GCL Phoenix 192: Mutation. (7 Sept 2014)
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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You appear to have found the 192nd installment of the Phoenix Geek Chat League. Welcome to our regular (and irregular) subscribers, occasional visitors, members, and passers-by. Please feel free to thumb the list so that we know you're there.

If you're not a regular, and the notion of a Geek|Game Chat League seems peculiar or unfamiliar, please check out the wiki page.

As usual, members are encouraged to add an item to the list. And non-members are welcome to contribute (though please leave the item-adding to the regulars. The canonical text says "constructively and respectfully", but I hesitate to imply a higher bar for visitors than for ourselves. Perhaps I might suggest "try not to embarrass yourself", since that's the (admittedly low) bar that I attempt to impose on myself with at least intermittent success.) Our roster comprises:
archivists
chally
darker
Dormammu
indigopotter
Lowengrin
Morganza
Mr_Nuts
ravenskana
rynelf
Taibi
tjshields <-- next week's correspondent (though Nicolai can have it if he wants it, I expect.)
woodnoggin

We also recognize and celebrate the historic contributions of our esteemed alumni: BennyD, Bruzza, chally, Eeeville, enzo622, Hawkeye77, JohnRayJr, judoka, leroy43, topherr. We're always delighted when you drop by.

In the last couple weeks, I've found myself revisiting a few games that last I played a decade or more ago. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, I find my perspective on them: their complexity, their tractability, their interestingness; all seem different in the recent play than in the golden glow (or surly disregard, as the case might be) of distant hindsight.

I suspect it's an entirely natural side effect of getting older. But I have no particular opinion on whether my perceptions are better today, worse, or just different.

So, for this week, I thought I might chase that sense of mutation: in us; in what we look for in games, or opponents, or gaming venues; in how we approach games or gaming; in what we might value from the greater gaming experience. I'm not interested in any particular span of time: I'm totally happy if you compare now with some subjective sense of "a while ago" whether that is measured in days, decades, or anything between.
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1. Board Game: Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:2170]
Board Game: Mutant Chronicles: Siege of the Citadel
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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Against your baseline of oh-so-many seconds ago, have you noticed that you've changed? If not, has the world changed around you?

What's the most notable mutation you've experienced?

I really should get this one played again, too; but that's another matter entirely.

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2. Board Game: Munchkin Game Changers [Average Rating:6.72 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.72 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.72 Unranked]
Board Game: Munchkin Game Changers
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Compared to your baseline, are you looking for different things in games today than you used to? Is there a signal example of a game (or game family) you either used to like (and no longer do) or now like (and used to ignore or avoid)?
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3. Board Game: Tactica: An Historical Approach to Ancient Wargaming [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Board Game: Tactica: An Historical Approach to Ancient Wargaming
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Against your baseline, how has your approach to gaming changed with time? Are you looking for different things? Playing with different people? Approaching the games in a different way?
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4. Board Game: Cinque Terre [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1647]
Board Game: Cinque Terre
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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Monday
Cinque Terre

Tuesday
Cinque Terre

Wednesday
Cinque Terre

Friday
Cinque Terre

The happiness this weekend was the arrival of my surprisingly-nice $.99 mousepad from ArtsCow. I used one of their purple patterned backgrounds, so it can go horizontal or vertical. It's a bit bigger and thicker than my old basic black one that I got from Big Lots, and it makes my desk a bit cheerful.

Thunder, lightning, and rain yesterday, with heat, though today settled into moderate temperatures, clear skies, and sun.

we got some local blueberries from our favorite farm store on Friday, and I think it's time to put them in some pie pockets.

Yesterday I made some of my favorite carrot apple ginger juice (local white carrots and apples) and couldn't resist eating some of the sliced apple. It's apple season here, and lots of varieties to be had.

Lots of mini cucumbers available as well; I'm investigating pickling (Sam loves pickles). Might try it next year.
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5. Board Game: Symbioz [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:7599]
Board Game: Symbioz
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 6Sep2014:

10/4/363 plays of 7/4/159 total games, with 0/0/21 expansions employed.
Plays with 3/3/69 distinct opponents.

0/0/37 games acquired (plus 0/0/11 expansions.)
0/0/13 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/6 expansions.)
0/0/16 games ordered (plus 0/0/7 expansions.)
Orders for 6 games and 0 expansions still outstanding.

With son #2:
1x _7.7_ Symbioz - Son #2 was very amused by this. I shouldn't have been surprised: he loves abstracts - and despite the fancy nouns, this one is really abstract. He engaged strongly with the game, made good decisions; played well - and won, too!
3x _6_ Coloretto Amazonas - More of this silly filler that was generously (and unexpectedly) included in the Symbioz box by the nice BGG.seller. Son #2 finds it charming, and I'm willing to play against him.
1x _7_ Carcassonne: The Castle (57 months dusty) - An interesting experience. Son #2 was a bit frustrated by the vagaries of the tile draw: he didn't draw the tile he needed, even though he was sure it was still available. It's an interesting perspective - and one I occasionally fall in to! - I say "My strategy failed" implying that the game is somehow defective, because (of course) my strategy should be viable. But it's not; and probably shouldn't be; and what I really need is to understand the game better.
1x _7_ Tikal (140 months dusty) - This one was amusingly unsuccessful: hisself thought the theme didn't work; that the action points just induced dithering (both on his part, and on the part of his aged and imperfectly competent opponent); that it just wasn't very interesting. And, for my part, I found the tradeoff between good play and pondering the future wasn't quite what I wanted, either: I could play better (very very slowly: too slowly for me, in fact, let alone any consideration of my esteemed opponent) or worse (than I really wanted) but there wasn't a middle ground that I found comfortable.
1x _8_ Outpost - Oh, this was glorious. He didn't win; but he'd clearly been thinking about it, about what might work, about what I did last game that worked better than what he had done. Easily his best play ever. And if he improves as much the next time out (as he did between his last game and this one) he'll destroy me. (One more increment after that, and he might be able to push Aliza a bit!)

With the Wednesday Night gang (Symbioz with son #2 as guest player):
1x _7.7_ Symbioz - All three of the others (and particularly including the 12 year old) did distinctly better than me at this one. I really need to work at this some more: I'm dreadfully incompetent at it.
1x _7.3_ Java (78 months dusty) - This one is easily my favourite of the Mask Trilogy: you saw my grumping about Tikal above, while Mexica (admittedly only in two plays) seems absurdly trivial to me - though why, I'm not sure at all. My cool opponents found it tolerable, but didn't think that it was the sort of game they really wanted to play - or at least, not often. Tim teased that he'd rather play 1846: The Race for the Midwest - and he's our least susceptible to the lure of the 18xx.
1x _7.7_ Spyrium - My lovely wife put a plate of Butter Tarts on the table as the guys were tempted to leave. The tarts were a bit too hot to eat, so I pulled out Spyrium for us to play while dessert cooled. In complete contrast with Java, this was received with interest, enthusiasm and strong engagement. I expect we'll play again!

Owned-and-unplayed: 2 (+0/-0).

Outlook for the week: Reasonable chance for a Monday lunch game; High likelihood of a Wednesday Evening game (or games); Good chance of a game or two against son #2. Will likely sell a few games (I have a buyer lined up; but haven't managed to get packing material yet.) Not much chance of reducing my owned-and-unplayed pile, though.
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6. Board Game: Modern Art [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:225]
Board Game: Modern Art
Bryan Maxwell
United States
Burtchville
Michigan
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Caverna x 1

I'm thinking this one's not going to stick around for the long haul. I like it well enough, but I feel like Rosenberg has been kind of repeating himself since Merkator. I'd like to see a game NOT built around resource conversion. As for Caverna, it's okay but it hasn't clicked for the wife yet and, well, it's clicked for me but I'm not overly impressed. It's ALL eurogame. For the price, it's almost like a Splotter title in my mind: spend $100 to see whether it's worth $100.

GoSu x 1

Really good play of this; I was up 2-0 before losing 3-2.

Coloretto x 1


Dusted off this nifty little filler. Good game.

Modern Art x 1

Finally got to try this pure auction game. It was pretty well received (4-player game). I like it even though I have trouble calculating the value of things on the fly. Only one player wasn't too crazy about it: the guy who won. He said it was too stressful.

Was Sticht? x 1

This one's been gaining traction. I started off behind the others but came back to win. Also saw the opening hand end with no success for anyone at the table, which was neat. I was the dealer and each of my 3 opponent's chose a different "don't take this card color" goal.

Die Palaste von Carrara x 2

I got my ass stomped twice today by my wife. The first was 126-78, the second was, uh, 160+ to 80+...ish. I saw the writing on the wall early and got frustrated enough to not tally my score beyond a certain point. Which pissed her off. I felt like I was waiting 30 minutes to find out whether I'd lost by 70 or 80. I don't usually have that sort of reaction in games, but that's happened with Carrara a couple of times now. I don't mind losing, I just hate one-sided games. blush

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7. Board Game: Seeland [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:1407]
Board Game: Seeland
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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Games Played:

_7_ Abluxxen x1
Four players with my three kids. After four rounds with each of us starting, I won 62 to youngest son 41, daughter 40, and oldest son 34. Everyone still likes this one quite a bit.

_6_ Coloretto x1
Youngest son won a close race against his brother 37 to 35, while I had 25 and daughter 22.

_6_ 6 Nimmt!
Played a variant where we do two rounds using all the cards in the deck. Youngest son pulled off an amazing 10 point win while oldest son and I tied at 43 and daughter 48.

_6_ Summoner Wars x1
Youngest son's Tundra Orcs against my Jungle Elves. His freezes annoyed me but I whittled down his forces and got a champion in position to hit his summoner down for the win.

_6_ Paris Connection x1
My wife and oldest son helped teach this to my daughter. Son ended the game by getting to Marseille but lost to my wife 128 to 111. Meanwhile, I badly timed things and only had 99 and daughter only had 71.

_8_ Seeland x1
Taught this to my wife with the full advanced tactical variant and she won 209 to 203. As I suspected she enjoyed the game and thought it played well with just the two of us.

_6_ Candy Chaser x1
Taught this to Justin as a quick filler game and he called out my gem color and won the game. Thought this was a bit meh with just the two of us.

_8_ Glass Road x1
Played this with Justin and he knew the game well enough not much teaching was to be had. First time playing this with only two players and I thought it was decent at that count. I pulled off a 22 to 15 win based on having two different tiles that scored for wood and maxed that out.

_8_ Xanadú x1
Taught this to Justin and he did very well. Thought I was running away with the game but only had a close win of 76 to 67. Another game that works fine with just two players.

_7_ スタンプス (Stamps) x1
Re-learned this with the boys and my wife. She won with 43,400 while youngest son had 41,600. I was farther back with 35,900 and oldest son ended at 24,800. We enjoyed this and the Stamps are lovely but need to play this more to have a better idea of how to approach the beginning of the game.

_6_ Coloretto x1
My daughter and I taught this to my wife and they both tied the game with 46 while I only had 36.
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8. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.16 Overall Rank:18]
Board Game: Brass: Lancashire
Burster of Bubbles, Destroyer of Dreams.
United States
Sunnyvale
California
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The biggest news of the week is that I broke my streak of Alex beating me by one point at Brass. This time he beat me by *three* points. whistle

Grrrr.

Friday night with Jeremy:

Power Grid: Australia 6p - Me, Don, Jeremy, Dayton, Hugh, and a mostly-sane and hard-to-manipulate robot.

Australia is an odd game. Uranium plants don't power cities, they give cash income by selling uranium to the market. You need extra cash, because the map has expensive connectivity, though you can jump anywhere for $20. I jumped out to 4 cities instead of buying a cheap early permanent power plant, then hung back and bought into Uranium to keep Jeremy from getting away with murder. In the end my Uranium income helped me squeeze out Don by $3.

Saturday at the Palo Alto Library:

The Palo Alto library meetup was on hiatus for a bit and has lost some critical mass. It tends towards lighter games than the Los Altos games days, especially since it's a shorter day and less worth travelling for. However, Dave and Alex have had some luck getting quorum for somewhat heavier games there.

Brass: Lancashire 4p - me, Alex, Dayton (second play), Charles (new opponent, first play).

Dayton sometimes has trouble grokking new games. In 4th seat he took a loan on the first turn, then was surprised that he couldn't build coal and iron on the second turn. So I built iron to his coal, then most and more iron to his coal. By that time three of us had developed Ports; I switched to Cotton, and got two Level 3s flipped in Canal era, but was off-tempo for Rail era. (Still, the threat of me building my own ports was useful.) In the end I got all my cotton flipped, but lost all but my Level 4 iron to overbuilds (I lost the Level 2 in Canal era, and that was the margin of my loss. :-( ) Charles did very impressively with 115 points for 3rd place.

Race for the Galaxy 4p/5p - me, Alex, Dayton, Charles, Wei

Afterwards we taught Charles RftG. And I sent him links for game groups more local to him (including rynelf's BAP.)

Saturday, my place

1817 3p - me, Alex, John

In a 3p game it's all about who gets the most valuable runs out of their 2Ts. I used the Train Station to get the second token in (B)ittsburgh (*), and had a nice coal-enhanced run in Charleston with a different company, but Baltimore got nerfed (**) and I couldn't keep up.

I was falling asleep so we called it after the M&A round after the 4Ts came out. (The foreigners ate *3* 3Ts!)


(*) Many 18xx games have special tiles for more valuable cities. 18xx archetype 1830 has "B" tiles for the valuable port cities of Baltimore and Boston, for example. 1817 has "B" tiles for Baltimore, Boston, (B)etroit, and possibly (B)ittsburgh (if a private is used to upgrade the city). OK, it's a bad joke.


(**) nerf v. To weaken or make less dangerous. Taken from the "Nerf" brand name, which makes sports equipment toys out of a soft foam (e.g., the Nerf football is soft foam rather than the hard leather of a real football). Used frequently in the context of game balance changes.
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9. Board Game: 1862: Railway Mania in the Eastern Counties [Average Rating:8.35 Overall Rank:1462]
Board Game: 1862: Railway Mania in the Eastern Counties
Lo
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

_6_ The Builders: Middle Ages x4
_8_ 1862: Railway Mania in the Eastern Counties x1
_7_ Ancient Terrible Things x1
_9_ Archipelago x1
_7_ Stephensons Rocket x1 New!


The Week in Review
Board Game: The Builders: Middle Ages

The Builders: Middle Ages has been S and my "quickie" game since picking in up a few weeks ago. This week it got four plays of which I won two.

Sadly, that's all I won this week.
Board Game: Ancient Terrible Things

Ancient Terrible Things got it's first play of three when P was over last Monday. He also happened to win it, but he made it pretty clear that he didn't feel it was a substitute for Arkham Horror. And with Fall just a few weeks away, there'll be pressure to play Arkham Horror. Although, if Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game ever arrives, it may be "Halloweenish" enough to pacify P.
Board Game: Stephenson's Rocket

Stephenson's Rocket was the one new game this week. Without even reading the rules, I figured this game was best played with four, but that didn't stop me from making S play it on Thursday night with me.

Not that we really played it. We kind of just did actions without understanding the ramifications of them until the final quarter of the game (and even then, I'm not sure S understood the half of them as I didn't even understand them all until after final scoring).

With the right group and repeat plays, I could see this game being fairly intense. Unfortunately, I don't have a group for this game right now so I suspect it's going to sit on the shelf and collect dust.
Board Game: Archipelago

Archipelago is one game that is not collecting dust around here. After The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, it's the second most played game in my collection in 2014.

S and I rolled it out last night and played the "short game". We were a bit rusty. Rusty enough, in fact, that I accidentally and prematurely triggered the end game; losing it in the process. Yay, me! Of course, given that just a few hours ago, I'd played a simply terrible game of 1862: Railway Mania in the Eastern Counties, who would of expected anything other than total defeat.
From gallery of Lowengrin

1862: Railway Mania in the Eastern Counties was the high point of gaming this week. never mind that I played a terribly reckless game; the game itself is brilliant. I've already bumped it up to an _8_ and, after another play or two, it could knocked it's older sybling (1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight) from its spot as my favourite Series: 18xx. I am, after all, a masochist when it comes to games - the more they beat me down, the more I want of them.


The Week Ahead

No plans as yet. I may wrap up my geek list tracking Essen '14 games this week. It's fairly short though. Definitely the shortest of any year, but that could change as I start paying more attention. A lot of the games appear to be being released even before Essen this year. I may have a few before Essen starts.

Unplayed games of note still in shrink: Yunnan, De Vulgari Eloquentia, Revolution: The Dutch Revolt 1568-1648 and Love Letter.

Unplayed game of note not in shrink: Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game.

Preordered games: Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game and Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men.
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10. Board Game: Twin Tin Bots [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:3657]
Board Game: Twin Tin Bots
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Games Played

_9_ Magic: The Gathering 2
_7_ Twin Tin Bots 1
_7_ Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Base Set 1

Week in Review

I got a chance to play Twin Tin Bots with 4 players and it definitely lived up to my hopes at that player count. I had been worried after testing it 2P, but the added number of moving robots makes all the difference. Fun game and it's interesting to learn tricks to effectively program long-term sequences.

The third adventure deck for Pathfinder continues to be quite a bit more challenging than its predecessor. I've rated the second deck (the Skinsaw Murders) a 4; its scenarios were so trivial and bland that they almost killed the game for us. I'm glad I pushed through to the third deck. I can't say for sure the game is fun enough to enjoy all the way to the end, but this at least encourages me we will make it to deck four. That's interesting because it is when each character picks a specialty and transforms their basic strategy with new abilities and powers.
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11. Board Game: Qwixx [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:746]
Board Game: Qwixx
R. Eric Reuss
United States
Massachusetts
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(Playing around with using other peoples' formatting schemes)

_9_ Terra Mystica
_8_ Samurai
_?_ Red7
_7_ Chicago Express
_7_ Qwixx (new!)
_5_ Spot it! (x2) (new!)

Terra Mystica - played with a timer (but no time limit). The more experienced players clocked in somewhere around 20 minutes each; the two of us who hadn't played as much more around 25-27 minutes. Everyone made mistakes, but the Engineers made fewer than most, and romped away with the game on 9 VP/turn and endgame size scoring.

Samurai - I enjoy this, but egads, the rules for victory do cascade. Each step makes sense, but they can be hard to keep in mind while evaluating potential moves.

Red7 - Continuing to enjoy the basic game as quick filler, but want to try the advanced game before making up my mind about this one.

Chicago Express - played with the Erie mini-expansion. While the concept of a single-share company rubs me a bit the wrong way, I have to admit that it did shake up the game: one player would have had the victory locked (I perceived it around turn 2; he said it was evident as early as turn 1, and I believe him), but didn't have the liquidity to grab the Erie when it came up, and holy cow that thing can make money.

Qwixx - Interesting little game of tempo and pushing your luck. The ability to mark numbers on other players' turns and the lack of any re-rolling made this much less tedious than most push-your-luck dice games I've played.

~ ~ ~

Outside of gaming: We have a shed! The saga of its installation is a year and a half long (the repeated refrain of which is "...and we were busy so things slipped for a few months"), and not fully done, as we had to pull down (with permission) part of our neighbor's fence to get it in.

Last night, my wife commented that we'd had a really great weekend, and I concurred. I am, however, faintly bemused, because Saturday saw her (in her 2nd trimester) scrambling around in the shed with a drill dis- and re-assembling shelves in 90-degree heat.

(Then the storm front hit and the temperature dropped 15 degrees in no time at all. Impressive wind. I'm happy we still have a shed.)
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12. Board Game: Battle For Souls [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:3059]
Board Game: Battle For Souls
Nicolai Broen Thorning
Denmark
Ebeltoft
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So, another week of gaming though the performance was below par. We had to cancel our playdate due to illness, but it has been rescheduled for this coming Thursday, so fingers crossed please...

Now onto what we did get to play:

Thursday w/ V.:
2x _7.0_ Battle For Souls
I talked a little about this game last week and I have a number of thoughts on it, only I feel like I should start by explaining the game as I am unsure how many knows about it.

That will be a project for another day...

Suffice to say that we split the 2 games. I have rated it with the caveat that it is likely to change once I get to explore it further.

Saturday w/ the kids:
2x _7.8_ King of Tokyo w/ Power Up & Halloween.
I love this game when it flows. Sometimes the more people, the longer wait but we all seem to have it down now that it just flows.

Both games were won by yours truly on points. In the first game I took one too many turns in Tokyo at the start and barely escaped with 1 point. Fortunately it was my turn next and I scored 4 hearts to move to safety.

Always fun and a blessing to be playing with the kids when they have ipads and xbox to play with they are sometimes difficult to get to the table.


The Week Ahead:
I am leaving for Uni in 20 minutes and back home in 11 hours. This is by far the longest day of the week with 8 straight lessons, very little time to absorb things and prepare for the next class. Oh well, can't complain, loving what I do - most of the time.

V. got a new temp job last Friday, began yesterday having said goodbye to the old one on that Friday. She is very excited, working with a bunch of kids with autism. It is great to see her happy at work. Getting experience is key, there are unfortunately a lot of unemployed teachers with experience out there...

Gaming will be Thursday and probably something light, and hopefully with V. on Friday, though we entertain on Saturday and I have work on Sunday, so I might have to spend Friday cleaning the house...
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13. Board Game: Light Speed [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:3018]
Board Game: Light Speed
W M
United Kingdom
Rugby
Warwickshire
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Another very busy few weeks, but I did manage to play some games...

We had Rich and Kate visiting a couple of weeks ago and we managed plays of:

Greed - New and like
Agricola- Old and love
Time's Up: Title Recall - Old and love
A Study in Emerald - second play and lukewarm
Concept - New and like
Terra Mystica - Nice to get this back to the table, am going to try to play it more often as it was a hit with S.

Then last week was our wedding anniversary - I took the day off and we managed some games - One game of Agricola and multiple games of RFTG.

The other night I opened Light Speed - one of our smaller unplayed games - the cheapass version. We managed 4 plays in 10 minutes. It was brilliant. Innovative, addictive and nail-bitingly close.

Cashed in some of my store credit from FNM for Camel Up! from our FLGS. Hope to have success teaching it to the inlaws.
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