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Gaming at Work

Several of us BGGers are lucky enough to work in a place where we have fellow gamers. This blog will talk about games being played at work and how well they fit in a lunchtime environment.

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Spectacular Display

Travis Cooper
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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My usage of BGG has been pretty low lately, I didn't realize how long it has been since I contributed a lot, but looking at this blog, I haven't made a post in 4 years. That is way too long. I can't say that I'm back for good, but we'll see.

My game group is still going strong. We have had people come and go, but we still play almost every day. Lately we've even been getting enough people to break out into 2 and sometimes 3 groups.

Hanabi
We have played a lot of games over the years, but this is one that I'm really enjoying lately. I have always enjoyed cooperative games, but almost all of them suffer from the possibility of 1 person taking over the whole game. That is one of the things I like most about Hanabi, it is impossible (especially if you are following the no talking rule) to take over all the decisions.

The theme of Hanabi is that you are all working together to create a firework show (Hanabi is Japanese for firework). After dealing out the cards, all players will hold the cards backwards. So, you are looking at the back of your cards, but the front of the rest of the cards. The object is to help each other to play the cards on the table in the correct order. There are several colors and the cards range from 1-5 in each color. So, a card can be played if it is the next in sequence for its color. So, a 1 is playable as long as that color isn't on the table yet. A red 3 is playable as long as the red stack has a 2 showing.

On your turn, you have 3 options: give a clue, play a card, or discard a card. If you choose to give a clue, you will spend time tokens, but it allows you to help somebody know more about their hand. When cluing, you can only tell somebody about a color or a number, not both. If you discard, you get one of those time tokens back. This is important because if you're out of time, you can't give any clues. If you play, you are good as long as your card is playable, but if it isn't then you get closer to exploding which just means you get a score of 0.

There isn't enough time to give clues in such a way that people know for 100% sure that their card is okay to play. For example, if I want to get somebody to play a red 2, it would take two clues to clue on red and then on a 2. If all cards were done this way, you would get a pretty low score. Because of this many groups start developing conventions. I see this as a necessary part of the game, but I am also of the opinion if you have too many of these, then it isn't easy to get new people playing. An example of a convention could be, if I clue you on something, that is because I want you to play it. That way if I tell you about a red card in your hand, you can expect that it is the next red card that can be played, otherwise I wouldn't have wasted a clue telling you about it. I do think there comes a point where conventions just get out of hand, so our group doesn't have a lot.

Does it work for lunch?
Absolutely this game is great for lunch. It works well with 3, 4 or 5 players, so it can be used with a variety of groups. I haven't played the game with just 2. The games usually take 15-20 minutes, so you can get in several hands in one session. One thing I love about this game is it makes me have to think. There aren't any "standard" moves, almost every turn I have to make hard decisions. This gets my brain going and also forces me to trust the rest of the table. So, I give this game a huge thumbs up.
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Thu Nov 12, 2015 8:48 pm
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Risk: Legacy Complete!

John Munsch
United States
Fort Worth
Texas
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Well, it has been a year since I last posted and we've gone from playing often to playing pretty much every day of the week during lunch. As long as there are enough people there's going to be a game of some type played.

But the real occasion for posting again is that we completed the 15 basic games of Risk: Legacy today. I wrote about it last year and as time wore on, we did change out a couple of people in the game here and there but we really got to experience all this really great game has to offer.

The last couple of games did stretch across more than two days but most all previous games were completed in two lunch periods. The technique of taking photos of the board and saving off our cards/missiles/stars/factions in a small collapsible file meant for holding different types of coupons was something we got down to a science. It never proved to be a big pain to setup on the second (or successive days) and I think there will prove to be other games which will work the same way. I look forward to trying it with Agricola later.

However, I can tell you that it does not work with all games as Five Tribes demonstrated when we tried it. You can have too many pieces, too much to keep track of and reassemble on the next day to make it worth while.
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Thu Nov 12, 2015 12:53 am
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Risk: Legacy At Work

John Munsch
United States
Fort Worth
Texas
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I mentioned in my last post that I had taken leave of my senses and had broken out Risk: Legacy as a game for my lunchtime gaming group at work.

We just played game number six, it was my first game to ever sit out and just watch (I'm kind of exhausted, October saw the marriage of my daughter and me doing the Extra Life gaming marathon just a week ago). Four different people have won so far and we've opened three packets:

* Someone signed the board twice
* All the minor cities were placed on the board
* A player was eliminated (me, I got knocked off the board in the last move of the game so I couldn't come back on)

Our biggest problem is that the games are clocking in at just over an hour (1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes typically) and few people want to quit at an hour when you can start to see how it's likely to end. However, we did play one of those games across two days and it worked really well. Several players took pictures of the board from many different angles with their phones and we used a small expandable file (4" x 6") to hold factions/resources/stars for each player. The next day we were set back up and ready to play in about five minutes flat. In the future I'm thinking of starting a geek list for games that are easily broken down and set back up for play across multiple days.

Games are starting to slow down a little bit with the increased rule set and the increased familiarity of everyone with the game so I expect we'll be playing more games across two days in the future. But by this point everybody is addicted so we'll keep cruising until we've played through every one of the 15 games for which you sign the board and until all the packets are opened and possibly far beyond that.
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Fri Oct 31, 2014 2:22 am
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A new job and the strongest work board game group I've ever had

John Munsch
United States
Fort Worth
Texas
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After situations changed at my last job, I was unable to get together a new gaming group again. That was very frustrating for me, but a year and a half ago I switched jobs to a new company. This is far and away the best job I've had in about 15 years. It is great people, a great company, and I had no sooner walked through the door than I ran into a person with whom I had played a game at BGG.con just a few months before.

I've ended up building up a stronger (I won't say better) board game group than I've ever had at any of my previous jobs. We've had as many as nine people play on a given day and we can count on four players nearly 100% of the time and five players more often than not. We play basically every day M-F and even though I work from home one day a week, the people I play with have reached a point where I don't have to organize every game. Instead I regularly hear that they played something on days I was gone and who won and what happened.

I thought I'd share a list of the games which have worked, those which ran outside of the hour available, and those which we'll be getting to the table in the future.

Worked Well
Agricola: All Creatures Big And Small
Coup
Love Letter
The Resistance
Eight Minute Empire Legends
Ca$h 'n Gun$
Survive: Escape from Atlantis! (Clocks in right around the hour mark but nobody freaks out about that where I work)
Carcassonne (Don't add too many expansions or you'll run over but you can easily play with Inns and Cathedrals or Traders and Builders)
The Downfall of Pompeii (45 minutes like clockwork for us)
Tokaido
Splendor
San Juan
Pitch Car
King Of Tokyo

Failures (stuff we tried but it just runs too long)
Cosmic Encounter
Citadels (We've tried it a few times but it keeps running longer than an hour, I think it's going to get removed from rotation)
Dominion

To Be Played
7 Wonders
Alien Frontiers
Bang! The Dice Game!
Bohnanza
Escape: The Curse Of The Temple
Glory To Rome
Kill Doctor Lucky (played at a previous job, I'm sure this will work)
Race For The Galaxy
Rattus
Revolution!
Roll Through The Ages
Seasons
Small World
Smash Up
Wok Star

At the moment the only thing that could make this group better would be an area where we could setup longer running games and leave them setup so we could return to them on successive days. At my last job we had a few months where that was available and we were able to play games like Cyclades and Agricola which are very difficult without an area like that.

Having said that, I have to confess that the consistency of the group and their highly competitive and yet very friendly demeanor finally convinced me to try Risk: Legacy. Yes, that Risk: Legacy. I know that sounds nuts but having played one game very successfully already I really think this may work. We did have to take a couple of photos of the board at the end of the first day and I used an accordion file to keep the resource cards, scar cards, stars, and faction cards grouped for each player in between the games.

We spent only a few minutes the next day getting the board reconstructed and all the resources handed back out to players and finished with ease on the second day.

Once we've run through Risk: Legacy and everyone has been introduced to the multitude of games in the "To Be Played" list above (which could take a year; everyone likes to play games multiple times) then we could try doing the same thing for games like Cyclades which have only a handful of pieces and could easily be treated in exactly the same way.
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Thu Oct 2, 2014 4:34 am
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New Work, New Work

John Munsch
United States
Fort Worth
Texas
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It has been a long (looooong) time since I contributed to this blog but I feel it's long overdue. Last year shortly after my last post I left my long time job and my carefully built game group behind.

While I had been at that job for almost ten years, suddenly I was the new guy at another long established company. Here's what I learned from starting all over to create a new game group:

1) You can't be shy about it. No matter how much you might be like me and reluctant to tell people you want to play games at lunch, show people games without them asking first, etc. you absolutely have to do it if you want to have a game group.

I'm not saying you have to be constantly pestering anyone if they don't seem interested, just try another person. If you have a large enough group to draw upon (or people get bored enough at lunch) you'll get somebody eventually.

2) If you can possibly find a spot with an unused table where you can setup a game and leave it, grab it. I had no idea what a difference this would make in our ability to play longer games and have more fun with gaming. I now know that Agricola and Cyclades are two of my favorite games.
How did I find out? I actually got to play them!



3) If you can find a very public space to play sometimes, it will make a big difference in group growth. Without a doubt, what has kept our current group small is that we're not playing in a lunchroom like we did at my previous job. Yes, I know that contradicts what I said in #2 about having a dedicated space but I think you could easily compromise and play some big group card games like Bang! or The Resistance very publicly to be seen and pick up new members and play longer games wherever you can find a dedicated space the rest of the time.

Growth is about being visible and being accessible. If somebody looks at your game, don't ignore them, engage. Say what you're playing, what it's like, and invite them to come play right then or at a later time if you've already started.

You're fortunate that you have a hobby where the thing you do is inherently attractive for a certain type of person. It's colorful and it even looks like fun. It's a game for god's sake.

4) Display your games. I have a rotating set of games atop the hutch on my desk every day of every week. Some people never ask about them, some do. The ones who do are giving you an opening to say something short and simple about what you do, when you do it, and an opportunity to invite them to have fun too.

Ultimately, here's the upshot of what you get for the effort. I have played 58 board games so far this year. In all of 2011 I played only 59. I have more than six months left to play in 2012! It will take me another month or two to surpass the number of plays I had in 2010 (70 something) but clearly I'm going to blow through that number too. I'm playing more, enjoying more, buying more, learning more, and sharing more too.
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Tue Jun 26, 2012 4:49 am
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Drilling for oil

Travis Cooper
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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I had the opportunity to play Giganten a while back at a game night at a FLGS. I really enjoyed the game, especially the ability to bluff your bid. After playing the guy that owned the game told us that it was being redone and that it would be printed in English this time around as well. So, I started watching for it to hit the shelves. I didn't pick it up right as it came out, but again at the same FLGS another guy had a copy and so I got a chance to play the new version for the first time.

Black Gold
The game I'm talking about is Black Gold. The game all about prospecting for oil. Each turn you will choose (from the remaining options when it gets to your turn) a card. On the card it tells you how many license cards you will get, and how many movement points you will get. Some of the cards also have another special action you can do at the end of your turn. The movement points are spent driving your truck around the board. Hopefully this ends in you buying a derrick and drilling for oil on one of the designated spots on the board. Of course, there is no way to know the depth of an oil well before hand, so these values are variable, and the tiles all start face down, so sometimes you have to gamble. The other thing you can spend movement points on is moving your train up the track. This is important so you can transport your oil.

After everybody takes their turn, each derrick you have yields one plume of oil. If your train is far enough along you can transport it for free, if it isn't and there is another train far enough, you can pay that player money to transport your oil for you. Then in player order each person will place all of their oil among three different companies. At this point an auction occurs once for each company. To win the auction you will be using your licenses that you have left over from previous turns, as well as the ones you got that turn. As I mentioned in the intro, you are allowed to bid more than you actually have to try and make people pay more than they want. However, if you get caught you will lose a lot of cards and the auction will then start over. The person who wins the auction is the only person allowed to sell their oil to that company. After the auction at each location, anybody that has more than 2 plumes at any given spot has to sell the overflow for a nominal price, so not winning the auction can mean losing a ton of money.

This repeats until the black train (it progresses 1-3 spots per round) gets to the end of the track. This signals that all of the big oil companies have arrived in the valley and buy everything out. You will get some more money for derricks in play (more to those that have their trains further along the track) and for each plume of oil that hasn't sold yet. The players then count up their cash and see who wins.

Does this work for lunch?
I'm a little torn on this. Can you finish an entire game in a lunch hour? Definitely not. However, it is very easy to modify this for a shorter game, and I don't think it hurts the game too much to shorten it. We just pick a spot that is the new ending point and once the black train crosses that we finish. As far as the quality of the game, I think this is a great one to pick up. I love all the different mechanics and the work nicely together to really make the theme feel right. I highly recommend this game.
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Tue Jul 19, 2011 4:01 pm
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Get in the hole ...

Travis Cooper
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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So, I don't really follow golf much, but it seems like with every par 3 tee shot you hear somebody yelling, "Get in the hole!" When I play this game I hear that same guy yelling whenever I try for a 20 shot.

I have seen Crokinole in the BGG top 100 for a long time now. I never knew too much about it. It looked a lot like those penny hockey games people make in wood work sometimes. I always thought that was kind of fun, but as for spending a bit of cash to see if I liked Crokinole, I had always passed up the opportunity.

A few months ago there was a local Con here in Salt Lake and Mayday put on a Crokinole tournament. So, while it was going on I wandered over there to see what it was like. I was mostly expecting to just watch, but I was quickly invited to sit down and play a game. I instantly loved it, even though I didn't do well against the more experienced player. I was very tempted to pick up a Mayday board there due to the discounted price, but my wife didn't think I should, so I passed on it. From that time on I kept thinking about how much I really would like a board. My wife finally said she would get it for me as a Father's Day/Birthday present (even though they were both a couple of months away). I did some research and finally decided on my Muzzies board and I am glad that I spent the extra money over getting a Mayday board.

On a side note, I realized after playing that we actually had a Crokinole board growing up. It was a Carom board, and that is what we used it for, but on the other side was Crokinole. We didn't know how to play, but our discs were actually rings, so we thought we were supposed to flip the rings onto the pegs somehow. We couldn't do it very well, so we pretty much ignored that side of the board. Of course the pegs were all missing several years later, and my parents had thrown it out when they moved a few years ago.

Game Play
I'm sure most of you are more knowledgeable about this game than I was before I played it; however, for those of you who aren't I'll give a brief explanation. This is a dexterity game. I don't have dexterity games in my collection, but I've always liked the good ones. The basic idea is to flick your disc towards the middle. If you get a "hole" shot it will be worth 20 points. If not there are three scoring zones, the first zone is worth 15 points and surrounded by 8 pegs. The second zone worth 10, and the outside zone worth 5. There is a catch though, you can't just always try to shoot at the middle because the rules also say that when your opponent has a disc on the board you have to make contact with at least one of their discs in order to have a valid shot. This starts adding to the tactics employed by both players for position on the board.

Does it work for lunch?
This is definitely a great game for lunch time. If you only have 2 players it is one of few games that will really work well. If you have 3 you can do a little round robin and not have much downtime. With 4 you can play teams. Anything more than that you just have to figure out a good way to cycle people through. The games plays pretty quick, so you'll be able to get a bunch of games in during the lunch hour. With one exception, everybody I've taught the game to has loved it and wants to just keep playing.

It is definitely a little bit of an investment to get your board, and I would make sure to get a good quality board since you're spending the money anyway. With that said, I think it's probably one of the best purchases I've made. My board is going to see a ton of plays over the years and I don't see myself tiring of it. In fact at our last game night I had a table just setup with my board and it was played a bunch throughout the night. If you've been thinking about getting a board, I'd urge you to do it, it will be worth it.
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Sun May 22, 2011 6:28 pm
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Wait ... these aren't trains!

Travis Cooper
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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My first game by Alan Moon was, like many others, Ticket to Ride. It was a great game, and we still get it out from time to time to teach to new gamers. A little over a year ago I got the opportunity to play Union Pacific. I have always liked stock games, and this worked very well. I of course went to get a copy of it and quickly found out it was out of print. Sure, you could pay well over $100 for a copy, but I didn't think that was worth it. When I first heard that a new version of the game was coming out I knew I had to get it. I placed my order with the first store that had it in stock, and it came in the mail earlier this week.

Airlines Europe
For those that haven't figured it out yet, the game I'm talking about is Airlines Europe. Of course, since it's a newer iteration of Union Pacific it is very similar. I like that the time has been cut down, which means we should be able to get in a full game at work. I didn't like that it only supports up to 5. In both of these games, I like that you have to help grow different companies in order to get stock in the company. The interplay between opponents where you're helping each other, but at the same time you're trying to get more stock on the table is a lot of fun.

I need to get in a few more plays of this before making any real judgments, but the first game that I think really handle stocks and growing companies well was Chicago Express. These two games definitely have some similarities. The biggest one being the involvement among players to work together in progressing the companies in which they have stock. However, the top scores are usually going to come from players who can get others to do most of the work for them, while they reap the rewards. With a lot more companies in Airlines Europe this works even better. Also, I think Chicago express works best with 3 or 4 players. Airlines Europe played great with 5.

Of course my first introduction to a good stock game was Acquire. I still really enjoy the game, but there is just too much luck involved with getting involved in a merger. The best most competitive games of Acquire I've been involved in didn't have anybody see a turn without money. I think once you see a few turns without buying stock, you have a really hard time getting back in the game. Due to the random nature of needing to draw the appropriate tiles, this can really hurt the game if you experience this too many times. Airlines Europe leaves you with your choice of which companies to grow, and usually a pretty decent choice of stock to pick up. There is still luck involved in that, but at least you have options.

Does this work for lunch?
The jury is still out on that question. I think for our group this will be great (assuming we don't have 6 people showing up). We tend to play games faster than the marked play time on the box. This one calls for 75 minutes. Our first of course had explanation time, and nobody knew how to set up the board without direction yet. So, we lost out on some time due to that. Which meant we couldn't finish the whole game. I think that future plays will see us wrapping up around the 60 minute time frame. For groups who don't typically get play times under what is suggested, this probably won't work out for you. There are enough decisions to make that new players, or people who have a lot of AP are definitely going to push the play time to 75 minutes. Aside from the time constraints, this is a great stock game. I think with some more plays this game will make it into my top 10. I'm not sure if it will surpass Chicago Express, but it will be right up there.
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Sun May 15, 2011 3:20 am
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Casting Dice

Travis Cooper
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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I first played Alea Iacta Est at a local game store. It was fairly quick and actually offered some strategy, at least for a dice game. I really enjoyed that even though you are limited by the luck of the roll, there were enough options that you pretty much always have something worthwhile to do. I brought this in to work this week and it saw 1 play. Everybody has already played it in the past, so I guess that is why they weren't very excited to keep playing it.

Game Play
The game consists of 5 (or 6) rounds. In each round players will roll all the dice that haven't been allocated yet. These buildings to place your dice expect different things. There is a temple that just cares about total pips, a senate that wants runs, a castle for your sets and a forum for single dice or pairs that add up to 5. After you roll your dice, you have to allocate at least 1 die somewhere. This will continue until somebody has used up all their dice.

Then based on where you have dice you'll get various things. Straight up points, bonus cards, provinces or patricians. The provinces and patricians need to match up in color as well as husbands with wives to score points at the end. Once the 5 rounds are up, you will total your scores and see who wins.

Does this work for lunch?
I think this works very well at a work lunchtime setting. The game is very simple to teach, and pick up, and it isn't very heavy. Like I mentioned in the beginning, while it's still a dice game, you still have specific things you're trying to go for, and every die roll usually ends up with something that helps you out. It plays in about 45 minutes and could go even faster as everybody knows what's going on. I would strongly suggest this for a somewhat casual group. It is probably the best dice game I've ever played. So get the game, and get rolling!
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Fri Apr 22, 2011 7:11 pm
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Start Your Engines

Travis Cooper
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
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Road Kill Rally Play Log

Road Kill Rally
I have liked a lot of the games that zman has been putting out lately. When I first heard about this game I wasn't sure what to think about it. I've never been a huge fan of racing games, but the cover just looked so good. I saw the threads talking about how the game isn't politically correct and some people seem to have issues with the game. To me, it's just a game, and all in good fun. The theme had something that might make me play a racing game.

Last weekend I saw an ad on a local classifieds site where a guy was selling his copy for $20. I thought that was too good to pass up. He told me it was already sold, but that he had seen some at a somewhat random store for pretty cheap. I made my way to the store and found 2 more copies on the shelf. The price was only $25. I couldn't believe it was that cheap, especially for a copy in shrink. I bought it and was excited to finally get in a play.

Today's Game
I brought the game to work today and broke it out for our lunch time session. Everybody grabbed their pieces and I started explaining. I was last to place and got put on the front row for the pole positions. Everybody decided it would be better to hang back and attack. I got to most of the pedestrians first; however, I kept missing them. With a seeking missile attached to my car I was able to pick off some of the pedestrians further down the road for several turns though. I started to slow down to let others pass and I found myself in 3rd place. This game Amanda and Jeremy opportunities to pick up a bunch of pedestrians. I found myself next to Austin and threw a grenade at him that eventually did 7 damage after some great die rolls. This game can be very harsh, but I like it.

We noticed we were close to out of time so I found the finish tile and put it out. We probably only made it through about half of a game. Amanda crossed the finish line first with Jeremy close behind. I came in third a couple of turns later. That is how we ended up finishing. Jeff and Austin just kept hurting each other and neither of them picked up any pedestrians.

Does this work at lunch?
I'm still not sure if this is something that works for a lunchtime session. Of course, right now it's new to all of us, so it is a lot of fun. However, the time frame is just way too long to expect a game to fit into an hour. The game is flexible enough to make it shorter, but I think you really need the full game to help balance things out. It seems like a player will go on spurts of scoring points and then somebody else will take their turn. With a shortened game you might not get your chance to get a good streak of points.

It was definitely entertaining, and we'll probably do it again. I just think it's going to be an even better experience when we get a chance to play outside of work and get in a full game. Should you get this for your group? I'd probably say no. If it's something that sounds like a lot of fun, and the theme just really grabs you, then I think it's fine to get. I just think there are many other games that work better in an hour or less that if your main gaming group is at work this wouldn't be my first choice to buy.
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Wed Mar 23, 2011 6:01 am
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