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A Gaming Diary of a Madman : The Journey to the Centre of Gaming
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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A diary of our gaming sessions...

Stay tuned for:

* Session Reports
* Short Reviews
* Juicy Comments
* Grammatically bad writing
* Some fun moments
* Play schedudes and plans
* Upcoming Essen blog (I am going to Essen!!!)
* News about Orion Emperor (the game designer tag is there for a reason )
* Anything not yet covered!!!

.mikko
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1. Board Game: 1824 [Average Rating:7.86 Overall Rank:2540]
Mikko Ämmälä
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Oulu
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23.8.2008

A wonderful day. Saturday. A fridge full of beer and four bags of potato chips at the kitchen table. I think we are ready for a twelve hour gaming session. Originally we had plans to play Here I Stand but we were not able to get six players at the table so we prepared ourselves for some other good games.

Two regulars arrived and one newcomer. Including me that makes four with my math skills.

Roimaa (mikko_r): One of the hairiest of my friends (and that is an accomplisment) and as near to my gaming taste as it is possible without being identical twins with shared brains.

Henkka: He is on par with Roimaa with hairy department. Frigging long curly thick hair but less beard. Former eurogamer who recently has shifted into more meaty games. The biggest single reason why 18xx is currently hot in our game group as he has recently brought two new 18xx games in to our groups's game pool (18AL, 1824).

Antero: His reputation is legendary and now we finally got him our game session.

MikkoÄ (that's me). The host of the day. My residence ready to be wrecked.

We started with 1824 which noone had played before. Antero had no previous experience of 18xx games so a little deeper rules introduction was needed. But that was fast obviously as Antero is a clever man with laughing skills par uber.

The initial company picks were a bit confusing but tense and exciting. Antero took a safe route and managed to pick three "upkeep $25" companies while others concentrated more on developing available minor trackbuilding companies. I really liked the 1824's initial setup.

After a couple of hours the game started to drag. The reason probably was the growing pile of empty beer cans which greatly distracted our game flow. Antero warned that he has to leave around 6:30pm but other were sure that game will end before that...

As Antero had to leave after six hours (his girlfrind called him to sauna...and he chose THAT instead of us!!! outrageous!) we determined the winner based on board positions, current holdings and the prospects. All agreed that Roimaa will win anyhow and Henkka will be second not that much behind. Antero and I surely crowded the line of losers this time. The game was definitely at its last stages and we even determined all the possible surprise scenarios regarding to train losses.

1824 impressions? Henkka has actually written a good review based on this play session. I agree with him. The early game is very interesting but then 1824 starts to drag a bit (even compared to other 18xx games). The biggest (relative) problem is a dull stockmarket which does not allow for impulsive and dynamic moves. But yet still. This is 18xx so atleast '9' rating for this one.
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2. Board Game: Friedrich [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:276]
Mikko Ämmälä
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Oulu
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23.08.2008 - session continues...

Kinnunen called that he will arrive after one hour so we decided to play 3-player Friedrich next. Roimaa (owner of the game) had played it few times and I had played it also - once before. This was a bit odd low number as I really liked this game at the first time 3 months ago.

Roimaa explained rules to Henkka who was at first a little bit unsure of the game after seeing the battle cards...but shortly after he announced Friedrich as great. Roimaa was Preussia, Henkka was Austria-Imperial-Franchraich and I was Russia-Sweden. After three rounds or play Kinnunen joined us as a spectator and enjoyed his life with beer and chips. Kinnunen had played Friedrich before so he was able to follow the game without extra questions.

Preussia was a lackluster this time. It lost numerous battles in a row, in parallel and in the between and was in severe difficulties at the all war venues of the board. Soon it was clear that it is either Russia or Franchraich who will win and thanks to Roimaa's big turd play it was Henkka with Franchraich who was victorious.

Friedrich is a wonderful game. Very strong '8' remains at my geekrating.

Now the empty beer can count started to approach #35. A good number.
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3. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.15 Overall Rank:5]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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23.08.2008 - session all the way

Roimaa checked his bus schedules and we decided to play something potentially shorter. As we were all drunk (Kinnunen a bit less than others) we chose an easy path and played definitely-familiar-to-all 4-player Puerto Rico.

Kinnunen used to have a big beard and looked then just like a leprechaun. But his new girlfriend apparently demands him to be shaved, clean and marketable.

And may be because of that Kinnunen won Puerto Rico convincingly. At end of the game all five big buildings were built but none of then had any workers lacking human rights, which was a kind of strange but did not affect the final results.

Puerto Rico is soooo heavily played that it was (atleast to my surprise) good to see that it was still fun. We played with an official expansion mixed with originals.

I really should have to manufacture good unofficial violet building sets the geek offers as this game needs a bit juicing. (I have even designed one full set of violet buildings on my own as a gift for my one friend but I am pretty sure the pdf-files are not anymore stored in my computer...)
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4. Board Game: Hansa [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:486]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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23.08.2008 - session goes to end...

We still had some time so we decided to play Hansa. I announced that I just never lose in this game. Of course I lost badly this time but it was more Roimaa's drunken actions which easied Kinnunen's route a lot than my own suboptimal play. Hansa is a good filler game and was the perfect way to finish the perfect day of boardgaming.

Summary: 1824 - Roimaa, Friedrich - Henkka, Puerto Rico & Hansa - Kinnunen. One empty wine bottle and 41 empty beer cans. A great 12h 30min well spent.

Our next gaming session: Tuesday 26.08.2008...it is obviously going to be shorter...

.mikko
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5. Board Game: Chicago Express [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:258]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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26.8.2008 - Another session...this time 2/3 of us was out of beer...

Straight after our long Saturday session we agreed to gather again next Tuesday. Easy for me as my wife was going to be again away whole early week (diving at the sea, doing her job as she is a sea biologist).

Same core players gathered also this time (Roimaa, Henkka, MikkoÄ). Same place. Same manners...except only Henkka had beer...

Wabash Cannonball was a logical choice for the first game as we were a bit uncertain whether one of our friend is going to join our session. Wabash was long time (relatively) no see. And again its hidden deepness managed to surprise me. I played very good early game and decent midgame...and of course with experienced players that is hardly enough. Even though at the end I went for the most optimal play every round the minor collection of hiccups and hesitations of mid game paid its toll. I was last.

Henkka won 107. Roimaa second 102. I was hapless third with 101. Tight.

Wabash enjoys solid '9' geekrating and I think both my fellow players also rate it '9'. Definitely a great appetite for the evening's main course...
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6. Board Game: Indonesia [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:170]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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26.8.2008 - Tuesday session continues with another masterpiece...

Indonesia has recently gotten a good playtime after a somewhat long hiatus thanks to my own "pimping" of the board. I just tried to draw better lines and borders but ink just got spreaded and looked damn ugly.....(the hesitation to show my "pimping" results caused the hiatus)....but luckily the game is still playable and I do not anymore feel ashamed of my sloppy graphical editing...

Henkka: He is very good at playing Indonesia. In fact he has won all the recent plays and seems like he never runs out of money nor good moves. This time his usual rubber stuff was soon merged away but what transportation companies he had...in fact at the end of game he had them all. Two merged monsters ship companies which squeezed bagfulls of $5:s from us. Add the fact that he had oil monopoly (thanks my "I just have to do this" merging) which alone brought him 2x320 last round. Henkka's money count at the end was more than respectable integer and I decided this time not to tell the exact sum and instead state the obvious "he won with a quite modest margin".

Roimaa: He had played Indonesia only once?? and that was about an year ago. After a short rules reminder he was ready to buff, huff and go down... . To be fair, he did not exactly play the most optimal game at the early stages nor mid stages. Roimaa suffered badly of a general lack of cities as he had a couple of mass productions going on and his actually transportable goods just gave Henkka practically as much money. There was nothing to do at the endgame either. It was impossible for him to recover from sloppy (and bad luck) midgame. Roimaa was 3rd and last this time. At the end of the game the usual debate started: Who let Henkka win with that margin? Who? I ask WHO? We both were pointing at each other...

MikkoÄ: I made two major mistakes at the early-mid game. Otherwise I played probably my best ever Indonesia. At the end of the game I had three different siap-faji companies...which could have been magnificent thing but again...there had been a serious lack of city capacity on board and I was not able to turn my sushi into cash fast enough.

Indonesia really scales well. 5 player game - very good. 4 player game - A definite sweetspot. 3 player game - on par with 5 player game, thus very good. 2 player game - A very pleasant surprise...

It was a nice little 4 hour session this time (no surprise here). A couple of empty beer cans thanks to Henkka and very good games at the table.

.mikko
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7. Board Game: Holly Hobbie Wishing Well Game [Average Rating:4.90 Unranked]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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This geeklist item is my personal "wishlist" for games I like to play soon. This is a bit different than my formal geek "hot list". In a perfect world our gamegroup will add game and date suggestions in the comment fields...

Tier 1: (the games I am currently willing to propose and definitely do not turn down at the next game sessions)

Die Macher - Way too many months since last time.
Agricola - Played only two games. Need more to create full opinion of Agricola.
Struggle of Empires - Over a half of a year since last game soblue

Tier 2: Generally willing to play at any time.

Any 18xx (we have played a good share of 18xx games lately thus dropped from tier1 to give room for other games.
Imperial (almost a filler )
Vikings: Fire&Axe (this is not getting enough playtime. Every time I play get get surprised how fun it is)
Tribune (I still have not tried this).
Caylus: (I still rate this better than Agricola, this is a real gem but has suffered a lack of playtime as a lot of new games constantly enter our gamepool)

Tier3: Not super hot by any means. I could play though if nothing better cannot be negotiated.

Puerto Rico (Must fresh the violet building pool with unofficial expansions)
Goa
Antike (Imperial really overshadows this good game).
(OK practically dozens of games)

Tier Subzero Anti-Ultimatum (I will never play these games again, I said NEVER)

Pacific Typhoon
Sid Meier's Civilization Boardgame (last 4-5 hours are always pure pain)
Raja (Maharadja)
Serenissima.
Pueblo (hrrrr zombie in the attic)
Palazzo
Zooloretto
Yshapan
Through the Desert
(OK practically dozens of games)

The next open game sessions are at the first week of September (sunday 31.8 is 50/50 chance). This list gets updated regurlarly.

UPDATE 29.8.2008:

There are no gaming Sunday 31.8. I inform about possible Monday or Tuesday games (the next week is otherwise obsolete for gaming due to my other commitments).

So either Monday 1.9 or Tuesday 2.9 next session. I wait for suggestions and proposals for games.

.mikko




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8. Board Game: Orion Emperor [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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The newest edition rules and game contents are now ready for the next round playtesting.

The following major changes have been implemented (the pics at geek are a kind of obsolete now, I try to update them during this week):

* There are now fleets (5 different ships to buy which obviously affect combat + of course colony ship. The higher your military level is the better ships are available to purchase...

* In every battle a battle event happens. Sometimes very minor. Sometimes does not affect the battle result at all but again sometimes they can really swings the battle and create unexpected "after the war"-situations.

* 6 different victory conditions (development, culture, military, defeating the guardian of orion, monopolising the economy, ultimate diplomacy win. The catch is that before the game you do not know for sure which of these are in effect at the end of game as they are revealed as Galactic Events at latter part of the game (like you cannot defeat the Guardian of Orion before Orion is actually found via Galactic Event).

* Galactic Council Meeting has been reconstructed completely...and for good. The council votes are powerful and greatly affect the following player rounds. Being the Emperor has more significant meaning.

* External planet count (for a player) is way more important now.

* Culture action is totally reconstructed and offers a very juicy path to follow.

* Developing your technological advances does not require money anymore, instead it needs special AT points (Advance Technology) which can be collected by various means (via Culture, via Cards, buying etc).

* Cards in general are a bit more aggressive than earlier.

* There is no more Technological Gadget limit for a player and getting them is a bit easier.

* 12 different races to play. All races have their own strenghts, weaknesses and starting setup.

* A lot of fine tune (balance issues. race qualities etc)

.mikko
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9. Board Game: Imperial [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:81]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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All Other Lists Are Biased, Twisted and Plain Wrong:

The One and Only Top List

1. Imperial - flawless masterpiece.

I would have liked to put 18xx game at the top but I cannot deny that this political "variant" is just perfect. It does not lack at any feature. A magnificent gameplay, very good components, tense play, ultimate replayability. The best boardgame out there just because it succees at multiple levels and fails at none.

2. 1870 - The best 18xx.

I could have put 1856 also at #2 spot but chose 1870 just because I own it (bias ). Not really. 1870's stock market is the most complicated...and the best. As like in 1856 you are able with good moves to forgive at least some bad early play which is a bit rare for stock holding games. If there is something problematic for some it is 1870's long playtime (6-8 hours).

3. 1856 - The best game I do not own.

Extremely interesting heavy 18xx game. Very juicy 1856 specific 18xx gameplay features and on par with 1870 in general quality. I love it.

You can feel my love for stock/bond holding with my top3 .

4. Struggle of Empires - Too rarely played gem.

Martin Wallace is one of the top game designers and Struggle of Empires is an excellent, rethemed "version" of Conquest of the Empire. All goodiness in one package: Interesting area control system, Excellent and fluid combat, Multiple paths to succee and very tense gameplay.
Struggle of Empires is "a kind of a role playing game with supernations" and its only flaw is its relatively heavy-going clumsiness (along with a bad rulebook with the most confusing movement rule explaining).

5T. Twilight Struggle & 1960-Making the President - The top notch 2-player games.

Both are very impressive. TW is a bit more meaty and even somewhat better but 1960 is again wonderful and its production values are par none. Also I like that both serve a bit different purposes. TW is 3 hours enjoyable serious STRUGGLE through the cold ages while 1960 is lighter and funnier 1.5-2h hilarious and chaotic battle over the top dog spot of one great nation.

7. Die Macher - There is a reason why this is a classic.

One of those games which is way too rarely played. Die Macher contains all I respect in boardgames: Multiple paths, tough choices, both tactical and strategic planning, a healthy dose of chaos...just everything.

8. Indonesia - Superb Splotter Game.

Practically perfect economy game whose only fault/flaw is the map (board) which is somewhat unclear and gets easily crowded.

9. Pax Romana - Could have been the best game ever...

A totally magnificent game which I am afraid does not get played anymore in our gamegroup (this is a bit pessimistic opinion). Requires a lot from players, is pain to setup and takes practically whole day...I could play this easily (I really enjoyed our last 10h game several months ago even though I was in severe troubles practically whole game). I want to play this but is there anyone in our gamegroup who is willing to "sacrifice" one day for this best war/political/almost-civ-type game.

10. Age of Steam - Still hanging on...

This was my #1 game for years. And while it is a bit aged in its current (2nd edition rules) form it is always a blast to play. I never turn down if someone suggests this. I have several of the published expansions but I want more...

Top10 analysis: What can I say. Deep economics and meaty games rule the whole top10.

11. 1824 - A different 18xx game with enough originality.
12. A Game of Thrones - Former powerhouse (earlier in my top3) is having some tough sliding but it may recover as most of its major qualities are still leading the whole pack.
13. Mare Nostrum - The best pure civ-lite game which is somewhat problematic....a) requires a lot from players b) the end game with a race/hose for the winning conditions does not work as good as exciting and tense early/mid game.
14. Hellgame - The best theme ever and one of the most fun heavy games combined with in-built clumsiness and a very steep learning curve.
15. Puerto Rico - The best pure eurogame. Overplayed by a lot but its qualities will never got forgotten.
16. Caylus - Still best "worker placement" game there is. A gamer's eurogame par none.
17. 18AL - Great lighter 18xx game.
18. Friedrich - One of the best three player games.
19. Brass - Superb only with four players. A lackluster three player game.
20. Vikings: Fire&Axe - Extremely fun, great looking, feels very original, blast to play.

Top20 analysis. After real meat of top10 comes variety of games I really enjoy but which are not top tier for some reason.

21. GOA. A bit overplayed but a kind of a perfect Eurogame. Great game with all supported player numbers (2,3,4).
22. Wabash Cannonball - the first game in this list which should be a lot higher...the best filler game ever.
23. Antike - This would be top10 game if Imperial had not exploided Rondel system to the maximum.
24. Conquest of the Empire - This would probably be top10 game if there was no Struggle of Empires which is better at all levels.
25. Thebes - Too random but yet good and joy to play (so far the lightest game in this list).
26. Agricola - Most probably will rise in this list after I get more plays (only two so far). Brilliant design.
27. Power Grid - I am actually surprised I thought about this and rated this that high. I have extremely mixed feelings about this game.
28. Oltre Mare - Another surprise game in top30. Deeper than it looks. Always fun to play.
29. Amun Re - The best Knizia game...you can see that I will not fully respect Knizia games....
30. Hansa - dry and a bit limited but a genious little economy game which is one of those perfect fillers.

Top30 analysis. There is still a lot of goodiness outside of top20. Many times I am almost as willing to play any of these as my top10 games...

#31-#50: Union Pacific, Phoenicia, Modern Art, El Grande, Settler of Catan, Race for the Galaxy, San Juan, Louis XIV, Taj Mahal, Liberte, Conquest of the Paradise, Blackbeard, Euphrat&Tigris, Wallenstein...etc...a lot of familiar names in no particular order. I usually play these once in a while but as top30 is so crowded with a real good games that these are always just the second or the third choices at our sessions.

Honorable mentions: Vampire: The Prince of City. Willing to play again as it was impossible to seed in above list. A kind of Hellgame-light.
Shark: Does not belong to top20 but top30??? A fun, random and chaotic stock holding game which looks like kindergarten game.

The minilist of the potential games I want to have play experience as soon as possible. These surely would have some impact to my top list: Antiquity, Through the Ages, Any 18xx, Republic of Rome, Princes of Renessaince, Galactic Destiny (I own it but not yet played), Orion Emperor in its current new form, Here I Stand....mikko
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10. Board Game: German Rails [Average Rating:7.10 Unranked]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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Essen, Here I Come!

Six and plus weeks to Essen. I feel nothing can go wrong. Except that I have to save a lot of money for that trip. Theoretically there are no extra expenses attached but I try to be ready to spend some serious cash during the Essen week. The ultimately cheap plane tickets are ready and paid though.

* Beer? I...must...drink..beer there.
* Sleeping? We have a some place for sleeping. I do not remember the exact details but should took around 100-150 euros off my budget.
* Games? I think 300 euros should be enough? Optimistic?
* Beer II? I...must...dring...more beer there.
* Other travel expenses? Gotta get to Essen from Frankfurt and back and some moneymust be reserved for travelling in Finland too (train? to Tampere). I expect that with occasional taxi usage the whole sum will be around 300 euros.
* Other entertaiment expenses...200euros? Optimistic here?

So that makes around 1000 euros for a whole trip. Eurotrip. It is going to be my first time in Germany (how I have avoided that country that long?).

I have a good company: Roimaa (mikko_r) and Aki (hampuusi). Aki has a bit different travel plans though and he has his wonderful gaming girlfriend along with him.

But what I know I am going to buy? It is sure thing that whatever I am going to buy I am not carrying them with me when I come back, instead I will use post/courier services to send the games to my address.

The games in my radar:

* Any Age of Steam Expansion.

* Le Havre - I am afraid this is too much about shipping but yet still I expect that someone of our travel group will buy it.

* Winsome games - Every train game which is possible to buy. I have not done any preordering so this could be impossible though.

* Roll through the Ages - Could be a surprise filler hit?

* Name of the Rose - I really liked Mystery of the Abbey. Can this be more serious (and even better) deduction games.

* Endeavor - the pics does not look ultra good to me but this could be that "something else" my game collection needs.

* Old classics. There are a lot of games I really want and hope lives (antiquity, through the ages...any splotter...).

* I look for any Martin Wallace game.

Can't wait...

.mikko

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11. Board Game: Industria [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:1227]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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The new game session: September 10th 2008...and our regular Wednesday gaming sessions are back.

As usual, first we had a wonderfull vietnamise dinner at 6pm and the gaming started 7pm with new troops arriving just for the gaming.

At the kitchen the other group played at least Ticket to Ride and Caylus.

The main gaming , happened at our living room. We started with a quick familiar 4-player snack. Wabash Cannonball. And a messy game it was.

JouniA made a big move (which was actually very good for him as his board position was also strong after the first revenues) with forcing all red company shares to players which ultimately ruined my start. It surely looked that Roimaa would have a free route to success but also Henkka was unharmed with monopoly over green company shares. I played the start very sloppily (usually I play midgame bad in Wabash, not early game) and I was in a desperate situation after the second revenue share.

I actually somewhat rebounded but too late and the obstacles were too numerous. Henkka won ($87), Roimaa and JouniA ($75) and I was last with my feeble $57. After the game there were some hypotetical talk whether Roimaa would have won had he not helped Henkka's green company to get cash for to get Chigaco but that would (at least with my calculations) have caused Henkka still a winner with a margin of $1.

Then JouniA switched to babycaring (he had his spouse and 1y old babyboy within) and Henkka, Roimaa and me continued with Industria.

Industria is very OK game. A bit limited but good at what it is capable of.

I played a kind of a perfect game...but so did apparently Henkka too as at the end of the game we shared the top points but Henkka won with tie-breakers. Bitter. I calculated scores at least three times. Roimaa was seriosly unlucky with tiles as whenever his turn was to auction smt. the revealed tiles were so bad he rarely got any extra money from others.

When the other group at the kitchen (JouniA joined them) were playing Caylus we had briefly problems to decide our next game. But when Indonesia (which has recently got very good playtime) was suggested everyone agreed.

Indonesia is a topnotch economy game and this time the game flow was totally different compared to our previous games. I definitely played my best ever Indonesia game and I was looking for my first ever victory.

Roimaa and I developed aggressively for "bid for turn order" and that "underrated" track felt juicier than ever. Of course I did some serious merging all-the-time and at the latter game stages things looked good for me. I had Siap-faji monstority par none and very big shipping company. The price for that merged shipping company had been a hefty $506 (and without my own company in the merge!) and that left my out of the big cash at crucial times of the endgame.

The following bid order phase was already a plunder from me. I practically paid all I had to ensure that I am going to ship my siap-faji first...but failed as Roimaa was able to summon cash enough to go first even though I was ahead in bid track. That did not seem as bad initially but led to even more tough bid next turn where again Roimaa and I bidded for going first with our Siap-faji companies...that turned out to be disaster as Henkka then made a BIG DECISING MOVE to form another Siap faji!!!, which he got very cheaply as Roimaa and I had put practically all our cash into bank.

That move allowed Henkka to rush game end and was another serious hit against my cash flow as my now-merged spice company would have otherwise produced big income at the last turn. Roimaa got zilch, nothing, zero income of his Siap-faji at the last turn as Henkka and I filled the cities (Roimaa had to ship other goods first, may be a mistake?)

At the end Henkka had smt. around $2069. I had $100 less and Roimaa was around $1650.

As a nice sidenote. I had almost $800 in the bank which is definitely the most we have ever seen in our game and I think Roimaa had >$500 as well when Henkka had only coins....

I am thinking about upgrading my Indonesia geekrating from '9' to '10'. This is just a fascinating economy game with no dull moments as with experienced players the logistics with shipping is goes fluidly enough.

Thanks for my playing partners. I was fully sober this time and others were close to crystal clear as well. May be Roimaa took some beers. On the other hand at the kitchen wine was apparently poured heavily as JouniA's spouse fell from the chair and injured her ankle. I hope it was just a bruise.

.mikko

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12. Board Game: Fire & Axe: A Viking Saga [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:532]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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Session 13.9.2008 with short key sentences:

* Texmex food
- A lot of it and very tasting
* Two tables playing
* A lot of beer
* Theben/Thebes played after long hiatus
* Still a lot of fun
* Is kind of a perfect game in its category
- A friction too random though
- I was tempted to lower my geekrating but it still provides a lot of enjoyment
- Kinnunen won with a huge margin, I was second
* I took some vodka, tequila (texmex food and more beer
* Nefertiti for the first time (for me)
- It was fun.
- Not ultrasuperb game but good
- Henkka won easily
- I wanna try again
- Strong '7' as geekrating and close to '8'
* More beer
* Surprise 5-player Fire and Axe: A Viking Saga
* I have always liked it
* I played good and solid
* All players suffered a lot of disasterous dice rolling
* Took longer than usual -> Beer?
* Aki won with succeeding the Constantinopol Raid which I had failed.
* I was second.
* Still very fun game but starting to show its relatively limits.
* Inflated '9' rating dropped to strong '7'
- I should have rated it '8' anyway but had forgot to change the rating
* Great, lighthearted and fun session it was.
* No hangover next morning.

Meantime in the living room there were lighter games going on. Atleast Ticket to Ride and Guillotine...

Next time more detailed, more storyline, more everything.

.mikko

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13. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:60]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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Sunday 21.9 Game Session.

No hangover from Saturday's actions (alcohol-movie-restaurant-more alcohol...). Good.

Tropic Thunder (that Saturday's movie) was a hilarious parody from film industry and its divas/primadonnas. Great stuff and Robert Downey Jr. for Oscar!!! If only Jack Black had been written a little better.

This time we had four players. All were regulars: Henkka, Kinnunen and my wife (Essi) and I (mikkoä).

...and the first game was Hamburgum...a long time no see. Played only once about 8-9 months ago. Many times suggested but always turned down with some excuse (usually: it is just not that good...).

While it is true that Hamburgum pales compared to Imperial or even Antike (the other rondel games) but yet still all agreed that the game deserved better than left forgotten after one play.

Essi had not played before (and the rest of us had played it only once ages ago) so the rules introduction by Henkka was welcome and needed badly.

Hamburgum definitely offers some tough decisions, both tactical and strategic, but the original problem remained. This is just not that juicy gaming...it is wrong to say this game is bad or even mediocre but it is just not quite fun enough. But I am ready to play this another time. This time the game flow went better and there were times the game was even somewhat tense. Seven or eight as geekrating? Dunno. Let's say I keep it strong '7'.

Henkka won with a modest margin (about 10p). Kinnunen (who had looked very strong at early game) and I tied for 2nd place, Essi was confused throughout the game and was dead last.

Henkka had also brought unofficial Puerto Rico expansion (printed from some geekfiles) and soon we were playing Puerto. The randomized violet building set (mixed from original, expansion and Henkka's unofficial stuff) was just horrible...which caused a strange game..."is it true that large market is best I can buy..."

Well Puerto is always Puerto and Kinnunen started to look strong from mid-game as shipping of Henkka/Essi started to drag. I tried heavy builder strategy but never looked any good doing it even though I managed to build two big buildings.

Kinnunen won with 7p margin. Essi was a runnerup, I was third and Henkka with very play the last.

Meantime we also got some pizza/kebab delivery. Cheap. Greasy. Good. But unlucky Essi got a bit wrong pizza which was missing jalapenos...The bravest of us also opened some beer cans...

The last but not least. We played Age of Steam!!! TSUK TSUK!

We chose to play with original map. I had a bad history with Age of Steam with stream of losses lasting for over four years...until early summer I finally managed to win this game. And I continued my reign.

1st round: Essi and Henkka took 2 shares, Kinnunen and me planned to do the big things early with a lone extra share. The first bidding was fast and only Essi spent money and of course took a locomotive action.

Kinnunen started to develop NE, Essi was at the middle. Henkka started from NW and I started from SW. The cubes on board were practically as unjuicy as possible. I actually made a right call and concenrated on building a long W-E route through the map.

Kinnunen continued his "less shares - less economy" strategy while Essi and Henkka took some heavy shares. I played safe and managed to be in no danger for blocks and cube shortage...and the things got very good for me soon as at 3rd round I was able to transport 2x3...and there were still a lot of purple goods on the board for my SW city.

Henkka was in no good position and struggled the whole game. Essi had played good but she had had to take most shares and she had also spend every cent every turn. Kinnunen looked strong but with one decific. His trains were still using dirt and trashwood. I made a tactical blocking just to prevent Kinnunen getting out of the East regions...and it paid off.

It took a couple of extra turns for Kinnunen to finally set
up the route he had seeked. But too late and his trains were still using rotten wood and wet dirt (i.e. level 3 trains).

Meanwhile after my blocking of Kinnunen I managed to run 2x5 and was a frontrunner eventhought it had required a couple of extra shares at midgame.

I bravely took one more share at the start of the next round (12 total at the game end) to ensure I am going to get level '6' train...which I did. This was the second last turn and as I managed 2x6 and Essi had to skip another of her moves for train upgrade I was pretty sure I will win as there were enough cubes for me to get atleast 4+5 last round.

The last round I got 4+5, Essi got 6+4 and that was the key.

As usual Essi had built a lot with lot of engineer actions and she edged Kinnunen for the second place. I was victorius with a good margin. Henkka was last and I am sure his not-that-good impressions of Age of Steam did not improve greatly.

Age of Steam is still very good and succesfully resists the pressure of numerous newer games in our game pool. My geekrating '9' stands still. I have three of the expansions (irish/england, germany/US, scandinavia/korea) and one printed scenario but I am obviously interested in adding more.

A great nice session. This time with a little lighter games. Thanks for my fellow players!

Next time 18xx? No? Whatabout Tuesday 23.9? 6.PM. 18xx?

.mikko

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14. Board Game: 1870 [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:745]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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The Three Kings - 1870 (September 24th 2008)
------------------------------------------------------------------

It has been a while (several weeks) since my last 18xx game and that was obviosly causing some itching as 18xx had been a huge hit among our game group recently (and for me always). Well "hit" a little bit exaggeration as there are handfull of players who praise the big 18xx-hallelujah and a couple of dozen who could not care less. Those ignorants. Those fools.

Of course the plan was to get 4-5 players but there were a couple of obstacles:

a) Some potential players were concentrating and practising for the following weekend brigde tournament and thus not able to join the game.snoregulpyuk

b) As 18xx takes "some" time the late planning of 18xx session was impossible for some.

c) Just co-incidents with some concurrent activities.

However there were three of us. All seasoned veterans...though Antero had played 18xx only once (1824) before and to be honest I was a bit surprised he was eager to play 18xx again relatively soon as I was not totally sure what he actually thought about his first experience. Henkka and I had both played a good number of 18xx games.

We chose to play 1870 just because it had not been played for several months as recently the big 18xx game in our game table had been great 1856.

I explained the rules differences (1870 vs 1824) to Antero and to my surprise throughout the game we had a clear grasp of rules and needed checking the rulebook very rarely. We had played 1870 many times (relatively speaking) but rarely totally correct. This time no problems no obsessive browsing through the rulebook. Henkka provided the poker chips to replace paper money.

This was the first time I played 1870 with three players and I had no idea what to expect.

The initial private company bidding was quickly over and the only bid contest (Henkka/Antero) was on Frisco company (the company which operates with 20%).

Antero got Frisco (initial value 100) and 20/5 companies.

Henkka got port token company.

I got the cattle, the bridge and Katy share companies (both Henkka and I had declared Katy as a total garbage company to form and I had had plans to avoid Katy with any cost...but now I had one share
already
). Bugger.

Henkka went SW and formed the Southern Pacific company (i.v. 82) which was no surprise as it is IMHO the best early company to form. Antero formed another company to support Frisco building (obvious SantaFe - i.v 68) and I then started Katy (i.v 82) with a great hesitation...well at least there were both Frisco and SantaFe laying the tracks beside. To be fair Katy was not THAT bad this time just mediocre the whole game. The best Katy can do.

...one mistake always needs a friend to stay in shape...

After the early game I made the same huge mistake I had done many times at 1870. I again formed the Cotton (i.v. 68) which of course was blocked straight away and it never recovered properly. Another shithouse company which only proper achievement was to enter first '4' train era (well it eventually managed the connection run as well to all players' surprise). Henkka did it way more wisely and formed Texas while Antero stayed a little bit longer with his early acquistions (Frisco, SantaFe).

Things did not look totally horrible to me as Antero and I both had interest to improve our mutual rail network which alone helped my Katy more than any of my lone actions. As I had originally three private companies I had cash (the big thanks to Katy) to form SE Gulf with i.v. 100 (Cosmo from now on) which looked promising initially and was not harmed with Antero's new Illinois company.

Antero's Illinois bought the first '6' train and that caused some stagnation in Henkka's and my companies as '3' trains went to the junkyard.

The stock market actions (due to the three player game?) were not as juicy as usual. There were no company ownership shiftings. Surely the share prices were dumped big time occasionally and especially Henkka at late game successfully halted my Cosmo (That SE Gulf Company) with constant selling of Cosmo shares causing its share price to sink from the highest to the mediocre level.

Henkka's Texas company had bought its own shares (40%) and as Henkka had the rest 60% of that company it just looked frigging good. And strong Texas was the key at the late game. Henkka boosted its share price up and then with a big move reissued Texas shares back to the initial pool. Texas gained enough money for a big train...which caused a chain reaction as Antero was seeking an extra train as well...Things led to the first purchase of '12' train and I was doomed.

The Doomsday of Mikkoä crysoblue
---------------------------------------------

I had a good position before Henkka's move...I should have seen it coming...

I had four public companies (I had formed Missouri as well to help Cosmo to execute its connection run). Missouri had a '8' train. My other three companies had a lone '5' train. And as the first '12' train was purchased I suddenly had three companies all heading to the junkyard carrying a lot of thrash metal.

I had cash to buy 3x'12' train (total of $3300 spent) but obviously there were no way to recover from this position as my company share prices were still low (save Cosmo) and both Antero and Henkka collected way more cash from their runs.

At the end of game Henkka was a clear winner (there was no need to do the math). Henkka had the most money and his shares had ultimately the best value. My stocks were on par with Antero but I had about $2000 less cash. So I was dead last...

Conclusions of The Fallen Baron
-----------------------------------------------

1870 is a magnificent game. It took 7 hours this time but it did not feel that long. The gaming went smooth with only Antero at the edge of AP few times (understandable as he had least experience). My impressions of a three player game were positive. It worked better than I thought. Of course there was way less general danger as chaotic moves with company ownership changes were missing completely this time. This was because players really played carefully without risks (i.e no multiple shares of other player's suspect companies combined with a constant tracking of priority marker position at the end of the stock rounds).

Never Katy. Never Cotton. No more Katy. I never form Cotton!!!

My rating of '10' stands still. I enjoyed the game big time. Thanks for Antero and Henkka.



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15. Board Game: 1856 [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:519]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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2.10.2008

We are going to play 1856 today evening! YES!

But first we had our regular Wednesday gaming session yesterday and I consider it as a warm up event for the Thurday's main course.

We had helluva great japanese dinner first. Props for my wife. I took a couple of beers and a glass of wine so everything including my positive and bit drunken mood was just perfect.

As we had 8 (and later in the evening 9) players we divided into two groups. At the kitchen they played at least Puerto Rico and Ticket to Ride.

Meanwhile in the living room: Henkka had brought Brass into session and I was a bit surprised that all agreed to play it (Timo and Miika had not played it before so I explained the rules first obviously).

I got a kind of kickstart and managed to ship my first two cotton mills to the common market with a single shipment. That ensured my steady income throughout the game...with a catch. Above great move (undeniably great) had required me to build my mills to Macclesfield and Stockport...which of course shut down my chances to get out of the SE.

Henkka developed a lot and did both: a) played relatively poorly and b) was a bit unlucky as well as his plans seemed to fail regurlarly due to other players' moves.

Timo was confused most of the game as he just could not get any grasp of cotton/common demand/harbour interaction. Well...he was a bit drunk...he also made a couple of suboptimal moves at times.

Miika learnt the game quickly and actually he had also good strategy (railroad period) in addition to tactical moves he also did pretty well.

I led the pack after the first scoring but the most of my industry had been level '1' which meant I was positionally in the worst place when the Railroad period started.

Timo and I built a lot of railroad network. Miika managed to built two shipyards which brought him a narrow 2p win over Henkka who recovered with a great play scoring hulksteresque 92 points from industry only (i.e not including railroads) at the second scoring.

Timo was last: He just did not get grasp of game flow. However his margin to victory was surprisingly small (Timo had 117p at the end).

I was third. I failed to build anything BIG at the railroad period. I scored 66p from Railroads but only 23p from Industry which was disastrous. I ended up with 127p.

Henkka was second with 137p and Miika won with 139p.

The game took exactly three hours (including rules introduction) which was just the time Henkka and I announced it will last. Brass remains '9' with four players.

Roimaa had arrived during the Brass and we had some pondering what game we will play next. As a compromise we played 5-player Puerto Rico. Noone was overjoyed but noone did complain either.

What a strange game it was. All but Henkka went for big shipping and that was obviously Henkka's doom. Timo was in a position where he just seemed to benefit whatever others did and cruised to the clear victory with 3 big buildings (money from his coffee trading + factory).

Miika was second and I was third. Both played uninspiring game. Miika edged me thanks to tobacco trades and harbour. I had mass corn and Union Hall but it did utilize its full power just a friction too late.
Roimaa played some odd looking game with questionable moves but still was ahead of Henkka who just failed at every level this time.

Above was just a warm up. Appetite for Thursday's 1856...this report will continue tomorrow...

1856 - Session: Thursday October 2nd - 2008

Another great day. Another big game on the table. This time 1856 with five players. To ensure that we really are going to play 1856 there were two copies of the game brought into our session (Henkka's and Roimaa's).

Roimaa provided the poker chips to replace paper money.

A short rules introduction/reminder was needed as Antero had not previously played 1856 (He had played 1870 and 1824) and it also had been while since Pete's lone 1856 play.

You cannot win at the private company bidding but you can make things a lot worse for you....

There was a small competition over the port token company. Otherwise private companies were distributed peacefully.

Henkka got 40/10 teleport company with $45
Pete got the port token company with $80
Roimaa got Niagara and 20/5 companies with total of $120
Antero got 50/10 company with $50
MikkoÄ got tunnel company with $105

The early game went off with some surprises.

Henkka formed Lisp (i.e $65) and was obviously looking for fast money thanks to Antero's forming of GW...however this "easy money fast" plan went straight away to the thrashbin as Antero made a surprise move with starting to build GW totally opposite direction. You could guess I was not overwhelmed my shares of Lisp suddenly looke a lot less attractive.

Pete formed WR with i.e $75 (3x2 train) which also always brings fast money with an expense of difficult expanding out of SE.

Hey I managed to do at least smt. right?

During the next stock round I replaced a couple of average Lisp shares into WR shares which at the next operating rounds started to bring big bucks to shareholders.

Antero still did his track building not-so-optimally and GW looked the most mediocre I had ever seen...how wrong I was back then...(SPOILER HINT: at the end of the game GW's stock value was $425/share...)

Roimaa finally started GPR (NE) (why? bad move? very bad move!!!) and I started CA (i.e $80) to utilize a) already built network by Lisp and GW and b) to utilize my private tunnel company benefits.

Too bad CA had to settle with 2x3 trains at start...and that felt like it lasted forever (which it did yuk). A good steady income for the most of the game but 3+4 train combination would have been so much ultimately better.

Pete was squeezing every available dollar out of the WR (which had about 4 loans as well). Antero was the first to build '4' trains which caused some difficulties to WR but to my surprise it did recover better than I expected. Though in the process Pete had to use all his skills to manage WR properly....well "properly"...WR was socialized later of course...

Everyone started to prepare for Goverment company. I formed THG to boost my CA changes (i.e THG bought "quite" expensive '3' train from my CA). Henkka got dumped with Roimaa's bad bad ubersuck GPR company. Antero had formed WGR and Pete was Buffalo's new leader.

As my newly formed THG bought '3' train from my CA with all its cash CA was able to then buy the first '6' train and Goverment railroad entered into the game.

Meanwhile. Antero had made his early suspect moves to flourish. His GW had 2x'5' trains and income around $400/turn. GW/Antero combo had been perfect as Antero had had five shares of GW for a long time and the rest shares had been (for relatively long) in the open market to provide cash for GW to build that another '5' train. At the stock round before the Goverment entered the game I had had ONE FRIGGING DOLLAR SHORT to do big things (I had had actually two different plans which both required that one extra dollar: a) forming one more company to dumb it to Goverment or b) executing the chain of buy-sell actions of other players' shares to ensure my companies operating order for my own greater benefit. I failed. My "correction" move was also subpar, average, mediocre and just plaing bad. I bought one totally unnecessary share ($80 ripped into pieces)

I got the presidency of Coverment Railroad. Every player dumped one company which meant Goverment railroad started weak (though with 5/4 trains)...and ended up relatively (OK scrap the word "relatively") weak as $5 shares...

Roimaa's economy was non-existent straight after the Goverment Railroad forming. No good cash. No good shares. There was a following difference of Roimaa's and Antero's play.

Roimaa did not made any obvious mistakes but may be played a bit suboptimal - he was now at disastrous situation.
Antero had made some clear mistakes and definitely played suboptimal - he had been at the winning position par none practically whole time excluding the very early game.

The end game

I actually calculated that I have a small chance to surpass mighty Antero. But then Antero made one more suspicious move. He formed CV...Initially it looked the dumbest of the fail moves as Antero was definitely leading, but then things started to snowball as like Antero had propably planned. This move allowed Antero's GW to build Diesel...

Diesel trains almost led Pete to the bankrupt. Ok. it was not that close but his Buffalo's (Pete's WR had been governized)
2x'4' trains went to trashbin and Pete had had to manage his actions carefully earlier to prevent possible bankrupt.

Roimaa was as hopeless as in whole game. But to be fair his recovery process was managed perfectly. As it was clear that Antero will win I gave up my CA to keep hold of Goverment railroad...just for fun . It was clear that I will be 3rd in the game, no matter what happens...(actually that was close).

During the last rounds GW's runs were >$1000....

Antero won with about $8900 (GW value $425 and Antero had 60%)
Henkka was second with about $7900
MikkoÄ was third with $5370
Pete was fourth with about $5300
Roimaa was last with about $4200

Thanks for my fellow players. Another magnificent 1856 played. Well done. Eventhough I had no chance to win at the end I enjoyed my leadership of Goverment railroad big time. 1856 easily stays with my '10' geekrating. At least to my surprise there was no apparent lack of proper track tiles we had encountered at our previous 1856 games.
The game took seven and half hours.

.mikko
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16. Board Game: Imperial [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:81]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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Sunday Session: 12th October.

Again. Big plans to write smt. epic. And then no wins, just bad beatings from left and from right.zombie

First we played Wabash Cannonball....and I just do not get it anymore. Whatever I do, whatever tactic/strategy/random act I do...I just fail. Next time I play I use dice to determine my biddings and actions. Probably cannot do worse with this method than with my illogical thinking. Again dead last...and far off of other's pace.

Kinnunen won. Henkka second. Visa third and I was distant fourth.

// UPDATE: Of course Henkka won. What a plunder to put Kinnunen first place.

Then we played another nightmare for me....well this time a magnificent Imperial after a couple of months hiatus...(for me).

Visa had actually played Imperial a lot recently and he brought in some totally new mindboggling strategies...which started to work from day one and lasted until the scoring. This was the most disastrous zombie zombieImperial I had ever played. Dead last again. Visa won EASILY (France) and Henkka was second, Kinnunen third. The game lasted only 1h 20min!!!

To my surprise the other players suggested to play my own creation Orion Emperor next: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/36619 or see item #8 in this geeklist.

I give some "+" and "-" compared to earlier playtest sessions:

+ races worked quite well
+ redesigned advancement action still works well though advancing "Development" is a bit too strong and "Diplomacy" a bit too weak.
+ galactic council with its votings worked a lot better than before...
- ...though we got very limited grasp of it as Visa managed to do Culture win condition with snowballing the end (thanks to a) one particular gadget and b) just going off all levels of his playing.
+ it was now extremely useful to colonize planets (problem with earlier versions)
- ...but it was too easy (multiple colony ships with one action was too easy causing 3-4 colony ships to launched with one action...may be limit of 2 at max with one action?)
- There were too few technological gadgets (about 20, should be about 30) and they were a bit unbalanced (some useful, some simply boring, some not good at all, some just too good).
+ Culture worked fine and the benefits it offered were great. They were a bit over-the-top just because above "too easy colonizing" (i.e. high culture level + a lot of planets = great things happen)
- there were practically none battles to my surprise. this was because preparing for a battle was a bit clumsy and it was way more better to use Send Colony/Send Fleet action to colonize available normal planets than attack another player.

The ultimately biggest Action Point which I consider in the future next edition is streamlining. The written "action/vote/vote special" formula (in played action cards) just does not work fluidly and is confusing for even the most experienced testers of Orion Emperor causing unnecessary drag of playing. I actually HAVE A GREAT DESIGN CHANGE AND PLAN what to do with this issue. And anyway next time we play Orion Emperor...I promise it will also look magnificent...kiss

Enough rant of this.

We played one more Imperial. I actually played very good Imperial this time and I was contender whole time. Of course Visa edged me at the last minutes but there was nothing I could have prevented it without sacrificing just too much. Henkka was last with very bad momentums and just plain bad luck. This game took 1h 20min again!!!

Thanks for other players. Wonderful, simple and peaceful session this time.

UPDATE: messed up some positions of Henkka/Kinnunen in these game. Well they both are named Henri in real life....(what a dubious excuse)

.mikko

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17. Board Game: 1856 [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:519]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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Wednesday 15.10 Session Report - 1856 (again...but no complaining )

It was this time an easy task to get four dedicated players for our Wednesday gaming session. Actually we had had plans to play Die Macher but 18xx choice was also lurking out there and bubbling under.

A quick decision. Everybody agreed and off we go. 1856. This time I had some ciders in my fridge so my eternal thirst was no excuse this time.

There were a bit more bidding over private companies than usual and the results after deep ponderings were:

Antero got: Tunnel, 20/5 and Port.
Henkka got: Niagara and 50/10
Roimaa got: 40/10.
MikkoÄ got: nil, zilch, zero, null...even though I tried for Port and Tunnel.

I started with GW (i.v $75), Henkka started Lisp and Roimaa continued his faith on NE (CGR).

I had to rush things as I had no "upkeep machinery" to boost my finance. I managed to dump GW to Antero when its value was $90. That was actually so-so decision as GW was not at bad situation. But I had to do things before other players' companies have enough money to buy their managers' privates (I did this pretty good as only Henkka got any serious cash out)

I formed CA (i.v. $90) which had some infra built already thanks to Lisp and GW. CA bought 2x3 trains and was generally happy for the rest of the game.

Roimaa formed Toronto to support CGR, Antero formed WPG and CV later and Henkka started company from Hamilton (and later GT). I also started another company, Buffalo (barbeque) as my CA was heading to its destination near Buffalo.

Every other player had companies with a lot of loans and there were a couple of deeply thought hesitation rounds everybody waiting for a Goverment railroad trigger. Antero finally had to do it which caused some uncontrollable events which eventually led Roimaa to bankrupt. Goverment ate Toronto, WPG and Lisp. Henkka got the management position.

The next and the last stock round lasted for one hour!!! Magnificent round! It was clear that if Antero goes to bankrupt with his GW, Henkka will win and I would be second. The following happened during that stock round.

GT was dumped to Roimaa and later I got it.
Antero was not able to sell GW (as Open market was already full). I had to help Antero and I bought GW...the plan was to manipulate stock prices to help GW get to its destination (which it was still lacking) for extra company cash. To my surprise Roimaa and Henkka also bought GW which allowed Antero to run away cowardly = he dumped GW to Roimaa. Now Roimaa was in danger. After series to buy/sell actions (to dump opponents' share prices) Roimaa took out a calculator and announced that all the hard work done was not enough. He will go bankrupt with GW (GW would have been first to operate as its shareprices were highest). Henkka was a sure winner even though he definitely got the biggest hits during the stock round.

Henkka won with about $1300.
MikkoÄ second with about $1100.
Antero was third.
Roimaa was bankrupted fourth.

Again great session. Next week: Essen calls!!! I am going to write a novel about the trip.....

.mikko
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Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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My Essen 2008 trip...
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19. Board Game: Steel Driver [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:606]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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A bit smallish game session this time:

Wednesday 29.10.2008 - our regular dinner+gaming session...

This time my wife (well I helped of course) had cooked italian dinner and that was of course plentiful and very good.

But the games...

At the kitchen the other group played at least Ticket to Ride and several Guillotines.

In the living room we experienced our hot Essen games.

Aki brought Dominion. We played three games. The first game was a bit broken as the mixture (we took them totally random) of available actions did not contain any attack nor build+1 cards. For the next two Dominion games we ensured that the action mix is more balanced. Dominion is very good as I noticed at the Essen event. Fun, fast, blast to play. My geekrating (initial from my Essen trip) of '8' stays.

We were pondering a little bit whether we play 6-player Steel Driver (my Essen purchase) but then decided to continue with splitted groups.

Steel Driver is a extremely fine game. I raised my Essen based rating of '8' to '9' after the game. And I also wrote a separate review about Steel Driver (the reason why this geeklist entry is shorter).

The summary of Steel Driver.

+ Extremely well designed economy/railway game.
+ Easy to setup, smooth but exciting gameplay.
+ Offers a lot of tough tactical and strategic choices.
+ A good rule book
- Components are bit cheap.
- Not original by any means.

.mikko
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20. Board Game: 1856 [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:519]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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Wednesday 5.11.2008 - After Essen Session:

Our (Roimaa and I) Essen games arrived last week and we were obviously eager to play our superb purchases...

Confusious, Stephenson Rocket, Black Market, Preussia Ostbahn, Duck Dealer, BC 18UR, Through the Ages, FUND MANAGER, Steel Driver...just name it....a lot of great games...

...of course we then played good old 1856...and none of our Essen games...

I FINALLY won 5-player 1856 and here is some events and data what happened:

* The game took 6 hours.
* I did ONE big mistake (not bought another '3' train for GW for which I had a window) otherwise the game clicked very well, especially after Goverment Railway forming (which went according to my plans).
* I really exploited the "buy brown/yellow cheap stocks strategy" to cheat the certificate limits. In finnish: "ruskean reiän strategia"
* Roimaa and Henkka looked very strong after Goverment railway but Roimaa's strong situation was actually not that great as he had to wait forever for Goverment Railway to kick off its divident sharing (and I had also a good ownership of its shares) and Roimaa had to form a quite mediocre company next stock round (as all the goodies had already been gone).
* Henkka also started to exploit his great 5 & 6 train CV company relatively late as his track infrastructure was first blocked and his good trains were not fully utilized.
* Tiago had a small chance to lose just about everything as it was up to others to decide whether Tiago's company can continue (it was on the verge of closing). I had a bit similar situation with my GT but luckily (or my foresight skills) the priority marker was right of me (Antero) at that point and I had a chance to react if someone tries to pull off GT closing attempts.
* Antero played a bit uneventful game, though he dumped his WR to Roimaa. 5th place is no shame though...
* I benefitted slightly of mutual trailroad network (Tiago) early game but really got ultrasuper profits with my slowly growing but then snowballing GT with both '5' and Diesel train (the last run was hefty $950...). At some point it looked like "whatever track Antero/Henkka do build it helps greatly my GT also).

The end sums (rough estimation):

MikkoÄ about 8200 (5300 cash!!) Formed Companies: GW (first round) and GT later.

Henkka about 7400 (CPR first round, CV later).

Roimaa about 6200 (3500 from stocks). (Lisp first round, WGB later).

Tiago about 5400 (CA first round, BBG later).

Antero about 5150. (WR first round, THB later)

Regards.

.mikko

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21. Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.21 Overall Rank:4]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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I had been a bit busy lately but of course some room had to be found for our Essen games.

Sunday 23.11:
----------------

1) 4-player Full Advanced Through the Ages (3rd edition fresh from my Essen trip). And noone had played before. I had studied the rules but apparently not good enough as we played some things wrong.

* The game took 6.5 hours.
* It was good and borderline great. But not absolute uber some expected...
...however at our next game (see below) when we played better, the game experience was also vastly better. I gave this originally '8' rating. I would like to raise it to '9' after the below second game.
* It really has the famous "Civ-feel" and the absence of the actual board does not disturb after the game kicks on.
* Visa won with dominating every aspect of the game. Karri was frontrunner the early game but could not prevent Visa's massive army doing its bad deeds.
* I got stuck with 4000B.C agriculture 2/3 of the game and that was my doom. I finished second thanks to my otherwise balanced acts.

2) 4-player Steel Driver.

* Again (all my Steel Driver plays have the same script) I thought I will win at the end. Again I was narrowly second.
* Wonderfull 1h game. My rating of '9' holds.

Thursday 27.11:
----------------

What is gaming week without games with trains and stocks. First we played good old Wabash Cannonball for a snack (4 players). I finally managed to do better than my usual "last again". I was second. Kinnunen won quite easily. Wabash is just magnificent game.

But the main event: Preussia Ostbahn...which looked like Wabash on steroids...Henkka and Roimaa had played Ostbahn once and as I also had prestudied the rules we got to gaming quickly.

A short table to make Ostbahn good, bad & ugly.

+ Trains and stocks.
+ Tense play.
+ It really is Wabash on steroids.
+ Some fresh ideas long time no see in train/stockholding games.
+/- Turn order mechanism is both brilliant but can also be frustrating.
- Endgame does not work as well as great early/mid game.
- It is not *that* original game as it looks at first.

I gave initial '8' for Ostbahn. Very good but there is just a lot of competition in tighteconomy/trains/stocks - slot.

Saturday 29.11:
----------------------

Through the Ages again and now with 3-players. And now we played it all correctly (though I still have minor suspect whether one minor detail went OK).

Now it went smoothly and everyone's infra looked totally different to each other most of the game.

Ilari had heavy military strategy.
Visa concentrated on advanced and efficient production / science.
MikkoÄ (that's me) was definite frontrunner in Culture points.

There was absolute no certain who will win at the end though everybody agreed that it will be most probably Ilari....however Visa had put so many crucial scoring event cards in future event stack that when dust was cleared: Visa won. Ilari 8 points behind. MikkoÄ 7 points behind Ilari.

I am tempted to raise the rating to '9'....and I am definitely eager to play more. Very good game. And 3-player game is way-to-go!!!! Sweetspot.

.mikko



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22. Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.21 Overall Rank:4]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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...and it looks like Through the Ages is slowly becoming the hottest game on Earth? devil

Yesterday (10.12) we had another (third) session. As my second game had revealed that 3-player game (full advanced game) is the definite sweetspot for Through the Ages our plan was chrystal clear. If we get three players then we play it, otherwise we play smt. else.

And three there were (Henkka, Antero and I).

Early game:
-------------

I stumbled with my Moses and practically only reasonable thing I did was Hanging Gardens. I was best at nothing and my empire was doing thing ultra slow. No good. blush I had a strategy though but I wasted some of my crucial actions to irrelevant cards on display.

Antero started to accumulate Culture points fast and was frontrunner practically 80% of the game. However his infra looked otherwise scarce and after some bitter tries the confessed military build-up contest which obviously created a risk for the latter game.

Henkka built reasonable good infra fairly fast and utilized his leaders may be the best. Only thing which kept him in check was his ancient despotism and worst science point generation.

Mid game:
--------------

Antero had smt. about 15p more than Henkka and I was about 30p behind Henkka so things did not look extra good for me. However Henkka's balanced production started to pay back and he slowly started gaining Antero. I was still struggling with culture points and obviously I started to concentrate on bigger and better armies. I got Napoleon, a good supporting tactic card, warfare and decent army which allowed me to reap some extra benefits (aggression cards and territory contests). I also had the best science facilities thanks to early printing press.

Antero's primitive infra really started to harm his progress.

Late game:
--------------

I took a good leaps on point track thanks to wars. I had finally managed to change my despotism to better goverment (Henkka shared this problem) and my progression finally started to flourish...but too late...shake

Henkka won with 9p margin over Antero. Henkka played very good and balanced throughout the game and utilized his leaders best. His Gandhi was the final nail into my coffin of winning plans halting my aggression severely. zombie

I was last 2p behind Antero. I failed to do any other wonder than my early Hanging Gardens and my struggling early game could not be recovered even with great later rounds.

The game took 6h. My geekrating of '9' remains. Thanks for players. Another great event.

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23. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:61]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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Sunday 14.12.2008

It was one of those fine hangover days (after heavish blushSaturday drinking) we decided to spend for boardgaming.

...but there was smt. going on at Saturday evening as well.

We played three games of Aki's Dominion with two Dominion newbies (Eero, Timo).

The first game was uninteresting as the only attack card for selection was Spy. Straightforward and actually boring game.

The following two games were a lot better. Especially the last game was very different to your usual rushed optimization.

Of course I did not win any of those games but I did not badly either.

HOWEVER: Dominion has revealed its ugly inner secret: "Whoever first buys six point victory point card will win the game". Period.

Dominion is nice game. Hugely overrated but still better than Race for the Galaxy it is ofter compared.

Back to Sunday.

* We played surprise Agricola (MikkoL, Henkka, Essi (my wife) and I.

Eventhough MikkoL had not played it before, Agricola took only reasonable 2hours. Essi won (41p), I was second (38p) with missing the win extremely narrowly. Agricola was nice and my earlier fears that 4-player games drag too much are now officially dismissed as this was 3rd 4-player game in a row which took 2h or less.

* Essi could not care less about Chigaco Express and we continued with three.

About my recent 10+ Wabash Cannonball plays I have managed only last spots except for one recent 2nd place. Apparently production values count as I sailed to the very clear victory with >30$!!!! difference over Henkka and MikkoL (and both are experienced with this game). Ok...it was clear (after 2/3 of the game progress) that MikkoL cannot win and I will win so MikkoL decided to try for the 2nd place which widened the gap between me and others.

* And biggest surprise: Princes of Florence...and Essi joined us again.

And after 2y hiatus it felt good. Actually almost great. Henkka went for the Jesters (4 of them with 800-600 costs). Essi concentrated on most works. MikkoL had builder strategy and I had a kind of mixed bag.

Henkka won with 2p margin over Essi. I was third 2p behind Essi and MikkoL was 3p behind me. Tight.

Henkka really utilized bonus cards with boosting his latter works with huge eight (4 jesters 2p each) and seven bonus points (Jesters + freedoms) cards which brought him a victory. I think Henkka's last round 31p work was the most valuable I've ever seen....

Nice plays misters and lady!

.mikko


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24. Board Game: Railroader [Average Rating:5.11 Overall Rank:10012]
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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2008 Recapped

It was a year of Railway/Stockholding games. 18xx regurlarly on the table. A lot of other heavier economy-based goodies played also. In short sentences and keywords...my gaming year 2008.


PROS:
18xx : Absolutely great gaming experiences with 1856, 1870, 1824 and 18AL

Indonesia: One of my best purchases ever.

Through the Ages: Proved its hype big time.

Steel Driver: An excellent lighter economy/train game:

Wabash Cannonball: Perhaps the most played game of 2008 even surpassing Puerto Rico and other "family games".

Essen Spiel 2008 : A magnificent trip! I just should have bought more games...

My fellow gaming friends: Worth of six stars:

I managed to bring my Orion Emperor to the playtest sessions few times. Now there have been a lot of changes since then and I am eager to invite my dedicated friends to the next playsession. Now there is definitely some extra "umphhhh" with the game. Chrome (relative ), streamlined and more fast play, more interaction, more everything and many of the features have been restructured completely. I cannot wait!!!

Another game design plans have emerged in my huge egoistic head: Economy/Industry game with worker placement mechanic (which I hate...but if you can not beat'em, join them.... )

Cons:

- There were a lot of great games with very limited 2008 playtime I would have loved to play more : Die Macher, Mare Nostrum, A Game of Thrones, Age of Steam,,,

- Many Essen games are still unplayed due to the time constrains.

- I bought Dust. What a crappy decision it was. Luckily I was able to trade it later...

- Too many games, too little time....

Lets make 2009 as good as great 2008...

.mikko

Sidenote Special:

During the Christmas Time:

A lot of 2-player Uruk plays with my wife. Still good 2-player game. However this game screams for house rules (which I have not implemented yet).

Then 4-player Agricola. I was totally trounced (dead last with 9p behind 3rd place). All others managed to form fluid engines to support their optimization. I failed even though I had the tools...(very badly played Agricola from me).

Surprise 4-player Goa....and again everything went wrong. I bidded badly. I progressed badly. I played badly. My wife managed to gather staggering 52points in 4-player game which is definitely the record in our gamegroup in 3 or 4 player games.

Goa felt fine after long time no see eventhough I was very rusty.

.mikko
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25. Board Game: Fund Manager [Average Rating:6.19 Unranked]
 
Mikko Ämmälä
Finland
Oulu
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Games played Saturday 3.1 - Sunday 4.1
------------------------------------------

2 x Puerto Rico. Two second places (4/5 player games)
Amun Re. The best (or least worst) Knizia. Third with a shot for a win.
Alhambra. Never again. Badly outdated nowadays.
Fund Manager see the review below. It was fun to play. Karri trounced us with both luck and skilful play (no kidding) involved.
Caylus. I trounced the competition with 13p margin over the second place. Caylus is the only worker placement game I really like. It was wonderfull to play it after some months hiatus.





Fund Manager - Totally Random So Totally Realistic Stock Market Game?
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Fund Manager was one of my impulse Essen 2008 purchases. After initial plays there had been a two month gap until my next plays and it felt fresh again - in a sense that I needed to consult rulebook surprisingly often for game rules this light/clear.

It is about stockholding, market opportunities and fluctuating share prices so it must be good? Right?

The components are mixed bag. The cards (market news cards and confidential cards) are exceptionally fine and good looking. The few bits are wooden and OK but the thick boards (stock market and action board) are fraction too small and at least in my copy of Fund Manager both boards were already warping quite a lot. Odd. Also there are paper money and special scoresheets for players to keep a track of their bought shares so you need to add pens to the game box.

Paper scoresheets feel a bit clumsy at first and offer a small chance for error notes which obviously would be harmfull for game flow. But after a while scoresheets feel justified and process for noting share counts gets more fluidly.

The gameplay is simple. Depending on player count (3 or 4) the players have three or four action movement chits (which gives 1-3 moves at the board) to choose their next action. It is a bit like very limited rondel (Antike, Imperial) mechanic which gives some room for the choices. Though about a half of the player actions are just following the script the game with events and its core randomness offer.

The game consist of fixed eight rounds after the final assets (cash and share values) determine the winner. At the start of every round players receice money and used actions chits are rebooted. There are 24 locations to stop (again like 24 spot rondel) and most of the actions have multiple locations.

Trade - a player may sell/buy shares. There are four different types of shares to buy. All of them risky and some of them even riskier. Shares are flavoured (blue - automobile industry which is the most safe bet...this is where the reality does not apply , Green -heavy industry which is mostly unaffected by random events,Orange - bank sector which rises easily but which also can take deep hits and Purple - IT sector which is the most risky and the most random share
to buy and usually the cheapest as well.
)
Confidential - a player may foresee and apply the special secret event which will resolve at the end of the round.
Bull or Bear - All stocks raise or drop (a fifty-fifty random dice roll).
Bull and Bear - Odd numbered stocks raise and even numbered stocks drop or vice verca (again with a dice roll).
Market News - An event which just happens. Usually some stock rises or drops.
Blue Chip - One stock is a "blue chip" until the next blue chip action. That stock's rises in stock market are doubled.
Start a round/payday - Every round a player receives fixed 500 dollar (minus the possible loan interest) and accurred secret confidential cards resolve.

The key is obvously to buy cheap stocks and sell them with high price. Not always easy as there are something random happening all the time (reflects the real market very accurately). With risky moves you easily can lose everything but just playing safe is far from quaranteed path either. Also players can affect share prices with small (but still significant) manipulating moves with constantly buying/selling particular shares to either fortify their own position or harm others.(share price goes up by one after buying and drops by one when sold)

Of course any inside information about the future (Condidential cards) can lead to greater riches if utilized properly (read: you roll a dice well enough ).

So a dice gets rolled often and does both it usually does: a) makes long term planning difficult b) creates frustrating moments. But it again provides fun moments as surely bring on emotions on the table.

But is this game good? Well surely it is not the greatest butter on bread. It is just a bit too random and takes 30 minutes too long (playtime is around 1h 30mins). Fund Manager is at times very frustrating and again for a half of the game you are just following how the game evolves as practically only things which you can affect are your buying/selling shares at the right time.

But there is also some deep satiric charm in this game which provides fun moments if you can take the heat from bad dice rolls.

+ Extremely realistic stock market (totally random and you have very limited control over it )
+ Very flavourful and good looking Market News/Condidential cards.
+ Is a lot deeper than it looks (no it is not heavy but lets say it looks ultralight but is in reality medium-light).
+ It is supposed to be fun and it actually succees in providing a lot of fun moments.
+ A good rulebook (English and Korean rulebooks included)
+/- A dice determine a lot of your succee. You can play well to somewhat minimize the dice factor though.
- Takes 30 minutes too long for this kind of a game.
- The most of the game is just following the hits and misses the game provides with Market News and general randomness.
- Too tactical instead of strategic (but that apparently bring the greatest profits in real life too)
- For very narrow needs: Does not satify hunger for deep economics and is too complex/thematically wrong for light gaming.

I give geekrating of '7'. Fun even satiric Stock Market game which unfortunately is too complex (and long) for most of those who does not initially like economic/stockholding games and definitely too random for hard core econonistics who seek for determistic and deep stockholding game. Too bad. Probably means my copy will not get that much playtime.


.mikko
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  • [+] Dice rolls
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