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Loofish Ramblings

My thoughts and ponderings on games and gaming, including lunch time sessions, couple and family gaming and thoughts on the games that are catching my eye.

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Advent of Christmas Gaming Part 5 - Animals on Pandas and Dinosaurs, Ending in Glorious Cake

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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The final part of the Advent of Gaming had some good games in it and more importantly, some good gaming!

December 20: The Santa's Challenge was determined by the roll of a die: a 5 gave us a children's game. So the 4 of us stacked wooden animals on top of a crocodile aka Animal Upon Animal.

Things piled up fast, no one rolled any crocs so things got quite precarious. When E rolled 2 I was sure he was doomed but somehow the animals hung up there together, leaning on each other, only for Q to add one more and a few fell down. When it fell down for me on my next turn, I had a lot less cause, I had so carefully inserted one end of the monkey but neglected the other. But then both J and E were down to single pieces, Q rolled the hand and passed a piece to his mother to place, which she did and then placed her own to win. I added one and then E also finished his game, then Q knocked most of it down, so I claimed third.

We played again, to give poor Q a chance to not be such a looooser (his words, not ours, I should add). This time it again piled up high and when J and I rolled crocs, we added penguins so the structure remained narrow and became high and pointed. Q tried to place one and it fell, but luckily for him took nothing with it. E tried to claim he had done the same thing, but we made him try a bit harder than wave it vaguely near the table and he picked up a couple more pieces. J, after her glorious first game seemed to be having a more clumsy second, collecting 3 penguins at one point but then she got her game together again and whittled down her pile, while I had a great tactic of adding one then knocking one off. So it was the big looooooooser from last time who calmly added his last piece to the pile and claimed his win. I continued to knock things over with greater effect and it was close between the other 2 who would finish next, with J claiming 2nd by a piece over E. I had a fine collection of animals still.

December 21: A Euro for today, Michael Schacht is pretty prototypical for that genre. After the entertainments of
the day (including the awesome Rogue One), the little card game Call to Glory with beautiful artwork seemed just the ticket. We included the ninja mini expansion, playing 3 rounds.

Round 1 started us off with J aggressive about playing down pairs and I was more circumspect, though I played a pair of 7s. Things developed I had 3 18s which J took from me but by then I had built up my hand so I grabbed both the 20s and the 16s in quick succession. There was a bit of a draw for the last set (the 6s) but it was close enough that I had to count before I played it, ending the round with a narrow lead: 58-52.
But for all my good work in round 1, I undid it all here. Again J rushed out and I built up my hand. I discarded a couple 12s in a row then saw enough that I went to pick them up and J was playing sets down enough that I gathered them up, ready to displace hers. The only trouble was she had by then built up 5 sets and then played the 6th on her next turn, a possibility which I had my head down too much to notice until it was too late. So she scored a full 6 sets, 77 points, while I got 1 set, for 18.
So for round 3, I was basically doomed and needed to do to her what she did to me, so I played much more aggressively, a tactic that often doesn't work if the other player can disrupt your momentum. And she did, seemingly drawing the cards to counter me exactly, aided by the ninja she had gathered about her prior to this round - my own was hardly a match. So not only did I not manage to catch up, she calmly ended the round and the game with a comfortable win in the round, never mind the game. 66-47 to her for an overall score of 195-123.

December 22: Tonight I picked Takenoko, for a family game that has a high cuteness, so for that to be maximized, I included Ms. Panda and the Chibis expansion. It was a first time playing for the boys but it did not take them long to catch on.

We had a big lake in the middle as a second pond was added right next to the other but more oddly we had a huge amount of yellow bamboo and barely any green, as E especially pushed for 6 yellow irrigated tiles. I had a pink bias, 2 of my cards had that but my efforts to arrange a Ms Panda tile around 2 pink tiles kept being frustrated by the growing yellow bamboo invasion. Q was quietly effective, his objectives seemed to fall into place easily - even his green and yellow landscape tiles were properly arranged - and he made all the early running getting 3 objectives down with no one else with more than 1. I eventually managed my Ms Panda landscape, with help from the fact that 5 out of the 6 of her tiles came out, J managed her yellow version of that and some big point scoring gardener objective involving multiple yellow harvested just so. But Q made inexorable progress: a big landscape, a tall yellow bamboo on a no panda feeding tile, while also picking up the bamboo for a hungry panda. No surprise he triggered the end, J was able to draw the right tile to finish her objective, E trimmed the yellow bamboo to get a 2-3-4 arrangement but I was not able to blind draw anything I could do, getting too many green bamboo-based things with barely any green in play.

D: 19; E: 20; Q: 28; J: 21



December 23: The Challenge said play a game we hadn't played in December, with the additional challenge that J was tired from her driving and dog walking. The kids wanted to play too so Piece o' Cake seemed like the best option. Both kids had played before, but it was 3 years ago (during this challenge in 2013!) so a rules recap was needed, which doesn't take long for this game.

I cut the first cake, E grabbed chocolate and ate the cherry but he was only one to eat on round 1, with everyone getting chocolate and a sprinkling of 8s and 9s around. There was a bunch of strawberry in round 2, plus 2 3s - I got one of the latter but E and J took all the strawberry with ! getting the only 7 to appear so far. It definitely felt like there was less eating going on, things spread out enough that we all thought we could win in the types we got. Q grabbed a bunch more 7 so J just ate hers, 3 of us battled over 9s and the chocolate continued to be a battle, I got a hold of a 4 and a 5, then on the next round all 3 remaining 5s came out - scattered enough that I was sure to get one. The final round, I was cutting again. There were 4 strawberry 10s in there, 3 in a row. With chocolate next to them on one side. It was a terrible one to cut. It gave E the sure win in 10 and got him a 4 - but he had the choice of whether to risk the other 4 in the mix reaching me. He played safe and took the one point. But after Q nabbed his 7 and 8, eating some as he won both of those, J was left with the choice of tying with E in 10 or winning outright the 11 over me - and she took that, grabbing the 4 as well, leaving me a pair of 10s which was just a delicious snack for me. And her choice was proved right in the final accounting, as she took the win over me in 2nd place.
E: (3,10) + 3 = 16
Q: (7,8) + 7 = 22
J: (3,4,9,11) + 4 = 31
D: (3,4,5,9) + 6 = 27

December 24: Santa's challenge was an Oldie but Goodie, so Q's request of Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs (aka the game from my avatar) was met with approval.

It started well for him, falling in the swamp might not sound great but that got him halfway over and then another of his explorers got carried to the steps of the temple, while E and I crept slowly forward. But the luck turned, he got caught by the pteranodon on the way back and though I got to the temple for a coin, it was E with the first coin out - and he had not managed to get any of his to the temple. However, the rest of us were not too far behind and so we all sat on 1 coin each.
The mid-game got messy with people falling in the swamp and dinosaurs attacking - both kids lost an explorer to each of those but both of them also managed to use the cave system to get another coin out of the valley. So I was a little behind but I had 2 explorers in the temple and I also had been the one to find the ammunition so I had that advantage, which would prove significant. In short both kids again got caught up in dinosaur attacks, both down to 2 explorers. Q had lost his explorer near the temple so he had to bring in the 2 that had already gotten out with a coin and then one of them promptly fell in the swamp. The volcano by now was covering much of the upper part of the board, getting in the way and so getting out meant coming passed 3 dinosaurs, who kept moving around and blocking the bridges. It was precarious but I got one guy through with the help of a bullet, then my other guy left the temple and raced for the exit, avoiding any mishaps and with both Q's explorers in peril and pursued by E's treasure carrying explorer, mine made it out to claim the win.

This seemed a fitting game to end the Advent Challenge on, a great time spent with the kids, chuckling at the misfortune of the other player's explorers, the excitement of sneaking passed a herd of dinosaurs only to stumble and fall in the swamp. Together round the table, that is what it is all about.

Photos for this post from Count_Zr0, henk.rolleman, wilderwolf, olavf and Corran Horn. Thanks a lot!
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Mon Dec 26, 2016 3:11 pm
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Advent Gaming Part 4 - A Rhino on a Starry Path Found a Penguin Picnic

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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[Edit Update - forgot my 'humorous' title!]

December 15: J was out so I called on the boys to help me out. I offered 2 games, we played Rhino Hero.

E opened up with a double roof and the rhino himself was quickly scaling the heights, as the structure tottered and shook. So it was not a big surprise when it fell, a seemingly simple single wall to place, but as the new roof was added, there was a noticeable shudder and one of the lower walls popped out. And down it came on poor E, leaving Q and I the winners.

The other game I had offered was Tsuro but E wanted to play that too, so I set it up. We started off rather far from each other, a few turns to get a feel for the game, then the tangles began to cross. I took myself off to the side and rode into some empty
space to the corner, while E kept his moves short. Q had done that too but then produced a very long and intricate move...that took him right into his brother's part of the board, leading to a quick exit from the game. but it did not last much longer, a lack of options for E meant I just had to hang on for a few turns before E was forced to run off the board as well.

Two fun games back to back in short order, I shall have to suggest 2 games more often.

J (reportedly jealous of the boys' play earlier in the evening) wanted some play time too after taking care of her dog duties, so we went with good ol' Star Realms.

She then proceeded to absolutely destroy me in 4 games in a row. Sometimes I thought foolishly that I was winning or even in with a shot of victory, others I was less naive. But inevitably her forces washed over mine in wave after destructive wave.

My exact recollection is hazy but I did note her final Authority each game: 38, 44, 37, 31. As you can tell, not exactly close. And I didn't need to write down my own scores...

December 16: J greatly enjoyed the previous evening's entertainment, so wanted to play Star Realms again.
The Santa Challenge (take a night off gaming to watch Rogue One) was beyond us, due to both the expected crush and the threats of freezing rain, so taking on a science fiction card game seemed like a good plan. But it soon seemed that J's dominance would continue, her bot filled deck trimmed down quickly to vicious efficiency while my own efforts were more flailing and somewhat less effective.

But my time did eventually come, it was a bit multicolored I thought but somehow it seemed to work, slimmed enough (and a Recycling Station kept things moving) that I could get my combos to fire. Still, it was close, my healing and bases had kept me safe enough but then I got hit hard, J adding up her damage and she kept pulling more cards and it was mounting up, I truly thought she was going to steal it out from under me. But then it finished, I was down to 6 Authority, but with a Blob Destroyer in hand to deal with her base and the last few points, with a couple of cutters to shore up things at home. Finally...

December 17: It is weird to have my run of gaming fall down on a Saturday but somehow it did. shake

We did have other seasonal entertainments, I finished decorating the outside of the house (including where to put the projector so the dog won't attack it). And then in the evening we had a party to go to at our neighbors' house. That was a lot of fun (including delicious desserts) but it was coming back from there, a little late at night that it suddenly struck me that we hadn't carved out a half hour for some games. I think it is OK to miss one day though.

One day.


December 18: The day was not so good for gaming as we had a project to do and then in going to the store to get supplies for that, the car wouldn't start, so I got to spend some
quality time in the parking lot of a home improvement store. But we did get to sit down for a little bit later on and some quick silly fun in the form of Pick Picknic was called for.

A weird opening - partly that we kept playing symmetrically - the same fox or the same bird. Or both! And the foxes went away hungry a lot of times, because the same color foxes would show up together. But there was a steady supply of grain flowing into both of our piles, though I think mine was a little more, especially as I won the roll off that happened: I had the 3, rolled a 3, she had a 4 and rolled a 1. And oddly that put her off rolling for it for the rest of the game, which suited me fine. The foxes did start to catch some prey, both of our foxes caught 3 birds but my especially cunning red fox caught the best prize a 6 point chicken. And it turned out to be really really close, such that the difference in our caught foul was the difference in our scores.

J: 69; D: 71

December 19: I nearly forgot the challenge today, busy with work and chores and all. And my wife got a new iPhone so she was messing with that. But I got everyone out to play some quick and since the challenge said all wear Christmas hats, I thought of Hey, That's My Fish! as I remembered the penguins in the app version all wear hats, so that was the choice. And E also had his Santa hat on. So extra festive.

We do have the physical version as well but the pass and play on the app makes things (especially set-up) so much easier and with no hidden information here, the iPad sits in the middle of all of us and we gather round and prod at it thoughtfully.

The board was the smiley face layout. We scattered around making initial jumps to grab nice fish. E got a bit caught in the corners, while I was able to box in one of J's penguins and my other was able to carve out a decent bit of space in the bottom left below the mouth. The tussle in the middle resolved itself quickly, penguins lost while the edges all got gobbled up. Q had initially boxed himself a bit but he recovered and jumped over to some nice space and picked up a good haul. J, normally the master of this, got blocked off a bit in the hard fought center so she fell off the pace. But it was my penguin in the bottom part that cleaned up in the last moves and that was about how much I won the game by, over Q in a very credible second place.

Q: 20; D: 26; J: 16; E 14

Photos for this post from punkin312, dbruff701, aVoidGames, kilroy_locke and celiborn - thanks a lot!
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Tue Dec 20, 2016 6:53 pm
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Advent Gaming Part 3 - a Parade of Rats and Pigs Around a Castle in the Deep Sea

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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The next installment in my Advent of Christmas Gaming Challenge, slightly delayed by me getting a new Kindle Fire - but it hasn't stopped the cardboard-based entertainment!

December 10: Today was card game day in the Santa Challenge and we have so many options here, card games are where we live. But I pushed for the kids to play too (and they agreed) and J picked Parade. So there was the first few turns of 'how does this work again?" But both were quickly into it. E especially, he picked up some red cards but not much else, helped a lot by his right hand opponent AKA me. The typical round was Q skipped over everything, J picked up maybe 1 card or none, Dad get 3 or 4.
And E of course was then free to jump over all and get nothing and the cycles restarts. After a while I had to play to make sure I had some majorities. And a turn where E got something was rare indeed - one notable turn, he announced that he wasn't going to be able to avoid it this turn and we all leaned forward to see what pain was coming his way. A blue 1 was his terrible prize.

I managed quite a feat in that I maintained a majority in 5 out of 6 colors. Only E's red eluded me. Surprisingly perhaps the game ended by running out of cards, it was that last time around where I picked up 3 purple cards, which threatened J's otherwise expensive majority there and some blue that hurt her as well. But she had the covering cards in her hand so she scored pretty well. Q took few cards (and low numbers) but no majorities so those 3s added up a bit. While E also took few he concentrated in red and white so his score was even lower than it might have been. An impressive first time, which he took great delight in discussing with us in great detail!

J: R2 P*4 W5 B*4 = 15
D: P*4 R1 G*5 B*4 W*3 Y*4 = 21
E: W*3 R*4 B1 = 8
Q: P8 G5 Y3 R4 = 20

December 11: A favorite filler? Well Deep Sea Adventure was the one that came straight to mind, so we
taught it to the kids for some deep sea shenanigans. They got it quickly and followed our lead for the most part, everyone went in and out of the water rather smoothly in round 1. But then I dove a bit too far in round 2 and got left behind the others exiting, J and Q lingered a little for painful effect at the door to the sub, costing E and me extra air, I was doomed I could tell but E rolled well and then rolled well again as the air ran out to drag himself onto the sub. With one round left, I knew I had to get lucky to catch up and while I got down and back up fairly efficiently but I missed that second 4 dot treasure (or my dropped stuff) to really challenge and in any case everyone else made it out with their own 4 dot except E who managed to snag 2 3 dots instead. And then it came down to the final tally, both kids had done really well with E just pipping his brother by 2 points.

J: 36; D: 27; E: 43; Q: 41


December 12: A busy evening with a new computer for my son (well new to him) plus various chores. But there was time for a quick game and Rat Hot fit the bill and is even seasonal with red and green as the player colors!

It started well for me, early rats dealt with and points scored, a healthy lead over J. She had pest control to do, though dealing with 3 rats in one go certainly helped. And she began to score more freely while I remained in the lead and trying to consolidate. But then she had a big turn, 5 points from 2 times and suddenly she was in front, which she never relinquished. Ahead at game end and extended that with an impressive 9 points in end game scoring have her a big win.

J: 22 + 9 = 31
D: 20 + 6 = 26

In logging this, I realized it was my 99th play of this game! It has really held up well for us, just the right blend of puzzle (to place the tile) and tactics, that we can play on a busy night or as part of a longer night of gaming.

December 13: We were supposed to play a game we got last Christmas but we already played Loopin' Chewie so the only candidate was pass and play Splendor app. But J had forgotten that she doesn't
really like it as an app (plus I have played it a bunch) so when she made a mistake and there was no undo, we abandoned the game and decided to play one of our favorites instead: Carcassonne: The Castle.

It was slow at first, not many points but building castles. We both jumped on markets too though J's got rather closed in and mine were more open but not really that many more markets. We both built up houses of similar size and quite extensive road networks, then J got her castle finished and picked up up a couple of wall tiles while I also finished my castle for a good amount of points but managed to tiptoe all around the wall tiles. There was a big area open for the house bonus but fortunately for me J hadn't gotten that wall tile that helps with that and we tied. But she did score for incomplete road and incomplete castle and that was really the difference as she romped away at the end.

J 87, D 70

December 14: The challenge today being open a door for someone we decided to play a game that had doors in it,
so it was Tales & Games: The Three Little Pigs.

J went building crazy, quickly getting a complete straw house and most of a wooden one. I whiffed with a wolf attack then worked on windows, both brick and wood, managing to build the complete wood house before J did. But she got a whole another straw house and then started on a mixed material one and I was worried about my tall brick house being left unfinished so when I was short of roof I just had to cap it with straw (though it looked very nice). But then J rolled nicely to finish up 2 piles and with her advantages in flowers and number of buildings, she ran out the winner again.

J: 3 houses (6,6,12) + 8 = 32
D: 2 houses (9,14) + 2 = 25



Thanks for the photos to Domostie, bkunes, thepackrat, s.pauchon and Yadboh - thanks a lot!
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Thu Dec 15, 2016 5:53 pm
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Advent Gaming Part 2 - Stars, Sushi and Knots

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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The December Gaming continues...

December 5: The kids got a night off gaming (well playing with Dad) as we were all pretty busy so I got to sit down with J for our favorite non-alcoholic beverage (a cup of tea) and our by-far most played Star Realms!

It was a close game, with both of us picking up bots early on, but I also got a cadre of blob ships so I was knocking her down quite fast. But she had better money and picked up some big ships via the freighter top deck
plan, meaning the big blue ships came to town and I was getting damage too. The difference was she fell earlier but recovered some via her blue and outposts while I had much less cover and defense so I fell and kept going. With both of us in the sub 10 area, I did enough to reduce her to 1, then she gained some and finished me off!

I got the rematch and this game went much better for me - and much worse for her. J got a central station and 2 warning beacons which triggered that ability so she had things going on. But I had combat heavy bots, honing down my deck while doing steady damage every turn. I added to that some imperial (yellow) ships, discarding and hitting her for a bit more. It wasn't the 30+ spectacular damage you sometimes get, though by the end it was fairly consistently a decent amount. Enough to win at least.

This has been a huge go-to game for us, enough that we could do a 10x10 just with Star Realms this year and these plays brought our logged face to face plays to 320. Some value in that little box.

December 6: Today needed a dice game so I picked King of Tokyo with the Power Up! expansion. I was Gigasaur. I went into Tokyo on turn 1 and survived the assault to get the bonus points, plus I picked up some dice points and crushed a Skyscraper to jump ahead. E was Cyber Bunny, who concentrated more on energy and damage, picking up Armor Plating and an evolution (Electric Carrot) that got him more energy or more damage.
Q was Meka Dragon, a big claw roller and with me already damaged, he grabbed Eater of the Dead, as well as a couple of evolutions, Destructive Analysis and Tune-Up, both of which he used to good effect. J was Pandakai, she scored some early points and grabbed Rapid Healing but that was not so useful when the Bunny dealt out 5 damage to her and she was first out with 12 points. She spent the rest of the game pulling faces at the Bunny. Very cross panda.

After a couple turns where I would go down to 1 health, spend my turn trying to roll hearts and not getting even an evolution (then going back to 1 health during other turns), I finally got an evolution - Saurian Adaptability. I used that to score a bunch of points but then the battle spilled over and I got taken out as well, at 15 points. The Bunny continued to get more gizmos, a visit to the Nuclear Power Plant refreshed him and a Fire Blast did some damage too. He was ready for more as an Opportunist but the Dragon got a Shrinking Ray and that hindered the Cybernetic Leporine enough that he was able to take him down with a big claw attack (incidentally getting the points to go to 20 in the process).

December 7: No constraints on the game choice except something not too heavy. That sounds like a party, in fact a Sushi Go Party!. Our menu was not quite a standard one but almost the Master Menu: Temaki, Onigiri, Tofu, Sashimi, Chopsticks, Takeout Box and Fruit.
J jumped out to a lead on her temaki and takeout but we both scored tofu and I scored all the fruit. In round 2, the fruit was more even
but I scored a bunch of onigiri. In the 3rd, J got sashimi but I got 3 squid nigiri and also topped up my fruit bowl. It was pretty close up to the dessert, and J did score some there but I had 2 strong fruit selections and jumped out to a 10 point win, 66-56.

J wanted to play again and wanted to change it up, so I threw together a menu: Uramaki, Soy Sauce, Menu, Onigiri, Eel, Sashimi, Green Tea Ice Cream.
This one was a tale of eel. First pick, I take an eel. There aren't any more but there is a menu and all of J's hand. She doesn't pick one - but there is not one in the hand she passes either. So I pull the menu and draw 4 more. No dice, not eel. So I lose 3. Then she orchestrates things to make the last card passed to me in round 2 to be my only eel, while she got a nice pair of them. And she did that AGAIN in turn 3. Unbelievable! Oh and she scored all right for herself while I managed some soy sauce and sashimi and we both had nice dessert. But she was well well in front! 78-60 *shakes fist at eelz*

December 8: Again no special constraints on our choice though it has been busy with some Christmas preparations. So we default to our go-to: Star Realms.

But my deck does not fire, some expensive stuff in the middle so I take a few Explorers but am never quite taking my turn at the right time with enough buying power to clear things up while J acquires a bunch of little blue money ships and that leads into big Mechs and a Peace Keeper. I am pushed down relentlessly while J more or less holds steady - she still has 47 Authority left at the end. And, worse, I still had Explorers in my deck!


December 9: Way back when, I can't remember when, I Kickstarted a cool looking game called Knot Dice.

And today it finally arrived!

I have to say, the wait was long but the dice are worth it, tactile and fun to just play with. The game comes with 2 booklets, one filled with puzzles and the other with 12 different games you can play with the dice, some co-op and some competitive. I think the basic game would be Knot So Fast which is the one we played first. Basically, you each start with 4 dice and there is a pool of dice in the middle. Everyone rolls frantically, Escape style, until someone makes a complete Celtic knot design in dice. You then shout "knot dice" and then check to see if you were right. If you were, you take one die from the middle pool and then a new round begins, except you have to make a set with one more die. Most dice by the end of the game wins.

We played a couple of rounds each, each mirroring the other in that one of us got an early lead that they didn't let up but it was fairly breathless fun, rolling and then trying to work out if what you rolled can be assembled into a complete picture or not, a bit like an Ubongo puzzle but where you might not have the right shapes.

After that, we flipped through the puzzle book and spent a few minutes trying to make the 2x2x2 cube with all complete patterns, which was harder than it initially seemed but there were a couple of possible answers that we found. We got a couple of extra sets for gifts to relatives, more for the play factor than the games, but I think they will go down well.

Photos for this post from punkin312 (of course), Vacabck, Elizabeth1000, Firyar and aggaire - thanks a lot!
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Sat Dec 10, 2016 10:26 pm
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The Advent of Christmas Gaming Challenge

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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Things have gotten very very quiet around this blog, but I am not gone and I hadn't forgotten, I still write a little blurb in my play log which provides the base of the blog version, I just seem to have trouble finding time to pretty up the blog posts I start.

But it has been a semi-tradition around this blog's parish to join in some kind of end of year gaming challenge, a different game every day for the month or something like that. And that tied into the Geek List An Advent of Christmas Gaming Challenge - 2016 (that's this year's obviously, it has been going a couple years now). So we are doing it again and I shall endeavor to update this blog with what I get up to.

This year is especially interesting for me though because my wife (my usual gaming partner) is pretty busy and will be particularly busy for a good chunk of December. So in order to do this challenge, I considered breaking out my solo games (I might still play a few) but I also asked my kids if they would be willing to chip in and help the old man with a silly gaming challenge. The funny part is that they said OK in that teenagery way and I wondered how much I could get them away from their Minecraft and computer games, but the organizer of the Advent Geek List came up with a "Santa's Challenge" for every day and the kids saw that and that was the thing that knocked it up a level for them, suddenly they were asking me when it was time to play the game for the day and what was today's challenge Dad?

It is pretty awesome.

So a reprisal of the first few days of the challenge follows. I made it shorthand on all our names, J is my wife, E is my eldest son (16) and Q is the younger (13):


December 1: I picked a quick game for the opening performance: Pick-a-Dog. They remembered
how to play but it is funny how very careful they are. Meanwhile I kept just finding a new path to pick up more dogs so I picked up a good pile every round while the kids picked up a few every round without a mistake (but then, I didn't make a mistake either). Last round, E got on a bit of a tear, grabbed a while bunch in a row and it was Q who ended it while he was still looking at the last few left. So maybe next time they will move faster. As it was I had time to see the patterns and ended up a comfortable winner. But it was a fun start, especially telling the story of who each dog picture changed. I started with "still eating his popcorn, now he finished". But then the kids joined in and they were silly about it how he shaved off his fur to become pink and then he regrew the fur again and then he put on his sunglasses. And then ate so much popcorn he got big.

For a silly card game it got a lot of laughs, a great way to start!
And it is among the most recent batch of games we got so at least close to the Santa Challenge, though I thought I might do them in an order of my choosing.

December 2: An interesting evening to fit a game into, a friend at work came over to help me build a new computer. So we pt it together and it looks pretty nice but it was pretty late when he left and we had not much day left for the challenge game. It was supposed
to be favorite game and E wanted Ticket to Ride but J veto'd that as too much for this time of night and we ended up with Hare and Tortoise. I had the eponymous critters and both got off to a good start but then as the race progressed the hare fell away while the fox and wolf and especially the sheep surged forward. Indeed I sat with a hand of the other player's critters for most of the late game, trying to find the best play to get rid of cards without pushing them too far to the finish line. Well it did not really work out, the sheep boosters got that one almost to the finish and the wolf howled passed. The tortoise and fox were just behind but I was forced to finish the wolf and the sheep finished right behind him. And fox and tortoise were tied virtually on the line so tortoise finished next and then the fox in the same turn. And the hare did not place. I wasn't sure who was winning, J was looking pleased with a 2nd and 3rd and E's fox was just out of the top 3 but Quiet Q then revealed his first and second place animals and suddenly jumped around excitedly!
1st. Wolf 2nd Sheep 3rd Tortoise
D (Tortoise/Hare) 2
E (Fox/Sheep) 3
Q (Wolf/Sheep) 8
J (Sheep/Tortoise) 5

I've played 3 of the Tales and Games series and this is our favorite. And our 10th play so I am accidentally pretty close to a 10x10.

December 3: It was supposed to be a dexterity game today for the challenge and that just led inevitably to Loopin' Chewie. But before that game there was the pre-game of find some batteries that work properly and that proved trickier than expected. I think my rechargeables are no longer recharging. But eventually we got it going and we played a couple of rounds so everyone could have a go. E showed off his skills, knocking one off each of us in quick succession but then there was a bit of a lull where nothing was quite working and even
Chewie didn't seem able to knock off stormtroopers. So E lost concentration and really interest as it dragged on a bit (was it still not moving as fast as it should?) but there were just those flashes of moments where something clever or unexpected happened. E neglected his defenses enough to let himself get knocked out then Q and I went head to head with a long period of missed shots over hit or the thing just bouncing over but eventually Q knocked out my last stormtrooper for his second win.
Second round was with J instead of E. J had some settling in issues, losing 2 in quick succession but then she found her range and she and Q conspired to knock me out pretty quickly. They went on for a good while, Q had the extra trooper but I think it came down to the last one. The match report said that J ultimately won but not without controversy as her last trooper was knocked out accidentally by a bumped table, but the referees allowed her to replace it.

December 4: We needed a "top 10 favorite" and I am not sure what exactly would be in a top 10 favorites of the family as a whole but Ticket to Ride would definitely be in it. So that was what we played, using the 1910 set of tickets.
Q had a little trouble getting to grips with it at the beginning (it has been a while and then he had played simplified rules). But after a couple tries at explaining it, and then helping him get a bit more organized, we were all off.
E went straight through Nashville Atlanta and then worked up to Washington. I played out from Kansas City to the west, needing to go through Phoenix to LA but Q was also working out of LA and he took that 3 train route to Las Vegas so I had to work around that. Meanwhile J had the freedom of the upper northwest and worked across those big routes. I got linked into Boston and E into New York. Q and E went down to Miami, I had to go via San Francisco to get to LA. J was well in front on points with the rest of us swapping around. She only got her bigger ticket when she pulled more though, while I took 2 more tickets when I got more, both of which I could do easily enough but I forgot to allow for how much more game there was - J was rushing toward the end. Q managed his one more ticket but E did get a bit more caught out, a couple more links needed to finish his routes to Dallas and Houston (the last play got to Dallas). So he missed one, so did I. J made all hers and Q who was back during the in game scoring scored 4 decent to very nice tickets, racing up to 119, passed me and E but J just had enough to overhaul him by 2. And we all made exactly 4 tickets so we all (or none of us) got the Globetrotter bonus!
E 79
Q 119
J 121
D 103

That was the first 4 days and it has been a lot of fun. My wife is often telling me to get the kids more involved, that they would play if I asked them to, and we have played a few games here and there. But I only ever got the feeling they wanted to play more when we were in the middle of the HeroQuest campaign. This feels like it might be the thing that gets board gaming more into the middle of family life (where it should be, right?)

Photos for this post from EndersGame, Backerfield, Scott Rogers and garyjames. Thanks a lot!
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Mon Dec 5, 2016 4:17 pm
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Revisiting Scandinavian Sushi and Breaking with Convention

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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 7   BuyWord

My wife Jenny loves word games, as I have blogged about before. I like them theoretically but tend to suffer while playing them, wrestled to
inactivity by analysis paralysis, so sure there is a better word that scores magnificently in there somewhere. Whereas Jenny tends to look over her letters and conjure words using the best letters. So when she suggested we play BuyWord, I went in with my usual optimism that I would find that balance between clever and excruciating and have a good time but actually put up a reasonable challenge to the Queen.

She jumped ahead immediately with leavened, for $145 (we often play the variant where all prices are rounded to the nearest 5, which works remarkably well for the square numbers you use in this game). My reply was juices for $45 less but I didn't use a wild to get it. And when she looked over at my partially formed exam- and finished the word for me (after considerable uming and ahing on my side I should add, I was nearly there...), I could have been said to be in the lead.

That was my zenith (her next word), she then proceeded to produce a series of $120+ words in a row, while I struggled to triple figures. I rallied a bit at the end, with a whimper, I was zippiest but by then she had enough of a lead. It was closer than usual though.

J: LEAVENED (145), ZENITH (100), FRONDED (120), GRAVELLY (170), SQUAWS (120), MONARCH (120), BROUGHT (100), COPAY (80), GEE (15) = $625

D: JUICES (100), EXAMINED (195), BOTANY (100), ROCKIEST (100), HAIKU (50), WHIMPER (145), ZIPPIEST (170), TOO (10) = $590

And after that game, I must admit, I was pretty fried. I like it (and much prefer it to Scrabble), but it takes a lot out of me.

 6   Pick-a-Dog x2

And talking of heavy brain burners, after a fine dinner with friends, we broke out Pick-a-Dog. Actually, we Picked-a-Pig. And we threatened to combine the pigs and dogs and make the big game, but still we didn't do that yet.

We had a quick practice round (in which Jenny, ostensibly the one who had played before) crashed because she forgot to look out for 1 or 2 arms. Then we played for real and Geoff, who had expressed some doubts bout his ability to process a real time game, showed remarkable aptitude, while his wife Leah showed characteristic caution, steadily picking up cards after due consideration (my kids, oddly, played it the same way). I was fairly steady too, while Jenny was again fairly aggressive in her grabbing and after I lost out on a card to someone, it was me who called a halt. But no mistakes, so J & G were ahead. The second round went similarly except this time, Jenny pushed her luck too far and made the mistake, giving Geoff a good cushion for the final round. I went on a bit of a tear in that one, grabbing a ton and there were more for me to get on the table when time was called. So that got me up to second place, as Geoff proved his mastery.

In the inevitable rematch, I kept finding myself in a cul-de-sac, while Leah did better. Geoff again piled up the cards and Jenny did too, not making any mistakes and so it was her that grabbed the win by a single point.

This is silly fun and I initially thought it was a game to play with the kids (true) and with the adults after an adult beverage or two. But I think that latter one is off, the part of the brain that processes shapes and subtle differences is thrown off by alcohol and so now I think this is one for earlier in the evening, an opener or perhaps a between game filler. Still, it really is a lot of fun, the frantic grabbing of cute pigs and dogs - and the mega game with both will happen soon.

Next day, Jenny disappeared into the office where all the games are and came back armed with games. First one was:

 7   Hansa x2

This game is in my wheel house for how it all flows together, I get this game on a level I don't get with a lot of them. But still, I thought Jenny had this one, she was getting markets in lots of cities, there were free goods spots she was using, I had to pay to refill 2 out of the 3 times and it felt like I would make a good play to sell a batch of goods, but would leave the ship in a nice spot for her. But I was undoubtedly selling more goods and one turn she moved the ship to make it hard for me (spending cash to do so) but missed my arrow back to Danzig, so I had less trouble that she had really paid for. And though I was in 7 cites and nowhere alone, my barrel count at the end was enough to give me the game.

J: 13 goods, 24 barrels, 22 cities = 59
D: 15 goods, 33 barrels, 14 cities = 62

She wanted to play again immediately, it was set up almost already so we played again. I got a lot of my markets down pretty early, a couple with piles of 3, forgoing sales early on. Jenny played a bit of a 'match me' game in some of the cities but as the game progressed, I did get a few spots where I could get free goods, especially Copenhagen/Aarlsberg and Danzig. She did like to leave it in an awkward spot though. This one came down to the wire though, I had to lose goods a couple of times and our relative sales were much closer, I had goods unsold at the end so Jenny actually had more barrels than me and we matched exactly on cities but crucially I had more goods markers than her overall, including my unsold ones, that was enough for a 1 point win.

D: 16 goods, 26 barrels, 18 cities = 60
J: 14 goods, 27 barrels, 18 cities = 59

 7   Wasabi!

The other game she brought up was perhaps inspired by Sushi Go, Wasabi! A bit of a refresher needed but this is a pretty simple game.

My plan was to complete a quick recipe then work on my 5 (the all day breakfast featuring urchin). Jenny had a similar plan, hers was the squid dish. Anyway, our 2 5s were perpendicular to each other and I foolishly tried to mess with her progress putting my urchin in the way. So she Stacked a clam on top and even after I threw rice at the end (completing a 2 by the way!) she did hers and with style as well. I had to take a longer road, with a switch and a chop needed to do mine (I managed to leave a salmon in my way so needed to switch the fish with tofu) and I was getting through my recipes but not usually with style points, while she seemed to be able to do both and still at speed. By the end, I made a couple neat plays to put me nearly done and I could have made my last turn play to steal the game, but she completed her last (a 2) a turn ahead of me. And she was well ahead on points.

And in contrast to Hansa, this is a game in her wheel house, it all just seems effortless to her. What I love about this game (other than the presentation, which is stellar) is thinking about how to use the action cards and your tiles to make clever plays, maybe getting things all arranged so you do two at once, stuff like that. But while I am trying to be clever, my wife is busy making dinner, and with style too.

 10   Race for the Galaxy x2

The game I really wanted to get to in this post (and often in life in general) is my beloved Race for the Galaxy. With still a good bit of time left to play, I suggested it and Jenny went along. It was set up to play with the Xeno Invasion expansion, so we played it like that.

The funny opening, we both pick Develop, both play New Military Tactics and then both use it to settle a military world. Mine was slightly bigger, as I had the Anti-Xeno Defense Post (which has some military already) while she took on the role of the Starry Rift Pioneers. I set about trying to get a good military going, though I had trouble, playing Terraforming Robots and the 6-dev Terraforming Defenders as my main cards for the bulk of the game. She had a better array of goods (including a couple of useful production worlds). And she was beating me in military with some anti-xeno attack and defense (though she kept muddling which was which). But with her goods, she got the war effort contributions as well and then better defense points as I did manage to get ahead in military eventually, though I also had some good points worlds including Terraformed World which was nice for the Defenders. So she scored some consume VPs and a last turn Merchant Guild which wasn't ideal exactly but my better worlds and better 6-dev carried me to victory.


J: 16 + 8VP + 9defense + 5 (War contrib) + 4 (Merchant Guild) = 42
D: 25 + 1VP + 8defense + 5 (admiral) + 9 (terra def) = 48


Now I thought this was a fine game and was quite pleased to have pulled out the win, but my dear lady wife expressed her frustration with the expansion, coming down to that she liked the old stuff (Arc 1) and missed it, while this new military bent to the game was less exciting for her. So I suggested I reset the cards to Arc 1 but she still wanted the Xeno cards, so she suggested the unthinkable: that we combine the sets. wowwowwow

I pushed back initially, the designer has said several times on BGG that the game was balanced for the sets to be kept separately, the deck will get too unwieldy, it will be hard to find the cards you need. She wanted to try it. So I agreed.

So we had all Arc 1: cards from The Gathering Storm, Rebel vs Imperium and The Brink of War, we had the Goals, the Prestige points, everything. And with the Xeno Invasion on top of that. We discussed delaying the arrival of the Xenos to help us set up, but in the end we just went with it.

I had a heavy gene strategy. I was Old Earth, had another world that gave a +2 on trade and a genes production world, so I could trade green goods for 7. Jenny was the Imperium Warlord and she quickly got a couple rebel worlds (with that goal on deck). She was quite comfortable against the invasion, with some specialty military contributing, plus she also had a nice brown production world but no way to spend it (her other world being her trade) so with my frequent produce calls, she was contributing to the war effort like crazy. I was in a more delicate position, no military, just the bunker power for the early game but I got lucky with minimal xeno attacks that I could at least deflect if not beat. I got another genes world which also provided defense (both my genes world had discard a green good for an effect) and as we got into the 3rd stage attacks I decided space marines were going to be required, both for the attacks and for getting some Uplift worlds, as I also had the Uplift Bio-Engineers.
Meanwhile Jenny had built a whole lot, Rebel Alliance and New Galactic Order and Uplift Code as well! She got the prestige points (I didn't get any) so claimed that goal, plus the one for 5 VPs, though my produce and consume engine, boosted by Uplift moles and other gene uplift worlds went into overdrive late on. And she got the all phases goal. It all lined up for her but my tableau was really fun to play as well (and a record of no damage to my tableau from Xeno attacks as well). She had the big win but this was - perhaps surprisingly - a really fun way to play RFTG.

J: 20 + 12VP + 3PP + 7defense + 12 goals + 10 (admiral/contributor) + 9 (Reb All) + 8 (Uplift Code) + 5 (NGO) = 86
D: 13 + 23VP + 0PP + 10defense + 0 goals + 12 (Uplift BioEng) = 58

In fact, I'd say this was my most enjoyable game of Race that I can remember, everything that I love about the game just came together. Perhaps another run through and the Xenos would be wrecking things and not letting me play or cards would be unkind. But for sure, unthinkable or convention breaking or not, I will bet we play this way next time as well.

Boardgame photo thanks go to m_hamburg, EndersGame, s.pauchon, punkin312 and Photodump (for both RFTG pics)
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Fri Sep 23, 2016 7:03 pm
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300 Racing Raptors for Sushi

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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A few new games to talk about and a notable landmark. But first...

 7   Tales & Games: The Pied Piper x3

Tales & Games: The Pied Piper was new recently but that is so last week.

Actually, we played this a few more times and it was beginning to bother us that the start player was winning all the games. Even, I will add, when it was me! The tempo of the game was off too. But a more thorough perusal of the rules revealed our error, the first player only gets one action, then it is 2 actions a piece. And that changed everything, no longer was player 2 reacting to player 1's 2 moves, now it was react to one and be proactive with the other. A much better flow to the game and much more satisfying, we were going back and forth on the edge of losing several times before (even with the new rule) I actually won. I will in my defense note that that first turn rule is rather glossed over.

 7   Sushi Go Party! x9 NEW!

This week's news was all about the party that is Sushi Go Party!.

I had been considering getting the original game, as it continued to appear on play lists, a cute little filler that would definitely see plenty of play. But when the party edition was announced, I put aside thoughts of the original and grabbed this as soon as the funds were cleared.

We've played in various configurations 9 times, all 2 player, which is surely not the ideal but it does really work at that count. The wasabi spice in this version is that it contains the original game but has multiple other options for the menu, rolls, appetizers, dessert and specials, along with the nigiri that come in every meal. So that is much variety in the tin (though I can't say I am a fan of the tin itself).

This arrived while we were out gaming - it was literally on the porch when we got back, so we missed an ideal opportunity to play it s it were intended. But we worked through a couple of the suggested set-ups - the First Meal, for first time players, the Dinner for Two (good for small groups) and the classic original. And then we just grabbed a selection of menu items that we hadn't seen yet and mixed it all up. It has all worked really well, we are very pleased with this game. Some neat stuff you can do, last game my wife won when she used a Takeout Box to take away the lone Eel she had, turning a potential negative score into 2 positive points - and she beat me by 2. Despite my pile of green tea ice cream.

The main trouble with this game is it makes us hungry.


 9   Star Realms (with Star Realms: Colony Wars) x9

Even with new stuff rattling around, Star Realms is still seeing regular play. Indeed, this week saw a milestone as I played my 300th game of Star Realms. My wife reached it sooner (she drafted the kids into a couple games, whereas every one of my games has been with her). Not many games where she has more plays than me, discounting computer games.

We got up to that mark with a round of 3 games where I first lost horribly, where nothing would gel and I just floundered until I was put down like a rabid dog. But the next couple games were going along well, I had things going on. But then Jenny used the freighter to put a dreadnaught on top of the deck, then another power to draw that, which caused more drawing of cards and by the end of it, she was unleashing 43 points of damage. Sometimes there is a huge burst of damage late in the game which wipes away the last few points and about 20 or 30 more, but this one I was up around 30 and was left opening my mouth and closing it again several times as I pondered what had just happened.

Game 299 was going along swimmingly and indeed I was winning (such hubris) but she had invested in some doughty bases and I kept coming up with the wrong amount of damage - first not enough to remove the base, then not enough to remove both, and then there were 3 bases. And meanwhile my own authority was dwindling down to the inevitable.

I celebrated game 300 with a Battle Blob, which I copied with the Stealth Needle. That was smashing.

 6   Electronic Catch Phrase

I left this in here, though another game of Catchphrase is nothing much to write about. The setting was rather good though; my gaming buddy Rick planned a surprise party for his wife Kristi. She thought that he was playing poker with 'the guys' so she had taken the kids out to watch a movie. The eldest was secretly given instructions to get her back to the house after though - with poker going on, they would be upstairs ad so she might stay out a while catching Pokemon or eating ice cream. So he faked a headache and got her back - where she found a whole crowd of people and the look of surprise on her face was golden!

She and the other ladies later crushed us at Catchphrase too.

 7   Port Royal (with Port Royal: Ein Auftrag geht noch...)

Still enjoying Port Royal, this game was notable for the ending and how I messed up. With Contracts: both Frigate and Galleon Foe, Pack of Pirates and Maritime Superiority.
Jenny had the only sailor for most of the game, they did keep coming along when neither of us had any cash. I got a captain while she got a settler, follower by the jack of all trades to complete the expedition. I got the Vice Admiral for the contract and then did my own expedition with two priests. Jenny kept up with a green trader and boosted her funds, then she did the captain vice-admiral combo too. It was close but then I made the big mistake, so focussed on working out what I was going to do to get to 12 VP that I grabbed a nice bit of cash on my turn, leaving her a 3VP admiral, taking her to 12. I gnashed my teeth and roared in outrage but she didn't care. A win is a win in her book.



 7   Raptor

Another newish game next: Raptor. I was the scientists as usual and Jenny the raptor. I got off to a terrible start as I opened with a hand that was 7-8-9, then Jenny played the number under mine for the first couple turns, so my big numbers all gone. There was a lot of obstructions at one end but the other was rather open and the mother cleared the area of any scientists, though I trapped 2 babies with fire. I slowed down the mother with a couple of shots and managed to put one of the 3 babies at that end to sleep, but I couldn't get close without getting eaten and once the other two were gone, mother nudged the sleeper awake and off he ran.

I'm enjoying this but apparently I need more practice dino-napping, while Jenny seems to have mastered the art of fending off scientists by a combination of intimidation and ingestion. I don't think she'll let me play the dinosaurs though.




 8   Tales & Games: The Hare & the Tortoise x4 NEW!

Sitting down to play some games before J had to go out for work and the mail man arrives (rather early, I might add). A box arrives...with this game in it. It seems like the thing to try first then. This might be the quickest receive game-punch game-play game ever.

I had fox and tortoise, and doubled down on tortoise with my bet card. Jenny had the sheep and the wolf and picked the tortoise as well. I was confused about her 2nd card but the sheep raced out ahead, got passed the first river and a long stretch to run in after that, but with both of us pushing the tortoise, that kept up. The other 3 lagged a bit, coming along in a pack as we pushed our things or dumped cards for the one we hoped was not the other player's pick. But the sheep raced off and held up briefly by the 2nd river, then finished, with the tortoise not too far behind. The end game was a lot of frantic playing one card (an animal that had finished) and desperately hoping to draw the one we needed. We both had a hand of wolves (me) and foxes (her) - by this time it was obvious which we wanted.. But eventually, Jenny drew the wolf she needed and the wolf took 3rd. And so Jenny had all 3 places, while my doubled up tortoise meant I scored OK...just not as well.

This got more play - the sheep's reputation as fleet of hoof soared as it won or came second in all the races so far, partly due to both of us putting our extra bet on the woolly speedster. That still applied in the 4 player game with the kids joining in. This went over very well with them too and my eldest got the benefit of both parents boosting the animal he randomly drew (the sheep) plus he and I pushed the fox to a worthy second place. Indeed, the fox was in the home straight before anyone else had gone anywhere but he took the hare's racing advice and had a good snooze for the mid-game.

The reputation as the best Tales & Games game seems well deserved from our initial plays, a very straightforward game but with a bit of trickiness in it. I am assured the sheep is not unbeatable and indeed I've already determined that the little blighter won't win next time. Except I will definitely draw it now, won't I?

Thanks to ssoares, Elizabeth1000, VitoGesualdi, punkin312, nunovix, Backerfield for their photos!
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Tue Sep 13, 2016 6:40 pm
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The Worst Wits and Wagers Ever!

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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After a too long lapse without playing with the game group due to vacations and other such nonsense, we finally got the chance to head over and spend an August afternoon pool-side, followed by an evening of games. The pool was very pleasant indeed, the slight blot of a passing shower mostly just cooled off the concrete so you could walk on it in bare feet and the grapefruit beer that my wife Jenny had chosen to bring was the perfect accompaniment - and that coming from an affirmed hater of grapefruit. We briefly saw regular feature in this set Tom with his baby, now technically his older baby as Mom stayed home with the infant. But he couldn't stay long, so it ended up being just 3 couples, our hosts Rick and Kristi, plus Rob and Karen.

Post-swim and pre-dinner left a gap big enough for ... Catchphrase?

We played girls v boys with the clues all coming from the 1990s. The ladies galloped into an early lead but the gents stayed the course, coming back into it (I was particularly pleased that I was able to clue Rico Suave using a board game reference and even more so that it allowed Rick to get it before I had to do the Suave bit). Jenny got stuck on one word which didn't help their cause (it always happens to her) but our momentum was pretty unstoppable and the lads won.

Jenny always rolls her eyes when this is brought out, as it regularly is to fill a gap with a bigger group. It does not help that many of the references the game pulls on are well outside her arena of knowledge. That hits me a bit too, but I like the challenge of cluing something that I don't know what or who it is.

And then there was much mastication and we had dinner as well.

Prominent on the top of my pile, plus it was one I wanted to play once more anyway, Pick Picknic fit the bill for the opener after dinner. This was new to Rob and Karen, but it was quickly taught and we were into the game.
Turn 1, Jenny plays the right fox, swiping 3 birds and netting 11 points. Indeed, 6 player is a nice environment for foxes and it is pretty hazardous to be a hungry bird here. Most of us got slow starts, Karen especially seemed to struggle, but Karen especially picked up the pace in the latter half and by the end she had an impressive amount of corn and captured birds. Meanwhile poor Jenny had had her glorious moment and really struggled to score very much else anywhere. I scraped out what I could but after some good turns, I seemed to peter out and then my final turn red fox I decided against, after it was observed how much corn was on there - due to the red birds that had all been eaten. Sure enough, no red birds played. They were all in score piles!

There were immediate calls for another round so off we went. And as much as I struggled in the last game, I sailed in this one, my foxes ate well and my birds were mostly unmolested. Poor Jenny had a rough game again, kept being eaten (though she particularly enjoyed the turn where she caught my chicken). And the last game's winner Karen struggled even more, barely getting anything all game. The other 3 were grouped in a huddle in the middle, but the winner was never in doubt.

It was funny, this was a game I hadn't picked out to play, but added at the last minute because it plays 6 and because it was close to upping my own personal H-index. That milestone was reached. And it was a huge hit with Rob and Karen, a simple game with a bit of think and double-think.

Rick had requested I bring Wits & Wagers and that came out next. We played as 6 individuals. And as much as the questions are aimed to be something you don't know the exact answer about, we had a run of questions where we weren't much sure on even a reasonable estimate. Turn 1 Rick and Kristi scored 3 which they promptly lost on the next turn. And everyone missed the next one, so it was effectively a 4 turn game! Some coins were finally won there and it was Rob who built up the pile over the next couple of rounds, to the point I thought we were playing for 2nd. But the last turn a rush of gambling fever swept over him and he gambled big and got the wrong answer while Jenny put her little winnings on the right one to steal the game from him. Rick, normally a shrewd one at this, declared it the worst W&W game ever, as he ended with the 2 you start with.

Rick practically insisted on a rematch to regain his honor. He gambled heavily (as did others, but not as heavily) and lost, uncharacteristically missing on a couple of dates, while Rob especially picked up a tidy pile. And this time he did not relinquish that advantage, only increasing it, even as Kristi and I cashed in well on question 7, he still did as well and won comfortably. And yes, 2 terrible games for Rick. It really was the worst day of Wits & Wagers ever.

With time ticking on, we were looking for a party game, that nearly was Reverse Charades but then we played a quick round of "What's the name of that game which" and the answer turned out to be Codenames, so we played that. Rick had some good clues but a couple of words got guessed wrongly (partly due to oversight on Rick's part, partly being not quite on the right wavelength) and the red one we guessed gave the ladies an advantage that they would not let go. Karen clued carefully and calmly and they did not misstep.
Game 2 with Jenny and Rob in charge. Last time, Rob kept giving us weird clues but he was more straightforward this time while Jenny had trouble connecting her words so the lads, scoring a solid 2 per turn, took the game.
So it was down to Kristi and me as the clue givers. It was getting late now and we two are the ones most prone to some AP, not the best combination (and it was "politely" suggested we should never be Spy Masters at the same time again!). But I stumbled rather, overstretching once and then the water:2 clue I gave was not stretched enough (duck, ship, pipe, with 2 others only neutral). Trying to tie opera to anything (I tried to link it to death) failed and while I floundered, Kristi gave good clues that her team-mates understood well.

I think Codenames is brilliant and I did enjoy the game this time, though it felt a bit painful trying to puzzle through the words with a tired brain. Perhaps that is one for when you haven't been brain fried by the sun all afternoon?

Anyway, it was a good time, the gaming petering out for chatter and prodding of children to go home.

Thanks muchly to axarca, mcross, EndersGame and punkin312 for great photos!
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Wed Aug 31, 2016 8:06 pm
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Our City Has a Rat Problem

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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I planned on typing up last week but the store was temporarily out of round toits. By the time they were back in stock, it was time for this week's version, so this will be a biweekly update instead.

 9   Star Realms (with Star Realms: Colony Wars) x5

Star Realms continues to be popular, though 5 plays over 2 weeks is a bit of a down tick, partly because we were playing it almost exclusively while my wife was so busy that I actively started seeking a bit more variety in my gaming diet. A couple of notable moments though, one game I was on the back foot, having a good economy but lacking some punch. Jenny had the punch but it was from more middle range ships. She was definitely winning, despite a bit of a rainbow deck, but the killer punch came when I buy some good stuff but then a late turn up is the Emperor's Dreadnaught. This costs 8 so out of her range normally, but she had a ship that could scrap for cash and in addition she had a humble Star Barge, that she had bought for its cash early on, but its Imperial allegiance meant she could bring the Dreadnaught into play immediately and the ensuing wreckage was the end of me.

The other game was my first turn Repair Bot. Now we don't much care for the Repair Bot as most of the time it seems it comes to your hand when you don't have a discard pile, a needed component in order to use its deck thinning ability. But this little Repair Bot hit 3 times in a row, including once after I got it in my first 5 cards through, but Jenny made me discard a card. I like to think this piece of good fortune was pivotal in my eventual victory. The base that put a big Blob ship on top of my deck helped a little too.

 7   Friday

I got the chance for a solo game and thought I was go visit Robinson in Friday. On Level 2, my pirates were 8/30 and the defeat the remaining hazards one.
I stripped out lots of chaff in the first pass but won a couple and built from there, a couple of destroys finding use to get rid of aging cards. I fire through pretty well, picking up 2 4 point weapons and a couple of doubles. And I deliberately choose the tougher hazards in the main part knowing that I will face what remains at the end. And in the end, that pirate is not so tough: 6 cards to get 18 costs a few life to get there but it is pretty easy. And actually the 8 cards have enough extra card draws that it only takes a couple of life more to defeat the other pirate. And it ends up being about my best score so far.

Fighting 46, aging cards -10
Pirates +30
Life points 9x5=45
Hazards left 5x3 = 15
TOTAL 96

I think I am up for Level 3. cool

 8   Animal Upon Animal

There were sounds of Very Annoyed Child coming from the office: my son was having Trouble with his video game and got quite upset over it. I got him to take a break and after he had cooled off a bit, I got him to play something with me, hitting upon Animal Upon Animal. Just me and him, one set of animals each, we added a little house rule that the croc symbol on the die just meant add 1 rather than extend the structure. And it was a fun couple of games where he proved his steady hand. After we both lose after knocking down late game, he proves himself with a precarious placement without knocking it down to take the overall victory. And then we messed around piling up all the animals.

Board games are therapy.

 6   Shadowfist (using Shadowfist: Year of the Dragon) x2

At my wife's suggestion, I also taught that same son the kung fu action card game Shadowfist. It has been officially A While since I last played. But it was all there lurking in my sub-conscious, I'd keep looking stuff up but it was always just what I thought it was. I let him pick his faction and he picked the plucky Dragons while I took Architects of the Flesh (both using Year of the Dragon decks), first blood went to him but I built up steadily and cleared the way with a neutron bomb. CHAR brought me back into it but his Netherworld Vet (boosted by my Arcanowave edge) was able to deal with CHAR, though then nerve gas dealt with him. I thought I had it when my scientist with a robot arm was joined by a plasma trooper also similarly limbed but Q's final brawl plus sacrifices did just enough to save his Feng Shui site, then in response: Little Jim. And that was game over.

(My wife thought I was mean to take the Architects but I think the lad held his own pretty well, with some coaching).

 7   Draco Magi (with Draco Magi: Expansion 1)

My record at this game is impressive: 0-14. This 14th loss was so so close though.

I got a combat boost from the Hydra and that was enough to make me win both blue gems on offer while the Hydra himself lost out after a Deadly Strike. So I was ahead but in round 2 J pushed the shadow dragon on me and thwarted my efforts to get it out of the way. So she won a second yellow gem and she let me win the plains battle with no gem at all. The final one of the 3 was a close thing, I lost 2 out of 3 then I thought I was done when she pulled one more bite out and I just had magic. But it was my battle dragon, so it took the hit and the magic meant I could even up the battle. A tie.
Round 3 had 2 green gems and a red - so no one could just win with 3, it was first to 4. But I thought I had pulled something off when I flipped the battle to reveal a blue - I just needed to win that one. I had my wounded battle dragon and the elder scales so good fighting power, though J had a Rainbow and a Black dragon. We resolved the other 2 first anyway, I pulled off the win in the first, getting a green and J won the lightly defended red gem. But J had a quadruple bite with bind to open the battle, so no escape and I was down to the single dragon. My counterattack drained her hand but she had multiples of her special cards - I pulled her deadly strike with an ambush but she followed up with Ancient Magic - I had magic in hand to counter one but not the other and that was game.

One day, dragons, one day!

 8   La Città

In my pile of dusty games, La Città has to be one of the dustiest, regularly high on my "days unplayed" list when I peek at that section of the Friendless stats page. Our last game was in December 2008! But it wasn't even my suggestion to play it, Jenny wanted to play "that city game where you steal people from your neighbors". She calls it Cary, which is a Research Triangle area based joke.

It turned out to be a bit of a relearning game, with some rules mistakes. I initially missed that you get a free citizen with a market which meant we were both struggling to grow. But we soon picked up the pace. Jenny aggressively moved her services-heavy city close to mine and meanwhile developed her farming town, surrounded by grain and not much else. I struggled to hold her off from one side while I developed my other - closer to her farming town so I nabbed a few citizens on that side. I also added a 3rd castle, needing more farms myself. Indeed I miscalculated and had to lose one (another rule I missed, I had to undo one action as you lose an action if folks starve on the turn previously). I pushed up my white arches on my smaller city so she was only winning the other 2 which meant we swapped citizens a bit and then I added my 4th castle to make sure I had enough grain. Jenny was late following me there but we were very close in population, with some fine calculation going on in the last round as she added her 4th castle to boost her population and I spent my last 2 coins on a boost to mine - both of us making sure of our farming first. She had the one more citizen but only one of her towns had the full set of services. I thought I had only one as well, I hadn't been able to find a spare citizen to get a fountain so I got stuck at 8 pop, but I suddenly noticed that I had a hospital there so that town did have all 3, giving me the extra points to get the win.
J: 29 pop + 3 = 32
D: 28 pop + 6 = 34

There might be a bit of an asterisk over that win. We'll see if that holds next time we play - hopefully not quite so long this time.

 N/A   Tales & Games: The Pied Piper x2 NEW!

The other thing that happened was it was my birthday last week. 29 again! *cough* My wife had wanted to get me a game but was a bit gun shy over what to get. Last year she got me Roll for the Galaxy which I had really wanted but in the end it didn't really work out for us. So she took me to the store and we worked out what to get together. And one that we both agreed upon was Rattus: Pied Piper. We already have Tales & Games: The Three Little Pigs and I have been looking out for Tales & Games: The Hare & the Tortoise (more on that in a bit) plus my wife likes games with rodents in. Well cute rodents. And this game with its little rats with color string tails definitely counts as cute.

So of course we tried it out. 2 player so not quite the full experience, it has a couple of dummy houses that just put distance between you and your opponent. And for a while I did wonder if it would actually end in a reasonable time, we both floated around 2-3 levels in. But then there was a bit more movement, we got the trick of it a bit more, though we did go all the way through the deck once, it ended shortly after that as Jenny countered my moving a rat under my house by just moving it back in the red direction, taking my last level.

We went straight into a rematch which felt a lot more dynamic as the mechanics of the game had become second nature. I was admittedly quite mean to her and we both managed the move over then back to give 2 levels. I set up the black rat to move over her house and she did not do anything much in response so I played a melody and the other 2 rats with it came along too, so she jumped right up to 7 in a turn.

Seriously cute and fun, we will be making the kids play this with us at the next opportunity and it will come along to game night next week too. Looks like a cute little keeper to us.

 8   Rat Hot

We switched to a different rat based game, one that we have played a lot over the last few years, that being Rat Hot. But this one went so well for Jenny it is untrue. I had several rats early on, limiting my scoring while she scored freely, building a lead. I figured this would come back around but her rats were nicely spread and so while I scored well for a while in the mid game, so did she. I knew I had 2 more in the bag but I was pushing my luck, knowing I needed to get points and hoping they would not be a disaster when they did come out. Both of them came out on Jenny's last turn (the worst possible time). She had 2 as well but was able to cover them up, leaving me FOUR, with one tile to play. I was done on rats, but Jenny had a great score which we added up as well:
J 22 + 11 = 33
D 17 + 6 = 23

(our record is 34; scores over 30 are rare).

And that was that, though a couple of new acquisitions (see birthday) are in line for debut, including Raptor and on order via a gift certificate, Sushi Go Party!. Hopefully that latter one will arrive before game night next weekend. And also after the success of the Pied Piper, I have Hare and Tortoise in my cart, waiting for enough to join it to get free shipping. So some good fun ahead.

Thanks to the photographers of BGG for decorating my ramblings including cuazzel, Hex_Enduction_Hour, KingKneru, Rokkr, MarkEJohnson, ssoares and thepackrat. Also thanks to Thesp for creating the tool here for helping with this formatting.
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Tue Aug 16, 2016 6:02 pm
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Summer Daze

David
United States
DURHAM
North Carolina
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July has been a busy month for me (thus the lack of posts recently) and more in particular for my wife who has either been crazy busy running around or semi-comatose on the couch from exhaustion. The heat of July doesn't help.

So the first two-thirds of July has been utterly dominated by the games we can play when feeling pretty tired, otherwise known as Star Realms. In fact, only 1 other game was played all month at one point. I was missing variety in my gaming diet so I resolved to make sure that the weekend at least would make up for things.

After reflecting on my games from a year ago, I thought it time to revisit Meeple City with the kids, see the sights and knock some buildings over. They readily agreed (I should suggest this more often) and we got to work. My youngest was the jumper which was fun for getting across the board, plus he wanted to eat the black meeples. I had heavyweight (good for knocking down other monsters) and liked to snack upon the gray meeples. My eldest was a Softie (points for teeth left) and had stinky paws, which he used a coule times to gather up meeples. Both he and I had trouble with losing teeth though, I fell foul of the runaways a couple of times, plus I went off the edge with a move. I ended with none of the 4. But some mighty destruction, what I thought was enough grays and 2 sets. I also tried to knock down my son's monster and failed on my first 2 attempts! Which he found hilarious. He jumped around, savaged the stadium and piled up a lot of black - he thought his bonus was per black not just for having the most (which he did grumble about for the rest of weekend!). But he maintained good dentition and collected a lot. His brother was more quiet about it, scooping up steadily and when we revealed at the end, my 2 sets I thought decent, but he had a bunch of meeples and 3 full sets. Plus he matched me in gray meeples. My youngest also had a lot but he had but 1 gray meeple so he suffered there. Both of our scores suffered a lot on the basis of a single meeple here and there. Thus my eldest won with 42.

I know why I don't get it out more often, a big box (so hard to take to game nights) and an extended set-up time. But it really is pretty fun.

My other way to boost my gaming while my wife was busy was to pull out some of my solo games. I had thought about going for one of my bigger games, but between errands and looking after our puppy, I thought it better to stick to the smaller card games. Plus last time I played Onirim, I had lost and that won't do.

I played with Books of Steps Lost and Found, which uses the discard pile in an inventive way to 'cast spells' and manipulate the deck in a couple ways.
Some initial slowness and I needed a reverse prophecy (one of the spells) for the moon brown to get the first door, but the next blue door lined up well. A couple of keys thrown to nightmares and it was going OK. By now I had a set in hand and enough discard to swap the next 2, the green quickly completed and then the red shortly after. Halfway there.
I thought I was going to have to swap again with my hand not matching the brown required but a nightmare showed up next and that allowed me to dump my hand and the new look hand worked out well, and I skipped through the next red door as well, so 6 doors done. Even better I had the blue already in hand with the only problem, inevitably, the deck was getting thin. Got those cards down without mishap but a nightmare greeted me next and I had 3 green in hand to finish it. But they were 2 green sun and a green key and then I suddenly realized I should not try to play the set but wait for the green door and get it with the key. I discard from the deck and draw, get another nightmare. My discard pile is not enough to
defeat it (another spell, but the most expensive to cast) so I draw and discard 5, losing 4 and only 7 cards left in the deck. I draw again to get back to 5 but it is another nightmare. I draw and discard again, losing more cards and leaving me with only 2 in the deck. And the next one is, yes, a nightmare - but now I had enough discard to defeat it. And then I draw again, the last card in the deck, and it is the green door which I can unlock with the green key. Yes!

After that glory, I think of grabbing my other go-to solo card game Friday but I remember that Port Royal has a solo option in the expansion. Actually it turns out it is the co-op version which can be played solo. You get a stack of cards called the Time Pile and if you run out of cards, you lose. But you win if you complete a certain number of contracts in the time you have. How the time pile works is that you draw from that pile as your first move each turn but subsequent pulls come from the main deck. Basically it is an elegant way to keep track of how many turns you took. The rules say you can remove cards from the time pile to increase the difficulty but I eschewed that option, feeling I could score my effort by how many were left.

My 3 contracts to fulfill: Fighter (3 swords), Tax Officer (pay taxes) and Tiny Royal Household (have 12VP).
Started out gathering money - with an initial setback as the black ship from the time pile (18 cards at the start) was matched by another from the draw deck, but after a turn or 2 I had a yellow clerk and he was soon joined by a gunner. Hopefully I can build up cash and grab extra stuff. No sailors yet though. The first yellow ship I saw was a 1 coin and that was joined by a 3 coin yellow. Hrrm. But it worked out better after that. I got a sailor and a captain and a settler. Points stacking up, an expedition available if I can get one more captain. Then I get a 3VP sailor and an admiral as well, money is flowing better but the time pile is dwindling. I get the 3rd sword, and am at 11 VP. If the tax man shows up I could win, but I need the cash in hand so I gather a lot, then I had a big turn with 4 ships but still no tax man. They never show up when you actually want them to. I get more cash and another sailor. That means I fulfill the 12VP contract and just need to pay my taxes to win. There is one more card in the time pile. I draw it, then have to reshuffle the draw deck - no tax men in the whole thing so far (not even ones that didn't make me pay). So I keep drawing, repelling ships as I can. A red
ship then a green ship I can't repel. The stack of people growing higher...and at last the tax man arrives.

The rules rank a win with 0 cards left as "Landlubber". A landlubber I might be but it is still a win. And that thrilling end pushed it up a notch in my thoughts and admiration.

Sunday came and it was at last a bit more relaxed for Jenny aka J aka Mrs Loofish. So she was up for some game and to ease into it, we went with more Star Realms.

We mirrored on opening (repair bot&imperial fighter v repair bot&lancer) and picked up bases next but I became more rainbow (which I thought would be OK with the mercenary garrison) and J stayed with yellow and added blue, with card draw a theme. She cycled much more quickly and though I had her down below 20 while I sat above 40, she unleashed a 23 combat turn and then put up a wall of bases that I had trouble picking off, so in the end she finished me rather easily.

The revenge match didn't quite pan out either, I tried to super hone down, with convoy, repair and trade bots, plus the mercenary garrison featuring again. But while it was getting there, J was pounding me repeatedly, with blob ships prominent and I was not able to put enough together to keep her out.

A bit of a run for her at this at the moment. But the number of plays keeps racking up and no real sign of it slowing down.

After that Star Realming, I suggest Port Royal. The contracts were Trade Prince (2 traders), Trade Outpost, Explorer and Pack of Pirates.
J grabs early sailors and picks up some repelled ships. I get a settler, then some sailors of my own and actually rather quickly catch her up on the pirate repelling stakes. I get the clerk for my first contract, while J pushes her luck hard for that yellow ship to complete her pack. She gets it and then I almost casually get it right after her. She gets a jester and a monk against my captain, but I get my 2nd captain first, completing the expedition and completing that contract. That puts me at 11 and with cash in hand, I get a 3 point sailor to finish it, J unable to catch me with what was left.

A final game for the week, a regular favorite: Qwirkle.

I start slow, drawing a couple of doubles and J played another of mine right ahead of me. She gets an early lead but after I exchange, I get a qwirkle and some other good combinations and catch up and indeed take the lead for myself. We leapfrog each other for a while but then I begin to get a bit stuck and J pulls off a string of big moves including 2 qwirkles back to back. I am now sufficiently behind with not enough tiles left in the bag to catch up. I do play out my tiles first, including a qwirkle on my last turn, a 20 point turn including the 6 for playing all tiles, but still 10 back from J.

Game box photos from KlydeFrog, Camdin, W Eric Martin, goblintrenches and toulouse.

Game photos from AlkalynSyn, zombiegod, fourquartets, punkin312 and KSensei.

Thanks to all of you!
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Mon Jul 25, 2016 10:03 pm
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