GCL Phoenix 460: The "We're totally not jealous of everyone at Spiel" edition (27th October 2019)
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Welcome to the Phoenix Game Chat League!

If you stumbled upon this geeklist by accident or through your subscriptions, please read the GameChat League wiki page for information about what this is all about. We're glad to get to know visitors through constructive comments, but please leave the adding of items to members.


Active Phoenixes:
Simon (Agner)
Jeremy (familygaming)
Alison (grasa_total)
Carol (indigopotter)
John (John Rogers) - next week
Karl (karlfast)
Michael (Lowengrin)
Adley (mirror33)
Dave (rynelf)
Morten (Tigrillo)
Rich (woodnoggin)

Always welcome to participate:
archivists, BennyD, Bruzza, chally, darker, Dormammu, Eeeville, enzo622, hawk-x-, Hawkeye77, JohnRayJr, judoka, leroy43, Morganza, Mr_Nuts, Muse23PT, ravenskana, Smintie, Taibi, TheRocketSurgeon, tjshields, topherr, Yokiboy
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1. Board Game: Perfection [Average Rating:4.30 Overall Rank:19495]
Board Game: Perfection
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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This morning I was thinking about the saying, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

That can be tough these days when we're so spoiled for choice with games, and we try to find criteria to decide which games make the cut for our (presumably limited) shelf space and hobby funds. But sometimes flawed, "imperfect" games can bring enjoyment. Do you have a "flawed" game that you still like to bring to the table, or maybe a game that wouldn't pass your usual criteria, but your family will play, and the good of playing a game together outweighs the shortcomings of the game itself? Or do these games feel like a drag on your resources/time, and you would rather wait for a top choice?

Do you have other things where you catch yourself trying to do things perfectly, so instead get stalled? This is a small example, but this morning I was thinking about getting ready to send cards out. I have expandable files (deep ones, like you may have seen in a law firm)

At zoro: https://tinyurl.com/y6hz58vx

and I label each one with the year, and keep that year's cards in it. I was thinking about how I should make sure they're all in order, and wondering if I had that chunk of time right now, but instead of all or nothing, I thought to myself that it's better to have them in the folder, even if they weren't perfectly organized.

Is there a project or task that you'd be more likely to start (or finish) if it didn't have to be perfect?
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2. Board Game: ESSEN [Average Rating:5.91 Overall Rank:14285]
Board Game: ESSEN
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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Tell us what you did, or if you ordered things in a mule service. Was this your first time? Have you gone in the past but not this year? Do you want to go, but haven't yet?
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3. Board Game: Christmas Tree [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:3443]
Board Game: Christmas Tree
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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I know, it's early. But when coordinating international mailings, one must start early. I put the BGG holiday card exchange up weeks ago:

https://boardgamegeek.com/geekexchange/507

Since our card exchange is slightly smaller, it doesn't take quite as much time. If you would like to send/receive a card, please geekmail me your address this week.

*This offer includes Martin, Hanibal, Dave E., Eric B.
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4. Board Game: Rotation [Average Rating:5.60 Unranked]
Board Game: Rotation
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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John - 3rd November
Karl - 10th November
Michael - 17th November
Adley - 24th November
Dave - 1st December
Morten - 8th December
Rich - 15th December
Simon - 22nd December
Jeremy - 29th December
Alison - 5th January
Carol - 12th January
John - 19th January
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5. Board Game: Crokinole [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:67]
Board Game: Crokinole
John Rogers
United States
Yakima
WA
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10  Crokinole x30 (100 all-time)
4  Wingspan (3 all-time)
9  Fresh Fish x3 (53 all-time)
8  JamSumo (43 all-time)

The Good
We celebrated Jack’s 7th birthday this weekend. Lots of family over. Crokinole was requested and 12 different played matches for about 3hrs. To say it was a huge hit would be an understatement. I was asked by every adult where they could buy a copy and how much it costs. I think this has become the official family gathering game.

The Bad
This is for you Rich: Wingspan’s rating has officially dropped. There were five of us (two newbies). The game took 90mins+ and that’s with me taking turns at way under 30secs. It’s a game where I can easily plan out nearly entire rounds. Just no real interaction here. It reminds me a lot of Scthye in how I approach it though I prefer the art, bits, and play time of WS.

The Ugly
Wingspan taking more than 10mins a player.
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6. Board Game: Exceed Fighting System [Average Rating:8.46 Overall Rank:2564] [Average Rating:8.46 Unranked]
Board Game: Exceed Fighting System
Marc Hawkins
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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Board Game: Finished!
Board Game: Tricks and the Phantom
Board Game: Spirit Island
Board Game: Exceed Fighting System


 8   Finished! (68 all-time)
 8   Tricks and the Phantom (4 all-time)
 9   Spirit Island x19 (64 all-time)
 9   Exceed Fighting System x15 (40 all-time)

As I'm enjoying a parental leave, I'm leaving solo games set up and jumping in and out across a few evenings here and there. This has meant that I've delved much deeper into Spirit Island: I'm doing very dedicated runs where I explore a spirit vs. invader match-up and try to ramp the difficulty up to the max (gradually). I must have done 10 matches for Shadows vs. Brandenburg-Prussia and another 10 of Fangs vs. England. I'm really appreciating how each and every spirit plays very differently, yet are open to bringing a bit of your own style to the mix (the game at its most difficult is not scripted by any means, although there are *some* maximizing currents that are more necessary to at least consider, when the game *lets* you).

Speaking of digging in, I'm still leaning hard into the Exceed system. Lots there to play with! Like many duellers, the game takes on new life after each stage of learning what *you* can do, then what *they* can do, and then getting into mindgames. At 40 games in, I'm feeling like I'm starting to move between stage 1-->2 and having glimpses at the 3rd. Season 2's characters are totally wacky, in a good way, as well which means that there's a lot of game there (although I imagine that it might be easier to climb the curve with the S.Fighter season?). There are a *lot* of characters that I have no idea how to even play *well* (which I enjoy -- the occasional dumbfounding that is). Either way, Talton's really managed to iteratively build off of BattleCON to make this a much more fluid game.
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7. Board Game: Massive Darkness [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:811]
Board Game: Massive Darkness
Lo
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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The Saturday Night That Was
Board Game: Massive Darkness
Board Game: Massive Darkness: Heroes & Monster Set – Sorcerers vs Lord Tusk
Board Game: Massive Darkness: Heroes & Monster Set – Noble Warriors vs The Cockatrix

 7   Massive Darkness x2 (28 all-time)
+  6   Massive Darkness: Heroes & Monster Set – Sorcerers vs Lord Tusk x2 (3 all-time)
+  6   Massive Darkness: Heroes & Monster Set – Noble Warriors vs The Cockatrix x2 (15 all-time)

As I mentioned above, the campaign in this game is terribly flawed. So flawed that I've spent hours reading how others have tried to balance it. And more hours trying to come up with my own fixes. And so far, I've only had limited success.

S and K don't seem to care about the balance issue (when it's in their favour). It's only been the last couple times we've played, with new characters, that they've finally come round to seeing that the game is actually more fun when it's tough to win (and less fun when it's a cake walk). But last night's two games were just impossibly tough. In both games, we had two of our three characters die. And this was in spite of my first character having the ability to resurrect another character...which didn't help because he was the first to die.*


The Week Ahead

S and I both took this week off (in lieu of the two weeks at Thanksgiving that her job swallowed up). And our plans for the week have gone a bit awry as we were going to visit the mainland, except the people we intended to visit are heading out of town. So maybe, just maybe, we'll sit in the comfort of our dining room and board game the week away.

Unplayed games of note in shrink: 18Lilliput, Maria, Francis Drake, German Railways, Tikal and Revolution: The Dutch Revolt 1568-1648.

Unplayed games not in shrink: Mottainai.


*There was some debate over whether or not he could resurrect himself as the rule stated he could resurrect a hero in the same zone as him.
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8. Board Game: König von Siam [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:1294]
Board Game: König von Siam
The Mirror
United States
New York
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Board Game: König von Siam
 8.5   König von Siam x2 NEW!
So this is certainly not new for me, but it has been over a year and a half at least since my last play since I started tracking plays back then. This game is just as brilliant as I remember it. it’s so damn elegant and tight and compelling at 2p. I’ve actually never played it at 3 or 4, but would like to. Come on over y’all. If this can get back into the rotation, I could easily see it moving up to a 9 (my highest ranking). In fact, maybe I’ll move it up and The Great Zimbabwe back down to an 8.5, because really, Splotter, what have you done for me lately? Anyway, this was two rounds back to back with D who seemed to be really charmed.

Board Game: Catchup
 7.5   Catchup
Still the async game against sis. She seems to just fully have my number at this juncture. In our current game I’m trying something a bit more aggressive, but I think until I can start thinking less linearly, and telegraphing my intentions so clearly I’ll be at a tactical disadvantage.

Board Game: Exceed Fighting System
 7.5   Exceed Fighting System x2
Two more plays, this time A tried M. Bison. I stuck with Cammy. This game is really great. A is still clearly always one step ahead of me. Same thing happened when we would play TGZ, she was always just one step ahead, and I could never quite figure her out. With Zimbabwe it proved to be advantageous in my plays with others, I wonder if the same can be said for Exceed. For some reason I suspect not.

Board Game: Power & Weakness
 7.5   Power & Weakness
This game has some extremely interesting elements: the way that each cycle/round marks time and how they’re associated with tile use. The way that the units in the magic round disrupt the units in the sword round and the other way around. It’s a fascinating balancing act. So neat, so heady, but I’ll need to play it more often more consecutively before I decide if it can muscle it’s way up to an 8. This was a teaching round with D, following our rounds of KvS. He seemed to like this one quite a bit as well. He revealed that he’s interested in cubes on maps, and area control. I seem to be more smitten with that paradigm than I’d have previously suspected. It’s one of those areas (pun intended) of gaming that seems a bit reviled. I understand the feeling, because I just can’t get excited about worker placement/action selection (with a partial exception for Dominant Species), but yeah, area control/pawns-on-a-map get me fired up if the surrounding mechanics feels sound.

Board Game: For Sale
 6.5   For Sale
Back on my BS on BGA.

Board Game: KeyForge: Age of Ascension
 6.5   KeyForge: Age of Ascension x3 NEW!
A couple folks from the Punching Cardboard guild, one of whom I know (W), are setting up an online KeyForge tourney on the Crucible. I’d not played, but W said that he’d teach me and play a few rounds to get me caught up. It’s a neat game, and I’m looking forward to losing in the first round of the tourney. It’s kinda too bad that I’m learning this so close to learning Exceed, which for some reason just gets my juices flowing a little more swiftly. Btw, if y’all want to join the tournament, I think signups are still open…

Board Game: Circle of Life
 6   Circle of Life x2
More BS on BGA. One of these was a stalemate which ended in my opponent’s victory because I assumed (wrongly) that being the first to not be able to play would be a disadvantage not an immediate victory for them. Very compelling round however. Second game I crushed a new player. So I guess I can learn after all.

Board Game: ICECOOL
 5   ICECOOL NEW!
A seemed to genuinely hate this game. Her manicure, much to my surprise, was completely nonplussed. Could be that this game is actually super fun with the right group of competitive, trash talking jerks, but this one 2p play left both of us feeling like the whole thing could be returned to Jeff Bezos.


______________________________________________


Unplayed games of note: 1849, 18CZ, Angola, A Study in Emerald (First Edition), Balance of Powers, The Bridges of Shangri-La, Cartagena, Clans, Clippers, Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-62, Conspiracy, Die Dolmengötter, Dutch InterCity, Kogge, Meridian, Modern Art, Mü & Lots More, Napoleon’s Triumph, Paths of Glory, Rolling Stock, Shadows of Malice, and Villa Paletti

Only played once, games of note: 1714: The Case of the Catalans, 1860, Cataclysm, Here I Stand, Indonesia, Junkie, Psychic Pizza Deliverers Go to the Ghost Town, and Revolution: The Dutch Revolt 1568-1648
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9. Board Game: Letter Jam: Bonus Chip #9 [Average Rating:6.89 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.89 Unranked]
Board Game: Letter Jam: Bonus Chip #9
Rich P
United Kingdom
Sheffield
United Kingdom
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Just back from my 8th Essen Spiel, having hauled this lot across the Channel:

From gallery of woodnoggin


More later. First sleep.

Update:

Last week's plays:

-8.5- The 7th Continent (+The Forbidden Sanctuary; Path of Repentance; Swamp of Madness; What Goes Up, Must Come Down)
-8- Letter Jam
-7.5- Yin Yang New!
-7- Babylonia New!
-7- Guess Club New!
-7- Azul: Summer Pavilion New! (x2)
-7- Miyabi New!
-6.5- Hadara New!
-6.5- Vivaldi New!
-6- Cooper Island New!
-6- Hats New!
-6- Nova Luna
-5.5- JamSumo New!
-5.5- Skytopia: In the Circle of Time New!
-5- 7 Symbols and 7 Nations New!
-5- Fire! New!
-4- Sierra West New!
-3- Where am I? Alice in a Mad Tea Party New!

Spiel was a lot of fun, but also very tiring. Ten of us made the trip from Sheffield (8 adults, 2 babies) but the only accommodation we could find to fit all of us was in Dusseldorf, so we travelled in from there. B came to the Messe for a day and a half and when I was looking after her, we concentrated on things she would enjoy. I thought the HABA stand might be a good place for her, but it was packed and roasting under too many hot lights, so we spent a lot of time in the semi-outdoor space of the Galeria instead.

If I find the time, I'll put up a Geeklist about the trip but for now, here are the games I played:

Azul: Summer Pavilion provides another twist on basic Azul. This one felt even more of a departure than Stained Glass of Sintra, but it's still recognisably the same core, drafting tiles from central factories. The biggest difference here is that you don't place your tiles as soon as you draft them, instead you save them off to one side and place them at the end of the round, when the factories have emptied. There's also a wildcard colour each round and you can take one of those tiles for free if you draft from a factory where there is one. I enjoyed this, but it's the friendliest of the Azul games so far. Unexpected negative points are extremely rare and it's almost impossible to force your opponent into a bad draft. The player boards are big enough that 1) you'll always be able to do something with the tiles you get, and 2) you won't be able to fill it all in by the end of the game. Phil bought a copy, so I'll get to play it again on occasion and that seems fine to me.

I'd been wanting to try Guess Club since Hanibal mentioned it some months ago. I was even considering making my own set with some dry-erase cards, but never got round to it. Now there was a new version to try in Essen. Party games aren't popular at Spiel, so it was easy to find a free table. Here you're all writing down items within a specified category, then betting on how many matching answers players will have at the end of the round. There are a few wrinkles, but that's the gist of it. We had a fun time but I was surprised at how quickly it was over. Just three rounds. Easy enough to play a second game, I suppose. I bought this after our test play on Thursday, then saw it reduced by 10 Euro on the Sunday.

Skytopia: In the Circle of Time is an engine-building card game. If you've played Deus, you'll be familiar with the engine building part. You're collecting four stacks of cards in different colours and when you add a new card to your stack, you get to activate all the previous cards too. The method of gathering cards is quite clever: on your turn, you assign one of your dice to a card to stake a claim in it. You choose the face value of your dice and it costs varying amounts of money depending on how soon you want the claim to resolve. Every round, all dice tick down by one pip and there's a rotating time tracker to tell you which dice values will pay off this round. For example, next round I know all 1s will resolve, so this turn I could place a 2, guaranteeing me the card next turn, but this costs a whopping 10 gold. Instead, I could place a 6 for free, but then I have to wait longer to get the card I want. In the meantime, someone else could jump in and undercut me. They can't place the same value as any dice on the card, but they could place a higher or lower value and manipulate it later with other abilities. Card abilities activate when you place dice on them too, so sometimes you might place dice just for the action, with no need to claim the card for your tableau.

The game was OK, but I had a few problems with it. Having your dice bumped is really bad – you get some coins as compensation but it doesn't really make up for the fact that you've wasted an entire turn as a result. This kept happening to one player and effectively knocked him out of the game. There's a bit of a rich-get-richer effect here. A bigger issue is the engine I was building just wasn't very interesting. I already own Deus which does this much better. We also had concerns over some card abilities being imbalanced. However, I wasn't surprised to see this game sell out at the show. 22 Euro was a good price for this sort of game, in a sea of similar titles at twice the price.

Then it was time for a Phoenix meetup. I've had the pleasure of gaming with Morten before but this was a fantastic opportunity to meet Dave and Simon for the first time. Simon seemed to have a knack for grabbing a table for us – definitely a handy ability to have at Spiel. We started with Babylonia, which went a lot faster than I was expecting. It's one of Knizia's most points salad-y games. It's hard not to score points for something on your turn, but which play will give you the most points and do you sacrifice a few points now for a greater reward later? I had pre-ordered but was in two minds about going through with it, but this play was good, so I picked it up.

Next up was Dave's colourblind-friendly edition of 7 Symbols and 7 Nations. As it was a partnership trick-taking game, I had to apologise in advance to my teammate, Dario, for letting the side down. Trick-takers are not my strong suit. Morten swiftly won everything he needed to for his team to claim victory. I think he had a good hand? I wouldn't know what one looks like. Then onto Vivaldi, a trick-taker for five players. I found this more appealing due to the hidden partnership rule. It results in some fun turns where players can't be sure whether to spike the trick with negative points for the winner, because what if the winner is their secret teammate?

That's all we had time for as a group, because Dave had a plane to catch. Afterwards, I played JamSumo with Morten and Gavin, the game's designer. I did pretty well with Jam, and less well with Sumo. I didn't understand the connection between the two games – Gavin asked us to remember the scores from Jam, but then they didn't seem to have any bearing on how Sumo played out.

Morten and I then went to try Where am I? Alice in a Mad Tea Party, which we'd heard good things about. The components are cute: cardboard table and chairs, wooden characters and a tiny plastic tea set to lay out in front of them. The actual gameplay felt like something I've played before but couldn't quite recall. You play one of four Alice in Wonderland characters but nobody else knows which one you are. You add crockery to the table in front of four chairs and at some point you can make a character sit down. Ultimately, you want your character to have the most crockery at its place at the table. The challenge is in ensuring your character has the most points without making it obvious who you are, because there are extra points available for correctly guessing another player's identity. So, hints of Heimlich & Co, maybe Dicke Dämonen in grabbing a seat at just the right time, but less fun than either of those. It's possible that it's good with more players, but it really didn't work with two and it shouldn't claim to. The addition of a dummy player didn't help. It's only purpose was to act as another player whose identity you can guess, but since it doesn't place any crockery, you have no evidence to base your guess on, so that part is just random.

Fire! was the only game Kate and I managed to play while B was with us in the Messe. She had conveniently fallen asleep at the time. This is essentially a solo game about fending off Space Invaders, with two-player co-operative rules attached. Apparently, it's more difficult with two. It was certainly more difficult with three cards missing from our decks, which we discovered after we had lost. You draw numbered cards from your deck, add it to one of your guns to power it up and when it reaches 10 or more, you can damage a Space Invader. The amount of damage depends on how much power was in the gun and how many cards were used to power it up. After dealing damage, a card of your choice is removed from the game, so it gets harder to deal damage as the game progresses. It felt like there's a trick to learn here and once you've solved it, you can win and progress to the next level, which adds some additional cards and rules. We were uninterested in even working out the solution to Level 1, so it's clearly not a game for us.

Later that day, four of us spotted a free table to play Sierra West. I wish we hadn't. The rules explanation we received was a mess, and we were uncertain how to proceed when left to play. Another demoer noticed our confusion and came over to answer questions. Even so, we kept discovering new rules and options every turn, and after I perused the rulebook I was able to correct him on rules he'd got wrong. Not good. I'm not really sure how to describe the sort of game this is – it's a kind of Euro muddle. There's resource collection to build things which score points and give you abilities, there's a bit of deck-building, there are tracks to move up. Blah. The game is fairly open, in that there are a lot of different things you can do and it seems fairly permissive about how you do them (a mule can take actions as a regular worker sometimes, for example). However, the timing of actions seemed very vague to us. We all had had enough by about the half-way point and gave up.

We sat down at Hadara instead, which I'd heard described as 7 Wonders with bells on. That's fairly accurate. The method of drafting cards is slightly different, and amusingly we never managed to get it 100% correct: there were always one or two cards left over afterwards and we were baffled as to how it had happened. We all enjoyed the game but it was even less interactive than 7 Wonders, since it dispenses with the military conflict aspect. None of us wanted to buy it but I wouldn't mind playing it again.

That evening, back at the apartment, we played Miyabi, another Kiesling. (Incidentally, I have now played more games by him this year than any other designer.) An abstract tile placement game, it could almost have been another Azul spin-off. Again, you're drafting tiles and placing them on your personal board with certain restrictions, but the tiles are of different sizes and, importantly, you can stack them to get more points. At least, if you've thought ahead and not left gaps underneath you can. There's a race to be the first to have a Height 5 tile in each colour, and some majorities scoring at the end. Pretty good. I did have a criticism of the art on the fish ponds – it's not always clear how many points they're worth without looking very closely.

I was happy to introduce Letter Jam to the group and it was a big hit. I suggested an introductory game of four-letter words only, to make things easier, but we still had two players unable to form a word at the end. Only Matt wasn't eager to play again, as word games aren't really his sort of thing, but I think he noticed that this is a good game within the genre, because he later bought a copy as a gift.

The next morning, I prioritised grabbing a table for Cooper Island, as it was very popular and always busy. I was the first of my group to get there, moments after the doors had opened, and there was only a single space at one of the nine tables. The rest of my group arrived later but were content to leave me to it, so I played with two friendly Frenchmen and a German woman. Unfortunately, there were only six demoers available, so we had to wait a very long time to get an explanation. In fact, we'd worked our way through half the rulebook by ourselves by the time someone came to our table. Cooper Island is a pure efficiency game, where you manage your personal board and island peninsula to collect resources, build income-generating items, and eventually points-generating ones. Player interaction is extremely limited, mainly just the worker placement spaces in the middle of the board. But you're never really blocked there, you can still use them if you pay one resource to the player who got there first. That didn't seem particularly punishing, but I presume if you're a Cooper Island Efficiency Expert that single cube could ruin your carefully calculated plans. I was happy puzzling my way through the mechanisms but I have no real desire to do so again. Afterwards, we joked that the other players needn't have been present, so scant were our interactions. I look forward to John's session report after he is forced to play this at his local group in 6 months time.

Next up, Hats. Morten had suggested I try it, and there was a free table as we passed by, so we gave it a go. It's fast and opaque. One play is not enough to do it justice. What just happened? That cookie looks tasty...

I had B with me for the rest of Sunday afternoon, so we just messed around with some kids' games but she wasn't in the mood for playing by their rules. There was a nice Korean game about fireflies which she loved. She fell asleep in the sling on my back, so I wandered past Yin Yang. The explainer offered me a place at the table, and I declined at first, thinking I couldn't really play a game with B there. But as I watched the explanation, I became more and more interested and couldn't resist joining in. It was a mistake, though, because B woke up bawling after a few turns and I had to apologise and leave. It was a bit embarrassing and I felt bad for the other players, but I hadn't impacted the board much by that point, so I think it was OK. The parts of Yin Yang I did get to play were fascinating, though. It's a Taiwanese Euro with some set collection, some area control, some manipulation of scoring opportunities and a cool action system involving shaking up coins inside a metal turtle. There are plenty of good decisions to make and my only criticism from what I saw was that the downtime was a bit much waiting for other players to assign their action coins. I wondered if those decisions could be made simultaneously by all players to reduce the waiting. Whenever I describe a new game, I always find myself thinking in terms of games I already know. It's a testament to this game that I can't find any suitable comparators. The best I can think of is a slight similarity to the map-movement part of Orléans. The action system feels fresh. This was my favourite new game of the show and I would have bought a copy if they hadn't already sold out.

Finally, on Sunday evening, I tried Nova Luna, yet another iteration of Patchwork. No tetrominoes this time, but the method of drafting tiles is the same. Now we're making a grid of coloured square tiles to complete tasks listed on those same tiles. For example, you might have a yellow tile that wants to be next to a red and a blue tile, so you draft a blue tile which also wants to be next to a yellow tile and so complete two tasks at once. The tasks are a bit more complicated than that (but not much). It was nice enough, but not astounding.

The other game I played last week was The 7th Continent, prior to leaving for Essen. We continued our play-through of The Forbidden Sanctuary, making good progress in the frozen north.
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10. Board Game: Hats [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:3508]
Board Game: Hats
No games at home last week but loads of different titles at Essen: 21 different titles out of which 20 were new to me. Most were poor to mediocre but a couple of good ones were in there as well – some may rise a bit with more plays. The biggest highlight, however, was playing games with the small Phoenix group present there. Second on the list was the Heavy Cardboard meetup where I had some beers with Tony Boydell, Paulo and others – and talked to Uli Blennemann and Matthias Cramer about helping playtest Weimar! They needed to translate it into English but that should not be an issue so it looks like I’m on board for that now.

Board Game: PitchCar

 7   PitchCar x2 NEW!
I had brought my PitchCar kit so we could play it with some beer and wine in the evenings at our flat. We only played it the first night but it was a big success. I also realised that my copy of the second expansion only has 2 45 degree curves and that is two too few. As you may see below, I bought the first expansion at the Ferti booth but was really tempted by the loop. It looks great and also that it might be lots of fun because you can shape it in so many ways. I thought I wanted to buy the Upsilon extension but found that too much of the tracks attached to it are outside the borders of its broader side. I expect this will see plenty of play at cons etc. in the future.

Board Game: Hurlyburly

 7   Hurlyburly NEW!
My first priority on the opening morning would have been to get the new European expansion for the decidedly mediocre Wingspan but Simon was able to get me a copy before the doors opened so instead I went to La Mame’s booth to take a look at their game this year. So far their games have been very much hit or miss for me and I did not expect Hurlyburly to be something I wanted but it turned to be lots of fun when I tried it at their booth so I bought a copy and got both a Danish and a Kenyan flag out of the 5 I got. Rhino Hero is fun and it’s even better with catapults. What made me want to buy it though was the fact that building blocks are limited and shared so if you run out of what you need you have to shoot it off someone else’s tower first.

Board Game: Hats

 8   Hats x3 NEW!
I met up with a mate (let’s call him C) from the UK at La Mame’s booth and wandered the halls with him till our Phoenix meet-up at 3. Hats was on my list before Essen due to a recommendation from Martin I believe it was so when we walked past Thundergryph’s booth and saw an empty table with it, we sat down to play it. We were joined by another one and had a great first play of it. In the end, Hats was my favourite game of the ones I tried at Essen and I recommended it to quite a few. It’s a filler set collection stock manipulation game with lots of great tension. You have a hand of 9 cards where you get to play 8 of them (the last one is minus points but also allows you to score the value of the cards of that suit in your tableau. In the middle of the board you have a row of 6 cards (5 if 2p) placed in spots between 1 and 6. In order to play a card it has to be of the same suit as the one on the row or of a higher value. As you play a card from your hand you swap it with one of these cards and take that card into your tableau where it will score you points according to where that suit is in the row – if it is there at all. If the same suit is represented twice, the lowest value counts. So basically, you can really be a dick and make everything worth nothing for everyone else. The other two plays were in our flat on our last evening in Essen.

Board Game: The Queen of Hansa

 5   The Queen of Hansa NEW!
Lübeck is quite close to Denmark and we went there last year with my parents. A beautiful spot and of course the centre of a great many euro games. It is also known as the Queen of the Hansa and here in this game we get a Japanese take on how to make a brown euro. The teach was pretty bad but fortunately, we played with a third player from Japan who knew the rules somewhat – only his English was not that great. The game is simple enough to learn fairly easily as you go along so we managed. It’s a relatively simple set collection game where you play a card of a colour to your tableau and then pick one of the first two cards from the matching row up into your hand. That will then be one of the two cards in your hand that determines where you can pick up later. Lots of different kinds of scoring mechanisms and all of them were pretty uninspired so we both left the table being happy to have finished the game.

Board Game: Moon Base

 6   Moon Base NEW!
We then went around the corner to itten’s booth to try Moon Base which is a very beautiful abstract where you try to build the highest ‘tower’ of rings. Up until now I have found everything itten has made to be beautiful but decidedly mediocre and in need of extra development but Moon Base was different. It had several clever ideas and had I not had enough two player abstracts with no one to play them against, I would have bought it. The rings come in large and small and in three colours – the two player colours and a third neutral colour. They are stacked together and each round starts with both players picking two rings of each size from one of a few stacks so you may want to take your opponents to make a bad move for him or her or perhaps you are forced to and then have to find a way to benefit your opponent the least.

Board Game: Babylonia

 7   Babylonia NEW!
The big one: a new Reiner Knizia with inspiration from so many of his past games made me expect something great but in the end the first play hinted at nothing more than quite good. At least the company was most excellent. 4 Phoenix members from 3 countries, 2 continents at one table in a fourth country! That is quite something. I have of course spent time and gamed with both Rich and Simon before but this was the first time any of us met Dave and most likely also the first time he met any of us. For those of you who have not met Dave I can say that he is even nicer in person than he appears to be in writing on BGG. And that says a lot. 3 of us had pre-ordered the game. I at least, did not regret having done so but I was not so pleasantly surprised at how short the game was when I expected something like T&E (or E&T since we were in Germany) and Dave was right when he described it as fluffier than expected – and fluffier than both E&T and TtD. It is not that I do not like the game but my hopes were up for something better. Let’s see how my opinion changes as I get to play it more. Of all the older games this draws on it reminded me the most of Blue Lagoon.

Board Game: Vivaldi

 8   Vivaldi NEW!
Having finished Babylonia we moved to a quieter area and were joined by D from Simon’s commune. That meant we were five people which is exactly what is needed for Vivaldi. No more, no less. D is from Italy and used to play the original game with his grandmother I think it was but also said that Vivaldi was quite different from it. My best description of it is that it is a mix between whist and sticheln. And those are very good games to be derived from. Like in whist, there is an auction about how well you and your team will do but here it isn’t about tricks but an auction from 10 going down to 1 about how many more points than the opposite team you’ll get. The winner will then declare which season is trump – the opposite season awards minus points. The trump season/suit paired with the number that won the auction will indicate the card whose owner will team up with the auction winner but it is not revealed who has it. From then on it plays as sticheln but in teams of 2 vs 3. The value of the cards in tricks you take all give plus points unless they are the of suit opposite of the trump suit. Fairly simple and lots of fun. Only downside is that you need five players to play.

Board Game: 7 Symbols, and 7 Nations

 7   7 Symbols, and 7 Nations NEW!
Dave then brought out his homemade colourblind friendly deck of Yokai Septet and taught us his favourite game from that system. It was the first time I played any of them as I have not been able to find a deck for it. It is quite confusing but also quite fun. I had a really good hand and singlehandedly got all four points to win the game for my team. Definitely a game I would love to explore more.

Board Game: JamSumo

 6   JamSumo NEW!
Dave had to leave and catch a flight so we split up. Rich and I went to the Cubiko booth as Rich wanted to pick up a couple of games he had pre-ordered and I wanted to try JamSumo if it was there. It was but in the new round version that plays up to 5 players. We played both Jam and Sumo against Gavin and I am not very good at flicking dice it seems. It’s decent fun but I saw no need to buy one of the three copies he had brought of this new edition.

Board Game: Where am I ? Alice in a Mad Tea party

 4   Where am I ? Alice in a Mad Tea party NEW!
Rich and I then went to have a look at one of the several games set in the Alice in Wonderland universe. This had caught the attention of both of us because it is quite elaborately produced with little tea porcelain and also chairs and a table. Unfortunately, that was the only good thing that could be said about the game. At least in a two-player game where a dummy player is added and that system does not really work. Hilko told me he had played at a higher count and had loved it. Perhaps it is a better game than the 4 describes it to be but I have absolutely no wish to find out if it is.

Board Game: Pangea

 6   Pangea NEW!
Thursday I booked a demo of Pangea for Simon, D, me and C (with whom I had spent most of that day wandering the halls) for 10 o’clock Friday morning. Both Simon and me had looked at it because of its setting and theme but it wasn’t until I saw all the plastic crap on the table that I realised that it was a KS. That dampened my excitement and when we sat down at the table and were told it was very much based on Blood Rage than my excitement plummeted. Still, my interest in the setting carried me through and I kept thinking about it afterwards actually. It feels more thematic than Blood Rage but there are some weird things like adaptations being hidden and when triggered only working once and then getting discarded. It’s definitely not a game I would buy but I think I might be interested in playing it again, if for nothing else then to see how it is when you play more rounds. It could easily need some more individual traits to choose from for each player and perhaps a species or two more but unfortunately, the way the publisher is thinking is adding more time and chrome to the game instead. Yay Kickstarter.

Board Game: Zaar

 N/A   Zaar NEW!
We then proceeded to the Iranian booth for our playthrough of the gorgeous Zaar (that is also from KS albeit the Iranian version of it). I went into it thinking that I probably would not like it much with it being an Iranotrash game so with that in mind this 6 rating is a lot better than the one before. Reality Games had made 50 copies of the game with English translations of cards and most hexes (the rest I have been told will be done soon) so we could play it without having to learn Farsi and a new alphabet. The game is as beautiful as it looks on pics but with the added tangibleness it was a pleasure playing it. We found that the dice rolling is not that well integrated – in this the base variant that we tried at least. That could probably be house rules but I’d like to see how it plays when player powers and other aspects are added in the advanced variant. Simon mentioned he’d like to play with the game system and come up with variants for it and I’m looking forward to seeing that. It may be confirmation bias but I was able to look past the issues with the game/genre and enjoyed the evocative experience.

Board Game: Possession: A Daemonic Card Game

 5   Possession: A Daemonic Card Game NEW!
We then split up so C and me wandered the halls a bit like the previous day again. We sat down to try this out as it had caught my attention the next day where the designer also gave me a short introduction. It’s really beautiful with evocative medieval-esque artwork and it has many interesting ideas (especially in the expansion) but unfortunately it very much becomes a tit for tat seesawing experience where once you build a bit your opponents tear it down again. It sounded better than it was.

Board Game: The Court of Miracles

 7   La Cour des Miracles x3 NEW!
Two weeks ago I asked here if anyone wanted me to take a look at one of the smaller weirder games and this was one of two Robert mentioned. I’m glad he did because I had not noticed it before at all and neither had many others either. When we walked to the booth the area was full of people playing games but none of the demos were this. In one hidden corner there was one empty table and lo and behold LCdM was standing on it. They really did not try to market this one. I find it odd because it’s beautiful, it’s evocative and it’s not half bad really. So we talked a mate of C into joining us for it and sat down to play. The staff at the booth were busy explaining other games so we learned it from the rulebook but that is quite easy because there is not much to it. It’s basically a race to place your 6 tokens on the board and to do that you need to either control one of the five regions of central Paris (i.e. your tokens can get displaced if someone else takes over the regions they are placed in) or by paying to place it in a safe place that will give some small bonus. In the game you play one of your 3-4 ‘workers’ that also have a strength and possibly a special action for when you win or lose the region when it’s contested – meaning when all three action spots are filled. The winner of that will then dominate the region and thus place a token there. Very simple and with plenty of player interaction so it’s a fun little game. Our first play took only 10-15 minutes because they really hadn’t listened when I said it was a race game… We then played once more and it was much more fun – enough for two of us to buy the game. The final play was a 4 player game in our flat Saturday evening and there was a lot more table talk and getting at each other’s throats. It is a fun little game that I will recommend but I do not think it will outlast 10 plays.

Board Game: Troia

 3   Troia NEW!
I like ancient history and so a small game on the Iliad from a small Spanish publisher might be a hidden gem for me. It was far from it. Really bad game of playing cards to move 6 Greek heroes back and forth between the two players. It is much too easy and not nearly as clever as they wanted it to be.

Board Game: Opale

 4   Opale NEW!
C and I then split up and since I had looked at pretty much everything I wanted to have a look at I then justered wandered around without purpose and had a look at what might be interesting. I noticed Rüdiger Dorn’s name on this box so I sat down to play it. Apparently it is a re-release of some older game of his in a new setting. I had not heard of the old game and after playing this I understand why. It’s dull and without any interesting decisions.

Board Game: Omen: A Reign of War

 6   Omen: A Reign of War NEW!
John Clowdy’s games are either very difficult to get in Europe or very expensive so I was happy to try this out. Especially since Alison likes it if I remember correctly. I knew it probably would not be for me since I am not that keen on two player card battle games and this is very much one. But I must admit that I quite enjoyed it. Not enough to buy it but that was mainly because the cards have so much you need to track that it’s hard to do it with your own and very difficult with your oppponent’s. Especially since you cover them up with other cards quite often. I’d happily play again but have no desire to own it.

Board Game: Lux Aeterna

 7   Lux Aeterna NEW!
While I talked with Tony Boydell at the HC meet-up we talked about his upcoming game about fishing in the North Sea and I must admit it sounds quite interesting. It won’t be out till 2021 because Ian O’Toole who’ll do the artwork does not have the time to do it till then. Tony also told me about his new card game Lux Aeterna that he realeased at Essen this year and that I had no interest in because it’s a solitaire game. Tony kept telling me I had to come over to his booth the next day and try it so I did and it turned out that it was actually pretty darn good. I told Tony and he then gave me the game. Very nice of him! There is some of Shephy in it but it’s much more complex than that but not overly so at all. If you like solitaire card games I recommend trying it out.

Board Game: Freshwater Fly

 4   Freshwater Fly NEW!
Simon and D had stopped by the booth where they sold Freshwater Fly the next day even though they were not really interested but the explanation made them interested. When Simon told me about some of the ideas and mechanisms I got interested too so I booked a demo of it for the three of us. We were joined by a woman from Mumbai who had just finished playing Pax Transhumanity so her head was spinning and I fear she never really understood much of the game. The ideas and mechanisms we thought sounded interesting were indeed just that but unfortunately they do not take up much of the game. The rest is really dull and formulaic where you have very few choices and most of what you have to choose from is not really interesting. A shame because we had hoped this could be fun. It was sold out so I guess others disagreed – or the pitch was so good that people bought it on a whim.

Board Game: Fast Sloths

 6   Fast Sloths NEW!
On our last evening we played Hats twice but we also played a three player game of Fast Sloths with the recommended set-up for a first play. It is hard to evaluate based on this play because it really needs more players to have the nice player interaction where you manipulate the animals on the board in ways that help you and not the others or collude about it to make sure a player in the lead is stymied. Some might enjoy it with less interaction but I want more. The gameplay was quite fun without being great but I can see my rating moving up a bit when I try it with more. My impression of it is that it feels much more like a pick-(me-)up and deliver (me) game than a race game – and that is a good thing in my book.

Board Game: Echidna Shuffle

 7   Echidna Shuffle (4 all-time)
I had talked both Simon and D (and C) into buying a copy of Echidna Shuffle because it’s cheap, looks great, is fun both with adults and kids and is really hard to get otherwise. So Simon, D and I played a game of it and I think it was a success. It was my first time on the winter side of the board and I now know I prefer the summer side where you can be a bigger dick quite easily. Simon mentioned he wanted to try out some of the endgame variants but I may be happy the way it is I think.



Games that left my collection this month: Pizza Master.

Games that entered my collection this month: Greed Incorporated, Mice and Mystics, Big Shot, Happy Hour, Hurlyburly, King Thief Minister, Yin Yang, Fast Sloths incl. expansion and promo, Inuit: The Snow Folk, Babylonia, The King's Will, La Cour des Miracles, Zaar, Promenade, Electropolis, Hats, Lux Aeterna, Vivaldi and Mauwi plus Wingspan European Expansion, PitchCar Expansion #1 and the Keyflower: Delivery Man promo.

Unplayed games in my collection: 1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight, Napoleon's Triumph, Turning Point: Stalingrad, Ligny 1815: Last Eagles, Autumn for Barbarossa, Dubbe, Nakanuki Paradise, PQ-17: Arctic Naval Operations 1941-1943, Lords of the Sierra Madre (Second Edition), Triumph & Tragedy, The Princes of Florence, Paths of Glory, Cataclysm: A Second World War, Joffre, Greed Incorporated, Mice and Mystics, Big Shot, Happy Hour, King Thief Minister, Yin Yang, Inuit: The Snow Folk, The King's Will, Promenade, Electropolis, and Mauwi
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11. Board Game: Yahtzee [Average Rating:5.38 Overall Rank:19375]
Board Game: Yahtzee
United States
Wurtsboro
NY
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We always have time for the things we put first.
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Microbadge: LGBTQ allyMicrobadge: GameChat League - Phoenix Division: "Like a phoenix rising from the ashes..."Microbadge: I'm femaleMicrobadge: This is not a drill!Microbadge: Indigo Girls fan
The only thing we played last week was some Yahtzee on Sam's phone. I don't log our phone plays, but I will tell you the story of how it was my last turn of the game, and I only needed one 1 to get my bonus. I rolled a 1 Yahtzee, my second Yahtzee of the game. devil

Target had the buy 2, get 1 free sale yesterday, and there was a code that gave 25% off the highest prices item that stacked. I picked up

Board Game: Noctiluca


for Sam for Christmas.

I noticed images of

Board Game: Azul: Summer Pavilion


from Spiel

Board Game: Azul: Summer Pavilion


Haven't decided whether I'll pick it up yet.
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12. Board Game: Vivaldi [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:12616]
Board Game: Vivaldi
Dave Peters
United States
Belmont
California
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Powers:Coleridge:Milton: Faith...must be, if anything, a clear-eyed recognition of the patterns and tendencies, to be found in every piece of the world's fabric, which are the lineaments of God.
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That's Tim Powers' fictional Samuel Coleridge "quoting" John Milton in _The Anubis Gates_.
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Scorecard for the Week/Month/Year as of 26Oct2019:

2/13/333 plays of 2/11/179 total games, with 0/0/36 expansions employed.
Plays with 4/13/102 distinct opponents.

4/5/36 games acquired (plus 2/2/21 expansions.) - Tricks and the Phantom, Keyflower: Delivery Man, Vivaldi, Babylonia and Concordia: Balearica / Cyprus (at Spiel; and Key Market was waiting for me when I got home.) I also bought Barrage+Leeghwater Project - but they might go to a friend. Or he might decline, and I'll get them. Happy either way.
0/0/1 games sold/traded (plus 0/0/2 expansions.)
0/1/31 games ordered (plus 0/0/7 expansions.)
Orders for 11 games and 1 expansions still outstanding.

On Thursday in Essen with Morten, Rich, and Simon:
Board Game: Babylonia

image by dramaplastika

1x _7⅓_ Babylonia New!

It was completely delightful to meet my opponents for this one: they're clever, amusing, and generous.

And the game was fun, too. We had a bit of drift with the rules (in that the ones with which we ended the game weren't quite the ones that I'd assimilated as we started.) But it appeared to have merit: there were interesting decisions; significant interplayer interactions; and several (sadly, in-retrospect) timing questions that I'd answered poorly the first time out.

Delighted to have picked it up; and even happier to have met this group.

Board Game: Vivaldi

image by maruXV

1x _7⅔_ Vivaldi New!

This was a lovely friendly thing. The game is a modest riff on a classic Briscola variant; and - possibly as a result - it explains easily. It also appears to provide opportunity for cleverness and subtlety in play. (Again, more realized after the fact than before: I could absolutely have played better!)

The price was absolutely right, too.


Owned-and-unplayed: 3 (+4/-2) - Vivaldi and Babylonia arrived and were played; Tricks and the Phantom and Key Market arrived.
Owned-and-played-once: 99 (+2/-0) - Vivaldi and Babylonia were played once.

Outlook for the week: I'm on call this week (which is why I couldn't have stayed in Europe longer; or stayed at Essen longer, for that matter.) I'm hoping to have the Wednesday Night crew at my place; and might be able to get to games on Friday at work without stressing my emergency response time too much. Hoping to get a couple more plays of the New Things; but if we end up playing old favourites, I'm happy with that, too!
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13. Board Game: Hurlyburly [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:10975]
Board Game: Hurlyburly
Simon Agner Holm
Denmark
Aarhus C
Danmark
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"it´s easier to see the difference when you´re sitting on the fence"
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Microbadge: The Great Zimbabwe fanMicrobadge: Paco Ŝako fanMicrobadge: The Mushroom Eaters fanMicrobadge: I aspire to Curmudgeon Level EricMicrobadge: GameChat League - Phoenix Division: "Like a phoenix rising from the ashes..."
Board Game: PitchCar
Board Game: Vivaldi
Board Game: Qwinto
Board Game: Hurlyburly
Board Game: Crokinole
Board Game: Babylonia
Board Game: 7 Symbols, and 7 Nations
Board Game: Zaar
Board Game: Pangea
Board Game: Paco Ŝako
Board Game: Mine Deeper
Board Game: Maskmen
Board Game: Magic Maze on Mars
Board Game: Ka Pai
Board Game: Anubixx
Board Game: Hats
Board Game: Freshwater Fly
Board Game: Fast Sloths
Board Game: Echidna Shuffle
Board Game: The Court of Miracles


Essen Spiel
 10   Paco Ŝako
 8   Vivaldi x5 NEW!
 8   Hurlyburly NEW!
 8   Crokinole
 7   Maskmen x2
 7   Hats x2 NEW!
 7   PitchCar x2 NEW!
 7   Qwinto
 7   Echidna Shuffle x2 NEW!
 6   Babylonia NEW!
 6   7 Symbols, and 7 Nations NEW!
 6   Pangea NEW!
 6   La Cour des Miracles NEW!
 5   Magic Maze on Mars x2 NEW!
 5   Fast Sloths NEW!
 4   Freshwater Fly NEW!
 4   Zaar NEW!
 3   Anubixx NEW!
 3   Ka Pai NEW!
 1   Mine Deeper NEW!

So for this weeks list I´ll be borrowing a structure that should be familiar to everyone.

The Good
I played ALOT more games this year at SPIEL than I have done before. Of all these new to me games two stood out above the rest based on initial impressions: Hurlyburly and Vivaldi. I would never ever have guessed that my game of the con would be a light and silly dexterity game but Hurlyburly is just so darn fun and charming. Played a four player game of it at the booth after having bought it. D was hoarding "stones" for his card-catapult so in response I built a HUGE wall of defences between him and me, and eventually managed to eek out a victory. This was also D´s game of the con.
Vivaldi was also immensely interesting. Played a single round with Dave, Rich, Morten and D. Then played it four more times later that night at the pub, where the game took on an almost social deduction like quality. Since the teams are uneven (2v3) showing your allegiance early can be really detrimental as the opposition will just dumb all the negative cards in your lap immediately. So instead everyone played very cautiously leading to accusations flying left and right as people tried to figure out who could be trusted.

It was an absolute pleasure playing Babylonia with Morten, Dave and Rich, even-though the game was ultimately a bit of a let down. I was expecting a bit more strategic diversification between the players but it was alright. Will definitely play it again. Hats is mindblogling in the best kinda way, Pitchcar is just plain old juvenile fun, Echidna Shuffle is equal parts cute and mean which is delightful, La Cour des Miracles was a neat little dirty knife fight in a box and 7 Symbols, and 7 Nations was super fascinating albeit quite confusing due to the card/deck layout (sorry Dave).

Playing Zaar was also a very special experience due to the heartwarming excitement of the people of the atmosphere

I only played a single game of Paco Sako while I was there but it was so incredibly good that I had to go and up my rating to a 10. There are only two other games that give me a dopamine rush like this does: Space Alert and The Great Zimbabwe.

The Bad
While I adore demoing Fog of Love and had a wonderful time showing it to people, the booth coordinators seemed quite stressed out this year. It wasn´t anything too bad, but the lack of calm and welcoming atmosphere meant that demoing definitely felt more like work this year than in 2018.
I didn´t find Fast Sloths to be too interesting, despite some engrossing design ideas Freshwater Fly was ultimately very dull and Magic Maze on Mars was fun but forgettable.

The Ugly
The gameplay of Zaar was endlessly tedious consisting almost exclusively of dice rolls with random outcomes and little to no meaningful decisions. Part of this was due to the demo-style in which we didn´t learn about part 2/3 of the game before part 1/2 was done. However if it wasn´t for the astonishing production and evocative atmosphere this game would have gotten a 2 out of 10 from me.
Having preordered a copy on a whim I have now set myself a design challenge: Improving the gameplay experience by broadening the decision-space, implementing various luck mitigating mechanisms and increasing the importance of board layout and positioning. All while keeping component alterations to an absolute minimum
I´m already having so much fun with this.

Playing some of the newest Roll´n´writes (Anubixx and Ka Pai) only served to solidified the fact that nothing in this genre really beats Qwinto in terms of simplicity and interaction.

Finally I played a game of Mine Deeper with D. This game is like battleships only without the sensation of coming up with clever placements or any kind of sensation for that matter. To make it worse the game´s main component wasn´t nearly sturdy enough to withstand actual play, so everthing kept falling down and we spent 30% of the game putting pieces back into place.
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