GCL Phoenix 23 - Never Comes the Day (2011-06-12)
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Welcome to the 23rd installment of the GameChat_League - GCL Phoenix division weekly geeklist. Did you stumble here by accident or via a subscription?

The GCL Phoenix division is an outgrowth of the GCL Stingray division chat club whose history can be found here: GameChat_League.



GCL Phoenix - Roster (bolded individual is list preparer next week)

1. Bruzza
2. Chally
3. Enzo622
4. Hawkeye
5. Indigopotter
6. JohnRayJr
7. Judoka
8. Leroy43
9. Lowengrin
10. Mr_Nuts
11. Ravenskana
12. Rynelf
13. Taibi
14. Tjshields
15. Topherr
16. Yokiboy



Last week, Roger opened with the observation that, given Time, we're going to only be able to play a handful of the total number of games available to us. So, with time as a factor, what would we ideally want to play? Conversely, what would we never play again as the first play was a waste of time? Lastly, he asked which games make time disappear - at which there was some consensus that games we have rated a "10" are those kind of games. But what if we never rate a game a "10" ever again...?
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1. Board Game: Never Call Retreat [Average Rating:5.81 Overall Rank:12619]
Lo
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We all buy new games, but what if we never buy another game worthy of a "10" rating again?

If you never rated another game a "10", would it lead you to stop purchasing new games? Would you stop playing games all together? Or only play your old games? Or would you be satisfied with these newer but "lesser" games?

Discuss.
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2. Board Game: The Favorite [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Lo
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What's your favorite game that you have never played?

And by this, I don't mean, what's your favorite game that you never get to play. I mean, what is the one game that you really want to play, that you have never ever played even though there's really no excuse as to why you haven't.
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3. Board Game: Grail Quest [Average Rating:6.65 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.65 Unranked]
Lo
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Okay, so we've discussed our favorite never-played game. What about those more elusive games? Those games we sometimes call our "Grail Games"...?

Even if you have one "10" or ten "10s", you must have at least one game that you would love to own, but that day will never come. What is this elusive game? And why can it never be yours?
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4. Board Game: Search for Poseidon's Gold [Average Rating:6.12 Unranked]
Lo
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Nevermind how hard it is to find a copy of a grail game that actually exists, what about your grail game that has not yet been designed? If ever the day came and such a game could exist, what mechanics, themes, art and components would you wish for?

Spoiler (click to reveal)
If you have designed the prototype, maybe you don't want to share until it's published.
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5. Board Game: Nothing Gained But Glory [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:2944]
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Games Played

Nothing!


Week in Review

As of the last few minutes, I am returning to a VGG review that I began (and then abruptly abandoned) just over a week ago. My hope is that I finish it on the plane to Seattle - I promised an RPG review for this month's VGG contest. Several great reviews have been posted thus far.

Looking forward to seeing Tom, Chris, and Roger later this week. Excited to learn some new games and play some classics. Also, I have a stowaway.

ninja

Roger, I have no idea which M&P game to pick, but this one would be fine. Or, in honor of Yoki, Sweden Fights On.

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6. Board Game: Taluva [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:420]
Lo
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Games Played
Taluva x4
Carcassonne x2
Jambo x1
London x1

Week in Review
All gaming done this week was between my lovely wife and myself. It began with four plays of Taluva, which I received as a birthday gift. I'd always thought it would make a nice change from our usual tile-laying game, Carcassonne, but given we still managed to play Carcassonne twice this week, it's unlikely Taluva will ever replace or even be a good substitute. My wife just didn't like it all that much. Nor am I all that enthusiastic about it; it certainly looks good with those nice thick tiles and nice wood components, but it just doesn't draw me in. In spite of the high level of screwage that one can do with a volcano to their opponent's settlements, it doesn't invoke the storms of protest or threats of retaliation that are familiar with some of our other games.

Our one game of London (first edition) began well enough. We both avoided loans and built up cash early - forgoing boroughs for "brown" cities. I had a bit of a better start with the East India Company and a dockyard, but S had a bit better draw in the mid-game with the Omnibus(es), a Steamboat, and some dockyards of her own. She was driving through the deck fast, but misjudged just how fast and I ended the game one turn too early for her to run her city one last time. She conceded right there and then.

The last game of the week was Jambo in which she exacted her revenge. It was a good game on the whole even though I put myself in a hole early and never dug myself out. The last time we played in March, it left us feeling "blah" - like we never needed to play it again. But this play gave it some new life; although I may just ignore any urges to play it since it's the one game we have that would travel well. Should save it for our next vacation.
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7. Board Game: The Mines of Zavandor [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:2174]
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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Games Played

Mines of Zavandor x3

Oldest son decided he really wanted this and talked my wife into getting it. For the first night my son I taught my wife the game. I won with 39 points while my wife and son both tied with 35. This actually worked better than I thought it would with my wife and son. Looking forward to adding my youngest son for a four player game.

The next day we did a four player game with both boys and my wife. I picked up a few extra clans early and used that to seal my victory at 54 points. My youngest son scored 47, while my oldest son scored 37, and my wife struggled to complete things and ended with only 27.

Today we played again with four players using the advanced sides of the board. I managed some good combos to win with 48, while oldest son had 42, youngest son 38, and my wife 28.

This has gone over a lot better than I expected. It occupies a strange middle ground. On one hand, it feels a bit light. There's interesting strategic and tactical decisions to consider, but it isn't overly complicated, and doing well often resorts to choosing the right battles and trying to get things others aren't interested in. However, one really needs to have a bit of experience with the deck and how the cards interact with each other (or be able to jump in and figure it out as you go), so I wouldn't consider it something I can spring on just anyone with success.

I also wasn't a big fan of this with three players and cards removed. I'll have to try it again to be sure, as well as try the two player mode, but I suspect this is really best with just four. That's not too much of a problem for me, but would easily be a turnoff for others.

Finally, I like the box and components. It is not an overly thick box and I was able to slide it in a good spot that would have been too small for other boxes. It is not as small as Glen More overall, but it is close. The gold and silver coins/victory points are decent and I keep thinking I'd like these in London and AoI instead of the plastic ones in those games. (I know about the limited edition wooden pieces for those games, but from the pictures, those just look ok to me, while these are simple and functional in my view.) The gem cards are small like original Ticket to Ride but don't bother me. I do wish the box had an insert that would hold these cards. They didn't even include a bag for the cards, but I have plenty so not a big deal.

Le Havre
Three player long game with my boys on my birthday. I won with 202, youngest son 182, oldest son 119. They haven't complained about the game length of Le Havre in sometime; at least, not during or after a game. I still get some resistance getting it to the table sometimes when they want something shorter.


London
Two players with my wife. A close game I barely won, 126 to 123.

Carson City
I did get in a three player learning game with my boys. They kept me from getting some early properties and I lost a few duels. Youngest son won with 30, oldest son close behind with 26, and I managed to catch up a little at the end, but not enough, with only 24 points.

We liked it, but I was tired and a bit out of it as we played and I want to play again soon to get a better feel for the game. More comments later on this once I get another game in.

Pictures From Botanical Gardens:





















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"L'état, c'est moi."
Canada
Vancouver
BC
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Roger's Reviews: check out my reviews page, right here on BGG!
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Games Played This Week:
London 2
Combat Commander: Pacific 1
Levee en Masse 1 (new to me)
San Juan 1
Scrabble 1

London - this game really hits a sweet spot for me. About 90 minutes and just pleasant to play. I just get into a nice rhythm with this game, and the old Knizia saw about it's the goal is to win but the goal is what's important, not the winning could use the box cover of this game in the dictionary. (I don't know how many metaphors I've mixed mangled and massacred with that torrid purple prose, but I don't care).

Combat Commander: Pacific - one of the things I like about CC:Europe is the tempo. It always feels like there's a big ebb and flow with a strong narrative backing. I don't get quite the same feel of that with Pacific. Part of that is lack of familiarity. I've played Europe 10 times this year alone, and Pacific only twice, and the rules are different enough between the two that there's going to be some hiccups. A few more plays ought to sort out the learning curve. Note I rate both Europe and Pacific a 9, and so my preference of one over the other will be like like my choosing between pistachio or spumone at the gelato shop.

San Juan - I played London last Thursday, San Juan on Friday, and London again on Saturday. So what can I say about San Juan - I still love it. The expansion cards from the Treasure Chest have completely refreshed this game and have added enough that it's just going to keep hitting the table. I still love this game, and at 30-45 minutes (back to the temporal axis) will be the go to for my wife and when we have under an hour.

Scrabble - I play Scrabble on Facebook. Moving on...

Levee en Masse - This is one of the first "new to me" games in a while. I have often said that I'm not a solo player of board games, but at the same time I'm not a video game player as a rule, (though I did play a ton of Doom, Diablo and Diablo II).

Last year I bought Nemo's War on a whim and loved it. I feel the same way about Levee en Masse. I've only played it the once so far, but my spidey sense tells me it'll get to the table again soon (probably even today).

Both Nemo's War and Levee en Masse rely on a lot of die rolls, so over the course of a game you really want to have your dice tower handy. At the same time however, the decisions you need to make are purposeful, because you have choices to make. In Levee en Masse, you're playing through the French Revolution. You're trying to keep the monarchy and despotism down while promoting the republic and at the same time fend off all the opportunistic powers in Europe and quell unrest in Paris.

The game is card driven. Each turn you flip up a card with an historical event which has several effects and you are given a number of actions (roughly averages out to 3, with as low as 2 and high as 5) and you can try to push back foreign invaders, place liberty armies, quell unrest, or try to affect one of the tracks on the board.

There are three decks (blue, white and red) and how far you get through these decks determines how well or poorly you do. If you don't make it through all three decks you've failed. If you make it through the red deck, you then determine if you've done better or worse than the historical outcome. Loosely, the blue deck is the revolutionary period, the white deck is "the terror", and the red deck is the despot phase that led up to Napoleon taking power.

I have the expansion, but I won't be dipping into it just yet.

Musket & Pike - I took Nothing Gained But Glory and Under the Lily Banners off the shelf yesterday to look through the play books to find a suitable scenario. UtLB has a scenario designed to be a teaching one (Mergentheim), but I'm going to also take a look at Sweden Fights On as it's the one game in the series I haven't tried yet. I keep forgetting how long M&P scenarios are. Mergentheim is 10 turns and that could easily run 4-5 hours.
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9. Board Game: Mall of Horror [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:1301]
Yoki Erdtman
Sweden
Södertälje
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Games Played: (links go to play details)
For Sale
For Sale
Mall of Horror
7 Wonders
Catan Dice Game

Representative Item:
We had a very enjoyable session of Mall of Horror. It really is a fun game, but seriously the rules are next to unusable in play due to the heavy emphasis on chrome, over usability.

Week in Review:
It turned out to be a very enjoyable gaming week. An old gaming buddy showed up for our Thursday game night, and we played some lighter fare and had a blast together.

I ended the week in the ER with one hell of a scary and unusual headache. My wife took me there Sunday night and we met a very nice doctor that was able to get me back on my feet.

Plans for the Week:
Just prepping for our trip. I will be absent BGG most of the summer, and wish you all a great one!

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10. Board Game: Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:49]
 
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
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With my lovely wife, daughter #1, and her friend K. (A different friend K from last week.)
1x _7_ Dixit
1x _7_ Dixit 2 - the same session: one game with the first deck; one game with the second. My wife is a lot better at Dixit than the rest of us are; so she slaughtered us twice in a row. But the rest of us enjoyed ourselves. While I can't say I get the whole SdJ thing, this is a pretty nice game.

With lovely wife, son #2, daughter #1, and her twin friends M & K. (Yes, the same K that played Dixit. No, there won't be a quiz.)
2x _5_ Kent - This was the choice of the three young ladies. (They play it at lunchtime at school - and now school's out, why stop playing?) It's a silly thing: the game isn't quite the thing, the experience is much more about the metagame; the framing; the (mostly silly) conventions that one needs for play.
1x _5.5_ Blink - M&K's game; it's a speed thing, trivial but amusing. We had fun with it.
5x _7.3_ Spot It! - We had good fun with Spot It! afterward; several hands, most of them the Well.

With son #2:
1x _7.3_ 7 Wonders with Mannekin Pis - The first time we'd tried the Advanced Two Player version. The extra wonder was the dummy player - so while it was in play, it wasn't significant. I like the 2p dynamics, though; I think we'll try it again.
1x _7_ PitchCar plus three expansions - I was surprised how uneven the track-joins were after several recent plays of Bisikle. There definitely was a great deal of "Track Lore" to be discovered during play. We had fun with a few track configurations.

With daughter #1:
1x _7.3_ Tinners' Trail - 2p on the full board (Thanks, Judit; I'd not known there was a 2p variant!) We were both variously tempted by the excess of options; but she navigated the maze better than I. (Notably, I foolishly established more mines than I could take care of. While she only employed more developments than strictly beneficial.) I can believe that both of the variants work; but it's pretty nice with the default rules.

With daughter #1 and son #2:
1x _6.7_ Such a Thing - her choice. We played the one where three cards are dealt to the table, and the first player to propose a viable "Thing" gets a point. The youngsters were sufficiently amused to run through the whole deck.

With John and Paul from the I've been Diced! gang:
1x _9_ South African Railroads - We played leisurely; it probably took an hour and a half. But the result was distinctly different than my last play; it was nice to see the variations. Definitely a highlight of my week.
(Adding son #1):
1x _8_ Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) plus expansions - Long; Insane; we were playing until 1AM. (Unsurprisingly, I didn't elect to wake up early for the 7AM basketball game the day afterward.) We played with a couple of the races from the latest expansion, and the game came right down to the wire, with Paul taking it by a nose. Reflecting a bit on last weeks "when does time stop" question, this was one of those sessions: other than the fact that I was exhausted when it was done, I had no idea how much time had passed without checking the clock.

With the no-longer-on-Fridays Gamers:
1x _7.3_ Steel Driver - First play in a while. It's cute; though probably not quite as compelling (for me, at least) as Wallace's more recent train game Last Train to Wensleydale.
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11. Board Game: Space Alert [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:160]
Christopher Rao
United States
Seattle
WA
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Q:When I say "lawyer" what pops into your head? A:Someone who designs games about penguins." - Dormammu
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Another great week:
1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight x1
Space Alert x2
Take 5! x 1
Magical Athlete x1
Forbidden Island x1 (with my 6-year old)
Karnaxis x1 (new to me)

I am thoroughly infatuated with 1860 - a whole new breed of XX. Actually, after playing on Thursday, I played it again tonight with a guy who had never played it, and was unsure how he felt about it. It does run a bit long (5 hours or so tonight, including rules explanation), but it's just so darn creative. This was my first 3-player game. Though I enjoyed 3 thoroughly, I enjoy 4 too.

It was great to play Space Alert again, after so long. Just great goofy fun. Once we even survived

Likewise, I hadn't played Take 5 in ages, and had forgotten what a truly exceptional game it was. I got to play that again soon.

Magical Athlete was fantastic as ever. I didn't get a single point, but who cares. Plus I got to introduce someone new to the game. Oh, I also noted that the two Zman games we played that session were Magical Athlete and 1860. Quite diverse...

Nearly every time I give my kid a chance to play North Pole or Forbidden Island, it seems like Forbidden Island wins. The whole "Daddy designed this game just for you" doesn't have nearly the draw to a 6-year old you might think it would gulp He does really like North Pole, but it doesn't have treasures, sadly!

The week's big disappointment, for sure, was Karnaxis. What a great idea ineptly implemented! Stranger still, parts of the implementation are fine, good even. It's essentially an RPG of careers - you start with 4 different stats (charisma, handyness, accounting and learning of some sort, I think). You get to take a job that you qualify for, use your income (after taxes) to buy stocks or start your own company, go to college to increase your stats and so forth. Most of the game is fine, save for two critical fatal blows: 1) The stock market is a pure d6 random event - up or down up to two spaces. For a 2-hour game, this is just silly (they could have at least stolen some half-way reasonable modeling from the old 3M games Stocks & Bonds, but no, d6 it is. A 2) For one action (and you usually just get two per turn), you can pay $15k to buy a "Karnaxis" card. Some of the cards are awesome (increase your attributes 4 different times, when the max is usually two for going to college), some of them are can be good, and some are so good they are broken ("Get $80,000 from lottery" - our eventual winner got it very early, while the rest of us were making like $20-$35k a turn from our jobs).

Here's how broken the Karnaxis cards are: Even though raising attributes gets you killer jobs or lets you start good companies (the best of the game is matching your attributes to what you want to do), it's worthless at game end. So at the tail end of the game, one guy unskillfully bought two Karnaxis cards, both of which raised his attributes. He was already a rocket scientist and didn't need any more attributes, so it was basically two wasted actions. Then, on the very last turn, I skillfully bought a Karnaxis card (only one player can do so every turn) which let me I got to roll a d6 to see how much money OTHER people would pay me, $10k, $20k, or $30k. I rolled a 5, and the other 5 players paid me $30k each, for a differential of $180k against each opponent. So I ended up with %950k or so, almost 1/6 of which was due to one random event.

The game actually reminded me a little of a game I designed, but never did anything with, about 10 years ago. The working title was "Get a Life" and the idea was to cobble together a life that of job, hobbies, mate, children, etc. Each card had various characteristics, some of which clashed. So, for example, you might get 2 peace of mind from your monster truck rally hobby, but it conflicts with your more erudite girlfriend/boyfriend so you have to drop one or the other - or your new spouse-to-be has a child who conflicts with something else in your life, etc.. The winner, Tigres and Euphrates, style, is the person who has best lowest score among the four attributes (I forget, but it's something like money, security, peace of mind, free time). Anyway, Karnaxis had some great ideas - and was almost a good game! - but it really made me want to go back and try to make my home made design work.

On the Wagon Trader front, I still haven't sent out the protos (sorry guys), but hope to have the rules re-written in a week or two so that I can send everything at once. Thx for your patience, testers.

Jack is coming to visit in a few days, and I look forward to seeing him and introducing him to my game group. Other than that, a very very busy couple of weeks for work, so my game output may decline a bit.

On a somewhat unrelated front, I've started playing Disc Golf again, which is just terrific. And today my buddy Anupam got me playing ultimate frisbee before we played 1860 (again). I love ultimate and it feels great to play once more, even though my old bones creak a bit and my muscles cramp a bit.... Makes you feel alive!
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12. Board Game: Barons [Average Rating:5.95 Overall Rank:5404]
Judit Szepessy
Canada
London
Canada
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Games Played

Barons x 5

Uno x1

Battleship x1

Not much gaming this week, but I enjoyed what we played. Barons enjoys a great popularity among the boys. The abilities are interesting and you can get powerful combos. It plays fast and packs quite a lot in that short play time. I wish the boys did more attacking during the game, but so far they have just focused on building land and buildings.
My younger son wanted to play Battleship because at school he played it, and I played UNO with my ESL students.

On a non gaming related note, on Saturday night my husband took us out without telling us where we were going. I thought we were going to the local cinema but when we were already heading down town I had no clue where we would end up. I realized first we were going to the John Labatt Centre - lots of people heading there and us trying to find a parking place. When we were in the centre he still did not tell us as to what event we are attending, and then suddenly I saw the lights in the centre "Super Tramp". So he had this surprise for us: he took us to their concert. They had been there earlier in 1979. The concert was a wonderful and uplifting experience. The band loved what they were doing and they gave a very high quality performance. There was a great harmony between the audience and the band, we did show our appreciation towards their music. The band improvised a good deal, and it was brilliant, but they left the original frame of the songs intact. Outstanding musicians.
I inserted here an old video clip, of course, Roger Hodgson was not there last night.


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13. Board Game: Glory to Rome [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:154]
12th BGG CCE open!
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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Ra: the Dice Game 2
Glory to Rome 1

Yesterday a local BGGer came to pick up the games he won in my auction, before Sam's online game. After dinner, we played a game of Glory to Rome My vault had 4 cards, 3-3-3-1. I had about 2 blue cards the whole game, and even though I could draw from the deck for Patron, I still kept getting Craftsman and Architect clients. Sam had 3 or 4 Merchant clients, so I did a Think to deplete the deck and end the game. If I had gotten a point for every 2 cards, I would have gotten 10 points. At one point, I had done a Labor action for every influence and cleaned out the center (much to Sam's chagrin) so I had the cards in place, but I couldn't effectively get them into my vault. I was building like mad, with +4 and +2 hand limit and a Think action after a Craftsman, but Sam just blew me away with his vault, including 4 of the 6 bonuses. After GtR, we played 2 games of Ra: the Dice Game.
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14. Board Game: Stephenson's Rocket [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:1064]
Bryan Maxwell
United States
Burtchville
Michigan
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Vikings x 2
Innovation x 3
Thunderstone x 1
Battlestar Galactica x 1
Yggdrasil x 3
Conquest x 1
Animal Upon Animal x 1
First Train to Nuremberg x 1
Stephenson's Rocket x 1
Dominion x 3

Last week saw 2 new-to-me games; Stephenson's Rocket, which was terrific, and Yggdrasil which was pretty good. The solo game was fairly uninspiring, but it was challenging and fun with 5 players. Communication, planning and teamwork are required to win (or at least I can assume so). I'm hopeful (but doubtful) that I'll get Stephenson's Rocket played this Wednesday night.

Most other weeks, Battlestar Galactica would have been my representative game. My Sunday BSG group doesn't meet regularly anymore, but we got the crew back together again, journeyed out into the depths of space and died. My buddy Luke was a cylon from the outset and I had no clue; he played it the way he has seen me play it so many times: be friendly, concerned and helpful until the time is right to reveal. Being on the other side of it made me realize how frustrating and effective it is. It also helped me understand why people always suspect me and want to look at my loyalty cards. He got dealt the other cylon loyalty card during the sleeper phase and, when he revealed, gave it to our other pilot. We were left with no pilots and no chance. I was fairly proud of him.

We revisited Vikings again this past week, and enjoyed Animal Upon Animal, Innovation and Dominion as always.

Cool City Games has moved a few doors down, and the new location is much more open. This means that, among other things, the noise disperses much better so we can be gaming at the same time as the Magic players without their endless chatter drowning us out. That said, it can still get loud in there and we're considering fixing up the basement a bit so we can play down there. In particular, I'm pushing for this so we can play Space Alert. I'm positive everyone will like it once we get past the learning curve, we just need an environment conducive to a CD player. It's one of my 8s, I've only got 6 plays, and it's been nearly 2 years since it's gotten played. The time is coming.

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15. Board Game: Netrunner [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:610]
Tom Shields
United States
Tacoma
Washington
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Games

Tikal x1
Netrunner x2
The Resistance x2
Unpublished Prototype x3
Innovation x2
Decktet: Jacynth & Magnate (learning) x3

Zoe graduated. Jacks coming. And I think my life is clearing some of the underbrush & I finally get up to Seattle & play with Christopher, the folks in Canada (Michael, Roger), and Portland (Max) as the summer opens and we mold people come out of our holes & get manic in the sun.

. . .

The plays of Netrunner were intriguing & I think this is going to become a keeper. In short, the radical asymmetry, diverse games coming out of the same decks, interesting psychological interactivity of feints & risk, & a focus on creative gameplay are all there. This has the potential to have a long run with the local group. It even is calling me to do a bit of deck-tweaking & to seek just a few extra cards to throw into the soup, & I am anti-CCG/LCG essentially, meaning any deck building for me needs to be a minor pleasure rather than an extensive on-going metagame of mutually assured destruction. Traction with possibility of acceleration. Rated 8 with an upside.

Unpublished prototype was three plays of a game interesting in that it can become a fast rush wargame or a race-like Euro, all in the same ruleset. A compendium of mechanics offered on a tech tree. Along with a map built by the players which floats on the table. Introduction of mountains to create defined world shapes & blocking moves is a hit.

The Resistance was still great even tho I blew the first game (we played the Morpheus variant & even tho the Resistance won I so blatantly gave away my Morpheus role the spies won). Sigh, I let down the team. This has an improv theater feel; thinking on your feet & the sort of sessions that take me back to the best of Diplomacy. I'm lucky to play this again & again with the same crew because it has grown such an intriguing metagame. This is not a filler folks.

Decktet is cool & is catching on with friends so I hope it gets pulled out a bit more these next few weeks.

Innovation was the usual pleasure. A pair of wins against an opponent who tech'ed up & had superior tableau development but struggled to score & was open to attack. The lesson being if you tech up, bring some leaves to cover your ass, because your leaving behind some nasty weapons back there in Era 3.

I talked about Tikal last week. Mike soundly trounced me & he seems to be on a local winning streak. While I was playing the prototype, he trounced the table at T&E.

It sounds like me, B, & M may finally put together a night on the side to get Maria into play.
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16. Board Game: Karnaxis [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:8692]
Daniel Kenel
United States
New London
Iowa
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Games Played:
Karnaxis x 2
Carson City x 2
Jacynth x 3
Magnate x 3
Biblios x 3
StreetSoccer x 4
Battle Line x 5


Week in Review:
Just a bit late this week. Tori and I decided to play some best of 3 gaming sessions every evening last week.

Magnate really stood out as in 2 of our games we ended in a tie and had to go to the tiebreaker rules to determine the winner. I'm comfortable giving this one a 7 rating as a nice 2P filler that fits in a 20-30 playing time.

Streetsoccer was a blast. Tori killed me 4-2 in our first game. The second game ended at a 0-0 tie after regulation. We went into sudden death OT with a max 10 more turns. I won on turn 7 with a sudden goal after playing most of the game with a heavy defensive strategy. Game 3 I ran away with 4-0.

I also had the chance to teach Streetsoccer to a friend, Tyler, that played soccer in college and teaches it now at a youth soccer league. It was a real pleasure getting educated on the game and various actual strategies employed during real games. Tyler and I now have plans to watch some real soccer games and continue my education.

Battle Line was the highlight of our best of 3 gaming. We actually turned it into a best of 5 as we were both having such a good time. Tori took the first 2 games and I took the next 2. Every game was close and filled with the normal tension I've experienced in nearly every game of Battle Line. Game #5 Tori pulled out a super close one. We were both tied at 4 flags and it came down to my last card draw. I needed a 7 to beat Tori at the last flag and there were only 3 cards left in the draw deck and we knew that one of them was a 7.

We had a couples gaming day on Saturday. Carson City hit the table. It was my first game with more than 2 players. I'm holding off on a verdict until I can play it another time or two. It certainly felt a bit more crazy and chaotic. Maybe I'm just spoiled by the control offered in a 2P game and failed to adjust to having more players.

Karnaxis has been interesting thus far. It has that nice element of having very limited actions and wanting to get more done than what you can every turn. I think it's a game with a lot of promise but I share some of the concerns Christopher brought up already. The stock market element of the game simply does not work. It really needs to be simply dropped or done completely over. I'm less certain that the Karnaxis cards are going to be so broken as to ruin the game. I'll want to play it a few more times before making that claim. It reminds me a bit of the complaints about the cards (what the hell are they called?) in Goa. A concern I do have is that the game forces you a bit to follow a script. In order to pursue jobs and buisnesses you have to raise some attributes. There are only a couple of ways to do that so several of your moves almost feel like no brainers. I really dislike that feeling in a game and naturally start search for ways around what feels like a forced script to follow.





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17. Board Game: Innovation [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:283]
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
Ebeltoft
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Week 23 Games Played:
2x Glory to Rome
1x Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers
1x Innovation
1x San Juan

Game of Choice:
Innovation is a game I love and loathe! I am frustrated by the apparent chaos of the game and my perceived inability to truly influence the game. Yet, we played it 10 times in the first before slowing down, widening our choice of games and in part due to a lack of gaming opportunities.

I brought it out this weekend intended as a quick game before lunch. Initially it seemed a quick sprint, where I quickly sailed into the lead but at the expense of developing a proper infrastructure. My wife, slow, but steady clawed her way back into the game. Once she had the right advances she eroded my score pile to the point where it was only a matter of time before she would win the game.

Never did I truly give in and surrender, though I was tempted. Constantly I hoped for the one advancement that perhaps could give me victory. My eye was on the special achievements as she was by now outscoring me without hindrance. I almost made it but for the lack of the final 8 - instead an ill-advised attempt at working the computers back-fired and she hammered me back to the stone ages.

It was a ride, without a doubt, I felt drained at the end. I could see where I had gone wrong and I knew I could do better. Yet, I also knew that it would require better familiarity with the game and its advances before a proper strategy could be formulated.

I long to delve into the world again and to better myself, but I am not sure I have the staying power currently to succeed and feel I have won by my own hand...

The Week in Review:
So, after breaking our duck last week it took us a few days to get another game to the table. We turned to an old, trusted friend for our 25th game of San Juan. As is often the case with this game I focused solely on the purple side of things, building and monuments. My wife was torn between plantations and buildings thereby lacking the focus to succeed. We have been playing with the expansion and are loving the new buildings as they bring a lot of variety. Unfortunately we keep forgetting to shuffle in the events. We have initially avoided them for bringing death and destruction - chance - into the game, but I seem to recall Roger standing up for them a while back - next time we will do so.

The week continued with an old favourite - Glory to Rome - on Thursday. It is a game I finally excel at having taken previous discussions on the merits of the game to heart. I know it drives V. mad that she cannot seem to best me. In that I am fortunate because it means she keeps coming back for more. On Friday we had an exchange on the various strategies and how they worked. I think it might not be long before she is my equal, she is on the right track and I have had to step up my game these past few outings - always a good thing.

Saturday was given over to nothing at all. Instead we spent it indoors reading. It is a pastime that gives me much joy, bot with fiction and non-fiction and a much needed rest after a strenuous, but interesting week at work.

Monday (today) is a holiday in Denmark, so Sunday was reserved for games. Our minds and hearts were not for the more complicated fare so we began slowly with yet another outing for Glory to Rome. It was followed by our play of Innovation, which left us so drained that we surrendered to our books once more.
Towards evening our minds were ready once more and we dug out an old classic for a trip to pre-historic times as Hunters and Gatherers. It was an uneven contest as all the good bonus tiles fell my way, thereby gaining me 52 points with hunters alone - enough for a 50 point win margin.

A splendid day with 3 hours of gaming over the course of the day and some quality time together. This week is looking rather bleak I am afraid with end-of-school barbecues Wednesday and Friday followed by a street party on Saturday... hopefully we will not be too tired Sunday...
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18. Board Game: Dominant Species [Average Rating:7.85 Overall Rank:51]
Ben
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Games Played:
.10! Twilight Struggle (x2)
.10! Brass: Lancashire
.10! Dominant Species
_9_ Goa
_8_ Dominion (x6)
_7_ Parade
_6_ Attika
_4_ Alea Iacta Est
_4_ Citadels


Gaming Notes:
Sorry for the delay in posting. It's been a great week of gaming followed by a busy couple of days. As far as discussion, I'm going to attempt to continue with last week's experiment of add one new topic to this item each night in order to keep the conversation and the workload spread out throughout the week. I assume everyone gets the updates when I edit the entry, but should I put them in the comments, too?

Standard caveats apply: feel free to post as normal; ask questions, make snarky comments, and link to pictures of Steve Martin with a pancake on his head.

Monday:
Goa - So much good (and a little bad) gaming this week, I don't know where to begin. I broke in my copy of Goa this weekend via a two-player game with a good friend. I have to admit, I was pretty nervous punching such a valuable item; it's the closest I've come to a grail game. This was my second session of the game, and even with just two players, it has reinforced my love of the game. Despite getting some great gaming in, this might have been my most enjoyable experience of the week (although not the best game session, if that makes any sense). I've bumped it up to a _9_, and it's now approaching Top 10 territory. I'm eager to try it with my wife and to see how it holds up.
Jeff Coyle
United States
Seabrook
South Carolina
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I have to give credit to Jeff for selling the game and being great to work with in the process. He allowed me to charge shipping to my FedEx account (usually saves $5 or so), and sent a flawless game for a reasonable price. It was just like opening a brand new copy.

My one hesitation about purchasing the game was the knowledge that the impending reprint is planning to fix the common concerns over the power of the expedition track. I had assumed that I would not be good enough at the game to really notice or take advantage of any imbalance. And while I don't notice an imbalance yet, the first words out of my opponent's mouth (after I drubbed him thoroughly) were, "I think the card track is overpowered." His rationale was that the cards offer VP that aren't available any other way, while the other skills (ships, money, spices, etc.) can be substituted for through well-planned purchases and expedition cards. I'm not sure I fully agree with him (and I don't really want to know yet; let me have my baby for a while), but it does seem like a reasonable critique.

I can't imagine this game getting dull any time soon, even though it doesn't have the sort of endless variability of many other top games. It's just a really great game in that straightforward Euro category that includes things like the The Princes of Florence and Endeavor. I would encourage those of you who haven't tried it to do so. I'm certainly glad I had the chance.


Tuesday:
Dominant Species - Although Goa was the highlight of the week for me in a personal sense, Dominant Species was unquestionably the best game session.

It was a three-player game (my first with that count) with one new player. The three-player game worked surprisingly well. I was worried that too many action pawns would mean that we would be less reliant on other players to do our dirty work. I was also concerned that the low player count would make the distinctions between many tile types vanish. Although both concerns were true to a minor extent, they never impeded my enjoyment of the game.

Even though one player was a true novice, we all remained competitive throughout. Both of my opponents made some particularly clever moves (that you just know I will be stealing next time). I took an early lead (in part as a teaching tool for the new player to understand the power of various options), was reigned in, passed, and then made a reasonable comeback during the Ice Age scoring. We were all within about 6 points of each other at the beginning of final scoring.

Because of the order in which we conducted final scoring, the other experienced player leapt out to a seemingly insurmountable lead. I slowly crept back into the picture, however, as we moved toward the side of the earth that I primarily occupied. Even still, my hopes had rested on my majority in a sea and savannah, but both were scored and I was still two points behind. All that left was a meaningless mountain...in which...I was all alone. I was all alone!!

"Three points for yellow," I announced solemnly. My opponent reached for the score track, hesitated, looked back across the board, looked back at the score track, and I watched his heart fall. "THREE POINTS FOR YELLOW!!!" I hollered exuberantly, leaping out of my seat and into the air before skipping about the room like a 5-year-old on a wooden mophorse.

People often wonder why I enjoy long, hard, tense games. This is why. No matter how well designed -- how balanced, how clever, how colorful -- no forty-five minute game can carry such emotional power. That Dominant Species carries it on the thinnest knife's edge is all the better. People often wonder why I advocate epic games. This is why.


Thursday:
Brass: Lancashire - I played my first-ever four-player game of Brass: Lancashire last week. It did not go over well. Although four-player is generally considered the game's ideal count, I was dismayed at the loss of control that accompanied the increase in opponents. Most of the skill that I had honed through my two-player sessions was rendered useless in this more unpredictable environment.

All three of my opponents were first-time players, which also led to some very poor decisions, both on their part and on my responses to their play. Not being able to rely on the predictable moves of an experienced opponent left me floundering a little in attempting to implement any sort of plan. At one point late in the Rail Era, I unwisely switched strategies to build two Shipyards only because it irritated me to see them left so open and accessible for so long. (Those who have read my Seeland review know that stalling for Shipyard positioning is one of my favorite moments in a game of two- or three-player Brass). Similarly, I never played two of my Iron Works because players didn't develop at nearly the rate I expected).

Along with this lack of control came a lack of engagement. Waiting for my turn actually felt like downtime, which was something I had never experienced before with Brass. Admittedly, I was playing with a slower group who typically prefers lighter fare (our evening was Citadels, then Brass, then Alea Iacta Est). But it is an extremely disappointing experience to find yourself bored by your favorite game. The whole thing just felt so foreign and unwieldy.

I suspect that I am spoiled by my primarily two- and three-player gaming. With those player counts, turns are snappy and opponent monitoring is relatively easy (almost regardless of game). Here, I found myself forgetting turn order, forgetting which player was which color, and even forgetting my planned moves while waiting for my turn.

I suspect that most of the disappointment in this session falls on our group, and the rest falls on my personal gaming comfort zone. I had some similarly rough moments last night in my first-ever four-player game of Key Market (also with three new players), a game that I love no less as a consequence. The best games simply require a commitment to develop proficiency, and that proficiency may both be group- and player-count specific. I am acutely aware of all of that. But it was nonetheless sad to see my much-beloved number one game stretched and prodded by clumsy hands (my own included), and to not survive the experience with its dignity intact.


(Sort of) Non-Gaming Notes:

I was somewhat disappointed with my math trade haul this time around. I'm getting Odin's Ravens, Gonzaga, and Samurai for First Train to Nuremberg, Small World, and a gift card. Shipping was more costly than I planned for (my recipients were in Arizona and Oregon), and I am losing some equity, in terms of re-sale value.

I really hope Odin's Ravens and/or Gonzaga is a winner. Samurai was a mistake. It's a game that I like a lot, but it's one that I can't see my wife liking (I had put Attika in the math trade because she doesn't like it for the same reasons I don't expect her to like Samurai). At best, it takes some table time away from Seeland and gets played occasionally at game days.

Odin's Ravens is something I've wanted to play since reading Jack's review in my first week on the Geek. But the 30-minute two-player titles are starting to pile up around our house, and are usually eschewed for something three times as long and meatier. I should really stop trying to fill a need that I don't seem to have.

Gonzaga was an impulse add based on a recent discussion with Jon. I've had my eye on it for a long time, but I've not so much as read the rules and the ratings and weight had mostly kept me away. It's probably the title I'm most optimistic about in this haul, however. Keep your fingers crossed for me.


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