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Subject: My Second Big Purchase!...or... rss

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Rich Ma
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What I've learned in my brief time gaming

Hello all. I've only been a BGG for a little while now (a little over a year I think) and I just placed my second ever big purchase at ThoughtHammer. As I'm completely hooked, I'm trying to assemble a modest but complete collection. I wanted to post to get some thoughts, reactions, and further recommendations to how I've gone about putting my collection together.

First of all, like many, I'm an old-school RPG'er, who plays videogames. My wife and I were introduced to boardgames by another couple who showed us Settlers of Catan. I was immediately hooked. And my wife, while not the enthusiast I am, doesn't mind a good game every now and then.

So below is what games I bought and how they worked out. Sort've a games history. ...All of which led to my recent purchase. I'd love to get some people's thoughts/expectations on how this next batch of games will go over and what I've missed and need to get on the inevitable third big purchase.

- After our first boardgame experience playing Settlers, I started prowling around online to buy it. I stumbled across this blessed site and snooped around. After some research I decided to go straight to the top and buy Puerto Rico. We loved it. My brothers loved it. Our couple-friends loved it. So I learned that we can handle something meaty. And we all like to get wrapped up in a game and be competitive about it.

- So, after more research, my next game was Descent. I figured I love RPG's, my brothers loved RPG's, my wife actually enjoys some of the dungeon crawl videogames out there...what the hell, seems like it could work. Well, we played it once (sorta). I like the game and love the production values and we all appreciate it, but this game...well, it was a waste of my money. My wife and brothers just won't get wrapped up in it like I could. And it's a tough sell to get people to set aside 3-4 hours of dedicated time for this. So...as much as I hate to admit it, no more dungeon crawls or pseudo-RPG's. It makes me truly sad, but I won't be trying out Runebound, Return of the Heroes, Talisman or any of the other great looking games of this ilk. Well, never say never. And I think maybe Arkham Horror lies in my future because it's soloable.

- Undeterred I did some more research and put together my first big purchase with ThoughtHammer. Part of the order was Reef Encounter. Perfect fit, I figured. My wife, my brothers and I, we all love fish and marine biology. The theme seemed great and the game got great reviews here for being a nice meaty game. Well...no. It flopped. I'm hoping to getting some people to try it sometime in the future, but for now it looks like another waste of my money. I learned that theme is not that important, but the theme's ties to the mechanics is very important. No one really cared that fish were involved and that the game had nice rich colors. Most importantly, I think everyone had a hard time wrapping their head around the mechanics; my wife just couldn't get what the object of the game was and couldn't intuitively understand why to take certain actions, apart from the imposition of artificial game-mechanics. I think some people (and maybe myself included) need something more tangible to ground the game mechanics. Puerto Rico works because everyone can understand the flow of the game because it involves well-understood concepts: get a plantation, put a slave on it, buy a building, put a slave in it, produce a good, then ship or sell. It's a shame, because, like Descent, I think I can get into Reef Encounter. Or maybe I should only be buying slavery games?

- My big buy also included War of the Ring. This was a can't miss. We all loved Lord of the Rings. In fact, I don't think it's possible for someone to be a close friend of mine if they don't love Lord of the Rings. This game couldn't miss. Sigh. It missed. Well, it's not that it completely missed. Everyone looks at it and loves the idea, but I can't get anyone to commit to it with me. I know for a fact that this game rocks and rocks hard. But between long setup times, a gazillion pieces, and the long playtime, it's just not happening with my wife and my small pool of play-partners. I learned that (like women) even if everything looks like a perfect fit on paper, there's still no guarantee of a good fit. (Edit: There was no vulgar inference meant here. When I say "like women" I'm referring to times when it seemed as if a girl was perfect, but wasn't, because there's no predicting chemistry. Please disregard any vulgar innuendos.") You've got to consider how deep the game-group is willing to get. Might be time, might be fiddly rules, might be sheer size...whatever it is, you've got to know what they'll play and what they won't play. So, it is with extreme pain that I reconcile myself to the fact that BattleLore probably will not make it into my home, barring unforeseen developments or impulse buys.

- But hey, the big purchase wasn't a complete loss. I also bought Power Grid. Funny, because at the time of purchase, I didn't even really want it that much. It seemed dry. But the rating here was so high and the reviews really touched on some good stuff, it just seemed like a good way to go for the collection's sake. Sure enough, it was a hit. Yah, the theme is dry, but the theme ties in with easy to conceptualize mechanics, because they're grounded in simple economics. Still doesn't hit the table as much as Puerto Rico, I think because it boils down to a sort've cold calculation at the end, but definitely a hit. I learned that, in general, if all the geeks like it, it's probably for a pretty good reason.

- Caylus was given to me as a gift. It came with some not-too-subtle hints that I *mistakenly* floated out there. Aha! Hoho! As I've learned from Puerto Rico and Power Grid, go with the Geek. You can't go wrong. But after two plays, we're not sure yet. We think we like it. But it is a deep game. And right now, a very long one for us. And there's a lot of mechanics going on...a lot to think about. But hey we think we like it. It'll take more plays to know for sure. The only potential problem with the game to us is maybe the whole shebang of mechanics doesn't necessarily make for an enjoyable game. But the real issue, and what I've learned is, the game has to make you want to put it on the table, it has to have some amount of crack-like quality. Up to now, even though it's liked, no one's clamoring to give Caylus another go. That may change in time (and I certainly hope it ends up a hit), but it's a little more work than it should be to get us addicted to it.

- So my recent purchase! (Thanks for reading and sticking with me) From what I've learned about my very finicky group, I picked some games, each of which I already love.

Lost Cities. Because every friggin couple here says so. And I want the wifey to get as hooked as possible. We'll see. Reading the game descriptions/reviews here didn't exactly knock my socks off with excitement and anticipation, but I'm willing to go with the more experienced geek couples.

Carcassonne. Sorta going with an established gateway game. I like that it's a bit light. I don't want everyone to think that every time I pull out boardgame that I want all of us to spend 4 hours in deep, enthralling thought. And supposedly excellent for 2.

Lord of the Rings Confrontation. Still trying to hook the wife. And I refuse to give up on the Lord of the Rings theme (despite War of the Ring and what I've learned about theme). But I like that it's Knizia, and I LOVE that it's quick.

Princes of Florence. It was a cheap ding-and-dent pick up that looks like it should connect well with my group, given the success of Puerto Rico and Power Grid. Plus, it can be played with 2 (did I mention that I want to hook the wife?). This is a game that reading the descriptions and rules got me excited about.

Tigris and Euphrates. I'm a bit worried about this purchase. I know I'll love it. But I've read that it can be hard for non-gamers to grasp and that it can take a few plays. Seems like a fantastic candidate for failure with my group. But a geek's gotta stay true. I had to try. Plus, I want to fill my small collection with the big guns.

I think I made some good educated purchases in this last round. The focus was on 2-player and time of play, with some weight given to BGG favor. And well...my son is now 10 months old. If all else fails, in only 6 or 7 years I can try and brainwash him.

So that's it! Thoughts? Reactions? Recommendations? Hello? Anyone there?
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Aaron Gelb
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All i can say is good choice on Carcasonne, I think its light play, nice theme and shorter playing time will work well for your group.
 
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Daniel
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Quote:
And well...my son is now 10 months old. If all else fails, in only 6 or 7 years I can try and brainwash him.


This made me laugh so much!!!

Just out of curiosity, have you considered Knizia's cooperative Lord of the Rings? I am currently considering it myself so I can't officially recommend it, but it fits your desire for all things Lord of the Rings.

Also, I wouldn't necessarily trust the Geeks with blind faith. For example, I still love chess even though it is regarded with disdain on BGG. Also, beware of the feud between Ameritrash and Eurogames. What I mean by that is you will see a lot of comments one way or another on a game, but until I know a bit more about the person (personality, interests, etc.) I usually take any recommendations with a grain of salt. Check geeklists they have made, microbadges they own, and see how they rate games you have played. GeekBuddies may be helpful too.

Good Luck
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Chris Bailey
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Maybe some lighter games in the top 100? Ra, Modern Art, Aladdin's Dragons and St. Petersburg come to mind.
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Great post! I was interested to hear Reef Encounter flopped for you guys. I bought my copy as a ding 'n dent and haven't had a chance to play it yet. I've heard the rules are are not well done do you think that first try blues sank it? That almost happened with Age of Steam for us. We didn't quite get how important understanding how delicate the money balance was to the game and it really frustrated my wife who has not played since...

Power Grid has also been a fantastic success in my group and the ladies seem to have the upper hand so they REALLY like it. My uncle who is usually the one cleaning all our clocks finally put together a win for the lads the other day though!

That is quite the order, I'll look forward to hearing how the games go for you.
Van
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Adam Skinner
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I think you should look into getting a mid-weight, under an hour euro. Mykerinos is one I like. There's a recent thread here on the geek

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/162330

that talks about these "super fillers".

Don't be afraid of card games, either. Coloretto, Fairy Tale, and For Sale have all been well received here.

Try and pick up a party game, too. I recently played Beyond Balderdash and it was a hit.

Personally I gave Lost Cities away. It seems to me that that's a non-gamers game that doesn't really click with the majority of gamers (at least, it didn't with me) though non-gamers and non-gaming spouses in particular seem to enjoy it. I think you may be better served with Hive.

Good luck!
 
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John N.
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bigbossma wrote:

So...as much as I hate to admit it, no more dungeon crawls or pseudo-RPG's. It makes me truly sad, but I won't be trying out Runebound, Return of the Heroes, Talisman or any of the other great looking games of this ilk. Well, never say never. And I think maybe Arkham Horror lies in my future because it's soloable.



Please don't say never on Return of the Heroes. It plays easily in an hour to an hour and a half. I really enjoy this and can get a few games out of my friends. You should read the instructions thoroughly as well as come to BGG and download some of the rule guides. Not that it's a hard game to play (it is incredibly simple) it is just that the rule book is very poorly presented (just in my opinion). And even if your gaming circle don't take to it I have found the solo play to be more than satisfying.

I also want to back up on the comment on the Knizia Lord of the Rings game. We have had a tonne of fun playing that (or for a different kind of co-op game with a great theme go for Shadows over Camelot).

Glad to see you get so in to the gaming and wanting to expand the games you play. I got burned out on just Cataan Cities and Knights after the millionth play, even if it is a terrific game. Keep us updated on other purchases and what you think of all the games you bought lately, once they actually hit the table.

 
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Enon Sci
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Great post.

Much like yourself, I'm a recent convert to the world of board gaming from RPGs (well, CRPGs at least).

Here are some random thoughts you may wish to explore:

Euros:

1) Along the lines of light euros that can be brought to the table that don't overstay their welcome, be sure to check out Yspahan and Pillars of the Earth.

Yspahan has considerable depth, but can play out in 30 - 60 mins (I say "considerable" in a light relative to its length). It's basically a VP engine building game, like Caylus or perhaps Puerto Rico, but plays out very differently.

The Pillars of the Earth is very much the same, and gets compared to Caylus, but plays out in about 1 hour.

It might be a good stepping stone to Caylus, though I see you've already had it hit the table.

2) Funny Friends is a cute and fast Euro made by the minds behind Power Grid (Friedmann Friese) and Attika (Marcel-André Casasola Merkle). It definitely plays to the decedent minded, so only sit down with it if you don't mind the occasional sexual, drug related, or socially maladjusted references the game might bring up. If it were a movie, it would be rated R (so it's still tame, just not young kid friendly).

3) Attika might be worth a look. Nobody I have introduced it to likes it, but perhaps that has more to do with the personalities involved than anything else. Though I've had the game for awhile it has not been played enough for me to comment.

Card games (warm up titles):

1) Chrononauts Short and fun.
2) Landlord! I'm lukewarm on this, but it's also made by Friedmann Friese, and allows you to play with anarchist squatters (how could you turn that down?).

Others:

1) Arkham Horror: PLAY THIS GAME! As an x-RPG player I can't stress this enough. This game will blow your group away. If nothing else, it's a cooperative adventure title, which is rare enough.

2) Runebound: Don't let Descent fool you, Runebound is a MUCH lighter game. It plays faster (with 2) and the rules are simpler. If your mates enjoy a good monty haul adventure then you should look into it. Pick it up cheap and see how it goes over. I personally dislike the base game without some of the expansion content, but I'm not really into fantasy game settings (so it might just be a me thing).

3) War on Terror Hehe.. fantastic fast fun. Worth supporting these blokes if the theme is something that grabs you. Very light war game (?) that feels like the illegitimate baby risk would have with Settler's of Catan whilst watching a monty python spoof of current events. No cultural finger pointing is done, and very little in the way of heavy handed social commentary shows up. It's a cute 'screw your buddy' kind of game.

4) meh.. maybe I'll edit up something here in a few.



ps: Yspahan has a great video review over at Board Games With Scott.
http://www.boardgameswithscott.com/?p=65


 
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Scott Nicholson
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Look for a group or convention. (here's a great place to start).

This is a way to try many many many games and decide what you want.

Yes, it will cost money to attend the event, but I see it as an investment. If I attend a 3-day con and play 10 games a day, I'll end up crossing 27 games off my list and finding 3 I am interested in. That's saving me money (in purchasing) and time (in learning) games.




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Paul Schulzetenberg
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Good analysis. It sounds like you're starting to find out where your group's tastes lie, and that's a very good thing, both for your group and for your pocketbook. Your next order looks like it's going to be right up your alley, for the most part.

Looking over your previous order... slow down, there! You're tackling some long, heavy stuff. Baby steps! Rome wasn't built in a day, so don't expect your game group to jump right into the huge slugfests like War of the Ring and Descent. I've also been growing my own little game group, and through trial and error (mostly error) I've learned that I can't push anybody into longer games unless they are ready for it.

As far as Reef Encounter failure, I found that RE has a very steep learning curve. It took me until my third or fourth play for everything to click, and I am fortunate enough to be a quick study as far as games go. I've yet to play with anybody who "got it" after one play.

Anyway, you seem to have learned from the experience. Your next order looks perfect for your group. I hope you have a better success rate with this batch, and maybe you can come back to some of those others.
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Allen Vailliencourt
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Let me recommend Jambo. My wife isn't a huge fan of Lost Cities and just last week I picked up Jambo to try it out. She is hooked! We have played almost every night since we bought it and it's her new favorite 2 player game. I love it as well. Artwork is excellent, and has some great strategy to it (along with a little luck).

~V
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Rich Ma
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zelador wrote:

Just out of curiosity, have you considered Knizia's cooperative Lord of the Rings? I am currently considering it myself so I can't officially recommend it, but it fits your desire for all things Lord of the Rings.

Also, I wouldn't necessarily trust the Geeks with blind faith. For example, I still love chess even though it is regarded with disdain on BGG. Also, beware of the feud between Ameritrash and Eurogames. What I mean by that is you will see a lot of comments one way or another on a game, but until I know a bit more about the person (personality, interests, etc.) I usually take any recommendations with a grain of salt. Check geeklists they have made, microbadges they own, and see how they rate games you have played. GeekBuddies may be helpful too.

Good Luck


Point well taken. I pretty much take everything with a grain of salt, and as we all know, there's a million variables that go into a hit or a miss with any game group. What's clear is that, for me at least, it's no longer about just what I like, but about what I like that I can get others to like with me. And I'm sort've leaning toward light euro's as some people on this thread have observed and suggested. We'll see how it goes with this next batch. I'm particularly curious about Princes of Florence. If I'm right, that's a game that should definitely be a hit.

I've definitely considered the co-op Lord of the Rings. But I read just enough negative reviews that commented on a sort've "linear" or "scripted" feel to the game and they were just enough for me to substitute Confrontations into the order instead. I've no doubt that I'll try it out eventually.
 
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Rich Ma
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vandemonium wrote:
Great post! I was interested to hear Reef Encounter flopped for you guys. I bought my copy as a ding 'n dent and haven't had a chance to play it yet. I've heard the rules are are not well done do you think that first try blues sank it? That almost happened with Age of Steam for us. We didn't quite get how important understanding how delicate the money balance was to the game and it really frustrated my wife who has not played since...

Power Grid has also been a fantastic success in my group and the ladies seem to have the upper hand so they REALLY like it. My uncle who is usually the one cleaning all our clocks finally put together a win for the lads the other day though!

That is quite the order, I'll look forward to hearing how the games go for you.
Van


I'm definitely hoping to get some people to give it another go. In fact, I'm not sure that I was fluent enough with the rules and I may have done a poor job teaching (although isn't that ultimately at least partially the game's fault?). But there really is some good stuff in that box that looks like fun.

I just crack up, though, when I picture my wife's eyes rolling and glazing as I was sitting there trying to explain, "placing the disk lets you flip those tiles to the opposite color, see? And that means the yellow corals can now eat the pink corals, got it?"

Actually, there's a lot of things about game design that's worth discussing here. Theme, mechanics, depth, required #'s of play, etc.
 
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Here some suggestions I have found popular:

Betrayal at House on the Hill: This is agreat game and doesn't get enough respect here on the Geek! Needs the errata but a fun game that I have had alot of success playing with people that are light gamers or even new/reluctant to play board games. When this was first introduced at my game group we played four back to back games.
Betrayal at House on the Hill

Risk 2210: Yeah I know pulling out all the Hasbro titles... A great new Risk variant for anyone who ever played Risk. Shorter playing time, a lot of simple fun. I haven't played GodStorm but it might be a nice alternative. I presume the additional mechanics are very similar
Risk 2210 A.D.

Maharaja: Palace building in Ancient India: Okay I have only played this once, but it was alot of fun. The rules aren't too complex but the set of choices can result are really large
Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India

Thurn and Taxis: A was a little reluctant to try this with my family but they all enjoyed it. We played Ticket to Ride and think this has a little more depth.
Thurn and Taxis

Cities and Knights of Catan: Longer than the standard but adds some some elements. Basic mechanic will be familiar to your your family and friends already:
Catan: Cities & Knights

Times Up: I think this is one of the best party games ever. Every group of people to whom I have introduced this game has a great time.
Time's Up!
 
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Phil Campbell
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Why not sit your wife in front of the 'Geek and ask if she sees anything she likes?
 
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The root of all evil... but you can call me cookie.
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zelador wrote:
Also, I wouldn't necessarily trust the Geeks with blind faith. For example, I still love chess even though it is regarded with disdain on BGG. Also, beware of the feud between Ameritrash and Eurogames. What I mean by that is you will see a lot of comments one way or another on a game, but until I know a bit more about the person (personality, interests, etc.) I usually take any recommendations with a grain of salt. Check geeklists they have made, microbadges they own, and see how they rate games you have played. GeekBuddies may be helpful too.


Very good point. Do not be afraid to dissent from the commonly accepted opinions here on this site. Hands down BGG is the best tool you will find on the web for board games. As a database goes it's amazing and you can find any/everything. Still ratings are subjective and take them as such. Read about the games and learn about how they are played, what mechanics are involved and decide for yourself if you think it's something you might be interested in.

I think you've done pretty well for yourself thus far in this your 2nd purchase. Princes of Florence will be a very nice Puerto Ricoesque game for your group I think they'll love it. Carcassonne is another great choice many many rounds of fun to be had there, I hope you went for the BIG BOX as it does have the essential Inns & Cathedrals and Traders & Builders expansions.

I'd suggest taking a serious look at the Days of Wonder line as those games are lighter but still generate a lot of fun. The Ticket To Ride Series (actually I'd suggest the original with the 1910 expansion), Cleopatra and the Society of Architects, Pirate's Cove and even Memoir '44 (it's not as long in setup and detail as Battlelore.)

When you want to make the step into auction/bidding games, a mechanic I really enjoy, I would suggest researching the following; Aladdin's Dragons, Boomtown, Ra, Amun-Re and Vegas Showdown.

Lastly I would suggest to you to certainly look at the top of the heap but don't discount the stuff under the surface too. A friend of mine does a monthly geek list called "Top 10 non-top 200 games being played." These are games that are getting played A LOT by BGGers but are not in the top 200...so obviously they are good games because they get played but for whatever reason their ratings are 201 or higher. See one list here:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/20719

OK now with my input and all the other input you've been completely overly inundated with stuff but...you asked for it!

THoiA
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You sound like you're in about the same place I am. I look to buy two types of games: two player games to play with my wife, and games to play with friends and family who enjoy good boardgames, but aren't quite into the hobby as much as I am. Ideally, a game will be good for two and be good for friends and family, but those games are rare.

I also have found that what you say about rules being intuitive to the theme to be an essential element of good boardgames. Interesting mechanics aren't enough to make a game enjoyable for most of the friends and family I play with. This is why I won't buy another Knizia without playing first. Ra and Through the Desert have no connection between gameplay and theme, making the experience rather absurd, in my opinion. Samurai and T&E are better in this regard, but not enough to make them approachable for the borderline game geeks I tend to play with.

Here are the games I've found my friends and family to enjoy and request over and over:

Settlers
Mamma Mia
Ticket to Ride
Bohnanza
Citadels
Tikal
San Juan
Hoity Toity
O Zoo le Mio
Vegas Showdown
Nexus Ops
Roborally

Also, if you have fantasy lovers, I think you could make Return of Heroes work (though the rules are horribly organized and some rules tweaks make the game better).

Looking at the games I think will work but haven't bought yet and tried out on my friends and family, a lot of them are Klaus Teuber or Wolfgang Kramer games. Those two seem to be excellent at taking a theme and designing simple and interesting mechanics that are intuitive to the theme. Days of Wonder games usually seem to fit this bill, along with most Speil de Jahres winners.

Finally, Carcassonne is best with two. Get all expansions except for Princess and Dragon, and a bottle of wine, and you will have everything you need for a lifetime of wonderful game nights. Its just okay with more than two players. Other great two player games that are just for two or haven't gone over well with my friends and family include:

Goa
Odin's Ravens
Attika
Battle Line
Torres
Jambo
Tigris and Euphrates
Caylus
Samurai
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Joe Rickard
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I looked thorugh the replies and didn't see anyone mention Alhambra so I thoght I would throw it out there. I have recently introduced half a dozen new people to games and this one is by far the stand out hit in my collection. Also I've found that most of my friends really like Oltre Mare.
 
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One more game to recommend:

Acquire: I have had a lot of success with this game with my usually non-game playing family.

Acquire
 
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Armando Gurrola
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Alhambra I second. It's not ultra deep but goes over well and is easy to teach.
 
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Rich Ma
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You're all killing me. I haven't even gotten this recent order yet and I'm already ready to put the third purchase in.

Ra, Samurai, Ysaphan (sic?), Modern Art, Alhambra, Lord of the Rings co-op, Acquire, Arkham Horror, and a number of others are under consideration. The wife, by the way, should be just about ready to hurl me out of a window.

And I'm already kicking myself for ordering only Carcassonne, not the Big Box. But I'd rather take my time and squeeze everything out of the base game before I get too ahead of myself.



 
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Armando Gurrola
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Houston
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Hey it happens. When I got settlers of catan at the thrift it had the cities and knights of catan. We wont play it any other way, and well vanilla Settlers just never gets played. Enjoy the base game and if it's getting boring then get the expansion.
 
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Jeff Coon
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Plano
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bigbossma wrote:
I just crack up, though, when I picture my wife's eyes rolling and glazing as I was sitting there trying to explain, "placing the disk lets you flip those tiles to the opposite color, see? And that means the yellow corals can now eat the pink corals, got it?"


I think for some groups (or people), it can sometimes be obvious before a game even starts whether they'll enjoy it or not. If their eyes glaze over at the rules, or if they get bored, stare into space, or seem more interested in what's on TV while you're going over the rules, maybe it's a good time to set that game on the shelf and pull out something they've played before. Some people make up their minds about a game before they've even played a turn.

I'm not saying your wife is like that, but it just sounded familiar. It's a frustrating experience. Sometime when she's in a really good mood, and up for giving it another try, you should bring it out again. Be prepared to summarize the rules rather than read them, and even explain some things (maybe algae cylinders?) after the game has already started. Maybe you'll get lucky and she'll come around. Reef Encounter really is a great game. That said, it's not incredibly well-suited to non-gamers. I think you've made the right decision sticking with some lighter games like Carcassonne. (although I always suggest substituting Battle Line for Lost Cities. We're the one "friggin' couple" that hates Lost Cities.
 
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Michael Berg
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Medford
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Just ordering Carcassonne is a good call. A lot of people get into tweaking carcassonne as much as possible - I'm one of them - but you should really focus on the plain jane carcassonne (river included) until the group is tired of it. At that point, take a break - go on a different binge, then come back and try out the expansions.

The current build I'm playing with is a result of quite a few plays of "yeah, this is interesting, but I don't much care for it." Since then we've dropped a lot of the mechanics and such, but I think a lot more fun is had playing the base game then actually playing through failed experimentations.

The current build I'm playing with, as a side note:

1 Base Carcassonne
2 River I
1 River II
1 regular lake
1 Spring with an inn river tile
1 City-on-the-lake ending river tile
1 Inns and Cathedrals, with Cathedrals removed
Using Builder token
Using dragon, but no princess tiles or fairies.

Starting with the Y river piece, and playing that no immediate U turns (accompanied by a general "don't screw the river up, please" sentiment.)
 
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Kevin Whitmore
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Well its obvious the hook is well set. You're doomed to buying most of the Top 100 BGG games. You'll learn which ones are right for your situation. I recommend you get acquainted with the trade and marketplace functions here.
 
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