Another BGGcon Played List
Mike Haverty
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Oklahoma
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Yes, just what BGG needed, but this is my first con geeklist, for my third BGGcon. So, just some comments on what I played this year.
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1. Board Game: Crokinole [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:75]
Mike Haverty
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Oklahoma
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My Canadian brother-in-law Adrian taught us how to play last year and we're all big fans now. We spent a lot of "between games" time playing Crokinole last year, as well as tracking a little round robin tournament action between the four people in our group.

This year, I only played one match. Thinking back, I'm not completely sure why I didn't play more. Some of the guys in our group played more than me, but it wasn't as 'big' as it was last year. This is probably partially due to Adrian's absence, but also it seemed like we had less downtime between games this year, as well as a little thing called Dominion...
 
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2. Board Game: Pacific Typhoon [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:2223]
Mike Haverty
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Oklahoma
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I've never played Atlantic Storm or Pacific Typhoon before, but I'd read about them. We were cruising the vendors after signing in to the con when my Dad commented that he wanted to get some sort of military themed game, if not an outright wargame. He eyed the The Battle for Hill 218 demo that we passed, when I spotted this on the shelf at the Desert Fox booth. Since we had five in our group, plus more people we expected to run into, I recommended this to him since it plays 3-7.

The five of us set up in the secondary gaming hall and broke this out, when a nice fellow named August happened by and asked to join -- and as a bonus, he already knew how to play.

We all enjoyed it. I was under the mistaken impression that as some have called this a "wargame filler" that it would be short, rather than the two hours or so it took us. I supposed a 2-hour game IS a filler compared to 6-hour monsters, heh. Anyway, it was a nice warm-up for the con and we ended up playing it again Friday night as well.
 
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3. Board Game: Struggle of Empires [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:330]
Mike Haverty
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Oklahoma
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After an early dinner, the next game was our group's annual slugfest, Struggle of Empires. This is our third year for the con and our third time playing it there. We only had six this time compared with seven the last two years, but it was still plenty brutal. I'm not sure we have another game that throws salt on the wound quite like SoE, when you lose a crucial battle (and aren't they all?), lose a unit, and then you gain an Unrest on top of it. I like being the Unrest banker just for the pure schadenfreude of saying, "Here's your Unrest!" in an upbeat manner to someone, as if they were getting something they actually wanted.

Such a great game, probably my favorite Martin Wallace game, and still a crowd-pleaser. thumbsup
 
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4. Board Game: Genji [Average Rating:5.85 Overall Rank:6440]
Mike Haverty
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I bought this the first day from ZMan. The game sounded neat and looked great when Dylan Kirk talked about it back on BGDF, and of course I wanted to support a BGDF alum, so it was a lock to buy.

We played this 4p and enjoyed it. The poem cards are either 3-line beginnings or 2-line endings; you can play either partial poems or complete poems to woo the twelve different princesses. Each princess and poetry card has seasonal and/or fashion icons; the greater the number of matches between them (and the current season and current vogue fashion), the higher the beauty rating of the poem. After each series of visits to the ladies, reputation is scored for best poem, most poems in play, and for cuckoldry (heh, having a poem on an opponent's favorite princess).

The gameplay works well, with elements of hand management (looking ahead to the next princesses in line), deciding when and where to challenge an opponent's poem, and weighing speed of movement around the circle against getting more poems in play. Aesthetically, the game does an excellent job of evoking the theme. None of us read Japanese of any kind, but with a little inspection it appears the actual poetry on each card is written on the parchment scrap depicted.

I look forward to more plays with this, and I think my wife will appreciate the theme and style as well.
 
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5. Board Game: Dorn [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:3462]
Mike Haverty
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Oklahoma
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I only recently heard about this and had noted it as something to try. I was actually sitting out a game of Pirate's Cove on the terrific HeroScape map our buddy Rodney had made, reading rules for some games we would try later, when the guys from Austin checked this out from the library.

It is a one-vs-many adventure game where either side wins by eliminating the other, or by completing a ritual of destruction by filling a specific chamber with monsters for three consecutive turns (in the case of the Dornkeeper); there's a bit more to it than that, but those are the ultimate objectives. The rules are actually fairly short and straightforward, and the game features deterministic combat (all attacks hit for one damage, but heroes automatically parry one attack per turn, so it takes multiple monsters or multi-attack monsters to hurt them) and fixed movement rates, so the downtime and analysis was pretty minimal as far as adventure games go.

Overall, I thought it was a decent adventure game, especially with a nice duration, but the ending felt a little anticlimactic - once we opened the gate to the Dornkeeper's throne room, the aforementioned deterministic combat seemed to make his doom a foregone conclusion. I'm willing to play it again, but doubt I'll acquire it.
 
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6. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:72] [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
Mike Haverty
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Oklahoma
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There were six of us at this point and we had two copies of Dominion between us, so I suggested we sit down for simultaneous 3p learning games. We ended up with another Okie joining one of the games, but the rules really are THAT simple and, for experienced gamers, THAT easy to get into the swing of things.

I had read the game's description even before Essen and it sounded appealing. With so many positive ratings after Essen, I knew I'd buy it at the con. Well, you can count me among its many fans. The concept of building your deck as you play is terrific and provides a lot of satisfaction as you see it doing its thing; conversely, after a bungled game, you're left thinking, "Who the hell built this deck?"

Anyway, there has been much written about Dominion already. I'll just say it was a big hit with everyone in our group and, since coming home, with my wife and Mom, too. I've never met a weird strategy I didn't like to try once, so I'm still in the honeymoon stage with this game, swapping out kingdom cards between games here and there or trying different things with the same cards. Money well spent (13 plays at the con and 5 since coming home).
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7. Board Game: Victory & Honor [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:4158]
Mike Haverty
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I got this in the math trade and a quick look at the rules suggested playing in partnerships. One of our group seems incapable of getting up early at BGGcon (he did the same thing when he came two years ago) so I brought this down to the gaming hall for a 4p game.

Overall, I think it's a pretty good game. The simultaneous play of three tricks in a trick-taking game, combined with the unique suit/trump development, the special cards, and the multiplicative scoring within each suit, really make this unique (in my experience, anyway). It really seems like a game that would get better and better with experience as you learn how to pass the lead and manipulate the suits better. I look forward to getting more plays in, if I can find three other guys in my group that want to 'dedicate' the effort to get that experience.
 
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8. Board Game: Supernova [Average Rating:6.07 Overall Rank:5099]
Mike Haverty
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Oklahoma
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This was on my wishlist at LAST year's con, so I took advantage of the designer's tournament to actually get to play it THIS year. Although the rules explanation ran a bit long, the game is actually not terribly complicated. My original impression (based only on the description of the game) that the game was largely about expanding and only involved occasional conflict was quickly disabused. This game is all about the conflict, and it is brutally fun.

Oliver has a set of mechanics here that beautifully stimulates aggression between the players. Income is very tight, making the +1 resource unit (RU, the game's currency) for EACH successful attack very significant. The nature of battle card management also tends to support the attacker. Income and scoring are also tied (among other things) to the moons at each planet; a moon is constantly moving in its orbit, thus forcing players to continually fight over it as it moves around. The battle cards themselves provide for non-random combat based on hand management and probing attacks and outright bluffs. Throw in a simple tech tree and an inspired solar flare mechanic and you've got a recipe for carnage among the stars. A clean, futuristic graphic design by Mike Doyle rounds out the package.

I plan on buying this once it is officially out in the next month or two; I think my friends will like it and I figure the play time will end up around 2.5 hours after everyone has played it once or twice.

thumbsup to Oliver for the design and for hosting the tournament.
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9. Board Game: League of Six [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:1189]
Mike Haverty
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Oklahoma
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I also got this in the math trade. It, too, was on my wishlist last year, so I was happy to bust this out late Saturday for a play, and was very satisfied afterward.

The game uses 'guards' as currency, with a sort of auction each round as players vie for the choicest towns from which to collect taxes. It is reminiscent of the auction in Amun-Re with players overbidding each other until only one player remains at each location. The turn order tracking provides advantages and disadvantages in later phases based on how aggressively players spend guards.

After collecting taxes (goods cubes), players are then ranked from 'fastest' to 'slowest' wagon based on how many horse symbols they collected. These are not actually collected, but are used as a ranking for turn order in placing goods onto the storage boards each round. This turns out to be very important as each space has varying VP payouts for different goods, and players MUST load goods onto a chosen row if possible. This feels very much like the Captain phase in Puerto Rico, only developed into a beefier core mechanic.

There is some additional scoring based on majority/set collection at the end of the game, which actually turned what looked like a major margin of victory for me into a very close game. I think everyone else enjoyed it (we played 4p) and I'm sure I'll be getting more plays out of this in my group in the future.
 
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10. Board Game: Caledea: The Epic Strategy Game [Average Rating:5.89 Overall Rank:10967]
Mike Haverty
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Oklahoma
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I won this (along with seven other games) in Saturday's Grand Prize drawings, so as we did our final meander among the halls on Sunday before leaving, we decided to sit down for a demo from the designers/publishers.

I have to say our impressions were favorable. Caledea is a light wargame with a claimed playtime of 30 minutes for 2p, up to about 60 minutes for 4p. The four of us sat down for side by side 2p games; one ran about 20-30 minutes, and the other about 45 minutes (largely due to both of us playing somewhat cautiously).

There are a lot of neat design elements at work in this one. Every square on the board has two terrain types, and each player's empire card has two terrain types that are favored. Matching terrain provides a +1 combat bonus per match, as well as determining the exact squares each player can build outposts on. The upshot of this is that players always defend their outposts (and capital) at +2; conversely, you can 'salt' an enemy outpost while it is undefended, but suffer a nasty counterattack if an enemy unit is within range of you on his turn.

The only time new units enter the game is when these outposts are founded, AND they are permanently lost when defeated in combat. This means the total number of units in any given game is fixed, making attrition a brutal reality and helping reign in the play time, even if none of the players succeed in capturing the enemy capital. Income is also a threshold to be spent each turn, NOT accumulated. This puts a firm limit on players' spending capabilities, obviating the need to track accumulated cash and preventing one player from getting too far ahead of the other in expenditures.

I like the combat system as well. Units roll one (infantry), two (cavalry) or three (general) dice in a fight, plus one for each terrain match. Highest single roll wins, with each successive die being used as a tie-breaker. For example, if a cavalry with one terrain bonus fights a cavalry with none, 3 dice vs 2 dice, and the rolls came up 6-4-2 vs 6-5, the latter unit would win on the second die comparison. It's very simple, provides advantages for better units and terrain, and yet weaker units still have a shot at winning a tough fight -- a 1-die infantry could win with a single 6 against a 3-dice general who rolled no 6s at all.

The game itself is obviously produced by hand with painted cubes, cutout tokens, and I think a foamboard board, so it is very much an indie production, but the price of $15 they were charging at the con seems like a good deal to me. One of my group ended up buying his own copy to keep at work, so I expect to see a lot more of Caledea at future lunches.
 
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11. Board Game: End of Days [Average Rating:5.67 Unranked]
Mike Haverty
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Oklahoma
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Wow, I only played 10 different games this year? Dominion deserves a lot of the blame for that, heh. Oh well, I had a great time again, enjoyed every game I tried, and picked up a lot of games to try in the coming months -- unplayed acquisitions include Wasabi! (another BGDF alum), Duck Duck Go (hand-picked custom rubber ducks my kid can play with as well), and the Korea map for Power Grid.

Less than 360 days till BGGcon 2009!
 
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