Thirty Days of the Geek!
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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So, I guess it's a little more than a month ago that I read the article in Wired magazine about the "new" board games, Setters of Catan and all this juicy goodness.

That was one expensive article.

I filed it away, like I do with so many other, interesting things, I figure I'll get to, "eventually".

Then, maybe a week later, my wife and I were out to dinner with friends, discussing what we were going to do after dinner. After ruling out the drug-crazed sex-orgy, it occurred to me that I'd read about this neat, "new" style boardgame and that it seemed the sort of thing my wife and our friends (to say nothing of yours truly) might enjoy.

"Hey, you guys hang out and wait for the table. I'm gonna run over to Barnes & Noble and see if they've got something."

Well, they did. I picked up a copy of the 4th Edition and brought it back to the group.

"Wha'cha got there?" my wife asks, half-rolling her eyes.

"A game. We can try it out when we get home."

And, from such humble beginnings, blooms a lovely, expensive new hobby. A couple days after our night of gaming -- which everyone enjoyed terribly much -- I discovered the Geek. I ninja-trolled around a bit, browsing, getting the feel for the place, and then, thinking, "what could it hurt?" I registered and jumped in with both feet.

This GeekList is more than just our budding game collection. It's the tentative steps I've taken -- and dragged my wife and friends along for -- exploring the different aspects of these games, trying different things, following the excellent advice here on this site. Or, as I like to think of it, "building a vocabulary" for table-top gaming.

I'm sure there are some "must have" games that haven't made our list. I'm sure there are things we've bought -- are are considering buying -- which some might question. For our part, this is less about building a collection and more about exploration. In the process, yes, we've built a tidy little collection, and it's a collection that will continue to grow (albeit, a bit more slowly, I should think).

But here we are. These are the steps, some of them only glanced at, others well-trod, towards educating ourselves, making ourselves at home and, most important, having a good, fun time with each other and with our friends, playing these exciting and previously unknown (to us) games.

So, there you go. Thirty days . . .
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1. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:282] [Average Rating:7.22 Unranked]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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This is the one that started it all (for us, at least). I read the article in Wired Magazine, Monopoly Killer, and remembered it that night out to dinner with friends.

What was nicest about Settlers is that our friends -- who hate playing video games with us -- were interested, engaged and able to play right off the bat. Everyone watched me fumble around with the instructions, punch the hexes, and we were up and running in no time flat.

Being an old-school PC and console gamer, with friends who are very much NOT into that stuff, the biggest obstacle, I find, can be the control scheme. So, they may understand the concept of the game, but remembering which button to press at which time can be frustrating.

With Settlers, once we were through the first round or two, everyone was going strong. I expect our strategy was lacking, but that's not what was important; all four of us were playing EQUALLY. And that, my friends, is what it's all about.
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2. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:139] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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I tried this one on X-box Live! before ordering the Big Box 2 by way of Amazon (I still hadn't learned the magic of some of BGG.com's sponsor sites or the FLGS which is conveniently located 3 blocks from my office -- the only such store on the island of Manhattan, I might add).

I discovered the game here on the Geek, of course. I didn't have any "vocabulary" for what I was seeing in the screenshots and reading the reviews I really had no idea what people were talking about.

Meeples? What are Meeples? Do I want some of those?

I was able to grasp the ideas of Catan because there's an economy there. You start with a board and you build around the board. Carcassonne, on the other hand, was about building the board.

Once I tried it with my wife, however, I immediately understood the appeal. She prefers to play with the, "keep three tiles in your hand" variant, which she feels is more strategic. For my part, I'm happy to play ANY variant which she's interested in playing, because that means she's interested in playing.
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3. Board Game: Munchkin [Average Rating:5.93 Overall Rank:3391] [Average Rating:5.93 Unranked]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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To be fair, I read about this game on Wil Wheaton's blog maybe six months prior. I even put one of those "game and first six expansions" deals into my Amazon shopping cart. Didn't buy it, though. Didn't figure anyone would play it with me.

Well, this was my first purchase from the FLGS (Compleat Strategist on 33rd Street, FWIW). I also grabbed the first two expansions, Unnatural Axe and Clerical Errors. A couple days later my wife and I opened everything up and gave the game a spin with a friend of ours visiting for the weekend.

It was a bit abstract for her (I've since picked up MunchkinQuest and I think that'll work better for her), but we all had a good time, once the three of us had the concept of how a turn flowed down pat.

And, being Munchkin, there was a lot of laughing at the silly cards. It's worth noting, I figure, that my wife stomped the two of us at this. Then she leapt from her chair, did a lap around the table, fist-pumping, proclaiming us as, "owned".

What's good about Munchkin, to me, is that it's mechanics are serious but the gameplay itself is not. Too often in games there's an assumption that if you have silly characters, the gameplay needs to reflect that. Munchkin can be very strategic and competitive but it's still a fun, silly game.
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4. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:72] [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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Interestingly, the fourth (and fifth) games I bought, I have yet to receive. They seem to be on backorder from Cardhaus, or taking forever to ship.

At this point in my boardgaming, I was doing a lot of reading on the BGG forums. More, my "vocabulary" was built up to the point where I could, in most cases, read a review, or a session report and actually know what was going on.

From playing Catan, Carcassonne and Munchkin (to say nothing of various console and I-Didn't-Know-Any-Better boardgames) with my wife, I was getting a feel for the types of Euro games she'd enjoy.

With Dominion, the sheer enthusiasm folks around here seem to feel for the game, including the incredible customizations (especially the poker-chip decks) people have put together, inspired me to do my first non-Amazon mail order. Well, it hasn't worked out so well just yet, but I'm confident this one will be a hit when it finally reaches us (FWIW, it's the next game on the list, I think that Cardhaus is waiting on).
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5. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.02 Overall Rank:17]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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Ah, Agricola. If you'd asked me a month ago if I'd be checking a web-site to see if a game about farming was back in stock, I'd probably have laughed at you.

But, here we are. This, like Dominion up above, has not been delivered yet. I've read enough about it, however, that I feel like I could pop open the box and start playing without even looking at the rules (I am probably quite wrong on this front). I'm also confident that, while this seems a deep game, it won't prove complicated to the point where my wife will turn her nose up at it.

In fact, from what I've shown her, she seems almost as excited to try it as I am.

What's interesting to me about this game, and others like it, is the progression of seasons and how the game evolves as you play it. If my understanding is correct, it's the non-static gaming "board" which is going to make this one a winner for us. Your strategy changes as you play, evolves as the game evolves around you.

Plus, it's got little people. My wife likes playing with the little people.
 
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6. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:73]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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This is another one I picked up at the FLGS, and while shopping at the brick n mortar shops might be a bit more expensive (depending on shipping), it's been well worth it.

This is our first co-operative game, and that was a great thing for me. My wife is a little . . . over competitive. For me, the fun is in the playing of the game, but for her it's the stomping to dust of the other players. She gets VERY upset if you block her route, for instance, in Ticket to Ride (purchased after this but played before).

So, having a game where we're on the same team makes for a fun evening for me. We've played a couple times, to date, and I think she's got one more game in her before we can move up to the next level of difficulty and she starts ordering me around the board.

The way players take different roles, and those roles are only truly useful if you work together, makes this one a solid choice for us. Our non-gaming friends -- once they get the concept -- are going to love this game to death, too, I think.
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7. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Europe [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:92] [Average Rating:7.58 Unranked]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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Another one from the FLGS, and I picked up the Europe board rather than the original game because (a) I thought it'd be fun playing on an unfamiliar map, (b) I figured my wife and friends would mock me if I couldn't find a station on the USA board, and (c) I figured the addition of Train Stations would be a little more forgiving, i.e., my wife wouldn't stab me to death with a butter knife for blocking one of her routes.

It was a hit!

We've since picked up the Nordic Countries and Switzerland for their 2-3 player gameplay. This was at the suggestion of several posters here on BGG and I think the advice was solid. A 2-player game on the Europe board worked out alright, but the other two, especially the Nordic Countries, is much better balanced, in my opinion.

I know Age of Steam is the de facto, "best" train game here on the site, but I think the absence of money and bankruptcy and several other mechanics I've read about for that game is going to push this one ahead of the pack for us.

But hey, I'm kidding myself if I pretend I won't be picking up a copy of Age of Steam at some point. Maybe I'll suggest she pick it up as a Christmas present . . .
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8. Board Game: Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:62]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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My wife and I are huge fans of the show, so this one should have been a no-brainer for us. I was reluctant to pick it up, though, for fear she wouldn't be interested in the role-playing aspects of the gameplay. Well, that and the fact that I'm not sure if our non-gamer friends are going to give this one the time of day.

But, some site or other had a ludicrous sale on this game one day and I am a weak man. I ordered it and enjoyed greatly the phone call when UPS delivered the box to our house:

"Did you order another game?"

"A couple. Did you open one, or something?"

"The label was on the side. I wasn't sure if it was for you."

"It's okay -- which one is it?"

"It's a Battlestar game. What did you do?"

"Oh, shush, the Geek says you'll like it."

I'm doing some solo runs of this to get the flow of the rounds and the game so I can make the experience as smooth as possible for our friends, when I sit them down to inflict this upon them. I'll have to pick the right time, though, and make my move carefully. I think the idea of one or more of us playing secret cylons is going to be the hook that draws them all in.

Also, I found a set of Minimates on ebay so folks can play with those instead of the cardboard standees. Every little bit helps, eh?
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9. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:29]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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I picked this one up on a whim and honestly, haven't tried it yet. It's not for lack of desire, just a lack of time (and a dearth of other things to try).

I've heard it described, by some, as a train game without trains. So, I think it'll be an easy sell to the missus. What I really like about this one, though, is the variety of the different map boards and the design of the game itself.

Honestly, I bought this one because so many folks here are just crazy for it. We'll play it eventually and I'm confident we'll enjoy it.

Maybe I shouldn't have this on here since we haven't played it but I DO consider it a part of the growing vocabulary. Also, it's evidence of how submerged I've become in this hobby, buying things with no more tangible reason than, "they said it was good" and adding it to the stack of, "to do" games.

Boardgaming is expensive.
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10. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:16]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
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I've brought this box out to the table a couple times but we have yet to give it an actual play. Why? Scheduling, mostly.

What I find interesting about Puerto Rico is the strategy of choosing your role each turn and how the other players, depending on their roles, may have to do business with you that turn. The fact that roles are not static from the start of the game to the finish makes this even more interesting.

We've toyed around a little but I really want to wait and get a 3-4 player game of this going with friends. It's going to require me getting a better hang of how things flow, but I think it'll be worth it in the end.

Also, as I look back, I see games which, when I first visited the site, I either thought, "we wouldn't be interested in that" or, "that looks WAY too complicated". And here I am, plotting how to entice the non-gamers into giving them a shot.

Oh, at this point, we were also discussing finding a local group of gamers to play with. Yes, this is a sickness.
 
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11. Board Game: Stone Age [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:79]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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I said I was interested in playing Agricola but THIS one was a hit, oh yes it was.

It's interesting, having read about these games, and knowing more going in than I maybe should, watching someone who *doesn't* know any better realizing that, hey, there's more to this than the base, surface level. There's a strategy to when you place your workers where. There's more thought than, "I want a hut" that goes into playing this game.

Some games present themselves as very strategic. Others sneak up on you. This one snuck up behind us and bashed our heads in with a tire-iron . . . and we're alright with that.
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12. Board Game: Small World [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:186] [Average Rating:7.32 Unranked]
David Hoffman
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Cortlandt Manor
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"It's sort of a war game."

"You know I'm not interested in war games."

"Also, it's sort of a fantasy game."

"You know I HATE fantasy games."

"Also, there's a tiny bit of role-playing."

"I'm going to kill you in your sleep."

"Just give it a shot, okay? I really think you'll enjoy it."

. . . about an hour later . . .

"Does this mean I like fantasy, role-playing war games?"
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13. Board Game: Hungry [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:3121]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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So, this one I picked up after reading about the iTunes app version of the game. $2.99 seemed like a good price for something folks seemed pretty enthusiastic about. Plus -- on my iPod Touch (why not just call it the iTouch? Easier to type, no?), I can pop it out and play a quick game just about anywhere.

Also, holy crap, this is a great little game.

I know it's similar to Battle Line, which is, in turn, Schotten-Totten, and here's the funny part: in less than a month, I've gone from buying Settlers of Catan at Barnes & Noble to searching German boardgaming sites for an out-of-print card game.

I picked up the boxed version of KoC yesterday during lunch, along with a copy of the next game here, Battle Line. We're going to give them a whirl tonight, and I'm very excited to try a 3-player game of KoC (I hear it really shines as a 3-player game) over the weekend.

As far as being a vocabulary builder (notice the quotes are gone?), it took trying this on the iTouch to see how good a card game could be. Especially nice is that you can play a quick game of this and either come back for more or move onto something new.

With each step, we get geekier and geekier -- and we love it!
 
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14. Board Game: Battle Line [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:180]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
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Got this one at the FLGS along with Knights of Charlemagne, up above. The game itself is simple to the point of absurdity, but there's such depth here.

My wife has only tried KoC on the iTouch. I'm a little afraid of what she's going to be like after a round or two of Battle Line, once she gets how the game works and just how hard she's going to want to grind me into the ground, playing this.

And, as with KoC, the fact that you can play a game in 10-15 minutes is hugely appealing.
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15. Board Game: Ys [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:917]
David Hoffman
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Cortlandt Manor
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This was part of a second order from Cardhaus (which has since shipped, unlike the Dominion / Agricola order) and it should be arriving any day now. Long story short: when I get home from work every night I exercise, eat, then sit down to write. In between writing breaks, to loosen the mental muscles, I browse BGG and other sites, read Sessions and Reviews and, if the fancy strikes me, check pricing on different sites for interesting games.

One such night, I found myself struck by how much Ys would appeal to my wife. I was interested in it, in a That-Looks-Sort-of-Cool fashion. I called her over and showed her a couple shots and I'd swear her eyes lit up.

There seems to be a lot of stuff going on in this game that's "new" to us; manipulating pricing on the gems? Bluffing one another?

I think Ys is going to be a hit, which is certainly nice. But I also think of it as adding to our gaming skillset, that vocabulary I keep coming back to. The game mechanics for Ys seem particularly interesting and, hey, it doesn't hurt that we get to play with pretty gems.
 
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16. Board Game: Sylla [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:1239]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
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One of the reviews for this game says, basically, that it's the best game nobody noticed in 2008.

My brain has been significantly beaten down by BGG that that was enough for me to add it to the cart.

I have no idea if this is going to work for us or not. I suspect it may get a play, be declared too complicated, then get revisited in a month or two, at which point we'll be ready to appreciate it.

Also, I am disappointed that the only copy available for me to purchase in the U.S. has the P.G. cover going on. Yes, I know that's juvenile, but I don't care.
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17. Board Game: Giants [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:890]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
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This is the final game that filled out that Cardhaus order. I read about it, I looked at the pictures, and I made the call: this one was coming home with us.

There's a lot of grumbling about the pieces but those issues *may* be taken care of.

For my part, I see a bidding game that seems to have enough hooks to draw us in. Most of the other bidding games I've seen, good, bad or what-have-you, seem like they might prove daunting to my wife and our friends.

I'm hoping Giants does the trick. The bidding mechanic is one I'm interested in exploring and I figure this is our gateway game to get us there.
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18. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:70]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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I've heard grumblings about the new game board versus the old edition. This game, to me, signifies something interesting in our exploration of boardgaming: the past.

See, we have almost no context for this sort of gaming. Oh, we've played Scrabble and the much-maligned Monopoly, as well as other, similar games. But when I read up about a game on the forums here and I see folks weighing in back and forth about older versions versus newer versions, it really drives home how much history there is that we've missed out on.

It's like a book or a movie where the curtain is pulled back and a hidden world is exposed to the light of day. Well, perhaps not so dramatic as that, but it is interesting, to me at least.

As far as gameplay, it's also interesting seeing a "step up" in tile-placement gameplay from Carcassonne, including the addition of player conflict thrown into the mix.

Definitely one we'll be playing for a while to come.
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19. Board Game: Red November [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:1471]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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Another Co-operative game.

Another fantasy game.

Gnomes on a submarine!

What more even needs to be said? We've taken a turn at this and I'm really anticipating trying this out with a bigger group. It's got the crisis aspect of Battlestar Galactica, but without the pesky Are-You-Trying-To-Kill-Us-All? aspect of gameplay.

At this point (thanks in no small part to Small World), my wife's attitude seems to be that she'll give any game a chance if the rules don't make her go cross-eyed. Please note: this is approximately a month after first trying Settlers of Catan. If I'd told her, a month ago, I wanted to play a boardgame involving Gnomes in a sinking nuclear submarine, she would have laughed at me and walked out of the room.
 
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20. Board Game: Arkham Horror [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:238] [Average Rating:7.32 Unranked]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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Yeah, this one.

Believe it or not, this is one of the first games I read about on the Geek. I marveled at the screenshots, even though I had not the foggiest notion of what I was looking at (beyond the obvious, "oh, look, it's a game I don't understand" sort of thing).

I finally ordered a copy last week.

My plan is to pick a couple nights when my wife is working late and park on the dining room table to play through some of this single-player. Once I've got the sense of a round down pat, I may try playing one of those variants where the single-player controls two investigators.

I'm not going to buy any expansions -- yet.

I've been reading Lovecraft and Lovecraftian stories for years and years. Honestly, it's a miracle I've been able to hold out ordering this (a very low price was, ultimately, the deciding factor) as long as I did.

The goal here is to learn as much as I can so that when I finally expose my wife and friends to this game, there's as minimal a shuffling of rule books as is humanly possible. I figure if I can hook them in with the story and make them a part of the experience, they just might be into it.
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21. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.34 Overall Rank:4]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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We have not bought this game.

It is, however, one of several games I'm "tracking", which is a fancy word for, "I'm thinking about this and waiting because it's out of print, but I think, when it gets reprinted, we may be ready to give it a shake."

Everything I've read about this game sounds utterly fascinating. But, I think it's a bit over our heads for where we are right now. The notion of playing a game which, by all accounts, provides a faithful representation of the cold war between the US and the USSR . . . shivers. What a concept!

Right now, though, I think our friends would run screaming from it.

But, in the fullness of time, I think I'm going to be able to get them all playing. In the fullness of time . . .
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22. Board Game: 1960: The Making of the President [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:157]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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Another one that seems to be out of print, but is on my radar. Unlike Twilight Struggle, this could be a very easy sell in my house -- providing I always let my wife play JKF and I never win.

She's one of those New England Democrats. You know, the folks who've got a framed picture of JFK up on the wall, maybe next to the one of the Pope?

So, she'll be into this, but I may have to throw every game (and there's no way she'll play as Nixon). And hey, that's sort of a variant in and of itself, isn't it? Figuring out how to play the game well enough that it's not boring, that you keep the score close enough that nobody knows you're throwing it, and that there's no real danger of accidentally winning (no matter how poorly the other player is playing).

I think this will represent a fun challenge, though I will plan to hide the sharp objects before playing.
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23. Board Game: Alhambra [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:397]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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Another one I haven't purchased yet. Stress on the YET part of that sentence.

Alhambra, with its mass of expansions, is something we'll very likely pick up at some point in the next six months. It looks magnificent and fun and like something I, my wife, and our friends would really enjoy.

And, it's a tile-laying game, which is something we already know we like. The addition of an economic component could prove interesting though, overall, we've tried to avoid games "with money" as my wife likes to put it (ignoring that just because a game doesn't come with little pink Monopoly dollars doesn't mean it doesn't have currency, eh?)
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24. Board Game: Cleopatra and the Society of Architects [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:761]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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This game looks incredibly interesting to me and the idea of Corruption Points seems like a great mechanic.

I haven't bought a copy yet, though. Not 100% sure why. Maybe I think we've got enough to muck about with and this should still be around for us to check out in a bit.

I don't think I'm put off by the game pieces (they look great) or the idea of building the palace, which seems like something they could have done in a more conceptual fashion, but didn't, and I can't help but dig that.

The Egyptian theme and what seems like a cool mixture of gameplay mechanics should make this a purchase for us before too long.
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25. Board Game: Galaxy's Edge [Average Rating:6.11 Overall Rank:6698]
David Hoffman
United States
Cortlandt Manor
New York
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This game hasn't been released yet, but based on what I've read here on BGG, I'd say we'll be picking up a copy as soon as they're available.

I'm also interested in Conquest of the Fallen Lords which I believe is from the same folks.

I like the idea of another hex-based game, this time involving space exploration and conquest. The variety of alien races, the apparent quality of the game itself . . . it all adds up to a game that I never would have heard about a month ago, but now I find myself very excited to try.
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