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GCL Phoenix 52 - The Numbers Game - 01.01.2012
"L'état, c'est moi."
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Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2012. Here's to another great year of GCL!



Welcome to the GameChat League: Phoenix Division weekly geeklist.

GCL Phoenix members:
Chally
Dormammu
Eeeville
enzo622
Hawkeye
Indigopotter
JohnRayJr
Judoka
Leroy43
Lowengrin**
Mr_Nuts
Ravenskana
Rynelf
Taibi
Tjshields
Topherr
Yokiboy

** in charge of next week's list

GCL Phoenix alumni:
Bruzza
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1. Board Game: The Game of Top Ten Lists [Average Rating:6.75 Unranked]
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Happy new year!

10

Pick a 10, any or all or make up your own!

What are your top ten games from 2011?
What are your top ten played games in 2011?
Which games did you play at least ten times in 2011?
Which games, new or old, did you give a 10 rating to in 2011?
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2. Board Game: Numbers League: Adventures in Addiplication [Average Rating:6.10 Overall Rank:6509]
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55,000

This site has over 55,000 games in the database now.

Given the cult of the new ethos that seems to infuse most of the people on this site, that number will only grow ever larger of course, and yet at the same time, new games come out with innovative themes and mechanisms that we've not seen before.

How cult of the new are you? Are your favorites from previous years still hitting the table? Are you as keen now as ever about new releases?

5,500

Sturgeon's Law says, loosely, that 90% of everything is crap. If you look at the overall game ratings, the 5,500th game is rated at 5.77. Where's the crap line for you?

550

According to my own data, based on game plays logged, I've played around 300 games since 2003, but the number of games I've rated is approaching 500. It seems that the most devoted among us will get around to trying 1% of all the titles out there.

How many different games have you played? How many of those have you explored to your satisfaction? How many are just collecting dust on your shelves and are unlikely to be played again?

55

If we refine that number even more, it seems that about 0.1% of games are really among the elite. In my own ratings, I have 60 titles that are ranked 8+.

How many games have you played that you consider truly elite games, whatever that means to you? Do you have a top 10? 20? 55? x?

5

Let's play with 5.

My top 5 games, that is games rated 8+ that I've played the most, are a little over a fifth of my total plays. Tangentially, the games I rate 8+ represent over half my total plays.

The five games I've played the most (based on BGG logged plays only) are about 40% of all my plays.

What top 5 categories sing out to you? Top 5 played, top 5 ranked by you and played, top 5 your'd like to play more, top 5 your yardstick here.
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3. Board Game: Money! [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1500]
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Nickels
How many games have you played at least five times?*

Dimes
How many games have you played at least ten times?*

Quarters
How many games have you played at least twenty-five times?*

Dollars
Any games have you played at least one hundred times?*

* Playing solo on iPhone/iPad/Android and other electronic devices doesn't count for this item.
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4. Board Game: 1000 Blank White Cards [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:3047]
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2012

Any (non gaming) resolutions you care to share for 2012?
Any games you're looking forward to?
Any opinion about the so-called Mayan prediction of doom?
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5. Board Game: The BoardGameGeek Game [Average Rating:6.04 Overall Rank:4417]
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2011

Anything stand out for you on BGG in 2011?
Did you hit any BGG milestones?
Did you make any of the top 100 lists?
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6. Board Game: Caribbean [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:2714]
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The weeks that were:
First, a very quick look at what got played over my Christmas vacation
Ticket to Ride 9
UNO 2
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Mystery at Hogwarts Game 1 Edit: New to me.

TTR on iPhone is worth every penny of the 99 cents I paid for it. I've played it solo over 100 times now, and my wife and I play it when we have a few minutes to spare. I think this bodes ill for the real copies of it in the game shelf though...

The Harry Potter game was a thrifty Xmas present for my daughter. It's Clue like, but more enjoyable than Clue because there are bonus ways of getting hints thanks to an event deck.

2011 quick recap
I endeavored to play more of the games I love and I largely succeeded. I still ended up playing over 100 different games, but fewer of them only once, and my favorites got the bulk of my playing time. That's a winning formula for me and one I hope to repeat in 2012.

Featured Game This Week
I was in the Caribbean for the holidays.
My mother in law took her grandchildren on a cruise, and the parents came along (kicking and screaming whistle) for the ride.

We went to Haiti, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Mexico (Cozumel). A fabulous time was had by all and I'll probably get around to saying a bit more about it all once I recover from jet lag!

Edit: So the cruise was on Royal Caribbean, which is the same cruise line we went to Alaska with a couple of years ago. It was my third cruise ever, and it was also the largest ship I've been on - about 3000 passengers (!!) and about 1300 very hard working crew.

We left from Port Canaveral in Florida and spent a full day at sea on our way to Haiti, where we arrived on Christmas morning. We all lounged on the beach all day at Labadee, a completely segregated park owned by RC. I spent much of the day lounging in a hammock reading a book, but I did also go into the beautiful warm water and shopped around a bit at the local artisan's market. I'd love to go back some time and see the real Haiti.

The next day saw us get into Jamaica, at Falmouth. We went and saw some interesting caves (where they filmed the submarine scene from Live and Let Die) that were a disco in the 1970s (!!). We also climbed a waterfall. Given how hot it was, that was really nice. I have to say though that Jamaica is a really poor place and the hands out for tips or people trying to sell you stuff got on my nerves a little bit.

Next was Grand Cayman, which was just awesome. We took a boat out to a sandbar and got to feed and play around with stingrays. I also got an inverse farmer's tan sunburn. It's a nice brown now, but it hurt for a couple of days!

Last destination was Cozumel, which was also fantastic. The family just wanted to have a chill beach day, so we didn't take the tour to explore some Mayan ruins, but the silver lining for me was that there was a culinary class at the same complex/park the beach was at so while they were romping in the sand and ocean, I was drinking Dos Equis and margaritas and making some very tasty food indeed, and then got to spend a couple of hours at the beach to boot.

Another day and two nights at sea saw us return to Port Canaveral. I was bummed that our flight was at 2pm because if it had been after 4pm I could have taken the tour to Cape Canaveral to see the space centre again (I'd seen it in 1993), but that's just a reason to go back!

All in all, it was a really good time. Cruises aren't my favorite way to travel, but if you're going as a larger group, then it really works out fabulously.
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7. Board Game: Power Grid: Benelux/Central Europe [Average Rating:8.04 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.04 Unranked]
Jon
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Urbana
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Games Played:

_8_ Power Grid Benelux x1
My youngest son won with 16 cities 218 elektro, while his brother also had 16 cities but only 184 elektro. My wife powered 15 cities and I was totally off my game with a pathetic 13 cities.

We all still enjoy Power Grid and my wife requested this one.

_8_ Neuland x1
Played with both boys and my wife. A bit frustrating as my youngest son got hit hard with AP and turns out that my wife found this a bit too confusing on a first play. The AP did help my youngest son to win, getting the Abbey, Church, Library, Labortory, and Castle (9), while I had the Baracks and the Court (5), my oldest son the Town Hall and the Theater (5) and my wife the Studio, Academy and the Cathedral (6).

I should have chosen something else. We had returned home the ay before from our travels, and I think we were all still in recovery mode and not ready for this.

We also received Poseidon's Kingdom and I've opened it up to note all the pieces are in good shape but we haven't had a chance to play yet.

During our trip to Illinois my family got to see the new home my youngest son and I picked out (which they had seen in video, but in person is so much better), and everyone is excited about our upcoming move.

Happy New Year, everyone!
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8. Board Game: Sentinels of the Multiverse [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:288] [Average Rating:7.29 Unranked]
Yoki Erdtman
Sweden
Södertälje
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Games Played: (Links to play details, with my ratings in color.)
_9_ Sentinels of the Multiverse x7
_7_ Quarriors! x2
_6_ Buuuh! (Geistermühle) #1, 2-player
_6_ Buuuh! (Geistermühle) #2, 2-player
_6_ Buuuh! (Geistermühle) #3, 3-player
_5_ Vem där? (Guess Who?) x3

New Games:
Buuuh!, Guess Who?, and Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm were all new entries in my (family's) collection that surprised me.

Representative Item:
Easily the best new game to me was Sentinels of the Multiverse. It captures the feel of superheroes fighting supervillains with style! It's a great cooperative game with tons of replay value. The art is also so much better on the cards themselves than that weird mishmash of a cover represents.

Plans for the Week:
None really. A doctor's visit and enjoying another week of my family being home.

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9. Board Game: Parade [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:707]
Mark Johnson
Canada
St.John's
Newfoundland
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Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer + Expansion (19)
Parade (5)
Elder Sign (3)
Hemloch (3)
Race for the Galaxy + Expansions (3)
Carcassonne (1)
Crokinole (1)
The New Era (1)

---

The least Ascension played in a while. Pretty surprising!

It had been a long time since I played Parade and when I had it was I think with 3 - 5 people. This past week I taught Parade to a friend visiting home for the holidays and we tried it 2 player. This game is a lot more intense when played with two. We played 5 games... I won a game by a large margin, then she won a game by margin. I won a game by a narrow margin and then she won a game by a narrow margin. Then we tied. Is there even a tiebreaker in this game? I said it should be for the person who has the most cards in their tableau... it would have been me!! =] Although while looking up tiebreaking rules I discovered I incorrectly thought that at the end you choose 1 of your 4 cards to add to your tableau instead of 2. Maybe we'll get a tiebreaker game in before she goes back to Ottawa.

Elder Sign was Yahtzee Arkham Horror where you do the generally similar things but the game loses all of it's theme and narrative arc to save time. One of the things I hate most in game design is when a card/tile has a different name than another card but it does the exact same thing and has the exact same issues. What is the point in this? Visual variety? Ugh! This game suffers in that regard in a major way when you look at the various cards investigators can collect. This is also something that annoyed me in Revolver. Base game Gosu almost treads this ground having identical effects with differently named Goblins, but at least the Goblins belong to different clans meaning they aren't 100% the same. Anyway, as long as it was a 2 - 4 player I would always choose Arkham Horror over this... especially playing events in a 'Tales of Arabian Nights' sort of story telling. If it was more players, I'd probably rather suffer through Elder Signs.

Hemloch received a few more plays from me and I'm pretty sure I have all the rules down pat now. What can I say about it? This game is pretty fast and I think the graphic design is amazing. How fast? Probably about 1/2 the time it takes to play Race for the Galaxy, maybe a little longer. Each player has a identical 30 card deck which has about 18 unique minions belonging to one of 5 factions in set quantities. 4/5 factions are associated with 2 different locations each... one faction association provides a triggered ability (beyond the cards own ability) when a matching minion is played at the location and the other association gives a played matching minion card a bonus influence at the other location. Card abilities may dictate that it shouldn't go to either of the locations it's associated with. At regular intervals you'll compare influence values at locations to place cubes on that location which will earn the player VP at the end of the game. There are also ways to collect special items: Tinkets & Potions. They are the second source of VP. In addition you can reduce the VP these items are worth to use a 'sort of' one time special ability. The game can end in a variety of ways which are in control of the players (having to do with player cubes, locations, players decks, availability of items, etc.). It kind of reminds me of a cross between Battle Line and Gosu. I don't know how much I like this but I do like it. I need to play it more, but I can say that this packs a surprising number of decisions for a game so short. I think this would have too much interaction for indigo but a good little title for Bryan.

Not much to be said about Race (good as always), Crokinole (still craving to play more partnership games), and Carc (iOS but it was a pass n play game which I won).

New Era! This is definitely an improved 51st State in these concrete ways: wooden components, larger cardboard chits, consolidated faction cards, a scoreboard that's separate from the box, no leaders which I felt unbalanced the game, increased interaction with the ability to conquer/create contracts with opponents locations, and easier to digest rulebook (well easier than Portal's 51st, not sure about when compared to Toy Vault's 51st State). Here are things that seem like it's changed from 51st State but it's hard to judge after one play: it seems easier to get additional cards (big improvement imo, if it turns out to be true), it seems to be easier to get resources, I feel like they reduced the average distance of the locations, and it feels more difficult to acquire contact tokens. The bad: There is some errata that needs to be done, but I think it's only about two cards.

Overall thoughts: Forget 51st State exists unless you already own and *really* enjoy New Era. Even then I wouldn't necessarily recommend acquiring 51st State unless you really want additional cards to add to the main deck for variety. The game is still feels fiddly, but it doesn't feel quite as bad due to the component upgrades. I really can't say how much I like New Era until I play it more but the fact of the matter is, I like it enough that I want to explore my feelings towards it which makes it much better than 51st State.

---

So this resolution thing is not looking so good. I bought War of the Ring 2nd Edition at about midnight so I wouldn't be tempted to break my resolution. In addition, I was looking for a way to bypass my resolution after watching Tom Vasel's video review of the Ticket to Ride Asia map. It's not entirely what you think. I've been trying to find card holders before actually trying to get Hanabi to the table. Most have been either expensive, of low quality, or not include enough in a set. Asia resolves these issues with 6 card holders included which look to be of good quality. In addition, I could actually see Ticket to Ride working for my lighter group and I didn't think it was a bad game, just lighter than I typically enjoy. So, I thought to myself, I'll buy an iOS version of Ticket to Ride and buy that expansion... though I think that's totally cheating! So, I won't really do that. I could try trade for TTR Europe and then acquire the Asia expansion but I was hoping to add it before my current order ships and that doesn't seem likely if I have to try and make a trade. Ah well, maybe I can acquire card holders elsewhere... or maybe DoW would sell me just their card holders... *checks DoW's webstore*
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10. Board Game: Mage Knight Board Game [Average Rating:8.11 Overall Rank:23]
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Gaming with family this week...:

2x _7.7_ Mage Knight Board Game New! - Once by myself, once with son #2. I'm finding it slow-paced, but still very enjoyable. It presents a delightful series of puzzles and a fine thematic integration. I definitely see some structural similarities to Magic Realm; but they're more vague than definitive.

1x _7_ Urban Sprawl New! - One "short game" with son #1. I thought it was quite nice; he won, and thought it was probably more random than he'd like. Both of us, I guess, had something to be happy about in the end!

3x _6.3_ Fauna New!- All with daughter #1 - though one with my lovely wife, and one with son #2. Unfortunately, I have far too many useless facts about animals buried in my head. I need to figure out how to give the others an appropriate handicap

2x _6.7_ Bongo! - With my youngsters and their cousins. Daughter #1 and son #2 gave each other competition, while the rest of us were impressed at their speed and sagacity.

2x _6.3_ Click Clack Lumberjack - Again: kids & their cousins. Daughter #1 got a score of 20 in the game that ended just before the New Year rang in; I was duly impressed!

1x _5.5_ Rummikub - With my wife's mom, and my two younger children. Its a harmless amusement.

1x _5.5_ Mao - On son #1's urging - with his sister and cousins. It's quite silly; fortunately, we all didn't expect anything that wasn't there.
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11. Board Game: Walnut Grove [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:988]
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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Walnut Grove 6
Galaxy Trucker 3
Ad Astra (new to me)
Across a Salty Ocean (new to me)
Troyes (new to me)

I did my New to You geeklist entry last night, and found I had played 18 new games this month, thanks to Thrifty Santa, Thrifty Generosity Boxes, Christmas, and a game day at Ryan's house.

The leader of the pack is Walnut Grove, followed closely by Galaxy Trucker. I will be happy to play Ad Astra and Across a Salty Ocean again. I'm not sure about Troyes' fate.
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12. Board Game: Antiquity [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:196]
Ben
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Games Played:
.8.5. Antiquity (x2)
_6_ Bohnanza
.5.5. Trajan


Gaming Notes:
So far this week has been mostly the same as last week. Two player Antiquity got down to about 90 minutes, as I relentlessly pursued a San Christophori strategy from the very first move (and nearly knocked myself out of contention several times by taking a few too many risks). Trajan is still Trajan -- there is a game there, but it could have been so much better. A three-player session of Bohnanza may have been my most fun session yet. I really despised this game the first time I played it, but I'm buying into it more with each play.

We have a big game day scheduled for today. I'll have to decide whether those plays should get added to this list or to next week's.


meeple
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13. Board Game: Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:246]
Bryan Maxwell
United States
Burtchville
Michigan
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Blood Bowl: Team Manager x 2
The Logo Board Game x 2

Quarriors x 1

My wife and daughter are (mostly) over being sick, and now our 6 month old son is sick. He's had a cough for a couple of weeks now. It's slowly improving, but it's contributing towards him not sleeping well I think. We're weaning him onto the bottle and trying to get him to fall asleep in his crib. And sleep for more than 1-2 hours at a time.

So gaming has been very much on the back burner lately, along with, well, everything else.

We did get to try out the Blood Bowl card game (Christmas gift from Kat) and enjoyed it quite a bit. I really like the way there are different objectives to fight over that have different rewards. In the 2-player game, there are 5 out there and 3 will ultimately stay in play (after 3 have had cards committed to them, the other 2 are discarded).

It's a slower deckbuilding game; this isn't like Dominion where you're going to build a lean, killer deck then use it to great effect. It's more likely that, after you add a few new cards to it, you'll see those cards just once or twice before the game ends. Each of the 6 factions has its own strengths and weaknesses that must be considered when choosing new cards.

We enjoyed a quick game of Quarriors as well. I think it'll last around here as a quick game that feels different from any of our others.

The Logo Game is a trivia game centered around products and advertisements/brands. My childhood years spent in front of the TV have finally paid off!
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14. Board Game: Steam: Map Expansion #1 [Average Rating:7.80 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.80 Unranked]
Kurt R
United States
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
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Band of Brothers: Screaming Eagles 2
Bohnanza 1
Brass 1
Helvetia 1
Mage Salad Board Game 1
Pyramid 1
Steam 1
Steam: Map Expansion #1 1

I chose the Steam expansion map as that was the game I was most excited about playing last week. First off, I'd grown bored with the Steam basic game and have taken the training wheels off and will only play the advanced rules from now on. What was fun at first (taking the powers to determine turn order) now seems dull. I much prefer the AoS style auction and the decision to capitalize up front and not during the turn.

The expansion map is fantastic for a couple reasons. First, it features my beloved Belgium on two maps. In fact, the train station I lived near in Brussels is on the 3P Brussels map which we played. I love the way expansion maps tweak rules a la Power Grid. Here, the only way to urbanize towns to cities is for someone to improve a town tile (ie, add an entry point). However, you can only urbanize towns on other people's networks, not your own. So the game forces some interesting interaction b/w players. There's also a 2P map and a huge mid-Atlantic extension that connects to the northeast USA map in the base game. All maps have their own special rules, so there's much to explore here, and I feel re-invigorated about the game.

I think I covered BoB in last week's GCL. I taught a friend Bohnanza and Pyramid so he could borrow to play with his kids.

Brass continues online. After winning twice in succession, I haven't been able to win again but I'm still really enjoying the plays. I seem to have 2-4 games going on at any one time.

Helvetia is still enjoyable as a shorter but substantial offering for those times when you can't fit a longer game in but want something interesting. I put this and Peloponnes in the same category. The tension ratchets up the last two turns as everyone jockeys for those last few points.

Then there's Mage Salad Board Game. That's my little joke for what I think is the poster child for euro point salad games. I was laughing out loud during the calculating of the victory points. Thematic integration in this one? Hardly. Does it matter? Probably not.

But let me back up. This was the first head-wrapping play and as anyone who's played knows, there are a lot of rules to digest here. Nothing too complex ('cept maybe the ice/fire defenses or maybe my friend just didn't explain them well) but just lots. Definitely a good game to play again in a short period of time and we have another game scheduled tomorrow (yesterday's play was our learning prep). As this was my first "what the hell am I doing?" play, I won't comment on the gameplay till after tomorrow's session. My first game felt like trying to win a sack race in the mud, but I'm sure the ground will firm up soon enough. I got off to a slow start due to lack of movement cards and lack of understanding what I was doing so my first Day was rather dull whereas my opponents were actually doing stuff. Wasn't till the Night phase that I started effectively using my cards.

As to the LOLing at the VPs, one player had jumped out in front of the other two of us as a result of slaying a dragon and whatever else she did. She seemed to have the right cards at the right time. She was 10 points in front at game end. Then we calculated the VPs and my friend and I shot by her to finish 1-2 with her a distant third. Have unused crystals? Score points for them. Have the most? Score three points! Get points for artifacts. Have the most? Score three points! Wearing the most colorful shirt? Score three points! I joked that you probably get points for wounds only to find that, yep -- have the most wounds? Score three points!

My friend who taught made a point of reading the plot premise on the cover of the rulebook. We're these cool wizard dudes commissioned by the mysterious Council of the Void to go clean out the land of marauding monsters. OK cool. So naturally I expected the player who had done the best job of that (she slayed a dragon, for Pete's sake!) to be most favored by the CotV, but no, the players who had the most unused crystals and had collected the most stuff end up being most prominently regarded by the CotV. Say wha-?

Imagine if at the end of TtA you scored points for unused workers in your worker pool or unused action cards. It seems pretty obvious to me that all this point salad scoring was tacked on to prevent a runaway leader. Due to the card and tile distributions, one player may end up with better opportunities to conquer buildings and slay monsters so the game needed a balancing mechanism. But I find little thematic reason for scoring bonus points for the most X, Y, and Z when the game is over. Runebound, for example, has you win the game on the board by accomplishing some thematic goal, not stopping and counting who has the best sword or most awesoma powa.

Does it matter that the game is a point salad? That's a matter of taste, and as you can probably tell, I'd rather have my thematic fantasy warrior game end in some thematic way. Perhaps the hand management puzzles end up being so fun that I don't care, but I can't help but call the game out in this regard. Intricate hand management game that forces you to be creative with the hand you have? Check. Thematic integration as regards the stated plot? Fail.

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15. Board Game: Insecta [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:7485] [Average Rating:6.25 Unranked]
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
Ebeltoft
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Games Played Week 52:
1x 1825 Unit 3
1x Age of Exploration
1x Agricola w/ Farmers of the Moor
1x Aquaretto
1x Glen More
1x Haggis
1x Insecta
1x Isla Tetra 2
1x Navegador
1x Race for the Galaxy
1x Ticket to Ride: Europe
1x Troyes

Game of Choice:
This is a tough one - do I go with an epic game of Age of Exploration, where I just missed exploring the North West Passage, saw Columbus eaten by cannibals and was on the way to circumnavigating the globe - but ultimately lost to V. who explored South America, Central America and the Carribbean, found, gold, spice, pearls and ruins, not to mention the Aztecs?

Or do we go with spending New Years Eve playing Insecta in a hive game, with me the relentless hive master out for blood and V. the mutant designer trying to escape and clearing the level before moving on in style?

I think it has to be the latter, if only because it was the first real 2 player game. We continued the game today, but called it off 1½ hours later, when V. had cleared the Root Cellar. It was EPIC and I think we might pick it up again at another point in time. We took a few shots of it, so we can re-create the situation - plus V. wanted to show her biology teacher the game.

It was a close call though...

The Week in Review:
I covered the early part of the week in the previous list, so I will go briefly over those games. It has been a great week with 12 plays of 12 distinct games and in very diverse genres.

Agricola was a nightmare, but it is a game I really want to like, not to say love. V. does rate it highly and therefore I persevere.

Ticket to Ride: Europe showed promise as a family game and Haggis could well find its own little niche.

Aquaretto was fun and will be for the whole family. We might have to look into getting Zooloretto now...

Navegador was sweet and something I would like to play more often to really explore the different paths to victory. Race for the Galaxy was its usual self.

1825 Unit 3 was awesome. I don't think either of us would stand a chance in a competitive environment. We enjoy it a great deal, but a lot of the enjoyment stems from the route building aspect of the game.

Isla Tetra 2 was novel in that I pursued a new strategy, namely fishing, whereas V. focused on exploring. She was a bit unfortunate, I was focused, it continues to entertain us. We are both looking forward to seeing the production copy.

Troyes and Glen More were the appetizer on New Years Eve and tasted wonderful. Insecta was the main course, but with enough leftovers for Sunday morning. The afternoon has been spent exploring in the Age of Exploration.

Great week.

The Week Ahead:
V. and I have the next 2 days off also. The kids come home on Tuesday, so we will have some quality gaming tomorrow and then perhaps a game or two with the kids, before it is back to school/ work on Wednesday.
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16. Board Game: Vanuatu [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:697]
 
Tom Shields
United States
Tacoma
Washington
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_10_Brass x3
__9_
Reef Encounter x1
__9_Vanuatu x1
__9_Tinners' Trail x1
__8_Ur x1

Vanuatu had a very good first game. We had three at the table & we were all immersed for our 2 hour first play. Tough choices, a nice player count as permutations didn't overwhelm the game, and the whole experience has humor & high cleverness quotient that is both smart & raw fun. We quickly became veterans of the cutthroat moves the game offers, so there's always a nod & sweet 'You asshole' comment with a grin when someone was trapped out of an action. You can throw anchor or sail chasing the islands (among other things) for a pleasing balance of strategies, have just the right time in 8 rounds for tempo maneuvers to lessen competition for action choices. The focus on turn-order wasn't the normative 'struggle to go first' and grew interesting as we found synergy in different roles with turn-order position, adding a nice layer to everything else. The artwork is very good & the whole thing knits together thematically without a false note. Everyone pushed away from the table happy with the room for experimenting the game offers. Like a sort of market, the many mechanics float in value so there was always fresh parsing & fresh projections as worker placement made it's rounds. Good company, good game experience.

I just loved my introduction to Reef Encounter. Like DJ said, this is up my alley. A very thingey game, Tigrus-esque, and the theming is so charming & different it comes together like you can't imagine the ruleset to be one iota different than it is. And I'm really pleased because I won a copy of the game from my local friend Matt.

This was played over Skype with Joel & DJ, and I gotta say these Iowa dudes are top drawer in smarts as well as just being hilarious at the table with smacktalk & pure shits 'n giggles. While I was in Florida this week, I found an ideal BMW touring bike in incredible shape, and I thought I'd fly out to Florida one day, buy a bike, and ride it home. When I google-mapped a route, I immediately thought to stop in Iowa for a few days because playing yourself into foggy oblivion with Joel & DJ would be just so damn laugh-til-you-cry silly it would give me the best mid-country pitstop I could imagine.

Ur was a total flop. Technical difficulties on my end made a 45 minute game stretch into 2 hrs+. Do not play this online. With me anyway unless I get broadband wifi and not this Verizen cell modem that pinches tight as a __________ on heavy traffic days.

Tinners' Trail! There's something about this game that baits players to take crazy risks, like loading up on cheap property & hoping to roll the equivalent of 'straight 6's,' that is amusing. Something misleading in it's simplicity I suppose. A fave for what it does so well.

Brass continues to be a memorable sequence of games with (primarily now) Kurt, Max, Aliza, and Jerry. I think we've earned a t-shirt by now as the GCL Brass League takes off. I'm enjoying the experimentation everyone resorts to as we gain experience. And it's fun, as we start a new game, to consider my opening cards, my recent experiences, and K, A, M, & J's play-style as I choose which direction to go. So anyway, Phoenixes & lurkers - fresh meat! - come swimming with us! It's such a fine opportunity to dig deep into re-play with a set playgroup with both smarts & pleasing personalities. Many quality gaming moments.
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17. Board Game: Letters from Whitechapel [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:194]
Lo
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played
Letters from Whitechapel x2 New!
Carcassonne x1
Carson City x1
Eminent Domain x1
Prêt-à-Porter x1

Representative Game
So I gave S Letters from Whitechapel for her birthday back in April and it stayed in shrink until just a few days ago as I was determined to get at least one play out of it this year. But S had it in for the game from the moment she unwrapped it and was determined never to enjoy it. And enjoy it she did not. Our one play this week left me feeling the game was more of an albatross than ever.

Then I played a second game yesterday evening with P. As we played, S joined us and became a bit of a consultant to P. Although she didn't take an active role in moving the police, she did give her suggestions as to where P should position them. Perhaps P and I will be able to convince her to actually play it again in a collaborative effort.

The Week in Review
Even with the week off from work, we didn't really play that much more than any other week. Nor did we play anything particularly "epic". No Twilight Struggle or 1853 or even A Few Acres of Snow. What we did play, thanks to P, were a couple sevens from my collection that I wouldn't have otherwise pulled out: Eminent Domain and Carson City.

Carson City is an interesting game and it's one of those games where the BGG rating system doesn't do it justice. Vasco da Gama is another one. Both these games I would probably rate an "8" or a "9" if I played them as four-player games. They're fierce and competitive at that count. But at the more usual count of two (S and I), they are just sevens.

Oh, yeah, and I have Mage Knight Board Game and The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – Return to Mirkwood ordered and hopefully here by next weekend.
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18. Board Game: Ca$h 'n Gun$ [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:944]
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
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Games Played

_9_ Magic: The Gathering 24
_9_ Mage Knight Board Game 2
_8_ Ora et Labora 1 New!
_7_ Ca$h 'n Gun$ 2 New!
_7_ Dungeon Run 1
_6_ Shadows over Camelot 2 New!
_6_ Hawaii 1 New!
_5_ Small World: Tunnels 1
_4_ Deluges 1 New!

Week in Review

I taught Mage Knight twice this week. 3 of my 4 plays so far are the intro scenario, which is getting a little simplistic for my tastes, but I'm happy to spread the love. I'm hoping for some more 6-round games soon.

Ora et Labora was a pleasant surprise, and will probably end up my favorite Rosenberg title. I like the spatial element quite a bit, but I could do without the excessively over-calculated final turns (cf. Le Havre). I also fatigue at the manifold resource conversions by the end game. Still, this is a solidly fun and intriguing set of mental gymnastics. The game is on order.

I followed O&L with Deluges and Hawaii. The former was a game 30 years behind the curve of boardgame design. It had some good ideas but no thanks. Hawaii was better and extremely pleasing, but after thinking it was a strong 7 it has slipped in my post-game musings. Simply, the game is several different ways to combine tiles you by into VP. Superficially it resembles Vikings a bit but replaces a clever buying system and simple spatial tableau building with a lot of generic euro point interactions. It does have an interesting movement currency that drives what you can do and when. It also has a tight economy, but even those are becoming so common as not to feel unique these days.

Conversely, Shadows Over Camelot (I reject the lack of capitalization of "over") was an older game whose charm won out over antiquated mechanics. It's a simple coop with klunky card play. The traitor mechanic is likely flawed. But there aren't enough Arthurian games out there and this one just felt good. I wouldn't play it a lot, but I can see it being fun for years. It might even be a 7; time will tell.

New Years Eve brought the second play of Mage Knight mentioned above, a game of Small World combining the original board and the underground board (bad game, good company) and my first experience with Ca$h 'n Gun$. With 6 players, some of them drunk, it was a great game. I want it, but I can't imagine it being worthwhile with less than five. I'm super glad I got a chance to try it.

Finally, my second play of Dungeon Run made it feel pretty solidly as a 7 (even a low 7). It's a little flat and I'm not sure why. I really like the rules weight and gameplay variety, but somehow it ends up feeling procedural. Maybe the table enthusiasm is lacking and that tarnishes it. It's still good but a bit disappointing. Also, the end game can easily degenerate to the Summoner player running from people. There's no mechanism to slow them down so you rely on them failing to break away. If they make their escape checks, there's no way to stop them.
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19. Board Game: Strasbourg [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:744]
Judit Szepessy
Canada
London
Canada
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The week in gaming


Crokinole x2
Strasbourg x1

Strasbourg: We played it with our friends Friday night. Although there is no connection between the theme and the game, it is still fun and engaging to play. Quite a lot of player interaction, tense bidding and the way you have to time and manage your given number of cards - all this provide an entertaining gameplay. A light game that my go on my wishlist. It is also interesting how you can get kick other players out of their guild. The goal cards give you what direction to take.
I also like that in most of the auction there is a benefit (less and less) if you come in second and third too.
Once you see all the elements and tweaks through, the game plays fast.
My husband really liked the game, and asked me to buy it so that we can play it with the boys.

Plans for the week: I got a cute gift from both of my sons - one from each. It is a "Gaming Ticket" that I can use once for any game I want, and they will both play it with me. I am staying at home this week, so I will validate the precious tickets soon.
We are also borrowing Pastiche from our friend, and we are planning to play it tonight. I mainly want to play it for the reason to show some wonderful work of art to my sons. The game has beautiful components, outstanding quality all around.
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