Life as a new board game group member...June 2017
Christine Harrison
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Hertfordshire
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Following on from the first three lists, which cover January until the end of May, here is June :-)

Here is the meta-list for the previous and future months!
Life as a new board game group member - the first year in games meta-list!
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1. Board Game: Piece o' Cake [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:1523]
Christine Harrison
United Kingdom
Hertfordshire
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7th June 2017

Seven people have rsvp'd for tonight, but there are problems on the trainline out of London and it seems some people have gotten stuck there. Fortunately I don't have to make the wretched journey in to the capital on Wednesday's, so I am happily seated with three others in the pub, sipping my appletiser and wondering if the British summer will ever stay warm enough for us to play our board games outside one evening. Probably not.

We might not have a full compliment of players, but we do have cake. This is a quick set gathering game with a fruity sponge theme, where players tactically portion out the 11 fruit slices in several cakes to try and score the most victory points. You may save your slices each turn to gain points for holding the majority of a given type of fruit, or you can eat your slices immediately and score for each of the cream decorations on top instead. Nom nom nom... oh wait, it's cardboard, but it's yummy cardboard.
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2. Board Game: Jórvík [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:1589]
Christine Harrison
United Kingdom
Hertfordshire
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7th June 2017

So we have just set up Suburbia when our number five arrives from the big smoke for the evening. There was a dog on the tracks causing a backlog of trains it seems. Not to worry, apparently the dog is fine, the owner who was attached to it is fine, and we will be fine too once we switch to a five player game... Jorvik! I know nothing about this, except to say that Jorvik is the old norse name for York, a lovely place which the husband (then fiance) and I were forced to leave after our postgrad courses due to a lack of work. I'm a bit sentimental, so suffice to say the name of this game is enough to make me feel warm and fuzzy and I quite blindly agree to play before it has even been explained.

I'm told it is a re-implementation of 'Die Speicherstadt' but I can't say I know that version. We explore it's unique bidding mechanism by taking turns each round to express our interest in the various cards (ships, military, resources, etc) by placing our meeples below them; you can place more than one meeple for each card. It isn't clear until after the meeples are distributed who will win the bid for each card. In order of placement, each player gets to accept or decline the fee, which is equal to the number of meeples on that card. Decline, and your meeple is removed, making it cheaper for the players behind you. This bidding is really different to any other games I have played, and we have some friendly skirmishes as the game progresses to try and secure the cards we each need. Money is tight, but with the exception of the military tactician, who wins by a mile, the other four of us are very close in the final rankings.

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3. Board Game: Flamme Rouge [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:250]
Christine Harrison
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Hertfordshire
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7th June 2017

It looks like we are topping out at five tonight, but there is some interest in this four player game so it's owner kindly offers to steer the rest of us through it. I am really struggling with differentiating the pieces for the sprinteur and the rouleur which look far too similar. As a consequence I mess up my cards a few times, but I am not the only one mixing them up. Bizarrely, my sprinteur seems to end up leading the pack far too early, and it isn't until I am forced to play an accidental six card, from a hand where that is the lowest number, that I finally see my rouleur doing anything useful. He breaks in to the lead and somehow manages to stay there despite the up and downs of the track. He is exhausted, but he finally crosses the finish line with the majority lead, and I'd say that's a nice end to the evening.
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4. Board Game: Twenty One [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:3853]
Christine Harrison
United Kingdom
Hertfordshire
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13th June 2017

We are breaking with tradition tonight and meeting on a Tuesday. This is due to Morris Dancers taking over the pub on our usual Wednesday evening. That's a type of folk dancing with bells and hankies for you non-British readers. It is tempting to make some quaint joke here, but my father-in-law is a Morris Dancer so I'm not saying anymore. Back to Tuesday.

The first three of us to arrive settle into this quick dice game where you are trying to complete the rows on your pre-printed score sheet by matching the necessary dice - both by colour and number. If you roll a lower number than your are looking for you can take it, but you will score less overall. I have a strong start but fall away as the rounds progress. Part way through, I casually suggest to the group that it's a bit like bingo - which is met with looks of sympathetic concern.....
 
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5. Board Game: Suburbia [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:99]
Christine Harrison
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Hertfordshire
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13th June 2017

As another player arrived towards the end of playing Twenty-One, we are now four, and it seems a good idea to retry Suburbia which we didn't get to play last week. I've only ever played the app version of this, and I'm quite intrigued to see how I fare working out the scoring for myself. It's certainly more thinky than just letting the app do it for you, but fortunately as a group we are quite good at reminding each other to pick up our bonuses when new tiles are laid.

Overall, I feel playing on a actual tabletop has given me a much better appreciation of the tiles, and how they interact with each other. I also like being able to look around the table and see what the other players are up to, which just isn't the same on an iPad. Whilst I find the theme just a tad dry, I like it well enough and the others are enjoying it. I am also mindful that Suburbia has been likened to The Castles of Mad King Ludwig - a game that my husband will bringing home from his trip to America this week where it is cheaper, and I hope Ludwig's Castles will capture my imagination just a bit more.
 
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6. Board Game: Bärenpark [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:325]
Christine Harrison
United Kingdom
Hertfordshire
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13th June 2017

Next up this evening, we move from city building to bear park building. I've heard the name of this mentioned a few times but have no idea of what it actually involves, and as it is explained to me I am immediately reminded of Cottage Garden, just with a different tile selection mechanism. I quite like tessellating tiles on boards and so I quite happily throw myself into neatly filling up my player boards. So much so, that I almost forget there are bonuses for picking certain sets of tiles. But I don't care, the scores aren't so disparate at the end of the game, and I am picking up the completion bonuses at least for finishing the individual boards that comprise my park. It's a cute little game and I'd happily play it again.
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7. Board Game: Dokmus [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:1806]
Christine Harrison
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13th June 2017

Now for something completely different, we move on to Dokmus. This is an abstract with a loose theme about moving your tents across the Island of Dokmus to discover it's temples. Dokmus is conveniently built of 8 large landscape tiles with temples dotted across them. Temples mean victory points and there are bonuses if you manage to find all the temples on one tile. In addition to the rules about placing your tents on different terrain, there are also several god cards offering different powers which players draft at the beginning of each round. These powers include rotating and moving the landscape tiles, as well as individual tents.

Initially I'm not sure if I am going to enjoy this, but I am surprised by just how much this one appeals to me. Abstract is not at all my favourite genre, but this one has sufficient theme to overcome that for me, and the twist added by the god powers keeps it very interesting and engaging. Looking forward to playing this again at some point.
 
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8. Board Game: Medici: The Card Game [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:2072]
Christine Harrison
United Kingdom
Hertfordshire
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13th June 2017

We are on form tonight and even though it is late we decide to sneak in another game. Usually by this time of the evening I am experiencing rule fatigue and my mind starts seeing what it wants to. A few weeks ago for instance, it seems I lost the ability to correctly read the dice result in Machi Koro - but then that game does go on a bit, so maybe it was some sort of unconscious desire to speed it up? This evening at least I find I am able to pick up the rules to this card version of Medici very quickly. I've not played the board game version, but I am aware it has something to do with filling ships and competing for resources. I'm not brilliant at securing resources, but I do have fast ships, and that secures me a lot of points in the early rounds.

At the end of the night the scores are pretty close and I've really enjoyed the game. I think my husband and his family would really like this but its out of print here in the UK. A quick google to see if it too late to add it to the US order whilst he is out there shows its out of print across the pond too as it was a kickstarter. So, so much for that plan then.
 
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9. Board Game: Giro Galoppo [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:2760]
Christine Harrison
United Kingdom
Hertfordshire
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21st June 2017

We are experiencing a level 3 heatwave here in the UK, which means being British, that we are all complaining about the heat. But another great British institution is occurring today - the Royal Ascot races. As such it seems very fitting that we are beginning our evening with Giro Galoppo. This is very similar to Flamme Rouge but predates it by several years. We spend the first few hands breaking out of the stalls and organising ourselves into some sort of racing line. My rider clearly has heat stroke and falls from his horse more than once - please note this isn't actually a thematic part of the game - the falls are just a consequence of gamer clumsiness! Not long out of the stalls, my husband breaks away with an early lead and through the rest of the twists, turns, and obstacles the rest of us never get close!
 
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10. Board Game: Camel Up Cards [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:2368]
Christine Harrison
United Kingdom
Hertfordshire
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21st June 2017

We are a little unsure of how many we are tonight so we begin Camel Up Cards with five of us. I haven't played the board game so I can't compare the two, but I really enjoyed this game. At the start of each leg, we are each dealt a hand of cards to help the five camels move along a desert race track. We discard roughly half of our cards, then contribute both an open and a blind card to the communal deck. This leaves each player one card in their hand. The racing begins and each player can play from the well shuffled communal deck, play a card from their hand, or set a fox/palm tree on the board. They can also take a bet and who will finish first or third that leg, or bet on the end game outcome. Correct bets return greater money and money equals victory points.

After the first leg, a sixth player joins us and so we deal him in. Nobody seems much interested in the white camel who is sadly getting left behind, but since there are points up for grabs for correctly betting on the last place camel its clearly a tactical decision to leave him there bringing up the rear. The other camels battle sandstorms, desert foxes and strive to reach the bonus of the palm tree. In the end the green camel is victorious.
 
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11. Board Game: Shadows over Camelot [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:336]
Christine Harrison
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Hertfordshire
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21st June 2017

Time for the main game of the night, and we are ready to become knights of Camelot and immerse ourselves in the legendary quests of good King Arthur. This is a game I've heard a lot about but never played, so I am really looking forward to it. I'm just hoping I am not the traitor. I like the traitor/deception element in games, but when I am learning something for the first time I prefer to be able to get a feel for the game without the added brain effort of having to work out how to play against the game (without being able to ask questions of course because that would give me away). And my track record isn't good. In the six deception games I've played with this group I've been the baddie 50% of the time. So when we are all set up the role cards come out....and yeap...I'm the traitor.

Since I'm still trying to understand the game my main strategy is just not to be helpful. I have a halfhearted crack at a few seize engines, make paltry contributions to the team effort, and turn up as many black cards as I can. Since I'm not into player elimination I do give everyone else a life which is probably not in the spirit of the traitor, but traitors can be complicated characters so why not? After a while it looks like it could go my way. We have three quests that need just one black card to fail, and if that happens I would then only need to make a false accusation and turn over a few black swords to win the game. Unfortunately my husband and the player to his left have got a good thing going on with the black cards; he can peek at the top black card, ignore it, and then the player after can look at two black cards and discard the worst of them. As such that one card I need in any of the three quests never makes it to the table. And I never quite win.

I really enjoyed the game and look forward to playing it again, hopefully as a true and loyal knight of Camelot. Since I was so close to a win I don't regret not showing my colours sooner, but if I end up the traitor again I think I might try playing more openly because some of the traitor actions causing havoc for the other players certainly look like fun!

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12. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:48]
Christine Harrison
United Kingdom
Hertfordshire
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28th June 2017

Well it initially looks like it is going to be a very quiet night, with just three of us! This seems like a good opportunity to try out Race with another player; my husband and I have been playing it just the two of us since we bought it, and since our third player tonight is already very familiar with Roll for the Galaxy we figure this will save a lot of time trying to explain iconography and the general gist of things.

The main difference here is in the two player variant you select two cards per round, whereas in the main game you select just one. There is less opportunity as a consequence to link your actions, but it feels more interactive in the sense that I find myself thinking more about what the other players may want to play. I am also forced to consume a few times before I am quite ready to which I don't recall happening so frequently in our two players games.

Half way through Race a fourth player makes an entrance. Since we are keen to finish and get in to a four player game, Race the game most definitely becomes race the feeling, and my husband pushes forwards with settling and developing to get 12 cards on the table as quickly as possible. Although he says he gave no particular regard to strategy he still has the most victory points. I've had a bad game with too many military cards and no means to play them, and come a respectable last!
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13. Board Game: Saint Petersburg (second edition) [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:498]
Christine Harrison
United Kingdom
Hertfordshire
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28th June 2017

We have refueled and rearranged the pub furniture so that we can settle into St Petersburg for the remainder of the night. This is new to me and I am told it is a card game where we will build our economic engines initially for money, and then gradually focus on shifting towards victory points as the game progresses; somewhat like the card game Dominion. I have never been to Saint Petersburg but I hear it is a pretty city. If we are to recreate it here tonight we have to work through several rounds, each consisting of worker, market, building and noble phases, with a chance to upgrade at the end of each round.

I quickly find that I have monopoly on the fish and chicken markets which keep victory points rolling in, but become expensive to maintain as the game progresses. Upgrading buildings seems a good way to earn both victory points and cash so I raze my observatory and build 'Peterhof' instead. Elsewhere around the table my husband is currying influence with the nobles, and the other players are recruiting workers and resources. In the end there is only one point in it, and my husband just beats me to first place. But since he is actually a 'Peter' it only seems appropriate that he is the most successful Czar and wins the game with a city built in his namesake. I remind him on the way home that he isn't actually a saint, although this status could change if he does the washing up when we get in :-)
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