GCL Phoenix 256: The Zenzizenzizenzic Phoenix (29th November 2015)
Rich P
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Sheffield
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Welcome to the 256th GCL Phoenix geeklist. More info on the Phoenix Game Chat League is here and general GCL info is here.

Members are encouraged to add an item to the list and we love comments from and discussion with visitors too. Please thumb the list so we know you stopped by.

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From gallery of woodnoggin


The zenzizenzizenzic Phoenix is like the normal Phoenix but raised to the power of eight. I was thinking about the importance of the number 256 in computing - the number of colours available in a GIF image or the number of characters in extended ASCII, for example - when I happened across this wonderful 16th century word (here's what wikipedia has to say about it). I'll come back to that later because there was something else on my mind before I realised this was the 2-to-the-8th Phoenix geeklist.

Phoenixes to the power of eight:
archivists Next!
chally
darker
Dormammu
familygaming
Hawkeye77
hawk-x-
indigopotter
karlfast
Lowengrin
Morganza
ravenskana
rynelf
Smintie
tjshields
woodnoggin

Obscure mathematical curiosities:
BennyD
bruzza
Eeeville
enzo622
JohnRayJr
judoka
leroy43
Mr_Nuts
Taibi
topherr
Yokiboy
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1. Board Game: Peer Review [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Peer Review
Rich P
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Sheffield
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Recently I received a Geekmail from the designer of New York 1901, a game I'd played at Essen. He'd noticed I rated it -3- and was surprised because less than 1% of the ratings were this low. In my post-Essen geeklist I noted I'd only played the Basic game, as that was what was being offered at the demo tables - he suggested I try it again "the way it was meant to be played". Some might say that if the rules present a Basic and Normal version, both could be considered valid ways to play the game. Maybe I should give the designer the benefit of the doubt here - it may well have been the publisher's decision to include the Basic variant which I found unsatisfactory.

See also this thread where the designer apologises for the Essen demoes. The thing is, we barely spoke to the demo woman and learnt the game from the rulebook itself instead so the demoer isn't really to blame in our case. Where to from here? I've considered a few options:

- Actively seek to play the game again using the Normal rules rather than the Basic ones;
- Try it again if I happen across the game and there's no better option available at the time;
- Forget about it - gaming time is too precious to waste on revisiting games I didn't like in the hope they get better with different rules.

What would you do in this situation?

One of my colleagues suggested I ask for a free copy of the game to allow me to revisit my review. laugh
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2. Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:37]
Board Game: Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
Rich P
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United Kingdom
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This isn't the first time a designer has contacted me regarding the rating of one of their games. One of the chaps behind Tzolk'in Geekmailed me a while ago asking why I'd rated it lower than his other game, Sheepland. He said I was the only person he'd heard of who preferred Sheepland to Tzolk'in. He wasn't complaining, rather expressing amazement.

Have you ever been contacted by a designer about the rating or review you've given to one of their games? Did you consider revisiting your review as a result? To what extent is it appropriate, wise even, for a designer to monitor the ratings of their games in such a way?

Do you think the ease of communication between designers and reviewers on BGG has an effect on how games are rated? Do designers who positively interact with the community receive more favourable treatment than those who disengage? Should they?

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3. Board Game: Outside the Scope of BGG [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:3354]
Board Game: Outside the Scope of BGG
Rich P
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United Kingdom
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Outside of BGG, do you write reviews or give ratings to products elsewhere? What sort of things? Has this ever resulted in feedback or comment from the creator of those products? Does the fact that the creator of the product can contact the reviewer easily affect the type of review you'd write?

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4. Board Game: Zendo [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:810]
Board Game: Zendo
Rich P
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Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Back to zenzizenzizenzic, which "doeth represent the square of squares squaredly". With the paucity of online references to this word - each leads back to wikipedia - there's every chance it was contrived by some scallywag for a jape. Not just a mathematical oddity but a linguistic one too: six Z's make it the only hexazetic English word (not much use in Scrabble). What are some of your favourite unusual words? Bonus points if they have mathematical allusions too.

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5. Board Game: Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.45 Overall Rank:6]
Board Game: Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
Rich P
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United Kingdom
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|9| Hansa Teutonica
-8- Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
-8- Visby (+Extra Player Pack)
-7- Deus
-7- Royal Goods
-7- Ticket to Ride: Switzerland

I finished a very close three-player game of Through the Ages this afternoon. The military lead switched hands several times throughout the game, although none of us managed a successful aggression and the game hung in the balance right until the final event card was revealed. Very pleasing, especially as I thought I was out of the running having gone into Age III with only three basic bronze mines, with no resource upgrades. The original is a great game and the tweaks in this updated version are all good from what I've seen but I wonder what I'm going to do with my old edition now.

Visby was also a tight match - the first time we've had to use the tie-breaker of remaining wares to determine the winner.

Things went surprisingly smoothly in Deus and for once I felt like I had an effective plan. I rushed the end with a conquering strategy that was just enough to sneak ahead of Kate's shipping engine.

It was great to revisit Hansa Teutonica. It had been long enough since we last played that we stuck to the base game to remind ourselves of the rules despite there being two expansion maps I'd like to play more. I focussed on getting merchants into Coellen but lost out to Jake's tight but dense network of kontors.

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6. Board Game: Codenames [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:84] [Average Rating:7.63 Unranked]
Board Game: Codenames
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Friday at Black Friday:

Visby as a player-summoning game; Dave P. crushed us and Dave E. saw that, as predicted, it is not his kind of game.

The Gallerist with Dave, Dave, and Dave. (I've been told that I'm an honorary Dave, as this is not the first time I've played at this table. Three of my very favorite opponents.)

Ships (New!) A game of timing probably better with three than 4.

Codenames with an assortment of people who had varying amounts of trouble avoiding table talk. (Ahem!) Sadly I did not get a picture of Dave P. covering his face with his hands to avoid passing excess information.

Saturday at Rynelf's BAP:

The Gallerist with Dave E., Eric R., and Eric's son Q. As expected Eric added 50% to the length of the teaching and game and crushed us all.

Guns & Steel (new!) 3p
Clever civ-building game where each turn you play two of your double-sided cards, one as its resource and one as its action side, and buy your way up the cards of the tech tree. I stumbled into a military strategy when my opponents beat me to the peaceful cards I wanted, and won handily. Dave says military may be overpowered, though if the whole table goes military it should balance out.

Schotten Totten (new!) Well, a variant, inadvertently combining rules from one of the many published versions with cards from another. A lot more tension than I'd expected in this game, though unsatisfying that it came down to "will I or my opponent draw the card we both need?"
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7. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:259]
Board Game: Acquire
 10   Bridge
we've been taking lessons since April and this week we finally attained the level of ADVANCED BEGINNER! advanced beginner, people!!! at this rate i will progress beyond beginner by my retirement. and our instructor told the 4 of us (friends that are taking the class together) that we need to practice far more if we intend to improve!!! all that ego-boosting aside , i'm having a lot of fun with this and love it more and more.

Friday at Ien's, with Jen, Pau, and Sean (and Zilla)
 9   Acquire
 8   Condottiere
 5   Crokinole x2

we had a lovely gaming session at Ien's place, complete with Thanksgiving leftovers and some impressive Pumpkin Pie with Egg Nog Ice Cream a la mode, paired with spiked warm apple cider.

Ien won Acquire, but only because he changed the rules so that he could win. i kid! we did get a rule VERRRY wrong, but i was just as much at fault as Ien as we had both played multiple times before. we were multiplying the stock price by the number of tiles in the chain which resulted in exponentially huge buy and sell prices. the player aid cards detailing stock prices in Ien's copy was unfortunately worded to say "per stock/per block".

this was followed by a brutal game of Condottiere, won by Pau. i performed horribly, but that doesn't keep me from loving this game even more. perhaps it is time to raise my rating!!!

tired of losing, i made sure to team up with Ien for Crokinole, which resulted in my only victory for the day.

i'm trying to get a copy of Visby and extra player packs because of Rich's incessant yapping. and i'm making a billion little tuckboxes for all my card games. i'm excited about it!
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8. Board Game: Tragedy Looper [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:666]
Board Game: Tragedy Looper
Ben
United States
Ann Arbor
Michigan
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Ann Arbor
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Games Played:
.10! Texas Hold 'Em
.10! Times Up!
_9_ Tragedy Looper (x2)
_8_ Mombasa
_8_ Codenames
_7_ Indonesia New!
_6_ Uluru
_6_ Big Boss New!
_6_ Quebec New!
_6_ Ponzi Scheme New!
_6_ The Resistance
_5_ Food Chain Magnate (x2) New!
_5_ A Study in Emerald
_5_ Dark Moon New!
_5_ Mottainai New!
_4_ Macao New!
_4_ 25 Words or Less New!
_3_ Sissi!: Die Bohnenkaiserin New!
_3_ Porta Nigra
_3_ Rome: City of Marble New!
_3_ Yardmaster Express New!


Gaming Notes: Since I didn't post a list last week and didn't play any games this week, this post will reflect my BGG.Con experience. I'll update it with some specifics as soon as I am able.
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9. Board Game: Cinque Terre [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1649]
Board Game: Cinque Terre
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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Thursday November 26th
The Mill Game, with my dad - new to us
Cartagena with my dad and Sam - first time 3p

Friday November 27th
Cartagena with my dad and Sam

Saturday November 28th
Cinque Terre x2 with Sam

Over a year dusty?!? How is that possible? Well, I guess moving and related craziness over the last year.

I love the number 256. In our Calculus class, we always said the answer was either 256 or 1. I used to be exceedingly jealous of a friend who had extension 256 on her work phone, and she said that math geek friends always commented on it.

Still blue sky and green grass here.
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10. Board Game: Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:186]
Board Game: Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King
Lo
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

_7_ Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King x1


The Week in Review

Not a great week for gaming, but I was pretty much incapacitated from Wednesday evening through to Friday morning. And other obligations gobbled up the weekend.

S's and my one play of Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King did result in my first win of this game (on our sixth play). Other than that, not a lot of gaming news around here. I did spend some time researching Runebound (Third Edition) as a possible alternate game for S, K and I to play (instead of Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients). It's not cooperative, but the player vs player interaction seems rather limited as players race to complete the main objective.


The Week Ahead

Food Chain Magnate and Pax Pamir should arrive this week. I'm just a bit apprehensive that both these games will be a bust with S. Picking the right time to sit her down with these is going to be critical given their complexity. Her level of patience at the time may be the determining factor.

Unplayed games of note in shrink: De Vulgari Eloquentia, Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, Marvel Dice Masters: Uncanny X-Men and Revolution: The Dutch Revolt 1568-1648. Also The Hobbit saga expansions for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game: Over Hill and Under Hill and On the Doorstep.

Unplayed games of note not in shrink: Neuland.

Ordered: Food Chain Magnate and Pax Pamir.
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11. Board Game: Bus [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:880]
Board Game: Bus
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 28Nov2015:

16/45/626 plays of 14/29/237 total games, with 4/4/34 expansions employed.
Plays with 18/31/146 distinct opponents.

0/2/54 games acquired (plus 0/2/14 expansions.)
0/0/7 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/0 expansions.)
2/9/33 games ordered (plus 0/3/9 expansions.) - MarraCash and Mombasa.
Orders for 11 games and 3 expansions still outstanding.

With son#2:
1x _10_ Race for the Galaxy (with Rebel vs Imperium, The Brink of War and The Gathering Storm) - Another emphasis on the military portion of the tactical space, and again a loss. I tried to convince him that a lighter play style - allowing for dynamic course correction, as the cards encourage - was a better play. But, for the moment, at least, he resisted the thought.
1x _7⅔_ Starship Merchants - I think of this one much like I think of Ships. (A timing game where the emphasis is more on when one does the actions rather than anything particularly subtle about which actions are chosen.) Son #2 does not: he found Ships rather uninteresting, while he loves Starship Merchants. In any event, this is a game he understands and plays well: I have to make excellent decisions to beat him, and I didn't this time out.

With the Monday lunch group:
1x _7⅔_ The King Is Dead - Still haven't tried the Mordred variant. This is a 3p game, which works nicely. And it ends up being a really nice lunchtime game: it can be explained coherently and carefully and then played all within an hour: so we didn't feel so bad coming back on Wednesday for...
1x _9_ Food Chain Magnate - This was very cool. While none of us played exceptionally well (in fact, rather the opposite: we were far too gentle one with the other) the game demonstrated another set of pathologies that I'd not previously learned. And so my exploration of the game and its manifold dynamics continues. Perhaps someday I might even win!

With the Wednesday night gang:
1x _9_ Food Chain Magnate - Then a couple hours later, I got to play again with a completely different group. This too was completely delightful. But also a dramatically different experience to the afternoon game: the Wednesday night gang are happy to behave as in-game-maliciously as required to achieve victory. For my part, I was roundly defeated, coming an abject last. And really enjoyed myself, too!

At an excellent Black Friday event:
1x _7_ Visby New! - A cool little player-summoning (successful!) game; and quite cute. It's a bit more of a blind-bid exercise than I might prefer; though also distinctly fast enough that it doesn't bug me. So: happy to play again, even if not quite my thing.
1x _7⅔_ The Gallerist New! - Charming; quite evocative; clear for a Lacerda (and this is from someone who felt he still didn't understand all the dynamics of KanBan after his first game.) I'm not convinced we played well as a group, but it was cool, and the actions we did made sense. Understanding who was leading, and what our actions might do to relative position was hard for me (though I did try!) To a great degree, I played primarily to enhance my position, and only very modestly to get in the way of others. I think (a bit) more interference would have been better play on my part.
1x _8_ Codenames - A mob game. It was charming and silly and fun. I really enjoyed it. We turned the timer over a lot, too.
1x _7⅓_ Ships - I might have preferred to play with 3, simply to see how that might change things up over my previous 2p and 4p games. But this, too, was a 4p game.
Fortunately, though, the participants were more engaged in the proceedings this time out, and some entertaining patterns (for good and ill) developed. I'm still not convinced it's a particularly good game (though it could be easily better with 3p) - but I wasn't unhappy with the play, either. On the continued-disappointment front, though, the very final turn saw a kingmakery situation that I fear may easily occur.

With cool folk at BAP:
1x _7⅔_ Roll for the Galaxy (with Ambition) - A 2p player-summoning thing. And pretty successful, too. It was my first try with my copy of Ambition; which was easy enough for me to include in the "default view" for a new player. My opponent is friend Dave who is completely familiar with RftG: so teaching by analogy is easy. It doesn't hurt at all that Roll is his kind of game. (And likely an experience that he enjoyed more than me,)
1x _7⅔_ The Palaces of Carrara - We included our third player in this one. I think I failed to stress how abruptly the game can end: I did describe the fact that the duration is entirely in player hands - but stressing the fact that one needs to pay attention to how close one's opponents (and in this case, I specifically mean "me") are to finishing the objectives was likely not accomplished sufficiently forcefully.
So while the others were amused, the end happened (subjectively) very unexpectedly; and the scores were somewhat lopsided - since both of my opponents were playing for a (significantly) longer game than I was.
1x __ Bus - I should likely raise this one to a _9_: I find this very very entertaining. This crew of four behaved (at least by my standards) very well: time was stopped three times, and the winning score was 8! It was glorious.
1x _8_ Pax Pamir - I was the weak link in this one; I threw the game to Dave, in my attempt to stop Chris' seemingly-inevitable imminent victory. Compared to the Ships experience, I'm (distinctly) less convinced that the kingmakering is necessary or inherent: here it was simply bad play (on my part.) So I'm looking forward to learning to play better.
1x _7_ The Front Nine New! - It's cute - but I ran out of time, and we didn't finish it. Again (sounds like the refrain for this week!) I'm not convinced we played well. For my part, I overvalued the (rather small) points that one can make for final course distance, and didn't spend nearly enough time considering the bonuses for each building material. I may have considered the cards for bonus stars and course length; but since we didn't finish, it's not clear to me how that might have turned out. It was cute (even if it would likely outstay its welcome modestly.) I'd give it another shot if the opportunity presented itself.

With friends Saturday night:
1x _10_ Race for the Galaxy (with Rebel vs Imperium, The Brink of War and The Gathering Storm) - This one included both son #2 and friend Dave. Dave didn't know what to expect from son #2 - which is likely the most significant factor in him not winning (he's a very find RftG player.) Son #2 continued his monomaniacal focus on military deployments, and not entirely to his benefit. But - to his credit - he was amenable to the argument (after the game) that a bit broader focus might be to his benefit.
1x _8_ Ubongo 3-D - T (friend Dave's foreign exchange temporary daughter - or perhaps with a slight rearrangement of those words, if you prefer) and I tried the crazy 3D Ubongo set. She was familiar with the series (as a young German person, German Family Games are something she thinks are fairly ordinary; and she claimed her mom "liked Ubongo.") Unfortunately, the 3D version was too perplexing for her - though she thought her mom might enjoy it.

Owned-and-unplayed: 0 (+0/-0)
Owned-and-played-once: 94 (+0/-2) - Pax Pamir and The King Is Dead were played again.

Outlook for the week: Probably a game Monday at lunch; likely a game or two with youngsters; perhaps something this Wednesday. Three choir practices (in each case, the antepenultimate rehearsal before our concert(s). Hopefully we've got the hang of the music by now!)

Edited for spelling and grammar. Likely more blunders remain.
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12. Board Game: Mysterium [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:236]
Board Game: Mysterium
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Games Played

_9_ Codenames 3
_8_ Roll for the Galaxy 3
_8_ One Night Ultimate Werewolf 2
_7_ 7 Wonders Duel 2
_7_ Food Chain Magnate 1
_7_ Ships 1
_7_ Mysterium 1
_6_ Among the Stars 1

Week in Review

Sleep now. Words later.

[EDIT starts here] time for an update, no caps edition

codenames is still great, though playing with strangers really makes me appreciate my friends!

the roll for the galaxy expansion needs to do more. i have played more without the objectives than with them, so i need to give them more of a workout. i didn't like goals all that well in race, and that has colored my enthusiasm for them. but i must admit that the rewards for objectives are more interesting, having an in-game effect if not used as vp.

one night ultimate werewolf was actually one night ultimate vampire. realistically this is the same game and i will be tracking plays of it under the same heading. the major addition here are marks. these are tokens that can have an effect on how you play and these tokens can be manipulated in the same way role cards can. so there is a robber equivalent that swaps marks where the robber swaps cards. the big difference is that marks are handed out and manipulated in a dusk phase and players wake up after the dusk phase and check their mark (they start with a "nothing" mark); this may alter how they play their night phase and/or their win condition. i liked what i saw and naturally it integrates with the original game and first expansion, allowing for three main factions in a single game: villagers, werewolves and vampires.

i approve of 7 wonders: duel. it can be quite mean, which may be a problem for my girlfriend (she does not like being attacked). but i think this makes it a stronger 2P game as the drafting has strong interaction.

i won food chain magnate with pizza, as mentioned in the last list. i enjoyed pulling off the "go big" strategy, which i hadn't seen win yet. between my "first radio" radio campaign and a well-positioned mailbox campaign, all spewing out pizza demand, no one could produce enough pizza to prevent me from selling all of mine. i combined "first pizza marketed" and a luxuries manager to get $45 for a single pizza from garden buyers. i broke the bank in one big avalanche turn and ended with over $500 in a 4P game with an $800 second bank. i love the board-play but the card-play doesn't thrill me. i'm happy to play FCM, but it's my least favorite Splotter. i hope to get a copy of Indonesia if it gets reprinted in 2016.

ships is a strong 7. i really like the warring tempos of the ship track and the board regions. there is good strong interaction, even if it doesn't involve attacking or stealing (except that one single card, Pirates, which seems oddly out of place in the game). i like tempo games and this game is all tempo, all the time.

mysterium is still worse than Dixit. i wish it were worth owning but it just isn't.

among the stars was my first play using the revival expansion, which has is designed around 2P play. there's something about among the stars i can't pin down that keeps it from being truly good. it feels flat. i like it but i can't get enthused. i think it's too much about simple vp accumulation. i need to play a game using the conflict rules (which are in the base game) to see if that spices up the interest level in building a space station. also, it takes up way too much table space!!
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13. Board Game: Linko! [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:851]
Board Game: Linko!
Tom Shields
United States
Tacoma
Washington
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Abbluxxen (no, not not Linko) x1 (New)
Khmer x4

Thanksgiving was with my girls, and their boys, down on the south Oregon coast. It was wonderful. I just love it when we're together, everything is right with the world & they're so damn funny. To add to the fun, Zoe's writing a novel for NaNoWriMo & sharing it chapter by slogging chapter, so it was delicious to have her dragging her laptop about & getting her word count for the day as it closes on month's end.

Abluxxen as a T-Day hit. We all loved it, and Zoe (eldest daughter) took it with 21. We could all see the strategic ideas emerge during play and it tickled us all. What a fun one too, everyone got excited. I rated it an immediate '9,' it has that special juice. I never would have thought a set collection, gin style cargame could be this fun. Brilliant.

Khmer was a pleasure too, it was fun to teach my nephew & see his eyes get wide & we each took a series 7-5. It's good to play with someone who knows when to fold & gets the tug-of-war.
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14. Board Game: Patchwork [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:82]
Board Game: Patchwork
W M
United Kingdom
Rugby
Warwickshire
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Patchwork arrived from the Czech Republic of all places and S. and I played a game each of the last two nights. The first time S. thrashed me, and the second I ended considerably ahead. While there seems to be meaningful decisions, and I very much enjoy the game, we haven't yet figured out how to do well or why we don't.

I picked eldest son up early from Nursery today so we had an hour and I gave him the choice of one of his or my games (he now has his own game shelf with a growing number of titles)- he picked Froschkönig - from my shelf. I've had this for years but never before played the game, (only making patterns with the lovely coloured pieces).

It is a fun feeling/guessing/push your luck/race game. You delve into a bag of differently sized wooden sticks (frog tongue sections), blindly choosing two long enough to reach the flies in a section of the board, but not too long to overshoot. The longest successful tongue flick gets to put their longest piece on a frog who is reaching across the pond to kiss a Princess, while in the zone but less far, may place their smaller section.

Simple enough. C. got the concept immediately and was fairly proficient after a couple of turns. He was a little upset in our first game where my frog kissed the Princess and he lost. The second game we both reached the Princess at the same time.

He's asked to play it again tomorrow.

On Friday I made it to FNM ( Battle for Zendikar draft) and went 3-0 to win it. I drafted a black/white control deck with tons of good removal spells to kill opponents creatures and a few sizeable Eldrazi creatures to kill the opponent.

Gaming week ahead - RoB tomorrow and may have recruited a new member who is keen to come along - we lent a Haba game to his kids.

Going to try and get a game of Agricola in this evening.

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15. Board Game: Shephy [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:3991]
Board Game: Shephy
Karl Fast
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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Instead of listing the games I played in the previous week, I tend to focus on one game that I have played. Often that's a new game. Or at least, a new to me game.

This week's game is Shephy, a solitaire game from Japan.

Since I expect few people have played this, I'll spend a bit more effort on explaining how it works. The rules and card flow are pretty simple though.

How It Works

The goal is to build your flock of sheep from 1 sheep to at least 1000 before you finish three rounds of play.

You work with two sets of cards. The first set is series of seven card stacks that represent some number of sheep. The stacks get progressively larger: ones, threes, tens, thirties, hundreds, three hundreds, and thousands. Each stack has seven cards. So there are seven ones, seven threes, seven tens, so forth.

Board Game: Shephy


Your flock is a row of up to seven cards that goes below the stacks of sheep cards. You start with 1 sheep in your flock. You'll try to get a second 1 card. Then another. Then you'll try to upgrade a 1 sheep card to a 3 sheep card. Then add another a 10, and so forth. But your flock has a limit of 7 sheep cards, so it's about getting cards into your flock and upgrading them, not just getting cards.

You do all this -- getting sheep cards and upgrading them -- with the event deck. This is the crux of the game. There are 22 event cards. Most are unique, though a few have duplicates.

Board Game: Shephy


Some of the cards are good in that they let you add more cards or upgrade cards. For example, the "Be Fruitful" card lets you duplicate any card in your flock. "Golden Hooves" lets you upgrade as many cards in your flock as you want by one rank (so a one becomes a three, a ten becomes a thirty), except for your highest ranked sheep card.

There are also lots of bad cards. These, mostly, make you "release" sheep which means move them from your flock back to the stacks. "Falling Rock" makes you release one sheep. "Plague" makes you release all the sheep cards of a particular rank (e.g., all the 3 sheep cards). The Shephion makes you release seven sheep cards, but since you can only have seven sheep cards, this means your entire flock is wiped out. And if that happens you instantly lose the game. There are other bad cards and you can deal with them by using other event cards that, say, let you discard them for that round or even remove them from the game.

This is a hand management game. The key is knowing the event deck and figuring out how, given your hand, how to chain things together to upgrade and expand your flock. It has a mild Imperial Settlers feel in that you are constantly thinking about how you combo cards to build up what's in your tableau, always thinking about the cards you know are coming up, but you don't know when.

Thoughts So Far

This is an interesting game. The cardflow is simple and smooth. It doesn't involve much shuffling (I'm looking at you, Onirim). The way cards move into the flock and back to the stacks reminds me of classic solitaire games, while the event deck gives it a modern flavour.

It's also a challenge, at least so far. I logged 7 plays over the thanksgiving holiday and managed to win just once. That was my fourth game, which made me think "ho, ho, I'm so smart, or this game is easy, though I'll say it's probably a bit of both." Then I lost the next three games, including two games where I scored zero. Conclusion: not so smart, not so easy.

More precisely, the game seems challenging. Once I internalize the event deck I think the game will get a lot easier. What I don't yet know is how long will it take until I can effectively combo the event cards to deal with any situation, and also, will the game feel solved when I reach that stage.

So at this point I don't know how much game is in this box. But it doesn't need to give me hundreds of plays. Anything above a couple of dozen plays is enough.

Some other good points. The artwork is cute. The rules are simple. It doesn't take up much table space. It's a bit fiddly moving around the cards, but no more than I would expect from a game like this.

The downside is that it's hard to find. I ordered a copy through Amazon and it took about three weeks to arrive, coming from god-knows-where. I didn't find this the usual places. So it might be hard to track down, and even if you do, it might cost more than you'd expect for a solitaire game like this. If money is a concern you're better off with something like Onirim, Sylvion, or Friday.

How does it compare to those? So far I like it as much as Onirim, and perhaps more since the rules are much cleaner and there is less shuffling. I have a number of other solitaire games, most notably Urbion, Sylvion, Castellion, Friday, and SOS Titanic. But I have yet to get around to any of them (putting on the proverbial gaming hairshirt), so I can't really do a comparison yet.

If you're looking for a small, quick, portable, solitaire game -- something outside the Oniverse titles, or Friday -- this is an option. If you can find it, that is.

Four Other TidBits

The game was originally a Print-N-Play from the designer's website. It seems to still be available, but everything is in Japanese.

A mini-version of the game was printed as Chepy. I think it's the same game.

Someone recently spotted a prototype version of a 2-5 player version of the game. This was mentioned in the Shephy forums earlier this month. I'd buy that!

Tony Boydell of Snowdonia fame seems to be a big fan of the game.
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16. Board Game: The Great Zimbabwe [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:345]
Board Game: The Great Zimbabwe
R. Eric Reuss
United States
Massachusetts
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No games last week, but I (finally!) finished off my BGG GeekList.

Here's the ratings and very short synopses:

 10   The Great Zimbabwe NEW! - Worth the wait; awesome table. WORSHIP BEFORE MY GOD.
 10   For the Crown (Second edition) - Hoping Jerry doesn't regret playing this. Had dinner with the designer one evening.
 *   Spirit Island x2 - Played with an avid playtester met in person for the first time.

 8   Deception: Murder in Hong Kong x2 NEW! - My favorite Resistance-ish game thus far.
 8   Food Chain Magnate NEW! - Overwhelming options, but exploration was fun, and non-learning play looks pleasantly bastardly.
 8   Ponzi Scheme NEW! - Delicious and unique, though some kingmaking concerns.

 7   Nippon NEW! - Lots of this game is just "buy stuff", but the parts which aren't are interesting and different.
 7   Above and Below NEW! - It's like Arabian Nights, but actually a game!
 7   Eight-Minute Empire - Solid quick filler. Won with high diversity of goods - unusual.
 7   Inhabit the Earth NEW! - This game is not Innovation. Parsing six continents is hard.
 7   SHH NEW! - Restricted-communication co-op of spelling words together. Comes in a tiny, tiny box.
 7?   Mombasa NEW! - I loved it while playing it, but find myself weirdly averse to the book track in retropect despite finding it clever. Also, theme.

 6   The Gallerist NEW! - Fun experience due to the players, but I'd rather play Kanban.
 6   Between Two Cities x2 NEW! - I want to see heavier games that use this framework.
 6   Dimension NEW! - Sadly, a version of this with larger pyramids / more complex rules is probably financially inviable.
 6   Lanterns: The Harvest Festival - Pleasant, familiar, pretty.

 5   Rolling Japan NEW! - Strangely, less appealing to me than Qwixx despite being spatial. What?

 4   Loop Inc. NEW! - Excellent translation of time travel into a mechanical framework. The game therein didn't do much for me.
 4   Area 1851 NEW! - If only the Gadgets had in-game effects, I might have loved this.

    Unpublished Prototype (Opposed press-your-luck) x2 - Fun to test, but we stayed up way too late doing it.
    Unpublished Prototype (Fantasy Rails) - Still wants development/balancing, but the core mechanics were interesting and engaging.
    Tiny Epic Western NEW! - not strongly my type of game, but I quite enjoyed the poker-hand mechanics surrounding buildings, and our feedback was useful.

~ ~ ~
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17. Board Game: 1989: Dawn of Freedom [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:573]
Board Game: 1989: Dawn of Freedom
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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Board Game: StreetSoccer
Board Game: Pueblo
Board Game: Innovation
Board Game: Haggis
Board Game: Clans
Board Game: Baseball Highlights: 2045
Board Game: 1989: Dawn of Freedom


Any week where I play 1989, of course 1989 will be the highlight. I'm simply enamoured by its volatile, tense, yet accessible game-play.

Wednesday Meetup
 7   StreetSoccer
 8   Pueblo
So as I mentioned about a month ago, I started going to a new monthly meetup -- hosted by a lovely couple. I got there late this month (as I was running around all afternoon), and still wanted to attend, even if late, as I had arranged to meet there make a trade (TtAges for Fealty; omg is the box ever large -- get working on an expansion Eric!) and rectify some money stuff from a previous buy.

Luckily, I wasn't the only one to arrive late. Viral and I played a quick round of Streetsoccer -- he picked it up very quickly and scored a goal on me within the first two "minutes." I took the game eventually (experience really does pay off here, even for a "roll-and-move") but it was a tight and close affair going into over-time. I followed this up with a game of Pueblo to end the night with David, Viral, and Allyson. It (as always) is a pleasingly painful affair -- David came out on top of the construction phase with Viral being at the bottom of the pile (a high and sticking out piece really hurt him), but things went south during the deconstruction phase as players piled up on David (and me, as I was in second I believe) and we respectively ended up in 4th and 3rd with a point between us with Allyson taking the match.

Friday night at David's
 9   Innovation
 9   Haggis
 9   Clans x2
 8   Baseball Highlights: 2045
 9   1989: Dawn of Freedom

We started the night off with 1989 with David as the communists and me as the democrats. David took the win: he really knows how to 'hide away' dangerous cards and manage a deck. When partnered with a smidgeon of bad luck for me (in particular, losing a power struggle in Bulgaria which was in my favour), David continued to (masterfully) leverage this marginal advantage for it to become a blow out by year 5.

We followed this up with a game of Baseball Highlights: I think our decks were relatively balanced in terms of skills by mid-game. However, my economy was booming and it became a force to be reckoned with by late game. With Haggis, David's high-risk-high-reward finally came to rear its painful flipside. I've never seen a blow out like this one -- I was around 300 and David was around 50. However, David made ~200 points up (if not more) as I cleared the line.

Two matches of Clans followed this. The first game ended in David stating "unless you're blue, I've won" -- the tone said it all though, there was no way I was to be blue (especially after giving all colours but blue 10 points during the first scoring). Lo and behold - blue. The second match was a bit closer (i.e., 1 point) in which neither was sure as to which colour the other was. And, Innovation as a closer. David had an early scoring lead and special achievement run which had him at 5 achievements for a ~long~ time. I was playing the long game (i.e., symbol dominance, explicit attention to achieving mechanisms present) and it barely paid out, but it did pay out for the win in the end.

David's partner often asks "who won the night" when we play. Those of you keeping track at home might have counted more wins for me -- but the crushing victory in 1989 counts big (in my books). I was buried alive by mid-game. In turn, I answered: "David"
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18. Board Game: Plums [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:2343]
Board Game: Plums
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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This was a great week as we took our first international trip as a family to Zürich. My wife got the opportunity to teach a class there on Thanksgiving day and originally when we learned about it we thought it would be a good idea for a couples vacation, leaving the kids with family. However, we quickly learned that our other family wouldn't be able to accomodate the kids easily, and we have been wanting to do a family vacation, so we got the kids passports and made a go of it. We were there for a week overall and we had a great time. We spent one of the days in Lucerne and between the two cities we did quite a bit. We returned from our trip on Sunday but still recovering a bit and getting things done around here.


Games Played:

_8_ Plums x3

I had this card game on my radar as the designer is the same one who did Glen More, as well as Helvetia, which I like but have only played a few times; I was already planning on getting that played more soon as a tribute to our trip. As we were about on a small street near our apartment we saw a game and puzzle store and entered. I wasn't going to get a big game but I could justify a card game and it worked out well as it gave us something to do in the apartment after a long day.

The whole family played it on the day we bought it. The rules were pretty straightforward and by the end of the first part (there’s three parts in a game) we all were pretty good with the rules. My oldest son won with a score of 38 with 4 cards remaining in his tableau which was the tiebreaker over his brother who also had 38 but with 3 cards in his tableau. I had the third spot with 28 with my wife a point behind at 27 and my daughter scored 24.

After another day exploring Zürich we returned to this after dinner. This time my oldest son won again with 39 while I had second with 33. My daughter scored 25 and my son and wife tied at 24; he had 7 cards in his tableau to win the tiebreaker vs my wife’s 6 cards. I’ll have to remember to explain how tiebreakers work since it seems they are likely to happen.

For the third play, this time my oldest son and daughter were too tired and so my youngest son, my wife and I tried the three player game. My son won with 50; I had 37; my wife 26. The deck scales with the number of players and there is more control with three than five but I was happy with the higher player count as well.

So, what is this game? There's some weird theme related to Leonard Euler and Maria Sibylla Merian and there's cards using the Pi symbol and a bunch, bunch of fruit card. The name is a play on the expression "Pi mal Daumen" — "rule of thumb" so ... yeah, I can't explain the theme really. It's pretty though!

How to play? Real quick: Let's say you are playing five players and using all cards. You'll have three decks to shuffle, round 1, 2, and 3, along with some extra cards. The extra cards are a small deck of double-sided plums, a small deck of Pi cards (yes, 3.14... not a fruit pie), and there's one dog card. Oh, and some turn order cards.

The three decks all have 25 cards in them, numbered 1 to 25. The cards have fruits on them, and there are three of seven of the fruits in the deck, and the last card is the one plum in the deck (only used for five players). So we deal the first round of cards. Each player now has five cards, each with a number and a fruit type, and additionally, many cards have some kind of "action" on them. Start player selects one of the cards and plays it to start a "trick". The next player follows, but can play any card; you're not forced to follow the fruit of the card played before you (there's only three of each in a round, so this would be hard) so you're only concerned with how your number relates to the previously played card(s).

Once all players have played a card, take the turn order cards and place them so whoever played the highest numbered card gets first, second highest gets second, etc. The last player gets a card that has shows a plum card on it. Starting with the first player, each player will select one of the played cards and add it to their tableau, and possible do an action. The last player doesn't get a choice since they get the one card that is left, but does get a plum card in addition. This is good, so sometimes you want to "play high" to go first in the turn order and sometimes you want to "play low" to get the additional plum.

Oh, and when selecting your card, you can add in one or more "Pi" cards, if you collected them earlier, and those change the value of the card you are selecting, making it more likely to go higher in turn order.

You're collecting all these cards to score points in set collection, but you can only score a set if you have a card that shows a set with an associated VP value. So in the first round you can have AA meaning two like cards and in the last round have a ABCDE meaning you need five different cards. Cards are scored by removing them from the game, and keeping the card used for the specific set it scores for. It can be frustrating when you have a good set but not the card that scores it!

In addition to scoring points, cards can have you take an action to gain Pi cards to use when placing your card as mentioned above, or there's cards that allow you to steal a card from another player, or to bring the dog to your side, which protects you from theft. The whole thing isn't super complicated; my 10 year old daughter followed things fine, and there's decent interaction with stealing people's cards and trying to figure out what card to play when. Minimum player count is three not two, so it's not a couple's game, and it's possible with experience the five player game might seem like there's too much tactical play and not enough strategic play, but in learning the game it seems fine.
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19. Board Game: Witness [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:836]
Board Game: Witness
Games Played
11/26/15
Gaming over Thanksgiving with the in-laws.
Codenames x4
The unanimous hit.
Spot it! x3
Everyone enjoyed this one as well. The usual laughter and name calling. Everyone playing also decided to buy a copy for various kids in the family for Christmas.
Kakerlakenpoker Royal x2
Not as big of a hit as I was expecting. My youngest continues to dominate and scare the crap out of me for what this means for the future.
Too Many Cinderellas x2
It always surprises people how there is actually a bit more to this silly little game than what it first appears.

11/27/15
PitchCar x2
My youngest had requested this one and after a long time gathering dust on my shelf, I was happy to set up a track and get some races in.
Witness x2
A new purchase after BGG.Con. I was happy that it worked well with my girls and everyone reported that they liked it. I'm sure we are going to have to wait for some of the harder cases.

11/28/15
PitchCar x3
A flurry of plays after almost 3 years of gathering dust. My youngest in particular really likes it.
Eight Epics x2
This might best be played as a solo game. It's presents as a tough little puzzle in which you use characters special abilities to modify die rolls to satisfy various disaster cards in an attempt to save the world.
Jungle Rumble x1
- A perfect intro to Euro games for kids. Cute theme is of course a plus with the kids. The descriptions I'd heard about it being a mix between Puerto Rico and Agricola are accurate. Heavier on the Puerto Rico side than Agricola though.
Witness x1
Scenario #2 and we failed it big time! My oldest daughter had a major blunder as she didn't realize we needed to match both the names of dinner guests with the country they served as spies for. Oops.


Sorry for the late entry this week. It's been a bit crazy on my end.
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