My 2017 Gathering Highlights: 18 Excellent Extraordinary Games
Joe J. Rushanan
United States
Bedford
Massachusetts
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I definitely like me some long games, even some that are not 18XX. Some days I only played 2 games, while still playing all day. That means I regrettably didn't game with as many as I would have liked.

Thanks to those I did play with. And as always, thanks, Alan.
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1. Board Game: 1851: Kentucky & Tennessee [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:5820]
Joe J. Rushanan
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Bedford
Massachusetts
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I arrived Thursday, which let me play 18xx Friday morning. The first was this old favorite with Jeroen, Jim McD, and Ed B. While 1846 has supplanted 1851 as a go-to shorter 18XX, I was glad to teach it to Jeroen and Ed. Our game was close: Jeroen edged me out 5652 to 5474, and only $42 separated Jim and Ed.
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2. Board Game: 1844/1854 [Average Rating:8.19 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.19 Unranked]
Joe J. Rushanan
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Bedford
Massachusetts
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I had brought my older version of 1854 to teach Jeroen, but Paul S. had the new version, and so Paul, Mark G., Jeroen, and I played that. I swore the last time I played not to start the white company in the south. But I did anyways, with the same dismal effects. Jeroen won easly, over $2000 over the three of us. I did at least beat Mark by $1 for third place.

I liked the new version, both production wise and the rule tweaks. Which is irksome, since I already own 1854 and 1844 in the old versions.
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3. Board Game: Eclipse [Average Rating:7.98 Overall Rank:30]
Joe J. Rushanan
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Bedford
Massachusetts
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Saturday night, Lou W., Ron D., Brian B, and I broke out Eclipse. We played with all the expansions: Lou/Time Race, Brian/Orion, Ron/Pirates, me/Mutagen. I had great success with the mutagen even with the poorest economy I've ever had. I got the tech that gave me more gene production, and was able to gather VP producers (I had room for extra reputation, which were each also worth more, and at the end was sending suicide ships just to get some points).
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4. Board Game: 1846: The Race for the Midwest [Average Rating:8.09 Overall Rank:566]
Joe J. Rushanan
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Bedford
Massachusetts
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Sunday morning was the first of four 1846 games played over the week. This one was with Ed B., Jeroen, and Paul S. Ed won by $700; Jeroen edged me out by $2 for second place (what is with these ridiculously close scores?).
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5. Board Game: The Colonists [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:331]
Joe J. Rushanan
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Bedford
Massachusetts
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With 1846 as a warm-up, I wanted to play something longer. Geoff was willing to teach Brian B. and I The Colonists, with Lou W. as the fourth. We played three eras, which took about 6.5 hours. I liked it a lot, even if I did not play particularly well. My last-place score was not quite doubled by Lou, who edged out Geoff (266 to 259). I look forward to playing a full game sometime.
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6. Board Game: 18EU [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:2254]
Joe J. Rushanan
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Bedford
Massachusetts
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Monday morning, Jim McD., Mark G., Bob A., and I played 18EU using the minor variant (the only way I really want to play it these days). Mark was able to get good synergy between his minors and won by $1200; the rest of us were separated by $200. There was some discussion about calling the game when it was clear that Mark was going to win, but I am glad to have seen some of the end game, particularly in how to run multiple permanent trains on a board replete with tokens.
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7. Board Game: Combat Commander: Europe [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:102]
Joe J. Rushanan
United States
Bedford
Massachusetts
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After 18EU, Brian B. was free and we started looking for something 2-player. I was thrilled when he agreed to do a scenario from my second favorite game. We played a Bulge scenario with me as the defending 82nd paratroopers against Peiper's remnants.

As is usual in CC, there were some awesome subplots. Like the initial melee where Brian played three ambush cards to my two. Or when I followed two of his units too closely as he was running towards the edge of the board only to see them turn around and annihilate my squad and leader. Or my hidden reinforcement of a lone weapons team with a .50 cal set up in a woods near that same edge. Or the epitome of luck: receiving a broken weapons team in an open hex two hexes next to Brian's main force. Those two guys survived numerous fires, and eventually not only rallied but dug foxholes. Not that it matters with CC, but I won when time ran out.
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8. Board Game: 1846: The Race for the Midwest [Average Rating:8.09 Overall Rank:566]
Joe J. Rushanan
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Bedford
Massachusetts
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Game number 2 of the week, with Jim McC., Michael, Jeroen, and Ed B. This game highlights what I like about playing at the Gathering. My regular groups have some weird games, but here one can see the positively ultra-bizarre. Our game was reasonably close, with Jeroen edging Michael out $5560 to $5512.
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9. Board Game: Triumph & Tragedy [Average Rating:8.32 Overall Rank:423]
Joe J. Rushanan
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Bedford
Massachusetts
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Paul S. and I really wanted to play T&T, and I was able to get Gary L. to be the third. I was the Russians to Paul's Axis and Gary's West. Paul made some inroads early, but spread thin, and never attacked the West. I built up slowly taking Persia and playing a waiting game. Eventually, the West was strong enough, and Germany woefully defended, that Gary was able to win taking the Ruhr and Berlin. My only consolation is that at the end of the game, they were speaking Russian in India.
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10. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:2242]
Joe J. Rushanan
United States
Bedford
Massachusetts
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Ed Bryan has an 18XX prototype called Rocky Rails. Basically it combines mining in Western CO with trains and stock. Ed, Bob A., and I played about 2/3 through a game, and then gave Ed lots of comments.

I really like the idea of the mines, with their uncertainty and remoteness, being the revenue generator in an 18XX game. I look forward to trying this again.
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11. Board Game: 1846: The Race for the Midwest [Average Rating:8.09 Overall Rank:566]
Joe J. Rushanan
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Bedford
Massachusetts
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Third 1846. This one with Ed B. and three relatively-to-extremely-new 18XX players: David G., Ralph A., and Alan S. It took a while to teach, since we had to teach all of the 18XX concepts. In fact, the infamous attempt by Joe H., Michael, and Jeroen to play 1846 in 46 minutes actually finished just as we finished our explanation (we both started at the same time). Of course, they did need 48 minutes.

Our game took a long time, again because of new players and explanations. But I think it was a success as a teaching game. Alan narrowly beat Ed by less than $100.
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12. Board Game: Triumph & Tragedy [Average Rating:8.32 Overall Rank:423]
Joe J. Rushanan
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Bedford
Massachusetts
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After 1846, Paul S. said he wanted to do T&T again, and David G. was interested in learning it. Paul reprised the Axis, with David as Russia (the best faction for a new player) and I as the West. Paul expanded nicely through the middle of Europe, but he was pretty dispersed. David grabbed Persia (crap) and then got Turkey as an Ally (crap crap). I played a waiting game building up forces in India and the Low Countries.

Eventually, I goaded Paul into attacking Leningrad, because there was an open path to it. Unfortunately, he was not very strong and David repulsed him. Then the Russian juggernaut started steamrolling west. I realized I had better get into this war stuff, so attacked the Axis. I was able to take Rome and attack the Ruhr (though failing).

That brings us to Spring 1944. Russia has taken Berlin, and just needs to take the Ruhr. i am in the Ruhr fighting the remnants of the German Army. If I go first, I win the battle easily and the game. If Russia goes first, they will declare war on the West and wipe us both out of the Ruhr. Fortunately, I had saved a Spring B4 card, and David's search for a lower card came up empty. So Germany ended up divided on near historical grounds.
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13. Board Game: 1822: The Railways of Great Britain [Average Rating:8.45 Overall Rank:3182]
Joe J. Rushanan
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Bedford
Massachusetts
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I had only played an aborted teaching game of 1822, and was anxious to try it again. I joined Tom McC., Jeroen, and Ed B.; Tom was the expert; the rest of us were new.

Ed and I made the mistake of starting one too many minors, and suffered for it. When we had to stop because of time, it was close between Jeroen and Tom. I really like the extreme variability in this game, and look forward to more plays.
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14. Board Game: 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:2620]
Joe J. Rushanan
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Bedford
Massachusetts
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Friday morning was a five player game with Michael, Tucker, Joe H., and Daniel K. Tucker had not played before (and Daniel years ago), so we needed to teach first. Even so, we finished our game in about 4.5 hours. I was able to win by having a real good portfolio at the end.
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15. Board Game: Clash of Cultures [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:204]
Joe J. Rushanan
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Bedford
Massachusetts
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Ron D., Tucker, and I were able to play this after the 2038 game. We played with civilizations: Ron as Mayans, I as China, Tucker as Egypt. I thought I was doing well until I kept looking over at the other two and they were doing much better. In particular, Tucker was culturally influencing all over the place. That was enough for his win, edging out Ron.
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16. Board Game: Commands & Colors: Ancients [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:98]
Joe J. Rushanan
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Bedford
Massachusetts
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Last game of Friday was the annual Epic C&C game. This year was Adrianople. My Romans with Kevin W., Jeremy H., and Walter H. were against Brett M.'s Goths with Gary L., Leo T/, and Jim McC.

Historically, the Romans under Valens lost 2/3 of the Army, so the bar was set a little low for me to do better. I was very lucky in my initial card draw, getting two line commands and everything else of some use. I continued to draw well, while Brett didn't. Even more, my "I am Spartacus" card was able to activate four units; when Brett tried it he completely whiffed (why don't people believe me that I am Spartacus?). That failure gave me two turns in a row, which let us break through in the center. My "Clash of Shields" card (I said I was very lucky) got us close enough to victory that we won on their turn. Final score was 16-11.

Thanks to Walter for organizing this every year. I have been on both sides of bad luck; the winning side is better.

[Only three games on Friday in 13 hours of gaming, but all I rate a 10.]
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17. Board Game: 1822: The Railways of Great Britain [Average Rating:8.45 Overall Rank:3182]
Joe J. Rushanan
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Bedford
Massachusetts
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After the flea market Saturday there was interest in replaying 1822. This included Tucker, Jeroen, Jim McD., and David G. (his second 18XX, having learned 1846 earlier in the week). We knew we couldn't complete the game, but we did come close. David's company was far out in the lead, and although he would have had to buy a permanent train, I do not think it would have phased him.

[Note to self: Don't start number 12.]
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18. Board Game: 1846: The Race for the Midwest [Average Rating:8.09 Overall Rank:566]
Joe J. Rushanan
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Bedford
Massachusetts
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Last game of GoF, and what better way to end than with 1846 for the fourth time. This was with Tucker and Joe H. after the prize table on Saturday. It was late and Joe was practically sleeping. But he still managed to win. Maybe I should have woken him up.
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19. Board Game: NMBR 9 [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:816]
Joe J. Rushanan
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Bedford
Massachusetts
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I played several games that were both new to me and that I liked.


NMBR 9with Dan B., BIll M., and Scott F.
Wow. I am amazed by how this genre keeps yielding new twists on the same mechanism. My favorite of the new games I played. As someone joked, can't wait for the hexidecimal expansion A-F.

Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure with Jeroen, Bianca, and Bill M.
I liked the theme and mechanism, and would definitely play again.

Die Gärten von Versailles with Dan B., Bill M, and David G.
This was pleasant and pretty.

Whistle Stop with Dan B., Bill M., and David G.
A different and interesting train game. I think this will be liked by some of my fellow train gamers.

Magic Maze with Scott A., Moritz B., and Steph
A close second for favorite new game. Played three short games back to back: Lost, Won, Lost. Tip: if someone makes you take the turn-over-tiles role, make sure you know how to actually place the tiles.

Key to the City: London with David S., Geoff, Michael, Dan B.
I liked this more than Keyflower due to the theme.

Via Nebula with Tucker and Brian L.
Not that new, but new to me. Completely fine.
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20. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy: Xeno Invasion [Average Rating:8.01 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.01 Unranked]
Joe J. Rushanan
United States
Bedford
Massachusetts
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Games I had already played.

Race for the Galaxy: Xeno Invasion with Jeroen, Bianca, and Ed B.
Our go-to Race currently. At least I beat Jeroen in something.

Word Porterswith Jeroen, Bianca, Steph, Ron D., and David G.
Fun and funny. Just when I think I understand how Steph thinks, ...

First Class with Geoff and David G.
I really should get this and play it more, so maybe sometime I can play it well.

No Thanks! with Brian B. and Bianca, and then again with also Lou.
Sometimes one is lucky, sometimes not. Both games close, though not for me.

Quartermaster General: Victory or Death – The Peloponnesian War Brian B. and Lou (Delian/Athins) versus Rond D. and me (Sparta/Corinth)
We took Athens and really hammered Lou, but Brian spread Pandemic-yellow through the whole world and so they won easily.

Flamme Rouge with Jeroen, Geoff, and Brian B.
My second playing and I liked it more. This should be a very fast game with experienced players.
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21. Board Game: Trick of the Rails [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:2271]
Joe J. Rushanan
United States
Bedford
Massachusetts
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I played two games that were disappointments.

Trick of the Rails with Ron K., Scott M., and Eric P.
I had evidently played this before. Maybe I had liked what it tried to do? After this play, those feelings were gone.

Cubist with Ed B. and Bill M.
I liked the dice management, but really disliked the whole artists mechanism. I have subsequently played Sagrada, which makes Cubist pale even more.
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22. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:207]
Joe J. Rushanan
United States
Bedford
Massachusetts
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I came away with a lot of stuff, between sellers and the flea market

Bolide, Railways of the World (and many expansions), Martians: A Story of Civilization, The Golden Ages (and expansion), Pandemic Iberia, Around the World in 80 Days, Fire in the Sky: The Great Pacific War 1941-1945, Steam Donkey, BANG! The Dice Game, and Math Fluxx

Prize table was Dominant Species and 10 Tage durch die Schweiz.
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23. Board Game: Food Chain Magnate [Average Rating:8.22 Overall Rank:29]
Joe J. Rushanan
United States
Bedford
Massachusetts
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Fifteen different people joined for Bob Evans through the week. The winner this year was country fried steak and eggs.

Donnatello's still pleases. Koi at the Casino has gone up in my eyes, and Savor at the Culinary Institute served the most flavorful meal.
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