GCL Phoenix 379: Little Bitty Change
John Rogers
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Yakima
WA
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Welcome to the Phoenix Game Chat League!

If you stumbled upon this geeklist by accident or through your subscriptions, please read the GameChat League wiki page for information about what this is all about. Visitors are welcome to make constructive comments, but please leave the adding of items to members.

Active Phoenixes:
familygaming
grasa_total
indigopotter
John Rogers
karlfast - next week
Lowengrin
Muse23PT
rynelf
Taibi
Tigrillo
woodnoggin

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

This past week some local gamers and I were discussing how some games, although incredibly similar in many respects, have one or two differences that make ALL the difference in how we perceive and receive them. This week's list is dedicated to those little bitty changes.

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1. Board Game: Love it or Hate it [Average Rating:4.25 Unranked]
John Rogers
United States
Yakima
WA
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Can you think of any games that are strikingly similar but have one or two changes that drive you from ecstasy to maddening rage? Or perhaps if not to that extreme, the differences are enough for you to definitely prefer one to the other?
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2. Board Game: What's the Difference? [Average Rating:2.50 Unranked]
John Rogers
United States
Yakima
WA
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What about mechanisms? Are there mechanisms which are similar in theory and maybe even in application, but somehow strike opposite nerves in you in practice?
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3. Board Game: Design & Pantomime [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
John Rogers
United States
Yakima
WA
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What about designers? Are there creators with similar philosophies and approaches to design who use similar parts and yet their sums elicit polar opposite reactions in you? What are these differences? Why do they matter?
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4. Board Game: Similarius [Average Rating:7.33 Unranked]
John Rogers
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Yakima
WA
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On a more positive note are there games, mechanisms, or designers which scratch such similar itches that it is hard to pick one over the other? Maybe they are so close that one could easily substitute for the other with little in the way of consequence? Maybe you like/dislike them equally?
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5. Board Game: Two by Two [Average Rating:6.08 Overall Rank:4614]
John Rogers
United States
Yakima
WA
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Totally random question:

Favorite games with animals!
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6. Board Game: Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain [Average Rating:8.24 Overall Rank:2495]
Albatros
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Solo

 8  Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain x1
Though I only have a single play of Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain listed this week, it's not for the lack of playing the game. I started a second game of it yesterday which continued into today. Assuming it goes to the end, I'm about halfway through. I (as the Civitates) very nearly lost it an hour or so ago, being saved on the final card before the end of the epoch by the Scotti raiding and reducing the prosperity of nation just low enough that the Roman Dux couldn't win.

Edit: I've been playing some Baseball Highlights: 2045 against the AI on the iPad. It may be on the way to becoming my favourite deck-building game so I'm thinking of picking up the cardboard version (but might subject S to the video version first because I'm not convinced she fully understands baseball).


The Week Ahead

No plans this week (although I'll almost certainly finish my solo game of Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain). The work week's made all the worse by being five days. Last week spoiled me (being only three days).

Unplayed games of note in shrink: Transatlantic, No Retreat! The North African Front, 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.
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7. Board Game: Little Town Builders [Average Rating:6.94 Unranked]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 7Apr2018:

6/6/103 plays of 3/3/56 total games, with 0/0/17 expansions employed.
Plays with 5/5/41 distinct opponents.

1/1/9 games acquired (plus 0/0/8 expansions.) - リトルタウンビルダーズ.
0/0/0 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/0 expansions.)
1/1/5 games ordered (plus 0/0/0 expansions.) - 1853.
Orders for 4 games and 0 expansions still outstanding.

With family:

image by DICE_COLLECTOR

3x _7⅔_ Super Big Boggle (29 +87++ total plays)

Yeah; the expected result. My wife wins easily, and son #2 and I are in a fine competition to escape last place. We're increasingly well matched (that is, the incompetent menfolk); and I'd not be surprised if he'll beat me regularly soon. This week's highlight: all of us finding (different) 8-letter words in a single grid. And there were probably several more we'd not found before time elapsed, too!


image by nannann2002

1x _7⅔_ リトルタウンビルダーズ Ritorutaunbirudāzu 'Little Town Builders' (2 total plays)

My second play, and the first with 2 players.

It's quite cute at that count: definitely some interestingly textured decisions. I don't think it's as good with 2 as with more; but it's definitely worth playing (and also short enough for son #2 to tolerate it.)


With the Lunch@work group:

image by nannann2002

1x _7⅔_ リトルタウンビルダーズ Ritorutaunbirudāzu 'Little Town Builders' New!

It's pretty clean to explain; rather interesting in play; works very nicely for 4. Quite happy with it, in total; well worth the six weeks wait for slow-boat shipping from Japan.

It's a rather simple little mostly-worker placement game: one has a set of workers that either claim a cell on the common map (and acquire resources from all surrounding cells) or build a building on an unoccupied cell (with the previously-acquired resources.) One needs to feed one's workers every turn (with fairly steep penalties for failure.) And a (randomized) set of bonus tokens that encourage the players to diversify their approaches. All that seems straighforward.

But even in our first game, we saw buildings created to prevent a collection from that cell; buildings created to reduce the value of previously-placed buildings; collection placements to deny others the resources they needed for some later (potential) project. It permitted all sorts of havoc: and that was the part that was worthwhile.


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" (2 total plays)

Only one hand; but it was fun to inflict it on Jeff. He's particularly talented at trick-takers; and the rest of the table (correctly) expected that the game would amuse him. I think it did. And I think we'll play more.


Owned-and-unplayed: 0 (+1/-1) - リトルタウンビルダーズ arrived and was played.
Owned-and-played-once: 97 (+1/-1) - リトルタウンビルダーズ was played twice.

Outlook for the week: I hope the Wednesday gang are back on this week. I've only three choir practices this week! (Last week's concert - including Bernstein's Chichester Psalms was fun.) I'm hoping to convince the lunch folk to play Schnäppchen Jagd this week - though, in truth, I'll be happy with whatever happens there. And I'll add a copy of 1853 this week - though whether I can learn the rules deltas to (teach and) play it Wednesday night is a different matter.
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8. Board Game: Clans of Caledonia [Average Rating:8.17 Overall Rank:61]
Dice bags!
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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2 games of Clans of Caledonia yesterday; one before and one after Sam's RPG session. In the first one, I had the market clan that gave me 3 extra merchants, river crossing, and $1 when I went to market. I finished 3 contracts in the first round and took a 4th to work on, giving me $15 extra dollars over Sam taking one contract. The port with +3/-3 market adjustment was also out, and I used that later in the game. I didn't produce very much, I mostly bought and sold my way through the game. It was the first game where I maxed out the merchants and water upgrades (upgrades were a bonus scoring category, so spending $4 on a merchant at the end for a point was a better exchange rate than leaving the $10 to sit around for a point). I ended up winning the game by 4 points, which is what I got for the merchant and river crossing upgrade I started with. So, in some ways, those won me the game.

In our second game, I took the clan that gave me a 3-4-4-5 discount for building processing buildings. This time, I focused more on growing and processing my own goods, and planted grain early, and whiskey factories. Once I got down to the bottom of the whiskey factory column, I was able to draw 3 new contracts to choose from. I ended up building all of the bakeries as well. One of the ports was the one that lets you swap out buildings, so Sam built all of his bakeries, then swapped bakeries for whiskey #2 and whiskey #3, meaning he only had to build one more whiskey to get to the bottom of the column and draw 3 contracts.

Sam had the clan that lets you start with 3 people on the edges, and one of the bonus tiles was 3VP/2 things on the edge, but it's less useful with 2p, because the edge spots aren't as good, and we were on side 2, where overall the spots felt expensive and not as good. Thankfully I had the factory discount to help me to afford to build places.
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9. Board Game: Crystal Clans [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:6248]
Alison Mandible
United States
Cambridge
Massachusetts
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 5   Charterstone (5 all-time)

Game 5. One guy has an engine that's unfun and demoralizing to play against, because he figured out some important things earlier than the rest of us and there's no way for anybody else to affect any of it. The catch-up mechanism is weak and gets less valuable as time goes on. I am not feeling very good about playing lots more of this game from my current position.

 9   The Mind x3 (6 all-time)

One game with my Charterstone group. One person loved it, one had no comment, two were dismissive in a surprisingly curt way. I may need to stop introducing The Mind to new people who I'm not sure will like it, just because so far when people don't like it, they manage to express that in ways which make me less interested in playing other games with them in the future, even if we're a good match for the type of games we normally play.

One game with S, my first 2p game. We were both tired but I was more fidgety and she was more spacey, so we lost pretty fast.

The third game was with one friend of mine, the first time I'd played with eye contact explicitly allowed. I think that definitely made it *harder*, because what to do when you're staring each other down is a whole separate question from the basic when-to-play-cards question. That might be solved in repeat play, of course.

 10   Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends x2 (478 all-time)

I'm 4-0 in this tournament, though I've faced fewer experts than some of the other players at the top of the standings. I don't like being undefeated; it sets my expectations too high. But of course, winning (in interesting games, which these all have been) is nice.

 5   Queendomino NEW!

I was surprised (though, why?) at how closely my experience matched what I've heard from other people-- the new stuff is likable but the game just didn't need it. I still think Kingdomino could use one extra layer of depth, even if an optional one. I don't think this is it.

 7   Crystal Clans x2 NEW!

The dimensions of play here weren't what I expected. I... liked it? I'm pretty sure? I enjoyed the first play enough to try again the next night, and enjoyed the second play more. I think what I might need, to be sure, is to play the same clan against different opposing clans; my hesitation about the game mostly comes from the sense that a given unit has one obvious application, and if you don't need it for that it's dead weight. Which is to say, if there's one right way to play a given clan no matter who it's up against, that's not interesting to me.

I love the initiative track, though. All costs are paid by moving a shared token on a two-ended track (i.e. the middle space is 0 and it counts up in both directions). Once you've spent it past space 2 on your opponent's side, no matter how many or few actions that takes you, it's the other player's turn, starting from where you left it. This creates an odd rhythm that I haven't totally gotten my head around.
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10. Board Game: Baseball Highlights: 2045 [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:370]
Karl Fast
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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I flew to Ohio this weekend for a gaming retreat. The Board Gamers of Akron (BOGA) rent a boy scout camp for a full weekend every year. A friend of mine from when I lived in Ohio invited me out last year. We went again this year. I used miles so my flight was only $11. Including food and flight and the badge it cost me maybe $200 to fly out Thursday morning, game for 3.5 days, and fly home Sunday night.


NUMBER OF GAMES PLAYED: 43 plays
NUMBER OF DIFFERENT GAMES: 15 games
NUMBER OF NEW-TO-ME GAMES: 9 games
TOTAL TIME: 74 hours


GAMES OF THE WEEKEND

 9   Baseball Highlights: 2045 – Super Deluxe Edition. A 4p tournament. A definite highlight (pun intended) to play a tournament. One person finished the round-robin 1-8, but lost at least 3 games in extra innings, and a couple more one the last card of the game. I was building a naturals team then switched to a power hitter team. I lost the first playoff game 7-4, but then rattled off four straight wins to take the title: 9-2, 12-5, 9-7, 9-2. I scored a whopping 39 runs in my last 4 games.

 8   Jump Drive x20. Yes that's right: we played this 20 times in about 72 hours. We played it 2p, 3p, and 4p over seven sessions, or over 60 different person plays. I taught it to at least 6 people, everyone asked to play it again, and at least 3p said they were going to get a copy. Game of the retreat by a mile.

 8   Azul x5 NEW!. Instant buy. Played it 2p and 3p. My wife will like this. I think my 9yo will like it too. It's also a game that will work with friends who drop by.



NEW TO ME

 8   Power & Weakness x2 NEW!. It's been on my shelf, unplayed, for quite a few years. That's odd given how much I tend to like Steding designs. This is terrific but only if you like area majority games. Cool game and want to play it more, although that will require the right person.

 6   Monster Trick NEW!. A promising trick-taking game where players are working to take 4 different trick simultaneously, and there is no trump. You play cards into one of four stacks. Each stack is a trick. High card wins the trick. There is also a novel bidding mechanic. Also known as Stichling. It plays 2-5 and we played 3p. It's quite simple and interesting. Will likely rise in my rating with more plays. You could make your own version with a Sticheln deck, some colored cubes, and a few extra cards for the bidding.

 6   Flamme Rouge x2 NEW!. I liked this bike racing game more than I expected. I compare all racing games to Snow Tails. They all come up short, and so does this one.

 6   Indian Summer x2 NEW!. Good. Liked it about as much as Barenpark. I'd still rather play Patchwork though.

 6   Paperback NEW!. Finally played this. I have a copy and think my wife will like this. She dislikes Scrabble because it doesn't reward you for making long words, while this does. Fun twist on the classic Dominion deck-building structure. I did the kickstarter for Hardback which included a small expansion for the original Paperback. Could get more plays soon.

 6   Spirit Island NEW!. A game I can admire and could probably learn to love as a solo or 2p game (maybe 3p). But we played 4p and with the teach it took a long time, and then we lost. So first impressions of the gameplay are mixed, hence the 6.

 4   Near and Far NEW!. I was told this is better than Above & Below. In reality it has more game mechanics and the story element. Above & Below has more story then mechanics. This has more mechanics than story. My problem with both is that when players read the stories you keep thinking "just skip the story and tell me what my choices are." There might be more of a story feeling with the campaign more here, as you move from one map to the next. A friend of mine brought it, and loves it, but I'm lukewarm on this and the predecessor.

 4   Roll Player NEW!. For me, a 4 rating means a "good game" just not something that excites me. Too long and too much downtime for me, at least in the 5p version. No interest in more plays.

OTHER GAMES PLAYED

 8   Terraforming Mars. Only my second play and I like it, but I'm still not sure about my rating. Part of the reason is that so many people have played this dozens of times, so when I play them I'll end up being crushed

 8   Concordia. A 4p game where I scored second with 119, and the winner scored a whopping 169.

 8   Fugitive x4. The 2p asymmetric deduction microgame by Tim Fowers that I have talked up. I'm over 15 plays and this still holds up, though few people seem to like it as much as I do.

 8   Hanabi. I hadn't played in years, the others were inexperienced, it showed.


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11. Board Game: Jump Drive [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:975]
Karl Fast
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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As noted above, I played this 20 times during a gaming retreat in Ohio over the weekend. We played it many times at every player count. I know have at 23 plays since my first, a few weeks back, and have taught at least 8 different people. Of those at least four people loved it and plan to buy a copy for themselves.

I thought I'd share a few thoughts for discussion, knowing I'm not alone in my enjoyment of this one.

I've found two reactions to the game.

REACTION A is Unsatisfying. For these people the game is over too damn fast. They would rather play a longer, deeper, engine building game. They complain that they don't spend long enough building their engine, they don't get to do anything useful with the engine, and it feels like the winner is determined from the card draw. It just feels random and out of control. After a few plays they decide there is nothing interesting here: no nuance, little control, and no satisfaction. A common sentiment is that they would rather play RfTG (which I find amusing, since a common complaint about rRfTG is that it's too dependent on luck and card draw and explore).

REACTION B is Adoration. For these people the game being over fast is a huge positive. A feature, not a bug. It means that if your engine failed you just play another round. With other engine builders you might be sitting there for another half hour only to realize you were doomed long ago and just wasted your time. For this group, the shortness is a virtue. And there are more than enough combos to explore to make it interesting.

The explore action is for skilled players

At first, explore seemed like a mechanic to help inexperienced players dig for better cards. But now I'm seeing it as the opposite: this is useful only if you have enough experience to consider your options.

If you explore, you will probably do it early. First or second turn. It's a way to develop a better strategy because of a weak initial hard, or because you have several options but need something to kick it into overdrive.

You might explore late to get a card that will score lots of points, but probably not. By then you're either out of the running or should be generating enough points that you're better off using cards in hand, even if they just provide a small VP boost. For example, if I have 21 VP by turn 5 and am scoring 13 per round then even if I do nothing I will have 47 VP after round 7. that puts me in the running (21 + 13 + 13). Taking one turn to explore, even if it gives me a card that gives me another 15 points, won't help that much because I'll only score it once. I'd wind up at 62 (21 + 13 + 13+ 15). But if I add a card that scores, say, 3 points in round six and one that scores 5 points in round 7, I would end up with 58 points (21 + 13 + 3 + 13 + 3 + 5).

Explore early, if you're more experienced, and only if you need a certain card to power up the strategy from your card.

Card draw matters, except when it doesn't

Most of the time you want to ramp up your card draw in the first few turns. But sometimes VP will do the job. I won one game where I got my card draw to 4 cards in the first couple rounds and after that only played cards that scored me VP.

Don't underestimate VP cards early

Scoring VP early is powerful. It's hard and you need a good card draw to begin, but if you have can be scoring 4-6 points after the second round you are well on your way to victory. 5 points after round 2 means you'll have at least 25 points by the end of round 6. That means cobbling together 25 points over 4 rounds which is very doable and passing 50 points in 6 rounds almost always means victory.

Most of the time you want to up your card draw. Just don't overlook the chance to ramp up VP in the first 2-3 rounds.

How I've come to think about the game

As has been mentioned in our group before, this is not just a race game. It's a particular kind of race game: a drag race.

When teaching people I tell them this. Then I go further and tell them it's like we've dumped a big pile of engine parts onto a table and someone yelled GO! Your job is to assemble a drag racer as fast as possible and roar down the track.

This analogy seems to work for people. Calling it a race game isn't enough. Describing this as a mad scramble of a drag race gives people a much better framework for understanding how to approach the game.

Loving this. Thanks to all who have talked this up in recent months. Without this I would have given it a pass.
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12. Board Game: Mordred [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:3674]
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Last week's plays:

-8- Codenames (x3)
-8- Gulo Gulo
-8- Red7
-8- Terraforming Mars (+Hellas & Elysium; Penguins; Self-Replicating Robots)
-7- The 7th Continent (x2) (+BGG Promo Cards New!)
-7- Dobble
-7- Heckmeck am Bratwurmeck
-7- King of Siam
-6- Mordred (x2)
-5.5- 7 Wonders Duel (+The Messe Essen)

Terraforming Mars saw the second win in a row for Phobolog with Io Mining in their opening hand. It's a strong start and if you can collect enough Jovian cards, the endgame bonuses should push you ahead, even if you didn't grab the largest share of in-game terraforming points. I was playing Helion, a corporation I've never managed to win with and one I don't particularly like playing. I'll keep picking them until I win once, then I can give up on them.

Another Wallace crossed off the list: Mordred. We even played it twice in a row after it became clear that early and repeated greediness from me and Matt had more or less handed Kate the game. The second play was closer. Kate built strongholds in the north and fought off Mordred's forces, hoping to attack him in his castle. Ultimately, her efforts served to protect Matt's village building in the south and he was able to place and protect all his pieces before we could retaliate. It's not a great game, but has some interesting patterns to it which make it worth an occasional outing.

Updated Wallace count:



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


As if Mordred's weirdness wasn't enough, we moved on to the mind-boggling opacity of King of Siam. The initial cube setup heavily favoured yellow, so it appeared that yellow would win the most regions. I decided to collect a mix of yellow and a secondary colour, hoping that with enough people taking yellow from the board, it wouldn't actually finish strongly, and my second choice colour would come out ahead. I was slightly disappointed, then, that just grabbing yellow turned out to be the winning strategy and Matt won by concentrating on that one colour. It also helped that he had more cards left to play when Kate and I had run out, so could effectively control the endgame. It's a curious game, that's for sure.

Kate and I met a couple of gamers through parent and child activities on the Bank Holiday Monday. It turns out they live just round the corner from us. We just played Codenames with the adults and Gulo Gulo with the kids but there's potentially scope for other games in future, since one is a keen Netrunner player. I wonder how many other boardgamers are hiding in our neighbourhood.
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13. Board Game: Stephenson's Rocket [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:1021]
Morten K
Denmark
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Last week I think I said I wanted to play more of my highly rated games and looking at what I played last week it seems as if I did. That includes one of my previously unplayed games.

9  Throne and the Grail x3 (39 all-time)
Monday we flew back from Madrid so we played some games on the plane from there to Brussels. Like on the way down there, Lærke started out strong and beat me with a record score. I think she got 37 points but everything also went her way. The second game I won through getting all three Grail shards like she had done travelling the other way. In the third it got worse for her as I got twenty odd points to her -2 points.

9  R x6 (13 all-time)
We had played this thrice the other way and Lærke wasn't impressed but I think she had more fun this time since we played more games. A different experience than the rye fuelled one I had with Marc but still good. This is such a good game for travelling so it's going to see a lot of play for us.

9  Stephenson's Rocket x2 NEW!
I cannot believe nobody talks about this classic Knizia from 1999. A bit odd he decided to make a train game but wow did he succeed in making a good one. It has all the trademarks of one of the simpler ones - perhaps it's most similar to German Railways in that the timing of when to merge to companies is all important. But it's much better than that because you have more options of what to do and it doesn't have the stupid action selection lottery. Still plenty of room for screwage and the veto mechanism where you are allowed to call for a veto and thus a vote when someone builds track for a company you own shares in. This is pure genious. We played twice but one player never understood anything in the first play so he went home and we had a great 45 mins during our second play. Another one for my top ten of the year for sure.

8  Crisis (5 all-time)
Last time we played at work we were 12. This time 8 had said they'd come but five cancelled the evening before or the day we were to play so we ended up being just the three of us and since one of them was Greek and Crisis is best at three we played that. Last time the economy crashed in round two. This time we managed to play two more rounds before it happened but this time I was playing for it to happen so my engine started getting me points in the second round already and I managed to keep up with the VP demands and won by being the only one above the required VP mark when the other two crashed the economy. Great fun.

8  Azul (22 all-time)
Since we didn't play a full game I had time to teach them Azul. It was a very unequal game where they let me get way too many tiles I needed and they themselves didn't fill out the top three rows every turn so I could drag the game out as I saw fit to get a very good score of 117. Not that fair of me but they still liked it.



Games that left my collection this month: Fast Forward: FEAR.

Games that entered my collection this month: 878: Vikings - Invasions of England, R, Saint Petersburg (1st Edition) and Populi Turolii.

Unplayed games in my collection: Tahuantinsuyu, 1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight, Splatter SHOOT, Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?, Sword of Rome, Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-62, El Alamein, Continental Divide, Here I Stand (500th Anniversary Edition), BIOS: Megafauna (2nd Edition), Happy Salmon, 878: Vikings - Invasions of England, Saint Petersburg (1st Edition) and Populi Turolii.
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