Loofish Ramblings

My thoughts and ponderings on games and gaming, including lunch time sessions, couple and family gaming and thoughts on the games that are catching my eye.

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Last Week Today: Abandonned!

David
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DURHAM
North Carolina
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Board Game: Abandon All Artichokes
Board Game: Azul: Summer Pavilion


The table was clear for mid week gaming but my head was not. A combination of work stresses and also me starting to look around at houses in the area squeezed out the evenings and I did not even manage to join in the weekly Zoom game session.

However, all was not lost because back at home for the holiday weekend, we got to swing by the FLGS (Atomic Empire, Durham, NC) and pick up an order. It was more than a little sad to walk in there to find that space almost empty of people, no one playing in their big gaming area. But I walked out of there with a couple new games and an Usagi comic for Free Comic Book Day.

 7   Abandon All Artichokes x10 NEW!

I had read and heard about this game and when my wife suggested an order, I threw this in. It sounded like fun.

10 plays in 2 days, I think I can say it was a hit. It is a basic deck builder with a bit of a twist. Your starter cards in most deck builders are basic and pretty bad, but in this one, you start with 10 Artichokes and they do nothing at all. In fact you win if when you re-draw at the end of your turn, your hand has no artichokes in it. But it moves fast, faster still because your turn's 'buy' (though there is no currency) goes straight into your hand and you can use it right away. There are cards to 'compost' (i.e. trash) cards, to acquire extra cards, to mess with your opponent's deck and hand. They are all pretty straightforward with a few unexpected combos that you discover as you play (and then a few that you think are going to work and then they don't). It is very agreeable and plays fast, though the odd game has run a little longer as we both had a lingering artichoke that we just couldn't shake. But we have both won stripping down our deck to nothing and by growing our decks big enough to dilute the artichokes. We thought there might be a first player advantage, the first player won the first few games, but then there was a run of the opposite.

We had one 4 player, that ran a bit longer and I am not sure the kids took to it as much as my wife and I did. Some of the cards target one other player and so that could bring some king-making in. I think the 2 player might be the 'purer' game. But spoiler alert, this game will feature in my next post as well.

 7   Azul: Summer Pavilion x2 (3 all-time)

We played this game back in the days when there were cons to go to (January). We learned it from the rule book and I found it a bit weird and not quite to my taste. It was a little different from the original but I was not sure that I liked the difference. And anyway, why would I play this version when I can just play Azul? Though I did realize halfway through that I missed a rule (stupidly too, as it is almost the same as it is in Azul). But I pretty much dismissed it. Tried it, did not particularly care for it, moving on.

But my wife had other ideas. She mentioned a couple times that she would like to try it again. And pretty much if she wants a game, we are going to end up buying it. So we did.

It has the same 'take all the tiles of one color and push the rest to the middle' mechanism, but the game is a fixed 6 turns and in each turn there is a wild color, so if you take (say) orange from a factory in turn 1, if there is a wild on that tile as well, you get 1 wild tile too. And you collect all the tiles for the round, then put them on your board in a separate scoring phase. There are 6 segment flowers on the board of each color with a multi-color one in the middle, each numbered 1 to 6 and the number is how many of that color you have to collect to place a tile in that space. There are also features on the board that if you surround them, you get to take additional tiles from a side board of 10 tiles. You score from placing tiles (with more for each neighbor it has), completing flowers, and for covering all the spaces of a particular number.

I have to admit I liked it a good bit better than my first impression. The changes do give it a new twist and the board elements and positioning is a different kind of puzzle. There is definitely a 'next game I will try this approach' feel to it. The wilds add a certain value to a particular color tile for a round and that does allow you to cover more than you might initially think. This is also in my wife's wheel house, she loves these kind of spatial puzzles and I have yet to win, though I ran her close in the first game. In fact I thought I had won, but she covered the last of her 4s in the last move and those 16 points for doing that paid out big. I still think Azul is the better game, but the Summer Pavilion has its place.
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Tue Sep 8, 2020 3:35 am
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Last Week Today: A Walk in the Bear Park

David
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DURHAM
North Carolina
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Board Game: Innovation
Board Game: The Great Zimbabwe
Board Game: Everdell
Board Game: Cartagena
Board Game: Azul
Board Game: Bärenpark


The great puzzle dominated the main table all week. Which made gaming hard. But I found a few ways.

 8   The Great Zimbabwe (4 all-time)

And online gaming over Zoom with the people back in Durham was a good option. And playing this one again after the refresher last week was good too. I picked up the god that helped you put out craftsmen and I had a sort of plan to dominate the crafting. But then Josh took the god that lowered your VP target and pushed hard to get a level 3 monument, giving him decent income, then he pushed for the points. So both of his opponents were playing a bit of defense. Plus the weird lay out, good bit of wood, clay scattered and ivory nearby too, all around a large lake. So I had the wood guy and Jeff had the ivory guy but Jeff pushed to the advanced ivory guy - who needs a wood and an ivory to use. It could have worked well for him - he had the god that did not require diversity to build up monuments, but the scarcity hampered all of us, so Josh grabbed points from building out rather than up and there was not much we could do. Weirdly, I did great my first game and it feels a bit like I only get worse.

 8   Innovation (29 all-time)

We moved to BGA for this game. It was as usual a unique game. Josh got stuck on a Monotheism kick and he caused all sorts of pain doing it. I got some early points and was also splaying every which way, getting the wonder achievement for that eventually. But we all climbed up in powers, as no one could quick get that final push to 5 achievements. In fact we were all tied on 3 and Josh's plan to win by having most points when the 10 pile was depleted seemed to be working. But those upper level powers just have such wild effects, there is always another way to win. I managed it with Self Service in the end: I triggered an effect which got me the 3 of everything wonder, giving me a 4th achievement, 1 more than everyone else, so I won!

As an aside, while talking Innovation, an ongoing game just finished too, one player was seemingly inexorably bearing down on achievement 5 because she grabbed a whole lot of points in one go, but I had a card that was scoring me 10s so I caught up, could score the last achievement I needed after playing down the 9 I had in hand, but I had to wait for my next turn to take that achievement and hoped she did not manage to get it ahead of me...only for player 3 to spring up with Empiricism and got down the 20th light bulb to claim a victory! (I have a soft spot for that one, the only way I won in my first 10 games).

 8   Everdell (9 all-time)

Back home, my wife wanted to play this again. It was an odd game, things did not quite flow and the events that were out did not gel with the cards that were available - for example the Flying Doctor, we had 2 doctors, no pigeon till very late and not a single Husband or Wife was played all game (again one of each came into my wife's hand very late on but too late to play). My legendary construction was the opera house, so I pushed to play it and then collected as many unique critters as possible...ended up with 7 and that was a decider in a pretty low scoring game. It was an odd one, not as satisfying as our previous games and I am glad that wasn't our first game. Maybe we just need an expansion to mix it up?

 7   Cartagena x2 (26 all-time)

Well instead of more mice, we had pirates scurrying along tunnels. Two games, the first was just Jenny and me, playing the whole jailbreak (where you race along the dungeon tunnels to the boat, then move the boat to the island and then race along the paths of the island to the hideout). It was nip and tuck for a while, but Jenny got control of the boat and those free captain's moves just helped her leave a couple of my pirates behind.

Then my eldest joined in for a 3 player, just a race along the tunnels this time, but we had all the tiles out so it was a long long tunnel. The kid took to it well, we were all well bunched up with the usual odd pirate miles ahead, but they were moving up in a pack, diligently controlling their hand and doing it all right. But perhaps a little extra push at the end might have been appropriate, we all had done our bit in maintaining a good sized hand and mine fell nicely as I skipped up and over into the boat at the end and suddenly I only had the one pirate left to get out. The other 2 scrambled to make it hard for me, but it did not matter, I already had the 2 cards in hand I needed, but it was a pretty thrilling game. It is so light and easy and people often grumble at their luck in the draw, but there is a bit of skill too and it is so simple to play that pretty much anyone can play it and enjoy it.

 8   Azul (29 all-time)

Talking of thrillers, this ended up being one of the best games of Azul we have played. I thought I was just ahead all game, but it was always close, Jenny got a couple of extra tiles early on and seemed like she was struggling a bit. 2nd round I had 3 red on my 5 line and was keen to finish it - except there was only 1 red tile in all those drawn for the round! But we were both scoring nicely, building up the columns and in the final round I managed to get enough black to finish out both the game and that color. Jenny had an extra row done, we both had 2 columns, she did finish well, with 4 rows adding tiles in that last turn, but I thought my completed black was going to push me back in front. And then I realized she had finished the yellow set the previous turn.

 7.5   Bärenpark (8 all-time)

We got my youngest down to play this one. We threw in the grizzlies and the monorails from the Bärenpark: The Bad News Bears expansion. The base game is a breezy fun game but I really like the expansion, they add some heft to the game and make for a very satisfying time.Figuring out how to keep your monorail line going while finding space for the crazy large grizzly habitat is not always an easy matter. The kid was doing nicely, Jenny got the 3 panda achievement quickly, with the kid just behind, plus he got the one of each animal house one too. I was working on that one, plus I had pushed for a good monorail. We all got a 10 point portion but I got 2 of the 8 pointers. In the end none of us actually finished our parks, the distant toilets achievement perhaps robbed us of that and that could have been crucial, the point spread was tight with my wife again triumphant over me by 3. If I had just manged that one more thing...but what a good game.

I got back Sunday night, the giant puzzle was done! So perhaps a bit more mid-week play for next week's edition.
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Tue Sep 1, 2020 4:17 am
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Last Week Today: A Puzzling Obstruction

David
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DURHAM
North Carolina
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Board Game: Kingdomino
Board Game: The Great Zimbabwe
Board Game: Diamant
Board Game: Race for the Galaxy
Board Game: Mystic Vale


I was envisioning a run through a few scenarios from Jaws of the Lion this week, or perhaps a return to some of the meatier games that we have played recently but not very recently, like Underwater Cities. But instead our main table was Otherwise Occupied:

From gallery of loofish


3000 pieces and almost the size of the table. At least it was a title from Ravensburger. But it was rather in the way and not getting out of the way any time soon.

So most of the board games this week were more virtual. Thursday night with my friends from Durham, for example:

 8   The Great Zimbabwe (3 all-time)

Sometimes we play a quick game to give the stragglers time to arrive, but the straggler this week said he would be along in a while, so we jumped over to Boardgamecore and played this, probably the quickest of the Splotters. I was a little hazy on the rules, though I swore that I knew how to play before we started. But when I sat down to take my turn, doubt and uncertainty clouded over. I did not quite remember how building up monuments worked and my first couple turns, I was pretty much forced into a strategy of taking both an expensive god and an expensive tech to get going. It was however a more long term strategy, my Herds were beginning to pay off and I could grab goods from all over the board. But by then, Josh had several monuments built up and had rapidly scored off them, getting to a winning 28/28 while I was still building up steam. Glenn ran him closer but I think it was our shortest run of this that I had played.

 N/A   Kingdomino (4 all-time)

Our straggler Jeff had shown up though and we switched to BoardGameArena for some lighter fare. Kingdomino is a nice mix of a bit thinky (to the extent that you can easily mess up your kingdom if you aren't concentrating) and breezy enough you can play quite casually while chatting. I had a nice pasture going but I lacked much in the way of crowns in the other major land areas and (see above) I managed to place my dominoes in such a way that I made it unsymmetrical and thus could not complete my 5x5. But we all played fairly losely while we chatted over Zoom so it was still pretty close, Glenn's 46 winning the day.

 7   Incan Gold (14 all-time)

The others thought about clocking off for the night but I persuaded them to stay for Incan Gold. I have all my other plays of this under Diamant, which is the version of the game my friend owns, the main difference in the Incan version being artifacts which you only collect if you are the only one leaving and give some scaling amount of points depending on how many you have. But it is otherwise the same and the essence of the game lies in pushing your luck as you forge deeper into the temple looking for treasures before calamity befalls you. I jumped out too early in one temple, hung on too long in the next trying to catch up, withdrew at the perfect time in the next. After the tragedies that had happened to the others, I felt like I was comfortably ahead and figured I just needed to get a modest haul from the final one, which I promptly collected. But the final temple gave them a bit more and critically, Glenn got another artifact which gave him enough to tie me, and the tie-breaker in Incan Gold is 'most artifacts'. Well, I left the land of the Incans quite well off. And with a few more converts to this excellent game too.

 10   Race for the Galaxy x2 (131 all-time)

The puzzle began to take shape on Friday. We got the edge down and had to clear a bunch of pieces out of the way to achieve that. And while it was relatively clear, we played some more Race, again with the Alien Artifacts expansion in the mix. The first game was rather a blow-out, Keeghan had Terraforming Colonists, then played Terraforming Robots and later another card that gave him a bonus draw for playing a settle. He was basically being paid to settle and with that card draw he got a nice produce consume engine going as well. Entirely overwhelming my own more modest version and he won by 13 points. The second game was very much closer. With Star Nomad Raiders and another trade boost, I got 6 from a Uplift world trade, then I was again on a produce consume run, this time based on my play of a consume of 2 green goods for 3 points, then Plague World on top and I had the green goods to fuel it. There was a moment when I considered a 2nd trade to give myself some cards to leech from my opponent's calls and I pushed with the consuming instead. That might have been my error as he was able to get a nice set of SETI exploring and though my VPs chips made a big pile, I had no 6-dev bonus and his was enough to give him the 29-28 victory.

 N/A   Mystic Vale NEW!

But back to electronics for my last play of the week, this time via a pass and play game of Mystic Vale on Keeghan's phone. I had played it async on Yucata so I had an idea. We took rather different tracks, he had a lot of draw manipulations, giving him some big Mana turns. I had none of that but I did chase after some cards to help me get Vale cards and especially good were the wild symbols, and I had enough ongoing effects by the end I was buying 2 Vale cards every turn. Keeghan meanwhile was struggling to turn that mana into points and as my game gained momentum, he pushed his luck a couple times to try and catch up and it did not as such pay off.

The app was pretty slick, and I can imagine this might actually be a better way of playing it than stuffing cards into sleeves. I did quite enjoy it though..
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Tue Aug 25, 2020 2:42 am
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Last Week Today: Older but Wiser. Well Older definitely

David
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DURHAM
North Carolina
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Microbadge: Black Lives MatterMicrobadge: Tea drinkerMicrobadge: Dog loverMicrobadge: Groo the Wanderer fanMicrobadge: Wallace & Gromit fan
Board Game: Dice City
Board Game: 51st State: Master Set
Board Game: Race for the Galaxy
Board Game: Downforce
Board Game: Caylus
Board Game: Can't Stop
Board Game: Patchwork
Board Game: Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion


Yep, I am behind on my updates. I have the last 2 weeks as drafts, half done. Well, half if I am being generous. But rather than dwell on past deficiencies, let us concentrate on this week's deficiencies.

 N/A   Dice City (2 all-time)

My room mate got this and the next game in a trade. We gave it a shot 3 players. It is pretty light and easy but has a few points of interest. You roll 5 dice and put each color die on the spot of the appropriate row (so the yellow die goes on the 5th space of the yellow row if you roll a 5). Then you can use the ability of that space or use that die to do more general things, like move another die 1 space or take a time token. You gather resources and can cash them in to buy cards that cover up spaces in your tableau, then you score points in a couple ways, including buying cards (each have a VP value) but also defeating bandits, getting trade ships and triggering abilities that give you VP tokens. It has a deck builder vibe without quite being one and the spatial nature adds a nice wrinkle - the ability to move your rolled dice around makes for some chin-stroking moments and you can set up some nice combos. There is a little bit of a learning curve and that was apparent from our game as Tim (first play) trailed Keeghan and I (both on 2nd play) by a little way. I went for a military strategy, chasing bandits after building up my army with better soldiers, training camps and a catapult. I think I got the barracks too slow though and Keeghan's ships and points won by a point.

 N/A   51st State: Master Set x2 (3 all-time)

This was the other game he got in a trade. I had read it was a kind of tableau builder, combo builder, which all the best game are (see next game), though somewhat tough to learn. Well, the rulebook read was a little rough and we were a little confused but then we got Rodney Smith to teach us and everything was clear. Not bad to learn at all. And, after enjoying our first play, we played the other 2 factions in the box, Mutant Union and the Merchants Guild. These are kind of opposites, the merchants cutting deals and developing, the mutants fighting and razing. I had a nice couple of actions making use of the large amount of guns while the merchants were racking up deals and a worrying amount of points that way too. He triggered the end too, but he had a slimmed down tableau and I kept up enough to sneak the win by 1 from my cards in play. It was a pretty thrilling game.

And it was good that it was so good, because the next play was a thorough disappointment. We played the same factions (by random pull) and more or less the same kind of game, but the cards at the start was difficult to combo and it was hard to make any progress. For me at least, because the merchant was stacking up deals (though was not above trashing one of my production cards that I had kind of hoped would stick around - a good play, but it set me even further back). He had such excess of production in his deals that he was just throwing away a bunch of resources every turn. Plus it was not really fun for either of us, I was sitting there able to make about 3 moves a turn, he had a seemingly endless number of actions. Well, not endless. Fortunately he got the points to end the game and we could move on. I am very much hoping that was just a bad deal. Or perhaps better we missed a rule, because I don't want to play it like this.

 10   Race for the Galaxy x2 (129 all-time)

Tuesday was my birthday. There was some spicy food, a beer or 2 to wash it down, some rude comments about my age and, finally, I was indulged to play my beloved Race for the Galaxy. This was not quite new to my opponent, who had played the app version, but he was not that familiar. We played base + Alien Artifacts (cards only), 2 games that flowed along in a delightful way. I got an embarrassingly good start in game one, so much so that I was playing just loosely and without too much consideration and Keeghan was able to get his Sentient Robots in high gear and sneaked the win by a couple points. In the second though, his Old Earth just fired on all cylinders and my Earth's Lost Colony (which I would bet most players would say was the much better start world) was not able to keep up.

But the results did not really matter, it was just marvelous to bathe in its glory once again.

 N/A   Can't Stop (3 all-time)

An evening with my game group in Durham, hosted by Board Game Arena and Zoom kicked off with a new favorite, Can't Stop. Well new-ish to us. I think it came out a couple years ago. Anyway, Josh had just discovered it and was immediately taken by the gambling nature of the game. The dangers of that were immediately made apparent as both Jeff and I crashed on our opening moves - and then I did again on my 2nd! Meanwhile Josh made steady progress and my big swings at catching up were met with mixed results. Disaster mixed with folly. But there is not denying the fun this game brings out.

 7   Downforce (5 all-time)

This racing game is pretty new on BGA, so we took it for a test drive. We have played it face to face a few times, even tested out a couple of maps, but I always find I like it more in theory than in practice. Though this was a particularly poor showing from my team, I ended up with 3 cars and, rather embarrassingly, none of them made it to the finish line. It was rather funny. Josh, owner of just the one, crossed in first by a considerable distance and Jeff got both of his to the end. And the 2 cars nearly got past the single, but still, every game of this I have played, the guy who bets on himself and wins has won.

 8   Caylus (11 all-time)

After the appetizers, it was time for something more substantial. Oh boy, did this game deliver. I have not played many 4 player Caylus games, but this was pretty brutal for the provost shenanigans. I played mostly for favors, Glenn for building the castle and Josh did a lot of building. Glenn managed to build the big point monument remarkably early and that plus all his castle contributions looked like he had it in the bag, but Josh's buildings were very popular and he did pretty well from that and upgrading to a prestige building of his own, plus his own favors all went to the point track. Jeff and I more or less looked on as Glenn and Josh fought it out with the final count coming down in Josh's favor by a fairly good lead of 6.

But what a game this was and is. A real classic.

 8   Patchwork x2 (12 all-time)

Home for a belated birthday weekend with the family, some cake, some steak, good company and a couple games as well. It was pretty fine. A somewhat sleepy Saturday and not wanting anything too heavy, my wife pulled out Patchwork for the first time in a while. And an excellent choice it was too, I felt like I was doing the better, with good coverage and decent income (though she had a bit better there) and no holes, I thought I was on for the 7x7 bonus. But somehow I came a bit of a cropper, leaving a gap that I knew there were 2 pieces that would fill, but seemingly unable to manipulate the turns so either of those pieces would come to me when I could afford them. And that messing about gave her time to get her quilt more in shape, and she snatched the 7x7 bonus away and pretty much with it the game. But it had been too long, I definitely felt a bit rusty somehow, the quilting tetris skills were not quite what they used to be.

 N/A   Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion NEW!

My main present for the year was this glorious beast. And, despite some grumblings I did get all 4 of the family around the table to try it out. It did harken back to the glory days of HeroQuest, which both of my kids loved when they were younger but I love the way it is done here, the map in the book, the adjustments for different player counts, the card system, very clever. I was the Hatchet, thrown axes flying around, my eldest took the Voidwarden, my youngest the Demolitionist and my wife (not usually a fan of co-ops, it must be said) was the Red Guard. The foes on the first scenario were not much of a threat, it must be said. But it was a fun experience, at least one child said they would be up for continuing the campaign next time I am back and they were plotting out some crafty moves. The gradual introduction that the first 5 scenarios provide is a huge plus to this version of BGG's top dog. And there is enough there in the box after that to keep us entertained for a good while.

And I have to say, I played some really good game this week.
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Tue Aug 18, 2020 3:12 am
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Last Week Today: Of Mice and Men Sitting in a Tree

David
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DURHAM
North Carolina
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Board Game: Everdell
Board Game: The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
Board Game: Ingenious


Not so much variety this week.

 7.5   The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine (45 all-time)

Possibly one of the more entertaining missions we have undertaken as part of the Crew. It was a reasonably straightforward set-up, though that we each had to take 3 mission cards each did complicate things. A more significant complication came from Tim, who had had a little snifter of cherry bourbon. The best parts were where one of us would state, with reservation, that we were screwed and Tim would assure us he had things in hand and it was fine.

It very definitely was not fine. But it was pretty funny. And our little band crashed and burned twice before we finally managed to overcome our crewman's mental capabilities and get all the mission cards lined up correctly. It feels like the efficient optimal play which is possible for this game is actually not the most memorable way to play, though it is a fine balance to achieve, as it is pretty easy to mess this up.

 9   Ingenious (48 all-time)

Back home playing with my wife, she requested Ingenious. I was shocked to find it had been nearly 4 years since we had played this, but we slipped into the sharp elbows of this game pretty quickly, colors blooming across the board then ruthlessly cut off. She made some well-timed moves, hitting 18 in 3 colors early on, but then it came down to what it always does in this game, your lowest. I had shut down red and that had limited her a bit, but I had a mild purple problem and a quite acute orange one. And though I was able to get some purple, there was no mercy shown to the orange on the board. What a glorious game this is.

 8   Everdell x4 (5 all-time)

But the top story this week...

After our initial play (see last week's post for that), we played it again the following night, 2 player. And then we roped Tim in for a game the following night for another go 3 player. I am not sure Tim was so enamored, he made a few pithy barbs at its expense, but Keeghan (who owns the game) and I were much impressed and satisfied by the game play, as well as charmed by its presentation.

Anyway, I was already looking around for a copy of my own, but it seems that this is not one you just pick up from your friendly local game store. Amazon seemed about the only place you could get it, copies on BGG seemed to be going for a comparable price. I wondered if there might be someone on the NC game trading Facebook group that might have a copy for sale, perhaps someone had upgraded to the collector's edition? Well, no luck there, but there was someone who had a complete set of Everdell, all 3 expansions and the wooden tree. Yeah, that is probably more Everdell than I want and definitely more than I need.

But sometimes things just line up and you find yourself doing something you would not have expected if you asked last week's me. Because where I work, the person I report to was about to leave to move to Chicago. I had not thought much about this, I had interviewed somewhere else recently, hoping to get a job back in the Raleigh-Durham area where the rest of my clan lives. But I had not heard back from them, at least not officially and the delay in hearing gave me a clue - though in times of pandemic, perhaps things just take longer? Well that was the faint hope I clung to. But after my boss put his notice in, the senior people pulled me aside and asked if I might be interested in moving out of the lab into a manager role? That was a slightly awkward position, but I put them off for a bit ostensibly to discuss with my wife, but with more urgency to get hold of the hiring manager back in Durham.

Well, I got the bad news from them, but that did mean I was open to being considered for the new role in my current job and by the end of the next day (these guys don't hang around) I was officially promoted to Group Leader. It was a bit of a roller coaster.

Then my wife surprised me by actively encouraging me to take up the offer on the Everdell bundle. When you are stuck in a meeting, she said, just think of that wooden tree and the charming little adventures of the various critters.

So I did. I met the guy after a little detour as I drove from western Carolina to the Triangle, risking the Friday evening traffic around Charlotte. I am sure it used to be worse in the before times. The transaction went off with barely a hitch, it was a fun chat while I was trying to get my phone to connect with the banking app (and in the end my wife did that part).

And then I drove the rest of the way and I unpacked it, checked over the contents. And we gave it a whirl 2 player on Saturday. And I want to say that I was not thinking about my own game so much as I was trying to make sure she was getting everything right and understanding her options. There are a few subtle interactions, I really didn't want her to come away with a bad impression because she had missed something. But the truth is that she cottoned to the game play very quickly and absolutely smoked me. I was trying to do something with Cemeteries and Chapels, it just seemed to eat up too many worker actions and left with with not enough to grab all the other things you find yourself trying to achieve in this game.

We played it again with my kids on Sunday, my first 4 player. It had a slightly different dynamic, the forest spaces are easier to get to and perhaps it was just the particular mix of forest spaces, but we all seemed pretty able to gather piles of resources. The one I had most trouble with was the berries: I ended this play with no production of any kind. Meanwhile my wife had 3 farms - not to mention 2 husband/wife combos - and berries for wasting. The kids were just trying things to see, my youngest had an almost Wetherspoon-ish number of Inns, and the eldest had decent production (got that event) and the school. My wife took great delight in giving me the Fool, though I promptly put him in the Dungeon. I was actually rather proud of my little city, every critter was unique (and I had the Theater) and almost all the buildings were unique (and I had the Palace). It scored quite respectably, I thought. But my wife broke her own record for the best score I have seen in this game, Architect, Ever Tree, etc etc. Safe to say, she was really enjoying this game. The kids, it is hard to say, not ones to offer effusive praise of board games. But I also am very happy with it, the lavish production and charming artwork does help, but the way it plays, with the combination of tableau building and worker production, my favorite card comboing, plays leading to other plays. And so much to explore, even just within the base game.

All in all, a good week.
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Tue Jul 21, 2020 3:28 am
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Last Week Today: Wonders Surrounded by Trees

David
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DURHAM
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Board Game: Arboretum
Board Game: 7 Wonders Duel
Board Game: It's a Wonderful World
Board Game: City of the Big Shoulders
Board Game: BANG! The Dice Game
Board Game: Everdell


 8   Arboretum (6 all-time)

I brought this card game back to my work apartment, my room mates humored me with a play and I was rewarded by the furrowed brows that always greet this game when you are trying to explain the scoring. However, Tim picked up enough at least to make a good game, helped by the fact he managed to get all of the blue spruce (though he could not quite play them all). However, I was the one that knew what they were doing and scored a couple of species pretty well and another reasonably well, which was enough to overcome the monomaniac's forest. Keeghan also liked it but I think misunderstood a couple things early on so he lagged a bit.

Really happy to play it again and hopefully will get further outings, though it was overshadowed the rest of this week. I bought the shiny cards, which are very pretty but their shininess do make it harder to play. An odd graphical design choice, that. But the play is excellent, the horrors of "what do I discard?" and "how much do I try to mess with the other players?" and even "can I use my own discard pile as a storage area?" It seems like a pleasant walk in the forest but there are some nasty critters lurking in there.

 8   7 Wonders Duel x3 (22 all-time) (All with 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon)

I cracked into the Pantheon expansion last week, it left a positive first impression, some extra choices from gods, messing with the tempo by offering a chance to not take a card. It seemed good.

Keeghan had been wanting to try it so I brought it back with me and we played it 3 times. Oh my goodness what a horror show.

Sometimes, Duel games can be lopsided, you get yourself in a pickle and it is hard to extricate sometimes, with some of the wonders that destroy opposing cards also contributing - you are ahead and have the strength to dominate. Well, that happened in all 3 games. The trouble is that Pantheon increases the importance of money in the game, to the point that if you are not playing for money you are toast. And if you don't manage to get money early on, you are in big big trouble. The most lopsided game, Keeghan started with 3 wonders that give money (including one that takes some away from the opponent). He was able to buy 5 out the the 6 god cards. And in the off chance I might make a comeback, Neptune took away any coins I might have found begging on the streets, because I couldn't get any of the yellow cards to save my life. In one game he marched on my capital and I was doing all I could to fend him off, at the beginning of Age 3, I went first and the large military card (3 shields, costing 8) was there. Well obviously I could not afford it but I discarded it for cash - and he triggered Hades to pull that card out and my capital fell. Another game it was a science win - Pantheon definitely makes a science win more feasible, with an extra way to get the Law symbol and a way to borrow the science symbol your opponent took away from you.

I certainly don't expect to win every game and actually closer to the opposite, but none of these plays were fun, getting stymied at every turn and having to make bad plays just to scrape by and maybe play a card, it was just a grueling tortuous slog to the inevitable end.

 7   It's a Wonderful World x2 (18 all-time)

In contrast, 2 really close games of It's a Wonderful World. Keeghan was the master of this but at one point he commented that either he was getting worse or we were getting better. And yes, Tim won one and I won the other - I like to think my reflections on this game in last week's blog positively affected my play. I did do a lot better than then.

 N/A   City of the Big Shoulders NEW!

My friends back in Durham have this but when it was put up on BGA, they were all keen for a live game chatting over Zoom. I watched a review right before by Paul Grogan, he was not a fan, so I was a little wary, but it turned out we don't have the same taste, the cross between worker placement and 18xx style stock game was pretty entertaining. I could see some of what Paul was talking about, though I skipped the rule book, my friend Josh said he learned the game from it without too much issue, so even the extended rant on that seemed a bit overblown. The one problem with it was it took till midnight on a week night! It was a rough start to the day next morning.

 N/A   BANG! The Dice Game NEW!

I played the card game an absolute ton when that first came out, to the point I was pretty burned out on it, but some silly dice chucking seemed quite appropriate. 4 players seemed a little short for the full experience but I managed to do quite a bit of damage to Sheriff Keeghan (who had a great sheriff ability, damage reduced by 1). My fellow outlaw did her part too, but we both fell in quick succession and with the sheriff wounded and the renegade still pretty healthy, I thought we might see a renegade win...only for the sheriff to make some big plays and the poor renegade did not stand a chance. It was an entertaining distraction. I had heard people say they prefer the dice game and while I thought it was fine, and despite my weariness with the card game, I think the card game is superior, offering a bit more control and less swinginess. Though again, I did not play at an optimal player count and if I played only 4 player Bang! the card game, I would have been underwhelmed for sure.

 N/A   Everdell NEW!

Keeghan had ordered this (as well as the Pearlbrook expansion), though we were not expecting it until the following week. But there it was on the dorr-step, just as we were about to head over to a friend's house to hang out. Well, Rodney Smith jumped in to teach me and after a frenzied bit of punching, we took it over and played it. I took a photo of the board and the art for my wife to see and she wanted to know why we didn't have it ourselves? Well, I deferred, wanting to see how it played first, but even before halfway through I knew we were going to have to get it. Charming presentation, straightforward rules but enough variation to keep things interesting. And tableau building is generally a hit with me anyway. There is a lot to like here.
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Thu Jul 16, 2020 3:49 am
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New a Year Ago: A Pax on all your houses

David
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QwertyMartin has a Geek List looking back on the new games from a year ago. Here is my post for July 2019's new games.

I went to a "mini-con" held at a friend's house and played a few new things. My thoughts a year later?

Board Game: 1846: The Race for the Midwest

 8   1846: The Race for the Midwest (1 play last July, none since, though have played other 18xx)

I have dabbled some in 18xx and I knew this was one I wanted to try. But I have not come back to it, though I have good memories of playing. I suspect we will most likely get back to it via the 18xx.games site, where we have been playing 1889 and 18Chesapeake.

My relationship with these games is that I don't have any problem with playing them mechanically, picking up the little differences reasonably easily but the strategy still eludes me, the consequences of starting company X over company Y and at this or that par value are quite opaque and obscure, so far my approach has been to run the best train company I can and see how that goes. But the fellow who taught me this one manages to spin off into new companies and anticipates things better such that he is often quite far ahead by the time the bank breaks. I enjoy the play and the struggle.

Board Game: Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure

 8   Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure (1 play last July, none since, but have played other Clank! games)

My first Clank! adventure was in! space! and I found it to be pretty enjoyable, essentially a deck builder with a board. And that version was produced after and was supposed to be an improvement, certainly had some additional variability. But I rather enjoyed the more streamlined experience of the original, so I came to the conclusion I would rather play more original Clank! than venture into space again. But we never got to play that since.

I did play Clank Legacy though, the ending of which campaign left a rather sour taste after some quite enjoyable games prior to that. Can't quite remember how much the original shares with the beginning of the legacy version, I feel like it was simpler to start and became more complicated. I'd still give the original game a go though.

Board Game: Pax Pamir (Second Edition)

 5   Pax Pamir (Second Edition) (2 times last July, none since)

I will get in trouble with QwertyMartin for this one, but I did not take to Pax Pamir. Enough people have said nice things that after my first play, I was determined to try it again, sure that I had just missed something, but no. I just think it is not my kind of game. I was sitting here just trying to pinpoint the reasons, and I mostly remember feeling stifled by the game rather than enabled, hampered by the restrictions and just feeling like I could not do what I wanted with the cards in my hand. The first game ended with no faction ever achieving dominance and it came down to who was able to put the most of their pieces on the board. And the scoring was such that the person in 4th place until that point leap-frogged everyone to win because they had one more spy or whatever. In the second, there seemed to be a bit more action, some changing allegiances and dominance was actually attained, but I was pretty helpless for most of the game, unable to get the right cards into my hand to get pieces out for a large portion of the game. It seems to be a game of waiting for the right moment to make the perfect move. But it does seem to involve a lot of waiting and I just don't find it fun.

Board Game: Troyes

 8   Troyes (1 play last July, no physical plays since, 12 online)

I had played this on BGA before a physical play so I had a rough idea of the game, but there is nothing like a proper play of a game to really hammer out all the little misunderstandings and nuances of how the game works. We continue to come back to it too, the dice mechanism at its core is pretty engaging and though I grumble at people using my dice at times, I appreciate how that gets past the I rolled good, you rolled bad aspect of a lot of dice games. There is also a lot of different ways to play it, and I don't feel I have a great idea that one is better than another. It is a very solid game. And I just started one on BGA this week after a little break.

Board Game: Tulip Bubble

 7   Tulip Bubble (1 play last July, none since)

This was a random surprise game at the mini con, I have never heard of the game, though I had a great time playing it. It is a card game about speculating on the price of tulips during the tulipmania period, you can buy different quality and colors of tulips and the price of them goes up or down depending on the number in the market and also some random factors. And when you sell off some of your tulips, that increasing the availability and pushes the prices down. You can also pick up particular tulips for the collectors which can be pretty lucrative. It was pretty easy to pick up and quick to play and I have particularly fond memories of it because I was like the god of tulips that day, their prices bent to my will and I crowned my game with the purchase of the Black Tulip to end the game, an ending that "basically never happens" according to our teacher, though prices did nothing but rise throughout the game, which made all things possible. I would happily play it again, once we can gather again, I hope it will come out.

Board Game: Tumblin-Dice

 7   Tumblin-Dice (2 plays last July, none since)

The host of the mini-con had a Tumblin' Dice board and it was there to be a place to have a break from the thinky games and just play around. I put down 2 plays though neither was really a proper play of the game, we just took it in turns to tumble some dice in spurts and see how much we could score in a round. Impossible to deny the fun of doing that. So I would like to play again, and I would go a little further and say I would like to play it properly as well!
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Sat Jul 11, 2020 11:30 pm
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Last Week Today: OK last two weeks

David
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DURHAM
North Carolina
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Board Game: Splendor
Board Game: The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
Board Game: Terraforming Mars
Board Game: It's a Wonderful World
Board Game: Cat Lady
Board Game: Valley of the Kings: Premium Edition
Board Game: NMBR 9
Board Game: 7 Wonders Duel
Board Game: Aquatica


So I missed a week here, work was really busy, I was getting home late, then it was holiday weekend and blogging fell by the wayside. My humble apologies. No news on my job interview, if anyone is following along in the preamble plot. Not sure if that is good or bad, might be just the way the world is right now or a bigger company taking its sweet time. But I know the hiring manager so I know he hasn't just forgotten about me. At least I hope not!

 6   Splendor x6 (15 all-time)

Tim had a run of suggesting It's a Wonderful World but I think the glow is off that game a little and his regular suggestion is back to Splendor. The first game took the usual course, I look at what noble I think Tim is going for, pick a different one then he somehow manages to get his and mine and wins. The other 3 games took a different course as Keeghan threw our little meta-game off by pushing early for a level 3 card..and then managed to turn that into a win without getting any nobles. I had thought that I neglected the 3rd row some, often getting into a rhythm of building up from the bottom row but by the time I might be grabbing top row cards, someone is at 15 points. 3rd game, he did it again, even though he spent a good portion of the game floundering a bit to get anything going. So I mimicked that a bit in our 4th game, building on red and black, then I stalled a bit and Keeghan looked like he might get back ahead but then I got that 4th red and black to be able to take the noble and take the win. First time win at Splendor in quite a long while for me.

 7.5   The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine x4 (44 all-time)

We are up to 44 missions. It feels like a more complete game now, rather than the fragment of a game some of the early missions are, which only are interesting when there is a bit of a struggle. Some of the novelty missions are cool though, the one we did here:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
you had to win a trick with each rocket, in order

Some of these kinds of things sound hard then you try to do it and it turns out to be pretty easy. This one was pretty tricky (no pun intended, at least consciously).

 9   Terraforming Mars (11 all-time)

I was Credicor and had a bunch of starting capital. I had some Jovian things and titanium mining too. Keeghan was Point Luna and somehow just managed to do the things I was doing just a bit better, drawing several of the discount cards (IIRC Point Luna has some innate discounting) and he double downed on it, getting 5 or 7 credit discounts on some things by mid game. I thought I played my hand as dealt pretty well but I was a step behind here, even my money advantage, making me pick Banker after getting a healthy boost to my income, was nullified as he played his own income booster. So, though I did still enjoy the play (just running your game engine in this is a good part of the fun of it), this ended up being a little irksome. Not sure that is the right word, but just a vague feeling you were hosed out of the gate. If I was a better player, I might have been able to adjust from my plan and go another course.

 7   It's a Wonderful World x2 (16 all-time)

I thought I was getting this game but I had a glorious couple games where I 'got it' and now have gone back to floundering helplessly. Not really sure what is going on, but I do think that if you can't get something started on turn 1 so that you are in the running for at least some of the resource bonuses, you are running uphill the rest of the game. Though to be fair to myself, I was not that far behind, 38-38-45, to our regular winner. But that he wins so consistently somehow bothers me that I am missing something.

 4   Cat Lady (3 all-time)

I played this before and as my rating shows, it did not have a too favorable first impression. The card selection mechanism, where you pick a line of 3 cards from a 3x3 grid is cool, but other than that, it felt like a by the numbers set collection game. You collect cats which score points if you have the right food for them, then there are a couple of different kinds of things to collect, toys, costumes and also catnip. They score in a couple different ways reminiscent of the way some of the different sushi score in Sushi Go. Well, I had forgotten my misgivings and was drafted into another game of it and found it more charming this time. Perhaps an extra player helped, or I was just in a better frame of mind for cat shenanigans.

 N/A   Valley of the Kings: Premium Edition x3 NEW!

I like a good deck-builder and this was one I had seen but not played back in the days when it came in a small box. Now all of it has been repackaged into a big box containing several expansions, at least a good lot of different sets of cards. For the most part it is a standard deck builder, draw cards, use them to play actions and pay for new stuff, but the main wrinkle is the Tomb, where you have to entomb your cards in order to score them and once they are entombed, they are no longer in your deck giving you cool powers. We played the base set and I liked it enough to try it again. We played the same cards but with some asymmetric leader powers. I absolutely hated that, perhaps it was just the ones we had, I had Tutankhamun, Keeghan had Khufu, but we burned through the game (it ends when the draw deck is depleted) and the game had no time to develop. It was just very unsatisfying. The 3rd game we switched things around, brought in some priests and priestesses and artisans. The way the game is set up is clever, you take a whole set of cards in a theme (Priests, Amulets, Sarcophagi, etc) and that puts a set of those kind of cards in the mix. And the game guides you in what kind of mixes of cards you should use. This last game, with both of us up to speed on how it works and without the leader characters, this was the best of the 3 games, lots of messing with the other player (much more than in Dominion, I'd say), some due consideration about which sets of cards to entomb, it was a lot of fun.

 8   NMBR 9 x2 (79 all-time)

Holiday weekend gaming, we got this out after quite a long hiatus, just over a year, before which this was a regular. And we were a little rusty, to be sure, especially my wife, who does not let me win this too often, so 2 wins in 2 was most unexpected. I think she might have gone for another round but we had a new thing to do.

 8   7 Wonders Duel x2 (20 all-time)

When I got Duel, I got the expansion 7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon as well, but I resolved not to just crack straight into that but play out the base game a bit first. Which we did...but then never seemed to get around to breaking the shrink on the expansion. It got some play recently though and it was definitely time to try it out, which we finally did this weekend. I liked how the expansion board fits snugly onto the base game board.

Less good was how well my wife took to this and utterly thrashed me both times. But both were engaging games, with a bit more decision space, I especially like that you can forego taking a card to take a god card, which changes up the tempo of the game in a neat way. I am not quite sure about the gods, their powers seem a little ... uneven? Maybe a bit more play will firm up my thoughts on that. I brought it over to my work lodging as my room mate here has been angling to try it out too.

 8   Aquatica (4 all-time)

Looked for something I had not played in a little while without being too much to learn and this fit the bill. We had randomly drawn kings and while mine was neat (copy the discard of another play), my wife's was great (conquer any card and immediately push it all the way up). Sure, she was missing out on their abilities, but was getting the mantas right away and could score it too. And she was getting powers that let her re-use her king and recycle him multiple times. I was pretty sure it was another thrashing in store for me but I did manage to get the 4th goal before she was in a position to claim her 4th so that was something. We start totting up the scores and she looks over and says "you won by a point". And sure enough, I add it all up and I won by 1. There is a lot to like here and we haven't even touched the alternate goals yet.
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Thu Jul 9, 2020 1:35 am
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Last Week Today: The Tale of the Crew of the Keyflower ... in Space!

David
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DURHAM
North Carolina
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Board Game: Paper Tales
Board Game: The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
Board Game: Keyflower
Board Game: It's a Wonderful World
Board Game: Space Base


 N/A   Paper Tales NEW!

This was an interesting little drafting tableau building game. You have a little 2 x 2 area you can play into (which can expand into a 3 card front row). You draft cards to play into this area, which might give you resources, fighting strength, points, etc. Cards usually cost some gold (which is hard to get) and you only keep them in front of you until they age and are removed. At the end of the round, you compare your front row fighting strength with your neighbors and score points if you have more, you can also build buildings (which require those resources) which also give you extra abilities and points. Then all your people gain an age token or die if they already have one. Then you start over.

For my first time, I took a very direct approach, gaining army strength from my manticore and Cerberus, scoring bonus points based on the amount of meat I had. It got me into a good lead after a couple rounds and then the more experienced hands got going. One had a crazy turn based on manipulating the age tokens, the other went for more of a build strategy. I got left behind and they even dominated me in fighting ability on the last turn as I ran out of cash to keep my army as mighty as I might. And they tied, which was pretty unexpected.

This was neat and had more layers than I initially gave it credit for. In fact I wanted to play it some more but other games got in the way.

 7.5   The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine x7 (40 all-time)

...Such as the Crew. I was a bit down on this one last week, but it came through for us here. A couple of the missions seemed a bit random. There was one that we repeatedly failed that asked the Commander to hand out the missions rather than us picking. I think we rather over-did the "no communication", as I think we were supposed to be able to say yes or no to each mission card. So that one ended up frustrating us a bit, but the few after that one were all pretty well received. I like it when you have to pause in the middle of a hand to think about the next play and some of the missions this week delivered that.

 N/A   Keyflower NEW!

I have played Keyflower on BGA a few times, always asynchronously. But this time I played with some of my gaming friends back east, in a live game via BGA. I do find that while I like playing async games, it does lose a bit of the experience (and of course on a computer loses some of the face to face), but that is what we have at the moment and it is pretty cool to play with those guys (and another of their old game group who is in California). Our overall strategies began to take shape pretty quickly - one was investing in the green meeples, another was collecting iron like it was going out of style. I had a couple of meeple based winter tiles (one based on sets and another based on a single color) so I went for the tavern and alehouse and similar tiles that got me lots of meeples. By the autumn round, it was nuts and I was stymied by the 'only 6 meeples assigned to a tile' rule. It ran a little long, partly down to 4 players, partly due to the over the computer, not used to the interface factor. But it was a ton of fun and my literal army of meeples won out narrowly over the others.

This is a clever design, the meeple bidding system is ingenious, the system for moving resources around, with carts along roads between tiles is brilliantly maddening, there is a ton of different tiles and different ways to approach it. It has that 'not enough to do all I want to' factor too. It was really great to play it again.

 7   It's a Wonderful World x2 (14 all-time)

Well, after last week's adventures in the wonderful world, I thought I had cracked it but this week's games suggested otherwise. A crazy green tableau (with a bonus of 5 points for each green card completed) won the first game, then the 2nd game was a particular low point for me, I set off to dominate the military side of the game but just could not seem to win any of the categories that got me that token, a 15 point card accounted for most of my points in my lowest ever score. I just don't know what to make of it all. But I still have something to learn about this one after all.

 8   Space Base (29 all-time)

A Father's Day weekend, which was mostly spent in relaxation and with some tasty treats, but we did get a Space Base in. We default to the base game with Lightspeed variant these days, I tried to set things up to score off my 11 and 12 big point cards, with some dice set and dice increasing cards. It took a bit of time to get going, by which time J had a bit of a lead, going a more traditional route of getting some money spots and some point scorers. I hit my big numbers and also picked up a colony to close the gap but there were 2 crucial factors, one was my dice were not kind, like when I set one die to 6 and then promptly rolled a 1 on the other, and 7 was not a good number for me. The other was that J had some good stuff in her high numbers in the red, so my high rolls were giving her plenty of good stuff and her low income was apparently more than compensated for by my rolling her big money numbers. So after I caught up, she proceeded to rocket back into the lead and crossed the line safely 10 points in front. A less dramatic end than our last game but it was still a fun play.
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Tue Jun 23, 2020 2:32 am
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Last Week Today: Immediate Rematch of the Wonderful Yellow Underwater Wonders

David
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DURHAM
North Carolina
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Board Game: It's a Wonderful World
Board Game: The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
Board Game: 7 Wonders
Board Game: Bastion
Board Game: Yellow & Yangtze
Board Game: Underwater Cities


It was quite a week of gaming, I played games 6 days out of 7, played a bunch on Sunday and the one day I missed was my interview. It went well and I am hopeful, but now the waiting.

 7   It's a Wonderful World x7 (12 all-time)

We have had something of an obsession for this, it helps that my room mate Tim keeps suggesting it plus it is short enough that immediate rematches can happen and do. My other room mate continued to dominate us though, which does make me think there is more here than getting lucky with the card draft. But I was not getting it. And the one time that Keeghan left us to it after crushing us mercilessly, Tim proceeded to smoke me. 8 games, 8 losses.

But finally on Saturday I got my first win, another 2 player with Tim, flexing some financial muscles. And then I won again in the immediate rematch. Was I finally getting it?

The big moment came on Sunday when we played it again with Keeghan. I again got some finance tokens, having good production in gray and yellow and a bit in blue and green. Bonus for tokens and for yellow cards. 48 points, maybe a little less than I hoped. And I look across at the pile of black cards he has and the military tokens and I figure that he probably got it. But he adds it up twice and gets a different answer each time...then finally with us all watching and counting as well, we collectively get 44.

We won't mention the immediate rematch. Let's just say I had a bad round 1 and move on.

I was feeling like the game was a round too short but the mistake I was making was I was not really starting to play till the 2nd round, treating the first round as more of a start of laying a foundation but not really looking for more than that, building some cheap cards and establishing some income and direction but not looking for cards that might pay off much later, a card to work towards. The synergies between some colors and the importance of claiming tokens were not lost on me in earlier games but really putting it together had only happened in the last few games. Though there is an element of luck here, you can set your engine up and then not get the last piece to push you on, or you could miss out on tokens you expected to win because your opponent chose to go after that too and got 1 more than you. Or the other way, you are getting one in blue and no one else happened to go that way. But it has been popular with us as a quick and engaging game with a bit of light strategy and it will be around for a while in our rotation.

 7.5   The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine x3 (33 all-time)

3 more missions complete. Not much to say though it hasn't ramped up so much as I thought it might, more cards to hand out can lead to complications but so far, it has not been much of a problem.

 8   7 Wonders x2 (12 all-time)

After a few games of Duel recently, Keeghan persuaded Tim to play the original with us. We played the base game first to get back into it. Tim had lots of science, I thought he might win. I had a bunch of blue cards, I thought I had a shot, but Keeghan's military might was stacked on scoring in yellow and his wonder and some in blue too. He played a good game, though not so well on the scoring app.

Then we reset for the immediate rematch, this time with Leaders in the mix, which was a first for me. Tim again got a bunch of science (but he did it better), Keeghan was Rome and was messing with the Leaders deck all game. I played off my leader that gave me money for military wins, then in the 3rd Age made use of Ramses to play guilds for free. It got me a bunch of points but Tim's dedication to science was the winner here.

 7   Bastion (3 all-time)

This one is a castle defense board game which I haven't seen much chat about. We played the Quaking Earth scenario, which features giants, shape-shifters and some big bosses. Plus symbiotes, which latch onto the monster in front of them and make them bigger. Most of the game is about gathering different color mana, then using it to blast the appropriately colored bad guys. A neat mechanism is that defeated monsters give you access to one shot spells and the bigger beasts tend to give the more powerful spells - defeating the Leviathan (which takes 2 mana of each color with no spells) gives you a size 3 lightning bolt, but a 4 point monster might give you a 1 point fireball.

This was a tough play. I did the hard work to get rid of the Leviathan and as a group we chipped away at the giants and tried to hit shape-shifters (whose size depends on what is next to them) when they were vulnerable. But the horde gathering at our gate was ever larger and the way they move forward is another aspect to the puzzle of beating this game. And for sure, we were on the ropes. I was increasingly sure we were doomed.

The end game can be a bit like catching the last space invader, you have to hit the right monster or you can leave it so their next move is to the gate - and that is the losing condition. So it takes a good bit of planning. But even so, with a large shapeshifter-symbiote combo at the front of the line, we had our work cut out. We put a 4 pointer next to it to at least give ourselves a shot but even with the line manipulation and swapping around we had through the spells, we could not take out the big one and we were very much at the point where you have to take out a monster a turn or lose. So we had to take out the 4 pointer and the shifter alone is worth 9, plus the symbiote makes 13. We were surely done? But somehow, by throwing all of our spells at the thing, somehow it ended with us having exactly the right amount of mana to take him out and win the game by the merest skin of our teeth. Very very epic.

 8   Underwater Cities (4 all-time)

Sunday afternoon gaming, something with a bit more depth. What has more depth than the ocean?

This was our first go with the more advanced board. We also had the expansion Assistants in the mix, mine set me on my path. The Headhunter, who apparently is literally a shark, got me a special card right off the bat and that got me a red dome. I would end the game with 4 and my opponent had none. He did some neat stuff though, this is one of those games that is satisfying to play no matter whether you win or lose, the growth of your underwater community, the play of your cards, triggering abilities and that leading to something else. It all comes together in a very pleasing way. Even the small details, like my shark assistant or the greenhouse I had in one of my tunnels, I don't know that the setting is essential but I do enjoy the presentation.

All our games have been pretty close, this was very much not the exception. He scored big on the bonus cards and had scored steadily throughout the game, building a lead. I had my red domes and a slight edge in the number of domes, so more points from my diverse buildings. We stepped through the final scoring not knowing which way it would go but we got most of the way through, just the odds and ends scoring to go, converting resources into money and then getting a point per for every 4. And we were tied. So as the saying goes, money can't buy you happiness but it is a tie-breaker in Power Grid. And, in this case, it was for Underwater Cities too. And happily for me, my opponent had blown a bunch of his accrued cash buying points for a bonus card, so I actually had the most money left. But that really didn't matter so much.

 8   Yellow & Yangtze x2 (4 all-time)

Still with some game energy left in the evening, I got Yellow & Yangtze back out. We had played it together once before, but Keeghan was still a bit hazy, not helped by my own game confusion when the game is the same as Tigris & Euphrates but also different. I like a lot of the differences. Hexes v a grid seems like a logical progression, the extra powers on the leaders is cool, the addition of the market to mitigate poor drawing, the 5th leader getting the gold. Even the pagodas replacing the monuments being easier to build but also being able to be moved around too (as well as knocked down by peasant revolt). It all works quite well, and the streamlined version of the old conflicts all work well.

Our first game turned out to be rather one sided, maybe an issue with a 2 player game. Though equally or maybe even more true with the original. Keeghan got an edge in pagodas and therefore in scoring and I had a color I was basically penniless in. The one thing that went very much my way was the yellow tiles, I was flush with those and the yellow pagoda was mine for a lot of the game. But winning the wild resource doesn't make up for losing at the other 4. Keeghan was new enough to the game that he didn't really realize how strong a position he was in but he did get it enough that he pushed to the end game with exchanging tiles. My attempt to dislodge him and get my blue leader onto a blue pagoda did not quite work, I won the war but my losses were great and I was never really able to build up my army again.

But it was a pretty fun play and to reinforce it in our brains, we went for the Immediate Rematch and played again. This time there was no lopsided pagoda rush, but we built up carefully, but my focus was on building up an army and maintaining some strength there, as well as keeping black tiles around my important leaders. I was able to bully the neighboring regions, linking them together then strategically pulling them apart again in order to install the leaders I most needed in the spots I needed them. This time it was Keeghan that got the majority of the gold, but again it did not do him much good, too many other colors that needed bolstering.

These 2 plays did solidify my opinion about this version. It is a decent game and certainly a bit easier to get to grips with. But the smoothing over of the War into a simple fight over red army tiles and the amount of other colors apparently not mattering at all did give me some pause. The brain burn of figuring out how to most effectively resolve an external conflict in T&E is a glorious thing and this has lost all the nuances of that version. It feels like it is more straightforward to play, which will appeal to some over the more obtuse original. Still, I like both.
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Fri Jun 19, 2020 4:00 am
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