GCL Phoenix 375: I Didn't Mean It (March 11, 2018)
Morten K
Denmark
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You've found the 364th installment of the Phoenix Game Chat League. Welcome to any of you that stop by - whether regular visitor, lurker, subscription-stalker, passer-by or indeed one of our members. Please thumb the list so we know you stopped by.

Members are encouraged to add an item to the list and we love comments and discussion from visitors too. Visitors are welcome to comment, but please do so politely and leave the adding of items to members.

Currently active members:

Jeremy (familygaming)
Alison (grasa_total)
Carol (indigopotter)
John (John Rogers)
Karl (karlfast)
Michael (Lowengrin)
Paulo (Muse23PT)
Dave (rynelf)
Nicolai (Taibi)
Morten (Tigrillo)
Rich (woodnoggin)*

*Up next

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

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


This week we're taking on the difficult games, the mean games, the opaque games.
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1. Board Game: Hard Burn [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Morten K
Denmark
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Lærke and I definitely have different likes when it comes to the heavier and opaque games but I wouldn't necessarily say I treasure opacity in a game and obsess with figuring it all out. We all have different likes and different limits to our patience when it comes to learning a new game and how much effort we are willing to put into trying to master it. Where is your limit? Which games are too much and which have just the right amount of opacity to keep you interested?
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2. Board Game: Bell-Bottomed Badassses on the Mean Streets of Funk [Average Rating:5.93 Overall Rank:7383] [Average Rating:5.93 Unranked]
Morten K
Denmark
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Do you look to feel constricted by a game? Do you love when Antiquity tries to kill you and then dance on your grave while whistling merrily at your demise? Or do you prefer the feel good openness of Fields of Arle? Tell us how tight you want a game experience to be and where it becomes too much for you.
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3. Board Game: Dust Tactics: Schwer-Sturmgrenadiere Command Squad – "Heavy Kommandotrupp" [Average Rating:7.65 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.65 Unranked]
Morten K
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I like heavy games. Not all the time but often enough to think of myself as a heavy gamer. I also like light stuff but I find that the medium weight euro is where I find it hardest to find games I like.

How heavy are you willing to go and what do you get out of playing heavy games?
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4. Board Game: Rotation [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Morten K
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Rich - 18th March

Alison - 25th March (skipping Jeremy this time by his request)
Carol - 1st April
John - 8th April
Karl - 15th April
Michael - 22nd April
Paulo - 29th April
Dave - 6th May
Morten - 13th May (skip Nicolai for a while)
Rich - 20th May

Jeremy - 27th May
Alison - 3rd June
Carol - 10th June
John - 17th June
Karl - 24th June
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5. Board Game: John Company [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:1903]
Albatros
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Monday Evening w/L

 8   John Company x1
Our two-player game of John Company gave just the smallest glimpse of the player interaction that this game has to offer. I look forward to exploring it more. That said, when the day comes where there are three heavy gamers round the table, it competes directly with some others I'd like to table, for example, Time of Crisis, Maria, Arkwright and pretty much every 18xx game I own.


Saturday Night with S&K

 7   Massive Darkness w/Troglodytes x1
The scenario, with its special rules on tunnel collapse, made for a quick and fairly tense game. We clocked it in just under two hours. I think the time before ran more like three or even four hours, but we searched every room that time and this time we pretty much sprinted through the first half. It was, thanks to the game clock, a much tenser game in which we had to sacrifice a slow careful dungeon crawl with a faster, more risky pace (or die under the rubble of a collapsed cavern ceiling).


The Week Ahead

No plans so I'll have to get S back into weekday evening gaming. That or break No Retreat 4! Italian Front: 1943-45 out and play it over a series of evenings.

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

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

Ordered: 18CZ and Castell.
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6. Board Game: 7 Symbols, and 7 Nations [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:7989]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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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 10Mar2018:

8/10/76 plays of 6/7/48 total games, with 4/5/17 expansions employed.
Plays with 6/7/38 distinct opponents.

0/0/3 games acquired (plus 0/0/5 expansions.)
0/0/0 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/0 expansions.)
1/1/3 games ordered (plus 0/0/0 expansions.) - Botts and Balls, as silly as it is.
Orders for 5 games and 0 expansions still outstanding.

With family:

image by DICE_COLLECTOR

1x _7⅔_ Super Big Boggle (24 +87++ total plays)

My wife is back on her horse: she won all the rounds quite easily. Son #2 and I only managed the moral victory (where our combined score exceeds hers) in one of our four rounds.


image by ArtEmiSa64

2x _8_ TZAAR (22 total plays) (30 months dusty)

This to me feels like the simplest and most straightforward of its family. It's pretty simple in conception; and it feels rather accessible to both of us.


image by russ

1x _7⅓_ Marrakesch (4 total plays)

(Over dinner out at the coast.) Son #2 and I managed a really low-scoring game. Relatively few fancy patterns; several zeros; and far too many rounds where both of us failed to clear all six disks. It was fun and weird at the same time.


images by Surya, chaddyboy_2000, W Eric Martin(x2) and Surya

2x _10_ Race for the Galaxy (276 total plays) (with New Worlds and the first arc)

A couple plays with son #2 and brother #3; and some mixed results for all of us. Poor son #2 managed more than forty VP on prestige in the final game (and yet still didn't win.) I'd guess that his tableau might well have won in most of our 2p games. But the havoc of the third player made things distinctly different.


With the Lunch@work group:

image by Tanayan

1x _7⅔_ 7つの紋章、7つの部族 7tsu no monshō, 7tsu no buzoku "7 Symbols, 7 Nations" New!

Really thankful to Richard for the opportunity to play. I was tremendously amused by the dynamics here: seven suits to count, and all often quite short (unless, as occasionally happens, partners trade their singletons.) And then a cool and yet simple pattern: take four sevens to win a hand; take seven (of twelve) tricks to lose a hand.

Since the play, I've found myself tempted to draw myself a deck (at least pending an opportunity to buy a "real" copy.)


image by fizzle

1x _7⅔_ The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet (7 total plays)

It's cute, quite clever, and has some distinct opportunity for havoc. In this particular game, Brian played really well and the rest of us all trailed by a fair margin. It was quite funny: sufficiently outclassed that I'm not at all confident that a replay would have a different result!


Owned-and-unplayed: 0 (+0/-0)
Owned-and-played-once: 97 (+0/-0)

Outlook for the week: I've only three choir practices this week: perhaps I'll get in a few more plays. But then I'm on call next weekend; so that will (again) constrain things a bit. I'll likely manage a play or two with family and something with the Lunch Gang. (Perhaps even that Botts and Balls.) And despite the fact that the Wednesday Gang didn't happen last week, I've hopes for this week. I may be delusional on one or two of those counts, too.
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7. Board Game: Clans of Caledonia [Average Rating:8.16 Overall Rank:61]
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United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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Four plays of Clans of Caledonia.

Our earlier game yesterday started off with some interesting combinations, but the contracts didn't mesh well, and we both had the feeling of fizzling out towards the end. Sam had the clan that let you place a third person at the start, but on the edges. The border spaces are much better on the 3-4 player map than the 1-2 player map. He had fewer to choose from, and they were expensive. Had we been playing 3p, it would have been a very different game. I had an interesting clan that gave me a discount for building processing buildings, with an increase in the discount as I built multiples of one kind. I felt a little short on money the whole game. I often have a starting tile with an extra $5, so I wasn't as used to budgeting with $5 less.

In our game last night, I finally chose the clan that gives a $2 discount for building on deltas - the clan that came up in our very first game that I had passed over, and kept saying I should have taken it. So, I did this time, and it helped a lot. Sam had a clan that let him sell milk for $8, so he built all of his cows right away, and had lots of money all the way through.

The contracts were lots of meat right away, when you want to let the animals produce, and not necessarily harvest them, but one of the ports was a meat for a contract, which I used, and also, since I had the land discount, I could harvest an animal on a cheap/free space and fill it up again, so it saved me money over building full price twice.

The downside of doing that was that Sam scooped one of my cheap delta spots after I had used an animal for a contract. At the end, that was the only spot I could afford to build on to make another settlement for the settlement scoring, and could not catch up on that (Sam usually gets most settlements and I usually get most contracts). My contracts saved me, though, and I won by 5 points.
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8. Board Game: BraveRats [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:1797]
Morten K
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A slow beginning to the week but a great end to it. After work Friday, Lærke and I drove up to the northernmost tip of Denmark (with a short break on the way to see the King Eider I wrote about a couple of months ago because Lærke hadn’t seen it) where I had helped find a cheap holiday home for Marc and Brooke so they could spend their last week in DK there on a writing retreat. The place was wonderful and covered in snow. It’s a peninsula that protrudes into Skagerrak between Norway and Denmark so it’s surrounded by the sea which means the light up there is spectacular, especially on frosty mornings and evenings like now. When it’s cold outside and you’re inside with a log of wood on the fire and wine in your glasses, it’s a great time to play some light boardgames. But more about that later.


 8   Carcassonne (34 all-time)
After last Sunday’s 329-157 drubbing, Lærke was out for revenge. And this game was much more equal than the one before but my big-scoring farmer with his pig won me the game.





 9   Jump Drive (62 all-time)
A quick game of this to spend 15 minutes before I headed out to play Chicago Express with my train games group. Not much else to say than we still love the game.





 7  Chicago Express x2 NEW!
I guess you cannot have a train games group without playing Chicago Express but since we’re all beginners all train games are fairly new to us. We’d played the similar American Rails and loved it so we were looking forward to this. I cannot pinpoint what it was but I enjoyed AR a lot more than this. It’s been too long since my lone play of AR so it may be the same or it could just be groupthink but we saw that the two plays were quite similar. I really like the timers and how you they can be used against your opponents – or even the threat of what you can do. I found the gameplay a bit simplistic but I’m sure that’s just because I have only scratched the surface of it and more layers will reveal themselves with more play. I’d love to play both this and American Rails in one evening to compare them.



 8   Voodoo Prince x2 (4 all-time)
This was the first thing we played together with Marc and Brooke. Marc started out by warning us that Brooke is quite the card shark. She showed that by beating us easily in the first game but the second was much more close and ended with a tied win for Lærke and me. The more I play Voodoo Prince, the more I like it. I think this might be my favourite trick taker actually. It’s so beautifully simple and elegant and yet full of delicious tension. That it hasn’t been talked about more just shows how Knizia’s stock has fallen. It is unfathomable that it was nigh impossible to find at Essen when it premiered there last year.



 6   Love Letter (21 all-time)
It’s been a while since I played this and Brooke had never played it so that was our next game on the table. It really has lost most of its shine for me after I’ve tried some of the many great Japanese micro-games that have come after it. This was the wedding edition so the same as the one that comes in the red pouch. I really do not get why they changed card 7 to the Countess because the original is much better in my opinion.



 7   Taluva x2 (21 all-time)
Brooke then retired to a comfy chair with a book while the rest of us played a game of Taluva. Lærke won and then retired to crochet herself and Marc and me continued playing for a couple of hours more. We played with a couple of modules from the expansion: the board and the two-tiles. I guess you could say that both are not necessary but I like what they add to the game. The board gives you an outer limit for the island and the two-tiles are great because they can be placed anywhere they might fit. So you can even place one on top of a three tile and thus make sure you’re the only one to be able to place a tower there – or if the double volcano tile is in play you can destroy the plans of one your opponents. If you like Taluva, then I recommend getting the expansion. It’s also included in the deluxe edition but the price of that is exorbitant.



 9   Throne and the Grail x3 (33 all-time)
3 rounds of Throne and the Grail meant that Marc is now second on the list of plays for the game. He won one of them but that was the last game he won that evening. You could blame the wine of course but I prefer to think of it as my superior intellect… Or something. Playing several games of it against the same opponent is great as you learn a bit more about player patterns and you can start to play around that through bluff and double bluff. I love it when you’re able to pull off a bluff and leave the opponent with a lot of minus cards on the table.



 8   Khmer x2 (39 all-time)
Khmer is a simple game and yet we realised that both of us had misunderstood a small rule. I hadn’t realised that if you play over multiple rounds you are allowed to fold when the opponent knocks and Marc hadn’t realised that you are allowed to take the top card from the table into your hand. Both rules improve the game so it was a very good thing that we played it against each other. Marc was a slow starter with me winning the first game 6-0 and being ahead 4-0 in the second before he got 5 points in a row. In the end, I managed to win two rounds and beat him 6-5. Great stuff.



 9  R x4 NEW!
Marc then introduced me to this little masterpiece. I cannot believe I had never tried Seiji Kanai’s two-player version of Love Letter before. Perhaps because the sewer rat setting did nothing for me or perhaps because my eyes weren’t yet open for this type of game. They are now and I loved R. I’ve already ordered a copy of it because this is a game I’d want to bring on all my trips together with Throne and the Grail. Winning 4 games of it of course helped but I love how the tight decisions often end up in ties and then bigger stakes in the next round(s) but with fewer choices.



 9   Import / Export (3 all-time)
Hungover and tired the next morning, I managed to talk Lærke and Marc into a game of Import/Export. Lærke and I had played it twice before but only two-player so it was fun to try it with one more and the game is better at that player count too. More options and harder for it to stall which can happen in a two-player game with contracts that need 4 or 6 containers of one colour. Marc tried a strategy Lærke and I haven’t tried before which was interesting but in the end not as good as what we usually do. Selling many cards to the island is an easy way to get money quickly but apparently not nearly as good as creating a good engine through contracts. And that is exactly what Lærke did.



 6   Charterstone x2 NEW!
I really didn’t think I wanted this but when a second hand copy with the recharge pack came up for sale on Facebook I was tempted because I thought it might be a good game for Lærke and me to play on a weekend afternoon so it isn’t always Terraforming Mars. We played it twice yesterday and it is exactly what I thought it would be. A bit of a dull euro that changes but is nice to play together over a cup of tea and a croissant. I understand how the 1st play is meant for you to read the rules bit by bit as it unfolds but it also made it messier than what I’m used to after just reading through the rules book so we had to spend some time after the first game to read through it all again and look some different questions we had up here on BGG. The second play was with one automa and I think we’ll keep playing with that for a while to keep everything a bit tighter and the markets more dynamic. But we also liked having a bit more time to play it in our first play when it was just the two us so let’s see.



Games that left my collection this month: König von Siam.

Games that entered my collection this month: A couple of promos plus Happy Salmon.

Unplayed games in my collection: Tahuantinsuyu, 1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight, 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, El Alamein, Stephenson's Rocket, Continental Divide, Here I Stand (500th Anniversary Edition), BIOS: Megafauna (2nd Edition) and Happy Salmon.
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9. Board Game: Spirit Island: Branch & Claw [Average Rating:8.93 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.93 Unranked]
Alison Mandible
United States
Cambridge
Massachusetts
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 3   Yahtzee NEW!

At a work conference, a mind-numbing 90-minute 5p of Yahtzee. I see how this has a little more in common with games I like than a lot of classic 'family games'. On the other hand, that just makes it easier to see how this could be better: lots of ways.

 9   LOT (9 all-time)

Adding to the pain of the 90-minute Yahtzee was that it was paused for 15 minutes in the middle, during which I grabbed a nearby chess set and taught a friend LOT. It continues to be just elusive enough that I like it.

 7   Mystic Vale (5 all-time)

I started a few online games of this, because Yucata added it. I think I'd prefer a more Dominion-style variable setup, and some of the newbie mistakes feel really bad to make-- but it's fun, and I'm so totally sold on the card-crafting idea (Custom Heroes didn't really convince me).

 7   Spirit Island (5 all-time)

A welcome-home game, our first using the expansion. I thought we were done for until we got some REALLY good events, which I have mixed feelings about. On the other hand, I was playing Bringer for the first time and I think that probably caused my feeling of not being able to do anything followed by irrelevantly winning; adding Fear doesn't change the tactical situation, it's more like chipping away at a villain's 150 hit points in Sentinels Of The Multiverse. I really don't like Sentinels. The pushing power (and the one of Bringer's start cards that turns Fear into Defend) make things a little better, but I still felt more locked out from the interesting game systems than usual.

I bet my games of Spirit Island could also be faster, if I trusted the power curve more and stressed out less about some of the early decisions.
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10. Board Game: Age of Steam Expansion: The Netherlands [Average Rating:6.89 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.89 Unranked]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Last week's plays:

-10- Age of Steam (+The Netherlands New!)
|9.5| Race for the Galaxy (+The Gathering Storm; New Worlds)
|9| Edel, Stein & Reich
-8- Concordia (+Aegyptus/Creta New!)
-8- Terraforming Mars (+Penguins; Venus Next) (x3) (+Self-Replicating Robots; Snow Algae)
-7- Carcassonne (+The River)
-7- A Fake Artist Goes to New York
-7- Flamme Rouge (+Peloton)
-7- Liberté New!
-7- War of the Ring (Second Edition)
-6- Pax Pamir New!
-6- Magic Maze (x4)
-6- Raptor New!
-5- Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension New!
-5- The Mind (x3)

What a week. Turned 40, struck down with mild but annoying Influenza B, dragged myself to a gaming retreat in the country... Today is the first day in 8 days I haven't drunk a Lemsip!

Age of Steam: Netherlands was a favour I asked for my birthday. I usually have trouble getting more than a 3-player game together, so it was really special to have 7 of us willing to try this bizarre map. Everyone enjoyed it, too. It's a very chaotic variant, with cities changing colour and six other players stealing your deliveries. Still, I managed to come out ahead, despite issuing no shares in the first round. The others were egging me on to go without shares for the whole game, but I bottled it and took one. I'm hopeful that some of the other players will be more amenable to the game at times other than my birthday in future.

After that, a 2v2 War of the Ring session was just the sort of memorable, epic event that should be used to commemorate a new decade. Pippin was expelled from the Fellowship early. He returned to the Shire on an eagle, telling of war in the south. No one was impressed. Meanwhile, the rest of the Fellowship besieged Orthanc, Saruman sneering at them from atop his tower as his wargs wiped them out. His sneer was soon smashed off his face by some angry Ents, spurred on by Gandalf who just won't die. The Witch King fared little better in Angmar. It was a dark day for named characters. This was a rollicking good time, taking ages but flying by. Fantastic fun!

I got to play plenty of other favourites too: Concordia (the Aegyptus map has some nice additional ways to score points), Terraforming Mars (Kate crushed us with ALL THE PLANTS: scores were 98-77-72-56) and Edel, Stein & Reich in which I learned that getting out of the gem business does not stand you in good stead for bartering.

So to new things: Liberté had sat unplayed since I bought it in 2012 and I really wanted to rectify that. Four player, original rules, Royalist Counter Revolution on Turn 3, positive reception all round, good stuff. Before the game started, I had slight hopes of pulling off a sneaky Royalist Counter Revolution myself because I thought that would be a fun way to play but my opening hand didn't point me in that direction. Kate's did, so she went for it and Becky backed her up. Matt and I didn't quite have the resources to stop it. I was the VP leader in the end, but that meant nothing when those decadent nobles retook control. We didn't know who of Kate and Becky would have the most Royal influence, so it was quite a tense ending even after Matt and I realised we couldn't stop them. Kate had the better hand of Royals to take the win.

My fellow players compared the game to Discworld: Ankh-Morpork (but liked it better) and I can see why they make the association. The card play, the area control, the need to keep other players' victory conditions in mind and in check. Also, the frustrating imbalance of some cards being strictly better than others with too few ways to mitigate luck of the draw*. I liked it a good deal more than I was expecting to. I had run through a game single-handedly in the previous week to allow me to teach it smoothly. That was worthwhile; the rules make a meal of things when it's not a complicated game at its core. The solo run-through was quite uninteresting, though, the game clearly needs three other minds conspiring against you to shine.

*I have some thoughts on ways to redress the balance that aren't the Dagger variant but we were happy with how it played as-is, so we'll stick with that for the time being.

Updated Wallace count:



Played:
A Few Acres of Snow (x2)
A Study in Emerald
Age of Steam
Book of Dragons
Brass
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork
Liberté
London (x2)
Perikles



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11. Board Game: Chess [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:415] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
John Rogers
United States
Yakima
WA
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I had the flu this past week. When I reluctantly got to my Friday group half the crowd was playing Vast (apparently took them about 3.5hrs) and the other was playing a card game. I sat down with a fella who was just killing time before heading to a movie and he suggested Chess. I don't recall the last time I played Chess though it was likely with him; he only plays abstracts. Anyways I fared surprisingly well until I just became disinterested and gave up. He won shortly after.

The Vast group continued and the other group transitioned into a CMON game called Rum & Bones. One look at all the plastic and the company and I knew it wasn't for me. That was affirmed later by one of the players who assured me that I wouldn't have cared for it. I took off after watching about 10mins of it.

This week game night has been canceled. What to do? Well maybe I'll just hang out on the geek and see what pops up. I did take the time to review my ratings and found that the average nearly dropped a full point to 4.38. Not sure what that says about me. Perhaps my tastes are becoming more refined? Maybe I'm becoming more curmudgeonly? I don't know. I've been called an elitist by a couple of folks now; guess the fact that I know what I like and don't and my desire not to play the latter makes me some sort of jerk. Oh well. Whatever.
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