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2011: A boardgaming Eastern European odyssey
Finland
20100 Turku
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and aesthetically satisfying games. By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains malleable, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory.
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And so it came to be, that my sister would be graduating from dental school, and could finally be on her way to legally torturing people (thus giving the family a long-awaited reprieve).

Alas, she would be doing that in Semmelweis University in Budapest (technically Pest), and therefore I would have to make my way to that august institution in time to partake in the celebrations.

So, from Turku, the ball-and-chain and I started on our trek. We took boats, cars, trains, buses and walked across borders, through city and country, on to the land of the Magyars.

This GeekList is about the games we played and the places we saw.

Edit: If you don't know what CouchSurfing is, click here and/or watch this:
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1. Board Game: Backgammon [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:914]
Finland
20100 Turku
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All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance; the same description may be applied to the best, most elegant and both intellec
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and aesthetically satisfying games. By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains malleable, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory.
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Turku, Finland to Pärnu, Estonia


Pärnu was quite the pretty town, although the weather was terrible on our beach day. Still, it was nice to hang out at the cafes and see the old wooden houses.

Being Greek, backgammon (or Tavli) is somewhat of a national sport for me, although I only learned how to play later than most. Now, it is somewhat of an obsession for the missus and I, and we play almost daily. So, with a magnetic travel set we played some. I forgot who won, but it was fun.
 
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2. Board Game: Bohnanza [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:280]
Finland
20100 Turku
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All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance; the same description may be applied to the best, most elegant and both intellec
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and aesthetically satisfying games. By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains malleable, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory.
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Pärnu, Estonia to Ķīšupe, Latvia


We originally planned to go straight to Riga, and from there to Jurmala, a popular summer resort, but the couple we were CouchSurfing with invited us to the summer cottage they were renting for the summer, which was in the small town of Ķīšupe.

Space and weight dictated the games we could carry with. And so, Bohnanza, the german edition with the expansion came with us, because it scales up to 7 players, and involves a lot of interaction. It was fun with 4, and they got the point very quickly.
 
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3. Board Game: Coloretto [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:367]
Finland
20100 Turku
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All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance; the same description may be applied to the best, most elegant and both intellec
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and aesthetically satisfying games. By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains malleable, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory.
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Ķīšupe, Latvia


Ķīšupe is located near Saulkrasti (which means "Sun Coast" in Latvian) and the port of Skulte, north of Riga. Among other things, the area is home to the Saulkrasti Jazz Festival, Soviet-era vacation houses and the home of a certain Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Münchhausen.

There was also some Coloretto played, which we brought because it was easy to carry, and scales up to 5 players. Good fun was had by all, and it was agreed that the red cards, are in fact, red.
 
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4. Board Game: Geo200 [Average Rating:4.00 Unranked]
Finland
20100 Turku
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All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance; the same description may be applied to the best, most elegant and both intellec
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and aesthetically satisfying games. By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains malleable, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory.
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Ķīšupe, Latvia to Riga, Latvia


So, on to the largest city of the Baltics, a metropolis and industrial centre of Soviet times, when the factories around it would produce cars, radios, home appliances and more. We CouchSurfed with the same hosts as in Ķīšupe in their house located between the old and new parts of the city. The old town is quite compact, with a series of squares full of cafés and beer gardens.

Geo200 is a Latvian game, recently published, that targets the educational market. It aims to teach about the countries of the world, which it would do well, if it was playable. Even our hosts couldn't decipher the instructions, online or printed, English or Russian, Latvian or otherwise. Too bad, the production values are ok, and it comes with a giant card shuffler.
 
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5. Board Game: Quoridor [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:777]
Finland
20100 Turku
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All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance; the same description may be applied to the best, most elegant and both intellec
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and aesthetically satisfying games. By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains malleable, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory.
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Riga, Latvia


Riga is a nice town, much more modern than I expected. Of course, my upbringing was full of negative stereotypes from Eastern Europe, with mafia types with bad accents chasing Bruce Willis or some other make-believe action hero. This is where I instituted my litmus test for civilisation: bicycle lanes. Yes, from now on I will judge the social progress of a people by the kms of bicycle lanes they have in their cities.

Just like Geo200, Quoridor we didn't carry, our hosts had it. It was fun, and I would like it to play it with gamers, as I believe that as a social game, it is too "nice". It pays to analyse the situation a little. Even though it is an abstract, I liked it, and wouldn't mind owning it at some point.
 
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6. Board Game: Sun, Sea & Sand [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:1321]
Finland
20100 Turku
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All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance; the same description may be applied to the best, most elegant and both intellec
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and aesthetically satisfying games. By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains malleable, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory.
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Riga, Latvia to Klaipeda & Neringa, Lithuania


OK, we didn't play Sun, Sea & Sand, we played in the sun, sea and sand.

The Curonian Spit is a wonder of nature. Huge sand dunes extend into the horizon and into Kaliningrad Oblast, the former territory of Konigsberg still held by Russia. The Spit is a national park, and is home to a very sensitive environment, with the dunes shifting several metres every year. Worth seeing is the tallest dune on the Lithuanian side in Nida, with a giant sun dial on it.
 
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7. Board Game: Tobago [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:306]
Finland
20100 Turku
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All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance; the same description may be applied to the best, most elegant and both intellec
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and aesthetically satisfying games. By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains malleable, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory.
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Neringa, Lithuania to Vilnius, Lithuania


So, back on the bus for us, and we arrive to Vilnius, our first foray to inland Eastern Europe. We CouchSurfed with these nice people, and it turned out that other than good CSers - what luck! - that they were gamers (thank you, CS keyword search ) Vilnius was wonderful, although the weather was quite fickle, resulting in lots of games played and pasta consumed.

Tobago was fun, a light deduction game I can enjoy. I didn't get the point immediately, although I did recognise that the amulets were quite powerful, at least for our session. I would play again, although not sure I would buy it. Perhaps I can find it in a trade.

We also visited D6, a great little FLGS with lots of games available to demo and play, and a quite updated range of games for sale. I had a nice talk with the owner about A Game of Thrones (first edition) and other such fun stuff.
 
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8. Board Game: Ausgerechnet Uppsala [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:2790]
Finland
20100 Turku
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All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance; the same description may be applied to the best, most elegant and both intellec
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and aesthetically satisfying games. By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains malleable, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory.
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Vilnius, Lithuania to Warsaw, Poland


Just before we left on our overnight bus to Warsaw, we also managed to play a game of Uppsala with our hosts. It turned out it was the logalised Baltic edition, with lots of locations in Lithuania, making it a lot harder on us to play.

Warsaw was nice, we had a good time, but the city itself was not as picturesque as the other places we visited in the trip. Still, worth a visit if it's on your way. Perhaps it would have been more notable if we CSed here too, as it is often about who you meet on your trip, not the destination.
 
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9. Board Game: Ligretto [Average Rating:6.26 Overall Rank:1772]
Finland
20100 Turku
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All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance; the same description may be applied to the best, most elegant and both intellec
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and aesthetically satisfying games. By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains malleable, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory.
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Warsaw, Poland to Krakow, Poland


Krakow is often said to be better than Warsaw, and we could see why when we saw the old town. Although quite touristy, it is a very compact, very beautiful, very interesting place. From the castle and the old Jewish quarter to the Cloth Hall and the Barbican, it is quite impressive.

Here is where I finally played Ligretto with 8 people, the maximum I could with our two boxes. Although I still want to play with 12 one day, I can understand how crazy it will be. With 8, it was almost unplayable, and a proper table is important to have. It was fun, but it is better to play two games of 4 if there is that many people next time.
 
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10. Board Game: Train [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Finland
20100 Turku
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All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance; the same description may be applied to the best, most elegant and both intellec
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and aesthetically satisfying games. By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains malleable, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory.
mbmbmbmbmb
Krakow, Poland to Košice, Slovakia


I would be remiss to mention Krakow without mentioning our visit to Auschwitz. After we left I felt that I hadn't really been anywhere before I went there. I can't really describe how I felt, but I can say that everyone must go see it with their own eyes.

We didn't play it, but to read about Train, click here:
http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2009/06/24/can-you-make-a-boa...

On a lighter note, we also went to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine, which made me want to play Magnum Sal. Words also fail me here, for different reasons. The Wikipedia page gives a good overview, with some nice pictures too.

Our next stop took us to eastern Slovakia, which was very cheap and very pleasant. Along with the mine in Krakow, the other place that reminded me of A Game of Thrones: The Board Game was Spiš Castle, located about 2 hours from Košice. It is a massive place really worth visiting, full of intrigue and conflict, history and violence.
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11. Board Game: Chess [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:324]
Finland
20100 Turku
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All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance; the same description may be applied to the best, most elegant and both intellec
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and aesthetically satisfying games. By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains malleable, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory.
mbmbmbmbmb
Košice, Slovakia to Budapest, Hungary


Budapest, our destination. I had been here before, and so there was not much exploring to do, leaving time for some work and rest.

I was hoping for more gaming here with the family, but they had to pack my sister's several metric tons of belongings, and all the festivities took time. Anyway, all I managed was some chess with the S.O. along with some good tea.

I also picked up from my parents Dominion: Seaside and Arbos that I obtained in the 3η Ελληνική math trade, along with Afrika Korps that I have had (unplayed) since childhood and will be offering up for trade, as well as a chess clock for use in chess and other 2-player games from now on.
 
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12. Board Game: BGO Extended 2.0 expansion (fan expansion for Through the Ages) [Average Rating:8.01 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.01 Unranked]
Finland
20100 Turku
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All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance; the same description may be applied to the best, most elegant and both intellec
badge
and aesthetically satisfying games. By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains malleable, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory.
mbmbmbmbmb
Budapest, Hungary to Turku, Suomi


And so our journey came to an end. Back to the land of ice and snow, to polar bears and sauna, to reindeer-riding half-naked blondes and salmiakki, and of course, to my beloved games and the people I play them with.

But I was not homesick, as I played Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization via Boardgaming-Online all throughout the trip, managing not to lose too horribly. On to the next game!
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