GCL Phoenix 332 - Setting the Theme (14.05.2017)
You've found the 332nd installment of the Phoenix Game Chat League. Welcome to any of you that stop by - whether regular visitor, lurker, subscription-stalker, passer-by or indeed one of our members.
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John (John Rogers)
Active members: archivists, Eeeville, ravenskana, Smintie, tjshields.
Emeriti: BennyD, Bruzza, chally, darker, Dormammu, enzo622, Hawkeye77, JohnRayJr, judoka, leroy43, Morganza, Mr_Nuts, topherr, Yokiboy.
My last geeklist was on player interaction so I thought it would make sense to talk about theme and setting this time. Escpecially after last week's discussion on whether it matters how people label games - and if it's okay when it's done wrongly. Well, theme is the one such instance that bothers me the most because very often people mean setting. So let's just talk about both at once. But let's try and separate the two in our discussions - it really does make it more interesting, I swear
We all have our favourite themes and settings. Which are yours? Why do you think you find these more appealing?
Which are so interesting to you that you are willing to overlook a mediocre game?
Looking at your collection, which are the most common themes and setting represented?
The next question is quite obvious: which settings and themes do you detest?
And again the most interesting question is: why?
It might be because I'm surrounded by psychologists both at work and at home but Lærke and I have talked a bit about this lately: what do your preferences say about you as a person? This is a rather broad question so please fill it out with what you think is most important/interesting.
Related to the above question: Do the games you play mirror your personality or do you use games as an escapism to dive into and get away from the dreary everyday? I know this isn't just related to setting and theme but also mechanisms so please feel free to add that as well.
10 Terra Mystica: Fire & Ice
10 Terra Mystica: Erweiterungsbogen
10 Terra Mystica x2
With Kris and Natalie once, then Natalie and E once. Natalie is off the fence: Terra Mystica is her favourite game, even when I go easy on the noob (E), which leads to Natalie getting left behind because I keep handing E power so that Natalie doesn't get too much. (That, and I misunderstood the River Power Scoring action bonus that would have greatly improved her run with the Mermaids. She actually interpreted it correctly, and I told her she was wrong... Oooooops...)
10 Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm x4
10 Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium
10 Race for the Galaxy x4
One game with Kris, a bunch solo. Really have latched on to this one as my go-to solo game. I like facing off against the bot, even though its Easy is my Difficult.
8 Millennium Blades
Kris and I both like it, and I am looking forward to semi frequent play. Next time we'll have a fresh store deck, and play it all properly start to finish.
8 504 x2 NEW!
This is promising. Not because it is good, but because playing a game with so many permutations of the "game", and trying to adapt and play well, is proving to be a great deal of fun in theory, AND at the beginning of practice...
6 Anachrony x3 NEW!
First two plays were an 8, but already down to a 6. Solo is challenging, but for all the ornateness of the mechanics, it just doesn't feel that interesting to me mechanically. Been here, done that.
8 Lewis & Clark
Out of the dust, and so much fun. Taught it to E, who did well until he hit the Rockies. I used large cargo for mountain movement, ditch it all for river movement combo that had me rolling into Clatsop in no time.
Another very good week last week. Perhaps not when looking at the amount of games I played but looking at the quality of the games and the fact that three of the four games where from my (now quite short) list of unplayed games, I have to see it was a pleasure. The fourth game was the online game of it with Michael that we finished last week and Pax Po is one of my very favourite games despite having played it so little. Yet.
8 Java NEW!
I bought this second hand a couple of months ago (but only got it two weeks ago) based on all the positive words from Marc about it. It intrigued me to get both this and Reef Encounter. The latter I played last week but judged from one game of each I must say I like Java better. But let’s see what I think after some more plays. This was a three-player game where all of us fumbled our way through the game trying to learn the basic dickery that is possible in it. I enjoyed it a lot – perfectly simple rules and plenty of player interaction that both appeal to me in this type of game. It ended with a big victory for me because I started focusing on getting high up in all the towns early on and kept more of my private tiles till the end. I was thus able to score 10 points in all but two of the towns and I was already well ahead of the other two. It may be too abstract a game for a lot of people – and probably also the two I played it with but I hope they’ll play it with me again now that we know it a bit better.
7 Three Kingdoms Redux NEW!
Friday was a public holiday of the more pragmatic sort here in Denmark. After the reformation the state and church got tired of having so many minor prayer days left over from the catholic days that they in 1686 decided to merge them all into one and call it Great Prayer Day. Instead of praying I had set up a game of Three Kingdoms Redux with a couple of gaming friends who like me had never played it before. I bought it for a good price two weeks ago after having heard so many of the Heavy Cardboard listeners and the three of them themselves rave about it for a couple of years. While I’m far from fond of Worker Placement games I hoped I wouldn’t mind because the game was said to be thematic and have a decent amount of interaction. The rules are simple but there are quite a few of them so that’s not what makes it heavy – and I’m not sure I’d call it heavy either. Just longish. It’s a three-player only asymmetrical euro set in the era of the Three Kingdoms in Han China. Each side gets a different amount of generals (workers) with special powers and different power rankings in two different areas (war and admin) that can be used to bid on action spaces. You are allowed to bid more generals in one space but the losing bid is not allowed to move his generals somewhere else so winning your bids is important – and so is not entering too many expensive bidding wars and especially not if they are with the same player every time so the third player will quietly sit back and benefit. What makes the game interesting to me is that the two players that win the fewest action spaces then get to be in a small alliance together in the next round where they get to choose one action area where they can both bid together and their mutual bid counts against the leader. That’s an interesting way of balancing the game and it can lead to negotiations when you know the game a bit better than we did. That’s a rare thing for a worker placement game. The problem is its length and that the setting is not that interesting to me and most of the people I play with. So I’m not convinced but I’m willing to play again.
9 Pax Porfiriana
Michael and me have already written extensively about our online learning game so I think I’ll limit myself here to saying that I was happily reminded why I thought this could easily be one of my very favourite games. I’ve already started a new game with Alison and Nicolai and I look forward to more.
9 1846: The Race for the Midwest NEW!
And now on to the main course. Like Chris, I’ve been drawn towards train games recently and it seems like my new train game group might actually be a thing. We’ve played Age of Steam once, will play it again Tuesday this week and Sunday last week four of us played 1846 for the first time. And another play of it has been scheduled to June 5 as well! I played 1830 last year for the first time and had a great time despite not knowing anything about what my actions would cause and thereby going bankrupt so when 1846 came up for P500 at GMT I immediately ordered it. Got it in February this year but hadn’t played it until now when I realised there were more people in Aarhus interested in this kind of games than I thought. And I must say I’m happy with my buy. It’s the perfect game for us to start out with – or just keep playing. After 1846 I have no big desire to go back to the opacity of 1830 at least. The one player who had played quite a bit of 1830 a decade ago of course won against us three complete newbies but we all felt we actually had some amount of control. That’s probably because we aren’t very good players so we couldn’t see how we could punish other players’ mistakes or take advantage of relative positions. Still, we all really enjoyed it. It took us five hours though but I expect we’ll be able to shave at least an hour off that with more plays. I was completely focused during the whole game but as soon as we had packed it off and I walked home my head imploded and I was utterly knackered mentally the rest of the day.
Games that left my collection this month: Captain Sonar, The Traders of Genoa.
Games that entered my collection this month: None so far! But a few promos: Snow Algae for Terraforming Mars, a couple of the promo packs for Scythe and Carcassonne: The Plague.
Unplayed games in my collection: Tahuantinsuyu, 1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight, Automobile, Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar, Stephenson’s Rocket, Splatter SHOOT, Himalaya.
Board Game: Yomi (second edition)
[Average Rating:7.87 Unranked]
[Average Rating:7.87 Unranked]
[Average Rating:7.87 Unranked]
5 Button Men x3
N/A Tiny Epic Galaxies
Tiny Epic Galaxies sat on my shelf for a long time because I found Harbour so mediocre (and had some retroactive skepticism about Kickstarting TEG). I don't remember what made me think it might be a hit at work. But it was! One player found everything about the 'rocket' icon painfully unintuitive (you can't use it to advance on an orbit track, you can choose to get the planet effect or enter the orbit track but not both, you can't use it to move from a planet's surface to orbit the same planet) and there was a little trouble with the idea of copying a die rather than its effect, but by the end basically everyone was playing the same game. I'd play again.
Somewhat like VivaJava Dice (another Euro-ish dice game with a quirky theme where you race to 21 points... hm...) I could see how pure engine-building would get you in trouble; rushing the end of the game wasn't that hard to do. But it seemed like it would be hard to win (or even compete) without putting a lot of resources into upgrading your empire. If that's true I could imagine it feeling samey, even though the niche-ness of the planets we saw made it seem like the details of a path to victory would have to be different if playing again.
(One player also complained, and I agree, that the secret missions were just not super worthwhile. He's a huge Waterdeep fan and so read the card as saying "3 points for every..." whatever it was, not "3 points if you have one or more". Had that card worked how he thought, he would have been right there with me and the narrow second-place finisher.)
6 Unlock! The Elite NEW!
I learned some ImageMagick tricks in order to play this PnP without actually printing it. And it was... okay. I now understand how this "escape room in a box" could even work, and honestly a countdown timer makes almost anything fun. I don't have a principled objection to one-use games, not when they're affordable. I just was hoping for even a tiny bit of coherence to the setting (not theme) or some plausible reason for the puzzles to exist. There was none.
7.9 Yomi (second edition) x2 NEW!
So I thought the continuing success of Puzzle Strike with me and S meant maybe I should give Yomi another try. (I sold my first edition set because it was never getting played and the illustrations of female characters are textbook "when people talk about the male gaze, this is what they mean" material.)
We both slipped back into it pretty quickly. In both rounds, the win more or less came down to the fact that Jaina's AA super is slightly faster than Persephone's, and they collided more than once, including the last turn of round 2.
(I was constantly walking into Persephone's knockdown moves so she had a steady stream of cards to power up for Aces with.)
Sadly, we still both don't find Flash Duel that compelling, so playing a best-of-3 with the same characters but spanning all three games is probably not going to happen.
5 Zooloretto: The Dice Game NEW!
The beginning of our Pax Porfiriana game drew my attention to just how many games there are on Yucata. I experimentally started rounds of several of them.
This is nice and fast, and better than Zooloretto proper. But the rarity of getting to take three things in a cart makes it unsatisfying next to Coloretto.
_8_ 51st State: Master Set x1
_7_ Carcassonne x1
_8_ Pax Porfiriana x1 New!
_7_ The Great Zimbabwe x1 Out of the Dust!
_7_ Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients w/Hell Vermin Enemy Pack x1
The Week in Review
A couple typical games of 51st State: Master Set and Carcassonne this week. Sandra won both. What's new.
Actually, what's new is that I may have preferred Carcassonne to 51st State: Master Set. I know the latter has an expansion in the works, which I'll almost certainly pick up when it's released to spice things up.
Our monthly game of Shadows of Brimstone with K was pretty epic; at least until my character got knocked out. My character is pretty busted up and can now neither move as fast as his comrades (-1 to move vs both of them with +1 to move) and not as good at combat (and always never very good with ranged weapons). Combine that with his lagging in experience points, he's almost doomed to be the weakest link in our ongoing campaign.
As far as the campaign goes, there's really only a couple scenarios that we haven't played before we either reset it, start repeating them with the same characters or invest in a new campaign. Or just play another game....
Dusted off The Great Zimbabwe after four years. Probably Sunday night (after a very busy day) wasn't the best time to try to reteach it to S. She was not impressed. In fact, I think it's pretty safe to say she is one of those on the Food Chain Magnate is better than The Great Zimbabwe Island.
But I may actually prefer The Great Zimbabwe. Even though it feels more abstracted, it's more streamlined and quicker to play. I think it would shine with a larger group; for example my 18xx group (except that we don't play enough 18xx as it is).
I debated a bit whether to include Pax Porfiriana as a play as it was online rather than face-to-face, but in the end decided in favour of it. My rating is tentative. I could easily see it go up and maybe even land in my top ten. Alternatively, there's a chance it could crash and burn should it start to get repetitive even with the card variation. I'm going to be extremely busy the next four weeks, otherwise I'd jump right back into another game to find out.
The Week Ahead
No plans. Maybe something light with S, but that'll be it. And probably my GCL time will be reduced as well as there's just a lot going on around here right now.
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 and Mottainai.
Ordered but not yet shipped: Trick of the Rails and High Treason: The Trial of Louis Riel.
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.
That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 13May2017:
8/20/201 plays of 6/12/103 total games, with 0/1/18 expansions employed.
Plays with 12/13/62 distinct opponents.
0/0/14 games acquired (plus 1/1/6 expansions.) - Evolution: Promo Pack III.
0/1/13 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/2 expansions.)
2/2/14 games ordered (plus 2/2/8 expansions.) - Leaving Earth, Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King, Leaving Earth: Mercury and Evolution: Promo Pack III.
Orders for 5 games and 2 expansions still outstanding.
2x _6⅓_ Archaeology: The Card Game (28 months dusty) - (with son #2) This was a favourite of the youngster years ago; so we were playing (as much as anything) for nostalgia. It's fluffy and random; but a nice diversion from homework.
1x _7⅔_ Super Big Boggle - (with my wife and son #2) The male contingent were badly outclassed in this one. Not only did my wife (easily) win each round, but her total score was greater than the sum of our scores.
With the Monday lunch group:
1x _8_ Sissi!: Die Bohnenkaiserin - Worked really nicely for the Lunch Group: they're all familiar with Bohnanza; so this was an easy thing to explain by the tiny deltas against the basic game. We likely didn't play at a particularly high level, but it was very entertaining. And the Best Player (not remotely me) absolutely did win.
With the Wednesday night gang:
1x _7⅔_ 横濱紳商伝 Yokohama Shin-shō-den 'Yokohama' - Tim played really well here, and achieved a solid victory. For my part, I was delighted to try the new printing. And though I can't claim it's an improvement in all respects, I did like the end game scoring notations on tech/church/customs boards.
1x _7⅓_ Terraforming Mars - First multiplayer game with correct rules. I find it amusing: the juggling of card synergies is entertaining. But it feels neither significant or deep: I'm not convinced it'll be a long-term win.
On Thursday in Menlo Park:
1x _7⅓_ Tin Goose [New!] - This was quite fascinating. I played poorly: but was charmed by the extravagance of the groupthink. And while I'm not convinced that there isn't more randomness in the initial hands than I might prefer, I'd be delighted to play again.
1x _7⅔_ 横濱紳商伝 Yokohama Shin-shō-den 'Yokohama' - And back to my old Japanese printing. In this one, Robert was the one playing particularly well: it was fun to watch. Even if I wasn't able to provide any significant competition.
Owned-and-unplayed: 0 (+0/-0)
Owned-and-played-once: 90 (+0/-0)
Outlook for the week: Five! choir practices this week. (Plus a concert next Sunday. Things should be less hectic next week.) So limited gaming. Monday Lunch happened (Foppen and Mogul); a Mothers Day play of Super Big Boggle happened on Sunday, too; but unless I get to GamesDay on Saturday, the rest of the week isn't looking good on the gaming front.
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Games Played Week 19:
7.0 3x Rhino Hero
8.0 2x A Feast for Odin
7.5 2x Sagrada
7.0 1x Port Royal
7.5 1x Rococo
9 plays of 5 distinct games with 3 games New to Me
New to Me
The Week in Review:
Since we were on a streak, I wanted to play something on the Monday. I have a new focus on getting unplayed games played, so it was a good evening.
Rhino Hero was fun and Port Royal was a surprise. There was certainly more to the push-your-luck mechanism and the game than I had thought. Might get a decent amount of plays round here.
On Tuesday it was my 40th birthday. Thank you all for the well wishes. Quick introduction to Rhino Hero, this time with 4. Not sure if I think it gains by adding more players. Still, a fun interlude on a great evening.
Almost played a game on Wednesday, just to play... decided against it.
On Thursday I had the day off work and made a visit to J. to play a double-header of A Feast for Odin, with each of us taking a game. I enjoy the game because of the company, but prefer Caverna: The Cave Farmers because I can pick an end-scoring tile and work towards it. In Feast I mainly succeed when I go all-in on emmigration.
Friday I had a quit day with V. and we took out a new-to-us in Sagrada. Now, we love our dice games and this one is wonderful to look at. It also plays well, nice and quick. A keeper.
Then we played Rococo with 2 and enjoyed it just as much as last month at Djengis Con. Another keeper.
The Week Ahead:
Mallorca, sunshine, sand, swimming and Latin. That said, I did bring a number of games, so perhaps my mother and I will get to play a few. We have talked about playing today (Wednesday) so maybe...
Games coming in: The Bird Told Me To Do It, Yokohama
Games considering: Barker's Row, Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure,
Games pre-ordered: Brass: Birmingham, Brass: Lancashire, Caverna: Cave vs Cave, Clans of Caledonia (new), Dinosaur Island, Innovation Deluxe, Kingdom Builder: Harvest, Kingdom Builder: Marshlands, Pax Porfiriana (new), Pax Renaissance (incl. Expansion) (new), Petrichor (incl. Flowers), Problem Picnic: Attack of the Ants, Terraforming Mars (incl. Hellas & Elysium), tPoH: Community, Tournay, Vast: The Crystal Caverns (new).
Games leaving: None.
Pile of shame: 51st State: Master Set, Argent: The Consortium, Colony, Fresco: Big Box, For the Crown (Second edition), Glass Road, Guns & Steel: Renaissance, Hanabi, Hands in the Sea, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, Islebound, The King's Armory, Legends of Andor, Omen: A Reign of War, Omen: Edge of the Aegean, Ortus Regni, Panamax, Reef Encounter, Shadowrun: Crossfire, Wir sind das Volk!
Board Game: Rotation
[Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Let's figure out who will be here, when.
Marc will be in Paris mid-June, and busy until late July.
Michael in Tokyo in June, but back by Marc's previous slot, June 11th.
Rich will be in Bulgaria during his turn (May 21st)
Rich - May 21st
Jeremy - May 28th
Alison - June 4th
Carol - June 11th (moved Marc to end of July)
John - June 18th
Karl - June 25th
Michael - July 2nd
Dave - July 9th
Nicolai - July 16th
Chris - July 23rd
Marc - July 30th (out of order)
Jeremy, would you be okay with doing next week, if we end up skipping Rich? Or is there someone later in the rotation that would like to flip earlier? Rich is okay with his spot.
Anyone else have any requests?
I had a strong game in Patchwork and Sam had a few turns that tripped him up. I won by quite a bit.
I was doing okay in Vegas, but at the end, I rolled both fours on my white dice, which would have undone a 90,000 spot for me, so I played my last black die. On my next turn, I rolled both fours on both of the white dice again, so I had to play them, and lost the 90,000, giving Sam the game. The expansion is supposed to change things up a bit so you're not quite so dependent on rolls like that. I may have to try a little harder to get a copy.
I didn't know what to do with my UberBadge, so I left it as a GeekBadge.
Last week's plays:
|9| A Feast for Odin (x2)
|9| Terra Mystica (+Fire & Ice; 4 Town Tiles; Bonus Shipping Tile)
|9| Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
-8- Clank! (x3) (+Snack Table New!)
-8- Kingdom Builder (+Nomads; Marshlands; Island)
-8- Terraforming Mars (x3) (+Snow Algae New!)
-7- El Grande
Over the past few plays of A Feast for Odin I have found myself becoming stuck in a strategic rut, always taking the Crafting route (my favourite action is to use three vikings to craft two chests and two runestones). It serves me reasonably well but I need to branch out more otherwise the game will become stale. I should try emigration or an animal-based strategy for a change.
The setup for our Terra Mystica game seemed to recommend picking Dwarfs: points for having the most separate settlements and a bonus for a Round 1 Stronghold or Sanctuary. They had already gone by the time my turn to choose came round, so I went for Giants, who like building their Stronghold in Round 1 and conveniently had the right cult track advances for a few of the end-of-round bonuses. The Dwarfs placed their initial buildings too far apart and were soon blocked from ever connecting them. Mermaids gave me a run for my money by spreading out quickly across the board, but my seafaring Giants just pipped them to win most buildings placed and most separate settlements. It was a game where everything went right for me, I was rarely blocked and finished over 20 points ahead of second place (without taking that overpowered Earth-2 Favour tile too). It's funny – I see reports from online players saying Giants are a weak faction but in our small local metagame they rarely lose. Their drawback of needing two spades to terraform is mitigated by their ability to pay the same cost regardless of terrain type - Stomp! - as well as their Stronghold ability. I find them decent, and they don't require too much heavy concentration, which was what I needed for this particular session.
Lots of Terraforming Mars last week. Word had got round that our first play drafting the Corporate Era cards took nearly four hours, and there is now local reluctance to use that variant. I know many players consider it the "proper" way to play, and I would prefer to add those cards in, but I'll take the basic game if that's what my fellow players prefer. The Spielbox 'Snow Algae' promo is disappointingly unexciting – I think they deliberately designed it that way so nobody was too sad if they couldn't get hold of it. By contrast, Clank!'s 'Snack Table' adds a fun interactive twist: the opportunity for other players to give you treasure in exchange for healing. I appreciate that there's no other card like it in the deck, so it makes for a great little promo.
I may have overcomplicated Kingdom Builder by adding in a few too many expansions, even though we used the simpler options from each. The Island was probably a step too far. Nobody else went there except me. The final score saw three of us tied for first place, until someone spotted my Island points...
El Grande was great. I often forget how much I enjoy it, especially when played at pace. We finished it in less than 90 minutes, which makes for a fine decisions:time ratio.
Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you.
Better late than never I guess. May is Commands and Colors month so look for various plays of CCA, M44, and other titles in the series in the upcoming...
Week That Was
Hosted a game of CCA, Lake Trasimenus (217 BC) for two newbies. The game actually came down to the wire with the Carthaginian player winning 6-4. The Roman player (Lee) was a seasoned gamer and had experience with Memoir 44, Battle Cry, and Battlelore and the new Carthaginian player was his very green teenage nephew (Adrian) who surprisingly held his own against very long historical odds. At the end of the night he said this was his second favorite game. More on that in a moment.
Shortly after the session of CCA wrapped up, Adrian wanted to try M44 and since everybody else was busy I agreed. A mediterranean scenario had been set-up and this time I let Adrian take the historically superior side. The session took about 20mins as I ran my weaker British tanks over his superior German strength and size. When the session wrapped he said it was okay but preferred the ancients version even though it was a bit more complicated. It gave him more to think about and he liked that. Hmm...
Packing up M44 I had Pylos on the table and asked Adrian if he would like to give it a go. He agreed and we quickly played two sessions. He thought it was different and not really his style. I like the ease of this but I agree with him on it not being necessarily something I would reach for.
Now with the evening winding down eveybody was engaged in something save for Adrian and Avery (an oft attendee and sometimes participant). I asked Avery if he would like to play something, fully expecting him to say no and I was surprised that he requested to play TGZ again. We had played it months before and he quite liked it. So here I was, yet again teaching TGZ to a table of relatively new, non-hardcore gamers.
And to my shock everyone did quite well. I took Obatala, two ivory craftsman, and an unused rainmaker (to block Adrian from expanding his wood empire). Adrian took Gu, a wood carver and sculptor. Avery remained an atheist and took a potter. Avery had a plan from the get-go and to his great satisfaction actually met his VR on the final round. Adrian misread how many different goods were available and was unable to raise his level 4 monument; otherwise he too would have met his VR. I went for a high bid and just barely edged Avery out for second and was able to score 16pts on the final round to surpass my VR by 12!
In the end I asked for reactions and Avery was far happier with his performance and looks forward to playing it again but this time with more players (his first play was with five players). Adrian said it was his favorite game of the night and felt that aside from his miscalculation on resources at the end that it was the most intuitive game of the night.
I love that TGZ has been so well-received by so many different players.