Why it's on My Shelf
Rick Spray
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This is a series where I walk through each game in my collection alphabetically and talk about why it's on my shelf. and then everyone can tell us why it's on your shelf, give opinions, and provide other discussions about that game. Looking forward to having intelligent conversations about boardgames with you all.



Here's a link to my BGG collection if you want to see what's coming down the pipe.
https://boardgamegeek.com/collection/user/Redd85?own=1&subty...
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1. Board Game: 13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:509]
Rick Spray
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Okay, so I'm going to start a discussion where I go alphabetically thru my collection and I tell you why it's on the shelf, and then everyone can tell us why it's on your shelf, give opinions, and provide other discussions about that game. So here we go; first up...

13 days Cuban missile Crisis. I've only played this one a couple of times, but here's what does it for me on this game. Is it the deepest game? No. Is it the prettiest game? Nah. But it is a short game with a little meat to it. I'm always looking for games that will play in 25-30 minutes that don't look kiddy, and have some real decisions to make. Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of kid games I enjoy them with my kids, but sometimes I want a grown up theme with a hint of meat to it in a quick time frame.

Now let me say this. Me and the wife play relatively fast. My philosophy is, I would rather play an hour game in an hour and play it 5 times, than study moves forever and bore people and only get two games in 5 hours time. I think I improve at games more thru more plays than thru AP. That being said, 13 days says 45 minutes on the box, but one could easily put this one down in 30 minutes if they just make quick decisive decisions for most of the game with occasional times of thinking a little longer. I digress. Back to my point.

There are nights where I'm tired after work and just want to play a thirty minute game with minimal setup, but want to do something a little more grown up and meaty than sushi go party. Love Sushi Go Party by the way. Have to make these qualifying statements, or wars begin and the main point gets lost. These games also are great for playing in between longer games to get those numbers up for logging my plays on BGG... What? did I just say that out loud? My list of games that fit this category of a quick weekday game with a little meat included; 7 wonders Duel, Roll for the Galaxy, Race for the Galaxy, Star Realms, and Castles of Burgundy the Card Game. But I'm always looking for more games to fit in this category. I think this one fits quite nicely. I would still be happy to get a couple more games with these prerequisites, but this one adds a nice rotation to my short setup, short game play, somewhat serious theme, and decent decisions without a ton of luck style games.

My only problem with 13 Days right now, is that the wife hasn't liked the couple of plays she has had so it hasn't hit the table since. But the box footprint is small enough that I can just wait her out. The siege is on. I will prevail. She'll play this game and like it, or else... At least I hope so.. Well that's my two sense

Tell me what you all think. Why is 13 Days on your shelf, or what your feelings are about 13 days? Look forward to having intelligent conversation about boardgames. It's a passion.
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2. Board Game: 51st State: Master Set [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:254]
Rick Spray
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Today we talk about 51st State Master Set. So why is this game on my shelf? Well let me start this discussion by saying that Imperial Settlers is my second favorite game, right behind Blood Rage and right in front of Terraforming Mars. My favorite part of Imperial Settlers is just when you think you can't do any more you find 5 more things to do. Makes me feel smart cool.

Some might say 51st State MS is a lot like Imperial Settlers and they would be right. But there are three differences that make it worth me having both, especially since the Imperial Settlers system is so high on my list of favorite games.

First, Imperial Settlers' art looks like a Facebook app. Not the end of the world, but sometimes I like to go a little more hardcore and look at some post apocalyptic art, not that post apocalyptic is my favorite theme or anything either, but the 51st State universe is alright with me.

Secondly, 51st State MS is a race, which means I don't have to play five rounds every time, I can just get to 25 points first to trigger end game. Nice change of pace sometimes. Gives you a similar feel to Race for the Galaxy but allows you to build your engine and utilize it a bit longer than RftG, which I like a lot.

And finally, (let me get a little philosophical here) I usually like it when resources flow abundantly. You know when you feel like you are doing so much, and it's just about whether you did as much as your opponent or not. Imperial Settlers makes you feel quite accomplished. 51st State MS is much tighter, and adds an extra step to get things done with the control tokens. More than ever, the balance of getting the right resources to get the contact tokens which are needed to accomplish anything is a real challenge. This game is so much tighter than it's big brother that I didn't like it the first couple times I played. But I pushed through and even played the solo version, and became much more proficient. Now I feel quite accomplished to do as well as I do, and I absolutely love this game to the point that it is tied with Imperial Settlers on my list of favorite games. Imperial Settlers does get a slight edge because it gets played a lot more.

The reason for this is my wife doesn't like the extra contact token step in 51st State MS which means it's hard to get to the table. I usually play with people who have never played which means I don't get the challenge I am looking for to fully enjoy the game. I'm really looking forward to that challenge with this one one day. Nevertheless, I still occasionally throw the "You really got to give this one another chance" line out there with the wife. But I can't complain. Imperial Settlers is one of my wife's favorite games as well, so it hits the table a couple times a month. No matter what happens, 51st Master Set will not leave my shelf. It's great and makes me happy when I look at it and Imperial Settlers cuddling up together on my shelf.

Anyways, I got off on a little tangent there. Great game that plays in 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes, which is one of my favorite time frames for a game if it has this level of strategic/tactical decisions.

What about you? Why is it on your shelf? What do you think about 51st State MS?
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3. Board Game: 7 Wonders Duel [Average Rating:8.15 Overall Rank:10]
Rick Spray
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Now I know 7 Wonders Duel alphabetically comes after 7 Wonders, but I want to start with 7 Wonders Duel before I get to 7 Wonders. Why? Because I got into the game hobby in 2014, so I kind of skipped some of the primary games of the hobby and went straight for a lot of either more epic old games or newer stuff. Games like ticket to Ride, Catan, and 7 wonders weren't on my radar because I didn't want the tropes of the hobby, I wanted to move straight to hard core gamer status, Bloooooood Raaaaaaaage! Silly me. Oh how much I've grown up since then. modest (That's my Humble Face)

But that being said 7 Wonders Duel has been on my shelf for a couple of years now and has currently 26 plays vs. 8 months and 2 plays for it's predecessor. Alright, enough backstory already...

Bottom line is 7 wonders duel is great for it's time frame, hence it's well earned rating on BGG. The wife and I can finish a game of this in 18-30 minutes. It always is pretty tense and you feel a sense of accomplishment once your done. Now for me, the theme doesn't come through as much as I would like, but I don't see how they could have made it any better. I think the theme is better in 7 wonders because your civilization is building one wonder. This is not important tho. What's important is that for the time frame there aren't many games better.

Now I will admit, after you play it 10-15 times you start to get a baseline strategy that helps determine actions even with this game's variable setup. Some suggest that the expansion makes this one's replayability that much better, but I'm kind of rebelling against it because I got enough games with various mythos in them... I do kind of want it tho????

That being said I'm still happy with just the base game because this one will usually hit the table 1-2 times every couple of months. With that rotation, I play it infrequent enough that it Nevers get old. But this game is perfect for a quick setup, short game type of night after work. It's worth the 25 bucks. I would say it's almost a board game collection essential.

But I maybe wrong... What do you guys think?

If you're interested in my collection and what is coming down the pipe here is my BGG collection. https://boardgamegeek.com/collection/user/Redd85?own=1&subty...
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4. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:41]
Rick Spray
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Alright, as I promised yesterday, we are going to talk about 7 Wonders. Yesterday we looked at 7 Wonders Duel. Here's the deal. I like 7 Wonders Duel better than 7 Wonder... mainly because I usually have just two players. That got awkward... But no, drafting is one of my favorite mechanics, more so when it is part of a system such as Blood Rage and Terraforming Mars Draft Variant. But that being said, I still really enjoy drafting games like Sushi Go Party to play with the family.

Let me get to the point. What I think 7 Wonders does better than basic drafting games like sushi go or Fairy Tales is that it makes you make a decision with the card you chose. You can either build, trash for cash, or work on your wonder. That gives an additional decision to be made and makes it feel a bit more meaty. And I'm using meaty in comparison to basic drafting games here. Don't want a complexity war discussion to break out here.

As much as I wanted to rebel against this well known gateway game, I really actually enjoyed it. Granted I only have two plays under my belt. I think the theme is better than Duel only because your civilization only builds one wonder, instead of potentially four, but that is stuff that is so petty. I'm not making a big deal about it at all, especially not for a 30-40 minute game.

So, what's my verdict. I finally pulled the trigger on this one because it was 20 bucks on Amazon. You know the oldest excuse in the book to buy another game. "It's just such a great deal, I'll trade it if I don't like it." Well I do like it, in fact I like it enough to keep it because I have family members and kids to play this game for a good while. So I can get tired of it like many of you, and look down on it for being a beginners game. I'll end up having the expansions and talking about which ones are good with you guys. It will all work out in the end right?

Whelp, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. I like to be a hard core gamer as much as the next guy, but I can't help when I go into a game with my nose turned up, and leave saying, "I had a really good time." I look forward to many more plays of this one in the future.

So what do you guys think? Certainly many of you have been there done that with this one. Tell me your story with 7 Wonders and how it has been a part of your gaming journey. Or even why it is or isn't on your shelf.
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5. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:17]
Rick Spray
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Now Agricola is one of the 7 games on my shelf that I have yet to play. Now the other 6 I have an excuse for. I just got them 2 weeks ago in an in person trade at my local convention, Rocket City Gamefest. I actually got 7 games in the trade and have already played one. (That’s me bragging about my mediocrity)

But I do not have an excuse for Agricola. Agricola is another one of those games that is a staple of the industry. Listening to others in the industry; I had, and still have, my own preconceived opinions of this one without even playing it. Some have said that Caverna replaces it. Others say that the feed your people is too brutal. And personally, it looks quite unappealing to my eyes with all the new gorgeous boardgames that have come out since then. And my opinion has been somewhat shaped from all of the opinions and my visual ques.

However, I have always wanted to play this one to see for myself. Well, in enters a nice trip to go visit my wife’s family in Pasadena, California back in October of 2017. Everywhere I go, I always like to go to the local game store, or stores, or stores in nearby towns. I just like to see what places got going on. Well like usual we are driving down the road and there is a game store. I don’t ever see them because I’m driving. And my wife points it out. She always points it out accidently, and then regrets it because I’m like, “We got to go!” So when I see it, it looks like a little dinky shop on the corner of a building. So we come back a bit later, and low and behold this spot is huge, and awesome. I’m like, “What the heck, where did this store come from?” So I talk to the guy working and learn a little about how they run the shop and all, and look at the huge selection of games, all of which are basically MSRP. Still fun to look, but not buying… BUT THEN, there’s a huge shelf of used/discounted games. I’m in heaven. Oh the possibilities! Most of them suck. But there are like 4 or 5 I’m contemplating. So I pull out my phone and get BGG, Amazon, and Coolstuffinc up to start researching.

There were a few others that were good deals, and I almost wanted to, but really it would have just been a “me being cheap” purchase, and I probably wouldn’t have liked the game. But Agricola was a contender from the get go. 30 Bucks for Agricola, this game is number 15 on BGG with over 52k ratings. I really like the theme of building my own farm, because again, coming into the industry in 2014 I got skip every game being about farming or trading in the Mediterranean. The production is obviously not up to standard to other games in my collection, but it’s not terrible to me.

Now this is the original Agricola so I don’t even have upgraded components, just disks. Anyways, I made the purchase, and I am still happy I did. I’m thinking very soon I’m going to get this one out and go for it. The rule book is hefty, but nothing I haven’t done many times before.

Overall, I am excited to get this one to the table and glad I have Agricola on my shelf to make me look like an old school gamer. Did I say that out loud? I mean, to add to my beautiful Euro/Worker placement portion of my collection.

Anyways, I know I’ve blabbed on, but that’s why Agricola is on my shelf. And I’m hoping it’s good enough to stay. But if not, I’m hoping I can get my 30 bucks back in a trade. The verdict is still out.

But what do you guys think of Agricola. Why is it on your shelf? Or have you moved on to bigger and better things? How is this one with 2 players? Give me some feedback and help me to continue to judge this game by its box.
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6. Board Game: Android: Netrunner [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:39]
Rick Spray
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Today we’re talking Android Netrunner. And let me keep your expectations low, we are talking about it from a quite pedestrian point of view. Zero plays on the competitive scene. This is just another card game for me people, like Seasons or Imperial Settlers. Got to make that disclaimer before some local game store tournament winner slaughters me for my incompetence.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me just start by saying, I've never been in the CCG scene, and don't really ever want to be. I got Netrunner because I could pick my packs if I wanted to, and could just stop at the base game if I wanted to as well. This was one of my first 15 purchases and everything about it seemed amazing to me.

So here’s where the story begins. It’s gonna start out a boardgamer sob story, but it’s going get better so stick with me. When I first got this one me and the wife probably put down about 10-15 games with the base set. Unfortunately I regularly beat her because this is a challenging game to teach someone. You kind of need to read the rule book and flesh out the particulars for yourself. Once again, my wife does not read rule books. Couple of points I want to make about this though. One mistake I made was she only played the runner. This is one where you need to swap sides every game until you get really familiar with it. I could get by because I was reading all about this game as I was intrigued with just how much depth there was in the deckbuilding and strategies. By my wife only playing the runner she got really frustrated and never really grew because she had no idea what I was doing as the Corporation. This led to this game just sitting on the shelf for two years and some change, until about a week ago.

Now we have both played A LOT more games since then. Everyone knows it becomes easier and easier to pick up mechanisms with more games played. And I’m sure my teaching abilities have grown some since then. So anyways, I've bought one big box expansion, 4 small box expansions, and the two player playmat since then. So I'm in the hole about 120 bucks on this one. Oh, and since we played two games last week… I bought another deluxe expansion. I Knowwwwwww. You don’t have to tell me, I have a problem. But listen, here is the thing. I know this game is great, and I can’t wait to build my decks.

Anyways, this time around my wife is grasping the game much better, and we are basically playing weekly at this point. I really think we have a chance to make this one work. Netrunner is one of those games that every time I look at my shelf I'm like, "I want to play this game so bad." I really enjoy Netrunner, but I want some competition. I deal with computers for a living so the theme is great, and the mechanics are in sync with the theme. The aspect of taking chances as the runner, and bluffing as the Corporation adds some real adrenaline rushes to an already great resource management card game. That being said I have enough cards to do some great deckbuilding for the casual play I'm going to do. And I've made a command decision to stop buying any more stuff for this one until I verify this is going to be a staple of the Sprayberry household. (Stay strong man... stay strong)

But there is hope, remember those two kids that I produced from my loins several years ago? They are coming to age, and if my wife and I are unable to make this one work, I have a back up plan. (Evil Laugh) My son is already playing Pokemon, unfortunately with me. I think it is a mediocre collectible card game, but it is solid for his age and he likes the theme. So I'm trying to be a good dad and make sacrifices; you know, play games they want to play too. The old being a parent thing. But, and I mean this “but” very passionately, I'm hoping this Pokemon playing will pay off and I can upgrade this guy to Android Netrunner one day. We shall see, but that is why Android Netrunner is on the shelf, and I hope in the future I can be at about 75-100 plays with this one.

Whelp, what do you think of Netrunner? Better yet, tell me a game where you have real hopes it works out, and you’ve put some serious money into the game, but have yet to get the plays and experience you know it can offer?
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7. Board Game: Animals on Board [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:1522]
Rick Spray
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Animals on Board is what’s on my shelf for today. Okay, so let's talk about the elephant in the ark. I have one of the most kiddy kid games ever in my collection... But I got to be honest, it's pretty fun. Now let me just say that I try to be as well versed in my collection as possible, so I try to have every theme I am even slightly interested in, and every mechanic. So as a budding boardgame hobbyist I heard of a new to me mechanism know as split and choose.

Animals on Board was the game that was highly praised by many at the time, and I used the old, "I'm getting this one for the kids" excuse to pull off the purchase. Now, was this game as good as the hype? Nah, but it was very light fun for me and the kids. To be honest I think that split and choose is such a simple concept that it is like drafting in that it would probably be best if it was part of a system. If a designer could find a way to make split and choose be part of a whole game system without making the game feel like two games in one, yeaaaahhhh... that'd be great.

But for now I am left with Animals on Board and New York Slice in my collection. Now New York Slice is the game my wife likes better because she is in love with pizza. But I got a secret for you. Don't tell her this... (Whisper Voice) I like Animals on Board better. I probably like the theme and production better on New York Slice, but the game play is so much smoother and dynamic in Animals on Board. There is this whole saving food for the next round, and a real chance to get stuff that you didn't expect. In New York slice one person splits and then gets last pick. Now, I'm not saying I don't like both games, I just like the flow and strategy of Animals on Board a bit better. I think the push your luck element comes out much stronger in the latter.

So what am I saying? I'm saying, as much as this is definitely a filler (25-30 mins.) with a very light strategy, it is still cool to have a split and choose mechanic in the collection, and I think Animals on Board and New York Slice are good enough until someone comes out with the ultimate game that has split and choose as one part of it. That's why it's in the collection, I have covered that mechanic in my collection, Check in the box. And I have decent light fun with the kids when it comes out.

So what do you guys think of Animals on Board, and even split and choose as a mechanic as a whole? Let me know.
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8. Board Game: Automania [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:748]
Rick Spray
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So this next one might tickle some of your fancies a bit more than Animals on Board. This one will also wrap up the “A’s”. Let’s finish strong with Automania. Now me and Automania have a love hate relationship. Everything about this game is great for me as a worker placement game. It has great decisions to be made. The theme is a fresh breath of relief from the normal trading spices and livestock. Now it is possible that if they would have went with a little more serious art instead of cartoony I might like it even more, but there is something about the cartoony art that is appealing as well. Some have complained about this, but for me I’m completely fine with their graphic design decisions. The way the worker placement works is cool, where you pay extra workers to use the same space, and you can use leftover workers to bump up your prestige enough for extra bonuses. Everything is just great for this lower middle weight worker placement game...

The problem is I usually leave this game with my head feeling super heavy from working so hard. AP players stay away! Now I told you I play very quickly. I make a decision and go with it. And I usually do quite well, if I might add. That being said, this game has four locations that you have to look at and make calculations for. Your player board, the current market track, the actual worker spaces, and the ships where you sell the cars at. By the time I make three of the four calculations and am working on the other, I come back and say, "Wait, what was I doing here". Now, my last game I played, I was on my game, I was making moves, I left with no heavy head, and had a blast. So maybe I'm getting smarter from all my boardgame playing... But I'm just saying, this is the one reason this game has only got 7 plays in 2 years instead of 21. Even now I want to play it. This is a great game that plays in about an hour with two players, and plays quite well with two at that. I also enjoyed it at 4. Check it out if you haven't yet.

Bottom line, this one’s a keeper. Got nothing but love for this one, but me and the wife have to be in the right mood for it. Writing this will probably get this one off the shelf in a week or two. These posts are really reminding me of how much I like my games and making me want to revisit them all. Just got a game of 7 Wonders Duel in yesterday, and a few games of Netrunner.

So is there anyone else out there who likes Automania? I know it gets mixed reviews, but I really think it’s a solid mid-weight Euro.
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9. Board Game: BANG! The Dice Game [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:462]
Rick Spray
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So, let’s talk Bang the Dice Game. Now let me just preface my remarks by saying this. I try to be very objective and well-rounded in my gaming. I don't want to be known as the jerk euro gamer that won't play anything else. I think my collection represents that. But there are two types of games that I really try to like, and have several of them in my collection, but they rarely are as fun to me as other types of games. I'm talking about social deduction games and co-ops. Well the game today is a social deduction game. Bang the Dice Game and Deception Murder in Hong Kong are probably my favorite of the genre at this point, but I also don't go out of my way to play the newest social deduction game.

That being said, I had a pretty good time the first couple of times I played Bang the dice game. Then I played with a couple of other groups and it just fell flat. I don't have but about 7 plays of it, so the verdict is still out on this one, but being as objective as possible, I think this type of game greatly depends on the group. Unfortunately I rarely have more than 2-4 players, and usually prefer a non filler, so I don't know when this one will hit the table again.

But out of the rest of the social deduction games I have played, I really appreciate the special powers and winning conditions in this one. The dice make everything interesting for deducing who's who, and it plays relatively quick. Bang and Tiny Epic Galaxies are also my only Yahtzee style games and I'm happy to have them represent that mechanic as well. That is not my favorite mechanic either, but I enjoy it in both of these.

So what's the verdict? Is Bang the Dice game everything I thought it would be? I don't think so... but it is such a small box that it doesn't hurt my shelf space limit and it's nice to have options. So this one will probably stay on the shelf for good even though it might not hit the table very often.

So what do you guys think of Bang the Dice Game? What are your favorite social deduction games, and why?

Don't persecute me for my statements on co-ops and social deduction games. I really do try to like them and do have fun sometimes. I'll tell you more when I get to my co-op games.
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10. Board Game: BattleLore (Second Edition) [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:130]
Rick Spray
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Madison
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BattleLore 2.0, let’s just say this is the calm before the storm, because tomorrow I talk about my favorite game ever!!! But we'll do that tomorrow. BattleLore2; however, is a game that belongs in a group of games that I would call hex combat games with dice combat. I have Memoir 44, Nexus Ops, Magic the Gathering Arena of the Planeswalkers, and this one. Now I “like” these games, but I think the one thing that keeps me from loving them is the dice combat. While I don't hate dice combat, I would much rather other systems such as those in Kemet, Blood Rage, and Cry Havoc. The latter systems still have a small bit of luck, but they offer bluffing and other aspects that make you feel like you had some real effect on the results.

I just sat down and played a game of BattleLore last night before I wrote this, my fifth play. Prior to this play I would have said that BattleLore is my favorite of this group of games, but I think I have to change that and say Memoir 44 is. And I’ll tell you why.

BattleLore has some really cool pregame actions that I love. You can deckbuild, army build, pick your scenario, and secretly place your troops. This adds some cool decisions even before the game. And in game, the Lore cards do the best job of making me feel like I'm mitigating the luck of the dice. Magic AoTP tries but only does okay, and Memoir 44 doesn't even try. So, when first playing this game the first few times I thought I would like it more. And I don’t want you to think this one is far behind Memoir44. Memoir44 Just takes a slight advantage at this point.

While I get that amazing feeling by making many decisions along the way that make me feel like I had more of an effect on the outcome. And BattleLore has several rules that make more sense, like the retreat and counter mechanics, along with cool unit abilities that really give you more to think about; at the end of the day a good part of the outcome of this game comes down to card draws and dice rolls. All the other stuff is almost a mirage that I would prefer if the game didn’t take twice the time to set up, and twice the time to play as Memoir44. I still really enjoy this one, especially once I finish painting all of the miniatures. There are a LOT of miniatures, especially with the two expansions. The wife and I have been tag teaming them and we are about 3/4s of the way done.

But, after contemplating which game I liked better for a while I realized that I just slightly prefer Memoir44’s 15 minute setup and 30-45 minute playing time when it comes to the amount of luck of the command cards and dice. Also, my wife doesn’t like the theme of BattleLore2, while we both enjoy the theme of Memoir44, us both being Marines and all. I do believe if I played BattleLore with someone who enjoyed the theme, and was a highly tactical player who gave me a real solid challenge I would probably enjoy BattleLore just a bit more. Not that my wife didn’t just beat me, but she is more of a strategic Euro player, and I am more tactical.

But as it sits now it is still a solid game that also offers me a lot of extra miniatures for DnD as well. So it will not be leaving the shelf due to its multi-purpose use, and because this kind of game is great for playing with kids that are around 10-14 years old because the luck gives them a real chance to beat me while giving me some tactical challenge. So originally I had this one at an 8.5 and Memoir44 at a 7.5, but my love for Memoir has gone up to an eight and this one has dropped to 7.5. I’ll tell you more about Memoir44 later.

So that’s why it’s on my shelf. How do you feel about BattleLore2? What is your favorite hex combat game with dice combat? Let me know.
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11. Board Game: Blood Rage [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:21]
Rick Spray
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Madison
Alabama
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Now we come to the pinnacle of my game collection and we are only at “B’s”. I’m talking about Blooooooood Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaage! Now, I love a lot of different mechanics but area control done right is one of my favorites. Before I present this list of favorite area control games, I have not played the Godfather or Rising Sun. I didn’t really like Inis that much, even though I would be willing to give it another chance. So currently my area control games are in this order. Blood Rage, Kemet, Cry Havoc, and Nexus Ops. Now Nexus Ops is a long way down from the first three, but each of these games has a different theme and mechanics. Nexus Ops offers me the dice combat mechanic for area control, which is why it stays on the shelf.

Okay, let me get back to the point. Why is Blood Rage not only my favorite area control game, but my favorite game? Because it has the best use of drafting I have ever played, it has multiple paths to victory, and has very smooth mechanics that feel epic in about an hour and a half. But there are two main reasons that Blood Rage is greater than the sum of its already amazing parts for me.

You see I was Active Duty Marine Corps. And what the Marine Corps teaches you is to adapt and overcome. To figure out a way to succeed no matter what happens. This game does that in spades. Blood Rage is notorious for absolutely decimating the most well thought out plans. And it’s not by luck either. It’s because of player choice. From the drafting to every move you make, you and the other players were part of the destruction that is readily waiting to see people’s faces blush in anger as everything they’ve been working on was absolutely pooped on with no discretion. You see I’m really a tactician, and a pretty good one. I have gotten a lot better at long term strategy and really love games that are highly strategic, but at heart I usually take it play by play and make the best decision I think at the time. And I don’t get mad when everything goes bad. I just love playing and learning how to be a better player. So a game like Blood Rage doesn’t bother me at all if everything I was working for is destroyed. I’m usually like, “Wow, that is amazing!” as I laugh about it with everyone. To be good at Blood Rage you have to have a plan, a backup plan, and just be ready to make something happen when it all falls apart. And that is what I do, and I usually win. This is the first reason why I truly love Blood Rage. But the second reason is well connected to this first point.

You see the real reason I absolutely love Blood Rage is because it tells stories that I will never forget. Every time I begin to tell someone about Blood Rage my statement usually starts with, “The most ridiculous stuff happens in this game, this one time…” And I’m telling you I have seen some plans fall apart so bad that I saw a guy’s cheeks turn red like he was a 7 year old who just lost a game to his 6 year old brother. I’m just going to do it, and tell one of the stories. One time this guy had like 8 guys on the board at the end of the game, and had the card that gives you three points per guy left on the board. He was going to beat me by probably 30 points. So I go into The middle section, I usually call it Ygameister. (You don’t want to hear how I butcher all the names in my Alabama country accent. I think it’s funny myself) But anyways. I pillage the middle section and he is like, oh what the heck, I’m bringing everyone one in. He wants to rub it in my face how bad he is about to murder me. And I play the combat card that says, “remove all but one unit from each player before comparing strength. This guy loses all his guys but one and I end up winning. Great moment I will never forget, you would have to have been there.

Now I understand that some of these crazy stories came from rookies that made rookie mistakes. But I still have great stories even when playing with experienced players. Maybe not that crazy, but still great. I’ve put down 21 plays of this since I got it January 31, 2016. And I am no where tired of it. Even with just the base game, I have yet to get tired of it. I finally played with the god’s and mystics expansion last game. I bought the god’s expansion, but I think I actually like the mystics expansion more. They both add a little bit more to think about, so I think I will get the mystics expansion too since this is my favorite game. Like I said, I’m not really buying new games very often any more. I’m just making the one’s I love even better. 100 games is good enough for me. But yeah, the expansions are good too.

Well, that’s Blood Rage. Just pure greatness for me. If there was one game that will never leave the shelf, I’m pretty sure it will be this one. What about you guys and gals? Is Blood Rage everything I have described for you? Do you have a cool story to share about one of your Blood Rage sessions?

I know this one was a bit long winded, but hey it’s my number one… Thanks for bearing with me as I pour out my heart to you all.

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12. Board Game: Bottom of the 9th [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:1315]
Rick Spray
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Madison
Alabama
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Oh how far we have fallen from Blood Rage. The game for today is not even worthy enough to untie Blood Rage’s sandals. But I will tell you why is welcome to stay on my shelf for now. Bottom of the Ninth is the quintessential 2 player luck filled filler. It plays in 5-15 minutes. Usually I would be like nah, but this one ain’t bad. Not that it’s anything to write home about either, but the theme really works with this one. There is this whole guessing game aspect to it as the pitcher is trying to pick his pitch, and the batter is trying to match that pitch. This unlocks special abilities that help to mitigate the dice rolls. Then there is a “real time” aspect as the runner is running the bases. Again, if this was longer than what it is, this would be a no go. The luck in this one is heavy. I’m talking 70% of the outcome is dice. But I do love sports, not really baseball that much. That being said, this is the only game I have played that is sports related that actually gives the feel of the sport it’s trying to represent. Granted, I have not played 1st and Goal which is a game I want to play. Baseball Highlights 2045 was alright, but didn’t really do it for me.

Overall, this is a short filler that comes off the shelf once every 2-3 months on a weeknight where I just played 7 Wonders Duel or Mystic Vale and I know I can’t talk the wife into anything else, and I say, “Hey let’s just get a quick game of Bottom of the Ninth in”… You see what I did there? Got to keep my game plays up for the “What did you play Last Week?” Monday post. Nah, I’m just joking… (kinda). But seriously, this one has a minor purpose for the shelf, it’s a very small box so it takes up no shelf space, and it cost like 12 bucks. So it’s staying for now.

Anybody out there who enjoys Bottom of the Ninth? What about any other sports games that give the feel of the sport it is trying to represent? I’m always on the lookout for a good sports game.
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13. Board Game: Campaign Manager 2008 [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:1215]
Rick Spray
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Madison
Alabama
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Now this next one is in the same category as Bottom of the 9th, nothing to write home about. The story of Campaign Manager started during the convention I went to this January, Rocket City Gamefest. They had a no shipping math trade, which means I don’t have to pay the 15 to 20 bucks in shipping per person I trade with. I was willing to take a loss to get rid of some of the games I don’t care about that much. Well I ended up doing pretty good actually and got four games I’m believing will be great. I also hit a guy up on the side after some of my games didn’t trade, and asked him if he would consider trading a couple of games. So here’s what I got, I traded Dues, and two Unlock games that I had already played, for La Granja and Campaign Manager 2008. Now Dues is good. I like it. It just would never make it off the shelf because there would always be a game I would rather play. And one of those games would be Imperial Settlers. When I get the itch for a civilization themed engine builder Dues would not be the choice 95% of the time. So while I liked Dues I was willing to give it up along with the two Unlock games to get La Granja and Campaign Manager. I mean there is really no loss in the Unlock games, I am only going to play them once. Now Campaign Manager was in pretty bad shape, but La Granja was in mint condition. And La Granja was the game I really wanted. Campaign Manager was really just a bonus. With Campaign Manager’s condition, I’m talking that old 80’s I’ve been sitting in a closet and mistreated look. But I don’t care, like I said, just a bonus. I got Dues for a very very discounted price in the first place, so I really would have come out good if I would have traded the three games for just La Granja.

But I really have wanted to play Campaign Manager for a while now. I like the theme and it seemed like it was another really light version of Twilight Struggle in a short time period. Is it all I had hoped it would be? Not really. But it’s not bad either. It’s just kind of average at best. But that’s okay, for a thirty minute game this one has some light strategy with a few decisions to make it fit with the theme enough to semi immerse you in the game.

The best part of Campaign Manager is the deckbuilding mechanic before the game starts. Basically there are 45 cards for each side, and you get to draw three at a time and pick the one you want until you have a hand of 15 cards to play the game with. Now the thing about this mechanic is that there is hardly enough strategy in this game for your deckbuilding choice to really affect the game’s outcome, but this mechanic would be awesome to see in more games. One game that I have heard has this mechanic, which makes me want to try it even more, is Sola Fide. As far as the game play goes, you will either draw a card or play a card on your turn to try and gain the advantage in a very light area control style game to win states that get your side to 270 electoral votes. The good news is you play back and forth pretty quick and most of your real decisions come from figuring out which state you are going to gain some influence in. The 15 card deck you built just keeps getting rotate. You’ll probably go through your deck twice in a game. There isn’t a lot here, and yet I don’t mind playing it every once in a while. I probably would try to bundle it with some other games eventually to trade, but the box and components are just not in premium shape for a game that is already not in any kind of demand. The good news is the box is like an inch and a half thick so it takes up hardly any shelf space. This game is light enough for the kids to play in the near future, and the cards have some cool pictures of the 2008 campaign. I wasn’t really following politics back then, but I do now, so I get to look back on some of the cards and see what some of the issues of the day were, and even google some events to learn a bit.

I basically got this game for free and don’t mind keeping it. This one will probably make it to the table once or twice a year as a quick thirty minute game. But I’m glad I got to play it, and I hope to see the deckbuilding mechanic mentioned in some better games in the future. It lets you deckbuild, but make quick decisions and not get bogged down in looking through tons of cards to put together a deck. While I want to do that in some games like Netrunner, it’s also nice to have a bunch of cards and have a limited pool of three or four cards to make the best decision for that small group of cards. It’s almost like solitaire drafting in a way. Good stuff.

Anyways, that is Campaign Manager 2008. Average at best, but good enough to hang around until my shelves are bursting at the seams. This one could even go thrift store when I finally do get rid of it, because it’s just not in good shape.

What do you guys think? Anybody a Campaign Manager 2008 fan? What about any good games that have this kind of solitaire drafting/deckbuilding mechanic I mentioned? Let me know.
 
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14. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:556]
Rick Spray
United States
Madison
Alabama
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Now once again I am going to break alphabetical order for Castles of Burgundy the Card Game. I owned it before Castles of Burgundy. So how did this one come to my shelf? Well, I was watching Tom Vasel’s reviews like always and here comes Castles of Burgundy the Card Game. I was highly intrigued without having any knowledge of the original. So the price was probably 12 bucks on Amazon and I picked it up December 2016. 25 plays later, 11 of which were solo I’ll tell you what I think of it.

Well let me just say I love the combos you can put together in this game. When you put multiple combos together on one turn you feel brilliant. At its heart though this is a set collection game that offers some cool mechanics in about 25-30 minutes for a two player game. I’ve played it with three players once, but it really overstay its welcome for me. This is a great 25 minute game that has a lot going for it. Set collection is pretty low on my list of game mechanics. This was probably the first set collection game I was like, “Okay, pretty good”. Followed by, just recently, Ethnos. Again, I had never played Castles of Burgundy but the game plays fast and smoothly while offering some real solid decisions to be made. The art and all looks atrocious, but it kind of grew on me. So much so that by the time I bought the original I had a certain nostalgia to the artwork from the card game that I actually like the boardgame's art. Pretty silly I know.

I’m not a solo player as much as I do try. I like human interaction. However, I will play every game that has the option at least once solo. And let me tell you. This is my favorite solo game. It plays so smooth. In between rounds you flip over a number of cards for the autobot, check his score which you have to either tie or beat by the end of the round, and then you play the rest of round as normal without having to wait on another player. You literally can put a game down in 15-20 minutes and there is absolutely no autobot calculations during game play. It’s just really solid.

So, this is probably the best 10 buck game I have played. The box is tiny, it’s in the rotation with the rest of my midweek 20-30 minute games with some meat, and it has a great solo mode. What more do you want me to say? With that being said I don’t want you to think this is an epic game like Terraforming Mars or nothing. I’m merely expressing its greatness for its size, price, length, and mechanics. But Castles of Burgundy the Card Game is certainly worthy to be on my shelf and for me to play 3-5 times a year. Great travel game as well, except for the fact that this one has a huge footprint for the tiny box. You’ll need at least a 2 and half by 2 and a half foot table to play this one. That would be a bit cramped for me though.

So does anyone else appreciate Castles of Burgundy the Card Game? I’ll tell you how it compares to Castles of Burgundy tomorrow though. That's where the fun begins.
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15. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:11]
Rick Spray
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Madison
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Back in October of 2017 I finally pulled the trigger on a game I had been kind of wanting for a while. I had its baby brother Castles of Burgundy the Card Game for close to a year, but I really wanted to know if Tom Vasel’s assessment that the card game was better was true or not. Especially since Castles of burgundy is number 11 on BGG and the Card Game is ranked 548.

Well I got it. Let me just say, I usually love my Star Wars Rebellion, Blood Rage, and Viticulture artwork, and tend to not love artwork like Castles of Burgundy offers, but after having the card game I actually really enjoyed the look of this game. I’m not saying it’s amazing, but just that I am happy with it when I play the game. The dice feel amazing. They have a great weight to them. The player boards are cool. But if I didn’t feel the way I do about this game then the art would have no real effect on whether I liked the game or not.

So how do I feel about Castles of Burgundy? Well after playing this one 7 times in 3 months, this one is in my top 10 easily, I think about 6 or 7. And this is coming from a guy who bypassed this one for years. It’s not new game hype, this is 2011 hype. I’ve played a plethora of worker and dice placement games, and this one is just suburb. This is truly an eloquent design. What do I mean by eloquent? Now I have only played this one at 2 players, but it is great. A very meaty game for right around 45 minutes to an hour game play. Just like in its Card Game version, the thing I love the most about this one is the combos. You play a tile that let’s play another city, that city lets you sell some goods, that gets you one silver, and gives you enough silver to get middle tile. That is just one example of how you chain actions together. And those chains of actions make you feel like you might be the smartest person on the planet… if only for that brief moment. And then what happens next is your opponent makes some combos as well, and you stand back and say, “Well played’.

The flow of this game and its mechanics are astonishing. This one will be a go to game for a long time. And it is not too complex for newer gamers. The only item to really learn is the iconography for the science tokens. The dice aren’t as big a factor as what they would seem, as there are ways to mitigate dice rolls and still get things done. For me, this is one of the best purchases I have ever made.

So surely many of you will agree with me, but what is it about Castles of Burgundy that makes those who don’t like it dislike it? For those who do enjoy it, tell me how many times you have played this one. What’s your favorite player count? Has this one lost its luster after many plays? Let me know.
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16. Board Game: Clank! In! Space! [Average Rating:8.02 Overall Rank:230]
Rick Spray
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Madison
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Today we are talking Clank In Space! Let me begin this with a short silique on my thoughts on deckbuilders. You know, me and deckbuilders have a real love/meh relationship. Deckbuilding has been a staple of my collection since the beginning, with Star Realms, Mystic Vale, and Marvel Legendary. (These are my favorites) For me deckbuilding is one of those mechanics that are better as part of a system. I pretty much have no desire to add any more basic deckbuilders to my collection. The three mentioned are good enough for me. I know that deckbuilding is a loose concept that ranges from your general deckbuilders like Dominion and Star Realms, to stranger versions like Xenoshyft. But for me general deckbuilding is kind of a monotonous mechanic. You buy cards and hope they come out in the right order after you shuffle your deck to make some amazing combos that make you feel like you are so smart. And yet, really there is a lot of luck that comes down to your success. Now there is enough strategy and enough of a mirage of there not being luck that I do enjoy deckbuilding games. But they can only be so long. Marvel Legendary can last up to about 45 minutes once you get into expansions. But I just love Marvel Legendary so much for reasons that I will share later that I let it slide and have a blast. Now for me the perfect length deckbuilder is Star Realms. You can play a game in 15-20 minutes. Mystic Vale adds some push your luck which lets it go for about 45 minutes and me still loving it. 15-20 minutes though for a basic deckbuilder this is perfect. And that’s my initial feelings on deckbuilding. Xenoshyft is way to long for what it is, and Dominion and Ascension are just unattractive to me.

But there are games that add deckbuilding of various types to their holistic system. One that I absolutely love if Cry Havoc, again a different kind of deckbuilding from Star Realms though. Commissioned is a solid co-op that has a cool deckbuilding mechanic as well. And there are probably a couple more that I can’t even think of right now.

But then we enter 2016 with the release of Clank! And Tyrants of the Underdark. Now let me just say I don’t really have a huge affinity for push your luck by itself either. But I love the push your luck in Mystic Vale. So Clank! Was one I was really interested in because of the board movement and push your luck elements. Tyrants of the Underdark was intriguing because of its area control. Again, area control is probably my favorite mechanic. So what does all this mean. Well, I have been trying to get a play before I buy for Tyrants of the Underdark the past two years. Just pitiful I know. It just hasn’t happened yet. But I finally got to play Clank! in August 2017 at my local game store. I played a four player game and had a great time. It was simple and yet made me feel like I was doing more than just basic deckbuilding. It took about an hour with rules explanation for a 4 player game. No complaints.

But you know how us “wanna be hardcore gamers” do. “Wait Clank in Space! is supposed to fix a couple of issues that the game has and make it a bit more meatier.” That’s what I was thinking from reviews. Oh you already know I was going for Clank In Space! because I want the meatier version, FOR REAL GAMERS. On the side, I do like the space theme much better though. So I pulled the trigger on Clank In Space! and got it delivered in early December I do believe. Well, let’s just say I’ve played it once… when I thought this one would be played at least 4 or 5 times by now. I just knew this one would be a staple of my collection.

And I’m not going to say it isn’t. Let me close here. Basically what I’m saying is I need more plays of Clank In Space! and really do believe I’m going to end up liking it a lot and playing it more. But I did the same thing with Forbidden Island. I heard the Forbidden desert was the meatier version so I traded in Island for Desert and then I ended up missing the simplicity of Forbidden Island. Soooo, I bought Forbidden Island again and have both now. Just a fun fact of the day for you all. For me the simplicity and shorter play time of the Original Clank! is a definite plus for it. But I don’t regret getting Clank In Space! I just need to get a few more plays of it in before settling it in in my rankings for my owned games. But as a whole the Clank system is really cool and gives you a bit more than your normal deckbuilder, which allows you to be okay with playing it for about an hour. I still can’t wait to get that first play of Tyrants of the Underdark though. I’m wondering if I’ll like it more.

Regardless, if you are a huge deckbuilding fan, especially if you like the Mystic Vale Card Crafting system, then you will definitely want to try out one of the versions of Clank!. I find myself constantly saying I want to play it, but know I have to reread the rulebook again. So when I finally reread the rulebook I’m going to want to play 2-3 times games within a week or so, so that the rules will be ingrained in my brain. So that’s what’s keeping this one from hitting the table for now, but I’m glad it’s on my shelf. It’s day will come!

So that’s how Clank In Space! found its way on to my shelf. So what about you? Clank! or Clank in Space!? Clank! or Tyrants of the Underdark? What do you like or not like about Clank in Space! or it’s big brother? Let me know. Motivate me to want to get this one to the table soon.
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17. Board Game: Coal Baron: The Great Card Game [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:1513]
Rick Spray
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Madison
Alabama
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Coal Baron the Great Card. Got a great story for how this one made it to the shelf. Hope you enjoy. First let me say, train theme is total mediocrity for me. But trains moving coal aka lowry is a different story. Nah, I’m kind of joking but I do like the theme better than just trains. Anyways, here’s how Coal Baron tGC came to be…

I went to my first convention March 2017. It was a small one, which is actually what I want. All I want is a couple hundred gamers, a few hundred games, and a few vendors so I can buy a souvenir or two. Now I’m doing Dice Tower Con this Summer which is about as big as I want to get but I am super excited. Back to my story. Coast Con is the name of the convention. So they had a thing where you play games to enter a drawing. Now I got a little sidetracked because I’m one of those psychos that reviews the library before the con and makes a list of all the games I want to play. Well, that didn’t happen because then my being cheap and trying to win some free stuff self kicked in so I spent more of the convention than I wanted to playing some games I could have done without. I did much better this last convention though. My last convention I did a nice mix of learning a couple of games I wanted to and a good group of games I already knew how to play. I said forget all the free stuff, just game. But back to Coast Con. So my wife and I both were able to put our name in for each game we played. I ended up winning Coal Baron tGC and Fuji Flush and she won Imhotep. And then some people gave me Deadwood Studios USA, Neuroshima Convoy, and Grifters. I already had Neuroshima Convoy. I didn’t even try Deadwood or Grifters. I just flipped the latter three games in later trades. That being said Imhotep and Coal Baron tGC are good games that I’m so happy I won. I’ll tell you about Imhotep and Fuji Flush later.

Now when I played a half a game of Coal Baron at the con with someone showing me, they didn’t know the rules hardly at all. And I did not like Coal Baron to start with. When I won it, I was like we will try this one again but we are probably going to flip it. The guy that showed us the game did tell me later that day that he played it again with the right rules and he liked it a lot more. Had he not, I might have not even gave it a second chance. But I am so glad I did. This game is very solid.
First off, at two players you can finish a game in 45 minutes, and this one has some really quick turns and great decisions. A couple of unique items about the game that I really like. The first one is that it has kind of that complete an order aspect that Viticulture does, but it is even more defined. Once you get what you need to complete an order, you ship it and then you take all those cards, stack them up in a nice pile and forget all about them for the rest of the game, except for when thinking about endgame objective cards. I like that sense of completion about Viticulture and this one. Not that I want it all the time. But it’s nice to have that compartmentalized aspect of completing a job, now let me work on the next one.

The next piece that is awesome is your cards are basically workers and these workers have values between 1-5 (1-3 in a two player game). To go to an action space you have to play a number exactly one number higher to the number there. So if you or your opponent(s) had played a 1 there previously you would either have to play a 2 or two 1s to go to the same place. This mechanic is beautiful. You could have a 3 left at the end of a round but if no place had a value of 2 there then it could not be used.

For me this one is a hidden gem. On a side note the coal is called lowery and I constantly say “Mike Lowry” Like Martin did on Bad Boys the movie as I’m getting more Lowry for my carts. It’s the simple things in life that add to your enjoyment for games sometimes. I like the theme, and the mechanics are all but flawless for a very smooth and exciting game in 45 minutes. Best free game I’ve ever gotten, even though I’ve only got a few. This one is not endangered of leaving my shelf and could stay for good if only for the reason that it reminds me of my first convention and the free loot I got.

Definitely recommend this one to Eurogamers who are looking for more 45 minute solid games. So tell me what you think of Coal Baron. I haven’t heard a whole lot of buzz about this one. Does anyone else out there appreciate this one like I do?
 
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18. Board Game: Codenames: Pictures [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:202] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
Rick Spray
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We are talking about Codenames Pictures today. Party games and fillers are not on my wishlist usually. I have acquired a few along the way, but I’m all but done buying anymore. While Codenames original or any of its variations are really not party games to me, it does fit in that filler genre, and most people play it as such. For me, it is a mental exercise that is fun that I can use with my kids from time to time.

While I didn’t seek out the chance to play a game of Codenames, I was at a game night at my local game store last year and someone had it. I’m like, “Why not, let me see what all the fuss is about.” Well we played like two games of it with 6 or 7 people and it was actually decent fun for its time length. I have no real complaints about the game. When people come over, unless it was my mom, I would never be like, “Let’s play Codenames!”

So Codenames Pictures is just recently released about the same time as I get my first play of Codenames and so I pick it up. I’m thinking my wife will like this quick game and we can basically do it with the kids as family fun that will be educational. Guess what? My wife doesn’t end up liking Codenames for reasons I am still unclear about. So now I basically pull it out once every two to three months and play like two or three games of it with my kids. I’m the one who gives the clues for both of them. I do find this to be good for my kids’ education and thinking. I also enjoy seeing how they interpret the clues that I give. I have a good time playing with them, and I think they do to. Once again, this one is a small box that takes up hardly any space. It actually sits in one of those fabric bins in one of my shelf squares with the rest of my small box filler games that I don’t really care about, but I’m just going to keep these games because they cost me relatively nothing, are worth nothing in a trade, and take up hardly any space.

I like Codenames Pictures just fine. This is another one that I kind of had my nose up when I went into, but find it to be one of the more mildly enjoyable party filler games. That’s why this one is on the shelf, and that’s why it’s staying.

I know this one is a big hit. Tell me why you like Codenames in any of its variations.
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19. Board Game: Codex: Card-Time Strategy – Core Set [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:3007] [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
Rick Spray
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There comes a point where you have to know when to give it up. Yesterday was that day for me. And today I talk about Codex the card game. So, back in January I made an in person trade at my local con. One of those games I traded was Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective for Codex. Another game I traded for something else was Mage Wars Academy. That will be an important detail in the story. As I added Codex to the games I would trade for Sherlock I said, “Ah, I didn’t really feel Mage Wars Academy, but this one adds deckbuilding and several other mechanics. This one could be the game that will fill this style for me. And if not I will just flip it in the in person trade at Dice Tower Con. This one is still fairly in the want list so it shouldn’t be a problem to trade.” Codex was promised to be a mix between Magic, a deckbuilder, and Mage Wars Academy. The only one of those things I actually care about at all is a deckbuilder. Tom Vasel had hyped this one up substantially. Not enough for me to buy it, but enough for me to trade another game for the same price that I didn’t care about.

So I knew Monday was coming up for me to tell why this one was on my shelf, and I let that motivate me enough to make this one a priority for the weekend because I had yet to play it. So what’s the verdict? Not for me. The truth is, I should have learned my lesson a long time ago. I first bought Epic the Card Game. Then I bought Mage Wars Academy. Now I got this one. They all have that same dynamic to them of lots of keywords, crafty tactical back and forth, and a few other characteristics that I can’t even put into words, but I know them when I see it. And I will know them when I see them from now on, and repent from my thoughts of even considering them for my collection. They just fall flat for me, and my wife despises them. And the worst part is I don’t even need them. I love card games and have tons of them. I don’t need any of these to fill my needs.

Now let me just say, I have games that some might say have “SOME” similarities, but they aren’t these type of game. I don’t want you to think that I think these are bad games. I watch these folks on the playthroughs playing these games like a game of Magic, and I’m thinking there is so much strategy to this game. But it isn’t intriguing enough for me to try and find it. Just like Magic isn’t either. I’m glad the game exist and am happy that many can find another game to play that they enjoy, but for me I want no part of it. I can see the brilliance of the game and yet I despise it.

Basically what I am saying is, when I see a game like this in the future, no matter what anyone says, I have finally learned my lesson. After three games of similar style, I have learned! This one will be on BGG math trade for the Dice Tower No Ship Trade. Feel free to take it off my hands. This one is now in the “Closet of Trade”. But I doubt it will be a loss for me. I came, I saw, I traded. At least I got to experience it, and I have some closure on this portion of my gaming “career”.

Point is, it is on my shelf because of a recent trade, and it will be off my shelf because of a future trade. I really dislike this game and those like it. But I don’t say it’s a bad game. It’s just not for me.

What about you guys? Anyone else not like this one? Anyone like it. I’m not downplaying you or this game. I can definitely see those that would like this style of game. Again I try to be as objective as possible. Even though I don’t like it doesn’t mean we can’t talk about it.
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20. Board Game: Cold War: CIA vs KGB [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:1095]
Rick Spray
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Ooh, we are on a bad streak. I got another game I am not enamored with. We’ll get back on track tomorrow. But today, Cold War: CIA vs. KGB is a blackjack style game that you use special abilities to continue to manipulate the battlefield until you tally it all up for the person who is closest to the desired number without going over. I can’t remember all the specifics, but let’s just say the wife did not like it, and it returned to shelf with me only thinking it was an okay game. I would be willing to play it, but it is not going to be a game I'm chomping at the bit to get to.

This game found its way to my shelf by being cheap. What do I mean? Well, I go to my local game store occasionally to game. When I go I like to buy something. Usually it’s something small like some paint, miniature(s), dice, etc. You see, while I want to buy boardgames at my game store I can’t. I’m too cheap. I’m sorry, I can’t justify paying $60 bucks for $30 buck game, or $100 bucks for $55 dollar game. I can get two games for that price. If I went off on a tangent I would start to speak about why I can’t understand why game stores don't just charge 10 bucks more than Amazon and CoolStuffInc? If they would charge $10 bucks more I would take the hit and support them. But double the cost? I just can’t. If they sold twice as many games at $10 bucks wouldn't they make more money? I digress. I know it's a bit more complex but I just can't justify the cost. Well, as I perusing the gaming shelf as usual when I go, just looking at games in person and hoping I will find a crazy good deal that I never do, I find this game for $12.95 plus tax. I know Cold War is out of print and has a reprint that is themed with Star Wars by FFG. But my wife likes anything realistic. She doesn’t like fantasy, space, or medieval. She likes modern warfare, cia, police, firefighters... You know reality. So, I’m like, “I know a little about the game. I wouldn't mind having a blackjack mechanic in the collection for this price. What could go wrong?” Well... she doesn’t like the game at all. I’ve learned that she doesn’t like games that are back and forth manipulation. This one has that, I do something that completely seems to screw you over until you take your next action, and I can see that, but she can’t. All she sees is chaos. All I see is the mirage of chaos because you are basically going to poop on me the next turn to make us even until someone gains a slight advantage. Anyways, my feelings are basically to keep it around because it is a small box that is worth nothing in trade. Maybe the kids will play it with me. It’s not a terrible game. It might be a bit long for what it is. I think it is about 45 minutes when this is one that I would prefer between 20-30 minutes. I do think you could get down closer to 30 minutes if you played it enough though.

Anyways, that is Cold War CIA vs. KGB. Definitely nothing to ever mention in a list like “Why it’s on My Shelf”, except for the fact it’s on my shelf. This one will probably stay on my shelf until my kids tell me this game sucks or until I need a game to bundle with another game to trade for a better game. Overall I can live without it, so we will see what fate has in store for Cold War: CIA vs KGB.

Now I don’t expect a lot of responses from this question today, but has anyone else played this one? What’s your thoughts?
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21. Board Game: Commissioned [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:1895]
Rick Spray
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Madison
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Today we are talking my first co-op game. That means I got to talk co-ops before I talk Commissioned. So here’s the deal with co-ops, they usually make them too hard. They think that more brains should be smarter than one. But that is not always the case. Secondly, co-ops are based off of an automated system, which means they are based upon the luck of how the cards come out or the dice rolls. This makes for a single game to be either to easy, just right, really hard, or all but impossible. So you could really lose a co-op without any chance to win. Especially if you set the difficult to a more challenging level. There are two things I love about boardgames, seeing how other people think and solve problems, and learning from them so that I can see personal growth within my own thought process to solve gaming problems. I love to lose. I do my best but if I lose I’m like, “Great, I have a goal to reach. I’m going to play and improve until I can beat this person.” I get excited about someone beating me. I love learning from others and being challenged.

But I HATE when a system beats me. Not because I’m a sore loser, but just because I can’t see what my opponent is doing to beat me most of the time. There is no opponent to learn from, and I can never tell if I am the reason for my loss, or just because of the stupid order of the cards. Hence the reason I hate really hard co-ops like Xenoshyft and Ghost Stories. Now there are some co-ops that I have fun playing at times. We will get to those. And in fact the one we are talking about today I have fun at times. Just not as much fun as I have playing competitive games. I’m not saying I think co-ops are bad, they just rarely give me the enjoyment I am expecting from them. When I do win I feel like I got lucky, and when I lose I feel like I got lucky. I never feel like there was real growth in strategy to get me to a place where I can win more often. I want to see a development that leads to a higher winning percentage. Part of the problem is perhaps I don’t play them enough to gain that strategy, but I struggle to want to invest in them.
Now Commissioned is a co-op game that is based off of the early church from roughly 33AD to 100AD attempting to grow in the midst of persecution, heresy from within, famines, and other challenges. Now whether you are a Christian or not, this game is historically accurate as far as the historical persecution and growth of the church in the midst of the challenges of the first century AD. Therefore this is a historical boardgame that has educational value if nothing else for you. So don’t let the theme cause you to miss out on a very solid co-op.
In Commissioned you take on the role of one of the apostles to start churches and maintain them. Mechanically you basically do the opposite of Pandemic. You put cubes in regions and try to keep them there while the game attempts to remove them and cause other problems. If you ever lose the last cube in a region after you have started it one of your, I believe, 5 candles are extinguished. When all five candles are all extinguished you lose the game. If the “screw you over” deck, I can’t remember the name, runs out before you accomplish your objective you lose the game. There are five scenarios with totally different objectives which are all pretty cool. There is neat a deckbuilding mechanic, as well as a really good work together mechanic that makes people contribute to the cause on everybody’s turn, but also takes the alpha gamer out better than most co-ops. I’m telling you, this is a good co-op.

Now that being said, Commissioned is not my favorite co-op. But just remember I am not a co-op player. If you love co-ops, or even like them a good bit, then this one should be in your collection. For me, if I liked co-ops I know I would like this one more. I actually like the mechanics better than Pandemic, but Pandemic plays in 45 minutes and this one plays in about an hour to an hour and a half. I don’t like co-ops enough to put that time in to co-ops. And that is the biggest issue. I would rather play a quick game of Marvel Legendary, Flashpoint Fire Rescue, Forbidden Island, or Pandemic if I am going to play a co-op. But for you guys who like them, this would not be an issue. An hour and a half would be nothing and you would get some nice meaty game play out of this one.

For me and my collection this is how I feel about Commissioned being on my shelf. I’m glad I was able to support Chara Games by purchasing this game, I am glad I have a biblically/historical themed game on my shelf, and I am glad that I have this one to play from time to time especially when my kids get a bit older. This one will never leave my shelf just out of principle, but I really do think it is a great co-op. I just really don’t like co-ops.

So, has anyone else given this one a try and can testify to how solid of a co-op Commissioned is? Tell me what you guys think.
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22. Board Game: Cosmic Encounter [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:101]
Rick Spray
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Madison
Alabama
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Cosmic Encounter with the Cosmic Dominion expansion found its way to my collection through my first trade. It was actually not a math trade like most of mine have been. I reached out to someone on BGG who wanted Dead of Winter, and he had Cosmic Encounter. I traded Dead of Winter and $15 for Cosmic Encounter with expansion and Bang the Dice Game. Again I might take some flak for this, but I absolutely despise Dead of Winter. I gave it several chances even after I knew I didn’t like it. I just can’t do it. It’s one of the only games I would actually say no to regardless of the situation. I just don’t have 2+ hours to waste on that game.

So to make this trade for Tom Vasel’s number one game of all time I was pumped… Even though I rarely have more than two to three people and I my wife probably would not enjoy the game… And she doesn’t. And I’ve only gotten 5 plays since September 2016. Ohhh, it was so worth it though.

Now let me just say, I don’t think Cosmic Encounter is the greatest game ever. Really it is a game that is highly reliant on the group. This one could easily be a bust, and in fact two out of the 5 games I have played were mediocre. The other three were good fun, nothing amazing, but good fun. I would like to play this one more than what I do. Ideally 3-4 plays a year would be nice. The thing that I like the most is the 80+ alien powers I have to choose from. They all seem super overpowered and yet everything kind of equals out. The game play is relatively fast for what it is, but does have a few nuances that take a bit to refresh when you don’t play it that much. I don’t think this one has a super deep strategy, but it is the opportunity to try and out maneuver folks through a bit of alliances and the trickery of your powers and card management.

As I’ve stated before, I am not a big party game player. This is kind of like my party game of choice, even though it’s not really a party game. I know it’s a little longer at about an hour to an hour and thirty minutes, but it gives the feeling of a gamer’s party game. I still need some more plays of this one to really verify my feelings, but for now I think it is a fine game and I am glad to know that there has been a game this good since 1977. Just knowing that makes me want to keep this game out of respect only. The fact that the next good mainstream game that came out was HeroQuest in 1989 and then Settlers of Catan in 1995 is pretty impressive. And HeroQuest is nowhere near the game this one is even though I loved it as a child… Wait I’m getting ahead of myself, I will talk about HeroQuest later.

So could I live without Cosmic Encounter? Yeah. But I really don’t want to. I want the option of playing this game with the right group on my shelf no matter if I only get to play it every once in a while. It is a fine game, and for its age is a legend of the hobby. It was my first trade, and it was Tom Vasel’s number one game for the longest time. And that guy was instrumental in the development of my collection. I am going to keep this one for all the sentimental reasons and because it is just a good solid game that meets my party gamer needs… if I ever get to be a party gamer.
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23. Board Game: Coup [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:372]
Rick Spray
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Madison
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Now Coup is one of those games that isn't really my "coup of tea". Dad joke alert. So basically Coup is a small box at a small price. This is probably the first social deduction game I ever bought. This is before I knew social deduction was not my thing. I probably watched a Wil Wheaton tabletop or something, who knows. Next thing you know I'm trying to play Coup with three people because once again my wife didn't like it. To make things worse those other two people playing with me are 5 and 7. Yeah, about that... So let me just say that my kids could actually beat me without even lying half the time. Unfortunately my kids have gotten just slightly bit better at lying because of this game. I am really conflicted inside in teaching my kids how to lie. Not that I find it bad in the game, but I don't want them to glorify lying in their life and think it is a joke, and I certainly don't want them to become proficient at lying so that they outwit their poor old dad. I like them to be super innocent so I can catch them in their little wicked lies and deal aggressively with their deceptive impure hearts! Wait, that escalated quickly. But seriously, there is a side of me that would prefer not to. Well luckily this one sits in the fabric bin with my other small box games that I don't care about games, and has kind of become out of sight out of mind. Plus we have gotten a lot more great family games since then. They have also grown up some as well.

What breaks my heart is what I'm about to say next... Coup is actually my most played game at 45 plays. Marvel Legendary is at 41 so I could correct this issue soon. How my most atrocious gaming stat came to be was that me and the kids would sit down and play like three to four games at a time in like 15 to 20 minutes. Now, I had a great time playing this with the kids, watching them fail to lie miserably, or them thinking they were so awesome for winning even though it was only inevitable that they would win regardless because of the way the cards were dealt in a 3 player game. I was also able to teach some real life lessons with this one as I watched my kids be the sorest losers ever and cry a lot as the other one won. I would use this game with its short play time to be like, "You just won a game, what your sister can't win a game?" The response was usually, "But she is laughing, look at her smile." I could share more, but I will refrain for brevity's sake, which I have already overstayed my welcome for on this small box game.

So as far as Coup goes, I actually think I might like it okay if I had 5-6 people and they were competent gamers that understood how to have some fun while advancing as much strategy as this game has to offer. That being said, I don't necessarily care if I ever play this game again. I would rather play Bang the Dice Game or Deception Murder in Hong Kong at this point, even though the verdict is still out on them as well. Or I would just rather not play a social deduction game at all and be perfectly fine. Regardless, this one is a quick game and has some interesting bluffing mechanics to it. I know it has been a staple of the social deduction genre for quite some time. This one will probably stay forever on the shelf because of its non-existent footprint on my shelf and because there were some memories made from this one. One day when the kids are a bit older I will pull this one out to study their lying techniques to see how much they have learned in the deceiving arts. Then I will be prepared for their teenage lies... I will be the victor!

So that is why it's on my shelf. What about you? Is this a go to social deduction game or is it one that you've had enough of and moved on. Let me know what you think, or maybe let me know some of the nuances I may have missed from this game since I have been playing with elementary students instead of adults.
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24. Board Game: Cry Havoc [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:357]
Rick Spray
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Madison
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Cry Havoc is one of those games that I have only played 7 times, and I feel like I still need a few more plays with competent competition to verify my feelings; however, at this point I absolutely love this game. I mean, even though Blood Rage and Kemet are games I like more, every time I look at my shelf I say, “I wish I could play Cry Havoc!” This game has gotten less buzz than I think it deserves, and so many people swear it is unbalanced at different player counts. With my already limited gaming community I cannot find anyone who has played this one, and/or who wants to play this game. And I’m baffled.

Let me tell you the story. I got this one right when it came out. So I get this game and I sit down and play a couple of two player games with the wife. The one thing about Cry Havoc is that this is a tight game. There are 4-5 rounds, and each round has three main actions. That is only 12-15 actions a game in theory. And when you first start playing this game that is what it feels like. You feel like you are getting zero done and one mistake it is game over. That is what this one feels like, and I hated it. I wanted to like it. But after my first two to three plays I just thought, “Man this game is unforgiving…” But I pushed through! I played 3 more two player games and one 4 player game, and I got much more proficient at this game. It is amazing what you can get done! I’ve already told you I generally like games that make you feel like you are doing a lot. Well this one is still tight, but I have grown to appreciate that change of pace for Cry Havoc. Again, I still need to verify the particulars of different player counts. I tend to not be very enamored with area control games at two players, which is why this one hasn’t hit the table much. I did get the expansion which is supposed to add a lot of replayability and possibly correct some people’s issues with the balance. Can’t wait to play this game again!

So now that I covered that, I will tell you a bit about this game. Basically on your turn you are going to be using cards with multiple uses to either move, recruit, or build. Building is vital in this one. Each faction is super-duper asymmetrical. The structures you build are vital to unlocking your faction’s potential. That’s one of the big things you have to learn your first couple of plays to be any type of competition. Some of these cards also have battle abilities used for combat so you have to figure out what you want to save to help you with your fights. There is a deckbuilding aspect to this one, even though you can’t necessarily think standard deckbuilding when I say that. It is a bit different. And the combat is very interesting. I like it all a lot. I mean a lot. With the expansion they give you more of everything that matters. More structures, more special abilities, and even a leader to add to your faction’s uniqueness. If you don’t like area control you probably won’t like this one. And if you are into area control, this one is still an acquired taste I do believe. I don’t mean that in a bad way about the game, it is just something different. That is all I can say, it’s complicated. I love the theme. I love the mechanics. I love the art. I wish the miniatures were a little bit better, but I could care less because they are just fine. Blood Rage and Rising Sun have just spoiled me.

Okay so let me start to land this occupying Marine space plane. I’ve been circling for a while and you guys are probably like, “Get to the point.” All I want is to find people who have played this game before. The first game of this is brutal because there are lot of those Portal Game nuances that are not expounded upon in the rulebook. I mean now that I haven’t played this one in a while I will have to google so many questions when I play this one again. And even worse, the people you play suck at this game the first time they play. I mean, you really have to play this one two to three times to be even decent at it. That is why I say I need to play this one with 2-3 competent gamers about 3-4 times to really verify my thoughts on this one. But for now, this one is one of my most prized games, and sits around 5 or 6 in my top 10.
I will hang on to this game in hopes that I come across a group of people that will love this game and have played it before, and I will ask them, “Will you be my game group?” (With my pouty, I’ve been looking for you my whole life look) You’ll have to pry this game from my cold dead hands. It’s great and I wish it would get the recognition it deserves. I don’t love a lot of Portal Games, but when I do… I absolutely love them. Imperial Settlers, 51st State Master Set, and Cry Havoc all in my top 10.

I’m longing for the day this one can be a regular play for me. So that’s my sob story and why this one is on my shelf.

So what about you guys? Is there anyone who loves this game as much as me? How about those who don’t like this one? Anybody ever heard of this game before? (Crickets) What about those who saw this game and didn’t even think twice about it? What was it that didn’t make you want to check this one out? I want answers people!
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25. Board Game: Deception: Murder in Hong Kong [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:169]
Rick Spray
United States
Madison
Alabama
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For Deception: Murder in Hong Kong you can refer to comments on Bang the Dice Game for how I currently feel about social deduction games. Let me just say, I played this one the same night as I played Codenames. You can see that story as well in the Codenames post. The first time I played it I thought it was pretty good. So I pulled the trigger. Since then I have played this one 12 times. I have had maybe four of those games be moderate fun, and the rest kind of fell flat just a hint. It wasn’t a total bust but I was left wanting slightly if you will. Most of the time I have played this one with 5-7 people.

So the verdict is still out on Deception. I do appreciate the theme and what the game is trying to do, it is just not always realized in actual play. Once again, I think it is highly dependent upon the group, and I give Deception the benefit of the doubt. Or maybe it’s just me… (Sad face) This one would probably be my favorite social deduction game if I could have more experiences like I did with the group at the game store that I played with the first time. The problem is, when I’m around people like I was at the game store, I would probably rather play other games. So the chance that I actually get to play with a particular group that would actually make this game fun, and then that that group decide to actually play Deception is like 10% chance at this point. Now unlike Bang the Dice game with a box and monetary value that is so small it would be useless for me to trade and takes up no space on my shelf, Deception is a bit bigger and has a cost value that is around 30 bucks depending where you get it. This makes this one much more appealing for me to flip. I am torn because I kind of want to keep it though, because it is a great social deduction game, but I don’t see myself getting my money out of it with plays.

The real reason I haven’t seriously contemplated trading it though is far deeper. I keep all my games in pristine condition. Well, this one was taken to my folk’s house for a try and they have a dog. Well one of the chits used to make accusations fell on the ground and old Oscar ended up putting a few teeth marks in it. I know what you’re thinking, “Cool story bro. Tell it again.” But that is what happened and that event has given Deception a 35% greater chance of remaining on my shelf.

So that is why Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is on the shelf. What about you guys? Where does Deception rank on your social deduction list of games?
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