GCL Phoenix 361: Deluxified (2017-12-03)
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Welcome to the Phoenix Game Chat League!

If you stumbled upon this geeklist by accident or through your subscriptions, please read the GameChat League Wiki page for information about what it's all about. Visitors are welcome to comment, but please leave the adding of items to members.


Deluxified Members:
familygaming
grasa_total
hawk-x-
indigopotter
John Rogers
karlfast
Lowengrin <-- next week
rynelf*
Taibi
TheRocketSurgeon
Tigrillo
woodnoggin


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

*Next up in the rotation.


Introduction

On My Spiel About Spiel 2017 List** Nicolai mentioned and later posted a link to Facebook about the "deluxified" republishing of Gentes. Our alumnus, Kurt was the one to call out the expression "deluxified" and so deserves credit for this week's list.

enzo622 wrote:
Suddenly I'm seeing "deluxified", "deluxification", and "tastemaker" all over BGG.


Deluxified? Is that even a word?

No, but it seems Tasty Minstrel Games has been using it with most of their Kickstarters lately. And they've gone from "Deluxe!" (exclamation mark included) with games like Yokohama to "Deluxified" with the newer crop: The Flow of History, Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done and Downfall. Next up: Gentes.



**Shameless geek list plug.
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1. Board Game: Puerto Rico Deluxe [Average Rating:8.51 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.51 Unranked]
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Remember the days when "deluxe" editions were for anniversary printings or for games that were widely recognized as classics?

What was your first deluxe edition of a game? Did you have the "vanilla" edition and decided you like it enough to spend more on the deluxe edition? Or did you just get the special edition without even having played the game. And if so, why?
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2. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:16]
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Long before the deluxification of games was commercialized, creative gamers were pimping their favourites. Probably none more so than Agricola.


Image by randall3rd


Have you "deluxified" some standard edition games yourself? What are some of things you have added/replaced/modified to your games? Have you ever mashed different versions to create your own premium edition? (I know you have....)
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3. Board Game: The Flow of History [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1900]
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How do you feel about the growing frequency of "deluxe" editions? Not just for classic games, but pretty much for any reprint. Are you willing to pay more for better quality components that may or may not see more than a few plays? And for boxes that take twice the space as the standard box?

And how much has the deluxification of games got to do with stretch goals and Kickstarter? And what role do traditional game companies have in it? Are some publishers (for example, Tasty Minstrel Games and Eagle-Gryphon Games) using "deluxe" to set themselves apart from "standard" game companies. And are their "deluxe" games really all that deluxe?
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4. Board Game: Really Bad Art [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:6741]
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Deluxification is happening because aesthetics matter to some gamers.

familygaming wrote:
I wonder how it would break down for all of us? Mechanics vs. originality vs. aesthetics vs. ??? I won't buy an excellent game with ugly art and cubes (The Castles of Burgundy); I would buy a good game with great art and/or nice eeple or cardboard counters (Discoveries). I would never keep a dull game with great art (Scythe fits here for me).

So how does it break down for you?
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5. Board Game: Rotation [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Dave - 10th December
Nicolai - 17th December
Morten - 24th December
Rich - 31st December

Jeremy - 7th January
Alison - 14th January
Marc - 21st January
Carol - 28th January
John - 4th February
Karl - 11th February
Michael - 18th February
Dave - 25th February
Nicolai - 4th March
Morten - 11th March
Rich - 18th March

Jeremy - 25th March
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6. Board Game: Vinhos Deluxe Edition [Average Rating:8.34 Overall Rank:198]
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Games Played

_8_ Vinhos Deluxe Edition x4 New!
_7_ 18CZ x1
_7_ Carcassonne x1


The Week in Review

The one game of Carcassonne on the last day of November; for no other reason than it would break a tie with Massive Darkness for most plays of the month. Well, that and we had tea and tiramisu with it.


A second, very different game of 18CZ with JR. We used the Moravia-Silesia Variant which changes the game so completely that counting it as a play of 18CZ is really just a bit of a lie. It also plays in less than half the time so we wrapped it up in under two and a half hours.

Though I lost the game, I lost by less than I'd imagined. JR got to a good lead fairly early, having at least a couple more shares than me, but I used Priority Deal to my advantage by buying the better of the remaining two companies and then hemming in the one he had to buy, then rusting the trains and forcing him to pay 500K out of pocket. So though he won, I did feel pretty good about how I played the last half of the game.


Vinhos Deluxe Edition got three plays last week; each one reminded me just a bit more of why I enjoyed the original so much back in 2011. However, I'm still not convinced that the 2016 Edition rules are better than the 2010 "Vintage" rules. They are more streamlined and more forgiving, but I never liked the original because it was an easy game. In fact, I liked it because it was punishing. (And I say that in spite of being absolutely crushed very time S and I have played the new edition.)


The Week Ahead

While I have some gaming plans later this month, nothing's been planned for this week. I am very curious to try Expedition: Northwest Passage though, having watched a few videos to familiarize myself with the rules. That said, Vinhos is still set up on the table so we'll probably get one more play out of it first.


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

Unplayed games not in shrink: Expedition: Northwest Passage, Normandy '44 and Mottainai.

On route: Maria and Isaribi.
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7. Board Game: Piraten kapern [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:3306]
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Two games of Mille Sabords this morning before Sam left for his RPG. We're planning a board game day with Sam's RPG group in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to that.

My games from Germany are en route (hopefully will come before the game day, as one is meant for that group). This week will likely be the week to hang the holiday lights and wrap Sam's gifts (most other gifts are wrapped, and some have already been mailed, as have the cards). I thought I might put up the lights today, but I was feeling a bit under the weather earlier.

My thrifty santa target received their main box of gifts. I traded some dice bags for a secondary box of gifts, which should have arrived, or perhaps tomorrow. Looking forward to my box from my thrifty santa. We've also been receiving holiday cards from various card exchanges. I like seeing the stamps and postmarks from around the world. I sold some dice bags in my recent auction, and sold another one today. That's always fun.

In addition to my occasional "same as above" database project, I've been working from home part time, which has been working out well. Sam said it's time to put new tires on the car, and we've been holding our breath with the hot water heater - we really should have that done in the spring, plus I've been wanting to replace the old carpets with not-carpet (at least in the living room and dining room for now), so this will give us some breathing room to get those things done.



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8. Board Game: Firenze [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:745]
Karl Fast
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I've had this on my shelf, in shrink, for about 3 years. I found it when we moved to the twin cities and I bought it immediately, knowing it was out of print, with limited distribution in north america, and the kind of game I would like.

This is great. My wife and I played it twice over the weekend and I really like this one.

ABOUT THE GAME

You are building towers in 12th century Italy (in Firenze!). There is a sliding market of cards, and on these cards are bricks of various colors. On your turn you take a card, resolve it as needed, and add the bricks to your storehouse. Then you may start building towers by stacking them up. When a tower reaches a sufficient height, you can claim complete, claiming the commission and blocking off that spot on the main board.

For example, I could build a tower of green bricks and when it has 4 bricks I could claim the spot for a 4-brick green tower. This spot is then blocked for the rest of the game.

The twist here is that each turn you MUST buy a card and for any towers you have under construction you MUST add at least one more brick. If you can't add a brick that tower, no matter how tall, goes away.

It plays 2-4 in about an hour. It's reportedly best with 2-3 and really shines with 3, and that seems right. Turns are quick, it's easy to teach, and it plays smoothly.

THOUGHTS ON THE GAME

This is an excellent mid-weight deceptive euro. It's not heavy, but it's not light either. It plays so smoothly that it doesn't quite feel like a heavy game. Mechanically it's no more complicated than, say, Stone Age.

It's a deceptive game in the sense that it's really easy to screw up and really easy to get backed into a corner where you have to take a bad card, or you run out of bricks. It looks like more of a casual game, but you can get penalized and players can be rather ruthless.

There is a lot of really nice tension in the game. The decision space is just the right size, and the tradeoffs are in a zone that will work for casual players but also for more serious gamers. It's not a deep game, but there are interesting tough decisions all the way through.

I wouldn't track down a copy on the used market given that it goes for at least $80. But if it comes back into print, or if you get a chance, I would definitely recommend it.

My 8YO is too young for this, but by the time he's 11-12 I can see this being a first-rate family game for the three of us, and the kind of game that could get a ton of play in our house. I'm hopeful.

A keeper. A real gem of game.
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9. Board Game: 1844/1854 [Average Rating:8.19 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.19 Unranked]
Dave Peters
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Belmont
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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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That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 2Dec2017:

5/2/438 plays of 4/2/201 total games, with 0/0/32 expansions employed.
Plays with 10/3/126 distinct opponents.

1/0/37 games acquired (plus 2/2/21 expansions.) - Peak Oil, Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King – Themenplättchen and Isle of Skye: Journeyman.
0/0/16 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/3 expansions.)
0/0/29 games ordered (plus 0/0/13 expansions.)
Orders for 3 games and 0 expansions still outstanding.

With son #2:

1x _7⅓_ Peak Oil [New!] - Funny. I'd expected to find this over-random. Instead, it seemed to me that the randomness was there primarily for colour - and that the game was more robust and clever than I'd anticipated.

In the end, I found myself quite enthusiastic for another play; having a reasonable expectation that my rating might increase after playing again (and with more players); and definitely wanting to try the Crude variant.

With the Lunch@work group:

1x _5_ Five Cucumbers [New!] - It's quite cute. But much of the game was decision-free. And even when there was a decision, it wasn't often a difficult (or significant) one. I'm happy to have tried it. But it's not the sort of thing I'd ask for.

1x _8_ Sticheln - With six of us. Sticheln isn't at its best with 6, I think: there's more incentive to take a trick than to throw a pain card on another player. Still, it's a lovely design, and very entertaining (for me, at least.)

With the Wednesday night gang:

1x _8_ 1854 [New!] - I really enjoyed this. And for a bunch of reasons: it's a great group; I'd not played an 18xx for a while; this one is both quite tractable, and yet has some cool texture to it.

We didn't quite get all the rules right this time out. Nor did we do particularly well to explore the entire decision space: we built rather fewer tunnels than I expect Seasoned Players might, for example. And even when we did have the rules right, we (more than occasionally) made poor decisions. At least in retrospect.

On Saturday at my place:

1x _8_ 1854 - And one more time for emphasis. (And, frankly, to try to get all the rules right. I'm confident we missed a few things on Wednesday. Including: buying the split shares pays into the company - so, weirdly, a company can receive 170% of its par price by sale of stock. And to discard the final 4 train if one enters a stock round with only one left.)

I did better with the practice: I was less incompetent in general; but more specifically, I managed to consider how the track might mutate, and so did better at the track-laying part of the game.

Owned-and-unplayed: 1 (+1/-1) - Peak Oil arrived and was played.
Owned-and-played-once: 97 (+1/-0) - Peak Oil was played once.

Outlook for the week: Several choir practices. Possibly another game with son #2. Likely games on Wednesday. And then on call next weekend, which will limit me somewhat. (Though, if anything, that'll help me get next week's list out promptly: I'll need to be near my computer next Sunday anyway.)
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10. Board Game: Lorenzo il Magnifico [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:171]
Jeremy Avery
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Kamloops
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Games Played from 2017-11-27 to 2017-12-03

3x Grand Austria Hotel
2x Lorenzo il Magnifico
1x Russian Railroads
1x Caverna: The Cave Farmers
1x Broom Service
1x Stone Age
1x Qwixx

With the GCL tool down, I have a less-visual list this week!

But it was a good week!

Kris was able to come over Friday afternoon - we haven't been able to hang out much over the last five weeks, so it was good to get some consistency back (last week and now this week). We started off with Russian Railroads because I got a purchase order from BGG Marketplace, and thought it would be good to get one last play in. I absolutely love the visual design of Russian Railroads, and do find the game tense, but just don't find the game-to-game variability very interesting. It's a very euroey euro with nice graphics. I keep thinking I'd enjoy a few plays with the expansion, but $50 (when I had the chance) was too much. I won't miss this.

The buyer doesn't seem to be paying, so I may have this one a bit longer in any case.

After that, he and I played Lorenzo il Magnifico: I'd just felt it had been too long since I last played it, and it deserved another play before I moved it on. It has a number of things working against it for me: it's set in Renaissance Europe, it is about gathering resources and building things, it lacks card-supply variability. Still, the challenge of playing it well proves to be engaging, and I always find myself interested in playing it once I start playing it. 2p is a bit weak because it is harder to run your engine, but I still enjoy it enough that I'm happy to have it on my shelf until the right trade comes along.


Saturday was a funny day. Natalie - out of nowhere - was feeling gamey, so we played Grand Austria Hotel twice with Natalie getting two big wins. We really enjoy the puzzle of this one (how do I use my employees, and the available bonuses from customers to effective manage the success of my hotel?), and we feel like we are barely scratching the surface of good play. This is probably a lifetime keeper for us at this point, especially with an expansion announced. I find that I have a tendency to pre-decide my strategy based on my employees, but I think reading the customers' abilities and colours is key to better play for me at this point.

After that we played a game of Lorenzo il Magnifico. Natalie hadn't played in a while, so I took it easy with my strategy, trying out something I hadn't before (no religion for two faith calls, blue early, take penalty for blues, then hope for big church-, blue-, and resource conversion scores). I couldn't quite pull it off and got a fairly low score.

It's funny how little LiM actually has in common with GAH, and yet they have very strong similar essences: the "approval" tracks combined with very tight, limited rounds. Both great puzzles. The strength of these two is the main reason I ordered Voyages of Marco Polo (which I probably won't be able to re-sell). I have a feeling it will be another hit.


E and L came over on Sunday. I hate Broom Service at 4p. The number of times I get pooched in turn order in ways that are totally out of control...grr. L beat me by 2 points because of 4 successful brave calls in the last two rounds. So frustrating.


Qwixx is Quixx. With 2p, I need to try Gemixxt. Stone Age on BGA with my mom.
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11. Board Game: Import / Export [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:2648]
Morten K
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What a busy week at work. Three weeks away meant I didn’t manage to go through my inbox completely till Thursday at 14.10. And it was only this early because I flagged the bigger tasks and have to do them now. I did manage to play a few games though which made the week a lot more fun. Two new games in; one I ordered a looong time ago (Cobras) and one that suddenly came up second hand (Gentes). I also managed to get three games of my list of unplayed games but it doesn’t seem much when I also added the two above to it.


 7   Age of Steam
I’m beginning to fear this is a game I will never get. I always lose and I have very little idea about what I could have done better. I’ve now played it 4 times and tried different maps and still the same result. Not sure whether I should continue and see if I finally crack it or just give up. For those of you who love this game, how many plays did it take you to reach there and how many did you need before you felt you knew what to do when? This was a five-player game on the base Rust Belt map. New to all of us and it was very tight. We all struggled to get any economy up and running so there was very little messing with each other in this play. I miscalculated my income in round two of 7 and had to go down by income two steps. After that it was a long slog. I sold all 15 shares and just barely managed to stay afloat – but ended up with minus points in the end. Boo.



 7   Azul x4 NEW!
This seems to be very very popular everywhere and people are already beginning to talk about it being SdJ material. Perhaps it is. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was at least recommended. I played twice against our neighbour, won the first and lost the second. We really liked our first play so much we immediately played it again. After this I rated it an 8 and told Lærke that we had to try this because it was quite good and I was sure she’d like it. She loves collecting and she likes player interaction almost as much as I do. This has both as prominent features. And lovely bits too even. I wasn’t wrong, she liked it. She beat me fairly easily in our first play and then annihilated me 84-31 in our second. I then lowered my rating to a 7. Not because I had then lost thrice in a row but because it seems like (in a two-player game at least) you have to use similar play styles for it to work. Lærke focused on what she needed and didn’t care much for what I needed and I focused much more on being a dick and denying her what she needed. Because that’s one of the things I liked so much in my first two plays. So my final opinion very much rests on whether that is true or whether I just played very poorly. We’ll see because I still enjoy playing Azul.



 7   Barbarossa
After two plays of Azul, my neighbour and me still had time for something else and last time we played just the two of us we had played Barbarossa and quite enjoyed it. This time I included all the promos I had found online and at Essen and they made it more interesting I think. Despite the awful setting, this is a pretty good deckbuilder actually. Mainly because it’s rather thematic. The problem with it is that is also a bit long because the build up your engine part of it is quite long. It’s not the most interactive either but it’s still good. I look forward to trying it El Alamein which is supposed to be the better of the two games. Both are stand-alones but they can be combined.




 5   Prank of the Fox NEW!
This is one of the two Japon Brand games I bought at Essen this year. The other being Sakura Hunt which looks gorgeous but is probably a bit too thin. I had higher hopes for this two player card game but it’s probably also a disappointment like most of the other Japanese games. But once in a while you find that gem that makes it worth all the crappy ones you have also tried. In this one, one player plays villagers and the other players a fox out to prank the villagers and steal their sushi. Each player has 10 cards in their deck. What’s new is that you take one from each deck and put them back to back inside a sleeve and make sure the players do not know what’s on the other side of their card. This you do with all the cards and then pick 5 of them to use in a game. The villager chooses in which order he’ll play his five cards and then holds them up so the fox can see his side of the cards. The villager will then play one card at a time – unless the fox player wants to prank him and play his card in the same sleeve instead. Two cards can be pranked out of the 5. The cards will all push a marker up a down a track deciding who gets the sushi this round. You have to win three rounds to win the game. The idea is fun but it seems like the cards aren’t that well-balanced so it becomes more of a gimmick than a good game unfortunately.



 9   Import / Export NEW!
Now this is an excellent game. It’s definitely going on to my top 10 of the year list. I love Glory to Rome which is in my all time top 10 list. This is thought of as a mix of GtR and Container. Container is also a top 10 game for me so this should be excellent too, right? Yes it is. It owes more to GtR than to Container in its gameplay so if you like that you are likely to like I/E too. Like in GtR, you play a card to take an action but here the card does not go into a pool but into a discard pile so you do not have to be as careful about which action you take when. There’s still the lead-follow mechanism and the clients zone (here called imports) that allows you to take more actions. There is a liquid finances aspect of the game where you earn money from fulfilling orders (building a building) and sending containers (cards) out to see but not through the auctions where the money always goes to the bank so the economy is not as fragile as it is in Container. The auctions are still blind but the containers are not dead when you win an auction because out of the two a won auction allows you to take you are allowed to take one as an import (client) and one as a good (in your vault) or both in the vault if you do not want one in your import area. If not, the auctions would have been rather boring because each container isn’t worth that much as a good. We played a two-player game and enjoyed it a lot. It’s longer than GtR but very similar, but still different enough to warrant having both games. The flow is very different. And I think it’ll be even better with more players.




Games that left my collection this month: Spirit Island and High Frontier 3rd Ed..

Games that entered my collection this month: Here I Stand (500th Anniversary Edition), Cobras and Gentes.

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, Chicago Express, Democracy under Siege, India Rails, Mini Rails, Q.E., Sakura Hunt, Struggle of Empires,Tulip Bubble, Visby , Voodoo Prince, Secret Hitler, Indian Summer, Photosynthesis, Here I Stand (500th Anniversary Edition), Cobras and Gentes.
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12. Board Game: Felicity: The Cat in the Sack [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:1083]
Alison Mandible
United States
Cambridge
Massachusetts
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 9   Boggle x4
 9   7 Wonders Duel

S has been sick, and so asked for a game where she wouldn't have to talk. Boggle fits (as long as someone else reads your wordlist for you), and we had noticed that 7 Wonders Duel tended to be a very quiet game for us. Occasionally there are "wait, how much do you pay for that?" moments but during the normal course of the game there's not much chatter or active management.

 10   Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends x5
 3   Jenga

The game cafe's copy of Jenga had pieces painted different colors. Notably, the paints were also different in texture; red pieces were smooth enough that the tower could (and did) pivot slightly when weight was resting on one. Unlike my experience with "dexterity Cornerstone" last month, I'm not sure that poor production of the pieces made the game better. But it might not have been worse.

 3   Ricochet Robots

A coworker brought this, and I felt like I should give it another try, partially because, while I disliked it a fair amount in the past, that was also when playing with friends who were better at it than I was. I thought maybe if I got to play more often, I might like it more.

Result: Nope. I was the fastest pretty often, but still didn't like the game. It is interesting, though, how different paths seem obvious to different people.

 7   Felix: The Cat in the Sack

Felix's triumphant return, with mostly new players. After two turns I blurted out "You can't just not play your good cats!" (I was wrong, of course, they could and did.) But one of them, who remembered the talk I gave on boardgames this summer one of whose segments was titled "Don't save all your good cats", said, "I know, that's your motto!"

 7   Quantum Leap

The worst I've ever lost this game (which was nice; I was starting to worry it always came down to just one move of difference, in which case the initial setup is massively important but hard to evaluate. But no! My new coworker won by four or five moves).

 5   Lemminge NEW!

I'm down to only four ongoing games on Yucata, having not started any new ones for months-- except this. It was newly added to the site and looked simple enough. I didn't notice, until halfway through, that it was designed by Sebastian Bleasdale of Keyflower co-design fame. That nudged me to look a little deeper at what seemed like a fluffy race game.

I think there's a lot of "creating the conditions for luck" here; a good draw can make a big difference, but you have more control over how many of the decks cards would be 'good' for you than it seemed at first. Not in any hurry to play again, but I sweated over each of my last several moves in a way that I like games making me do.

 7   Harvest NEW!

All else being equal, I don't like worker placement / blocking as a mechanic. This was much closer to card drafting, though-- the only spaces anybody ever got blocked out of were the 'action cards', which are re-dealt in a tableau of one per player at the start of each round, no repeats. And they're mostly better than the 'town square' (non-changing) spaces. So it's pretty close to "each player takes one action card in turn order, then places their other worker in the town square".

I lost by playing it more like a resource conversion efficiency Euro and less like a Blood Rage-esque "find your combo and exploit it" game. I like that latter niche more. Maybe even enough to put up with the farming theme.

 5   Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure

I might be done with Clank.

 5   Bananagrams x4

I played with two other word-game sharks, leading to my first recorded Bananagrams loss. And then my second and third ones. Glorious! Against players of equal skill this might be more like a 7; at least one of those losses definitely came down to spatial strategy, not to anagramming speed.
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13. Board Game: Mountains of Madness [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:2434]
John Rogers
United States
Yakima
WA
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This week I went to a once-a-month club at a local church. Lots of lighter gaming, which I knew going in. Nice folks though I don’t intend to make this a regular thing.

Codenames - 1x 6/10
JamSumo - 1x 7/10
Imhotep - 1x 5/10
Mountains of Madness - 1x 4/10


Codenames - Night began with a Codenames 4-on-4 session. It was fine as Codenames seems to always be. 3/8 players were new but they got it almost instantly which is the best thing about Codenames.

JamSumo - Directly after Codenames half the table left but light gamers were still plentiful and one was admiring the JamSumo board sitting next me. We gave it a go with a perfect split between experienced and new players. Easily the loudest game of the night as people cheered and groaned with each crazy shot and flying dice. Best game of the night.

Imhotep - A new player showed up and opened his bag of goodies (though none were really that tempting). He was shocked that I hadn’t played Imhotep and after a mild scolding, we broke it out for a play. On the surface it seems as though there is some room for clever positioning but the lack of control over who is on and moves the boats means dickery, bash-the-(perceived)-leader, and meta-gamingwill likely dominate play. This is somewhat offset by the plethora of places to get points though ultimately this delves into analyzing the best net moves which leads to some minor AP, and for a game this light isn’t really worth the effort. Not bad but not interesting enough to be good either.

Mountains of Madness - Rather innocuous apart from the madness hook which really fell flat for me. Here is an example of a terribly dull game with very nice production values; however, it ultimately fails to mask the meh. I kinda wish the game teacher would have done a better job describing our goals and the purpose of the game. He made it seem like this was a serious game but the madness cards gave it a very silly, near party vibe. I had a madness card that said I needed to shiver. What?! No interest in playing again.

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14. Board Game: Near and Far [Average Rating:8.05 Overall Rank:152] [Average Rating:8.05 Unranked]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Last week's plays:

|9| Clank! (+Sunken Treasures; Dire Wolf)
|9| Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
-8- Spirit Island (x2) (+Promo Spirits)
-8- Terraforming Mars
-7- Deus (+Egypt)
-7- Greenland
-7- Qwixx (+Characters New!)
-6.5- Gloomhaven (x2)
-6- Fast Forward: FLEE (x2) New!
-6- Near and Far New!
-5- Aeon's End New!
-4- UNO (x2)

There, there, Clank!, I still love you, even if those nasty people above don't.

My first Spirit Island loss in a long time and Kate's first ever. We were playing against Level 4 Sweden but the particular adversary itself wasn't the problem, rather we picked a tricky combination of spirits. I tried Serpent Slumbering, with its very slow start; Kate had Heart of the Wildfire, dropping blight everywhere; and Tim was Ocean's Hungry Grasp, unable to affect the interior of the island. None of us had played our respective spirits before, so they could definitely have been played better. The blight card had us losing presence, so the other two spirits could rarely spare any for Serpent to absorb, and consequently they didn't see much benefit from my powers. The game prior to this was a nail-biting victory over the English.

Kate and I attempted a trip to the boardgame cafe with B to see if that was possible. All was fine until a teenage birthday party sat at the tables next to us and raised the noise levels considerably. Still, we managed to play Terraforming Mars (my Jovian plans narrowly losing to Kate's Award and Milestone barrage) and Near and Far. The latter is a very gentle Euro adventure game where failure is never a big problem, it just slows you down a little, throwing a spanner into your efficiency engine. We played the introductory scenario and I found the narrative elements weren't as big a feature of the game as I'd expected. I thought the story choices from the book would be more connected to each other, and perhaps they are in the campaign version of the game, here they just provided whimsical snippets of flavour and granted random rewards for completing them. It was more generic modern Euro and less Tales of the Arabian Nights. At the end of the game, there were no amusing tales to recount of our characters' encounters, instead you go through a checklist of points categories. How adventurous! I wonder if the Character Mode of the game would suit me better: it has specific character-related quests and presumably a continuing story. I'm not going to buy the game to find out, though.

We had the coldest game of Greenland yet, with every card ending up frozen. Kate and Matt had successfully made trophies out of polar bears and killer whales, for big polytheistic VPs, so I knew the only way to win was to convert them to monotheism. I put all my efforts into proselytising, raising my hand size to improve my chances and saving up iron and ivory for points. My elders dying out was beneficial in this regard, since it helped me switch religion sooner. Kate tried her best to kill my emissaries but I got lucky and converted her with a couple of turns to go. Matt, on his first play, didn't seem impressed when I converted him on the last turn. I doubt he'll be playing again. I was pleased that my plan worked and surprised that it was actually possible to execute a focussed strategy in a game so full of randomness.

My post-Essen game order had arrived and it mostly consisted of small expansions for games I already enjoy. Qwixx: Characters was first up. Here, each player has a special power they can use on their turn which break the rules of the game in some way. Tim had Double Dutch, which allows one Yahtzee-style reroll every turn. I had Chris Cross, who would allow me to use three pairs of dice on my turn. Double Dutch turned out to be the more powerful character; Chris Cross is too reliant on very specific dice rolls. With hindsight, I perhaps should have played for a very short game from the outset, using the ability to cross off as many numbers as possible to end the game before my opponent got going. It's a silly and unnecessary expansion, but I knew that going in.

More solo Gloomhaven games from the mini-campaign. I had hoped that the main campaign would have more options for side quests and alternative routes to take so that I could play group and solo games within the same overarching storyline. At the moment, I don't want to continue the main campaign without the others because we're halfway through a two-part quest. The side quest we discovered was found by another player, so I don't want to play that without her. I'm hoping that after the next scenario there will be a few more options to choose from and I can explore the world a bit more with or without the others. I'm a bit surprised at its massive popularity. It's a decent dungeon bash game, sure, but it's still just a dungeon bash. Of course, there's the Kickstarter effect boosting its ratings.

I'm not quite sure how to rate FLEE. In a sense, it's not really a game, just a puzzle which you can solve as a group activity if you like. Once you've completed it, there's not a lot of incentive to play it again. We completed it on the second play through (we were a little worried that we'd get to the end on our initial attempt, actually, so it was a relief when we failed that first time). I wouldn't say we've solved it, so I'll probably try it again to see if I can find a better way to play. We had a timing question in our second game, the answer to which would determine whether we won or not. BGG responses to the question suggest we did win but I'd like an official clarification. I can see it being interesting to play with a few different groups just to see how different brains come up with alternative ways of playing it. Ultimately though, it is as disposable as a crossword puzzle and I'd trade it away without regrets.

Not much to say about Aeon's End. It was a fine but unexciting cooperative deck-builder, with a ridiculous theme and a slight twist in that you never shuffle your deck, instead just turn your discard pile over to become your new deck. That could provoke extreme analysis of card ordering, but I couldn't be bothered.
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