GCL Phoenix 282 - Imagination (29 May 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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1. Board Game: Imagine [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:1192]
Board Game: Imagine
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Do you want a board game to spark your imagination?

Does abstraction affect this for you?

Literally, probably every game involves imagination, since we have to work through constructed mechanisms to create something in our mind with which to latch on and strategize.

But what makes you feel imaginative? And do you care?

Traditional abstract games have no theme at all, whereas conventional euros have themes that are often called pasted on. Whether a euro theme is inspired by or inspires its mechanisms, it is probably fair to say you can rarely learn about the thematic subject from playing the game. I believe Knizia was inspired by Mesopotamian cultures when designing Tigris & Euphrates and I can see the connections, but I can't actually learn anything about those cultures from playing the game.

Do either of these types of games work better for your imagination? Pure abstracts have a difficult time imparting transport for my imagination because nothing hides the mechanisms. The decision trees, no matter how difficult to implement well, are still laid bare before me and so I feel analytical. A mild theming does a great deal to lend me that magic spark that fosters creativity. I know other gamers feel the reverse, finding more abstract games inspiring because there are no distractions.

Or maybe neither matters and all you need is a framework to interact with the other players because that social interaction is what fires your imagination?

Truly thematic games, such as wargames, are the best for me. I like that I can learn actual information from them and this is where the imaginative part of my brain is happiest. Learning not only from the trappings of the game but by seeing outcomes of player actions is very engaging to me and makes me think long after the game and want to play it again.

Or do you find the best way to play a game is to solve a puzzle and sequence decisions without resorting to more emotional/artistic impulses?

Or do you define imagination in a completely different context for gaming?
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2. Board Game: Floating Market [Average Rating:6.26 Overall Rank:5240]
Board Game: Floating Market
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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Sam ordered some things from CoolStuff, and while he wrapped them and called them anniversary presents (7/7), it's a bit early even for us. I think they were mostly "just because" presents. He had me open one of them, Floating Market, which he got because of the dice.

You win by being the first person to get 5 (of 7) fruits. You get fruit by being on the right boat, or purchasing it directly.

The boats each have ranges of numbers (like 11-18, 19-24, 25-30, something like that). If the dice total rolled that round is between those numbers, the person on that boat gets the fruit on the boat.

There are ways to steer the totals. Each round you choose which die to add to the pool (d12, d10, d6, d4, or a negative d6), and you can also add a separate d12 or negative d6, or a cardboard token that adds a flat +4 or subtracts a -2 from certain action spots.

Plus, there are action spots where you can win fruit from an adjacent space, or go on an occupied space.

Much like a craps table, there are ways to try to at least get something out of the round, with better odds. You can put a worker on one side of the dock, and that gives you a coin if the total is on that side (much like red/black).

With 2 players, there are 2 neutral tokens that rotate through the boats, making it harder to place there (unless you use the special action space to go on an occupied space, or the adjacent-wins-fruit one).

Each round, the starting player chooses two boats to swap positions, keeping the fruit locations always shifting.

It's a pleasant enough diversion as a filler, or waiting for people to arrive. The idea perhaps a bit better than the execution. I've giving it a 6 so far.
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3. Board Game: 51st State: Master Set [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:289]
Board Game: 51st State: Master Set
Max Maloney
United States
Portland
Oregon
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I haven't posted a playlist in several weeks, so it's time to catchup with a solid month worth of games! Strap in for a bunch of stuff you don't care about:

Games Played

_9_ Race for the Galaxy: Xeno Invasion 3
_9_ Codenames 2
_9_ Roll for the Galaxy 1
_8_ 51st State 4 New!
_8_ Falling Sky 2 New!
_8_ Troyes 1
_8_ Wir sind das Volk! 1
_7_ Eminent Domain 3
_7_ Cockroach Poker 2 New! Trending UP
_7_ The Grizzled 2
_7_ Snow Tails 2 New!
_7_ Blood Rage 1
_7_ Raiders of the North Sea 1 New!
_7_ Robinson Crusoe 1
_7_ Ships 1
_7_ Stick 'Em 1
_6_ Ancient Terrible Things 1
_6_ Relic Runners 1 New!
_5_ Diamonds 1 New!
_5_ Tin Goose 1 New!
_4_ El Capitán 1 New!
_4_ Happy Pigs 1 New!

Week Month in Review

RftG: Xeno Invasion continues to be very good, though not quite at the level of the full original arc. But very worthy of play and not easy to master. Engaging.

I played Codenames with a new player and two people who had played before. One of the ones who had played before was giving clues and never once gave a clue for more than one word. It's almost not a game when played that way. Very odd.

Roll for the Galaxy came out just last night. The more I play it, the less it feels like Race. That's a good thing, but it means I have to continually unlearn tendencies. Last night I had a tableau with 5 Novelty good worlds. I know exactly how to play that in Race, but here it is harder to get an easy synergy for them. I probably shouldn't have built such a one-dimensional tableau, though I did manage second in spite of its weakness.

This was only my second play of Troyes in the last 2.5 years, with the last time being over a year ago. I have always liked this game but have never achieved the play density to be good at it. I always feel like I'm poking at the edges of a viable strategy when I play it.

I am now 4-0 as the West in Wir sind das Volk! I should try East, but I kind of want to keep trying this until the outcome changes. I should have made Marc play with me when he visited.

A few more plays of Eminent Domain with the first expansion and it continues to impress. The game has so much more variability with the small changes this added. My last two plays included my first time trying the variable player setup, in which each player has a different deck composition and usually a specific technology in play. This really changed a lot and was fun, in spite of my usual distaste for a random pre-set strategy in card games.

Based on the enthusiasm of Martin and Samo and the gaming preferences of my Saturday group, I got a copy of Cockroach Poker. I got to try it last night and there was a great deal of laughter. What I liked most was the way the game changed after a few cards were on the table. The first couple card plays are almost random, but after that the differing incentives make things very interesting. This game marks my new list feature: a note as to the rating trend. I can see this hitting 8 in the near future if it holds up to this first session.

After winning my first couple plays of the Grizzled, I have hit the losing streak. I am interested in the expansion, which sounded gimmicky from previews but has been getting very positive reviews.

Snow Tails was fun and very mean. It reminded me a bit of my beloved Rallyman but has very different mechanisms. The card play is easy and cruel. The price of failure is very high.

I am finally starting to get the hang of Blood Rage after four plays. This game didn't sell itself to me early, but I wanted to like it so I gave it more time to shine. I think that investment paid off, though I do think it would benefit from the type of concentrated play my gaming circle doesn't make easy

Raiders of the North Sea is one of those infrequent euros that appeals to me these days. There's no real reason why it should and the rating may be optimistic. But it does succeed at delivering a unique take on worker placement and it successfully overlays tactical mini-puzzles each turn on top of a more typical strategy, without either feeling out of place. It's one of those Kickstarter projects with no long term distribution model so I don't have to be tempted to buy it: stores don't seem to have it.

I need to stop playing the first scenario of Robinson Crusoe over and over, but it's hard to throw new players into something more difficult. I'm very tired of that scenario though and I really want to try some new ones.

I still like Ships. It's not one of Wallace's great triumphs, but I like the heavy tempo play overlaid on the euro resource stuff.

Sticheln remains the one trick taking game that I enjoy. I've only played it three times (each being full 5-hand games) and somehow I am 3-0! That's not why I like it though. More play needed.

I returned to Ancient Terrible Things after a long time since my first play. I remember liking it more than I did this time. I think my big gripe is that players don't get an even number of turns and that it makes a huge difference.

Relic Runners is a Days of Wonder effort from a couple years back that I never tried. It's a fun abstract euro (more abstract, but has some euro-style special powers).

Diamonds is not the one trick tacking game I enjoy. That was Sticheln, remember? It was ok, but like most such games I had no desire to play again.

Tin Goose on the other hand is one of those painfully failed experiments. It has so many interesting ideas but too many small flaws. It just didn't seem to work, but it was fun to try. I would play again and would recommend anyone give it a shot if they have a chance. It has some cool ideas but it needs to have more player choice, as your cards and table position dictate too much of what is your best play.

El Capitán is an oldy, but not so goody. The mechanisms felt dated and the decisions not especially engaging to me.

Happy Pigs is a cute and simple economic game. Those who love true economic games might enjoy this as a lighter game in their wheelhouse.
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4. Board Game: The Palaces of Carrara [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:661]
Board Game: The Palaces of Carrara
Lo
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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Game Played

_7_ The Palaces of Carrara x1


The Week in Review

Sadly, just the one game of The Palaces of Carrara. I considered pulling Vikings out this evening to compare against Carrara, but S decided we should clean in preparation for my sister's arrival instead.

At least I got Normandy '44's counters punched, clipped and bagged.


The Week Ahead

Plans, at long last. I have a few guys coming over Friday night and a couple of the Victoria 18xx Contingent on Saturday afternoon.

Unplayed games of note in shrink: Normandy '44, German Railways, 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.

Unplayed games of note in shrink in an undisclosed location: Locomotive Werks and The U.S. Civil War
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5. Board Game: Victory in the Pacific [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:1567] [Average Rating:7.21 Unranked]
Board Game: Victory in the Pacific
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 28May2016:

3/18/209 plays of 3/12/109 total games, with 1/1/20 expansions employed.
Plays with 5/9/81 distinct opponents.

0/3/15 games acquired (plus 0/3/17 expansions.)
0/0/1 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/0 expansions.)
0/1/6 games ordered (plus 0/2/3 expansions.)
Orders for 1 games and 0 expansions still outstanding.

With kids:
1x _7⅓_ Abluxxen - This one was very close. Unlike in Lost Cities (where he'll likely win) or Race for the Galaxy (where I will), this one isn't a foregone conclusion before we begin. And so it was this time: very very tight through multiple hands. It is a bit unfortunate that he doesn't like the Duell rules, though.

With the Monday lunch group:
1x _7_ Dominant Species: The Card Game (45 months dusty) (with (Promo Card Set) [New!]) - My previous plays of this were with two or three players. And it definitely works better with 5. (Specifically, the "the round ends when one player passes with exactly zero cards remaining in hand" rule has interesting ramifications with a larger group.) Not convinced it's great; but it's definitely better than my initial impression.

On Saturday in Belmont:
1x _7⅔_ Victory in the Pacific [New!] - Solo play: it's not my kids' style at all.
But it was fascinating. The interplay of air and surface strength is cool, and the rather simple presence scoring is clear. I definitely still have no idea what I'm doing with it; but I'd be delighted to play more.

Owned-and-unplayed: 0 (+0/-1) - Victory in the Pacific was played.
Owned-and-played-once: 89 (+1/-0) - Victory in the Pacific was played once.

Outlook for the week: A game or two with kids; perhaps something Wednesday; that might be it.
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6. Board Game: Tokaido [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:527]
Board Game: Tokaido
R. Eric Reuss
United States
Massachusetts
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 7   Deus
 6   Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
 5   Tokaido NEW!

Wednesday games

Tokaido: "You have your choice of seventeen scenic paths," said the attendant. "My! Where does each go?" I asked. "Oh, they all go to the same place. We wouldn't want you to miss anything, after all."

Lanterns: "Patience," I murmured to myself. "To move prematurely is inefficient and wasteful."

To move too late, however, is to lose the race before taking a single step.

Deus: "What are you doing to that barbarian?" "Shaking him upside down. Surely you know barbarians have deep pockets." "What foolishness! You cannot hope to—" A tide of gold poured forth and over my enemy, smothering their voice.

~ ~ ~

This game of Deus was awesomely ridiculous, and redeemed my failed barbarian-rush game of a while back. I opened with a Ballista (+4 gold per barbarian village you have an army next to) and an army between two villages. ~5 turns later I had the second Ballista out and armies next to 5 villages. I had to blow VPs for a disconnected build twice to do it, but gaining 40 (or later, 48) gold for an Army activation was phenomenal. By mid-game, I was barely paying resources for anything anymore - just gold, gold, gold.

Oh, and I got both the "Activate an Army card" building and the "Score 1 per Army card".

Despite Chris piloting a well-done "concentrated buildings" strategy, I still won with a score in the mid-90s.

After 2-3 plays, I enjoyed Deus but felt incompetent at it. With more skill, I'm finding it even more fun, but wondering how much the board interactivity really lets players influence each others' games - it's certainly a constraint you need to contend with, but, eg, in this last game, what could other players have done to stop me? What could I have done to mess with Chris' "4+ buildings" / "5+ buildings" engine?

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7. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.86 Overall Rank:36]
Board Game: Power Grid
Jon
United States
Urbana
Illinois
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Games Played:

_9_ Concordia x1
Taught the various parts of the Salsa expansion to Mindy and Will, both of whom I think didn't really care for the forum tiles.
Jon 117
Mindy 113
Will 98

_8_ Codenames x2
Two rounds of this with my wife, all three kids, and Will and Mindy.

_5_ Bad Medicine x1 New!
Mindy showed us this party game where you make up medicines or medical treatments to treat some weird aliment, and everything has a wacky side effect. This is all done by using cards you are dealt. With many players you work as teams. Mindy and I (and my daughter) were a team, Will and youngest son were the second, and my wife and oldest son was the third. One player arranges cards to make a name, a description of how it works, and the side effect, while the other part of the team "pitches" the concept, and people vote for the best one, and you can't vote for your own team. It was cute but rather silly.

_9_ Finca x1
Brought this to game day as my wife accompained me and she enjoys this game. It was new to the others.
Carolina 50, Jon 47, Erika 40, and my wife 35.

_7_ The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet x1
This time my wife won with 44, Caroline 39, Erika 36, and myself 27.

_7_ Hanabi x1
Re-taught this to my wife and daughter; we ended up with a score of 17.

_8_ Codenames x4
Four rounds with my wife, kids, and my brother and sister in law (using their copy of the game).

_9_ Power Grid x1
Finally got this dusted off. Since it had been awhile, we did an easy Germany map. I managed to build out a quick win in the first round of step three to win 17 to my wife's 14 and oldest son's 12.

_8_ The Castles of Burgundy x1
A nice quiet game with my wife, where I ended up getting a lot of end game points to win 204 to 136.
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8. Board Game: Imperial 2030 [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:225]
Board Game: Imperial 2030
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Last week's plays:

-8- Ra
-8- Ticket to Ride: Pennsylvania
-7- 6 Nimmt!
-7- Bucket King 3D
-7- The Palaces of Carrara
-7- Qwixx
-6.5- Imperial 2030 New!
-6- T.I.M.E Stories (+Under the Mask New!) (x4)
-6- Vegas Showdown New!
-5- Shakespeare New!
N/A Start Player

London on Board had a charity night at a venue I hadn't been to before. Terrible food but great gaming. All attendees got a free copy of In a Bind + expansions, which was a nice bonus. Imperial 2030 was remarkably quick, even with the full six players. Ed was the expert and manipulated proceedings well, grabbing control of countries just as they were about to take good Taxation actions so he could reap the benefits. I rode along on his coattails somewhat, hoping to edge ahead with a big Taxation for India in the endgame. However, I didn't get chance to complete my plans as China reached the finish line first. I was pleased to come in 2nd place here and actually feel like I'm beginning to understand this game (although it was the first time I've played the 2030 version, many of the same principles apply to both).

Afterwards, I tried to teach Palaces of Carrara but it had been a few years since I last played so we had to resort to the rulebook. Somehow, it manages to make a fairly straight-forward game seem very complicated. It doesn't help that the rules are spread out over two booklets, since we played the advanced game. We misread one rule and ended up playing a meaner variant, which we all enjoyed anyway. The rules say that if there's an area of the wheel with bricks you can afford, you must buy one (or take one for free, if applicable). We were playing that you were forced to choose an area with a free brick if there was one. This made grabbing the exact bricks you needed quite tricky and led to plenty of screwage as the player before you would leave you with horrible choices. Soren commented that he preferred the way we had played to the real rules.

I rushed ahead on the score track but was unable to close the game out before Wayne caught up and overtook me. With the slightly friendlier brick buying rules, I may have been able to get the more expensive bricks I needed to build in the valuable cities and declare the end. As it was, I finished 5 points behind the winner, which isn't a lot in this game.

After hearing I'd never come across Vegas Showdown outside of GCL Madness, John brought it along to teach me. It felt a bit like Suburbia with Amun-Re-style auctions. I don't like the constant updating of tracks and comparing against other players that Suburbia makes you do, so I appreciated that was streamlined here. The event cards provided occasional windfalls for some players – I wonder is it worth being prepared for these ahead of time if you know the deck well? It's a decent game and I'd be happy to play again but I'm not convinced it's a classic worthy of GCL Madness tournaments. Perhaps its nomination there is down to nostalgia.

Shakespeare followed and I found it rather dry and themeless. You're just collecting cards and tokens and moving along tracks – I never once felt like I was putting on a play, despite the pleasant art. To be fair, there are a couple of well-themed touches where the abilities of some of the actors match their role in Shakespeare's plays, e.g. tragic Hamlet making everyone sad, but it's not a lot. It had the familiar feature of having to move X steps up different tracks by the end of round Y or you're punished which often feels like it's been added to rein in very focussed strategies and bring an element of pressure. Player interaction was fairly minimal and I managed to achieve all the goals I'd set out to. I didn't consider there to be much left to explore in future plays, so I wouldn't return to it, although this one play was fine.

I had a fun evening playing Under the Mask, the latest Time Stories mission, though I think it's perhaps the weakest of the expansions so far. I'll try not to spoil anything here. It has a fun new mechanism to experiment with but more could have been done with that. It could also have gone deeper into its historical theme. The main problem was that it felt too procedural, being an optimisation exercise without much in the way of challenge. We enjoyed exploring it but afterwards thought that there really wasn't a lot to it. Each of the Time Stories adventures has left me thinking “if only...” about some aspect of it, with perhaps the Marcy Case being the most satisfying, but the flaws aren't so bad that I'm ready to give up on the series. Especially not now that I'm in a syndicate with two other groups where we share the expansions between us to split costs. I've downloaded a couple of fan expansions to try out too. The tricky thing with these is printing and cutting them out without spoiling the game by accidentally seeing too much information.

My non-gaming excitement was going jousting at the weekend for a friend's stag party. I was given a massive, lazy shire horse who took a lot of convincing to move beyond a sedate walk...
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