takes up half followed by cycles of various targeted strengthening exercises. I used to hit the gym every Saturday with a buddy for one intense 3hr workout but haven't done that since his work schedule changed. My routine is built around shorter yet frequent exercises.

Think about your favorite games. Do you enjoy playing short or longer games? Is there a sweet spot in duration that many of your favorite titles fit into? If a game has variation in length via strategic approaches do you gravitate toward one approach or another in relation to execution length?
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3. Board Game: K2 [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:470]
John Rogers
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Yakima
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Whether running, hiking, or biking there is often a choice between variation in terrain or resistance. Some people like a consistently flat surface with a constant resistance level. Others prefer variety such as hills, grass, concrete, obstacles, etc. I like to mix it up and will often choose a path that takes me across various terrain or if inside I will change the incline or resistance of the machine.

Think about your favorite games. Do you prefer games where the game space is the same every time or do you like variability? If variability, how much and in what ways do you like it executed? If you like the game to retain a certain constant, what are the positives of eschewing variation?
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4. Board Game: Rotation [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
United States
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Karl - April 9th
Michael - April 16th
Dave - April 23rd
Nicolai - April 30th
Chris - May 7th
Morten - May 14th
Rich - May 21st
Eric - May 28th
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5. Board Game: Puzzle Strike (Third Edition) [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:933] [Average Rating:7.29 Unranked]
Alison Mandible
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Cambridge
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 9   Santorini x3

Three thrilling 4p games of Santorini with coworkers! While I don't think anybody else has gotten hooked as such, its ease of learning and the availability of aha moments even for newish players seems to leave people with a pretty positive impression, and more than one person has seemed excited to see it come out of the bag.

This was enough fun that I didn't even mind a loss-by-oops in game 3, when me and my teammate both forgot about Eros' power at a critical moment.

 5   RUM NEW!

Is each entry in Chris Handy's "Pack O Game" series itself "a Pack O Game", or is it "a Pack O Game game"? Anyway, this is one of those.

I'd try this again at 2p, where the score target seems reachable without a miracle and you have proportionately more control over the ebb and flow of the tide. But with 3, the appeal of the cute mechanical twists on set collection was eventually washed away by the fact that the parrot came along too often to score 5 points in any color, which meant the score hit something like 16-7-4 halfway through the game and stayed that way unchanged until the timer ran out, which nobody was happy with.

 6   Russian Railroads NEW!

A game I'd been mildly curious about shows up on BoardGameArena? Time to try it out!

I heard this described as a comfort food / remix Euro-- nothing new, but if you like the ingredients you'll dig it. I think that sells it a little short; there were enough weird touches (the claimable personal action spaces are face-up and public for two rounds before being buyable; the strict ordering of color technologies) to make my play of this memorable, though maybe those were borrowed from games I haven't played? And it felt sandboxy in a very Feast Of Odin / Great Western Trail kind of way; I was very surprised to learn it was the same age as Bora Bora (a recent remix Euro that's still solidly before most of the games this reminded me of).

Not exactly sure what creates that sandbox feel for me-- maybe it's when links from one game system to the others are varied enough, even within one system, that players who want the same action may be doing it for very different reasons? (I want industrial advances for points; you want them to get two activations out of each of your carefully selected factories.) Or just that the links are sprinkled in liberally enough to provide lots of chances to switch tracks, pun intended?

Anyway, I don't care if I ever play that again but on the other hand, looking at pictures of the expansion boards with different railroads per player kinda made me perk up.

Also, the rulebook was slightly overbearing but good. A multi-system Euro explicitly saying "here's a thing, here are the only ways you get that thing" seems like a good practice.

 8   Puzzle Strike (Third Edition) x5

I don't know when I last played a substantial-feeling game 5 times in a row. (I thought maybe Codenames, but just checked, and no.) THAT WAS SO COOL.

S and I ended up playing two best-of-3s with the "tournament rules" (if you lose you pick one of: new character for you, replace a bank chip with one of your choice, re-randomize the whole bank). We're both "I want to try everything!" gamers, so sticking with characters and with most of the chips in the bank was going against type. And it turned out to be perfect. We could try an idea and if it didn't work, do the opposite next time.

Like, I know that is gaming 101-- try things! learn stuff!-- but I have few other games with the right balance of time and depth to actually do it in one sitting. I think the first four rounds were 20-30 minutes each. (The final anarchist vs. panda battle took an hour, with Chips For Free allowing Lum to get orbs without discarding Panda's Bargain and thereby drawing 8-chip hands basically forever, and me having bought Zane an economic engine which is maybe a terrible idea but I ran out of gas way too early playing him as a rush character the previous round so I thought why not?)

I kind of thought I was over Sirlin. But he does a lot of things I like and a few I reallyreally don't, and the ones I don't are mostly absent from this game.

 7   Bruxelles 1893 NEW!

A weird experience. Pretty sure I liked it? I mishandled my money and ended up 30 points behind all the other players; "all bidders pay" is a bummer of an auction mechanic. But the area control! And the two different action boards! I don't know, I want to play it again.

But let's talk about the theme for a second. I mentioned when teaching that one action is "go to the theater to meet famous men". Because, while their maleness isn't given as a reason for the meeting, it happens that there are no female patrons in the game and I didn't want that to pass without comment.

And yet an erotic subtext wound its way through the rest of the game. When you meet these famous... people... you have to decide whether to make it a one-time event or establish a relationship with them. At the end of the game, it matters that if you disappoint a patron, they not only penalize you, they leave you (which is to say, they are no longer in your tableau when their category of card is scored). I really could not help seeing that game system as some kind of sex work, though if you tried to draw that analogy more clearly it would fall apart-- in the game's overt theme, they are rich and you are not, and you face the choice later of whether to go to the Palace to ask them for more favors, which would suggest that the patrons hire the players; on the other hand, when meeting them you might pay a few coins to have access to a wider array of cards, and the endgame reckoning with those cards is that you must pay them a non-negotiable amount or they will leave. So...?

Perhaps it's just me; my opponents did not seem much taken with that storyline. As opposed to my suggesting that the unthemed "joker" cubes which can replace any element of a building plan, including money, were "pomposity", which met with such quick uptake that I stopped to make sure people knew it wasn't in the rules and so would not be understood if they played the game with someone else.

I mean I like Aubrey Beardsley just fine, but he's not the only artist of that period who definitely spent at least one turn visiting the marketplace to pick up three units of pomposity, right?

 8   Ascension: Storm of Souls

Awkwardly, my opponent was a new (or new to me?) attendee who mentioned preferring Ascension to Dominion because in Dominion, the winning move is to end the game as soon as possible and you don't get to build a fun deck-- awkward in that the game presented me with a bunch of rush-friendly Lifebound cards so I went and ended the game pretty fast. It was great playing Ascension with an experienced opponent, though; my other in-person plays of it have been when it was pitched to a game group as easily accessible, and so they were four-player games with (understandably) a lot of card-reading.

 9   Santorini x2

Two Santorini sessions in a week! I've mentioned before that I don't like "ecosystem" asymmetry, where each player has a scripted-ish way to keep the others in check, and if one person stumbles, the player they're supposed to be managing wins. Three-person Santorini is an odd duck of a game where SOME combinations of powers have that ecosystem dynamic much more strongly than others, but sussing it out is more like facing a new Dominion kingdom and less like getting an easy "oh well, you'll know better next time" ecosystem win in Cry Havoc or Trieste, so I like it okay.

(The round which sparked this line of thinking featured Persephone who forces opponents to climb whenever possible; Medusa who essentially forces opponents to stay out of her way; and Morpheus whose build power lets him effectively block both of the above sometimes. Also, in 3p Santorini I play with the Yavalath rule that you must stop the player after you from winning if you can. On paper this might seem to create more of an ecosystem feel, but in practice most people would obey it anyway; making it explicit just serves to make sure everybody is aware from the beginning of the game which player can force their hand against which other player, avoiding bad feelings.)

Outside of gaming: Ina Garten's baked "risotto" recipe was pretty close to the real thing but not quite. My appetite has been down lately, which I don't like. I am also a little anxious waiting for details of a work shake-up this week (reshuffling teams; nobody is getting fired).
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6. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:48]
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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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 1Apr2017:

16/2/140 plays of 14/2/74 total games, with 4/3/11 expansions employed.
Plays with 20/2/54 distinct opponents.

0/0/9 games acquired (plus 0/0/4 expansions.)
0/0/12 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/2 expansions.)
3/0/10 games ordered (plus 1/0/5 expansions.) - Kunst Stücke, O Zoo le Mio, Oraklos and Serpents of the Seas. (Tom Powers managed to recover his boardsandbits stock; and I had a outstanding balance when things went pear-shaped there. So this is clearing that debt - and finding a copy of a few things that have amused me and aren't readily available elsewhere. I'm a bit sad I missed out on Null & Nichtig.)
Orders for 5 games and 1 expansions still outstanding.

With son #2:
1x _7⅔_ Starship Merchants - This one was really close. Which is amusing, since we approach the game quite differently. He tends to avoid loans; while I'm perfectly happy to run with leased ships, if I think there's some advantage in it. He might well have taken it with a few more credits on the penultimate run around the board (if he'd been able to declare game end, I'd've been behind.) But after (both of us) going around one more time my greater income pulled me ahead.

It's a funny thing: the more we play, the more we can foresee the results of our decisions. I'd guess that if we ever got to the ~50 play mark, we'd (both) like the game better because we'd understand its nuances better.

1x _7⅓_ Lost Cities (with Expedition 6) - This was particularly odd. We played (as we normally do) three hands - with the winner the best total score after the three. Son #2 is a better Lost Cities player than I am: I'm occasionally able to win a single hand (and even sometimes two); but he's generally our winner.

In this one, I won all three hands. It was strange. I suppose I might have had some epiphany that gave me greater insight into the game: but it doesn't (and didn't) feel like that. I (think I) thought about the game mostly the same the last time out as any of its predecessors. Perhaps he was distracted by something?
1x _10_ Race for the Galaxy (with Rebel vs Imperium, The Brink of War and The Gathering Storm) - After the Lost Cities play, son #2 thought that he might have a chance at RftG (given that I don't usually have much chance at Lost Cities) Unfortunately for him, it wasn't to be.

With the Monday lunch group:
1x _6⅔_ The Butterfly Garden [New!] - We played with six - which make the interplayer decision chaos pretty large. The game is probably better with fewer; but it felt, to me, a lot like 6 nimmt! with a large player count. So: entertaining, but not terribly rewarding.

1x _7⅔_ Google Datacenter Manager (26 months dusty) - Delighted to see this back in play. I like the game regardless of which theme it uses: but this version is particularly amusing. (I think the semantic binding is even better in the Google version than in the original: the actions make a good deal of sense, and are pretty easy to remember.)

With the Wednesday night gang:
1x _7⅓_ The Colonists - The three of us finished the game from last week. (So "only" 10 hours total.) After playing multiple hours of this each of the last five weeks, I'm even less convinced the game is particularly good. It is epic - at least in length. But I'd've rather have played a bunch of other things.

And its not that I'm not impressed with the design. It's remarkably clear and tractable for something with so many moving parts. And the sense of "building something" is really very nice. As a playground, a sandbox, it's cool. But there's less game there than I want.


With coworkers at a "fun" event:
1x _7⅔_ Volta - A demonstration game (to appease someone that said "What is that?}") I was disappointed that it didn't get any more work: it was played nearly constantly two years ago at a similar event.

1x _7⅓_ Bamboleo - Another demonstration game: but with a good deal more success. It continued to be played (without me) and seemed to be well received.

After trying the "score by weight" version a couple years ago, I thought to go with the "score by number" simpler variant: and that was probably the right idea with novices: with the other version, they're far too tempted to take the large objects, and the platter falls more readily.

1x _7⅔_ The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet - A bit chaotic with 5; but still quite entertaining. Harald played very well, and deserved the victory.

1x _7⅓_ Yavalath - This was lovely: we played to a three-way tie (we filled the board without anyone winning or losing.) It might easily have gone otherwise: I'd put Sorina into a forced response where she'd lose: but David bailed her out by playing the block first in that spot, which kept her in the game. And it was exactly the right decision, too. I'd a three move victory if Sorina had been eliminated!

2x _7⅓_ Hey, That's My Fish! - The first couple of a set of five or six games. It was great. (And, as a snark, it was delightful to play with adults that help set up. With four hands assembling the board, it didn't feel like the setup took "too long." When I've played with youngsters, they wait (and usually politely) for me to set the board up!)

It was also very cool to watch the takeup as the set of games continued. It's a game that has a pretty steep learning curve: a player with one game experience has a pretty huge advantage over a new player. And my few dozen plays gave me a big advantage over the folk I was teaching. But all the players improved dramatically as the games continued: with my subjective response to their moves changing from "dubious" to "clever!"

2x _7_ 合併競議会 Vu~iranekkusu 'Villannex' - And then one last game to end the evening.

I enjoy this far more than makes sense to me. It's tremendously simple. Each player draws six cards, discards two, then displays their cards to the table. The players ponder the set of cards and their respective powers. Once the pondering is done (we went ~five minutes or so in this game; but it takes less time when all the cards are familiar) the players blind bid two of their cards (and activate half of each card.) Then one counts score.

Which sounds completely trivial. And it is, I guess. But it's also quite clever. We play without explicit negotiation: but, equally, we dance near that aesthetic with comments like "Oh, look what happens if you play A and I play B". (I expect the game is robust enough to survive whatever the group prefers on that front.) I think we all had fun with it.

With friends at my place:
1x _8_ Twilight Struggle - Strangely disappointing: the random factors all broke (or seemed to break) in my favour. So my options were winning (with mediocre or better play) or throwing the game away with awful decisions.

I managed to avoid the latter: but I'm not convinced at all that I played well. And that's a bit sad. I think I prefer games where I have some hope of evaluating my performance after the game.

(That was much of my quibble the last time I tried Crusader Rex. While I lost (and should have lost!) I couldn't tell if the deciding factor was more my truly terrible die-rolling or my dubious decisions. The former was just significant enough that I couldn't tell if I'd tried foolish things that had no business succeeding, or plausible things that randomly failed. And that lack of traction was sad.)

1x _7⅓_ Hacienda (6 years dusty) - Much more interesting than I'd remembered. And also less familiar than I'd expected when I pulled it off the shelf. Of course, with six years since my first and only play that might have been expected: but I was surprised to discover it had been so long!

Owned-and-unplayed: 0 (+0/-0)
Owned-and-played-once: 91 (+0/-1) - Hacienda was played again.

Outlook for the week: Monday lunch; something with son #2 (possibly even more than one something); Wednesday gang (and I'm really hoping there that we don't play The Colonists; though it's entirely possible that it'll win again since we've got a nearly-complete game in which four of us have already invested eleven hours!) And the "usual" three choir practices (though a bit more fun this week, since one of the choirs' concert is this coming Saturday. We're doing the Mozart Solemn Vespers, plus some fun shorter pieces.)
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7. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:74] [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked]
R. Eric Reuss
United States
Massachusetts
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 9   SeaFall

Game #6. We all continue to enjoy playing a great deal. I'll post a spoiler'd comment describing the game in more detail. I have found two facets of the game increasingly frustrating, though. Both are facets of the Legacy system rather than part of the play of a single game.

The bigger of the two is that you make a whole bunch of enduring decisions at the end of each play, and in 3 out of 6 games, while driving home I've realized my choices ran against what I'd like to do next game. One of the things I like most about SeaFall is the between-game anticipation / planning, and this undercuts that.

The other involves very mild spoilers for Box 1:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
There's a start-of-game benefit for each N points or fraction thereof you're behind the campaign leader, and the breakpoint between rewards is proving a little too cliff-like. Several times people have been annoyed with themselves for failing to sandbag and earn 1 less Glory so they could get another bonus next game. I wish there were a remainder system, so that getting +/-1 Glory was only really notable if it changed your Title.


 7   Bruxelles 1893 NEW!

The worker-placement on the main action board is really neat - it goes beyond the usual "what do I want" / "what shall I block" with the right to bid on an auction in that column and area-majority for that chunk of the board. (Which seems like a minor point source at first, but I really cleaned up on it.) There were times when you'd take an action space but ignore the action, just for one of the other considerations.

The downside was a fair amount of AP around the table (from which I do not exempt myself, though I was trying to be prompt). My rating assumes that the game can go down to the advertised 25 minutes/player. If it can go below that without turning into a blitz game, even better! If it can't... this isn't a game I want to take 2+ hours on.

 7   Dominion
His first Province buy.

I asked summerpup if he wanted to play a game during his brother's nap, and he was quite interested. He's picked up on my organizational scheme (shorter games on the bottom shelf), and pointed at Dominion, asking to play it. I hesitated, but he's on the verge of reading so I figured he could learn the three critical words of "Card(s)", "Action(s)", and "Buy(s)" over the course of one game.

I pulled out the base cards, which led to him immediately asking questions. (He's drawn to numbers, and they all have BIG NUMBERS IN THE MIDDLE.) I explained "these give you points" - he knows "more points means you win" - and before I could cover money he asked about the little circled numbers in the bottom left corner of everything, which led naturally into that explanation. Then I put together a tableau of 8 Kingdom Cards that were mostly based around the core keywords: Market, Laboratory, Gardens, Feast, Blacksmith, Woodcutter, Great Hall, and Cellar. (Feast was to introduce trashing in an obviously-good way - you get something better! - and in case he hit a point where he was having trouble hitting 5. Gardens was in case the game went into a long deck-bloat spiral; in hindsight I could/should have omitted it.)

He started off buying a Great Hall on 5 money (cost 3), then buying an Estate with 2, because points! His second orbit (thanks Alison!) he bought a Feast and a Cellar, and he started seeing how drawing lots of green cards meant he didn't have many choices of what to buy. He asked again how the Silver worked, and I told him, and he chose to buy Silver with a hand of 4... and he then proceeded to play a Big Money game almost to a T. At one point he actually said (paraphrasing), "If I get more [Silver], I'll draw lots of money, and even if I can't get 8 [for a Province] then if I have 6 I can buy a Gold and then I'll be able to get to 8."

I wasn't playing my hardest, but neither was I attempting to actually throw the game. I deliberately made one terrible buy (an early Estate, to match his, because that's a boat-anchor) and two poor ones (a pair of Woodcutters, the first so I could show him how +Buy worked and the second as a handicap / illustration of the perils of too many terminals), but mostly, I picked up money along with a couple Laboratories, a Cellar, and a single Smithy.

I shouldn't have bothered with that second Woodcutter. He took 5 Provinces to my 3 and beat me 35 to 22; even if we'd split them 4-4 he had the Great Hall giving him one extra point.

The biggest problems he had with the game were sheer physical card manipulation and concluding with good grace (he's still iffy on handshakes and wanted to count his cards rather than saying "good game").

It was great. :-)
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8. Board Game: At the Gates of Loyang [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:246]
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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Woooo! Our 76th play of Loyang. It was almost 4 years dusty, and before those two plays in the summer of 2013, we hadn't played since 2010. But cleaning out our shelves helped us to see the things we want to play again.

We were rusty, though some things were still automatic, after so many plays. It's one of those games that's quick to set up, when you know what you're doing, so I want to bring it back into more regular rotation.

C: 18 + 10
S: 17 + 1

Sunday March 26th
Patchwork

Tuesday March 28th

Yahtzee x3

Wednesday March 29th
Dice Stars x2 - new to us

Thursday March 30th
Dice Stars x4

Friday March 31st
Las Vegas x2
Doubles Wild x2

Saturday April 1st
Doubles Wild
Dice Stars x2
Yahtzee x4

Sunday April 2nd

Loyang (last played 2013-07-31)
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9. Board Game: 1830: Railways & Robber Barons [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:176] [Average Rating:7.83 Unranked]
Lo
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

_8_ 1830: Railways & Robber Barons x1 Out of the Dust!


The Week in Review

Just one game again this week. 1830: Railways & Robber Barons using the original The Avalon Hill Game Co version. JR's copy still has the old advertising pamphlet in it which I flipped through. I probably owned about a third of all the games listed, though by the time 1830: Railways & Robber Barons was published (1986), I'd pretty much moved on to computer games. Civilization was the one exception.* It's really a shame that I didn't get a copy of 1830: Railways & Robber Barons back then as both it and Civilization were designed by the same individual and it probably would have been a hit with my group.

I probably rate 1830: Railways & Robber Barons higher than I should. But having played and enjoyed so many other 18xx games, it's hard not to pay homage to the old classic.


The Week Ahead

No plans and the weekend is booked with non-gaming events. Things, however, are looking good for the Easter long weekend though.

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

Unplayed games not in shrink: Normandy '44, Mottainai, Leader 1 and Leader 1: Hell of the North.


*Incidently, S was flipping through some old photo albums this evening and found one of me and a couple friends playing Civilization in 1993.
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10. Board Game: Neuland [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:2027]
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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This week calls for A Neu You!


 7   Five Cucumbers NEW!
 8   Sylvion
 9   Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan
 8   Neuland x2
 7   Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ? NEW!
 8   Chimera
 9   BattleCON: Devastation of Indines
 9   Neue Heimat x2

Over the course of the week
I played Sylvion after a long hiatus to break out it's micro-expansion (below ground) and oh boy does it ever work as a micro-expansion. It does everything I want it to: little-to-no additional rules while making more "obvious" decisions less appealing. This does this by having a 25% chance of reaping a reward or 25% failure when you place a plant down for the first time, making the little fountains great for initial exploratory forays (rather than filler cards in your hand!), and it makes dropping that big fountain early not so inviting!

I also played Five Cucumbers with Brooke. A perfect feather-weight trick taker to play over a drink while chatting. Not as devoid of choices as some *cough* Dice Tower *cough* might suggest (on account of mis-, or not, reading the rules?).

Weekend games
I finagled myself a bit of a gaming staycation this weekend (as my partner is off traveling). On friday, the main event was Sekigahara with Keith, in which I took an early lead with Ieyasu by succesfully making high-risk-high-reward moves; however, the tempo shifted towards the end of the game (and me seeing far less reinforcements!) and I conceded at the end of the 6th week (to avoid a princely slaughter in the 7th!). This game has legs and a butt-load of psychological warfare.

We also played Labyrinth, but it was a highly asterisked play as I did not read rules prior and Keith hadn't played in forever. I'm giving it a fair grade now, and imagine that it would go up with further plays. The idea is cool with its macro-economic and -political and boots-on-the-ground micro stages.

Saturday saw Louis come over early to put in another BattleCon tag-team match (Aria+Shektur vs Lymn+Lesandra). Super close match in which we both made some hard reads -- it literally came down to the final flop. I'm really appreciating what this tiny expansion does for the game (albeit at the expense of the dash card, for characters who necessitate it in their kit): it means that you have to think about 4 different match-ups in one match and keep an ear-to-the-ground as to when a character might tag-in (especially if life is low -- becoming a cross-tag-finisher!)

Andy showed up after and we put in our first match of two of Neuland for the weekend. Wow, does this game have legs with three! As a game of pure logistics I had wondered if this game were more than an optimization game with putting sticks in the wheels. Turns out it can be much more than that with three -- we saw infrastructure hogging, network tanking (a la Chicago Express), devious and dirty builds, sneaky jump ins, you name it. The balancing act is all-the-more exquisite with three as having a rough initial go means that you become less of a target. The Sunday game saw Louis and I go into a full death spiral together.

We wrapped up the night with half a game of Chimera (first to 200). This really merits its accolades as a card game that stands proudly next to Tichu and Haggis (as a shedding/climbing game). It's hard to internalize, yet again, the different types of hands you can play though!

Sunday, Andy made us brunch: pancakes! We broke into our second match of Neuland (described above quickly) and wrapped the afternoon up with a 3 round game of Neue Heimat ... However, we only played 2 because it went sideways so quickly. Louis took the first round (and had the most money) so was well positioned to leverage the next round. Andy and I were allies that round, but I'm not sure how helpful we were to one another! (I was comfortably in last and Andy in second). Louis counted it up during a particular auction -- a high bid from him would win him the round by one point! (I could have outbid him too -- oops!). I love the closed economy in this game and the dynamics it creates.

Also, on a fun note, turns out the liquor store nearby fills up growlers: I had a local barleywine this weekend accordingly.
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11. Board Game: The Happy Little Train Game [Average Rating:4.00 Unranked]
Chris
United Kingdom
Birmingham
England
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Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars, where you will be forced to drift aimlessly farther into the vast, empty abyss of space until a lack of food, water and oxygen causes you to succumb to Death's cold embrace.
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Last Monday games night

 7.4   Arboretum
Last time I played this with Ben he totally missed the point of it, and just put out rows of the same colour trees one above the other and got nothing. That was about a year ago. This time he just put out rows of the same colour trees one above the other and got nothing. Bless

 9.0   1775: Rebellion
Mostly driven by my excitement for 878: Vikings I got 1775 back to the table and had a regulation play of an excellent little war game. 4p, and steadfastly ignore Risk Guy and his comparisons of the game he was spectating and Risk... OK OK yes it's "like Risk", but no it's really nothing like Risk... Got caned after a very strong start (With Ben by my side doing a better job than me), but still such a solid, fantastic and gorgeous looking game.

The mother in law

 8.0   Pit
 7.0   Pick-a-Dog

See, my mother in law is half a child that never grew up (although TBH, her love life also never grew past 15 either, so she's still not returning calls and lying to boyfriends... silly woman) who loves building entire days of games for my kids. Cheap basketball, cheap golf, cheap hook-a-duck, cheap bowling... So you'd also think she's be all over light boardgames. Given when I met her she introduced me to Rummikub as a borderline passion of hers, I've been amazed how unenthusiastic she is to play ANYTHING. Really confuses me. We were going to do something like Indigo or Carcassonne or something of that vein. "OK, but make it short" was not quite what we'd hoped for... So we dragged in the kids and had a nice little time, and she did get into it a bit in the end. Always so strange when someone just says "Oh, are finished then?" with such indifference! Hopefully I'll make some proper progress with her one day... she might ask me how work's going one day, who knows?!

Escape the Mother in law from outer space

 8.3   1960: The Making of the President NEW!

I had to escape another evening with her, as thoroughly decent and nice a person as she is... so I went to Georges and he showed me 1960, the semi cuddly version of Twilight Struggle. Yeah. Solid. Decent. Good. Lost out by a few cube draws at the end, so a final score of about 200 to 330 could've been a lot closer but for drawing 5 nasty blue cubes in a row - but then of course it's your mission to influence those probabilities, so I'm not bitter!

Saturday night Kore Krew Massive

 7.0??   Pax Pamir NEW!
I was somewhat blown away by just how abstract this was, after having it sat in my "small box games" cabinet for almost a year. Each player manipulates 4 statistics, two of which might be shared, based on a set of actions. I suppose all games can be described like that, but this really felt it. And it felt it despite not feeling like I had a clue how to achieve anything meaningful with the actions at my disposal. I think a main reason for that was the surprising glut of yellow road cards and so few blue spy cards available. Obviously it'll always be compared to Pax Porfiriana but it felt extremely different to my play of that, although seeing as that was over 2 years ago, I didn't see things the same way?

 6.7   Plague Inc: The Board Game NEW!
Yeah, nice enough and decent in general. Fairly light but clever and fast moving. Didn't realise my developed traits were also endgame points, which set me back a fair way, but still... wasn't last!

Monday games

 7.5   The Golden Ages NEW!

Arrived Yesterday morning and got played that evening. The supposedly 60-90min game took at least 2 hours, mostly down to "risk guy" joining in, whilst moaning throughout. And scratching throughout. Constantly. I had to stop myself turning to look at him next to me in the fear of seeing lumps of dry skin falling off of him. *shudder*. So despite us having to explain to him what to do EVERY time it went well, especially it with his very limited experience of good games (He's stopped bringing Risk, and now just brings Pentago and Quarto... decent enough but he's still awful at them). Stop talking about him. Stop it. Nice game, pretty light, slightly overly mechanical, but some really interesting choices I thought. I almost leapt into the lead at the end when I had managed to develop all the 2nd row of tech, meaning I could then build buildings without using dudes. So after everyone had passed into their last Golden Age I built 3 wonders and 3 buildings, giving me vast piles of points as a late catch up. Maybe it was a strategy in hindsight! So final scores of 115, 97, me on 96 and Risk Guy on 40 what with how from the off he just wanted to the quickest thing to get points. I don't think I'll ever agree to play with him again, but hopefully the feeling is mutual!
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12. Board Game: Neolithic: Advanced Cultures [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
Morten K
Denmark
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With a busy week finishing off the annual report to our funding foundation here at the research centre and then a week of holidays means few longer games have been played but since we had two stopovers both ways to and from Jordan meant Lærke and I played lots of shorter games. I also managed to get one of my unplayed games to the table.


 8   Terraforming Mars x2
I played TM before the holidays with a couple of friends and then with L when we were back home again. For some reason, I seem to always come in second in this game no matter with how many players I play it. Both games were with drafting, full corporations and the corporate era cards. I’d rather play without the corporate era cards I think because they have a tendency of removing player interaction and adding more tableau building instead but I’m afraid that would leave the corporations more unbalanced than they are (the one where heat can be used as money seems very strong for instance because of its added flexibility and the amoung of cards giving better energy and heat production). In the second game with L we had a decent amount of interaction and I think this is the best play of it I have had. L got her money making ability up rather quickly while I didn’t get any cards that could help me much in that regard so I tried to work on my energy production instead and score the awards etc. and end the game quickly. Unfortunately, L also managed to get her plant production up to 19 in the last 3 rounds so it was too late for me and she won by 118-103. While I enjoy the game I still have a problem with the lack of player interaction making for runaway leaders too often.


 6   Traders of Genoa NEW!
Having finished the annual report the day before flying I could settle down for a game in the afternoon with my group at work. 4 of us played this while the other 4 played Carcassonne. From their banter it sounded like they enjoyed it. Negotiation and bidding games are usually very popular with this crowd which is why I bought ToG from Carol but unfortunately it didn’t really click with us. There definitely wasn’t enough dealing and insults thrown around for it to shine so perhaps I should try it with another group.


 7   Neolithic x3
Nicolai lent me his base game of Neolithic and after playing it three times I ordered a copy for myself with the expansion included as well. It arrived shortly before our trip so I decided to bring it along to try out some of the modules in the expansion. We tried three of the 5 and had fun with them as they add more strategic options than the limited amount in the base game. It’s card version of a worker placement game and it works really well with its fairly thematic mechanisms. There is a lot of timing involved because your main scoring options are on the cards that you also use for taking your actions – but only if they are removed from your hand do they allow you to score the points so when do you decide to limit your options to score points? The game can end very quickly before you manage to get the good cards down.


 8   Khmer x10
We played this on the plane. I kept being ahead in wins so we kept playing because Lærke didn’t want to give up. In the end when the score was 7-3 she had to. This is a fantastic microgame for two players!




 7   San Juan (Second Edition) x2
Two games of this and after 10 plays or so of it I’m finally beginning to like it more so I have adjusted my rating from a 6 to now a 7. The first play of it was in the shade by a mountain in the incredibly beautiful Wadi Rum desert (where The Martian and Lawrence of Arabia were filmed as mentioned last week) while we were waiting for our guide/driver/cook to prepare lunch for us after we had walked up a mountain to an area full of fossils and with a splendid view over the border area with Saudi Arabia. For once, I never had any problems getting cards in my hand so I had a lot of options and through my early building of the library I had an early advantage L could not catch up with. The second play was at a café in a smaller Christian town full of beautiful old Byzantine mosaics in their churches and a 4500 year old known history. Madaba is its name. After having seen the museums and churches we found a nice café in an old building for some afternoon snacks but they were so good we ate too much and realised we’d lost our appetite for dinner. Initially, the plan was to play some games before heading to the airport for our midnight flight home but after a game of San Juan where L crushed me we decided we should use the last two hours of sunlight and our rented car for something so we decided to drive out into the desert west of Amman to visit some small old ‘desert castles’, including Amr Qusayr which is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its amazing Umayyad era frescoes inside. We arrived when the sun was setting to a very atmospheric place with no tourists in sight and only a couple of Bedouins drinking sweet tea. They said it was closed but they knew where the key was so if we signed the book and left some money for the entrance they’d let us in. We did not expect that at all but of course said yes please. Fortunately, I’d brought some good torches for night game drives in the two reserves we stayed at so we could still enjoy the frescoes – and had them completely to ourselves. So instead of playing we had a great experience that ended with more sweet tea and a nice chat in the desert.


 9   Greed x5
We always bring Greed on our travels so we have played it quite a bit – but we still manage to find new combos. Several of the plays were where we really struggled to make any money. I really like those because you have to come up with other ways of scoring points that aren’t as obvious. I won the first three games and Lærke won the last two so now she has won 5 of our last 6 plays in total 




Games that left my collection this month: Mondrian: The Dice Game, Honshu, Deep Sea Adventure, Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne..

Games that entered my collection this month: Ponzi Scheme, Junk Art, Thebes, Scythe, Splatter SHOOT, Skull King, KLASK, Himalaya, Reef Encounter.

Unplayed games in my collection: Tahuantinsuyu, 1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight, Automobile, Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar, Road to the Palace, Pax Renaissance, Stephenson’s Rocket, 1846, Splatter SHOOT, Himalaya.


And here a pic of an extinct animal: Arabian Oryx. Fortunately a few survived in zoos around the world when it went extinct 50 years ago so a breeding and reintroduction programme has been put in place. But they are still hunted together with all other animals in the Middle East so the main problem is still there. In Jordan 60 were released to an area of Wadi Rum with restricted access but I managed to get a special permission for us to go see them. Beautiful creatures!

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13. Board Game: Terraforming Mars [Average Rating:8.39 Overall Rank:4]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Last week's plays:

-10- Agricola (+France; Ö deck)
|9| A Feast for Odin (x2)
|9| Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
-8- Kingdom Builder (+Crossroads)
-8- Terraforming Mars (x3)
-7- Great Western Trail (x2)

It was a week for getting rules wrong. In Great Western Trail, I forgot that locomotives couldn't share a space, so they effectively leapfrog each other when moving. If I'd remembered, it may have prevented a runaway train strategy from dominating. Letting Simon get all the permanent certificates was a mistake. I tried some extreme deck-thinning and buying more valuable cows to regularly craft a high-value hand but it didn’t work too well. The card trashing action requires you to drop your train back, which would have been easier to do if I'd been leapfrogging the other trains. We've only played with the standard setup so far, but there seems to be plenty to think about and several different strategic approaches to take. I'm just beginning to spot some tactical considerations, while the options provided by the various buildings have barely sunk in yet, so there's lots to discover here. All that doesn’t make it an easy game to teach, though.

Meanwhile, after three plays of Terraforming Mars I read that placing tiles next to oceans gives you some bonus cash – another rule I'd forgotten since I was taught the game last year. I'm looking forward to trying these games with the correct rules next time! Terraforming Mars has proved to be popular locally, providing a nice balance of building up your own engine and interaction through board placement. I haven't drafted yet, and probably won’t until everyone has a few games under their belts, but we jumped straight into the corporation cards with variable player powers. To me, that seemed more interesting than the basic game where you have no special ability other than a large hand of cards to start with. I like that your corporation gives you a bit of initial direction; it’s good to have some guidance when you're learning the game.

The first A Feast for Odin game was a very long 2-player game with several breaks because Kate was suffering from a bad cold. She still won despite that. I warped my early game around a couple of cards that I thought would work well together but it probably wasn't worth the effort. That combined with failing all my dice rolls for the first third of the game set me back a little. The second game was a 3-player, completed in about half the time of the earlier game. I pulled a nice combo of Barkeeper and Locksmith, which gave me lots of bonuses for taking crafting actions. Later, exploring Newfoundland was very helpful to my score. The others kind of ran out of things to do – not enough places to put their upgraded goods. Still very much enjoying exploring this sandbox and I have a new promo island to playtest this week.

We had a very close game of Agricola which I ended up winning 52-51-36, having thought I was out of the running. Although I managed to grow my family quickly, I was struggling for food and Phil's farm looked more impressive while he was having an easier time of feeding. He carefully timed his Farmers' Ball (from the Ö-deck) allowing everyone to pay 5 food for 3 bonus points – something I could not afford to do – and I thought those extra points would prove decisive. But with the paucity of Reed in the 3-player game, and the fact I was grabbing it for my Basketmaker's Workshop, he was unable to complete his final Renovation, while my Stone house pushed me ahead. Mike hasn't played as much as either me or Phil and is still in the stage of looking incredulously at the boards of players who don't appear to be doing any farming, yet are still managing to rack up loads of points.

Just as I was bemoaning being unable to find Clank! anywhere in the UK, a restock was announced that same day. Hopefully my order will arrive this week as I'm really keen to try it. I added the expansion to the order (just in case) but it sounds like I'll have to be extra careful with the board, as many people have had theirs tear apart due to poor production quality.
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14. Board Game: Terra Mystica: Fire & Ice [Average Rating:8.49 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.49 Unranked]
Jeremy Avery
Canada
Kamloops
BC
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 8   Terraforming Mars x2
 8   Grand Austria Hotel x2
 6   Scythe x2 NEW!

Monday Night Legacy group
Kris couldn't make it, so we are now on month four of not having gotten it to the table. So Justin, Jon, and I played Terraforming Mars. They had never played it and were both curious to try it; I had only played solo and was interested in a 3p game of it.

It went quite well overall. Jon has tended to score lower than the group when we play new strategy games, but he got out to an early lead and then found a great microbe combo that jetted him forward mid-game. I was third, but intentionally building a slow-burn engine hoping to leap-forward with a lot of forests and cities after midgame. I executed the timing fairly well, but it only catapulted me into a solid second place, as I just couldn't catch up to Jon.

The one-of deck of comboable cards is right up my alley, and though some of graphic design is shoddy, looking at the game big-picture, the game has an aesthetic that really does work well for its theme. The cards are fairly well-themed; the coopetitive nature of the terraforming goals works well within the theme too. I do love this game the way the cult does, but I really like it. I like it like I like GAH: no reason I can't get a ton of plays out of it, but I don't love it like I love Agricola or Race for the Galaxy. It may be duration that works against this one, not that I give it some thought. It might have been a 10 for me if it was a 40 minutes game: I like the combos and engines, but don't find the game has enough strategic depth to justify the play length.


Natalie and Me!
Her suggestion, and - as always - I enjoyed it. The first game I destroyed her. She picked up a lot of high-point guests and just couldn't generate the goods to get them in rooms. The second game the universe righted itself and Natalie (as is her wont) routed me. I picked up too many 0, 1, and 2 point cards.


Solo
Scythe learning game. More thoughts next week (mostly because I already shared some thoughts on this playing of Scythe last week).


OUT
none

IN
none

(PRE-)ORDERED
Gloomhaven - I don't really need to explain this, do I?

CROSSED OFF
Churchill - Because it's expensive, and I can't get any more deep games played than I already own.

CONSIDERING
The usual suspects: Millennium Blades, Food Chain Magnate
Colonial Twilight - But I just found out there will only be one bot!


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15. Board Game: Cavum [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:1673]
John Rogers
United States
Yakima
WA
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Hey even when I'm hosting my play entries are still on the later end. I'll have to work on that. But until then here are tales from...

The Week That Was


Rating: 8
Plays: 1


Remember those newbies from last week? Well two came back! And so I felt it was my duty to push them into the deep end. Not really but it's what we had to play. There were 6 of us so I decided to play the role of teacher. Of the players participating only two had played Keyflower before and each just once so there was still a bit of a learning curve for everyone. The biggest hurdle for our new players was understanding the home tile and its use for upgrades and transport. Crazy enough the auctions were super intuitive for everyone as were most of the tiles.

The two semi-veterans ended with scores in the 50s and the rest were in the 30s and 20s. Everyone seemed to like it okay but nobody was crazy over it like they had been for Small World the week before. So I decided to raise the bar and broke out...


Rating: 10
Plays: 1


Okay so this proved a little harder for folks to initially get their heads around. The biggest issues here were, depleting resources and the secondary craftsman. Again, I sat out as I have been known to run laps around folks and I thought I would be better used as a teacher. The winner was the same guy as Keyflower (his first for both games) but the runner-up was one of the newbies and she was one away from meeting her victory condition.

In the end both newbies preferred Zimbabwe stating it was more tense and interesting. They particularly liked how each person had different abilities (gods). Looks like there be some potential in them there newbies. While TGZ is my current favorite game, the best session of the week goes to...


Rating: 8
Plays: 1


Played a 2-player session with my wife. Our first in nearly 4yrs. What was so amazing was how quickly we fell back into the game. Really quite amazing; more a testament to the intuitive nature of this K&K design than our memories. Anyways, my wife was actually winning the game until the final order cards were fulfilled (180-141).

I forgot how much I enjoyed the emergent nature of the tunnels and spatial dynamism of the veins and dynamite. Even the jewel market seemed to fit nicely this time around. Really a perfect game for my wife and I and I recall liking 3-4 players even more. Flirting with raising the rating here; could be a 9 after our next play. Probably my single favorite session of the year so far. It was pleasantly brain-burning. A rare but delightful feat.
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16. Board Game: Jungle Jam [Average Rating:6.09 Overall Rank:7088]
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
Ebeltoft
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Games Played Week 13:

  8.0   2x A Feast for Odin
  7.5   2x Taluva
  7.5   2x Trajan
  7.0   1x Thebes
  7.5   1x La Granja: No Siesta

8 plays of 5 distinct games with 4 games New to Me
New to Me

The Week in Review:

On Tuesday I met up with J. for a battle of wills in A Feast for Odin. I won the first game and was very pleased. Then proceeded to completely mess up the second and lost heavily.

My doctor then told me to take some time off, not because of the heavy loss, but because I was under increasing stress and she thought it would be good for me to pull the plug for a few days.

Over the weekend I entertained V. with a number of new-to-us games. On Saturday it was a Roman adventure in Trajan. Played twice, won twice and had a good time.

On Sunday we began with a trip to by-gone days and the great excavations of the 18th and 19th centuries in Thebes. Fun game with a hefty dose of luck of the draw, but still a fun experience and one that was sufficiently realistic to make it. We then proceeded with Taluva. An abstract game with nice tiles and huts. It went over better than I had thought. I think it likely that we will research some of the variants, but it makes for a nice, short game.

Finally we closed out the weekend with a trip to La Granja: No Siesta. V. enjoyed this a lot, even more so than the original she said. I was entertained too, but the game took an hour, so not as short as one would suspect.

The Week Ahead:

I will be busy. Picking up 100m2 terrace stone for the redecoration of our garden this afternoon (we managed 20m2). This will be a killer. Tuesday was my mothers birthday, so celebrating that morning and evening.

Today the weekend and Easter holiday arrive, but I will spend much of it relearning latin, picking up more stone and perhaps playing some games.
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