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Subject: Tips/Thoughts on Volcano Looming High? rss

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Robb S

California
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Looking for strategy/ideas/tips from playtesters for using Volcano Looming High. Over the holidays I took the proxy I made of Volcano Looming High (https://docdro.id/ArliIKE) out for a test drive, and left feeling a little frustrated. After a couple of test games (against England Lvl 4), it simply felt too restrictive:

Despite the great range (+4) on adding presence via his third growth option, it seemed to make no sense to spread presence all over the island, since his real value comes from a big "blow-off," and you need lots of presence (6+) in one place to make that effective. Yes, I know Volcano has an innate that allows him to move Presence, but (a) it occurs in Slow, which means you need to plan at least one turn ahead to be able to use it, and (b) it requires 4 Earth and 4 Fire, which absent a lot of help from other Spirits, Volcano won't achieve until Turn 4 at the very earliest (Use Growth Option 2 3X, taking Presence off of the card play track every time to get to 3 cards, then reclaim on Turn 4 to have the cards in hand able to play).

I spent most of the games adding presence via growth option #2...which left me stuck in one place on the board with nothing but Volcano's base cards, which are somewhat underwhelming -- they're all Slow and only one of them deals any real damage. Yes, adding Presence via Growth Option #3 gives you more powers/+1 card play, but (a) it's a crap shoot -- if you don't draw fire/earth cards every time, the new powers don't really help, and (b) adding Presence half as fast builds up your Explosive Eruption potential half as much; by Turn 4 you'll only be doing 4 Damage with Explosive Eruption.

We played on the thematic map, which really seemed like a "damned if you do/don't situation": If the Invaders explored in the mountains early, the only way for Volcano to deal with them was to waste 2 Presence in an early Explosive Eruption, which stunted his growth/potential for the rest of the game. If the explorers didn't explore in the mountains early, Volcano had to try to build up to a 4-6 Presence Explosive Eruption to try to have the range to reach them, and by the time he was able to do that, we were so far behind the Invaders that 4-6 Damage wasn't going to do us much good. Maybe that was a function of playing against city-heavy England, but I have to think you'd have similar problems against other difficult Adversaries.

To do a really effective Explosive Eruption you need to have 6 Presence in one place ready to be destroyed, which will take you at least three turns to achieve. But against Invaders of any appreciable difficulty level waiting three entire turns to be able to do something productive is a killer. Even Serpent (traditionally the slowest of the spirits) can have an immediate effect with Elemental Aegis -- as early as Turn 2, Serpent can defend 3 in a large number of territories. None of Volcano's starting cards is nearly as effective as Elemental Aegis.

More rhetorical than anything, but how is anybody *ever* going to be able to do a top-tier Explosive Eruption, which requires the destruction of 10 Presence? Unless you have the other two Spirits gifting you Presence every turn, it will take you at least 5 turns to build up 10 Presence in one land, and you'll be doing little else of consequence in the meantime.


To any people out there who have playtested Volcano effectively, any ideas/tips? I know he is a slow-grow spirit, but even Serpent (the slowest growing spirit up until now) gives you decent defense and so-so attack right out of the gate with out having to sacrifice Presence to do it, and can spread over the island quickly. Volcano just seems too restricted to one place and too slow to reach his potential to be effective against any but the easiest-level Invaders.
 
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Leif Gaebler
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Keep in mind that your second innate can regenerate presence, so you can destroy an average of 1 presence per turn without delaying larger eruptions at all. That being said, I've never managed a 10 presence eruption, and only managed a 6 once (in roughly half a dozen games).
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Patrick Hickey
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I think the ability to add presence at range 4 and to move presence is for either of the following scenarios:

1. You've built up a little presence in one mountain, and a little presence in another mountain. You needed this to range your powers in the early game. But now you want to consolidate. So, you blow up one mountain halfway, getting a little effect out of it. Then on every following round you regenerate and move as much presence as possible until you've stacked in one location.

2. You've built up a moderate stack of presence in the mountain where you began the game, but, you're starting to notice that a local eruption isn't going to be as impactful as you hoped. So you expand at range 4, blow up your starting location halfway, and each round you regenerate and move as much presence as possible. You probably won't make it to the top level eruption in that game, but you might get more mileage out of a strong eruption that was better placed.

The thematic map seems like it would be rough on Volcano. I've played Volcano in three games, but all were on the regular map. The thematic map has more locations, and centers the mountains. Both of those features make it harder for Volcano to target his powers, and harder for him to clear the board with a good eruption.

I personally found Volcano adequately powerful on the regular map. In fact, I often felt underwhelmed by his explosion, because he clears his board well enough that the explosion doesn't necessarily have much impact.

Lava Flows is amazing. Wilds tokens are the strongest token in the game, and effectively insulate an empty space from an entire explore/build/ravage cycle. But Lava Flows goes further, adding a badlands token, and having the option to instead be played for one damage- meaning two damage if played on a space you previously boosted with a badlands token.

Pyroclastic Bombardment will kill a town and generate a fear. Or, if you play it on a land with a badlands token, it will kill two towns, or one city. If you have any further damage cards, and you may very well have them given that you're a fire element spirit, it sets up combos very effectively.

Rain of Ash sweeps invaders out of lands that are about to ravage, and into lands that are not. Ideally, into lands that are not, and that have badlands tokens.

So... three of Volcano's four cards can negate one explore/build/ravage cycle each time that they're played, and one of them builds up a resource that increases damage on future turns.
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Robb S

California
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Lorkenpeist wrote:
Keep in mind that your second innate can regenerate presence, so you can destroy an average of 1 presence per turn without delaying larger eruptions at all. That being said, I've never managed a 10 presence eruption, and only managed a 6 once (in roughly half a dozen games).


Who were the adversaries/maps you played against? We were playing Lvl 4 England on the thematic, an adversary against whom Volcano seems particularly ill-equipped. They start with two two-city lands way off in corners where Volcano can't reach them, and build towns and cities faster than he can keep up with. By the time he builds up enough stuff for a decent blow, they're far too ahead for it to do any good, and on the thematic map, it doesn't reach enough territory to do real damage.
 
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Robb S

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Cadfan wrote:
I think the ability to add presence at range 4 and to move presence is for either of the following scenarios:

The thematic map seems like it would be rough on Volcano. I've played Volcano in three games, but all were on the regular map. The thematic map has more locations, and centers the mountains. Both of those features make it harder for Volcano to target his powers, and harder for him to clear the board with a good eruption.

I personally found Volcano adequately powerful on the regular map. In fact, I often felt underwhelmed by his explosion, because he clears his board well enough that the explosion doesn't necessarily have much impact.


The thematic map definitely presented a problem, for the reasons you describe. His eruptions were underwhelming in terms of the number of areas they hit, and in a three-player game, England starts off with two lands with two cities, both of which are 2 Range away from the mountains.

Cadfan wrote:
Lava Flows is amazing. Wilds tokens are the strongest token in the game, and effectively insulate an empty space from an entire explore/build/ravage cycle. But Lava Flows goes further, adding a badlands token, and having the option to instead be played for one damage- meaning two damage if played on a space you previously boosted with a badlands token.


I agree...except I never really got to play it. Against England on the thematic map, I was starting on the backfoot every time, and couldn't spare any breathing room to put down a Wilds and a Badlands. I was blowing my stack and playing every damage card I could to try to kill towns. And against England, Wilds aren't nearly as effective because stopping Explores doesn't necessary stop Builds (Indentured Servants Earn Land).

Cadfan wrote:
Pyroclastic Bombardment will kill a town and generate a fear. Or, if you play it on a land with a badlands token, it will kill two towns, or one city. If you have any further damage cards, and you may very well have them given that you're a fire element spirit, it sets up combos very effectively.


I could rarely get a Badlands token into the lands I really needed to kill, because I rarely got to play Lava Flows (see above), or on the rare occasions I did, the range was too short for it to be truly effective. As for "further damage cards," I was trying to stack my presence as fast as possible to be able to reach enough card play/elements to be able to reclaim my destroyed presence, so I was using primarily Growth Option #2, and not getting new cards.

Cadfan wrote:
Rain of Ash sweeps invaders out of lands that are about to ravage, and into lands that are not. Ideally, into lands that are not, and that have badlands tokens.


A couple of things stymied that: (a) I couldn't set up lands with Badlands tokens because I couldn't justify playing Lava Flows in favor of playing the few damaging cards I had. (b) I found myself forced to blow my stack early to be able to contribute anything meaningful in Turns 1-2, which left me with less than 3 presence on my central spot, which meant that I could only play Rain of Ash at Range 1, where it wasn't much good at clearing anything. (3) Between "High Immigration" and their "build even in an empty land if they're adjacent to two towns/cities," England was spreading all over the place, and pushing 2 Explorers/Towns was often insufficient to actually stop a Ravage, and had the downside of pushing the Explorers/Towns into lands where they'd build the next turn.

Cadfan wrote:
So... three of Volcano's four cards can negate one explore/build/ravage cycle each time that they're played,"


Not against England Lvl 4, and particularly on the thematic map, where the terrain types are all clumped up. They start off with double cities in two lands and three extra towns, which is enough to trigger auto-builds under the "Indentured Servants Earn Land" rule. For most invaders, killing lone explorers stops builds. Against England, it's not quite as effective -- you need to kill cities and towns fast, and Volcano is just not equipped to do that.

 
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Leif Gaebler
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robb8888 wrote:
Lorkenpeist wrote:
Keep in mind that your second innate can regenerate presence, so you can destroy an average of 1 presence per turn without delaying larger eruptions at all. That being said, I've never managed a 10 presence eruption, and only managed a 6 once (in roughly half a dozen games).


Who were the adversaries/maps you played against? We were playing Lvl 4 England on the thematic, an adversary against whom Volcano seems particularly ill-equipped. They start with two two-city lands way off in corners where Volcano can't reach them, and build towns and cities faster than he can keep up with. By the time he builds up enough stuff for a decent blow, they're far too ahead for it to do any good, and on the thematic map, it doesn't reach enough territory to do real damage.


So far I've only played vs. Prussia 5/6 on the balanced boards. It sounds like your issue might be with England and the thematic boards more than with Volcano. In particular, thematic boards are not balanced, so you are more prone to certain issues like the mountains having insufficient reach like you describe. I highly recommend you try on balanced boards (and possibly a different adversary) before you get too frustrated.
 
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Robb S

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Lorkenpeist wrote:
robb8888 wrote:
Lorkenpeist wrote:
Keep in mind that your second innate can regenerate presence, so you can destroy an average of 1 presence per turn without delaying larger eruptions at all. That being said, I've never managed a 10 presence eruption, and only managed a 6 once (in roughly half a dozen games).


Who were the adversaries/maps you played against? We were playing Lvl 4 England on the thematic, an adversary against whom Volcano seems particularly ill-equipped. They start with two two-city lands way off in corners where Volcano can't reach them, and build towns and cities faster than he can keep up with. By the time he builds up enough stuff for a decent blow, they're far too ahead for it to do any good, and on the thematic map, it doesn't reach enough territory to do real damage.


So far I've only played vs. Prussia 5/6 on the balanced boards. It sounds like your issue might be with England and the thematic boards more than with Volcano. In particular, thematic boards are not balanced, so you are more prone to certain issues like the mountains having insufficient reach like you describe. I highly recommend you try on balanced boards (and possibly a different adversary) before you get too frustrated.


Sounds like a good idea, although it also sounds like the final version of Volcano is going to be significantly tweaked, so I might not want to get too comfortable with this one. Thanks!
 
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Michael Pureka

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robb8888 wrote:

Sounds like a good idea, although it also sounds like the final version of Volcano is going to be significantly tweaked, so I might not want to get too comfortable with this one. Thanks!


Yeah; I'm going to take this moment to remind people that none of the Spirits are final right now, and the version posted to Kickstarter is probably substantially out of date already, nevermind "by the time release rolls around"
 
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Jamey P
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Apart from the game-specific things mentioned, I would throw out your approach of almost always using growth option #2, and suggest closer to alternating between 2 and 3——the badlands+wilds combos very well with the ‘damage to towns/cities, + more damage’, so using the third growth option to play them together (and get more options, which can fairly early be traded in for major powers if you start by pushing the top presence track to 4 income) seems advisable. Realistically, you should only plan on one 6-presence eruption during the game (with 2 presence explosions to clear off your mountain space with your special from losing presence + 1 adjacent of an explorer/town for breathing room whenever necessary), so you don’t have to mono-focus on rushing that presence, since you’ll still get there by alternating between 2 and 3 (and a slightly later eruption will clear more spaces).
[Above strategy worked fine in 3p Vs lvl 6 Sweden. Vs England, I’d prioritize power draws even more highly, since wilds tokens aren’t particularly useful.]
 
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Robb S

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philosorapt0r wrote:
Apart from the game-specific things mentioned, I would throw out your approach of almost always using growth option #2, and suggest closer to alternating between 2 and 3——the badlands+wilds combos very well with the ‘damage to towns/cities, + more damage’, so using the third growth option to play them together (and get more options, which can fairly early be traded in for major powers if you start by pushing the top presence track to 4 income) seems advisable. Realistically, you should only plan on one 6-presence eruption during the game (with 2 presence explosions to clear off your mountain space with your special from losing presence + 1 adjacent of an explorer/town for breathing room whenever necessary), so you don’t have to mono-focus on rushing that presence, since you’ll still get there by alternating between 2 and 3 (and a slightly later eruption will clear more spaces).
[Above strategy worked fine in 3p Vs lvl 6 Sweden. Vs England, I’d prioritize power draws even more highly, since wilds tokens aren’t particularly useful.]


Interesting. It sounds like you went mostly with Energy rather than Card Plays when placing Presence. That was also one of the aspects I found confusing/frustrating -- Mountain seems aimed towards fewer Major powers rather than lots of minors, but his innates take so many elements to activate (4 Fire 4 Earth for a big Eruption; 3 of each for the first 2 levels of Powered by the Furnace) that it seemed like I had to go primarily card plays, particularly because Fire and Earth elements are both located on that track. Assuming you went primarily Energy rather than Card Plays, how did you get your elements for your innates?
 
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Jamey P
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The key early innate threshold seems like 3 Earth (to put back a destroyed presence, so you can do mini-eruptions without falling too far behind on building to the big eruption), which you hit any turn you play 2 cards (via the last growth option) + the Earth on top, and basically every turn once you have the Earth on both top and bottom. Similarly, getting 2F/2E for a mini-eruption isn't hard (either growth option 3, or more or less automatically once you have the fire on bottom uncovered), and the 4/2/4 for the 6-presence eruption isn't hard to trigger once you get to 2 card plays & use the 3rd growth option to play 3 in a turn.

Similarly, once you have 2 card plays is where you start getting hungrier for *lots* more power cards (so you can stave off reclaiming), but is the same time that getting 3F is suddenly easy.

And yeah, any spirit that has good Energy growth on the top track (and getting 4 energy + a symbol by turn 2's growth qualifies!), I lean that way, as early majors (/expensive starting cards that you can play on demand) are powerful, and excess energy (part of the appeal of Growth-3 here) can always be put to use, whereas having plays that outpace your ability to pay for them puts you in a tricky spot.
 
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Robb S

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philosorapt0r wrote:
The key early innate threshold seems like 3 Earth (to put back a destroyed presence, so you can do mini-eruptions without falling too far behind on building to the big eruption), which you hit any turn you play 2 cards (via the last growth option) + the Earth on top, and basically every turn once you have the Earth on both top and bottom. Similarly, getting 2F/2E for a mini-eruption isn't hard (either growth option 3, or more or less automatically once you have the fire on bottom uncovered), and the 4/2/4 for the 6-presence eruption isn't hard to trigger once you get to 2 card plays & use the 3rd growth option to play 3 in a turn.


In a way this is all academic, because as I understand it Volcano's board has already undergone a bunch of changes, but given the above comments I've worked out the following opening, which seems to be a good compromise between Growth 2 and Growth 3, and puts off a Reclaim until Turn 4 (or even 5). The biggest weakness I see in this is that putting off the Reclaim means only playing Lava Flows once (at most) in the first 3-4 turns. It would be nice to spread more Badlands tokens around, but unless you have another spirit that can let you repeat or reclaim power cards, I don't see any way to use the card more often. What are your thoughts?

Turn 1:
Growth 2 (2 Presence, both off of card play track).
The 2 Presence allows you to Erupt this turn if you need it, or sets you up with extra Presence for an Eruption next turn. Play 1 card -- if you need an Eruption now to kill a nasty build (particularly if the Invaders start in Mountains), make it Boon of Mountain's Fire, which will give +1 range, plus give you some extra energy to hold on to for future turns. Otherwise, Lava Flows on a land where you intend to erupt next turn.

Turn 2 (Cards in Hand: 3 | On Presence tracks: 1 Energy, 1 Card Play, 1F/1E):
Growth 3 (Gain Power Card (Minor), add 1 Presence at Range 4 (from Energy track), +1 Card Play, +2 Energy).
(I wouldn't gain a Major power this turn, because you'd have to forget one of your starting powers to get it and they're all pretty useful for their elements.) If you can, place the Presence in a far-away Mountains, to give you a little more reach. You have two card plays this turn, and at least 4 Energy (6 if you played Boon last turn). If you Erupted in turn 1, play 2 cards containing Earth so you can use Powered by the Furnace of the Earth to get 1 destroyed Presence back. Otherwise, play whatever combo of cards are necessary to get 2E/2F so you can erupt this turn. If you really need to do some damage, Erupt and Pyroclastic Bombardment the territory you used Lava Flows on the previous turn.

Turn 3 seems to be the real "swing" turn -- there are a bunch of things you could do from here, depending on what the situation calls for, and which could really affect the rest of the game:

TRACK "A" -- RECLAIM WILL BE ON TURN 4::

Turn 3"A" (Cards in Hand: 2 | On Presence Tracks: 2 Energy, 1 Card Play, 1F/1E):
--Growth 3 (Gain Power Card, add 1 Presence (from Card Plays) at Range 4, +1 Card Play, +2 Energy).
I think I prefer this route, and either (i) Take a Major Power and play it and the Minor left in your hand if you have the Energy; OR (ii) Take a Minor Power and play all three Minor cards left in your hand, which will probably trigger all sorts of innates.
OR
--Growth 2 (Add 2 Presence (1 from Energy, 1 from Card Plays).
I don't like this much, but it might be advisable if you need the additional Presence to fuel another Eruption, or if both Minors in your hand are really useful. Play both Minors left in your hand, and possibly Erupt.


Taking either of these options, then you'll get to:
Turn 4"A" (Cards in Hand: 0 On Presence Tracks: 2 Energy, 2 Card Plays, 1F/1-2E):
Growth 1 (Reclaim, +6 Energy). You'll now have a full hand (probably with one Major power), 8 energy, 1F/1-2E, and 2 card plays, which should give you plenty of options.

TRACK "B"--RECLAIM WILL BE ON TURN 5 -- this is riskier because it depends more on card-draw luck:

Turn 3"B" (Cards in Hand: 2 | On Presence Tracks: 2 Energy, 1 Card Play, 1F/1E):
--Growth 3 (Gain Power Card, add 1 Presence at Range 4 (from Energy), +1 Card Play, +2 Energy), and....
(i) Gain a Major Power card and only play that, saving the remaining Minor in your hand for next turn. The extra Earth might let you add another destroyed presence, or Erupt again (if the Major has only Fire); OR (ii) Gain a Minor Power card. If triggering your innates is really important, this might be the way to go. You'll now have three Minors; use two of them, either saving the third for next turn, or trade it for a Major in Slow Phase if you have 2 Energy left and 3F to trigger Powered by the Furnace of the Earth.

If you take this track, then Turn 4 will go like this:
Turn 4"B" (On Presence Tracks: 2 Energy, 1 Card Play, 1F/2E).
Either:
--Growth 3 (Gain Power Card, add 1 Presence at Range 4 (Card Plays), +1 Card Play, +2 Energy). Pick up a Minor and play it plus the one left in your hand from last turn, or pick up a Major and play only that card. The latter wastes two card plays, but you need the Card Plays for when you reclaim next turn.
OR
(if you were able to pick up a Major in Turn 3 via Powered by the Furnace of the Earth): Growth 2 (add 2 Presence - 1 from Energy and 1 from Card Plays).
You'll waste one Card Play (because if you got the Major from Powered by the Furnace, I don't think you'll have any cards left).

You'll then get to:
Turn 5"B" (Cards in Hand: 0 | On Presence Tracks: 2-4 Energy, 2 Card Plays, 1F/2E):
Growth 1 (Reclaim, +6 Energy)
You'll now have a full hand with 1-2 Major Powers, 8-10 Energy, 2 card plays, and 1F/2E, which should give you plenty of options.



 
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Patrick Hickey
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I'm pleased to hear that Volcano has undergone a lot of changes.

I recognize that its probably weak against mid or high level England on the thematic board, but England on the thematic board is one of the roughest battles out there. The thematic board seems almost custom designed to turn England into a monster.

On the regular board, against regular opponents, Volcano, as released in the preview, fundamentally fails to deliver on its theme.

Every spirit sort of tells a story over the course of the game. Sometimes its a simple story. Keeper of the Forbidden Wilds starts out as a seed of overgrown jungle, then expands into a giant, un-enterable, deadly wilderness that forces the invaders up against the shores. Lightning's story is a really simple one- at first there's a little lightning, then there's a giant lightning storm that smites things left and right.

Volcano's story should be about an ominous volcano that keeps growing a giant stack of presence into a huge, threatening tower that just oozes with potential, little tiny bursts that sort of promise more later, eventually an explosive eruption that kills everything, deforms the landscape, and either wins the game outright or positions the spirits for the final push.

The problem is that Volcanos cards mostly get kill, push away, or prevent the arrival of enemies.

So... who's going to be there to die when Volcano erupts?

Volcano needs to have cards built to stop nearby invaders from doing much damage, but without killing them. Or even more ideally, to let invaders do JUST ENOUGH damage that the "add 1 blight if the land is not blighted" effect doesn't really do a lot.

Strife would work mechanically, but isn't thematically appropriate. Blight removal would also work, but isn't thematically appropriate.

I'm not 100% sure how to fix Volcano, but at a fundamental level it needs to 1) push away Dahan to fulfill the thematic idea of Dahan recognizing the danger and fleeing, 2) add badlands markers to seed the area so that the eruption will be even more powerful, fulfilling the thematic element of being as portraying an ominous threat visually on the board, 3) KEEP INVADERS AROUND so that they can die in the eruption.

If I were a designer, I might roughly playtest something like this on the cards...

1. A card that pushes Dahan and adds a badlands token.
2. A card that creates fear in a land with invaders, states that the land cannot cascade blight this turn, and states that if the target land has no blight, the first blight added this turn to that location will come from the box instead of the card.
3. A card that grants an ally energy and increased range, as currently written.
4. A card that reduces the blight in a target land to 1. Or, if an eruption occurred this turn, deals 1 damage to all invaders in the target location. The theme would be that a lava flow rolled through and smoothed out the invaders damage, but left its own.

Then I would slightly boost the eruption damage (the theme is that it kills everything, and with the lower damage from cards it might need the help), and I would add a caveat to the lowest level eruption that states that it always does damage in the mountain from which it originates, even if that is not the target land. The latter is because, thematically, it makes better sense if the volcano's crown isn't covered in cities. So a little errant damage there once in a while can keep it clear without disrupting the rest of the revision.
 
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