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GCL Amoeba 49 - What's My Number? (2011-12-11)
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
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Welcome to this week's Amoeba discussion group!

If you found us randomly (via subscription, perhaps), you're welcome to join in with constructive conversation -- we're friendly symbiotes in real life, though vicious competitors at the game table. Read the links above for more info.

After a lapse of several weeks, the numbers are back with a vengeance.



The numbers of the beast:
BrenoK
cadavaca
doubtofbuddha
fizzle
garygarison
jasonwocky
jdludlow
jhagen1908
Morganza (irrational number)
msaari
out4blood
paulclarke339
photocurio
sprocket314
Thies (imaginary number)
verandi (prime number)
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1. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:33]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
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There's an old Geeklist of 5-word game reviews. Most of the good ones neatly encapsulate the game's theme or core mechanic. The entry for Power Grid simply says
Quote:
Damn. I'm a dollar short.
(Dave Eisen wrote that? I've been quoting it for years and never knew it was by someone who later became a friend... but I digress.)

In games with a lot of arithmetic calculation, how much time do you spend planning out your moves to the last penny/dollar/Euro/ducat/GP/quatloo? How much control do you need to assert?
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2. Board Game: 1849: The Game of Sicilian Railways [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:2487]
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
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(You knew I was going to find a way to get 1849 in here. Just accept it and move on.)

Paul Simon, in the song Baby Driver, wrote:
They call me Baby Driver
And once upon a pair of wheels
Hit the road and I`m gone ah
What`s my number
I wonder how your engine feels.


Can you feel when a game is going well, or do you need to do the math to convince yourself? Conversely, how often do you find that you've done much worse than you expected when a game was tallied up?


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3. Board Game: Numble [Average Rating:5.10 Unranked]
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Are the numbers jumbled or straight in your head?

Do you know the numbers in your favorite games cold, or do you need to look at the bits? Does that kind of familiarity have much (if any) relationship to how well you play the game?
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4. Board Game: Ration Board [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
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How do you adapt when other people are playing irrationally?
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5. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:142] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]

Eugene
Oregon
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Played this week

Twilight Struggle
Oregon x 2
Spire
Spaiji x 4
Slither
Coerceo
Pickomino x 2
A Game of Thrones: The Card Game
Modern Art
Taj Mahal
Netrunner x 2
Talat
Kingdom Builder
Tournay
Carcassonne x 2

After two Late War short game scenarios of Twilight Struggle where I had Aldrich Ames harass Anna, she finally got the better of me by ending it with a Defcon 2 Wargames play. I then quipped that she can only win when she actually gets to play her own cards.

Went to Lorna's for an afternoon of abstracts, cookies, and Shibumi ball fondling. Got crushed hard in Coerceo, which plays a bit like a GIPF game with an ever shrinking board. Taught her my new fave Slither, and though she looked pretty weak at the start, her pieces scattered pellmell with a long vein of my blacks dividing the board, I told her not to worry, that things can change before you know it. And so they did. Lorna's scattered pieces revealed their hidden potential, coming to her aid to give her the win.

I made a homemade copy of Pickomino back in my early BGG days:


We dubbed it Dog Poop Dice. It's been a running joke for Anna to respond to my requests of what to play with "Dog Poop Dice!". Well, I finally relented and we played a couple games by the woodstove. What did she ever see in this interminable turd of a game? Even she admits she won't be joking about playing this again anytime soon.

Theme! Combos! Theme! A Game of Thrones: The Card Game! Not that bad, really. We were having quite a bit of fun with it, at least until the Stark player sucker punched the all of us with the god damn Valar Morghulis plot card that kills all characters on table, along with their accumulated power tokens. A WTF game reset. The VM plot card went back into Stark's hands two turns later, and with that sword of Damocles, it pretty much killed my enthusiasm. I guess things can be done to address this issue. I'm not sure we want to expend the effort to do these things.

Modern Art with three isn't so great. Taj Mahal with three is even worse.

With all the talk in the Netrunner forums about a possible reprint of the game, it made me crave playing it. Anna's gotten rusty, as she was never even close to catching my Corp.

Talat is a very simple 3p abstract strategy that might have some interesting things going on in it. Or it could fall prey to double teaming and kingmaking. Not sure yet.

Boy, Kingdom Builder is fluffy gaming confection, isn't it. No matter, I'll take this over Dominion and 7 Wonders happily.

Icon rampage with Tournay. Race for the Medieval 3x3 Matrix. I'd play it again, as long as someone at the table is iconographically expert.

Anna's mother came down to visit us last night, and we taught her Carcassonne. Her normal game of choice is Bunko. She ended up winning while Anna and I squabbled over farms.
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6. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.10 Overall Rank:24]
United Kingdom
Southampton
Hampshire
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Tues
Brass (4 player, won)
Santiago (4 player)

Weds
2x Dominion + Seaside (3 player)
Ticket to Ride (5 player)
1.5x Saboteur (6 player)
2 hands of 6 Nimmt! (6 player)
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7. Board Game: Vanuatu [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:697]
 
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The gaming week in review:

Monday night:
Rolling Stock -- I tried to like this game. I really did. I think I'm done with it now.

Wednesday night:
Sicily: Triumph and Folly (very very new to me) -- as previously mentioned, I get to learn a new style of wargame now. This one is all about logistics and supply lines.

Thursday night:
I've mentioned problems with critical mass on Thursday nights. This week it was just me and Candy. So we played 4 2p games:
Heartland (new to me) -- a tile-laying game with a bit of a tech tree - each half of the domino you lay gives you a choice between short-term and long-term scoring. You have a hand of three, so it may take a moment's thought to find the right tile, or at least the closest one to your chosen strategy.
Unpublished Prototype -- Candy's set-collection game also works well with 2. BTW, I told her to write to the folks at CGF about getting it published ;-)
Carcassonne: The Phantom (new) -- I'd never played with the Phantom expansion before, and I don't recall ever playing 2p Carc before. Turned out that I'm more vicious than Candy was expecting. (OK, none of you are surprised.)
Innovation -- this was only the third time I've played. I jumped out to an early lead with Agriculture and one aggressive Dogma of Gunpowder; I got a 3-level card that worked well with Agriculture (which I never melded over) and steamrollered.
It was a somewhat uncomfortable evening; I actually felt guilty for doing as well as I did in the games.

Friday night:
Eminent Domain with Bonus Planets (3x) -- There are people who play this well. Me, I'm good at coming in second :-(
Race for the Galaxy: The Brink of War (no goals :-( , no takeovers) -- a Prestige engine isn't necessary to win this, but it sure helped.

Saturday, Mel hosted his usual awesome group.
Vanuatu (5p, taught) -- we played one turn to learn the mechanics and then played for real. Mel thinks this would be better with Caylus-style variable turn order instead of clockwise. However, everyone at the table wants to play this again -- big win. There's also an enthusiasm for trying it without the characters.
Power Grid: China -- one piece of coal. I needed one piece of coal. I could see the keepaway game, though, and tossed the plant. :-( Nobody did anything stupid, lots of people jockeyed hard for turn order, and the player who started the coal war didn't win either. Excellent game.
Formula Dé Circuits 1 - Monaco (7/8p) -- the traditional closer. Nobody ended up in a flaming wreck, the teenager took huge risks and rolled perfectly, only one player spun out, only 2 damage points on the D20 "die of death". So no memorable stories, but still fun.

I always have a great time gaming at Mel's -- what's better than a houseful of friends laughing and having fun as they compete full-throttle?
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8. Board Game: Mage Knight Board Game [Average Rating:8.11 Overall Rank:23]
Jason Reid
United States
Brooklyn
New York
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Only gamed one day this week, although I did get in some good Essen titles. Upcoming week looks a little bleak as well as far as gaming time goes.

1x Vanuatu: 4p, me and 3 newbies, no role cards. The fishing grounds were very bad during the early game, so I decided to sink all of my cash into early huts...I actually got two onto the first island! Alas, I was doing most of the work of bringing tourists in, so while they paid off ultimately those points didn't come cheaply. My strategy was to keep my boat on the starting tile until the good fishing came out during the mid game. Thing is, it didn't happen then either. It seemingly took forever for good fishing tiles to come out, and by the time they did, they were nowhere near the starting tile. At some point I decided to stay put on the starting tile for the rest of the game, and I eeked out points and money however I could (I spent a lot of time drawing in the sand). Ultimately I finished a strong second, which I thought was pretty good for never moving my boat.

1x Upon a Salty Ocean: 3p, me and two newbies. Since never moving my boat in Vanuatu was somewhat effective, I decided mirror that here and try and execute a market manipulation / Notre Dame strategy. It did not work out so well, as I came in a distant second. Maybe it was the market tile mix, or maybe it was my timing, but I built pretty much everything I was going to build by the 4th round and didn't have much to do for a round-and-a-half after that. I hadn't built up any fleet, and fish were selling for so little that volume would have been my only way out of it. I've now seen this game develop 3 very different ways, and am quite impressed by that.

1x Mage Knight Board Game: 2p introductory scenario with somebody I was hoping would like it. He's a great gamer who I figured would appreciate the theme, but he's one of those "calculating" gamer types that are the topic oc this geeklist. So the opening rounds of the game were a little rough on him...he was having trouble not feeling overwhelmed by all of the options presented to him. However, by the 4th hand or so he was getting into the groove, and he capped off the first night by burning down a monastery! (Aside: in my 6 games, I've yet to burn down a monastery.) Ultimately I won, but it was only by a few points. He made a strong showing and said he'd definitely be willing to play again, though he didn't give it a wild endorsement. So I'd call the endeavor basically but not resoundingly successful.
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9. Board Game: Mage Knight Board Game [Average Rating:8.11 Overall Rank:23]
Jesse Dean
United States
Chicago
IL
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Mage Knight the Board Game x7

Oh yes, I went there.

This may be a new 10 for me.
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10. Board Game: 1861: The Railways of the Russian Empire [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:1829]
Peter Mumford
United States
Somerville
Massachusetts
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1861 1x I'm still refining my theory of this game (and settling for third place in the meantime). I'm also eager to receive my copy of 1812, which I understand is a similar, but more streamlined game.

Modern Art 1x
speaking of doing the math, I lose this game every single time, by trying to bid as close to rationally as possible (i.e. not too far above half expected value), but I get clobbered by my adorable wife who bids way too high! Didn't someone say that the definition of craziness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? I must be crazy.

Quo Vadis 1x Still love it.

Wagon Trader 1x Chris Rao's new game.. this is a little like Agricola without all the cards. I think I like it better. The mechanics fit the theme smoothly.

Australia 1x A great gateway euro.
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11. Board Game: Kings of Mithril [Average Rating:5.85 Overall Rank:11639]
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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4 x _5_The Mysteries of Peking
1 x _7_The Kids of Catan
1 x _9_Spot it!
3 x _7_Kissenschlacht
2 x _7_Kings of Mithril
1 x _5_The Secret of Monte Cristo
1 x _5_Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game

Games with family on Tuesday, regular board games - but an extra long session - on Thursday.
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12. Board Game: Mage Knight Board Game [Average Rating:8.11 Overall Rank:23]
James Ludlow
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Saint Louis Park
Minnesota
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Played last week

6x Mage Knight Board Game
1x A Game of Thrones: The Card Game


I taught 10 people how to play Mage Knight this weekend, with three of them playing multiple times.

3x 4p teaching scenario
1x 3p teaching scenario
1x 2p blitz conquest
1x 3p blitz conquest

Reading the rules cover-to-cover between sessions was helpful in sorting out a few details. I'll probably do that again before my next play.


== Action photo

The lady who took this, playing the red character, played her first board game on Friday. She dove head first into the weekend marathon, and seemed to be having a good time. She moved on from Mage Knight to learn Tichu.




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13. Board Game: Indonesia [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:190]
Jerry Hagen
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
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.10! Brass 2
_5_ 7 Wonders 1
.10! Indonesia 1
_8_ Macao 1

Brass was a pair of online games with various GCLers. They did not end well for me though I did place second in one of them. The games I currently have going are more promising.

Friday night games started with Indonesia which was, as usual, strange. The game lasted only 5 turns due to a confluence of factors. First, the Bali rice company got wedged into a 1-tile space between two cities. No one wanted it, so it got tossed out at the start of Era B. Second, everyone teched slots heavily. I was the only player not to reach 4 slots by end of game. Unfortunately I did not adjust to these factors as well as Will did, and while I had a nice business going shipping spice on my own boats, I didn't have free slots at the right times and Will won going away. He had in the 1100s; I had about 650 for second place. I commented on how it was the lowest score I'd ever had and yet I still expected not to finish last, and sure enough the other two players had roughly 575 and 450 respectively.

7 Wonders happened. The company was good.

I scored 95 in our 3-player Macao which is usually good for a win or a close second, but Kevin won going away with a score in the 110s. Kevin's visiting from Ohio and so Friday was the first night I ever gamed with him, and it's too bad he won't be sticking around permanently. He likes heavy games and if Macao is any indication he is a pretty skilled gamer.

I have raised Brass back to a 10 and moved 7 Wonders down to a 5. I have every intention of continuing to explore Brass, and little desire to explore 7 Wonders further.
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14. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:48]
Jens KH
Germany
Karben
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Games played

2x _8_ Race for the Galaxy
1x _6_ 1825 Unit 3 (new!)
1x _7_ 1889: History of Shikoku Railways
1x _4_ Cargo Noir (new!)
1x _5_ Fzzzt! (new!)
1x _6_ Metropolys
1x _6_ Nile DeLuxor
1x _6_ World Without End
1x _6_ Wizard

December appears to consist of a lot of fairly light gaming with a few 18xx sessions sprinkled in for good measure.

1825 U3 worked (surprisingly) well as a 2p game. Okay, so it was designed specifically as a 2p game so maybe it shouldn't have been that surprising but I still think that the system loses a lot when removing the multiplayer aspect. I'd mostly just choose something else for 2p gaming.

1889 was, unfortunately, not as enjoyable as usual, due to a huge blunder in the midgame that pretty much handed the game to one player, and made another lose all motivation (and show it).

RftG might be getting some traction which is good. Everything else this week was either harmless or, in the case of Cargo Noir, unnecessary.
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15. Board Game: 1830: Railways & Robber Barons [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:177] [Average Rating:7.84 Unranked]
Tim Seitz
United States
Glen Allen
VA
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3x 1830: Railways & Robber Barons
2x Dominion(with Alchemy, Intrigue, Prosperity, Seaside)

Surprisingly little gaming this week. There will be even less this week I suspect with all of the holiday events planned.

As I mentioned in the last thread, we played our first big 4-player game of 1830 with the new mapboard and tiles last night. We made use of the real board, tiles, stocks, and trains, and used Rails to handle all of the money and do the route calculations. We had 2 new players and started off with a detailed rules explanation. I think we kicked off the rules explaining around 6:45 to 7:00 and didn't start actually playing until about 7:45. We managed to "finish" in about 4 hours of playtime.

We couldn't have done it without Rails for sure. Ironically, the player with the most experience was trying to calculate his own routes, and for the most part got them wrong every time, so he went with the Rails calculation, which was usually to his benefit.

Everyone enjoyed the game immensely and wanted to play again. We might try for another big F2F game this week, but we'll see.

Dominionwas pulled out again, to open up and include the Cornucopia expansion. My Amazon Big Box of Dominion is actually getting full. I think this thing must weigh 20 pounds or so.

As much as I enjoy playing Dominion, I do not enjoy the time required to set up and tear down the game. I think I'd be much more keen on playing it if we just used the base game cards.

With that thought, I had an epiphany: I don't like expansions.

d10-1Race for the Galaxy is the biggest poster child for this. We used to be race addicts, but I think all of the expansions killed off our desire to play the game.
d10-2Innovation. I love Innovation. I dislike Innovation: Echoes of the Past. Makes the game unnecessarily complex and adds significantly to the time required. I am probably not going to buy the next expansion at all. We'll see.
d10-3Dominion. With all of the cards, the box is so large and heavy, I can't take it anywhere. I think I may reorganize things to keep a base set inside a small box inside the Big Box and then pull that out when I want to take Dominion somewhere. Not buying Dominion: Hinterlands. (Who am I kidding. I'll buy it for my daughter, but it took us 11 months to unshrink Cornucopia...)
d10-4Agricola. I adore this game. So of course, I bought nearly all of the expansions. But now I hardly play it. in fact, the game has multiplied to 3 different boxes - one for cards, one for boards, and one for the plano box with pieces. Oh, for the simple days when it was laminated paper and LEGOs.

Perhaps I might be okay with extra maps. Like Formula De maps. And maybe Power Grid maps. I dunno yet.
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16. Board Game: Risk Legacy [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:249]
Jevon Heath
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
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_6_ 3x Risk Legacy

I'm training to run the Napa Valley Marathon in March. I tell you that to tell you that I was impressively tired Saturday evening when these three games went down, hence the lowish rating. On balance this may be a good thing though, as competition was more even all around. The second game in particular had a string of four pushes for victory in four successive turns. The first was foiled by me using all my missiles, the second by a newly-placed scar, the third by that same scar (coming back to bite its emplacer), and the fourth succeeded but BARELY.

We also opened a new packet. I'm really impressed by the thought that seems to have been put into the packets. The designer has put a lot of trust into the players' ability to police the game balance, and for us at least it is paying off admirably.

I and everyone else are looking forward to more games. We had a new player this time (an SO of one of us grad students, who's bored a bit), and he brought materials to record the game state as it proceeded as he fully expected to be half-bored the whole game. But he sure wasn't. Now we have a separate problem in that we have seven people who want to play every game. For now our collective schedules are so tight that this will be settled by individual availability, but we're going to need a solution later.
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17. Board Game: Glory to Rome [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:155]
Carlos Moreno Serrano
United Kingdom
Guildford
Surrey
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_9_Glory to Rome x 1
.10!Neue Heimat x 2

I'm quite late this week, but I have been doing 2 jobs at the same time. Lots of unpaid overtime. Good thing is I still had time to play some games (although I thought at some point to stay at home and rest).

We had 2 games of Neue Heimat with 1 of Glory to Rome in between.

I played terrible at Neue Heimat, although I ended up second in both 4-player games. I still enormously enjoyed it. It is my favourite filler now.

We also played 3 player Glory to Rome and I won hands down by doing crazy combos that were super synergetic to one another. I think we don't play GtR enough to maximise on the combos. I am the most experienced GtR player in our group and found it easy to win each time precisely because of player making sub-optimal choices and using the wrong card at the wrong time (like using a valuable purple card to follow when having another less valuable purple or even a jack).

I hope we play it more often. It was a lot of fun, but very one-sided.

Very fun night with just a couple of fillers. Just what I needed after doing long hours.
 
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