XB_XB's 2017 Secret Elephant List
Rob Crosby
Australia
Brisbane
Queensland
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Heavy Cardboard's Secret Elephant is a wholly remarkable event, perhaps the most remarkable, certainly the most generous enterprise, ever to come out of the great gaming corporations of Ursa Minor – more thumbed than the Celestial Card Sleeving Omnibus, earning more geekgold than the fabulously tipped geeklist '53 More Games Not To Play In Zero Gravity', and more controversial than Rahdo's trilogy of philosophical blockbusting podcasts: 'Where Stefan Feld Went Wrong', 'Some More of Stefan Feld's Greatest Mistakes' and 'Who is This Stefan Feld Person Anyway'?

In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the outer Eastern rim of Gaming Geekdom, Secret Elephant has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Essenica as the standard repository of all gaming knowledge and wisdom, because although it has many omissions, and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian Secret Santa events in two important ways. First, it features a reclining elephant, and second it has the words 'MERRY CHRISTMAS' inscribed in large, friendly letters on the cover.

To tell the story of Heavy Cardboard's Secret Elephant, it is best to tell the story of some of the participants in it. A human from the great southern land of Australia on the planet Earth was one of them, though as our story opens he no more knows his destiny than a meeple knows the geographical and architectural history of Carcassonne.

His name is Rob Crosby, and someone is looking at his wishlist and trying to buy him a 'heavy' Christmas present...

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1. Board Game: Elephants on Parade [Average Rating:4.31 Unranked]
Rob Crosby
Australia
Brisbane
Queensland
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mb Hi Santa Davis! mb


This year, I've been very good! In addition to continuing to care for an aged parent, I've played fair, taught many games, and started a new heavy games group which is still struggling to find regular players and play days but we're progressing slowly. I've given hints to other players learning games that help them at my expense, tried whenever I can (finances permitting) to pay it forward and have done several random hidden acts of kindness. So please don't give me A Lump of Coal !!


As you probably know (being Santa and all) this year my finances have been stretched a little tighter than previous years so I am only participating in Heavy Cardboard's Secret Elephant this year. I'm a little sad that I can't take part in the BGG and AU/NZ Secret Santa exchanges as well, but needs must...

There is a Geeklist Item below to record any GeekMail you send me (or of course you can comment directly in the Geeklist item). I will, wherever possible, respond both here, and on my profile.


Wherever possible, comments for you will be in Red (because, Santa!)
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2. Board Game: Knowing Me Knowing You [Average Rating:5.13 Overall Rank:13607]
Rob Crosby
Australia
Brisbane
Queensland
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I'm Rob, and I’m still pretty new to board gaming. I was introduced to modern board games around early April 2014. And wow was I surprised...

I grew up, like many folks did I guess, playing Monopoly (with the wrong rules!), Mousetrap and a few other Milton Bradley type games. But really, when we played games as a family it was mostly Canasta.

Now however I'd pick a board game every time!

The past several years have been interesting as I played through many styles and types of games, before working out (generally) the sort of games that I really like (more on that below).

Hmmm, what else can I tell you ...
I'm an Aussie.
I'm on the 'other side' of 50.
I work nights with a roster that makes a "regular" group not possible, so when, and with whom, I play is varied and irregular.
I listen/watch podcasts/videos from many different folks who all give me a different perspective on games and gaming, but am most “in line” with Heavy Cardboard, Punching Cardboard, and to a lesser extent, Rahdo.
I typically play games with two or three other players; just as often only one other, but occasionally there are five or six of us.
Whilst I know a smattering of foreign phrases and words, any games I get have to be in English.
I usually play blue or purple
I have recently discovered, and enjoy, single malt scotches, notably Highland Malts
I really really really really like iced coffee
I sometimes pimp my games
I'm playing an RPG by forum, and have tried one in RL - would like to try more, and to this end have a copy of Mouse Guard waiting to be played.
Thanks to Heavy Cardboard's Slack channel I've found many more opportunities to play games online - so even though I can't play often in real life, I can still get some understanding and experience with many heavier games (I'm currently playing 1822, Sekigahara and Antiquity)
I have an amazing, wonderful Keeshond, Phoebe...
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3. Board Game: The Strategy Game [Average Rating:4.17 Overall Rank:14271]
Rob Crosby
Australia
Brisbane
Queensland
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I like euro, economic and strategy games. Preferably the heavier/meatier ones (but middle weight is fine too). I'm not really a fan of ameritrash. I'm happy with "multi-player solitaire" games, as well as games with player interaction arising from action selection or action drafting.

I really don't especially like games involving excessive, unthematic or unnecessary non-mitigatable randomness, particularly when playing euro and strategic games. It’s not that I dislike random in and of itself - sometimes it serves a purpose (a la “fog of war”) and sometimes it’s just fun (in non-thinky light games) - but games where the draw of a card or the roll of the dice can affect whether this round is good or bad, or even worse, where they decide the outcome of the game, are not what I enjoy.

Games where I have to think, where there are results for my actions, where there’s strategy (or choices to be made even following some randomness), that’s my cup of tea.

How heavy is heavy? For me, games like Mage Knight, Three Kingdoms Redux, The Great Zimbabwe and Food Chain Magnate are in the range of heaviness I enjoy. New to me this year games which I've taught and played (live rather than online) and thoroughly enjoyed include:

An Infamous Traffic
Vinhos Deluxe Edition
1846: The Race for the Midwest
Terraforming Mars
Lisboa

As well as a few lighter games such as
Mini Rails
Tulip Bubble

My two standout games so far this year have been An Infamous Traffic (live) and 1822: The Railways of Great Britain (online only).

I have and thoroughly enjoy Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan, but generally war games are not for me. It's not because of the aggression. Despite serving in the military, war games generally, at this stage in my enjoyment of the hobby, just don't grab me thematically.

I have played (and taught) several games this year of 1846: The Race for the Midwest and really really love the system. I've managed to play and learn several more 'XX titles online. I'd really like to explore these games further. My current favourite is 1822: The Railways of Great Britain (so if you feel like slipping me a copy of 1822: The Railways of Great Britain or even 18OE: On the Rails of the Orient Express, feel free!!)

Is time a factor - no not really. I’m fine with a game where I play for 6 or more hours, and equally fine with a lighter game that wraps in 20 minutes. If the game is good, with interesting decisions and some depth, I don’t care how long it takes.
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4. Board Game: Character Clues [Average Rating:4.00 Unranked]
Rob Crosby
Australia
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Queensland
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I like games with theme and "character". I like to immerse myself in the game and BE the opium smuggler, or farmer, or space pioneer, or dungeon keeper - I like to feel connected to the game I am playing.

That does not mean theme is all - to the contrary - many games have theme but no mechanics and the great theme does not make up for a bad game mechanic; BUT a good-to-great theme on top of a good mechanic lifts a game for me.

But Rob you said you don't like ameritrash and you like euros? I don't get it, euros have no soul man, they have no theme! Absolute rubbish - most good euros have theme - some I agree are "pasted on" but many have it in spades.

Also, I appreciate good components and art. I get that some heavier games (e.g. Splotter's) are aesthetically minimalistic. But just as a good theme can help lift a game, so too do good components. I can get by without them and still enjoy the game (e.g. Food Chain Magnate and The Great Zimbabwe), but if the components are nicely produced (e.g. Vinhos Deluxe Edition or The Gallerist) they do increase my enjoyment of the game. I guess I'm just a sucker for pretty bits!

That all said, I don't like dark themes in my games or blood/gore in the game art (not a big fan of zombies either - I find them boring and totally unbelievable). It's not that I have anything against the darker themes or gory art, it's just generally not my thing.

I do like silly games on occasion (I really enjoy Too Many Cinderellas). I enjoy story telling games, and I'm happy to join in a cop-op game if everyone is fully engaged (eg Legends of Andor) - that said I'm not a huge fan of "hidden traitor semi-co-ops (eg Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game).
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5. Board Game: Peaceful Resistance [Average Rating:5.52 Unranked]
Rob Crosby
Australia
Brisbane
Queensland
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I don't like games with high conflict/aggression elements. I am happy to play against folks where there’s action drafting which might result in me being denied a particular space, but I really don't like “take that” or “smash you up because I can” or “I destroy your village that you spent the last 4 turns building” games. I don’t like games where you can (or worse, are required to) be a dick - I don’t like it when it’s done to me and I don’t like doing it to others. If a game has "take that" as a mechanic or element, or where you can be deliberately mean, it's not in my wheelhouse.

To be clear though, I don't have anything against aggression in and of itself, and it's necessary in war games (I thoroughly enjoy Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan), since I know in those games both the randomness (fog of war) and the direct aggression is a major part of the game. What I dislike is building a village/empire/thing, and having that destroyed, because the game play makes you, or it's the most effective thing to do.

I also appreciate though that for many folks, aggressive actions that hurt another player (even if they don't advance you, they just regress them) are perfectly fine and indeed for some, required in a game. It's just not me though.

I like to look at my board/tableau after the game and feel “yea, I built that”, see how mine compares to my fellow players and what they built, and then reflect on what moves I/we could have played better or what selection might have been strategically more effective.

For me, “player interaction” comes from the interplay between those around the board playing hard and fair and each trying to win. Interaction for me is not the same thing as aggression.

Other elements of games I also do not like:
thumbsdown player elimination
thumbsdown unthematic or unnecessary non-mitigatable randomness
thumbsdown real-time games
thumbsdown social deduction games
thumbsdown games where bluffing (or worse - lying) is an integral or essential element.

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6. Board Game: Wishful Thinking [Average Rating:4.00 Unranked]
Rob Crosby
Australia
Brisbane
Queensland
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My Wishlist


How I organise my Wishlist:

1 (Must Have) - These are things that I will own, period. It may be some time away, but these are going into my collection 100% for sure (OK, maybe 98% for sure).

2 (Love to Have) - These are things that I probably will own as well. Just not as 'urgent' as the "Must Have" list...but not too far behind.

3 (Like to Have) - These would be cool to have. Not in a rush and they might not be played anytime soon, if/when I get them.

4 (Thinking About) - If I see something that catches my eye, but I haven't done any research on it yet, it goes here - a catch-all for games that I want to know more about. After investigating more, I will make a decision on where to put it on the list (if anywhere at all). Sometimes these just get deleted (ie. I don't want the game at all, after learning more about it), sometimes they'll move up the list.

5 (Don't Buy This) - There are a few games which I want to get but which are some time away e.g. I'm waiting for a new edition or printing. There's a few which I do not like or that don't interest me at all. And some are games that my friends own, and I have no need to buy for myself at the moment.

If a game is also marked Want to Buy, that's effectively an extra "minus one", so a Wishlist 1 also noted as Want to Buy is rating 0 which is higher in the "how much I want this game" stakes than a rating 1 and means "OMG I must have this no matter the cost, just gotta get it".

Davis, I've marked some games and expansions etc with "Secret Elephant 2017 - YES PLEASE!" as an indication for you that I'm very interested in that thing. Other than that note though, all the other comments in my Wishlist are notes to myself - not notes to you Davis nor suggestions or hints for anyone else! My notes are generally just reminders for me about why a game might be on my list, or prices I've found, or notes to check something.

I would generally prefer you NOT to gift me or suggest a game rated 4 or 5 - usually these are games I either definitely do not want or need (5's), or which I have not yet found out enough about to know whether I would like it (4's).

That said, if there's a game rated 4 on my Wishlist, or which is not on any of my lists anywhere at all, which you think I would really enjoy, feel free to ask!


========


Preordered - When I buy games from preorders, Kickstarter, auctions, eBay, or trades, until they actually arrive, they are listed here.

To assist me, I usually also mark these preordered games as "Owned", just so I can see them if/when I need to.


========


Previously Owned - OK so with a few exceptions, this is where I record those games I previously owned and have now disposed of, sold, traded or given away.


========


How I Rate Games: I try to record all my plays, and my ratings are current based on my most recent plays. I'll be honest - I've been a bit slack over the past 6 months or so and haven't recorded a few plays.

I rate my games played according to a very different system to that used by BGG, which seems to be a blend of objective and subjective overarching catch-all statements.

My ratings take into account what I think of a game relative to other games I've played.

My ratings are purely subjective.

These ratings are based on MY experience with a game, how I felt about it, how it engaged with ME.

YOUR experiences will be different, and consequently YOUR ratings will most probably differ (perhaps markedly) from mine.

And that’s OK... The games I like may not be the games you like. The people I played with are different from those you played with. The way a game engages me will differ from how it engages you. The mechanics of the game might work for me but not you. The theme might be one you enjoy but which is bland or repugnant to me. The way the rules are set out might confuse me but be clear as day for you.

So please don’t take the way I rate games as anything other than what they are - MY record for MY purposes of what I think about a particular game.

But hopefully they give you an idea about what I like and don’t like.

At the moment it's a gut reaction number, using a mashup of the best rating systems I could find:

10. It’s better than a 9: I can't find any significant flaws in the design, and I think it's terribly clever. I'll try to get people to play this with me, and if someone else suggests it, I'll say yes. I'd travel long distances to play nothing but this.

9. It’s better than an 8, but not as good as a 10: I can't find any significant flaws in the design. I'll try to get people to play this with me, and if someone else suggests it, I'll say yes. I'd plan gatherings to play this game.

8. It’s better than a 7, but not as good as a 9: I like this and I will suggest playing it at any opportunity.

7. It’s better than a 6, but not as good as an 8: I like it, and when someone else suggests it, I will almost always say yes. There are other games I'd suggest over this though.

6. It’s better than a 5, but not as good as a 7: I will probably not suggest playing this, but I won't hate playing it if someone else does. I might even enjoy it in the right circumstance or company.

5. It’s better than a 4, but not as good as a 6: It's ok. If I never play it again I won't miss it though, and it's marginally better than not playing a game at all.

4. It’s better than a 3, but not as good as a 5: I'll try to get out of playing this when someone suggests it.

3. It’s better than a 2, but not as good as a 4: I would rather not play a game at all than play this.

2. It’s better than a 1, but not as good as a 3: I adamantly will not play this.

1. It’s not as good as a 2: I don't understand why anyone would want to play this.
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7. Board Game: Trust Me! (Buy the Elephant) [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Rob Crosby
Australia
Brisbane
Queensland
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Over the coming weeks as the various Secret Santa Geek Exchanges finalise I will update details noted below to assist overseas Secret Elephants, if that's needed or anything major changes and to make sure I give you the best info possible, taking into account any shipping/discounts that might be offered over the next few weeks.


I'm not all hung up on getting a new game. If you have a "pre-loved" game that you think I'd enjoy, well by all means send it. If it's a game on my want/wish list, is generally in reasonable condition, and has all the bits needed to play, I'm more than happy to accept!


I appreciate that the logistics can often be difficult and sometimes it all gets too hard! So, if circumstances are that it's easier for you to give a gift certificate to an OLGS/FLGS here in Aus, that's cool. I won't be disappointed if you get me a gift certificate for an OLGS - one in Aus would be preferred (most preferable would be Advent Games) and will help me. Like everyone though at Christmas I'd rather open a box and be surprised with a game rather than a certificate sent by email, but it is a fall-back final option if you need it Davis.



I've also included a few gaming accessories (game inserts, card sleeves etc) and expansions on my wishlist, as well as games themselves, to try and give you some more options.


Basically though whatever you choose to send/gift to me is welcome!! This geek exchange is all about giving and sharing and I am sure I will enjoy and appreciate whatever you send!


Shipping internationally can be fraught with delays, so Santa Davis please rest assured, if your gift doesn't arrive in time for Christmas, I won't be worried!


For my Heavy Cardboard Secret Elephant, Game Surplus is offering a 15% discount on all orders placed for the HCSE (check the Secret Elephant thread for the discount code).

========


For overseas / outside Australia Santas


Games in Australia can be very expensive compared to some countries overseas (especially the USA) and postage/shipping can also be a bugbear sometimes.


Here are some resources for overseas Santas buying games in Australia....


On-line store/price comparison tools:

Board Game Shopper - simple layout, easy to use and includes most of the main OLGS

Australian Board Game Price Checker - a little more fiddly than the one above but it includes a few stores which the other does not


Some additional forums/GeekLists/etc with info that might help:

Online Australian Retailers List & Price Comparison

BGG Secret Santa 2014 Preferred Stores

Secret Santa Stores - basically same stores as used by both boardgame price/store checkers above


The only store I have ever had any issue with has been Games Paradise and I would not recommend them. I've dealt with many of the others though and never had any real issues. My preferred OLGS for buying games, Gift Certificates and service is Advent Games.

If you have any questions about a store though, please feel free to elf-mail me and I will help you as best I can (I'd rather keep that sort of discussion off my profile though if at all possible).

I do have a shipping address in the USA (97203) but for me this is an absolute last resort use as it usually costs me about USD50-60 (about AUD70-85 or almost the cost of a game itself usually, it's almost criminal what we get charged!) to ship a game over, so I would really really prefer not to have to use this if at all. That said, if your feeling really generous and want to gift me an expensive game that's rare or OOP, then I will happily use my US shipping address as that would be fair.
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8. Board Game: Elephant Memo [Average Rating:4.86 Unranked]
Rob Crosby
Australia
Brisbane
Queensland
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Here is where I talk with my Heavy Cardboard Secret Elephant!

Heavy Cardboard Secret Santa
United States
Alaska
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mb 14 Nov: Well this Geeklist is done - still have to review and update the wishlist but we're under way at least!

mb 16 Nov: 0740: Latest reply

mb 16 Nov: 1200: Latest reply


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