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My initial impressions on games I recently played for the first time
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The Essen crop, part 9: La Loire, Sheepdogs of Pendleton Hill & Banana Matcho

Surya Van Lierde is pure Eurosnoot and proud of it!
Belgium
Michelbeke
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I've been replaying a lot of the new Essen titles over the course of the last few weeks, but these last days I've gotten to play a lot of titles for the first time again.

La Loire
I've enjoyed all of Ornella's games I've played to date, so this was a blind buy for me. I didn't look in to this title at all.
The first play of this took us well over 2 hours, and we found out we did a couple of things wrong. It did outstay it's welcome on this play. So we checked some rules and played again the next day, and again it took allmost 3 hours, and again we found a couple of things we had done wrong, not in the least the way the Circus moves. So I reread the rules from beginning till end before playing the game again the next day. It felt a lot more coherent and controllable and finished somewhere between 90 to 120 minutes, which felt right.
It's a medium weight that offers nice strategic options, but the amount of options you get are somewhat limited. I have the feeling you're best off picking a strategy and maximizing it, in stead of trying a bunch of stuff.
I've enjoyed this last play and while more plays are needed to make sure this is as good as I think it is, I feel like this is a very solid design.

Initial rating: 7.2

Sheepdogs of Pendleton Hill
This isn't really the kind of game that fits in my collection. It has quite a bit of screwage and is quite light. We played with three, while the game is clearly optimized for more. But the rules are simple, the turns are quick and the whole game ends in just over 30 minutes. So while this game didn't set my world on fire, I didn't mind playing it and can imagine this being a lot of fun with the right crowd.

Initial rating: 6.5

Banana Matcho
I hadn't heard of this one before it hitting the table. Let me be short: this game isn't unenjoyable. It has the occasional great moment. But in the end it is a huge luck fest with very little chance for good decisions. Your chance of rolling a good result is small since you have so little time, that you hardly have the time to look at the result before rerolling.
If I'm going to play a dice game with a big luck factor, I'd rather get Piraten kapern to the table.

Initial rating: 5.5
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