New to you Nov 09 => Best new game you played this month and why
Andy
United Kingdom
Stockport
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What's the best new game you played this month (November 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

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New To You Geeklists - Announcement thread

Your Most Played Game (and more): November 2009
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1. Board Game: Delve: The Dice Game [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:2720]
Andy
United Kingdom
Stockport
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Not much variety for me this month... 3 more plays of the excellent Dungeon Lords was about the only gaming I managed outside of my lunchtime group (which of course included lots of Guillotine and the like)...
Fortunately however, I did play 1 new game..

NEW GAME

Delve: The Dice Game
9 plays

My one and only new game this month turned out to be a rather good one... a short, yet very addictive, solo die-roller... using yahtzee style set collecting to great effect in a dungeon crawler. What's even better is that it's a Print n Play game. This cropped up on on last month's list courtesy of manowarplayer, so I have him to thank for introducing this game.
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I almost managed a game of Factory Manager, and I am hopefully we will get to play it this coming week, so look out for that on next month's list.

I didn't manage to play any new expansions either.. however I received Carcassonne: Der Tunnel from Hrune in the European Chain of Generosity this week.. so look forward to trying that very soon.
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2. Board Game: Richard III: The Wars of the Roses [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:779]
Ender Wiggins
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Several new games that I played and/or reviewed for the first time in November:

Richard III: The Wars of the Roses



The newest and arguably the best introductory block war game. Built on the successful Hammer of the Scots engine, but quicker, easier, and with a different theme and some different mechanics. Pits the house of Lancaster against the house of York in a quest to be king of England. Playable in 2-3 hours, and accessible even for persistent eurogamers. This was a pleasant surprise for me, given that I usually don't care for war games at all! 8/10

Want to know more? See my pictorial review:
Let's learn how to play an introductory block war game with a pictorial review of Hammer of the Scots' brand new cousin!

Say Anything



Fantastic party game: Apples to Apples meets Wits & Wagers. I love party games like this, because of the social aspect, and it gets people talking about themselves, their preferences and experiences! One player asks a question, others come up with answers, and then for points try to guess which answer the person asking the question would choose. If you like a great social party game, then this is definitely one that belongs near the top of the pile! But you don't even need to buy this game for yourself. Buy it for your non-gaming friends or family! They're almost certain to love it, and at least when you visit them they'll pull this out, rather than something you'd really hate to play! A fantastic and fun social game that is almost guaranteed to please and to offer laughter ever time it hits the table, I give Say Anything my whole-hearted recommendation! 8.5/10

Want to know more? See my pictorial review:
The perfect gift to buy for your non-gaming family and friends

Igloo Pop



Very light 15 minute game, good for up to 6 players. Shake plastic igloos to guess (by sound and weight) how many glass beads are inside. A good filler to pull out from time to time for a barrel of laughs and silliness - just not too often or too long - and very suitable for children. If you are a stuffy hardcore gamer who only wants the steak of their Agricola and Puerto Rico, has no time for a quick appetizer or some light dessert, or for that matter, an ice cream cone on the park bench with the kids, then this game is not for you. Stay away! - I'm not sure I want to game with you anyway! But for the rest of us, there will always be an occasion - both with gamers or non-gamers - where we'll be able to pull out Igloo Pop for a barrel of laughs and silliness. Gamers could use a little more silliness, I say! It sure is unique, and the shake-'em and guess-'em mechanic has some great novelty value! Of one thing I am absolutely certain: Monty Python would rate this a ten. And if they made a board game skit, it would be something like Igloo Pop (just add grown men and costumes). Recommended - in carefully selected small doses with the right people, for a light and fun time, just like candy floss and ice cream. 6.5/10

Want to know more? See my pictorial review:
If Monty Python made a board game skit it would be something like Igloo Pop (also featuring a game mechanic that's in no other game!)
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3. Board Game: Cosmic Encounter [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:68]
Steven
United States
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Since I had some people over for Thanksgiving, I thought I'd introduce a few of my games. The intended schedule was a game of Cosmic Encounter (which I'd never played before), then Citadels, then Tichu.

We never got past CE, which was a huge hit. People were a little skeptical during the initial rules explanation (the "sequence" of a turn is a little too complicated, perhaps), but the game quickly turned when my brother attacked my friend -- shortly after my friend had allied with him (and burned a valuable reinforcement card)! Everybody also became very enthusiastic about the alien powers; in fact, in our last two games, we spent at least fifteen minutes each time picking through and laughing over the aliens. Loser v. Macron was highly enjoyable, and so was Sorcerer v. Oracle.

I tried vainly to get the group to move on to another game. I was vociferously opposed. Oddly enough, I didn't mind.
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4. Board Game: Municipium [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:1415]
 
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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A bit of a mixed bag this month, including some hot new Essen releases that I wasn't hugely impressed by. I don't think there was a game that was as outstanding as some of my previous months' selections, but I am going to go with Municipium, as I think it's been undeservedly overlooked.

Reiner Knizia's recent games haven't been received very well, but the comments I could find on this one made it sound decent, and BoardGameGuru had it for the excellent price of £10. It's a kind of area-majority game, but not a standard one as control of the different areas is very transient. On your turn, you can move two of your 'family members' between areas and then you activate either a random action card from a deck, or one of your three one-time-use personal cards. This being a Knizia game, the aim is to collect sets of colours, each of which you can trade in for a coin; first to five coins wins. What makes it fun, and moderately thematic for a Knizia, is that each area has a different special power that occasionally gets activated by the current majority-holder. These range from dragging other players' tokens to the Tavern to crowning one of your tokens with a laurel wreath (making it count double from then on). There is a fair bit of luck inherent in the card draw, but you can certainly prepare for the possible outcomes as there aren't many different ones. You also need to time the use of your personal cards well as they can give you a huge boost towards the finish line. This is a solid middleweight 60-minute game (a category which Knizia is the master of) and it deserves to be much higher-ranked than its lowly 665.

I slightly surprised myself by enjoying Dungeon Lords as it includes several features that I am not usually fond of: worker placement, blind bidding and a fantasy theme. And as I sat through the lengthy rules explanation, I feared the worst. But it is really not as complex to play as it is to explain and the excellent sense of humour helps to carry everything off. It's essentially two games: a worker placement/resource management phase to equip your dungeon with rooms, traps and monsters; followed by a combat phase in which your dungeon is visited by heroes and you must puzzle out the best way to capture them before they destroy all your hard work. The blind-bidding mechanic for placing the workers is really clever, though can lead to AP as there is a lot of information to take into account. Once the blind orders have been made, resolving them is very quick and easy. The combat phase is reminiscent of Galaxy Trucker as you see whether your design is going to hold together or be wrecked. There's no player interaction in this part of the game, but it's still good fun seeing how everyone fares. In my first game I found it hard to even really think about the final scoring as I was too busy learning the ropes, but I'd be interested in trying again. Not a game I'll be buying, but a lot better than I had feared.

Vasco da Gama is another worker-placement game with great Essen write-ups, but I found it a bit underwhelming. The action selection mechanic is nice, with players picking from discs marked from 1 to 20 and placing them on the actions they wish to perform. A lower number will let you play earlier but may end up costing you a lot of money, and you need to be careful to program your four or five actions each round in a logical order. The problem is that the actions themselves are not particularly varied or interesting. There are only four action areas to place in, and you will often want to take one of each, in a fairly obvious order. On the other hand, the system for moving ships is quite interesting and seems to be where a lot of the strategy lies. The player who realised how to work it best won our game by a country mile. I'd play again, but I am in no rush.

A major disappointment this month was Power Grid - Factory Manager, which had been one of my most-anticipated Essen releases. For a short game, it has a very fiddly set-up, and it's really the epitome of the individual player board optimisation/efficiency games that I've been growing increasingly sick of. Unlike its parent game, the complexity of the game is generated by the complexity of the ingredient tiles and not by effects emerging from simple ingredients and player interaction. A game with all the excitement of filling in your tax return, and less replayability.

However, even that wasn't as bad as Lifeboat, the worst game I have played in quite some time. Negotiation/secret information games can be a lot of fun, but this one's just nasty. And not just because I was the Kid, got beat on repeatedly and was eliminated from the game before it was even quarter done!

A couple of oddities to finish with. Tricky Trek is certainly the strangest looking game I've played, featuring porcelain models of lions, deer, pigs, mice, rabbits and butterflies. But then the theme is pretty strange too: you are racing the lions by digesting the other animals, which grant varying numbers of movement points. I can see this being quite a fun filler, though our game went on longer than it felt like it should have done, and ended up with some players feeling they had no choice over their actions at all.

Finally, I converted my copy of the dull Quiddler into Bali, by altering a few of the letters and the point values. This game was recommended to me on a GeekList and it does turn out to be a good 2-player word game. You build up chunks of words, trying to make sure that they can't be stolen by your opponent before you can score them. We didn't quite suss the strategy in our first game, and the only steal was PAR becoming part of APART, but I'll definitely try it again soon.

Almost forgot: Power Grid Brazil isn't as interesting as the China/Korea maps, but flipping restocking rates between coal and oil does shake the power plant market up quite a bit.
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5. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:30] [Average Rating:7.77 Unranked]
Judit Szepessy
Canada
London
Canada
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We learned and played Dominion many times. We all love this game and proves to be addictive. Of course, we are beginners yet and love to discover how the different cards interact.

We played Hungarian Scrabble for the first time. Hungarian is our native tongue but playing this seemed quite challenging, maybe because we have a different alphabet than English.

The image shows the board towards the end of the game. Note the different letters.



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6. Board Game: Parade [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:650]
Sheamus Parkes
United States
Carmel
Indiana
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Parade

This gets my pick for a slim month. Due to limited availability, I just played it with a Rage deck. What did I think? Well, it's not *quite* as cool as Coloretto, but it's easily a 1st or 2nd tier filler. The real key is how the scoring is done. Each card you take is negative face value. UNLESS you take the most of a color and then it's only -1 each for that color. So you want to take cards to secure majorities, but each card you take is more negative points.

Still, in my second game I got slaughtered -30ish to -2 mainly due to the draw. So there's a bit much luck, but I can handle that.


10 Days in Asia

A great gift from my secret santa. The last one I didn't own in the 10-days series. I was totally rusty in my former soviet republics. And I'll be danged if I still didn't know the layout of eastern Asia. It's part game and part education. I give it special status for those marks. And the trains were a good bit of fun to the base mechanics.


Liberté

Totally not a game for me. Too much fiddle and not enough punch for the playtime. For what it's worth, it finally made me realize what a good game El Grande is since I kept comparing all these other Area Control games back to that one. Anyway, I wrote a rather unpopular negative review here:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/458970
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7. Board Game: Ruse & Bruise [Average Rating:6.45 Overall Rank:1461]
Ben Lott
United States
Mason
Michigan
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November was a very slow month for new games. I spent a lot of our gaming time on games that were new to me in the last few months, and even pulled out some games that haven’t seen the table in more than a year. However there was one game that I received as a late birthday gift, which I got to play for the first time and really enjoyed. So I’m not upset that this game gets my entry for the month of November...



1 = Ruse & Bruise - I found this game to be absolutely delightful. It seemed like there were tough decisions on almost every turn and yet you only had 3 cards to choose from, so there wasn’t much analysis-paralysis. The interaction of the different special abilities makes the game interesting and challenging. My parents seemed to enjoy it, but Rikki is holding back judgment despite the fact that she was the only one who managed to make a complete set of 6 symbols and score the doubling bonus (she won by more than 10 points.) The one complaint I would have is that the game needs a decent player aid. There are several cards where the special ability description on the card is a little too vague or downright wrong, and it’s too much of a pain to always refer back to the rules for clarification. Still I found this game to be a winner and I’m very anxious to give it another try.
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8. Board Game: Hellas [Average Rating:6.24 Overall Rank:1700]
Eddy Richards
Scotland
Allanton
Duns
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Once again I only played one new game this month, so by default it has to be the best...... This was one I'd acquired some time ago but hadn't got around to playing, in part because this was the German version and we rarely feel like wading through pages of card translations. In fact this wasn't a big problem with this light (almost) wargame as there are only about 20 different cards and the helpful player aid here on the geek made working out which was which very easy. There were no problems with understanding the rules or how the game worked, and it was a pleasant enough game - certainly good enough to be worth getting out again in the near future.

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9. Board Game: Elk Fest [Average Rating:6.20 Overall Rank:1900]
MMB
United States
Florida
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Only new to me this month and practically the only game I've played. Did a few trades (which I haven't played) and was gifted this by a very generous geek!!!

The best part of this game was teaching and watching my daughter tweak and improve her technique to finally beat me this weekend!!!!!

Can't wait to open and play some of her Santa gifts this month!!!!!

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10. Board Game: Power Struggle [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:558]
Jesse Dean
United States
Orlando
Florida
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Potential Game of the Year

Power Struggle
Power Struggle is definitely the best game of the year, and may very well end up in my Top 10 before too long. It is a very interactive game with very few zero sum interactions. In the places where you can directly take something from another player, you will almost be giving something in return. The tricky thing is ensuring that what you give them does not help them more than it helps you, as many of the ways where you move against someone else’s position result in that player moving closer to the game’s victory conditions without having to take any actions of their own, and considering the limited number of actions you have in the game, anything that gives a player the ability to move closer to victory without any action on their part can be very, very valuable.

These interactions are but one attraction the game holds for me, but are not the only thing that make the game stand out. Like Tribune, you need to achieve four out of six potential victory conditions in order to win the game. Each of these requires a different set of requirements to pull off, interlocking in interesting ways that make it so there is no clear power combo between any two. On top of that, one of the victory conditions is to defeat one, specific opponent on three different tracks at the exact point when you have achieved three of the other victory conditions, resulting in a nice secret objective element.

I could go on, but I would start getting into review territory. Suffice to say, that I absolutely adore this game, and have been very impressed with what I have seen of it so far. The only thing that is holding me off from moving this game up from an 8 to a 9 is seeing how the game plays with more experienced players. Once I do, I could very easily see this game making my Top 5. It is just that good.

Excellent
Campaign Manager 2008

I wrote a review on this game here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/466875.
Since then I have played Campaign Manager a number of further times and my opinion of this game as a strong one has only increased. It is probably my short, two player game of choice right now, and I am glad that I purchased a pre-release copy at BGG.con. If I continue playing it as much as I have, I expect to easily get 40 plays out of it within the next few months, which I consider to be a very respectable play rate.

Merchant of Venus

I received this game in a quality-focused math trade early in November. I had not even originally planned to include it on my want list, but recent positive responses from one of my geekbuddies (JohnRayJr) resulted in me adding it at the last minute. I didn’t end up playing it until I got back from BGG.con, this past Wednesday, but have since played it four times, and am looking forward to my fifth.

What stands out for me most about Merchants of Venus is how it essentially combines the deep game play and decision styles of the heavier economic with some of the variability and exploration that can be found in some of the better experiential games. The location of particular alien races (customers) and reward/hazard tiles varies each time you play, resulting in the game being divided into distinct phases. In the first one you attempt to locate cultures and useful artifacts while avoiding particularly dangerous hazards, trying to gain an advantage over your opponents in the second phase of the game. In the second phase the players are trying to take advantage of the knowledge revealed to set up trade routes, building space stations and factories to gain enough money to reach the dollar amount required to win. One particularly interesting thing is that these phases are not necessarily sequential. It is very easy to shift between one and another throughout the game, moving off into a previously unexplored system in order to shake up the current situation and potentially win the game.

All this said, Merchants of Venus is probably my second favorite pick up and deliver game right now (behind Age of Steam) and is something I expect to get lots of play out of in the future. I easily rate it an 8.

Good

At the Gates of Loyang
The third in Uwe Rosenberg’s Harvest Trilogy, At the Gates of Loyang has few similarities with the other games in the trilogy beyond having a harvest phase and the presence of excellent looking veggiemeeples. It is less interactive than either Agricola or Le Have; the decisions one makes in Loyang rarely have an impact on the other players, except during narrow slices of the game. It is also lighter than either of those games without being especially shorter.

When boiled down to its essentials, Loyang is a slightly interactive efficiency puzzle. Because of this, the game loses very little when played solo. In fact, that might be my favorite form of the game, though the two player version of the game is fast enough and interesting enough to be worth playing. Because of its strength as a two player and solo game, I rate At the Gates of Loyang a 7. Despite my general preference for owning only games that I rate an 8 or higher, I will likely retain Loyang in my collection. I have few solo games that I enjoy, and my girlfriend enjoys it so I will likely play it two player with her somewhat frequently.

Shipyard

Shipyard is a rondel-driven action drafting game about constructing and test-driving ships. Despite being yet another action drafting game, Shipyard is unique enough that it will find a place in my collection once it is released.

My interest is based on the large number of moving parts in the game. Not only do you have to manage the timing of your access to the available actions on the main action drafting rondel, but you also need to manage the timing of your access to the sub-rondels which control which particular, essential item that you pick up for your eventual test cruise. You need to select just the right canal for the boat you are building; you have to buy the boat parts that best fit with the equipment you want to deck the boat out in. You also get a set six of special goals that give you bonus points at the end of the game. While you only use two of the six special goals, you need to keep an eye on them to in order to ensure you get something out of them and are thus able to eke out a victory.

There is even more to it than that, but that should be sufficient to give you an idea of the juggling that is required in this game. While this may be a nightmare, or just plain uninteresting, to some, this sort of juggling is just the sort of thing I like in action drafting games, and easily gives it the potential to be in the same class as Agricola, Caylus, and Le Havre. Whether it will reach that potential remains to be seen, however, as I have only played a single time. Initial impressions are positive, however, and I rate it a tentative 8.

Stronghold

Stronghold is a two player conflict game that attempts to simulate the siege of a stronghold. For the most part it succeeds at being tense and engaging, immersing the players in the battle and the decisions needed to win. Despite my generally enthusiastic response to the game, I do have two concerns.

The first concern is that the game appears to be a bit biased towards the defender. I have not played the game enough to be able to say definitively if this is the case, but if it does end up being true, the issue is easy to solve by giving the attacker another victory point or two to start the game with.

The second concern is that the game might be too tense for the defender. Both of my opponents so far have found the defender position in the game to be tense enough that they are not especially interested in playing the game again. This, as you might imagine, is problematic because these two opponents are the people I usually play two player games with.

So while I rate Stronghold an 8, I am uncertain if it will remain in my collection. If I can find a regular opponent I will retain it. If it just sits, gathering dust, then it will have to find another home.


Mediocre

A la carte
A clever little dexterity game that I do not think I ever need to play again.

Carson City

I was very enthusiastic about Carson City before I sat down to play it, hoping that it would be another deep, immersive action drafting game in the league of Agricola, Caylus, and Le Havre. Unfortunately, while it was somewhat interesting it did not seem to offer enough depth to help it stand with the games that I compare it to. This is the game that I think that I have the highest chance of being wrong about this month, and I would like to play it again, but the initial impressions were enough to leave it as a disappointed six.

Power Grid: Factory Manager

I found this to be an uninteresting, low tension math problem in game form. I normally like mathy games too, but this one did nothing for me. I won’t play it again.

1861: The Railways of the Russian Empire
1861 is probably my least favorite of the more "advanced" 18XX games I have played. The neutered stock market removes enough decision points that the other decisions the game adds fail to make up for the loss. A five.

Prototypes

Forged in Steel

I am hesitant to rate Adobe, Stone, and Steel because it is in prototype form, but I found this game to be intriguing enough that I will be playtesting it for the designer. I highly recommend that individuals who are fan of card-driven games and euros check it out, as it appears to be an excellent hybridization of the two.

Expansion
Agricola: Farmers of the Moor

I love Agricola, but I stopped playing it as frequently once I hit 80 plays. Agricola - Farmers of The Moor is good enough that I suspect I will be getting at least 40 more plays out of the game in the next year. The expansion adds to the potential decision space of the game while also correcting some of the "problems" that I perceived in the two and three player games. I will be purchase and began my exploration of this expansion as soon as it is released.
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11. Board Game: God's Playground [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:822]
Dave L.
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Easy choice for me. I'm quite pleased I pre-ordered this cruel and cynical (but somewhat non-confrontational (players are ostensibly all on the same side)) euro-wargame hybrid, based on what I thought was an intriguing theme. The game is not terribly hard to play, but there is a lot of subtlety at work that I think will wear well over many plays. Handles three only (but does it well), and has some confusing rules, but is well worth the investment. Also beautifully produced. I haven't thought this much about a game after playing in a while.

This was my fullest non-convention month ever, thanks to the Portland Meetup Group. I also liked Rise of Empires, The Climbers, König von Siam, Oltre Mare, and Blokus Duo. Had a more negative first impression of Dominion, China, and Jericho.



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12. Board Game: Middle-Earth Quest [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:267]
Gregory Bay
United States
Kernersville
North Carolina
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A great game. I splurged and actually picked this one up a couple of months ago in my FLAGS, which is 8 hours away in Winnipeg, but it sat on my shelf with the rules on my night stand for over a month. I finally took the time and sat down to play this game over the last couple weeks and this is a keeper!

One I am a fan of the theme. Game takes place in the 17 years between Bilbo's Birthday/departure and the Frodo's adventures. Some may say this pasted on but the game and mechanics play really well.

The rules may seem overwhelming but Fantasy Flight has put together a great rule book that answers the major questions that you have learning a new game ahead of time along with illustrations. Once you play you will find it flows easily and provides a great play experience. Excellent re playability

Also, you get to play Sauron and it is not the game mechanics doing it. A great game from FFG.

My second is Commands & Colors: Ancients Great, great game. My favorite over all the games in the series. Theme is major, love Romans, as well as the ancient's startegies are intriguing to me. Great game.

Hope everyone in the States had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

God Bless!!!

Gregory
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13. Board Game: The Next President [Average Rating:7.14 Unranked]
Joe Huber

Westborough
Massachusetts
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This was the month when I got to try many new Essen releases. But the only one to really hit home with me so far is Power Grid Factory Manager, and I'd played that previously.

So the best game I played this month new to me was clearly The Next President, another math trade find. Nice system - I'm looking at nicking it for a multiplayer game...

Of the Essen games I played for the first time this month, the only one I think might survive is Tobago, which I do like, but don't love. I would play Tindahan from Filipino Fruit Market again, or Alice in Wonderland Parade, or Gonzaga, or even Captain Pirate, but I don't need to. Actually, I'd play At the Gates of Loyang, if asked nicely. I wouldn't play Hansa Teutonica or Carson City or Power Struggle or Alcazar again without some serious arm-twisting. (Though I suppose I might try Neue Big Boss - I just don't feel a need to.)

Of the non-Essen games, Ultimate and Armchair Cricket have some promise...
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14. Board Game: Ra: The Dice Game [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:814]
Jordan Stewart
Canada
Saint John
New Brunswick
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Ra: The Dice Game



Takes top honors this month, after facing some fierce competition. I love a decent dice game, and this game is what I wanted Roll Through The Ages to be. More interactive, and with the shared board, you get to see what everyone is up to. Roll through the ages was not a terrible game by any means, I just think this one does it better.

Caylus



Finally got to conquer the beast that is Caylus. This game is probably the one on this little list that should be at the top, but at this point, (1, 2 player game) it sits with a solid 8. "A more complex, and therefore more interesting Stone Age" kept going through my mind. Looking forward to putting this game through it's paces.

Ticket to Ride



Only played with 2 players thus far which might be less than fair to this classic. Lookin to add the Swiss map to make things tighter. Great game though, and my first experience with Days of Wonder's top notch components.

Ice Flow



Was really excited to track this game down and get a copy. Really cool theme, and components make this game a pleasure to play. It is a bit of a "quiet time, brain burner" though, perfect for Sunday mornings over a fresh cup of Joe.

Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game




Thought I'd like this game, but it didn't really go over that great honestly. There was some fun to be had, but after 2 consecutive games I was just left feeling kind of blah about the whole experience.

Zombies!!!



Fiddly and boring for the most part, not really interested in playing again.
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15. Board Game: The Castle of the Devil [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:1168]
Donald Walsh
United States
Columbia
Maryland
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No contest. It's better than Bang! It's better than Werewolf. I thought it would be a fun game but it totally exceeded my expectations.

Not a lot of new titles I played this month, this, Shogun, and the Pandemic expansion. But this would be at or near the top in any month. Highly recommended.
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16. Board Game: Triviathon [Average Rating:6.11 Overall Rank:7927]
Randy Cox
United States
Clemson
South Carolina
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We played four new (to me) games this month...

Triviathon, while not as good as it could be, was the best of the lot. It can be made a lot better with some tweaks I mention in my review, but it still beat out the contenders...

Foil was next best and, again with some tweaks I suggest, I think it could vault into the realm of an exceptionally good game. But as it is, it's a bit too long. I do like the fact that you both build and unscramble words in this game.

Boggle Bowl was picked up for a buck at a thrift store. It was fun for the first three or four turns, but it got pretty monotonous after that. It's a slow tug-of-war word game, which has me a little concerned about Word on the Street, which is on my wish list.

Finally, Scrabble Duplicate Crossword Game (another $1 thrift store find) was in the mix. It was a little bit fun, but was really nothing more than an exercise in anagramming. Not much board play and no plan-ahead rack management. If it had taken only about 20 minutes, that would be OK. But it took just as long as a full game of regular Scrabble. If you're going to play a word game for an hour, might as go with the wonderful granddaddy game from 60 years ago.

All in all, that's a lot of "new" games for me in a single month.
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17. Board Game: Zero! [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:1471]
Max Jamelli
United States
Chambersburg
Pennsylvania
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I can't believe, not one new game this month.

ouch.
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18. Board Game: Pacific Typhoon [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:1584]
Roberta Taylor
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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Finally got a chance to play this while visiting family out of town. My history loving son and brother-in-law joined me in figuring this out, and as I suspected, it was a hit!

What I like the most about this game is that it really is about hand-management and table-talking alliances etc..., but the theme works well despite the unusual combination that makes.

Even with 3 players, we had our share of betrayal, a 'sure win' ruined by fate, and lots of laughs as I rolled a 1. Again. My son was fascinated by the flavour text on the cards- I suspect he'll be wanting us to play this chronologically next.

The rules to Pacific Typhoon are well laid out, but were clearly designed by a wargamer. The game is actually far simpler than the rules suggest, and once we walked our way through a round, we only had to reference them a few times- mainly to see what to do with a new card, or find out what to do in the case of a tie.

We look forward to trying this again, and I am certain that it will really shine with more players- I suspect that 5 will be ideal.
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19. Board Game: In the Shadow of the Emperor [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:540]
Eugene van der Pijll
Netherlands
Den Haag
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In the Shadow of the Emperor: Brainburner, but fun! I bought this game a while ago, but it had never made the table because it looks so abstract and dull, and the rules seem difficult. But it is a good game, and it implements its theme well. Of course, it also helped that I won my first (and--so far--only) game of this.

Ca$h 'n Gun$: Fun party game. Don't expect any deep strategy, but it's hilarious with the right group (which probably consists of non-gamers). I've taken this with me to a birthday party of a friend of mine, and we all had a blast.

Pack & Stack: Short little game. It is built around the tile selection mechanism of Factory Fun, with scoring determined by the size of your tile compared to the blocks that you received at the start of the turn. Easy to explain, fun to play.

Time's Up!: Party game. The first round really depends on your knowledge of trivia, like many other party games (e.g. 30 Seconds), the second and third rounds are original, and fun. But I don't think my friends want to play this with me again.

Once Upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game: Create your own fairytale, getting rid of all of your cards in the mean time. Good concept, but the experience depends a lot on the group you're playing with. Unfortunately, the creativity of my fellow players varied quite a bit.

Bloom: Put flowers in a garden, on top of those of your opponents. The main mechanism in the game is similar to that in The Hanging Gardens, but Bloom has its own dynamics. It takes a while before you understand it. Not bad, but I don't really feel the need to play this again.

Alles Kanone!: Children's memory and reaction game. Very simple, not much depth, not very interesting.

Starfarers of Catan: Catan, but in space. The deck with event cards sounds nice, but is repetitive; the resource cards are badly designed; the spaceships are even worse; the game itself lasts too long. There is no reason to choose this game above its earthly predecessor.

Alibi: An older game of deduction. Cluedo without the board. During the game, I felt I had no clue of what I was doing. Nice to have tried it, but not a keeper.

Erosion: Maybe it's just the group I was playing with, but this game is glacial. And random, shallow, and not particularly fun.

Falling: Real time game that is all about speed. I played this game against people who played it before, so it didn't really get a fair chance (and neither did I...). I didn't really enjoy it. But I could see the fun when playing with people with about the same experience. I need more games that I can play when my AP-prone friend comes to visit; this is one game I'd enjoy playing with him. (He wouldn't enjoy it as much.)

I also played a couple of new expansions;

Power Grid: Transformer Station: wonderful addition to a fantastic game. The transformer really adds value to one of your power plants.

Power Grid: Brazil/Spain & Portugal: changes the base game much less than the previous new maps (China/Korea). A must-have for PG fans, even if it doesn't add that much to the game. The box is very nice.

Pandemic: On the Brink: we only used the new epidemic cards; this changed the game a little, but not enough to really appreciate a large effect. Probably, the rest of the expansion is better.
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20. Board Game: BasketBoss [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:2253]
Gary Heidenreich
United States
Milwaukee
Wisconsin
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I have to say this is the best new one I played this month. Played five new games out of 41 games played. Not too bad.

This is an auction game with a basketball theme (which I love). It plays quick and, at least with two, you had some tough choices. Looking forward to playing with more people.

Aquaretto
I think I have to say I liked this one as much as Zooloretto (if not more). More choices on how to set up your park and what to do with workers. I would like to play this one again, for certain.

Fluxx
Yeah, I should have just spared myself. This was bad. Will not play again. Even if you aren't taking it seriously, there are other, pointless, take that games that are more fun to play.

Kremlin
The first game was a bit rough as we were learning it and the person teaching had played once before. But I see something in it that would be very cool to explore. Another one I would give another chance to. Not sure if the rest of the group feels the same way.

Vabanque
Played with six and aborted the game half way through as we had a league race to start. Another game that would be quick and fun with alot of doublethink and groupthink all tied in together.
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21. Board Game: Chicago Express [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:265]
Tom O'Keefe
United States
Richmond
Virginia
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For whatever reason I ended up playing a lot of new games this month (for me anyway). It wasn't too hard to pick Chicago Express as the best of the lot, though. It's relatively quick to play, very competitive, and easy to learn and teach for its depth. I'm eager to play more so I can learn not to suck at it.

Honorable Mentions:
FITS
Container
R-Eco
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22. Board Game: At the Gates of Loyang [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:188]
Kevin Duffy
United States
Phoenixville
Pennsylvania
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At the Gates of Loyang takes top honors this month with 6 plays (5 with 2 players, 1 with 3). It's a heads-down-and-get-out-the-mental-calculator kind of game and I've really enjoyed it so far. It's longer than Agricola with our games coming in a little over 2 h but we've found that you are so engaged (at least with 2 players) that we have not noticed the time pass. Excellent game!


Vegas Showdown came a close second. I've had this in shrink-wrap for over a year and finally cracked it open. Played three 3-player games recently and have quite enjoyed it. It's fairly simple with a bit of bluffing and brinkmanship. I'd probably rather play this than PoF!!


Birds on a Wire. Got this primarily to play with my kids who really like it. My 4-year old can play fine (obviously lacking some of the subtler aspects) and it's a cute theme, ZAP!


The Bridges of Shangri-La. Another one I've had for a while and didn't get around to. Average game, completely abstract with an amusing theme added on. Didn't enjoy this as much as some of Colvini's other games such as Masons, Familienbande, Carolus Magnus.
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23. Board Game: Taj Mahal [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:189]
Jens KH
Germany
Frankfurt am Main
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November was an exceptionally good month for new games. Some of that was still Essen aftermath, but there were quite a few older titles as well.

Here they go in order of appearance.




Taj Mahal (1 play) d10-9

Ok, Knizia. It still amazes me how the same guy can produce lots of really clever titles, and an equal (or even greater?) amount of badly recycled garbage.

Anyway, Taj Mahal certainly belongs to the former. The auctions are wonderfully tense, and timing and the decision what to bid for are at least as important as actually making the best bid - if you're too late even the best cards won't help you. So each turn you ask yourself, "do I quit now with a low investment and take what little I can get, or do I stay and up the ante just a bit? Will my opponent fold next turn? If I get out now I'd do so empty-handed but with just a small loss. If I stayed I might get everything, except when my opponent doesn't fold, in which case I'd still leave empty-handed but a lot poorer." Sometimes the auctions feel a lot like a poker match.

We thought the game might have a run-away leader problem when the gap from first to second player extended to 15 VP at one point, and even though the leader did pull through this time the first three players were within 3 VPs of each other by the end of the game. Some strategies simply pay off later than others here.




Tammany Hall (1 play) d10-7

Great area majority game on par with - if not better than - El Grande.

In our 4-player game we had two players with some sort of a private feud which pretty much left the two remaining players fighting for the win. Consequently, we also only had two players winning the mayor's office, with two consecutive terms each. After the first two terms the score was something like 18 - 9 - 4 - 3, and it pretty much looked like a done deal already. However, I was able to score at least two, often three immigrant leader positions per term. Even though I often had to share with someone else that gave me a comfortable lead in favours which allowed me to go for mayor for the next two terms and take the lead. The final vote was still very close, though, and only decided on the tie-breaker, so the game was actually a lot closer than the final score of 37 - 43 - 15 - 6 might make you believe.

Overall, a very exciting and thematic game. Just try to keep out of blood feuds. This one may have potential to rise even further.




Caterpillar: Age of Tank (1 play) d10-5

A very trashy experience. "Age of Tank", how cool is that? As the caption says, it's Age of Steam with tanks. Sort of, only different. So you pick up goods cubes in cities and deliver them to other cities (sounds famailiar?) across a post-nuclear wasteland in (solar-powered!) tanks (uh...?). Turns out it doesn't really have a lot in common with AoS after all except for the goods cubes.

The game was actually fun for the most part, but it did have serious balancing issues. Since you can't do much without money, and the only way to earn money is delivering goods (gives VP, too), and you can only deliver goods which randomly drawn cards let you... there's people who earn money faster than others which means they can then upgrade their tanks earlier, and deliver even more cubes even faster etc. etc. It's an economic snowball gone haywire.

The other ways to earn VPs (removing obstacles from the map, and randomly shooting at enemy tanks) feel tacked on because the designer realized there comes a time when the cubes run out and there would be nothing else left to do otherwise.

Did I mention that the impact of dice is much too high for a game that could be a neat tactical package? But maybe I'm just bitter because I lost...




Ticket to Ride: Märklin (1 play) d10-7

Conceptually the best of the TtR editions I've played so far (US and Europe). The passengers add another way to score points, and discourage the hoarding of cards at the beginning to some extent. Also, it has no tunnels or stations which were the features of Europe that I didn't like.

A game with four players was a pretty relaxed affair. While not exactly empty, the map certainly felt less crowded than I'd expect from the US map, for example. The additional passenger points were actually more fiercely contested than the tracks. For casual gamers that might be a plus, people who like it more cutthroat might want to stick to playing with five only (or was it just an unlikely tame draw of destination cards? Hard to say for sure after one play).




Lost Valley (1 play) d10-6

While Lost Valley does look like an adventure game, what with exploring the wilderness, hunting, and digging for gold, and you even get a character sheet, it is really much more of an optimisation game. Use your available resources as efficiently as possible to amass more gold than the other players.

Nevertheless, it captures the feeling of exploration quite well, and trying to keep the other players away from the mine you carved out of the mountain with nothing but a log and your last spoon is probably about as futile as it was back in the day.

There is a dose of luck in the tile draws and hunting, but it usually is either negligible or optional. The one game we played with 4 players makes me believe that it's probably not so great with 3: the river that by and large divides the valley into to more or less independent parts implies that one player will be able to operate pretty much without interference.




Manila (1 play) d10-6

Fun mix between an investment and a gambling game. Players bet on the results of boat races (they aren't quite races since it doesn't matter who comes first; it's only finishing that counts). They also buy shares of the boats, and the shares of all boats that finish a race go up a notch. Whoever has the most money at the end of the game is the winner.

There are a few clever ways to influence which boats will reach the harbour - the habour master, pilots, pirates (yes, it has pirates!) - in the end it's all up to the dice, however since that's the primary means of movement. In short, a great filler, not too thinky, and lots of fun if you manage to stop the final barge just short of the finish line.




Linq (1 play) d10-7

Finally, a party game that is not about doing stuff faster, knowing people better, or simply shouting louder than everyone else. This is one that actually allows for clever play, rewards creativity and unusual thinking, and can still be played by people who don't know each other at all. Every single word counts! Due to the fact that the aim is to find out who you're playing with (and who everyone else is playing with) there's no unfair advantages.

Lots of fun, and infinitely better than the likes of Taboo and Outburst.




Warrior Knights (1 play) d10-6

Warrior Knights is, at its heart, a pretty standard "conquer the world" game. The knight who controls most cities in the kingdom wins and becomes the next king. This basic premise is spiced up with several interesting diversions and mechanics, though, the most important of which are politics and the action system.

In irregular intervals the council convenes to debate various issues, from laws to personal favours. These can have significant impact on the game so the council is more than just an unimportant side track.

With regard to actions, each knight has the same set of cards from which he can choose several to play during a turn. While he can decide which of his actions should happen early or late in the round the exact order (and whether the opponents will be able to act before or after) is unknown. This allows for quite a bit of tactical maneuvering. When a certain amount of cards has been played, this triggers extra actions such as a council convention or the hiring of new soldiers.

The mechanics are really interesting, and we certainly had a good time in our play with 4 players, but at 4 and a half hours I can't see this getting to the table very often. And don't get me started on the rulebook. It took us two additional hours to go through the rules, mostly because it repeats each rule at least three times in different parts of the book, and also adds heaps of helpful examples: "When the tax pile reaches number of players times two cards this triggers a tax round. For example, if you are playing with 5 players, a tax round starts at 10 cards on the pile." Really? Hm. We were really dumbfounded when we found out they hadn't included an example for 4 players. What were we to do?




Thunderstone (2 plays) d10-5

Many people describe this as Dominion: The Dungeoncrawl, and if you look past the fact that there's not actually a lot of crawling being done (the dungeon consists of three rooms, and you know beforehand what horrors await you where) they pretty much hit the nail on the head.

It may not be as streamlined as Dominion but it makes it up in theme. I actually like Thunderstone better than Dominion (admittedly that's not saying much) for a couple of reasons.

First of all it feels a lot less abstract thanks to the fantasy theme. Going to the village, hiring heroes, equipping them, and then entering the dungeon to battle monsters somehow feels more satisfying than "I scraped together enough gold to buy a duchy, yeah". It's also much harder - if not impossible - to burn through your deck at the same ridiculous rate so you're not necessarily bound to see the same nauseating, sleep-inducing combo a million times in a row. There are actually reasons - most of them being different monster abilities like e.g. immunities - to diversify. That simple tweak already improves the game a ton in my eyes.

That said, the light mechanic feels a little clunky (the "deeper" rooms are darker, and if you don't bring torches and stuff to light things up that will impact your fighting skills), not being able to level up when the higher level heroes have all been hired doesn't make sense, and the end game condition is pretty arbitrary and rewards the player after the one who finished the game for some unfathomable reason. So not all is gold that twinkles, but still, better than Dominion.




Carcassonne: The Discovery (2 plays) d10-6

The Discovery is clearly placed in the Carcassonne universe. While the tile-laying and meeple placement are still pretty much the same, there are only three different landscape types with pretty much equivalent valuation, and scoring is completely different. To start with, you only have four meeples which makes careful meeple management much more important, and then scoring is a player action and no longer happens automatically when a feature is complete. You can score incomplete features, too, albeit for a lower score, and this way it's even possible to score the same feature multiple times.

These changes make the game feel more streamlined and quite a bit more balanced than its ancestor. It rarely happens that one player can score a huge feature that allows him to run off with the victory. The Discovery is more about taking small but consistent steps. Sometimes it is necessary to take risks ("Do I score this incomplete feature now to get my meeple back? It's unlikely it will still be completed, but if it is it will score hugely for whoever managed to draw the right tile...") simply because going without any meeples for too long severely hurts your opportunities on the board, and scoring low ist still better than not scoring at all.

If this accommodated more than 5 players, I'd universally recommend it as the better Carcassonne.




Power Struggle (1 play) d10-6

Power Struggle is an "office simulation". Basically, it's an area majority game with a few twists. While many of the mechanics used are known from other games, Power Struggle often slightly changes the way they work or adds some icing to the cake (archenemies, for example). However, as much as I liked some of the ideas I did feel like the game didn't get the balance quite right, and some things outright bothered me.

Main departments seem to be quite a bit stronger than many of the other tracks, and players with the bad fortune to not have that track as one of their goals seem to be at a disadvantage (plus, it's also the easiest track to get a VP for). It also feels somewhat wrong that in many situations I want someone else to take a division away from me. Not only does this give my division head the opportunity to move onto the board or into the external consultancy business for free, it also means that someone else will get the often not very attractive division special power, so I can bribe them to get it back which will actually make it stronger and often quite useful.

Now, I'd certainly like to play this again to see if that was just the one game I played, but so far it didn't quite convince me.




Powerboats (1 play) d10-5

Powerboats is a race game similar in style to Formula D/Dé. On the plus side, it offers a bit more control since you can use multiple dice that you don't even have to reroll if you don't want to. On the negative side, however, it lacks the opportunities for blocking or slip-streaming. While rolling too high in Formula D often means you'll just spend a brake or tyre point to keep on track in Powerboats it often results in dropping out of the race completely because you have to use up all movement points if you can, even if that means going in the opposite direction of where you wanted to go. There's pretty much no comeback from such a situation.

This makes Powerboats a much more defensive game; taking risks is rarely a good idea. So while the game makes the dice rolling a bit more manageable it also lacks some of the excitement of a race.


In addition to that I also played RftG with the two expansions Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm and Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium for the first time this month. Since I have no idea which of these added what, and I haven't played the base game enough to properly gauge their effects, anyway, I'll refrain from rating them for now, though.
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24. Board Game: StreetSoccer [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:1154]
Matt Dodor
United States
St. Paul
MN
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The Best

Wow, a great month for finding new, fun games! I had a hard time picking exactly which title was my favorite, but because of my affinity for 2p games I have to go with StreetSoccer



I was really really happy with Streetsoccer upon my first play. Streetsoccer is to Soccer with Battleball is to football. That is by no means a faithful simulation, but instead a game that captures some of the flavor of the sport of inspiration. Where Battleball plays up the concept of skill positions, (linemen are slow but pack a big punch, running backs are very fast but not strong) Streetsoccer is a simulation of positioning and passing. Most likely the best new 2p only game I've learned this year. Rating d10-8



It's no secret I'm a big fan of bidding and auction games. I'm also a huge sucker for simplicity. Normally, the saying "doing more with less" is a bad thing. What someone really means is "you'll do less with less." A well designed ruleset really can do more with less. Vom Kap bis Kairo is easily one of the simplest bidding games I've ever played. The game plays in two phases, the endgame is more of a race style ending than a VP scoring phase. Just be the first to get done with the money you're given! A brilliant little bidding game for 2 to 4 players. Rating d10-8



Keeping on the concept of simplicity, let's look at Traders of Osaka. If I remember correctly, there are 12 different cards in this game's deck and a game board that is about 6 spaces long. The fact that such an interesting game can be made out of such a modest deck and board is nothing short of amazing to me. Great with 2, but I have a feeling that title would really shine at 3. Rating d10-8



Ricochet Robots is your classic, old-school puzzle game. It fits any number of players reasonably well. The robots have no breaks. Get to the objective in the least amount of moves. Oh yea, this is in real time. Love it! Rating d10-7



Fast Flowing Forest Fellers is FF's Ave Caesar inspired racing game. FFFF is all about chaos and pushing. My verdict is still out if this game is better than Ave Caesar. It's probably better at 3 or 4, but inferior at 5 or 6. There's definately a lot more replayability with the many boards of FFFF though. The theme and mechanics, specifically currents, logs, and pushing match really well with the theme. Every board I've played so far reeks of excellent design. Rating d10-7



Wasabi! is an interesting take on the line-forming tile game. Wasabi is rather simple, but after a play it's easy to see that there is plenty of room to improve your play. Seems as if this game would be best with three, I don't see myself suggesting this title at 4. Rating d10-7

The Rest

I also played Doom: The Boardgame, Tooor!, Dia de los Muertos, Sakkara, Thurn and Taxis, Hansa, and Gargon this month. Those all were just so-so with me. Not really too bad, but not really engaging either.
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25. Board Game: En Garde [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:1386]
Avri Klemer
United States
Brooklyn
New York
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Despite writing 50,000 words of fiction this November, I still got some quality gaming time in as well (unlike last year . . .)

I have wanted to play En Garde since I first discovered BGG, and it was worth the wait. Like many of my favorite games, this is fast, simple and the theme (light as it may be) fits very well. There is clearly more skill than luck here, despite the card drawing nature of the game.

PitchCar Mini might have headed this list, but for two factors - 1) I've been waiting to play En Garde for years, and 2) I had already played the original full sized version and in all honesty I think this is the same game. It's like having a separate entry for a travel-sized chess set . . .

Another month, another new AbStrat game, this time the excellent Ponte del Diavolo. I actually am enjoying this one much more than any of the other "pure" connection games or "pure" placement games - this is like a cross between Go and Twixt and it really works.

The only new game that wasn't a slam dunk this month was Blokus 3D. Played a couple of 2-player boards with my wife, and honestly we'd rather play vanilla Blokus with the 2-player variant rules. Hopefully it will work better with 3 or 4 . . .


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