GCL Phoenix 271 - It's a Small World (13 March 2016)
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
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This week we talk about the boardgame-tangential world of miniatures.
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Board Game: Napoleon's Campaigns in Miniature: A wargamer's guide to the Napoleonic Wars 1796-1815
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
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What do you think about miniatures in boardgames?

I recently had a friend tell me the miniatures in Blood Rage creeped her out. For her, they definitely constitute a distraction! But for many people, the miniatures in that game are what drew their attention in the first place.

Do you make assumptions about the style of game based on the presence of miniatures? Do you find them an appealing component that enhances a game, or a distraction that pulls you out of your gaming mojo-space?
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2. Board Game: Sea battles in miniature. A guide to Naval Wargaming. [Average Rating:7.64 Unranked]
Board Game: Sea battles in miniature. A guide to Naval Wargaming.
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Recently my girlfriend discovered that miniature painting is a thing. She now wants to paint the minis in my board games. Having tried miniature painting twenty years ago, I know how enthusiasm for such things can wax and wane. But maybe she will really like it.

Have you ever painted miniatures? Does it appeal to you? Have you done any other pimping of boardgames that involves hand-crafting upgrades or improvements (as opposed to simply buying replacement pieces)?
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3. Board Game: Go [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:162]
Board Game: Go
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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AlphaGo (the Google AI) is now up 3-0 in the best-of-five series against Lee Sedol, the second-ranked human Go player in the world. It has officially won the series, but the plan is to complete the full five games.

What I find most interesting about this saga is the way AlphaGo plays. It uses a cluster of AIs to play and has a very different process than Deep Blue used to defeat Kasparov at Chess. It doesn't simply chart the permutations and decision trees.

And what is strange is hearing the commentary and how the expert commentator (a 9 Dan professional) responds to the computer's moves, saying they are unlike other players he has seen but that he can see the smart play there. I can imagine Go players studying AlphaGo's play and learning new techniques.

This is similar to the recent AI that was programmed to play perfect head's up Texas Hold'em Poker, and how it kept hands that pros conventionally folded on.
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4. Board Game: Stephenson's Rocket [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:1200]
Board Game: Stephenson's Rocket
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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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 12Mar2016:

7/25/133 plays of 7/17/74 total games, with 0/2/11 expansions employed.
Plays with 11/27/72 distinct opponents.

0/1/10 games acquired (plus 1/2/10 expansions.) - Alchemists: Publisher.
0/0/1 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/0 expansions.)
0/0/1 games ordered (plus 0/0/0 expansions.)
Orders for 1 games and 0 expansions still outstanding.

With kids:
1x _7_ Kulami - Another shot at this little abstract. It's interesting; and better on this replay than the first time out, too. Son #2 was amused, too; so I think we've (at least) a few more plays in store.
1x _7⅓_ Abluxxen - Without the Duell rules, though I did lobby for them. The result wasn't terribly close: I was soundly defeated. Perhaps I should have pushed harder for the variant?

With the Monday lunch group:
1x _6⅔_ Fearsome Floors (40 months dusty) - Admittedly more quite amusing with 7 than with fewer (so long as one plays fairly quickly.) The results here were a bit lopsided: those of us that had played before tended to do a bit better than the folk that were new to it.

With the Wednesday night gang:
1x _9_ Bus - Probably should have been my headline entry: it's definitely my favourite of the plays this week. But I chose it last week, too; so I'm going for variety.
A play with 4 of us. And, amusingly, the final score was 4(2),4(2),4(0),4(0) (where the parenthesized number is the number of time stones collected.) So we went to the second tiebreaker.
The game was tremendously entertaining, despite the (rather) low score. And the rest of the gang seemed to enjoy themselves, too.
1x _7⅓_ The Bridges of Shangri-La (38 months dusty) - One of us headed for home, and we pulled this out. I enjoyed it, too. Though it's (seemingly) a good deal more trivial than Bus. I enjoyed trying to play my two opponents off against each other.

With friend Dave:
1x _8_ Stephenson's Rocket (45 months dusty) - This was quite charming; I enjoyed it. Definitely need to get this into play more often; it's the kind of thing that I should be playing multiple times a year, rather than a few times each decade.
1x _7⅓_ Saturn - Dave was much better at understanding the balance points of the gyroscopic system than I: and he demonstrated it by getting a much larger score than I did. I need to either play with this a bit more, or pay a bit more explicit attention to the physics.

Owned-and-unplayed: 0 (+0/-0)
Owned-and-played-once: 92 (+0/-1) - Kulami was played again.

Outlook for the week: A couple games with my youngsters; perhaps something on Monday and Wednesday, too. I'm a bit overbooked this week; so that might be on the optimistic side.
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5. Board Game: Rallyman [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:958]
Board Game: Rallyman
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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Games with Max (in Portland no less!)
 8   Rallyman NEW!
 7   Mottainai

Speaking of small worlds, I was recently in Portland on a couple's getaway (n = 2) following a great writing retreat in Bellingham (super productive, energizing, and generative). Due to unforseen, yet incredibly positive circumstance (i.e., job interview!), my partner flew back to Vancouver far earlier than planned. This meant that my earlier plans to connect with Max were blown wide open -- what was to be an afternoon or a morning became a full evening. At Max's lovely abode, he introduced me to Rallyman - a rally game that is reminiscent of Corné-style design - as he had been gushing about it at the PNW CabinCon. It's a really cool game that draws inspiration from its thematic setting by providing difficult decisions around playing it safely through the course or driving recklessly to cut precious seconds. Despite the delayed starting times, cars can still run interference with one another. But most importantly, your car's chassis and tires are important "resources" to consider in light of how long a series of courses are and whether or not you have pitstops between them! I won both plays, one on the standard track, and one on a custom long track. The standard race saw Max take a solid lead on the first leg of the trip, with me catching up soon thereafter, but Max having totaled his car in the process. The long rally was played generally conservatively as blowing out tires or the chassis would have hurt in the long run. Max played a bit more aggressively and we had a few interesting bottlenecks -- no one spun out so it was down to seconds between the two of us: ~15 seconds to be precise. We followed up with a game of Mottainai which was a loss, but not as bad as last time (i.e., CabinCon bare-bum-spanking)!! Max had HUGE point-earning-potential so I had to shut it down ASAP. Max had 5 backorders in hand however for the win. It was nice to play a lesser-known game that Max advocates for with him, in his own space -- and to talk games and life with Max.

Friday night games with David (and Jenn)
 8   Triumvirate
 7   Mamma Mia! NEW!
 8   Innovation
 8   Chimera NEW!
 8   The Bottle Imp

My partner, burnt out from travel and her (positive) interview (and stress leading up to), was too tired to play games this Friday -- David and Jenn were gracious guest-cum-hosts in response. David and I started the evening with a quick game of Innovation which was the closest one we had had in a while -- I was going to win on the next turn, and David took a gamble against my conservative play, winning the game a turn before me (i.e., scoring his last achievement by melding a card giving him the 8+ card value on all stacks). Following a great wild rice and fish dish, Jenn joined us for Chimera and Bottle Imp. I took Chimera but it could have gone a drastically different direction as David was running the table for most of the early game with Jenn and I alternating leads mid-game. Both of us caught up, I won playing against David's 2-Trap (for 40 points), only because I had gotten lucky enough to have a trap (i.e., a bomb) myself. Thoughts on Chimera, knowing just how many card loving folk there are here:
Quote:
Chimera delivers a great great climbing/shedding game for three that sits nicely alongside its contemporaries Tichu and Haggis. The crux of what makes it unique and exciting is that two players (the Hunters) try to take down the Chimera (the player who bids, thinking they can finish first). Chimera offers a large does of Tichu's high risk high reward structure by providing the Chimera with a few additional cards if/when they set the bid, but also provides the Hunters one (possible) opportunity to trade cards. The collaboration is uneasy, ambivalent, and sometimes devious -- only when your partner is well behind you that you will be wholly helpful (e.g., pass them off a few good cards). The Traps (AKA Bombs) appear slightly more frequently than in Tichu, but nowhere near as often as in Haggis, also become a risk/reward for Hunters as should they fail to catch the Chimera, winning the hand becomes all the more triumphant (via bonus points). Super neat game of shifting alliances in which many probing gazes are shared. Also, the art on the cards is just beautiful.
We then christened David's copy of Bottle Imp, which I also took. However, the big play this game was David leading off with the yellow one, and almost pulling it off. It would have been glorious - as it was well ballsy. Unfortunately, both Jenn and I had one yellow card each above 18 (David had the third) and the big play flopped, leaving David with the Imp has the hand was only beginning. David and I finished the evening with Mamma Mia (which I enjoyed!) and Triumvirate, David taking the former and me taking the latter (with a less-than-exciting lucky 7s pledge both times).

Saturday night games with Ramon
 8   Space Hulk (third edition) x4 NEW!
 9   Champions 2020
Ramon, knowing that I enjoy Claustrophobia, told me that I needed to play Space Hulk. Now I understand why -- it's the UR-text for designing dungeon crawl games from next-to-nothing (it's somehow even more pared down than Claustrophobia). The two differing factions are highly asymmetrical and to good effect: the tension is quite high as the well equipped but slow moving space marines fend off a swarm of quick but short ranged genestealers (think Aliens). One hit = one kill in this game so every decision matters -- the risks and rewards are always high in this game but the rate of success is low. Accordingly, the game creates a rich stress-full space which might have some praying to the dice-god of their choice. Plus, the production quality is gorgeous (I'm not sure if I can stomach the 300+ dollars myself). Ramon took 3 of the 4 matches -- his victory as the space marines being the notable one as it literally came down to a series of dice rolls when he needed them the most (he would not have survived another round otherwise!). We followed up with a game of Champions 2020 (which I took). This was a wholly different affair from our last matches -- we both clustered our players heavily for some reason or other (bad strategy for soccer!). This resulted in multiple fouls, less interceptions, and far less "running to receive" passes. I think the only reason I won was that the clusterfuck spent more time in his end of the field than mine -- the whole game devolved into the hooliganism of StreetSoccer! Asking if it would be sacrilegious if we were to play video games to wrap the evening up, I said "of course not!" we played NEO GEO's Super Sidekicks (oldschool arcade soccer; I have a softspot for NEOGEO), and Persona 4 Arena (the wildest fighting game I've played since Slap Happy Rhythm Busters).
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6. Board Game: Food Chain Magnate [Average Rating:8.15 Overall Rank:28]
Board Game: Food Chain Magnate
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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We always have time for the things we put first.
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2 plays on Sunday March 6th, 2 plays yesterday, March 13th.

The first play yesterday was bad, Sam was running circles around me. When he got $100 and the 50% bonus, I knew I couldn't catch up.

In our second game of the evening, Sam still took the 50% bonus, but set it aside, to see how much of his final score was bonus, and so that we could compare our base scores. I had actually been ahead for a while, and only needed to sell to one house on that turn to break $100, but Sam's price reductions shut me out, and I stayed at $81, missing the bonus. One game, we both got the bonus, which made it interesting. I think we are going to take the "First to $100 card" out for a while and try it without it (if someone wants to train to CFO, that's fine).

So, Sam was driving up to my nicely-landscaped neighborhood (gardens) and delivering red soda on sale. I had an airplane, and advertised yellow lemonade to the houses near Sam, to stop him from getting those for a while. I had an easier time getting yellow lemonade for a bit, so I threw a wrench in his plans, and got to sell some things.

Plus, when I saw he advertised pizza, I got the Pizza Chef (8 pizzas), and Sam was surprised... he was just about to get the Pizza Chef. So he abandoned pizzas for the most part, training the Burger Chef instead, but that meant a few turns of training and advertising burgers, which gave me a window.

All of that maneuvering gave me a window of opportunity, and I was training a pricing person that marks down $3, which would help me to win the price wars. I was one turn too slow getting them to the table, though, as Sam broke the second bank.

Going first has brief moments of advantage (getting to the Pizza Chef first) but largely it lets the second person know what you're up to, with time to respond. Similarly, perpetual marketing can save actions (and salaries) but once something is advertised, the other player knows it will always be there and will plan for it. Sometimes I deliberately avoid perpetual marketing (whereas Sam pretty much always gets it).

I was heading towards a radio, and showering the area with something, but red soda, burgers, and pizza (things that we could get enough of to fill big requests) were also readily available to Sam. So I had to try to thwart him by putting something that was harder to come by. It's a risk, because if I advertise something he can do, I'm just creating an opportunity for him to make money. Sam responded by advertising burgers to the houses near me by plane, since he had the burger cook, and I didn't have time to get more than a kitchen trainee, so I only produced one measly burger.

While Sam ended up winning the second one as well, at least it was interesting.

In between the games of FCM, I launched an auction, and Sam launched a bunch of eBay listings. He's on spring break next week, so it's a good time for us to do a bunch of packing and shipping.
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7. Board Game: The Grizzled [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:391]
Board Game: The Grizzled
Karl Fast
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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It was the March board gaming marathon and I was there for both days.

I didn't play anything bad. The "worst" game of the weekend was probably Biblios, which is saying something. The best experience though was The Grizzled.

NEW TO ME

The Grizzled -- x3. One previous play (we won), but I had jumped in late and hadn't grasped all the rules. This time we played three games in a row and now I get it: I get the rules, I get the strategy, and I get why the game has been a modest hit. It made me want to get it, especially with the upcoming expansion that adds new challenges, improved 2p rules, and a solitaire mode. People say that rarely win this, but we won 2 of 3 games, bringing my record to 3 of 3. If you're unfamiliar, the Grizzled is a co-op game about WWI. You're part of a unit trying to survive the war. You don't fight battles. There is no enemy or moving units. There is no glory. There is survival or death. It's a card game, plus a few chits, and the cards fall into three categories: bad, terrible, and usually bad but not so much in this situation. There is just one good card in the entire game (Christmas). It's an excellent game with strong theme, evocative artwork, and clean mechanics. thumbsupthumbsup

Food Chain Magnate -- Excellent! I see what the fuss is about. It gets played a lot in these parts so I have no intention on buying this, but I wouldn't ever turn down a game. thumbsupthumbsup

The Princes of Florence -- Good game. I tied for last. It was against 4 players who all knew the game well. We played with the expansion I don't know why you'd play without that. Quite good, though I expected it to be quite good given the pedigree, and it holds up extremely well for being over 15 years old. thumbsup

Archon: Glory & Machination -- A big worker placement game. I quite liked it, but it's way too long for what it is. Several people said that Orleans did a lot of similar things, but in a better way. I haven't played Orleans but this made me want to try it. It didn't excite me personally, though it's a good game, and I did get the win.


PREVIOUS ENCOUNTERS OF THE CARDBOARD KIND

Baseball Highlights: 2045 – Super Deluxe Edition -- Against a rookie so I won handily. Keep liking this one. I just wish I had a way to play it regularly against someone. thumbsupthumbsup

Biblios -- x2. I lost. Twice. I always like this even though I'm usually terrible at it.

King Chocolate -- My third play after being introduced to this at a local con last month. I won. Yeah! I do like this one no matter what the dice tower gang says (it got terrible reviews from Tom Vasel, Jason Levine, and Dan King). The designer has said that he was trying to make a game about chocolate production. The end result is so streamlined that there is no distinction between each production phase, which means this could be about anything. It feels like an abstract. And when I approach it that way I quite like it. If you like multi-player abstract games with simple rules that play in about 30-40 minutes, this might be worth considering if you can find it for $20. Sadly the list price is more than double that.
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8. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:656]
Board Game: Bridge
Karl Fast
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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The New Yorker has an article on a cheating scandal in professional bridge.


The gist of this is that:

(a) because so much of the game involves sending signals to your partner, that's the path to cheating. There is a long history of cheating, and suspect cheating, in professional bridge.

(b) A few players have been cheating successfully at the pro level for the least fifteen years!

(b) By analyzing YouTube videos of these games (and other videos), a few people believe they have identified the subtle yet consistent ways in which these players signal important information.

The analysis focuses on situations where, given what information the partners have and the distribution of the cards, the hand should turn out badly. But for these players the hand consistently turns out well.

An interesting story.
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9. Board Game: Mysterium [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:236]
Board Game: Mysterium
R. Eric Reuss
United States
Massachusetts
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 10   Argent: The Consortium
 8   Codenames
 7   Mysterium NEW!
 7   Spirits of the Rice Paddy
 6   Among the Stars NEW!

Wednesday night

Among the Stars is a light drafting game[1] with a spatial element, which is the kind of thing to immediately make me sit up and think "maybe I'll like this more than 7 Wonders!". The game was *close* to being awesome - power plants and spatial considerations started getting it there - but ultimately felt a little too light for me to love; the cost:VP ratio of each card is often easy to calculate. I'd like to try it with one of the expansions - the Ambassadors looks like it adds an orthogonal set of incentives that would make many decisions somewhat less calculable.

We played Spirits of the Rice Paddy again, correcting the 4-5 rules we'd gotten wrong in our first time through - the rulebook is annoyingly ambiguous, as are some of the cards. Overall, it was as much (or more) fun than the first time, and felt both more sensibly thematic + better balanced. However, both games had some real weirdness around water flow near endgame - for most of the game being first in turn order is better (which is good, because you get it by playing less potent spirit cards), but if/when the water supply dries out then abruptly being first becomes terrible.

2nd Sunday games

Finally got to try Mysterium. Most times I'd be in the mood for this game, I think I'd rather play Dixit, but every once in a blue moon I expect I'd enjoy this quite a bit - particularly if folks got atmospheric.

A quick game of Codenames - turn two, our spymaster says "Filling 2". We see TOOTH, CROWN, and MERCURY. Turns out CROWN was the assassin. Whoops.

And my first play of Argent in nearly 6 months - no wonder I was missing it! A gloriously interactive 2-player knife-fight between me and Galen, with loads of play/counterplay/counter-counter-play along multiple axes at once. (Tempo, wounding-vs-defense, moving-vs-defense, mana efficiency, shadow control, plus of course all the voter requirements.) We split voters 6-6; I won on Influence. Most of the voters were in plausible contention through the final round... though each of us had 2-4 voters unexamined during final mage placement, so some of that contention was executed purely on opponent-reading / heuristics / contingency / what-might-be-winnable.

We used Planar B (Purple's not-fast side) this game, and I'm coming to like it more and more. Mysticism A is fine, but Planar A just feels a little too easy.

[1] = Who can name any heavier games - other than MtG - which revolve around a core of "draft a card, pass your hand"? The most involved one I can think of offhand is 7 Wonders, and it's still pretty light.
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10. 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
Lo
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

_8_ Nippon x2
_8_ Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization x1 New!


The Week in Review
Board Game: Nippon

All plays this week were with S. The two of Nippon cemented my appreciation of the game (which had waned just a bit). The Brass: Lancashire-like mechanic of overbuilding another player's market spiced it up just enough to make it a game I'll be happy to play for some time to come.

Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization appears to be a hit with S. Her biggest complaint is that it takes a good couple hours to play just the introductory game, but I think this can be mitigated by my poor play and an acceptance on my part to concede defeat when it's clear that I'm losing badly.

I can see this game landing in my top ten as it's one of those games where actions and resources are scarce, but the choices of how to use them are abundant.


The Week Ahead

No plans, but I'm hoping once we get over the time change, the longer evenings will encourage S to sit in the dining room and play more board games...where she can enjoy looking out at our garden and seeing the daffodils and camellia which are now in bloom.

Unplayed games of note in shrink: German Railways, Mombasa, Pax Pamir, De Vulgari Eloquentia 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.
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11. Board Game: Quartermaster General [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:854]
Board Game: Quartermaster General
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Games Played

.10! Race for the Galaxy 7
_9_ Mottainai 1
_8_ Rallyman 2
_8_ Inhabit the Earth 1
_8_ Nippon 1
_7_ Favor of the Pharaoh 2
_7_ Quartermaster General 1
_7_ Tweeeet 1
_6_ Artificium 1
_5_ Orléans 1
_4_ Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg 2 New!
_1_ So Long Sucker 1 New!

Week in Review

Nippon continues to entertain, though I can't tell if it's balanced. It feels like some parts of the game are worse than others (e.g., coal track seems better than knowledge track) and this is problematic given that it would make factory goods imbalanced. If it turns out some of the factories lead to strategic dead ends, I'll probably lower my rating. Hopefully some paths through the game are simply more obvious than others, and other strategies exist to be found.

Marc dropped by on Wednesday night and we had a great night of gaming. It wasn't too long but it was good quality. He suggested I break out Rallyman (something that never would have occurred to me) and it was great fun. This was the first time I ran a course other than the recommended starting course from the rules.

There was yet more Race for the Galaxy this week, both continued exploration of Xeno Invasion as well as some full first arc games. The latter came at the request of my cousin in Sacramento, who wanted to try the full first arc but has no local players who are in depth on Race. We used the Keldon app for online play with a video chat window open; it was almost like playing together.

Sunday was a game day dedicated to six-player games. The star of the day overall was probably Quartermaster General. I am jealous of Dave's extended play history of this (compared to my two games) as it is a game that really wants to be played again and again; learning what the decks do is very important for good play. I also learned in reading a bit through the game's BGG forum that some decks were miscollated and at least two of mine seem to have improper card mixes. This makes me want to play again even more strongly, with the proper decks this time.

The Coach Ride to Devil's Castle (listed under it's original German name above) is a ten-year old social deduction game and it felt like it. Though it had fun ideas, it seemed primitive compared to what has happened in the genre more recently. It needed to force its endgame more quickly as well as provide more subtle ways to learn other players' secrets.
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12. Board Game: Murano [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:1036]
Board Game: Murano
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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Games Played:

_8_ Snowdonia x1
Rachel has played once before but new to Greg and Erika. Most of the game alternated between fog and rain making things a bit slow going.
Jon 95
Greg 80
Erika 66
Rachel 50

_8_ Codenames x4
Family and friends visiting and this got pulled out and played several times.


_7_ Murano x1
Received this in a math trade and this was the first play with my oldest son and wife. My wife built a lot of things but misunderstood the rules on scoring cards and didn't have her gondliers in place; however, I was setting things up and wasn't expecting the end to rush so soon. This led to some hilarity in the final scores:
Oldest son 46
Wife 33
Jon 30

Murano's main mechanic is selecting actions on a rondel kind of system, and in that aspect, I was more impressed with IKI, where the actions you select are constantly changing as players add different cards and when cards get promoted and leave the street. In Murano the variation comes with where the boats are currently positioned, making only certain actions free. In both games, there are ways to pay to take any action you want.

Murano's main method of scoring is through character cards that you need to complete by the end of the game. Having played Snowdonia again this week, I was quickly reminded of that, and again, this is a case where I think Murano isn't as good as the other game. In Snowdonia you know exactly what cards are available when you take the action to select them, while in Murano you draw three, select one and put the other two at the bottom of the deck. In addition to the uncertainty of what scoring opportunities you will get, the fact that this is secret in Murano makes the game slightly harder to teach, as if a player has a question about a card they have to either refer to the rulebook or break the secret to show the card to agree what it means. This isn't too big a deal overall but I can see where teaching to someone like my daughter will be a bit more difficult.

Overall, I found Murano to be pleasant but probably a bit too luck-intensive overall, as you have the luck of drawing character cards, special buildings that give in game powers, the possibility of three different colored shops needing matched with same colored customers from streets, and crests from palaces. The two sets of variable tiles can be mitigated by paying more money when selecting them, while the cards are mitigated by selecting three rather than one, but both systems I thought were just ok.

Meanwhile, it seems the game always starts the same way (the rondel track is the same, with the boats to move always in same positions as well), so I suspect this will have common openings (first player going for a card), and I tend to prefer game where the setup has more variability. Still, my wife enjoyed it and I think this will get some plays and I overall enjoyed playing it. It accomplished what a math trade should, in getting a game off my shelf that wasn't getting played and one that will get played.
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13. Board Game: Leaving Earth [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:540]
Board Game: Leaving Earth
Games Played
3/10/16
Klask x13
Another strange little dexterity game. Along with trick-takers, these odd little ducks always get me. I had wanted to pick this one up for my girls last Christmas but couldn't track down a copy. I located one last week and pounced on it. This has been a hit thus far but I can easily see it growing stale after a few more plays and be prone to gathering for dust long periods of time followed by bursts of lots of plays. Such is the life of odd little dexterity games.

Think a smaller version of air hockey or perhaps WeyKick for those of you that have played that title. Only a 2p game game that plays out in about 5-10 minutes. A small dose of strategy, quick hand/eye coordination required and a tad bit of luck which often results in lots of laugher and occasional howls of despair. The next morning after we got the game, my youngest daughter woke up and saw it still sitting on the table from the prior evening and I heard her whisper to herself, "I love that game!" $50 well spent.

3/13/16
Leaving Earth x2

I've been meaning to get back to this title but it requires me to be in the right space (harhar!). It requires just enough effort and thought that it often isn't a good fit for me after work since I'm usually mentally drained. However, a lazy Sunday afternoon, with the chore list already completed, provided a great opportunity. A bit of Baileys in my coffee helped me face the cold, harsh depths of space.

In my first session, I opted to take on mission cards that focused on using probes to do surveys of both the Moon and Venus. Missions without astronauts and thus no there and back requirement are much simpler. Shocking, right? I ended up being able to complete both missions for a fairly easy and quick game. My success or perhaps the Baileys, was making me brave so I decided I'd try a second go.

After flopping out a slightly harder set of mission cards, I opted to go for ones that focused on Mars. Specifically, one that required an exploration of Mars and another that required a sample be returned to Earth from Phobos. Neither mission needed an astronaut as probes could do the job so that simplified things. However, the distance required a lot more time to plan out rocket requirements to get there and back. To make it more efficient I opted to use Earth's orbit as a rendezvous point. I ended up launching 2 different ships that met up and shared the stuff that would be needed to reach Phobos and return. Long missions really require using rendezvous like that or else you can't possibly load everything onto one shuttle without it taking years and years and tons of money.

I had a couple of botched initial attempts to launch with minor rocket failures. That slowed me down by 2-3 years but also helped me thin out some failure cards from my rocket tech without major failures which would have destroyed everything. I ended up being successful with my rendezvous attempts in Earth's orbit and loaded up everything I'd need for a trip to Phobos and a return. On my way to Phobos I stopped and did a quick survey of Mars with a probe to satisfy that mission requirement. Why did that feel like stopping to pick up milk on the way home from work? Whatever. Mission accomplished.

Next was the much trickier mission of landing on Phobos to pick up a sample and return it to Earth. While landing I suffered a minor failure which damaged one of my rockets. Not good. I didn't have enough thrust left to get my shuttle back to Earth's orbit without the damaged rocket and it was left floating in Mar's orbit. The trip from Earth's orbit to Mar's orbit is lengthy (3 turns) so I had opted to use that 3 turns to buy up some back-up supplies in case something went wrong. Good thing.

I had to quickly figure out exactly what was needed to get a shuttle to Mar's orbit to rendezvous with my stranded shuttle to deliver them the necessary Atlas rocket that would get them back to Earth's orbit and then to Earth. It was great! I figured it out, launched and blew up! Shit. Did it again and blew up again. Gah! On the bright side I had perfected the tech on my missiles and removed all the failure cards by this point! However, those botched launches of my rescue mission would delay me enough that I ran out of time. I was able to get to Mar's orbit and deliver the necessary rocket but I ran out of time (20 turns) before completing the mission. No matter as it was a tremendous amount of fun.

Keep in mind that I generally love planning things and this game has that in spades. I've been shocked at how thematic it is. The decisions you face and the thrill that results from completing missions is really cool. I was giggling to myself with my stranded mission and imagining mission control scurrying to figure out a solution. It felt just like I'd imagine in that situation. For you solo gamers, this is one hell of an experience. Highly recommended if it sounds interesting to you in the least.

Baseball Highlights: 2045 – Deluxe Edition x2
Tori finished up her grad school work early and wanted to get a game in. I had went grocery shopping and brought her some flowers home so I think that might have been the real reason! Sad to say both plays proved to lack the normal spark.

I ran away in both series with 4-1 wins and really only a couple of tense games. Still fun to spend some time gaming with Tori and get this one back to the table after several solo plays of it in the last few weeks.
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14. Board Game: Havana [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:1182]
Board Game: Havana
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Last week's plays:

|9| Love Letter
-8- Codenames (x3)
-8- Innovation
-8- Merchants & Marauders
-7- 7 Wonders (+Cities; Wonder Pack) (x2) (+Catan Island)
-7- A Fake Artist Goes to New York
-7- The Voyages of Marco Polo
-6- Anagram (x2)
-5- Dead Man's Draw New!
-5- Havana New!

I'd heard good things about Havana and had the opportunity to try it at the weekend. I have mixed feelings about it since it reminded me of Witch's Brew (yay!) crossed with Citadels (yuk!). The (almost) simultaneous action selection and double-think to produce the resources you need to progress was appealing but there are enough "negative play experience" role cards to sour the game for me. There are at least three cards which steal or remove resources from opponents and if enough of these end up being directed towards you, it feels like wading through treacle. I didn't enjoy the addition of those effects to the game: there was enough to consider with the timings of your cards, manoeuvring around the competition to access the resources and rewards you need. Perhaps it was just that I was unprepared in my first game, and future games would teach me how to avoid being hit by the take-that cards while still making progress, or even that the attacks are necessary to promote interaction. What I do know is that this was an annoying experience.

Dead Man's Draw wasn't annoying but wasn't exciting either. It's a simple, push-your-luck card game, a little like Port Royal, but with fewer choices and less interest in other players' turns. I understand this was originally a game for mobile phones (an "app", as the kids are calling them) which may explain why there's no designer listed on its BGG entry. It passed the time, but so would eating nachos.

Codenames brought us the challenge of identifying Platypus without also picking up Duck or Kangaroo. A Fake Artist Goes to New York got tricky when we had to draw the rock band Journey. And we were all so rusty at Love Letter that obvious bluffs went undetected.

I won two games of 7 Wonders in a row and was then accused of deliberately sitting to the left of the new player to gain an advantage. It certainly wasn't my intention and I hadn't noticed receiving any windfalls through it. I did notice when she picked cards that would have been good for me, but weren't so good for her. I had hoped to play the team variant, but we had seven players at the time.

Team Innovation was great. We managed a nice comeback thanks to Bicycle after my partner had given us both very large hands. (Bicycle lets you swap your hand with your score pile.) One of our opponents fired a few Rockets to reduce my score and his partner gave Fission a try. Luckily they didn't blow the world up that way and I managed to quickly grab the Achievements we needed.
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