EuroQuest 2011 Recap
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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EuroQuest is my favorite gaming event of the year. Of course, I am biased as I am one of the original co-founders and have served as a convention director for the past four years. This year we surpassed the 300 attendance level for the first time. For more stats, who won what, see the following post at the EuroQuest Guild here on BGG:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/721991/euroquest-2011-wrap-u...

This list, like others in the past, will focus on the games I played and who I played with. Unlike past years, this year the majority of games I played were in open gaming. In fact, I only entered two main event tournaments (four games in total) and played just six games in the "Wild Card" event which is kind of a cross between tournaments and open gaming.

For prior GeekLists by me concerning EuroQuest, see:

http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/60818/2010-euroquest-recap
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/48656/euroquest-vii-re...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/36585/euroquest-vi-gam...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/26193/euroquest-v-reca...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/17574/euroquest-iv-rec...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/11572/euroquest-iii-re...

Summary: Wound up playing 29 games (including two demos) with at least 50 different people. As at prior conventions, the person I played the most with was Kevin Walsh (eight games).
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1. Board Game: Urban Sprawl [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1436]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Arrived at the hotel on Wed. afternoon to work being done to install new doors on the meeting room (i.e. the Preakness Ballroom at the Hilton Pikesville). In fact, most of our setup took place while work was still going on. By this time a small crowd of early arrivals had gathered for some open gaming.

I had just received my pre-reg copy of this highly-anticipated GMT release just a few days before the con, even though GMT had seen fit to bill my credit card as early as October 4th. Was eager to give it a try, and Rich Shay and Rob Kircher joined in for a three-player game. Gameplay flowed smoothly, although it did seem a bit long. (Turned out I found out I had a rule wrong -- something I discovered only later in the week.)

Rich pulled ahead around midway through the game and held on for the win. Rob, who started slowly, was gaining on both of us but still finished last.
 
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2. Board Game: Black Friday [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:2109]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Played with Bob Cranshaw, Beth, Dave and Kevin Walsh. Bob and Dave were new to the game while the rest had played before. Bob seemed to pick up on the game's nuances and won. I sold out all my stocks too early and fell behind as others managed to reap profits to work in an extra silver buy or two.
 
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3. Board Game: Lancaster [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:283]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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First time play for me, the others were Rob and Kevin. Fairly sure I came in last. The game finally clicked about halfway through, a bit too late for me to be more competitive. Want to try it again, would say this game is a probable buy for me at this point.
 
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4. Board Game: Martian Dice [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:2069]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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After the Lancaster game, it was getting fairly late, so Rob (who is a big tournament player) decided to head off to bed, while the night-owls (Kevin and myself) stuck around for a final, quick game -- Martian Dice. Don't recall the specific scores, but Kevin crushed me. There may have been a third player, but my notes don't reflect this.
 
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5. Board Game: Helvetia [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:1132]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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After a nice buffet breakfast at the hotel restaurant, it was time to get ready for the official opening of the convention on Thursday at 11 AM. Now, I was waiting around for my first event (Princes of Florence) to start and saw Kurt Runco and his gaming buddy setting up Helvetia, and I was pleasantly surprised to see they had secured a copy in time for EQ. At some point, I got distracted and pulled away with some convention director duties and missed most of the explanation. I surrendered my seat to a new arrival who seemed a bit more attentive. Although I didn't get to stick to a full game, have to admit that the game did look interesting, one I would like to try.
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6. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:146]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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I had decided to stick to a schedule for at least the first part of the day on Thursday, so first up was a 12:30 PM heat of an old favorite, Princes of Florence. It was a tough draw, as are many opening round heats at EuroQuest, as I faced Eric Freeman, a former WBC winner, along with two guys I had played with before (Eric Sokolowsky and Greg Shirah) with Pat Onufrak as the game's fifth player. I played a solid enough game to finish second, sandwiched between the two Erics (Sokolowsky, the winner; one ahead of Eric Freeman).

Later on in the week, I was pleased to learn that Eric Sokolowsky had reached the final of the Princes tournament, played on Saturday morning. Eric finished second overall to win a plaque. Since the winner was one of the two Israeli gamers who attended EuroQuest for the first time, I joked that Eric was "best in class" or the "top USA player" in the field.

Eric was also on my GCOM-Laurel team, along with Mike Brazinski, which meant our team stood in the top five in the team standings for quite some time.
 
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7. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:22]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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First heat, scheduled right after the Princes heat finished. Since I had done well at PR tournaments in the past, I felt this was my best chance at advancing, so I penciled in a couple of heats this year. The random draw placed me at a game with Pat (once again), Kevin Gardner and Tim Carnahan, a guy I have known for a long time who has been a regular at my local game club. Pat drew the favored first corn (#3) seat and played a strong game, not much I could do about it from the less favored #2 indigo seat. It was fairly close for second, but Kevin figured out the right move on the final turn, which allowed Pat to pull further ahead while allowing him to make sure I was dropped to third.

Would have to play another heat and hope to win in order to advance.
 
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8. Board Game: Troyes [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:67]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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I had volunteered to demo this game, which was a new addition as part of the Wild Card tournament. One quandary we had in putting it in was what time class for the game, as the 90 minutes listed on the box always seemed too short, as I have seen four-player games drag on for almost three hours. We finally decided to go with the longer, Class A (2.5 hr per game) category.

Based on the length of the demo, we made the right call. Had three or four players who were new to the game attend, and we barely finished one turn before picking up the game at just over an hour into the demo.

I did not play Troyes at EQ after this, but later I learned that Troyes had the most play (according to the number of completed scoresheets) of any of the longer Class A games in the Wild Card fare.
 
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9. Board Game: Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:139]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This year we included a new feature on the EuroQuest schedule, which had several game designers demoing their own recently released or prototype games. The first of these on the agenda was Matt Calkins' recently released prototype, Sekigahara. After a brief rules explanation, we paired up into about four different games. I wound up paired with Matt, which suited me fine as, since he was the game designer, there would be no rules issues, plus I would have plenty of time to figure out my moves while Matt made the rounds to make sure all the other games were running smoothly.

I made a relatively aggressive move as the Tokugawa player early on, laying siege to the castle near Gifu. Took the castle by the start of turn two, but by then Matt had concentrated his forces and won a big battle that destroyed three blocks, including my one "4" guy. Tokugawa, left alone, high-tailed it back down the main road to some quickly massing reinforcements, barely averting an early defeat as Matt, as the Ishida player, lacked the movement to pursue.

Managed to slug it out with Matt for a couple of more turns, going back and forth, but lost a close 19-18 battle which kind of crippled my force. Then, on turn five, Matt attacked and -- despite a pair of Loyalty cards in hand -- I managed to go down to a glorious defeat and congratulated Matt on his win.

Matt was nice enough to sign my copy of the game and, even nicer, he donated a copy to the Thursday night prize drawing.
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10. Board Game: Power Grid: The First Sparks [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:1024]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Another aspect of the convention was the demo of new games, and this was one we were fortunate enough to have on hand from an EQ regular who happened to be at Essen this year. Jeff Thornsen, who had volunteered to demo the game later in the week, decided to test it out, and Matt (the Sekigahara designer), Donna Dearborn, Brian Stallings and I were his guinea pigs. Turned out I never got a spear to kill any mammoths and no bow to hunt bear until late in the game, so I finished just a little bit behind Jeff at 13. Matt and Donna were the top two, each at 14, while Brian came in last with 12.

Interesting game, like the concept of a quick-playing Power Grid-style game that plays in about an hour with alot less math.
 
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11. Board Game: Space Maze [Average Rating:5.87 Overall Rank:8287]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Once again, things were getting late, but time for one more game. So, another one of the Essen game demo volunteers, Eric Haas, roped Kevin and I, along with a guy from Va, first name Scott, for a four-player game of this recent Essen release -- one of eight new Essen games that Alliance Game Distributors had made available for EQ this year.

Turned out that Kevin and I were the only one to get our robots in position to take the tin hat, and I managed to rotate some tiles to move it toward my bot - boat. Although it took a few more turns, I managed to escape with the "flag," winning the game.

Victory in this late-night game started me on a big winning streak that carried into the next day.
 
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12. Board Game: Vegas Showdown [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:469]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Friday AM started with one of my favorites, Vegas Showdown, which was returning to EQ as part of the Wild Card games. Opposing me were Eric and James Freeman -- against whom I have played this particular game at the past three to four EQs -- and a newcomer, Andrew Emerick. Things got off to a fairly good start, and I seemed to be in contention on both the scoreboard and in the endgame bonus scoring (dollar signs and people). Still, it was a fairly close finish, but I managed to take first with Eric in second and Andrew in third.

This turned out to be a kind of a high point of the convention for me, as the two players I defeated (Eric and Andrew) came in 1-2 in the overall Wild Card points standings (Andrew taking first ahead of Eric, who had compiled an impressive four-year winning streak that ended this year).
 
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13. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:22]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Next up for me was the second heat of Puerto Rico, and another chance to qualify for elimination round play and the semifinals. My opponents were Kevin Gardner (same guy as in heat one), Steve Schroeder and John Barringer. This time I drew at corn seat (#4) and started relatively well as the Small Market was left for me in the first Builder phase. Unlike most games where I pursue a builder or more balanced strategy, in this game I got an early Harbor, added a Small Warehouse and racked up 35 shipping points en route to a fairly comfortable win with John B. in second.

Now, with 16 spots in the semifinals, a first and a third would normally be good enough to advance, but this year there had been a stronger than expected turnout, so it would be close call as to whether or not these results would be sufficient to advance. However, for me, there would be no more main event tourneys (except possibly a Puerto Rico elimination round game).
 
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14. Board Game: Automobile [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:377]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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I ran into Jeremy, who I had played several games both last year at EQ and this year at WBC, and was able to work in a Wild Card game with Jeremy, Justin Morgan and Brian Waterhouse -- with Brian being new to the game. The game went well for me, and I came out the winner with around 3800 -- a lower than usual winning score for a 4-player game -- but it was enough to win as there had been alot of overproducing during the game. Jeremy was second. Jeremy had finished third in this year's WBC final, while I had been third in last year's final, so it was an appropriate result from my standpoint.

I really like Automobile, think it's the best of all of Wallace's designs. Thus, it was unfortunate news to learn that there was only one more game of Automobile played as part of the Wild Card event at EQ this year, meaning it could well get dropped next time around.
 
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15. Board Game: Eminent Domain [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:477]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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I had a nice four-game winning streak going, and there was some down time before the next round of longer games (a "designer demo" starting around 7:30 PM), so I ran into Kevin along with two guys from my local Laurel club, Tim and Neville. Offered to teach them this new Tasty Minstrel release that been the latest addition to the Wild Card list of games at EQ 2011, i.e., the "Hot New Wild Card game" for this year. Decided not to fill out a scoresheet as it was more of a teaching demo for the new players. Thus, we didnt' track scores, but I seem to recall finishing first, with Neville second.

I enjoy Eminent Domain as a light, quick filler, although it may not have a great replay value over time. Kudos to Tasty Minstrel for donating several copies of the game (along with other recent releases) for this year's EQ.
 
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16. Board Game: Martian Dice [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:2069]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Another quick game of Martian Dice, not sure who the other players were, but I believe it included Kevin and Neville from the previous Eminent Domain game. Fairly sure Kevin won again, as he seemed to have a knack for avoiding early tanks and several 9-point turns.

So, my little five-game winning streak that went back to the late night Space Maze game came to an end.
 
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17. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:2466]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Matt, the Sekigahara designer, had brought a couple of prototype copies of Tin Goose, his game of the early years of the U. S. aviation industry that is now at Rio Grande Games. After receiving a rules summary from Matt, we split into two groups to play the game. The game was set on a map of air routes in the U. S., and each player started with a starting plane which could only do short hops that was vulnerable to crashes and fuel price spikes. Each player started with a hand of cards and played one per turn. Cards could represent an event, like labor strife, crashes, and fuel price spikes, or a new plane, which all players could bid on. Bids were done in Ra style, with the player playing the card having the final bid, except the bidding could go twice around the table.

The game played really well, and scoring was based on some endgame objectives as well as routes developed during the game. I am fairly certain I came in last; other players in my game were John Barringer, Steve Boone and Chris Entwhistle. I always seemed to be the first player to take out a loan, not a good thing in this game.

Enjoyed the game despite my poor performance. Eager to play again, even more eager to see it appear on a Rio Grande publication list. According to Matt, he's hoping for a 2012 or 2013 release date.
 
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18. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:308]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Can't remember the specific timing, but at some point on Friday night I fit in a game of Lost Cities, one of the Wild Card games. My opponent was Rodney Davidson, who had come all the way from Arizona for this year's EuroQuest and had challenged me to a game. Things worked well for me, while Rodney couldn't seem to get going, so I won by a fairly comfortable margin. Good playing with Rodney, who is a really friendly guy and not one of those uber-competitive gamers you hear about.

This made me three-for-three in the Wild Card competition, but I was still far behind the leaders, as I had only played the three games. Plus, for this year, I planned to focus on non-tournament aspects of the convention this year, but still the nice winning streak on Friday was nice.
 
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19. Board Game: Urban Sprawl [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1436]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Second game, played late at night. Opponents were Kevin Walsh, Eric Howard and Doug Mercer. This one turned out well for me as I came from behind for the win, while Doug -- the early leader -- fell back. Kevin complained about the randomness in the game. Not sure Eric and Doug were all that impressed with it, either. Later in the week I learned that I had been playing with a rule wrong -- holding elections for the other offices (other than Mayor) in the Town deck when those offices should not be up for grabs until the City deck. Finally got it right during the Sunday AM demo (see third and final Urban Sprawl entry below).
 
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20. Board Game: Vegas Showdown [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:469]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Another game of Vegas Showdown to start Saturday morning's gaming. Opponents were Eric and Jim Freeman, Rob Flowers and Mike Brazinski. Good to see Rob at EuroQuest, hadn't seen him there for awhile although he's been a regular at WBC. I moved to an early lead, even wound up with the Theater, but petered out in the end to come in fourth in this five-player game. It ended up in a win for Eric, who at this point was desperate to win games in an effort to catch Andrew, who was threatening to end his four-year reign as Wild Card Champion.

Think Vegas Showdown is one of the best Euro-games out there, one that deserves a much higher ranking than it has here on BGG.
 
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21. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:682]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Had time for a quick game of Can't Stop before the Puerto Rico semis which were starting around noon that day (Saturday). Mike Brazinski, Jeremy Oppenheim and Karl Musser were the other players. Mike ran away with the game, going first and taking three numbers to the top before the rest of us could get one.

Can't Stop turned out to be the most played game in the Wild Card event, even topping 7 Wonders (which was a regular tournament as well as a Wild Card game).
 
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22. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:22]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Puerto Rico semi. I was randomly paired with Ben Scholl, Eric Kleist and Nick Keulmann. I had played with Eric before (a game at last year's EQ where I came in last) but was hoping to be more focused this time. We used a bidding for seat position, and I got the #3 (first corn) for 1 VP while Ben got #4 for 1/2 VP -- both bargains, IMHO. Figured that Ben, who had reached the semis at WBC this past August, was my competition and, as the game developed, this was true. I got the Harbor/Small Warehouse combo again (as did Eric), but Ben had an early Factory and then transitioned from a building/money game to a shipping game. Even though I had a Customs House and a Guild Hall, Ben added a Wharf and actually out-shipped me during the course of the game; he beat me by 7-7.5 points in a heavy shipping game.

I was so impressed by the way Ben played that (not even knowing the competition he might be facing) I mentally tipped him to win the final. Turns out he did, but by a very narrow margin (2 on the doubloons/goods tiebreak) over my good gaming buddy from NY, Kevin Walsh. It was Kevin's third final table at PR at EQ in three years, and his second runner-up finish. A real heartbreaker of a result, but I know Kevin will be back. But congrats to Ben, a deserving winner this year.
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23. Board Game: Martian Dice [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:2069]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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The next item on my personal agenda after the Puerto Rico semi was a much awaited demo of Andean Abyss, led by award-winning game designer Volko Ruhnke. However, there was some time to kill (around 20 minutes or so) before the demo, plus we needed to wait for a round table to clear off after a 7 Wonders heat. Time for some more Martian Dice. Opponents were Pete Putnam (KingPut on BGG) and Doug Epperson (VonEpp). We each took a couple of turns and invited Volko (the game designer) to join us. Volko got like 10-11 points in just one turn! Well, no embarrassing loss here for me as we picked up the game once the table cleared off so we could start setting up Andean Abyss.
 
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24. Board Game: Andean Abyss [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:814]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This proved to be one of the highlights of the whole convention for me. Volko, the game designer, had responded quickly to my invitation for him to attend after I had reached him on the recommendation of Mark Mitchell, one of the playtesters for this game who had been raving about it. I had known Volko from Labyrinth, his award-winning design which I had played about 5-6 times since it came out. Once I read some reviews and watched some demos of Andean Abyss, I was intrigued.

The game is about counter-insurgency in the country of Colombia during the years of the drug cartels. It plays multi-player or solo by grafting on some non-player rules which Volko has developed. For our game, all four factions (the Government, the left-wing guerillas, or FARC, the right-wing militias, or AUC, and the drug cartels) were all represented. Since I had read the reviews and a video, Volko assigned me the government, probably a mistake since there was still alot to the game I didn't understand. There was a couple who had turned out to EQ just to see this particular demo, and the woman was apparently some kind of an expert on the history of the drug cartels represented by the game. KingPut and VonEpp assumed the role of the drug lords, while someone named Larry was the AUC militia.

The game is card-driven with a deck of cards being flipped, with four scoring or Propaganda cards mixed in various portions of the deck, similar to games like Alhambra and Union Pacific. The twist, and the really unique element, is the fact that you only see two cards ahead and that a faction could not be active on two consecutive cards. Plus, there is a priority on each card that determines the order in which a faction might act. That, plus there is the option to use an event or an operation, with a decision tree flowing dependent on which option the first active faction might choose, really makes this a truly innovative design, IMHO.

So, how did the game play out? Fairly realistic, I thought. You had to worry about over-extending yourself and figuring out what your priorities were. As the Government in a four-handed game, you generally focused on the FARC but needed to make sure neither of the two remaining factions got too strong, as each had their own victory conditions. Also, had to be careful about political backlash if you went overboard militarily in trying to eradicate enemy bases.

At one point, I was within in a hair's breadth of winning. Same was true for the AUC, and also for the cartels. I believe the turning point was when the couple playing the FARC left, leaving Volko to take over. At this point the game really got competitive, and I believe it ended in a FARC victory -- correction, looks like Pete won the game as the cartels player. Even at the end, I still not feel 100% or even 70% comfortable with all the rules, but the game had a nice feel. Can't wait to see it in publication.

Anwyay, here's a link to a photo of me playing the game with Larry (left) and Pete (back to camera). There's also a nice photo of Larry posing with Volko, the game designer.

http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX?8@873.OaVZcKQsT0t.36@.1dd51...

Volko also brought a copy of Cuba Libre, his next game that is still in development, but we did not have time to examine it closely. I was pleased that he came to make this convention a special one and also pleased and honored to have him sign my copy of Labyrinth.
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25. Board Game: Eminent Domain [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:477]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Another game of Eminent Domain, this one counted in the Wild Card competition. Played with Chris Moffa (the Puerto Rico GM) and Kevin.

Game was won by Chris. I tried a trading strategy that was good enough for second place, think I should have emptied a card pile to end the game sooner.

This turned out to be my final competitive game, either main event tourney or Wild Card, of the convention.
 
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