A games marathon.
Ishai BD
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Note: A much shorter edition of this list is available here.
That one includes only short game summaries and the day end summaries from this longer list. Meanwhile this list tells the full story of the marathon. It is really long - you've been warned.

If you enjoy the lengthy one, please thumb both lists. If you prefer the shorter version, please at least thumb that one.




This is my first Geeklist, so I'm skipping 5km and 10km runs and jumping directly to a full marathon:

Near the end of 2009, I found myself all by myself (my wife was out of town) and with a lot of free time (a busy period at work just ended and the end of year holidays were about to start). I invited one of my best friends, Assaf (assafby) - who's also a gamer - to come visit me in the U.S. and once he was able to fly in at such short notice, it was clear we were going to have a games marathon.

Assaf spent 12 days here. I spent 3 of these days at work (but not the crazy hours so common in the few weeks before) and in addition we got to do plenty of non-gaming stuff: We went on two 4 hour hikes (including running in parts of a hike, climbing on thick trees blocking the road, and crossing really cold but rather shallow streams trying not to get wet in the process). We visited San Francisco a few times including the famous GG bridge, a park, a museum and even Alcatraz island. We attended an NFL game (first time for us both, and probably not the last time!). We saw two movies in the cinema with a total of about 5 hours of watching and 5 dimensions. We saw a wonderful play. We went to the gym a few times. There was shopping (including a few visits to two FLGS). And of course, there was some really good food (and some really terrible food as well, but I've put that behind me).

Most of all, however, there was gaming. We played a lot. Mostly just the two of us but in a few sessions we played with others (this was our chance to play 3 or 4 player games). A lot of the games were new to at least one of us (mostly Assaf). We focused mostly on my collection, which has grown recently, and in addition we played a few games that we just got in time for this event. In total, like a marathon, which is a little over 42 kilometers, we played a little over 42 times (playing 23 different games, so there were some repetitions!).

In case you're wondering, the tournament ended with 21-18 in my favor. There was 1 tie and two games were won by other players (in multi-player sessions). I probably had the home advantage - mainly in that this was my collection and I was more familiar with some of the games, though quite a few were still unpunched when the marathon started.

These intense 12 days full of gaming and non-gaming activities were probably a singular event. We think it's highly unlikely that the conditions for another marathon will exist anytime soon. So, it's probably worth documenting this, for future generations

I hope you'll enjoy reading about our experience. I'll share some info on each game, who won, how we enjoyed the experience, what I think of the game, and any other tidbits I think are interesting.


So, here's what we played in our games marathon:
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1. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:292]
Ishai BD
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After picking Assaf from the airport we headed to my place, picking some take away food on the way there. We hardly wasted any time, and started playing games. The first game for the first day of the marathon was Lost Cities.

Assaf was new to the game, but that didn't stop him from finishing the first round with a 5 point lead (37 to 32). In the second round he finished with a 10 point lead for that round (52 to 42) building a lead of 15 points in the game so far. In the last round I managed to win the round with a 16 point lead, thereby (just barely) winning the game (107 to 106).

We played Lost Cities several more times in the marathon, and that first game has been the closest one. In fact Lost Cities was our most played game of the tournament - I think we both really enjoyed playing this game. Let me share what I think about this game.

I really love this game. It is exceptional for what it is. It has been said before, but I don't mind repeating: Lost Cities, in my opinion, is a game of risk management. In such simple rules, one gets a lot of interesting situations to explore. Every game feels different. I've played over 50 games so far (perhaps more) and I haven't tired of the game. So many things going on in this little game: The pacing of the endgame, the trade-offs between the expeditions one must start (depending on how many and what numbers one has in each color), the information game (trying not to give away your interest in a color or that you hold a card your opponent may waste time waiting for), etc. Sure there's luck in the game. That luck may not always even out in 3 rounds, but the key to playing well is knowing how to squeeze the most of any given hand, even, and especially, the nasty ones. So far, everyone I introduced it to, really likes playing it. The big advantage for me is that my wife is part of those 'everyone': This is our most played game and I hope to keep playing it with her for years.

Every game has people who dislike it - it's only reasonable, as people have different tastes. In this case, disliking Lost Cities because there's hardly any game there, is, IMO, just wrong. There's a beautiful filler with a lot of interesting and difficult decisions and a huge amount of replayability.
I'm a big fan of Knizia, and this, to me, is one of his very best.
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2. Board Game: Blue Moon [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:883]
Ishai BD
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After that first game of Lost Cities, we moved on to playing 2 games of Blue Moon, switching sides between games. We played a total of 4 games of Blue Moon during the marathon, with me winning the first 3. All 4 games were with the basic deck Hoax vs. Vulca. I may have had a bit of an advantage as I knew the rules already and in addition the 1st game that day was my 2nd game of Blue Moon ever.

I really enjoy the game and like it quite a bit. I like how it has the CCG feel of different decks (I used to play a lot of magic back in the 1990s), specific combos one can come up with, etc., but at the same time, because a game is a series of battles, then it's not about building combinations of 17 different cards that interact with each other but about pacing correctly, knowing when to withdraw, what cards to save for later, etc. I'm eager to start exploring some of the other decks once I get to play more of the basic game.

Regardless of game ratings, one point that I feel really matters in evaluating games is how much I'm keen on playing them. Going on with this GeekList, I will mention games where there's that urge, the excitement and eagerness about playing them again. Lost Cities, even though I've played it probably over 50 times already (offline and online) still has that appeal. Given a chance to play Lost Cities (and provided I don't play it way too often) I'm keen on doing so. Blue Moon is also a big winner in that category. As you'll see later in the GeekList, games do not have to be short for me to be keen on playing them again.
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3. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Europe [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:92] [Average Rating:7.58 Unranked]
Ishai BD
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The only non-Knizia game we played the first day of the marathon. We played a 2 player game on the first day and a few days later played a 3 player game with one of my friends. Assaf won the first match, and I won the 3 player game, though Assaf and I expected my friend to win given that he's played various versions of TtR quite a few times.

This game is a lot of fun. It's also very easy to grasp and yet can be quite competitive with an intense and suspenseful endgame (that's a great thing). The production values on Days of Wonder games are just phenomenal (take Small World as another example) and as a result this is a game I'm happy to play and am even eager to play to some extent, but it's also a bit long and demanding so I'm kind of eager to play a tense game of TtR:E not just a game of TtR:E.

The game is probably more interesting with 3 or 4 than with 2, but then you'd want experienced players in order not to have much downtime between turns. Experienced players will have enough time to decide what they're doing on their turn pretty much by the time their turn comes so the main downtime would be when drawing additional travel cards, when reacting to a previous action that forces one to alter their plans, and during the intense endgame when one is more likely to try to calculate who's getting a bonus, etc.

Overall, a wonderful game.
 
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4. Board Game: Ingenious [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:334]
Ishai BD
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It's a shame we only played one game of Ingenious during the marathon. It was during that first day, and Assaf didn't enjoy the experience enough to want to play it again during his visit (maybe it was the jet lag). I won the game.

I think this is a really good game. The randomness is important in making the game fresh and different while limiting a player's options. I like this one much more than Blokus (Ingenious has often been compared to Blokus). In Blokus I am just hoping that none of my first 3-4 first moves are a mistake and even later I am finding myself reacting and trying to make moves that seem reasonable without fully understanding what I'm doing. Here I feel that the decisions and what they mean are clear without fully knowing what the implications of a move will be (these depend on the other players' intentions and the luck of the draw). The clever scoring makes this one great: One cannot be too greedy. Going for the color where you can gain the most points, you won't win the game. Going for absolute balance won't win it either. Instead, you need to weigh your scoring opportunities, consider potential combos with maxing out on colors, and also consider blocking. Blocking is very important as containing a color and stopping your opponents from scoring it is one of the best moves you can do.

I would love to play much more of this game, but as I mentioned, in the marathon it ended up being, just another game for us. Oh well.
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5. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:134]
Ishai BD
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Ra is my favorite game. This is how I got introduced to Knizia (this was one of my first buys based on reading in BGG) and now that I've been playing many more games by different designers, I appreciate the game even more. This was a game that Assaf knew as well (I introduced it to him a while back) and we were probably roughly equally experienced with it.

It was already a long day, especially for Assaf whose day included the long flight and pretty much a full day before it. Playing Ra at this point was a good choice. At the end of the game we were surprised to find it was a very close match as it ended 56-55 in Assaf's favor.

During the marathon we would play Ra a few times more, playing 4 times in total, 3 of which were 2 player games, and one was a 3 player game. Except for this first game on the first day of the marathon, I managed to win the other 3 games we played.

I think Assaf likes the game and, being my favorite game, I just love it. To me it's a game of control. Any allocation of suns can lead to interesting situations in when one can take control and give it away. Decisions are always hard (except for obvious passes when a Ra tile is taken out of the bag and nothing's yet up for bids, and a few similar obvious cases). The game is short, fun, and can be quite intense. When I lose, I typically realize how luck played some role, but my decisions and my expectations out of the luck of the draw had more to do with it. When I get to squeeze the most out of my suns there's this satisfaction that's hardly matched in any game of this length (or perhaps any game at all).

I can't wait to play more games of Ra and I'm glad it was a game we got to play several times in the marathon.
 
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6. Board Game: Schotten Totten [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:366]
Ishai BD
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I'm cheating a bit with the image - I actually own GMT's Battle Line. However, we actually played Schotten-Totten (i.e. removed the special cards and the six value-10 cards, dealt a hand of six instead of seven, and allowed a player to claim a stone on their turn only before they played a card), so this is the game I've chosen to list here.

We ended up playing this game twice. One game on the first day of the marathon and another on the third day. I won the first game, and Assaf won the second.

Overall, I like this game and appreciate it, but something about it feels elusive. The good thing about that elusiveness is that I find myself not really knowing how to play and this means there's probably depth here and maybe in 10-20 more plays there will be an a-ha moment when things start connecting and I reach the next level. The bad thing for me is that I feel lost at the start of the game and after the game ends I typically say to myself: "what an interesting game, I would like to play it again soon", but after a bit of time, I never seem to really have a big urge to play this one again... (This may change with time.)


End of day summary:
This was our last game for day 1 of the marathon. We managed to play 7 times (with 6 different games) on the first day. The score so far was 5-2 in my favor, and Assaf made it all the way to 10pm, which was a very good way to fight the jet lag.
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7. Board Game: Great Wall of China [Average Rating:6.23 Overall Rank:2267]
Ishai BD
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After a great 4 1/2 hour hike in the morning to Castle Rock Park near Santa Cruz, we started day 2 of the marathon in the afternoon with a quick game of GWoC. This was a pretty light 2 player game and not a very interesting one. We didn't get to play this one again in the marathon. Unlike Ingenious, which in my opinion works great with 2 (though is perhaps more interesting with 3 or 4), GWoC is simply an ok game with 2. Still, there were two of us, so we gave it a shot.

Assaf won the game.
 
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8. Board Game: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:258]
Ishai BD
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Next, we moved to try LotR:tC. I recently got the deluxe edition for $10 (plus $4 for shipping) in the FFG winter sale, and boy was it worth it.

Both of us did not know the game before and having read the rules I explained them briefly to Assaf, we went over all the character abilities and played two games switching sides.

In the long run, the basic game may have re-playability issues, but that's not completely clear and in addition one can then use the other set of characters or various mixtures. During the marathon we stuck with the classic version.

First of all, the game is just wonderfully designed. It's elegant. The theme works really well. It appears to be balanced in a very nice way given that the two sides feel very different. The production values are great - it's appealing and interesting and is very intense for such a short game. I'd rather not compare it to Stratego. While it does borrow one game mechanic from Stratego, this is such a different game.

I am eager to play this one again, though I am also a bit reluctant to. For some reason I found myself helpless or something whenever we played. I kept thinking how am I putting my characters in the wrong places, how I'm making wrong moves, how Assaf is obviously guessing where each of my characters are and how I'm clueless as to where his characters really are.

I ended up losing all 4 games. It was a sweep. The first game, Assaf played the Sauron side and given that we didn't fully know what we were doing, it was very reasonable that he won. The second game that same day, Assaf used what he'd learned about the fellowship to win as it seemed that I was playing the evil dudes of the first game. In general this feeling kept going where in one of the games, Assaf's Gandalf managed to kill 3 of my Sauron characters in a row before I could get someone to stop him, and he also used Pippin in another game very effectively to scout and retreat.

While I lost all games and I am a bit frozen helpless when it comes to playing it, I really appreciate the game and want to play it more. I like how even once we started learning what the characters are really good for and even when it became obvious that there are a few obvious choices for character placement and movement, the combination of shifting away from that to create an element of surprise and the interesting aspects the cards add, make this game really shine.

This is one of the games that we discovered and loved during the marathon. I already owned it, but we finally got to play it.

I hope to grow less scared of the game so that I can find myself easily eager to play it again. I sure plan to.
 
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9. Board Game: Manila [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:624]
Ishai BD
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We played another game of Lost Cities after the 2 LotR:tC games and then we headed to visit a couple of my friends. They're a married couple that my wife and I usually play with, and we ended up playing a game of Manila.

Assaf was the only one who did not know the game. The game was interesting and a lot of fun. I like playing Manila. The board, the Manila meeples, and the boats add so much to me wanting to play it again. I don't think it's a game I'll play very frequently, but still, so far it's always a lot of fun to play.

The husband won the game (I think he usually, or perhaps always, wins at Manila) and at that point we called it a night.

End of day summary:
We ended up playing 5 games during day 2 of the marathon. So far we were getting to play a lot. (Our pace was going to slow down later on though.)

At the end of the 2nd day, I was still in the lead, but only barely. The score was 6-5 in my favor. For the purpose of this count, by the way, ties or games that neither Assaf nor I won do not count.
 
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10. Board Game: Mykerinos [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:797]
Ishai BD
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Big chunks of the day were spent visiting Alcatraz island (the audio tour is great and makes the experience a very interesting one) and then seeing a play: The 39 Steps (advertised as Monthy Python meets Alfred Hitchcock, it wasn't really either, but still very funny).

Gaming on day 3 of the marathon started with a game of Mykerinos. I only knew most of the rules of the game and have not played it before, so this was a first for the both of us.
We had a nice time. I liked the game and would have liked to play it again in the marathon. I think Assaf didn't find the experience compelling enough and so we never did play it again. Assaf won the game.

This was the only time I played Mykerinos so far. I thought it was a nice small game, one that I'd be happy to play again and start learning how to get better at. I also feel that the impressions I had from reading reviews about it were pretty accurate. It is not the best area control game in my collection but it's short enough to be quite approachable. I am also happy to say that the 2 player variant works pretty well.
 
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11. Board Game: Taj Mahal [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:310]
Ishai BD
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After playing our second game of Schotten Totten, one of my friends joined us and the rest of the evening we played a few 3 player games (interestingly, Assaf or I won all games). We started with a 3 player game of Ra that I won and then moved on to playing Taj Mahal.

This game is a bit of a monster. It's heavy; It's intimidating; It's very elegant. Was it also a little boring? Assaf disliked the repetitiveness of the whole thing. Assaf by the way won this game and has dominated it all along.

The repetition comes from having 12 competitions that are all played the same way, are by themselves a bit long and hard, and the winnings are all the same (palaces, influence tiles, goods). The values of these to each player are changing as the game progresses, and the cards the players have to try to win these also change, but still, as a whole I can see why the repetitiveness occurring in a long and heavy game can make it less appealing. Heck, one could argue that a game of Ra is repetitive in that you have 3 epochs all pretty much the same, and during each you have plenty of auctions that are the same except that once again the values of what people may get and the suns they can bid with are changing. The thing is that Ra is much lighter and shorter and a single auction is quick. In addition, timing the auctions and taking control is what makes Ra so wonderful, in my opinion.

I have only played Taj Mahal once and with the right group I'd like to play it a few more times, but right now I would much rather play 3 games of Ra in a row (with 2 or 3 players please) than a single game of Taj Mahal.

With regards to my point above about measuring a game by how keen I am on playing it again, Taj Mahal currently does not score very high in this regard.

End of day summary:
We finished the day with a 3 player game of Ticket to Ride: Europe. It was a pretty intense and close game but I managed to win with 111 (Assaf and my friend each had 106).

We played 5 times during that day. The score at the end of the 3rd day of the marathon was 8-8. We were tied.
 
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12. Board Game: Blue Moon City [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:502]
Ishai BD
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After going to Candlestick Park and watching an NFL game for the first time (for either of us), we started gaming on day 4 of the marathon in the evening. A quick game of Lost Cities was followed by another Knizia, Blue Moon City.

The game, as most of you know, has nothing to do with Blue Moon, other than the shared art. Blue Moon is a great game of tactical battles and Blue Moon City is mainly a game of area control where getting a piece of the action in as many places as possible while timing your moves and especially the obelisk contributions.

What makes the game fun for me is the cards with the dual uses. Managing my hand is an interesting aspect that I enjoy a lot. The cards that are worth less in every color are typically more versatile in their dual use. In addition, managing the hand size is interesting and important.

I think the game works better with 3. It's not bad with 2, but it's just somewhat less interesting to me. Assaf didn't appreciate the game so much, so this was the only time Blue Moon City was played in this marathon. The game lacked an edge - that was probably the biggest issue. It was not very exciting, not very intense, not very competitive. It was just nice. As a result, while I appreciate the game, I've yet to find myself really itching to play it as some other games by Knizia (Ra, Lost Cities, Blue Moon, etc.) make me feel.

I won the game. This wasn't too hard given that I had some experience with when to time the contributions properly.

End of day summary:
We managed to play a game of Blue Moon after Blue Moon City. (We actually fought hard and destroyed what we've just built.)

With a total of 3 games played (all by Knizia) on the 4th day, I got the lead with 11-8 in my favor.
 
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13. Board Game: Pocket Battles: Celts vs. Romans [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:2194] [Average Rating:6.47 Unranked]
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Day 5 of the marathon started after a work day for me. Our first game was Pocket Battles. Understanding the rules took time. They're long and not very clear, in my opinion.

It was a fun game with direct confrontation, which was nice for a change. I won the game playing the Celts.

Building your army units and assigning them is interesting. I am not sure if I find the game being small such a great thing. It's not compact enough to be played compactly - you need some table space (small but not tiny) for the field, so getting it in a small box does not add that much. It would perhaps have been easier to have a small board with a grid for the field of action.

At the end of the day, the game, to me, is just another nice game. It is getting harder for me to have a place in my collection for such games. Still, while I may prefer playing other games than this one, it was a fun game that I would not object to to playing again sometime. In the marathon, however, this was the only time we played this game.
 
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14. Board Game: Beowulf: The Movie Board Game [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:2222]
Ishai BD
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We continued with a game of Beowulf: The Movie: The Boardgame. What an awful name for a game. This is an expanded version of Kingdoms and in this marathon Assaf and I got to play it for the first time.

It is my least favorite Knizia in my collection, and I have more than a dozen games by him. I wish I bought Kingdoms, but I was already buying other games and this was on sale for $5, so I just added it to that purchase. Well, never mind that. I will probably not buy Kingdoms and may sell or give this one away at some point.

The game itself is interesting, even if a bit dry. I don't like the components so much (mainly the figures) and feel that the theme is just ridiculously irrelevant (if abstract, I'd rather have more useful abstract components than those figures and tiles with images from the movie). It's not even pasted, it's just thrown in for no good reason. Still, after one game I have two issues with the game:

1. Certain tiles are game changers in ways that make the experience too meaningless. Especially the one that allows you to change the location of tiles. Most of these are new to this edition. I don't really need "special power" tokens if they just make the game too chaotic and the luck of the draw becomes much more important. Perhaps after playing several games one gets to know in which round which special tiles may appear and just plays more conservatively then, but I don't expect to get to play this one for several more games!

2. It overstays its welcome. If Kingdoms is tight and compelling then the fact that it's short is not an issue. Worst case I could play it 3 times in a row or something. Beowulf: The Movie: The Boardgame is just too long and too repetitive that the variety of tiles coming in in the different rounds and the different board shapes coming one after another does not add much to the game, for me, other than making it longer.

I still think there is a good game in there. One that I personally would probably enjoy (though it's unlikely to appeal to my regular gaming companions) but with all the added stuff and the resulting big box, long game, and silly name, it's simply mediocre at best.

Assaf won the game. It was a combination of some of these killer game-changing tiles, but also, I must admit, better playing by Assaf. If it were a shorter, more focused game, we might have played it again in the marathon. For the reasons above and just not feeling like it, one time was enough.

End of day summary:
We finished the day with a game of Ra. After playing 7 times the first day and 5 times the next day, this last two days we played 3 times each. We were slowing down!

My lead was growing: It was now 13-9 in my favor.
 
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15. Board Game: To Court the King [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:1412]
Ishai BD
United States
Mountain View
California
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Day 6 of the marathon was another work day for me. In the evening, Assaf came to visit me at the office. I am lucky to have a workplace that offers a nice variety of cafeterias, and allows me once in a while to invite a guest for dinner, so after a tour of the office we had dinner in one of the cafeterias and then started playing.

There are plenty of people into board/card games where I work and many meet at least one evening a week to play games. Assaf and I joined one of these sessions bringing a few games but also open to playing whatever other people brought.

3 of my co-workers, M, J, and A were going to play To Court the King, and Assaf and I joined them. The game's mechanics are interesting and overall it's a pretty nice game. Our experience wasn't such a great one mainly because the group was really divided into the To Court the King veterans :M, J, and A, and the totally inexperienced: Assaf and me. As a result it was almost like there were two games going on at once, where Assaf and I are competing mainly among ourselves and are not a threat to any of the others, who are doing their own thing, and mostly looking at what the other two veterans are up to. Somehow (with some advice from the veterans, mostly A) I was able to stay somewhat close to the lead. When J went for the king, we had one round to try to grab the king from him. I almost made it. If I recall correctly A actually was able to grab the king only to lose it back to J, who won the game.

One obvious thing about the game we did not like that much was how much To Court the King is multiplayer-solitaire. Players turns can take a long time (rolling several dice and then modifying or rerolling a few repeatedly) and the main interaction with other players is through noting what cards they grabbed and what cards are therefore running out. As a result, once I finish my move, I felt a bit out of the game until the other 4 players finished playing (especially, since I was mainly following Assaf's moves closely and didn't quite keep up with the others).

With J winning the game, the score I am keeping track of remained unchanged.
 
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16. Board Game: Tower of Babel [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:1324]
Ishai BD
United States
Mountain View
California
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I've wanted to try Tower of Babel for quite some time, and the gaming session at work provided a great opportunity. Assaf and I were joined by J and A (a different J and a different A than the ones we played To Court the King with) and we played a 4 player game of Tower of Babel.

None of us played the game before and since I knew most of the rules, I explained it to the others and finishing off with specifics from the game rules we started playing. We left out the special cards, as I had a good feeling that I am not interested in whatever they could offer.

Tower of Babel is a wonderful game.

While A was a bit behind, it was a pretty close match between J, Assaf, and me. On any player's turn, one is participating in either trying to fail the construction attempt, trying to get easy points (make an offer that you expect will be refused) or try to get in on the wonder (an offer with no trader) or make a sweet enough offer with a trader to go instead for the disc. The way completed wonders' worth is changing: gradually increasing but then going down big time when the game ends, makes the game dynamics even more interesting.

Assaf won the game, and we both had a great time and I think we really appreciated what the game is about. Playing it well is a subtle thing and having played it (outside the marathon) a few more times since, I am eager for much more. For me this game being so good wasn't a big surprise. Since I read about this game in detail I expected it to be a game I would enjoy and appreciate very much. That first time we played it even slightly exceeded these high expectations.
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17. Board Game: Batt'l Kha'os [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:3064]
Ishai BD
United States
Mountain View
California
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We headed home and gave Batt'l Kha'os a go. I won't comment on the name with apostrophes, etc. other than to say it's a bit annoying.

Assaf already played the game before (though only once or twice, I think) and for me this was the first time.

It's a nice little game with cute components and short playing time. But it's hard to see a time when I'm eager to actually play it. We played the basic game (which I've played once more after the marathon) and I am not that interested in adding the extra special tiles. With my collection growing fast lately, this is one game I don't find such a great addition, but if I'll get to play it for a few more times with my wife and somehow it became a hit for us, then it may end up being a great addition.

Mainly I consider it just another short tile laying game with its own specific rules, nice components, etc. In fact, in some sense I find it quite similar to Kingdoms (or Beowulf: The Movie Boardgame above). My guess is that I would rather own and play Kingdoms than either the expanded version with silly name (Beowulf: The Movie Boardgame) or Batt'l Kha'os.

Assaf won this game easily. I didn't realize how fast a 3-0 lead could grow into a win, so I saved my special tiles for when they will be really needed (perhaps another game) and Assaf used his wisely to grab a quick win.

End of day summary:
We finished the day with another game of the ever popular Lost Cities. The score at the end of the 6th day was 14-11 to me.
 
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18. Board Game: Around the World in 80 Days [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1326]
Ishai BD
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Mountain View
California
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Gaming-wise, day 7 of the marathon was pretty short. It was my last day at work before heading back into holiday vacation and after work, Assaf and I had some good Sushi in a restaurant not far from work and then saw Avatar in IMAX 3D (I enjoyed it, Assaf didn't).

Our only game in this day was one session of a variant that Assaf came up with. Basically we play the game normally each playing as 2 players, (for a 4 player game). Terminology wise let's say that each player plays with two characters. Out of these 4 characters the winner is decided according to the usual rules and the player who played the winning character is the winner.

In this variant we basically each had 1 character in the race and 1 character trying to support the one in the race and hurt the opponent as much as possible.

Near the end of the game after being in a solid lead, I've made a terrible blunder due to wanting a better die roll, while the one I had (a 2) was enough. In my remaining rolls I ended up with a 5 and lost the game by a very tight margin.

I don't appreciate this game very much. I bought it mainly for my main group of 2 couples (yhe couple Assaf and I played Manila with, and my wife and I). The game did not click with any of us with the result that so far none of us four asked to play it again. Without at least one of us favoring a retry, it's unlikely to see the table anytime soon.

Here is why I find the game not very compelling. It feels to me like it has quite a few interesting game mechanisms in place. A few examples: Choosing a travel card while also choosing a certain action with it. The use of the detective to push other players, etc. The two notions of time (one is how far you are in your travel, the other how many days have elapsed). The bonus chips for being the first or last to get to a spot.

All of this sounds interesting and fun, but my impression is that many of these are there and add some complexity (not that much) but do not add much to the experience, to the in-game dilemmas, etc. They're all interesting, on paper making for more meaningful decisions, but in practice I did not feel this to be the case. As a result I felt there's your basic Euro with fancy mechanisms that do not add that much to the experience and at the same time too much luck for the game to be that meaningful an experience (to me!). As a gateway game, I find Ticket to Ride: Europe, for example, much more interesting and fun with mechanisms that are there for a reason, each adding exciting and meaningful things to the experience.

End of day summary:
Day 7 ended with Assaf winning the single game session of the day. The score was now 14-12 in my favor.
 
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19. Board Game: Kingsburg [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:267]
Ishai BD
United States
Mountain View
California
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Here was another day in which we played only once. Our shame is in knowing we hardly did anything non-gaming that day. We were simply worn out.

We did manage to play our first game of Kingsburg. The game was a lot of fun. Even with the 2 player variant, where one uses extra dice just for blocking some options, the game is interesting.

This was a learning experience for us two. We enjoyed seeing what the other player was doing and planning what building we're interested in next, what resources are needed, etc. All in all a pretty good game.

I won that first game and we played another one during the marathon. That one ended up much less fun. For some reason I had initially some bad luck and then had the conviction that I'm losing badly and that it's hopeless (it ended up being a self fulfilling prophecy of sorts). Add to that one situation in that 2nd game where I was stuck trying to figure out exactly how to place my dice trying to take into account what Assaf is going for, how I can achieve my goals without being blocked, etc. After about 5 minutes of thinking I thought I had a full-proof plan and then realized something was off, so I restarted spending another 5 or more minutes on this. Assaf was frustrated and pretty much lost interest in the game. It became a nasty experience. He won and I felt bad because of how I continuously lost throughout that game and he felt bad because of that A/P leading to his win.

The game lost points then for the extensive Analysis-Paralysis and due to turns being long and mostly multiplayer-solitaire. With the interaction being small and the wait for one's turn being potentially long, the game can end up much less exciting and fun than it first seemed.

I've since downloaded the Java version where one can play against the computer and with a bit more practice I am happy to report I have hardly any more A/P with the game. Against the computer, the game moves much faster and overall I like this game quite a bit. However, even now playing against live opponents I can see the game dragging, and waiting for new players to think things through can be a bit of a pain.

End of day summary:
Another day ended and so far we played 29 times. Given that the last couple of days saw one game play a day, getting to complete a marathon seemed much harder. This was fatigue after running for so long, but slowing down this last couple of days may have given us enough renewed energy to push further.

The score was 15-12. I maintained my lead.
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20. Board Game: Colossal Arena [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:754]
Ishai BD
United States
Mountain View
California
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A new year has begun, and gaming-wise, we started by actually playing a training session of Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage. We played the first 3 rounds (out of a maximum of 9), which took us more than what the entire game is supposed to take. It was a learning experience, but more on that later, when I tell you about our first actual game.

With renewed energy we set to play several more games that day. The first of which was Colossal Arena. We had a blast. This was the first time either of us played it and after grasping the rather simple rules we started playing.

Here are some things that make the game interesting: The secret bets, where you may want to reveal yours at some point to gain control of a creature, but also want to keep others guessing as this can change the scoring in a big way. The creature's powers - some are very useful and a few can be combined in interesting ways. I was especially fund of the Ettin's ability to basically allow the player to take 2 turns. I won the game and I recall that in one round my killer move was to save my Ettin and while doing so gain that second turn and finish the round by killing one of Assaf's creatures.

I haven't played the game that many times since then, but I got the feeling it's also interesting with 3 players, perhaps also with 4. We played it one more time in the marathon and found we really enjoyed both times.
 
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21. Board Game: Vikings [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:312]
Ishai BD
United States
Mountain View
California
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After two games of Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation, both of which Assaf won (playing both good and evil), we played a game of Vikings.

I've played the game a handful of times before (yep, about 5 times) and I guess this advantage led me to win by dominating the game with some early good moves. Assaf, I think, just found to it be another typical Eurogame, one where things can diverge going forward, i.e. the leader gains even more compared to others, using their advantage to build an even bigger gap. This may be true though for me it's too early to say. It did occur in this game mostly because I knew at the get-go what's important and what to focus on.

I like this game. I don't think it leads to too much A/P, and the decisions are pretty light but interesting. I certainly like the Veeples and in general the look and feel of playing this game. It's one of those: Works great for 2 and can work for more (mainly 3, since at 4 each player has much less control and gets a much smaller number of tiles and Veeples so the lack of control in this situation is even more of an issue).

End of day summary:
After Vikings we played another game of Blue Moon, which Assaf won as the Hoax (I won our first 3 games of Blue Moon, so Assaf broke by BM momentum here). We managed to play 5 times during the 9th day of the marathon. Including the practice session of H:RvC, we were certainly back in business. Finishing the marathon seemed, for a second, easy.

At the end of the day I was still in the lead: 17-15.
 
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22. Board Game: Mr. Jack in New York [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:609]
Ishai BD
United States
Mountain View
California
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End of day summary:
The 10th day of the marathon does not even have a game entry in this GeekList, so I'll discuss it now. We spent the day in San Francisco and around it. We had a great time. In the evening we went for really good Sushi and then saw a wonderful movie - Invictus. I'm a big fan of Clint Eastwood as a director so my expectations were high, but we both really enjoyed the movie (even if some characters in it are larger than life).

We brought Lost Cities with us, and in a Starbucks in Fisherman's Wharf, we managed to play 1 game, which I won.

At the end of this wonderful day, with hardly any gaming, the score was 18-15 to me.


The following day (or Mr. Jack in New York):

Moving on to the 11th day of the marathon (in this entry I am covering two days then), we started with a second game of Kingsburg. This was the one with the awful A/P on my part that resulted in Assaf winning but not really enjoying the experience. After that we tried a new game: Mr. Jack in New York.

I've played this game once a few weeks earlier and this was brand new to Assaf. We went over the rules and played two games. First Assaf was Mr. Jack and was able to escape since somehow not even halfway through the game I realized that he can be one of 3 characters and they all have good shots at escaping. He was yellow (I mean the color, not a coward) and was indeed able to escape. The following game I was Mr. Jack and ended up being yellow as well. I think I played well, but so did Assaf, and it came down to a tight game that he won basically by playing 50:50 odds.

We liked the game.

The game isn't easy at all. Assaf made the observation that every 2 turns Mr. Jack is able to know which 4 characters will be played next while he's playing 3 of these (the 1st, 2nd, and last) so that allows him to make big moves with so much of the future in his control (the detective does not get quite the same amount of control). Having not played this game that many times, it's still early for me to figure out how to use the various characters effectively or plan long term. I like the game and hope to get to play it much more.

End of day summary:
In the 11th day of the marathon we played 3 times. Assaf won them all. As a result we were, once more, tied. The score was 18-18.
 
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23. Board Game: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:138]
Ishai BD
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In the morning of day 12 of the marathon, we finally played Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage. A few days earlier we had a practice run that took us several hours to complete the first 3 rounds. This time we played 5 rounds but decided to consider this a full game (I believe that the 5 rounds took us a little less than the 3 rounds took us when practicing). Both times I was playing Carthage and Assaf played Rome.

This has been my biggest surprise in the marathon - a very positive one. I am so impressed with this game! I am very eager to play it again, though it is an effort (it will require plenty of time and energy to do so).

When I realized Assaf is coming for a visit and we thought of playing many games I had an idea: I will buy Assaf a game as a gift for taking all the trouble and coming over (what's a single game compared to a flight ticket in excess of $1000). The game needed to satisfy strict criteria:
1. It needs to be a game that Assaf would want in his collection (and this of course implies a game he does not already own).
2. It needs to be a good fit for 2 players, though it need not be limited to 2 players only.
3. It should be very different than the typical games in my collection. These are typically 30-60 minutes long, simple rules, a lot of Knizias, a few other gateway games - Ticket to Ride: Europe (most of the games in this GeekList are from my collection). Specifically, knowing that Assaf sometimes enjoys playing long games (Through the Ages, for example) I wanted this to be a pretty long game (2+ hours) and somewhat more complex than usual.
4. It needs to be something I would be willing to play once (more is nice but not really critical).

So the idea was to buy Assaf a gift that will add to his collection while enriching our game marathon. My extensive research (always!) led me quickly to look at H:RvC. I first got to read about it from some users' comments that mentioned similarities to Blue Moon and Blue Moon City. Reading about it, I was fascinated by the historical period and story it was based on. I remembered that Assaf bought Twilight Struggle and thought this has a chance of being a good fit for his collection. Once I read reviews, etc. I started being more and more interested in the game. I bought a copy for Assaf and asked him to download a copy of the rules and read them before coming over. I did the same.

When I finished reading the rules for the first time, I had some doubts the game would fit the criteria above. Mainly, I wasn't sure if I would be up to the task of playing a full game. This was my first time reading rules so complex. The ordering, while it may make sense as a reference, is not very useful for learning how to play. I skipped a few bits (naval and siege aspects), skimmed some others and focused on playing events, reinforcements and attrition, and battles and their resolutions.

In this first pass I hardly even noticed that at the heart of the game you try to gain control of provinces with your PCs and that you move forces to be able to use cards not just to place PCs in empty spots (these are taken rather quickly) but also to flip PCs in enemy controlled territories. A few days before the marathon began I submitted a post to BGG to find out how to learn to play the game. The very helpful replies helped, but still, the game looked big, complex, and scary.

For many days during the marathon, Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage was an intimidating burden. We opened the box in the first day. We browsed a few event cards and talked about their effects. We studied the game board, i.e., the map. Beyond that we knew we had to play it but we didn't quite feel we're ready to do so. We left it like that for a while, but everything changed once we went through our first practice run.

While we only played 3 full turns we tried to get as much going in that first session to learn the game. It was long, it was slow, there were times when we stopped and read sections of the rules, but at the end of it we got the hang of it, and we both liked the game. The notion of playing a full game later on was still a bit intimidating in terms of how much time and effort it would take, but at least the interest was there.

The morning of day 12 was devoted to a full game, or at least what I consider to be a full game. Like the training/learning session, I played Carthage. With some luck of the draw (and perhaps a few good moves) Carthage grabbed Sicily and then had a big naval bonus. Hannibal made progress and got pretty close to Rome. We decided to stop playing after finishing turn 5 (when Scipio arrived) and things were pretty even between us, perhaps with a slight established advantage for Carthage, all things considered, but also just at that point in time where Rome starts getting much stronger. Given my still limited understanding of the game, I'm inclined to say that at this point Carthage was in a bit of a lead, but I don't think I was experienced enough to maintain it for long. In addition, Assaf's visit was coming to an end and we did have some non-gaming plans for that day, so stopping at that point felt like a really good thing to do.

We called it a draw. Our only one in the marathon.

I am really impressed by what I've experienced. I've found myself really interested in the historical story that inspired this game. I think that the systems in the game make a lot of sense and the interplay between them is fascinating and cohesive. I especially like how at the core of the game your CUs allow you on your turn to turn PCs over but the enemy PCs also force your CUs to suffer attrition. Movement, then, is useful for positioning yourself to defend or attack positions or to march over enemy PCs leaving CUs over for a following flipping action. The dual nature of the event cards is great as expected. Planning your turn is interesting and something that I hope to get better and faster at. It almost feels like a game that could generate memorable stories that I could fondly remember even when I lose (we'll see - I don't really like losing). The sides have really interesting and different advantages, learning the intricacies would take a long while and should be a lot of fun. The luck of the draw adds a lot to the game for me. In terms of how different games could play, in terms of planning and defending against certain events, and just in terms of the excitement of getting your cards for the next turn and starting to see the possibilities!

I guess that if I could get to the point where a full game really takes me 2.5 hours, then this would be a game I'd want to play over and over.
So, about a couple of weeks ago, this thought led me to buy my own copy. It's lying on the shelf still in shrink and I just hope it won't be very long before I play again.

End of day summary:
We (or maybe it was just me) were drained after our first game of Hannibal. After resting a bit we spent the afternoon and evening in San Francisco. After a heavy meal at a really good Brazilian Steakhouse we got home and although tired, we sat down to play a bit more.

The goal was to try and play 3 more times - the total (non-unique) games would then be 42. There were no new games we planned on playing so we wanted to pick a few that we really enjoyed. We only managed to play 2 more, though.

First a game of Colossal Arena, which I've won (I think Assaf made one blunder that gave me an opportunity, which I've seized). We followed this with a game of Ra, which I've won as well. Both times were somewhat fun but also a bit of a drag since we were really tired. It did not make much more sense to play one more, even as much as we really wanted to get to that magical number 42.

The score after 12 days and 41 times playing board or card games was 20-18 in my favor. Was this how the marathon was going to end just shy of the target number of sessions?
 
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24. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:292]
Ishai BD
United States
Mountain View
California
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It was day 13. I took Assaf to the airport and he flew back to Israel. From the airport I went to work.

I took Lost Cities with me and at the airport, after Assaf checked his bags, we played one last game. I picked Assaf up 12 days earlier at around noon. 12 days later we finished playing 42 times exactly. I won the final game and the marathon ended 21-18 to me.

End of Marathon Summary:
We played 42 times, playing 23 different games.

Our most played game was Lost Cities. We played it 6 times in the marathon. I won all 6 - a sweep. The first game was the closest one with me winning by 1 point. Later on I even won two of the games by winning every round.

Most other games we played once or twice only. There were 3 more games we played 4 times in the marathon: Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation, Blue Moon, and Ra.

Assaf won all LotR:tC games we played. It felt like I was learning how to play the last game properly while Assaf was learning how to play the next one better. Or maybe I made too many mistakes. Assaf dominated this one.

I won 3 out of our 4 games in each of Ra and Blue Moon.

28 times (out of 42) we played a game by Reiner Knizia, my favorite designer. The 4 most played games above are all his designs. Even in terms of unique games we played, 12 were by Reiner Knizia and 11 were designed by others.

We played a lot! It's pretty astonishing how much gaming and non-gaming we got to do in 12 full days. It was intense. At times it was hard. At times we weren't sure we'll finish a marathon (it would be easy to rewrite this with an original plan of playing 30 games in 12 days or something...). Most of all it was a lot of fun.

Here are my top games from the marathon (in no particular order):

1. Lost Cities
2. Ra
3. Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation
4. Blue Moon
5. Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage
6. Tower of Babel
7. Ticket to Ride: Europe
8. Colossal Arena

I hope you found this (or at least the summaries) interesting and enjoyable.

The end.
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