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New to you Aug 09 => Best new game you played this month and why
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Stockport
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What's the best new game you played this month (August 09) and why? Share your experiences of the new games you've played this month.

It would be helpful, if you could add an entry to the list even if you pick the same game as someone else.. since I use the geeklist entries to compile the summaries. Thanks

The Meta List - http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/28741
(with summaries)

Forum Subscription thread - http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/297188

Most Played Game - www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/45747
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51. Board Game: Automobile [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:193]
Mike B
Netherlands
Utrecht
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43 plays of 29 games, 7 of them new to me. This month I continued my “get all those unplayed Wallace’s on the table” quest, and managed to get 4 of my unplayed list. Only 2 more to go, not bad.

Great games: Steam, Automobile
Good ol’ Age of Steam got an upgrade: nicer board, easier set-up, clear rules. Some of the changes are very nice, but I’m not sure if eliminating the “randomness” of adding cubes makes it a better game. But what am I complaining: it’s a great game and if I want I can mix & match rules between Steam and Age of Steam. If it wasn’t a remake this might have been my new-to-me game. Now will someone make a map for 7-10 players?

Automobile is the current posterchild for the cult-of-the-new. And rightly so. I only played it once with 3. I think there should be a rules variant for playing it with 3, since there isn’t enough tension with the distributors. Or maybe we just didn’t make enough cars while learning the various possible strategies? Anyway, I’m very happy to have played it and I’m very eager to play it more and more, especially with 4 or 5. It’s right up there with Brass and Tinner’s Trails in terms of gameplay-quality and playing time. And a deserved winner of my personal new-to-me monthly award.



Good Games: The Trial of Socrates, Steel Driver

Since I found out I was too late to obtain a copy of the supposed great Scripts and Scribes I decided not too miss such an opportunity again, so I got The Trial of Socrates when it became available. Don’t know why I waited 2 months to get a 20 minute game on the table, because it’s a real nice 2-player game that has quite a lot of depth for such a short game. Something I have only seen in 2 de Mayo and King of Siam. This one feels more abstract than those 2 games but still: Both thumbs up!

Steel Driver is a game I hesitated to buy after a lot of negative vibe about it here on the Geek. But I liked all the other Treefrog games I had played so far so I picked it up anyway. And what a surprise: I managed to explain all the other players about the importance of the final “grab cubes” round, and got 2 great plays out of it this month, with 3 and 5 players. I think it’s the fastest Wallace I’ve played so far, so I’m glad to have this “one hour Wallace” as well because it’s fun to play, easy to explain and tense to play.


OK Games: Entdecker, Feudal
Entdecker is a good “screw you” Eurogame: easy rules, fast. I’m slowly turning away from these kinda games so I can’t get really excited about games like this anymore, but they still work as nice fillers to me. I think I’d prefer this to Settlers of Catan (which you can’t play with 2)
Feudal is an old chess with a wargame suit 2-player that feels a lot less abstract than chess. Not great, but fun to play thanks to the miniatures and terrain rules. We had to make up some rules interpretations along the way, but I wouldn’t mind putting this up again instead of a suggested game of chess.



Should have been better: Stockers
One of Martin Wallace’s early games, with very easy rules and light gameplay. A racing game without a board (no track!) that could have been very much fun if the artwork on the playing cards matched the “car-cards”. Or if the cards we’re printed in various colours for the different cards instead of black ‘n white. All the potential fun shrinks away staring at your cards trying to match up now. Pity. I’m thinking about colouring them and trying again. Oh, and this one gets u huge “too big box for such a small game” thumbs down.
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52. Board Game: 1825 Unit 3 [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:2279] [Average Rating:7.61 Unranked]
Eugene van der Pijll
Netherlands
Den Haag
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1825 Unit 3 is the 4th 18xx I've played, and I enjoyed it enough to order the other units as well. Some points I liked:
- the length of a single unit is not excessive (~3.5 hours in our first play, with paper money)
- no dumping of companies (which is especially important in 2-player games because noone would invest in the other player's companies)
- share price does not fall when selling shares, and can rise very fast, so the emphasis in the game is more on running the trains well than on the stock market

I include Dominion: Intrigue here as a standalone game because my first game with these cards did not include any cards of the base game. It's good, but (on its own) not as good as Dominion itself, because the cards are too complex. However, it looks like an excellent expansion: I expect games with the combined set to be even better than games with either set on its own.

Twixt is an older game, with enough interesting features to make it interesting. A good 2-player abstract strategy game, which feels like (a lighter version of) Go. I enjoyed my first plays of this.

Khet: The Laser Game is a good game. It would be better with more powerful lasers (I played a European version). Even without lasers, this would be a solid 2-player abstract strategy game.
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53. Board Game: Endeavor [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:126]
Adam Daulton
United States
Indianapolis
Indiana
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Right now Endeavor and Small World are the two games competing for the best of 2009. A big reason I enjoy Endeavor is because we can play in 1.25 hours, yet still get the feeling of playing a deeper game. It reminds of Puerto Rico in that since, with a bit less set-up time. Great components as well.
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54. Board Game: Pandemic: On the Brink [Average Rating:8.13 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.13 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.13 Unranked]
Железный комиссар
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
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Oh, Hell Yes

Pandemic: On the Brink



So, the facts are these: I've played Pandemic 130 times and I rate it a 10. Expectations for the expansion were high. The verdict on OtB is simple: buy it. Buy it now.

On the Brink is not perfect, but it is perfectible: you can implement as many or as few of the options as you want, and fans will like most of them. Quibbling may arise over weak elements. I find the poor man's Researcher Epidemiologist lacking, the new OpEx would have benefited from a more moderate boost, and the Field Operative - everyone loves her - is the new Lone Ranger of Pandemic. Lone Ranger in a Co-op. Hmmmmmm.

But show-stoppers abound. The Archivist is just a fantastic role that promotes new and subtle interactions. Best-in-show, no contest. The Trouble-shooter and the Archivist can get a lot done together, and that's the kind of alliance that the original game was all about. Personally, after dozens of plays, I stopped playing Pandemic with more than three players. Why? It's either a crazy low-odds cataclysm, or a race against the clock with mild-mannered, lazy viruses. No longer. The virulent strain challenge makes this a real 4P game. Just last night we were jubilant after an early eradication of the VS, and then boom, "Hidden Pocket." It's back. The d*mn thing uneradicated itself and sought to punish our overconfidence. Session after session of the base game put the spotlight on 3P5E as the sweet[est] spot... but you always wanted the game to push you just a little harder without jumping to the 6th epidemic. No more. Add in the mutation challenge and you've got less predictability, more disease, and overall a big mess as you coordinate your efforts.

It doesn't take long for the core principle in OtB to reveal itself. The clockwork perfection of the original yields to a much less knowable experience. You play with a smaller sub-set of roles, a sub-set of special events (instead of the same 5 every game), a sub-set of VS epidemics (can't be sure which ones will hit when), and a much less predictable infection deck. The original game is so tightly crafted that you aren't going to want any of this unless you've played it a lot. If you're ready, On the Brink really opens up the system.


Exemplars of a Bygone Era

Attn: Valley Games. I'd like to talk to you about Fall '10 and '11.

Merchant of Venus




I'll be honest. My first play of MoV sucked. Call it the gamer equivalent of culture shock. The only thing I could grab onto amidst the awful graphic design and poor readability was the familiar, stringent economics of a modern pick-up and deliver train game. Age of Steam in space, if you will. Early mistakes meant I spent the game treading water, and I knew that's what they meant as soon as I made them. I knew I made them because I couldn't properly read the board. An unpleasant three hours ensued.

By the end of it though, Merchant of Venus shrugged off the flimsy comparison to contemporary games. There's a lot of randomness here - undeserved boons and dearths - but also an invigorating breadth of options, a real sense of exploration, a robust system of wealth generation, variable demand, customizable spaceships, a wild assortment of interstellar goods ("psychotic sculpture," "Rock Videos," "Immortal Grease"), and room to play as best you can. There's a lot of wonky math, but most of the decisions aren't of the lame budget-hacking variety you sometimes see in contemporary "economic" games. Instead, you must often decide how much you want to help another player in order to help yourself. For example, if they own a trading station in a system with demand for your goods, they will earn wealth in addition to your sales (not as a cut), and you will do business a lot faster and be able to move on to the next opportunity. Is your speed of play worth a moderate cash infusion for an opponent? A lot of the game here is racing to provide other players with incentives to use your services.

I'm crossing my fingers that this will not languish OOP for too much longer. In the meantime, an impressive redesign is available right here on BGG.



Age of Renaissance



Another AH classic. You have to hand it to a game with player sheets featuring tables with percentage odds, formulas, and numerous events to keep track of with a pencil. Your goal here is to nuture a civilization from it's first forays into "the written record" on through the ability to navigate oceans and pursue "interest and profits." The game has very little to do with the Renaissance. It clearly begins much earlier and comes to a close much later. Catchy name, though.

In the early game each player snaps up as much territory as possible to raise income. From there it's a matter of navigating your way through 26 civ breakthroughs and managing your position on the board. Each breakthrough costs money and provides a unique benefit. There are some prerequisites and a whole slew of intertwining discounts and credits. Mechanically, this is tech-tree optimization with the reins let out. But it's fun, and creates a good narrative for your civilization. The snowball effect in AoR can be massive, so it's up to other players to take a chunk out of your success either by attacking you directly or playing brutal event cards like the Plague, the Crusades, Pirates/Vikings, Religious Strife, etc. The cards are surprisingly powerful, but if they weren't I doubt they could slow down a player with sufficient momentum. You need experienced players for this to work, or at least judicious players.

Like Merchants of Venus, humdrum budgeting won't do much for you in this game, because there are so many factors that affect the costs of your advancement. Goals and priorities will do a lot, and I find that more engaging than XYZ calculations (which have a place here, to be sure). A standout here is the competition for various resources on the board. If you're able to specialize, your payouts literally skyrocket to ludicrous levels. But payouts are not scripted by the game, so other players may sit on that "fur" or "ivory" card that provides you with a ton of cash... or take over your holdings before playing it.

Remarkable pacing for a five-hour game. Perhaps this will be the follow-up to Republic of Rome?

In Other News...

Endeavor



Endeavor is nothing if not familiar. The theme and mechanics are largely cobbled together from Puerto Rico and Goa. Playtime is reduced. Gameplay is lighter but with a larger array of elements. In other words, it's derivative as hell but well done, so I can't knock it too much even if I'm not exactly blown away.

On the one hand, you've got the ever-present building paths that vary each player's abilities. They're simple, but still provide real choices. You've also got four capacities or techs to manage, and I don't even remember their names. Industry might have been in there somewhere. Maybe culture. The fact is, you could banish all real-world referents and learn this game just as easily. You've got four colored lines and you must increase your capacity on each one. Each one is a bottleneck that can be temporarily eased by advancing the others. Tech trees only work for me if each step does something unique, as opposed to easing progress somewhere else on the tree. The saving grace here is that you may fluidly adjust each level in a few different ways at different times in the turn. The opportunities for timing and sequencing are more refined than they are in many similar games.

On the board, there are various regions to colonize, but it's not a serviceable map in any way, just boxes labeled "Far East" or "Africa" with wavy lines connecting everything. A recent session report noted that, in retrospect, the players could clearly recall what part of the board they were invested in and why, but drew blanks regarding regions and cities. I'm not surprised. I contend that a themeless version of Endeavor would play just as easily, and before I'm taken to task for saying so, consider that that's actually a remarkable achievement for a game of this complexity. Undeniably, the moving parts here are well-oiled and easy to follow.

Endeavor is kind of a sad game from my point of view. The cards illustrate this better than any other aspect. You maneuver to pick up cards, and each one just has a handful of printed values to adjust your four colored lines or maybe your score. It's tough for me to get excited by replacing a card that has 1 green and 2 blue with one that has three yellow and three green. I will undoubtedly play this two or three more times, maybe more. A solid game, but too much was lost in the streamlining.

Middle-Earth Quest



Like Endeavor, Middle-Earth Quest displays its influences right up front. Like Endeavor, the board poorly represents geography that is well documented. Like Endeavor, Middle-Earth Quest takes a handful of abstractions, assigns each a symbol, and asks you to play the "how many" game over and over again. You run around collecting clue "favor" tokens (from who? for what?) and can cash them in to stop Sauron's "plots" (to do what, again?). Your "fortitude" is your card-draw rate, your "strength" is your card-play capacity in battle, your focus "agility" allows you to adjust your stats as needed, your deck-size is your hit points, and each card may either be used in battle (count symbols) or discarded to move (count symbols). The fellowship Your made-up heroes work to achieve a secret goal while their token advances toward the "finale." Sauron has four tokens to advance (each representing something or other), and may win if all of them reach a midpoint or if one of them reaches "finale" before "our heroes" (who are these people, again?). Or, there could be a tie-breaker battle between "our heroes" and the Great Old One The Ring Wraiths.

Not a terrible game, but I don't get what's going on with FFG at the moment. This is a simple game of resource management. Favors, cards, symbols on cards, Sauron's influence, corruption, draw opportunities, etc. etc. I thought it worked fairly well in Knizia's LOTR, which also has a bunch of symbol juggling but still manages to evoke the journey to Mt. Doom and the perilous events along the way. That second part is on leave in this one. Then again, the bigger the fan, the less prompting needed.
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55. Board Game: Catan Card Game [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:530]
Jason Lott
United States
Cheverly
Maryland
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I only had one new game this month, but fortunately it was a good one. We borrowed this from some friends, who encouraged us to try it. I was a little unsure, as the board game is one that I'm not a fan of at all.

But this is a marked improvement - it takes the best part of the original game and takes it to a whole new level. Scott and I caught on quickly, and were suddenly racing to outdo each other. "Burn down my Abbey will you? Well then take this - Brigands, baby!"

We didn't love it, but definitely were interested in playing it again. I give it a d10-6 for now; my opinion might improve with more plays.

I already have a new game lined up for September, and I'm hoping it's a good one - Amyitis.
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56. Board Game: Steam over Holland [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:1259]
Paulo Soledade
Portugal
Leiria
Leiria
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This is the best new game I've played this month. A perfect 8 with strong possibilities of getting a nine!

Another good game:



- The same old mechanics with a simple tweak and a good moderate game.

The so and so game of the month was:



- Nothing too smart here and realy too much luck involved IMO.

Bad games:



- couldn't play it 'till the end!!!



- Random, random! I have that strange feeling that maybe if I haven't played the game the result was the same.



- Some good ideas in a bad game. It just doesn't work.


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57. Board Game: Time's Up! [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:245]
Ed
United States
Oakland
California
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I first played this in early 2008, but I first played using the correct rules this month. My wife and I were partners against two of her friends. We had a lot of laughs with this and after the game was over immediately discussed how we could do better next time, always a good sign. It feels a bit long. I wonder how reducing the size of the starting deck would affect gameplay.

The other new game for me was Snow Tails. I enjoyed it (insofar as I can enjoy a game that other players are not enjoying), but my wife and niece both got confused with the drifting rules. I think this is good for gamers and for non-gamers with decent spatial reasoning skills, but it's probably not a good gateway for your average non-gamer.
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58. Board Game: Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Russia 1941-42 [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:200]
 
Quinn Munnerlyn
United States
Carrollton
Texas
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Now that I'm back amongst the walking/talking population after 2.5 months in hospitals I finally got some good game time in.

I finally got a chance to try Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Russia 1941-42I was quite pleased. I'm in the market for a good light wargame and this was a real treat. If I didn't have Lock 'n Load: Band of Heroes on the way I might pick this up. For now i'm plenty happy to play a friend's copy. I'm sure in the future I'll put more than thought into grabbing this one. cool

An amusing event occurred where my machine gun got two turns to gun down a charging Russian partisan only to miss every single time and they were subsequently wiped out. I ended up winning the scenario though with something like 90% casualties.

Middle-Earth Quest was entertaining as well but like with most FFG games it doesn't really seem right straight out of the box. Maybe with an expansion or a good FAQ it will be better. Still though I like War of the Ring (first edition) a lot better it just plays better and has a much better Lord of the Rings feel.

Which brings us to Balloon Cup I just wasn't getting into this one at all, despite a very close finish. Or maybe because of it since I felt like that just whoever drew the right card at the end was going to win.

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59. Board Game: Byzanz [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:1676]
Matt Dodor
United States
St. Paul
MN
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Byzanz gets the nod for a bunch of reasons. First, I love auction games and this is just the kind I'm into. Byzanz is fairly quick and straight forward with some new interesting mechanics. The set collection is interesting - only the most valuable of the three cards scores. There's also an interesting payoff for being patient in Byzanz in the form of choosing discarded lots earlier. It all combines into a fast fun game that plays well around four players. Good middle-length game. Rating d10-8

FITS

I love fast puzzlers too, and FITS delivers. My buddy also has a copy, so I'm looking forward to a few 8 player games of it. I'll keep this one short, as I've seen this title on a lot of lists in the past. Rating d10-8

Zing!

I'm fairly new to trick-takers but I really like this one. A big problem I have with precision bidding games is the concept of a negative score. If I play Wizard, I usually lobby for Oh Hell! scoring, because I really hate negative scoring. The other reason I ask for Oh Hell! scoring is that a bid of zero in Wizard is basically useless. Die Sieben Siegel does a great job scoring and allowing zero bids to be valid. The addition of the saboteur (which in my group has been renamed the burglar) is a fun one. Rating d10-8

Los Banditos is Battle Line with dice. I like Battle Line a lot. I like Los Banditos a lot. Nuff said. d10-8

Pyramid looks cool and is a lot of fun to play. A great kid/adult game to add to my collection. d10-7

Klunker was new to me. I like Bohnanza a lot too, but the jury is out on Kluker. It hooked me enough to play again, but I don't know how much I like it. d10-7

Fzzzt!: I really don't care for Dominion anymore. I played it about 125 times and had a win percentage over 50% on BSW before I realized it's too dry and boring for me. I do however think a really innovative concept came out of Dominion. Fzzzt! tries to take the idea and stick it too an auction title. My first play of Fzzzt! made me feeling like the idea just wasn't finished. I'm waiting for an opportunity to try this title with 3, I'm thinking I'll like it enough. d10-7

Um Reifenbreite was acquired and played this month. To say it's a luck-driven game is obvious. I did like it a fair amount though. Next race will be a lot longer, hopefully that will mitigate the luck as much as possible. d10-7

Bucket Brigade straddles the line between a clever hand management game and a piece of doo. I need to try it again, but I did like it the first time. d10-7

People complain that Piece o' Cake may be too solved and too easy to calculate. They may be right but if you play this game fast enough with the right people, it's pretty fun. d10-7

For a game with such limited choices, Cosmic Wimpout is pretty fun. d10-7

San Marco is a beautiful, original game but a lot of time is spent waiting for others to make up their mind. From there, your choices are limited. Still, I enjoyed the experience. d10-7

König von Siam is just an intelligent game. The symmetrical hands and indirect play make for a balanced, interesting game. Right now it's a d10-7 but I could see this game making it to a 9 or 10 with more plays. Recommended!

My first game of Tikal was with the auction variant. Although I'm not a big fan of luck, I don't know if the additional playtime was worth the payout. I'd like to try it without the auctions. Loved all the choices. d10-7

Snorta! was clever, but Kakerlakensalat is about the same and much more fun. Going with BGG's rating system this is a d10-4

Last of all, I played Xactika. If you've made it this far you've read that I don't like precision bidding and its scoring system that much. Xactika takes out too much of the precision in precision bidding. Also, I don't think the complication of the game will ever be rewarding enough. d10-3



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60. Board Game: Automobile [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:193]
Joe Wyka
United States
Walnut Creek
California
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Only 10 plays this month, my slowest month this year. But of those 10 plays, 6 were new-to-me so at least I have random opinions to post!

Automobile - 9 - Wallace is at his most original with heavy economic games and I think this is on par with Age of Steam and Brass (both of which I also give 9's) - definitely one of his best. His games have developed over time a signature style, with players selecting limited variable actions in order to take best advantage of the mandatory (but not insignificant) decisions about how to make money or collect points. Economic games of the last 10 years almost invariably involve auctions as a central mechanic (with some notable exceptions). While I love economic games I usually only tolerate the auctions they require, which is probably why Brass and Automobile - being economic games without auctions - really hit home with me. You must be brutally efficient in your choice of actions. With only 3 actions per turn, and one of those almost always being "Produce Cars", there is not a lot of tolerance for error. The tension and doubt while playing is palpable. Might not have the replayability of AoS and Brass, but it's a cleaner design.

Medieval Merchant - 8 - An interesting connection-building economic game with a board that quickly crowds up, but is still open for swift, surprising, and well-timed actions. It's a little reminiscent of Power Grid, but it plays faster and there are fewer elements involved. Each city has a variable amount of spaces for players to open branches (I believe the players are competing bankers). On a player's turn, for each city where that player's branch exists, he can either collect income or add another branch. Income from a city is determined by the number of empty spaces on a city, so the less branches, the higher the income. But points come from having a majority of branches in the city, so if you collect income, you risk having other players swoop in and grab the points. You can also expand to one new city or town on your turn by paying the connection cost, so everyone pretty much expands at the same rate. It is cheap to connect to towns, but they don't give you income and they only provide one point, and while cheap, they also slow your expansion rate to the income and point-producing cities. Each player also has two "letters of escort" which allows them to double the effectiveness of one of their actions for the turn, so using those letters at just the right time is also key. I thought this game had interesting decisions in every phase. The game board is broken into regions like in Power Grid and you get points at the end for each region you have a presence in.

The game is good, but what makes it a rare treat is that it is a solid economic euro that plays GREAT with 6 players. How many economic euros can you say that about? If you play with 6 even occasionally, this is a great game to have on the shelf!

Glory to Rome - 8 - It is hard to assess Glory to Rome without comparing it to San Juan and Race for the Galaxy. I do enjoy the role-selection/multi-purpose card play of all these games. I did play them each in order of complexity and have been increasingly impressed with the possibilities these mechanics offer. But Glory to Rome is the first one that has truly impressed me. (RftG is impressive as well, but the game is too short, which is why I score it a point lower.)

Rome crams all sorts of uses into a single card - roles, clients, foundations, materials, influence, special abilities. The victory conditions ensure a longer game than Race, which has a huge effect on the quality of play. In Race, you pretty much have to pick a strategy early and play it out. If you try to shift gears partway through, you're done. In Rome, there is more time to assess your strategy and shift gears if it isn't working, or react to what other players are doing - all of which makes for a more thoughtful game. I like that the player who invests in clients is the one who gets the extra actions, and you don't get bonuses for simply being the leader. Being able to select the role is your bonus, plus in some cases order of play is an advantage as well. The fact that the discard pile ("the pool") is actively in play is a fantastic innovation. I think it is a VERY solid strategic card game. The design is a bit garish and it takes time to grok, but it's worth it.

Municipium - 7 - I would say this is Knizia's best game in 5 years (since Ingenious and Blue Moon City were published in 2004 - but admittedly I have not played Keltis). How good does that make it? More interesting than most, for sure. This is a medium-weight majority game, in the same family as Bridges of Shangri-La and Schacht's Web of Power series of games. My personal feelings towards those games is a mild admiration and Municipium is no different.

I generally don't care for games where card counting gives an advantage, as it does in Municipium. Those who can track what is left in the common deck before a re-shuffle have a huge advantage over those who can't track it. But I do recognize the subtle range of possibilites and combinations the institution powers and special cards present, and I think fans of medium-weight majority games will find a lot to like here. The 7 rating is a place-holder for now. I do need to play this one a few more times before I can score it confidently. It's more likely to go down than up.

BANG! The Bullet! - 6 - A frivolous little card game of a western shootout. Everyone's identity is secret except the sheriff. The outlaws are out to shoot the sheriff, the deputy is teamed with the sheriff to beat the outlaws and the renegade. The renegade is out to be the last man standing. The most interesting aspect of the game is the idea of range. The further a players sits from you around the table, the further the range is. You start with a range of 1, that is you can only shoot at players on either side of you, but you can play weapons to the table that will increase your range. I figure this one will be good to play with the kids when they are little bit older. The Bullet is a nice package, although not all of the card symbols are explained on the cheat cards (grrrr)...

Witch's Brew - 4 - Usually when I play a game that is highly rated and I don't like it, I can still appreciate why some rate it so high (such as Twilight Struggle, for example). Witch's Brew, though, baffles me on this count. The key decision involves guessing which actions your opponents will choose to play. Every player has a deck of 12 cards. Each round players select 5 to have in their hand. Cards have a primary and secondary power. A player plays a card for the primary power (which involves either getting gold, collecting ingredients or brewing potions) and then in turn order if players have the same card in their hands they must play it. They can either claim the primary power, thereby taking it from the previous player, or claim the secondary power, which is protected from being taken by any subsequent players with the same card. You continue in this way trying to collect potions until certain cards are purchased that will end the game.

While I think the game is clever in some ways, I don't think there are enough interesting decisions. While there might be some bluffing and misdirection that you can add to the game in table talk, the gameplay really boils down to if you were lucky in picking your 5 cards. I would not even bother playing this game with 3 as the motivation for accepting the secondary power largely evaporates.

To top the uninteresting play, random rules are thrown in. Pay an extra ingredient when buying a potion to get an extra vial? Huh?
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61. Board Game: Middle-Earth Quest [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:263]
Jeff Coon
United States
Plano
Texas
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I had a good month for new games, despite a low total. (2009 has been a bad year for gaming, mainly because of buying a new house)

Middle-Earth Quest thumbsup thumbsup


Middle Earth Arkham Horror, crossed with a little Descent. What's not to like? Seriously, you either like multi-hour adventure games, or you don't. I'm strongly in the "do" camp. The combat system (cardplay) is very clever. It's sheer agony trying to decide what cards to play - do you try to play low strength and exhaust your opponent? Or do you play offensively and try to cut them down, hoping you can overwhelm their defense? And the way each character's deck puts some combos together is just really freakin' cool. I don't know if this will have replay value, but I'm enjoying the heck out of it now!


Battlestar Galactica: Pegasus Expansion thumbsup thumbsup


I wasn't expecting much from this expansion. I'm not sure why, but I thought the tacked-on Pegasus board and the subject matter of New Caprica (snooze!) wouldn't be compelling. But wow, was I wrong. We played back-to-back games. The first game barely counted, as the humans got pummeled by a string of bad luck that ended their game after jumping just a distance of 1. (ouch) The second game was one of the most tense games I've played. My only complaint is that the New Caprica board feels a little mechanical. But I do enjoy the story that it tells, and the new end-game. Fun stuff!


Automobile thumbsup


Accessible Wallace! I'm not a hard-core number-crunching financial game whiz. That's why I appreciated this. It wasn't hard to wrap my brain around the way the system worked after a couple of turns. And I didn't think there were too many "exception" rules that cloud Martin Wallace games. I enjoyed this, and would definitely play again.


Kingsburg: To Forge a Realm thumbsup


I'm not a big Kingsburg fan, so normally I'd give this a lesser rating. But I could appreciate what the expansions are there to do. I like when expansions can be mix-and-matched with just a few gameplay rules, letting you play what you want and leave out what you don't. We used only 1 rule - the diceless combat. I thought this added some strategy to the game. And hey - I managed to actually win my first game of Kingsburg. Although I'm upset that I forced myself into a military strategy to do so. One of these days, I'll win by building the market.

Masters of Venice thumbsdown


Meh. WAY too chaotic for my tastes. I don't mind the "fiddly" complaints that others have. Moving around the pegs is actually a cool little market simulation. I dig it. But I felt like there were so many moving parts that it was impossible to predict the very things I needed to know to make my points in the game. I don't mind keeping track of other players, and using that knowledge to better my score. But when my opponents moves can't be predicted, and the results of that chaos has a truly large impact on my own strategy, then I can't effectively plan. YMMV. I'd give it another try sometime, but I think it's a frustrating gaming experience.
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62. Board Game: American Rails [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:881]
Stephen Shaw
United States
Columbus
Ohio
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#1) American Rails A newly designed game by Tim Harrison, here at the Geek (GamesontheBrain). This is a cube rail game, similar to a few Winsome titles, which plays similarly to Wabash Cannonball/Chicago Express. In fact, we see a lot of the emergent alliances, stock purchasing, company operation, and portfolio management inherent in this style of game. Production will be very similar to a Winsome game, except the map is a beautiful fully colored shiny example of mad graphic design skillz. I like this experience a bit better, too, as he introduces:

A) Variable start cities (when you purchase a train, you can start it at ANY city on the map)
B) Depreciating city returns (revenue decreases if there is one more than one rail company servicing the city).

While keeping intact all of the above, as well as the concept of increasing revenues for the trains that connect important cities. Instead of CE, however, where there is a large one-time payout of dividends upon reaching Chicago, this game gives PERMANENT revenue increases for the companies that connect New York, Atlanta, and Chicago ($10/turn/2 cities connected)

As such, there is plenty of opportunity for screwage, and brain-burn, and the replayabilty is exponentially increased because of the variable starting locations. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed it a great deal, and look forward to my friend's first successful venture.

#2) Endeavor A very good game, but not great -- it seemed as though the scores were very close, and it feels a bit like multiplayer solitaire. Looking forward to repeated plays, though, and it seemed to go over very well in the group.

#3) YINSH For a guy that played a LOT of chess, I'm not that terribly into abstracts. But this one is really terrific, and I understand how it got such a good reputation here. Very simple rules, but an extremely deep and complex game without the amount of play analysis that chess requires -- makes me want to play the rest of the Gipf series!!

#4) Pack & Stack A fun exercise, and a neat new mechanic, but I would think that those that have played just a little bit would dominate anyone new, and the game is the kind of light game that you would want to introduce to non-gamers and have them be able to do well. They won't, if you have experience and they do not.

$5) Dominion: Intrigue More of the same -- fun game, but not great, and I dont quite get all the hype. Adds to replayability, though, and there are some neat new mechanics. I'm sure I'll buy Seaside too, dammit.
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63. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:6]
bob blobbob
United States
California
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My mom is wondering why I a 14 year old like me would suddenly spend all his summer counseling $$ on board games... Finally played the 'gric, too. Awesome month.

Agricola: 9.2

Currently my top game. You know, most hyped games arent all that bad. It hit my multiple-paths-to-victory urge. I swear, when I saw all the options you can take and all the ways to win, my pants bulged a little whistle . Still, awesome game, played 3 times 2 player, one with 4, and six times solo. 4 is kind of clunky.

Dominion: 8.5

For some reason, all high ranked games just are awesome. Dominion is no exception. Sure, there are some notable flaws. Still a whoop-butt card-laying, themeless, sexy beast.

Race for the galaxy: 8.2

At first when I fully got all the icons and rules, I thought it was "meh". It had removed the elegantness of buildings and rules in San Juan and was a bit krazy and kooky. I is likken' it more and more though, a ver un-knizian game: Unelegant, but tons of little rules and options and super fun.

Pentago: 8.0

Got this in israel. Why do people keep playing Ingenious? This game is a lot better. Try it. It pwns. Needs to be higher ranked. Easy to learn strategies. Deep. Sexxxxxxxxy.


Battle Line: 7.9

Belongs in anyones library, even if it does get played out and turn mostly to luck after 15 plays. Evil desicions + cool pegs. Reiner Knizia is even more sexy than Dominion.

Memoir 44', or: how I learned Im not a wargamer and just love the game: 7.9

Awesomely fun, but I HATE how battles lean towards one side. More complex and fiddly than people give it credit. Good, but too much luck.












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64. Board Game: Duck Dealer [Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:2504]
The root of all evil... but you can call me cookie.
United States
Gainesville
Florida
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I don't post to this list too often. I learn new games all the time but I tend to not post here I don't know why I just don't. I guess because I talk about the games I've played in another list so much it seems a bit like repeating myself.

Still had a friend over the other night and he brought his copy of Duck Dealer and I felt compelled to post this here. I would say I'm pretty familiar with Splotter games so I knew fairly well what to expect from this game. So the simple fact that it's such a great, phenominal, brain engaging and deep game is not why I'm talking about here. No the reason I'm talking about here is a few month back at RapierCon I got to play Merchant of Venus and was disappointed. There were many things in that game that I would have loved to have seen done differently.

I'm here to say that Duck Dealer must have been heavily influenced by MoV! So much of the 2 games are similar but they cleaned up all the garbage that I didn't like about MoV and made the game so much more enjoyable! Yes this is truly a fantastic game.

Well as I'm posting here I may as well list a few more new to me games from the month of August:

Archaeology: The Card Game
Hab & Gut
Dixit
Die Magier von Pangea
Midgard
Shakin' Sorry
League of Pirates
Quoridor
Executive Decision
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65. Board Game: Small World [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:106] [Average Rating:7.42 Unranked]
♫ Eric Herman ♫
United States
West Richland
Washington
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I like elephants. I like how they swing through trees.
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I don't know that I love Small World, and I don't have any plans to buy it (I'd probably trade for it), but I enjoyed it quite a lot. Light and fun but with some nice tactical screwage, and the combination of races/powers is amusing.


The d6 Shooters - This is a print-n-play game I designed after playing a lot of the History.com game, Expedition. I was looking for more solo dice games with some theme/character and decided to try creating one myself. I have to say, I really like how this turned out (which is saying a lot because I'm usually pretty harsh on my own design attempts). There are a good number of decisions throughout, a decent narrative thread, and a definite challenge involved in making it all the way. I'm almost done with the second episode using this same basic system (with a few new wrinkles), so that'll be new for next month.



Oltre Mare - A very good negotiation/trade game with a clever card system.



Excape - A fun press-your-luck dice game.



Prophecy - A good adventure game, and probably the tightest design of the Prophecy/Return of the Heroes/Runebound ilk. Prophecy almost seems a little too formulaic, though, with its movement and other elements, and the board is so humdrum in terms of its layout, as if developed by some cookie cutter suburban planner... For an adventure game, the maps of Return of the Heroes and Runebound seem much more appealing to wander around in, with their different types of paths and places to explore. But Runebound is pretty tedious in some respects, so that leaves Return of the Heroes, which is kind of quirky but also more original and my favorite of these three.



Aliens - I played this via the online Flash version, which is supposedly faithful to the board game. It's very cool and very challenging. I'll be looking to find a hard copy of this at some point.



Zombie in my Pocket - A clever 5 minute zombie crawl.



Martians!!! - I picked this up on a whim, not expecting it to be that great, and it's not.



PitchCar - An instant "must have". This is just too cool.
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66. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:94]
Michael J
United States
Folsom
California
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This game has been on my radar for a bit, and I played it for the first time last week. It was far different than I expected. And far better. A good time for all, and one I'm looking forward to playing again. There are so many different goals in the game that you almost always have something to bid on, and evaluating other player's motivations can be tricky. It's on my "want" list now.
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67. Board Game: Taluva [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:308]
Michael J
United States
Folsom
California
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I loved this game when we played it last week for the first time. Not only is it drop-dead gorgeous, but the gameplay is up there with anything Knizia could have designed. Top notch mechanics from a designer I am not familiar with. I'm absolutely gushing over the terrain-height element. So few games utilize terrain effectively, much less take the game into 3-dimensions.

When played competitively, this game can be real cutthroat. I enjoy games that make defensive plays critical and worthwhile. And defense you will play, if you want to win. There's nothing worse in most games than seeing another player striving towards victory, and being forced to basically give up your own turn to stop the leader, allowing other players to pass you up because it suddenly became your job to stop the leader for the rest of the group. In Taluva, you get to do two things on your turn, and making the defensive play does not slow down your own plans most of the time. EVERYBODY has to play defense in Taluva, not just the player who's turn it is.

I think this game is deeper than many give it credit for. But I've only played it once. I look forward to trying it again.
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68. Board Game: Arkham Horror [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:135] [Average Rating:7.42 Unranked]
Michael J
United States
Folsom
California
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I played Arkham for the first time two weeks ago. I'm not big into the horror theme, so I was never dying to play Arkham. But I was moderately intrigued by it, so much so that when it was announced that we would be playing it, I was very much looking forward to it. I was a little nervous starting the game at 8PM on a worknight, but fear not, we were all devoured by midnight.

The game oozed atmosphere. Managing my character was likewise fun as well. My character became a monster whipping machine. Too bad he was no match for the depths of hell as they poured out of the gates to eat our brains.

I was very impressed by the dice rolling mechanic. I had never seen it before, and it worked well. For those that haven't played, the mechanic is this: You ability score tells you how many dice you roll. All rolls of 5 or 6 are successes, and the rest are failures. Quite elegant.

The encounter text was likewise very interesting, and fun to read. My ONLY complaint about the game was that during a turn, each player was resolving their own encounters simultaneously. I think handling them one at a time would have been too slow, but still, it might have been nice to see what each player was facing while they were facing it, just so I could root them on.

I can see why playing this one solo would be such a blast. It definitely deserves its rating.
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69. Board Game: 1860: Railways on the Isle of Wight [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:896]
Andrew Nichols
United States
Houston
Texas
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Played this twice, once with two and once with three. There seemed to be more interesting decisions present in the game compared to my 18xx experience thus far (1870 and 18TN). The endgame rules are brutal. I won the first game and lost the second and while I have my suspicions I have no clear idea why; I very much want to revisit this so I can understand how it works. And please, JKLM, reprint it!

By a quirk of happenstance, I also played Age of Steam for the first time, followed by Steam a few days later for the first time. I had made my purchasing choice a few months ago, ordering Steam with the idea that it would be substantially more accessible. That's almost certainly true, but I still suspect that I made a mistake. The drop off from Age of Steam to (Base) Steam was immense. I'm hopeful for (Standard) Steam, but it was certainly an enlightening experience to learn each game in short succession. I finally understand all the back and forth that's gone on over the past few months.
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70. Board Game: Hand and Foot [Average Rating:6.02 Overall Rank:5131]
MMB
United States
Florida
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Mystery Bob and I were introduced to this cousin of a well-known, and long ago loved (and played to death) game, Canasta.

Well, we played in partnerships and absolutely loved it. The differences to Canasta, the foot, the set-up, were all engaging, interesting, and FUN!!!

We really enjoyed it!!

kiss

Mrs. Mystery Bob


Sorry, for such an "unexciting" entry. But, there you have it. Our gaming time has crawled to a standstill. And now that school has started for our little one, I have practically zero free time!! shake

Oh well!!

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71. Board Game: Zombie in my Pocket [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:1820]
Andy Howell
United States
Alexandria
Virginia
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My first ever experience with print and play, and I'll be going back for more. This game is a perfect little solo time waster that you can play eight or twelve times without realizing it. To me it plays like an addictive little web flash game.

It's so much fun to lose dramatically that I'm actually a little disappointed when I win, strange as that may sound.
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72. Board Game: Xactika [Average Rating:5.84 Overall Rank:4690]
Gudjon Torfi Sigurdsson
Iceland
Isafjordur
Isafjardarbaer
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One of two new games this month - this one and Ker Plunk. Can't say they're such great games (I'll probably not ask for them except with the 6th grader), but Xactika can be entertaining and is really short each game. Admittedly we played the simplified rules for beginners so the standard rules might be better.

edit: Xactika is a trick-taking game, the playing cards have four suits (stars, circles, boxes, triangles) and a different combination on each card. Therefore you can have a card with four symbols (one of each suit) and up to twelve (three of each). The one who starts or took the last trick plays a card and asks for a card with the same number of symbols in one of the suits (for example: Three Stars) and the others have to play a card with that number of Stars. If the total number of symbols is equal or higher than the last card, that player wins the trick. So the 'trick' is to know what kind of symbol/suit combination is the most likely to win the trick.

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73. Board Game: Balloon Cup [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:655]
Bryan Cooper
United States
Coppell
TX
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Balloon Cup was my favorite new experience this month, and I had several. Probably because I won every game of Balloon Cup, but still.

A close second was my first playing of Wasabi!. In general, I like pattern games, and Wasabi is good fun that way.

Also played a couple of larger titles for the first time this month with mixed enjoyment.

Brass was fun, but complicated enough that I didn't really understand the benefits of building cotton mills over building coal mines or shipyards over ports until the last few rounds. Want to play it again.

Played a couple of games of Kingsburg. Fun game, but the dice seem to introduce a little too much randomness into an otherwise strategy and risk management game.

Got to play Small World with our usual group and enjoyed it. Similar to Brass, I had a hard time sussing out when to put a race into decline effectively. Also want another dose of this game.

Finally Middle-Earth Quest. God forbid anyone say something even slightly off about a FFG Rings game, but this one seems to have the same problem all of the FFG games have. As I said in the forum, with just nine turns to eliminate story points, by desperately completing a quest, or maybe knocking out one or two of the minions, or maybe even having one or two encounters. It just seems like there is WAY too much beautiful content that you never get to play. Just a big box of pretty game stuff you aren't going to do.
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74. Board Game: Endeavor [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:126]
Carsten Buettemeier
Germany
Bremen
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Hm, it was a quite quite month with 19 plays, but way better than the ones before. Damn, I need more time!

Endeavor (5 plays)
As mentioned before in the forums of Endeavor, I think this is one of the best approaches to typical Eurogame mechanics I have ever seen. It develops in difeerent dimensions throughout the game: on the development tracks of the players, on the board while different regions become available and the power of the actions one can take with every move. The graphical design is superb and there is a lot to to and find out. Might be even one of my favourite games this year as I still urge for every play I can get.




Chaos in the Old World (1 play)
After getting my copy I had to memorize the rules again to make sure we can get this on the table at my regular Monday evening session. But this one needs a bit more time to get into the game. I am not very familiar with the Warhammer universe, so I had sometimes a hard time to understand all the references. But beneath those details, there seems to be a solid mixture between some typical Eurogame elements and a lot of FFG flavor. The components are so-so (crowded board, bended miniatures) but once in play, one catches more and more the possibilities the different gods can offer. As written I had only one play, but we enjoyed this one after some rule glitches very much.




Torres (1 play)
I was surprised that Torres was a Spiel des Jahres here in Germany as I didn't suspect such a brain burner would ever be chosen for this prize. I had never played before because I thought of a more or less boring tile placement game. But when actually playing it, the whole combination of action points and 3D thinking evolved into a great gaming experience. Definitely not the last time this one hit the table!

(picture by Maras, thanks!)


Tikal (1 play)
Two days after Torres we tried Tikal, which was also my first play. I saw it coming in the first turns that you have to melt your brain with even more action points a round than you have in Torres. Tikal was definitely fun as it develops more and more and gives nice strategic choices with every move you make. But when the game took longer and longer and the downtime got even nastier, I wished back Torres on the table.

(picture by matthew.marquand, thanks!)


Dominion Intrigue (2 plays)
Ok, in my opinion Dominion is way overhyped. I played it in Essen last year, I immediately bought it, I had some great plays. But while it seemed that everyone around me got more and more crazy about this game, my flame of desire was cut to a match. I can't even specify why. So now I had the chance to play Intrigue while waiting for another game round to come to an end. And yes, the new cards add a special interactive flavour to the game that isgood for it. I enjoyed it more than my last basic Dominion plays, so maybe I will come back to the system step by step.

(picture by K_I_T)


Automobile (1 play)
Well, I almost forgot about this one. Well. Hm. Yes, it has some interesting aspects that make up a nice economic simulation. It has a fair amount of complexity but plays in a reasonable time. It is a good Martin Wallace design. It has little wooden cars. But it lacks soul. I am not very fond of the theme as I don't have my heart given away to old cars. It feels abstract although it should not with that theme, it feels dry although it should not by the level of player interaction. It is not a bad game - I can see a very fine developed Wallace in there. But it just does not give me this great special feeling of other designs by him.

(picture by ajevans)
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75. Board Game: American Rails [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:881]
Arden Nelson Jr.
United States
Ohio
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This was my new game of the month. It was a 5 player play test at a local meet up. NOTE: The designer does attend our local meet ups. I thought it was an excellent 5 player game. I felt that the winner had played well. Game played quickly and had ways of helping players come back but yet still rewarded better play over a period of turns. I guess the name of the game may or may not change.

Anyhow, some other games that were new to me:

1) another unpublished train game ... I don't know if the name will change so I'm listing it just yet

2) Prussian Rails - I enjoyed this one a lot. I loved the catch up mechanic as well as the different abilities for each company.

4) Erie Railroad expansion to Wabash Cannonball. Unfortunately, one other player and I didn't work together to block the eventual winner.

5)Kansas Pacific - I liked it better the second time when we played with the correct rules. Personally, I prefer Prussian Rails though KP does have merits.

6) If Wishes Were Fishes - I enjoyed it though I lost horribly. It isn't for me personally but it could work with my nieces and nephews in a few years.
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