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QWERTYmartin's Unabridged Insights On Play

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Q1 2015 review

Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Just a quick look at what I've been playing and buying so far this year, and a comparison to last year.

Total plays: 142 (2014 had 205, 2013 had 140)

Distinct games: 48 (2014 had 67, 2013 had 56)

New-to-me games: 17 (2014 had 14, 2013 had 21)

Dimes: 3 (3 in 2014, 3 in 2013) - Onirim (30), Pairs (22), Patchwork (11)

Nickels: 2 (8 in 2014, 4 in 2013) - Impulse (8), Wir sind das Volk! (5)

The biggest new trend of the month was probably finding some solo games I enjoyed. As well as the 30 plays of Onirim, I spent the best part of a couple of weekends learning and playing 4 games of Navajo Wars.

And now a look at the collection.

Acquired: 6 (6 in 2014, 7 in 2013) - IceDice, Onirim (second edition), Potato Man, Pairs, Patchwork and Navajo Wars

Removed: 2 (Kreta and Tower of Babel)

Owned: 148 (excluding expansions - up from 144 at end 2014)

Unplayed: 4 - Bison: Thunder on the Prairie, Glenn's Gallery, IceDice, Four Dragons

Bison and Glenn's Gallery still stuck in the unplayed, though I did play Members Only, which is essentially the same game as GG. Temporarily hitting 150 prompted me to put a few games on the axe list. Two have already gone and three or four more are spoken for.

Best new-to-me: Patchwork - Uwe remembered how to make simple games and it's awesome.

New 10s: none, but after 11 plays Wir sind das Volk! is threatening it.
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Wed Apr 1, 2015 11:25 pm
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Voice of Experience 2015

Martin G
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I finally got round to launching the third instalment of the Voice of Experience reviews contest. Please join in here:

Voice of Experience Reviews Contest 2015: Prizes!
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Sun Feb 22, 2015 11:39 am
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New to me January

Martin G
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A tough choice this month between two excellent card games, but I'll give the edge to the one that I've played with other people!

The good

Pairs is a super simple push-your-luck game based on
Blackjack. Pairs is also a versatile deck (10x10, 9x9, 8x8 down to 1x1) that has a free booklet with rules for 15 more games. So far I've mostly played two variants of the basic game: Continuous Pairs and Port. The former certainly lived up to its billing of "a new classic pub game" with hand after hand past midnight at the end of an old friend's birthday party. The latter results in one winner rather than just one loser and has been a big hit with my games group. Both play with up to 8 players - perfect for the end of the night.

I picked up Onirim (second edition) while I was in the US at Christmas, more out of curiosity than hope. I've never enjoyed solo gaming when I've tried it in the past, preferring to just browse BGG instead when I don't have opponents. But I played Onirim 30+ times in January and loved it. It made me realise that I can scratch any itch I have for puzzly, non-interactive games without other players and save my valuable multiplayer time for games in which I can be a dick to people! The base game of Onirim seems incredibly well tuned to result in close finishes. I'm probably winning more than half now, but they often go right to the wire and are filled with agonising decisions. I've only just begun to explore the multitude of expansions so it looks like this delightful package will be keeping me occupied on trains and planes for some time to come.

My wife works for a quilting magazine, so I was keen to try Patchwork and see if it would be something she might enjoy. My initial impression is positive -- Uwe finally remembered how to design a simple game! It cleverly disguises the bolts of a multi-factor engine-builder under a charming exterior. My concern is that it is too calculable; my hope is that once both players understand those calculations, it will become more interactive. Now I just need to find a copy. Sarah wrote to Mayfair asking for a review copy for her magazine but they haven't responded!

Trump, Tricks, Game! has been in my small group of owned-but-unplayed games since I picked it up for next to nothing in May. I finally got it to the table and enjoyed it, as I usually do enjoy tricktakers with a twist. Here, the cards you win in each round become your hand for the next. Since you know which suit will be trump in each round, you can plan out which cards you want to take when, but you have to balance that with immediate point-scoring.

The bad

I've already commented on a couple of other entries in this list featuring King of New York. I like King of Tokyo a lot, but KoNY seems to add complexity to appeal to the gamer crowd, and in the process loses what made KoT great. I want to fight the other players, not the board!

7 Steps is an abstract that suffered from the same problem I had with Five Tribes: each turn feels like its own mini-puzzle. You play out most of your 'hand' each turn so there's little to link the turns together into a bigger whole. And you can't really start planning your turn until it arrives because of the big changes to the board state.

The ugly

I already knew I didn't like social deduction games and One Night Ultimate Werewolf was no exception. Partly it's just because I'm terrible at constructing a plausible lie on the fly, but this just seemed to come down to a five-minute argument. Not my thing. The app is very well done though.
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Sun Feb 1, 2015 10:29 pm
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New to you five years ago

Martin G
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I started a new annual geeklist series for looking back at the games you first played five years ago: New to you FIVE years ago 2014 => Has it stood the test of time?

Copied from there, here's my entry for 2009.

I'm going to use BGG extended stats to look at how much subsequent play the games I learned in 2009 have got, starting with the ones that have been played every year since.

Played in all five subsequent years

Tigris & Euphrates
Looking back at 2009, it's obvious it was the year my Knizia obsession took off. I played dozens of his games for the first time, and many of them are still regulars today. Chief amongst those is T&E, my undisputed favourite game of all time. I've discovered that most of my favourite board games combine a strong spatial element with the randomness of card/tile-draw and T&E is the very best of them. There is no greater gaming joy for me than a hard-fought session of Tigris with a table of four experienced bastards. I only regret that I haven't played it more than 52 times.

6 nimmt!
For a long time, 6 nimmt! was synonymous with London on Board, the sound of fingers drumming on the table to encourage slow players becoming a recurring motif at the end of each evening. It's popular with my new group in Bristol too and it's still one of my absolute favourite fillers. Part of its success is the vast player range it can accommodate, and the way that can be adjusted up and down from round to round. Part of it is that it really does reward skill, much though inexperienced players don't believe it. 124 plays and not even close to sick of it - that's the definition of a 10.

Winner's Circle
It's that man Reiner again, with another game that I associate strongly with LoB, and another one that reveals hidden depths of skill. 21 plays, mostly with the full 6p, and I'm almost certain I've won more than half of them. It looks like a simple horse-race but it's actually a game of investment, risk-management and volatility. And it's FUN!

Mamma Mia!
Interestingly, apart from T&E, none of these four games were a monthly pick for me in 2009. This was played once, ignored in my end-of-year wrap, and in my monthly entry all I said was "seemed like a fun filler, which I'd try again." As it turns out, it's been played at least twice every year since and I rate it as easily my favourite Rosenberg design. Why's that? Because it doesn't feel like any other card game. It's a memory game, but not a hardcore one. A gut sense will get you a long way and the cards played from hand crucially make it not perfect-information. Delightful.

Played in four subsequent years
I'd say all of these have stood the test of time even if they've had a fallow year. Five more Knizias!

Battle Line - the best of Knizia's 2p battles.
Thurn and Taxis - a little light on interaction for my tastes but a favourite for my wife so it'll keep getting played.
Acquire - amazing that I first played Sackson's proto-Euro classic and its descendant T&E in the same month!
Stephensons Rocket - and Knizia took inspiration from Acquire for this brilliant game of coercion too. I wish it weren't so hard to get to the table.
Palastgeflüster
Meuterer - a brace of brilliant big-game-in-a-small-box offerings from Adlung.
Municipium - underrated gem from Knizia's later period.
Santiago - genius auction/negotiation/bribery for 5.
Vegas Showdown
Dream Factory - two auction games made my excellent, fun themes.
Ingenious - and Knizia gets the last word with his abstract classic.

Nickel and done

Automobile
The only game that I played 5+ times in 2009 and then never again, and the first of several Martin Wallace titles that have gone from passionate enthusiasm to rapid burnout for me. Automobile's problem was the mismatch between the detailed financial calculations that seem to be required and the randomness that often makes them irrelevant. The partial information of the demand tiles should be a great mechanic but the sad truth is that it tells you next to nothing.

Month by month
I did not do a great job of picking the winners in 2009!

January: Tigris & Euphrates - see above

February: Chicago Express - only one subsequent play. I still think it's a great design but not one that fit well into my gaming life due to its need for an experienced table.

March: Battle Line - see above

April: Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery - only two more plays. I think this is one of the better worker placement games, but I just don't like WP much.

May: Meuterer - see above

June: Automobile - see above

July: Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium - probably my least favourite of the expansions.

August: Amun-Re - a rare Knizia that hasn't seen that much replay, although I do think it's a great game.

September: Erosion - my first experience of Sierra Madre games and I wrote a glowing review. A smart design with a brilliant theme but other special power card games have taken its place in my roster.

October: Container - like Chicago Express and Stephenson's Rocket, a brilliant but opaque design that isn't easy to get played as much as it needs.

November: Municipium - see above

December: Last Train to Wensleydale - another Wallace that failed to spark after initial enthusiasm. Brass, (Age of)Steam/Railways and Discworld are his only real enduring classics for me.
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Thu Jan 8, 2015 1:58 pm
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Q4 2014 review

Martin G
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Bristol
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A quick look at what I've been playing and buying this quarter, and a comparison to last year.

Total plays: 123 (2013 had 99)

Distinct games: 60 (2012 had 43)

New-to-me games: 21 (11 in 2013)

Dimes: 0 (1 in 2013)

Nickels: 6 (3 in 2013) - Elements, Red7, Impulse, Aton, Wir sind das Volk! and Potato Man.

My gaming in Bristol has settled into a comfortable groove, complemented by a trip away with the Lobsters where most of the new-to-me games came from.

And now a look at the collection.

Acquired: 8 - Greenland, Wir sind das Volk!, Mexica, Simply Ingenious (gift), Indigo, Four Dragons, Klunker, Cards Against Humanity (gift).

Removed: 0

Owned: 144 (excluding expansions - up from 136 at end Q3)

Unplayed: 5 - Bison: Thunder on the Prairie, Glenn's Gallery, Trump, Tricks, Game!, Four Dragons, Klunker.

The perennials are joined (temporarily) by a couple of recent acquisitions. A bit of a splurge this quarter, by my current standards. I aim to restrict my acquisitions to an average of one a month in 2015.

Best new-to-me: Wir sind das Volk!, followed by Greenland. At least I chose my shiny Essen acquisitions well.

New 10s: none
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Tue Dec 30, 2014 2:36 pm
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New-to-me 2014: the ten best and worst

Martin G
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Bristol
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Yeah, it's a bit early. But the traditional geeklists have appeared, so here are my respective entries in one place.

The Best

This turned out to be a fantastic year for new-to-me games. I think all ten games I'm about to list would have had a chance of finishing first in my list if I'd played them last year.

Top 5 board games*

1. Impulse - my read of the rules and even my first game didn't totally convince me. I was worried by the potential for endless downtime while other players chain actions. But 10 plays in, mostly at the optimal 3p, I have to admit: I should have trusted Chudyk. Like Glory to Rome and Innovation before it, Impulse has that glorious freewheeling creativity that Chudyk is so good at. You'll have to think on your feet and be prepared for wild swings, but your reward will be fantastic variety, in-your-face interaction and tense finishes, all in 30-45 minutes. Just brilliant.

2. Wir sind das Volk! - only three games in it's hard to judge a game that seems to promise as much as this one. The last time I felt this much anticipation about climbing a learning curve was Pax Porfiriana. So many things I love: a modern-day political theme; card-driven actions; asymmetry; multiple victory conditions; the list goes on. Those first three sessions have each played out promisingly differently too. You have to choose which pressure point you're going to aim for and drive it hard, and that decision causes the action cards to be valued very differently from game to game. The thematic modelling is wonderful too. I'm not ready to call it yet, but this has potential to be a masterpiece.

3. Quantum - for me this came out of nowhere. I'd heard the name in the Essen 2013 buzz but not investigated further until a friend imported a copy from the US. When it turned out to be designed by games scholar Eric Zimmerman, my ears pricked up and reading the rules delighted me. Like Impulse, it distils the essentials of 4X space conquest into a highly-abstracted frame. The use of a single number on a die to represent a ship's speed, combat strength, special power and colonisation potential is a stroke of design genius. I love the way it rewards aggression and sets up fun puzzles each turn.

4. Greenland - Phil Eklund does worker placement! Kind of... Greenland is easily Eklund's most accessible game yet, but it still needs some investment to get the rules and a lot of buy-in to the theme. Eklund has always walked the line between immersive narrative experience and competitive game, and Pax Porfiriana is one of my all-time favourites because it excels at both. Greenland is probably somewhere between there and Bios Megafauna. You have some control over your destiny but the game (even more than the other players) is going to kick you in the nuts repeatedly. But hell, in which other game can you domesticate a killer whale?

5. Manoeuvre - I had a great run of a dozen games of this while unemployed for a while earlier in the year. I've never been interested in battlefield logistics, but Manoeuvre abstracts them into something more like chess with randomness. Like many of my favourite board games (including the top two above!), it combines spatial boardplay with hand management to great effect. And there's something special about the tension of a head-to-head battle.

* all of which involve cards. That's how I roll...

Top 5 card games

1. Red7 - Chudyk sweeps the board! From the first moment I read about this I knew I was going to love it, and it's been a hit with everyone I've introduced it to as well. A bit of a classic card game feel, just a touch of special powers and a Love Letter level of lightness.

2. Abluxxen - old faithfuls Kramer/Kiesling found a way to do something new with plain old colours and numbers too. Love the way you can build up the strength of your hand but you have to choose just the right moment to start shedding it again or risk getting caught with your trousers down.

3. Elements - 16 cards, 3 possible actions, one tight little game of head-to-head bluff. Doesn't hurt that it's absolutely gorgeous.

4. Port Royal - after almost 50 plays, it's losing its lustre a little. But hey, 50 plays! Yes, it's an engine-builder, which often bore me, but it's spliced on to a great push-your-luck drafting system.

5. Potato Man - a late entry for the only trick-taker this year. The twist this time is that only one card of each suit can be played per round, and the suits are asymmetric. So far has worked equally well for 4 and 2, an impressive feat for any trick-taker.

Honourable mention

A Study in Emerald - because after seven plays, I still can't figure out if the damn thing is brilliant or a mess. I ended up selling my copy though, because one thing I did know was that I didn't have the group to make the most of it.

The Worst

Many of these games are well designed for the audiences they're aimed at. But they're the ones that I most want to rant about, often because of mismatched expectations or wasted potential more than outright failure. And yeah, apparently I really don't like whatever "Euro" means these days

1. Splendor - gets the #1 sport for taking a format I love (the 30 minute filler) and imbuing it with all the tedium, solitude and silence of the full-length games on this list.

2. Russian Railroads - whereas this is the full fat version. A game of choosing one of (at best) a handful of baked-in paths at the outset and spending the rest of the game executing it as efficiently as you possibly can. Player interaction consists of being aware of the furrows the other players are ploughing so that you can identify the 'hot zones' on the shared worker placement board that you need to prioritise. But even then the game strongly rewards you for hiving off your most vital actions to your player board, via the engineers. The whole thing resembles nothing so much as a complex piece of machinery (complete with prescriptive operating manual), the sole purpose of which is to spit out exponentially-increasing gobbets of victory points.

3. Concordia - guess what, more baked-in strategies, resource conversion and limited flexibility.

4. Sail to India - and another. The minimalist packaging is clever, but inside is the same old decision space.

5. Five Tribes - I'll start with some things I liked about Five Tribes. All the action happens on a shared board, and as a consequence it's pretty interactive. It's not overly fiddly either.
But it seems to me to essentially come down to a series of puzzles to solve, each one mostly independent of the next. Sure, you can have something of a strategy, but the moves are far too easy to evaluate purely in terms of immediate VP gain rather than more interesting trade-offs.

6. Istanbul - like Five Tribes, the action happens on a shared area, not individual player boards; unlike Five Tribes it's a nice simple race to five rather than yet another tedious spreadsheet totting-up exercise. But the actions (with a couple of exceptions) are still of the pedestrian turn-one-thing-into-another type and the interaction is mostly incidental, making it very hard to pull back a leader.

7. Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension - I ended up feeling like this. I can take the time to think about where each player is, what cards they might have (and apparently we're supposed to take this seriously, because you get cards in a semi-open draft not a blind deal) and how their possible choices impact my choice, but take way more time over it than feels like is in the spirit of the game. Or I can slap a card down and end up somewhere semi-random. The genius of 6 Nimmt is that I can play in the first way at the speed of the second way. Maybe that comes with repeat plays of Gravwell but I don't think I'll get there.

8. Greed - Sushi Go took 7 Wonders and removed the complexity and interesting decisions. Greed put the complexity back. Admittedly, my rating may have been influenced by learning it fairly late on a long day of games, but I didn't see much to excite me.

9. Camel Up - Seems like exactly the kind of game I'd like and the SdJ jury has a great record for me recently. But I found it rather dull even with a great group - there just didn't seem to be any way to meaningfully influence the results of the race. Knizia's Winner's Circle is superior in every respect as a dice-based betting/racing game.

10. 1944: Race to the Rhine - an interesting premise and not Just Another Euro. But wow, does the endgame not work. It became apparent that none of us were going to be able to cross the Rhine at all (and this seems a common complaint, not just a first-play aberration) and the game became a slog until we finally reached the alternate end condition of all the Nazi tokens being placed on the board. In that situation, final scoring is based on the number of medals gained (we had 5 each), followed by the number of Nazi divisions killed (we had 4 each) and then turn order. So I won by having started last. What a shame; there's a lot of wasted potential here.
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Fri Dec 5, 2014 11:06 pm
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New-to-me November 2014

Martin G
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Bristol
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Lots of new games this month, mainly due to London on Board's seaside retreat. Managed to mostly avoid the Essen hotness though

Loved

I knew from the moment I heard about Wir sind das Volk! that I had to own it. I love modern day political/economic themes, I love card-driven games and Peer Sylvester's King of Siam is one of my favourites. The small box size, low price and great visual design didn't hurt either!

My first play, at the beginning of the month, was very much about feeling our way round the mechanics. As East Germany, I felt like I could barely get anything built before it was torn down. But at the end of the second decade, West Germany suddenly collapsed into mass protest, upset about the East Berliners living it up just over the Wall.

My second game was completely different - my East German opponent managed to build up a strong economy of his own, without resorting to the repressive measures I'd employed. A late-game currency crisis almost overwhelmed him but he managed to survive.

Like Twilight Struggle, this feels like a game to get to know and savour over several plays with a regular opponent. I'm hoping to schedule another this week.

Liked

I'm a sucker for tricktakers with a twist. And the twist in
Potato Man is a great one - you must not follow suit!

I didn't love the original Lost Legacy; it just felt like Love Letter but less fun. But I rather enjoyed Lost Legacy: Binbo Tantei to Inbo no Shiro and Lost Legacy: Hyakunen Senso to Ryu no Miko. They seem to play much better 2p than Love Letter does and they expand the game system in some interesting ways.

Indigo is Knizia's take on Tsuro and he shows his typically masterful touch by adding shared incentives to it.

Crossboule is not a board game in any way (seriously, why does it have a BGG listing?) but on a bizarrely balmy November day, throwing beanbags around Eastbourne beach was one of my highlights of the weekend.

While we're on dexterity, Cube Quest is a flicking good fun battle game with special powers.

El Gaucho was a pleasant surprise. Pretty much a super-filler, it's a simple, old-fashioned set-collection Euro with just enough screwage to keep things interesting.

We also started a Risk Legacy campaign, planned to run over the next several Eastbournes. Yes, the basic gameplay is just Risk, with all the attendant dice-rolling. But I think the customisation and camaraderie are going to make this a lot of fun.

(Mildly) disliked

Simply Ingenious is a simple push-your-luck game that has very little to do with the original Ingenious. I had fun playing it with my wife and I don't think it's as bad as its reputation suggests. Nothing to write home about though.

Istanbul is the latest Euro to use the faddish modular action grid. I like that the action mostly happens on a shared area, not individual player boards, and I like that it's a simple race to five rather than another tedious spreadsheet totting-up exercise. But the actions (with a couple of exceptions) are still of the pedestrian turn-one-thing-into-another type and the interaction is mostly incidental, making it very hard to pull back a leader.

Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem is essentially a worker placement base with an AT theme draped over it. You take turns to move 'dudes' between action spaces, activate them if no one else is there and fight if they are. Almost all of the actions just let you convert between three resources - guns, contraband and money. There are mechanical parallels to Greenland and thematic ones to San Quentin Kings but compared with the thought that went into those themes, it felt rather cheap and tacky. It would have been OK at the advertised 60 mins but dragged on for over twice that, and the last round was anticlimactic as few of the action spaces had any value.

And finally Trans Europa doesn't seem to be much different from the original TransAmerica. If anything, the problem of some deals being far easier to complete than others is exacerbated.
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Sun Nov 30, 2014 11:34 pm
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Wir sind das Volk - second play session report

Martin G
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Bristol
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Wow, this game played completely differently from my first one. I gave Joe the East as it's supposed to be a bit easier for first-timers to play, and I wanted to see how the West played. Mindful of the importance of West Berlin in my first game, I spent the early turns developing a backbone of industry through its supplier regions, allowing me to export living standard to Berlin (3 by the end of the game). But focusing on infrastructure meant I wasn't constantly dismantling and seeding unrest in the East (as Paul had done to me in my first game), so Joe was able to build much more of an industrial network of his own. He established one LS in each of his regions pretty early on and while he sacrificed Prestige, he kept the currency and socialist tracks on his side. With decent living standards and a strong socialist ethos, he didn't need the Stasi or the Wall to keep the population under control. The only police power card he had was a shared card that I activated and he never used any of his special events. Essentially he had built the fabled socialist utopia! His people couldn't afford quite as lavish a lifestyle as mine, but their equality and ethos kept them happy.

As we reached the fourth decade, I realised that the failure of socialism and economic collapse victories were well beyond my reach. My only hope was mass protests, and that relied on my realisation that Joe was propping his system up with shady Western currency deals. I ramped up my LS along the border, forcing him to respond and increase his liabilities even more. As the decade ended, the stage was set for a chain reaction as the Eastern populus came to see that the ideology they lived for was propped up by a lie. First the dismantling for flight and prestige let me knock a couple of his provinces below the threshold to gain Western currency. As a result he was short by 6 WC to support his living standard, causing all his factories to run down. In turn that meant a couple of his provinces could no longer hold their living standard, which gained them unrest through the internal comparison. And finally the external comparison added yet more unrest, pushing three Eastern provinces into mass protest.

But three isn't enough! Despite the growing disaffectedness of the population, the East had survived the four decades and Joe had won the game. I had realised too late where his weakness was - if I'd taken some decrease WC events earlier or seeded a little more unrest, I think his people would have overthrown the government. I realised that you can't do everything - by building up my infrastructure in the Berlin suppliers, I'd spent less effort in the border regions, meaning the external comparisons were ineffective until the fourth decade. Lots to chew on before my next play.

Both mechanically and thematically, this was a great session. Teaching took 30-40 mins, but then the full four decades played out in about 2 hours. I loved some of the tempo tricks with the card play - it seemed quite important to try to get the first pick of the cards in the second half-decade, as there would often be one standout first pick (to use or defuse!). Joe enjoyed it too and wants to play again soon; his write-up is here.
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Wed Nov 26, 2014 10:18 am
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New-to-me October 2014

Martin G
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The main event

Pax Porfiriana has become one of my top 5 games over 50+ plays in the last two years, so Greenland has been long-awaited for me. I've got to play three times so far, which is still pretty early to assess a game as thematically and mechanically dense as Eklund's tend to be. My initial take is that I really enjoy it, but that it won't be as much of a favourite as Pax.

Pax achieved the remarkable feat of offering a lot both to players who want to immerse themselves in theme and narrative and to players who care more about mechanics and competition. I think Greenland offers just as much to the former group, but less to the latter. There's a lot of game-driven chaos and each of my games has had a runaway loser. The time it was me was still an enjoyable experience though - I just had to shift my mindset to regarding it as a challenge to survive the 10 rounds rather than to win. However I can definitely see players who enjoy games more for competition and less for experience finding this off-putting.

The good

Last weekend was the twice annual London on Board gaming getaway so I got to try quite a few new games. I mostly steered clear of the Essen hotness and nothing blew me away, but there were some fun games.

Bucket King 3D was a perfect game to play at 1am both nights when my brain had almost shut down. It's a climbing game stripped to its barest essence, but with the hilarious twist that scoring is done by flicking coloured buckets out of a pyramid that you construct based on the strengths and weaknesses of your initial hand.

Melee is the new game from Rikki Tahta of Coup fame. Like Coup, it's a fast-paced (15 min) battle of wits and bluff. This time that comes in the form of a stripped-down dudes on a map game, with conflict resolved by the defender trying to guess the number of coins the attacker has placed in a closed fist. If you dislike blind-bidding and bluffing, stay the hell away, but otherwise it's another fun contribution to the microgame genre.

UGO! is yet another tricktaker with a twist. I liked it, but man is it overproduced for what it offers, with a huge box, individual player boards and tokens. The main twist here is that timing when you win tricks is really important - usually you want to win with your high cards late but not too late. And there's a clever way of balancing the power of low cards vs high cards too.

The not-so-good

I'd been interested to try Greed as I'm a huge fan of DXV's Kingdom Builder. It may have been influenced by learning it fairly late on a long day of games, but I didn't see much to excite me here. It's a very simple draft-and-play game but with an awful lot of text on the cards to be read each time you make a decision.

And finally Boom: Runaway is a 6-nimmt-like simultaneous play card-game. It might not be awful, but it made almost no impression on me. I'll just stick to 6 nimmt.

Already in the bank for next month:

Wir sind das Volk
Crossboule
Risk Legacy
Potato Man
Lost Legacy boxes 2 and 3
El Gaucho
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27 Comments
Sun Nov 9, 2014 4:57 pm
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First trip to Greenland

Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
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A new Eklund game is as big an event as a new Chudyk in my book. They're both masters of getting a big game into a small box and few components, and they're both doing things that are refreshingly different from anyone else.

Greenland showed up a few days ago and since then I've been poring over the rulebook and the forums preparing for my first play last night. Here are some very rough first impressions while it's fresh in my mind.

- I really enjoyed the session. What I don't know yet is how big the universe of possible games is. It doesn't feel like it's going to have the crazy variability of Pax, but I might be wrong about that.

- lots of echoes of other Eklund games, particularly Bios Megafauna and Pax. Two rows of six cards is becoming a bit of an Eklund signature. And the Big Ideas seem to be the ones explored in more depth in Origins - I'm going to have to read Jaynes I think.

- rules were reasonably smooth. I'd put in the homework to be able to teach it, and it was a lot easier than Pax. I've just rescanned the rulebook and the few mistakes I made were pretty minor. The guys I played with didn't get into Pax (this was before I was in the group) and one of them ended Greenland saying "it's like the fun version of Pax".

- we didn't explore the gamespace that thoroughly. There wasn't nearly as much fighting on biomes as I thought there'd be so there wasn't much negotiation either. Only one Sabine raid and few domestic animals.

- the resources are tight, especially iron. The only way to get it in our game was Vinland (where only one colonisation attempt was made, quickly wiped out by sharkbites) and a meteorite, which was hotly contested. Iron advantage is big if you do want to contest biomes as you get to attack first.

- I was the Tunit and my starting Markland colony seemed like a strong advantage. Most turns I lost one colonist to attrition but then regained him as a new baby. With four energy coming in each turn, plus two of my daughters reducing my energy need, I was always well-stocked, and was able to maintain a full set of elders for most of the game. In contrast, the other guys were always struggling for energy and were both down to zero elders for parts of the game. I'm not sure if this was lucky dice-rolling on my part (not losing many hunters to sharkbites) or that the others should have contested it more. Because I had the aforementioned iron advantage, if they did try to get in to Markland I could always attack first.

- we had almost all of the global cooling events in our selection of 10 so by the end of the game the whole of both rows was on the cool side. That meant my 5 colonists in Markland were worth double the usual VP too.

- we laughed a lot at all the crazy stuff that happened, and so did anyone else who came within earshot. The narrative was a lot of fun and so is the dice-rolling.

- they both say they want to play again soon now they've learned the rules.

- I need to write a review so I can call it "Energy and Ivory, together in perfect harmony".
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30 Comments
Wed Oct 22, 2014 8:47 pm
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