GCL Phoenix 365: Round-up of 2017 (31st December 2017)
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Welcome to the 365th instalment of GCL Phoenix discussion lists (we now have one for every day of the year). More information about the group can be found here and info on GCLs in general is here.

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

Our current roster of active members is as follows:

familygaming <Next!>
grasa_total
indigopotter
John Rogers
karlfast
Lowengrin
rynelf
Taibi
Tigrillo
woodnoggin

Previous Phoenix members who are always welcome back:
archivists, BennyD, Bruzza, chally, darker, Dormammu, Eeeville, enzo622, hawk-x-, Hawkeye77, JohnRayJr, judoka, leroy43, Morganza, Mr_Nuts, ravenskana, Smintie, TheRocketSurgeon, tjshields, topherr, Yokiboy.

As we come to the close of 2017, let's take a look at how our gaming year shaped up.
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1. Board Game: Nickel & Dime Pool [Average Rating:6.12 Unranked]
Board Game: Nickel & Dime Pool
Rich P
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United Kingdom
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What are your nickels, dimes, quarters (and more) for 2017? Are any of these surprising to you? Any notable games that almost made it to one of those milestones?
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2. Board Game: Family Favourites [Average Rating:5.33 Unranked]
Board Game: Family Favourites
Rich P
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What are your favourite New-To-You games of 2017? Which are your favourites first published in 2017? Best new expansions? Was this a good year for you in terms of new gaming discoveries?
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3. Board Game: Design & Pantomime [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Design & Pantomime
Rich P
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Which designer's games do you have the most plays of in 2017? And which designer have you played the most games by in 2017, if this is a different person? Could you have predicted this at the start of the year? Was it by chance or decision?
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4. Board Game: Vital Statistics [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Board Game: Vital Statistics
Rich P
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Thoughts on other statistics, if you track this sort of thing:

> How many plays of how many different games with how many people?
> How many of these games saw repeat plays?
> H-Index of plays for the year
> H-Index of people played with in 2017
> Changes to your overall H-Index
> Collection: games in and out
> Number of remaining unplayed games
> Any other stats you care to record

Do these figures tell you anything interesting about your gaming habits over the year, or how your gaming has changed over time?
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5. Board Game: Memorable Stories [Average Rating:6.28 Unranked]
Board Game: Memorable Stories
Rich P
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What was the single most memorable play of 2017? What were your gaming highlights of the year overall? Were there any particular surprises or disappointments?
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6. Board Game: Media Mogul [Average Rating:3.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Media Mogul
Rich P
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Read any good books this year? What was your favourite movie (did you see the latest Star Wars film)? Favourite TV show? Best new record or song of 2017?
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7. Board Game: The New Era [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:1143] [Average Rating:7.52 Unranked]
Board Game: The New Era
Rich P
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What was your favourite non-gaming new thing this year? What have you discovered in 2017 that you now wouldn't want to do without? Any achievements you're happy about or proud of from 2017?
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8. Board Game: Rotation [Average Rating:5.60 Unranked]
Board Game: Rotation
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Jeremy - 7th January
Alison - 14th January
Carol - 21st January
John - 28th January
Karl - 4th February
Michael - 11th February
Dave - 18th February
Nicolai - 25th February
Morten - 4th March
Rich - 11th March

Jeremy - 18th March
Alison - 25th March
Carol - 1st April
Karl - 8th April
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9. Board Game: Gaia Project [Average Rating:8.49 Overall Rank:8]
Board Game: Gaia Project
Except for one or two games of Animal Upon Animal, Gaia Project was the only game of the week, and I didn't need anything else.

It's not new or innovative enough for me to race about it, but it takes TM and makes some very good changes. One of those improves-but-doesn't-replace games that makes me happy. I don't feel like having TM on my shelf is a waste of money or space because there are 20 playable factions for a tight, awesome euro game. GP gives me a looser game with 14 new faction options, as well as a different way to approach gameplay. I like the tight board factions better in TM, but I love the variability of GP. GP's solo mode also deserves mention, as it is quite excellent, with seven different factions you can go up against.
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10. Board Game: Brew Crafters [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:635]
Board Game: Brew Crafters
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Yesterday we opened the very heavy box for Brew Crafters, and found lots and lots to punch. It seemed a bit overwhelming until we realized only 9 types of beer tokens would be used in a game. Sam went with a building strategy, whereas I didn't build any new buildings at all. I got two people, plus a card that let me make coffee, and I maxed out the top and bottom research tracks, which let me score 2VP for each basic brew I made, and 1VP for each advanced brew I made. It had a bit of an Agricola feel to me, that each of us could approach it differently, which I liked.

We also played games 11 and 12 of Charterstone this week. The thing that I would change about playing it 2p is

Spoiler (click to reveal)
the blank sky islands... either divide all sky islands up between the players, instead of 4 each, so that we have an option to continue to build, or possibly use them for the non-active charter building phase once the board is full, so that buildings in the deck can continue to be built. As it was, we hit a wall at a certain point, so the deck was too full of unbuilt buildings, and we could never open those crates.


I won 10 of the 12 games, so had more points for that, and more stars for my scores, and ended up winning by a fair margin. Now that we understand that game a bit more, I imagine it will be closer next time.

Our third title played this week was Lords of Vegas, to learn it before teaching it. We don't have the official expansion, but we rounded up some dice and tokens to add components for a fifth player.

Cold here, single digits, high in the teens or about 20 degrees F (-6C). Our heat went out while we were sleeping early Friday morning, and then again in the afternoon, so we spent a lot of time wearing coats/with blankets waiting for the service tech. I had a turkey in the fridge that I was planning to roast that day anyway, so I cooked that, and the heat from the oven helped a little. Thankfully, we only have a couple inches of snow, and for the most part, the roads have been good (they weren't so good for a while yesterday).
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11. Board Game: 1846: The Race for the Midwest [Average Rating:7.95 Overall Rank:460]
Board Game: 1846: The Race for the Midwest
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 30Dec2017:

21/38/474 plays of 15/24/217 total games, with 0/3/32 expansions employed.
Plays with 16/24/129 distinct opponents.

1/3/40 games acquired (plus 0/3/22 expansions.) - Gaia Project.
0/0/16 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/3 expansions.)
0/0/29 games ordered (plus 0/0/13 expansions.)
Orders for 3 games and 0 expansions still outstanding.

With family:
Board Game: Bohnanza

image by yayforme

1x _8_ Bohnanza

Daughter #1 has won quite often over the past four years - with her older brother away at college. So this game with both participating was really very close. Well: between the two of them, at least. Son #2 and I were well back.

For my part, I'm tempted to try to roll my plays of Sissi!: Die Bohnenkaiserin together with those of Bohnanza; they feel (subjectively) like a very similar endeavour - at least as close as Through the Ages and TtA: A New Story (though I've not yet rolled those together, either!)

Board Game: Super Big Boggle

image by DICE_COLLECTOR

1x _7⅔_ Super Big Boggle

This was funny: my wife normally wins by a huge margin. But in this one, daughter #1 (still hopped up on Pergacet from having her wisdom teeth removed) did nearly as well. I found myself wondering whether a side effect of the painkiller was to clear paths for free-associating words in a grid. Or maybe I was/am just trying to find an excuse for coming a distant third.


With cool folk at BAP:
Board Game: Star Cartel

image by richardtempura

1x _7⅓_ Star Cartel

Some enthusiasm for the game, some (modest) antipathy. The quote from a player in that latter camp was "There are other games that do what this one tries much better." And, belatedly, I found myself wondering exactly what they'd thought this game was doing.

For my part, I perceive it as a rather harmless (and amusing) risk management game. For y'all that have played it: are there games that jump to mind that "do what this does but better?"

Board Game: 1846: The Race for the Midwest

image by thepackrat

1x _9_ 1846

This was quite amazing for me. It was the game that I'd not played in 2017 that I'd most wanted to get played. And I'd had my copy in hand before heading off to BAP in the morning, and replaced it on the shelf, thinking "I'll never manage to convince the others to play this."

But then another player brought his copy, and everyone was enthusiastic to try it. And it was quite charming. If also a bit odd: I did better than I can ever remember doing previously at 1846. (Though that isn't terribly hard: I've come last a lot, and gone bankrupt at least once.)

Board Game: Web of Power

image by ezwrighter

1x _7⅔_ Web of Power (44 months dusty)

This is short, relatively harmless, and still - I think - permits some cleverness. Of course, that's less apparent when some are beginners and playing with the system (rather than using the system to play the other players.) I think this is one where early moves should be offers of alliance and conspiracy; things that can be taken up or ignored in favour of a better offer by another players. We didn't achieve that, I fear: there were definitely moves that helped others (and occasionally more than helped the acting player.)

Sure; it was fine. But it can be better.

Board Game: Ra

image by henk.rolleman

1x _7_ Ra (8 years dusty)

My kids had enjoyed this when they were little(r than they are today.) But they've not wanted to play for years, nad I don't quite like it enough to force on anyone. It's clever, and well-designed, and (for me) not terribly rewarding.


At Dave V's place:
Board Game: Eggs of Ostrich

image by W Eric Martin

2x _7⅓_ タマゴリッチ! Tamagoritchi! 'Eggs of Ostrich'

Fillery but clever. After the first game I asked the others "now that you've seen how it works, would you have played differently?" They both said "yes", so I reset the game.

And sure enough, the next one was quite different. But I'm reasonably certain that if time had permitted they'd've played yet again differently on a third try!

Board Game: Goths Save The Queen

image by ddlhz

2x __ Goths Save The Queen New!

Not sure I'm an ideal candidate for this one. For my part (much, in fact, like with Hanabi) I think the interesting part of the game (and that's funny, because I've never played Hanabi as a result; and likely wouldn't have played this one had I been clearer about what it asked before it was explained to me!) is in trying specify an interaction protocol that would give better success than guesswork.

And sure; one can try to synthesize such a protocol on the fly. But I don't think that's as cool as doing it offline without the game in the way. Or, equally, that the game(s) aren't for me.

So, for this one, stuff happened, and I was irked (modestly) when our non-explicit communication didn't work as clearly as I'd hoped. And that even though the other team(s: we shuffled things up after the first game) were having exactly the same difficulties.

Board Game: Star Cartel

image by richardtempura

1x _7⅓_ Star Cartel

Worked really well, even with all the chaos of 6 players here. The others were happy to go with the rather fluffy push-one's-luck aesthetic, and found it fun.

Board Game: Goa

image by tmgd

1x _7⅓_ Goa (41 months dusty)

We'd misplayed a couple of the early bonus tiles; and likely in ways that materially affected the result. But it was still close, and cool, and quite delightful. Just need a bit more practice to keep all the rules in our heads.

Board Game: Keyper

image by Richard Breese

1x _7⅔_ Keyper

This may prove to be better with 2 than with more. The collaborative "We all benefit if I share your action" thing is something that worries me a bit about the multiplayer game: the player that shares the most collaborations may have an advantage.

And of course, I don't know what I'm talking about: and particularly not before I try it. But, still, the game works well for 2: it's clever and sensible, and not obviously susceptible to tedious min-maxing. (And, again, I've not played it yet with someone tempted by that pattern yet either; so even that isn't as clear as it could be.)

Board Game: Samurai

image by a_traveler

2x _7⅓_ Samurai (8 years dusty)

We split this pair of games: both were close, too. I find this one quite pleasant, even if I need to remind myself about what exactly the win conditions are on each play: for whatever reason, they're never quite what I naively remember, and so the rules refresher is absolutely required.

Board Game: Through the Desert

image by der_chad

2x _8_ Durch die Wüste

Split this pair, too. This is a title I really admire: it's got lovely dynamics, and it provides me a really fine dose of gaming goodness for a relatively short duration.


At Dave E's place:
Board Game: Gaia Project

image by W Eric Martin

2x _8_ Gaia Project New!

I really enjoyed this. Some was the company (Dave and Aliza are excellent folk, and Dave's family is fun); some the game (probably the new-to-me thing in 2017 thing that I've superficially liked the best: though I really won't know about the five new Series: 18xx until I've played them all a dozen times each: and that will take years.

I found it delightfully different enough from Terra Mystica that I'm happy to play both. Or either. Though the fact that there are still a dozen factions I've not tried makes this (at least temporarily) more appealing.


With the Wednesday Gang (but on Thursday):
Board Game: Dinosaur Island

image by stooge

1x _6⅔_ Dinosaur Island New!

We played a "short game" (the box contains short, medium and long variants.) And while I liked the conceit of the game (it's "Jurassic Park: the Boardgame" - so one does DNA research to be able to gene splice various dinosaur species back to life, displays them in the park, and hopes one's park security is sufficient to ensure the dinosaurs don't run amok and eat/trample/eviscerate the visitors.)

Sadly - for me, at least - the game appeared to need some tuning. There were three (significant, and one insignificant) Goals in our game. And while the others built their dino-parks (in classic Engine Builder fashion) I aimed monomaniacally for the goals. And there were more VP in goals plus modest dino-park engineering than in excellent dino-parks plus modest goal hitting. That might have been the intent, but it cheapened the game: ever so slightly like if one rolled a die at the end of an otherwise competitive game and if one's player order number was rolled one won despite anything that had gone before.

Now, that isn't at all to say that the medium or long games aren't better developed. But I think I'd resist a short game in future. At least with the "most workers" goal (which, I think, gets given to the first player if they want it.)

Board Game: Indonesia

image by jmdsplotter

1x _9_ Indonesia (31 months dusty)

This was excellent, even if I failed some analysis in the antepenultimate turn. (I'd provoked a merger, where the company so merged was decidedly worth more to me than to the other player with an available slot. They'd bid more than their value for the company; enough that I'm reasonably certain it would have guaranteed their loss if I'd accepted. But, sadly, accepting that sum would also have taken me out of the running for the game. So I outbid (argh!) and lost to the player to which I'd paid too much cash. Hmph. I'd've done better to pass and let us all learn!)

That trivial matter aside, I really enjoyed the game. It was great fun.


Owned-and-unplayed: 0 (+1/-1) - Gaia Project arrived and was played.
Owned-and-played-once: 96 (+1/-3) - Gaia Project was played twice; Keyper and Star Cartel were played again.

Outlook for the week: I'm on vacation for another week yet. I'll hope to get in a play of Tales of the Arabian Nights with my youngsters (and perhaps another play of Magic Realm with my sons; I don't think daughter #1 will play that with us. You should account that to her as sanity, I think.)

Edited a couple times for grammar & typos.
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12. Board Game: The Lost Expedition [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:756]
Board Game: The Lost Expedition
Karl Fast
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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I'm just getting started with this game in the solo mode.

The first play was a disaster, of course.

But after 6 plays I have managed:

- 2 disastrous expeditions (scored 3 and 4)
- 2 respectable expeditions that still failed (scored 6 and 7)
- 1 successful expedition but with just 1 explorer surviving, at 1 health, and with no food, ammunition, or anything else
- 1 glorious expedition with all 3 explorers surviving, with 1 health each, plus some extra food and ammunition, and they arrived at the end of the second morning phase

I'm liking this. I'm actually not loving the huge cards. The artwork is nice but it takes up a huge amount of space on the table. I would rather have smaller cards which makes it more portable and so forth.

However...all of these have an asterisk because when I gained health I added it to a common pool, rather assigned additional health to a specific player. Pretty sure my glorious expedition would have been successful. I drew a lot of cards early that let me move 2-4 spaces through the jungle each round.
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13. Board Game: Burgle Bros. [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:228]
Board Game: Burgle Bros.
John Rogers
United States
Yakima
WA
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I host an annual gaming night on the weekend of New Years. This particular year we opted for 12/30 which meant I was able to attend another group’s party on 12/31. Evidently there is even more gaming happening today, though after about 12hrs of gaming in back-to-back days, I promised my wife I’d spend New Years Day at home. So the following is my tale, both good and bad in...

The Week That Was

12.30.17

Board Game: Burgle Bros.

Rating: 7
Plays: 2


Saturday kicked off with a back-to-back games of Burgle Bros with Bill and Paul. I had previously set-up a session of The Great War but abandoned it when David arrived (he was really excited to play).

Anyhoo, I set-up BB and the 3D tower attracted some interest and inquires, which it normally does. Paul, who rarely plays anything aside from abstracts surprisingly joined and Bill was an easy sell. Paul was the Hacker, Bill the Hawk, and I the Pearlman. We lost the first session having broken into the first two floors but getting caught on the third by a surprising turn of the guard.

To my surprise Paul suggested we play again. This time Paul was the Raven, Bill was the Juicer, and I took the Rook. This time we did quite well, making it out with only losing two stealth tokens among us. I think this game definitely benefits from back-to-back plays as people have a better idea of what to expect and how to coordinate with one another better.

Board Game: JamSumo

Rating: 7
Plays: 1


After BB ended Bill and Paul joined a game of Colt Express whilst began setting up Commands and Colors Ancients Epic. Somewhere in there I also did a pizza run and when I got back Colt Express had ended and half the crowd was off playing other things so in the meantime I broke out JamSumo for Bill, Steve (a recent addition and local college Physics teacher), and I. Steve laughed through most of it as he waffled between shooting his dice too hard or too soft. Bill meanwhile made the coolest shot I have seen yet in Jam, flicking his die off the top edge, around my die, and knocking his own and another of his in the hole together. We actually cheered and gave high-fives (in retrospect that was quite an odd moment for me but just happened so naturally). I kept score and won but nobody cared really because the game is so stinkin’ fun (there ya go Samo!).

From gallery of Matt Wyoming

Rating: 3
Plays: 1


With other interested C&C parties still engaged elsewhere I acquiesced to a play of Shifty Eyed Spies. At first I couldn’t get it down. I was constantly wining and nodding in unison, combining my hold cards when they should have been treated separately. The heuristics of other games combining cards was doing a huge disservice to me. But my luckily my early play was so bad that by the time I got past my obvious frustration and began getting it, the other players ignored me as a threat and I ended up winning surprisingly within Christine. This is not a game I particularly enjoyed or would play again though I couldn’t help but imagine Samo and perhaps Martin enjoying this quite a bit.

Board Game: Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #5 – Epic Ancients II

Rating: 8
Plays: 1


I love the smell of swords and sandals in the morning, smells like victory. And so with the other games finished six of us descended upon the epic battle of Gaugamela. I took the side of Alexander and the two least experienced players, Bill and David #2 (each had played once). Lee took the side of Darius and two more experienced players in Steve (who owns all of CC:A and CC:N) and Julie (hasn’t been to game night in like two years but is an old hand at M44 and Wargamers in general).

The early battle was fought mostly on the flanks as David withstood Steve’s charge and repelled him back with heavy force. Likewise Julie charged into Bill’s side and Bill held and then used ranged combat to thin Julie’s ranks before eliminating a fair amount of her light units. Lee and I duked it out in the center, he brought his elephants up but was thinned by David’s range attacks and ultimately dispatched by my heavies later on.

In the end the score was 12-4 in favor of Alexander and he nor his famed calvary never moved or fought. Lee was quite frustrated by his hand draw and really had a difficult time communicating with his generals. I encouraged my team to use range and their speed to thin their opponents before running behind to cut-off their opponent’s retreat paths; we gained many of our banners via flags.

In retrospect I probably should have taken the side of the Persians as Lee seemed to struggle with how best to use them. I did my best to hold back and only use lighter units against them, waiting until the very end to use our center heavies (which were ultimately responsible for the final four VP banners). Also, I wonder just how much I enjoy the epic experience? I mean I LOVE the size and scope no doubt; however, I can’t help but miss controlling my entire army and setting up moves I know will be executed in the manner I prefer vs having to delegate and hope my generals act according to my vision.

Board Game: The Great Zimbabwe

Rating: 10
Plays: 1


Not sure how we started this. After CCA the same group wanted to stick together. There was some discussion regarding a five player game of Ascendancy or a COIN but we had four people who wanted to leave before midnight and it was already 8pm. So I suggested TGZ and with nothing else meaty promising to be 2hrs folks agreed. The game took 140mins.

I didn’t play but rather taught. The session feature two newbies in Steve (Atete) and Julie (Gu) and three veterans of varying degrees in Lee (Tsui), David #2 (Ansai), and Bill (Elegua). Lee jumped to an early dominating a clay corner away from other players. Steve likewise went a bit off to the north and developed a little wood empire. The rest built a metropolis of monuments around shared water ways.

About 40mins in Lee was about to win when Bill built a secondary potter craftsman and Lee’s world came to a crashing halt. Meanwhile Julie and Bill began a dance for turnover with their domination of cows (Julie had the herdsman). But it was Steve and David #2 who took the biggest advantage of Lee’s fall. With all the high priced secondary craftsman about, David was only paying singles vs 2-3 head for everyone else for a single good. Steve was able to conserve money by not bothering with turn order, gaining cows from the bid wars, and happily going last.

In the end it came down to Steve and David with Steve putting nearly all his money into going first and using up a good portion of resources. David went second and there was just enough resources available for him to just barely pass Steve. In the end Steve surpasses his VR by 3 and David his by 4.

I think everyone enjoyed it though Lee was a bit sore at his unfortunate falling. Bill reported a few nasty stares courtesy of Lee before he left.

Board Game: Container

Rating: 10
Plays: 1


The last game of the night was a fulfilled promise to Lee’s wife Barbie. She only plays lighter games but LOVES Container and hasn’t played in over a year. Barbie and Christine were rusty, Stephen (Christine’s 11yr-old) was our newbie, and Lee and I felt the most confident.

Barbie took a production and small warehousing approach. Christine sat next and took a big warehousing approach (5 warehouses). Lee sat next and wisely took a shipping approach. I sat next and struggled throughout to parse out the scraps from what was left. Stephen followed me and took a production approach.

Lee benefited a great deal from his searing relationship to Christine and sent several fully loaded boats to the island. Christine benefited from Barbie and Stephen and their massive production approach. I grabbed containers to ship with far less efficiency whenever I could.

In the end Lee won his fist game 111 to my 106, to Stephen’s 78, to Christine’s 56, to Barbie’s woeful 13. Still one of my favorites but easily the hardest session in memory for me. I have far more wins than losses under my belt but given my general seating position, both Stephen and Barbie wildly overspending for Lee’s boats and under-bidding for mine leaving Lee to buy them on the cheap, and my failure to find a consistent rhythm I was actually quite pleased with my final score.

12.31.17

The following day Bill’s church was hosting a New Years Eve game night and I felt somewhat obligated to go given Bill had come to mine. Upon arriving the place was packed with mostly lighter or card based games going on everywhere.

I found an empty table and decided to sit and wait for Bill or Jack who were both already engaged elsewhere. Someone approached me with an offer to play Magic but I declined saying I hadn’t played really in over a decade and it would likely not be much fun for either of us (he found a partner; don’t worry). After that I was invited to a table with a gentleman named Troy and his significant other Melissa, the latter who consistently insisted that she liked lighter things. This was to be my table for the next 4hrs.

Board Game: For Sale

Rating: 6
Plays: 1


Noticing Jack’s copy of For Sale and Melissa’s wishes for lighter I decided to teach it. I promised it would take 20mins (more like 15min) and that it was super simple; I wanted to build trust with Melissa. Well I scored all the way around here. Melissa won (followed by Troy and then me), she enjoyed the game, and found it simple and fast.

Board Game: Ethnos

Rating: 3
Plays: 1


Troy asked if I liked deckbuilders one Ticket to Ride. I said I would play either and requested the fast of the two (I don’t like either so I figured faster was best). He pulled out Ethnos which he promised was like Ticket to Ride but fantasy. He was definitely right and I enjoyed it about as much, which is to say not very much at all. I think he was surprised that I won.

Board Game: Mars Attacks: The Dice Game

Rating: 3
Plays: 1


Having sat out Ethnos (too heavy for what Melissa wanted she claimed) she suggested Mars Attacks. I was game though not really. We played and there was some forced laughter as Troy made RPGish type comments trying to to bring out the theme (he did the same in For Sale and Ethnos). The session turned out similar to For Sale with Melissa winning followed by Troy and then me. Like Ethnos I was not really into it.

Board Game: The Great Zimbabwe

Rating: 10
Plays: 1


In between sessions we talked about games we liked. Melissa likes lighter stud and co-ops. Troy LOVES Time Stories, lots of theme, and dudes-on-a-map. I mentioned Splotter, COIN, Eklund, Winsome, and Container and got blank stares. Troy had barely heard of Food Chain Magnate and I mentioned I had something similar with me in TGZ. So I got Bill to saunter over and we broke it out.

Bill opted for Atete, Troy for Gu, and I for Tsui telling Bill I wanted to see if I could avenge Lee’s loss. Perhaps the most pivotal moment came in the second round when Troy nearly took a secondary wood craftsman in an attempt to make things harder on me. I explained that it would make it harder on everyone and whilst I was all for chopping me at the knees, he’d be slowing himself as well. He opted for the primary and later said had he gone with his gut and taken the secondary he would have won. No he wouldn’t have but that’s a different story.

I built three monuments closely together, raised them in succession using my wood carver to level two and three in back-to-back turns. At this point Troy started swearing at me and built the secondary wood craftsman hoping it wound kill me. Bill meanwhile was doing nicely avoiding the turn-order battle and quietly building his monuments. Unfortunately for Bill, Troy had priced his craftsman really high hoping to bust me (though I had taken the Herdsman guessing correctly the he wanted to desperately crush me) and in turn it slowed Bill. Meanwhile Troy lagged behind, collecting cows but struggling to raise his monuments. I won around the 42min mark having built a fourth monument and raising it to level two along with one of my others to level three. Bill and Troy were a couple of turns away.

Troy said the game was very abstract and considered it area control. What?! I asked him where the area control was and he talked about controlling resources. I told him nobody controlled resources and that it was a matter of spatial positioning and logistics. He countered that logistics was Ticket To Ride; what?! I told him that was more like set collection and rummy. At this point Candie (Bill’s wife) was watching us and helped explained to Troy the logistics was more about the moving of goods and calculating distance, cost, and efficiency. The closest thing Troy could come up with was Firefly; well that’s closer than TtR. I think this may have dampened his interest in FCM.

Board Game: Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King

Rating: 5
Plays: 1


We ended the night with a play of Bill’s Christmas game. Bill described it as kinda like Keyflower w/on the interaction or bidding or logistic network (so nothing like Keyflower). Candie was better in saying it was like playing a personal Carcassonne map but with some buying of tiles. In the end it reminded me of Key Harvest but with a slightly more involved spatial puzzle.

Bill won followed by a tie between Troy and I and Candie last. It was okay. I kept wanting to connect my roads and even after I was told that they didn’t matter and could run into dead-ins, I just couldn’t do it and found that I would connect more for physical attractiveness and order over points maxing. Troy claimed I had AP because I spent one turn grabbing each tile to see where it matched best (again for looks and not pts). He must have had amnesia because I blazed through every other game we played including TGZ that night. I think he was just still sore from his earlier losses, also thinking about it now he actually paused quite often in Ethnos, TGZ, and Isle so maybe he was just projecting? All I know was that he was kinda a dick to everyone at the table, even surprisingly to Melissa who just wanted to go to a bar with friends and watch the ball drop. He berated and kinda demeaned her for it which I guess again was him lashing out where he felt safe to do so.

Closing thoughts:

So I had Samo’s thoughts in the back of my head throughout this gaming weekend. I wanted to see if social was of primary importance for me. I certainly was apart of bigger gaming events/sessions over the weekend which was driven by social desire. I played several games I normally wouldn’t to make others happy (social courtesy) and didn’t really enjoy those sessions in either game or company experience. I did enjoy more so the meatier games which I opted to play not for the company kept but rather for my selfish desire to play something I enjoyed. I recognize that my favorite session of the weekend was a combo of both in Burgle Bros but I think that game is a confluence of many things that just work for me.

Still digesting your analysis of me my dear Samo. Trying to become more self-aware. Naval gazing is a bit of a past-time for me so it’s been fun.
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14. Board Game: Lorenzo il Magnifico [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:96]
Board Game: Lorenzo il Magnifico
Lo
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Victoria
British Columbia
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Games Played

 8   Lorenzo il Magnifico x5 New!
 9   1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight w/1860: Locomotives of the Isle of Wight x1 Out of the Dust!


The Week in Review

Lorenzo il Magnifico is magnificent. So magnificent in fact that it may even creep into my top ten if I think the replayability is there. I was pretty skeptical of the game before our first play as a lot of people say that Grand Austria Hotel is the better game, but Grand Austria Hotel flopped with S and I.

Lorenzo il Magnifico shares more with Wallace's London than with other games coming out of Italy by the same group of designers. It's less about dice and more about building an engine with a tableau of cards and running it. And like London, S really seems enjoys it.

Board Game: 1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight

I'm still pretty stoked about Saturday's game of 1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight, but at the same time it's cooled my feelings a bit for what has been my favourite Series: 18xx. And I'm not really sure I can explain why.

In yesterday's game, I drove the IWNJ to the verge of bankruptcy. It's share value hit £7 before I bought a couple trains over and caused it's earnings and stock value to surge. It's final value was £210 and it cemented my winning the game. How is this a bad thing?
From gallery of Lowengrin

In many Series: 18xx, this feat wouldn't be possible because no matter how big the dividend, the stock value would only rise one step. It just wouldn't be that lucrative. In those games, a player can't afford to trash a company and then expect it to come back strong; a player has to nurse their company through the whole game (as I did with the C&N). All in all, it just feels a bit like one is gaming the system.

The other niggle I have is with the end game; it isn't triggered until all companies with (player) directors have got a train. I'm not sure what the historical justification for this is, but it seems just a bit gamey. And it can drag out the game.


In other gaming news, last night at our little New Year's Eve party, I learned that some friends of friends are actually gamers. Well, sort of gamers. He used to play a lot of RPGs and wargames; apparently Kingmaker was one of his favourites. His wife is a more traditional board gamer and was quite curious about my collection in the dining room. So hopefully in the not too distant future, I can coax them into playing something, for example, they were both quite interested in Expedition: Northwest Passage.

The Week Ahead

I'm back to work. S is not.

Something will happen Tuesday evening, just not sure what the turn out will be, but there'll be at least two of us at the table.

Unplayed games of note in shrink: Maria, The U.S. Civil War, Francis Drake, German Railways, Tikal and Revolution: The Dutch Revolt 1568-1648.

Unplayed games not in shrink: Normandy '44 and Mottainai.
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15. Board Game: Azul [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:45] [Average Rating:7.84 Unranked]
Board Game: Azul
Alison Mandible
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Board Game: Innovation
Board Game: Finished!
Board Game: Azul
Board Game: Magic: The Gathering – Explorers of Ixalan
Board Game: Favor of the Pharaoh


 9   Innovation

Released on BGA, so I tried it out. The interface isn't as good as Isotropic, so, no real need to play there again.

 7   Finished! x2

The guest room at my mother's house has a desk now, which turned out to be the perfect size for Finished (and for several solo playtests of my current design project). In the second play, it looked like I was going to score 24 again, but instead managed to postpone the inevitable long enough to combo out and win. I'm not entirely sure I understand what I was doing right and what I just got away with by luck, which makes me want to play again on a harder difficulty... but not right away.

 7   Azul x2

I brought this with me to teach family members, and it was a hit. I continue to like it better with 2 than with 4, but our 4p play had a fair amount of tension too, though maybe only between me and my sister (she picked the game up fast).

 5   Magic: The Gathering – Explorers of Ixalan NEW!

A childhood friend of mine is a gamer, but only video games and Magic. When I got into board games I failed to understand that he really wasn't interested in learning new games and there were a few awkward conversations. ANYWAY. This time he proudly showed me the Actual Board Game he had bought, which was basically just Magic with some preconstructed decks and a goofy set of bonuses you could buy with excess mana. I lost. But I got to play a game with him that wasn't Magic: The Gathering! Technically. Sort of.

 7   Favor of the Pharaoh

Late at night on New Year's Eve. More for the sake of ending the year with a game than from any particular love of FOTP (my friend suggested Spirit Island, which we've both been wanting to play again since we tried it recently, but starting at 1 in the morning with one player new to the game seemed like pushing it too far).

---

On New Year's Eve I put my hand in a fire, looked at some quail, and totally failed to finish eating all 12 grapes before the clock stopped chiming. On New Year's Day I built an IKEA shelf in the party clothes I was still wearing, while listening to Silvana Imam. I think the year is okay so far.
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16. Board Game: Gentes [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:724]
Board Game: Gentes
With 78 plays in December, I beat my record from a year earlier by 5 plays. Most of those came in the second half of the month so this is also going to be a pretty long list like it was last week.

Board Game: Azul

 7   Azul x3
I started thinking about my strategies for Azul after losing heavily so many times, even to new players, and at one point it felt like something just clicked and I had I was quite sure I would be much more competitive now if I was able to get my 1-3 rows full every round. I was and won the last two plays against Lærke! And it wasn’t just luck but something I had thought out and executed. That felt good. Now it seems so simple and logical so I have no idea why it took me so long to figure it out. It just sounded logical that getting the harder to get lower rows would be a good thing. Apparently it isn’t.


Board Game: Jump Drive

 9   Jump Drive x12
12 plays of Jump Drive where 9 of them were on the ferry back and forth between Aarhus and Zealand when we went for a Christmas lunch and second Christmas eve with tree, singing and presents with most of Lærke’s extended family. The 12 plays ended in a draw 6-6 and most of the plays were very close. One of them ended 74-73. The more I play the more I like playing with a military strategy. It’s hard to pull off because the military cards do not grant you many new cards so you have to be a bit lucky with your draw. When you succeed, it feels great.


Board Game: A Game of Thrones: Hand of the King

 7   A Game of Thrones: Hand of the King
This was also on the ferry. We hadn’t played it for quite a few months and after this I think we have played it as many times as we want. It just didn’t feel as exciting as it did the first many plays. Perhaps something to try and sell now. I burn out on these smaller games a lot more easily than on the bigger ones.




Board Game: Elements

 8   Khmer
Another play on the ferry. And to be honest, this was just to reach 25 plays of it this year. Lærke doesn’t like it much but it was short so it was okay for her to help me get to the milestone.





Board Game: Hey, That's My Fish!

 8   Hey, That's My Fish!
At the Christmas do there was only one kid this year and she wanted to play a game in the evening. They went through the grandparents’ collection (that’s where we were) which of course only included all the old classics that suck. They did find a game of Domino but none of them really remembered the rules so it wasn’t a great experience for them it looked like. Instead I suggested they should play Hey, That’s My Fish. I taught them the rules and helped the child who of course then won. After that they continued without my help. I haven’t played this nearly enough in 2017.


Board Game: Small City

 9   Small City
We didn’t have many plans after the 26th so there was plenty of time to play games and watch The Wire. After all the smaller games I really needed to play something bigger that would tax my brain a bit more. Lærke is no longer a fan of this but it’s still one of my favourites. I think she has just given up on it after her performance. Or perhaps it’s just one of those games that her brain does not seem wired for. So this was most likely my last play of it with her ever. I had even given myself a bit of a handicap as she played on the easy side and I played on the hard side of our personal boards. In hindsight, I should have given her the base game board instead of the beach that I also played with. But I loved playing with the beach the hard side has a lot of beachfront land available for development – but it’s also more expensive. You have to pay one coin extra for each small area. That means you need to get a money machine up and running quickly despite starting with a bit extra money than normal. I had chosen the 12 point promise card where you have to develop all parts of your starting area. So I had to develop all shoreline areas. I started by building up my industry and mercantile buildings to have that money machine but that also meant I got a lot of pollution quickly before I could add some parks. What’s cool and very thematic here is that bordering the beach with a residential building counts as bordering a cultural building so it’s easier to grow your residential zones. Lærke never got her engine up and running till the last couple of rounds so despite I lost 10 points from small promises I couldn’t keep and 18 from my pollution level I still ended up beating her 60-29.

Board Game: Habitats

 6   Habitats
Lærke demanded we played something she loves after Small City so she’d be in a better mood. So Habitats it was. Like always I got more viewing platforms and new roads in than her so as always I also overtook her score in the final tally and beat her 70-60 or something along those lines. This game bores me now so I lowered my rating when I went through all of my ratings at the end of the year to adjust them.



Board Game: Neolithic

 7   Neolithic x4
On the 28th a friend of mine and me visited a café close to where he lives that he hadn’t visited before. I’d lived close by before so I knew it but back then they did not have the good selection in beers that they now have. I like dark heavy beers in winter but they are also rather strong so after three hours there I couldn’t walk straight anymore. That didn’t stop us from playing this though. New to my friend as he’s not fond of small box games or card games in general. But it’s also a worker placement game which he loves so I thought he might like it. He liked it so much that he asked if he could buy my copy. I have now tried all the expansion modules from Advanced Culture but one. Some are very good and needed but others I do not want to play with again. Dowry for instance. You can give your opponent one of your workers (which also includes scoring options) to take a card from their tableau and that makes the endplay chaotic and not very fun. The Elders and the extra Forage deck are modules I’ll always want to include in the future. The Festivals sometimes if I feel like it. With the Elders and the Forage deck the game becomes much better I think.


Board Game: Carcassonne

 8   Carcassonne
Saturday morning Lærke and I had our regular brunch with Carcassonne. I was really lucky and managed to get tiles I needed very often and through that also take over larger buildings and close off my big field. I won handsomely and in doing so recorded my highest ever score – first time above 300. Lærke got around 100 points less than that.




Board Game: Eggs of Ostrich

 9   Eggs of Ostrich x4
In 2016, four of the six of us that go to Essen together met up between Christmas and New Year’s to play games and drink old port. That was a huge success so we repeated it this time around as well. We were supposed to meet up at noon but one went to a late Christmas lunch the day before in a neighbouring town and it got quite late so we had to wait several hours before he turned up. While trying to get through to him we played four rounds of Eggs of Ostrich as we expected him to turn up soon. He didn’t…



Board Game: Gentes

 8   Gentes NEW!
So we set up Gentes instead. I had already read the rules so it was quite fast to get going. Our friend finally turned up when we were half way through but we of course finished our game. I liked it a lot. It has a civ theme but it’s also so stylised and abstracted that there isn’t much of that feeling left. It does, however, have a great action selection system where every action you take has a price in money and in time. The time part of it is really interesting. If you want to take more and perhaps better actions this round you pay for it by having fewer in the next. It plays 2-4 so I’m interested in how it works with 2 now. Not a lot of interaction in it apart from blocking and taking stuff others need but so far I like the gameplay enough to look over that. There are many cards with many different benefits and you need to pay a lot of attention to them as that is where you’ll score most of your points. I decided to build me cities as fast possible. Not only so that I’d be the first to get the bonus points for building all but also because they give you benefits when you build new ones in the same area and at the end of each round. There is a nice little dilemma here as you get more during your turns if you build in the same area but more at the end of each round if you build in different areas. You also have the option of building in a hometown area where you do not get any benefits at the end of the round but you get extra action options. Nice balancing act and a nice game that only takes 1½ hours to play. We ended up with scores of 72-68-63.


Board Game: Keyflower

 8   Keyflower
The only game we had agreed to play in advance was this since it was our late friend’s favourite game and Lærke hadn’t tried it. Usually she doesn’t like auction games or games with many mechanisms but she liked this one alright. Not a favourite but that’s okay. I don’t get to play it more than once or twice a year either but I love it when I do play it. Our friend who loves the game got a really good engine through his good bidding and using the tiles better than the rest of us. During winter he passed as the last one and still had 8-10 meeples left. That was silly and it cost him the game as he should have used those to bid for the tiles we were getting. If he had spent two green meeples on one of the two I got I would have scored 20 points less for instance. I beat him by three points.


Board Game: Wendake

 4   Wendake NEW!
One of our two friends had backed this on KS and picked it up at Essen. When Lærke saw it down there she said it looked interesting and that she’d like to try it. He’d remembered and brought it here. It has a very interesting setting and theme and it is colourful. Those are the good things I can say about it. It’s yet another half-baked KS game that is in dire need of a developer who could tell the designer to kill his darlings. It has so many ideas, mechanisms and scoring options in there (and even more in the included expansion) that it all gets lost in options. I could tell from hearing the rules explanation and seeing the game being set up but everyone agreed. Too many modules, too many scoring options, too much variable setup options, too many things to look at and try to get into your strategy. The problem is you need to do a little bit of everything so you cannot develop a strategy because your available actions change from round to round and you need to spread out your scoring over 4 different scoring tables because (like in Tigris and Euphrates) it’s only your lowest score on two tables – one on each side of the board (and they are randomized at the beginning of every game) – that grant you any endgame points. The idea for the game probably originated from the idea of how to setup the action selection board. You have 9 tiles, 3 in three rows. In each round you have to take three actions from here and take an action that only determines the player order for the next round. The action tiles you’ve selected are flipped over and cannot be used for that action in the next round – unless they are from the bottom row as those will be removed and put back on top of the action selection player board. But one of them will be changed to a higher powered one you choose from a general supply. The flipped over tiles give you a different action. The idea is okay but it’s also very fiddly. It’s a kitchen sink game but not a good one. The setting is original but it doesn’t give anything to the game and seen from over here it does seem to have a rather stereotypical representation of native Americans. Half way through the game we were all so bloody bored with it that we decided to stop it and play something good instead. All the options, the point salad and the difficulty of stringing together an engine made our individual moves seem indifferent and not very meaningful. I’m closer to a 3 than a 5 in my rating. Had I not already made my list of the worst games I’ve played in 2017 this would definitely have been high on that list.


Board Game: Endeavor

 7   Endeavor
So we played Endeavour instead. I played it at work earlier in December, our two friends had played a prototype of the second edition at Essen and loved it so it was only Lærke who hadn’t played it before. I was confident that the tech tree and collecting upgrades would be something she’d appreciate and I was right. Her favourite of the day. The first two rounds were of course very short and all four of us did exactly the same thing but after that our ways parted. I got hosed by not being able to get that one upgrade that would allow me to build a level 3 building when the others could and a level 4 building after that so I decided to try and score points from cards and from board positions while the others went for double shipping and upgrades that way. One player was far ahead with 68 points but I caught up with the other two and the three of us ended with scores of 49 for tied 2nd place. That was cool.




Games that left my collection this month: Nothing yet.

Games that entered my collection this month: Nothing yet.

Unplayed games in my collection: Tahuantinsuyu, 1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight, Automobile, Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar, Splatter SHOOT, Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?, Sword of Rome, Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-62, El Alamein, Chicago Express, Democracy under Siege, India Rails, Mini Rails, Q.E., Sakura Hunt, Struggle of Empires, Tulip Bubble, Visby, Secret Hitler, Here I Stand (500th Anniversary Edition) and Cobras.
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17. Board Game: Heartthrob [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:8378]
Board Game: Heartthrob
Karl Fast
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
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 8   HeartThrob
This needs explaining. After hearing about the game on Flip the Table some years ago I tracked down a copy for my wife. She has played with friends several times and always had a blast.

Basic gameplay works like this, for those not familiar with the game: you randomly choose a series of boy cards and some attribute cards for each boy. So Fred might want to join the peace corps, can run the 100 yard dash in under 12 seconds, and enjoys crushing beer cans on his forehead. In the first round you decide which boy you would dance with, and also guess what your friends would say. The second round is the same, except each boy gets another attribute and, given this new information, you decide which boy you would want to kiss. The third round is the same, but the stakes are raised to which boy would you go steady with.

The market: teen-age girls in the mid 80s having a slumber party with their friends.

But thanks to Flip The Table, the game has seen an ironic revival. Here is the game being played at GenCon (a friend of mine is in the game).




My wife's been working on a revised version using heartthrobs from the 80s and 90s tv and movies. So people like Rob Lowe, Keanu Reeves, John Cusack, and so forth, using pictures found online. This means you get things like "Ted" Keanu (from Bill & Ted) and "Neo" Keanu (from the Matrix) as different boys. Then she developed completely different sets of attribute cards, a few of which are more grown-up, though nothing too cards-against-humanity. They original attribute cards are good but these are better. And she's been working on modified rules.

Her friends looooved it. They had a fondue party on Saturday night and played this twice. They would have played a third time, but one of the women wasn't feeling well.

They were laughing so much my son, who is 8, woke up and stood at the top of the stairs and yelled "STOP LAUGHING SO LOUD! I CAN'T FALL ASLEEP BECAUSE YOU ARE LAUGHING TOO LOUD! I AM REALLY TIRED! SO PLEASE STOP LAUGHING!"

I didn't play that night, though I have, and have thoughts on the game itself.

The game does need some better mechanics to make it work with a wider audience. Right now it works as game you would play with your girlfriends. With a few more rules I'm convinced this would be an awesome party game. However, I think my wife's idea of using pictures of famous teen stars is fantastic and if you wanted to republish this you'd never get the rights for those kind of photos (e.g., George Clooney from The Facts of Life).

Played with the right group, this can be a fantastic experience. Even for men, though for men, it would really help to have additional mechanics to define your character. The box says it's for "all girls who like boys" and assumes you are a teenage girl. But it also assumes you are playing with your close friends. In that situation the guessing is based on your friendship and it works.

But it fails, at least doesn't work as well as it could, if you are a boy or playing with people you know but not really well. What the game needs is mechanics to develop a teenage girl character that other players can use to make informed guesses. Without that it's just too random. You have to know who you are playing with.

At the same time, this works as a party game, not a strategy game. So you wouldn't want to go too deep on character building. My hunch is it would need a mechanic kind of like Snake Oil or Funemployed where you get a hand of cards and need to tell a story around those and you need to convince other players about this. No matter how it works, I think that if it had a role playing element, in the party-game way, I believe this could develop a much wider audience.

VERDICT: With the wrong group this is a 2. With the right group this is an 8. With some revision and the right group this could be a solid 9.


 4   Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Game NEW!
This was the other game my wife played with her friends, I played a learning game earlier so I could teach them. This is okay but clearly shows its age and that it was designed for the mass-market. This is something that could be fodder for restoration games. The problems are basically (a) some weak mechanics and (b) too long for what it is. My wife and co. shortened the game by having a roll-off between Buffy and The Master so they could move onto Heartthrob.

 8   Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama x15
Game of the holidays. We had friends over last night, introduced it them, and added 3 more plays. If it wasn't for little boys needing to go to bed we would have played it a couple more times. I'm ordering better whiteboard pens this week, but aside from the pen quality, this is a winner and one of my favorite games from last year.

 8   Push It
Thought this would get a lot of play over Christmas. But no. It was eclipsed by Kokoro, the holiday favorite by a huge margin.

 6   Würfel Bohnanza x2 NEW!
This has been unplayed on my shelf for several years. Played it with 2p and then with 3p. I liked it but I don't love it because, when I compare it with Las Vegas, my favorite light dice game, I found this to be too long and repetitive and the decisions less interesting. It's not a bad game and I'll keep it, but my wife kept asking "so why do you like this?" and I couldn't come up with a great answer.

 8   Karuba x4
When it comes to family gaming and games that we can teach our non-gaming friends, this continues to be a huge hit. For games in the category, I think it's better to start with Karuba and then graduate to Kokoro.

 8   The Lost Expedition x12 NEW!
Picked this up when it came out and finally cracked the shrink. Like those here who have played this I have (a) found it quite difficult and (b) am enjoying the puzzle despite many losses. So far this rates high for me. Not sure about the long term. My question is if I can get good enough to have a high win rate, or if skill tops out and winning usually requires a health dose of a lucky draw. My hunch is that a good player should, like Shephy, be able to win more often than not but it will take a lot of work to get there.

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18. Board Game: Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 6 – France & Old West [Average Rating:7.71 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.71 Unranked]
Board Game: Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 6 – France & Old West
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Last week's plays:

-10- Agricola (+Artifex deck New!)
|9| A Feast for Odin (+Lofoten, Orkney & Tierra del Fuego; New Special Tiles New!)
-8- Great Western Trail (+Eleventh Building Tiles New!)
-8- Pictomania
-8- Time's Up! Title Recall!
-7- Azul (x2) New!
-7- Concept
-7- Deep Sea Adventure
-7- Haste Worte?
-7- Magic Maze (x5)
-7- Rory's Story Cubes New!
-6- Ticket to Ride: France New!
-6- T.I.M.E Stories (+Lumen Fidei New!) (x3)
-5.5- Linkee New!
-5- Obama Llama New!
-4- Jump Drive (x2) New!
-4- Spider Pete's Treasure New!

Lots of new games over the Christmas period. Kate and I took a trip to Walt's over New Year and played lots of our favourites. We even managed to teach Pictomania to a 5-year-old (with only slightly adapted rules).

I got Azul for Christmas from Kate and it turned out to be a hit with the family as well as with other gamers. I actually prefer it with 4 than with 2 (I haven't tried it with 3 yet). The 2-player game is rather more analytical and looking ahead a number of turns is more important than I care for. I'd rather play by intuition and the 4-player game fits that style better. It can be more swingy, though, as there's potential for one player to receive a huge windfall, like five tiles of the perfect colour for their bottom row. Something like that is unlikely to happen in 2-player unless you're really careless, but with four circumstances can sometimes conspire to provide better choices for everyone than preventing that windfall accumulating. I started off scoring terribly in my first two games but have been getting the hang of it more recently and I'm finding the learning process an interesting one. It's a very neat design and I'd be surprised if it didn't receive a Spiel des Jahres recommendation at least.

Also under the tree this year was Ticket to Ride: France & Old West, which comes in a much thicker box than I was expecting. We tried a five-player game on the France map and the conceit here is that you have to colour in the track on the board before you can build on it, because Alan R. Moon was too lazy to do it for you. So every time you draw train cards, you also have to colour in some track segments. This gives you more decisions to make but also adds time and fiddliness to the game. To start with, we were mostly colouring in the track we needed to build on, until Kate opened the screwage floodgates by claiming the track I had just coloured. Later in the game, we mostly didn't care about which track we coloured in. It felt more high pressure than some Ticket to Ride maps because we were potentially signalling our intentions even more and giving opponents more chances to ruin our plans. The winner was the player who had been interfered with the least - Simon drew lots of tickets which coincided with the long north-south route he'd been able to create. Second place went to Matt who ignored tickets and any of the new rules and just grabbed the 6-length routes (a viable tactic on the base map but not quite enough to beat Simon's deluge of tickets here). I found the map to be pretty good but not an essential addition to the series and certainly one for gamers rather than casual players.

Kate found Rory's Story Cubes in her stocking and we used it to create a bedtime story for my nephew. He kept asking for "one more dice" to prolong the game and avoid going to bed! I think these dice will come in handy with B when she's a bit older.

Also with the family, we played a few fun trivia party games. Obama Llama is a fairly boring rhyming trivia game where you have to identify the famous person and what they are doing that rhymes with their surname (e.g. Barrack Obama riding a llama). There's a charades-like round, a describe-it-yourself round and a really dull "just read the question from the card" round which everyone was always disappointed by. This game gets bonus points for getting my dad involved. He pretty much never plays games with us, so it was great to see him acting out some hilarious charades for a change.

Linkee is a trivia game possibly inspired by the TV show Only Connect. One player reads out four questions and you have to guess the connection between the answers, getting more points the earlier you guess the connection. It wasn't the most exciting game ever but it had a reasonable variety of questions and connections to make.

Haste Worte? went down well: other family members asked to join in part-way through once they'd seen how much fun we were having. Kate managed to shrug off the series of impediments placed in her way as catch-up mechanisms for the rest of us. She was able to hold the lead and eventually win. I was particularly impressed when she was restricted to writing answers of 10 letters or more in the round "Creatures smaller than an ant". Tardigrade got her the point she needed.

I was quite keen to try Jump Drive given positive comments I'd read on GCL lists. Tom Lehmann has successfully distilled Race for the Galaxy into a very streamlined package. Unfortunately, he has focussed on the part of Race I like least, the actual race. I hate those games of Race for the Galaxy which feel like they end before anyone has really got going and this is what Jump Drive offers. You get a couple of rounds of building an engine, a couple of rounds of running it, then you're done. It was very unsatisfactory.

Some of the cards have tempting little references to other cards written on them, suggesting you might be able to get some combos going. This showed promise but in practice there was never enough time to find the other combo elements before an opponent won, unless you were lucky enough to have them in your opening hand. I prefer to build a tableau of interlocking pieces and feel like I've achieved something; Jump Drive doesn't permit this.

The game's arc is tiny, you can only play a few cards each time yet you see many more pass you by as you draw and discard. I can see how Jump Drive might get played a lot because you don't get to use much of it in any single game, you'll need to play repeatedly to try out the various cards, so it has the benefit of variety going for it. I didn't like that the player interaction was so very slight: just tell me how many points you're making each turn so I know how much time I've got left. I missed the leeching and predicting your opponents plays that Race provides. It's not a bad game, it's just really unsuited to my tastes. Maybe if the VP target was 500 rather than 50 I'd be interested in trying it again.


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