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A daily blog about my travels around board games

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...hauling colorful colds to Valhalla...

Alexandre Correia
Portugal
Lagos
Algarve
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Day 321. November 17, 2017. Lagos...

You know when you wake up and your body feels like it took a beating when you're "partying" in last night's bar fight? Well, there was no bar and there was no bar fight, but the mild cold from yesterday was definitely partying inside me during the night. No games and no deep traveling today. What I did instead, was visit the geek doctor and flip trough the newspaper while waiting to be seen. Huge image backlog from the photo feed. And, among them, there was a common picture. Hauls, loots and pillaged treasures from Essen 17


Day 1 haul from the thebeardgamer


Pillaged treasures from punkin312


oniro.games loot.


Among those huge pile of games and photos, some actually made me pause for a moment and look twice.
The Vikingar tiles caught me by suprise. Those are not your standard Carca square tiles! And the art reminded me from the tiles in Akrotiri. It seems that the KS campaign for this one was very low profile, mostly due to the timing, just after Kingdom Death Monster campaign! But the player count goes up to 6, the tiles and rounded Valhalla board where players are trying to enter are a breath of fresh air in the tile laying and exploration genre, the wooden rune pieces you're using in the combat help to flesh out the viking theme. I'm definitely keeping an eye out for this possible hidden gem.


Vikingar, by lillojeux


But playing a game to try and reach Valhalla (aka: death!), did not suit the present day... The other noteworthy titles were more colorful and cheerful. I want to play more kids games with younger kids (or maybe I want to be a young kid again and play more kids games!). My Happy Farm has players buying seeds to crop their fields, to harvest them later and sell for profit, OR to feed their animals, make them grow and make them happy. It's a farm simulator for kids! And it's happy!


My Happy Farm, by playtography


Here's a colorful modular board to create a different prehistorical setting that increases difficulty each round! Here's your dinossaur colorfull species meeples. Now go save them and their (potential) offspring! How? Throw them into the continent and try to land them in safe areas. Jungle or oceans? Bye bye dino. Two of a kind in a quiet spot? Kids happen! You wan't variety in this kid's party game? There are cards in the with different throwing rules...


DinoParty, by playtography


Photo & Image credits: thebeardgamer, punkin312, oniro.games, lillojeux, playtography
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Today 10:33 am
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...morning gaming sickness...

Alexandre Correia
Portugal
Lagos
Algarve
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Day 320. November 16, 2017. Lagos...

Father and daughter woke up sick this morning. No need to worsen it with a morning walk. Maybe later... For now we're resting our bodies and keeping the minds busy with some ludo play. Alice wanted Animal Upon Animal first. So we began the play, setting it up with the second variant. The one that includes the die roll and gives the player at most, two choices every turn. Which animal to stack or, if the sun comes up, which animal and where to stack it! Good game. We now run these on auto-pilot. No need to remind Alice of anything and she pretty much already knows what to do. The first game was over, but she quickly began setting it up again. A rematch!


Stack progression.

Afterward, she still wanted to play another game, but I suggested instead the rabbit variant. The one where you coop and try to stack all animals before the rabbit reaches the flower meadow. This time the rabbit almost won and we barely made it! It came down to the last animal and only one more sun die roll for a crunching defeat! As expected, the difficulty came from the die itself. If it keeps rolling flower and bush meadow in equal amounts, is a walk in the park. But if the same meadow keeps turning up, over and over and over... The animal tower gets higher and higher, and is very easy for the all thing to come crashing down! It happened with us, twice! Excellent game!


By now I thought it was enough, but Alice was in the zone! "Just one more daddy! Let's play Gulo Gulo!" Game setup on the makeshift table (wooden box turned upside down) and the wolverine race was on. The game does provide an advantage for the player with little fingers! More than once I saw Alice pluck an egg out, defying the law of gravity with the alarm still on the nest!


Heavy game!


...purple?

Unfortunately the choices are still too much for Alice. Once again she keeps choosing to flip the next stone, regardless of what's ahead of her Gulo or what's best for her. So moving the Gulo only to the nearest same colored stone, has opposed to moving it to the stone she just flipped, causes her to stare at me wide eyed, asking: "why?" Same thing when she the alarm sounds and she has to go back... "why?" The components are splendid, the dexterity part is right up Alice's alley, but the rest is still way over her... Let's wait another month before we steal more eggs, shall we?

And as a cherry on top of a sick gaming morning, we broke out Rampage and played with the pieces. Always quite a sight to behold, a city of meeples with dragons walking among them.


A rampaging sick morning.

Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow.

Photo & Image credits: ZombieBoard
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Thu Nov 23, 2017 6:05 am
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...market race and good interactions...

Alexandre Correia
Portugal
Lagos
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Day 319. November 15, 2017. Lagos...

It's been a while since I managed to squeeze in the work hours, a visit to Até à Lua on a gamenight. Today was no different, with work piling up and pressing down... but! It pays to have friends that visit Con's in the other side of the country! Nuno and Pedro asked me to "mule" for their InvictaCon price bargain finds! And if Nuno managed to find a still in shrink 1st edition of the The Isle of Doctor Necreaux, Pedro on the other hand, found a huge collection of Lord of the Rings: The Card Game! And where talking dozens of boxes of expansions and two core sets at least! It took me a good +30 minutes to puzzle the cards/inserts/boxes so they could fit in my carrier bag!

So, with a good excuse to deliver the goods to them, I took an hour break from the computer and went to the shop to meet my friends. And then of course... you can't go to a gamenight without at least dipping your toes in a game. Known to all, Nuno took Race for the Galaxy from the shelve.


Here we go again G.I. Joe!

Now, me and Nuno have been playing Race for a few months and mostly, if not all, at the two player count. Playing with +2 and and only getting to chose 1 actions per turn, sure makes a difference. A huge difference! Specially if you consider that Pedro, comes from a heavily competitive multiplayer environment, where the classics, like Race, are played ad infinitum every week, in the Lisbon group meetings. I mean, he wasn't even paying that much attention to the cards and was playing the game on auto-pilot! Meanwhile, me and Nuno, struggled to adapt to this single action environment, while keeping up with the chit-chat and with the absurd combos Pedro was getting out of the cards! It got to a point, where all he did, was Produce and then Consume for obscene VP bonus!


Three player galaxy of fun!

I put and end to our shared misery fast, and triggered the end of the game with the 12th card in my military (once again!) empire, before Pedro could Consume for a 3rd time! He won obviously... but at least he didn't win by a shameful point difference. Let's play LotR:TCG next time, please! It's cooperative, yes?


I have to say, when Edward, from HC, and Jim, from PC, team up in a podcast, it makes for some of the most dynamic, funny and insightful interaction between two podcasters! This time they did it for the BGGCon daily log, and day zero already saw quite a gaming action.

Calimala keeps getting high demands among their groups and hight praises afterwards. If it wasn't for +3 players it would be higher on my want. Come next LeiriaCon, it will be a top game to play for sure. Which reminds me, that I have to make a geeklist to keep track of the game I want to play at cons...

The other game mentioned was a true hidden gem. Back from 2016 Essen and after a low profile (but sucesfull) Kicstarter, Turin Market, with it's 18 cards and a few coins, may just be one of those fillers that pack a big punch in a short time! Players select good cards simultaneosly, to be added to a blind bidding auction. Afterwards, you can put some of the bought cards for sale, with your own money on top as collateral for a round. Loans can be taken during the game and in the end, the player with the most of a single resource has a pay day from the bank AND from any player that also has that single resource in their shop! Repeat for the 9 different resources...


Mean little sucker!

Hearing the guys talking about it sure made this super-filler jump to my +3 player radar. The problem here for me is the auction part... I suck at auction games, but love the interaction it provides in games that have it! One day I'll be a good auction player.

Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow.

Photo & Image credits: ZombieBoard, Jordan Draper
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Wed Nov 22, 2017 6:00 am
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...sleeping Crusoe, sleeping dogs...

Alexandre Correia
Portugal
Lagos
Algarve
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Day 318. November 14, 2017. Lagos...

Still half-asleep from last night work marathon, on top of another sleepless night on a bus, the previous day, we didn't go for a long walk this morning, out of fear I would fall asleep far from home. Instead, Alice had her belly full of indoor slides and swimming pools of colored balls, in a cafe 5 minutes from home, while I struggled to write in the notebook and guide Robinson out of his castaway situation.


Bad morning for R.Crusoe.

I keep thinking about what's the "catch" that breaks the game, ever since I've known that there is a way to break the game. Friday being solvable is something that aunts me when I think of the game now... Well, I didn't solve it this morning. A cannibal struggle in the yellow phase, was the end of Robinson. He did went to that fight without any life points... A miracle it lasted for so long!


Gaming in the playground is becoming a rare sight. Mostly because by the time me and Alice get there, it's already dark, and I'm not yet ready to sit in dark playground with a flashlight pointed at a Limes meeple, or a Shahrazad story tile! Alice whoever, doesn't share these social awkwardness problems. For her, all is fine in the dark or in the sunlight. She's been asking for a play of Bata-Waf outside for a few days. In her mind, the dog/card game is a game to play outdoors!


Night dogs!

It was darkish...maybe that's why she won!

Photo & Image credits: ZombieBoard
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Tue Nov 21, 2017 6:05 am
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...listening to sleepless nights...

Alexandre Correia
Portugal
Lagos
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Day 317. November 13, 2017. Lagos...

With a bus that arrived from Porto at 5am, after an eight hour ride, and a 3 year old daughter that wakes at 7am and wants to be taken on playground rides, I'm understating that throughout the day, I was more asleep than awake...


Playground skate rides.


And if that wasn't enough, job tasks have the tendency to pile up fast and dangerously escalating when a respite from them is needed the most! So It was work at night... all night until the next day! Somehow, I managed to put the speakers on and started clicking for the map making with the sound of Grogan's Essen recap / interview and Edward and Amanda's take on Calimala.

As it was, among the 1000 new games that come out in a blink of an eye, 99% of them are nothing but iterations of tried and trued mechanisms and genres and flows, all dressed up in 1000 different thematic clothes. Calimala seems to be among the traditional flow of the river. Euro dresses (literally!), euro bland board, worker placement.... sigh. But, the stacking/scoring triggering seems to be something new, according to Edward and Amanda's review on the game. Nothing would stand out in Calimala, yet another perfectly executed medium weight euro, if it wasn't solely for the novelty of putting your workers on top of others and making them trigger again. I have to try this game.


Arte di Calimala


And on the other side of the spectrum, Lagerstätten, as it was eared in Grogan's Gaming Rules #54, didn't live up to the indie-mystic-hyped mambo jambo after all. Japon Brand has this aura of a whispering buzz around the extremely limited print run in their available titles, making geek users (like me!) crave for that one game that isn't in the spotlight but has the potential to outshine the hottest titles. Lagerstätten seemed just that game...


Flawed pearl?

As it was, all it was needed was a few plays from Ben for him to realize that the game didn't seem balanced and more playtesting was in need to make it work. So, pre-order it for 35€, play it once and sell it on the spot for 60€ to anyone with the hype fever! Uf... I'm glad I didn't ask my geek friends to grab a copy of the game, when I first became aware of it. Still, I'm down for a play if it ever comes my way!


And in Brasil, during the short Essen interview with Paulo and Nuno, all of the fans of their previous titles, Madeira, Nippon, Panamax... will feel right at home with Brasil. It should fall between Madeira and Nippon, weight wise, and it has an undisclosed "twist" to set it apart from the other titles. Kickstarting late January, early February. Stay tuned.


What's the twist guys?


Photo & Image credits: henk.rolleman, KrisKhoo85, Ydernola
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Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:03 pm
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...InvictaCon, day 3...

Alexandre Correia
Portugal
Lagos
Algarve
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Day 316. November 12, 2017. Porto & Lagos...

The streets were even quieter than the day before. It's a Sunday in the North side of Porto, and especially near the university buildings, nothing happens on Sunday mornings. Nothing, save the last day of InvictaCon! The back entry was closed and me and André had to take a long way around the university's fences, before we actually arrived at the scene... 5 seconds too late, to pick up Azul, high on the To Play list of André!


Some hostel in Porto...


So we browsed the ludoteca, looking for some other new title. Ex Libris? Why not? We asked for it and if somebody knew how to teach the game. You see... Ex Libris was high on my radar when I first became aware of it. Books, light fantasy comic setting, libraries, solo variants. But then reports, reviews, podcasters and first Con's sessions started to drip in the geekland and my wonder for the game decreased ten fold! So many interesting games coming out every day, why should I maintain a subscription on a seemingly "meh" title? And as if on cue, the only guy who knew how to teach us, said right up front, that this was one of the worst games he had ever played!?!? He was so enthusiastically about this, that I was this close to send the game back to the shelve. Luckily, curiosity took the upper hand on the final decision. Let's experience a "bad game" for a change, hum?

A friend of André, Miguel, joined us at the table for the gameplay and after the barely sufficient teaching we dived right in the world of magic books. There were complaints in the geekland about the size of the font in the locations. Yes, they are small. But no smaller than your average Magic or Agricola card. No complaints here.


My little Swamp of Scholarship.


Tiny font? Maybe...

Special workers abilities in a solid worker placement implementation over a ever changing set of locations each round... each game! André's wizards for instance was used to the fullest every single round, moving and displacing the shelves to suit his master's needs. Miguel's fire man had a very cutthroat power. Burning books that other players might need! Unfortunately (or not!) we only became aware of it's full potential later on, so Miguel never got a chance to make a bonfire. I had a witch... Never used it! Maybe I didn't grasp how I could take advantage of it. I don't know.


Library builders.

Spatial reasoning - brain burning is also checked in Ex Libris. Not only you need to think about shelves stability (endgame bonus points), but you need, or should, store books in a alphabetical AND numerical order, or face the ruthless flipping of shelves by the inspector. There's like 6 different types of books and you have to keep in mind that one is bad, another is good for everyone, one is good for you (secretly) and all but the bad one need to be balanced in your library. You'll score for the least of them. Excellent!


Inspector's visit.

The game took us about 60 minutes and despite some normal first play doubts with the rules, we were all engaged and, may I say, immersed in the shelving business! I liked it. A lot! Enough to put it back on the radar and high on the list once again. Lesson learned. Don't always believe in every session/review you read until you actually play the game!


Ex Libris.


André was off to hunt for his Azul session and I joined another group. Vasco and Rafael. Me and Vasco had emailed each other a few days ago to try and set up a game of Tiny Epic Quest or Alchemists. We picked TEQ, I taught them the game, giving them plenty of warnings that the game might drag, so a 60 minute time frame (as stated in the box, Alex!) should be expected from this tiny cardboard specimen.


Quest for epicness.

It was a good game. Both Vasco and Rafael are hardcore gamers and anything within this weight class they will devour it with no rules problems, even in their first play. Vasco focused on the movement quests early on but you need to take into a account the player's turn order and ITEMeeples disposition if you want to have any chances on those adventuring races. Some bad die rolls during the night also made him quit the pursue of magic lore. Me and Rafael took more or less similar paths, of a well rounded diet of goblins, magic learning and quest taking. He actually made more of the temple quest so his meeples looked like Rambo in the end!


Meeple adventures.


It was late by the time the Quest was over and lunch break seemed more like an extravagant late afternoon snack! There was a lot of board game talk at the table off course. And the subject ended up in the Top overall ranked games in BGG, if they deserved to be there and whether the all system was partial and/or actually worked! Rafael actually compared it to the IMDB ranking system.

Vasco on the other hand, told something I've never considered. Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 will most likely remain on the Top 3 for a very long time, due to a single reason. People who played the game until the end and rated it, will most likely not return to the game once its finished and adjust their ratings. The first experience will be awesome (I mean..it's Pandemic and it's Legacy!) and they will rated it very high... and that's it. No more revisiting and re-rating in a few months/years. Interesting... Could it be that in ten years time, all the Top 10 games will have Legacy systems built into them?


I was getting tired by now. After 3 days, and with still long night bus ride still ahead of me, I wanted to pack it in early and walk the city for a while before sitting on a bus for +7 hours. Rafael and I still managed to score a session of Onitama in the overcrowed gaming room! You wouldn't guess that this was the last day of InvictaCon by looking at the crowds of people still playing with only 3 hours left before closure!

I was looking forward to test this two-player abstract and see if I was already prepared or inflamed by these type of matches. I was not... The game felt like I as walking in circles, I couldn't plan too far ahead and set up a trap to Rafael's master so it didn't take long for his trap to sprung! Great components. Loved the board material and the rubber pieces. A good game to carry with you... if you like it!


No chess... not checkers...


Not my master.




Autumn alleys.

After a energizing stroll with twilight colors in the sky and Autum leaves everywhere, I sat on the bus depot café and punched the two player only version of Carcassonne für 2. Maybe I could make this a good solo, take anywhere game. I started to play the island variant with a 7x7 grid, but only later realized that there wasn't enough pieces to complete such a grid! But maybe a 6x6 or even a 5x5... maybe.


Testing solo Carcassonne: fur 2.

Sleep on the night bus awaited me. Or a semblance of sleep at least!

Photo & Image credits: ZombieBoard, crucius
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Mon Nov 20, 2017 6:05 am
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...InvictaCon17, day 2...

Alexandre Correia
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Day 315. November 11, 2017. Porto...

It was a little chilly during our morning trek to the InvictaCon, with the sun shinning brightly for a promise of a warm afternoon. A perfect sunny day of Autumn in Porto. Me and André were among the first to arrive at the gaming scene and headed straight to the Ludoteca to grab the hotness before they were devoured by the crowds. We saw how yesterday was with Photosynthesis. It barely even touched the shelve, if ever!


Autumn forest.

So we setup the game by the table and started to spread out seeds... For all the bells and whistles of the sun gimmicky, Photosynthesis is a pure abstract area control trough and trough. You're not only trying to control the surface, mostly with the seeds at first, but you're also struggling to control the air above ground to make sure your saplings get as much sun as they possibly can! The rest are clothes that dress one of the most beautiful presences I've seen on a board game table! No wonder this game doesn't stay on the shelve! Who doesn't like to see a Autumn colored forest grow in front of their eyes during 30 to 45 minutes? It's beautiful!

Also worth of noting is that the game is won by points... but you only start to get them, long after the game began, which leaves you with a felling, once you get past the bedazzling of the novelty, of playing for a long time and not achieving anything for your efforts! ...and then again, maybe it's due to our first play ingenuity. I'm sure that expert players can get their first mature tree chopped down before the first rotation of the sun!


Autumn forest.


Once the trees were back in the box, the rest of the gang was already here. Jorge, Francisco and João joined us for one of the most difficult conundrums in the board game world. Good games to appeal 5 players. After a while in front of the Ludoteca, plagued by doubts and about to divide the group, André suggested we cooped for a while in a Magic Maze.

I was unaware of the theme in this game. Four wizards, lost in a shopping mall, trying to buy their stuff and leave the premises before time runs out! We all control the wizards and nobody can talk while moving the piece. All one can do to get somebody's attention is grab a hammer-like / bowling-shaped piece of wood and bang it in the table in front of the unaware player, elevating the stress levels on the rest of the people, in what's probably the most silent real-time cooperative out there! It's fun! And the silence actually makes it, at least for me, less intense than other real timers, where everyone is shouting and chaotically trying to organize a semblance of plan.


There was a lot of pointing in this game.


Mute wizards.


InvictaCon's second morning.


InvictaCon's ludoteca.


Once we were over with the shopping however, we were back to the pentatonic existential crisis. And this time, with the added limitation of being a one hour only game, since lunch hour was fast approaching. It can be a limitation, but it's also a filter among all the offers in the library. I grabbed K2 and setup the 8000 meter high mountain on InvictaCon's table, with the North side facing the climbers and the winter snows fast approaching. And the climbing routes would also be more tight in this one, with only two and one spaces available in each location, above the 7000 meter line. I refreshed the rules to everyone and taught it to Francisco and André in the process.


Crowed mountain.


Drama in K2.

Like expected, and especially for the new players, the game seems like a no-brainer once you start playing. "Where's the challenge? Where's the fun?", were phrases easily read in some of the faces that hoovered over the mountain. But then you start to get higher... and the weather starts to get worse... and you're trying to grasp for a few more breathes for fresh air, by going back down the mountain only to see the path blocked by a group of tourist climbers huffing and puffing with overpacked backpacks and completely unaware of the death trap their getting themselves into. People died above the 8000 line... People died bellow the 6000 line, forgotten by their team mates. Heroes made it past the freezing corpses inside the mausoleum tents and reached the summit in the last sunny day on K2!

Is this a good light-medium euro for 5 players with a 60 minute time frame? No... it's dam near excellent!


Back from lunch, we split the team in half. João and Jorge dueled against each other in Onitama while me, Francisco and Ruben, impersonated tile-laying artists, trying to embellish the walls of the Royal Palace of Évora in Azul! As somebody pointed, there shouldn't be many copies of the game in Portugal right now, but InvictaCon somehow managed to grab one for it”s Ludoteca catalog! Good times!


Azulejo factory.

So, what's it like? It's an abstract with no theme whatsoever that's what it is! And although the pasted theme actually strikes a personal cord to the 7 years I spent in the University of Évora, having classes with those azulejos around me (they lose historical and artistic appeal, when it's winter and they are freezing and you're trying to pass a Maths exam!) There are pools of tiles spread out around a center point. You MUST always choose a color from the pool offering (aka, drafting!) putting the chosen tiles in your player board and discarding the rest to the center, that it's also a drafting location! Once the tiles run out, a scoring happens and mostly based in adjacency rules, and if there's no end-game condition (a full straight line in someone's playing board), the game continues.

Maybe I was predisposed to feel this way, since when I first became aware of this game in the geekland, it reminded me another big hit abstract, I had played recently. Sorry, but playing Azul, hit all my Sagrada chords! Drafting to construct patterns on your own player board under a beautiful table presence in a abstract environment! And I wasn't the only one thinking like that! Ruben also pointed the similarities right after the rules teaching and just before actually playing the game.


Holy drafting.

There's is however, a minor, but glaring difference. As soon as we were done playing, the next group in the Azul queue wanted someone to teach it, so I volunteered. I was teaching it to gamers and they were all completely at ease with these type of games. But if this was instead, a group of muggles, it would be a tiny-little bit more difficult to teach it that in Sagrada. Sagrada can be played by virtually anyone, with little obstacle from the rules. Azul, with the color placing restrictions on one side, and later on the other side of the player board, and with the in game scoring phases, takes more effort to grasp in your first play, if you're new to modern designed board games. Funny enough, I felt the same thing with Plan B's first title. Century: Spice Road is similar to Splendor, but the latter is a better intro game.


...yet another gateway classic.

Having said that, I loved my only play of Azul in InvictaCon, and If either Sagrada or Azul made their way to our shelves, it would be a more complete gaming shelve!


Returning to our table after teaching Azul, I saw Ruben and Francisco getting ready to face each other with toys in the extremely small footprint Windup War. I had no idea what this was about, but since we were waiting for Jorge to come back from his Photosynthesis hunt, I joined them and promptly got dealt a chewing gum sized deck of cards with toy bears as soldiers.

"It's player elimination", Ruben quickly said. "Last man standing takes the prize..." ...that intro made me glance sideways at the game... "Or until one of the players scores 4 VPs..." That's better! Every round you'll draw six... hum, cards for the lack of a better word. They all represent actions that you can program with your active platoon. And even if all your cards don't match the abilities of your active unit, there are still actions you can perform with them. So, not only it's a multi-use sort of card game, but you also have to manage your discard pile, since some of the actions only work with some cards on that specif location. The actions vary from setting up the bombs to triggering them later, to hitting your left/right opponent, or flamethrowering two opponents clock/counter clock wise! Sometimes you'll have to defend and/or ricochet the hits. Others you'll charge for the VP's in your discard pile!


Toy Story.

My Good Knights were eliminated without mercy in less than 10 minutes by the Dino-Soldiers and the Tin Fantry factions... It was fast, brutal and way too much fun for such a tiny game. There were like 6 different toy armies from which to choose from, so it scales up to six. Seems pretty simple, but programming your actions, taking into account the active unit, the discard pile, your hand and your opponents reactions, actually gives a substantial gaming meal in short time. On the radar it goes!


Somebody was having fun in space!


Choosing games.


Back to the Autumn woods, this time with the full player count. I had this idea taken from the end of the first morning match of Photosynthesis... Maybe if I planted and nurtured trees along the edges of the board, I would block the sun from my opponents flora and rule over the game! ...it was a good idea, but didn't actually work like that. The opposite actually happened! Francisco, who earlier stood silently watching the morning play on the side, seemed to have learned from our first sessions mistakes. He made a dash seed run to the center of the board, surround the center with as much seeds as possible and pretty much ruled over the entire game! I mean... he was getting +10 light points to spend, in turns were I struggled for a puny 3 light...


Return to the forest.

At four, the board quickly becomes filled even before the end of the first rotation, making the rest of the rounds much more devious and cutthroat to fill an empty space left from a cut down tree! Good game... and the presence on the board cannot be overstated. Specially with all four three types in display! Amazing! Does it deserve all the hype? Well... no. The amount of bells and whistles around it recently it's way too much. It's not like a Terraforming Mars or a Scythe, that get huge positive (and negative!) feedback early on, but remain on the top of the rankings after years. It's a (one more!) perfect game to draw the crowds and the muggles to the hobby, also giving experienced gamers more meat than your average Carcassonne or Catan. And that's it. Pick it up in a year or two, when the copies abound on all markets and prices drop to bellow the 30ish line.


Seed control.


Ruben was out for dinner... André was struck down earlier from something in the air... That left me, Jorge an Francisco to play the main dish of the day. One can only have so much gateway/fillers in one day. Jorge introduced me to Carl Chudyk's design a few months ago, over at gamenight with the most excellent Impulse! I was so impressed by the gameplay that the next day, managed to grab the last of the pre-order for the second edition in the nick of time! Since then, we kinda hinted to a follow up in InvictaCon. Innovation, Chudyk's take on the civ-builder genre, came down as the winner. Jorge gave a player board/player aid to each, outlined the main rules for the game (which are pretty simple) and off we went to the First Ages.

The rules are straightforward, yes. But were Carl truly shines, is on the exponential increase, bordering on the indigestible and on lunacy, of available combos/actions and paths to purse, every single time somebody does... anything! Francisco got the game quicker than me, and started adding cards to his influence super fast! Something like two per turn if I'm not mistaken (hard to keep track after a while). He had factories while the rest of us were still developing agriculture!


Innovating civ builder for sure!


Planning for an chemical mystic beer.

Jorge was playing tighter and didn't seemed to find the right combo to give him an edge over the others. I was struggling to evaluate what cards I should add to the table and which ones I should pass. But Francisco kept getting influence and mid-game dominations... Then an Anatomy card came my way. That single card put a stop in Francisco engine. It only took a few rounds until is civilization was back at the middle ages. After witnessing the power of splaying your tableau in Francisco's side, I began doing the same and slowly my side of the table became almost untouchable. I scored a Military domination and gathered enough influence to grab the final remaining two.


Broken!


Not a bad history for my civilization.

What a game! I have to say, I'm in check here... I think I'm in love with this CC (aka: card master!)'s designs! And I haven't even played Glory to Rome yet! But on the other hand, the only players I can see myself playing this games live on the other side of the country!


And as a closer after an excellent gaming day, me and Jorge chose Tiny Epic Galaxies from the shelves. A game he's been meaning to try for a while and that I was looking forward to revisit. I still think it's the best Tiny Epic title out there and the only one that keeps true to its name. You don't expect to have a 60 minute session out of a small box named tiny. But Galaxies gives you a civ race feel in under 30 minutes, keeping everyone engaged with that follow option. Great game!


Let's civ again in space!


Planet supremacy.

It was still early (for a gaming day event) when we finished playing. Not even 23:00... But the bellies were full and the next day was still a Con day, and a travel back home night! So a good nights rest was in order. What other new hotness would I be playing tomorrow?

Photo & Image credits: ZombieBoard, crucius
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Sat Nov 18, 2017 6:05 am
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...InvictaCon17, day 1...

Alexandre Correia
Portugal
Lagos
Algarve
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Day 314. November 10, 2017. Lagos & Porto...

Taking as long to reach Porto as it would take flying to the other side of the ocean, I opportunistically used the time to catch up on much need sleep. Long work nights lately... I did occasionally open my eyes to see were I was. Crossing the plains of Alentejo... crossing the massive river Tejo... crossing the higher hills of the North... crossing the Douro river... reading about the origins of Longsdale?!? Well... sort of! Spread as much as I could the cards on the lap and read the rules. Maybe I would get it to the table in a couple of hours.


Crossing a country.


Learning Tybor.


Once in the biggest city in the North, Porto, I walked for twenty minutes to my first ever experience in a... hostel! (...Santiago pilgrim's hostels don't count...) and once settled, trek for another twenty minutes to InvictaCon's location, in the Portucalense University. I'm realizing the these Con's, beside the wonderful gaming opportunities they provide, they also give me a much needed respite from the day to day routine and put me in situations I used to love in the past. To be dropped in a some semi-unknown location and walk the streets and small alleys to reach the destination. Getting to know a little bit better about the city.


Hostel sights.


Inspiration from another life.


And getting to know a city was what happened as soon as I arrived in InvictaCon! Ruben and Jorge were already waiting for the fourth player, setup ready in a cool gray table cloth and cork trays, with London (second edition) game. What a reception... and finally! I'm going to play this revisited classic from Martin Wallace!


Starting in style.

Right off the bat, I loved the design choices and art style in this newer version. The original was fine, and surely was above standard at the time of it's release, but Osprey's touch, brought it to modern levels. Jorge and Ruben, still fresh from their inaugural session the previous night, put us, me and Francisco, up too speed with the rules of the game, which remain pretty simple and straightforward. Buy a card and take one of the 4 possible actions each turn. Develop the city (play a card), run the city (activate the cards you've played), draw 3 more cards or buy a borough.

With that, turns played fast and the only downtime came from having to evaluate what's on offer from the "discard market" every time you need to draw a card. But it seemed that the cards lingered in there... I would find myself discarding a card for some reason, and after a full round around the table, find the card still there! There's a soft sense of escalation in the turn and "combos" as the game progresses, but also the sense in a way, of starting from scratch, every time you run your part of the city and most, if not all, the cards in front of you get used up!


A most excellent city builder.

Poverty was a concern, but like Francisco noticed, if nobody is paying attention to it, in the end it wouldn't make much of a difference. Unfortunately, for him, Ruben was paying attention and always kept is poverty levels in check! Jorge was close behind on the low poverty levels and was also keeping his city as small as possible. He also got the help of some crazy borough power that made his hand cards dish out zero black cubes! Broken? Maybe not... All borough cards provide a big advantage if you know how to use them.

Francisco was struggling to keep the black cubes from multiplying like flies, and failing miserably at it, and I was pursuing for points here and now and not during endgame shenanigans. I did built some VP juicy cards, but my strategy was in producing VPs, keeping the black cubes for secondary considerations. It paid off, I guess, since I won by 5 points against the second place. Excellent game! A true classic, that I now regret not getting when I first saw it in the BookDepository for less than 30€!! Now it's in the forty's section...


InvictaCon's first late afternoon.


Right next to us, another fresh from KS hotness was being disputed by friends. André, Vascoand Rafael were almost over the battle for the kingdom of Caledonia. Since me and André had planned, more than a week ago, for a Terraforming Mars session at the Con, and since this game was one of the Must Play in Ruben and JorgeJorge lists, it was a pretty easy choice for what game to follow London. Curiously, another card tableau game, with a board for interaction (if you count London's first edition).


Introducing a classic to friends.

There were like 3 copies of the game in the library. One with the Venus expansion, which we didn't get and didn't mind since we had two first timers on the red planet, and another, with a super custom wooden insert, with all the bells and whistles, which we got... Not a fan! Although the player boards are 100 times more functional, they sport no art and kills the color in the game. Robotic may not be the right word, but it's the first that comes to mind. I promptly reverted to the original, after a single generation with the clunky wooden jigsaw.

Rules taught in 15 minutes and it was take off to the Mars. And I guess it as safe to say after a few rounds, that by the smiles and focus in Ruben and Jorge's faces, that this was hitting all their gaming buttons! Ruben was capitalizing his Tharsis city bonus every other turn. Either by his doing or by us, placing cities. Jorge too didn't forget his +1 TR from his United Nations and was ahead from us during the first hour of the game.


Do you Soletta for the win?

I was distracted... I got a first turn Soletta that did wonders in my past solo sessions, and after that intense work from the gray matter, I decided to put the brain to rest and enjoy on the laurels of a well done first action heat production boost. Throughout the game my Phob Log titanium advantage never came to full potential. Only in the end did I manage to produce something. I left the other "expert player" at my right, André, steal every single track bonus on the main board. Either in the temperature track or in the oxygen levels! Luckily however, whenever he pointed his radioactive asteroids towards my plants, we were reminded, after a few dead plants, about the initial secluded habitats project I'd played! So Jorge was always elected as the secondary target, with all his hard won plant cubes.


André's conundrum...


Populating Tharsis.

The game played fast and we used up almost the entire deck! But as someone watching the game pointed from the outset, with four players the game shouldn't go past the tenth generation. André swiped us all with his Cinematics corporation, from which he seldom took any advantage, besides the non-eco asteroids. Great game as usual! Hated the custom inserts... Can't wait to dive in my custom player board project!


BSG on display.


After a late dinner, Ruben said goodbye and the last remaining three, went back to the premises to chose our final game... The Gallerist.


Night gallerist.


3-player art war.

In retrospect, we shouldn't have played this. It was already past 23:00 once we finished setup and rules breakdown to André. With everybody tired, after mid-game the lack of focus became apparent. However, despite the exhaustion and my poor rules teaching to André, completely forgetting the wonders of the "learn as you play" first session with Ana, he made good work of his rookie gallery manager skills. Close scores in the end, all above 100 line. So even with sleepy eyes on all of us, there was still enough brain power to exhaust in the obligatory Lacerda Con's game.


KS exclusives?


Artistic rabbits of gaming.


After a friendly hitchhike and a few minutes later, I was back in the hostel. Blissful sleep came to a weary and happy spirit... awesome first day of InvictaCon17. As soon as I arrived at the premises, I felt like I was being greeted by years old friends. A home to board game bliss. Not a bad thought to fall asleep...

Photo & Image credits: ZombieBoard, crucius
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Fri Nov 17, 2017 6:05 am
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...unsung heroes...

Alexandre Correia
Portugal
Lagos
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Day 313. November 9, 2017. Lagos...

When I scored +70 the other day, during a session of Friday, and promptly posted (boasted!) it on Maloma's Thematic Monthly Solo Challenges, I was in for some lesson in humility... A few days later, Kris Opat scored 108 after a quick three session marathon! I thought, "Wow! He must be the greatest or luckiest player of Friday alive!"

Then I heard the Ludology podcast with Morten's interview and somewhere in there, someone noticed that Friday is a quasi-solvable game. You're still dependent of the luck of the draw, but there are a set of actions and choices that invariably will lead you to a almost sure win, if not a +100 result. A few days ago, the leaderboard for the monthly challenge was set at 145, by Daniel Balik! Surely there must exist a physical score limit to the game!


'Nuff said.

I was impressed... but in retrospect, I shouldn't have been. Early this year I joined a team of unpossible dreamers in Morten's 2017 Solo and Coop Unpossible Challenge. There, a few good men and women have set themselves the task to beat the impossible. Score +60 in Limes... Score 20 in The Gates of Loyang... score +60 in Coffe Roaster... The challenge is solid and it alone as cause me to break 100 session in a single game (Limes) and redefined what's possible in this gaming world. But at the end of the day, it's still a personal challenge, with little "race" elements to spark the competition, cause Darwinism and force the players to overcome the impossible in their quest to become the greatest player in the world at a game!


Is the highest possible score?

I was impressed with the Unpossible Challenge... impressed by the scores in the Monthly Solo Challenges.... but nothing could prepare me for what I found, hidden deep in the forums of the #6 best board game ever, Terraforming Mars. Buried under a bazillion rules questions, components backlash, expansions ideas, session reports and everything but the kitchen sink, I found a race between Gods!


Organized by one of the brother's himself, the Solo Terraformer Challenge is in essence, a solo race, and it's easy to see that there are a lot of people participating in it every month. Brothers included! The goal is to beat the highscore for one corporation and to try and hold it for as long as possible until the end of the month! There's a intricate system that awards points and milestones, that are particular to the challenge itself, but the gist is pretty simple: be the best terraformer for one month.

I used to think, in all my ignorance, that +80 was a good score for a solo session of Terraforming Mars. But these players! deities, for the lack of a better word, are not competing to terraform the planet. I'm pretty sure that 9/10 times they play, that is a given fact at the end of the session. No, they are dueling for scores above the three digit line! 110 with Teractor in May, by Alex Bove. 131 with Thorgate in January, by Jonathan Fryxelius. 159 with Interplanetary Cinematics in September, by Karel Pepiku and a whooping 174 with Credicor in January and July, by James Wolfpacker and Timothée Licitri. Is this madness?!?


A deity's 139 score.

All these scores, among all these players and games, are only the ones we know about it, because somebody posted it or took a picture. What about the unsung heroes, that play these games every day and don't give a rat's behind to BGG forums? I wonder if there's a kid out there, scoring +200 VPs games in Terraforming Mars, after arriving home from school in his BMX, and laughing out loud when Doctor Smartphone Google tells him about some players racing to beat the game every month, with puny 170 VPs!

What happened to the good old days, when the end of a physical score track in a board game signaled the unattainable dream goal?

Photo & Image credits: SpiderFighter, martynf, Snow27
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Thu Nov 16, 2017 6:05 am
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...a problematic giraffe...

Alexandre Correia
Portugal
Lagos
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Day 312. November 8, 2017. Lagos...

The problem with the giraffes, it's that they are bigger than the crocodile!

I'm holding the Animal Upon Animal: Balancing Bridge we got from a generosity Chain in the closet. Still too young and too many games already in Alice's mind. But I couldn't resist and took two giraffes from that humongous box and added them to the original Animal Upon Animal. Needless to say, as soon as she saw them, they became part of the animal pack we carry whenever we go on a "longer" morning expeditions. But we never did play the game with the giraffes... until now.


Yellow intruder in the garden.

Waiting for the bus back home, we setup the game right there on a solid stone bench, in a garden near the bus stop, and started to roll the red die... Guess what animal Alice picked when it was her time to stack an animal? It didn't work, obviously... There was a way that it could have balance, but she's still too young for that type of awareness.

The giraffe kept falling and she kept trying. After a while she took another, more standard sized, animal and the game proceeded. Luckily there were some rolls were she could put the yellow giant next to the alligator and all was well then...


And just in case there's any doubt to all those geek fathers of 2/3 year old children out there... stacking games rule!


Jenga on the floor.

See you tomorrow and thanks for reading.

Photo & Image credits: ZombieBoard
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Wed Nov 15, 2017 6:05 am
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