Everything that sucks! And some things that don't.

Nuggets of wisdom amidst incoherent ramblings. You're welcome.

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Germanizing Games - Der winzige Vul-Khan!

Christian Heckmann
Germany
Mainz
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Here's a disclaimer: Even though this series of posts is called "Germanizing Games", unless further reinforced, I don't suggest that all of the games featured on this article have original English titles. "Germanizing" is just a handy word that doesn't one-hundred-percent describe what I am doing here. Also this list isn't meant to be comprehensive when it comes to box cover artwork and it's not supposed to focus on this. Excursions into this subject are to be understood rather as a bonus than the centerpiece of these articles, which is the differences and similarities between English and German titles of board games (no matter which one is the original). That said, I don't own all of the board games out there, I can't double-check everything, I have to work with what the Geek gives me. If there are factual errors in what I write here, I'll be thankful for corrections.

We've officially left the Top 1000. Maybe things are gonna get just weirder from here on out? I don't know. Let's find out!

Board Game: Tiny Epic Zombies


Board Game: Tiny Epic Zombies


I usually keep my opinion about the featured games to myself in these posts, but I have to say, Tiny Epic Zombies is an absolutely terrible excuse for a game and nobody should ever have to play it. So it's only fitting that the German title is absolute garbage as well. Schwerkraft decided to stick with their "Winzige Welten"-brand for this one and called it "Winzige Wandelnde Leichen", "Tiny Walking Corpses". How quaint. But for some reason, they decided to "tidy up" the game-logo, removing both the bloody brain as well as the eyeball (and the ®-symbol). Why? I don't know. To be more... err... family-friendly, I guess? So only thing we've got left is that tagline, right? "A game of brutal survival by Scott Almes" was turned into "Ein Spiel ums nackte Überleben von Scott Almes", "A game of naked survival by Scott Almes". Naked survival? Is this secretly porn? Nah, the thing is, in German, we often use the term "nackt" to describe something that is pure or raw or something along the line. You anglophones do it as well, when it comes to stuff like the "naked truth" or something like that. So that makes a certain amount of sense. The thing is, the German version of the tagline can deliberately be misread to actually mean "A game that is about the survival of one Scott Almes". Weird.

Board Game: Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space


Board Game: Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space


I already covered this one a long, long time ago, before I even wrote the first Germanizing Games post. But it's a good one and rehashing good content is a clever way to have be successful while working less. Did I just think that or type it out loud? Anyway, when Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space was translated for the German market... something happened. I don't know exactly what. But something with weird consequences. See, if you'd faithfully translate the title into German, you'd get something like "Flucht vor den Aliens im All". Which isn't a very handy title. Then again, what they went with isn't either. In Germany, the game is called "Angriff der Aliens aus dem All", which translates to "Attack of the Aliens from Outer Space". Which is nothing like the original title. I mean, it correctly describes the contents of the game, too. But to me personally, it's just super-weird.

Board Game: Blitzkrieg!: World War Two in 20 Minutes


Board Game: Blitzkrieg!: World War Two in 20 Minutes


Back to Schwerkraft's shenanigans. Look, maybe it's just me. But Blitzkrieg!: World War Two in 20 Minutes somehow feels pretty tone-deaf to me. Hypocrisy, I know. I love games that are about murdering people for fun and profit. Still... a game with such "catchy" tagline and artwork doesn't feel entirely appropriate when it's about the largest and deadliest war in history. YMMV. BUT Schwerkraft thought that this whole thing wasn't tone-deaf ENOUGH! And immediately decided to incorporate it into their aforementioned "Winzige Welten"-line alongside stuff like Tiny Epic Zombies and Tiny Epic Kingdoms and others. Because the German version of Blitzkrieg!: World War Two in 20 Minutes is called - and I shit you not - "Winziger Weltkrieg: Der Zweite Weltkrieg in 20 Minuten", literally "Tiny World War: The Second World War in 20 Minutes". Please tell me that I'm not the only one who thinks that this is pretty weird...

Board Game: Encore!


Board Game: Encore!


Onward to less controversial fare. Before the English version of Encore! was released, the game was better known as "Noch mal!". Which feels relatively equivalent to me. I mean, the translation isn't totally literal, if it were, the game would have to be called "Once more!" or "Once again!" in English (or "Zugabe!" in German, if you took the English title as the starting point), but it gets the sentiment across quite well. The English tagline feels a bit more pushy, though. "You will want to play again and again" kind of sounds like something a deranged psychopath would spout in a direct-to-Netflix B-thriller. Us Germans, we got the more mellow "Bei einer Partie bleibt's nie", which not only rhymes but means something along the lines of "You'll never play it just once".

Board Game: Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar


Board Game: Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar


And finally... this one is a bit odd. Restoration Games' Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar was published by Asmodee in French, in Spanish, in Italian and also in German. In France, Spain and Italy, they decided to translate both the main- and the subtitle into the local language and keep the whole thing untouched apart from that. In Germany, however, they did something... different. They didn't translate the maintitle at all and then changed the subtitle very subtly so that us Germans got the game "Fireball Island: Der Fluch des Vul-Khan". I kind of get why. The German word for volcano is "Vulkan", so adjusting the pun was probably too tempting. I don't know why they decided to drag some Khan into the whole thing, though. Wouldn't "Der Fluch des Vul-Kan" have been more appropriate? Anyway, it just strikes me as quite weird and if I wouldn't have known better, I'd have said that this would have been a very Pegasus-ish thing to do. Oh, also the translation of the Restoration Games slogan at the bottom of the cover is a bit unfortunate. It's kind of impossible to appropriately adapt that pun in German but what they went with - "Jedes Spiel verdient eine zweite Chance", "Every game deserves a second chance" - feels weirdly disparaging. Then again, I'm not a marketing-specialist, so what do I know?
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Today 10:07 am
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Curses!

Christian Heckmann
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Mainz
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So I'm a bit out of chronology again, but I really want to talk about today's game before I get into other stuff yet again. So... as already teased two days ago, here's what hit the table last Thursday...

Board Game: The Few and Cursed


J., S. and me decided to play a game of The Few and Cursed, because why wouldn't you? Not only does the whole thing look pretty great, but it also seems like a game that will be a lot of fun? Was it? Well, we'll get back to that. I was a bit apprehensive at first, because I had heard things about unclear rules and excessive downtime, but in the end, curiosity prevailed. It took a moment to go over the rules, because while they're not super complicated, there are a couple of 'em. But yeah, that didn't take too long and after playing the first round or two "turn-based", we decided that from that point onward, we'll follow designer Mike Gnade's recommendations as outlined in this thread. And it worked pretty well. Interaction in the game is relatively low anyway, so while we had a couple of moments where someone later in turn order was like "I'm gonna wait for you to finish your stuff and then see what I'm gonna do", most of the turns turned completely simulatenous quickly so there was pretty much no downtime to speak of. I was dealt Macaenas, bought myself a fancy hat and some boots early on and then wandered off into the desert to find adventure. And it quickly found me. Guided by my starting-jobs and the locations of the artifacts, I stumbled across strange fighting pits, creepy children, a bunch of crow-demons and much more. And I shot pretty much all of 'em with the trusty revolver I had bought from a wandering merchant. Plus the dual-gun artifacts that I picked up along the way helped as well. At some point, monsters started to pop up and there was a frenzied race to be the first to shoot the gigantic snake into its stupid snake-face (which sadly wasn't won by me, Alistair did the deed, shortly before shooting his evil doppelganger or whatever as well) and then I went after that... err... wendigo-thing(?) while the final artifacts were cleared off the board. Bit anticlimactic but what can you do? Anyway, my job-completing endeavors had paid off because I got a bunch of points that way and alongside my gathered artifacts and the grit that I had accumulated over the course of the game, that was enough to come in first place, but scores were relatively close in the end.

From gallery of Harblnger


First things first, I do like The Few and Cursed on principle alone. It is a weird-west-game and I do tend to enjoy these, so that's great. But there's also the additional draw of being based on something relatively fleshed-out. I don't know the comics this is based on, but with other games that I'm a fan of, this thematic backbone makes the whole thing feel more substantial then let's say Western Legends which is just your run-of-the-mill western-setting. But apart from that, I also think that it is at the very least a good, maybe even very good game. Mind you, it isn't super-innovative. Almost everything that you can find in this game has been done pretty much verbatim elsewhere. The way deckbuilding works is a lot like in Ferox, it just happens far more frequently. Movement across the map is basically the same as in Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure. "Move as much as you can and do one action per turn" is in pretty much every game ever and the way that combat works reminds me of A Study in Emerald, while the encounter-mechanism owes a lot to Arkham Horror (even though it is interesting that encounters happen at the beginning of the turn instead of at the end here). And even though I was under the impression that the encounter-deck was quite thin, it turned out to be enough for our game. We got about halfway through and the encounters aren't as important to the overall flow of the game as they are in Arkham Horror. Still, I wonder whether they will wear thin at some point.
But yeah, the game is cool. Probably more of an experience-game than a really strategic one in the long run, you can certainly decide to go into this or that direction over the course of the game but I'd hazard a guess that you'll probably do best if you stock up on a couple of jobs and then set out toward an artifact-location, shooting baddies, completing your jobs and generally improvising along the way. I don't know whether it's possible to really sink your teeth into the game but at least when played with Mike's recommendations to reduce downtime, it is a well-paced, breezy affair where you've always got something that you can do, something you can walk (if not work) towards, just something interesting going on. It might not have the breadth of possibilities as other, similar games, but it does offer enough for the time it takes. I'm looking forward to trying it again and I might even try my hand at the solitaire mode in the near future, because yeah, that sounds like something that should work relatively well.
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Mon Sep 28, 2020 10:46 am
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Top 50 Movies Of All Time, Year Two Edition, #10-6

Christian Heckmann
Germany
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We're almost there. Next week, I'm gonna cover the five best movies of all time (and it's really five that time... and two to three of those are probably gonna make all of the goodwill towards me plus my credibility go down the drain). But before we do that, here's the five (or rather eight) movies that narrowly missed the top five. thecorsetmaker and OrangeWhip42 collectively managed to get four (or rather seven) of those right. So let's find out which of 'em eluded them. Here's "Peter Jackson's best movie, a low-budget mashup of eighties action movies and seventies disco flicks from Germany, a dark comedy about a hitman's midlife crisis, the four best Marvel movies and a rather low-key fantasy movie from the mid nineties".

#10: Braindead (1992)

From gallery of Harblnger


That's "Dead Alive" if you're from the USA. And it's undeniably "Peter Jackson's best movie". Look, there's one problem with "Braindead": It's the definitive splatter-comedy. Gross like you wouldn't belive and incredibly funny at the same time and because it's such a great movie, people tend to want to watch it as soon as they are getting into the genre. And once you've watched "Braindead"... you've witnessed the pinnacle. Nothing else is gonna top it, everything else is gonna pale in comparison, be it the quality (and/or quantity) of the gore or its fusion with humor. "Evil Dead 2" comes close, but in the end, "Braindead" takes the cake, hands down. It's also a fantastic showcase for Peter Jackson's skill as a director. His previous movies, "Bad Taste" and "Meet The Feebles", while certainly good in their own ways, were quite rough around the edges, but "Braindead", while certainly having rough edges, is an incredibly enjoyable watch and paved the way for Jackson's higher budgeted exploits later on. If you just know the guy from his "Lord Of The Rings"-movies and like them, even if you're not necessarily a fan of zombies and hyperviolence and stuff, you might want to check out "Braindead". It's absolutely fantastic.

#9: Operation Dance Sensation (2002)

From gallery of Harblnger


That would be "a low-budget mashup of eighties action movies and seventies disco flicks from Germany". I've sung this movie's praises a number of times. But yeah, it's just that enjoyable. Cheaply made, sure. Dodgily acted. Simon Gosejohann is hilariously atrocious as main antagonist Atlas. A bit problematic when it comes to pace and structure (the movie reaches approximately seven points where it could conceivably end but then just keeps going). And very, very silly altogether. But made with a sincerity and passion that really gets to me. This is how planned trash works. Not the way that garbage like "Iron Sky" tried. "Operation Dance Sensation" is batshit insane throughout but plays all of its wild and crazy ideas completely straight, never letting the mask of self-seriousness slip, which makes it all the more endearing. Plus the characters are just great, with Ralf Eden being the absolute standout. Go watch it. Now. I'll wait.

#8: Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

From gallery of Harblnger


And another one that I've recommended to everybody and their friggin' dog (which includes you... the everybody-part, not the dog-part) at every turn. "Grosse Pointe Blank", the "dark comedy about a hitman's midlife crisis" (even though I just noticed that it's probably not about Martin Blank's midlife crisis, because he's supposed to be in his late twenties, so it's probably more of a general identity crisis) is just a fantastic movie. John Cusack (oh how the mighty have fallen) could do no wrong back then (although I really don't like "High Fidelity"). Here, he's a charming hitman who starts to question his way of life when he's invited to his high school reunion. Hilarity ensues. The cast is great, the script is endlessly inventive, the final action-scene isn't half as clever as the rest of the movie but it is great fun. "Grosse Pointe Blank" is one of my most watched movies ever for a reason. If you've never seen it, go check it out.

#7: The Avengers quadrilogy (2012/2015/2018/2019)

From gallery of Harblnger


"The four best Marvel movies". 'nuff said. Although I want to point out that my opinion of their ranks within this entry of "Oh my God, all of those four movies are absolutely awesome" has changed a bit since I last talked about it. At the moment, I consider "Infinity War" and "Endgame" to be jointly the best of 'em (because you really can't separate those movies), followed by "The Avengers" (Joss Whedon was far better at inserting some "humanity" into his movies than the Russos, but he just didn't know what to do with Thor and seemed to hate Steve Rogers, which should be punishable by fifty consecutive viewings of "The Ghosts Of Edendale", I think) and finally "Age Of Ultron" (which I still love, BECAUSE it turns out to be a relatively small, superficially inconsequential movie). But yeah, they are all perfect entertainment.

#6: Dragonheart (1996)

From gallery of Harblnger


Didn't see that one coming, eh? This is the "rather low-key fantasy movie from the mid nineties". And it really is. Low-key, I mean. Also fantasy, a movie, from the mid nineties and possibly even rather. Look, this isn't an epic like "Lord Of The Rings", it's interestingly enough more of a buddy-comedy-adventure-hybrid where the buddies are an aging dragonslayer and the last dragon alive. And man, do Dennis Quaid and Draco the dragon (modelled after and voiced by Sean Connery) have chemistry. So... what exactly makes this the sixth best movie of all time? Well, sheer and utter subjectivity, sprinkled with a bit of nostalgia. I watched the movie in the cinema back when it came out and it was the greatest thing I had ever seen. Naturally. I was nine or possibly ten back then, every movie with a dragon (and Draco still holds up as the best dragon ever "captured" on film... eat your heart out, Smaug) and a bit of swordplay was gonna be the greatest thing I could have ever seen. And over the years, I've grown to accept the movie's shortcomings. Like its limited scale. Its somtimes hurried pace. Its lacking characterisation of pretty much everybody who isn't Bowen or Draco. And its okay but certainly not great cast of actors. Plus Quaid's problematic wig. But while every time I watch it, I go "Yeah, okay, this isn't that great" about halfway through, when that ending rolls around, I'm like "OKAY, THIS THING GOES TO ELEVEN!" and cry like a little girl. "Dragonheart" is not one of the best movies ever made. But I love it with all my heart.

Well okay then, only five more to go. And those would be... a movie based on a comic written by an absolute madman and directed by a semi-hack, a friggin' video game adaptation, the only really good italian horror movie, the sophomore film of one of the hottest directors at time of writing and then, right at the top... hm... I really don't know what clues to give to you. So... just go nuts. Suggest ANYTHING in the comments. I mean, it really isn't a very outlandish pick, but... I'm just interested to know what you think would or should be my favorite movie of all time. Let's find out whether anybody gets it right.
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Sun Sep 27, 2020 10:41 am
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A few good games

Christian Heckmann
Germany
Mainz
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Had I just waited another day or two with my previous "New to the shelf"-post, I could have added another couple of interesting things to that post (and saved this one). But I didn't. So this one's gonna be a bit shorter, but a) I want to talk about one item on this "list" very soon, so I want to get the "hey, look, I own this now"-post out of the way and also b) I don't have that much time today and this is pretty easy to write. So here's what recently came in...

From gallery of Harblnger


My Kickstarter-rewards for my pledge toward The Few and Cursed arrived quite recently, to be more specific the base game and the The Few and Cursed: Deluxe Expansion box. Most of it looks pretty spectacular and I also already played it two nights ago and plan on talking about the experience soon, you can look forward to that. Spoilers for that: It's probably quite good. I'm not a hundred percent sure yet.

Also of the "already played"-kind: the enhanced editions of Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn for Nintendo Switch. I had wanted to get this collection for quite some time now and only waited for a good discount. And although I actually didn't necessarily need the thing right at this moment, because I've started playing Othercide recently (and also wanted to talk about that one in a post already) and also started a new run of Sunless Sea on Switch recently, but then I found the collection for a very affordable price and was like "yeah, I could probably buy that". And when it arrived... I immediately started to play it and have already completed the Mines of Nashkell again. The Switch-port seems to be really good. I didn't expect the whole thing to work well in this format but even though I'm not a hundred percent comfortable with the UI and the controls yet, it plays quite well. Also this is a fantastic way to play these great games. Maybe I'll finally finish Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn this way? We'll see.

So that's it for today. Tomorrow: We'll continue with the "Best Movies Of All Time"-countdown. And on Monday, maybe a post about what hit the table recently. Because there's some cool stuff that I want to talk about.
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Sat Sep 26, 2020 1:42 pm
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Battalion of Polyhedrons!

Christian Heckmann
Germany
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Just in case you thought that my most session reports were getting a bit too high-profile and relevant in recent times, here's something that you probably haven't heard about...

From gallery of Harblnger


Here's what I've pieced together about the backstory of Army of Dice: Smirking Dragon one day were like "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if all of the roleplayers out there wouldn't need a shitload of miniatures and could instead use special dice to designate the position and type of certain monsters?". And so they created custom dice that have a bunch of monsters on each side. But then they went one step further. "What if we designed a small duelling-game around those dice so that buyers have some surplus value?" And then they did that. And so Army of Dice was born, a short two-player dice-duelling game. On Monday, R. and me played a game of it after finishing our two games of Jump Drive. He picked the Spellcasters, I was randomly assigned the Goblinoids. And we actually played with... erm... "inverted" rules. The game is a best-of-five-affair and you usually start with 16 health and eight dice and then after each round increase health by two and your dice-pool by one. We started with 24 health and 12 dice and decreased our pools after each round, because R. thought that that way, we'd start out with a bigger pool of dice and therefore get a feel for the game before having to manage our pools more efficiently in subsequent rounds. I don't know if that makes any sense.
Anyway, I lost the first round badly. The dice just wouldn't go my way and R. kept hitting me with poison damage and healing up, which made my ability to deflect stuff quite useless. I tried to boost my damage strength and then hit him with my strongest attacks but I failed to roll the faces that I needed for that. Second round went better. I managed to scrape together a pretty decent damage-output and then threw everything and the kitchen sink at R., drawing level again. But during the next two matches, everything went to crap again and in the end, R. won 3:1.

From gallery of Harblnger


I won't lie to you, Army of Dice is pretty bad. The idea behind the product that builds the backbone of the game is already kind of ill-fated, if you asked me. "Buy this affordable set of 24 dice that can represent a variety of creatures for your RPG-sessions" probably isn't the greatest draw, because role players love their miniatures and probably don't want to supplant them with nondescript (yet admittedly quite sturdy) dice. On top of that, some of the die-faces are very hard to differentiate from each other. Which probably hampers the attached duelling-game more than their use for RPG-sessions. Speaking of the game... It's not that there's absolutely no entertainment value in it or that it's completely devoid of decisions. The dice-pool-management aspect is a neat idea. Here's how that works: You have a pool of dice equal to half of your starting health and each turn you can roll five of them and put them on different tracks that when filled let you activate certain abilities. Some are sustained (by moving the dice used for the activation to another area of your tableau), some are one-time. So over the course of a round, a lot of your dice get tied up in different positions of your tableau and in order to be efficient, you need to decide when to return the dice that are sustaining one of your abilities or when to give up on one action that is halfway done, because if you don't have any dice to roll... well, not much is gonna happen, right?
But here's the thing: First of all, the whole thing is soul-crushingly random. At least the two factions we played had no way to reroll your own dice, so what you roll is what you get and if you just don't roll what you need, tough luck. Oh, there are ways to make your opponent reroll dice. Which sounds a lot better than it actually is. Because there's something on each side of the dice, so forcing your opponent to reroll something might not do anything at all (because they roll the same thing again) or possibly give them something even better. In our games, the threat of being able to make your opponent reroll something was far bigger than the ability itself, because it mostly deterred the other player from starting an action row with a few dice, because the possibility of having to reroll fitting dice made the whole thing kind of useless. But yeah, the abilities themselves... First of all, I'm not sure they are balanced. Then again, the game is super-random, so balance is kind of out of the window anyway. Secondly, they aren't very interesting. There's a couple of inspired ideas but most abilities are just variations on dealing damage to your opponent in various ways. And finally, the fact that every ability is tied to exactly one die-face and (not all, but) most die-faces are only useful for a single kind of ability seriously prunes the decision space. If I only rolled faces that can be used for this kind of ability that I absolutely don't need, then there's not much I can do about it. Conversely, as long as I have enough dice in my pool to roll five during my next turn, there's no need to make any decisions, because of course I'm gonna put out these dice I rolled.
And you know what? All of that could be okay, if the game was shorter. It sais five to 20 minutes here on the Geek. I don't think that's accurate for a whole three-to-five-game-session. Yeah, sure, everybody knows that R. is a very slow player. But our four bouts lasted for ninety minutes. Which is only reasonable, because the game can kind of deadlock hard. The Spellcasters can heal up. The Goblinoids can deflect and force their opponent to reroll and return the sustaining dice. A round of this isn't gonna hurry toward a conclusion by itself, so the thing can seriously stall. So... I don't know, play one round of this and then that's probably your lot. But truth be told... you don't actually need that. There's so many better games out there that do basically the same thing... Just play one of those. Smirking Dragon get an A for effort (well, maybe a B). But to me at the very least, Army of Dice is absolutely useless.
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Fri Sep 25, 2020 9:03 am
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Top Five Thursday: Funnest ways to fight in board games

Christian Heckmann
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Another two weeks went by with me completely failing to prepare something for the next instance of Top Five Thursday and then having to pull something out of my arse the day the whole thing is supposed to go online. I really should stop doing that. Anyway, today I took a page out of the Dice Tower guys' book and decided to look into something that they did *obligatory pause for Google-action* FIVE YEARS AGO? Man, I'm getting old. Anyway, today we're gonna look at the...

Top Five Thursday: Funnest ways to fight in board games


In contrast to Vasel et al, I'm not gonna look at general ways to fight supported by specific examples for those mechanisms but go more into the details by explicitly listing the five games where I derive the most joy out of the act of doing combat with either the other players or the game-systems themselves. Which turned out to be a bit more complicated than I had anticipated beforehand. See... I love games that are about fighting stuff. Out of my ten favorite games of all time, nine are explicitly about (or have mechanisms that allow you to) fight(ing - this sentence isn't gonna get any better, grammatically-wise) other people. And the tenth one (Lords of Waterdeep) at the very least has a kind of martial theme. And out of these nine to ten games, on this list you'll find exactly... one. Which is a bit weird, I guess. But here's the deal: While I love games about conflict, I usually tend to gravitate towards those where the actual resolution of these conflicts is rather unremarkable. Something that's quick and intuitively done and doesn't get in the way too much. Or the games have other strengths that make me forgive them their more clunky parts (Cave Evil is a fantastic game but its combat resolution method is very, very weird). So... let's find out what made the cut, shall we? Here we go.


#5: Hunting monsters in Lords of Hellas

Board Game: Lords of Hellas


I'm not a huge fan of card-combat (except for one notable upcoming exception). I like the concept in general, because it seems like you'd have a lot more control over things than when you're just rolling buckets of dice. But in most games, card-combat usually takes the form of both players trying to outguess their opponent without a lot of information to go by, which somehow feels even more random to me. Or in other instances, the whole thing feels predetermined from the outset and that's not very fun. I do like how all of this is handled in Lords of Hellas, where the whole thing turns into a game of chicken on a regular basis. But that's not what I want to talk about. The true genius of Lords of Hellas' combat system are the monster hunts, where your lone hero uses your hand of multi-purpose-cards to bring down terrifying mythological creatures. The system itself is sound and intuitive and you can assess your odds before going into battle, but you might as well go in relatively unprepared, push your luck and improvise your way through combat. Sure, you might help your opponents by leaving a half-defeated monster on the map. But what can you do? Lords of Hellas is a lot of fun and I really need to get it back to the table soon. And the monster-hunts are one of the game's absolute highlights.


#4: Under( or over)estimating your own power in Shadow Hunters

Board Game: Shadow Hunters


Onward to something completely different and far more idiotic, yet nevertheless hugely enjoyable. In Shadow Hunters, at the end of your turn, you can attack whoever happens to be in your "zone of attack" (usually the location your at and a neighboring one). Since this is a bit of a social deduction game (and the very best one of those out there), you usually don't know whether you're attacking friend or foe. But people tend to start beating each other up sooner rather than later anyway, because what IF that person isn't on my team? It would be careless to not take the opportunity to sock 'em right in the face. I mean, what's the worst that could happen? You're rolling a D4 and a D6 and subtract the smaller number from the higher one and that's how much damage you do. On average, you're gonna deal one damage to whomever you're attacking, that should be fine. And then, people roll a one on the D4 and a six on the D6 and accidentally thump their incognito-ally for five damage. Or more if they grabbed an iron fist or two. Oh, did I mention that attacks in this game can be modified in hilarious and super-enjoyable ways? Like if you combine the crossbow with the fire spell? Dunno if that's the original names, I only have the German version, which changed a couple of things. Anyway, Shadow Hunters is great. And the simple combat resolution that often leads to hilarious situations is a big part of why it is.


#3: Engagement by protocol in Nexus Ops

Board Game: Nexus Ops


Combat in Nexus Ops is weird. I mean, it is in most board games, because of the general need for abstraction. But the conga line of attacking monstrosities in Nexus Ops somehow feels even stranger than most other turn based combat resolution mechanisms. But it makes for really good, really satisfying gameplay with some really crunchy decisions. In case you don't know how it works, there's a priority order for all of the unit types in the game. Strongest units go first, weakest go last. Every unit rolls a die and tries to roll equal to or less than their combat strength. One hit kills a unit, no matter whether it's a measly human or a gigantic lava dragon. Whoever suffers hits decides which units die. So you can usually decide to let your small meat-shield-humans take the hits. But here's the deal... they probably didn't take their turns attacking yet and could wipe out more enemy units, while your big, expensive dragons are completely useless for the rest of combat. And combat only lasts for a single round and you only get something out of it if you're the attacker and wipe out every single one of your opponent's units. It's really cool and clever and special abilities of the units and one-time-use cards that allow you to change elements of that strict procedure make the whole thing even more interesting, without bogging it down too much. Nexus Ops is a great game. Why was there never an expansion for it again? I mean, the base game is fine, so I don't really need one. But... it would be nice, you know?


#2: Highly dynamic combat in BattleLore (Second Edition)

Board Game: BattleLore (Second Edition)


My biggest problem with most small-scale-combat-games (those that focus on individual units or squads instead of... I don't know, global warfare) is a lack of dynamics. You know... when units just walk towards the center of the map and then start rolling dice until one side falls over. I've played many of those and always had a pretty terrible time. But in swooped BattleLore (Second Edition) and revolutionized the genre. For me at least. I know, many of the things that BattleLore (Second Edition) were already present in previous games like Memoir '44 or *gasp* BattleLore but a) I've never played those games and b) BattleLore (Second Edition) seems to have made a couple of improvements to the formula. But yeah, everything about BattleLore (Second Edition) is great. The way units are activated and move, the ease of picking the number of dice you roll and finding out how much hits you scored, the retreats that make positioning of your units super-important and also keep things dynamic, because units aren't necessarily gonna stay in contact with each other and can smack each other around the head to their heart's content. Everything just feels so very intuitive and fluid and fun, with cool units that have cool abilities that ever change the tides of battle. What's not to like about it?


And #1: Killing dudes with Poker in Doomtown: Reloaded

Board Game: Doomtown: Reloaded


But yeah, the super-cool Poker-based combat resolution system in Doomtown: Reloaded takes the cake. The whole process is a bit convoluted at first but you quickly grow into it. And the mere act of drawing cards, then re-drawing some and trying to build the best Poker-hand while assessing whether you should open yourself up to fierce retribution via Cheating Resolution abilities is SO! MUCH! FUN! Especially since you yourself probably constructed that deck you're playing, so getting a specific hand that you had in mind when conceiving the draw-structure of a deck is incredibly satisfying. That's also why the game is getting a bad reputation in some circles. Because combat is on the one hand so fun and cool but on the other hand incredibly punishing, so people want to get into combat no matter the cost and then quickly lose the game and don't know what they did wrong and hate the game for it. If you're someone who got that impression out of their few games of Doomtown: Reloaded, go try it again and fight the urge to rush headfirst into every combat. Yes, it's weird at first, but you'll grow accustomed to it and start to appreciate the fragile dance around these dangerous situations. And when combat pops up, it's all the more fulfilling, because it is such a special and important part of the game. Doomtown: Reloaded is great. The greatest game there ever was, in fact. Every differing opinion is invalid. Period.

And that's been that. What do you think? Which combat-mechanisms bring you the most joy in board games? Share them in the comments and while you're at it, how about you suggest a couple more topics for Top Five Thursday posts? Because I'm running low again. That'd be great. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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Thu Sep 24, 2020 10:13 am
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Jump Driving the Shark!

Christian Heckmann
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Mainz
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Microbadge: Cthulhu Wars fanMicrobadge: Doomtown: Reloaded fanMicrobadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Cave Evil fanMicrobadge: A Study in Emerald fan
A month or so ago, R., my keyholder-deputy for the bi-weekly game meetup that has been lying dormant for six months now, proposed that we could inofficially move the meetup to the open-air part of a pub on the local university campus. I didn't attend the first time this was attempted. But two days ago, I was like "Yeah, actually, why not?" and spontaneously went over there. Attendance was a bit scarce, in the end, it was only R. and me. But that's okay, I guess. Here's what we played...

Board Game: Jump Drive


Wow, the people reacting to my acquisition of Jump Drive weren't very kind to the game. Also I don't think that German publisher Pegasus (oh hey guys and girls) did themselves any favors labeling this one with their "Kenner"-imprint. Because this is far from a Kennerspiel (whatever that's supposed to mean). So we played our first game using two of the recommended starting sets of cards and I was dealt the one with two Galactic Trendsetters and the card that decreased their costs, so I thought to myself "Might as well rely heavily on those things". And so I did. My card-income was high enough that from the third turn onward, I could play Galactic Trendsetters pretty much every turn and I was fortunate enough to draw more of those as the game went on, so at the end of turn six, I sat at 51 VPs, winning the game, while R. was still struggling to get something coherent together (he had a total of 32 points, though, so that was okay). So we tried again. This time with the "draw seven cards, keep five"-rules. And my initial array of cards was a bit shit. Not unsavagably so, but I was completely unable to make out a useful combo amongst the crap I had been dealt. So I just started out with something, trying to get my card-income up a bit in order to find something worthwhile in the deck. And things escalated quickly from there. During the final turn, if I remember correctly, I had an income of 22 cards (very useful if there's a ten card hand limit at the end of a turn) which was quite something. I also won that game again, but just barely so. R. started out slow but caught up considerably when he played four Galactic Trendsetters during the final four turns, but that wasn't enough to surpass my early lead. Final scores were 72 to 68.

From gallery of Harblnger


Is Jump Drive a great game? No. It's very light and random, there's pretty much no interaction whatsoever (yes, there's two cards in the deck that add some interaction, but that's hardly noteworthy... I'd argue that you could play this game asynchronously quite well) and at the end of the day, the whole thing is very basic. Play cards by discarding other cards, grab new cards and victory points, rinse, repeat. Truly special effects on cards are very scarce. This is all about finding a combo that yields the most profit and then sticking to it for the six to seven turns that the game will last. And you know what? I'm absolutely okay with that. This is gonna sound very controversial, but I always found Race for the Galaxy to be much ado about nothing. The game made you jump through so many hoops to ultimately do something incredibly simple. And I just found that tiresome. Yes, Jump Drive doesn't have the depth of its big brother. But I personally find the ease-of-play/satisfaction ratio way more appropriate than in Race for the Galaxy. You play some cards, you discard some others to pay for them, you take new cards and victory points and then, after ten to fifteen minutes, the whole thing is over. It's that easy. As said, it's not great, I don't think that I'd want to play it all the time and/or for years to come, but at the end of the day, it's a neat, quick, intuitive little game in a slightly oversized box that is a really good way to waste ten to fifteen minutes. And that's more than I can say for Race for the Galaxy. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna sit behind this bulletproof wall for a while.
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Wed Sep 23, 2020 9:59 am
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I want it all!

Christian Heckmann
Germany
Mainz
Rheinland Pfalz
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Microbadge: Cthulhu Wars fanMicrobadge: Doomtown: Reloaded fanMicrobadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Cave Evil fanMicrobadge: A Study in Emerald fan
So when I returned home two days ago, not one but two packages were waiting for me in front of my apartment door. Nice. One was big, one was a bit smaller. One contained board games, one didn't. Let's deal with the big one first...

From gallery of Harblnger


Here's five games I recently bought while Spiele-Offensive was offering a hefty discount on games by my favorite (*cough*) publisher Pegasus. None of those Pegasus-games were previously on my wishlist. But the offering of a 30% discount on top for every one of those was enough to push me over the edge. Let's go through them as always from top left to bottom right.

I heard mixed things about The Boldest. Tom Vasel praised it quite a bit in his review. Other people here on the Geek seem to be lukewarm on it. A lot of people are decrying the vagueness of the rulebook and the general pointlessness of the gameplay. Reading through the rules, I get where they're coming from. Blind-bidding is a fickle thing to pull off well and I'm not always a big fan of it either. But the two player variant sounds intriguing and according to the polls on this very site, this seems to be the way to play The Boldest. I think I'm gonna try it out soon, it could be good. And even if it isn't, I only paid 12€ for it.

Invaders: Armageddon was the only thing that was on my wishlist. Despite the fact that it has been years since I've last played Invaders. I mean, I've played that game quite a few times and have fond memories of it. So maybe me owning the expansion now could perhaps breathe new life into the game in general. We'll see. It is one of those "here's a couple of modules, pick and choose what you like" kind of expansions, which isn't necessarily something I'm a big fan of. But Invaders is a cool enough game that I should probably make some efforts toward getting into this.

I had the opportunity to play Blackout: Hong Kong before and didn't. So why did I buy it now? Well... I don't know. Perhaps because it was pretty cheap (~19€)? And getting relatively good buzz? I don't necessarily know myself, it seemed like a good idea at the time. And I just read through the rulebook and it does sound like an interesting game, so... who knows? Maybe it'll be to my liking. I've got a couple of three-player-game-nights scheduled in the near future and apparently the thing is best with that number of players, so... we'll see.

Then there's Deadline. A game about private investigators. Yey! Which is cooperative. Boo! But apparently, there's a pretty good official solo-variant out there. Okay! And it was quite cheap. So I thought to myself, this could be a neat thing to spend some deductive solo-time with. And maybe I'll do that in the near future.

And the final game is Jump Drive, one I had been thinking about getting for quite some time now. And the fact that I could get it for less than 6€ made me finally pull the trigger. I already played it twice, so stay tuned for my opinion on the game... probably tomorrow.

Okay, and here's the other box that arrived.

From gallery of Harblnger


Yes, my second Curiosity Box already arrived. And I haven't even played around with everything in the first one yet. Cool? Some more pretty nice stuff, a cool pencil-holder alongside a bunch of pencils, an art book, a puzzle, a solar car assembly kit... sweet. The best thing contained in this box is this, though, my new favorite shirt:

From gallery of Harblnger


Can't wait to weird out people wearing this!
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Tue Sep 22, 2020 1:26 pm
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A tale of two channels

Christian Heckmann
Germany
Mainz
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Microbadge: Cthulhu Wars fanMicrobadge: Doomtown: Reloaded fanMicrobadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Cave Evil fanMicrobadge: A Study in Emerald fan
So anyway, the "big" game A. and me played two Fridays ago was...

Board Game: The Networks


The Networks. Not really a big game, but I feel like one that warrants a post on its own. So... here it is. I had already played The Networks solo once before and liked it well enough, so since A. owned a copy of the game, that was the perfect opportunity to solidify or challenge my previous opinion. Things started out well enough. I got a good combination of different action shows for most of my time-slots which gave me not only a bunch of viewers during the first two seasons and set me up for a future genre-combo but also netted me a pretty steady income. Not a high income, mind you. Money was pretty tight. But through clever play (and a bit of luck when it came to the network-card-draws that removed other stuff from the game in between turns), I managed to build an impressive little portfolio of shows that scored big time. I pulled ahead early on (also thanks to a well-timed network card that gave me additional viewers for my reruns) but A. started to catch up from season three onwards. She also pulled off a pretty nifty move where she was able to get the "five shows of a genre"-bonus for the same genre twice. I was still in the lead at the start of the final season but couldn't solidify that due to a lack of action shows during the last turn. I got some good endgame-scoring-bonusses and managed to score pretty highly (something in the ballpark of 290 points), but A. surpassed me by a meager three points.

From gallery of Harblnger


So what do I think about The Networks after my first "real game"(™) of it? Well, I like it. Two players probably isn't the optimal way to play it, but the element-removal via network-cards, something that kind of bothered me in the solo-game, worked far better here and simulated more players quite well. I like the general gameplay quite a bit. As mentioned numerous times, I am a moderately huge fan of set collection games and The Networks features multiple interconnected layers of this mechanism. Collecting shows of the same type for bonusses. Collecting the optimal array of stars and advertising-cards to get those shows off the ground. Collecting stuff that gives you endgame-bonusses. All of these elements make for intriguing, puzzly gameplay that I enjoy a lot. And the show-aging-mechanism is just great. I'm not a big fan of Small World but this element of knowing when to "cut your ties" and start anew was always something that intrigued me. And it's the same with the shows here. I'm still not too sure about the humor. There's a couple of cards in here which are good for a chuckle, I guess, but for the most part, it kind of falls flat. And the whole thing can also be a bit random. Especially the network-cards strike me as a bit uneven with some doling out huge bonusses while others are situational at best and mostly useless at worst. It isn't game-breaking or anything like that, it's just... maybe a bit unfortunate. But I'd consider The Networks more of an "experience game" instead of highly strategic fare anyway, so... what do I know? Bottom line: The Networks is fun. Maybe I should get my hands on my very own copy of it in time? We'll see.
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Mon Sep 21, 2020 10:46 am
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Top 50 Movies Of All Time, Year Two Edition, #15-11

Christian Heckmann
Germany
Mainz
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We're getting very close to the peak now. Next week, we'll enter the coveted top ten. Exciting stuff, eh? So before we do that, let's check out the five (or rather seven... sorry...) movies that didn't quite make the cut. This isn't gonna be that exciting, because Schaaf already correctly named four out of five of them (and yes, is forgiven) and OrangeWhip42 identified the last one (although thecorsetmaker got it first, but didn't really seem to be too confident of his pick). But anyway, I nevertheless except appropriate "Ooooh"s and "Aaaah"s and gasps throughout this list, because we're gonna cover "a trilogy of movies that started out as horror and turned more farcical over time, a rather unusual movie by Tim Burton, the directorial debut of a guy who once upon a time was the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood, the controversial adaptation of a sci-fi-classic and finally, Bob Gale's better movie". Let's get this party started.

#15: The Evil Dead Trilogy (1981/1987/1992)

From gallery of Harblnger


Yes, via this "trilogy of movies that started out as horror and turned more farcical over time", I managed to smuggle two more films onto this list. If you really need me to name one of these three "best of the lot", I'd uncontroversially go with "Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn", which is a fantastically fun blend of super-gory splatter and slapstick-hijinks up the wazoo. The scene where Bruce Campbell's iconic character Ash cuts off his own hand and then has an extended fight with that little bastard is an all-time classic. Yeah, sure, it isn't very scary. "Evil Dead" isn't either (even though it does have a couple of creepy scenes). But it is very focused and works perfectly with the budget that Sam Raimi and his crew had. "Army Of Darkness" might be more ambitious in certain regards but no matter how charming the scenes might be when the movie is stretched to its financial limits, it's still a bit jarring. Plus that movie is kind of a mess. A super enjoyable mess, sure, but a mess nonetheless. Anyway, all three "Evil Dead"-movies are a lot of fun and infinitely rewatchable. And just for the record, the three "Evil Dead"-video-games, Fede Alvarez' remake of the first movie and the TV show "Ash Vs. Evil Dead" can all be considered quite good to varying degrees as well.

#14: Big Fish (2003)

From gallery of Harblnger


Who in their right mind thinks that "Ed Wood" is "a rather unusual movie by Tim Burton"? That thing feels Burton-esque through and through. It's also quite good. No Top 50 material. But good. "Big Fish", on the other hand... Yeah, sure, it has its wacky, surreal moments. But overall, it's a very touching, emotional, surprisingly subdued (by Burton's standards) film about human connections and the extraordinarity that is life itself. Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney are both great in this and so is the rest of the cast. The movie looks spectacular. And even though not everything about the whole thing is perfect, the ending gets me each and every time. It's also far better than the book by Daniel Wallace it is based on. If you've never seen it, go check it out. And if you'll only watch one Tim Burton movie in your life, make it this one.

#13: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

From gallery of Harblnger


Hard to believe that Shane Black up until 2005 had never directed a movie. But yup, this is "the directorial debut of a guy who once upon a time was the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood" ("Last Boy Scout" netted him 1.75 million dollars in the early nineties, the highest amount some had ever been paid for a script up until then). It's also a darn fine movie that failed to find an audience during its theatrical release. But Jon Favreau saw it and liked Robert Downey Jr. in it. And that's how that guy became one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood. Anyway, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is a neo-noir-action-comedy starring the aforementioned Robert Downey Jr. as petty crook Harry Lockheart who through a series of mishaps gets embroiled in a murder mystery alongside Val Kilmer's private detective "Gay" Perry Van Tryke and Michelle Monaghan's aspiring actress Harmony Faith Lane. The three of them are an incredibly entertaining trio of protagonists and alongside Black's habitually clever screenplay and a bunch of incredibly memorable scenes and a near-perfect pace make the movie a sheer joy to watch one to five dozen times. People always tout "Die Hard" as the quintessential Christmass-movie. Screw that. "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" takes the cake with ease.

#12: Starship Troopers (1997)

From gallery of Harblnger


I have never read Robert A. Heinlein's "Starship Troopers". But a lot of people smarter than me have argued for decades whether it's fascist propaganda or just very militaristic. Safe to say that it is a very controversial book. Yet somehow, Paul Verhoeven's adaptation of the story for the big screen turned out even more controversial, especially among fans of the novel. One might even say that it is "the controversial adaptation of a sci-fi-classic". Anyway, I happen to like it a lot. But it isn't that easy to put into words why. See, "Starship Troopers" works on two different levels. At face value, the movie shows us the righteous struggle of a utopian society against evil alien conquerors. And if watched that way, it is almost perfect entertainment. To see Johnny Rico rise through the ranks, overcoming adversity at every turn but coming out on top each and every time is immensely satisfying on a very primal level. Sure, actors like Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards and Dina Meyer were probably rather picked for their model looks instead of their actual acting chops, but that's just par for the course. But the secondary layer of the story is where the satire comes in. Those short moments of Verhoeven dropping the act and bringing to mind that what you're actually watching is glossy fascist propaganda. You might consider that a cheap trick. You might also think that one layer of the movie undermines the other and vice-versa. For me personally, everything just works. I can watch and enjoy the propaganda-part of the movie without losing sight of the underlying criticism and I can also appreciate the satire without loathing the primitive visual and emotional appeal of the movie. YMMV.

#11: Interstate 60 (2002)

From gallery of Harblnger


And finally, we've got "Bob Gale's better movie". Man, what a terrible cover. Also what is Michael J. Fox doing in the middle of it? He's in "Interstate 60" for... two minutes. Ah well, here's the thing: I love "Back To The Future". Hence me placing it at rank 19 of my 50 favorite movies of all time. But "Interstate 60"'s more focused approach shows him as a more accomplished screenwriter. Plus a pretty good director as well. In case you don't know (because the movie is kind of undergroundy), "Interstate 60" stars James Marsden as Neal Oliver, a young man who is conflicted about what to do with his life. After wishing for "an answer" for his birthday, he is contracted to run an errand along the mythical "Interstate 60", leading past weird towns and populated with weird people who might just be able to give Neal the answer he craves. So it's a road movie. It's also a fantasy film. A bit like "Big Fish", but smaller in scope, less sappy and also not afraid to go to some rather dark places, while still having a lot of levity to offer. It is a highly enjoyable movie altogether, but ultimately, your personal appreciation of the movie will probably hinge on how much you can identify with Neal Oliver's quest for an answer in life. Me personally? Yeah, it hit really close to home once upon a time and still kind of does. Give it a spin if you get the opportunity, it might very well positively surprise you.

And that's it for today. Two more weeks to go. Next Sunday, we're gonna check out Peter Jackson's best movie, a low-budget mashup of eighties action movies and seventies disco flicks from Germany, a dark comedy about a hitman's midlife crisis, the four best Marvel movies and a rather low-key fantasy movie from the mid nineties. As always, post your guesses in the comments. And thanks for reading.
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4 Comments
Sun Sep 20, 2020 7:00 am
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