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Loofish Ramblings

My thoughts and ponderings on games and gaming, including lunch time sessions, couple and family gaming and thoughts on the games that are catching my eye.

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Revisiting Scandinavian Sushi and Breaking with Convention

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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 7   BuyWord

My wife Jenny loves word games, as I have blogged about before. I like them theoretically but tend to suffer while playing them, wrestled to
inactivity by analysis paralysis, so sure there is a better word that scores magnificently in there somewhere. Whereas Jenny tends to look over her letters and conjure words using the best letters. So when she suggested we play BuyWord, I went in with my usual optimism that I would find that balance between clever and excruciating and have a good time but actually put up a reasonable challenge to the Queen.

She jumped ahead immediately with leavened, for $145 (we often play the variant where all prices are rounded to the nearest 5, which works remarkably well for the square numbers you use in this game). My reply was juices for $45 less but I didn't use a wild to get it. And when she looked over at my partially formed exam- and finished the word for me (after considerable uming and ahing on my side I should add, I was nearly there...), I could have been said to be in the lead.

That was my zenith (her next word), she then proceeded to produce a series of $120+ words in a row, while I struggled to triple figures. I rallied a bit at the end, with a whimper, I was zippiest but by then she had enough of a lead. It was closer than usual though.

J: LEAVENED (145), ZENITH (100), FRONDED (120), GRAVELLY (170), SQUAWS (120), MONARCH (120), BROUGHT (100), COPAY (80), GEE (15) = $625

D: JUICES (100), EXAMINED (195), BOTANY (100), ROCKIEST (100), HAIKU (50), WHIMPER (145), ZIPPIEST (170), TOO (10) = $590

And after that game, I must admit, I was pretty fried. I like it (and much prefer it to Scrabble), but it takes a lot out of me.

 6   Pick-a-Dog x2

And talking of heavy brain burners, after a fine dinner with friends, we broke out Pick-a-Dog. Actually, we Picked-a-Pig. And we threatened to combine the pigs and dogs and make the big game, but still we didn't do that yet.

We had a quick practice round (in which Jenny, ostensibly the one who had played before) crashed because she forgot to look out for 1 or 2 arms. Then we played for real and Geoff, who had expressed some doubts bout his ability to process a real time game, showed remarkable aptitude, while his wife Leah showed characteristic caution, steadily picking up cards after due consideration (my kids, oddly, played it the same way). I was fairly steady too, while Jenny was again fairly aggressive in her grabbing and after I lost out on a card to someone, it was me who called a halt. But no mistakes, so J & G were ahead. The second round went similarly except this time, Jenny pushed her luck too far and made the mistake, giving Geoff a good cushion for the final round. I went on a bit of a tear in that one, grabbing a ton and there were more for me to get on the table when time was called. So that got me up to second place, as Geoff proved his mastery.

In the inevitable rematch, I kept finding myself in a cul-de-sac, while Leah did better. Geoff again piled up the cards and Jenny did too, not making any mistakes and so it was her that grabbed the win by a single point.

This is silly fun and I initially thought it was a game to play with the kids (true) and with the adults after an adult beverage or two. But I think that latter one is off, the part of the brain that processes shapes and subtle differences is thrown off by alcohol and so now I think this is one for earlier in the evening, an opener or perhaps a between game filler. Still, it really is a lot of fun, the frantic grabbing of cute pigs and dogs - and the mega game with both will happen soon.

Next day, Jenny disappeared into the office where all the games are and came back armed with games. First one was:

 7   Hansa x2

This game is in my wheel house for how it all flows together, I get this game on a level I don't get with a lot of them. But still, I thought Jenny had this one, she was getting markets in lots of cities, there were free goods spots she was using, I had to pay to refill 2 out of the 3 times and it felt like I would make a good play to sell a batch of goods, but would leave the ship in a nice spot for her. But I was undoubtedly selling more goods and one turn she moved the ship to make it hard for me (spending cash to do so) but missed my arrow back to Danzig, so I had less trouble that she had really paid for. And though I was in 7 cites and nowhere alone, my barrel count at the end was enough to give me the game.

J: 13 goods, 24 barrels, 22 cities = 59
D: 15 goods, 33 barrels, 14 cities = 62

She wanted to play again immediately, it was set up almost already so we played again. I got a lot of my markets down pretty early, a couple with piles of 3, forgoing sales early on. Jenny played a bit of a 'match me' game in some of the cities but as the game progressed, I did get a few spots where I could get free goods, especially Copenhagen/Aarlsberg and Danzig. She did like to leave it in an awkward spot though. This one came down to the wire though, I had to lose goods a couple of times and our relative sales were much closer, I had goods unsold at the end so Jenny actually had more barrels than me and we matched exactly on cities but crucially I had more goods markers than her overall, including my unsold ones, that was enough for a 1 point win.

D: 16 goods, 26 barrels, 18 cities = 60
J: 14 goods, 27 barrels, 18 cities = 59

 7   Wasabi!

The other game she brought up was perhaps inspired by Sushi Go, Wasabi! A bit of a refresher needed but this is a pretty simple game.

My plan was to complete a quick recipe then work on my 5 (the all day breakfast featuring urchin). Jenny had a similar plan, hers was the squid dish. Anyway, our 2 5s were perpendicular to each other and I foolishly tried to mess with her progress putting my urchin in the way. So she Stacked a clam on top and even after I threw rice at the end (completing a 2 by the way!) she did hers and with style as well. I had to take a longer road, with a switch and a chop needed to do mine (I managed to leave a salmon in my way so needed to switch the fish with tofu) and I was getting through my recipes but not usually with style points, while she seemed to be able to do both and still at speed. By the end, I made a couple neat plays to put me nearly done and I could have made my last turn play to steal the game, but she completed her last (a 2) a turn ahead of me. And she was well ahead on points.

And in contrast to Hansa, this is a game in her wheel house, it all just seems effortless to her. What I love about this game (other than the presentation, which is stellar) is thinking about how to use the action cards and your tiles to make clever plays, maybe getting things all arranged so you do two at once, stuff like that. But while I am trying to be clever, my wife is busy making dinner, and with style too.

 10   Race for the Galaxy x2

The game I really wanted to get to in this post (and often in life in general) is my beloved Race for the Galaxy. With still a good bit of time left to play, I suggested it and Jenny went along. It was set up to play with the Xeno Invasion expansion, so we played it like that.

The funny opening, we both pick Develop, both play New Military Tactics and then both use it to settle a military world. Mine was slightly bigger, as I had the Anti-Xeno Defense Post (which has some military already) while she took on the role of the Starry Rift Pioneers. I set about trying to get a good military going, though I had trouble, playing Terraforming Robots and the 6-dev Terraforming Defenders as my main cards for the bulk of the game. She had a better array of goods (including a couple of useful production worlds). And she was beating me in military with some anti-xeno attack and defense (though she kept muddling which was which). But with her goods, she got the war effort contributions as well and then better defense points as I did manage to get ahead in military eventually, though I also had some good points worlds including Terraformed World which was nice for the Defenders. So she scored some consume VPs and a last turn Merchant Guild which wasn't ideal exactly but my better worlds and better 6-dev carried me to victory.


J: 16 + 8VP + 9defense + 5 (War contrib) + 4 (Merchant Guild) = 42
D: 25 + 1VP + 8defense + 5 (admiral) + 9 (terra def) = 48


Now I thought this was a fine game and was quite pleased to have pulled out the win, but my dear lady wife expressed her frustration with the expansion, coming down to that she liked the old stuff (Arc 1) and missed it, while this new military bent to the game was less exciting for her. So I suggested I reset the cards to Arc 1 but she still wanted the Xeno cards, so she suggested the unthinkable: that we combine the sets. wowwowwow

I pushed back initially, the designer has said several times on BGG that the game was balanced for the sets to be kept separately, the deck will get too unwieldy, it will be hard to find the cards you need. She wanted to try it. So I agreed.

So we had all Arc 1: cards from The Gathering Storm, Rebel vs Imperium and The Brink of War, we had the Goals, the Prestige points, everything. And with the Xeno Invasion on top of that. We discussed delaying the arrival of the Xenos to help us set up, but in the end we just went with it.

I had a heavy gene strategy. I was Old Earth, had another world that gave a +2 on trade and a genes production world, so I could trade green goods for 7. Jenny was the Imperium Warlord and she quickly got a couple rebel worlds (with that goal on deck). She was quite comfortable against the invasion, with some specialty military contributing, plus she also had a nice brown production world but no way to spend it (her other world being her trade) so with my frequent produce calls, she was contributing to the war effort like crazy. I was in a more delicate position, no military, just the bunker power for the early game but I got lucky with minimal xeno attacks that I could at least deflect if not beat. I got another genes world which also provided defense (both my genes world had discard a green good for an effect) and as we got into the 3rd stage attacks I decided space marines were going to be required, both for the attacks and for getting some Uplift worlds, as I also had the Uplift Bio-Engineers.
Meanwhile Jenny had built a whole lot, Rebel Alliance and New Galactic Order and Uplift Code as well! She got the prestige points (I didn't get any) so claimed that goal, plus the one for 5 VPs, though my produce and consume engine, boosted by Uplift moles and other gene uplift worlds went into overdrive late on. And she got the all phases goal. It all lined up for her but my tableau was really fun to play as well (and a record of no damage to my tableau from Xeno attacks as well). She had the big win but this was - perhaps surprisingly - a really fun way to play RFTG.

J: 20 + 12VP + 3PP + 7defense + 12 goals + 10 (admiral/contributor) + 9 (Reb All) + 8 (Uplift Code) + 5 (NGO) = 86
D: 13 + 23VP + 0PP + 10defense + 0 goals + 12 (Uplift BioEng) = 58

In fact, I'd say this was my most enjoyable game of Race that I can remember, everything that I love about the game just came together. Perhaps another run through and the Xenos would be wrecking things and not letting me play or cards would be unkind. But for sure, unthinkable or convention breaking or not, I will bet we play this way next time as well.

Boardgame photo thanks go to m_hamburg, EndersGame, s.pauchon, punkin312 and Photodump (for both RFTG pics)
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Fri Sep 23, 2016 7:03 pm
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300 Racing Raptors for Sushi

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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A few new games to talk about and a notable landmark. But first...

 7   Tales & Games: The Pied Piper x3

Tales & Games: The Pied Piper was new recently but that is so last week.

Actually, we played this a few more times and it was beginning to bother us that the start player was winning all the games. Even, I will add, when it was me! The tempo of the game was off too. But a more thorough perusal of the rules revealed our error, the first player only gets one action, then it is 2 actions a piece. And that changed everything, no longer was player 2 reacting to player 1's 2 moves, now it was react to one and be proactive with the other. A much better flow to the game and much more satisfying, we were going back and forth on the edge of losing several times before (even with the new rule) I actually won. I will in my defense note that that first turn rule is rather glossed over.

 7   Sushi Go Party! x9 NEW!

This week's news was all about the party that is Sushi Go Party!.

I had been considering getting the original game, as it continued to appear on play lists, a cute little filler that would definitely see plenty of play. But when the party edition was announced, I put aside thoughts of the original and grabbed this as soon as the funds were cleared.

We've played in various configurations 9 times, all 2 player, which is surely not the ideal but it does really work at that count. The wasabi spice in this version is that it contains the original game but has multiple other options for the menu, rolls, appetizers, dessert and specials, along with the nigiri that come in every meal. So that is much variety in the tin (though I can't say I am a fan of the tin itself).

This arrived while we were out gaming - it was literally on the porch when we got back, so we missed an ideal opportunity to play it s it were intended. But we worked through a couple of the suggested set-ups - the First Meal, for first time players, the Dinner for Two (good for small groups) and the classic original. And then we just grabbed a selection of menu items that we hadn't seen yet and mixed it all up. It has all worked really well, we are very pleased with this game. Some neat stuff you can do, last game my wife won when she used a Takeout Box to take away the lone Eel she had, turning a potential negative score into 2 positive points - and she beat me by 2. Despite my pile of green tea ice cream.

The main trouble with this game is it makes us hungry.


 9   Star Realms (with Star Realms: Colony Wars) x9

Even with new stuff rattling around, Star Realms is still seeing regular play. Indeed, this week saw a milestone as I played my 300th game of Star Realms. My wife reached it sooner (she drafted the kids into a couple games, whereas every one of my games has been with her). Not many games where she has more plays than me, discounting computer games.

We got up to that mark with a round of 3 games where I first lost horribly, where nothing would gel and I just floundered until I was put down like a rabid dog. But the next couple games were going along well, I had things going on. But then Jenny used the freighter to put a dreadnaught on top of the deck, then another power to draw that, which caused more drawing of cards and by the end of it, she was unleashing 43 points of damage. Sometimes there is a huge burst of damage late in the game which wipes away the last few points and about 20 or 30 more, but this one I was up around 30 and was left opening my mouth and closing it again several times as I pondered what had just happened.

Game 299 was going along swimmingly and indeed I was winning (such hubris) but she had invested in some doughty bases and I kept coming up with the wrong amount of damage - first not enough to remove the base, then not enough to remove both, and then there were 3 bases. And meanwhile my own authority was dwindling down to the inevitable.

I celebrated game 300 with a Battle Blob, which I copied with the Stealth Needle. That was smashing.

 6   Electronic Catch Phrase

I left this in here, though another game of Catchphrase is nothing much to write about. The setting was rather good though; my gaming buddy Rick planned a surprise party for his wife Kristi. She thought that he was playing poker with 'the guys' so she had taken the kids out to watch a movie. The eldest was secretly given instructions to get her back to the house after though - with poker going on, they would be upstairs ad so she might stay out a while catching Pokemon or eating ice cream. So he faked a headache and got her back - where she found a whole crowd of people and the look of surprise on her face was golden!

She and the other ladies later crushed us at Catchphrase too.

 7   Port Royal (with Port Royal: Ein Auftrag geht noch...)

Still enjoying Port Royal, this game was notable for the ending and how I messed up. With Contracts: both Frigate and Galleon Foe, Pack of Pirates and Maritime Superiority.
Jenny had the only sailor for most of the game, they did keep coming along when neither of us had any cash. I got a captain while she got a settler, follower by the jack of all trades to complete the expedition. I got the Vice Admiral for the contract and then did my own expedition with two priests. Jenny kept up with a green trader and boosted her funds, then she did the captain vice-admiral combo too. It was close but then I made the big mistake, so focussed on working out what I was going to do to get to 12 VP that I grabbed a nice bit of cash on my turn, leaving her a 3VP admiral, taking her to 12. I gnashed my teeth and roared in outrage but she didn't care. A win is a win in her book.



 7   Raptor

Another newish game next: Raptor. I was the scientists as usual and Jenny the raptor. I got off to a terrible start as I opened with a hand that was 7-8-9, then Jenny played the number under mine for the first couple turns, so my big numbers all gone. There was a lot of obstructions at one end but the other was rather open and the mother cleared the area of any scientists, though I trapped 2 babies with fire. I slowed down the mother with a couple of shots and managed to put one of the 3 babies at that end to sleep, but I couldn't get close without getting eaten and once the other two were gone, mother nudged the sleeper awake and off he ran.

I'm enjoying this but apparently I need more practice dino-napping, while Jenny seems to have mastered the art of fending off scientists by a combination of intimidation and ingestion. I don't think she'll let me play the dinosaurs though.




 8   Tales & Games: The Hare & the Tortoise x4 NEW!

Sitting down to play some games before J had to go out for work and the mail man arrives (rather early, I might add). A box arrives...with this game in it. It seems like the thing to try first then. This might be the quickest receive game-punch game-play game ever.

I had fox and tortoise, and doubled down on tortoise with my bet card. Jenny had the sheep and the wolf and picked the tortoise as well. I was confused about her 2nd card but the sheep raced out ahead, got passed the first river and a long stretch to run in after that, but with both of us pushing the tortoise, that kept up. The other 3 lagged a bit, coming along in a pack as we pushed our things or dumped cards for the one we hoped was not the other player's pick. But the sheep raced off and held up briefly by the 2nd river, then finished, with the tortoise not too far behind. The end game was a lot of frantic playing one card (an animal that had finished) and desperately hoping to draw the one we needed. We both had a hand of wolves (me) and foxes (her) - by this time it was obvious which we wanted.. But eventually, Jenny drew the wolf she needed and the wolf took 3rd. And so Jenny had all 3 places, while my doubled up tortoise meant I scored OK...just not as well.

This got more play - the sheep's reputation as fleet of hoof soared as it won or came second in all the races so far, partly due to both of us putting our extra bet on the woolly speedster. That still applied in the 4 player game with the kids joining in. This went over very well with them too and my eldest got the benefit of both parents boosting the animal he randomly drew (the sheep) plus he and I pushed the fox to a worthy second place. Indeed, the fox was in the home straight before anyone else had gone anywhere but he took the hare's racing advice and had a good snooze for the mid-game.

The reputation as the best Tales & Games game seems well deserved from our initial plays, a very straightforward game but with a bit of trickiness in it. I am assured the sheep is not unbeatable and indeed I've already determined that the little blighter won't win next time. Except I will definitely draw it now, won't I?

Thanks to ssoares, Elizabeth1000, VitoGesualdi, punkin312, nunovix, Backerfield for their photos!
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Tue Sep 13, 2016 6:40 pm
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The Worst Wits and Wagers Ever!

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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After a too long lapse without playing with the game group due to vacations and other such nonsense, we finally got the chance to head over and spend an August afternoon pool-side, followed by an evening of games. The pool was very pleasant indeed, the slight blot of a passing shower mostly just cooled off the concrete so you could walk on it in bare feet and the grapefruit beer that my wife Jenny had chosen to bring was the perfect accompaniment - and that coming from an affirmed hater of grapefruit. We briefly saw regular feature in this set Tom with his baby, now technically his older baby as Mom stayed home with the infant. But he couldn't stay long, so it ended up being just 3 couples, our hosts Rick and Kristi, plus Rob and Karen.

Post-swim and pre-dinner left a gap big enough for ... Catchphrase?

We played girls v boys with the clues all coming from the 1990s. The ladies galloped into an early lead but the gents stayed the course, coming back into it (I was particularly pleased that I was able to clue Rico Suave using a board game reference and even more so that it allowed Rick to get it before I had to do the Suave bit). Jenny got stuck on one word which didn't help their cause (it always happens to her) but our momentum was pretty unstoppable and the lads won.

Jenny always rolls her eyes when this is brought out, as it regularly is to fill a gap with a bigger group. It does not help that many of the references the game pulls on are well outside her arena of knowledge. That hits me a bit too, but I like the challenge of cluing something that I don't know what or who it is.

And then there was much mastication and we had dinner as well.

Prominent on the top of my pile, plus it was one I wanted to play once more anyway, Pick Picknic fit the bill for the opener after dinner. This was new to Rob and Karen, but it was quickly taught and we were into the game.
Turn 1, Jenny plays the right fox, swiping 3 birds and netting 11 points. Indeed, 6 player is a nice environment for foxes and it is pretty hazardous to be a hungry bird here. Most of us got slow starts, Karen especially seemed to struggle, but Karen especially picked up the pace in the latter half and by the end she had an impressive amount of corn and captured birds. Meanwhile poor Jenny had had her glorious moment and really struggled to score very much else anywhere. I scraped out what I could but after some good turns, I seemed to peter out and then my final turn red fox I decided against, after it was observed how much corn was on there - due to the red birds that had all been eaten. Sure enough, no red birds played. They were all in score piles!

There were immediate calls for another round so off we went. And as much as I struggled in the last game, I sailed in this one, my foxes ate well and my birds were mostly unmolested. Poor Jenny had a rough game again, kept being eaten (though she particularly enjoyed the turn where she caught my chicken). And the last game's winner Karen struggled even more, barely getting anything all game. The other 3 were grouped in a huddle in the middle, but the winner was never in doubt.

It was funny, this was a game I hadn't picked out to play, but added at the last minute because it plays 6 and because it was close to upping my own personal H-index. That milestone was reached. And it was a huge hit with Rob and Karen, a simple game with a bit of think and double-think.

Rick had requested I bring Wits & Wagers and that came out next. We played as 6 individuals. And as much as the questions are aimed to be something you don't know the exact answer about, we had a run of questions where we weren't much sure on even a reasonable estimate. Turn 1 Rick and Kristi scored 3 which they promptly lost on the next turn. And everyone missed the next one, so it was effectively a 4 turn game! Some coins were finally won there and it was Rob who built up the pile over the next couple of rounds, to the point I thought we were playing for 2nd. But the last turn a rush of gambling fever swept over him and he gambled big and got the wrong answer while Jenny put her little winnings on the right one to steal the game from him. Rick, normally a shrewd one at this, declared it the worst W&W game ever, as he ended with the 2 you start with.

Rick practically insisted on a rematch to regain his honor. He gambled heavily (as did others, but not as heavily) and lost, uncharacteristically missing on a couple of dates, while Rob especially picked up a tidy pile. And this time he did not relinquish that advantage, only increasing it, even as Kristi and I cashed in well on question 7, he still did as well and won comfortably. And yes, 2 terrible games for Rick. It really was the worst day of Wits & Wagers ever.

With time ticking on, we were looking for a party game, that nearly was Reverse Charades but then we played a quick round of "What's the name of that game which" and the answer turned out to be Codenames, so we played that. Rick had some good clues but a couple of words got guessed wrongly (partly due to oversight on Rick's part, partly being not quite on the right wavelength) and the red one we guessed gave the ladies an advantage that they would not let go. Karen clued carefully and calmly and they did not misstep.
Game 2 with Jenny and Rob in charge. Last time, Rob kept giving us weird clues but he was more straightforward this time while Jenny had trouble connecting her words so the lads, scoring a solid 2 per turn, took the game.
So it was down to Kristi and me as the clue givers. It was getting late now and we two are the ones most prone to some AP, not the best combination (and it was "politely" suggested we should never be Spy Masters at the same time again!). But I stumbled rather, overstretching once and then the water:2 clue I gave was not stretched enough (duck, ship, pipe, with 2 others only neutral). Trying to tie opera to anything (I tried to link it to death) failed and while I floundered, Kristi gave good clues that her team-mates understood well.

I think Codenames is brilliant and I did enjoy the game this time, though it felt a bit painful trying to puzzle through the words with a tired brain. Perhaps that is one for when you haven't been brain fried by the sun all afternoon?

Anyway, it was a good time, the gaming petering out for chatter and prodding of children to go home.

Thanks muchly to axarca, mcross, EndersGame and punkin312 for great photos!
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Wed Aug 31, 2016 8:06 pm
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Our City Has a Rat Problem

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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I planned on typing up last week but the store was temporarily out of round toits. By the time they were back in stock, it was time for this week's version, so this will be a biweekly update instead.

 9   Star Realms (with Star Realms: Colony Wars) x5

Star Realms continues to be popular, though 5 plays over 2 weeks is a bit of a down tick, partly because we were playing it almost exclusively while my wife was so busy that I actively started seeking a bit more variety in my gaming diet. A couple of notable moments though, one game I was on the back foot, having a good economy but lacking some punch. Jenny had the punch but it was from more middle range ships. She was definitely winning, despite a bit of a rainbow deck, but the killer punch came when I buy some good stuff but then a late turn up is the Emperor's Dreadnaught. This costs 8 so out of her range normally, but she had a ship that could scrap for cash and in addition she had a humble Star Barge, that she had bought for its cash early on, but its Imperial allegiance meant she could bring the Dreadnaught into play immediately and the ensuing wreckage was the end of me.

The other game was my first turn Repair Bot. Now we don't much care for the Repair Bot as most of the time it seems it comes to your hand when you don't have a discard pile, a needed component in order to use its deck thinning ability. But this little Repair Bot hit 3 times in a row, including once after I got it in my first 5 cards through, but Jenny made me discard a card. I like to think this piece of good fortune was pivotal in my eventual victory. The base that put a big Blob ship on top of my deck helped a little too.

 7   Friday

I got the chance for a solo game and thought I was go visit Robinson in Friday. On Level 2, my pirates were 8/30 and the defeat the remaining hazards one.
I stripped out lots of chaff in the first pass but won a couple and built from there, a couple of destroys finding use to get rid of aging cards. I fire through pretty well, picking up 2 4 point weapons and a couple of doubles. And I deliberately choose the tougher hazards in the main part knowing that I will face what remains at the end. And in the end, that pirate is not so tough: 6 cards to get 18 costs a few life to get there but it is pretty easy. And actually the 8 cards have enough extra card draws that it only takes a couple of life more to defeat the other pirate. And it ends up being about my best score so far.

Fighting 46, aging cards -10
Pirates +30
Life points 9x5=45
Hazards left 5x3 = 15
TOTAL 96

I think I am up for Level 3. cool

 8   Animal Upon Animal

There were sounds of Very Annoyed Child coming from the office: my son was having Trouble with his video game and got quite upset over it. I got him to take a break and after he had cooled off a bit, I got him to play something with me, hitting upon Animal Upon Animal. Just me and him, one set of animals each, we added a little house rule that the croc symbol on the die just meant add 1 rather than extend the structure. And it was a fun couple of games where he proved his steady hand. After we both lose after knocking down late game, he proves himself with a precarious placement without knocking it down to take the overall victory. And then we messed around piling up all the animals.

Board games are therapy.

 6   Shadowfist (using Shadowfist: Year of the Dragon) x2

At my wife's suggestion, I also taught that same son the kung fu action card game Shadowfist. It has been officially A While since I last played. But it was all there lurking in my sub-conscious, I'd keep looking stuff up but it was always just what I thought it was. I let him pick his faction and he picked the plucky Dragons while I took Architects of the Flesh (both using Year of the Dragon decks), first blood went to him but I built up steadily and cleared the way with a neutron bomb. CHAR brought me back into it but his Netherworld Vet (boosted by my Arcanowave edge) was able to deal with CHAR, though then nerve gas dealt with him. I thought I had it when my scientist with a robot arm was joined by a plasma trooper also similarly limbed but Q's final brawl plus sacrifices did just enough to save his Feng Shui site, then in response: Little Jim. And that was game over.

(My wife thought I was mean to take the Architects but I think the lad held his own pretty well, with some coaching).

 7   Draco Magi (with Draco Magi: Expansion 1)

My record at this game is impressive: 0-14. This 14th loss was so so close though.

I got a combat boost from the Hydra and that was enough to make me win both blue gems on offer while the Hydra himself lost out after a Deadly Strike. So I was ahead but in round 2 J pushed the shadow dragon on me and thwarted my efforts to get it out of the way. So she won a second yellow gem and she let me win the plains battle with no gem at all. The final one of the 3 was a close thing, I lost 2 out of 3 then I thought I was done when she pulled one more bite out and I just had magic. But it was my battle dragon, so it took the hit and the magic meant I could even up the battle. A tie.
Round 3 had 2 green gems and a red - so no one could just win with 3, it was first to 4. But I thought I had pulled something off when I flipped the battle to reveal a blue - I just needed to win that one. I had my wounded battle dragon and the elder scales so good fighting power, though J had a Rainbow and a Black dragon. We resolved the other 2 first anyway, I pulled off the win in the first, getting a green and J won the lightly defended red gem. But J had a quadruple bite with bind to open the battle, so no escape and I was down to the single dragon. My counterattack drained her hand but she had multiples of her special cards - I pulled her deadly strike with an ambush but she followed up with Ancient Magic - I had magic in hand to counter one but not the other and that was game.

One day, dragons, one day!

 8   La Città

In my pile of dusty games, La Città has to be one of the dustiest, regularly high on my "days unplayed" list when I peek at that section of the Friendless stats page. Our last game was in December 2008! But it wasn't even my suggestion to play it, Jenny wanted to play "that city game where you steal people from your neighbors". She calls it Cary, which is a Research Triangle area based joke.

It turned out to be a bit of a relearning game, with some rules mistakes. I initially missed that you get a free citizen with a market which meant we were both struggling to grow. But we soon picked up the pace. Jenny aggressively moved her services-heavy city close to mine and meanwhile developed her farming town, surrounded by grain and not much else. I struggled to hold her off from one side while I developed my other - closer to her farming town so I nabbed a few citizens on that side. I also added a 3rd castle, needing more farms myself. Indeed I miscalculated and had to lose one (another rule I missed, I had to undo one action as you lose an action if folks starve on the turn previously). I pushed up my white arches on my smaller city so she was only winning the other 2 which meant we swapped citizens a bit and then I added my 4th castle to make sure I had enough grain. Jenny was late following me there but we were very close in population, with some fine calculation going on in the last round as she added her 4th castle to boost her population and I spent my last 2 coins on a boost to mine - both of us making sure of our farming first. She had the one more citizen but only one of her towns had the full set of services. I thought I had only one as well, I hadn't been able to find a spare citizen to get a fountain so I got stuck at 8 pop, but I suddenly noticed that I had a hospital there so that town did have all 3, giving me the extra points to get the win.
J: 29 pop + 3 = 32
D: 28 pop + 6 = 34

There might be a bit of an asterisk over that win. We'll see if that holds next time we play - hopefully not quite so long this time.

 N/A   Tales & Games: The Pied Piper x2 NEW!

The other thing that happened was it was my birthday last week. 29 again! *cough* My wife had wanted to get me a game but was a bit gun shy over what to get. Last year she got me Roll for the Galaxy which I had really wanted but in the end it didn't really work out for us. So she took me to the store and we worked out what to get together. And one that we both agreed upon was Rattus: Pied Piper. We already have Tales & Games: The Three Little Pigs and I have been looking out for Tales & Games: The Hare & the Tortoise (more on that in a bit) plus my wife likes games with rodents in. Well cute rodents. And this game with its little rats with color string tails definitely counts as cute.

So of course we tried it out. 2 player so not quite the full experience, it has a couple of dummy houses that just put distance between you and your opponent. And for a while I did wonder if it would actually end in a reasonable time, we both floated around 2-3 levels in. But then there was a bit more movement, we got the trick of it a bit more, though we did go all the way through the deck once, it ended shortly after that as Jenny countered my moving a rat under my house by just moving it back in the red direction, taking my last level.

We went straight into a rematch which felt a lot more dynamic as the mechanics of the game had become second nature. I was admittedly quite mean to her and we both managed the move over then back to give 2 levels. I set up the black rat to move over her house and she did not do anything much in response so I played a melody and the other 2 rats with it came along too, so she jumped right up to 7 in a turn.

Seriously cute and fun, we will be making the kids play this with us at the next opportunity and it will come along to game night next week too. Looks like a cute little keeper to us.

 8   Rat Hot

We switched to a different rat based game, one that we have played a lot over the last few years, that being Rat Hot. But this one went so well for Jenny it is untrue. I had several rats early on, limiting my scoring while she scored freely, building a lead. I figured this would come back around but her rats were nicely spread and so while I scored well for a while in the mid game, so did she. I knew I had 2 more in the bag but I was pushing my luck, knowing I needed to get points and hoping they would not be a disaster when they did come out. Both of them came out on Jenny's last turn (the worst possible time). She had 2 as well but was able to cover them up, leaving me FOUR, with one tile to play. I was done on rats, but Jenny had a great score which we added up as well:
J 22 + 11 = 33
D 17 + 6 = 23

(our record is 34; scores over 30 are rare).

And that was that, though a couple of new acquisitions (see birthday) are in line for debut, including Raptor and on order via a gift certificate, Sushi Go Party!. Hopefully that latter one will arrive before game night next weekend. And also after the success of the Pied Piper, I have Hare and Tortoise in my cart, waiting for enough to join it to get free shipping. So some good fun ahead.

Thanks to the photographers of BGG for decorating my ramblings including cuazzel, Hex_Enduction_Hour, KingKneru, Rokkr, MarkEJohnson, ssoares and thepackrat. Also thanks to Thesp for creating the tool here for helping with this formatting.
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Tue Aug 16, 2016 6:02 pm
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Summer Daze

David
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DURHAM
North Carolina
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July has been a busy month for me (thus the lack of posts recently) and more in particular for my wife who has either been crazy busy running around or semi-comatose on the couch from exhaustion. The heat of July doesn't help.

So the first two-thirds of July has been utterly dominated by the games we can play when feeling pretty tired, otherwise known as Star Realms. In fact, only 1 other game was played all month at one point. I was missing variety in my gaming diet so I resolved to make sure that the weekend at least would make up for things.

After reflecting on my games from a year ago, I thought it time to revisit Meeple City with the kids, see the sights and knock some buildings over. They readily agreed (I should suggest this more often) and we got to work. My youngest was the jumper which was fun for getting across the board, plus he wanted to eat the black meeples. I had heavyweight (good for knocking down other monsters) and liked to snack upon the gray meeples. My eldest was a Softie (points for teeth left) and had stinky paws, which he used a coule times to gather up meeples. Both he and I had trouble with losing teeth though, I fell foul of the runaways a couple of times, plus I went off the edge with a move. I ended with none of the 4. But some mighty destruction, what I thought was enough grays and 2 sets. I also tried to knock down my son's monster and failed on my first 2 attempts! Which he found hilarious. He jumped around, savaged the stadium and piled up a lot of black - he thought his bonus was per black not just for having the most (which he did grumble about for the rest of weekend!). But he maintained good dentition and collected a lot. His brother was more quiet about it, scooping up steadily and when we revealed at the end, my 2 sets I thought decent, but he had a bunch of meeples and 3 full sets. Plus he matched me in gray meeples. My youngest also had a lot but he had but 1 gray meeple so he suffered there. Both of our scores suffered a lot on the basis of a single meeple here and there. Thus my eldest won with 42.

I know why I don't get it out more often, a big box (so hard to take to game nights) and an extended set-up time. But it really is pretty fun.

My other way to boost my gaming while my wife was busy was to pull out some of my solo games. I had thought about going for one of my bigger games, but between errands and looking after our puppy, I thought it better to stick to the smaller card games. Plus last time I played Onirim, I had lost and that won't do.

I played with Books of Steps Lost and Found, which uses the discard pile in an inventive way to 'cast spells' and manipulate the deck in a couple ways.
Some initial slowness and I needed a reverse prophecy (one of the spells) for the moon brown to get the first door, but the next blue door lined up well. A couple of keys thrown to nightmares and it was going OK. By now I had a set in hand and enough discard to swap the next 2, the green quickly completed and then the red shortly after. Halfway there.
I thought I was going to have to swap again with my hand not matching the brown required but a nightmare showed up next and that allowed me to dump my hand and the new look hand worked out well, and I skipped through the next red door as well, so 6 doors done. Even better I had the blue already in hand with the only problem, inevitably, the deck was getting thin. Got those cards down without mishap but a nightmare greeted me next and I had 3 green in hand to finish it. But they were 2 green sun and a green key and then I suddenly realized I should not try to play the set but wait for the green door and get it with the key. I discard from the deck and draw, get another nightmare. My discard pile is not enough to
defeat it (another spell, but the most expensive to cast) so I draw and discard 5, losing 4 and only 7 cards left in the deck. I draw again to get back to 5 but it is another nightmare. I draw and discard again, losing more cards and leaving me with only 2 in the deck. And the next one is, yes, a nightmare - but now I had enough discard to defeat it. And then I draw again, the last card in the deck, and it is the green door which I can unlock with the green key. Yes!

After that glory, I think of grabbing my other go-to solo card game Friday but I remember that Port Royal has a solo option in the expansion. Actually it turns out it is the co-op version which can be played solo. You get a stack of cards called the Time Pile and if you run out of cards, you lose. But you win if you complete a certain number of contracts in the time you have. How the time pile works is that you draw from that pile as your first move each turn but subsequent pulls come from the main deck. Basically it is an elegant way to keep track of how many turns you took. The rules say you can remove cards from the time pile to increase the difficulty but I eschewed that option, feeling I could score my effort by how many were left.

My 3 contracts to fulfill: Fighter (3 swords), Tax Officer (pay taxes) and Tiny Royal Household (have 12VP).
Started out gathering money - with an initial setback as the black ship from the time pile (18 cards at the start) was matched by another from the draw deck, but after a turn or 2 I had a yellow clerk and he was soon joined by a gunner. Hopefully I can build up cash and grab extra stuff. No sailors yet though. The first yellow ship I saw was a 1 coin and that was joined by a 3 coin yellow. Hrrm. But it worked out better after that. I got a sailor and a captain and a settler. Points stacking up, an expedition available if I can get one more captain. Then I get a 3VP sailor and an admiral as well, money is flowing better but the time pile is dwindling. I get the 3rd sword, and am at 11 VP. If the tax man shows up I could win, but I need the cash in hand so I gather a lot, then I had a big turn with 4 ships but still no tax man. They never show up when you actually want them to. I get more cash and another sailor. That means I fulfill the 12VP contract and just need to pay my taxes to win. There is one more card in the time pile. I draw it, then have to reshuffle the draw deck - no tax men in the whole thing so far (not even ones that didn't make me pay). So I keep drawing, repelling ships as I can. A red
ship then a green ship I can't repel. The stack of people growing higher...and at last the tax man arrives.

The rules rank a win with 0 cards left as "Landlubber". A landlubber I might be but it is still a win. And that thrilling end pushed it up a notch in my thoughts and admiration.

Sunday came and it was at last a bit more relaxed for Jenny aka J aka Mrs Loofish. So she was up for some game and to ease into it, we went with more Star Realms.

We mirrored on opening (repair bot&imperial fighter v repair bot&lancer) and picked up bases next but I became more rainbow (which I thought would be OK with the mercenary garrison) and J stayed with yellow and added blue, with card draw a theme. She cycled much more quickly and though I had her down below 20 while I sat above 40, she unleashed a 23 combat turn and then put up a wall of bases that I had trouble picking off, so in the end she finished me rather easily.

The revenge match didn't quite pan out either, I tried to super hone down, with convoy, repair and trade bots, plus the mercenary garrison featuring again. But while it was getting there, J was pounding me repeatedly, with blob ships prominent and I was not able to put enough together to keep her out.

A bit of a run for her at this at the moment. But the number of plays keeps racking up and no real sign of it slowing down.

After that Star Realming, I suggest Port Royal. The contracts were Trade Prince (2 traders), Trade Outpost, Explorer and Pack of Pirates.
J grabs early sailors and picks up some repelled ships. I get a settler, then some sailors of my own and actually rather quickly catch her up on the pirate repelling stakes. I get the clerk for my first contract, while J pushes her luck hard for that yellow ship to complete her pack. She gets it and then I almost casually get it right after her. She gets a jester and a monk against my captain, but I get my 2nd captain first, completing the expedition and completing that contract. That puts me at 11 and with cash in hand, I get a 3 point sailor to finish it, J unable to catch me with what was left.

A final game for the week, a regular favorite: Qwirkle.

I start slow, drawing a couple of doubles and J played another of mine right ahead of me. She gets an early lead but after I exchange, I get a qwirkle and some other good combinations and catch up and indeed take the lead for myself. We leapfrog each other for a while but then I begin to get a bit stuck and J pulls off a string of big moves including 2 qwirkles back to back. I am now sufficiently behind with not enough tiles left in the bag to catch up. I do play out my tiles first, including a qwirkle on my last turn, a 20 point turn including the 6 for playing all tiles, but still 10 back from J.

Game box photos from KlydeFrog, Camdin, W Eric Martin, goblintrenches and toulouse.

Game photos from AlkalynSyn, zombiegod, fourquartets, punkin312 and KSensei.

Thanks to all of you!
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Mon Jul 25, 2016 10:03 pm
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Here Be Dragons

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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Scant updates on the blog and also rather scant gaming, but these were some interesting plays.

Just one play of Star Realms, which is an indication of the gaming scantness. We recently got the very fancy game box to store all our Star Realms goodness, at least partly to get the also very fancy Star Realms approved sleeves. So for the last few weeks, we have been playing both the base set, Star Realms: Colony Wars and the Mercenary Garrison promo thrown in the mix. That makes for a big stack of cards!

In this week's game, there was the normal back and forth, fairly even battle for supremacy. What we have generally found is that the player that went first tends to win these close games and that certainly seemed to be the case this time, as Jenny started her turn with me at 6 authority. But a flurry of the last scouts and less combat ships meant she only did 5. So surely the tables are turned...except I drew a couple of trade ships and my own weak ships came through and I could only do a little damage as well. The freighter I had meant the blob mothership would be along next turn to finish it. But of course, Jenny's fleet showed up in abundance the following turn to utterly demolish everything.

Then on Wednesday, we had a power cut at work. Something fairly important too, so seeing as it was already 2pm with at least 2 hours of work to do, they sent us home. So when my wife got back from her own work, there was an unexpected chance for some games. I put up Port Royal, including Port Royal: Ein Auftrag geht noch.... We ended up playing twice before she had to go back out and look after cats.

The contracts in game 1: Fighter, Tax Officer, Comedian and Jinx.
I get the jester and monk early for the comedian while Jenny builds up s
words. I keep building up and get my own swords eventually, though Jenny claims fighter first, but then she gets things together to claim a big expedition, putting her to 12. I am at 10 but lack some cash so need a big turn...which crashes quickly as 2 black ships show up.

That has been a trend recently, take a risk and the ship you really didn't want shows up.

Rematch requested, this time with Galleon Foe, Frigate Foe, Cheap Staff and Gamester.

Jenny puts down an early marker for frigate foe and we both take some chances on the gamester, though I grab a pirate and sailor to help out. However, despite a lack of swords to repel unwanted ships, Jenny gets it first, giving her a load of cash which goes on a governor. I am ahead in points but I know she will be catching up fast and the governor helps her finish the cheap staff and the cash from frigate foe keeps her going. I get galleon foe and a variety of people, so I hit 12, actually 14 when all said and done via an expedition. Jenny goes for the fences, avoids bad ships (why can't I do that?) and pulls out a captain and a tax increase which pays her the 1 she needed to buy the 2 point clerk, while also claiming an expedition. I have in response 3 cash...not enough to buy 1 point of anything. So she pips me again.

Despite my grumbles, I love the push your luck and the mini engine building of this game and the contracts give it that extra bit of structure that pushes it up into really good game territory.

Final game of the week already. wow

The new expansion for Draco Magi arrived. They did a very cool thing here, there have been some differences in the card backs between printings so they not only sent the new dragons and battlegrounds, but an entire set of the old base game dragons and battle cards. So everything matches nicely. There was some talk in the forums of miscut cards, but happily none of mine seem to have suffered that fate, so I shuffled it all in and we gave it a whirl. Some neat new dragon effects.

Oddly, we only got yellow and green gems on the battlefields. First round, we split battles (Jenny demolished me at one battle but I pulled out the win in the second). In between those battles, in the 3rd location, it was going well for me but Jenny pulled out a reinforce which pushed it in her favor. With me out of cards, she attacked and if I lost one more dragon, she would win the battle by having a dragon advantage. But I pulled the bite I needed and it was tied. Drama!

What's nice about a tied battle is that it adds a bit more thought to the next round as you have 8 dragons in hand but less than 8 places to put them. I survived a couple of near misses in the ranged attacks (the one where she drew a single ranged attack card and she got the one with 3 hits on it in particular!). Into the melee, I crushed in the first battle of round 2, putting me at a nice 2 greens, but Jenny won the 2nd battle. I had used a reinforce taking away a dragon from the third battle and that came back to bite me as she had the edge in numbers of dragons and of course I drew 2 flight cards for a battle in the dungeon where you can't play flight cards. So she got 3 yellows and won.

I don't know why I can't seem to win at this game, but that is the state of play so far. I had even put it aside for a while, waiting for the expansion partly but just to give myself a break. I didn't have horrible luck but it did seem to strike at particularly inopportune moments (although some of it was definitely self-inflicted). I think we will pull it out some more in the coming weeks (when my poor busy wife has time), because we can't stop playing until I have won at least once.

Photos from Shadowwolfrun, fourquartets and Tinyelvis - thanks!
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Mon Jun 27, 2016 7:00 pm
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For May the Play Stays Mainly the Same

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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My May play summary is a pretty healthy 47 plays, though as it was for April, most of those plays were Star Realms - a play a day rate of 31 plays for May. I keep saying we will be combining the base set with Star Realms: Colony Wars but thus far all the plays have been one or the other - one is sleeved and the other is not. And it turned out the sleeves I had used we only had a few more so we needed to actually buy some. And yeah, so the process goes on - I got the box with the sleeves but that is backordered. Hopefully this will happen soon.

A couple of new games in the collection, I already discussed Suburbia, but 2 other games arrived this month. The first was one I had been contemplating for a while, as a tea drinker and gamer, to have those two things combined in Elevenses would be most fine. We had Matcha already (by the same designer) and I wondered if there would be overlap, but Matcha is much different, I want to say lighter, plus 2 player only. We have only played Elevenses 2 player, but there seems a little more depth there and I am very happy to have gotten it.

Another game I thought to add to my collection for a while now is Port Royal. Indeed, I had planned to get it for myself for Christmas if no one got it for me, but when the time came, copies were hard to find and I resolved to keep an eye out and jump at the chance if and when they became available. Not sure what the distribution issue is, my local game store does not list it, though you can get it on Amazon.com. Well, for a while you could get it if you were willing to pay the price, but I waited. And then I saw the side bar ad showing the game for a good price. And much to my surprise, I saw they were offering the expansion Port Royal: Ein Auftrag geht noch... as well. I snapped both up.

Turned out that the seller was in Germany, which makes sense, but the game came fairly quickly and I was happy with what I paid too.

I had played this game a fair bit on Yucata.de and was looking forward to trying it out in real life. A few things that I did not really appreciate from the online version, the very compact mechanism for paying money by drawing the cards off the deck, conveniently thwarting hard core card counters as well. I'd also missed that getting multiple contracts (that is in the expansion) gave you extra points, though that is my poor rules reading. I do tend to skim rules rather when reading for online games, after all the computer will enforce them and I just need to play. It will tell me if I am doing it wrong.

Anyway, our first game, it was a lot of fun from where I was sitting but my wife did not immediately take to it, feeling it was a bit 'random' for her taste. I'd heard this complaint before, and while it is clearly somewhat in the hands of Fate, I think a good player will find a way. However, my concerns that she would just end up hating the game disappeared when she played again, wanting the contracts in. So I was extra glad to have gotten the expansion. For those that don't know, the expansion adds a few people with some similar but tweaked abilities to the base set, but also adds 'contracts' where if you fulfill some kind of criteria (like having the captain and the mademoiselle in play), you can place one of your 3 cubes on the available spot, and claim a prize, a few coins usually, depending on the difficulty. It gives an extra dimension to the game, making different people cards more valuable in different hands. We ended up playing this twice back to back, and both times I ended the game going to 12 points and she overtook me to get to 13. That, I am sure, helped with her impression, but it was quite exciting. Those moments as you push your luck, searching for the card you need, dreading the card being another ship that you can't repel, it is delicious.

I got to play some 2-player with my friend Rick, who I mostly play multi-player with. But he was at the game store while his son played Warhammer 40K and he needed help to pass the time. We played Race for the Galaxy with Xeno Invasion, which he had not played. Indeed, Race is a game he owns and loves but doesn't get to play much because his wife hates it. So other things are played 2 player at home and other games are played when the whole gang comes over. It was fun to show him the new stuff (we just played the cards, no invasion game) and he picked up things quite well, his gathering military momentum something to behold, though he didn't get much consume powers so though he had a bunch of goods lying around, my consumes passed him by and my 2 cranks of my engine were enough to deplete the VP stash. It was commendably close, especially after he dug hard for a 6-cost development to play.

I also showed him Parade. Well, to be fair, he knows Parade but not as the 2 player game. And it was the choice for while we waited for my wife to get back and hopefully join us. The more cut-throat 2 player takes some getting used to, you really have to watch what the other player is getting and how they might be able to mess up your majorities. My wife and I played this a bunch a couple years back and I still love it now.

After Parade, we had to go, my wife's work had all taken longer than expected so she just wanted to head home and get some food. But it was good to catch up with Rick and play some 2-players.

The last game I wanted to mention in the monthly round up here was Mice and Mystics. I bought the game on preorder and we still have not played through the scenario book that comes with the game. In fact, when I checked when we had last played, it was in fact last Memorial Day weekend. And here I was, on this Memorial Day Monday, persuading the kids to come out of their rooms and play a board game with Dad.

This is part of a push to get us more family time together. I have consciously not pushed my hobby on them. If they wanted to play, I figured they would ask me. But pretty much they didn't. Thus the year gap in M&M action. Even our HeroQuest campaign took forever because of long gaps and they both professed to love that game. Anyway, the plan is for me to get them to play regularly, to be more pushy about it. And we will see what happens.

We were playing chapter 4 of the story. Our heroes were sneaking back in to find out what the wicked queen was up to. Previously, we had had no trouble completing the objectives, even doing the kitchen side quest in part 1. But perhaps with maturity, they have gained my own dark arts with dice, to roll what you shouldn't, because there was a lot of cheese rolled in this game, mostly when we did not want it, i.e. on the bad guys' rolls. For whatever reason this game took longer too, we got through the first few rooms, I realized we should have done more searching earlier but forged on and then the cat showed up in the dining room. When my old mouse got knocked out by the pouncing paws, it moved the hourglass up to almost the end...and we had had about enough for one night.

But I did get the feeling this session was not as well received as the earlier ones, perhaps a bit of the bad luck spoiling things a bit but I didn't feel too thrilled about the rolling and the more rolling. I kept thinking perhaps we should just break out a real RPG instead? But I might have misconstrued their reactions and they both say that they are keen to carry on. So we'll revisit this topic. But that will certainly be blogged about in the coming weeks.

Photos by HarlockHero, CrazyCatman, bovbossi, Photodump, rassilonsghost and nobeerblues - thanks to all!
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Sun Jun 5, 2016 1:20 am
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Pigging on cake under lanterns

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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So for the first time in ages, I got to meet up with the game group. It had been sufficiently long that keeping it to a smaller group was not thought to be the thing to do, so we opened it up to a few couples we occasionally game with, with the idea that we would have a couple of tables going then maybe get together for the party game later on.

Well, the getting together part and the catching up part were both very lively. But while one half was merrily chit-chatting, 5 of us decided to get a game going. I had stocked my game bag with lighter fare, anticipating the crowd as it were, the last game I had thrown in, almost as an after-thought, was Tales & Games: The Three Little Pigs. I had not gotten this played at any previous game night, so I was teaching as well, but this is a pretty quick teach. Or so I thought, as there are a few little rules and wrinkles that some of the group did not anticipate ("incomplete houses don't count?! You never told us that!" Er, actually I did...).

But the game itself, a breezy dice game about building houses out of parts of various materials, while watching out for the wold who might blow it down, went along very enjoyably. There are 9 piles of 3 materials (straw, wood, brick, of course) and 3 different levels (roof, window and door). You put a roof on last, completing the house and the game ends when a certain number of piles are gone; with 5 it is 5 piles and with 5 players they disappear fast, especially the straw ones. The wolf part is entertaining - if you roll 2 wolf heads, you don't spend your dice for stuff but point to a house and spin the spinner (or blow it if you are getting into character). 3 sections show straw, 2 wood and 1 brick. And the material the spinner lands on is removed from the house. I had my wooden door blown out from under my straw roof (which destroys it as only a roof is no longer a house). Ron built a proper straw house (which garners a bonus) but then that was blown down too. Indeed most of us were struggling to get anything built at all (especially in the latter stages, it becomes the roof cursing game because you never get one when you want one). But my wife Jenny managed 2 houses and so she was actively trying to end the game. She missed her first chance because she had to blow someone's house down but we only had time to build a last few things before she did end it the turn later, collecting the bonus for most houses and most flowers.

That was a hit so we played again, this time master of building Ron (learning from his earlier mistake in fairy tale fashion) built a mighty brick house and the points you get for a complete brick house is hard to overcome. And indeed we did not though Jenny gave it a good go, with more houses and bonuses again. I made a masterful play on my last turn to move up to 4th place.

A funny aside, we were all pretty terrible at blowing the spinner to make it spin, though it is not the greatest spinner to be fair. But our host Rick's 6 year old son came to see what we were doing and he made it spin like crazy. So maybe it is just us.

Our final guest Tom was expected soon so we played one more game, a game group favorite: Piece o' Cake. Rick was all set to play but his wife Kristi spotted us playing it and ejected him. Some tough cakes to cut in this game after the initial round, none of the low numbers came out and there was one with 5 strawberry pieces! Jenny got control of chocolate, Ron of blackberry, there was a big fight over 8 and 9 which I was in but that last pie decided it as Jenny took the pie with my 4 in so I grabbed a piece of 8 and 9, getting me those. Kristi got the 9 that equaled me so she got that and that left Ron and Rob with cherry that they had to eat (as I had 2 already). But Jenny had a huge pile of eaten pieces, plus chocolate (11) and peach (4) dominance, enough to just get ahead of both Kristi and me.

We love this game, the simple premise but the tough decisions, which grow in importance through the game. And quick too, so it always has a spot in the game bag.

At this point, the long awaited split into 2 groups actually happened, as the social whirlwinds finally came in to play. Two groups, one the fun party group went off to play Time's Up!, while the strategy gamers gathered in the next room to play Lanterns: The Harvest Festival. I have enjoyed my plays of this, fairly light and easy to get to grips with but still there is something beneath, some subtleties and clever things you can do.

This was new to 2 of us, so I taught this to Rob and Tom, then we got to collecting cards, with a bunch of favor tokens in the initial placements, 5 out of 8 had symbols on. We built up our sets but Jenny was able to build up 4 of a kinds which no one else was really able to do so she had several of those plus a sprinkling of other point tiles. The rest of us also scored, some 1 of each, but mostly the 3 pair. The 3 pair stack dwindled fast, with my final move being a 3 pair for 4 points (if a stack runs out, you use the gray 4 point tiles for whichever pile, the first time we used those) and then Tom got one of those as well. Without counting the winner was pretty obvious.

It always feels like, with everyone scoring regularly and all the points being pretty even, that it is always going to be close. But we really got a lesson here. And that reinforces my feeling that there is more to this than meets the eye.

The Time's Up game was finishing its first round but there were some disagreements and they decided to call it right there. The party began to disperse, folk heading home. So the anticipated Codenames with all us of us together did not happen. My crew and Rick hung around for a while, catching up a bit more and then we idly started playing Electronic Catch Phrase as a one team game, just two of us trying to guess the phrase, taking it in turns. Then our kids joined in which was pretty funny, especially as when they joined the setting was on the 1980s! though he knew not what it meant, my son did manage to get us to say Falcon Crest. And then we changed it to the 2010s and they got a bit more of the answers. Just for fun, but it was fun to see them join in the games rather than hide out with their computer games.

So it ended up a slightly abbreviated game night, not as much gaming done as might have been managed. But all the games were good and one of the group, Rob, who played in all of them was especially enthused. He is new to the hobby but bought his first couple of games (Splendor and 7 Wonders) and is eagerly diving into the hobby. He really liked all the games, so I feel my job as game sommelier was done. A good night.

Photos for this post from Backerfield, olavf and Epsilon_Balls. Thanks!
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Fri May 20, 2016 6:13 pm
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Hexagonal Community Building

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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I have had a bit of a road to travel out to the suburbs and finally see what the fuss is about out in Suburbia.

At first glance, it does immediately seem like a game I would like, managing an economy and triggering abilities based on what you played before, tableau building of a sort, but interconnected and spatial. And its longevity here on BGG is a plus sign too, still talked about and with multiple expansions. It was definitely one for me to check out.

When it came out in app form, my wife Jenny downloaded it and played it. She seemed to enjoy it but when I tried it, it just didn't grab me. I could play through it mechanically but had no grasp of what I was doing. There was a disconnect in what moves I was making and their consequences. When I told my wife about that, she looked at me funny - clearly she didn't have that problem. But I think it is just something about how I learn games, how to really play them, I need to see the nuts and bolts of everything that the computer takes such good care of in that application.

So Suburbia seemed to have become a game I was missing out on but it was relegated to the back of the mind while other games jostled for attention in the front. Then one day I was taking my kids to the mall to see the new Jungle Book movie. It was part of a birthday party, so I was dropping them off with the birthday boy's mother and I could have a quiet Sunday afternoon. Except I messed up the time I was supposed to get there, mixing it up with an appointment of my wife's. So I get to the movie theater with the kids at noon, only to find the movie doesn't start for another hour. So we decided to hang out at Barnes & Noble for the intervening time. There I found they had a sale on so I had to check it out and see if anything interesting was out. And sure enough, there was a copy of Suburbia.

Still, I hesitated. I mean, it was on sale but that was 50% off what they normally charge, so it was still a chunk of change. But I got hold of my wife and she agreed it was a worthwhile purchase. Buying Pick-a-Dog at the same time was a much easier sale.

Is a quick summary needed? Well, that is what I usually do so I will. Each player is building up their little suburb by laying out hex tiles in a interconnected spread. Tiles cost money to place (or can be converted into lakes which generate money) and they will then provide a combination of income, reputation (which draws people to your city growing the population turn by turn) or just straight money or population. A lot of the effects of these tiles are dependent on what is played immediately around it, in the same borough or even across the whole game. As population grows (which you want as highest population wins), you will encounter red lines on the board which reduce both income and reputation, modeling the loss of small town charm, hopefully made up for by the array of features and amenities you have added. Once a 'last round' tile has been drawn, each player gets one last move and finally accounting takes place. Highest population wins.

So we got to playing it. Set-up is quite involved, with multiple stacks of hex tiles, your initial suburb-park-factory in a specific order, shuffling up and distributing goals. Working out just where all the markers go, even. I'm sure it becomes routine quickly but it still took a while. Then we got to playing. And within 2 turns, that disconnect I had about the game was gone completely, it just fell away and I could see how the game was played and the consequences of actions. I really did wonder why it had foxed me so.

Anyway, my wife jumped out into a population lead early on but this rather hampered her development as she crossed red lines and her income was curtailed. I concentrated a lot of income initially, spending quite a bit of my initial funds on a parking lot, then adding office buildings next door. I solidified that with a casino.

Meanwhile, my wife had rebuilt and pushed her own income up and there was the battle over a run of gray buildings. This had a significance I did not know because most grays was her secret goal but there was a whole slew of them and the only other color out there was green - and my secret goal was fewest green! Fortunately for her, several of the tiles looked for green buildings for their benefits - she picked up one of the stadiums that came up to great effect then doubled it. But I had a nice little museum district just off my offices which boosted my reputation and it looked like I was running away with it. But then in the late game, Jenny's reputation kept growing while mine kept falling, partly due to the red lines and also the choices out there. In the end, she almost overtook me, though my dominance in the blue buildings (one public goal) and us tying in the other goal meant I hung on for the win by 5 points, 129-124.

So my initial feeling, that this is the sort of game I would like, was quite definitely brought out in this play. I had a lot of fun building my little 'burb, playing the abilities off each other and even making up a little story about the developing town, as bored office workers looked for entertainments after work. And despite that enthusiasm for the game, it is very unlikely I will break open this box again.

I kind of brushed over the little calculation you make every turn after placing a tile, looking for everything out there affected by what you just did. It is easy to miss something, $2 here, a reputation point there. This didn't bother me that much, part of playing the game. But Jenny, oh dear, it drove her crazy thinking about it, sure that it had cost her some move a couple turns ago when she would have had $2 more and could have afforded that tile a turn earlier, etc etc. And under normal circumstances, that would be annoying and maybe she could get over it. But in this game, we have the aforementioned app version which takes care of all of that flawlessly and painlessly. There is almost no reason to play this nice physical version other than to really see how things work and because playing games with physical bits is a much more pleasant experience. Sometimes that just isn't enough.

Photos for this post from Mavericius, Ambush3 and Sekwof - thanks!
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Fri May 13, 2016 5:50 pm
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What I did on Tabletop Day

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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It did involve play, but not so much a table top. Or any board games.

We added a new member to our family, a fox terrier/border collie called Inara:

Our dog was not so sure:


Our cat even less sure:


But I think it will work out:
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Sun May 8, 2016 1:56 am
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