GCL Amoeba 331 – Living spaces (2017-07-10)
Mikko Saari
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Tampere
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Welcome to this week's Game Chat League Amoeba discussion group!

If you found us randomly (via subscription, perhaps), you're welcome to join in with constructive conversation -- we're friendly symbiotes in real life, though vicious competitors at the game table. (Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most dangerous predator on earth!) Read the links above for more info. (If you're shy, just thumb the list so we can see who's stalking us :-) )

Doug (phrim)mb
Jason (Bond8089)
Garry (garry_rice)
Jimmy (Butterfly0038)
Larry (larryjrice)
Jeroen (jmdsplotter)
Scott (qzhdad)
Eric (Eric Brosius)
James (jdludlow)
Justin (jrebelo)
Kalle (Kuula)
Rebecca (CoffeeRunner)
Joshua (Joshuaaaaaa)
Carlos (Sprocket314)Mikko (msaari)

I was wondering – how and where do you actually live? Living conditions vary quite a bit from place to place.
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1. Board Game: Fun House [Average Rating:5.50 Unranked]
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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What kind of home you have? Do you live in a house, in an apartment or something in between? Is it typical to where you live, or unusual?
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2. Board Game: It's a Living [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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What kind of living spaces are common to where you live? What's unusual, what do you see where you live, but is rare elsewhere? What kind of things have you noticed on your travels that are different to what you're used to?
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3. Board Game: Pack & Stack [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:1665]
Mikko Saari
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Tampere
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Have you moved a lot? How many homes have you had? Have you lived in many different places?
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4. Board Game: Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.57 Overall Rank:3]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Last week we hosted our summer house con, starting on Saturday, July 1. We had 3 house guests for the week, and they all arrived on Friday night, so we started a bit early just with them.

[Note: Games from my "Games I Want to Play" list are asterisked.]

5  Sagrada NEW! -- Anne had brought this pretty little filler with her, and she taught it to my wife and me. It's attractive, but I didn't find the game play to be engaging. I'm sure it would be possible to do a detailed analysis (e.g., if I leave a space for a green '4', then the other players won't snipe it, because I can see that they have no good place to put a green '4', but if I leave a space for a blue '5', I could be in trouble, because that would be useful for both of them.) That's way more work than I want to put into this game, but it's what one must do in order to play optimally. It's also a little longer than it seems it should be, even playing reasonably fast, as we were.

* 10  Saint Petersburg x3 -- Marsha arrived, and Tom joined her, Anne, and me for a game of this mutual favorite. I tried to collect orange cards, but it didn't work for me this time, as Tom won convincingly. Still, it was a game of Saint Petersburg, a title I love. I played twice more during the con, once losing to first-time player Sarah (who is a good enough gamer that she never feels like a first-time player; she also won her first-ever game of Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization playing against two experienced players.)

* 9  Web of Power -- This is my favorite Michael Schacht design, and I like a lot of his games. The problem is that I don't play it much during my regular weekly gaming. Tom is a big fan of the game, though, so I always hope to get a game in when he's visiting. I won this one because I started the advisers in the eastern part of the map, in Franken, and drew many advisers to the region, leaving Anne's three advisers in Frankreich without many neighbers.

6  Istanbul -- Marsha had bought a new copy of this game and was punching it out in an empty game room on Saturday morning. It only seemed reasonable for us to join her for a game once we finished breakfast. I had played once back in 2014, but the game teacher didn't read the rules about setting up the tiles, and we had an "asterisk game". This time we got the rules right. It was a pretty close game, and in fact I as first player got to the jewel target first, but with zero money to spare. Marsha and Anne followed me in hitting the target, and Anne had the most money to win the tie-breaker. This game has been compared with Yokohama, which isn't unreasonable, but I like Yokohama much better. This one has constraints that don't quite work for me.

* 9  Merchant of Venus -- Before each house con, I make up a list of "Games I Want to Play" and post it. This is helpful, because people peruse the list and often find games they also want to play. This was on the list, and we played it next. I was 4th player in a 4-player game. There are three good options at the start of the game, which means it works well for 3, but even with 4 you often find that one player gets into difficulties with a bad starting roll and the 4th player can go that way hoping to do better. It didn't work this time, though, as I trailed hopelessly behind for the entire game. I don't mind, as I really like this exploration game.

6  Medici: The Card Game NEW! -- As I've mentioned, Medici is my favorite game, and as a result, I wanted to try this card game version of it. Designer Reiner Knizia must be commended for designing a card game version of a pure auction game and not using auctions! Unfortunately, I didn't care very much for it; you often have no control over what you'll get. In the base game, you at least get to choose whether to bid or pass, even though sometimes neither option is appealing.

5  Emperor's Choice NEW! -- Joe Huber arrived, bringing with him a number of new-to-me games. As regular readers of the Amoeba list know, I'm trying to be discerning about new games, but this is by Hisashi Hayashi, who has designed a number of games I enjoy, and I was looking forward to playing it. Alas, this didn't strike me as well as (for example) Yokohama. Why? Well, the bidding system doesn't seem to fit very well with the game, and I thought the fact that the track you move your marker up to get benefits is 1-dimensional didn't provide options, and the tile draw was perhaps too confining and ... probably "I just didn't care that much for it" is a better summary.

8  Eggs of Ostrich x2 -- I played this short 3-player game twice at the very end of 2016 and immediately ordered a copy. It's great for when you have exactly 3 players and 10 or 15 minutes. Dan Miller and his sons arrived, and I saw that there were 3 of us, so I suggested this while the group finished some other games and prepared to start the next round of games. It's already up to 10 plays because it does such a great job of filling its niche.

* 9  Bakschisch -- My next game was the one for which

"how much Eric likes it" / "how much BGG as a whole likes it"

is the highest: Bakschisch. This was my 39th play, and BGG has 123 recorded plays; I'm creeping back toward one-third of all the plays. (If you wonder how this can be when I play almost exclusively 4-plyer games, it's because often, as in this game, none of my opponents records plays on BGG.) Kate got out to a substantial lead in this game, but I scooped up more than 10 gold coins on one lucky thief play and benefited from a few fortunate bids for me and unfortunate bids for Kate, leaving us both on the Caliph's seat at the end of a round. I then won the tie-breaker.

6  Era of Voyage (航海の時代) NEW! -- Although I wanted to play Emperor's Choice ahead of time, I just said "yes" when Joe H. invited me to play this. It's a mini game about moving your ship between 8 cards. It's okay, maybe even impressive giving the small footprint. And it comes in a wooden box. But it's just not that much fun to play.

7  Sheep 'n' Sheep NEW! -- This was another of the games Joe brought that I wanted to play; it's another Hisashi Hayashi game, this time in the card drafting and placement genre. It works well, though I suspect I might like it better with fewer than 4 players. It's not something that is exciting, but it's fine as a short game.

* 9  Paris Paris -- The group looked at my list again, and I was delighted to find that there was consensus on Paris Paris, another of my favorite Michael Schacht designs. This time I (without trying to) jumped out to a lead of about 10 VP early on, making me the target. I got ejected from the critical central junctions and could only watch as Dan steamed past me for the win. Of the 1,107 ratings on BGG for this game, just 1% are 9's or 10's, but mine is in that 1%!

* 8  Hansa -- It was getting late, but we had time for yet another Michael Schacht game; this time it was the 3-player game about trading in (not the Mediterranean, but) the Baltic Sea. Of course, we're all too poor to buy our own ships, so we pool our money to buy one ship, which we take turns sailing. Andy got out to a nice lead in chips, but his board position (in terms of market stalls) eroded, and I was able to offset a shortfall in chips with an advantage in market stall VPs to take the win. This game requires balancing various considerations. I think 2 and 3 are the best player counts; 4 is a bit too many.

7  Arkwright NEW! -- I had mentioned to Geoff that I wanted to try this game, and he brought his copy on Sunday. My wife and I went off to church in the morning, but Andrew filled in for us as host while we were out, welcoming guests (thank you, Andrew!) When I returned, I played Eggs of Ostrich and Saint Petersburg followed by a 4-player game of the "Spinning Mule" scenario. I tried to push the market value of my stock up, but I never accumulated enough money to buy more shares until the very end. As a result, I came in last. I'd play this again, but I'd skip going out of my way to elevate my stock price (e.g., sell at higher prices and don't worry so much about the bump for having the highest appeal.)

10  Eurorails -- This was an unusual game. Claire started off with a run to Scandinavia, and I took Flowers and Chocolate to Manchester. I then had two Hops cards, to Frankfurt and Aarhus. By the time I was built to Aarhus, it wasn't that much further to Oslo, where I made a delivery and picked up Fish and Wood. So I had track from Oslo all the way down to Napoli (which is surprisingly straight if you look at it.) I never built to Iberia, and in fact it looked like it would be a game with two players in Oslo and none in Iberia! At the last minute, though, Claire built to Iberia.

* 9  Samarkand x2 -- By this time it was late enough that we started concentrating on short games. This is a wonderful Sid Sackson design that (despite what it says on BGG) was released in 1998. It seems someone mixed up Samarkand with Bazaar, a completely different design. In this game, none of us had things the way we wanted, so it went a bit longer than usual (which isn't long,) but I rolled the magic carpet die successfully to sneak in with the winning delivery as a few others were just moments away from winning. Later in the con we played again. I was dealt 3 diamonds in my opening hand and delivered carpets, camels, grain and diamonds to win remarkably quickly.

N/A  Unpublished Prototype x3 -- Sam LaFleche brought a short little cardgame prototype with him to the con, and we played twice on Sunday and once more on Monday. It's a 5- or 10-minute game that has some interesting ideas. I'm interested to see what Sam makes of it.

* 7  Fleeting Foxes -- As it gets later, the games often get sillier. This is a HABA children's game I bought after seeing Mikko write about it. I've only played it with adults, though (I think.)

7  Maus nach Haus -- After that, we had to play the other HABA game I own. I own the mouse-flicking version, not the hippo-flicking version (I suspect the latter is more exercise.) It took us quite some time to finish, despite the fact that we were spinning the hoop fine and seemed to be flicking well. There was quite a bit of defense in the game, and we had a delay while everyone helped me look for my seventh mouse (you only have six.) Finally Brian ended it with a deft flick.

7  NMBR 9 x2 NEW! -- On Monday morning we started out with a pair of plays of this. As you see from my rating, it's a reasonably enjoyable game in the same general family as Take it Easy!.

N/A  Unpublished Prototype -- We then moved to a fairly lengthy play of a prototype we've been testing.

* 8  Fabled Fruit x7 -- Michael suggested a run of plays of this "fable game", and I was happy to play, because up until this con, I had only played with a number of groups that played once or twice, leaving the "fable" aspect unexplored. This time we played five times in a row, followed by two more plays with a second group that started where the first group left off. This took us almost halfway through the deck. Oddly enough, in seven plays with 4 or 5 people, I finished in first place three times and in dead last four times. I never finished other than in first or last in any of the seven plays!

10  1846: The Race for the Midwest -- We had just a little more time left on Monday evening, so we decided to end with a filler. At least a filler as far as 18xx is concerned. As fourth player in priority order, I drafted MS to start and then took blanks the rest of the way. It's nice to know you can make it to Detroit no matter what corporation you start when you're last to pick a corporation. After SR 1, we had:

Chris: Mail, C&WI, 5 NYC @ $50, $10
Joe H: Meat, Tunnel, Big 4, 2 PA @ $90
Steve: MC, LSL, 4 IC @ $80
Eric: MS, 2 GT @ $80, 2 NYC @ $50

This illustrates one of the advantages of being last in Priority order: I came out of the draft with $260 in cash, which doesn't divide evenly no matter what stock price you choose. Because I could see what everyone else had done, I realized that I could buy two shares of NYC instead of one share of GT as long as I floated at $80. I thought NYC might outpay GT in OR 1.2, and I'd get an extra share as well! And that's how it turned out, with GT paying $14/share and NYC paying $16/share with the Mail Contract. Chris paid out in full during OR 1.2, 2.1 and 2.2, leaving him with a sold-out corporation that had little cash, so I sold the NYC shares at that point to buy shares of corporations that did have cash or shares in treasury. This proved to be successful.

8  1822: The Railways of Great Britain -- Michael and John both wanted to play this new-ish 18xx game. It's a game with a lot of things to consider (and a lot of bits,) so we wanted to set aside a morning and a good part of the afternoon for it. The problem was that John was available on Monday but not Tuesday, while Joe R was available on Tuesday but not Monday. The weather forecast shifted, implying that John could do his yard work on Wednesday instead of on Tuesday, so we were able to start off Independence Day with a game about Great Britain! Michael had never played; I had played most of one game; John had played the start of the game several times; Joe had played several games. The opening set of items didn't look too attractive to me: the minors were #24, #23, #22, and #8 (yes, we did shuffle,) the privates were undistinguished, and the majors included LNWR, GWR, NBR, and one other. I bid John up on the #23/GWR combo but wound up dropping out of the bidding, taking only two privates that paid $10/OR each for lowish prices. Early on, Joe floated Minor #2, thinking it could run Glasgow. This is not the case, and by the time he discovered his error, we were too far along to retract anything. In SR 2, I put a $100 bid on minor #10, and Joe R said "that's optimistic". But there was quite a bit of bidding on other things, and in the end I got it for $100, which was (I think) a steal. Over time I picked up the London & Brighton major, a 2P-train, the L&Y major, minors #7 and #16, and the other 2P-train (too late to help a corporation pay in its first OR, but a nice thing to have nonetheless.) The final scores, rounded to thousands, were Eric $11K, everyone else $8K. This is a game in which it's hard to keep your attention on all the things you want to keep it on, and I think I was benefited by that several times. In total, our game (including one complete newbie to the game) took 340 minutes.

7  Stichling NEW! -- This was another Joe Huber special. It's a trick-taking game with a twist (as one of the players, Lisa, commented, all German trick-taking games have twists.) I think I enjoyed it more than Joe did, and at the end he gifted his copy of the game to Lisa, on the basis that he didn't like it enough to own a copy, even though he'd be willing to play other people's copies.

* 8  The Settlers of Zarahemla -- My list included Settlers, which is one of my 10-rated games. There are quite a few Settlers fans at this con, though often they want to play the variants, while I prefer something as close to the base game as possible. (I know that Starfarers of Catan and Catan: Cities & Knights were played at this con, with my wife winning the latter, and there may have been others as well.) On Wednesday morning Anne invited Michael and me to play, but said she didn't want to play the base game. I suggested this version, which I had bought and played 10 years ago. It adds a few things to the base game: there's a temple for which you may buy building stone (1 brick and 1 ore) with a "Greatest Temple Builder" award analogous to the "Longest Road" in the base game; there are two extra development cards; and you play to 12 VP. It was one of the oddest Settlers games I've seen (though not the oddest; that would be this one: Development cards drive the action as Nelson comes from nowhere to win!) Anne had huge production on '5's, and boy did we roll a lot of '5's. But after Michael and I had filled her hand with cards, I or Anne would roll a '7' and have to give half of them away. She had that happen at least 4 times during the game, and perhaps more than that. I, in contrast, didn't ever give up half my hand, and it wasn't because I never had more than 7 cards. Michael and Anne got into a temple-stone building contest which Anne put away by building 3 of them to take a 4-stone lead. She then drew a development card that let her build two free temple stones (one of the new ones,) which was pretty much useless to her. While they dueled over temple stones, I built my production, and eventually this allowed me to come from behind to win. I rate the game only an 8, which is lower than my rating for the base game, because I think that the temple stone mechanism detracts from the game play (as nice as it may be for the theme.) (...at least they can't call this one "Catan"...)

* 8  Bohnanza -- We now had 5 people looking for a game, but we didn't want to start anything too long, since more would be arriving at any moment. I went back to my list and suggested Bohnanza. I know that designer Uwe Rosenberg is now best known for much more complicated games, but this game, with its stunning and innovative simplicity, is my favorite Rosenberg design. The "don't arrange your hand" mechanism is cool, but the absolute need to trade in order to maximize your chances (and avoid harvesting your beans before their time) is what I find most amazing. You need to trade in Settlers, but you really need to trade in Bohnanza. (Maybe that's why Settlers is game #13, but Bohnanza is game #11!) I traded like mad. My first two harvests were both for 4 coins, and I kept up the pattern of harvesting for large numbers of coins. This gave me the win by a wide margin. Marsha, who had played the game early in her gaming experience, said she enjoyed it much more this time, because this time she could see what the game was doing.

* 9  The Princes of Florence -- We now moved on to a true Euro classic, and another favorite of mine. Everyone in the group knew the game, although there were various levels of experience. I'm supposed to be an expert at this game, but I don't think I've won in quite some time, so my reputation is probably overblown. In this game, Marsha took a Prestige card in Round 1 and another later, and the 15 PP she earned from them put her slightly ahead of Anne for the win. Marsha scored about 63 PP, an impressive number, and the three of us at the back were clustered around 50 PP.

* 8  Notre Dame -- This is my favorite game by Stefan Feld (yes; I am a curmudgeon) but I don't usually get to play it except at cons. In this game we had few rats in some turns and tons of rats in others -- and the Rat Catcher never seemed to show up when he was needed. I put 4 cubes in the Park fairly early and then hammered the VPs, and although I did lose one or two times to the rats, I won fairly comfortably.

7  Hare & Tortoise -- Tom also had a list of games he wanted to play, and he suggested this game from his list. As you see by my rating, I rarely suggest this, but I'm happy to play it. I don't think I've ever won (or don't remember doing so,) which might seem odd for a math-y game, but I don't really grok what you need to do in order to win. Tom won, and I came in 2nd, which is about as much as I can expect. (It's funny to think that a game with this much arithmetic won SdJ back when it started!)

9  Wyatt Earp -- Wednesday was a day of short games for me -- I eventually played 8 games without playing any really short games -- and this pattern continued with Wyatt Earp, a rummy-type game and my favorite published game in the Mystery Rummy series. I was way, way, behind after two hands and made a comeback, but Michael was not to be stopped. He finished with about $29K.

9  Ticket to Ride: USA 1910 -- Roger, who had been over earlier in the week, returned for Wednesday evening. I hadn't played with him earlier, but he's a train game fan and we arranged a game using the 1910 expansion. I drew a fistful of short little tickets going north-south in the Midwest at the start; this isn't what you want to see. My southern cities were Atlanta, New Orleans and El Paso, so you'd think I'd build NO-Houston on my first turn, but I had no pair. Roger, on the other hand, had some long east-west tickets and built that NO-Houston link on his first turn. He went on to win handily (he's a very good Ticket to Ride player.)

10  Empire Builder -- For our last game of the evening, Claire and Steve and Roger and I played Empire Builder. This was, for me, the worst crayon rails showing I can remember. For the entire game, I never once drew a card that I was happy to see. I ended with a score of $41. Roger won, but Claire and Steve were at least most of the way to $250 when Roger ended it!

8  R-Eco -- On Thursday we had the best story of the entire con. Claire had invited her friend V over for the con. Claire knows V from helping out at a local school. V said she could only come on Thursday, and she showed up soon after we finished the second game of Samarkand that I mentioned above. We asked V what games she had played, and she said she'd played some traditional American games, and had also played Ticket to Ride and Settlers. So what should we play with her? I decided to start with R-Eco, which is short and has a clear theme, figuring that we could judge by that (and we'd be able to adjust as more people arrived if we played a short game.) When we finished, she said she enjoyed it a lot, and even took a picture of it with her phone to send to her 13-year-old son. Oh, and Tom was Honorary Garbage Collector, but Marsha won despite some illegal dumping.

8  Mamma Mia! -- We were still only one table, so we moved on to a second short game (and my second-favorite Rosenberg design.) This time I really cleaned up. I completed six recipes in the first two times through the deck and almost got all 8 on the table, but I kept the wrong cards and "only" made it to 7.

9  Can't Stop -- Claire had been puttering around the house, but she joined us for one more short game with V. I was willing to take more risk than my opponents, and my risks paid off (for the most part; I only busted once.)

After this game, enough people arrived that we could split into two games. Several people invited V to play Scythe with them, and off she went. I saw a look of surprise on her face as they taught the rules, and I wondered how it would go.

8  Crude: The Oil Game -- The other four of us played Crude: The Oil Game. We were going along well when we ran into a long string of non-doubles. This prolongs the game, and eventually Marsha had to leave before we were finished. One or two doubles would have ended it in a hurry, but we just didn't roll them. We scored based on where we were, and Claire won. This is a game that may not work well if you play just once or twice, since there can be odd luck, but if you play dozens of times, as I have, the odd games are a benefit.

* 8  Aton -- My son-in-law Jeremiah arrived, and there were only two of us, so I taught him this 2-player game. He crushed me in just a few turns, scoring 40 while I had no more than 15. He took the discard piles and observed that he had much better cards than I had (and I never used my mulligan marker!)

8  Deep Sea Adventure -- Tom joined Jeremiah and me for a game of this press your luck game. It sure wasn't Tom's game; once he had picked up treasure, he seemed to roll a lot of snake eyes. I was too cautious, surviving all three dives, but not gaining as much loot as Jeremiah, who pushed a little harder.

* 10  Outpost -- There are some games that Marsha was able to play regularly when she was living in New England that she hasn't found opponents for in Maryland. Saint Petersburg is one, and Outpost is another. She got a game earlier in the week, so I still needed one. As four of us were perusing my list, Jeremiah suggested Outpost. Near the end, we had an unusual situation. We were playing with the kickers, and there were only 3 upgrades available: two Moon Bases that gives 20 VPs, and the Biosphere, a Kicker that costs $250 and gives 25 VPs and 5 population limit. Jeremiah, Kate, and I each could afford one of them, and Brian didn't have $200, so was out of the running. I had the most wealth, so I could get whichever I wanted, but Kate was 5 VP ahead of me in VPs. If I bought the Biosphere, I'd make up that 5 VP, but she'd get the Moon base cheap and then build more small stuff than me. On the other hand, if I bought the Moon Base, squeezing Kate out, Jeremiah would out-point me. My plan was to bid Kate up on the Moon Base enough to reduce the amount of small stuff she could buy, then drop out and buy the Biosphere. Unfortunately, Kate calculated that she could let me have the Moon Base and buy 20 to 25 VPs of small stuff, so she let me have the Moon Base. She was wrong and finished way off (she forgot the $5 cost of population, even with EcoPlants. Jeremiah beat me, 85 to 84! What a finish!

During the Outpost game, the Scythe game finished. We looked over and heard that V had not only enjoyed the game, but won it! As she explained it, during the teach she was wondering what she had gotten herself into, but when the game started, she focused on what her faction needed to do in order to win, and she succeeded! The table went on to teach her and play Puerto Rico.

10  Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization NEW! -- The original Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization was one of my favorite games, so I really wanted to try the new version. Chris brought a copy to the con, and on Thursday evening, he, Jeremiah and I played a game. This is not a different game than the original; it simply streamlines and balances the game a little. So, although it shows up as a "NEW" play, I don't consider it one. In our game, I got Michaelangelo and St. Peter's, and was building a nice VP advantage, but I simply couldn't draw the cards I needed to strengthen my military, and I wasn't getting any of the military cards that protected against aggressions. My lower civil action count wasn't helping any. So both Chris and Jeremiah hit me with a number of them, capped by Chris hitting me with a war over VPs. I could have built some military, but I decided it would only be VPs, whereas I needed to build infrastructure. So I took a 24 VP loss in the war (a 48 VP swing between Chris and me,) but recovered my infrastructure. I started to climb back, but at the end it was 191-172-158, with Chris winning and me in 2nd. I'm going to buy the new edition as soon as I have an order to submit to my favorite on-line retailer.

8  Trambahn x2 -- The Through the Ages game ran a bit long, and I didn't get to bed until after midnight (I can't remember the last time I stayed up past midnight!) As it turns out, our house guests left Friday morning and none of the locals showed up during the day on Friday (a number of them had plans to come, but for various reasons, none of them made it.) The first arrival was Dan, who came just after dinner. I suggested this 2-player game, which is reminiscent of Lost Cities. We played two games of it, with Dan winning the first and me the second.

7  Basari -- I had been thinking that it would be good to get another play of Basari in. It's game #14 in the BGG database, and it's a fine haggling game. Dan's son Ian joined me, as well as Sam. I especially thought Sam would like it. In the game, Dan and I had a knack for picking the same action as someone else, so we got plenty of haggling, but Sam and Ian got more free actions. Sam won, and Ian was second. And I was right; Sam did like the game. The one disappointment was that the Out of the Box Publishing edition, which I bought in 2003 but didn't break the shrink on until this con, was missing one score marker and had a defective version of another one. The game's playable, but you hate to see errors in a brand-new game.

7  Concordia -- For our last game of the evening, we decided to play this game. Someone had left a copy at our house, and in fact it's still here at our house, but we don't know who brought it. Having played Century: Spice Road not long ago, I wanted to try this again, since that's what it reminded me of. We played with 5, so it went a little long, but it worked fine. I had a number of plans and didn't manage to focus on any of them, so it didn't work out that well. As before, this isn't quite enjoyable enough for me to buy my own copy, but I don't mind playing someone else's copy (and for the time being, I have someone else's copy!)

* 8  Pueblo -- The first person to arrive on Saturday was Sam. I suggested this 2-player spatial game. Experience matters, not because it helps with the tactics, but because it helps you prioritize based on longer-term considerations. Bronwen said she'd like to try it some time; she likes spatial games like this, and the pieces are certainly very nice as well.

* 10  Medici -- I had played the card game earlier in the week and didn't care that much for it, and I was hoping to get in a play of the real thing. People started arriving quickly, and before we knew it, we had 6 for Medici. It was odd; people were very accommodating to each other in the first voyage, and we didn't burn any cards. I was ahead on the scoreboard, but I did take the "10" card, and others were doing much better on the commodity tracks, especially Bronwen, who had 4 green cards. On the second voyage, we threw away some cards, and I was again out ahead on the score track, but I had taken the "10" again and was more or less doomed. Two or three people were already on the +20 space in one commodity track after just two voyages! The third voyage was a blood bath. About 9 cards were thrown away, and when Bronwen got the last two cards for a bid of about 7, it was all over. She won by about a dozen VPs. I came in fifth as I faded badly despite filling my boat relatively cheaply. I still love this game!

10  1846: The Race for the Midwest -- Chris, who plays an 18xx game every six months or so, wanted to see what would happen if he played the same game twice in a week. He had played 1846: The Race for the Midwest (without me) on Sunday, and we organized a 3-player game, with Chris, Sam, and me. After the 3rd stock round, it looked like Sam might come in last. He had the share count lead, but his companies weren't doing as well as Chris's and mine on the stock price track or in revenue. He floated two new companies (one in SR 3 and one in SR 4) and tokened and built track like a maniac, and managed to cut down our revenue enough to score a narrow win. There was only about $500 between first and last, but Sam was the winner.

* 10  El Grande -- Roger came back, and we played a 5-player game of this favorite. My three favorite games were played at the con, though I didn't get into the game of Taj Mahal, unfortunately. Roger jumped out to a huge lead, taking advantage of scoring cards, but had a bit of a weaker board presence. John placed the 8-4-0 mobile scoreboard on the Castillo, which is always the start of a brawl. And in fact, John did get the 8 VP twice (the mobile scoreboard was moved before the last scoring) but this didn't win him the game. My grande was in New Castile, something I hate (I always prefer to be tucked away in a corner.) But Sam, whose grande was in Basque Country, clawed his way back and just passed Roger at the end to win. It was a high-scoring game for a 5-player game; Sam and Roger were both over 110 VP and I passed 100 myself.

* 8  Bucket Brigade -- This is another game that I don't seem to have a clue about winning, but I enjoy it very much. It was a 2-tier ranking, with Dan and John doing well while Roger and I did poorly. John was well out in front when Dan scored 33 on the final hand; we wondered who would win, but John's lead was big enough to hold Dan off. Roger and I were about 20 VP behind them.

* 9  Ticket to Ride: Team Asia -- For the final game of the con we played this unique Ticket to Ride variant. Roger is a big fan of Ticket to Ride, and had played the Legendary Asia version, but hadn't played Team Asia. Legendary Asia is just another variant, though an enjoyable one, but Team Asia is really different. It's one of those games where the rules really work well. I was sitting across the table from Roger, and I could see him grinning as he realized various things about the play. Roger and John had some big tickets and completed all but one, scoring big routes in doing so (including the 7-length route that is worth 18 VP.) Dan and I scored more tickets, but we placed fewer trains on shorter routes, and our ticket score was well under our opponents', so we fell short by nearly 40 VP. This game is one in which you never know how you're really doing until it's over and you count up the tickets. (This is true of any Ticket to Ride game, but it's especially true of this one.)

I played 61 games during the con, and had a great time. You can see by my ratings that I played a lot of my favorite games. We were glad to see everyone who came, and we missed everyone who wasn't able to make it this year.
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5. Board Game: Bärenpark [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:323]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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 7   Mystic Vale

Played with all the expansions. I enjoy it but look forward to seeing the card building system used as part of a larger concept of a game. I am curious about the AEG trick taker coming out this fall using the same card building concept.

 7   Mansions of Madness: Second Edition

So the 4-5 hour epic scenario was a huge let down. We won easily and there wasn't much to it. Or maybe we were too good. Either way, not worth it.

 8   Gloomhaven

Next game should be interesting as two more guys retired, including our healer. Could be tricky next scenario.

 7   Zooscape

I like this played quickly and loosely. Some people did not care for it so much. I really do like the art on this new edition.

 8   Sluff Off!

This was well received although I prefer the name Die Steven Seagul!

 5   Sheepland NEW!

Quick playing stock market game disguised in sheep farming and territory purchases. Meh.

 6   Scharfe Schoten

I enjoy it but haven't really wrapped my brain around how it works very well yet. There is much to consider in figuring out which color you will take the least of and it isn't always obvious at first look.

 7   Qwixx: Big Points x2

Had to play a second game after one player didn't quite understand my explanation of how the game plays with the extra middle rows...

 N/A   Lords of Scotland NEW!

I totally missed a rule despite reading through the rules about 5 times since it was obvious we were missing something making the game quite random and chaotic. I'd give it a second chance and hence have not rated it.

 5   Fairy Land NEW!

Odd game where everyone has the same set of value cards used to bid on cards and such. Once used, they cannot be used again unless you take a turn to pick up all used cards and then they can be used only once more.

 7   Edel, Stein & Reich

One person ran out of gems early in the third round and didn't have the best experience. One person was doing poorly but dominated the final round to win easily.

 8   Bärenpark x2 NEW!

I enjoy this puzzler. Good stuff!

 5   Outlive NEW!

This is so close to being good. However, I'm not convinced there is much more than one path to victory with two major VP gainers being tied together (points for each survivor and set points for rooms built and filled with survivors). It soured my experience a bit.

 N/A   Dice Forge NEW!

Its quite light but I really had fun with the game. Will likely pick it up and hope for a few more expansions to diversify the game experience more. I must say that the die faces can fly quite a distance as you try to pry them off...blush

 6   Sagrada

Taught this to three people. One person was heavily AP and slowed the game down too much.

 6   Odin's Ravens

Played just a round of the original. Apparently, the new edition is quite different?

 N/A   Matryoshka NEW!

Odd card game where you had to pay close attention to the dolls instead of card color to tell the suits apart. It was interesting to decide what cards to display and give information to others and which to hold back in the hand at the end of each round.

 7   Jambo\

My opponent never got an extra field and spun her wheels.

 7   FITS

Oddly, I think this might be my favorite Knizia. I just enjoy this one every time I play!

 6   Cities\

An older bingo mechanic puzzle game. We played the full advanced game.

 7   Bruges

Five player with the expansion. So much fun! Due to boats and characters in play, houses were burned and money was stolen quite a bit. One person finished the game with no characters and no houses and still came in second.

 6   Word Domination NEW!

This is certainly an interesting take on a word game where one is trying to claim large groups with their tokens based on spelling 6 words throughout the game.

 N/A   National Economy NEW!

Not my cup of tea but it was interesting trying to stay ahead of the curve and make money. One basically is constructing buildings and then selling them back to the common display for more currency. It felt like treading water but I ended up with more than I started.

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6. Board Game: Caverna: Cave vs Cave [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:584]
Jason
United States
Irvine
California
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10.  Star Wars: Destiny x14
7.0  Caverna: Cave vs Cave NEW!
6.0  Dice Forge NEW!
5.0  Outlive NEW!

Started playing some of the new spoiled cards from Star Wars: Destiny. Also had a friend over and played 4 games in person, which was really fun.

Had a chance to play the new 2p Caverna game with my wife, and I really liked it. I think its a better experience out of the box than Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small, and offers more variety / replayability. I do hope they create an expansion at some point that adds additional tiles, but for now am going to be happy to get some additional plays in of the base game.

Dice Forge has a new unique system where you build your dice as the game goes along. Probably has a little bit too much downtime in a 4p game, but does offer some interesting engine building choices.

Outlive looks like it is hyped from the kickstarter, because I do not think the game is as good as what others have said. There are some interesting mechanisms in the game for sure, and the theme / art are very neat, but the end game scoring seems like it is focused on getting survivors and rooms. If you don't max those out, you won't have a chance in the game, which doesn't seem like it will hold up over multiple plays. Was pretty disappointed as I was VERY excited to get to try this one.

Acquisitions:
Urban Operations
Caverna: Cave vs Cave
Dice Forge
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases (New Printing)
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7. Board Game: Near and Far [Average Rating:7.97 Overall Rank:121] [Average Rating:7.97 Unranked]
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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2 x _8_Hero Realms
1 x _8_A Feast for Odin
2 x _7_Near and Far
1 x _7_Twenty One (new!)

A quiet week. Twenty One turned out to be a decent filler; perhaps not up to the quality of Qwixx and Qwinto, but certainly worth exploring a bit more.

Near and Far on the other hand... not a winner. We've now played two games in our Character Mode campaign. It ends when all characters have finished their quest line, except for the last two quests, and then the final map is played.

Well, the thing is - my son has been eager to collect the quests, and has already finished his quest line. I'm couple of quests in, and don't really want to explore the quests. However, I have to, because otherwise the campaign will be forever stuck. Meanwhile my son can't do the questing he so enjoys, because he's run out of quests.

That's just really, really clumsy, and not the only silly thing about the game. Paul from Shut Up & Sit Down reviewed the game, and wasn't a fan, and I agree with some of the things he says.

I think the game has a serious clash of intents. It wants to be a story-telling game, but mechanically it's just not, it's an intense race, and you don't really want to be spending time on the quest stuff, when you can just go on plopping down the tents as fast as you can.

My rating of 7 is probably too much, and I'm pretty sure this'll leave the collection fairly soon, unless my son protests a lot. Above and Below may remain; imperfect as it is, it's still the better game mechanically.

A Feast for Odin, on the other hand, is still great. My son did a great job emigrating all his vikings, scoring a whopping 136 positive points. Too bad having emigrated all his vikings meant he didn't really have time to develop his estate, and he ended up with ~80 negative points.
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8. Board Game: Nemo's War (second edition) [Average Rating:8.13 Overall Rank:441]
Jeroen Doumen
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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4x _7.50_ The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
3x _5.50_ We Didn't Playtest This: Legacies
2x _5.25_ Gerüchteküche
2x _5.00_ Watten
1x _7.75_ Bohnanza: 20 Jahre
1x _6.50_ Nemo's War (second edition)
1x _6.25_ Bärenpark
1x _6.00_ BABEL
1x _6.00_ Final Deathweek
1x _6.00_ Gloomhaven
1x _6.00_ Xia: Legends of a Drift System
1x _5.25_ Parts Unknown
1x _4.00_ Overthrone

Plenty of gaming this week .

Nemo's War (second edition) had arrived, and I was eager to give it a spin. Quite interesting; I stayed with the recommended explorer role, and was going around ok. Turned out I only had enough VP for a defeat in the end... But quite enjoyed it .

I got a translation for BABEL, so we gave it a spin. An interesting take on the build-towers-with-cards genre, as it introduces hidden traitor(s) (or not). Good fun!

WE also got Final Deathweek played. a cooperative game, with cards played (partially) in Hanabi-style. Then people have to pick the offering in the middle, and either lose the game collectively if you pick the really wrong one, or pick up penalty points (and lose if someone has 5 or more). Quite interesting, I should get it out more.

Another KS arrival was Xia. As it's a bit longer, we played it this weekend. It's good fun, though it's hard to see if really specializing would help you much or whether it's better to just pick up any points that come along . But building and planning your ship(s) works nicely.

We also grabbed some older games: Parts Unknown was still decent fun, though it overstayed its welcome a bit. Vive le Roi on the other hand was quite the disappointment .
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9. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:43]
Garry Rice
United States
Perkasie
Pennsylvania
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6.5  Word Domination

Cute little filler of a word game...Played it with Caleb and he wound up pipping me by a point, albeit with a lot of free help from me

7.0  Race for the Galaxy

8.0  Steampunk Rally

Caleb and I wound up tieing for the win as we ended up on the same tile AND had the same size machine...this was only due to my smooth movement I was able to use to great effect at the end...I thought Caleb had it in the bag.

7.0  7 Wonders x5

Made it into the beta test group and have been enjoying this versus the AI...I'm sufficiently bad at this game that I've only won it once or twice in my 10-12 plays It plays quite quickly on the iPad...I would like to see some changes to the UI and how things are done, but the game is implemented pretty well...also includes the Leaders and the Cities expansions, which are two of my preferred expansions that I've played.
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10. Board Game: 1889: History of Shikoku Railways [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:1153]
United States
Seattle
Washington
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Not much played last week. My beloved kitty, Leonardo DiCatrio, took ill from a brain tumor, which made his quality of life poor and so I put him to sleep last Monday. Leo was formally a semi-feral cat, but he became my lap companion. He was the smartest and most loving cat I've ever had.

1889,3 players, Wednesday group. A player "dumped" a company with three 2Ts and a 3T, but there were still two 3Ts available which the same player dodged. We could have called it there.

Wind the Film! x3 I'm thinking that starting hands dictate the course of play too much. It's just a bit too random. My husband and I enjoyed playing this on the train from Portland to Seattle and I do recommend it for traveling.

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11. Board Game: Codenames Duet [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:111] [Average Rating:7.79 Unranked]
Doug Faust
United States
Malverne
New York
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Last week, I was at Dice Tower Con in Florida. Unfortunately, I'm really time-limited this week, so I'll just post my thoughts on the new games I played.

_6_ Lotus is a simple card-based area-majority game. Players have a hand of petal cards and each turn they can add those petals to one or more corresponding flowers. Petal cards have 0, 1, or 2 control markers, and each flower has a certain number of petals needed before it is complete. When a flower is completed, the completing players gets a 5-point bonus, and the player with the most control tokens gets the cards in the flower (each of which is worth a point). The real gimmick of the game, though, is that the petal cards are designed to be arranged to form pictures of actual flowers, which is quite striking visually. However, the gameplay itself is very straightforward and I found it to be pretty bland.


_7_ Whistle Stop is a tile-laying pick-up-and-deliver game where players each control a number of train tokens, trying to get from the East to the West, picking up resource cubes, gold, and stock certificates along the way. The tiles are hexagonal and most have a random arrangement of track configurations that could send you in any direction, along with some spots to pick up resources. Others have large depots where you can trade goods for stock, or pick up a few other items. The main resource in the game is coal, but this only lets you move forward--if you need to move back, you need to use a special whistle resource. Along the west side of the board are a bunch of spots where you can trade in resources for big points or trade in excess stock for points. For each stock type, the majority owner gets 15 points and everyone else gets nothing. I hadn't seen a Metro-like tile-laying system with a pick-up-and-deliver mechanism attached to it, so that was a bit refreshing. However, nothing about the game really stood out, and the conceit of needing to use whistles to go backwards seemed a little overblown to me.


_6_ Sword & Sorcery is a campaign-based dungeon crawler that uses an AI system to spawn and control the enemies. Over the course of a single scenario, player characters can gain experience and level up, increasing their stats and abilities. The game also features a fair bit of player death, which delevels a player and turns them into a ghost with very limited abilities. However, they can respawn, using valuable experience points. I didn't really have a good experience with this game, just because the game had tons of little niggly rules that were difficult to look up on the fly. It's possible with someone who knew the game well, I'd have a better experience, but this seems to be a really tough one to learn.


_7_ Wettlauf nach El Dorado is a light deck-building race game. Players are trying to move their pawn across a modular hex board with various terrain types and get to the end space before other players. To enter any hex, players must play one or more cards with the matching symbols. One of the symbols, coins, not only corresponds to a terrain but also lets you buy more cards to put in your deck (all other cards count as half a coin). In this way, players can acquire cards with more terrain symbols or a variety of symbols--though some of these advanced cards are trashed after use. There are also a few cards that provide special abilities. This game was very easy to learn and played very smoothly. While its light weight limits my interest, this seems like a perfect game to introduce to new gamers.


_7_ Kanagawa is a card-drafting game about creating Japanese paintings. Cards to be drafted are arranged in lots on a mat; players can jump the turn order by picking early to get only one or two cards, or they can wait to get the full complement of three cards. Cards can be played either on the studio side, which gives the player a better ability to create art by giving them paint colors or other bonuses, or on the painting side, but only if the player has the matching paints with ink pots. There are a variety of bonus tiles that can be claimed by the first player to have certain types of paintings which provide the main points in the game. This game isn't the most intuitive to learn and play, but I think it works well as a simple drafting game. Also, the art is fantastic.


_6_ Kingdomino is a super-light tile-drafting game. Each turn, players will draft two 2x1 "domino" tiles, each side of which depicts a terrain type and optionally a house. Players arrange the drafted tiles onto their 5x5 area, and at the end of the game, each region of similar tiles will score points equal to the size of the region multipled by the number of houses in that region. There's really no costing of the tiles except for future turn order. This game is way too light for me--I kept wanted to auction the tiles at the very least.


_7_ Santorini is a two-player abstract game in which players are trying to build tower levels on a grid, and move their one of their two pawns to the top level of the tower before it gets capped by the other player. Tower levels can only be played adjacent to a pawn, and pawns can only move up or down one level at a time. Like all good two-player abstracts, this one is really about trying to control your opponent's moves while simultanously advancing toward victory. I'd say the game is overproduced, especially with the giant raised plastic gameboard that serves no purpose, but at no point did the production hinder gameplay. The game also includes a number of variants that I didn't try. I think this one succeeds as a two-player abstract, but my appetite for such games is not large.


_7_ Codenames Duet is a two-player cooperative version of the word game Codenames. Word cards are laid out in a grid just like in Codenames. However, the key card is double-sided, and each player has a number of cards they need their partner to guess as well as three assassin cards that end the game. These may or may not be different for each player, so I may be trying to guess a card marked as an assassin on my side for my partner's clue. The goal is to guess the combined 11 clue cards before a set number of turns and without hitting an assassin. I didn't know how they'd manage to make Codenames work with two, but I think they really succeeded. Additionally, the boredom I felt with being exclusively a guesser was eliminated, as both players are clue-givers.


_6_ Yamataï was billed as the follow-up to Five Tribes, and while the components and mechanisms are mostly different, it does maintain the same feel. Players are adding boats of different colors around islands on the map; once played, these boats don't belong to a specific player. These boats can either be used to claim culture tokens on the islands or used to meet criteria to create a building card from the display. The culture tokens can be turned in to claim god tiles that grant points and special powers. Like in Five Tribes, you have to be incredibly careful not to set up the next player for a really strong move; this was amplified by the fact that clearing culture tokens seems less good but enable the higher-point buildings to be placed. I was pretty lukewarm on Five Tribes because of the player order binding and the analysis paralysis potential, and I feel pretty similarly about this.


_7_ Photosynthesis is a game where players try to grow their trees in the forest in a way that maximizes the sunlight they receive. The sun rotates around the game's hex board, and trees in line of sight of the sun (that is, that aren't blocked by other trees of the same or greater stature) gain income according to their height. This income is used to activate trees from their player board, and then use those activated trees to grow the trees on the board. When a tree reaches its maximum height, income can be expended to remove the tree entirely for big points depending on how close to the center of the board it is--this is where most of the points come from. I thought this game was very clever, and you had to think very tactically to maximize your income. However, I wasn't a huge fan of the end-game--if you're not set up correctly, everything you do for the last few turns may not be worth any points.


_7_ Ethnos is a set-collection area-majority game set in a fantasy universe. Each game will use six of the 12 possible races; cards from those races are shuffled into a large deck. Players must then collect and play cards either all of the same race or all of the same color to place a token in a region--the number of cards in the set must exceed the number of tokens you already have in that region. The card on top of the played set determines the color of the region you place in, and its race determines the special ability you get when you play the set. At the end of each of the three rounds, players score majorities for regions, as well as triangular points for the size of their sets. This game was very easy to learn and play. However, as a card game it had a significant random factor, and lacked some of the strategic depth I would like.


Also played:

Century: Spice Road
Terraforming Mars
Roll for the Galaxy
Steam Time
Lewis & Clark
The Castles of Burgundy
La Granja
Near and Far
Lorenzo il Magnifico
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