GCL Meatball Division: Designer Games
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Welcome to this week's Meatball discussion list. Swedish Meatballs is a division of BGG's GameChatLeague. We ask that members only add items to this list. However, polite comments from nonmembers are welcome and encouraged.

* * *

I thought this time around we would look at some of the more popular designers and their most popular games.

I will list their top rated games. We can discuss both the designer and their games, plus list our favourite games by each designer. Members feel free to add any designers you like that I have not included.

* * *

Everyone: Comment on the questions as you like. Members: Also add your games-played-this-week item as usual.

Have fun!

Rotation:
darrinwilliams
qwertymartin
lacxox
bnordeng
Bolger
natestraight
patrick carroll
Dubbelnisse
johnbandettini
osirus < -- Up next
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1. Board Game Designer: Martin Wallace
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United Kingdom
London
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Probably my favourite designer. I have two of Martin's games in my personal top ten and there are several that I rate not that much behind.

Here is what Wikipedia says about him.

Martin Wallace is a game designer from Manchester, England. He is the founder and chief designer of Treefrog (former Warfrog) Games. Wallace is known for designing complex strategy games that depict a variety of historical settings. Two themes he has frequently used are the construction and operation of railroads, and the rise and fall of ancient civilizations. He has developed a reputation for blending elegant European style game mechanics with the strong themes that are more typical of American style games.[1] Many of his games feature economic systems, incorporating rules for income, taxation, and debt.

His top rated games on BGG are:

Brass (8)
Steam (16)
Age of Steam (22)
Railroad Tycoon (42)
A Few Acres of Snow (64)

A lot of train games in there.

I don't like all of his games, but I do like most. Brass and London are the two I have in my top ten.

I don't like Age of Steam. it's too cut throat for me and I hate the turn order auction (which also blights Railroad Tycoon and Railways of the World) it just makes no sense to me theme wise. He probably is the pioneer in variable turn order mechanics, it's rare in one of his games that turn order just moves around the table but for me the first player auction is a failed one. Although I don't mind it too much in Steel Driver, the way it works there seems to fit better.

I could not get on with Byzantium so I sold it, but these are the main exceptions to my Wallace fandom.

Martin's games seem to have been getting a bit lighter recently which I don't see as a bad thing. I was getting a little fed up with tight economic systems where money supply was very limited and multiple loans were always a part of the game.

My personal Martin Wallace top 5 would be:

1. Brass
2. London
3. First Train To Nurnberg
4. Automobile
5. Ankh Morpork
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2. Board Game Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
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London
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I like Uwe too. I don't actually know him, but I like his games. Uwe currently has two games ranked in the top ten on BGG, and if the buzz around his new game (English release delayed) is correct he may have three in the top ten soon.

Here is what Wikipedia says about him.

Uwe Rosenberg (born 27 March 1970 in Aurich, Lower Saxony) is a German game designer. He has become known mainly for his card game Bohnanza, which is successful both in Germany and internationally. He also designed Agricola, a game that dethroned Puerto Rico as the highest rated game on BoardGameGeek.com.
Rosenberg first began to occupy himself with the development and mechanisms of games during his school years. During that time, he published a number of play-by-mail games, some of which are now available at www.omido.de. When he was a student, Amigo published his best-known game, Bohnanza. Since finishing his statistics studies in Dortmund (the subject of his thesis was "Probability distributions in Memory"), his main occupation is the development of games.[1]
In 2000, he founded the small publishing company Lookout Games, together with a few other authors. It published a number of expansions to Bohnanza, partly in cooperation with Hanno Girke. Larger projects were still published at other publishers, such as Amigo and Kosmos.
Rosenberg is well known for the development of innovative card game mechanisms. Another main point of his work are the research-intensive games, that have peculiar historical events as their theme, and games that deal with clichés about men and women. Since 2005, he concentrates in complex building games with an economic theme: his first, Agricola, was released in October 2007. As second game in this series, Le Havre was published in October 2008, the third At the gates of Loyang was presented in October 2009.
He married Susanne Balders on 18 May 2007. He lives in Gütersloh and works at his studio in Dortmund.

His top rated games on BGG are:

Agricola (4)
Le Havre (6)
At The Gates of Loyang (124)
Bohnanza (188)
Merkator (432)

I do enjoy most of Uwe's, owning all of the top 5 rated games. One thing you notice with Uwe's games is his fascination with food. They nearly all have something to do with it.

I must admit that after the harvest trilogy, I was getting a bit fed up spending a large chunk of the game feeding my family, workers or customers. I was actually pretty pleased that Merkator turned out to be such a different game from his other recent ones.

I'm also pleased that it plays pretty quickly. around an hour once you know what you are doing. Agricola and Le Havre are quite long games. Though I am very puzzled when people post tales of games of Loyang taking two or three hours. What are you guys doing? It should be around 45 minutes to an hour.

My top five Uwe Rosenberg games are actually the top five shuffed around, with a surprise at the top.

1. Merkator
2. Le Havre
3. At the Gates of Loyang
4. Bohnanza
5. Agricola
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3. Board Game Designer: Reiner Knizia
John Bandettini
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London
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Reiner has produced an awful lot of games. Some of them are great games, some of them are good games and some of them I would rather not talk about.

Here is what Wikipedia says about him.

Reiner Knizia (German pronunciation: [ˈʁaɪnɐ ˈknɪtsiə]) is a prolific German-style board game designer. Born in Germany, he developed his first game at the age of eight. He has a PhD in mathematics, and has been a full-time game designer since 1997, when he quit his job from the board of a large international bank. Knizia has been living in England since 1993.
In addition to being quite prolific, with over 500 published games, he is highly acclaimed as a designer, having won the Deutscher Spiele Preis four times, a Spiel des Jahres (in addition to a Kinderspiel des Jahres and a special award) and numerous other national and international awards. At the Origins Game Fair in 2002 he was inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame. His games frequently make appearances on various "top games" lists: including the GAMES 100 list, the BoardGameGeek top 100, and the Internet Top 100 Games List. Several gaming conventions host "Kniziathons", which are tournaments dedicated to celebrating Knizia-designed games.[citation needed]
Reiner Knizia started developing games for his play-by-mail game zine Postspillion, founded in 1985. The zine still exists and the game Bretton Woods (also a Reiner Knizia design), which was started in 1987, is still going.
According to Knizia, his best selling game is Lord of the Rings, published in 17 languages with over one million copies sold. However, it is anticipated that his hit game Ingenious, already published in over 20 languages, will soon take top spot.

His top rated games on BGG are:

1. Tigris and Euphrates (14)
2. Ra (44)
3. Samurai (71)
4. Battle Line (78)
5. Amun-Re (88)

Reiners top rated games are not quite as highly rated as Wallace and Rosenberg but what he may lack in ranking he certainly makes up for in volume. He has 374 ranked games on BGG.

I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Knizia, my first experiences with his games were not good. My first two games of his I played were Lord of the Rings and Tigris & Euphrates and I really did not like either. So for a while I tended to avoid his games. Slowly I was won over though by games like Ra and Hollywood Blockbuster.

He makes so many different types of games that you really don't know what to expect. The one thing you can guarantee is there will be at least one very clever mechanic driving the game. I never cease to be amazed at how many different auction mechanics he has come up with.

My personal Reiner Knizia top 5 would be:

1. Taj mahal
2. Ra
3. Hollywood Blockbuster
4. Winners Circle
5. Amun-Re
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4. Board Game Designer: Vladimír Suchý
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Maybe a bit of a surprise that I have included Vladimir, but I just love his games. In a short while I think he has turned out some great games. I like Shipyard and 20th Century so much that Last Will was my most anticipated game from Essen this year. Three plays in and it's great.

Here is what Wikipedia says about him.

Eh nothing, he is not that well known yet. I think that will change.

He only has 4 ranked games on BGG and these are:

1. Shipyard (226)
2. League of Six (505)
3. 20th Century (556)
4. Last Will (1272)

I have not played league of Six, but I have and love the other three. Shipyard has received a bad rap from people for the end game contracts. People you get six to choose from at the beginning, stop blaming the game if you choose the wrong one.

I would like to play Shipyard a lot more but it's a game that is hard to get to the table. Last Will is proving a lot easier, people just like the idea of wasting money. I think it's the game that will establish him a lot more.

My personal Vladimír Suchý top 3 would be:

1. Shipyard
2. Last Will
3. 20th Century
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5. Board Game Designer: Vlaada Chvátil
John Bandettini
United Kingdom
London
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If he stays around long enough Vlaada may one day have designed more games than Reiner Kniza. Each year now at Essen it's not so much are you looking forward to Vlaada's new game it's which one.

Here is what Wikipedia says about him.

Um he is not on there either. He will be arriving soon I am sure. So here is what BGG says instaed.

Vlaada Chvatil is a Czech game designer whose games are often on the border between thematic games and euros. He is well known for his well written (and often humorous) rulebooks.

His top rated games on BGG are:

1. Through the Ages (2)
2. Dungeon Lords (49)
3. Space Alert (51)
4. Galaxy Trucker (64)
5. Prophecy (536)

A couple of years ago I would have put Vlaada in my top 3 games designer, but for me his star has faded a bit. I do wonder if he is putting too many games out (the same could be said about Kniza). I have not found his games of the last couple of years as interesting and enjoyable as his first few hits. I will probably play Dungeon Pets at some time but there are a lot more new games I want to try more.

I think some of his games are also a bit too much gimmick and not enough game play. I sold Space Alert earlier in the year realising that I was enjoying it less and less each time I played it.

I think he is still capable of coming up with some great games in the future but there will be plenty of not so good as well.

My personal Vlaada Chvátil top 4 would be:

1. Galaxy Trucker
2. Through the Ages
3. Dungeon lords
4. Travel Blog
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6. Board Game Designer: Chad Jensen
John Bandettini
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I used to be mostly a War gamer. Nowadays it's mostly Euros, but I do still dabble a little in War Games. And when I do I don't think there is a more exciting young talent about than Chad Jensen.

And now he is branching out with some pretty heavy Euro games as well.

We seem to be hitting a streak of designers who have not yet made it to Wikipedia, and BGG does not say anything either. So Chad will remain a mystery.

His top rated games on BGG are:

1. Dominant Species (17)
2. Combat Commander Europe (24)
3. Combat Commander Pacific (108)
4. Fighting Formations (422)
5. Urban Sprawl (954)

Chad's only just starting to make a name for himself outside of the war game community, but what a way to start. Dominant Species was one of the best games released in 2010. At it's heart it's a worker placement game, but the scope of the game is so grand that it really does seem like it's so much more.

I have so far only played one game of Combat Commander Pacific, but it seems to me to be the most innovative war game since Squad Leader. I love it and must play it more. I am still really looking forward to Urban Sprawl (I will have it next week) despite all the negative feedback about the event cards. Lighten up people, it's a game.

Also looking forward to Dominant Species the Card game.

My personal Chad Jensen top 3 are:

1. Dominant Species
2. Combat Commander Pacific
3. Urban Sprawl
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7. Board Game Designer: Sid Sackson
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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We just can't have a discussion of modern game designers without Sackson. So far ahead of his time.

Wikipedia says:

Quote:
Sid Sackson (February 4, 1920, Chicago - November 6, 2002) was a significant American board game designer and collector.

His most popular creation is probably the business game Acquire. Other games he designed include Can't Stop and Focus (Domination), which won the prestigious German Spiel des Jahres game design award in 1981.

Other notable works include his books, especially A Gamut of Games and Card Games Around the World; both titles include a large array of rules for games both new and old, and Sackson himself invented a number of the games covered by these works.


Sackson's top 5 ranked games on the Geek are:

1. Acquire (95)
2. Can't Stop (373)
3. I'm the Boss (397)
4. Sleuth (588)
5. Bazaar (1060)

I left out A Gamut of Games because it's a book of games, not a game itself.

What I admire about Sackson is the elegance and the range of his designs. In this sense, I see a lot in common between Sackson and Knizia. Acquire would be an extraordinary design at any time, let alone 30 years before Eurogames were even conceived of. In a fair world, it would be this game, not Monopoly, spawning dog-themed reprints.

Of that top 5, I haven't plaeyd Sleuth, and I would switch I'm the Boss (hilarious real-time negotiation) with Can't Stop (a far better dice push-your-luck game than almost all that have followed it).
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8. Board Game Designer: Klaus Teuber
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In many ways the Father of modern euro games.I'm sure there were games we would call euros before Settlers of Catan, but Settlers introduced more people to board gaming as a hobby than any other game.

Here is what Wikipedia says about him.

Klaus Teuber (born June 25, 1952) is a German designer of board games. He won the Spiel des Jahres award four times, for The Settlers of Catan, Barbarossa, Drunter und Drüber and Adel Verpflichtet. He retired from his profession as a dental technician to become a full-time game designer in 1999. As of 2007, he lives in Darmstadt with his wife Claudia. They have two sons, Guido and Benny.

His top rated games on BGG are:

1. Settlers of Catan (75)
2. Catan 3D Collector's Edition. (182)
3. Domaine (241)
4. Lowenherz (266)
5. Catan Card game (326)

After far too many not very good Settlers spin off games it's easy to forget just how influential Klaus and Settlers have been. Although it's a game I don't really want to play nowadays it is a game I and most gamers have played a lot.

I did not play many board games between 1995 and 2008, but one I did play was Settlers. When I got seriously back into the hobby, I went out and got most of the Catan games as it was a brand I was familiar with. I found I got a very mixed batch of games.

My personal Klaus Teuber top 5 would be:

1. Starfarers of Catan
2. Elasund: First City of Catan
3. Hoity Toity
4. Settlers of Catan
5. Settlers of the Stone Age
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9. Board Game Designer: Stefan Feld
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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Looking at my most played games the last year, Stefan Feld's games are up there. His games fit squarely in euro mold, and you can't really blame him for being innovative, but his games are so darn playable! Some strong qualities for me include great two player qualities, less than 2 hours playing time, mechanisms I enjoy (engine building, dice rolling, resource management), and a perfect level of randomness.

1. Burgen von Burgund.
2. Macao
3. Notre Dame
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10. Board Game Designer: Dominic Crapuchettes
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United Kingdom
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My family love to play Party games, so it's lucky for us that Dom and North Star games exists, as with the exception of The Times Up series of games, Dom has produced all our favourite party games.

Here is what Wikipedia says about him.

Dominic Crapuchettes grew up designing and inventing board games since he was 9 years old. He fulfilled his lifelong goal of starting a board game company in 2003 while attending Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park. MBA classmate Satish Pillalamarri joined the company full-time after graduation in 2004. Crapuchettes and Pillalamarri raised money from friends, family and even faculty to fund the first run of Cluzzle board games. In time more games followed and North Star board games began to appear on the shelves of specialty gaming stores and even Target Corporation.
When it came time to name the venture, founder Dominic Crapuchettes chose the name 'North Star' in reference to a stormy night off the coast of Alaska when the salmon fishing boat he was piloting lost electrical power and Crapuchettes was forced to use the North Star to guide the boat safely home. On that night, Dominic vowed to quit fishing and start the board game company that he had dreamed about since childhood.
Wits & Wagers was included on many ‘Best Games of Year’ lists in 2007. The game was also awarded the ‘Best New Party Game’ by Games Magazine. Time Magazine highlighted Wits & Wagers as a “Lively trivia game” in a profile of games they determined as board game entertainment “beyond Monopoly”. North Star Games’ newest game, Say Anything, has been called, “A party game that appeals even to those who claim to hate party games.”

His top rated games on BGG are:

1. Wits & Wagers (237)
2. Say Anything (425)
3. Cluzzle (1246)
4. Gambit 7 (1358)

No other games ranked.

Dom's games may not be the deepest games ever, but they are some of the most fun games you can play.

Dom created a geeklist about his struggles to get North Star Games going and it was one hell of a struggle. But thanks to all of his hard work and sacrifice they are in pretty good shape.

More than just a publisher and a designer, Dom is also one of us, a gamer. I know he likes games a lot meatier than the games he actually produces as well as his own games. I'm looking forward to the time he feels that North star are in a good enough shape that he can produce the kind of deeper serious game that he is surely capable of.

My personal Dominic Crapuchettes top games would be:

1. Say Anything
2. Wits & Wagers
3. Gambit 7

I am sure that Crappy Birthday will also join the list when I manage to get myself a copy.
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11. Board Game Designer: Wolfgang Kramer
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Even more than Knizia, Kramer is the king of the medium-weight family-friendly Euro. Dude has won the SdJ five times!

Wikipedia says:

Quote:
Wolfgang Kramer (born June 29, 1942 in Stuttgart) is a German board game designer.

Kramer formerly worked as an operations manager and computer scientist, but since 1989 he has worked full-time on game design. He has designed over 100 games, many which have been nominated for or have won the Spiel des Jahres. He frequently collaborates with other designers, notably Michael Kiesling and Richard Ulrich.

A common feature of German-style board games, where players' scores are recorded on a track around the edge of the board, is known in Germany as the Kramerleiste in honour of Wolfgang Kramer. Kramer himself first used this method of score-tracking in his 1984 game, Heimlich & Co.

Kramer is also an author of mystery novels. His works include Der Palast der Rätsel (The Palace of Mysteries) and Die Rätsel der Pyramide (The Mysteries of the Pyramid).


Kramer's top 5 ranked games on BGG are:

1. El Grande (13)
2. The Princes of Florence (23)
3. Tikal (101)
4. Torres (173)
5. Maharaja (175)

I've played all those but Maharaja, and while they're not in my top 10, they are all very solid games.

My Kramer top 5 is:

1. 6 Nimmt
2. Torres
3. Tikal
4. The Princes of Florence
5. El Grande

Hey, reverse order of the BGG rankings
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12. Board Game Designer: Rüdiger Dorn
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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I add a designer myself. He's in my top 5 I think.
Wikipedia says
Quote:
Rüdiger Dorn (born 1969) is a German-style board game designer. He was nominated for the 2005 Spiel des Jahres award for his game Jambo, which also placed 8th for the Deutscher Spiele Preis award. He was also nominated for the 2007 Spiel des Jahres award for his game Die Baumeister von Arkadia.

I haven't played Jambo yet and I have only bought Emerald in Essen but I have played probably all the other Dorn games I wanted to learn.
His games also have some common traits: breadcrumbs (or at least a strong spatial aspect where you commonly place stuff next to already placed stuff on the spaces of the hexagonal or quare grid) and set collection are things that appear more or less in each of his games.
My favorites:
1. Goa
2. Louis XIV
3. Diamonds Club
4. Genoa
5. Titania (I enjoyed this one a lot more than the average geek)

I also like Dragonheart a lot although I can't explain why. I liked Arkadia enough that I bought it after my first play but I guess that's a game that gets a lot better after several plays.

Gargon and Journey to the Center of the Earth are also nice family games, even if not more than that.
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13. Board Game Designer: Francis Tresham
Nate Straight

Covington
Louisiana
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This guy basically started two of the most popular themes / genres of games going [or at least gave them a huge boost]: Trains and Civ games.

It's not a very extensive catalog, but it sure packs a one-two punch with both 1830: Railways & Robber Barons and Civilization to his credit.

Like Sackson's Acquire, I'm not sure it would be possible to count the number of games that simply wouldn't exist but for Tresham's work.
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14. Board Game Designer: Richard Hamblen
Nate Straight

Covington
Louisiana
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And this guy took the reins on the two other big genres: Fantasy and Space.

Magic Realm and Merchant of Venus are not for everybody, but they're clearly unrivaled for those for whom they are [for; gah, grammar].

I once said that my boardgame fantasy was "Francis Tresham and Richard Hamblen at the same time".
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15. Board Game Designer: Thomas Lehmann
Andrew
Japan
Tokyo
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Though I've only played a bit of his oeuvre, I'm a big fan of Thomas Lehmann. He's a versatile designer, having developed members of the 18xx family, theme-washed Euros, sprawling sci-fi epics, and light fillers. Though Tom Lehmann is probably best known for Race for the Galaxy, but founded Prism Games in the early 90s and was responsible for the Expert Rules of the classic Outpost. More recently he has collaborated on expansions of other designers' games.

Tom Lehmann's top 5 ranked games are:
1. Race for the Galaxy
2. Phoenicia
3. To Court the King
4. Pizarro & Co.
5. 1846: The Race for the Midwest

While I happen to be the president of the RftG Apologetics Club, I admire Tom Lehmann's rigorously analytical approach to design - he explains his design decisions cogently and with the support of statistics (Race for the Galaxy was playtested 10k-15k times across 6 groups). Even his discussions of a variant to 2p Navegador are fascinating.
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16. Board Game: Thurn and Taxis [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:380]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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Played twice with the mrs. I have made the mistake of winning several times now, need to fix that.

Apart from that I have only played online games. I am now rather addicted to Yucata, and have found a number of new favorite games!

These are my ratings of the games that were new to me:
Can't Stop 8 Have no idea why I haven't played this before. I love push-your-luck and have somehow missed this classic. Weird.

Finca 7 Only played once, but this game is a possible buy. The rating could easily rise to 8. Fits the same niche as Thurn and taxis, easily playable in an hour but more than a filler. Has some good think to it.

Thunderstone 8 Can't remember if I've mentioned this one before. Anyway, it's my favorite deckbuilding game now, I prefer this over Dominion or Nightfall any day. The theme is actually rather believable in this one, and a big reason why I am enjoying it so much. There is really a dungeon crawl feel to the game, even without figures or a board.


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17. Board Game: Sluff Off! [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:1195]
 
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Wednesday: after the excesses of last week, just the one LoB session this week, where the theme was backstabbing.

I got to play my new acquisition, Sluff Off!, twice and a very fine, nasty, trick-taking game it is too. It's essentially advanced Oh Hell!, with bidding for the colours of the tricks you'll take not just how many of them.

I also played Rumble in the House for the second time and was more impressed than by my 4am play in Eastbourne. It's a micro-filler - 10 seconds to explain and 5 minutes to play, but not completely devoid of thought.

Big game of the night was Tammany Hall which sat unplayed for 9 months after it's first outing but now has had two in a week. I think it's a fantastic game, though we did see a runaway loser again, which seems to be not uncommon.
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18. Board Game: Chaos in the Old World: The Horned Rat Expansion [Average Rating:8.02 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.02 Unranked]
Andrew
Japan
Tokyo
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A fairly horrible week - with family in town I was only able to attend one gaming session, and the games weren't great.

A member is very enthusiastic about Rune Age (his new acquisition) so we (and 2 newbies) played the cooperative Cataclysm scenario and then the PvP Runewars scenario. I think the game is undercooked: the limited card pool and scenario-fixed common cards makes for a shallow strategic space. I've only ever played the Undead faction, and play is more about tuning the handful of available combos than figuring out novel ones.

I have a soft spot for cooperative games, and did enjoy the Cataclysm scenario. Experience allowed the owner and I to open much more strongly than we have in the past, and though we succumbed I was pleased to have made some learning progress. Nevertheless, the "destroy" card effects are useless in a cooperative situation, there are few actual cross-player combinations, and the system merely throws obstacles against the players rather than allowing different strategic positions for them to pursue.

The Runewars scenario was a draggy, drawn-out affair - retro "last man standing" player elimination is the objective, leading to metagame-heavy play. The owner started strong, attracting attacks from everyone else when he had a hand with no units, leaving him on 1 (of 20) hit points. I made peace with him, but after a newbie mentioned how his rune power could kill the owner outright, the owner immediate attacked and killed the newbie. I finished off the owner, leaving me to fight a lengthy finale with the final newbie. His deck had better cards but was bloated, and I chipped away with a direct-damage rune power and finally landed the killing blow. I suppose I prefer Rune Age PvP over a proper map-based conflict game, but it's a tiresome experience all the same.

In an apparent effort to make Rune Age look good, we next moved to Zombie Fluxx. I can imagine that the game isn't too bad when played quickly, but we got bogged down in reading-of-text and slow play. The owner described the everyone-loses "un-goal" as an escape hatch for when people get bored, and sure enough someone played it at the first opportunity.

My most positive gaming experience was the conclusion of a play-by-email game of Chaos in the Old World: The Horned Rat Expansion. My obsession with the game is reaching a conclusion, as a few of the players were downbeat about the balance and variety of the game. There's a distinct tilt towards Khorne and Tzeentch, and against Nurgle. I won as Tzeentch by flinging around his most powerful cards. It's a pity Fantasy Flight Games has so much trouble balancing games; I don't want to compromise game tightness for narrative.

I recently got an iPhone and have been playing plenty of Tichu, Neuroshima Hex! 3.0 and Go. The Go-engine is far stronger than my old phone - it has been causing me much pain on the 9x9 board even with a 2-stone handicap. The AI plays much more aggressively and my laziness towards reading frequently leads to losing a group and as a result, the game.
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19. Board Game: Coney Island [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:2991]
Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
Zaandam
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Mostly Spiel 2011-games again with one oldie.

YSPAHAN — quick game with 3. I got lucky in the first week filling up soukhs, but because I hadn't done anything on development or choosing a particular red line to follow for the next two weeks, I found myself lagging behind considerably by the beginning of week 3. When another player rolled a tremendously lucky result which allowed him to fill up all soukhs in the most valuable neighbourhood, the game was over there and then. The only defense against that sort of luck is the caravan, but by sheer luck that bastard had three or four camels in reserve. We'd be damned if we attempted the caravan, we'd be damned if we didn't. This is the only occasion in which the game feels seriously out-of-whack; fortunately it happens only very rarely.

WIRAQOCHA — played twice, appreciation is still slipping. The way dice are used is indeed novel and interesting, but it is just too slow and too grating to be fun. And the level of tactical interference makes any planning between turns useless. Yspahan's star is shining that much brighter because of it. Wiraqocha is not about winning through clever play; it is about not losing through lucky dice, irrespective of how you manipulate them. I have already voiced strong doubts on this game staying in my collection to my partner, and it is a measure of her own doubts that she is not even disagreeing with me very loudly.

VINTAGE — first play after Spiel... And it confirmed my fears that there might be not much to this game, if what there is you can actually call a game at all. Many actions completely lose their value over time, forcing everyone through a small and uninteresting cycle of production-transportation-VP gathering. In this game, one player just started running away with port production until he finished with a score two to three times as high as his competitors. The reason: due to sheer luck, he got ahead in the VP race earlier than anyone, and could run his VP engine at full power for one and a half round longer at least. I posed some questions in the subforums of this game about how this game is supposed to be played: because if it all comes down to lucky cards, then purchasing this title was truly an expensive mistake. My partner, who was the driving force behind the purchase, was really disappointed that this game of Vintage was such a disaster.

CONEY ISLAND — on a more cheerful note, Coney Island is proving to hold up against repeated plays, even when play becomes agressive, and strategic interests begin to diverge. Strangely enough my largest worry is that from some point onward Coney Island will offer too little variation to keep me coming back for more. The strategic paths appear to be in an acceptable balance, true, and I'm sure that getting the balance right wasn't an easy task... but there simply aren't many of them. And I wish there were more, but then without turning the game into a clone of Key Market. That said, what is available works smoothly and pleasantly. I sincerely hope that my first favourable impression of The Manhattan Project will prove to hold up just as well once the game is in my possession (ETA is end of December): it is kinda depressing to realise that about €90 worth of games purchased in Essen is already rapidly advancing to the point where I say: sell them off while I still can fetch a nice price for them.
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20. Board Game: Train of Thought [Average Rating:6.03 Overall Rank:6153]
Seth Brown
United States
North Adams
Massachusetts
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Big reunion this past week, with a lot of old college friends in visiting. Too big and boisterous a crowd for real gaming, but we pulled out Train of Thought, and of the 11 people around the table, 10 of them seemed to enjoy it. Lots of laughter, especially when I was trying to give a clue and my friend guessed, "Magnetricity", which I actually used as my trained word for my next clue, and ended up getting someone to guess the right answer. Thumbs up.

After most people had left, I settled down for three quick 2p games with a friend of mine who loves Dominion, as I felt I needed to show him all my deck-builders.

Puzzle Strike went over pretty well, and not just because he managed to beat me. He agreed it definitely has that video game feel, and is a lot of fun.

Nightfall he enjoyed well enough, but I've now played over two dozen times and I'm starting to wonder if I'm just failing to learn anything, or if having overarching strategies in this game just isn't possible? I feel like I get better at other games I play; I don't feel like I get any better at Nightfall.

Eminent Domain was our final game. Took a lot longer than usual, as we kept selecting opposite roles, but still a lot of fun. This one is growing on me, since my review, and I'm starting to think it may have a long replay value after all.
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21. Board Game: Trajan [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:72]
Laszlo Molnar
Hungary
Budapest
Hungary
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On Wednesday we started the evening with Trajan. However original idea the Mancala-idea is, I must say I start to learn what you can expect from a game by Stefan Feld – it feels like most of his games are built up of mostly the same elements. Most of them have a special mechanism at their core – that’s how you get tiles, resources, workers or a combination of these. In each of them you collect stuff in front of yourself, probably on a board. Most of them has a grid where you can place workers or tiles and can try to form groups of your men/tiles for a higher score. Most of them has two tracks: one for scores and one for other stuff that will give you some kind of advantages – breaking ties, player order, bonus tiles, whatever. And so on.
I’m not saying it’s a problem. It’s just… Trajan uses the Mancala idea pretty well. It matters how many „stones” you pick up from a cup, it matters where distributing these stones end and it matters which color is placed where. But the rest is so much the usual stuff that maybe it was why I could not feel the theme at all, while I felt the theme even in Strasbourg (which is a game not more thematic than Ra). Trajan is a good game, I just didn’t fall in love with it.

Then I played Ascension with many expansions again. It was my second play with the game, against Ascension players who are also gamers – and just like the first time, I won. I have no idea how it could happen. Ascension is still a fun game though and I find some of the promo packs like the Rat King or the Leprechaun and Pot of Gold thematic and fun at the same time.

Finally I played Summoner Wars: Master Set. I love Dungeon Twister which is a nice mixture of an Ameritrash and an abstract game. Summoner Wars is like that in some aspects but it also has dice and these dice are used in a way that makes the result of combats rather luck-dependent. It’s a fine game but in games like this I’d like to see a more controlled luck factor than in Risk.


On Saturday I played Vikings with my wife. I haven’t played this game for a long time and I forgot what a nice family game it is. Of course it’s an optimization game where you have to take care of lots of things at the same time. And I still haven’t played the advanced version!
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22. Board Game: Drum Roll [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:1316]
John Bandettini
United Kingdom
London
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I had three different gaming sessions last week but only managed to play five games in total. Some longer games got played.

Last Will

I was unable to make it to Eastbourne with most of the LoB regulars last weekend, but I did manage to get to part of the Sunday session. I started off with my third play of Last Will. It’s a game I am enjoying a lot, I can see many more plays in the future.

I came second due to turn order which was a bit of a bummer. I was ahead by a couple of pounds going into the last round. I went second, but the player who went first was the one nearest to me. We both had cards allowing us to throw a lavish Ball, but as he went first he grabbed the day plan with 4 actions and I only got 3. We both had two extra actions on our player board. So he was able to put on a 6 action ball and I had a 5 action ball. So he just owed 2 pounds more than me at the end.

Drum Roll

First play of Drum Roll and without having Martin on hand to confirm, I think I got all the rules right. As a game it offers nothing new at all, but it all fits together very well and plays pretty smoothly. Only a couple of rules look ups while we were playing and no long debates on any of them. The main drawback (apart from lack of any new mechanics) is the length, it’s a two and a half to three hour game and it might be a little light to support that length of game.

But it was fun, has a good theme and everyone enjoyed it.


Star Trek: Fleet Captains

I lugged this great game (and box) into London on Board on the Monday evening and played my second 2 vs 2 game. First time I have played the Klingons and I must say, I did not do them proud. My partner and I got off to a slow start and never managed to catch up with the Federation. It is a great game, even if you are not a Star Trek fan. This game really tells some stories as you play it and they are different every time.

One of the players, Alex is very much into War Games and games with conflict and although there is conflict in the game there is a lot more than that going on. I thought he might not like that he could not just attack the enemy, but he said he loved it that there was so much variety in the game.

PAX

Just a little time left after Fleet Captains, just enough to try out this Roman themed card game. I though it was OK. It’s a bit like Biblios, but with more to it, which I thought was not a good idea as I like Biblios just as it is.

Drum Roll

Wednesday and I was back at London on Board for another game of Drum Roll. I learnt a lot from my first game and won it this time, although it was close with one other player. The first game I played the best show had 9 performers. This time 2 of us managed to have 12 performers in our show. There does seem to be some obvious cards you need to get to win, so I do think it will be a particularly difficult game for newcomers to play against experienced players. The game came in at around 3 hours. I could have got a filler type game in afterward but decided to have an early night instead.
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23. Board Game: Dixit [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:231] [Average Rating:7.29 Unranked]
Brad N
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
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I'm a partial completist , so I had to post this. A very light week of gaming prior to BGG.con. I did get in two good games with my wife and a fun round of Dixit.

_.7_. Hey, That's My Fish! - With Ivory and Dane. I had two penguins to Ivory's three and Dane's four. Dane beat us. I'm impressed with how my kids play this game.

_.7_. Can't Stop - With Marie. If I recall correctly, she won.

_.8_. Race for the Galaxy - With Marie. An extremely close game where we took extremely different paths. She had tons of worlds (including Alien) and some 6 developments; I was consuming goods like mad for 2xVP (never tried that before). I won 42-41.

I6.5I Pictionary Junior - With Marie, Ivory, Azalea and Dane. It was grown ups against the kids and a good battle for the first half with mom and dad getting the win.

I6.5I Once Upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game - With Ivory, Azalea and Dane. We told a funny story.

I7.5I Loopin' Louie - With Ivory, Azalea and Dane. We played several rounds.

I6.5I Chicken Cha Cha Cha - With Ivory, Azalea and Dane. Ivory won... again. Her focus and ability to remember in this game is astonishing.

I6.5I Dixit - With Marie, Jack and Melissa. Since we are so social when the four of us play games, this one worked pretty well. It's party gaming and that fit into our chatting throughout the night.
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