GCL Amoeba 348 - Essen retrospective
Jeroen Doumen
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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GameChat League - Amoeba Division 348
ABOUT | AMOEBA DIVISION | SUBSCRIBE

Welcome to this week's discussion list!

If you stumbled into this geeklist by accident take a look at the pointers provided at the top. Constructive on-topic comments from visitors are welcome and we're happy about new regular contributors, but please refrain from adding items if you are not a member of this GCL.

The hosting rotation:


Scott (qzhdad)Microbadge: GameChat League - Amoeba Division: "Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!"
Rebecca (CoffeeRunner)
Chris (Venser)
Joshua (Joshuaaaaaa)
Carlos (Sprocket314)
Mikko (msaari)
Doug (phrim)
Jason (Bond8089)
Eric (Eric Brosius)
Garry (garry_rice)
Jimmy (Butterfly0038)
Larry (larryjrice)
Jeroen (jmdsplotter)

We've discussed previews and early experiences of Essen 2017 in the most recent lists. Let's take a retrospective - how about Essen last year? What games came out of that most for you?
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1. Board Game: Carcassonne: Bonusplättchen Spiel 2016 [Average Rating:6.56 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.56 Unranked]
Board Game: Carcassonne: Bonusplättchen Spiel 2016
Jeroen Doumen
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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What were the best games for you that were released last year at Essen?
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2. Board Game: Codenames [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:84] [Average Rating:7.63 Unranked]
Board Game: Codenames
Jeroen Doumen
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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Codenames won the Spiel des Jahres last year. How has it held up for you? And its newer siblings?
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3. Board Game: Mombasa [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:75]
Board Game: Mombasa
Jeroen Doumen
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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Mombasa won multiple awards (KSdJ, IGA, ...). How has it held up for you?
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4. Board Game: Scythe [Average Rating:8.25 Overall Rank:11] [Average Rating:8.25 Unranked]
Board Game: Scythe
Jeroen Doumen
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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Scythe won the BGG Golden Geek award. How has it fared at your tables?
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5. Board Game: Big Game Night 2016 [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Big Game Night 2016
Jeroen Doumen
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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Any other noteworthy 2016 releases that I neglected to mention?
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6. Board Game: Um Reifenbreite [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:1448]
Board Game: Um Reifenbreite
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Board Game: Kingdomino
Board Game: Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
Board Game: Bärenpark
Board Game: Noria
Board Game: Clans of Caledonia
Board Game: Viral
Board Game: Um Reifenbreite
Board Game: Santa Maria
Board Game: Sagrada
Board Game: Ring-O Flamingo
Board Game: Race for the Galaxy
Board Game: Ciúb
Board Game: 1833NE
Board Game: Whistle Stop
Board Game: The Princes of Florence
Board Game: Magic Maze
Board Game: Code 777
Board Game: Bunny Kingdom
Board Game: Table Battles
Board Game: Stich-Meister
Board Game: 1822: The Railways of Great Britain


 10   1822: The Railways of Great Britain
 10   Race for the Galaxy
 8   The Princes of Florence
 8   Magic Maze x2 NEW!
 8   Bärenpark x2
 8   Um Reifenbreite NEW!
 8   Clans of Caledonia x2 NEW!
 8   Table Battles
 7   Noria x4 NEW!
 7   Kingdomino
 7   Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
 7   Santa Maria NEW!
 7   1834 x2 NEW!
 7   Whistle Stop NEW!
 7   Stich-Meister NEW!
 6   Sagrada x2 NEW!
 6   Ciúb NEW!
 6   Code 777 NEW!
 6   Bunny Kingdom NEW!
 5   Viral NEW!
 N/A   Ring-O Flamingo x2 NEW!

So, this past weekend was Great Lake Games. I had the chance to play a bunch of new games including several Spiel 2017 releases. On the drive back, Amanda asked me what my favorite game of the convention was. I told her I couldn't decide; it was a 3-way tie between Princes of Florence, Um Reifenbreite, and Magic Maze. Now, to be fair, part of that is who was in those games. Any one of those three games could have been miserable with the wrong people. Fortunately for me, two of the games had Amanda and Denise and all three had Chris McGowan (anyone know his BGG id?). They are all great people to game with and are more concerned with fun than winning. The new Spiel games were good, and I enjoyed the people I gamed with, but they were work as we were all trying to pull the levers and push the buttons to figure out how to make them go. Despite playing Um Reifenbreite and Magic Maze for the first time, there weren't a lot of levers to pull. The rules just got out of the way and let us have fun. Now I just need to try to figure out how to get a copy of Um Reifenbreite.

After this weekend, I think I've decided that Barenpark has a permanent place in my collection. It's exactly what I was hoping for from Patchwork 2.0 and I can't see getting tired of it. Even better, Amanda likes it too.

For my thoughts on the 2017 releases, see Butterfly0038's 2017 Watchlist

Lastly, my 1822 game was a weird one. The beginning minors stunk and there were only 4 started by the time the 3Ts broke. It was also a 3 player game which may have messed with things. In any case, we were to the 5Ts after 2.5 hours (and to the grey trains probably 30 minutes later), but the game still too 5.5 hours and I have no idea how. By game end, I had four companies with a total of 9 trains on them (5/E/2P/2P, 5/7, 6, 6, E) and final scores were 20K, 18K, 13K. Very weird game.
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7. Board Game: Siena [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:4813]
Board Game: Siena
Mikko Saari
Finland
Tampere
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2 x _9_Love Letter
1 x _8_South African Railroads
2 x _8_The Great Zimbabwe
3 x _8_Rhino Hero
2 x _8_Coconuts
1 x _8_The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet
1 x _8_Mombasa
1 x _8_Unlock!: Escape Adventures – The Island of Doctor Goorse (new!)
1 x _7_Twenty One
1 x _6_Siena (new!)

Siena was a curious beast. This is the game with the unmarked fresco as the board. I knew that, but actually, this wasn't half as bad as I expected. The game is a weird mixture of interesting stuff and broken bits. There's plenty of enjoy in the structure of the game: start as a peasant, gain money and become a merchant, gain lots of money and become a banker, with totally different goals and gameplay.

It's an odd game; I'd like to give it another go with five players, now we only had three. But I think it needs more work.

Acquisitions

I'm on a Cole Wehrle kick right now. I backed Root and bought Pax Pamir, which means I now have the full Cole Wehlre ludography, as soon as all the games arrive.

I also backed Dawn of Peacemakers; it's doing a bit slow, probably mostly because it turned out to be quite expensive, but I hope it reaches the goal.
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8. Board Game: An Infamous Traffic [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:2463]
Board Game: An Infamous Traffic
Chris Smith
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
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Board Game: Whistle Stop
Board Game: Innovation
Board Game: An Infamous Traffic
Board Game: Rolling Stock
Board Game: London
Board Game: Twilight Struggle


 4   Whistle Stop NEW!
I'd like this be a one and done game, but probably won't be the case. For the amount of time involved, I'd rather play Chicago Express or Age of Steam. There's nothing inherently bad about the game, just nothing memorable either. I won by a landslide because the random tile draws were always exactly what I needed to maximize points for the next turn.

 6   Innovation
This game is growing on me. There's something about always having to watch what your opponents can/can't do that I enjoy. Do I give them the chance to do this overpowered ability once? Should I wait for them to lose a leaf or two? Holy shit, you have ten castles, well I'm not doing this! Even though the tableau is entirely yours, I like the level of interaction in this game.

 N/A   An Infamous Traffic x2 NEW!
Big fan. Our first game was anti-climatic because I got the jump on victory points then in the third round caused China to have a revolution. We missed the rule which states how victory is determined when this happens and I crowned myself the winner. Something didn't feel right if that was the victory condition because getting a three point victory chit on the first turn would be overpowered.

If China has a revolution, victory is determined solely by your presence in supply lines, not the mistake from above. Now having a zero profit unit in the supply line makes sense if you're trying to force a revolution. The second game had much more tension because there was constant pulling and pushing on the various mechanisms in the game. It played out much differently (as it should when you play with the correct rules). In the first round I managed to snag a 3 point victory chit again, but now the other players were fighting hard to spread the smugglers thin whereas I was trying to complete garbage supply chains with them. It was another third round finish except the correct person won (not me).

 10   Rolling Stock
In the middle of the game I was determined another player needed a certain company, so I sold a share in my money maker only to have that player become president, taking me out of contention. I convinced myself that wasn't even a possibility when I pulled the trigger on selling a share. I had enough money I could still play, but was never in the running. Final scores: BennyD ($271), Raymond ($266), Venser ($192), Saumarez ($19)

 3   London NEW!
Not a fan. It feels like Innovation, the family edition. Sure there's resource management along with minor decisions as to expand your city at the cost of pollution, but it was fairly light with little interaction between players. The odd card arises where you can give opponents a pollution or two, but that's not enough interaction for me.

 9   Twilight Struggle
Relatively uneventful game that ended in DEFCON suicide. Ussiri River Skirmish and Five Year Plan ripped two cards out of the Soviets hand leaving them with no outs. My opponent was holding Duck and Cover along with CIA Created and was forced to play one of them. I knew something was up when they started to realign battleground countries in Africa.

Acquisitions:
18CZ - Mine came with an incomplete rule book. It's not a problem as I can print off the missing pages from here. Sent Lonny an email and he'll replace it without question, but this is just easier.
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9. Board Game: Die Schlacht der Dinosaurier [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:8418]
Board Game: Die Schlacht der Dinosaurier
Larry Rice
United States
North Newton
Kansas
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Attending Great Lakes Games allowed for a large number of plays. Surprisingly, my favorite new game of the weekend was an old German game from the 90s and not one of the new shiny Essen releases! I haven't yet gotten around to rating most of them but here's a short list of the games played. A bit more about the experience is in this GLG 15 geeklist.

Board Game: 5-Minute Dungeon
Board Game: Alien Artifacts
Board Game: Anomia: Party Edition
Board Game: Bist Du sicher?
Board Game: Calimala
Board Game: Clans of Caledonia
Board Game: Codenames: Duet
Board Game: Die Schlacht der Dinosaurier
Board Game: Downforce
Board Game: Factory Fun
Board Game: Flamme Rouge
Board Game: Fog of War
Board Game: Lagerstätten
Board Game: Merlin
Board Game: Mini Rails
Board Game: Montage
Board Game: Mucho Macho
Board Game: Noria
Board Game: Pioneers
Board Game: Pocket Ops
Board Game: Qwinto
Board Game: R-Eco
Board Game: Race for the Galaxy
Board Game: Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts
Board Game: Santa Maria
Board Game: Sentient
Board Game: Sheep & Thief
Board Game: Stich-Meister
Board Game: Stroop
Board Game: Table Battles
Board Game: Team Play
Board Game: Terraforming Mars
Board Game: The Labours of Hercules
Board Game: Unpublished Prototype


 5   5-Minute Dungeon NEW!
 7   Alien Artifacts x4
 N/A   Anomia: Party Edition NEW!
 N/A   Bist Du sicher? NEW!
 N/A   Calimala NEW!
 7   Clans of Caledonia
 N/A   Codenames Duet NEW!
 8   Die Schlacht der Dinosaurier NEW!
 N/A   Downforce NEW!
 10   Factory Fun x4
 8   Flamme Rouge x2 NEW!
 5   Fog of War NEW!
 N/A   Lagerstätten NEW!
 5   Merlin NEW!
 8   Mini Rails
 7   Montage
 5   Mucho Macho x2 NEW!
 N/A   Noria NEW!
 N/A   Pioneers x2 NEW!
 5   Pocket Ops NEW!
 7   Qwinto
 7   R-Eco
 10   Race for the Galaxy x2
 8   Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts
 N/A   Santa Maria x2 NEW!
 N/A   Sentient NEW!
 7   Sheep & Thief
 6   Stich-Meister
 7   Stroop NEW!
 7   Table Battles NEW!
 7   Team Play
 9   Terraforming Mars
 N/A   The Labours of Hercules NEW!
 N/A   Unpublished Prototype x2

ACQUISITIONS:

Keyper Kickstarter
Photosynthesis Prize Table pick
Dark Horse with all expansions - Prize Table Pick
Nefertiti GLG flea market ($5)
Genial Spezial GLG flea market ($5)
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10. Board Game: Alien Artifacts [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:1669]
Board Game: Alien Artifacts
Scott Russell
United States
Clarkston
Michigan
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Board Game: Race for the Galaxy: Xeno Invasion
Board Game: Alien Artifacts
Board Game: Race for the Galaxy
Board Game: Cribbage
Board Game: Ex Libris
Board Game: Maskmen
Board Game: Mucho Macho
Board Game: Unpublished Prototype
Board Game: Bärenpark
Board Game: Capital Lux
Board Game: Clash of the Gladiators
Board Game: Dr. Eureka
Board Game: Glass Road
Board Game: Iberian Rails
Board Game: Innovation
Board Game: Linko!
Board Game: Magic Maze
Board Game: Pioneers
Board Game: Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts
Board Game: Santa Fe
Board Game: Take it to the Limit!
Board Game: Thingamajig
Board Game: Twins
Board Game: Viral


All but one play of Ex Libris were at GLG 15. Comments on my blog (only part I so far)
Edit: [blogpost=70588]Part II[/blogpost]

 N/A   Race for the Galaxy: Xeno Invasion x7
 N/A   Alien Artifacts x4 NEW!
 10   Race for the Galaxy x4
 8   Cribbage x3
 N/A   Ex Libris x2 NEW!
 9   Maskmen x2
 N/A   Mucho Macho x2 NEW!
 N/A   Unpublished Prototype x2
 N/A   Bärenpark NEW!
 N/A   Capital Lux
 6   Clash of the Gladiators
 N/A   Dr. Eureka NEW!
 7   Glass Road
 N/A   Iberian Rails
 9.5   Innovation
 N/A   Linko!
 N/A   Magic Maze NEW!
 N/A   Pioneers NEW!
 N/A   Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts
 10   Santa Fe
 8   Take it to the Limit!
 N/A   Thingamajig
 N/A   Twins
 N/A   Viral NEW!

I do see that I need to update some ratings! modest
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11. Board Game: Clank! In! Space!: A Deck-Building Adventure [Average Rating:7.87 Overall Rank:104] [Average Rating:7.87 Unranked]
Board Game: Clank! In! Space!: A Deck-Building Adventure
Garry Rice
United States
Perkasie
Pennsylvania
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N/A  Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 NEW!

Just got this in recently so C and I pulled it out to give the prologue game a try - hope you start it up with my friend Chris around a Thanksgiving. We didn't find it too hard to get used to putting cubes on the board instead of trying to take them off...we won relatively easily but did have three cities infected by the plague by the end. London wound up having an outbreak, but since it's off isolated by itself, it only spread to the adjacent haven. Epidemic cards were spaced pretty close towards the end and cities were getting drawn almost as soon as they were on the discard pile. I think the hardest thing will be dealing with having multiple infection cards for each starting city.

7.0  Clank! In! Space! NEW!

Went to game nite and pulled out my pnp of The Manhattan Project 2: Minutes to Midnight and distributed the game pieces and started setting it up...only to realize that I was missing the main worker placement board...I was sure I crafted it, but it was most certainly not in the box...so everything went back in the box...sigh.

However, I then got to try out the new Clank in space. I enjoyed it, but I definitely prefer the theme and the boards in the original clank. I just find the space boards cluttered and not particularly attractive, and the modularity, at least at the moment, is really quite limited. I am also not impressed with the new market options as the teleport feels gimicky and I really do not like the med kits you can purchase to get some health back. I'm also not sold on the suited cards that give an additional action that triggers if you play another card of the same suit that round...you can try and set your deck up to trigger, but there's no guarantee the cards will come up together, and it adds unnecessary complexity to a fun romp of a game.

I do like the addition of the red cubes (bounty hunters) that get added to the bag once the alert level has gone high enough...and gives everyone a point of damage if drawn...then gets tossed back in the bag. I also like that there are only a couple of cards that allow a player to potentially trash their stumble card...adding more clank to the bag is always a good thing
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12. Board Game: Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 [Average Rating:8.18 Overall Rank:34]
Board Game: Pandemic Legacy: Season 2
Jason
United States
Irvine
California
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Board Game: Pandemic Legacy: Season 2
Board Game: Century: Spice Road
Board Game: First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express!
Board Game: Schotten Totten
Board Game: Unpublished Prototype


9.0  Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 x6 NEW!
7.0  Century: Spice Road
7.0  First Class
7.0  Schotten Totten NEW!
3.0  Rook and Raiders NEW!

Acquisitions:
Claim
Montana
Santa Maria
Pulsar 2849
A Tale of Pirates
The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game
Transatlantic
Agra
1920 Wall Street
Rajas of the Ganges
Justice League: Dawn of Heroes
Terraforming Mars: Venus Next
Liberatores: The Conspiracy to Liberate Rome
Tybor the Builder
The Palace of Mad King Ludwig
Arkham Noir: Case #1 – The Witch Cult Murders
Mystery of the Temples
My Story
Medical Frontier
Reworld

Been excited to get Pandemic Legacy Season 2 to the table, and wow, it didn't disappoint. Very cool tweaks to the "Pandemic Engine", and a very cool next episode in the story. This one does feel more difficult than the previous game, but we'll see how it all plays out since we are only in April.

My wife and I have been able to start playing hour long games at night before we go to bed ourselves as the kid has been falling asleep earlier. Taught her Century Spice Road which she really liked. Also played Schotten Totten, which I don't think she was as big of a fan of. Every time I see my copy of Century Spice Road, I am sad I don't have the Golem version (Plan B games... You are evil!)

Rook and Raiders was a tower defense Japanese game. It has a puerto rico like action selection mechanisms, but everything else in the game plays out on your player board. Too long for what it was, and it got pretty boring after a few turns in since it was just "Rinse and repeat".

Ya... Most of the Essen games came in, so I'll have plenty to play for the rest of the year!
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13. Board Game: Heaven & Ale [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:262]
Board Game: Heaven & Ale
United States
Seattle
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Board Game: Clans of Caledonia
Board Game: Dutch InterCity
Board Game: Riverboat
Board Game: Transatlantic
Board Game: Ethnos
Board Game: Tybor the Builder
Board Game: Cat Lady
Board Game: Heaven & Ale
Board Game: Rajas of the Ganges
Board Game: Sidereal Confluence: Remastered Edition
Board Game: Treachery in a Pocket


 8   Clans of Caledonia x5
 7.5   Dutch InterCity x2 NEW!
 7.5   Riverboat NEW!
 6   Transatlantic NEW!
 4   Ethnos NEW!
 4   Tybor der Baumeister NEW!
 N/A   Cat Lady x2 NEW!
 N/A   Heaven & Ale x2 NEW!
 N/A   Rajas of the Ganges NEW!
 N/A   Sidereal Confluence: Trading and Negotiation in the Elysian Quadrant NEW!
 N/A   Treachery in a Pocket NEW!

Last week I attended the annual Sasquatch Gaming Festival. Highlights for me included gaming with one of my favorite humans, the insightful and quick-witted Jennifer Shlickbernd, nine player Sidereal Confluence, and discovering a new favorite game: Heaven & Ale. The best part of Sasquatch is being in a room with around 100 other gamers, some old friends, some new, all exploring brand new games from Essen.


Heaven & Ale Wow! Every decision is meaningful and agonizingly difficult. Heaven & Ale is so far my game of the year.

Clans of Caledonia My husband and I played quite a few times at 2P already. I'm not sure I'd like this at more than two player due to length - we tend to take our time on turns planning how to allocate funds. The order actions are taken is important to get right. Very pleased with this kickstarter game.

Sidereal Confluence: Remastered Edition Ryan Spangler arranged a nine player game Saturday night at Sasquatch. It really works at 9P, in fact, I always want to play with nine in the future so that all of the factions come out. Sidereal Confluence felt more like a treasure hunt experience than game, possibly due to player aids depicting the value of goods. Ryan called it a party game for gamers and I agree. Excellent convention experience.

Rajas of the Ganges I didn't get to finish a game, but after sleeping on it, I decided Rajas at the Ganges was an excellent mid-weight euro. At first I was put off by dice, but actually they don't hinder planning at all. The game doesn't have other annoyances I find in euros like secret objectives, text laden cards, special powers, or variable setup. Every game players start with the same stuff and the board stays the same. There's definitely room to try out different strategies. The end game condition, when a player's score tracker meets on two different tracks, is pretty clever.








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14. Board Game: The Spoils [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:3701] [Average Rating:6.94 Unranked]
Board Game: The Spoils
Carlos Moreno Serrano
United Kingdom
Guildford
Surrey
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I am playing The Spoils almost daily at work at lunch time.

I am so happy I get to play regularly that I want to cry of happiness.

This is prompting me to spend a substantial amount of cash in importing them from the USA (within the next few days). So I am diverting my budget from boardgames to The Spoils for the time being.

Other than that, I am still waiting to receive my pre-orders:

- John Company
- Sidereal Confluence
- 1880
- 18CZ

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15. Board Game: Santa Maria [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:327]
Board Game: Santa Maria
Jeroen Doumen
Netherlands
Eindhoven
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3x _6.00_ Nautilion
3x _6.00_ ゴリティア (Goritaire)
2x _6.00_ Schinderhannes
1x _7.00_ Gaia Project
1x _7.00_ Clans of Caledonia
1x _7.00_ Agricola
1x _6.00_ LOST GEMMA W
1x _6.00_ Shadows in Kyoto
1x _6.00_ Riverboat
1x _6.00_ Kikkasai
1x _6.00_ The Palace of Mad King Ludwig
1x _6.00_ Photosynthesis
1x _6.00_ John Company
1x _6.00_ Kepler-3042
1x _5.75_ Santa Maria
1x _5.75_ NMBR 9
1x _5.50_ Alchemistry
1x _5.50_ Riga
1x _5.25_ Arkham Noir: Case #1 \[Dash] The Witch Cult Murders
1x _5.25_ Not Alone
1x _5.00_ HATSUDEN

Essen games! Well, mostly . Some solo gaming as well. Both Nautilion and Goritaire were good solo fun. Banana mangling is hard...

I got an older "proof" game at Essen, including its latest expansion. And we had good fun with Schinderhannes. Though I like it better without the expansion; it effectively turns it into a deduction game since you have to solve a certain puzzle.

We had good fun with Gaia Project. Very much like Terra Mystica; I like the improvements. The "temple" tracks now provide better abilities, and you're much more mobile on the board. Not that I ever played TM at a high level.

I was also pleasantly surprised by Clans of Caledonia. A good resource management game - money is tight, and all actions cost money...

Somewhat confusing, but a good JRPG distillation: LOST GEMMA W. First build up the map, then walk on it (starting from your home tile/card) to find a lost relic.

And a mini-Stratego: Shadows in Kyoto. What adds to the fun here is that you lose if you capture too many wrong opponent pieces, but you win if you reach the opposite side with a right piece. Good tension!

I didn't have high expectations of Riverboat, but it surprised me in a good way. The puzzle element of getting your farms, as well as the agony in which boats to ship all works quite well. Definitely want to play again.

Photosynthesis is really pretty. And with the advanced rules (no growing/planting in shadow), it's a fun puzzle as well. Not complex, but a good engine builder.

John Company was good fun. Though there was not much to negotiate; in the first three turns we had lost two presidencies already and were limping along in crushing debt. I doubt there was ever a worse performing EIC.

Santa Maria is a nice evolution of the Doodle series. No longer drawing on the board, but now you get to build "factories" and activate either a row or a column of them. Good fun.

Let's see if any of the ratings still will go up .
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16. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:287]
Board Game: Saint Petersburg
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I too attended a con last week, though mine was EuroQuest, which includes tournaments (sort of like a mini-WBC) together with open gaming. I had attended EuroQuest once before, back in 2009, when I had a business trip to DC the following week, and I came in 2nd to Doug Faust in the Race for the Galaxy tournament. This year, my wife told me she wanted us to attend, so she bought con tickets and made hotel, air travel, and rental car reservations. All I had to do is make sure I put clothes in my suitcase. (I also brought one game -- Saint Petersburg -- which thereby earns the right to be in the header for this GeekList item.)

First, however, I can report on three games I played earlier in the week, before we left:

 8   Jump Drive -- I played one game of this with Joe Rushanan as we waited for people to show up (there were more uncertain arrivals than usual.) It was remarkably close; Joe and I were within 2 points of each other every single turn, and I edged him out by a 57-55 margin. This game hasn't quite made it into Eric Brosius's H-Index List yet, but it's already up to 37 and has a high likelihood of making it by year end.

 7   Spirit Island NEW! -- Andy Latto arrived as we were finishing Jump Drive, so Joe R. and I joined him for a play of this cooperative game. You have to know that I haven't found any coops that I really enjoy, even though in theory I could enjoy them. (I don't need the thrill of winning; for me, the joy of gaming involves making difficult decisions and spending time with other people, both of which can be present in a coop.) Andy taught the game and we launched in. I quite enjoyed the game, partly because we each had so much to think about that we couldn't dream of trying to mastermind other people's actions. It was more "I can do 1 damage to this town; can anyone else do a 2nd damage to destroy it?" We thought we were going to lose, but late in the game, Andy developed the Tsunami power and this just barely allowed us to win. I have assigned a tentative rating of  7 , but it could go up (or, of course, down.)

 8   Reluctant Enemies -- My son-in-law came over on Tuesday to play our third session of this OCS game. In our first two sessions we made it through 2 1/2 turns of the 21-turn scenario, but in this third session we finished another 2 1/2 turns as we grew more familiar with what we were trying to do. I have to credit my valiant Gladiator pilots, who took part in a wildly successful fighter sweep, more than holding their own with Vichy pilots who were flying technically superior planes (e.g., I rolled high.) OCS features wild swings in luck; much of the fun lies in preparing to defend against or (depending on which side you are) exploit these swings when they occur.

I started bombarding the Vichy at a substantial cost in supplies with the hope of disorganizing ("DG-ing") him and creating a weak point I could exploit. Supply is very short in this game and you need to think carefully about how to use it (if you can capture enemy supply, that's great!) I bombarded on Turn 3 and Turn 4 with little result, but finally I bombarded successfully on Turn 5 near the key road junction of Merdjoyoun. I then attacked in the Combat phase to DG his defending units and force them back and take a hex right next to the junction. I then released the Staffordshire Yeomanry cavalry unit (yes, they used actual horse cavalry in this campaign; they don't need gasoline but move fast, which can be extremely valuable) and the Royals armo(u)red car unit to attack a Vichy artillery unit with no supporting defenders in Medjoyoun. But I rolled poorly on the surprise roll and the valiant artillerists forced a 6-shift-left result on my surprised attackers. I lost the cavalry, but did force his artillery out of the hex and took it with my armored cars. Here's a picture of the area following this attack. He will probably knock my Royals back out, but it won't be easy or cheap for him:

Board Game: Reluctant Enemies: Operation Exporter


 7   Yokohama -- We arrived at EuroQuest on Wednesday a little before noon. There were a few people already on hand, but not many, as attendance builds up slowly until it reaches a peak on Saturday afternoon. Anne Norton was planning to take part in the "Wild Card" competition, so Claire and I played a game of this recent (2016) release with her. It's probably my favorite 2016 release that isn't an 18xx game or a wargame. It was very close, but Anne won by a margin of about 145-142. I currently am finding that I can retain about 75% of what I need to retain; I forget the rest.

 7   Splendor x2 -- I played this twice. My first play was in a heat at EuroQuest. I had heard about the fact that top players don't play this as an engine-building game, but as a race game, and (as I reported in an earlier Amoeba list) I am trying to learn to play it that way. The other 3 people in my heat were also playing that way, and though I did reasonably well, my opponents were much more experienced at doing it. Then I requested it again on Monday this week, since we had 30 minutes to an hour left, and I won the game on the tie-breaker over Geoff Speare. My opponents clearly shifted their tactics during the game when they saw what I was doing. The game is more interesting to me now that I have something new to work on instead of taking lots of 0-VP cards; we'll see whether that raises my rating.

Headline: Splendor is no longer an engine-building game, at least not when you play it right. (This reminds me of Francis Tresham's comment that he enjoyed 1830 until he saw it being played right.)

 7   Thurn and Taxis x3 -- I played two heats in the tournament, winning the first (with 16 VP from just four VP chips, scoring 4 and 3 for completing the first two length-7 routes.) I then lost to Alex Bove in the semi. Scores were 19-19-19-11, but he had more unplaced houses than I did at the end (this was the tournament tie-breaker.) If they had used the regular tie-breaker I would have won, but the tournament rules that were published ahead of time are clear (I'm not sure why they changed them.)

 10   Saint Petersburg x5 -- This is a favorite of mine, as you can tell from my avatar. I played two heats in this tournament as well, winning the first one in a tense struggle but losing the second to Rick Miller. The second game was interesting. I was just to Rick's left in Turn 1, and he had the noble. The player across from me took a building, so Rick passed. The cheapest thing on display was a Customs House, which costs 8. I had $24. I could put the Customs House in my hand to clear a space, or I could build it, making more space in my hand and earning 2 VP right away. I thought to myself that I would still have $16, so unless both Mistresses of Ceremonies came out in the flop, I'd be fine. Guess what happened? Rick and I both got MoC's, but he could actually play his. I was second, but not particularly close to Rick.

In the semi, I got a Turn 1 MoC, then a Turn 2 Observatory, and was chair for the 3rd turn (when all the green cards show up.) In general the card draws were ideal for me. I won by a margin of 71-53 over my closest rival, and I don't think they had any chance given the card draws unless I had made huge mistakes. The final was very close. Keith Levy got a Turn 1 Observatory and used it to draw a second Wood Cutter. He had nice income and was able to get out 8 different nobles to win, 53-51(me)-47-43. I took home my second plaque from EuroQuest; both were 2nd place plaques.

Then yesterday, Marsha was in town to see relatives and attend Lobster Trap (which is similar to the Sasquatch event that Rebecca described.) Marsha is a huge fan of Saint Petersburg, so I played a game with her before the formal starting time, since we both arrived about 30 minutes early. I had an interesting start; I got a Bank on the first turn and played it right away, then got two more blue upgrades out early, earning me $12 and 7 VP each turn during the blue phase. This proved valuable, and I won by about 5 VP.

 9   Power Grid: Benelux/Central Europe -- I really like Power Grid (more, for example, than Thurn and Taxis,) but I don't play it very much in tournaments any more. The problem is that, while it's a 90-minute game in the groups I play with, it's a 3-hour game at conventions. This is one of the most extreme examples of games taking much longer when people aren't focused. I don't really want to spend 3 hours playing a 90-minute game. But I did play one heat. I had 15 cities of powering capacity but was relatively hemmed in. David Stoy, who's an excellent player, had only 14 cities of powering capacity, but built to 15 to end the game. I could only build to 14 myself, so it came down to money. David had $13, I had $6, and Eyal had $3.

 8   Martian Rails -- I spotted 3 people sitting down to play Martian Rails, and I asked whether they wanted me to join them. They were happy to have me. As it turns out, they won the game in a drawing and were fairly new at the game, even though they had played it some. So I was able to help them with the rules and questions about strategy. I play a ton of crayon rails with my wife at home, but it's nice to play it with more than 2 people!

 10   Settlers x3 -- I've quietly piled up quite a few plays of Settlers and its variants this year; I'll probably wind up with more plays than I've had in any year since the 1990s. I entered two heats (it seems that there's a pattern here!) The first was a 3-player game in which I did abysmally. I placed one initial settlement near the 2:1 sheep port and another near a lot of sheep. Unfortunately, Meredith Martini beat me to the sheep port, and my game was toast. She won with 10 VP and I was last with 4 VP. I can't ever remember finishing a game of Settlers with fewer than 5 VP! Fortunately, my second game (a 4-player game) was much better. It was a thriller. Two of my opponents vied back and forth for longest road, while I simply built my economy. I drew both "Road Building" development cards. I used one to facilitate the earlier placement of a settlement, but I held the other. On the last turn, I laid down the Road Building card, 4 brick, and 4 wood to take longest road and get to 10 VP. It was really cool!

The semi was once again a 3-player game. One of my opponents was Sam Wolff, of the game-playing Wolff family. Sam is about 8 years old (I could be off,) but if he sits down at your table and you think you've gotten an easy draw, you'll soon find yourself thinking differently! Sam was first player, and he was able to place his first settlement near the 2:1 wheat port and near a lot of wheat. This gave him a big advantage, but the other player and I fought back. I was more successful than she was, so she had to balance hitting him and hitting me when she rolled a '7'. Eventually Sam and I were both at 9 VP, and he made it to 10 first.

 9   Ticket to Ride: USA 1910 x2 -- I played two heats of Ticket to Ride, both using the Ticket to Ride: USA 1910 Megagame expansion, which is a favorite of mine. In the first I started with a bunch of tickets going north-south down the middle of the map, and drew more that I could fulfill relatively easily while my opponents tussled over the east coast. This gave me a fairly easy win. The second was a different story. Amy Rule (one of the tournament organizers and a fine Ticket to Ride player) drew 10 tickets and made them all. In three draws after the game start, she got 5 tickets she had already completed out of 9 tickets! She ended with 180; I was second with 142. Amy commented that she once scored over 200 in a game at WBC and still came in second; the 1910 Megagame yields some very high scores!

 6   Ticket to Ride: Europe -- The semis for the tournament were played on the Europe map. When I saw my initial tickets, they didn't go with each other at all. My long ticket was Palermo-Moscow, but none of my others went with it. I discarded it and kept two short ones: Amsterdam-Pamplona and Brest-Marseille. My thought was that many of the long tickets need to go through France, so I might be able to cause enough turmoil among my fellow players that I could win even without a long ticket. And that's how it turned out. I drew new tickets three times and got three more short ones (Barcelona-Munich, Madrid-Zurich, and Paris-Wien.) This gave me a full house of ticket scoring: 8-8-8-7-7 for 38 VP. And I got longest route for 10 VP with the following unusual path: Amsterdam-Frankfurt-Paris-Pamplona-Barcelona-Madrid-Pamplona-Marseille-Zurich-Venezia-Zagrab-Wien-Budapest-Sarajevo! I finished ahead of Andy Latto in 2nd place by 3 VP.

 9   Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 1 – Team Asia & Legendary Asia -- The final on Sunday was a 4-player game using the Legendary Asia map. Now, I'm shown as playing this expansion many times and rating it a  9 , but my real love is for the Team Asia variant; I had only played Legendary Asia once before. I got poor ticket draws, but chose a long and 2 shorts that seemed reasonable. One of my opponents knew the trick of ending the game early by playing on a lot of "X" spaces (that require you to discard trains for 2 VP each,) but he didn't know the trick of doing that while also winning. The winner was Virginia Colin, an experienced Ticket to Ride player who clearly knew this variant well. I finished 4th out of 4 players, but on the bright side, it was the first time I made it to a Ticket to Ride finals!

My wife, who GMs Ticket to Ride at WBC but doesn't play (given the work of just herding 300 contestants,) played in three heats, coming in 2nd twice, but this didn't qualify her for the semis.

 8   Puerto Rico -- I played in one Puerto Rico heat. Ben Scholl built a massive 1 Coffee/5 Corn/Wharf engine to end with 48 VPs. Another player built three Large Buildings to finish with 47. I was in 3rd with 42.

 10   1846: The Race for the Midwest x4 -- I played this three times at EuroQuest. The first was played while we waited for Pierre LeBoeuf to show up. I launched the B&O and earned $32/share on OR 1.2 as no other corporation earned more than $16/share. I had attracted quite a bit of cross-investment, so I half-paid and still double-jumped. It was an interesting game, and the winner was still not determined when we stopped. The second game was a 3-player game in which I once again got away with B&O cheese; this time my opponents conceded to me because it was clear that no one was going to catch me. The third game was a teaching game for Erica, who had played 1846: The Race for the Midwest before, but found that the experienced players didn't give her time to think. Vien joined me and we played a very pleasant game, and one in which Erica was pleased to have had the time to understand what was going on.

My fourth game was on Monday this week, when Marsha asked to play another of her favorite games (she hasn't gotten to play it much in Maryland.) It was close all the way, but Marsha won with Michael less than $100 behind her and me in 3rd about $300 back.

I was happy that I played for five days at EuroQuest and didn't play a single new-to-me game (though lots of Essen games were being played; I think I saw more games of Clans of Caledonia than anything else.) However, my play of Spirit Island put me at 41 for the year, so I failed to hit my "no more than 40 new games" target. I was happy to play Spirit Island, though; it's really interesting.
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17. Board Game: Time of Crisis: The Roman Empire in Turmoil, 235-284 AD [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:883]
Board Game: Time of Crisis: The Roman Empire in Turmoil, 235-284 AD
Joshua Gottesman
United States
Las Vegas
Nevada
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Gaming Friday night and Saturday last week. On Friday night we broke out Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 and played the Prologue, which we won, January I, which we lost as we were still a little lost in what to do, and January II when we were one move from victory. ARGH! I'm liking it so far and looking forward to the campaign.

Saturday we started with The Quest for El Dorado which is a pretty decent hand management game. Not my usual thing, and I had fun.

I then introduced the group to Time of Crisis: The Roman Empire in Turmoil, 235-284 AD. This was my 1st time playing it with Euro gamers rather than wargamers. One of them did pronounce it "too wargamey" and also said he'd play it again. I think my 2 previous plays gave me a leg up (I won, although it was not a runaway). It wasn't a super hit with them, and I think they enjoyed it. I have to try this out with other players, too.

Then we played Magic Maze which was fun and frustrating. The 1st game we screwed up the vortex rule (my fault, I was explaining from the rulebook, and the guy who owned the game thought it worked one way and I missed the rule that said "no, that's not how it works") and we won. The second game we decided to play with the "no talking" rule, which the other 3 players (especially the game owner) kept violating, which was very frustrating for me. I overall liked it more than I expected, however playing it with people ignoring the silence/pointing/don't put the "do something" pawn next to the thing you want moved rules dampened my enthusiasm to play it with these guys again.
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18. Board Game: Clans of Caledonia [Average Rating:8.02 Overall Rank:41]
Board Game: Clans of Caledonia
Doug Faust
United States
Malverne
New York
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Last weekend, Anni and I attended EuroQuest, a mid-size convention outside of Baltimore, MD. My goal is to try to play as many new games as possible, but I knew they had some issues getting games from Essen this year, so I had to scale back my expectations. Well, even so, the convention was a big disappointment for me--the only post-GenCon release they had was Clans of Caledonia. I saw a few copies of Merlin floating around too, but that was it. If the same is true next year, I won't be attending.

-THURSDAY-

From gallery of Phrim
_8_ Yokohama - This was with me, Derek, and Tim; Derek was new. It had been several months since I last played, but fortunately Tim agreed to explain the game. I grabbed two techs early on--one that let me activate a worker per turn for 1 yen, and another that gave me bonus points for playing offices. So obviously I really had to camp out the bank to make this strategy go, but I think I did pretty well at that, and used my activations to get out my buildings. By the end of the game, I managed to complete two of the three objectives (I don't think I was first), but couldn't manage the third. In any case, I feel like I did pretty well, but everyone else just did better. It didn't help that I forgot the rule that offices count as an extra worker in an area--that would've helped me significantly, obviously. Tim won.


From gallery of Phrim
_9_ Terraforming Mars - This was with me, Don, Derek, and Jay; everyone had played before. I used Interplanetary Cinematics, mostly for the 20 steel bonus than anything else (though I managed to remember my event rebate every time!). Somehow, though, I managed to get beat out on not only the Builder milestone, but also any milestone at all, as Jay took Builder, Don took Mayor, and Derek took Gardener. The thing that I did have going for me was an early game Ironworks which, combined with some good sources of power, let me pump the oxygen every turn. I had big plans for a nice board presence, but the game accelerated very quickly with both Derek and I pushing oxygen and Don boosting the temperature. Oceans came out the slowest, but we didn't have to wait too long for those to all come out as well. I ended up in a not-too-distant last; I think Derek won.


From gallery of Phrim
_7_ Codenames - This started out with me, Don, and Jay, with Jay acting as the clue-giver for both of us, then then we added Anni and Derek, and later someone whose name I didn't catch. I feel like I was particularly crappy in both clue-giving and guessing over the sessions that we played, even after I had been joined by Anni and Derek. I even had a bonehead move where my team guessed an opponent's word, though fortunately I didn't run afoul of any assassins this time. I think my team may have won like once out of 5 or so sessions.


-FRIDAY-

From gallery of Phrim
_6_ The King's Abbey - This was with me, Anni, Don, Derek, and Jay; only I had played before. I wasn't terribly impressed by this game when I had played before, but the others were interested, and it fell to me to try to teach. My main focus throughout the game was keeping my military ahead of the darkness--I probably went a little overboard, as by the end of the game it wasn't a concern. I got an early game Garden to help me with my feeding, but I followed it up with a Dairy Farm which made feeding a non-issue. I passed a lot early on buildings (but still managed to fill up my spaces) and instead worked on trying to play my more expensive tower cards, which worked okay. I didn't focus much on crusades, but I probably took one too late, as I ended up with one I couldn't complete. I didn't finish particularly well, but I don't remember who actually did win.


From gallery of Phrim
_8_ Lorenzo il Magnifico - This was with me, Don, Derek, and Jay; everyone had played before. I decided to focus primarily on green cards this time, mostly because that's what seemed to go with the leader cards I drafted. Despite that, I was the last player to actually get a leader card out, and I ended up tossing a bunch of them at the end of the game for church favors. In any case, it seemed like I was rarely able to get first to the axe spot because I had other things to do (also, turn order wasn't a priority for me), but I was able to mitigate that with an early-game +2 axe blue card. I was able to keep my military above the level that I needed to get more green cards, and so I got all six green cards by the end of the game. Not only was I able to have the largest military at the end, that was after I spent a bunch in the last round to pick up some nice purple cards. Because I didn't have any yellow cards, I ended up with a ton of spare resources at the end of the game that I just had to convert to points. I ended up finishing second, behind Derek I think.


From gallery of Phrim
_7_ Wasteland Express Delivery Service - This was with me, Don, Derek, and Jay; only I had played before. Our public goals this game were to deliver 3 artifacts to The Depot, deliver a nuke to Nein Nein, and complete smuggling contracts from each faction. I ended up taking a bunch of damage early, so I had to spend extra time healing. I spent time drawing cards so that I could do the smuggling contracts goal, and got another card that gave me the goal of completing three deliveries to the three "New" cities. So mostly I just focused on completing smuggling contracts (which unfortunately mostly had ally bonuses that I couldn't fit) and delivering to the "New" cities. Don tackled the nuke delivery right away, and did the artifact delivery as well. I forget what he did for his third goal, but he completed it right after I had completed my second--I think everyone else was further behind.


From gallery of Phrim
_7_ Fabled Fruit (new!) - This was with me and Anni; neither of us had played before. We played a number of consecutive rounds, keeping a card from each game we won in a score pile to try to keep score. I ended up winning the first few rounds, but Anni was definitely winning more as the game progressed. We ended up keeping the #1 card (draw 2 cards) for a really long time (I think because pineapples were useful for another card), but eventually I decided to get rid of it to mix things up. It did bother us that a good portion of the cards didn't seem suited for 2-player play, and some were never used for their text at all. In any case, when we finished, I think I was ahead by one or something.


From gallery of Phrim
_8_ Clans of Caledonia (new!) - This was with me, Anni, and Derek; only Derek had played before. I played a clan that let me build the second-level production buildings more cheaply. I thought I had a pretty good plan early--the first bonus was for second-level goods, and I took a contract that could be satisfied with the whiskey I'd be making. So I was able to get a good number of points early on, but started to run into problems mid-game. The contract display got junked up with stuff no one wanted, and Anni kept taking the few contracts I actually did want. I ended up spending a bunch of money to meet an end-turn goal of being on the side of the board. And, wheat buildings being as expensive as they are, I ran out of money. Still, I made the best out of what I had. Coming in anything another than last in territory scoring soon became an impossibility, so I just ignored it. Basically, I just spend the game doing as many contracts as possible. That put me into a tie with Derek for most contracts at the end, which was helpful. When we added up the scores, somehow I managed to get like 8 of the rarest multiplier good, so I won by a lot. Huh.


-SATURDAY-

From gallery of Phrim
_7_ Delve (new!) - This was with me, Anni, Derek, and Nick; no one had played before but Nick read the rules. I played the Forestfolk faction, which had the nifty ability of being able to add +2 swords by spending an XP--but, after I saw the roll results. Derek laid claim to a huge room pretty early, and I really wanted to try to fight him for it, but my tiles just didn't work out that way. From there on, I pretty much kept to myself, mostly just trying to mooch off the unused parts of other people's tiles and claim them for myself without competition. Of course, I still had to deal with the cards, but fortunately that random element didn't affect me too adversely. It because clear soon enough that Derek and I were doing very well, and the other two, not so much. Anni ended up putting all her eggs into one giant room, but unfortunately for her, it didn't complete. I wound up ending the game, and won.


From gallery of Phrim
_8_ Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium (new!) - This was with me, Anni, Jeff, and Molly on the Elysium board; everyone had played the base game; Anni had only played the other expansion board; and I hadn't played the expansion at all. I chose Ecoline as my corporation, so of course everyone else happily bombed all my plants out of existence early on. However, I was able to claim the Ecologist milestone pretty easily. I was able to get an early Pets down, which is pretty nice. My other ongoing effects weren't as useful though--Adaptation Technologies looked a lot more useful than it actually was, and I think I my Decomposers was worth 2 points (and I never forgot to use it). In the middle of the game, I made the probably mistake of not being able to figure out whether I was going for Generalist or Specialist, so I kept keeping cards that moved me toward both. Naturally, I got neither, as Molly claimed Legend and Jeff claimed Specialist the turn before I could claim it. I did claim Desert Settler in the end game, as no one else seemed to interested in activating the third award after Industrialist and Estate Dealer were active. Unfortunately, I was only able to get one city down this game, and my card points were pretty meager, so I didn't do too well. Jeff won.


From gallery of Phrim
_8_ Yokohama - Same group here; Jeff and Molly were new. This time I went right after the Telephone technology, which lets me keep a worker on the table when I execute an action. I knew that would create a worker shortage for me, so I made the Employment Agency my base of operations, dropped an office there, and proceeded to keep pulling off lots of workers. Unfortunately, this encouraged me to be too spread out, and because I was always short on money, I wasn't dropping offices on the board much. I seemed to be behind in contract completion all game, and I couldn't complete the bonus for completing contracts before the game ended. Neither was I able to complete a bonus for having offices in certain types of places, per the aforementioned lack of offices. Anni locked down the Customs board pretty early, but I managed to get second place there at least. I did claim the most tech bonus. This ended up being good enough for third--Anni won by a landslide.


From gallery of Phrim
_8_ Hansa Teutonica - This was with me, Anni, Don, Derek, and Bill; everyone had played before. Naturally everyone went after the action spots early on. Don and Derek pulled out first and started to get other abilities and build offices. Somehow though, things then started to work out for me. While Anni and Bill certainly didn't start ignoring actions, I was able to find a number of windows where I could claim more action cubes more easily than usual. Of course, Anni had the Gottingen office, so I was feeding her points, but I got all 5 actions really early in the game. I followed that up with the ability to pull 5 cubes and move an extra cube. Don had claimed the two spots east of Duisburg, so I leveraged my actions to claim the 3 spots north and claim it in a single turn--he wasn't too happy about that. From there, I just went around building a network in the center of the map. Amazingly, no one stopped me, and I was able to build a 7-large network without having to activate a privilegium cube, and I maintained control of all of those cities at the end of the game. I also grabbed an extra key, as one does. So the game ended, and it turns out that Derek kicked all of our butts--he did nothing but get plates all game. I've never seen anyone do that before, so I didn't know to try to stop it.



THOUGHTS ON NEW-TO-ME GAMES

Fabled Fruit is a contract-fulfillment card game with an ever-shifting tableau of special abilities. Ability cards are numbered from 1 to 59, and feature both a way to get more fruit and a cost to claim as a point. When any card is claimed, the next card numerically comes out, with new abilities coming out every four cards. On their turn, players can place their token on a card either to use the special ability or claim it; the first player to claim five wins. While it certainly is interesting to see what new abilities become available (if you don't peek ahead), the gameplay itself is fairly bland. Seeing various abilities interact, and fruit becoming more or less valuable because of abilities and costs is interesting, but I wonder if the set order is strictly necessary. This filler is more interesting because of discovery than gameplay.

Clans of Caledonia is a game in which players are trying to build up a resource engine, and then use those resources to claim contracts. Players all receive a clan tile that defines both their starting resources and a special ability that helps influence but doesn't nail down their strategy for the game. From there, players buy and place production buildings into a hex board--they get bonuses for controlling territory but also minor bonuses for building next to opponents. There is also a market at which goods can be bought and sold; the prices fluctuate as that happens. The obvious comparison for this game is Terra Mystica, but this game is shorter, not as deep, and not as dependent on the variable player powers. I feel like Terra Mystica is a far richer and more satisfying game, but that's a really high bar, and I enjoyed this one quite a bit too. There's plenty of room for a lighter Terra Mystica.

Delve is a tile-laying dungeon exploration game with many of the same sensibilities of Carcassonne. Players place a tile from their hand, and then optionally place one of their pawns on it. When an area is closed, that area scores. Unlike Carcassonne, there aren't restrictions on placing your pawns in the same area as another player's pawn. In fact, the pawns fight when the room closes, each using dice according to what kind of pawn it is (which is usually hidden from other players). The winner gets the majority of the treasure printed on the tiles, and the losers may or may not get some rewards as well. Closed areas with no competition instead draw a card from a deck, which can have them make some sort of thematic choice, which may result in a fight or some alteration of the printed rewards. I thought this game was an interesting take on the Carcassonne system. While there is a decent bit of randomness, I did find it less dry than Carcassonne.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium provides two new map board for Terraforming Mars, each with its own unique geography as well as a different set of both milestones and awards. While the amount of change in the game is pretty minimal as there are no new cards, the milestones and awards do change priorities in the game (the geography changes I felt were fairly irrelevant). This is a good expansion for those who play a lot and want to mix it up, but it doesn't really improve gameplay. It's just different.
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