GCL Phoenix 163 - Your tour guide to Themesville
Max Maloney
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Welcome to the Phoenix Game Chat League
Don't know what this GeekList is? Find out here: Gamechat League: Phoenix Division!

If you're visiting, thumb the list so we know you stopped by. Feel free to chat along with us, but please leave the posting of list items to members only.

Roster

archivists
chally
darker
Dormammu
Eeeville
indigopotter - next week's host
Lowengrin
Morganza
Mr_Nuts
ravenskana
rynelf
tjshields
Woodnoggin

Current whereabouts unknown

BennyD - crossed swords with a Polish magnate
Bruzza - laid eyes on Yog-Sothoth
enzo622 - contracted black lung
Hawkeye77 - mangled in a factory accident
JohnRayJr - put to the guillotine
judoka - lost in the Canadian wilderness
leroy43 - sent to colonize the New World
Taibi - caught in the great fire, 1666
topherr - tied to the railroad track
Yokiboy - eaten by zombies

This weeks topics for discussion:
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1. Board Game Designer: Martin Wallace
Board Game Designer: Martin Wallace
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Following up on my last list, it's time to look at another designer. I had other ideas, but A Study in Emerald seems to make Martin Wallace the most timely choice. Additionally, the Phoenixes are something of a bastion of Wallace fandom.

Let's look at his most noteworthy games. I started with everything he's done in the Top 500 and added a few others of note.

Brass: Lancashire (and Age of Industry)
Age of Steam (et al)
A Few Acres of Snow
London
Struggle of Empires
Automobile
Tinners' Trail
Princes of the Renaissance
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork
Liberté
Rise of Empires
Runebound
Steel Driver
A Study in Emerald
God's Playground
After the Flood

Looking at this list of games, do you have any thoughts on Wallace as a whole? Have you played most of these or only a few? Do you tend to like them or find your reactions mixed from title to title? Are there any favorites of yours not on this list?

How much do you like Martin Wallace's designs?
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2. Board Game: Power Grid: Theme Park [Average Rating:7.38 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.38 Unranked]
Board Game: Power Grid: BGG Promo Card Set
Max Maloney
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It has been said that Martin Wallace is a huge history buff and that his designs are often inspired by his reading about some specific historical episode or era.

It seems to me that his games are designed first and foremost to replicate that specific idea, often leading to goofy things like the virtual link in Brass.

It also seems to me that he builds his games in such a way that the nuances develop organically from his attempts to model the theme, rather than being constructed by design.

This results in some games which have marvelous tempo and texture (again, like Brass) and others in which the modeling leads to broken rules (eg, the Halifax Hammer or London's Omnibus).

Do you agree with my assessment that Martin Wallace is a very thematic designer? Do you like that his designs start with an idea and explore it rather than being rigorously tested game systems? Does it bother you that his games seem less tested than might be ideal?
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3. Board Game: Weights & Measures [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Weights & Measures
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Prior to A Study in Emerald, Wallace's recent games had contained many lighter designs:

Discworld: Ankh-Morpork
P.I.
Doctor Who: The Card Game
The Hobbit Card Game
Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant

Did anyone wonder whether the era of Wallace's meatier designs was over? If so, has ASiE and the announcement of his three games for the 2014 subscription service lead you to believe that's not the case? Did you explore any of these lighter games, or did you ignore them? If you did play them, are they good? As good as heavier Wallaces?
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4. Board Game: Outpost [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:2030]
Board Game: Outpost
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United States
Sunnyvale
California
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Saturday at Andy's

Glass Road 4p
Me, Alex T., John, Albert (first play for all)

My gut assessment is that the game is fiddlier than its depth warrants, especially when you're trying to read tiles upside-down across the table. The new improved personal resource wheels are VERY clever, building good resource conversion chains can be entertaining, but if I'm going to work that hard I want a bit more depth.

Lighter than Ora & Labora but still very much in the same family.

Outpost 5p
Me, John, Andy, Albert, Jill (first play, beginning gamer.)

tl;dr: Economic snowball with an Olympic-quality course.

We pulled Jill into Outpost because it’s easier for a relatively inexperienced gamer to understand what’s going on. The tech tree is pretty sparse and everyone understands income. :-) She did well — a lot of questions at the beginning, then started making good decisions on her own.

With 5 players the card count is a bit ugly — 3 each of every Era I and Era II card, and then 4 each for Era III.

Turn 1, Andy got the magic draw and bought a water factory and a worker. Everyone else bought a water factory; nobody had to invoke the pity rule or was left without change. I pointed the “Go after the leader” chit at Andy.

Turn 3, those two Nodules were staring at me, but I figured it was OK to wait one more turn. Andy put one up, though, and the pair went to me and Jill for $29 and $30. (Andy got the third one a turn later.) Albert went for Heavy Equipment, then Andy did. John, shut out of anything more useful, ended up with triple Data Libraries (the third for $20) and the last Warehouse.

On the last turn of Era I my crystal ball failed hard; I bought a person to work in an Ore factory. Era II started with a pair of Outposts, no yellow cards, and a single Orbital Lab (pink Microbiotics) Uh oh. I counted my money and big everything I had — $53. John had $55, and was suddenly back in the game.

The next turn, though, there was a single Yellow card -- a Laboratory. I was the only one who had saved money and I got it uncontested. Then I made a mistake, or what I was told was a mistake -- the next turn I bought a NewChem factory ($60 producing 20) instead of my last worker and a Research factory. ($40 producing $13.)

Meanwhile, the Scientists didn't come out until way late, nor did the rest of the Orbital Labs. Robots went to John, Andy (who was throwing away cards until he got an Outpost, and I think after); Jill picked up the last Heavy Equipment and then a Scientists, and all too soon we were in Era III.

The very first Big Card was a Planetary Cruiser ($160 producing $40); John got it uncontested and I thought he had won. The last Outpost went for about $147. John got a second PC and I thought he had won; I got one of the two heavily contested Space Station ($120 producing $30) for… what turned out to be $159, because I had exactly the wrong size change. I was merely annoyed, but it turned out to be critically important (not so subtle foreshadowing…)

Then I got a Moon Base for $200 uncontested, and again didn't have $5 to spare for an extra person. (I had gotten Ecoplants, which make people cheap, at some point along the way when I thought the finances were right.)

On the last turn, the two Moon Bases went for $202 and $201. John was left gnashing his teeth with exactly $201. (I had drawn absurdly low -- $40 on my "$50" Moon Ore, and $20 on my "$30" space station. Again, no change to buy even one extra person -- I had air for two people I'd never been able to hire.) In an amazing feat of derring-do John managed to get enough people and robots on board to come up to exactly my 87 points.

Tiebreaker? Value of tech improvement cards bought. We each had $770. An exact tie, the first I've seen in all my games.

The Capitals 3p
Me teaching John and Albert.

I wasn't quite myself Saturday, and I didn't really feel I was up to something as draining as The Capitals usually is, but the game-selection metagame steered me towards it anyway. We did
Prosperity tiles: 6 keep 5 at the beginning
Tile Fill: N+2 new tiles every turn
(both designer-sanctioned variants for smoother games.)

My hand of Prosperity tiles was an appalling mess with zero synergies -- most money, most employment, most bells (good governance), most yellow+blue tiles, most red+brown tiles, most culture. You can't optimize everything, and at the beginning of the game I had a hard time optimizing *anything*, especially since I lost my Tourist Car in the very first turn and only ever got it back once. In the first Prosperity phase I played the only tile I could, and refrained from saying anything when John announced that all 5 of his tiles were legal plays.

I struggled along and while I played a lake for second Prosperity, managed to get my last 3 tiles down (being last in turn order does help a lot with that), and maxxed employment by the end.

John crushed us all with end-game bonuses, though -- he had a huge swatch of red tiles worth 2VP each, maxxed Culture several times, and had other bonuses. Albert had a dearth of tiles to activate and at one point had 20 cubes on his Bakery, while I had multiple streams of energy income and at one point had 20 cubes waiting to be spent. (I had an end-game bonus for unspent cubes.) Final score around 85 to 72 to much less.

Friday night at Jeremy's
Power Grid Germany 5p no robot
Me, Jeremy, Hugh, John, Dayton

RftG Alien Artifacts no orb
Me, Jeremy, John, Dayton

Thursday night at Dave's

The Capitals 3p
Me, Brian, Kevin (first place for both of them.)

Monday night at Y!
Glory to Rome 5p
The Resistance Avalon 2x5p
Coup 1x5p


Sunday at my place

St. Pete expanded (4p)
Me, Hawk, Douglas, Jeremy

Jeremy got into bad hand-limit trouble and I won by a healthy margin.

Settlers 4p
Me, Douglas, Jeremy, Kevin

Douglas had never played Settlers, and wanted to try. Kevin was very critical of everyone else's play (You put your second city in the wrong place and now the game is going to be unbalanced! Aliza's winning so don't trade with her!) so I was very happy when the game was finally over. (And yeah, I got to 10 points when nobody else had more than 6, in spite of wearing the Robber for most of the game.) My key move was putting my first settlement on the only good brick producer, and my second settlement on decent rock.

Phoenicia 4p
Me, Kevin, Douglas, Jeremy.

Jeremy went early into mining and when he got up to 8 income before the rest of us were above 4 or 5 it was pretty obvious he had won. That would have been OK if the game had taken 1 hour instead of 2.

Other
18NY

I haven't played any 18xx in a while, but I was invited in on the editing/proofreading of the final rules for 18NY. (I'm sick and twisted and like doing this sort of thing.) It's been interesting in part because I have not played 18NY, so my only source of title-specific information is the actual game rules; I was able to point out a few places where I was unable to determine how to play the game just from the rules.
=======================================

Last Friday night at Jeremy's:

Power Grid Scandinavia with Robots "5p"
Me, Don, Jeremy, and two Robots who I'll just call Mr. Green and Mr. Purple (because, y'know, I feel this need to anthropomorphize my game bits.)

This was a crazy game. If I ever write a review of Power Grid: The Robots I'm going to title it "abusing the Robots for fun and profit."

(For those who glaze over when I wax poetic about Power Grid, I'll just say that the Robots are autonomous NPC players who make their decisions based on a short set of rules, with 5 mix-and-match ways in which they are special in different phases of a game turn. A truly competent robot might contend for the win, a truly incompetent robot will barely get off the ground; most fall in between. Another key feature is that only tiny inefficient power plants are available at the beginning of the game and there is a (randomly lumpy) tendency for progressively better plants to be available as the game progresses.)

Mr. Green and Mr. Purple both shared a sad tendency to hoard fuel at the expense of, well, everything else. Now, I'm a player known to hoard fuel, but I do it for a reason, and with careful (not always correct, but always careful) calculation of what it will cost me. Mr. Green always bought every bit of fuel he could legally acquire. Mr. Purple hoarded fuel if he was in last place (and thus buying it first when it was cheapest.) Sadly, Mr. Purple spent the entire game in last place.

Other fine qualities:
Mr. Green:
-o- Started with $100 instead of $50.
-o- Always bought as many cities as possible, up to certain limits
-o- If it wanted a plant, it would snag the first one put up for auction at face value
Mr. Purple:
-o- The late-game $15 and $20 spots only cost $10
-o- Would bid $1 over face for any plant, if it wanted one.
-o- Bought at most 1 city per round in Step 1, 2 cities in Step 2, 3 in Step 3.

Because we love our bizarre Power Grid games, we left Sweden off the map, leaving us an elongated torus to play on. An elongated lumpy torus -- there was one truly cheap-connectivity area down at the SouthWest. I put Mr. Purple off at the edge of it, figuring his presence would scare people off. Don, feeling like that wasn't enough, put Mr. Green there, and it was just barely cheap enough that Mr. Green was able to buy into a clump of 6 adjacent cities, spending every dollar he had. I didn't think the robots were going to be an big factor so I went into the Southwest with them.

Scandinavia isn't just Yet Another Map; it has new power plants that come into play if certain board regions are in play, representing, for (made-up) example, the heavy use of tidal power along the Norwegian coast. The key plant here was No. 10, an early-game plant that takes 2 nuclear fuel rods to power 3 cities. Nuclear fuel is way too expensive to make this viable at the beginning, but on turn 2 or 3 could have been quite reasonable. Could have been.

On round 2, I was the lead player, with the penalty of being the first to put plants up for auction (and yes, that's generally a penalty, as generally the longer you wait the better stuff (and information) is available and the less auction pressure there is.)

This time, though, I did something terribly abusive to the poor robots, because they were my neighbors and I wanted to slow them down: I fed Mr. Green the No. 10 plant, and then I fed Mr. Purple the No. 23 power plant, a more traditional beast that uses one nuclear fuel rod to power some number of cities. Mr. Purple proceeded to buy all the fuel it could, leaving it with no money to buy cities to use that fuel on, while Mr. Green, buying fuel last, was unable to afford two nuclear fuel rods. However, Mr. Green still had more cities than it had plants to support, so it bought a third plant and was unable to buy enough fuel to operate *any* of them. Mr. Purple, meanwhile, rapidly found himself boxed in and was unable to afford more than 1 extra city until Step 2, when he finally got to take advantage of his special power.

We play a lot of games with the Robots but I'd never seen them tangle themselves up so thoroughly.

This was 9 days ago -- I don't even remember which human won, but the Robotic disaster was memorable.


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5. Board Game: A Few Acres of Snow [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:325]
Board Game: A Few Acres of Snow
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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Quote:
Snow on roof of house melting and leaking into kitchen, dripping water through light fixture above kitchen island. Contractor on way over. Breakers for electrical there shut down but I'm a nervous wreck.
We're okay at the moment. We have a plan to remove the excessive ice and snow in the next couple of days. Electrical stuff is turned off as needed, and we can still cook and have refrigeration, just not certain lights and plugs. We'll need some roof work done. Not sure what, if anything, is covered by insurance, but overall we'll work it out.

Very frustrating though and if I see old man winter I'm punching him in the face or kicking him in the balls or most likely both.

Onward!



Games Played:

_10_ Innovation x5

Five games of Innovation this week!

First game was a three player game with both of my boys. My youngest son scored five achievements and won while his brother had 2 and I scored only 1 a moment before he won the game.

Second game was a four player team game with my oldest son and I vs. my wife and younest son. They took and early lead but my son and I recovered and then won the day with a majority of achievements.

Third game was a two player game, with my youngest son against me. He teched up early and dominated the entire game. I tried to recover but he won with six achievements to my two.

Fourth game was another four player team game with my wife and I as a team against the boys. I used gunpowder effectively and in the end my wife and I won with four achievements to the three of the boys.

The fifth game was interesting as a friend of my wife's, K., joined us and we taught her the game. She did well, starting off strong and getting three achievements, then I earned two and a special one, then she claimed a fourth. Meanwhile, my wife had none, but starting doing things that drew 10s and tossed 40 points in her score pile. She ended her turn with the 10 stack cleared out (although there were still 9s and 8s), and since she had a ten on her tableau, all she needed to do was do a draw action on her next turn and she would win by score. However, K. was able to get her final achievment and win the game. It was actually rather exciting and a lot of fun.

This works for us great in two, three, and four player games. I have 14 recorded plays now, with most of those being this month. This has worked out really well for us!

_8_ Finca x1
Taught this to my daughter, with my wife and oldest son joining in. My son won the game with 46 points, closely followed by my wife with 44. I scored 31 and my daughter 27. However, the main point of this was seeing if my daughter could understand the game and how it played and she did fairly well. I was helping her at times which kept me from focusing on my own game. I'm hoping to get this played again soon with her and see how much she recalls of the game.

_8_ Vikings x1
Both my boys joined me for this game. We decided to use the extra tiles but not the wacky auction rules for them, as most reports here do not recommend the auction. The bonus tiles were cool though and a good incentive to buy the most expensive lot at certain points. I won the game with 74 points to youngest son 68 and oldest son 63. This played very quickly for us and I'd like to get it played more often!

_7_ Keltis: Das Würfelspiel x2 New!
First play of the dice game Das Würfelspiel. My youngest son, daughter and I played the basic side of the board, then the advanced side to make a single game. In the first round youngest son had 31, and my daughter and I both had 23. In the second round, my youngest son scored 36, my daughter also 36, and I had 25. So for the match my son won with 67, daughter 59, and I had 48.

The second play of the dice game was my wife and my daughter with me in another two round match. In the first basic round, daughter had 10 points, my wife 22, while I did well with 32. With the advanced board side my daughter scored 20, my wife scored 39, while I had 30. Totals: I won with 62 to my wife's 61 while darling daughter had 30.

I'm recording the dice game and the Oracle board all as "Keltis" as I see this as a family of games.

_8_ Caylus x1
My boys and I had a late night session. I was the only one to build a prestige building which helped me get to 72 points, but my youngest son got ahead with collecting gold for 76 points, and my oldest son was slightly behind with 67.

_8_ The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet x1
While K. was visiting we played this as she was familiar with the book. My daughter, my wife, K. and myself were the players. My wife won with 43, K. 32, I managed 31 even though I was usually the target of shenanigans, and my daughter had 29. Fun times were had by all!
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6. Board Game: Cinque Terre [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1648]
Board Game: Cinque Terre
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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Friday
Cinque Terre x2
Domino Dice x3 - new to me

Saturday
Cinque Terre x3


Sam's college was closed down Thursday and Friday; we've had almost non-stop snow for days. We had a bit of a break this morning, so we were able to get some gas and a few groceries. The snow has started again.

This has been a week of multiple family issues, for both me and Sam, which is partly why I haven't said much. Gaming has given us small breaks and distractions.

The Domino Dice arrived from Games for Geekgold. They're a push-your-luck game something like dominoes meets Pass the Pigs - you roll all of the dice, and you must have a double to start. Then you build the dominoes, doubles counting 2 points, others counting 1. If you use all of the dice in one string, you can re-roll and start again, but if at any point you can't use at least one domino from the new roll, you lose all points that turn. The weighty domino dice are satisfying to roll, and it's a clever use of the rules and bits.
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7. Board Game: Rolling Stock [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:3820]
Board Game: Rolling Stock
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 15Feb2014:

5/16/55 plays of 3/7/32 total games, with 2/4/6 expansions employed.
Plays with 4/5/33 distinct opponents.

0/1/3 games acquired (plus 0/1/6 expansions.)
0/1/2 games sold (plus 0/1/1 expansions.) - but I might have something here next week.
0/0/5 games ordered (plus 0/0/2 expansions.)
Orders for 8 games still outstanding.

With son #2:
3x _8_ Mage Knight Board Game (with Lost Legion and Krang) - All co-op games; and the final one (Tovak and Wolfhawk) a win: our first in the long scenario. It was amusing to have Volkare's camp as our final "city" to conquer, too; it was a bit different feel than what a city (of comparable magnitude) provides. But now we've got that out of the way, we can try the scenario on something other than the Absolute Easiest setting!
1x _7.7_ Starship Merchants - Son #2 and I find ourselves planning for the inevitable final round farther and farther in advance with each play. I've only played this 9 times now, but I think I might actually know what the game is about by my 15th or 20th play. I fear we're still picking up the traces later than we should be!

With the Wednesday Night guys:
1x _8_ Rolling Stock - This was a "short game" with 4 players - after last week's "training game" with 5. I found this play quite entertaining: it was the first time the game made (intuitive) sense to me (though I wouldn't remotely say I "played well": only that I was actually playing, rather than just surviving.) Given that the game was the other three guys' choice, it worked out fairly well; though the other guys definitely discovered that the (even the "short") real game was significantly more difficult than the training exercise.

Owned-and-unplayed: 8 (+0/-0).

Outlook for the week: I've missed the Friday gang two weeks in a row (sick this week; on a team offsite last week.) Hopefully I'll get that in again. Wednesday guys are on. Likely still more Mage Knight with son #2. Might even find time in daughter #1's schedule for a game or two.
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8. Board Game: Madeira [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:353]
Board Game: Madeira
Lo
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

_8_ Madeira x3 New to Me!
_9_ Archipelago x1


The Week in Review

Broke Madeira out of shrink this week and S and I got three plays out of it. Gamers who dislike constraints need not apply themselves to this one. Madeira is no sandbox; it is a mountainous island with narrow, constricted paths. Exploiting this island is all about squeezing the most out of every action including squeezing extra actions out of them.

Initially, I found the constrictions as annoying as they were thematically week. The Commander is in Moinho so if I need bread (which seems to be only baked in Moinho), I have to put a worker in Moinho, but I don't want to ship anything so I'm wasting an action because that's pretty much all the Commander can do for me. I suppose I could harvest instead of ship, but I only have one field. It's suboptimal but that's the only way to get that bread I need to feed my workers.

Once I got over the frustration of these forced restrictions, I started to enjoy the game more as an optimization puzzle to be solved. But one that your opponent could mess with any time you weren't careful.

Madeira is definitely a heavy Euro from the same (Portuguese) school that brought us Vinhos and CO₂. But of the three, I may just prefer this new one the best. It's certainly less fiddly than Vinhos and more intuitive than CO₂. Thematically, it's the least interesting, but I find myself enjoying it more...at least after three plays.
Board Game: Archipelago

The only other play this week was a bit of a downer. Our three player of Archipelago ended prematurely after we all refused to donate cattle to the local population and one turn later they rose up and kicked us all out. Not ever having to worry about rebellion since the first game or two that S and I ever played, we were a bit "let them eat cake" about it all. Next time, we'll have to be a bit more compassionate.

In other news, I deconstructed our The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game decks and organized the cards - adding the new base set that I got this week into the mix. I also spent some time watching videos from the Cardboard of the Rings series...and realizing that I'd played a few cards wrong in the process.


The Week Ahead

Hopefully a few more plays of Madeira with S. But now I have Concordia to add to the unplayed list which consists of Outpost and De Vulgari Eloquentia (never mind the other ones that have absolutely no chance of being played).
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9. Board Game: Tammany Hall [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:732]
Board Game: Tammany Hall
Bryan Maxwell
United States
Burtchville
Michigan
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The final tally for the weekend (all of this week's gaming was at MittenCon):

Hanabi x 5

We taught this to some folks and generally had a blast with it as well. There was a vendor there this year, and we helped them sell a few copies of Hanabi. We also played with the rainbow cards as a full 6th suit (3 ones, 2 twos, 2 threes, 2 fours and 1 five) which was tough. You can never specify "rainbow" as a clue, but whenever you give a color clue you must point out their rainbow cards too. The deck is bigger which helps, but it's still quite difficult. Makes a nice challenge.

Romans Go Home x 1


We had a 4-player game of this that didn't really excite anyone. My wife said "Please don't ask me to play this game again." I think the way your plans go awry when you win a card that you didn't expect to win (or vice versa) was frustrating for her.

Concordia x 1

A couple of guys offered to teach this one, so I sat in on a 5-player game with 3 new players while my wife learned Alien Frontiers at the next table.

It looked like it was going to be a generic euro and that's what it was. You have a map where you move dudes around and build houses. Each house provides a specific kind of resource whenever its area is activated. Resources are used to build buildings, used to buy cards and they can be exchanged for cash which be used to buy resources and buildings. It's a handbuilding game where you play a card from your hand once per turn, and you can play a card that lets you pick up all of your previously played cards (like A Castle for All Seasons). It's all too much "everything can be used for everything/resource conversion" game play, and the major issue for me is the scoring.

At any given time there are 6 (IIRC) cards available for purchase. These cards also act as multipliers for endgame scoring. For example you might score 1 point for each region of the board where you have a house and you would do this scoring step once for every card you own that has a blue banner on it. There are 6 or 7 scoring steps, each multiplied by a specific color of banner on your cards. The banners, however, seemed to have no correlation with the function of the cards. So when I'm buying a card I need to consider what the card does as well as how it affects my endgame scoring.

It all ends up being a big spaghetti mess where everything plays into everything else and it felt unfocused. The 2 who had played before said they thought focusing on collecting specific banner colors of card was best because they act as scoring multipliers. So, in the above example, if I had collected 8 blue banner cards I would essentially score 8 points for every region I occupy. In the end, the player who won really didn't know what he did to win. The one who had played before said their previous games felt that way too. I think Concordia is tries too hard to be clever. Had I tried the game 5 or 6 years ago, I probably would have thought it was brilliant. Now it feels like just another eurogame.

A Study in Emerald x 4

I came into the con wanting to get a few plays of this game in, and I was successful. I taught the game quite a bit and I think everyone ended up impressed with it.

The plays are a bit of a blur from this point. I think I've gotten into something of a rhythm for how to teach the game, though it takes longer than I like to go over everything simply because the game does absolutely nothing to guide you so I HAVE to be thorough at the outset. One player in particular found the open gameplay frustrating. On his first turn he said, a bit frustrated "Okay, so help me out here. I have no idea what I should do. What should I do?" I kind of shrugged and said "Well, keep in mind which faction you are and bid on the card that want the most. Using coins to buy more influence is usually a good move as well." He did end up warming to the game by the end.

These games all had at least one new player, and usually 3 or 4 (which is not the best way to have a good experience at this game). It's so hard to be competent the first time you play, and it's a bit of a confusing whirlwind. The best play of it came on Saturday morning with 3 of the 4 players I had taught the night before. I managed to sneak a tough win that required a little of "Well, I hope you're what I think you are but this is gonna be my best chance" at the end. Still, I had a couple of games where I floundered and just felt stuck in the mud. Setting up an assassination (particularly one at 5+ bombs) is SO tough, and sometimes I hang onto too many cards looking for 1 or 2 more, wasting valuable actions. I also tend to pursue the cities less than I should maybe. I tend to wait for others to claim them, then steal them away; the sudden score change can have a bit of an a-HA! effect on some of the other players. Plus it helps if I need to boot someone into last place.

It's such an interesting mess of a game! I've played 6 times now and am nowhere near any real mastery of it. Occasionally I get to feel brilliant, more often I get to learn a lesson about What Not to Do Next Time.

Shadow Hunters x 1

7 player Shadow Hunters with Ben Lott was fun as always. The hunters won and so did Allie despite having First Aid used on her.

Mascarade x 1

You each get a role that, after looking at it, goes face-down. Play proceeds where you can claim a role and see if anyone disputes it (similar to Coup). You can also swap cards with someone without looking at either card. The catch is that, when swapping cards, you put both cards under the table so no one else knows whether you actually swapped the cards or not. You can spend your turn looking at your card.

You win when you get 13 coins. Most of the abilities in my game would let you take 2 or 3 coins from the bank, or steal some coins from your neighbors, or swap your coins with another player's coins, etc.

I dislike games where memory is a key element of the game. This game is about trying to keep track of where the cards may or may not be. The whole thing felt inconsequential and, being built around a game concept I dislike, I hated this. The next night there was a group playing this and they were having a raucous, roaring good time of it so I don't think it's a bad game, but definitely not my kind of game.

Mascarade earns a rare 2 rating from me.

Cheaty Mages x 1

I closed out my Friday night teaching Cheaty Mages to 5 new players. It went over pretty well. I continue to be impressed by this little game that manages to be both light and somewhat thinky at the same time.

In this play, Ben and I were the only ones that whiffed in round 1. In round 2, we each happened to bet solely on the Skeleton so we conspired to make him win. I played a "this fighter's prize value is doubled" enchantment followed by a Meteor Shower, then Ben played a card to lock the Skeleton's cards down. We each scored 28 in round 2. In round 3, Ben bet everything on one fighter again while I hedged my bets and bet on 3 (which only pays half, but I wanted to break my tie with Ben) and won the game.

Innovation x 2

I logged 2 plays of the base game. One was with my wife and a newcomer named Steve. Steve and I went back and forth grabbing points and achievements, while Kat teched up into the later cards. She ended up melding and activating Computers (draw and meld a 10, then activate its non-demand dogma effects for yourself only). She ended up melding and activating Globalization, which ended the game (IIRC it says "If no player has more leaves than industry, then the player with the high score wins" and that was me. devil I don't think I've ever seen the game end with that card before.

The other game was a 2-player game between Kat and I. It was a hard-fought, back and forth game won by her. It was also my 200th logged play of Innovation.

Metropolys x 1

Ben and I were standing around playing the "What Do You Want To Play - I Don't Know - I Don't Know Either" game when he mentioned how much he had enjoyed our game of Metropolys last year and hadn't gotten to play it since, so we found 2 more players and had a 4-player game of it.

I went a long time without winning a bid, which always makes me a little bit nervous. It feels a bit like a feel when playing Agricola: there's a point where my plan feels shaky and I'm tempted to stray from it to get some security, but I have to stay the course. I was left with most of my tall buildings late in the game, and that's like a having a big stack of chips in Poker; I got to be the bully and dictate the flow of the game. The late game also provides more opportunities for "gimme" turns where you place your bid in a dead end and no one can follow you. I broke late and won 39-33-28-21.

This is one of the few games where I can see The Matrix and it has felt that way right from my first play.

The Glass Road x 1

I learned this as a 4-player game, apparently the short game (4 turns). It was okay. It's a eurogame, and I can see how it could feel like empty solitaire optimzation hell for some. The actions are based on card play; each player chooses a hand of 5 cards at the start of each round (from a pool of ~15 cards). Each round has 3 turns. At the beginning of each turn, each player chooses one of their 5 cards to play and puts it face down. The cards will provide a resource of some type, or let you clear a forest (think Ora & Labora) from your board, build one of the available buildings, etc.

Each card has 2 benefits listed. The starting player flips his face down card; if anyone else has that same card in his hand he reveals it and everyone with that card gets ONE of the 2 benefits. Otherwise the active player gets both benfits. So you can kind of siphon benefits away from opponents and get some free stuff.

You also have the resource wheels, the game's requisite Clever Mechanism. I found these to be more of a pain in the ass than anything; it adds a layer of planning and bookkeeping that I just don't enjoy much. There are also some spatial elements to your buildings and how you lay out your ponds/clay pits/forests on your board.

It's an okay enough game, perfectly harmless and forgettable. I'm glad I canceled my preorder. Thanks, guys.

THE SYSTEM WORKS!

Palastgefluster x 1

I taught this to a couple of our friends while we waited for pizza to be delivered. They found it to be pretty clever and commented that they appreciate thinky games that can fit in your pocket.

Terra Mystica x 1

4-player Terra Mystica with the Fakirs, Giants, Mermaids and Auren (me). It was my first time playing as the Auren, and I went balls-out after the cult tracks. I ended up winning 3 of the 4 of them as well as largest contiguous connection. It was against 3 fairly inexperienced players, so nothing surprising. Experience matters quite a bit with TM.

I also ordered the 4 promo town tiles that showed up in the BGG store today. I'm curious whether the selection of town tiles is randomized or whether there are simply more of them; it matters as we have run out a few times late in the game.

Tammany Hall x 1

On Sunday I was thinking that the only thing really missing from the con for me was a new game that I could be excited about; we had just finished up A Study in Emerald and still had 4 players (Kat and I and our friends we knew before the con) so I decided to spring Tammany Hall on them. I remembered the rules being simple enough, so I did a brief explanation then we got into it. It was a good group for just jumping in and playing a new game without agonizing over whether you're making The Right Moves or not.

After the first election, the Mayor had a pretty good lead on us while I had only won a single ward, so the point spread was 8-1. I was very light on influence tokens, and the Mayor gave me the "take 1 influence per turn office (don't recall the name)." I recalled that the game had a reputation for being brutal with no mechanism in place to help a straggler or rein in a runaway leader.

After the second term, the same player won the Mayor's office again and had a huge lead, something like 16-17 points. I was in last place with a cool 3 points and everyone else was around 7 or 8. At that point I said "Okay everyone, we all need to gang up on Kyle or he's going to run away with this". He, looking objectively at the game state, agreed with that assessment. So we did that. He scored maybe 1 or 2 points that round. After round 3, one player had nearly caught up to him while Kat and I were still pretty far back.

Heading into the final election I turned to her and said "Okay, we cannot fight each other. We need to focus everything on the 2 of them." And we did that. I think the leader won 2 wards, the 2nd place player won 0 with Kat and I scarfing up the rest (there was a ward where out 2 opponents were competing and it ended up in a tie, which means wasted resources with no winner; mine was an evil laugh). I had the office that allows you to move an immigrant to an adjacent ward once per turn and used it to great effect.

In the end, the player who started off so strongly won, but the scores were very close; the spread was something like 23-18.

A few random thoughts about the game:

- There was little negotiation. I bartered "I'll let you have this ward if you let me have that one" at one point and that worked. I kept up my end of the deal. The fact that I didn't have the influence left to betray her is irrelevent. devil

- Turn order is important. HUGELY important, particularly in the election years. I managed to pull off placing 2 ward bosses, then slandering in adjacent wards (having them all to myself) by being late in turn order.

- The slander mechanism is neat. here's how it works:

- If you and I have ward bosses in the same ward, I may spend a slander token and 1 influence to remove your ward boss (no ward boss means you cannot win an election in that ward). The catch is that the influence I spend must match one of the immigrant cubes present in that ward. So, for example, if I want to spend Italian influence, there must be Italian immigrants there. Additionally, if there is an adjacent ward with the same conditions (you and I have a ward boss, Italian immigrants are present) I can then spend 2 Italian influence chips to remove your ward boss there as well. This is huge because, again, no ward bosses means that you can't compete in the election for that ward. You can prevent this by having 2 ward bosses in a ward, but this game has pretty limited actions and that gets costly.

- There's a lot of "Let's you and him fight" in this game. One player was stocked up with English influence. The player who was winning was showing a strong presence in the Tammany Hall ward (which is worth 2VP instead of 1) so I placed an English immigrant there; that meant that the player sitting on the stack of English influence could now use it in the Tammany Hall ward if she placed a ward boss there. She did so and won it in the election.

- The theme is evoked beautifully. The above slander mechanism makes sense: I use my influence within the Irish community to spread the word that you're a piece of garbage; word spreads to the neighboring Irish community as well. Your liklihood of success in those wards on election day is greatly reduced.

The way immigrants are added is thematic too. The immigrants are drawn randomly from a bag and placed in the Castle Garden box. On your turn, you can either place 2 ward bosses, or 1 ward boss and 1 immigrant cube. If you place an immigrant cube, you gain 1 influence with that immigrant group.

When you bid for wards on election day, the bids are blind and they are spent whether you won or lost. Losing an election doesn't mean you get your money back.

The Mayor each turn gets 3 points, but he has to go first (which is bad) and he has to assign offices to the other players. His job is to hand out offices to those whom will be the least able to use them against you effectively.

- Some players will hate this game. I can understand why it's such a polarizing game. The game requires players to openly conspire against one another. Had we not discussed the situation and how to stop our runaway leaders, the game would have been a dull blowout. Now, that sort of collusion is something that usually bugs me in most games. Here though, it's built right into the game so I'm fine with it. And we weren't openly telling each other where to place things (at least any more so that we would in any other game that's new to us).

In case it's not obvious, I'm really impressed with Tammany Hall. When I play a game and I'm thinking about it hours and days later, I know it's got something special.

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My wife and I went with our 5-month old daughter, and she was so easy-going, happy and well-behaved. She was smiling at people and just a joy to have around in general. My wife got to play a lot more than she thought she might, and we met up some friends from last year, friends from outside the con and we made some new friends as well. All in all it was a terrific weekend.

I picked up Amerigo, Rampage and Bruxelles 1893 from a vendor there, and got Sylla and Rails of New England for MageStorm in a game exchange they held. This weekend also marked the first time I acquired a game without realizing that I'd previously owned it: I had Sylla and got rid of it without playing it in the past. I was baffled for a moment when I saw the "previously owned" box checked when I went to add it to my BGG collection. blush

As far as not so good things, I wanted to learn Bruxelles 1893 and didn't manage it. I had made tentative plans to teach Stephenson's Rocket to a couple but that never materialized (I picture that game like a brilliant, antisocial genius who lives alone and screams at anyone who comes to the door; I can never get this thing played despite a 60-minute playing time). Also, my copy of Rampage got savaged by some young kids there; their parents are wonderful people, but they bring their 3 young boys (aged 7 and under) and kind of let them run around. I had to hunt down some pieces from my newly-opened-but-unplayed game and later found it with 2 split corners on the box lid. Everything is there and functional (except for some board warping, which is supposedly a common problem with the game) so it's no big deal, but c'mon. WATCH YOUR KIDS especially when they're playing with things that do not belong to your family. Ben Lott had a similar incident last year with the same kids and his copy of King of Tokyo.

Anyhoo, it was just a blast. Apart from the aforementioned kids almost everyone there is ~30 or older. It's just a laid back environment full of friendly people. They have a similar event called DaveCon in Spetember at the same location. Here's hoping we can make it to that one too.
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10. Board Game: Chicken Caesar [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:3467]
Board Game: Chicken Caesar
R. Eric Reuss
United States
Massachusetts
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This past week:

Hanabi - had my first clairvoyant-play moment, deducing that a card I'd been given no direct information about was likely a Green 4 based on what it couldn't be, what cards were showing, and people's behavior. I love that sort of stuff, when I can pull it off.

Chicken Caesar (new!) - I'm not sure whether this is a great game, but holy crap, it was a good play experience. The rules explanation set the mood - "The Consuls are in charge of approving monuments to dead chickens" - and the game quickly spiraled into outrage, hilarity, and scorn - as well as out of control, with two of us pursuing "make money fast" strategies that (via high tax rates) plunged our chicken nation into an instant bloodbath of violence and death. I think we lasted 4 rounds before ending on "not enough chickens alive to fill all offices". The endgame was a bit disappointing - easy calculability both of how much tokens were worth to various players and of final score, making extortion as the Censor a bit too easy, and costless spite kingmaking a (thankfully-theoretical) possibility.

It was a fine, fine time with friends, though I may agree with the fellow who said this was more due to the people than the game.

IOTA (new!) - fills a similar brain-niche to Qwirkle, and shares some play skills as well, while offering my brain a bit more to chew on. I really like the portability, but suspect the extra complexity might turn off casual gamers.

Love Letter (new!) - finally got a chance to try this. Perfect as waiting-filler; don't think I'd bother playing a full game for its own sake again without adding some sort of interesting state persistence between rounds.

On the Underground (new!) - very, very appealing. (Have I mentioned I like networking/pathing games?) Figuring the Rider's choices was tricky at first, but we had two experienced players there to help out. Sadly, the other two new players took long enough on their turns that I had to leave 2/3 of the way through, and didn't get a chance to see how the endgame played out. I'd very much like to try this one again.

No playtests this week, due to a combination of taking a brief rest post-push and focusing dev time on other things (research, etc).

Outside of games: went skiing for the first time in a couple of years, which reminded me that I should do that more often. Plus: Even More Snow And Ice! I am so looking forward to spring.
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11. Board Game: Cuba Libre [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:516]
Board Game: Cuba Libre
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
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Games Played

.10! Race for the Galaxy 2
_8_ Cuba Libre 1 New!
_8_ Hansa Teutonica 1
_7_ The Palaces of Carrara 1 New!

Week in Review

I judged a PTQ (Pro Tour Qualifier) this weekend, which was a 12+ hour Magic event that took my entire Saturday and cut into gaming.

Mid-week I got a chance to try the Palaces of Carrara, freshly imported from Germany (somewhat by mistake!). I found it intriguing how this game could be so reminiscent of Vikings and still be so fundamentally dissimilar. I quite liked it, though I didn't have much idea how to play. I looked back on some of Ben's commentary about the game in prior GeekLists and was surprised that he said a good player regularly laps a bad player as we saw reasonably grouped scores and the game didn't obviously demonstrate that range. I am intrigued! I would like to play again soon.

Cuba Libre took most of my Sunday game day, as we were three new players and a fourth who had played only once. The first quarter deck saw the Propaganda Card (scoring milestone) come as late as possible, after 12 turns. This took us hours to get through including initial rules walkthrough. After the first Propaganda check, the game sped up quite a lot but we still had to decide to end the game on the third Propaganda Card rather than the fourth. I really liked this game and could see the rating going higher. The decision process involved in when you take your actions or when you pass, and how your action choice affects the options of the next player, was very interesting and unique. I could see this game becoming a 9 for me and I was tempted to buy it, but I am not sure how often I could get it played and I'm also interested to hear how the fourth COIN game, Fire in the Lake, turns out as I probably wouldn't need more than one game from the series in any case.

Hansa Teutonica was a 4P game on the expansion board. This board has so many different dynamics compared to the normal game. Even though a dozen plays is far from making me an expert on the normal board, I could really feel the difference playing this board for only the second time.

I topped off the week with two plays of RftG: Alien Artifacts without the Orb. I would have chosen the Orb but it wasn't acceptable to one of the players present. The new cards definitely feel stronger than the base set cards and drove the games, but everyone exploited them equally so that wasn't a problem. In the first game, I crushed with a tableau that discounted everything and drew me free cards in the Develop, Settle and Produce phases, all while running Produce-Consume off of Consumer Markets. That base game card is always a major threat and was the only one that felt like it matched up to the many expansion cards that were fueling my tableau.
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12. Board Game: Seasons: Path of Destiny [Average Rating:7.86 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.86 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.86 Unranked]
Board Game: Seasons: Path of Destiny
Mark Johnson
Canada
St.John's
Newfoundland
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“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done, the Dornishman’s taken my life, But what does it matter, for all men must die, and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!”
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"Oak and iron guard me well, or else I'm dead and doomed to hell." - Andal proverb.
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Ascension + Expansions (27)
Seasons + Expansions (5)
The Resistance: Avalon (3)
One Night Ultimate Werewolf (2)
Alhambra (1)
Love Letter (1)

---

Ascension was Ascension. Played a few against the AI, but a bunch against a friend. Other Digital plays include Seasons on BGA with 5 of the new cards from Path of Destiny. Very fun and I can't wait to get the new expansion in March. Hopefully we'll have more of the new cards implemented on BGA soon.

Played Alhambra for the first time in a long time when I went to the university for a game night. There were two mini-expansions mixed in (color converting cards + buying tiles out of turn order) included. I came in last place by a little mainly due to boxing myself in when focusing on walls. It was an ok light game I suppose.

We also played a bunch of social deduction games. One Night Ultimate Werewolf was my favorite of the bunch. The images I glued to the poker chips started to peel. So, I need better glue or different material to stick them to. We played Avalon a few times. I was a loyal servant every game. We had a bunch of roles in there too like Morgana and Percival but still a loyal servant every game. It was fun. Not ONUW fun, but a decent time. We ended the night with 6-player Love Letter. "It only goes to four," you say. We had more than one copy there, so we doubled every card in the deck but the Princess. Love Letter is ok, but I need better fillers to occupy my time...

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In Other News...

So, I found time to do the list this week after all. Exams are going well, and I think will continue to go well. I would still would like to do the list the weekend after next.

I should ideally have an order coming in the mail today containing:

Vanuatu
Bora Bora
BattleCON: Devastation of Indines
Bang: The Dice Game
Cosmic Eidex

I also placed another order since there was a daily sale on One Night Ultimate Werewolf. It contains:

Council of Verona
Eight-Minute Empire: Legends
One Night Ultimate Werewolf

Also ordered from the BGG store:

Terra Mystica: 4 Town Tiles
Bora Bora: Orange God Tiles
Council of Verona: Poison Expansion

I need a microgame alternative to Love Letter because I'm not that fussy on it. I do have some lighter games such as Koryo, Cheaty Mages, and Sticheln, but I think a few more options could be nice. I like One Night Ultimate Werewolf and must own a copy to support the designer, even if I don't use the actual tiles. Picked up three promos on the BGG Store. I hear the Poison expansion is a necessity for Verona and I figured I might as well throw the Bora Bora promo in there as well, since I have it on order. Terra Mystica is growing on me a bit. I could possibly consider acquiring it in the future and I would like to own the extra towns. If not, maybe the price will jump when it sells out and I could re-sell if I don't re-acquire Terra Mystica.
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13. Board Game: Vikings [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:415]
Board Game: Vikings
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Last week's plays:

|9.5| Mage Knight (+The Lost Legion; Krang) (x2)
-8.5- Vikings
-7- Glass Road
-6- Nations (+Kremlin; Tesla promo cards New!)
-6- Qwixx
-5- Clubs New!
-5- Tsuro
-2- Corporate America New!

A midweek trip to London On Board saw me arrive too late to get involved in the first round of games, so I watched while eating a fish finger sandwich. The first group to finish split into two to accommodate me and possibly because they'd had enough of playing together. I had thought we were going to play Ticket to Ride: Europe, as that was what was on the table, but then one guy brought out Corporate America and insisted on playing it. It looked terrible. My instincts told me to make my excuses but there were only three of us and the owner was very keen, so I decided to be polite and give it a go. It shouldn't take too long with three, right?

After he'd explained enough of the rules to bore the third player, a fourth joined us and we started with the "explain as we go along" approach, which worked fine as there's next to no strategy or planning required. This bills itself as a party-style negotiation game and the rank stench of Kickstarter is all over it. It was the sort of game where being the first to change up your money and return smaller denominations to a depleted bank makes you appear to be winning and be shut out of negotiations from then on. An awful game with nonsensical rules, sorely in need of development. I would go into more detail, but the mere memory of it is abhorrent.

The evening was somewhat redeemed with a quick round of Qwixx and a learning game of Clubs. I've really no idea how to play climbing games well, but this one seemed OK even if I barely scored any points. Maybe it's because I can't be bothered putting in the effort of card counting or working out probabilities in abstract card games. They don't hold my attention sufficiently to make it feel worthwhile. I guess if you like Tichu, you could bring this one out with more casual gamers.

The Mage Knight sessions were both great. One was trying out a variant solo scenario posted to BGG by Jim Norris (ugawreck). Here, instead of conquering cities, you have to search for the Golden Grail from the artifact deck. It's a very different play experience since you have to re-evaluate the cards and focus on Influence and Move. Influence is needed to scry at Mage Towers and search the records of Monasteries, both of which can help you find the grail. You need Move to get back to the portal by the end of the scenario. Because you have to plan a return journey, tile placement is also crucial: ideally you want to circle back round on yourself. I lost the scenario, which I see as a good thing: the standard solo scenario presents very little challenge without increasing the city levels, this one is a challenge from the start.

The other session was blitz co-operative with Kate where she thought we'd lost long before the end, while I still had hope we could pull it off. I think we'd have done it too if the final city hadn't been so cruel to us. We made a risky combined assault on it on the penultimate turn and split the tokens out two each. She got both whites while I got two browns. Unfortunately, one of the whites was Delphana Masters with their paralyse ability. Kate was unable to block them and lost her hand. If they'd come to me instead, I'd have just about been able to defeat them. We ran out of cards to finish the job next turn. So close!

There was a Magic PTQ in Sheffield over the weekend and Walt came up to play in it. We had time for a couple of games while he was here: Tsuro (because he hadn't played it) and Vikings. There's not much to Tsuro as a game but it's fairly pleasant and nicely presented. Vikings was very good - I upped my rating by half a point, it just works so well. I ended up taking too many unrepelled ships, despite all my warriors. I had a bonus tile which rewarded oversupplying with my fishermen but too few of them came out. I also should have blocked the only boatman in the last round, as that would have cost Walt a good chunk of points. He won, managing to score both awards for largest island and the most islands (tied with me). I need to pay more attention to what island tiles everyone's taking.

The weekend ended with a frustrating game of Nations. I tried to learn my lesson from the previous game and focus more on military so I could take colonies, battles and wars. I couldn't cement this into much advantage and probably spent more meeples on military cards than I really needed to. This time, the events favoured high stability and Kate kept taking wars at zero strength to prevent them hurting her. Despite all three of us knowing the rules now, it was another slow game, too long for the fun I got out of it. I also wonder if its purely tactical nature will annoy me in the long run. If it's taking three hours I'd like some strategic elements.
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