EuroQuest VII Recap
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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EuroQuest (EQ) is my favorite gaming convention of the year but -- heck, I am biased as I was one of the original organizers and have served as convention Co-Director for two years now after running the PR and Wild Card events for the first five years. I think the convention is great because it focuses on one very popular game genre -- the multi-player Euro game -- while retaining a mix of both open gaming and tournament play plus some unique concepts such as an overall individual prize and a unique 15-game free-form event called the Wild Card which can be thought of a cross between open gaming and tournament play. Plus, the convention comes just a few weeks after Essen and it's the first chance for many to try out some of the new releases. This year there was the added attraction of having our Ticket to Ride tournament affiliated through the game's sponsor (Days of Wonder) with a series of tournaments leading to a North American Championship tournament and, ultimately, the 2010 World Championships. As a result, the Ticket to Ride tournament shattered all main event tournament records, attracting a total of 68 participants who contested a total of 39 games before the winner was decided.

This year we had record attendance -- close to 270 by my count -- and, despite a poor economy, I saw many first-time attendees at our convention. Several of these newcomers excelled at tournament play, including Sceadeau D'Tela, who took home the prize for the overall best result in tournament play, the Harold L. Siegelman Trophy that is named in honor of one of the convention's original organizers who unfortunately passed away before the inaugural event back in 2003. Sceadeau swept aside all competitors in the two new main event games this year -- Agricola and Dominion -- to finish four points in front of another first time EQ attendee, Eric Brosius, whose overall consistency (while winning no titles) made him a force to be reckoned with. All but three of the individual events were won by first-time winners, including Josh Githens (another first time EQ attendee) who claimed first prize in the aforementioned Ticket to Ride tournament. Repeat winners included Brian Reynolds, who won his third title at Settlers of Catan and his fifth EQ title to tie him with Tom Dunning for second on the all-time list, and Eric Freeman, who won his fourth Wild Card title but not without a strong challenge from Raphael Lehrer, who placed second, and Rob Kircher, who placed third. Rob's total of 19 wins in one EQ set a new all-time mark, surpassing the record of 18 set by Arthur Field and Raphael Lehrer, who did it twice in the prior two years (2007 and 2008). Raphael -- with 17 more wins in games played in 2009 -- has now racked up an impressive total of 53 wins over the past three EQ conventions.

Overall, main event tournament attendance was up about 15% over last year, paced by the huge Ticket to Ride turnout. This year, no main event tourney drew less than 35 participants. The list of this year's winners (with total participants in parenthesis) follows:

Agricola: Sceadeau D'Tela (37)
Dominion: Sceadeau D'Tela (52)
Race for the Galaxy: Doug Faust (44)
Power Grid: Kevin Garber (55)
Princes of Florence: Legend Dan Hoffman (35)
Puerto Rico: Richard Shay (39)
Ra: Kirk Harris (37)
Saint Petersburg: Ted Bohaczuk (46)
Settlers of Catan: Brian Reynolds (55)
Thurn and Taxis: Cliff Ackman (47)
Ticket to Ride: Josh Githens (68)
Wild Card: Eric Freeman (149)

Most popular games in the Wild Card this year were Endeavor, the Hot New Essen game (18 plays, 54 players); Dominion, last year's Hot New Essen game (18 plays, 46 players); and Lost Cities, the "Comeback" game which had the most plays (31) but just 35 players. Surprising disappointments included new additions LeHavre (just two plays, 6 players total) and Small World (four plays, 14 players), plus the once highly popular Caylus that -- believe it or not -- was not played at all, at least as a Wild Card game. Total number of recorded tournament games played this year: 437, divided between 257 for the 11 main event titles and 180 for the 15 Wild Card games.

I think what has made EQ successful is the variety offered: casual gaming, serious tournament gaming with good competitors, a fairly unique format with the Wild Card program, a computerized scoring system that lets you know where you stand at all times that includes a scrolling schedule as an additional feature, games brought back for the recent Essen convention, this year for the first time a Math Trade, vendors who go an extra step to please the customer plus demos of new games. Only problem is we are bursting at the seams in our current location so, hopefully a move to a new location with more space will lead to bigger and better things in the years to come.

This Geek List, as those in the past, will focus on games played and the people I played them with.

Here, for easy reference and by way of comparison, are links to GeekLists from prior years relating to EQ:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/36585
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/26193
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/17574
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/11572

UPDATED 11/18/2009 -- JUST LEARNED THAT EVERYONE CAN ACCESS PHOTOS (OVER 350 OF THEM) TAKEN AT EQ VII THROUGH THIS RECENT ADDITION TO THE BPA WEBSITE -- All you need do is click on this link and scroll down to the bottom of the page, and the photos are available via flickr.com and I took the liberty of adding captions to a few of them, and also have tried to post direct links to them where appropriate to games described in this Geek List. General link to the webpage here:

http://www.boardgamers.org/specific/eq09.htm

The page also has photos of the winners and more information of the type just presented in the header of this GeekList. In upcoming weeks, there will be after-action reports added to the general EQ website here, probably under a new tab labeled "2009" to the right of the one from last year:

http://euroquest.gamesclubofmd.org
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1. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:261]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This was my most played game of the convention, five times in the Wild Card plus one unfinished game that unfortunately could not be turned in as it was not completed (my opponent had to rush off to the final heat of the Ticket to Ride tournament, where he was tied up for the rest of the convention as he managed to reach the final table). First was a challenge I had issued to Eric Brosius, who was attending his first EQ and whom I knew was a big fan of the game and quite accomplished at it, having taken third place at this year's WBC. As the designated GM for the game in the Wild Card tourney, I challenged Eric and was pleased that we could squeeze in a game in our busy schedules, me worrying about running the convention while he racked up some very impressive performances to place him second overall in the HLS competition to Sceadeau D'Tela. The game wasn't particularly close, as Eric coasted to a comfortable win, but I saw him play a fairly aggressive style I was unfamiliar with, so I wrote it off as a learning experience, giving me some ideas I maybe wanted to try in some other games. First, though, I took it on the chin by an even greater margin to Raphael Lehrer, one of the top Wild Card point contenders, who easily racked up another seven points at my expense. I watched how Raphael piled up huge points by opening lots of colors, sacrificing some of them ("lambs," as he called them) to set up the opportunity to score big on his handshake colors. I tried some of these tactics in my next Wild Card game with Bob Wicks, winning for a change. Then I was challenged by Richard Fetzer, a feisty New Yorker with an accent to go with it and a nice attitude toward gaming and gamers. We trash-talked a bit and I was very fortunate to score a big 100-point hand with the 20-point bonus for an eight card suit. Actually, I had several high cards and two handshakes in the same color, a "monster" starting hand that Richard let me know any dummy could have scored well on. I held on to most of my lead through hand two but got too conservative, losing it all in the final hand. Later I learned Richard had been, like Eric, a semifinalist at this year's WBC, so I felt a bit better about this loss. Final two games were with Jim Freeman, Eric's dad, who had to abandon the game after he reached the Ticket to Ride semifinals (and eventually the final game), and Sam Atabaki, who was runner-up at WBC. I used the aggressive tactics I had seen from Eric and Raphael in some of the earlier games and managed to put Sam down after two hands, after which he conceded defeat in order to make the Ticket to Ride semi, where he did not do quite as well as Jim, failing to advance to the final.

During the course of the Lost Cities games, I began to analogize some of the tactics I had seen to one of my favorite sports, soccer, particularly the offside trap, which I had seen used quite successfully in one game by the US team when coached by Bruce Arena. The analogy here is to jump into alot of colors, even if you can't finish them, simply to take "space" away from your opponent, so they are very limited in what they can discard. This forces them to play aggressively and perhaps jump into a color that gets them into trouble. The more I play of Lost Cities, the more interesting this deceptively simple game becomes. At EQ this year, it was annoited as the "Comeback game" (resurrecting a Wild Card game that had fallen off the list from a prior year), and -- with 31 plays -- was the most played game of any of the 15 Wild Card titles.
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2. Board Game: Vegas Showdown [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:274]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Four plays, all in the Wild Card competition, making it one of my most frequently played games of the weekend. First game, a five-player, was won by Sara Mitchell, who got the Theater and ran away with the game near the end. I came in third for a few Wild Card points, finishing behind Scott Fenn, one of the two new players who we introduced to the game. Next game, a four-player, taking on the perennial Wild Card king Eric Freeman, his Dad (Jim Freeman), and another new player to the game, Steve Boone who a number of years back won a Carcassone tournament at EQ. Big surprise -- Eric finished last and my biggest competition was from his Dad, who was tied until we scored for diamond points later in the game. Worried about my endgame scoring, I gambled late in the game on the price of the Theater coming down before the game ended and it worked, so I managed to win. Two other games, also involving Eric, did not go so well for me. Played a five-player with Eric, his Dad, Wild Card Coordinator and all-around good guy Brian Stallings, and Ben Stephenson, who has a knack for picking up games quickly. Ben managed to take the win ahead of Eric and I was third after stalling out after my income generation situation became poor. This meant two losses in a row for Eric, the reigning WBC Champion at this game, and I sensed Eric wanted to prove himself in another game. So, in the final morning of the Wild Card competition, we added Sara who had beat me in my first game and Eugene Yee, a strong player who has just got into gaming in our local circles in the Columbia-Laurel area. Eric billed it as a "grudge match" and he got his revenge, pulling out the win as I faded near the end, losing second on a tiebreak to Eugene. I guess the only revenge I got was finishing ahead of Sara, who for some reason didn't seem to be able to get on track as well as she did in the first game.

Vegas is a top five game for me, one that is still way, way underrated on BGG. Glad to see it hit the numbers that should be sufficient for a return trip to the Wild Card at EQ next year, in no large part due to the fact that Eric and I both made the effort to recruit new fans to the game. Eric brought a nice set of poker chips he had picked up for $5 at a special sale that made playing the games with his set even more fun.

UPDATE: Here's a direct link to the first of the aforementioned Vegas Showdown games, won by Sara Mitchell:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/erichaas/4100344730/in/set-7215...

Players (left to right): Scott Fenn (with cap, behind Sara), Sara Mitchell, Dave Bohnenberger, me, Anne Chaplin
 
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3. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:165]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Every once and awhile, I get on a "roll" in a particular tournament where originally I had planned to just play one game, not expecting to advance. For me, this happened this year with Settlers of Catan. First heat, I was playing primarily to check out the performance of "rookie" GM, Brian Reynolds, someone who had multiple wins in prior years at EQ but who was serving as the event GM for the first time. Brian had spent a great deal of time re-writing many of the rules from last year, some changes for the better but many that complicated the scoring, but nonetheless-- given Brian's enthusiasm for the task -- I let him select his own path and hoped for the best. First heat, I was paired with Bill Duke, a former EQ winner at Settlers, and Scott Fenn and Randy Salberg. The game went back and forth, and my hopes for a win appeared to be dashed when Bill blocked my move to reach a desirable 2-for-1 port. Nonetheless, I had good luck on the die rolls and relied on a wheat and ore strategy to construct all four cities. Then, after a couple of development card draws, I was ready to claim the largest army while Scott and Randy battled over longest road. When I flipped the third soldier for two more points, the win was mine.

Missed the second heat but found time to play in the third heat once it became clear I had no hope for advancement in my favorite EQ game, Puerto Rico. This time the opponents were Scott Fenn (again), Josh Githens and Philip Taylor. Josh kind of got blocked on the board and started buying development cards at every opportunity. Philip seemed to be close to the win, but Scott and I kept the robber moving to and fro, and the game kind of stalled out. This gave me a chance to play catch up and, after a couple of good building turns, I caught up and then pulled out the win. Two wins meant advancement to the first elimination round, which was two four-player semifinals on Saturday night.

The semifinal was a really well-played, hotly contested affair with Leo Sands, William Lawhorn, Bill Zurn and myself. Leo had a couple of unrevealed development cards and a nice 2-for-1 port, so he became the target of the other players. In fact, one time when Leo was close to winning the other players conspired to trade me enough wood and brick to take longest road from him. At this point, with one down VP card, I was also a threat to win, but missed a die roll for the ore needed to use my 2-for-1 port effectively. I then traded for a development card, hoping for a VP. Didn't get it. So I passed the dice to Bill, who won after engineering a trade with William that gave Bill the game but put William in second, ahead of me, on the tiebreak. Later, I realized I could have done the same thing by trading with William but didn't think of it as -- in normal circumstances -- one doesn't expect to see any trading with the leader who is about to go out. However, since a second place would also advance to the final, such a trade -- unthinkable in just about every other situation -- made perfect sense. The close third place put me in fifth overall, good for some laurels.

On Sunday I got a bit of a scare when it turned out one of the other players slated for the Settlers final also made the Ticket to Ride final, meaning I -- as first alternate -- might earn a reprieve and be required to play the final. However, this didn't happen and in a way I was relieved, as I would have had to abandon a non-tournament game in progress in order to play. The final game, by all accounts, was anti-climatic, won by the GM, Brian Reynolds, who became the first three-time Champion in Settlers or any other main event tournament in EQ history. I was pleased to present Brian with his winner's plaque after he presented Shiv Chopra (someone who I had met at the Congress of Gamers convention and who was a first-time EQ attendee) with the runner-up plaque. The two players from my semi (William and Bill) came third and fourth, respectively, and both commented to me that our semifinal game was a much more exciting encounter than the one-sided final.

I told a few of the players about my concept of "speed Settlers," where you take four dice instead of two for the production rolls, with the player rolling the die pairing them together to select two production numbers a la Can't Stop. This fairly simple change seems to speed things along considerably, as players are almost always forced to use cards or risk the adverse results of a "7" which can be even more likely than in the regular game.
 
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4. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.14 Overall Rank:5]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Probably the one main event game at EQ that I feel I have a shot at winning, but alot has to do with whom you draw in the early rounds since it takes two wins in three heats to secure advancement. Had a bad feeling about the first game when there were odd numbers and I was drawn at one of the three-player games with Alex Bove, a fairly strong player who had reached the final at EQ but whom I had beaten in the semis at WBC this year and Richard Shay, who was pretty much of an unknown quantity. As the game developed, I started focusing on Alex and vice versa, and in retrospect both of us kind of ignored Richard which turned out to be a big mistake. He ran away with the game, winning by 12 as it ran out on VPs while Alex and I wound up in a flat-footed tie for second (and last) place.

Missed the second heat but managed a win in the third heat at the expense of Barry Barnes, who had defeated me in my first appearance in the elimination round games at WBC many years ago; the other players were Pat Onufrak and Dan Crenshaw, son of game designer Bill Crenshaw who has been a huge supporter of EQ. Pat established a strong shipping position with five corn and a wharf, but she didn't manage to get a large, while I got the Factory/Guild Hall combo going, built a second large to score a nice win -- too late to advance to the final, and I wound up tied for eighth place with Alex who also won a game that heat.

Eventual winner of the tournament was Richard, the same player who beat me in the first heat. He scored a narrow one-point win over former WBC Champ Barb Flaxington to advance to the final with Kevin Walsh, Chris Terrell (the Puerto Rico GM at PrezCon every year) and Malinda, who is Barry's daughter. I was pleased to see Kevin finish second for his first EuroQuest plaque, and also the fact that my one loss came against the eventual tournament winner made things a bit more palatable. Also very pleased to see a first EQ final table for Malinda, who did a fine job taking over the Agricola event at EQ at late notice; she has made two final tables and WBC in PR in addition to serving as one of my assistant GMs for the past two years.
 
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5. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:11]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Another favorite heavy duty game, but due to schedule conflicts I could manage only one game, a five-player, on the Benelux map. Other players included Barb Flaxington, Perrianne Lurie, Kevin Lewis and Randy Salberg from the Settlers heat the prior day. I thought Perrianne had the inside track to the win, but after the final round of power plant buys it turned out Randy was in the catbird's seat and he proceeded to build one more city than anyone else to take the win. Barb, Perrianne and I built and powered one city less, and to my surprise I took second on the tiebreaker by just 2 money ahead of Barb. Randy then went on to reach the five-player final, where he collected a third place plaque behind winner Kevin Garber and Dave Bohnenberger. Again, it was pleasing to see so many first time plaque winners at EQ, particularly Dave, who is a nice guy who has been supporting the convention for much of its history.

I still enjoy Power Grid, always looking to try new maps, etc., but feel the game has become a bit stale as often a great contest between strong players can come down to who gets a lucky Power Plant drop. However, you have to plan your strategy (turn order flips, etc.) to factor this in as well. I enjoy playing most maps with the new Power Plant deck as it shortens most games by at least one turn.
 
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6. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:62]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Rose early on Saturday to get into one heat of this despite having to stay up late to help with some computer scoring issues late into the wee hours the night before. Wound up paired with Rod Spade, former EQ Champion who usually has my number in this game in tournament play. Other players were Bill Zurn, who came all the way from California for his second EQ, and Eileen Rees. Bill got eight works but still could do no better than second to Rod, who I believe had six works. I decided to go for an early prestige card (i.e. a "straight jacket" in my Princes of Florence vernacular), and went for the "all three freedoms" but then my hopes were dashed when Bill took the last freedom that I also needed to complete the set. Then, late in the game, I went for a second Prestige card (on turn six) -- selecting one I hardly ever consider, the Least Empty Field Spaces. However, I had miscalculated by failing to consider all the buildings and landscapes likely to be added my opponents. Again, Bill was my nemesis as he outbid me for a forest on the final turn that would have at least tied me for the prestige card. Thus, with two prestige cards being worth a grand total of ZERO points, my chances of winning were greatly diminished, such that third with 54 points under such circumstances was a decent performance.

Rod and Bill both reached the final but could only manage second and third behind Legend Dan Hoffman, who added a Princes title to his Settlers win a few years back. Pleasantly surprised to see a nice bump up in attendance for PoF at EQ this year, from 26 to 35, but even so, it remained as among the the low events on the totem pole as just about all the other events had an increase as well.
 
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7. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:485]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This was the first game played, starting at 6 PM Thursday, in the Wild Card event. I was challenged by defending Wild Card champ Eric Freeman who wanted to get off to a quick start and maybe saw me as the ideal patsy. We were quickly joined by Laura Brown and Raphael Lehrer to make it a four-player game. Eric and I trash-talked the whole game, joined by the other players -- we made appropriate chicken sounds when someone stopped too early and then groaned as we failed to hit needed die rolls. Eric ran two of the central numbers (I believe it was 7 and 8) to the top early, I got one number and eventually Raphael did, too. Then Eric closed the game out. We had to check the rules to see the tiebreaker for second, and it turned out Raphael and I were in a flat-footed tie, so we had a roll-off that I managed to win. Bad luck for Raphael and -- little did we know -- this presaged what was to happen in the broader context of the overall Wild Card competition, where Eric and Raphael would battle it out to the end, with Eric nosing out Raphael by winning their head-to-head confrontation on the final day.

UPDATED, WITH DIRECT LINK TO PHOTO OF THIS GAME IN PROGRESS:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/erichaas/4100317458/in/set-7215...
 
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8. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:30] [Average Rating:7.77 Unranked]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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One game played in the Wild Card tournament with Eric Brosius, Bob Wicks, Lisa Goldstein, can't remember much about the game, except somehow I managed to win. Eric, who was probably the strongest player in the group, came second.

To be honest, at this point in time I am close to being "Dominioned-out." The initial attraction of the game lasted a bit longer than say, Race for the Galaxy, but right now what I see Rio Grande doing is milking the franchise with expansion set after expansion set without adding much to the creative element of the game. This kind of thing has happened ad nauseum with games like Carcassone and Settlers to the point that I have little desire to go out and buy every variant that comes out. For example, after three expansions, there are still no Kingdom cards that cost either 7 coins or 1 coin, and the basic strategy of collecting the most Provinces seems to be the only path to victory about 85-90% of the time. A game with alot of luck in the card shuffle and one basic path to victory is not very exciting. The one thing that keeps the game getting played alot is its speed, and the fact that, once you have one game set up, it's efficient to just start another. It's kind of the "lowest common denominator" among gamers in many gaming groups, meaning when people can't agree on what game to play, then Dominion is kind of the default selection.
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9. Board Game: Dominion: Seaside [Average Rating:8.11 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.11 Unranked]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Played about four times in open gaming. Don't have much of a vivid recollection of any of the games, except that a couple were very late at night and I didn't do very well. Played several times with Kevin Walsh, who is a real night owl at these gaming conventions, and Chris Moffa. After the first couple of plays I kind of liked Seaside a bit but now now I am beginning to think it suffers from the Ticket to Ride-Switzerland problem, based on the fact that it's not a self-contained game and you need the base game as well, which means you have to lug around two boxes or invest in your own card storage system -- something I am reluctant to do at this point.
 
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10. Board Game: Automobile [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:195]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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OK, let's talk about a recent game I can get really excited about. Automobile is my favorite game of 2009 by a wide margin and, in my opinion, this is Wallace's best game ever and the best new game I have seen since Imperial came out in late 2006. The mechanics are smooth and elegant, the luck element is realistic and appropriate without dominating play. I like games with alot of player interaction and multiple paths to victory and games (like Vegas Showdown and Traumfabrik) that ooze with theme, so Automobile really fits the bill. Played with Todd Heidenreich (who had brought the game, along with just about every recent Wallace game you can think of), William Lawhorn and Jonpatrick Marr (who is another guy I met at Congress of Gamers this year). I executed my usual strategy of getting two different car types early (using Durant on turn one), getting a third type (luxury cars) on Turn 2, and ran away with the game with almost 5000 in cash and stock value at the end, taking out just one loan to finance a needed expansion. It probably wasn't a fair fight as Jon and William weren't picking up on all the concepts until midway through the game; Todd, who had played before, came in a distant second and I was thinking he could have played a bit more aggressively. I often find some players fail to take advantages of all the opportunities offered in this game because they become too conservative due to a somewhat inflated fear of high loan costs.
 
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11. Board Game: Endeavor [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:130]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Even though Endeavor was the Hot New Essen game and part of the Wild Card event this year, my two plays at EQ were in open gaming, both 5-player, once before the convention opened on Wednesday night (a group of us were there to help set up) and finally on Sunday as the convention was winding down. Won the game on Wednesday by a point over Nick, our computer software guru; the other players were Nick's hardware setup helper, Minh; my convention co-director, Michele; and Kevin, who had arrived early from upstate NY. I am fairly certain Nick, Minh and Michele were new to the game, and that Kevin had played before. The Sunday game did not go so well for me, perhaps because I was a bit tired and distracted by other convention duties, also the fact that everyone in the game had played before didn't make things easier. I came home next to last, ahead of Barb but well behind Kevin and Donna, who finished 1-2 and Chris, Barb's husband, who like Barb is a fantastic Puerto Rico player and former WBC Champion (one good reason for getting them involved in helping GM the PR tourney at EQ).

My thoughts on Endeavor after about 8- 10 plays now are these: good, solid game, perhaps second best game of 2009 thus far, but definitely a cut below Automobile which means it's probably overrated on BGG. I have concerns about the play balance, particularly in 5-player games, given that two players get to go first twice. Also, despite the random setup, it seems the play can become scripted at times, varying only a bit depending on the number of players. It will be interesting to see if the popularity of this game remains as strong a year from now as it is today.
 
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12. Board Game: The Pillars of the Earth [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:178]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Played first with the regular version (4-player) and then a second time with the expansion. Raphael, Barb, Richard Fetzer were the opponents and Raphael, who won the first WBC Pillars tournament when I was the GM, ran away with it. He took start player several times and always seemed to have the right craftsmen to get the job done, pulling enormous per turn point scores of something like 17 per turn late in the game. I am fairly certain Barb came second, Richard third while I was dead last. Frankly, I think the four-player basic game is fairly predictable and a bit unbalanced, and nowdays I much prefer the expansion game with five players, where you have more options. However, since people had limited time and an explanation was needed, we decided to go with the basic game.

For information about play with the expansion, see next item.
 
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13. Board Game: The Pillars of the Earth: Expansion Set [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Five-player, played with Matthew Sands, Eric Freeman, Richard Fetzer and Andy Gerb, using the expansion -- Matthew ran away with this game, collecting stone at every opportunity and not deviating from his plan to set himself for big Sculptor scoring points by game-end. I kind of stalled out near the middle and finished fairly far back. Rich finished ahead of Eric for second, while Andy and I brought up the rear. Hazy on the game except to recall I got way behind on money when I paid for two consecutive Master Builder pulls at 7 and 6 or 6 and 5 that I regretted later on. Other details of the game escape me except it was a well-played game by Matthew.

Reasons for preferring the expansion over the regular game: (1) replayability, each game is different as you never know which Craftsman will be out of play, (2) more player options with your master builder and worker plays, (3) multiple ways to generate income as compared to just one -- the Money Woodworker -- in the basic game, thus there's no killer Craftsman out there in turn one that can put a game out of reach like the case with the Mistress in St. Petersburg, to use my favorite analogy and finally (4) there is at least some mechanism to even out the luck factor on the Master Builder pulls.
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14. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:162]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Four-player, Wild Card game with Cheryl Meek, Settlers GM Brian Reynolds and Richard Fetzer, who I played several times during the weekend. I really wasn't in this one, which Richard won by constructing three of the "6" buildings -- I was the odd person out, only building one of the 6s which left me far behind in last. Cheryl had the Smithy-Guild Hall combo to come in second. I got the Library fairly early, as did Brian, but couldn't seem to do much else. Lucky to get a Palace and a Chapel for a few extra bonus points.

While San Juan was popular when it first came out, today I see it mostly as a "filler" type game. Many of the people who used to play San Juan now spend their time with more recent similar games, such as Race for the Galaxy and Dominion.
 
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15. Board Game: Stone Age [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:50]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Another Wild Card game, four player, played with Sam from California, and Paul Weintraub and Rick Pasquale who I have seen at various locations around GCOM in the past. Sam, who was the fourth player, started off with a starvation strategy on turn three after he couldn't get to any of the farms locations that are popular early in the game. I don't believe I got above five people but collected lots of cards with multipliers that put me in contention when the bonus points were added in at the end of the game. Sam did collect some food and fed once, but otherwise it was -10 points per turn, yet he caught up near the end and won -- I came in second.

Sam, who is from California, is an avid gamer who I first met at WBC through the Puerto Rico tournament there a couple of years ago. He started coming to EQ in 2007 and has done well here, taking home a first in Puerto Rico (2007) and Caylus (2008) and then a second place in Puerto Rico (2008). He has a very friendly attitude while remaining highly competitive, and I enjoy gaming with him as I know it will always be a challenge when he's in the game. He has also been a good salesman for EQ among his gaming colleagues on the West Coast, talking Bill Zurn into coming last year and Kerrin Addis this year. Rumors have it -- and I certainly hope it's true -- there may be an even bigger California contingent at EQ next year.

As far as Stone Age is concerned, it's one of those games that falls in the category of "Glad to play if someone asks" but not "One where I actively seek others to play." One thing that has worked well for me in some recent games -- sort of like I tried to do over the weekend with Lost Cities -- is try to mimic the winning strategy in my next game.

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16. Board Game: Ghost Stories [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:135]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Open gaming, played with Sean, Nick and Cody. This game is very tough, even on the so-called "Easy" level. We got smoked by the ghosts just about a third of the way through the deck. Have maybe won the game twice in about 15 tries. Good cooperative game, also a good solitaire game, although it can get a bit repetitive once the newness wears off.
 
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17. Board Game: Cheeky Monkey [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:1572]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Played three or four times, all in open gaming. Played once with Donna, Brian, Nick, Sean and Cody, my notes had Brian the winner while Donna wound up with just two animals -- bad luck on pulls out of the bag mostly. Friday night, played twice, once with Nicole, Ben and Pete and then again with Philip, Kevin, Ben and Pete. Ben, as usual, was trash-talking alot both games. No notes on who won, fairly certain it wasn't me in either game. Maybe one win for Ben, one for Pete. Great game to play with kids.

 
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18. Board Game: Qwirkle Cubes [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:1605]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Started a game in open gaming with Corwin, Nick and Ben, but the game kind of disintegrated when Corwin and Ben headed off to open gaming a late night Werewolf game was just starting), plus there were several illegal plays made, which kind of messed up the game for everyone. Typical of late-night open gaming at these cons. Anyway, think Qwirkle Cubes version is a clear winner over the original because it opens up multiple strategies. With the ability to re-roll the cubes, usually I try to have a Plan A (a die roll I hope to make) and a Plan B, some unrolled cubes to play for some points in case Plan A doesn't work.

UPDATE: Here's a direct link to a pic of our game, such as it was:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/erichaas/4104754215/in/set-7215...

Ben (blue shirt) and Corwin on left, that's me (red jacket) and Nick on right. You can tell it's late night gaming because of (1) how sleepy everyone looks and (2) the fact there's alot of empty space on the tables behind us.
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19. Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:400]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This game did quite well in the Wild Card event but I played it in open gaming, as my final game of the Con, with Beth, Brian and Nicole. We were kind of distracted as Brian and I wound up having to load up a van with games and other supplies as the registration desk and gaming library were being dismantled during the game. Despite these distractions, I believe Brian came away with the winner despite my rolling well to get the Empire development on the final turn, something that is usually a winner but wasn't because I had to starve some people to take some negative points as well.
 
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