The Southern Cross
Tim Kilgore
United States
Sturgeon
Missouri
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Every now and again, you get to play a game that instantly agrees with you and everyone that plays it. It might not stand up under repeated plays, but the first game played was so good that it was almost worth the price of the game by itself.

The name of this Geek List? Provided from an old Crosby, Stills, and Nash song - the lyrics should help you make sense of it:

"When you see the Southern Cross
For the first time
You understand now
Why you came this way"
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1. Board Game: El Caballero [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:1949]
Tim Kilgore
United States
Sturgeon
Missouri
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El Caballero.

The inspiration for this Geek List. I played it for the first time last Friday with a pair of gamers that I met through BBG, Brett and Mark. I didn't really know what to expect and as we went through the rules, ah, the possibilities started to appear. By the time we finished the second round, everyone was starting to understand how the game worked and we began play in earnst. The first scoring round ended 28, 26, 11 - with me in second place. The next three rounds were brutal and the game ended with score being 63, 61, 51 - with me in last place and the guy who had 11 won it in part by stealing my majority in the most valuable island.

The game was wide open and anyone could have won it. That you can come back from a slow start is really appealing to me and the depth of the game play was really suprising. You see, I thought that El Grande was the deeper game, but El Caballero has more going on at any one time AND it has better options for long term planning. More brain burn, longer term strategy, and the ability to make a stunning come-back made El Caballero one of the finest first plays that I've ever experienced.

After the game, we sat around for at least 15 minutes talking about how the game developed and other ways the explosive final turn could have been resolved. It was that good.
 
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2. Board Game: Union Pacific [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:468]
Tim Kilgore
United States
Sturgeon
Missouri
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Union Pacific.

We'd played quite a few game of TtR, but it always just seemed to leave me a little thristy no matter how much we played. So I did some digging around here on the Geek and found Union Pacific and decided to see if UP would slake my thirst.

The first game was 6 player game and everyone was seeing some very TtR looking pieces appear from the box and they were starting to get a bit apprehensive. Then we got underway and it quickly became evident that this was an entirely different animal. By the time the first scoring round arrived, everyone had a good grasp on the game and our enjoyment snow-balled as the game progressed. I can't remember who won, but it was good enough to play another game right away.

The joy of random scoring rounds is just sublime. In the second game, the final scoring round was triggered by the last card and the last 5 or 6 turns were just razor sharp, with everyone preparing themselves for the end over and over again.

Anyhow, UP adds just enough depth to slake my thirst for a solid gaming experience and I heartily recommend it. Love at first play!
 
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3. Board Game: Samurai [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:170]
Tim Kilgore
United States
Sturgeon
Missouri
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Samurai.

I'd wanted this one for several years and got it for my birthday this year. It was love at first sight! The boards are spartan, the pieces are stylish, and the game play is straight-forward. The only odd thing is the scoring, and that isn't too difficult to grasp but it is definately a bit of curve ball that adds greatly to the strategy of the game.

The first time I played it, both my opponent and I were almost immediately locked into what became running gun-fight. I won it only because I made a single piece neutral - I couldn't win that battle, but the tie there let me when the war.

Since then I have introduced the game to a number of my buddies and everyone has enjoyed Samurai. The games are almost always close and the intensity level grows with every turn. There might be some chatter at the start of a game, but by mid-game everyone has grown silent, their mental efforts turned entirely towards the game.
 
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4. Board Game: Duel of Ages Set 1: Worldspanner [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:1735]
Tim Kilgore
United States
Sturgeon
Missouri
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Duel of Ages.

I visited the website and said, nah, looks interesting, but it is too big of an investment. A week later I was back, still intrigued. And yet another week goes by and I ordered sets 1, 2 & 8. I ordered these sets because other players recommended that you start with at least the first two sets as the game makes more sense - I added the last set because I wanted the most up-to-date rules. The guys here on the Geek were right - the game is a lot better with at least sets 1 & 2.

Once I got the game, I have got to say how very, very impressive the rulebook is; the Master Set (#8) was worth it just for the rules. At one point I considered myself a wargamer and make no mistake, this is a multi-player wargame with a great set of rules.

After a few weeks, a buddy and I started our first game at about 9:30 at night. Before you know it, it is almost 1am and my buddy is far enough out in front for me to conceed the game. Almost 4 hours went by in the blink of eye! We did the same thing the next night, but I got the win that time...

DoA is a _LOT_ more fun if you're playing with the right people. I mix in a bit of roleplaying and just have fun with it. As the combinations of wild weapons and gear increases, the situations on the board get really, really interesting.

DoA never plays the same. The combination of characters, equipment, and board lay-outs might as well be infinate. I've since added set #3 (Vast Horizons) to the collection and just don't get to play this one as often as I would like. It's ability to burn 4-5 hours off so quickly is uncanny.
 
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5. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:279] [Average Rating:7.23 Unranked]
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I'm sure I'm not alone in the "Southern Cross" feeling I had for this game when I first played it. My enthusiasm for it has definitely faded now, with so many other great games coming along constantly to take its place. But when I first played it after a steady diet of standard Toys-r-Us games, I had the feeling that something very different had entered my life. And I was right!!
 
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