Play more! - Games played during the holiday break
jonathan schleyer
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Last month, I went to get my hair cut and, when I asked the person cutting my hair what he liked doing most, he answered: shopping. I thought, "that's lame". I never considered myself to describe one of my passions as shopping.

Then, I realized that I spend a lot more time researching games than playing them and my self-perception as a shopper changed. But, the question is whether I want to be more of a shopper than a gamer.

So, since I am lucky to have 2 weeks off in December for holidays vacation, I decided to start playing more.

This Geeklist is an attempt to document my effort to spend more time playing games than browsing/researching them and chasing sales. It is also a call to play games that I already own rather than constantly searching for new ones. Seriously, how often are the games I own played? I'd rather not have to answer that question...

Feel free to add to this list games that you played over this holiday break too. It's fun to rediscover the games we have. So many of them are so good because we spent so much time researching them in the first place!
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1. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Europe [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:92] [Average Rating:7.58 Unranked]
jonathan schleyer
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December 19th, 2009

My sister came over and brought games she never gets the chance to play. TTE is definitely one of them.

I really enjoy the theme - being European.... but my problem with this game is that it is too easy against inexperienced players who are too focussed on reaching their goals using the shortest path instead of looking for the long stages to make big points. So as you can imagine, I crushed my sister. Not really fun I must say.

So I share the same opinion with TT USA which I own. They are rarely played because these gateway games are too easy for me to win. Maybe next time I'll coach newbies to search for longest path and long stages...

Rating: 6 (Seems kind of harsh but could go higher with players of similar experience)
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2. Board Game: Kingdoms [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:1053]
jonathan schleyer
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December 19th, 2009

The second game my sister brought was Kingdoms. This is a recent purchase and we both enjoy this game a lot. In the game we played, I used up most of my big castles in the first round and spend the next 3 rounds preventing my sister from scoring big with the castles she had saved. The strategy worked but was quite stressful!

Although people complain that this game is an abstract, it doesn't really feel like it to me. I enjoy this game due to its relative simplicity and fast playing time. It is a good filler and game to play with beginners. Although my sister lost, it was by very little. I feel that we'll play this one a lot more than Ticket to Ride Europe.

Rating: 7
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3. Board Game: Zeus on the Loose [Average Rating:5.99 Overall Rank:4313]
jonathan schleyer
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December 21st, 2009

I took my 7 year old son and his friend to the Getty Villa today in Malibu. We love going there once a year right before xmas. It is a great opportunity to revisit the ancient Greek stories because the museum is well stocked with heroic statues. There is a fun little treasure hunt for kids which makes the experience a lot of fun for them.

When we got home, we had a few minutes before dinner and decided to play a quick game. It is no surprise that a "Greek" themed game was selected! My wife was quite happy to let us play instead of helping putting the meal together because this game is also a great little counting game.

This game is simple enough for a 7 year old to play well and win! The aim of the game is to reach "100" or the top of Mount Olympus. He knew I had the "Hera" card (which brings Mount Olympus up to "99") and kept a "1" in his hand to counter my card. At the end of the game he was forced to play the "1" and I proudly played my "Hera" card thinking it would be enough to win the game. My son then surprised me with another "1" to win the game in a dramatic finish.

Zeus on the Loose is a great filler to play with kids. It teaches them a little about Greek gods and is a fun way to practice counting skills. This is a definite keeper. I remember playing this game with non-gamer adults and they enjoyed this game too. I find it kind of light to my taste but have to admit that its ease is a plus in terms of getting it on the table.

Rating: 6 (but maybe 7 for it's ease of play and its value as a way to practice quick counting skills)
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4. Board Game: Vinci [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:601]
Lutz Pietschker
Germany
Berlin
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Sat neglected on the shelf for too long. Having some time on my hands now (holidays plus illness plus clearing premises which went faster than I planned) I pulled that one out again and enjoyed it a lot. And some more...
 
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5. Board Game: Tales of the Arabian Nights [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:1654]
Lutz Pietschker
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Ah, the wonders of the Orient! And those of old games rediscovered.
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6. Board Game: Pueblo [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:1019]
Lutz Pietschker
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Another success with the family.
 
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7. Board Game: Bushido: Tanin the Stranger [Average Rating:7.37 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.37 Unranked]
Lutz Pietschker
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Time (high time) to introduce some friends to this game.
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8. Board Game: Entdecker: Exploring New Horizons [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:1613]
Lutz Pietschker
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The limiting factor...
 
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9. Board Game: Roads & Boats [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:270]
Lutz Pietschker
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...therefore going solo on this one.
 
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10. Board Game: Winner's Circle [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:679]
jonathan schleyer
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December 23rd, 2009

It's been a little harder than I thought to squeeze in games this holiday break. There is some left over holiday shopping to do and some fun gift wrapping. Last night the family would rather watch a movie.

This morning, my son was up early and I suggested a quick game before everyone else woke up. I looked in the game closet and found Winner's Circle. I purchased this game 2 or 3 years ago at this time of the year thinking that it would be a great family game. It is, actually! We just haven't played it that much and I'm not sure why.

So my son and I played this morning. The rules are very easy and the quality of the components are amazing. We love the horses, their cards and their names. We could easily visualize the race.

It was exciting and lots of fun. There is luck and ways to mediate it somewhat. This is fine as it gives everyone a chance and the races are relatively short.

In the end, my son won! Which is great since he'll want to play again.

Rating: 8
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11. Board Game: Yspahan [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:444]
jonathan schleyer
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December 23rd, 2009

Continuing on my endeavor to spend more time playing games than shopping for them and surfing BGG (it's a real challenge during sale time especially with Boulder Games having a new sale every other day!) we found some down time this afternoon. I wasn't in the mood for anything too deep or serious. Last night we watched There Will be Blood and that dampened my mood a lot. Great acting but depressing story.

Anyway, I digress... One of the games that makes me happy is Yspahan. It must have something to do with the bright colors, the lovely camels and gold coins and the dice rolling.

We played a 3 player game. I've been experimenting with the caravan strategy unsuccessfully so far. Today, however, it finally worked! 2 players collaborated on the caravan strategy while the third person tried building and populating stalls. The caravan got filled up twice making a lot of points. It seems that the player with the facing stalls in the right side of the board has an advantage. This will have to be explored further in the future.

In the end, we had a lot of fun and look forward to playing again. Definitely a keeper in my book.

Rating: 8 (maybe 9?)

 
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12. Board Game: Guillotine [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:1004]
jonathan schleyer
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December 25th, 2009

This entry is an exception to the rule... We actually received this game for the holidays and the purchase was made prior to the beginning of this geeklist. To some extent, the idea behind the geeklist came as a reaction to the insane time spent researching games and related sales. Yet, since I now have this game, might as well play it!

Being from France originally, I've had my eye on this game for a while. I like historically themed games even if only liberally inspired by such events. My wife had been reluctant that I order this because she thought was inappropriate for my son until now. Although the idea behind the game is kind of dark, I must say that the execution (no pun intended!) of the game is actually very tongue and cheek.

The game itself is a lot of fun. We played a 3 player game and two of the three players enjoyed it more than the sorry third fellow who never had access to good cards and was never able to catch up. We had to remind ourselves that this was a light party game and not a super serious strategy game. The nobles are fun but the action cards really lighten up the game.

Our first game was very quick. We found the rulebook to be well written and the rules incredibly easy to learn. This game seems to be a great filler.

Definitely, we'll want to play this one again.

Rating: 7 (but maybe 8 after more plays)
 
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13. Board Game: Musketeers [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:4960]
jonathan schleyer
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December 26, 2009

We received this game as a stocking stuffer. My son had also requested the movie of the same name so I figured that I would make a nice thematic package for him.

We played a few games to try thing out and like the simplicity of this game. The rules are very simple. Team up to beat the cardinal's guards. If you win, the player who played the highest card wins a jewel. If you lose, the player who played the lowest card gets a prison card. There are only 3 jewel cards and 3 prison cards so they tend to more around somewhat which adds some fun. I also forgot to mention that the rounds last 9 card plays. Prior to each round, each player selects 3 cards from his hand to put face down and act a victory points. The interesting thing is that the more the victory points are hidden, the less the ability to win duels against the cardinal's guards. Interesting dilemma.

All in all, so far, this is a fun little game that we look forward to playing more and with more people since it supports 2-4 players. The other good thing is that the rules are so simple to explain!

Rating: 7 (very preliminary may go up to 8)
 
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14. Board Game: The Battle for Hill 218 [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:1493]
jonathan schleyer
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December 27, 2009

We had some friends over. The boys were playing Wii all afternoon and my wife told them to stop. One of the kids opened my game closet and pulled out The Battle for Hill 218. All the boys, whatever their age, seem to be attracted to this game. My theory is that they like the images on the cards and the war theme.

So we re-read the rules quickly. They are pretty simple which is a plus. However, explaining the concept of "supply" and "support" proved more challenging to understand to the boys.

Nevertheless, with a bit of coaching, everyone can start playing quickly. The games are fast too. For some reason, I really enjoy the way the battles develop around the hill and appreciate the usage of each unit type. I have read that some on BGG consider this an abstract game but this is not how I perceive this game at all. It feels like WWII fight. It is just a pity that the images aren't different for both armies. In the end, this is not a big deal at all.

We love this game. Fast, replay-able and quite addictive.

Rating: 8
 
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15. Board Game: The Hobbit: The Defeat of Smaug [Average Rating:4.81 Overall Rank:15388]
jonathan schleyer
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December 28, 2009

Today I got really lucky. I followed my wife into a thrift store and found The Hobbit: The Defeat of Smaug for $1.65. The game was in great condition. So I had to make an exception to my "shop less" rule. At that price!

I picked this up with low expectations. The components are quite nice and there seems to be ways to make the game cards fits with the story's chronology better.

The game is surprisingly fun to play with my 7 year old son. It feels like journeying towards the lonely mountain and there are some interesting decisions to make (adventure points vs jewels). The items are cool and the adventures entertaining.

My son won the game and said he really enjoyed the game. So at that price it was a great find and great hour of gaming.

Rating: 7 (but could change depending on the crowd - could go higher from a kid's point of view)
 
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16. Board Game: Bananagrams [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:1548] [Average Rating:6.34 Unranked]
jonathan schleyer
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This little game was a present to my 7 year old son.

Its sheer simplicity and widespread appeal made this game a surprise hit of the entire holidays.
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