GCL 336 - Mid Year Reflection on Gaming
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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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 :-) )

Current hosting rotation:

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

Reflections on your year of gaming thus far...

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1. Board Game: Ranking [Average Rating:5.53 Overall Rank:12422]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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What are your top three new to you games that you've played thus far this year? Do they replace any games for you in your collection?


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2. Board Game: ESSEN [Average Rating:6.12 Overall Rank:10586]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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Wonder when someone will put out a metagame about GenCon! What are three games still expected to be published in 2017 that you are anticipating playing?
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3. Board Game: The Game of Top Ten Lists [Average Rating:6.75 Unranked]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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Are you participating in any challenges this year on the Geek where you are attempting to complete a certain number of plays of games, etc? If so, how are your resolutions coming along?
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4. Board Game: The Play's the Thing [Average Rating:4.62 Unranked]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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Which games have you nickeled and dimed already?
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5. Board Game: Surprise! [Average Rating:5.71 Unranked]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
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Which game, if any, has come out of nowhere and surprised you this year in how much you enjoyed it? Why?
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6. Board Game: That's Life! [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:1498]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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What are a couple significant events in your life in 2017 thus far? Any other anticipated events/changes/etc?
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7. Board Game: Lisboa [Average Rating:8.24 Overall Rank:131]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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 8   Bargain Hunter

I was not having any luck in this three player game. I could rarely trump as the color led was almost always in my hand or what I played got trumped. Still had fun though!

 8   Gloomhaven

Won easily; we may well bump our difficulty level next time. All of us have been playing our characters for a while now and know how to work together as a team. The bard is really a strong team oriented character. I moved closer to retirement.

 8   Sol: Last Days of a Star

Picked up a copy of this one post-KS from the producer as there was uncertainty about retail availability and I really like the game. The plastic pieces are really quite nicely done and I like the color choices. The cards are a bit flimsy, but sleeves take care of that issue. Two newbies and it was a low scoring game and should have been lower scoring but we missed one red card at some point so we went through the whole deck which allowed me to win. I was the only player to hurl sundivers into the sun. One person learned the hard way that spending all game developing an engine and running out of time to run it is not a good idea... You need to make use of opponent's gates and stations.

 7   Orléans: Deluxe Edition

We played the co-op variant and won one round early in a three player game. Sure does take up a ton of table space!

 7   Roll Player

Won this dice puzzle as a rogue elf. Always fun to see and try different card combos.

 7   The Grizzled

We won with a few cards left to go.

 6   Darjeeling

Still fun but still one I don't need to own. I went out to an early lead and managed to hang on for the win after getting hounded around a city by my two opponents.

 6   Igloo Pop

This is so much better than Arabian Pots. I enjoy this from time to time as something quite different. Trying to figure out how many BBs are inside the igloo in a real time environment is quite fun. This was a very close game with everyone clumped within one point.

 3   The Arabian Pots NEW!

I need never play this again. This might work two player but Igloo Pop is the better game that shares a similar concept.

 N/A   Lisboa NEW!

Learning game was quite fun. I don't think I quite realized how few actions you really get in this game until I played. Following using favors can be huge - it was too late but a number of us stopped playing nobles to go to court to avoid allowing the eventual winner from following. We did not use the KS extras. I am not impressed with the insert of this one - expected more.

ACQUISITIONS:

The 7th Continent and expansions (From KS)
Sol: Last Days of a Star
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8. Board Game: Runebound (Third Edition) [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:417]
Jason
United States
Irvine
California
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_9_ Runebound (Third Edition) x2 (with new Unbreakable Bonds Expansion)

This is the best adventuring game out there, and with the latest expansion, it adds co-op scenarios to the game (which makes it even better). I enjoyed this game previously, but some of the semi-coop parts of it felt a bit odd, but now the game feels like it should have in the first place, with all the heroes fighting a big baddy together.

Acquisitions:
N/A

On Tap:
Spirit Island
The Lost Expedition
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9. Board Game: 18Ruhr [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:6812]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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It sure is inconvenient having the formatter tool broken; it's a lot more work doing these lists by hand!

_8_ Ticket to Ride -- Claire and I played a game with a just-married couple who were staying at our house. The husband (whom we knew since he was a young boy) knew the game, but the wife had only played once and was still not certain about the rules. It was very tense at the end, as several of us were trying to collect the cards we needed to finish a big ticket (we didn't know this about each other, but it turned out to be the case.) I was fortunate enough to get my final yellow first, and this gave me the win. That one link, New Orleans to Atlanta, was worth 41 points to me.

_7_ The Waltzing Cat NEW! -- Joe Huber hosted a game day yesterday, and I arrived first, so Joe taught me this nicely streamlined deduction game with wooden blocks.

_8_ 6 nimmt! -- There are three games that I think of as being a set: 6 nimmt!, For Sale, and No Thanks!. I had already nickeled the last two, but I hadn't played 6 nimmt! even once yet this year. People were arriving for the game day, so I suggested this, as it's easy to add another person at the last minute if they arrive. So we wound up playing a 7-player game. Michael proved to be the most bullet proof.

_8_ 18Ruhr -- This was already on my "want to play soon" list when John Delaney specifically requested mid-last-week that we try it on Saturday if we could assemble a quorum. It seems he had played it a week or two ago, and the game didn't go well as some of the players felt they hadn't been taught the rules correctly. Michael agreed to join us for a 3-player game. I tried a new approach this time. I took three cheap pMCs, and managed to merge two of them into MONTANs (coal or steel major corporations) of which other players were the directors. You get the same share of a MONTAN whether you merge in a valuable pMC or a pedestrian one. Being cheap about my pMC purchases left me with $360 to spend in SR 1, and as Priority Deal player I floated the CMR at $70/share (the highest possible price in SR 1.) John had the BME private, and Michael took the KWE, way up in the northeast corner. You need to withhold quite a bit in this game if you don't want to be buying things out of pocket. I managed to withhold less often than my opponents (floating the EH and then the RhE both at $100 helped with this.) In the final set of ORs I got both a 5+5 and an 8+X into the EH, and this gave me a lot of income. I won comfortably, with John just ahead of Michael for 2nd place. We used the v2.0 rules, which seem to balance the railroads against the MONTANs better than the older versions I've played.

.10! 1846: The Race for the Midwest -- John and Michael left at this point, but having not played in the first 18xx game, Joe Huber suggested that we try a "filler" 18xx game. Dan agreed to join us. We threw out the PA, C&O, Meat Packing, Tunnel, MC and LSL. I was Priority Deal player, and on my first choice I had the options of C&WI, Mail, and Big 4. None of those thrilled me, so I took a blank. The second time around I got Big 4, Mail and two blanks. I took another blank, and so did Dan, leaving Joe with two privates. He took Big 4 and I took Mail. This left us with:

Eric: Mail, $320
JoeH: Big 4, Steamboat, C&WI, $200
Dan: MS, O&I, $220

I floated IC at $80 and Joe floated B&O at $50. Dan floated NYC at $70. I realized B&O would pay much better than IC, so I bought 3 B&O shares, resulting in the following holdings after SR 1:

Eric: Mail, 2 IC @ $80, 3 B&O @ $50, $10 cash
JoeH: Big 4, Steamboat, C&WI, 4 B&O @ $50
Dan: MS, O&I, 3 NYC @ $70, $10 cash

It was an interesting game. Despite my share count lead after SR 1, Joe managed to buy in all three privates and took share count lead in SR 2 for the remainder of the game. Both B&O and NYC sold out very early, while IC bought a yellow train, two green trains, and a brown train, and managed to afford a gray train with little difficulty. Joe and I took vastly different paths, but he edged me out by only about $200, and I was ahead of Dan by a similar amount.

.10! Race for the Galaxy x2 -- I had a little time left, so we played two games of this, using Joe's Japanese language copy of the base game. We are fully comfortable with the icons, so I don't even notice the difference if I play in a different language. All three games were close, but Dan won the first and Joe won the second.

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10. Board Game: Alchemists [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:81]
Garry Rice
United States
Perkasie
Pennsylvania
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Alchemists - Final play with my friend and his daughter before she goes off to college (her "swan song" so to speak ). Naturally we let her crush us I think this is the worst I've ever played the game - I think it's the first time I've never definitely deducted what ANY alchemical wasshake

First Class Enjoyed revisiting this one...played with D&E decks (passengers/baggage & switches/mechanics). I wound up with a solid win thanks in large part to earning 10 points each for my 4 conductor cards at the end of the game Interestingly enough, I was the only one to get a conductor to the end of a train.

Curious to see if they ever publish more decks for this one. It's a fun little drafting game - probably right there with Fields of Green for my favorite drafting game.

EDIT - I see there is an official mini-expansion with files in the BGG entry under the game...I'll have to print it out and give it a try sometime!

Burgle Bros. First game with the finished version of the app. Well done, although I still wish Tim would add a way to tell which patrol cards have already been drawn.

ACQUISITIONS:

The 7th Continent Really looking forward to getting this to the table! Printed off a bunch of map sheets to help map out the continent as we play
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11. Board Game: Hero Realms [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:187]
 
Mikko Saari
Finland
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1 x _9_San Juan
1 x _8_China
1 x _8_Trains
1 x _8_Terraforming Mars
10 x _8_Hero Realms
1 x _7_Ingenious
1 x _7_Indigo
1 x _7_Discoveries
1 x _7_Merkator
1 x _6_Ab in die Tonne

Hero Realms play was boosted by the arrival of the Character Packs, which of course required a lot of testing. Turns out they're all quite fine, do provide some nice variation to the game, and are generally quite a bit more powerful than the default starting hands. I think I'll have to look into getting the Boss Decks as well, considering how entertaining these were.

It was fun to play Trains: I have the Okazu Brand edition, which was played a lot in 2012, but hasn't really been played since. It was more fun than I remembered; it sure is a more action-packed Dominion, and not just a straight up copy. The waste mechanic is quite good, really.

Merkator is a really swift two-player game, and rather good. Should probably up the rating to 8.

ACQUISITIONS

I bought a new copy of ZÈRTZ in order to trade it for On the Underground. Sounds like a good deal; had to buy a new copy, as I wanted to keep the game while trading it away. Decided to trade off the new game and keep my old copy, because it matches my copy of Tzaar.

While at it, I also bought the Hero Realms Character Packs, which turned out great, and Deus: Egypt, which does seem slightly unlikely to actually see play, but I'm hopeful.
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12. Board Game: 1829 Mainline [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:5239]
Jeroen Doumen
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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1x _7.50_ 1829 Mainline
1x _7.50_ Unlock!
1x _7.00_ Machi Koro
1x _7.00_ 7 Wonders
1x _6.00_ Fabled Fruit
1x _6.00_ Tiny Epic Quest
1x _6.00_ Trambahn
1x _5.50_ Mississippi
1x _5.25_ another damn Civilization game
1x _5.25_ Slate
1x _5.25_ Great Western
1x _5.25_ Jutland
1x _5.00_ Mystic Vale
1x _5.00_ Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-62
1x _5.00_ Scythe
1x _5.00_ Utopia Engine
1x _5.00_ Employee of the Month
1x _4.00_ Fall of the Roman Empire
1x _4.00_ Guardians
1x _4.00_ Cults Across America

For our Friday evening game, we got out 1829 Mainline for a 2p run. It's surprising how much I enjoyed this one, given how much of the usual 18xx rules it throws overboard. Though it seems silly to sell a 2 train to just buy another; I'm not sure if this actually should be allowed (though the rules-as-written seem to do so).

The Tiny Epic Quest KS arrived, and was also shown the table quickly. Enjoyable little push-your-luck dice game, even if it takes a bit to get your head around what you're doing. One phase of positioning your meeples, followed by the dice-rolling bit.

We also played the quadrology of Wallace games published by Spielbox. They all share a common mechanism, where you roll 3 d6 to see what actions you get to do that turn. another damn Civilization game was the best of the bunch.

And I finally got to play Jutland! That has sat on my shelves for ages. We played the basic game (with some advanced elements it turned out). The movement rules are quite simple, but make for enjoyable battles. Though I'm not yet sure what the German player should do in order to avoid a draw; especially the initial move he gets seems wonky.

I also did solo runs of both Utopia Engine and Colonial Twilight. The former is a simple dice game, except I had the worst dice rolling ever. Not a single artifact recovered... CT plays like a "normal" COIN game, except I only have to run a single bot . I won quite easily, but that likely is more due to bot mismanagement (I should have been passing for it more often). But the action matrix they did to limit your options works well.
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13. Board Game: Barbarian, Kingdom & Empire [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:5238]
Joshua Gottesman
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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As I write this, apparently my app hasn't synced recently. I should do that.

Friday night I got together with some friends who usually game on Fridays, but don't start until 7 PM, which is kind of a late start for me because I have to be up early on Saturdays. However, they started at 5 this week, so it was an excuse to see people. We played a 3 player game of Yokohama, messing up only 1 rule which we caught about 1/2-way through (we were giving money to anyone who had a shop in an area, not a trading house). It was well received, and eventually I'll figure out how to play it well. Then we played Signorie, which I had played once about 18 months ago and liked, and hadn't had a chance to play again since. I rather enjoyed it again, and thought I had it won, and fell a few points short at the end. Given that I was playing 2 experienced opponents, I'm not displeased.

On Saturday, my morning group started with Unfair (because I had no interest in Santiago) with 5. It went pretty well, although one player just ran away with the game. I was 2nd, and a distant 2nd. I'm still not sure how much I like the game, and I want to give it another try. We then went on to Cottage Garden, which I rather enjoyed, although again I didn't win. While it's vaguely 4 player Patchwork, I think it's a clever game in its own right. It's not one I'm likely to run out and buy, and it's definitely one I'd play again.

My evening group started with Clinic, where we did a lot of head-scratching as we played, slowly figuring out the rules. That is a game in need of player aids! However, all 4 of us who played really enjoyed it and want to play it again. I don't think we blew any major rules, although I wouldn't swear to it. And I don't think any of us really had a good feel for strategy. Then it was 3 of us for Yokohama again, and a good strategy continues to elude me, although I'm rapidly coming to believe that tech cards are crucial. I am really enjoying this game.

Finally, on Sunday, 3 of us (it was supposed to be 4) got together to play one of my grail games that I recently obtained, Barbarian, Kingdom & Empire. I haven't played this game in a long time. There are a lot of modern games (Vinci, Small World and that genre) which had their roots in this game. You start out as a barbarian tribe, getting ready to pick over the bones of the decaying Roman empire. Eventually you grow large enough that you need structure, and become a kingdom, where you now have to worry about taxes, paying troops, and internal issues. After a while, your kingdom evolves (devolves?) into an Empire, which has even more internal problems and which will eventually collapse under its own weight. However, if you don't like your position, you can always punt and come back in as a new barbarian tribe and start again. It's very open ended, players can actually come and go throughout the game, and performance is judged on how well you do on the turns you played. I'm really hoping this gets more table time.

A good, busy weekend of games.
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14. Board Game: Unlock! The Island of Doctor Goorse [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:1857]
Doug Faust
United States
Malverne
New York
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On Thursday, Anni and I continued our exploration of Near and Far.

_7_ Near and Far - We started on the campaign mode, which begins on the second map. As we were drafting, I saw a few cards go buy that required negative reputation, so I decided to try out how that would work. I ended up getting one thing with a -1 requirement, and another with a -3 requirement. I spent some of the early game just intentionally trying to go where Anni was and "fight dirty" to lose reputation, but I still had a tough time reaching my goal, especially the one time where I didn't even win. I was further hampered by a adventure where I spent two extra hearts to get the bonus reward, but it turned out that was +1 reputation. I ended up just going to the general store and buying negative reputation. I was also a little bit more ambitious than I probably should have been with my card keeps, as Anni was really moving the game along. While I was more focused on getting my cards out, she got a trade route for a 10 point bonus. She ended the game while I still had 4 tents left, so basically she cruised to an easy victory. Of course, her last adventure released the Red King and gave her a side-quest, so I guess we'll have to wait until next time to see what will happen.


On Saturday, Anni and I traveled to NJ to do some escape rooms with my family. Afterwards, we tried an escape room-themed game.

_7_ Unlock! The Island of Doctor Goorse (new!) -
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This was with me, Anni, Jon, Tina, Lauren, and Mike V. I got randomly split off into the pyramid group with Tina and Mike. We ended up struggling a lot, as there didn't seem to be much that we could do besides shooting things with our laser, which almost inevitably revealed a penalty card. I figured out the card with the glass case with the pyramids read "SIX", but I thought this would be part of some later combination, and not an instruction to pull card #6 right then. Eventually, the groups managed to find and open both sides of the grate, so we could share cards. It was at this point Lauren pointed out that I should pull #6, as well as #17 which she found hidden on the skeleton card. It took us a really long time to get to this point though, and we ran out of time on the timer (but kept playing). As a group we didn't have too much trouble getting to the point where practically all of the cards went away except the four location cards (which actually put 10 new minutes on the timer), but we again struggled to find the numbers hidden on those cards. We finished just before the new timer expired, and the app rated us at two stars.



THOUGHTS ON NEW-TO-ME GAMES

Unlock! The Island of Doctor Goorse is a cooperative escape room-style game that's all contained in a single deck of cards (and a mobile app). Like other games in this genre, this game is meant to be played through only once, though no components are destroyed and the game can be played by another group. What differentiates this from other games in the Unlock series is that this one separates the players into two groups, who are prohibited from sharing cards or even communicating until later in the scenario. This allowed it to be played better at a higher player count, though it still can be a little hard to see cards with so many people crowded around the table. I do like the numeric deck system, especially where cards that are no longer needed get cleaned up, but I still need to get used to the ability to just draw a card if I find that number on another card. I did think the final set of puzzles was a bit too hard on this one, but overall I think this was a fun experience.
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