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Niagara Gamers' Report

Our game group is from the Niagara Region in Southern Ontario. We play mostly in St. Catharines, Niagara Falls and Grimsby. We like hard games and strong beer, though we will occassionally play lighter games for fun (though we'd never be caught dead with lighter beer).

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TABSCON 2011: How Micah Ruins Everything :)

Rob Leveille
Canada
St. Catharines
Ontario
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Saturday was TABSCon in Toronto. My friend Dave and I drove up together to check it out. I consider it not quite a ‘Con’ as it’s only one day, but they seem to get a good turnout so we wanted to check it out.

We arrived pretty much right at the 9am opening, and immediately found Micah from our home group. We were then approached by Hans and his awesome beard, neither of whom I'd seen in awhile. Rummaging through my small bag of goodies, I pulled out The Speicherstadtand quickly taught the game. I love how easy this game is to teach and to play. There are only a few cards to explain and the bidding mechanic is elegantly simple. It has just enough ‘screw you’ factor to make it exciting. Dave pulls off a solid win by meeting several contracts.


The board after first-turn blight in our six-player game.

Next up, the four of us get invited into a game of Dominant Species; almost impossible to pass up this offer as it is currently high on my hot list (and I don’t own it yet). Will and Chris (our game hosts) have opted for the ‘random earth’ start. I have yet to play this option and am wary when I see that two of us will start the game with only two species, and Will himself starts with zero critters on the board. The few VPs you’re given in lieu don’t seem to compensate (to my lowly eye, at least) for the likelihood of not getting a domination card for the first few turns. The game surprises me, however, as I take these two starter species and make a good run for the lead. Of course, Micah (one of the two players that started with 8 species on the board) is in the lead pretty much from the start and never really looks back. Most of the animals are forced to focus on responding to evil game events (including a devastating first-turn blight) and can ill-afford to get in his way. As my birds scramble to catch up to his run-away arachnids, Micah manages to deny me of domination on pretty much every turn. The other animals, having given up on ever catching Micah, start turning on each other to scramble into second place. Poor Will didn’t even manage to get a reptile onto the board until the fourth turn. Hans and Dave scramble atop each other, fighting amphibian vs mammal to come out on top of the second place race, but nature selected for them to end in a dead heat. Micah wins by almost seventy points, with only a neat trick by Chris preventing him from adding a big tundra bonus to the insult of his high score. Again, Dominant Species has offered an excellent, highly engaging and interactive 4 hours of entertainment. What other big meaty fiddly game has its participants laughing hysterically throughout at the crazy turn of events. Beware the first turn blight(and Micah!)

The despicable Micah plotting his global domination! devil

Coming down from our evolutionary battle, I volunteer to teach a game that I picked up that very day: Peloponnes. Hans, Dave and Micah join me again (yes we traveled to Toronto to play with our regular group. What’s your point?). I’ve enjoyed this game ever since my first exposure to it two years ago at Great Lakes Games (which occurs nowhere near a Great Lake). I like its bidding mechanic and its worst-of-two-options scoring. It plays fast (unless you’re at BGGCon and playing with people more interested in the raffle that going on) and has some good terrifying moments as the disaster chits get revealed. Micah wins again. Dave and I are thinking of throwing him into a dumpster out back, but aside from winning all of the time, he’s a rather nice fellow.

Next up is Heartland. I’ve had this one for a bit and have been interested in trying it. Hans is out and Brian is in. Brian is also from our home group. (Yes, we have wasted two cars worth of gas. ) It’s a very abstracted farming game, with tile laying to grow and shrink various crops to turn into either VPs or barn points. Barn points allow you to drop a barn onto an area to earn you points each turn. Otherwise all of your points come from the tile you played. Brian shoots ahead to an easy win (despite his moral dilemma of having to utilize animals for his victory). More importantly, I finish ahead of that bastard Micah.




That nice guy Micah pulls out Dragon Parade, a fun light game. Nothing much to describe here, other than I BEAT MICAH AGAIN!!!!!!HAHAHAHAAHHA! It was a close game; I clinched the win by forcing the dragon off of the board when I knew I was in an advantageous (one point lead) position.

Micah is so crushed from these last couple of defeats that he crawls out of the Con with his head hung in shame. See you next week, Micah!

Brian just picked up The Princes of Florence in a math trade so we decide to give it a go. Vincent from the table behind us expresses interest in it (especially over the Galaxy Trucker that his friends are starting) so we invite him in. Finally, we have incorporated new people into our gaming. After a rules refresher (for the experienced but forgetful) and quick lesson (for the newbs), we jump right in. There is a lot to juggle in this game, and with only two actions per turn its hard to get everything done that you want to. I get into an excellent mid-game position, and I’m hoping to have a killer last turn where I meet my prestige objective of most works and shoot out into the lead. Dave, however, decides to pee in my cornflakes and outbids me for the Recruiter card that I so desperately need. The entire game, Dave just sat there quietly trying to keep his head above water. Only the last turn, he comes out swinging – produces two awesome works, converts them all to points and handily defeats the rest of the table. The two experienced players (Vincent and I) congratulate ourselves on our excellent teaching of the game.

A happy Dave one turn before his red marker races past the rest.


To wind down the day, Vincent wants to try out his newly-acquired copy of Shark. As I’ve played it a few times, I volunteer to teach it. Michelle, an innocent passerby, jumps into the game. Shark is like Acquire but with dice. Players get cash for growing a company (equal to the company’s new stock value), and also for whenever a company’s share price grows (difference in price per share). There are strategic decisions to make, and gambles to be had, but the dice determine the actions and hold significant sway over the outcome. It feels like I have a huge lead, as the blue company continually rewards my faith in it. I ran green up early, than dumped it like the filthy trollop it was. But the end-game sees Brian pulling in lots of cash. I am down to only one share-colour and only benefit when blue is affected. I manage to pull out the final win, but only by a bit. Vincent is disappointed in the amount of luck in the game and sells his copy to Michelle.

TABSCon
was a fun day, though it ended too early (and there were no potato chips for sale). As its only an hour drive from my house, I will probably attend this even in the future as well. laugh
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Mon Mar 7, 2011 7:31 pm
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Family/President's Day Gaming with Uber-Famous Podcasters

Rob Leveille
Canada
St. Catharines
Ontario
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Okay, it’s the Monday after Niagara Boardgaming Weekend and we’ve schedule some gaming. Scott and Ryan from the U.S. (Syracuse and Rochester) join Derek and I (go Canada!) at my place for some statutory holiday gaming goodness. Its not everyday I get two celebrated gaming podcastors in my basement (Scott from BGWS and On Boardgames, Ryan from How To Play and Ludology (http://ludology.libsyn.com) Ryan also slums it with some little-known "Dice Towel" podcast.



After a nice greasy breakfast, we start good and early with a game of Indonesia. This game just does not get to the table often enough. Every time I play it, I fall in love with it a little more. It’s Derek’s first time playing, so he’s feeling out/up the concepts. He opens with acquiring a shipping company; I pick up the other one. Scott and Ryan decide to become producers. As Derek expands his shipping through a quick acquisition and merger (where no one else can bid), Ryan gets sick of having to pay him and picks up a little short-line boat fleet of his own. I add some rice production to the mix, and Scott expands like there’s no tomorrow. A key moment in the game is when Derek leaves himself a little short on cash and I merge/steal his 3-part shipping company. Along with my 2-part shipping company, it gives me almost all of the shipping in the game. This should give me a clear win; but I get a little greedy and merge Ryan’s little shipping line with my 2-parter, forgetting that Scott has tons of money. He steals it out from under me, but gives me some hefty coin in the process. Ryan pulls out a comfortable win with his solid production, giving as much shipping profits to Scott over me. Derek takes a comfortable third place, announcing that he really enjoyed the game. Scott’s over-bid on my shipping line took him out of contention, but knocked me into a solid second. An excellent game with excellent gamers.



A couple more bodies have joined us, so we split into two tables. Richard (not a podcaster but a Niagara Gamers founding member, and the subject of an Origin's-based documentary short - Left Behind) and (Micah Fuller(amateur game designer and all-round nice guy; not sure what he's doing hanging out with us) go off into the corner to play The Mines Of Zavandor while Derek, Ryan and I opt to relax with a simple game of Tigris & Euphrates. Derek has played before, but only once and needs a refresher. Luckily, we have the How To Play podcaster right there to teach it to him  The game starts well, a little bit of to and fro. Derek probingly tries to be a dick (in a game he knows better, he does away with the probing and just dicks) to test out the rules. I lose too many significant battles by a single tile and rapidly lose ground in blue cubes, with no saving moves in sight. I guess Ryan is qualified to teach games to the masses as he easily triples our scores. Another game that needs to hit the table more often, if just to not get my ass handed to me again.



Ryan leaves us, and the remaining five try out Junta: Viva el Presidente!. I always enjoyed playing the original Junta, especially with the right people (usually a certain group of Syracuseans – hi Ron!). This version eliminates the tedious elements of the original and replaces it with speedy dice-play. It left in the all-important bribes and bluffing. We have a blast stabbing each other in the back, with Richard suffering probably the most stabbings. A couple of turns manage to just prevent Derek from snatching the win before I pull off a couple of lucky plays and steal victory. Lots of fun, good end of the evening game.



Derek leaves us and we decide to try another of Scott’s new games: Horse Fever. This is an Italian horse racing game with a 30’s noire/gangster feel to it. Each player owns a stable and can buy horses to race. Then the players can play dirty tricks on the horses or attempt to acquire useful helpers. The racing itself was rather exciting; the dirty tricks are a fun reveal, and each new movement card had us cheering our horses on. If you should happen to run low on money, you can always borrow from the mob. But be careful: if you can’t pay them back, you can’t win (dead men collect no VPs). Oddly, finally cash is not the victory condition. Various criteria earns victory throughout the game: winning a bet (1 for show, 3 for win), owning a showing horse, meeting secret objectives and winning a VP auction at the end of each race. This game is a lot of fun and I am currently trying to track down a copy.

Thanks to all for coming it. It was a great cap to the weekend.
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Wed Mar 2, 2011 7:14 pm
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Niagara Boardgame Weekend - Sunday

Rob Leveille
Canada
St. Catharines
Ontario
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Well, its the final day of the event. What haven't we played yet. Oh yeah!!!

Age of Steam - the usual suspects (Derek, Mike, Ryan, me) are joined by a brave Janna for a playing of the unforgiving China map. With added expenses and restrictive track-building rules, this room has no room for error. Yet Derek decides to open with a huge 'no-movements' play, squishing himself between my central build and Janna's protectionist northern play. Mike and Ryan build peacefully in the south (Mike having stolen what I had picked as the optimal opening). Janna builds wisely, protecting herself from the aggressive intents of Derek, who just can't get all of the actions he needs (First Build and Engineer, usually). While Derek pulls some nice cubes away from Janna (and myself), Janna protects her assets well, blocking Derek handily from getting to his desired Russia. Abandoning the northern build myself, I shore up a couple quick links in the center of the map, and Urbanize Derek out of moving three yellows for 5 (instead giving them to me). Mike builds a solid network up the west side of the board, but he has a stockpile of purple cubes and its looking less likely that he'll make it to the only purple city on the board. Ryan covers the southeast and plunges up into the middle. He's got a solid network, but no big cube movements. Once Janna builds into Moscow, its obvious that she can pull off the big win. A pile of red cubes just sitting there waiting for her six moves. Only one thing can stop her. Declaring in the most politically correct way possible (and remembering that I am dating this woman), I state "I'm sorry, but I just can't lose to a girl" as I urbanize the remaining red city onto the town just outside of those lovely red cubes. Its a good move for me, as I'm almost out of cubes to move, and this play gives me a 4 and a 5, enough to give me a handy victory. It also knocks Janna from first into third, as she has nothing of substance to move. Derek goes bankrupt on the second last turn, denied by Janna's builds (and to a lesser extent, from my cube thieving). Mike sputters at the end, buried in a pile of unmovable cubes. Ryan finishes with some solid moves, his cautious playing rewarding him with a second-place finish. This is the first time I've won Age Of Steam while having the least amount of track built. My network was small, but got me access to just enough cubes. An excellent game, and excellent play by all. And I didn't lose to a girl.

Poseidon - Janna takes a break from hard, painful games (and me), and Scott Nicholson joins us to teach Posiedon. This is a 18xx-style game, though there are enough differences that knowing one does not help with the other. Posiedon replaces trains with boats, and instead of stations, your boats must stop at your trade outposts. The game is designed to play faster (though AP can still attack) and has a finite amount of turns. The game was interesting, and I though I was winning. I did have to bail on the last turn to take Janna to the airport. I had one awesome company, and one dog that I'd been nursing since the beginning. An ill-fated boat purchase by another player after I left blew up my dog company's boat, forcing me to sell off lots of shares (of which I had few), and left me destitute. I'd love to try this one again, though I find the 18xx-style just doesn't give me as much excitement/decision ratio that I can get from other games (Age of Steam for one).

Another successful NBW completed. This is an excellent event that I plan on attending each year (even if it moves to the bad side of the creek next year).
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Mon Feb 28, 2011 7:04 pm
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Niagara Boardgame Weekend - Saturday

Rob Leveille
Canada
St. Catharines
Ontario
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Well, having played lots of big, good games so far this weekend, we decided to ease into Saturday morning with a nice easy game of…

Antiquity - set up and teach this one to Janna (S. Carolina), Mike (Buffalo) and Dave (Beamsville, ON). With only 1400 chits and a player aid crammed with small-font information, this game is always a challenge to teach well. There is so much going on – pollution, starvation, death, depleted resources, lack of space in cities – that for a new player to do well is very difficult. Dave rapidly realizes that he needs to act fast before he runs out of room to grow. Janna starts to spread fast to get desperately needed stone; her starting area had few mountains. Mike is surviving, but each turn keeps leaving him right where he started. I win the game handily, having played it many times before. The game has variable win-conditions based on which patron saint you choose. I went with Christofori, who allows you to store infinite goods and win with 3 of every food and luxury good. The infinite storage helped me avoid famine by holding on to my food items instead of being forced to replant them to keep from spoiling. I love this game in all of its fiddly glory, but damn its hard.

Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization– With Dave’s brain melted, Janna and Mike join me for another light little game. Janna has played before but we have to teach Mike. This is another game with lots of elements to juggle; you can beat yourself if you don’t manage your infrastructure properly. Playing with new players, I opted against using my military advantage to bully my opponents. Instead, I scooped up lots of new colonies and built three culture-producing Wonders. Janna hurt me with a well-timed aggression (I had just spent my military on acquiring a new territory), keeping me a bit in check. Had we played the full 3 ages, I think I probably would have lost (my infrastructure, while great in mining, was lousy for food). But as we only did 2 ages, my culture-producing wonders, in combo with James Cook/3 colonies gave me a comfortable win. Mike and Janna would have done much better in the longer game.

Alien Frontiers – I had heard a lot of good buzz about this game, but I have to admit that I was very underwhelmed. I love games that use dice in clever ways (Stoneage comes to mind), but this title didn’t offer a lot of excitement. Of course, it was following two of my favouritest games. (see above) This is not going on my wish list. A big 'Meh'

AgricolaJanna, Sara, Abby and I sit down for a nice little farming game. We try out a card-draft for starting hands, and idea I’ve long been interested in trying but that requires all players to be equally well versed at the game. I always thought that I was pretty good at this game (and came in with a respectable 42 points), Sara managed to manipulate her drafted cards to give her a 7-room (seven!!!) stone house for almost no resource outlay. Of course, she had neglected to do any actual farming until the last two turns of the game. So even with taking an early beggar card, she handily beat us with 49 points. Abby and Janna played solid games, but just couldn’t pull out the final points. With Sara hogging family growth (she had six rooms since about the sixth round), it was hard for anyone else to get extra actions. I have to admit: Sara’s pretty good at this game – for a girl

Mr. Bacon's Big Adventure – we’d been trying to get this gem to the table all weekend, but the ultimate was getting Vegan Mike to play with us. The game started out strong, with several players jumping out ahead very quickly. There were some tense decision making moments, mostly surrounding questions over the spinner needle being on the olive loaf or the pepperoni. Several players got sucked into the Vegan Alley trap (the horror!), delaying an increasingly desirable endgame. The highlight of the game was reading aloud the cards that sent the wary bacon strip tokens to the Weiner Wasteland or the Sausage Sea. We opted to end the game without a winner, thereby making us all winners.

Time's Up! Title Recall! – another lovely evening capped by this game. This time, all participates were up for the action (except maybe Steph, who was tired but gave it her all). During random partnering, I got paired with Richard and offered to split us up. Some players thought that I was being cocky and pretty much said “bring it”. We kicked ass. It was either the natural empathy and common tropes that good friends develop, or it was the Russian Imperial Stout.
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Mon Feb 28, 2011 6:40 pm
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Niagara Boardgame Weekend - Friday

Rob Leveille
Canada
St. Catharines
Ontario
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My first full day of gaming for the weekend.

Dominant Species– a great way to start the morning. Jeff, Janna, Mike, Grant and myself sit down to this one. Grant, Mike and I have played it before and share the teaching duties. This game has lived up to and surpassed my expectations of it. I freakin’ love it. Similar to Age Of Empires, but with the screwage factor of games like Age Of Steam, DS brings out the best and most evil in me. Favourite moment of game: Blighting one of the most populous hexes to protect my single-species sea hex from getting taken over. I pull out the victory by managing to score both of my sea zones for the last three turns of the game. I have very little cubes on the board at the end, but I manage to shaft the runners’ up out of the points they need to catch me. I need to own this game. I would love it and hug it and squeeze it. thumbsup

De Vulgari Eloquentia– always happy to try anything Scott Nicholson brings to the table. This complex monster of a game is obsensibly about amalgamating dialects in Italy, though it is more about making money for awhile then giving it all up to join the church. Numerous actions and ways to push cardboard and cubes around the board make for a confusing game start. Nobody know why they are doing anything. Scott is the first to monk-up, and looks to be trying for Popehood. Janna follows, and starts collecting manuscripts like mad. I’m the last to get churchy. One of my random cube grabs stops Scott’s run for the white smoke (there is very limited resources in the game – something that is hard to appreciate in the first few turns). Jeffrey keeps on as a merchant – though little good his money does him as he has to hand over most of his cash each turn to the more pious players. Not sure what to think of this game. I think it would take many plays to figure out the whats and whys, but not sure its interesting enough to get those plays. Glad for the chance to try it, though.

Puzzle Strike – another Scott game. This one gets a giant “Meh.” Unlike most Dominion clones, this one forgot to do anything different. Oh yeah, you’re supposed to be shooting gems. Feeling forced and unfun, we couldn’t pack this one up fast enough. thumbsdown

Anomia – back with the Toronto Snakes and Lattes team of Sara, Duncan and Nick, they introduce Janna and I to this fun little party game. A mix of Jungle Speed and Cockroach Poker, players flip cards with symbols and subjects on them. Once two players have matching symbols, they must yell out an example of the subject on their opponent’s card. Like if it said “Zoo Animal”, you would yell out ‘Zebra!!!”( not 'pig', Nick. There’s no pigs in the zoo.) More often than not, you would have a brain fart and not be able to name a single professional athlete before you’re opponent can get out a type of pasta. Very fun. Better with alcohol.
laugh

KakerlakensalatAnomia made me want to play this game (Cockroach Salad) right away. Much more simple than anomia. There are four vegetables in the game. When you flip your card, you must say the name of the vegetable shown without stuttering or pausing. Unless it’s the same vegetable as the last card flipped; then you must say one of the other 3 vegetables in the game. Oh, and you can’t say what the last player just said. And cockroaches can come out that eliminate yet another vegetable from the mix. Painful and funny as hell. Awesomer with Alcohol.
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Time's Up! Title Recall!– Janna’s favourite game. We try to end every night with it. Sara is horrible at it and is not enjoying the experience. Either is her partner Mike, who is giving excellent clues to no avail. Still fun. Always fun. Awesomest with alcohol! meeple thumbsup

Cyclades - bad game to follow Time’s Up. Same group, only a few of us have played this before. I liked this game when I first tried it, but with repeated plays its warts really start to show. Again, the game is less about playing well and more about stopping whoever is about to win this turn. There is no real chance to build an engine or get things going. The end-game kicked in this time around the fourth turn. Oh shit – he’s gonna win – you have to stop him. I love the elements; I love the mechanics; I love the way it looks and feels; but I’m really starting to hate this game. yuk
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Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:44 pm
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Niagara Boardgame Weekend - Thursday

Rob Leveille
Canada
St. Catharines
Ontario
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Niagara Boardgame Weekend is an annual open gaming event held in Niagara Falls, Canada. It is hosted by a group from Rochester NY, and this was my fifth year in attendance. The first NBW that I went to was my first gaming event; it was there that I met many of the people that I still game with today, including the Buffalo Boardgame Meetup group - an excellent collection of gamers that meet once a week a mere hop over the border away) and the always wonderful Scott Nicholson. NBW opened the doors to Origins, and from there I’ve managed to attend Great Lakes Games, BGGCon, That BoardGame Weekend, and a host of others. NBW was my gateway Con.

NBW 2011
saw fewer numbers than previous years (I fear it was poorly advertised; this may have been in response to some scarily large numbers on the Saturday of last year) but was still an excellent event. I got a chance to see and play with friends from Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse (Hi Scott!), Toronto and even as far away as South Carolina (a special friend indeed).

The following is some of the weekend’s highlights:

THURSDAY: I don’t get there until after work and after dinner (a slow but awesome meal at The Syndicate).

7 Wonders – with Janna, Sara, Duncan and Nick. Nick delivers a crushing like I’ve never suffered in this game before, and all without green cards. I still like this game, as long as the playtime stays around twenty minutes.

Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery– same group. I teach the four newbies. It turns into a well-fought game. I’m counting on my trade mastery compensating for my lack of presence in the New World (Nick’s soldiers had a hankering for my missionaries). Duncan pulls out an excellent end-game surge in the New World to pull off a handy win. I squeak into second. I like this game more every time that I play it. It has a lovely flow to it, and the actions feel intuitive. And really nice bits.
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Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:19 pm
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