GCL Amoeba 237 – Seven magnificent games (2015-09-14)
Mikko Saari
Finland
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 :-) )

Current hosting rotation:
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Toms
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Jeroen
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Joshua
Mikko

It's that time of the year again – we'll soon find out the favourite games of Finnish board gamers. Let's see what you like.
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1. Board Game: Seven Treasures [Average Rating:5.80 Unranked]
Board Game: Seven Treasures
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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I've been running the yearly voting since 2003. Every year the concept has been the same: which are your favourite games that you've played within the last year? Publication year does not matter, so you can vote for old games or new games, as long as you've actually played the game within the past year (September to August, because that gives plenty of time to try the new Essen games before judging them).

What would be your list of seven games?
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2. Board Game: Anybody's Guess [Average Rating:5.80 Overall Rank:13313]
Board Game: Anybody's Guess
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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I'll get the results on Wednesday. Meanwhile, here's your chance to guess: which new games will get the best results? The voting is always in early September, so anything that has come out since September 2014 counts as new.
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3. Board Game: New York 1901 [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:953]
Board Game: New York 1901
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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1 x _8_Dale of Merchants
5 x _8_Love Letter
1 x _7_Coloretto
1 x _7_Fleeting Foxes
1 x _7_Walnut Grove
1 x _7_Blueprints
1 x _7_Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
3 x _7_New York 1901 (new!)
2 x _6_Let's Catch the Lion!
1 x _5_Phantom Rallye

A nice week – I could finally make it to the weekly board game meetup, for the first time since the schools began in August.

New York 1901 is nice. At least there's interaction: a game with my kids ended up with both in tears over blocked legendary skyscraper placements. Oops. But it's just nice, and I doubt my rating will change to 8; more likely it'll end up in the graveyard of 6 ratings: not bad, but not good either.

I compiled another edition of my Top 100 list: Mikko's top 100 — 2015 edition
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4. Board Game: Loopin' Chewie [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:2644]
Board Game: Loopin' Chewie
Jason
United States
Irvine
California
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d10-7 Loopin' Chewie x20
d10-7 Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis and Clark x1
d10-6 The Bottle Imp x1
d10-6 Nevermore x1

Nothing but new stuff this week, but Loopin' Chewie was a huge hit. I actually think the game is better with the forced 3 players now. Also, having the Star Wars theme around it is just awesome. My nephew refused to stop playing so many times, so I will probably break 100 plays easily on this one by the end of the year.

Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis and Clark is definitely a different dice game. I enjoyed it, and looking forward to playing more now that I have wrapped my head around it a bit better. Lot's of tough choices about when to grab dice, and for setting yourself up to get "bonus" turns.

Nevermore is a lot like Cutthroat Caverns, the problem is that because of this the game probably last too long for what it is. I didn't mind getting mean cards played against me, but it really does slow the game down, and it took over an hour to play which is just too much for a simple drafting game. Wouldn't mind playing again, but this one will probably be forgotten rather quickly.
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5. Board Game: G.O.O.T.M.U. [Average Rating:5.55 Overall Rank:15986]
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Jeroen Doumen
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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5x _6.00_ Pathfinder Adventure Card Game
2x _3.00_ Shut the Box
1x _7.50_ Age of Steam
1x _7.00_ Agricola
1x _6.50_ Peloponnes
1x _6.00_ Legends of Andor
1x _6.00_ Alchemists
1x _6.00_ Hemloch
1x _5.75_ Dos Rios
1x _5.50_ Viceroy
1x _5.50_ Friesematenten
1x _5.25_ Gipsy King
1x _5.00_ Alhambra
1x _5.00_ G.O.O.T.M.U.
1x _5.00_ Lords of Creation
1x _4.75_ La Strada
1x _4.50_ Attandarra
1x _4.00_ Battleship
1x _4.00_ Memory
1x _4.00_ Dominoes
1x _3.00_ The Game of Life
1x _3.00_ Game of Goose
1x _2.00_ Petropolis

Quite some gaming last week. WE pulled open one of the "classic game collection" boxes, and played a bunch of those - hence the big swathe of red/pink ratings...

Age of Steam is the highest rated on the list, and we quite enjoyed the (repeat) visit. We played on the Germany map, with an adverse starting cube distribution - it was very hard to make any money. Quite enjoyable, even though I shot myself in the foot quite soon and did badly...

I managed to find a copy of Viceroy after all the good press here on the GCL, and wasn't disappointed. Quite a decent game, though we didn't have very bad gem shortages. And it was a bit of an anti-climax in that you start with many cards, but effectively only get one per turn.

Dos Rios is still a quite enjoyable game. One can be quite nasty with rerouting the river... devil
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6. Board Game: 18EU [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:2744]
Board Game: 18EU
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Joe Rushanan hosted at his house on Labor Day. I got there at noon and played until we went out for dinner, but I didn't stay for the evening, because my wife was headed off for a week (she and her brother took their parents to Ocean City NJ for a vacation.) In that time we played two games, both from the 18xx family.

 9   18EU -- Joe Huber maintains a list of games he owns but hasn't played for a while, and this was on his list. I've recently been playing it with the expansion, which adds a lot of variety, though it was fun playing at WBC with 3 people I don't usually play with---that's a different way to add variety! With 4 of us there were 16 privates (a space is added in Hamburg, with a non-blocking token.) We simply dealt 4 powers to each player and kept taking one and passing the others to the left until we each had 4.

I wound up with minors in Munich, Strasbourg, Lyon and Paris (S), which seemed like a pretty good set of privates. Joe Huber got Berlin (W), Berlin (E), Hamburg and Paris (N). Joe Rushanan got Brussels, Wien (S), Venice and Milano, which I thought was a weak set even though he had strong special powers, and John got Dresden, Vienna (N), Amsterdam and Budapest.

I was doing reasonably well early, but I converted the wrong minor into a major (I should've converted the Munich minor, but I converted the Strasbourg minor) and this really retarded my growth. One of the flaws of this game is that a single tactical error can ruin a whole game, which makes it less interesting if your opponents are half competent.

I was thinking that Joe Huber would be a runaway winner, but Joe Rushanan made his Italian empire into a powerhouse. He did not found a corporation with his minor in Brussels, but he did manage to run it for $280 (paying $140 to his pocket) in the last OR before the minor company final exchange round, and then convert it into a share of Joe Huber's company. It was very close, but Joe Rushanan won a narrow victory, which was kind of cool to see.

 10   1846 -- We still had time for a second game before dinner, but John needed to leave at 6, so we picked a shortish game. I had Priority Deal, and thus last choice of privates, and I got the MC and Mail Contract---not my favorite two privates to start with. Here's what we had after the draft:

Eric: MC, Mail, $280
John: Big 4, Tunnel, $240
Joe: Meat Packing, O&I, $300
Dan: MS, C&WI, $200

I decided to try a trick that Joe Huber often succeeds with, but that I had never been able to make work. Namely, start a company that would be good enough, but not as good as some of the other companies, so that I could keep shares in treasury for a long time and fund two permanent trains without withholding or even much half-capping. I started the IC at $90, with the goal of diversifying into someone else's company that would pay better dividends. John started the B&O at $80; even without Steamboat in the game, it goes nicely with the Big 4 and Tunnel Blasting. Joe started the PA at $60, reasoning that more shares meant more dividends. Dan was delighted to find the NYC available for him in the 4th seat, and started it at $50 (I was thinking Dan might start something at $50 or $100, which would fit my cash perfectly.) This allowed me to scoop up two NYC shares, giving me a 4-share start with excellent earning power (and while leaving plenty of IC shares in treasury.)

Dan started work on the usual "Cleveland and Back" route and bought three 2Ts. He was justifying the faith I had displayed by buying two shares! He ran for $20 a share in OR1.2. Joe teleported to Fort Wayne, bought a pair of 2Ts, connected to Chicago, and ran Meat. John bought the Big 4 in during OR1.1 and built to Cincinnati, buying a 2T and a 4T. This allowed my IC to issue one share, buy a 3/5T, upgrade and token Indianapolis and connect St. Louis, which gave me a run of $17/share in OR1.2---just enough to double jump.

Fortunately, the IC had no obvious route to the East, so no one bought any shares---not even me. The price dropped back to $90, and I double-jumped again and bought a 4T. Meanwhile the NYC and PA sold out (with a lot of help from me.) The IC was putting 7 shares of dividends into treasury (and then 6 shares when I splashed a second share) even as it paid out in full. I put my last two tokens in Toledo and Detroit, was able to buy a 4/6T and a 7/8T without blinking an eye, and won comfortably with my ugly duckling company!

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7. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:29]
Board Game: Agricola
Joshua Gottesman
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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Not much gaming this week. I didn't go to Tuesday night gaming, and Friday/Saturday morning I was in a leadership seminar, so that left Saturday evening, where I played 1 game of Agricola where I was hugely screwed in turn order, and took 2 begging cards and ended up with a miserable 25. There is one guy in our group who is the best Agricola player I've seen, and he scored 73. The next 2 highest combined totaled 75. 73 is also the highest score I've ever seen. That was actually my 2nd game of the night, as I 1st played The Manhattan Project with a couple of expansions. I think I was DFL in that one, too, although it was fun. That's a game I like, and I just flail around when it comes to strategy.

This should be a busier gaming week.
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8. Board Game: RoboRally [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:428]
Board Game: RoboRally
Garry Rice
United States
Perkasie
Pennsylvania
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 9.0   RoboRally x2

Taught Caleb how to play the game...I managed to squeak in for the win 2 moves ahead of Caleb in the first game, and by a few more moves ahead in the second game. He enjoyed the programming aspect of the game...and with 2 players it wasn't as chaotic, which might turn him off...

 8.0   Vanuatu

Thankfully finally finished off this game on BAJ...it's a game I used to enjoy, but I think my enjoyment of the game has waned quite a bit.
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9. Board Game: For the Crown (Second Edition) [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:4042]
Board Game: For the Crown (Second Edition)
Jevon Heath
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
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_9_ 1x For the Crown (with all the fixin's!)
_9_ 1x Duel of Ages II
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10. Board Game: Star Wars: Imperial Assault [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:40]
Board Game: Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Larry Rice
United States
North Newton
Kansas
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New to Me:

d10-5 Krakatoa
d10-4 Vienna

Return Visits:

d10-5 Star Wars: Imperial Assault x3
d10-7 Sheep & Thief x2
d10-8 Age of Craft
d10-7 Bora Bora
d10-8 Churchill
d10-7 Five Tribes with Five Tribes: The Artisans of Naqala
d10-8 Small City

Musings:

Krakatoa was amusing at first - a bit of choice, a bit of dice dexterity, and a bunch of luck. Glad to play once, probably done with the game now.

Very glad to be finished with the campaign of Star Wars Imperial Assault. The last three missions weren't overly exciting for me as the IMPs as the Wookie's powers were ridiculous as he could take out a whole squad with each activation. Hard to do much against that. Finished with that one as well and don't expect to ever revisit that title. Kind of funny, but I enjoy Pathfinder much more than Star Wars Imperial Descent even though that almost feels like blasphemy typing this...

Vienna works just fine but it felt like JASE - pretty soulless and nothing that excited me. Would work well as a family-esque game most likely.

Continue to really enjoy Age of Craft - played a PnP copy which worked just fine despite the joy we had in providing constructive criticism for the owner...

Uncertain how I feel about Five Tribes with the expansion. I won even though I thought I was out of it early but it was painful - all of us struggled with AP. Part of it may well have been the surprisingly diverse distribution of meeples out of the gate - there was no way anyone could claim a tile as the first player and we generally weren't very helpful to those behind us...

Finally played the full campaign of Churchill which was quite fun. Played in about 4 hours with three people who knew the game. I misread the game state and dominated a bit too much in points so I lost since I was too far ahead. The game ended in 9 rounds and I was shocked to win 6 conferences as the USA.

Small City is a keeper. Really enjoyed this recent play with mostly correct rules and the park variant. Goal for next play is no rule errors and perhaps trying out the advanced game. We'll see...
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11. Board Game: Alchemists [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:106]
Board Game: Alchemists
Doug Faust
United States
Malverne
New York
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On Monday (Labor Day in the US), I was at an impromptu game day at Micah's house.

_5_ Escalation! x2 (new!) - This was with me, Anni, Brian, Anthony, Stephanie, and one other. Everyone was new except Anthony and Stephanie, and Brian bailed after the first game. This game was pretty much 100% luck. Basically, you played a card or set of cards higher than the previous, or you took all the cards in the middle. In the first game, I tied with Brian for the win. In the second game, I very much did not win.

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_6_ The Game (new!) - This was with me, Anni, Brian, and Tom; I think everyone except Brian was new. Hard to go through the play-by-play here, we played a bunch of numbers on the piles, and we didn't really feel any pressure until the end of the game. We had a couple of -10 plays along the way, which helped. People were cringing a little at the end, but we ended up winning.

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_7_ Santiago - This was with me, Anni, Brian, Tom, and one other. Everyone had played (but not for a while) except the guy whose name I forgot. I tried to big aggressively to go early when there were one or two good things, and basically take the turn off when there weren't. Brian always seemed to outbid me, and grabbed all of the good palm trees early on. I was doing okay, but I got shut out of the second-largest field. I was the overseer in the last round, and really wanted the canal to go a particular way, but Tom was the only other player who wanted it to go that way, and couldn't afford to bribe me, so I was forced to make it go a different way (I didn't have the money to outbid). I'm not sure how much it would've mattered, as Brian destroyed us all.

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_7_ Alchemists - This was with me, Brian, Tom, and Mike; we had all played before (though I had only played a half-game). We were playing the master variant. This being my first full game, I ended up playing way too conservatively. I was going to make a hedged publication right before the first conference, but I used a card that let me make an early test, which gave me enough info to know it for sure. Still, I was a turn behind both Brian and Tom, though it turned out that Tom didn't know anything and was just making wild guesses all over the place to get an early lead. I soon figured out enough information on a second ingredient, and debunked Mike's hedged publication on that ingredient in the process of making my own. After that, though, I was having trouble isolating other ingredients, and the board was pretty much filled up as far as new stuff was concerned. I was money-poor the entire game, so endorsing other people's stuff was really hard. Eventually most of Tom's stuff got debunked, and he took some pretty major penalties in the process. Brian was out in the lead for most of the game, but Mike did a nice job catching up in the end with artifacts. Brian still won, though.

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_8_ Race for the Galaxy - Same group here, we all had played before. I actually used one of my least favorite start worlds, the Rebel Cantina. I played a mix of planets with some military that I acquired as well as paying with the Cantina. Unfortunately, there was no one with a production strategy, so the Produce phase didn't happen too often. I was able to take the uplift goal placard right before Mike could, so that was good. Unfortunately, I was only able to tie Brian on the big Rebel placard at the end, so just 3 more points there. I got some points for the Terraforming Guild too. It wasn't nearly enough though, as I placed third. Brian won.

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On Friday, I went to Anni's friend/colleague Alycia's apartment for a game night.

_5_ Cosmic Encounter - This was with me, Alycia, Mike, and Kate; Kate was new, but I think everyone else had played at least once before. We weren't playing with the red difficulty aliens. I started out with the Fodder, Alycia was the Hate, Kate was the Healer, and I think Mike was the Calculator. I lost practically my entire hand to a negotiate on the first turn, and spent the rest of the round futilely trying to help defend people, not knowing that if I had no hand I'd draw back up to 8. Well, all my defensive efforts failed, but fortunately we found the rule about drawing back up when it was my turn again and I had no cards. Anyway, we did the Cosmic Encounter thing for a while, and somehow Alycia and I ended up switching alien powers midway through the game. For some reason most of the action was on Alycia's and Mike's planet, and both of them lost their power. Kate, on the other hand, was completely uninvaded. We never had many ships in the warp because of Kate's ability, but eventually she became more stingy with it. Toward the end of the game, Mike, Kate, and I were all tied at 4, while Alycia was at 3. Mike and I both made our bids to end the game, but we both failed. Kate then attacked me, and despite our attempt at defense, she played a 40 attack and won. She then revealed to us that she had the Filch flare and had been stealing cards (including the 40 I played a few turns ago) from the discard pile for a while.
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12. Board Game: Hive Pocket [Average Rating:7.69 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.69 Unranked]
Board Game: Hive Pocket
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4 x Hive Pocket
3 x Jaipur
2 x Lost Cities
1 x Citadels
1 x Star Realms

Since I'm couple weeks late, will be very short this time, and write only few words about games played in particular week. The reasons of my absence? Well, I'll explain it tomorrow, since it will be my week to host Amoeba GeekList. Don't miss it.

Hive was nice and new to me experience, but as usually with abstracts - they don't get much playing time around here. Although nominated by many as best abstract game of all time, Hive will not change it.
Now Jaipur is way more exciting 2 player game. Quick, portable (takes quite a lot of space on table though) and fun. First time tried Citadels (as recommended by many) 2 player version, and was lukewarm. The game is so much better with more players.
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