Old Favorites, New Favorites, and a couple of Trophies . . .
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The last weekend in February turned out to be something special in the saga of my ever-growing Geekhood.

Between a particularly good Meetup, and my first gaming (as opposed to comic) convention, I was able to get some favorites to the table for a serious workout, and finally play a number of long anticipated games.

34 plays of 15 different games, 8 of them new to me. I'd call that a sucessful weekend.

I'm so glad I decided to brave the snow storm . . .
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1. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:49]
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Despite having bought this from Tanga several weeks back, my copy was still in shrink when I walked in, a little early, to the NYC Boardgame Meetup that Thursday evening after work.

A couple of the regulars were also already there, punching their own copy, and sleeving the Action cards. They asked me if I wanted to play . . .

An hour later, the 4-player carnage was over, with the two who had (repeatedly!) played before racking up score 4 times that of we two rookies.

Am I discouraged? Hell, no! I've been scouring the rules, the cards and the strategy reports ever since. Looking forward to giving it another shot tomorrow . . .
 
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2. Board Game: Zombie Fluxx [Average Rating:6.02 Overall Rank:2745]
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Next I cracked open my new copy of Zombie Fluxx, which had been sitting in my "to play" pile since Halloween.

I love the Looneys, and understand that without Fluxx, there's no Icehouse pieces for me to play with, design with, obess over . . .

That said, I still haven't played an enjoyable game of Fluxx, in any variety. There always seems to be one card that spoils the game in question. This time it was "Hand Limit: Zero".

For what it's worth, the theme here punches the game up a notch from Vanilla Fluxx. However noone was clamoring for a second game . . .
 
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3. Board Game: Biblios [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:288]
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So instead, out came my review copy of S&S (named "Scriptorium" on my copy), to try out for the first time with two willing guineapigs.

There was a lot of "I don't get it" looks as I ran through the rules, but I was confident that they made sense once play was underway.

I was right . . .

Halfway through the first game, the questions stopped and the game started flowing. The scores were surprising (I did not expect to be shut out entirely!), and the call for a second game immediate.

That second play through ran very quickly - under 15 minutes - featured very different strategies, and again led to a tense scoring round. Again, I placed last, but at least I completed one Illuminated Manuscript this time . . .

This one's become a keeper in my Meetup bag.
 
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4. Board Game: Dragon Parade [Average Rating:5.76 Overall Rank:5960]
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Here was another purchase that hasn't seen as much table time as it might have. I had played an aborted game with my wife when it first arrived, then it got stuck in a corner when she was unimpressed.

Hoping that it may have been an issue with two players rather than the game itself, I introduced it to an eager crowd - this is a very pretty looking game. And who doesn't love a Dragon meeple?

The tug-of-war played out between the four of us, spiced up by an immediate scoring trigger early in the final round which shook up the final standings considerably.

I'm not sure if this finish left us more excited or underwhelmed by the game. Attractive, but dry - I need to ty this again, perhaps with different groups . . .
 
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5. Board Game: Samsara [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
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Knowing a little about designing abstract boardgames, I was very pleased to meet Mark a few weeks back. He has been developing this game for some time, and I had been hearing very encouraging things about it, but had failed spectacularly to get in a game to date.

That changed tonight, and Mark went through the elegant ruleset for the collection of 5 playtesters - a mix of complete newbies, some who had played before, and the designer!

I'm looking forward to this being a hit. Just the feat of successfully scaling a game for 2-8 players is impresive enough, but the game play is intriguing, and the potential for a taste of diplomacy adds real flavor to this pure abstract.

I won the first game after working with a struggling player to stall the early leader. I'm sticking to my story that I didn't realise that his aid would lead to my win on the next turn . . .

Always a good sign when a big group is immediately ready for another game, and this second one ran smoothly through to a tight endgame. This time I was just pipped by some fascinating strategy by another first time player.

Put me in for a pre-order . . .
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6. Board Game: Felicity: The Cat in the Sack [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:1085]
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The night ended with perhaps the biggest, most pleasant surprise of the year so far. I've introduced this game to many people since I first purchased it, entirely on a whim.

Simple without being shallow, fast without being stressful, intelligent without being AP prone. I've never had a disappointing game of Felix, and believe that everyone who I've played it wth has been equally impressed.

What struck me on this night (it was closing in on midnight by now) was how everybody was playing the opponents even more than the cards. And the line of 5 bunnies after one of us had won a particularly impressive sack was priceless!

After two games played, despite everybody wanting to play again, the store closed, and the Meetup was over . . .


The next day, I was supposed to travel up to Poughkeepsie to demo Penguin Soccer at NonCon, but the piles of snow, and piles of work on my desk meant I had to delay until Saturday . . .
 
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7. Board Game: Penguin Soccer [Average Rating:5.68 Overall Rank:12013]
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After the horrifically early start, and the 3 hour commute from Brooklyn to Vassar college, I was evacuated from the premises. Damn fire alarm.

Once we were allowed back in, I got down to the business of demoing my own Icehouse design, Penguin Soccer.

PS has simple rules, but deep gameplay, and works as both a pure abstract strategy game, and as a cute, themey family game. I got to teach it to both demographics at Noncon, and found it very well received. I believe the vendors on site were happy, as there were a number of Treehouse sales coming directly out of the demos.

However, my demos were interupted by the first Tournament of the con. I figured, what the hell, I know how to play Volcano. I'll give it a shot.
 
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8. Board Game: Volcano [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:2869]
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So, the "warmup" game lasted forever. I'd forgotten how brainburny this one gets, especially when you haven't eaten, and you're playing against people who *realy* know their eruptions. By the time we got to the 6-player, MegaVolcano final, I was already wiped.

Then something odd happened. We rolled for seating, and I end up between the 2 newer players. The three other veterans are beating up on each other, there's no pressure on me, and I start playing well.

So, I have a slight edge, but the game is dragging. We each starting leaving the table between turns, going for coffee, to browse the vendors and (in my case) to demo some more Penguin Soccer. I keep looking up 20 or 30 minutes later thinking, "Ahhh! I've missed my turn", and run back only to find that the player before me was still only on deck.

After well over 3 hours, the game finally ended, with me the very surprised winner of the IAGO World Tour Volcano Tournament, and recipient of what I am told is a one-of-a-kind Volcano mug with artwork by the game's designer!

Yay, me . . .
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9. Board Game: Connect Four [Average Rating:4.84 Overall Rank:15308]
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Fresh from my success in the Volcano Tournament, I was roped into a C4 contest. All of the Volcano players were so exhausted that we kept making very silly mistakes, and were soon eliminated.

It was, however, exciting to see the "fringe" / non-hardcore gamers get involved in this one - there was very little time commitment, and everybody knows how to play, so this was an easy sell.
 
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10. Board Game: Blam! [Average Rating:6.42 Overall Rank:9111]
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Trying to wind down, I introduced some serious Icehouse fans to one of my favorites, Blam!

Very quickly, everyone had the idea, and we played a very satisfying game without making our heads explode.

I play this all the time as a 2-player game, but only recently realised how much fun it is with 3 and 4. It is much more chaotic, which is what had turned me off originally, but having played multi-player again, I'm a fan.

Playing even this mid-weight Icehouse game still took its toll however, so next I introduced as light a game as I could think of . . .
 
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11. Board Game: Moon Shot [Average Rating:5.17 Unranked]
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A very silly, very fun dexterity game. Players are trying to flick their pyramid stacks into the stash tube - colonizing the Moon. If you fall too far behind in the space race, you can try to "Crack" the Moon . . .

This allowed us to catch our breath, and inspired someone to pull out another dexterity game, and one *high* on my wishlist . . .
 
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12. Board Game: PitchCar [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:314]
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I've wanted to try this out since I first discovered BGG, and now, with a crowd of new geek-friends, I got to flick my car all over the track, finishing a respectable 4th out of 8.

Now we have to adjust the track a little. This turn was too easy, let's put the rail on the opposite edge. Ths straightaway's too long, let's put in a chicane . . .

I blasted out to an early lead, but midway through the second of three laps, I came up upon the backmarkers, and had *severe* difficulties trying to lap them. So much so that I had dropped to 3rd by the final turn, and needed a magnificent passing move to steal back into 2nd at the line.

That was *fun*!

While the gang set up another course (Wait! Is that a jump?!), I sadly hopped a cab to the train station. Metro North to Grand Central. Subway to Prospect Heights. And I get to do the reverse trip again in about 6 hours time . . .
 
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13. Board Game: Quoridor [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:1000]
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But at least I didn't have to travel alone on Sunday. My buddy, Tom, joined me for the last day of Noncon, calling from outside my apartment at 6.15am.

Once there, we got right down to the business of Tournaments. I had played my first game of Quoridor on Saturday, and now entered into another Turney with no expectations.

I won my first game. Then my next. I started to see some really interesting stratgies which I tried out against my next few opponents.

Next thing I know, I'm the only udefeated player in a double elimination tournament. Cool, so who do I play next? What do you mean I've beaten everybody twice?

So now I've won two IAGO World Tour Events, essentially by accident. I collect my prize (Yay, another Xeno Treehouse Stash - can never have too many pyramids) and set up to run the Penguin Soccer Tournament . . .
 
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14. Board Game: Penguin Soccer [Average Rating:5.68 Overall Rank:12013]
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The IAGO World Tour Penguin Socer World Cup (IWTPSWC - needs a better accronym . . .) was the first time the chess clocks have officially been used in Penguin Soccer play. They were a big hit.

A normal game can run up to 100 moves, but the decision tree is reasonably small. It's all about look-ahead. Therefore, a clock limiting each player to a maximum of 15 minutes playing time was introduced for tournament play.

I was thrilled to see that not a single game was won by time-out, and I did not see a marked drop in quality of play.

I'm looking forward to participating in future Tournaments, now that I have seen that it works so smoothly . . .
 
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15. Board Game: Icehouse [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:2636]
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With all the Icehouse in my life, it seemed profoundly wrong that I had never played the turnless, boardless game for which the pieces were designed and named. Noncon finally righted this wrong for me.

I had read the rules, watched the videos, studied the strategy guides. I knew my snowball from my shotgun, understood that I might need to fall back on a cheeseball if I really got in trouble, relished the thought of using a prisoner to restructure an attack. But I had never played. It just seemed that it wouldn't work if at least a couple of players had, you know, actually played before.

It was worth the wait.

Thanks to 3 Icehouse veterans, I was eased into the game. My errors were kindly pointed out, and they paused for me when I was unclear on a ruling. That was in the first game.

In the next 3, there was no mercy. And somehow I held my own, even getting a share of the win in one game. Perhaps it should be called a match, however - Icehouse is almost as much sport as it is game.

These intense, fascinating matches were the highlight of the entire weekend. I hope I can find other players in the New York City area . . .
 
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16. Board Game: Covert Action [Average Rating:5.19 Overall Rank:14666]
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As we waited for our ride back to the train station, 6 of us got into a quick game of Covert Action.

I enjoy the occasional game of Werewolf/Mafia, but understand its drawbacks. Covert Action seems to address these, resulting in a fun game.

With the right players (and we had them that night) this is a blast. And a fun way to end a weekend of gaming.
 
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