GCL Phoenix 356: Hallowmas (2017 October 29)
Jeremy Avery
Canada
Kamloops
BC
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You've found the 356th installment of the Phoenix Game Chat League. Welcome to any of you that stop by - whether regular visitor, lurker, subscription-stalker, passer-by or indeed one of our members.

Members are encouraged to add an item to the list and we love comments and discussion from visitors too. Please thumb the list so we know you stopped by.

Visitors are welcome to comment, but please do so politely and leave the adding of items to members.

Currently active members:

Alison (grasa_total)*
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John (John Rogers)
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Dave (rynelf)
Nicolai (Taibi)
Morten (Tigrillo)
Rich (woodnoggin)
Jeremy (familygaming)

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Former or currently inactive Phoenix members who we’d always be happy to welcome back:

archivists, BennyD, Bruzza, chally, darker, Dormammu, Eeeville, enzo622, Hawkeye77, JohnRayJr, judoka, leroy43, Morganza, Mr_Nuts, ravenskana, Smintie, TheRocketSurgeon, tjshields, topherr, Yokiboy.



It is the week of Halloween; you probably know that “Halloween” comes from “Hallowed evening”, which is the night before Hallows Day (also called All Saints Day, Hallowmas, and a few other things besides, according to the wikipedia). After some thought, I thought I’d go with a tongue-in-cheek gamey saints theme with a Halloween mashup!

Come, let us gather together.

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1. Board Game Designer: Sid Sackson
Jeremy Avery
Canada
Kamloops
BC
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Would it be fair to say that St. Sid Sackson saved us from the Evil Ones, Milton Bradley and the Parker Brothers? Acquire being his epistle to the Americans?

Who would your patron saint of modern gaming be?
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2. Board Game: Hype [Average Rating:5.98 Unranked]
Jeremy Avery
Canada
Kamloops
BC
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Between Halloween energy and all the Essen hype, this list was bound to be dull by comparison.

Who is your patron saint of gaming hype?
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3. Board Game: Haven [Average Rating:7.56 Unranked]
Jeremy Avery
Canada
Kamloops
BC
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Heck, it’s Halloween soon, so, anything about gaming or the gaming industry scare you?

Who is your patron saint of keeping us safe from that fear?
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4. Board Game: Good and Plenty Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Jeremy Avery
Canada
Kamloops
BC
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Lots of candy at Halloween time - that’s what I looked forward to when I was a child. (Now it just makes me sick!)

Who is your patron saint of gaming plenty?
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5. Board Game: Costume Party [Average Rating:6.63 Unranked]
Jeremy Avery
Canada
Kamloops
BC
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Costumes are a huge part of Halloween.

Who is your patron saint of gaming “costuming”? (You can define the term!)

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6. Board Game: Sad Panda [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
Jeremy Avery
Canada
Kamloops
BC
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My name is Jeremy, so the only connection to a saint name I can make is the book of the Bible that my name comes from: Jeremiah. Called the “weeping prophet”, and his work is conntative of futility and sadness. What makes you sad about the games?

Who is your patron saint of gaming lamentation?
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7. Board Game: The Game of Saints [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Jeremy Avery
Canada
Kamloops
BC
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What other patron saints can we make out of the various boardgaming personalities?


Klemens Franz, patron saint of ubiquity.
Shadi Torbey, patron saint of the lonely gamer.
Jay Tummelson, patron saint of lost opportunities.
Tom Vasel, patron saint of damaged components.

What have you got?
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8. Board Game: Rotation [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Wurtsboro
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Alison - 5th November
Carol - 12th November
John - 19th November
Karl - 26th November
Michael - 3rd December
Dave - 10th December
Nicolai - 17th December
Morten - 24th December
Rich - 31st December
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9. Board Game: Bohnanza [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:368]
John Rogers
United States
Yakima
WA
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So after banging our heads against the wall this month with Pax Renaissance, the group decided on a lighter night. Also we just completed a huge trade that saw 6 longer, heavier, largely unplayed or replaced games go out and 12 lighter, more casual-gamer-friendly games come in and folks wanted to tackle those. Here is the account of the horror that is light games in...

The Week That Was


Rating: 6
Plays: x


Taught several games of this to about 12 unique people. I also played a couple of sessions. I can understand the appeal; I can give the broad concept in less than 30 seconds and most folks get it almost instantly. Even those who claimed to hate word based or guessing games said they enjoyed it.


Rating: 6
Plays: x


Well the mats came folded in the box and even after a week's worth of ironing and steaming they wouldn't lay flat. So I marked off a small table with tape and taught this to about 6 folks. It went over crazy well. The kids especially liked it. Certainly not my preferred dexterity game (I like a little more restraint whilst flicking) but an easy one to teach and get into.


Rating: 6
Plays: x


Played several hands of Texas Hold'em, five-card, and Black Jack with someone who frequents the casino. He was surprised that I was dominating him in Texas but he felt better once we switched to BJ (his preferred casino game). He is a proud card counter and regaled us with tales of his gambling exploits. I still like Hold'em now and again but the rest of poker I could do without.


Rating: 5
Plays: 1


Got in one play of Castle Panic. Not really my thing. Lots of luck involved both in card and monster draws. A semi-coop wherein you are trying to fend off beasties whilst making sure you land more death blows than your opponents. Not bad. Not great. Probably a good starter coop for kiddos.


Rating: ?
Plays: 1


Easily the game I was looking forward to most. This along with Catan seems to be one of those foundational modern designs. I've heard a ton of great things about it and of course UWE is on the box so lots of hype for this one. After two rounds I HATED it. Seriously hated. Both of my opponents were drawing cards that they could plant right away whilst I was stuck with oddball hands and cards I couldn't get rid of. At some point I began to start to counting (within reason) how many cards of each type were likely left and began planting fields with higher probabilities for return and harvesting at 3 coins for quick turnarounds. I won 30-27-27.

By the end I felt better but still hated the random draw. I think this is a game that I could potentially really like though the following will have to likely be true:

1) Play with people who are seriously trying to win. In our game people weren't thinking about what they were giving away rather just what they were gaining. I prefer to think about dilemma between giving and getting and when to deny my opponents what would help them. In this way the game reminds me of my experience with Chicago Express: with the right (nasty) group the game is great, otherwise it is painfully dull. Bohnanza lacks the ceiling of CE and has a lower floor as well.

2) Play with more players. With more players it should be easier to spread out donated cards and to better deny winning players good cards whilst still gaining ground. With three this was far more difficult and I definitely reaped the benefits of the other's willingness to unload cards they didn't want.

In the end I'm not sure I'll ever love Bohnanza, particularly given the random draws into your hand. However, the trading aspect was far better than I feared and the dilemma in determining how much give-take in potential VP to opponents was very welcoming. I'm guessing a floor of 4 due to randomness, non-serious play, and low player count and a ceiling of 7 (maybe 8 if I learn to stomach the random card draws) for serious players at higher counts.

Oh and this was the biggest hit of the night amongst non-casual players.

Edited: typos.




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10. Board Game: Galaxy Trucker [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:128]
Alison Mandible
United States
Cambridge
Massachusetts
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 9   Galaxy Trucker

I fear my competitiveness has finally gotten the better of me, and I am now *a little* sad that I've never played GT with everybody on the same level-- somebody's always taking a handicap to make things more fair. I flew class A ships for this whole game, and came out ahead of the two new players (playing the base game) and way ahead of the expert player who flew the same ships I did but also dealt himself two Rough Road cards. Did I 'win'?

 9   Linko! x5

Oh, the rules for zapping cards are so painful to teach! The game is sweet, though. After five hands at 3p I finally realized I liked it a little better with more players. This wasn't bad, though.

 7   Kulami

We tried this with the second variant from the rulebook (scoring for unbroken lines, not just regions) and liked that version a lot too. It might as well be "score for diagonal lines", since horiz/vert lines of one color are unlikely to start with, and impossible to defend once half-formed.

 9   Puzzle Strike (Third Edition)

Loss as DeGrey vs. S as Zane. I trashed my own Crash Gem for added economy, thinking I could use Gems To Gemonade for defense+econ until I bought a Double. And then... I never got to play Gemonade because Knockdown was in the bank (and in my opponent's bag), and she finished me off with a Crash Bomb.

== GAME NIGHT ==

 9   Big Boggle x2
 5   Flamme Rouge NEW!

My memories of this game are mostly that the little dudes snapped apart from their bikes so easily that we couldn't tell if we'd broken them or if that was intentional, but it made moving them along the track really hard (so, probably not intentional). And that when we reached the first hill we all had "aha!" moments, slightly too late to make use of them. A lot of things felt hinky, but still, it was a game with doublethink and order management whose other parts were at least unfamiliar. So I liked it fine.

(As my friend said, "No, it's a deckbuilder, except there's only one card you can gain and it sucks.)

 3   Karesansui NEW!

Some fun auction-y bits-- switching which parcel of stones you bid on, under duress, involved some fun conniving and shouts of dismay from the other players-- but it overstayed its welcome and it was remarkably easy to make boring errors with huge penalties. Meh.

 7   Sneaks & Snitches

I'd forgotten how much I enjoy being croupier for this game. Revealing the offerings at each location with a flourish and a good word ("four cubes of information! if you want information, what are you waiting for?") and making up implausible pedigrees for the VP cards (a friend pointed out that this time I had named them all for TTA leaders-- Newton's fountain pen, Genghis Khan's ashtray, Moses' brandy flask, and Joan Of Arc's pocketwatch) goes well with the game's actual weight (i.e. it's worth thinking twice or maybe three times, but it's no fun to get lost seven layers deep in predicting specific people's actions). Also fun to play, though as usual I lost.

== ONLINE ==

 10   Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends x3
 9   Dominion

Making the new expansion's cards playable online while previews were being posted on BGG (to go away again until the actual release, I think) was a clever idea. And it worked on me; I logged in for the first time in months. And immediately remembered how addictive-but-unfulfilling it was to play online.

 1   Drako NEW!

---

I'm looking forward to November cons (Lobster Trap here in Massachusetts, then BGG in Texas). This year, I tried actually putting off purchases of new games so that I'd have more things to try (and spend less on games that turn out to be duds!) than in the past. Will it work? Will I be overwhelmed with options? We'll see.
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11. Board Game: Kraftwagen [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:785]
Albatros
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

_7_ Carcassonne x1
_7_ Kraftwagen x1


The Week in Review

This week, like the month, didn't see a lot of gaming. S and I played one quick game of Carcassonne on Tuesday. As per most of our games, I got off to a good lead, but lost it in final scoring because I was out farmed by my better half.

Kraftwagen was the event of the week (and probably the month). It was certainly the most entertaining game; the conversation devolving to high school silliness when anyone mentioned "best" or "biggest" (numbered) body and lots of trash talk as someone placed a new car in the market and messed with the anticipated outcome.

The only other game in my collection by Cramer is Glen More, which I did enjoy quite a bit (but haven't played since 2012). It has me thinking maybe I should look at Rococo and Lancaster again.

As far as Essen 2017, it hardly registered. Usually I watch some BGG videos on the games being released, but I didn't see a single one this year. Did they even do them? I did read a few geek lists on the subject and will probably read a few more this week. But, for me, it was the most low-keyed event since I joined BGG.


The Week Ahead

It's back to work.... gulp And Halloween.... yuk

Unplayed games of note in shrink: The U.S. Civil War, Francis Drake, German Railways and Revolution: The Dutch Revolt 1568-1648.

Unplayed games not in shrink: Massive Darkness, Normandy '44 and Mottainai.

On order: Lorenzo il Magnifico.
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12. Board Game: Die Dolmengötter [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:3071]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 28Oct2017:

8/25/393 plays of 8/23/186 total games, with 0/15/32 expansions employed.
Plays with 8/15/116 distinct opponents.

1/2/34 games acquired (plus 0/4/18 expansions.) - The Expanse.
0/0/16 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/3 expansions.)
0/2/28 games ordered (plus 0/2/13 expansions.)
Orders for 5 games and 0 expansions still outstanding.

With the Lunch@work group:

1x _6⅔_ Taluva (31 months dusty) - This one reminded me again that I prefer Taluva with 2: with more, there's far too much possibility of necessary kingmaking. Someone is going (momentarily, at least) to be in last place. And because of the scoring dynamics, they'll more than infrequently get to choose which of their opponents can share a scoring opportunity. (And, sure; every placement is making a bit of that choice: so one could argue that the entire 3p game is a sequence of kingmaking plays. Which might be more true than I care to consider carefully. But in the late game, one regularly sees explicit "give me a huge advantage or let them win" offers made to the trailing player: and that's at least a bit ugly.

As to this particular game, I played quite poorly in a bunch of ways. I was happy to have it in play; but might hold out for the 2p version for at least a couple of years. Or until the memory fades - which at my advanced age might not take even that long!

1x _7_ Parade - It's quite cute. I came last, and absolutely deserved the placing: I'd made some terrible choices. But it was still entertaining.

With the Wednesday night gang:

1x _7⅔_ For-Ex [New!] - Sadly, we got the rules wrong slightly. We'd understood "The game ends when ... there are no items left in the Contract Queue." But not noticed "When the fifth Dividends Card (number 4) is resolved, there are no more actions or Turns; instead, all remaining items in the Contract Queue are Resolved one after the other before ending the game." So we kept fidgeting after the final dividend, in order to maximize our respective scores.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn't matter at all - other than giving us a bit more experience with the possible mutations the game permitted, that is. The ordering of our respective assets didn't change (though there were subtle changes in the magnitude of the differences between our positions.)

It was cool. I found it charming; Tim enjoyed it; and Scott complained a bit in the beginning, but gradually warmed to the game as he gained traction. I'm confident there's far more shenanigans (and counter-measures) still possible than we employed this time out; and I'd be delighted to revisit it.

With cool folk at BAP:

1x _6⅔_ Stockpile [New!] - I found the game a bit more random than I likely wanted. Each round (in a four-player game like this one) each of the six stocks is assigned a random mutation. And each player is aware of a (different) third of those mutations. If there was more opportunity for signaling, one could infer the mutations that the other players were holding and make decisions on that basis: but (it seems to me, and I could easily be wrong, that) the signaling dance is too weak to give people reliable information. And so one guesses.

Which is thematically fine, I guess, for a stock market sim. But it doesn't result in a game that I'm strongly desiring to play. I'm not a good match for the game, I think.

1x _7⅔_ Russian Railroads - I like this one more than I should, I expect. But the dance of trying to find the gaps in the others plans where one can run a coherent plan is something I find entertaining.

This one was a bit weird. I've not (successfully, at any rate) run a double-factory plan in vanilla Stockpile in my memory: so I was surprised/amused/entertained that it worked here.

1x _7⅓_ ひつ陣 Hitsu-jin 'Sheep 'n' Sheep' [New!] - It's quite cute. It naively appears a filler, but then it ends up being a surprisingly thinky drafting/set-collection game.

My reaction to it is interesting: I've left the rating on the optimistic end - but I've found myself unsure of whether my colleagues and I were making calculably locally-best decisions and the outcome was the result of the card randomness, or whether there was opportunity to make clever decisions and (subjectively) deserve the outcome. I don't think this one play presented enough data to make that determination. I expect I'd not buy it unless I was better convinced that results follow good play. (Having Jeff from the Wednesday Group defeat the field mercilessly would be a good signal!)

1x _9_ Die Dolmengötter - A kindness for me: we were four when we started setting it up. But then a fifth arrived. So we played anyway.

Die Dolmengötter is (in my opinion) distinctly better with 4 than with any other number. (My rating is for the 4p game, and with idealized opponents.) It's still quite clever with 5 (better, again in my opinion, than with 3; and one doesn't even want to claim that 2 is worth playing) and quite entertaining. But a shadow of the ideal.

1x _7_ Freight Train [New!] - This was ok. I liked the idea of the game; and enjoyed trying to arrange my tableau to my advantage. But I also found that the game went (subjectively) long: I was ready to be done before the game was.

I'm not quite sure if there's a satisfactory resolution to that. At the length it ran, there are dozens (if not hundreds!) of things I'd rather play. And yet, a shorter version of the game would also be less interesting.

Owned-and-unplayed: 1 (+1/-1) - The Expanse arrived; For-Ex was played.
Owned-and-played-once: 95 (+1/-0) - For-Ex was played once.

Outlook for the week: A couple choir practices. Probably games on Wednesday (both lunch and evening.) Likely something with son #2 this week. But other than that? No idea.
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13. Board Game: Hive [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:205]
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Wurtsboro
NY
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No, we didn't play Hive, but I got stung by a wasp (yellow jacket?) on Saturday, so I thought it fitting.

No games played last week, but I made a couple of trades that I will tuck away for Christmas.
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14. Board Game: Codenames Duet [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:124] [Average Rating:7.89 Unranked]
Karl Fast
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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We were given this as a gift for coaching 8U soccer for my son and a bunch of other kids. The parents also gave us Betrayal at Baldur's Gate though who knows when that will get played.

Duet is a co-operative version of codenames, designed for 2p, but it will definitely work with larger groups. It's a simple twist of the game and, if anything, I think it's more of a challenge than the original.

I've played it 5 times, twice with my wife, and thrice with a friend who had never played codenames. My wife and I won both, but one of those required a lucky guess at the end. With my friend we lost all three games, badly.

Verdict: Excellent.


I feel that Duet is a no-brainer if you like Codenames and get 2p games played.

I also feel that this pretty much completes the set. We have Codenames, Codenames: Pictures, & Codenames: Duet. I don't see any reason to get any more Codenames. You can mix and match the cards however you want. We have so many cards now that I feel like Duet is really an expansion to the base game, with the added bonus of giving you a strong 2p version, and a strong co-operative version.
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15. Board Game: North Sea [Average Rating:4.33 Unranked]
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
Ebeltoft
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Games Played Week 43:

  9   1x Pax Porfiriana
  8   1x The Colonists

2 plays of 2 distinct games with 0 games New to Me

The Week in Review:

A busy week that had absolutely nothing to do with what went on in Essen. Crowned by a weekend away for V. and I. People catering to our every need, good food, decent beds, stormy weather and great games.

On Friday my love for V. took a nosedive. After dinner we settled in for a game of Pax Porfiriana. It was another learning-game for V. but she did well. We talked about the game and different options at various points in time.

In the end I won as I was swimming in money and the right topple came out for my turn.

Afterwards she said, she did not enjoy the game and it would never be something for her. shakeyuksoblue

I asked her why, and she said it felt confusing and she had a hard time keeping the scores and how to win in mind when playing. So, I quickly suggested we should get some trackers for the next game and she relented a bit and agreed to a rematch at some point. kiss

A decent nights sleep and a great breakfast later, we took The Colonists downstairs and set it up. We were ready for the full 4 eras.

1 hour later the first era was over and we went to Thisted for some snacks for lunch (the kitchen was overbooked). Then we took another hour playing hte 2nd era. This time I requested a break and we went to the North Sea and was blown away by the huge waves and nature in general.

On the way home we drove by Hurup Thy, where I spent 1½ years as a kid.

We then sat down and completed the last 2 eras in 2 hours for 4 hours total. This is a game we both enjoy a great deal, though I also think we have no idea how to play it competitively. I would like to play it more often, but it is likely to fail in a crowded field.

The Week Ahead:

Another busy week and potentially busy weekend. I don't foresee any games being played. I continue to downsize my collection and even have offloaded a few pre-orders.
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16. Board Game: ESSEN [Average Rating:6.12 Overall Rank:10587]
Morten K
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So Essen last week. I was home sick the two days before driving down there and am still not back to completely healthy so it was one of the tougher ones for me. I thought I wouldn’t buy much but I kept making preorders so in the end it was just as many or perhaps even a few more than usually I brought back home. I didn’t play that many games there and only bought two of those I tried. The rest I didn’t like enough to own so let’s see how it ends with all my preorders and second hand games this time.
Games played before Essen:


 7   Taluva x2
A couple of games with Lærke in the afternoon since we were both at home sick. We hadn’t played for some months so we were quite rusty in the first game which I won. Second game was much better and she won it. I look forward to trying the new modules in the expansion I brought home from Essen. I’m not sure if this is a game you can get very good at. We seem to have stalled at least – but still enjoy it.




 6   Kashgar: Merchants of the Silk Road
Another one that had been collecting dust on the shelf for a long time. Mainly because I don’t like the game much. The mechanisms are fun and all but its almost complete lack of player interaction kills it for me. I even won for the first time against Lærke. I’d have sold had we not loved Kashgar the city so much.




 8   Jump Drive x3
Three more plays of one of our favourites this year and I’ve upped my rating to an 8. I’ve also realised we are apparently not very good at it since we seem to spend one round more than what most people reporting on it do. Who cares, we have fun.




 5   German Railways NEW!
Despite not feeling well, Lærke had gone to Copenhagen for some training so I had the flat to myself. I took advantage of that and invited my train games group over. Two were able to come. We started out with this and I didn’t like it at all. It happens very rarely that I lose complete interest in a game as we play and would rather not finish it. It happened with this. It’s not only because of the much-maligned player order mechanism of drawing discs from a bag where the colours drawn determine who gets to do actions that round. That was pretty bad but I just was not able to penetrate any of the opaqueness surrounding the strategy of the game. If I started to think I now had an idea and then did something to further my position I immediately was shown I hadn’t understood a thing. I don’t mind grasping a bit in the dark for some understanding but this was just too much for me.



 7   Trick of the Rails
Since we were three and I was told a couple of weeks ago that Trick of the Rails is at its best with that player count (and not 5 as we had been in our first play) I wanted to take advantage of us only being three there. And it was totally correct. 3 is much much better since you get more tricks and therefore do not feel playing on rails as much. I’m going to like this game.




 9   Eggs of Ostrich x2
Wednesday morning I drove down to our flat in Essen and waited for our two friends from Spain to arrive. Lærke had the training in Copenhagen so she drove down with some friends the next day. After dinner the three of us were too tired to play something big so we played this one a couple of times with some wine.




 8   Coloretto x3
And then three rounds of Coloretto before going to bed.





Games played at Essen:


 8   Calimala NEW!
I always start off by rushing around to get all the stuff I know I want and the games I have preordered so that is out of the way and I can start exploring and trying stuff. At 11.30 I was at the ADC Blackfire/Spielworxx booth to play this with Uli Blennemann, Edward Uhler and two others who had won a seat in the Heavy Cardboard lottery for it. You can see my thoughts on the game in last week’s list. I have since seen others call it a point salad JASE but I still like it and disagree.



 7   The Networks NEW!
There were a lot of people in the main halls Thursday so we couldn’t find a table to play anything we were interested in and instead decided to play a four-player game of The Networks as there was no one at the table when we walked past. I had heard good things about it but thought it looked like it’s a bit on the lighter side. It is but the sarcasm and self-irony in it makes up for all of that. We thought about buying it but didn’t. I’d be happy to play again but will likely stick to my decision about not buying.



 5   Meeple Circus NEW!
Just before going home we were fortunate to walk past one of the many tables where Meeple Circus was played just as the players stood up to go home. So we sat down, had the rules explained and played the game. It looks cute and there is a bit of planning necessary but it’s a dull take on dexterity games. No interaction and the bits are too small and fiddly for people without fingers the size of those of a child. Junk Art is much much better.



 5   Alexandria NEW!
Friday morning I was hoping to be able to run in and get a table for Altiplano or Transatlantic. I was too late so we had to find something less hyped and managed to get a table for the beautiful Alexandria with art by Vincent Dutrait. The game was on my watch list so not too bad either. The designer explained the game to us in a passionate way and it sounded very cool. Moving around the library in Alexandria trying to salvage things as the fire consumes the rooms around you on an ever smaller board. Some screwage in there too. The rules explanation turned out to be the highlight of the game. It just wasn’t fun to play. At all. Very fiddly and with too many rules for a game this weight we thought but the real problem was that your actions felt boring and of little consequence apart from the very take that ones that allow a player to steal time from others. Each action costs an amount of time like in Thebes and the one furthest up the track (the one that has used the least time) gets to take his action. So you may end getting one action in a round if you are in the same room or next to a room with an opponent as that means they are allowed to use your time for their actions if their action cards allow it. Looking at others taking dull actions isn’t fun. Don’t bother about this one despite it’s great setting.



 5   Cat Box NEW!
We like cats so we also would like a good cat game. This wasn’t it. You have two double-sided cards in your hands and when it is your turn to take an action you can either take one from your own hands or one from an opponent – but only use the side face up that you see. There are several different coloured cats on the four spots on each side of the card and you want to play a card so that the cats of your secret colour form a big area/point-giving smaller areas or ruin it for the other players. It’s much much easier ruining it for other players so the game meanders along with endless negative play. Festival of Thousand Cats is still our favourite cat game but I’d be happy to hear your suggestions for better ones.



 7   Feudalia NEW!
Our friends from Spain had played this before in Spain since it’s a Spanish game and wanted us to try it too because they liked it a lot. It’s a deck-builder on the pricier end of the scale but it also includes a lot of cards. The deck-building side of it is rather average but the interesting aspect about the game is that it is paired with resource management and upgrading of three types of land. The resources are created by putting workers to work in your three land types: forest, fields and claypits. You have serfs that will generate one cube wherever they are put to work but also specialist workers that will generate 2-3 cubes if they are placed where they belong. The cubes stay where they are produced and can be traded if you send your merchants to the area they are or they can be used to upgrade the areas to award you points or be used to buy nobels that will give you points or buy new workers. Most cards have a dual function as money to pay for new cards and for taking an action on the three areas. And some cards grant you interesting ways to manipulate the system with. All fine but the cards are the small size used in older German style games and the colours are really bad for colour blind people like me. I couldn’t tell the difference between clay and wood cubes at all which messed the game up completely for me. The publishers even apologised to me. I really do not understand why so few publishers think about their colour schemes.



 7   Transatlantic NEW!
As you could also read in last week’s list, Lærke, Chris and me played Transatlantic with a fourth person who walked by and showed some interest in the game. Since I wrote about it last week I have thought about the game a bit more and I think I like it a bit more. I’d definitely like to play again! I think Chris likes the cards determine how you score system of Concordia better than this but to me it sounds a lot better on paper than in real life. It’s a good idea but it also fogs up point scoring and thus also how people are doing in comparison to each other while you play. I do not like that at all. So to me this is a better way where the colour and amount of your buildings determine how many points you score for a ship of that colour that is retired or at the end of the game. I still don’t think I’ll love the game but I’m interested in exploring the system more.



 5   Pocket Mars NEW!
Since Lærke loves Terraforming Mars she wanted to try this short and small card game out. It’s nothing like TM though. It has cards but no board and no engine-building. You start with four cards each and decide to keep two and place the other two face down in front of you. You can then choose to play one card from either group when it’s your turn. If from the hand you choose one action that will help you now and if you play it from the table you add it to one of five cards on Mars that will usually help you at the end of the game. You have some cubes that symbolize colonisers you want to take to Mars. You start with one on your spaceship and the rest back on Earth. So you need actions from the cards that will take them to your ship. Each card has a number on it and if the number of the card you play from the table to one of the five areas (that match the five card colours) on Mars is higher than the previous one you are allowed to move one cube from your ship to that area. The areas on Mars will also give you a special action once when you place a card there. Since the cards on the table are all face down it becomes fiddly as everyone is constantly checking what they have, the number, the action etc. There is very little to the game, including very little challenge so it’s also quite boring.



 5   Cat Lady NEW!
Back home in our flat we were tired due to lack of sleep and so many impressions. There were 182,000 visitors this year which is 11,000 more than last year. Also more halls but still a lot of people everywhere. So all we could handle was pizzas and a silly simple game. And this was one such. Very simple. You line some cards up in a 3x3 grid where you draft a row or column of three cards each time it’s your turn. You are not allowed to choose the same one as the person just before you but still plenty of options. All cards are related to cats so you can get toys, other cats, a spray bottle, food catnip etc. All your cats need to be fed at the end of the game in order to give positive points. Some have special needs that give a variably amount of points others not. You score toys according to amount of different ones and catnip allows you to score more points per fed cat depending on how much of it you have. Too simple and fiddly for its length.



 7   Cosmogenesis NEW!
Saturday I hooked up with the group of friends I usually go there with. They were splitting up as two had to go to the math trade area to get some games from the auction so the third one and me joined our Spanish friends for game of Cosmogenesis. Another game I had on my wishlist but wouldn’t have played unless my friend had insisted on getting us a table. I’m very glad I did because the game is good. Setting and several of the mechanisms felt fresh and exciting. Not something you can say about new euros that often. Each player is a star that wants to create solar system around it. You have four drafting areas on the central board where each player can draft one from each of them. Each area has one tile more than there are players so there is some fighting over who gets what. These areas have planets/moons, asteroids or comets, scoring tiles and some extra tiles with special actions you can get if you draft that tile. Run of the mill. But what makes it interesting is that the planets/moons can caught by you, the sun, and start an orbit or they can be caught by one of your planets already in orbit if that planet is bigger than the new one coming in – or they can collide. If that happens the collider will go down one size and the collide up one size. Unless the planet is a gas giant. Here a collision does nothing. If a planet or moon is size 3 or 4 you can make a comet hit it and it will get water if a terrestrial planet or rings if a gas planet. Asteroids are size one and can be used as moons or new planets or if it’s a water planet it can create life. Pretty cool.



 4   Parley NEW!
I then went to the hipster indie hall (8) with my mates to have a look what was on show. We found a great looking pirate game and sat down to play it. You don’t find that many Turkish game publishers but this one was. The game was really boring and repetitive though.





 5   L'Empereur NEW!
We then split up for an hour and I took my last walk around the smaller halls. I like animals so I stopped to take a look at this with a French family and played it with them. The game is a simple family game where your emperor penguins want to get out to sea to catch fish and back on the ice again. You move across tiles with ice or ice floes. On the backside of these you have a penguin of each colour. If you hit one of your colour you get another move. So it’s a mix of memory and race game with some added finesses. Not one for me.



 5   Roadkill NEW!
I’d never heard of a Swiss publisher called Helvetiq before but this year they had a booth in Hall 3 where all the big German ones are and had quite a few very good looking smaller games for sale. This was one of them. I love the artwork and found the setting novel. The theme is not getting as many roadkills as possible but more hiding or resuscitating the ones you get – and you want to play your dead animal cards to another player’s board so they have to find a solution to get rid of them before you run a lorry over them and make them stuck. Oh well. Another game that’s much too simple without anything challenging at all.



 7   BONK x2 NEW!
Everyone was tired by now so we decided to go home after a last beer. I waited for Lærke to come to the fair area after spending the day with a friend from a neighbouring city. We walked past the Klask booth that was built up in a very cool way with a wooden tower and all. We joined a German couple for two games of Bonk which is a 4-player wooden game where you run metal balls down a small tower to shoot to a larger wooden ball which you want to end up in a goal area on the opponents’ side. It was fun but not nearly as good as Klask. While we were playing they had the Essen Championships of Klask so there was a lot of people and a lot of cheering behind us. We stayed to watch the 3-match finals between Mira and Asger. We realised how good you can get at this game. Asger (Granerud) especially had total control of the small white magnets on the table. Fascinating to watch. The match ended 2-1 to Asger who thereby won a fully paid trip to the World Championships in Finland next year.



 5   Altiplano NEW!
I already wrote about how disappointed I was with this title. The hype might carry it for a few months but I expect (hope?) that it will fade quickly.






Mira vs. Asger.




Games that left my collection this month: Tallinn.

Games that entered my collection this month: Trick of the Rails, Endeavour, El Alamein plus promo, Azul plus promo, Chicago Express, Calimala plus promo, Cosmogenesis, Democracy under Siege, Fast Forward: FEAR, Hanamikoji, Indonesia, Import/Export plus promo, India Rails, Mini Rails, Prank of the Fox, Q.E., Sakura Hunt, Star Cartel, Struggle of Empires, Tokyo Highway, Tulip Bubble, Visby plus mini-expansions and Voodoo Prince.

Unplayed games in my collection: Tahuantinsuyu, 1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight, Automobile, Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar, Splatter SHOOT, Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?, Sword of Rome, Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-62, Endeavour, El Alamein plus promo, Azul plus promo, Chicago Express, Democracy under Siege, Fast Forward: FEAR, Hanamikoji, Import/Export plus promo, India Rails, Mini Rails, Prank of the Fox, Q.E., Sakura Hunt, Star Cartel, Struggle of Empires, Tokyo Highway, Tulip Bubble, Visby plus mini-expansions and Voodoo Prince.
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17. Board Game: Galaxy Trucker [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:128]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Last week's plays:

-10- A Study in Emerald (x2)
-10- Age of Steam (+America New!)
-8- Clank! (+Sunken Treasures)
-8- Galaxy Trucker (+The Big Expansion)
-8- Terraforming Mars (+Hellas & Elysium; Self-Replicating Robots New!; Small Asteroid; Snow Algae)
-7- Royal Goods (+Longsdale in Revolt)
-6- Die Dolmengötter New!
-6- GeistesBlitz 2.0

Baby hasn't arrived yet, so gaming continues...

The America map for Age of Steam is really not suitable for 3 players. I wonder if it was even playtested at that count. It needs to be about three rounds shorter (we ran out of cubes before the end) and ideally the auction needs some changes to account for the extreme value of Locomotive on this map. The twist here is that everyone starts with a 6-Loco which they don't have to pay for, but can only deliver one good per turn. If you pick Locomotive, you can deliver a second good. This is such a strong bonus that every auction is basically a fight for Locomotive, and once one player gets a reasonable cash advantage, they can stay in the lead. Cubes are incredibly sparse; I guess ideally you'd have one player picking Production each round but with three players, there always seemed to be something more pressing. So, probably the worst three-player map I've ever tried but at least it was over quickly.

There are interesting things going on with the Hellas map for Terraforming Mars. The new milestones and awards allow for a different approach to the game and we had a fun race at the beginning to be the first to three Jovian tags, six energy, 8 symbols etc. Once that race was over, we'd all developed our tableaux in unusual ways. It was nice to see microbes getting their chance to shine, for example. I had some nice synergies this game, but I need to get better at ruthlessly ditching cards, not buying them for a longer-term plan than the game allows. It's a little like Race for the Galaxy, where I found the decision over which cards to use as payment to be initially difficult, but something I came to terms with the more I played. I guess I need to play TfM more to develop better intuition for these decisions. Trickier to do with a two-hour game, though.

Die Dolmengötter arrived from a Maths Trade (Modern Art has gone, and good riddance) and I had the chance to try it with five players. What an odd little game! I did terribly, my mistake being to concentrate too many stones in the same area, which the others then avoided, but I was certainly intrigued. At first, we wondered why you would ever not place a stone – who wants a 1VP penalty? Later, we realised that there might be times when placing a stone was only going to help an opponent. Those who've played more, do you find this a valid option to consider, or a rarely used tactic? I don't think any of us were wowed by the game but it's relative swiftness meant we were all open to trying it again. And I'm sure we weren't grasping some of its subtleties in this first, experimental play.

Afterwards, there was considerable desire to get A Study in Emerald to the table, which was very pleasing. As it happened, we played two quick games in a row. The first had a surprise ending when Kate spotted her opportunity to strike, eliminating Matt's Restorationist while she was slightly ahead. Very well played, as the rest of us were not expecting it at all, gearing up for a longer game. It was a slightly unsatisfactory ending as a result, and had only taken 45 minutes, so we agreed to play again. I won the second game as a Restorationist by successfully gambling that Kate was on the opposite side when I finally drove Matt mad with Terrors of the Night. Fun stuff.

Then I achieved my annual play of Galaxy Trucker. I'd like to play it more often than that but it's not hugely popular among my group, I think because people don't like the pressure of the ship building part. It becomes easier with practice, if only they'd take the opportunity to play more. I've never seen anyone come so close to being lapped as Phil was in this session. One more space of movement from Kate would have eliminated him (actually, we weren't sure if he'd get chance to move first or if he's eliminated before his movement). I made a brave stand against Space Billiards, which everyone chose to aim at me, probably with good reason. Miraculously, I avoided any serious damage from them, although certain dice rolls would have obliterated half my ship.
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18. Board Game: An Infamous Traffic [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:2835]
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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 8   An Infamous Traffic x2

So things continue to be busy on my end -- but things are also opening up, I'm clearing the mid-term hump, and (I don't know if I mentioned this before) I just wrapped up a 30 day yoga challenge (which is exactly what it sounds like: 30 classes in 30 days). On the latter, my flexibility is at an all time high, I can touch my toes (and sometimes grab them). surprise

Anyways, I also played games this weekend. My buddy who gifted me An Infamous Traffic wanted me to also do the work of teaching it. I was a bit rusty with the rules since I hadn't taught it in months, but holy crow, what a cool game. It plays radically different every time -- intial conditions provide a lot of differential pushes and flows for the first few moves and the game is richly player-driven from there. We saw a rich game, as well as a highly aggressive, fiscally skimming game. Some clever moves here and there, keeping each other in check. Plus, it plays reasonably fast in person: 60-75 minutes. I couldn't ask for much more from an economic-historical-political interdependent game. Except for great aesthetics, which it does have.

Good thing Cole didn't name it an Infamous Wind. The box literally smells like a fart.

Out this last week:
Chinatown, On the Underground
In this week: Santorini (WHITE BOX!), Antike Duellum (which I like, but don't love, especially after having played Polis)
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19. Board Game: Iron Curtain [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:3188]
Chris
United Kingdom
Birmingham
England
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Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars, where you will be forced to drift aimlessly farther into the vast, empty abyss of space until a lack of food, water and oxygen causes you to succumb to Death's cold embrace.
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Riiight then. My Essen gaming. Kinda small list eh? I always have this fear of being stuck playing a 2 hour game that sucks, and seems in many ways odd to want to play stuff you don't know at a con, unless you know about it enough to genuinely want to try it. So this leads me, and others in our group, not really... achieving as much as you'd possibly want to. I wanted to try Calimala but it'd probably have been a half hour wait, 2 ours of play, so there's 1/3 of the entire day just gone immediately... I'll work it out one year!

So what I did play...

 6   13 Minutes: The Cuban Missile Crisis Thinky filler lil bro of 13 Days of course. I'd PnP'd it last year, but on the Sunday it was there, being unplayed and George hadn't tried it, so there, decision made. Still nice, better playing against a clever bugger instead of my wife (no offense Jess), but still very much a filler. Would be interesting to see where the meta game goes if you're playing multiple rounds knowing triggering a nuclear war in any round ever will lose the entire series...

 7   1920 Wall Street NEW! Most things I was interested in were heavily based around stock markets or negotiation. This was on the lighter side, but was also quite cheap and after agonizing over it being redundant in my collection, both George and I purchased it. Pretty neat mechanics where, as is so often the case, you can usually gain shares OR influence the price of a share, but not both. A few take that mechanisms in there, but ones that can have the worst consequences easily mitigated as long as you keep spare cash around you, so felt more like a life lesson than arbitrary punishment!

 7.2   Azul NEW! Other players weren't really that keen on this, but I felt it was very solid. Interested due to being a Keisling game, it played fairly nicely and predictably. The big twist that I saw was not so much how someone could steal the set of tiles you want, but how the tiles they discard go into a central set, potentially ruining what you wanted to take from the middle - I wanted 2 reds, but now that gimp added another red to the middle, and I can't take them anymore!! A small twist, reminiscent of the turn order mechanism in Kingdomino, but really made me think far more highly of it.

 6.2   BONK NEW! Meh... trying to follow up on KLASK, and it's fine I guess. Seemed essential to play with 4, and to play slowly and get your timing and angles spot on.

 6.5   Dr. Microbe NEW! I love Dr Eureka, and was interested to see the *slightly* more advanced follow up (what with having to fill the missing spot(s) on your dish with the missing items etc) but the dexterity was reduced, and it's still baaaasically the same game, so I'm good thanks.

 6.4   Dragon Castle NEW! This turned out significantly better than I thought. I loved Mahjong on Win3.1 as a child, and would still love a real set. Sadly though the tiles here are only about 2/3 of a full set. This seemed to be a huge shame, but at the same time I'd probably never actually play normal Mahjong anyway! But the real worry I had was what gameplay came after you've done the Mahjong part of the game, and happily the tile placement side of things worked pretty jolly well, and merged in fairly well with the ancient oriental rules it was butting up against. There were clear signs that some actions were there to fix gameplay issues (i.e. take one tile, chuck it, get a point) but they could be easily enough justified as a way to dick over your opponents. not good enough to buy, but glad I played it.

 6.5   Emergence: A Game of Teamwork and Deception NEW! As above I'm cautious about playing big things blind, but here was a guy alone on his stand without much happening and a table with lots of very pretty hexes. So we gave it a whirl at 5 and was pleasantly surprised. Soo... Resistance crossed with Escape the Aliens From Outer Space...? My heart sunk when we had to pick secret roles, and even more when I was of course a werewo... sorry... human. I was ratted out in no time of course, and we were thrashed. But it was a nice, well made design I thought, and seemed a real shame when the designer said there'd be no reprint ever etc. But then so many games, most games, are in this exact same position when they pass under the radar.

 5.5   Favelas NEW! I suppose this could come under a stock market game if you want to twist it about a bit. place dual hex tiles on a pile and either increase / decrease the value of colours OR gain more of them... nice but forgettable.

 5   Fold-it NEW! I love this kind of game, but with dobble and Dr eureka and both versions of Ghost Blitz I think I'm good thanks. And the box was VAAAAAAST, which was unforgivable for a game with 60 cards and 4 hankies.

 5   Gold Fever NEW! Went to sniff this out after Iron Curtain and 13 Minutes due to being the same designer. unsurprisingly very very different. simply push your luck stuff, easily proxable with a small pile of cubes, but if I did, I'd never play it, so let's just move on...

 N/A   Hannibal & Hamilcar NEW! Well I played part of a demo whilst Morten ignored me. George was always going to win if we played properly, but instead he decided to just attack ASAP to see what all the mechanisms looked like, whilst our instructor really really tried to stop him doing bad moves, even though George KNEW they were bad moves, and we're not taking it seriously. Made for an odd experience, but it was still clearly a game I didn't need to ever revisit.

 7   Iron Curtain NEW! It wasn't until we moved on from 13 minutes to this that I realised our instructor was Daniel, so that was cool. Really liked this, but given I have both "13" titles, I couldn't really see there being enough different here to justify picking it up. There's a real spatial element that matters a lot here, and the cards are not themed with history like the other games (there may well be history behind the actions, but it's not shown). Mostly seemed logical though, given you're playing the "Pakistan" card, not "Nixon" etc. Also felt slightly predictable that there was also an "aftermath" card like their other games. whilst it's fine design I'd have liked it to have been something different somehow.

 7.5   KLASK NEW! Ahhh couldn't resist buying this. Mostly as the main stand had (apparently, allegedly) sold out and I saw it elsewhere and grabbed it. Then looked it up on Amazon and saw it was the same price and I wouldn't have then had to carry it around the show all day then paid a bunch to ship it! ACK!

 8.9   Loopin' Louie Who da man? Me da man.

 5.5   Sidereal Confluence: Trading and Negotiation in the Elysian Quadrant NEW! In which your untrepid hero get's invited to Ben Maddox's vergan brothel AirBnB for games and gets very confused. So this is what... Mega Chinatown In Space. Pass various piles of cubes through "machines" to convert them into other piles supposedly worth more, interspersed with open negotiation on the cubes, and other player power related benefits. I see a good game, but 8 currencies and a million permutations of conversion... too much I think. At least for a first game. You clearly need a small enough world of "machines" to give you an efficient production line, whereas I had about 10 choices so merely dropped whatever I had into wherever it'd fit...

 4   Stack-A-Biddi NEW! Just another zero interaction puzzley game.

 5.6   Star Cartel NEW! mroe stocks. Not that interesting, but it was a newey on the Osprey stand, so wanted to honour them with my presence.

 5   Stroop NEW! Xmas fmaily stuff maybe so I bought a copy after remembering it from On Board Games. was fine. ugly design, but fine.

 2   Tenzi I made George and Pete play this stupid waste of time to make sure they suffered as much as me.

 7   The Bottle Imp NEW! A real classic it seems, and a decent all round family filler hopefully.

 6   Titan Race NEW! Aimless wandering on Sunday and this was open, so whatevs... Actually thought it was pretty solid for a 10yo kids family game. Lot of clear, robust interaction in a race where everyone keeps dying. Was thinking about picking it up for the kids, but pfft... they never play anything else ever, so why would this make a difference?

 6.2   Topito NEW! Balancey stuff. Suffers from the Takenoko problem (or at least, I see it as one) where your objectives can be completed by accident, and by other players by accident. I was well in the lead when George just completed 4 cards in one go without trying, 3 of which he drew after the first so....

 7.4   Transatlantic NEW! Mentioning this last week but yeah, it was pretty decent I guess. a Sort Of rust mechanism, which I think was a good, even slightly brave, design step compared to just making another map game where to goal at least *feels* obvious looking at the game before play. Something tells me this won't get much attention in general, but it was well worth a play, despite me not liking how some of the money making objectives felt bolted on and flappy.

 6   When I Dream NEW! Nice idea, but the whole "remembering everything at the end of the round" bit was crappy I thought. Also wondered if you couldn't "break" it... Just guess ONE card. Make sure you guess it correctly, but if you guess one right, then remember ONE card, you'll get 3 points, others will get 1 or 0, job done.

ALSO I PURCHASED...

Tulip Bubble
John Company - Oh man, after making 2 PnP playtest copies and failing to play it at all, I just hope I ever play this and can make some sort of sense out of it! :/
Mini Rails
Tiefe Taschen - Played this with the designed Fabian in a pub before UK Expo, and he remembered me, which was nice. After Tom Vasel gave this a fantastic review seems this should see the light of day in a very good place in a new guise fairly soon. Decent title, but mostly I was just very happy to buy it from him on principle.
KLASK
The Bottle Imp
1920 Wall Street
Stroop
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20. Board Game: Wendake [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:1338]
Jeremy Avery
Canada
Kamloops
BC
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Soo...
I have pre-ordered Clans of Caledonia, and will pre-order Gaia Project. I know they both riff (or re-do, in the case of GP) Terra Mystica, but I love Terra Mystica, so that's just fine with me. But because they are not the "unknown", I am not nearly excited for them.

But there is one game hiding in the deep recesses of the Essen haul lists that beckons me. Speaks to me. Knows me by name. Wendake.

I check with BGB - they are unlikely to secure copies. Neither 401games. CSI doesn't have it listed. Funagain wants $100 USD plus shipping. That leaves Philibertnet. 41 euros plus 20 euros shipping. Grand total: $96 Canadian if I go for it.

Should I go for it. Over and over I wonder. I'm on an extremely tight gaming budget, and it isn't getting a lot of talk, and it will cost me a big chunk of my budget, and I might not even like it...

Natalie thinks I should do it. I never make purchases like this, and because it's so hard to get in North America, I suppose the risk is low.
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