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Subject: Does this new heavier train game need to be on your radar? A Guide with Pictures rss

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Introducing Baltimore & Ohio



Once in a while a game comes along that you've never heard about before. Yes, I know, this happens all the time on BGG, doesn't it?! We'd never heard about the game before, but then we come across it in a GeekList or a forum, and quickly we find ourselves doing some reading up about it. And before you know it, what was previously just a small blip off our radar, suddenly starts getting tracked very carefully, and we start zooming in to find out all the details! Sometimes within 10-15 minutes of further browsing, we find ourselves re wondering why we've never heard of it before. And in short order, the game that has emerged out of obscurity and appeared on our radar screen for the first time just moments ago has quickly become a strong candidate to be part of our next order of games! C'mon fellow gamers, you know exactly what I'm talking about, don't you?!!

Well something like that just happened to me with Baltimore & Ohio. I'll be honest: I don't remember hearing about this game until yesterday. Yesterday is when a review copy of this game landed on my desk. Baltimore and Ohio? A new train game? One that I know nothing about? And it's being released this month around Essen? Time to do some research! It turns out that Baltimore & Ohio has been around since 2009 already, when it was first put out by Winsome Games for Essen that year, and has received rave reviews from the Winsome fan-club in the past year. Described by many as "18xx meets Chicago Express", it's a heavier economic game that takes at least 3 hours to play. Featuring ten historical railroads from 1830-1900, it's a no-luck no-auction train-themed game for 3-6 players. Winsome licensed the game to Eagle Games, and that's how come it's being released in this new edition right about now. Presumably the very positive reception of Baltimore & Ohio over the past twelve months has given reason for optimism that this game could have success in a wider market - which is why many of us are getting to hear about it for the first time.

In this article, I'll give a brief overview of the game, and I'm specifically targeting two groups of people:
1. Other folks like me who know virtually nothing about the game. You can join me on the research trail as we try to figure out whether this train game needs to be on our radar.
2. Folks who already know a lot about the game, and are curious about the new edition. You already know more about the game than I do, but you're probably interested in seeing some pictures of what the new edition looks like. While you're at it, you can correct all the wrong things I say about the gameplay or otherwise, and help the rest of us figure out whether this is a game for us.

Box

First, a look at the box itself. It's got similar dimensions in length and width to the box from Chicago Express (which also originated in a Winsome game, Chicago Express), but the box isn't quite as deep. And it features a train on the cover - no surprise there, given the theme!



Here's the back of the box, which features a picture of the gameboard:



From there we get our first information telling us what the game is about:
"With a bright Peep from the whistle, a full Chuff from the pistons and a powerful Clank from the drivers, America's first steam locomotive moves down the steel rails of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in Baltimore in 1830.
This strategic railroad game extends from the first of America's railroads through the golden age of steam, where pioneering rail barons knit together the fledgling United States with iron roads, realizing the full power of the nation's mighty heartland.
Each player takes the roles of railroad presidents and their wealthy investors, betting that their capital gambles will pay off handsomely.
Baltimore and Ohio is not a game of luck or chance, but a competitive struggle of wits, savvy and guile.
With the resources at hand, should you focus on further expansion, technological breakthroughs or emerging markets? This modern classic has all the challenges faced by the empire building capitalists that created a superpower.
"

So we're talking about a historical setting where we as players get to invest in various railroad companies. To the ears of most gamers like me, that sounds interesting! Let's find out more!

Components

So what do we all get inside the box? Do I notice the Winsome fans suddenly paying close attention to this part of the overview, keenly interested to see what Eagle Games has done with their beloved Winsome product? If so, that's great, because the rest of us will benefit from what you have to say about how these components compare with the original. Well here's what you get with the game:

● Game board
● 10 railroad charters
● 100 stocks
● 30 capital equipment cards
● 6 player order cards
● 150 cubes
● 17 counters
● Rules

Tell you what, I'll even haul it all out of the box and show you what it looks like:



Rule book

The rule book consists of only 8 pages, most of which is plain text with the occasional small illustration.



Only 6 pages are dedicated to explaining the sequence of play. That was a pleasant surprise for me - I expected that with a heavier train game, I might be looking at 20 or more pages of rules. So far so good! The overall sequence of play involves a Market Round, First Business Round, Second Business Round, and then a check to see if the end game condition is met (if a railroad stock is valued at $375 or if the Tech Level is 6). I haven't studied the rules closely, but if the length is any indication, hopefully this means that the game is not too hard to learn, and that the complexity lies more in the gameplay and the decision-making. Perhaps those who have firsthand experience with the game can shed some more light on this point.

Game Board

The board is a mounted one that's thick and solid with a quality feel and finish. It folds into 6 parts.



First appearances are impressive, even if it does look somewhat nondescript and spartan. Let's just zoom in and show you some of the details a little more closely, firstly from the main part of the board:



Some of the charts:



Artwork from near the bottom of the board:



Overall it has a somewhat minimalistic look, which is what most of us would expect from a Winsome game I suppose, but I didn't find it displeasing. From some comments I've seen from those who have the original edition by Winsome, they find the new board a step backwards - I'm not sure why, and perhaps there will be some discussion about the pros and cons of the new board in this thread.

Charters

Next we get ten railroad charters, each made out of sturdy thick cardboard:



Each represents a different railroad company, for example New York, New Haven & Hartford (NYNH&H):



Here's New York Central (NYC):



Counters

There are ten small cardboard chits corresponding to each railroad company, which function as railroad valuation counters:



In addition we also get five Coal counters (top row), a Tech Level counter and a Round counter (bottom row):



I like the fact that these have different logos corresponding to the different companies, and once again the quality of all these cardboard counters is good.

Cubes

There are lots of them!



The cube colours correspond to the ten colours of the different railroad companies. They're quite small, and are of similar size to the cubes used in most of the recent games from Eagle. Once again, their quality is quite pleasing.

Stocks

Railroad companies need investors, and investors need stocks!



These share cards are quite thick and durable, and I like the quality and colours of these as well. There are 100 altogether, and again these correspond to the different railroads.



Capital Equipment cards

These thirty cards have the same rather plain-looking black-and-white artwork as the ones from the original Winsome edition, but in this edition are produced on better cardstock.



Player Order cards

The 6 player order cards are quite plain looking as well, but do the job:



Money

The paper money comes in various denominations, and the artwork features similar design to what has appeared in some other train games published by Eagle.



Game-play

So what is the game-play like? Well if you're like me, you want to do some research before pulling the trigger on a purchase. Here's some of the results of my research to help get you started, and those who have experience with the game can clarify or correct me on the points where I'm off the mark.

Baltimore & Ohio was very well received by Winsome fans when it came out around Essen 2009, and can be considered a hybrid between Winsome's typical cube rail games and 18XX - some speak of it as the offspring of Chicago Express and 18xx. As you probably know, 18XX is highly regarded for the heavy economic experience it offers, but it's not for the faint of heart. This means that the lighter and more streamlined approach of Baltimore & Ohio will make it appealing to many gamers. Like 18XX, it has share companies and a stock market, but instead of hex tiles and stations there are cube rails and city incomes, and other elements that make it both different and less intense. Reading some reports about various games played, it's evident that Baltimore & Ohio games have generated a lot of enthusiasm and positive vibes, and has proven quite a hit for many. Many who have played it consider it to be one of their favourite train games.

But it's not a short game. You do need to allow 3-4 hours to play, and perhaps slightly more if you're learning the game. This may put some people off, because it does mean that while those coming from 18XX might find it too light, those familiar with more common train games like Ticket to Ride might find it too long and heavy. On the other hand for those looking to make a step up from games like Railways of the World, Baltimore & Ohio looks like it is worthy of serious consideration. While Age of Steam may feel somewhat too similar to RotW, a game like this offers a more different experience, while avoiding the complexity and length that would inhibit the average gamer from playing 18XX.

Having said that, I invite comment on this from those who are more familiar with Baltimore & Ohio than I am, as to the extent that this game will be enjoyed by the average gamer who is coming from other train games like Railways of the World or Age of Steam, and the kind of gamer who is most likely to enjoy the game. Most of us will be asking ourselves the question "Will this be too heavy a game for me?" - go ahead and convince us one way or the other!

Baltimore & Ohio does require considerable book-keeping, but here's where BGG user and computer whiz Ken Boone has stepped in - he's created a computer program to help calculate the incomes of each railroad, and some players have reported that this helps shave 30 minutes or more off the game time! Thanks Ken! You can find his B&O Assistant software here.

What do others think?

Let's hear from some of the gamers who've played the original Winsome edition of the game, and listen to some of the things that they like about Baltimore & Ohio:
"Fantastic game. Streamlines many 18XX concepts, adds in some new mechanics for a completely different feel. Plays in about 2.5-3 hours, no luck, all excellent gameplay. This is one of my favorites, officially. Best of 2009, hands down." - Eric Flood
"The gameplay feels most similar to an 18xx game but is more friendly and less stressful." - Joerg Schaefer
"Baltimore and Ohio was the best game of 2009. This train-themed economic strategy game is a work of art. Calling this game '18xx meets Wabash Cannonball' is a good description." - Costas Dimo
"Part of Winsome's 2009 Essen set, this game is, in my opinion, their best to date! I recommend this one without reservation!! 4 pages of relatively simple, elegant rules that belie a gameplay that is exceptionally deep, replayable, and engaging throughout its 3-4 hour experience, with plenty of interaction and screwage. It scales well across 3-5 (listed at 3-6, but I havent played with 6)." - Stephen Shaw
"I really like this game. May be the best Winsome game yet." - Tim Harrison
"A cross between the typical Winsome train operation game and the stock market of 18XX, taking some of the best parts of both. Game flows well and doesn't take overly long (just over 3 hours with 4 newbs), but a computer aid is a must." - António Vale
"Great cube rail adaptation of the 18xx series." - Christopher M.
"Aye, this is a keeper." - J C Lawrence
" The basic gist of Baltimore, as has been said previously, is the cube rails system of Wabash meeting 18XX, in more ways than one. It's easily the biggest game that Winsome has published since 2006's Wooden Shoes and Iron Monsters, and is an interesting evolution of the cube rails system." - Michael Webb
"Very good game. Overall a real gem of a game, provided you're willing to invest the time in something this heavy." - Patrick Korner
"One of the best games of 2009 so far. Many comparisons to 18xx and it does borrow many of the mechanics of that series. However most of the differences make the game more streamlined." - Nick Stellato
"Wow, this was really good! It's like an 18xx game, but with some of the annoying 18xx-ities." - snoozefest
"B&O has a relatively simple rule set, and deep gameplay. It's certainly one of the better Winsome titles." - James Ludlow




Recommendation

So is Baltimore & Ohio a game for you, and should it be on your radar? Winsome fans can judge for themselves whether or not the components offered by the new Eagle Games edition do justice to the game. Either way, it should please fans of Baltimore & Ohio to see this game attracting wider interest and finding its way into the hands of more gamers. Those who love the depth and intensity of the 18xx experience may find something lacking here - but that's not really a criticism of the game, but more a reflection of their own taste and love for a hardcore gaming experience; let's be honest, the deeper games that 18XX fans enjoy are never going to achieve mainstream success, even in the gaming industry. Will Baltimore & Ohio? Well it's still quite a deep game, as far as I can tell, so be prepared for some bookkeeping and number crunching - although fortunately Ken Boone's software assistant should make all that tremendously easier. But while 18XX will likely never be embraced by the gamer masses, perhaps Baltimore and Ohio has a chance to get a foot in the door, by occupying a similar niche that's offered by popular games like Age of Steam - if the BGG weight is any indication, both games are similarly heavy, while providing a very different feel and gaming experience. This is probably not the place for new train gamers to jump in, especially if you're just making the transition from games like Catan or Ticket to Ride. But for those who are looking for something more than Railways of the World or Chicago Express, and are daunted by the prospect of something like 18XX, this is certainly a strong candidate worthy of further investigation. I look forward to reading more reactions from other gamers as Baltimore & Ohio starts hitting game tables around the world in this new edition, and perhaps even exploring it further myself!



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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The Honorable Mayor McCheese
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I have played this game (I have the Winsome version) 5 times now and I love it and everyone I have introduced it to has enjoyed it as well. For the most part, the people (myself included) have all played 18xx prior to this and I haven't heard any complaints about it being too light. I think it can fill a niche for train gamers looking for something with more substance than Chicago Express or Railways of the World. It can also fill a niche for 18xx gamers looking for a shorter, streamlined version of an 18xx. I wholeheartedly recommend this game!
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A few thoughts:

1.) I think the edition (board included) looks absolutely gorgeous. The one concern I have about the new board is the potential noise that the spotted green tiles bring with them - they could distract from the city values. I'm reasonably sure it's one of those things that looks worse online than in person, though.

For comparison:


The original features much more subdued colors, which could help accentuate the city values and provide for easier counting.

I think those shares and charters are amazing.



2.) Our first local game took 4.5 hours. The second took 3-3.5. Every game thereafter has been under 3 (not due to our forcing the issue).


3.) Excellent game for learning some of the rules concepts of 18XX, yes. This is, however, not an 18XX game, and one of the core concepts (trains switching between companies, and train obsolescence) are presented here in a very different way, if at all.


4.) Be aware: the one place where this game could feel tedious is, in the late game, counting your cities, and optimizing them. This won't be a problem until you have 2 4 trains and a 5 (or whatever you're running with), however. It's still far more streamlined than in 18XX. The computer program could help, but it wouldn't save that much time...


5.) As far as rules complexity, I'd put it on par with Railroad Tycoon. There are certainly less exceptions to manage! The Winsome book was only 4 pages, must be additional detail or examples here.

As far as game complexity (how hard it is to play your first game and feel like you didn't muck everything up entirely), I'd say it's pretty easy, perhaps on par with Railroad Tycoon. Like Go, this is easily learned, but takes quite a while to master. Railroad Tycoon doesn't have much of a learning curve - this certainly does. There is more to keep track of here, also, but you shouldn't shoot yourself in the foot too badly.


6.) One piece of advice for the new player: buy new trains whenever you can. It might not be ideal playing, but it's absolutely better than the alternative. The game will flow much faster, and it will end earlier than you may otherwise fear.


7.) Nearly all of my Winsome clamshells melted in the Tucson sun on Monday (yes, it's mid-October...), so this might be a good sign to get an upgrade...


8.) And no wooden trains? Completely unnecessary but oh so pretty.
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EndersGame wrote:
I invite comment on this from those who are more familiar with Baltimore & Ohio than I am, as to the extent that this game will be enjoyed by the average gamer who is coming from other train games ...


I normally don't like to confine the idea of a review, but can you review something you haven't played?

I am very interested in this game, but this has not helped my understanding. Eric's comments have; so far I consider this Eric's review.
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To anyone who hasn't tried it yet, using Ken Boone's computer assistant is an absolute requirement for playing this game in our group now. It easily shaves 30-45 minutes off of our games, while letting us focus more on the decisions instead of counting.

I have to say I prefer the old board as well, for the reason the reason Eric stated above. The green hexes provide less contrast for the cubes and makes the hex costs harder to read. Having said that, it could be far worse.

And THANK YOU Eagle for providing cubes instead of trains. They are SO much more functional.
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Eric Flood
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GamesOnTheBrain wrote:
To anyone who hasn't tried it yet, using Ken Boone's computer assistant is an absolute requirement for playing this game in our group now. It easily shaves 30-45 minutes off of our games, while letting us focus more on the decisions instead of counting.

I have to say I prefer the old board as well, for the reason the reason Eric stated above. The green hexes provide less contrast for the cubes and makes the hex costs harder to read. Having said that, it could be far worse.

And THANK YOU Eagle for providing cubes instead of trains. They are SO much more functional.


They are indeed. Of course, I would trade in the new map for the old one and the new cubes for trains, personally...I like things to be functional, personally, but feel that the trains in CE, for example, aren't distracting (the board, however...).

The one concern I have that I didn't list above, is that I can't actually see the green cities on the new board. I can read Detroit and Chicago and Pittsburgh, but I can't read New York or the other green cities (forget what they are, and I literally can't read them on the map pic).
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Atomsk wrote:
EndersGame wrote:
I invite comment on this from those who are more familiar with Baltimore & Ohio than I am, as to the extent that this game will be enjoyed by the average gamer who is coming from other train games ...


I normally don't like to confine the idea of a review, but can you review something you haven't played?

I am very interested in this game, but this has not helped my understanding. Eric's comments have; so far I consider this Eric's review.


I was thinking the same thing. He poses the question "should it be on your radar" and answers it successfully, but that's about it.

Have you played the game Ender?
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I'm very happy as a possible purchaser that Ender did this. The information that he presented is exactly what I wanted to know. This is a game that needs to be played a number of times to reach a conclusion about the game. Since there is so much existing discussion on this game, I'd much rather him discuss the components and rules as he's done than to wait until after the game has been released with a full review.
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I've played this game with people that have never played 18xx and won IIRC. Don't let the comparisons to 18xx intimidate you. In fact, forget 18xx altogether.

Just think of Baltimore & Ohio as Chicago Express taken to the next level. More companies, a simple stock market and more logistics (expansion, purchasing and maintaining trains, calculating revenue from cities your trains 'service'). That's it. Chicago Express on steroids. Super-duper steroids.
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How did you actually manage to get a hold of the game?

I do not agree with the comparison with CE. I'd compare it to a lite 18xx without track laying.
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shadow9d9 wrote:
How did you actually manage to get a hold of the game?

I do not agree with the comparison with CE. I'd compare it to a lite 18xx without track laying.



Well,

Ender wrote:
Yesterday is when a review copy of this game landed on my desk.


and for the rest of us, we've had copies since it came in the Winsome set last year.

B>
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shadow9d9 wrote:
I do not agree with the comparison with CE.

I suggested not comparing it to 18xx because a lot of people hear 18xx and immediately tune out thinking it will be too long, complex and not fun. I imagine a lot of people are biased that way. I think on the surface, 'Chicago Express Extreme' is a fair description for Baltimore & Ohio when you're trying to get people to play.

Then once the game is done (or better yet, the next day after they were up all night thinking about this game) you can drop, "oh by the way, next time I'll bring 18AL; if you liked B&O, you'll like that too."
arrrh

shadow9d9 wrote:
I'd compare it to a lite 18xx without track laying.

I completely agree with that comparison; I just may not say that when I'm suggesting we play Baltimore & Ohio.
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EndersGame wrote:

18XX is highly regarded for the heavy economic experience it offers, but it's not for the faint of hear.

Louder please

Thanks for a good write-up.
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rockusultimus wrote:
I've played this game with people that have never played 18xx and won IIRC. Don't let the comparisons to 18xx intimidate you. In fact, forget 18xx altogether.

Just think of Baltimore & Ohio as Chicago Express taken to the next level. More companies, a simple stock market and more logistics (expansion, purchasing and maintaining trains, calculating revenue from cities your trains 'service'). That's it. Chicago Express on steroids. Super-duper steroids.


Hmmm. The one time I played (and loved the game) I thought it quite unlike CEx. That's just me.

Any software that helps speed up a game is good, however, it usually means the design could have been simplified.

That said, I'm ordering it. I've waited a long time. It might sit on my shelf because it's not a family game, but I loved/hated it.
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thepackrat wrote:
shadow9d9 wrote:
How did you actually manage to get a hold of the game?

I do not agree with the comparison with CE. I'd compare it to a lite 18xx without track laying.



Well,

Ender wrote:
Yesterday is when a review copy of this game landed on my desk.


and for the rest of us, we've had copies since it came in the Winsome set last year.

B>


Ah, yeah I have the original.
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I can do a rule summary and component overview.

Where do I sign up to get my free review copy?
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NateStraight wrote:
I can do a rule summary and component overview.

Where do I sign up to get my free review copy?


If you can do reviews like Ender, including the images, the references, and the descriptions, then get started and I'm sure you'll be made offers.
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NateStraight wrote:
I can do a rule summary and component overview.

Where do I sign up to get my free review copy?


In his defence, and I say this as someone who has written a lot of reviews and session reports, doing the level of component photos would be incredibly tedious. Even more tedious than having a subscription to a game he starts submitting them to.

Personally, though, I don't much like writing that sort of review, which is why I don't.

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jschlickbernd wrote:
NateStraight wrote:
I can do a rule summary and component overview.

Where do I sign up to get my free review copy?


If you can do reviews like Ender, including the images, the references, and the descriptions, then get started and I'm sure you'll be made offers.


Land Ho! Sailing the seven seas with the Settlers' guy.
Iglus and Inuit! A unique theme with equally unique gameplay
A worthy addition to the Kosmos 2-player series, and a nice change of pace.

I guess I didn't talk about the color of the card backs enough to get noticed.

More than anything, it just bugs me that the site doesn't readily distinguish between [essentially] paid reviews and more open ones, and that users / reviewers [not just Ender] don't feel obligated to point out the conflict of interest whenever it arises. I actually have received a review copy before [of Say Anything] and posted a full review of it. It's a game I never would have reviewed or probably even bought in a million years had it not been given me. I think that fact deserves mention, which I put in bright blue font at the very front of my review to let others know my level of interest in the game.
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NateStraight wrote:


Or write enough reviews, perhaps. These are nice, keep at it.

B>
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It would help publishers seeing your reviews if you reviewed games that were a little less obscure. At the same time, you could point to those reviews and drop publishers a note saying you'd be happy to review their games if they would send you a copy. Can't hurt.
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Nate Straight

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jschlickbernd wrote:
It would help publishers seeing your reviews if you reviewed games that were a little less obscure. At the same time, you could point to those reviews and drop publishers a note saying you'd be happy to review their games if they would send you a copy. Can't hurt.


On the other hand, it would help fellow gamers more if I stuck to reviewing games that didn't have a lot of reviews already or weren't already hyped / well-known [most of my favorites--Agricola, Race For The Galaxy, etc--are already well reviewed by others], and I don't write reviews to help publishers but to help fellow gamers. I have a huge one in the works for the woefully underhyped Roads & Boats, and I need to work on one for Khronos and some others.
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I think there is probably some worth in doing a nice job on rencentish games (say Khronos) and then talking to the relevant publishers (Matagot) about their newer titles. Unless you're interested in rushing out to play something new and getting a review out while the game is still fresh and unknown, you might find bleeding-edge reviewing a little wearing.

On the other hand, I find your reviews of relatively obscure titles (like Iglu Iglu) really helpful and interesting.

Perhaps strive for a mix? I also notice that you don't seem to have written many reviews recently.

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Nate Straight

Covington
Louisiana
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thepackrat wrote:
Perhaps strive for a mix? I also notice that you don't seem to have written many reviews recently.


Most of my play lately has been catching up on games that I should have got up to speed on much earlier [Agricola, RFTG, etc] or 2p attempts at games that aren't meant for 2p [1853, Age of Steam, etc] or single plays of games [Chicago Express, Opera, etc] that I'd really need to play again before review.

... we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.
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Bruce Murphy
Australia
Pyrmont
NSW
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NateStraight wrote:
thepackrat wrote:
Perhaps strive for a mix? I also notice that you don't seem to have written many reviews recently.


Most of my play lately has been catching up on games that I should have got up to speed on much earlier [Agricola, RFTG, etc] or 2p attempts at games that aren't meant for 2p [1853, Age of Steam, etc] or single plays of games [Chicago Express, Opera, etc] that I'd really need to play again before review.


Sounds like you'd get even more behind if people started sending you review copies

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