GCL Amoeba 122 – Roving gambler (2013-06-02)
Mikko Saari
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Tampere
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Welcome to this week's Game Chat League Amoeba discussion group!

If you found us randomly (via subscription, perhaps), you're welcome to join in with constructive conversation -- we're friendly symbiotes in real life, though vicious competitors at the game table. (Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most dangerous predator on earth!) Read the links above for more info. (If you're shy, just thumb the list so we can see who's stalking us :-) )

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Let's talk about gambling.

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1. Board Game: Easy Money [Average Rating:4.97 Overall Rank:19107]
Board Game: Easy Money
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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Do you gamble? What do you think of betting money on games?

When I've read about card games, it seems that playing for money has been an important thing in separating adult play and children's play. A game played just for the fun of it is child's play, but a grown man can play cards is money is involved, even if it's just penny stakes. Have you noticed this? I think this applies to some level even still.
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2. Board Game: Take a Gamble [Average Rating:5.57 Unranked]
Board Game: Take a Gamble
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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If you had to wager money on games, what games would you choose? Are there any games that could be improved by adding money?
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3. Board Game: Poker [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:1001]
Board Game: Poker
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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Then there's poker, the game played with money, with some cards involved too. One of the most significant games ever, in just about any way you can measure, I think.

Do you play poker? What do you think of the game? What about online poker?
 
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4. Board Game: 1829 Mainline [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:6517]
Board Game: 1829 Mainline
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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_8_ Martian Rails -- My wife is away for a few days, but on Thursday evening before she left, she suggested that we play a crayon rails game together. I told her I'd play whatever she picked, and she picked Martian Rails. Claire helped Bob Stribula design the game, and she still has a fondness for it. I have to admit that the board geometry (it's effectively two tetrahedrons stuck together) is more interesting than that of any other crayon rails game. I had an unusual start, essentially drawing a ring around the south pole, while Claire did something far more common, building a network just east of Skyhook. On her very first delivery, she drew the event card in which terrorists destroy Skyhook, ruining one of her delivery plans and setting her back. In this game we both made good money delivering some of the contracts on event cards (I got $45 million for taking Rayguns and Red Martians to Syrtis Major) but I won by about $30 million.

_8_ 18Ruhr -- On Saturday, with Claire away, I invited people over to my house to play 18xx. We had 7 people, so we played a 3-player game of 18EU and a 4-player game of 18Ruhr, a game I received this spring and have now enjoyed playing 4 times. As I've explained in previous Amoeba GCL Geeklists, it does a good job of integrating railroad and non-railroad operations, and it also rewards thinking ahead in the form of retaining dividends before it's obvious that you need to do so. The game combines features from a number of games, but the trains cost quite a bit, and the Montan companies can only buy one thing each OR. Brian took the BME private early (it looked better than it usually does given the scenario we played,) surprising me. I failed to have my railroad retain during one critical OR, and as a result had to fall back without getting dividends. I didn't have to pay out of hand for the next train, but the company was weak, so I dumped it on Mike to avoid dealing with the damage. In the end, Brian won the game by a comfortable margin. I still wonder whether stocks ever get to the high end of the stock price chart when experts play; I'm pretty sure we haven't seen any prices over $200 in four games.

_6_ 1829 Mainline -- This is a truly bizarre game. It's an 18xx game, for sure, but it also includes elements of Rummy. Joe Huber likes it, and I am willing to play it once every few years. Starting a game is like watching yourself go down into the basement by yourself in one of those horror films---you know it's not going to end well, but you can't stop yourself. I got off to a good start, founding the LNWR and GNR on the first stock round. Joe also founded two companies (with 3 players we weren't using the Scottish companies, so there was a greater chance of starting companies early. Kevin founded one company, but John got a bad draw and was forced to depend on private companies early. We forgot one critical rule---the one that allows you to multiple-jump stock prices if you pay out a big multiple of the current price. However, Joe won by digging far down into the discard pile to buy a big batch of shares and take control of my strongest company (in this way it's something like Union Pacific.) We ended (probably) one set of ORs early. I don't rate this game highly, but it's amusing to play on occasion.

.10! 1846: The Race for the Midwest -- The numbers worked out on Monday night in such a way that there was a 1846: The Race for the Midwest game to go along with a game of Terra Mystica and one of Crude: The Oil Game, and I was happy to play (I had only played one game of 1846: The Race for the Midwest in May, so I was slipping below quota.) It was yet another very odd game. I took only the Michigan Central, while Brett took the C&WI and Tunnel Blasting and John the Michigan Southern, the Mail Contract and the Big 4 at $90, leaving him with too little money to effectively start a company. I started NYC at $90 and Brett started Grand Trunk at $70. I got out to a huge start, running three 2Ts and a 4T for way too long for big money, but Brett was running GT for pretty good money too. Then I lost my way by starting two more companies. As Brett commented afterward, you should never forget that 18xx games are first and foremost about investing, and only secondarily about running companies. Brett won by owning 15 shares that were much better than my 17 shares. But it was enjoyable seeing how our decisions played out.

_5_ Ekiden -- This was my first play of this compact, clever little race game that Joe Huber got in an order from Japan. I'm fussy about race games; I want just the right amount of control. Not the Papa Bear amount (too much) or the Momma Bear amount (not enough) but the Baby Bear amount (juuuust right!) I didn't feel I had enough control in this game (even though I managed to win it) to make me want to play again.

_6_ Pharaoh Code -- This game resembles Ricochet Robots in that some information is simultaneously revealed to all the players and they look at the board and try to figure out the best solution. In this case, someone rolls a d8, a d10 and a d12, and you try to use arithmetic operations (we added powers and roots, which I guess is a variant) to come up with numbers that match various point-scoring tiles on the board. A lot of people would hate this game, but I and the others didn't seem to mind it. I don't, however, see it as a game with a big future in most groups.
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5. Board Game: Torres [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:514]
Board Game: Torres
Jens KH
Germany
Karben
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Games played

.10. Agricola
_9_ Torres
_8_ Race for the Galaxy
_7_ Die Dolmengötter x2
_7_ Frank's Zoo
_7_ Vasco da Gama
_6_ Kingdom of Solomon
_6_ Portobello Market x2
_6_ Schätzen Sie mal! Reich & Schön (new!)
_6_ Ticket to Ride: Europe
_5_ Billabong
_5_ Powerboats
_4_ Tahiti (new!)

Frank's Zoo (6p): We almost hit the 19 points end-of-game cutoff after the second hand already. Luckily we didn't, which gave me another turn to sneak to the front.

Portobello Market (3p): I had only played with 4 players before. It played remarkably differently this way. In the 3p game, there was much reduced contention for the valuable market stalls, and the scoring multipliers were significantly more effective. I liked it a bit better the other way, but on the up side 3p reduces the left/right binding quite a bit.

Race for the Galaxy (3p): I lost my first game in the semi-regular RftG group. I actually had a great start with New Sparta and since the other two didn't get going I felt pretty confident I had it in the bag even though I didn't get any of the big military planets despite my best exploration efforts. But then on the final turn Alpha Centauri (!) played both the 6 cost Rebel military development and the 7 point rebel military world for ~15 VPs to my 1 and that was that. I lost for a good cause, though...

Agricola (4p): A very unfortunate game in which I started in fourth seat, had no helpful improvements, and the cards put both me and the player in third seat onto a bread-baking strategy. Not very surprisingly he usually took what I wanted but since I was pretty much locked into that path there was pecious little I could do about it.

Torres (4p): An unusually low-scoring game in which we didn't even crack 200. I've also never seen people buy so many VPs just because they didn't have anything better to do which probably explains the low score. I'm still a bit puzzled why that happened, though.

Powerboats (6p): Powerboats doesn't reward taking risks. Not in the slightest. I should have learned that by now, but I tried it again. Failed again, too. Wrroooo..puff...puff...puff....

Schätzen Sie mal! (4p): A simple yet entertaining trivia game requiring numeric answers. Players may give ranges, and provided the correct answer is in the range you gave, players score according to the size of the range. This particular edition was a bit lackluster due to the theme ("Rich and beautiful"; it felt like roughly every second question was about some French fashion designer or beauty salon...) but we still had fun and now I know I don't know jack about the fashion industry. Who would've thought. (Believe it or not: This is actually my "new game of the month"...)

Tahiti (4p): Eh. Pickup-and-deliver meets point salad. Goods to pick up are distributed semi-randomly, but everything you do pick up scores (unless it goes overboard before you can deliver). If you're lucky it might score a little more. Thankfully fairly short, but still dragging towards the end as the resources in the archipelago slowly deplete and distances become longer.

Vasco da Gama (4p): The last couple of times I played this I was suffering from getting my boats out too late so this time I tried things differently and sent out my first expedition on the first turn. Of course, it had to return right away. Grr. Other than that things went reasonably well, though, and I was never short on cash (can't remember that happening before). I only got to ship out last on the final turn, though, and the scraps still left over then sank any hopes I still had for first place.

Die Dolmengötter (4p): Two very different games. In the first I got my points placed on the board really quickly, and everyone else still had quite a few tiles left when I ended the game. In the second, everyone else was placing tiles left and right, and I had trouble even getting rid of the big ones before the game was over.

Kingdom of Solomon (3p): Really a quick, light worker placement game with a little take-that. Too bad that the high priest thing is utterly broken.
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6. Board Game: La Boca [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:1324]
Board Game: La Boca
Larry Rice
United States
North Newton
Kansas
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d10-7 La Boca 4
d10-6 Lost Legacy 2
d10-0 Race for the Galaxy 2
d10-7 7 Wonders 1
d10-7 Agents of SMERSH 1
d10-0 Agricola 1
d10-8 The Castles of Burgundy 1
d10-5 Eight-Minute Empire 1
d10-6 Fantastiqa: The Rucksack Edition 1
d10-9 Ginkgopolis 1
d10-8 Trajan 1

New to me:

Fantastiqa: The Rucksack Edition was initially fun, but became fairly repetitive pretty quickly. I know this is supposed to be a game where a story is being told, but I didn't get drawn in and just operated fairly mechanically. Not certain there is a lot of deckbuilding that truly exists here...although there is some management of your deck involved. I'd play again, but this isn't something I need to own.

Lost Legacy is basically another two starter decks of Love Letter but with different powers. It was interesting for something different and possibly a bit more of a gamer's version of Love Letter (if such a thing can be had). There is a possibility of the game taking longer since some hands will not result in points for anyone.

Other notes:

Twas good to get in another play of Agricola after not having played in such a long while. I was rusty. We did throw in the X-Deck as my friend has not played with it before and was curious. There was some funky stuff that occurred and my family member getting frozen didn't help matters late.

One of my plays of Race for the Galaxy was really quite fun with the combination that came out. This one included all the expansions except for takeovers. This game always surprises me with different combos that initially I don't see working well together making things mesh together very well...

One of these days I will be part of a group that actually wins Agents of SMERSH. I think I still prefer Tales of Arabian Nights, but this one has a charm all its own for a storybook narrative.

I think I'm already getting bored with Eight-Minute Empire. I know it plays quickly, but there just isn't enough there to be interesting and when even one person takes time to think about an action, the game drags interminably long!

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7. Board Game: Combat Commander: Resistance! [Average Rating:8.49 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.49 Unranked]
Board Game: Combat Commander: Resistance!
Joshua Gottesman
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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I just got back from CSW Expo, where I (and my dog) had a great time. I'm tired now, so just a basic list of what I played.

Series: Down in Flames (Dan Verssen) - 6 missions, I believe.
Combat Commander: Europe - 1 scenario
Combat Commander: Resistance! - 2 scenarios
For the Crown - A partial teaching game
Le Lion et l'Epée - A partial play of the Arsouf scenario
Pax Porfiriana - A partial play. One of the players got a call in the middle of the game that his house which he had just put on the market had an offer received and the buyers wanted to sign ASAP so he had to leave...weirdest (but good) reason I've heard for someone having to leave a game in progress)
Bios: Megafauna - 3 players, 1 new player. We only played with 1 row of cards. 2 quick disasters and we were in the Cenozoic. And then the earth froze a few turns later. Climate 1, Life 0.

Tonight, I'm playing the "get some sleep" game.
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8. Board Game: String Safari [Average Rating:6.08 Overall Rank:9185]
Board Game: String Safari
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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1 x _8_Das Kleine Gespenst
1 x _9_Tarock
1 x _7_Memory
1 x _7_The Resistance: Avalon
1 x _7_String Safari

Quiet times continue. For some reason I haven't played much with the kids recently. But, we had a pretty good game night last week. We started with a game of String Savanna, a new game in the String Railway. Seems like a fun little game of encircling required animal tiles. Have to play more, but looks like fun.

The Resistance: Avalon is a staple game in our group for six players. This time the good guys, including me, won. It'd be great to play a bad guy once in a while, though.

The real treat of the evening was Slovenian Tarok, though. It's a point-trick game with contract bidding, played with the Tarock pack. It's one of my favourite trick-taking games by far.
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9. Board Game: Spam-O-Rama [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
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United Kingdom
Southampton
Hampshire
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My email has been putting out spam. Don't know why. Don't click it. Sorry.

Sorry I haven't been on here since xmas time, and sorry for not posting sooner with an explanation.

I've been busy job hunting and now have a job, but there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything I'd like to do.

I'll try and post now and then, but won't be a regular contributor.

Gaming wise, 2 or my 3 groups haven't been good. I've given up on one, and another is very marginal as to whether it is worth showing up or not, especially as we head into the university holidays. That and a tough time finding work has left me kinda depressed in recent months.

How have you guys been? Have I missed anything?
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10. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.00 Overall Rank:26]
Board Game: Puerto Rico
Doug Faust
United States
Malverne
New York
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Friday night was a rotating monthly game night, this time held at my house.

_9_ Puerto Rico - This was a five-player game with me, Micah, John, and two players whose names I didn't catch and were new to the game. For the third or fourth game in a row, I end up going first, which I think is my least preferred position in Puerto Rico. I started by Settling to take a Quarry, and the second player (one of the new people) took Builder. However, because of the preponderence of new or newish (John was newish) players, I managed to get a Small Market out of the last spot. I got a second Quarry from taking a Settler, and then started working on my production, augmenting my Indigo with a Tobacco and a Corn. Micah, meanwhile, was doing a good job creating a shipping engine, grabbing a whole bunch of Corn fields (he would end up with 7 by the end of the game--the most I've seen!). Instead of pumping out the points, though, in the short term he seemed more focused on building up cash with his Sugar and Small/Large Markets. Having three different goods going, I grabbed a Factory. The newer players were calling Craftsman and Captain far more than I'd like, which definitely advantaged Micah's strategy over my own. I got the first large building (the Guild Hall), and at that point decided that I really needed to Build every turn from there on out to have a chance. Micah got both the Harbor and the Wharf, the latter really helping him ship that Corn. I took another large building, and then started buying out every type of production facility. Fortunately, one of the new players swiped the large building that gives points for VP chips before Micah could get it. I ended the game by filling my board, but the VP chips were close to running out as well. Micah ended up winning with a massive pile of VP chips for 53 points, while I actually ended up in third place to one of the new players, 49 to 50.

_8_ Race for the Galaxy - This was a six-player game with me, Anni, Micah, Debbie, and the two new players from the Puerto Rico game (who were, however, not new to RtfG). We were playing with both The Gathering Storm and Rebel vs Imperium, and were using the goal tiles but not takeovers. Goal tiles for both most military and most Rebel worlds came out, and as a result, all six players decided to go for military! I started with Epsilon Eridani, and quickly added Expeditionary Force and Drop Ships. I repeatedly Explored (often +5) for big worlds I could play or other ways to improve my military, but unfortunately, I only came up with a few small military worlds. I got down a blue production world that cost 1 military, which would have worked well with Epsilon Eridani if someone was Producing and Consuming, but no one was doing that. In the end, all the right cards fell to Debbie, who picked up like four of the goal tiles in the process. Everyone else was well short of her point total.

Saturday was a monthly game day at Mike's house.

_6_ Carson City - I arrived just in time to jump in a game of Carson City. I'm not a huge fan of Carson City, but as the other option was Cosmic Encounter, I was glad to have a seat here. The other players were Mike, James, and Natalie, the last two of whom were both new. This game was a little frustrating because a third of the way through the game, Natalie declared that she didn't "get it" and completely disengaged from the game, doing random things and blocking out anything that anyone said to her. In any case, I was first, and used my initial placement to take the spot surrounded by 6 mountains, took the Sheriff, and used the Sheriff meeple to get the cheap mine and put it there. I also picked up a Bank. Unfortunately, I got dueled out of the money trading spot, so I ended up having to burn $9. I spent the next few turns getting out another mine and a hotel, but Natalie kept buying all the houses on the board, which hurt my income a little. And of course, my big mine was a constant target for extortion, but I still had a very nice income and made sure to turn it into points each round. Somehow I managed to get the Sheriff on the last turn too, and jumped on the last money-trading spot with the Sheriff meeple. I had a pretty sizable lead going into final scoring, but it turned out that James beat me out by a point or two because he had a bunch of stuff on the board, and I just had my four buildings.

_4_ The Resistance - This was with 7 people, I think. I was not a traitor. We managed to fail the first two missions somehow, and then it became my turn to pick a group. I picked some people, but then a bunch of people started arguing and said I should pick different people, so I picked the people who some of them said I should, and we lost for a third straight time.

_9_ Ra - This was with me, Anni, Steve, and Andrew. All of us had played before, but Andrew was not very experienced. Both Anni and I fared poorly in the first epoch; I think I finished with a single pharoah and two niles, while Anni had a pharaoh and one nile. Andrew had no pharaohs so neither of us took that penalty, but Andrew did collect a nice pile of other stuff. I managed to share the pharoah lead with Steve during the second epoch, and then take it outright during the third. I had some decent but not spectacular scoring from niles during the game, but both Andrew and Steve were invested fairly heavily in monuments, and outscored me in the end that way. Andrew ended up winning the game, collecting all 8 monuments and at least one triple to do so.

_7_ No Thanks! - This was a five-player game with me, Anni, Steve, Anita, and Ken. I took the 22 with a decent amount of chips fairly early. I followed that up with the 23 and 24, also both with a decent amount of chips, but I missed out on the 21 because I misjudged how long I could let it sit around. Anni kept taking massive piles of chips stacked on cards in the 30's. Anita, on the other hand, kept running out of chips and being forced to take cards she didn't want. In the end, Ken won, and I believe I came in second.

_9_ Terra Mystica - In this game, I was the Alchemists (for real this time, not the Darklings!), Anni was the Dwarves, Steve was the Nomads, and Anita was the Witches. Steve and Anita were new; Anita needed a little hand-holding with figuring out income and what she can and can't do, but she did okay considering. The scoring order for this game was almost backwards of the normal build order: town, fortress, dwelling, trading house, trading house, dwelling. The 6-gold income on the stronghold looked really nice to me so I made it a priority, but I waited until the second turn because that's when I got points for it. Aside from that, though, I was flailing a little and didn't really have a solid strategy. I knew that I probably wanted to save up as much money as I could and cash it in for points at the end, but I managed to keep spending whatever money I had anyway. I didn't take any shovel upgrades, and ended up relying on the two power abilities and the role ability for my shovels. Midway through the game, I started needing more shovels than I was generating power to produce, so I actually upgraded to a temple just to take the favor token that gives me 4 power income. Meanwhile, Steve had decided to build a bunch of temples and start churning through the cult tracks, because no one else was doing it. Anni was doing what Dwarves do, though she only managed to get one town because she had to keep going under the rivers. I eventually managed to get two towns build, though I couldn't link them. I did build on enough to my initial town to place third in the "largest area" scoring though. I did manage to save enough money for 9 points from alchemy in the end, so I had a huge lead before final scoring but not many end-game points. When we added everything up though, my lead was considerably lessened, but I still won.
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