GCL Amoeba 43 - Amoebae ain't afraid of no ghost
Jason Reid
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This week's Amoeba discussion list is brought to you by all of the spooooky ancestor veneration celebrations that take hold over a goodly portion of the planet over the next few days. Non-trolling comments from non-members are welcome and encouraged!


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1. Board Game: Zombies!!! [Average Rating:5.83 Overall Rank:5258] [Average Rating:5.83 Unranked]
Jason Reid
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Brooklyn
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Some neopagans observe Samhain (Oct. 31) as the night when the veil between the worlds of Life and Afterlife is at its thinnest, permitting the spirits of our ancestors to walk freely among us.


Question
Are there any old titles or genres that you've found yourself playing again recently? Any there games that have been "resurrected" in your game groups?

Ahem, and do any of those titles happen to be zombies that you'd love to shoot in the head and bury permanently?
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2. Board Game: Die Kürbiskopf-Bande [Average Rating:5.81 Unranked]
Jason Reid
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"Trick-or-treating" (or "Guising") is an activity gleefully engaged in by children (and some adults) on Halloween night (Oct 31). Dressed in costume, they travel from house to house, threatening their neighbors with a mischievous "trick" if they aren't provided with a sweet "treat".


Question
Have you ever felt "tricked" in a boardgame trade or purchase (whether of a new or used game)? Ever not get what you expected but felt stuck with the result? Ever naively make a terrible trade, one that almost certainly left the other party cackling with glee?

ALTERNATELY

Tell the story of an in-game "trick" you once played on opponent, or of a trick once played on you!
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3. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:331] [Average Rating:7.19 Unranked]
Jason Reid
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In some countries, November 1-2 are celebrated as All Saints' Day and All Soul's Day, or the Day of the Dead. On those days it is customary to, among other things, fondly commemorate the departed.


Question
Are there any games that you've traded away or sold that you'd like to say something nice about? Are there any games that you played during your formative years as a gamer, that maybe don't hit the table so often any more, but that you feel are worthy of a few kind words?
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4. Board Game: Prêt-à-Porter [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:1149]
Jason Reid
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Costumes!

What character (or other object) from a board game would you most like to be dressed up as at a Halloween party?
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5. Board Game: Hand of Fate Fortune Telling Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Jason Reid
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A number of traditions associated with Halloween center around divination of the future. Examples are consumption of the barmbrack (trinket cake) and the tradition of bobbing for apples.


Question
So I guess it's as good a week as any...does anyone have any predictions for the future of boardgaming that they'd like to share? Personal predictions, global trends, near-term, long-term...anything goes!
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6. Board Game: Felicity: The Cat in the Sack [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1240]
Jason Reid
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1x Botswana
1x Felicity: The Cat in the Sack


As anticipated, I got in a paltry amount of gaming this week. The reason being that I was administering and attending a pretty intense week-long training event for my whole company. Extremely tiring but educational week.

We did have a beer, barbecue, and boardgames night on Thursday. But with mostly mushy brains, the only things I was up for teaching were some light card games. I played Botswana with 5 players (lost) and Felix with 4 (won). After that I mostly drank beer and ate ribs.

This weekend has been for catching up on sleep, catching up on time with my family, and preparing this GeekList
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7. Board Game: Urban Sprawl [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1436]
Jesse Dean
United States
Chicago
IL
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Yomi 3
Ascending Empires 2
Urban Sprawl 2
Belfort 1
Brass 1
The Manhattan Project 1
Summoner Wars: Master Set 1
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8. Board Game: Urban Sprawl [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1436]
jbrier
United States
Aventura
Florida
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2x Urban Sprawl
2x Napoleon's Triumph
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9. Board Game: Vanuatu [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:754]
 

Eugene
Oregon
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Played this week

Big post-Essen gaming gluttony

Brass: Lancashire x 2
Vanuatu x 2
Colonial: Europe's Empires Overseas
Walnut Grove
PAX
Reef Encounter
Babel
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork
King's Breakfast
Foppen
Olix
Eclipse
Old Men of the Forest
The Rose King

The friend I've been instructing in Brass: Lancashire is now comfortably up to speed and ready to take me and Anna on in multiplayer.

Talked about Vanuatu in last week's list. Best of the Essen batch for me so far. I'm pretty much convinced the character cards are pure euro hand holding. Don't bother with them when you all eventually try it. Just jump into the deep blue water!

Speaking of euro, don't mistake Colonial: Europe's Empires Overseas for epic AT fare. This is a 90 minute multipath to victory euro race with a bit of dice chucking. I'd be willing to try it again, but it might just be a pretty face with little substance.

Get the hell out of Walnut Grove, you're no longer welcome! Did they change the name to keep this game from sounding like the milktoast thing it is? If Carcassonne is too cutthroat for your group, Walnut Grove is the game you've been waiting for. Virtually zero player interaction! Still, it's a fun and fluffy euro puzzle.

PAX is neat. King's Breakfast meets Biblios.

I'm beginning to suspect that Reef Encounter is far overrated. Played a 2p game that lasted about 25 minutes. It was over in less time than it took to refresh ourselves of the rules! With so few turns, is it all about the random tile draws? I ended up winning by one point, eating only two corals total. It all hinged on my fortuitous drawing of two polyps of the same and right color at the end of my next-to-last turn.

Haven't played Babel in a while. It's really good and mean.

If Discworld: Ankh-Morpork were put out by Steve Jackson, I wouldn't give it the time of day. But it's Wallace, so I gave it due courtesy. It's got everything going against it: Secret personal endgame goals, card combos, cosmic zaps, take-that, and chaos left and right. That said, I'd play it again. It's freaking Wallace!

Finally got to try Foppen, with four. Better than most of the other Friese games I've played. Simple trick taking game with the unique twist that the loser of a trick sits out the next trick. I'd like to try it with 5 or even 6.

Obscuro-Knizia alert! Olix is Knizia's take on Go-Moku. No randomness 2p abstract strategy that can be explained in a minute. Players take turns putting pieces out on the 11 x 11 board trying to form patterns that resemble the letters of the word Olix -- circles, straights, L's, and diagonals. Really neat Battle Line style zero-sum scoring. Well worth printing out a board and trying.

Lorna lugged back Eclipse from Essen, and my first response was, "What in god's name is this?" Well, what it is is your standard 4X game with Through the Ages player board bookkeeping. And plastic space jets and dice in three colors. Much like Antiquity, you're pretty much on your own for most of the game, but everything builds to a big face off at the end, when you finally get to put your opponents in the cross hairs and employ all that tech you've been researching the whole game. Good for what it is.

Old Men of the Forest is more light Wallace, a card game that reminds me a bit of Nicht die Bohne!, but with VP purchases with the cards you win.

Played The Rose King 4p partnership on the recommendation of Joe Huber. Fun! Remember, no communication!
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10. Board Game: The Manhattan Project [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:255]
Tim Seitz
United States
Glen Allen
VA
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Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14
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4x The Manhattan Project
3x Eminent Domain
3x JAB: Realtime Boxing
2x Chicken Cha Cha Cha

Lots of The Manhattan Project. Played with 4, 3, and 2. One of the sessions has been getting quite a bit of airtime:

First game with three: is kingmaking avoidable?, and
A variant to fix the well-known "there are no mutants in this game" problem

In those threads John seems a little upset that I bombed the !@#$ out of him just as he was about to win. Interested parties can get a run down of those games in those threads. I am writing a review of it which will be done in the next couple of days - and I already have The Perfect Title for it. (I know people don't eagerly await my pronouncements, but here it comes all the same!)

A few more games of Eminent Domain. My 8 year old can't get enough of it. Shows what letting him win a game or two does for his gameplaying motivation. (Not that I would ever do that, he won fair and square.) I invited some friends to show up the the FLGS gameday and they did, so we played some EmDo. She won in her first game. I thought I had it wrapped up, so I ended it early, but there were still players to go after me and they enabled her to settle and attack on her turn, adding 8 VPs (1/3 of her total).

JAB: Realtime Boxing continues to be an awesome little game. So much fun, and so many ways to play. Jason has gotten where he can regularly connect with haymakers, which makes playing him much more dangerous. He almost got a knockout victory.

Gabbie (age 6) wanted some 2-player Chicken Cha Cha Cha against Daddy - which I thought was crazy; there's no way she's going to beat me. I discovered I have a memory weakness. I am unstoppable for one play. But on the second play, I can't remember the positions to save my life. The double inputs overflow the RAM cache. We played with a handicap: I spotted her 6 tiles, but she won all the same!

The rest of the weekend was spent at a swim meet where all 3 swimmers had events on Fri, Sat, and Sun! Oh noes.

My UFC 137 party was a big success; the pizza I made was awesome and so were the fights. The faithful will be rewarded with Diaz-GSP come Superbowl weekend.
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11. Board Game: The Kids of Catan [Average Rating:5.29 Overall Rank:17161]
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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3 x _7_The Kids of Catan
1 x _7_Die Siedler von Catan: Junior
1 x _8_The Magic Labyrinth
1 x _7_Cartel
1 x _6_Dream Factory

I had to miss the Thursday games last week, but fortunately had a game session yesterday.

A second game of Cartel turned out a lucky win for me. I had the best start possible, pretty much, and got my first (and only) four-company combo on round three. Can't lose from a position like that. That's just obscene.

A friend was complaining about his cards and the game a lot, but he did manage to finish second, beating the other player with huge income during the game. He hasn't rated the game yet; I'm expecting 4 or 5... I might bump my rating to 8, because despite the luck issues, Cartel is an intriguing game of debt vs expansion. Our game took just 60 minutes, which is another plus.

Dream Factory... As I said, my previous play was in 2003, back in FinDipCon V. Back in FinDipCon V, I played Ohne Furcht und Adel with this nice French guy, who had come to Finland to play Diplomacy. His name? William Attia.

It was fun to take a look at my blog entries for FinDipCon V and see what I had played back then. Not many games that I still play.

Kids from Catan is pretty much a non-game, a lottery that will play the same whether the players are present or not. It, however, has one huge saving grace, and that's the fact that my daughter likes it. She's two, soon three, and right now her future seems bright - she likes games.

But indeed, there's very little game in the box of Kids from Catan. I can come up with couple of variants to fix that, but I expect she'll graduate to something smarter in a year or two. There'll be other options available (the board game shelf in our kids' room contains ~50 titles, with Zoch, HABA and Kosmos providing large part of it and traditional children's garbage only tiny bit; they'll be so spoiled).
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12. Board Game: Colonial: Europe's Empires Overseas [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:1780]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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Games Played:

Monday night: 18West

Wednesday night: In The Napoleonic Wars (Second Edition) the monster faceoff between the Russian/Austrian Grand Army and Napoleon's forces finally happened, and turned into a rout, with Napoleon losing more than half of his forces. (In this system huge evenly-matched battles are likelier to turn into devastation for one side.) Meanwhile, Austria made a pact with Prussia just in time, and with the help of the Russian-dominated Turks, was barely able to remain independent in the face of French invaders. At year-end, Russia was winning and spent a precious card from the next year to have a 1/3 chance of the game ending instead of 1/6 chance. The game continued, and Austria demonstrated its loyalty and gratitude by flipping its loyalty to the French, leaving the huge Russian army stranded on a tiny pocket of flags deep inside what is now hostile territory. Good times.

Thursday night:
IGOR: The Mad Scientist's Lament (4p, first and hopefully last play) Heavily chaotic and luck-driven.
Kill Doctor Lucky (3p, first play) You can do clever things but it's mostly the luck of the cards.

Friday night:
Power Grid: Korea 4p with the amusement park cards.
Fuel is crushingly expensive on this map. The game ended when someone built to 17 powering 15 fr the win.

Saturday:
Colonial: Europe's Empires Overseas (5p, first play for all) As discussed, rules errors and all.
Symbioz (4p, first play for all) Nearly Go-like in its simplicity, a game of planning and forking and then dogpiling the person about to win. Dave E. came from behind by cleverly setting himself up where only his right-hand opponent could harm him.
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13. Board Game: Urban Sprawl [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1436]
Jerry Hagen
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
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_9_ Brass 1
_8_ Urban Sprawl 1

About Brass, I don't think any more need be said.

So I ended up playing Urban Sprawl instead of Agricola. The game was already set up when I arrived at game night, a rules explainer was needed, and my wife was able to find three others for Agricola without me included.

I have an emotional reaction to Urban Sprawl. I don't doubt that one could see the chaos as unsatisfyingly difficult to manage. Ordinarily perhaps this would have made it impossible for the game to sustain my interest for more than 10 plays.

Except for one thing. You get to build a freaking city.

I have been known on occasion to stay up far later than I should playing video games. Not as often now that I am a parent, as the luxury of sleeping past 8:00 AM presents itself maybe 10 days a year these days. But certainly in the past. The first game I did this with was SimCity 2000, on my parents' at the time brand-new 486SX-33. (With 424 MB of hard disk! How could one ever imagine using all that storage?) We got the PC the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, and my summer job was as an afternoon shift cashier at a gas station, so I didn't have to be up until late morning most days. I played the hell out of SC2K, making it a habit to go to bed after 4:00 AM many nights. It was the game that wouldn't stop giving. If I'd been less lazy in my undergraduate studies it might have launched me into a career in urban planning.

I can't expect a board game to be as detailed as a PC game, even one from the mid-1990s, but within the limitations of its medium, Urban Sprawl's thematic integration is fantastic. I'll be expanding on this in a later post and perhaps a review, but it's enough to bump a game I would otherwise rate a 7-8 (like it, have some motivation to play, not among the upper tier of games) into a solid 8, perhaps a 9.

Having played as many games as I have it takes something special to jolt me from jaded to fully engaged. I don't doubt that when Jesse publishes his critiques of the system they will ring true to me, but surprisingly I'm finding that it doesn't bother me much.
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14. Board Game: Urban Sprawl [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1436]
Jesse Dean
United States
Chicago
IL
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A noticeable proportion of us played Urban Sprawl this week. It would probably be worthwhile for us to consolidate our discussion of the game on one item.
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15. Board Game: Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:1060]
Jevon Heath
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
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_8_ 2x Call of Cthulhu
_8_ 1x Boggle
_6_ 1x Glory to Rome

Cthulhu deck tuning proceeds gradually. I am too good at Boggle for words. Glory to Rome I've forgotten how to teach.
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16. Board Game: Vanuatu [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:754]
 
Jens KH
Germany
Karben
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Essen has (quite expectedly) taken over. I'm not yet convinced that's a good thing, but at least I've regained my faith that something good can come out of 2011.

Games played

2x _8_ Vanuatu
1x .10. Agricola
1x _7_ Blokus Trigon
1x _6_ Charon Inc.
1x _5_ Glory to Rome
1x _5_ Power Grid: The First Sparks
1x _7_ Race for the Galaxy
1x _4_ Tournay

I already discussed Vanuatu a bit on last week's list. I played again yesterday (with the characters), and I'm starting to wonder how the hell you're supposed to earn money in the character-less game. Sure the first two players going for fish probably won't have a problem, but everyone else? Hm. I just might need to try.

Tournay is a fairly uninspired attempt to cash in on the success of Troyes last year if you ask me. You buy cards, you play cards to your city district, and you use your workers to activate those buildings in order to optimise resource allocation and/or score points. In between there is a lot of idle time when your workers run out, when events damage your buildings and delay your plans, or when you simply don't draw any useful cards. To properly exploit card combinations you need to know the deck and get a little lucky, and the events add another hardly plannable factor. Meh!

The First Sparks: Shaving off a little game time from Power Grid and cutting down on the sometimes overbearing calculation a little seems like a good idea. The defining element of the original is, of course, the power plant auction. Now imagine you drop the auction and replace it with a simple pick with priority going to the last player. What's left? Not that much. The game now centers entirely around the struggle for turn order advantage which, in my opinion, was one of the weak parts of the original already.

Blokus Trigon is a nice little abstract somewhere in the ballpark of Ingenious, but less idly comfortable and more actively confrontational. I hadn't played any of the Blokus variants before.

Charon was a recent acquisition of mine from Essen, and it was mostly on my radar thanks to John's lobbying. It is basically the auction lifted from Hermagor, transplanted to another setting and slightly reworked. It doesn't quite reach the heights of the original, mostly because of two reasons: Placement is free. Where you had to pay money to place your tokens depending on how influential the locations were you can now place your flags for free which makes some locations clearly better than others. There is no immediate payout according to your placements, either.

The second, and most likely more important reason, however, is that in Hermagor there was always stuff you didn't need, which meant that the lots were worth different amounts to different players. In Charon this has been watered down considerably, and the similarity of the building cards usually boils down simply to "more is better."

I'm not warming to GtR. I think I had a much better grasp on things than in my first play (and ended up second instead of last) but it still felt much like a fairly pointless exercise without rhyme or reason. Not one for me, I guess.

And in my unending quest to make room for Essen purchases I let go of Yggdrasil, then got Mü & Lots More instead. Sigh. This isn't working right.
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17. Board Game: Crokinole [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:75]
James Ludlow
United States
Saint Louis Park
Minnesota
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Played last week

3x Crokinole
3x Go
1x Tichu
1x Troyes

Mostly gaming with family members, and a few Go games thrown in for good measure.
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18. Board Game: 18EU [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:2521]
Peter Mumford
United States
Somerville
Massachusetts
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1x 18EU
1x Traumfabrik
4x Chess

18EU continues to interest us at the MS 18XX group. It has only been two plays, and we're still exploring the potential in this game. I love how intensely strategic it is: from the very first minor that goes up for bidding, you have to make critical decisions that affect your next four hours! The question is whether it is tactical enough to balance the auction.. maybe after a third play I'll write a review.

Also, this is a small point, but I love the curious constraints of the tileset. It is not nearly as open as it would seem at first glance (with Lawson track), and its very different from the 1830-style tiles that I'm more used to.

Chess post of the week:

White to move.
Timman-Kramnik, Riga, 1995. This position is in The Mammoth Book of Chess, by Graham Burgess, in the chapter Attack and Defense. Black has just captured the e pawn with his bishop.

Lets keep discussion in the chess section, so non-amoebae chess enthusiasts can participate.
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19. Board Game: Eminent Domain [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:477]
United Kingdom
Southampton
Hampshire
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Tues
Railways of the Western U.S. (New to me, 6 player, won)
Puerto Rico (4 player)
Samarkand: Routes to Riches (3 player, won)

Weds
18AL part 2 (I wrote this up under last weeks item, 5 player, won)
Blokus 3d (3 player)

Sat
Get Bit!.(New to me, 3 player, won)
Eminent Domain (New to me, 4 player)
Saboteur (5 player)

On Saturday I went to the www.boardgameextras.co.uk Southampton Games Day. He does these every 6 months or so at a community centre, and it's an opportunity to play Demo copies of games, buy games, card sleeves and spare parts. I tried a couple of new games, but neither were 'must haves', all I bought was 31 wooden cubes (orange) for El Grande/Print and Play/Prototyping.




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20. Board Game: Intrigue [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:2008]
Carlos Moreno Serrano
United Kingdom
Guildford
Surrey
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Join us every Tuesday night at the Woking Gaming Club!
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Interested in knowing in which games I'm working at the moment? Send me a geekmail to discover!
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_7_Intrigue x 1

Last week I only played 1 game of Intrigue and it was left unfinished due to one of us having to leave due to an emergency with his sick son.

I quite liked Intrigue and I will play it often. It is fairly quick and easy to "get".

Tonight I'll probably play Dungeon Petz. I'm excited about it, I hope it's fun.
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21. Board Game: The Gold Rush [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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Just imagine the red offboard up here. I'll create it Real Soon Now...
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Yes, I know a proper 18XX tile should have a tile number.
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Golden Geek Award nominees have been announced.

Fortunately, 7 Wonders was not nominated as the Strategy Game of the Year.

The 3 nominees were:
Dominant Species
Navegador
Troyes

If you can pry your mind away from this year's Essen crop, which one(s) did you vote for, and why? Which one do you think will win? Would you have predicted this half a year ago?

What do you think will win as overall Board Game of the Year? Which would you vote for (one of the nominees, or something else?)

Does the Golden Geek award really matter, anyway?
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22. Board Game: Kings of Air and Steam [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:1574]
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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So, any interest in this one? I decided to go forward and back it, since the six-game bundle is rather cost-effective, the game seems interesting and I have enough trust on Tasty Minstrel (even if I haven't seem my Eminent Domain yet).

I've skimmed through the rules, but I'm not very good at getting impressions about games from just reading the rules, so don't know yet... but pick up and deliver sounds good, airships and steampunk sounds good, family game and gamer's game variants sounds good.
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