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Memory lapse: Pithy reports on every game I play

It may be of no interest to anyone but me, but hey - at least I can nerd out on these stats in years to come while remembering some great (and not so great) gaming days, nights and experiences.
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November 13

Chris Marling
United Kingdom
Cambridge
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My 'real' blog here http://goplaylisten.wordpress.com/

Check out my first game, Empire Engine.

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November 1
CV (Chris, Zoe)
I’d seen this as a good ‘Chris and Zoe’ and so it proved to be – she had a good laugh throughout, liked the theme and art style, and soundly beat me 63-42. I love how it tells a story; Zoe’s win was masterminded by becoming a board game designer, then becoming a CEO and buying a factory in the next round, only to retire and buy a sports car the next! I was one card short of three full sets (my secret goal), which robbed me of seven points after a misfortune roll, while Zoe finished with seven extra tokens for her bonus while nailing the shared one (number of possessions) to make it quite the thrashing.

Concordia (Chris, Zoe)
Zoe enjoys Hamburgum, so I wasn’t too worried about her enjoy this one too. The cards make it a bit more of a handful than Gerdts’ rondel games, so it took her a while to get to grips with things – leaving me with a win (135-111) I won’t be bragging bout. It cemented my opinion that this is a great game and thankfully Zoe enjoyed it too, despite us both being a little overwhelmed with the choices at times. It can be a little daunting when you pick your cards up, especially if you’ve picked up three of four more since last time.

November 3
Unpublished prototype (Chris, Zoe)
This was the very first outing for my follow up to The Empire Engine. The plan is to still use the two card rondels, while adding a board. Initially this has seen attack actions replaced with movement ones, with attacking being automatic by board placement. Each player can create cities on the (probably modular) board and produce/export will see goods made in cities and then moved, turn by turn, one space until they leave the board (and score). Invent is now ‘city’, which lets you either create settler, make a city with a settler, or advance a city on the board (to make better export items or military units). I’m no idea if it has legs, but I’m going to give it a bit more love and then see if Matt and me can’t make a game of it.

NEW Artus (Chris, Zoe)
We had our first attempt at this brain burner, which I picked up at Essen for just five euros. We only played the introductory version and made a few errors, so I’m not bothering to record the score, but I saw enough here to know I’m going to enjoy playing Artus on occasion. I’m not so sure about Zoe, but we’ll see – it will take another couple of games for her to make up her mind. It’s certainly interesting though and I’m intrigued to see how playing two cards each will change it up – while the scoring cards look evil!

Blueprints (Chris, Zoe)
I’m glad Zoe approved of Blueprints, as it’s fast becoming one of my favourites. It took her the end of the first round to get her head around the scoring, which seems common – but a round is so fast it wouldn’t be a problem to just start again with competitive people (or demo a dummy scoring round before you start playing, which I’ll do next time). Two-player is much meaner than three or four, as you get to discard a die every round as well as take one, leading to much gnashing of teeth! I didn’t score this one, as Zoe was definitely getting her head around it (but I won hehe).

Händler der Karibik (Chris, Zoe)
A narrow win for Zoe in another game I’m already really enamoured with. Despite being a very simple push-your-luck card game you do have tricky decisions to make. Sure, good luck will often win out, but the game is a nice fast pallet cleanser that looks really good too. I’m not sure I’d have won if I’d done anything differently, but despite losing it was great to get my first double card pick after risking a lot of draws and getting four different types of ship. Great stuff.

November 4
Briefcase (Chris, Zoe)
This was the one game from Essen I thought Zoe might not be keen on, but I hoped the Dominion-ness might win her over. Unfortuntely it’s not looking good so far, as the theme is incredibly dry and it has just a few two many fiddly bits to flow nicely; even I’m really not sure about the obstruction card mechanism, for example. That said, I enjoy the game and am starting to see some of the card synergies, hence the 24-16 win. Zoe did say she’d play again, so there’s hope yet. I may pick cards rather than doing it randomly next time, see if that helps.

November 5
Banjooli Xeet x2 (Chris, Zoe)
I had this as a sure-fire Zoe winner, and so it proved. Annoyingly it was also a sure-fire Zoe win. Game one was a draw, with the rules saying you should race again if possible. We checked the second tie-breaker and Zoe would’ve won – but as we’d had fun we raced again anyway. This time she thrashed by ass, completing her card exactly for maximum points, doubling my score. The ‘magic’ die is definitely broken though. Early on it gives a 2-in-6 chance of being able to scupper the ostrich of your choice, which is good odds as you get a reroll. But once each of the first two come home, those colours on the dice also go wild – giving first a 3-in-6 then 4-in-6 chance of scuppering the one you want to come last – with a reroll! This can grind the game to a halt. We’ve house-ruled the magic die doesn’t have this wild effect, which seems to do the trick.

The Rose King (Chris, Zoe)
Another hit! And this one less expected. I thought Zoe would appreciate this one, but wasn’t sure if she’d enjoy it. In the end, not only did she enjoy it, but she also nearly beat me. I coached her through the firs third, maybe, then left to her to her own devices. I made one really bad move that nearly cost me the game, but managed to recover enough to scrape a 93-89 win that really went to the wire. Love it.

November 6
CV (Andy, Carl, Chris)
I wasn’t at all sure how this one would go down with my regular midweek group, but in the end it seemed to be a case of ‘so-so’. I don’t think they’d object to playing it again, but I can’t see either of them requesting it. Now I’ve gotten the hang if it, and watch others playing more, I do think there’s a slight issue with a little too much going on that can get a little bit much towards the end; the game is too light to have such long decision times. That said, I still enjoy it. It ended up close between Carl and me, but I edged it in 59 after getting two of the shared goals.

LoBsterCon, Eastbourne, November 7-10

November 7
NEW Packet Row (Tom, two randoms)
I’d been really excited about getting to Eastbourne – so what an anti-climax this was! For me the game was too random and too abstracted right off the bat, leaving it a lot to do. Once you worked out how it worked, you had two choices – go for blind luck or mitigate it by wasting turns. The cool mechanism it hung its hat on – starting a buying round in an area, but you then choosing last in it – was totally lost in the tedium of the gameplay. Somebody won, I expect. Not a game I would play again.

Blueprints (Tom, some randoms)
Next the teaching hat went on for a double bill of my new Essen purchases. I feel a bit bad not remembering who played, but it was a week ago s I write this and there was been a lot of drinking and gaming going on since! I enjoyed it, as ever, as did Tom who was new to it, so I shall record it as a win for the game.

Händler der Karibik (Tom, some randoms)
Much like Blueprints, this already seems like a distant memory that both Tom and me enjoyed but I remember very little else! I’m sure I didn’t win though. And I’m sure someone will fill in the blanks…

November 8
NEW Bruges (Chris, Kester, Lorenzo, Ronan)
The first ‘proper’ day of the weekend started with me ticking off one of the three games I’d earmarked as must-plays. And wow, what a game – it ticked so many boxes: randomness thanks to loads of individual cards, a bit of player interaction, management (of both cards and ‘disasters’), dice… just a great little game. And I won! Expect my opinion to change after a few heavy defeats – not really, this is now firmly on my wishlist, alongside Rialto.

Coal Baron (Chris, Lloyd, Paul, Pouria)
Weirdly, for a game I like but don’t love, coal Baron was the only game I played twice over the weekend. Alongside Concordia and Amerigo, it seemed to be one of the new euros getting the most play over the weekend. I came last in a tight game where we were all covered by an eight-point spread (all on scores over 100 points, I think, with Pouria winning). Do I think anyone really played better than anyone else to get that advantage? It didn’t look like it to me. I still had fun though – I’m just starting to question the game a little.

NEW Twilight Struggle (Chris, Martin)
This was my second new game of the day, my second on the ‘must play’ list, and my second that went straight to the top of the wishlist. Absolutely brilliant. It was the first game for both of us so we made a couple of newbie mistakes (hey, which superpower leader hasn’t accidentally triggered nuclear war?) but we both got a good enough feel for it over a few hours to realise we loved it. I’m going to get a copy, even if I never play it, just out of respect for it as much as anything else. If I only ever play it at Eastbourne versus Martin once or twice a year, that’s fine with me!

NEW Relic Runners (Chris, Chris, Dean, Martin, one other)
After Twilight Struggle this was the perfect pallet cleanser; a light-ish family game with just enough decisions to keep a gamer interested. I was pretty frazzled so didn’t pay as much attention as I should’ve early on and by the time I understood what was going on I was way out of contention. For future reference: it’s a game about building routes, so build some routes… A game I’d always be happy to play.

November 9
NEW Machi Koro (Chris, Donna, Karl, Paul)
I started the day with the latest Japon Brand hotness, which started out fun but then went on a little too long. Japon Brand is the master of taking one little mechanism from elsewhere and making a whole game of it; which works as long as it’s short. Here the cute art and production helps give Catan’s dice/goods mechanism a few more minutes, as does the player interaction, but in the end a 15-minute game goes twice that and I lost interest.

Banjooli Xeet (Chris, Donna, Karl, Paul, Zoe)
Unfortunately, once again, Banjooli failed to win over crowd. I enjoyed myself, as did Zoe and Donna, but Karl and Paul were decidedly underwhelmed. Karl enjoyed it a tiny bit more than our first Essen play, but as he’d HATED it that time this wasn’t much of an improvement. I’ll definitely be keeping it, as I think there is a crowd for it, but there doesn’t seem to be enough there for people who need a ‘proper’ game – which is odd, because those same people had just enjoyed Machi Koro more. Maybe I’ve not fully grown into my big boy gamer trousers just yet!

NEW Sail to India (Chris, Karl, Paul, Zoe)
Now here’s a Japon Brand game I can get behind. They’ve managed to distil the essence of Mac Gerdts’ Navegador into a small box card game that plays out in under an hour, with tricky decisions and tight resources throughout. I haven’t quite worked out why it’s not a two-player game and if no one can give me an explanation, I’ll be picking one up (if I can!) as both Zoe and me loved it. I thought I was going to win, but Karl had nailed one of the bonus cards and no one else had noticed and/or been able to slow him down, so he pipped me by a point.

Snowdonia (Anne, Chris, Karl, Paul, Zoe)
After so many new to me and recent release games it was nice to settle into an old (well, 2012!) favourite. I think we’d all been enjoying relatively gentle games in a relaxed atmosphere, so the fog and rain of the Welsh mountains came as a bit of a shock. Karl coped with it best, again knocking me back into second place – but this time by a comfortable margin (70 to 55).

Ra: The Dice Game (Chris, Czilla, Karl, Zoe)
Czilla was good enough to bring this down for me from the LoB box, as I’d wanted to introduce it to Zoe. It went down well with her, despite her coming in last, so I’ll be looking out for a copy. Karl won (again!) while Czilla was more than happy with second, as long as it was Ahead of me in third by a point! While I understand why people don’t like the dice version, and while I personally prefer the original, I still see the dice version as a nice, light family game.

CV (Chris, Donna, Paul, Zoe)
I saw my copy of CV get quite a lot of play over the weekend, but this was my only game of it (one more play than I got of my equally well played by other Concordia). It was nice to play with another couple, as it’s that type of game; light, fun and thematic. Of course I was still happy to win, but scoring just seems to make packing the game up take longer rather than being part of the fun. Again there were hugely contrasting fortunes, with last place Donna telling the funniest story – as her switch up to being a manager from games designer systematically cost her her marriage, her child and then the job itself!

NEW Starfarers of Catan (Attila, Chris, Simon)
Note to self: learning a long euro at 10.30pm after lots of booze probably isn’t the greatest idea. But then as Attila had just walked away from a 12-hour game of Advanced Civ, and then won this, I can hardly use being frazzled as an excuse! While I loved the components of Starfarers, as well as the exploring and encounter cards, sadly they managed to completely render trading pointless – which is the big draw of the Catan series. What you’re left with is an enjoyable yet ultimately average space exploration that is miles behind the likes of Merchant of Venus in terms of gameplay. That said, I had a good time and would play again if it was set in front of me.

November 10
Empire Engine (Chris, Paul, Tom, Zoe)
My previous Eastbourne trips have seen me shy away of playing on Sunday, usually due to a combination of hangover and wanting to get the tedious journey home out of the way. But the right mix of people chilling in the bar after breakfast saw me suggest Empire Engine, as Paul had expressed an interest in learning a few days earlier (probably out of politeness, but I’ll take what I can get!). He took a few turns to get his eye in, but once he had he seemed to enjoy it and went on to win. Another convert!

Coal Baron (Adam, Chris, Paul, Tom)
There was time for one more before a lunchtime train, so I ended up in my second game of Coal Baron of the weekend. After spending set up saying I didn’t think the best player tended to win, I duly won. I did have a good period in the game, where I managed to get out of sync with the other guys and use it to my advantage. And I also managed to ruin Tom’s game by closing him out of his needing shipping method in the last turn. But was it enough? Seemingly so. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the kind of worker placement euro I love and will always happily play; I just don’t think its quite as amazing as some are giving it credit for.

November 13
Concordia (Andy, Carl, Chris)
The second new game introduction for the midweek guys and while it was slightly better received than CV, it wasn’t the instant hit I’d hoped for. There were certainly no complaints, and about half way through when it clicked for them it went along nicely, but it didn’t become an instant hit. I’ll keep trying with it, as Concordia is one of the best games I’ve played this year, but even if hey don’t bite I know enough other people that like it to know it will get plenty of plays. Carl ran me close on 124, but picking up the final two cards on the run won me the game with 144.

November 16
Nefertiti (Chris, Zoe)
This was Zoe’s first game and my first attempt with the two-player expansion rules. It seemed to work pretty well, introducing some interesting decisions, and it’s certainly playable. Mostly it’s a bit too easy to close a couple of the markets, but as this all applies to both of you it actually adds an interesting dynamic. But I still definitely prefer it with three or four.

November 17
Unpublished prototype (Chris, Zoe)
This was the culmination of another few tweaks to the new Empire Engine. Things are starting to fall into place a little more, but I’m still not sure it’s ready for play test night. Another try tomorrow night should make my mind up, but it is at least still showing enough early promise for me to keep thinking about it.

Manila (Andy, Carl, Chris)
The midweek guys came over for a Sunday afternoon session, which game me a chance to break out two recent purchases I’d picked up with them in mind. Manila seemed to go down well, although two big pirate hauls gave Andy a comfortable victory on a huge 171 (I was a distant second on 106). He got a big haul in round two, and then just when we’d hauled him back he did it again! Great game though – I just need to remember to follow him into the pirate spaces next time, in case his luck holds.

Nefertiti (Andy, Carl, Chris)
This also seemed to go down well, playing fast and neat – under an hour (basically, what it says on the box) including a rules explanation is unheard of for us lot. The game was really tight between Carl and me and I had no idea which would it would go; in the end I just won out on 102 to Carl’s 100. Another fantastic game; if anything, it seems to end just a little too quickly, which is rarely a complaint in our group. I think I’m going to need to cull the collection a little bit now, as some of the recent purchases have been a cut above. Time to read up on that Jones theory…

Kingdom Builder x2 (Chris, Zoe)
We ended up played this twice as Zoe had a bum start in the first game (despite using a mulligan variant to get rid of her duplicate first card) and I won comfortably 72-57. We used the same map for game two but changed the scoring cards; we ended up with needing to score mountains (there were hardly any), different horizontal lines (Zoe got them all, I was out by one) and different settlements (we really didn’t have the powers/map to make this happen). Consequently it was incredibly low scoring but tight, with Zoe edging it 46-44.

Love Letter x3 (Chris, Zoe)
So, onto the real gamers’ game – the test of skill! The wine was flowing, so we kept playing until Zoe won; well, we would’ve, if it had looked likely to happen! 7-4, then 7-5, then 7-3 – and then she gave up. It was great fun though – I can’t believe how long it had been since we played it. Zoe’s drunken pretend angry face is one of my favourites 

Liar's Dice (Chris, Zoe)
After having picked this up in a charity shop for £3 I had avoided introducing this to Zoe as it really needs more people, but I broke it out to close the evening. Zoe isn’t a fan of bidding, and thinks she has a terrible poker face (which is probably true), but it didn’t stop her beating me (she had two dice left). Definitely not a two-player game, but I’m glad I taught it to Zoe so it won’t be new if I want to try it with some visitors.

November 20
The Rose King (Andy, Chris)
I got to Andy’s early so took over a two-player game I was pretty sure he’d like, as he loves chess. It went down really one and despite me giving him plenty of warning he – like Matt a few weeks earlier – went through his battle cards a bit too quickly and left me to record a comfortable win.

NEW Giants (Andy, Carl, Chris, Matt)
It was Andy’s birthday, so Matt also managed to make it over for a rare visit. Andy taught us giants, which was a slow process with a lot of rules questions, but we got there in the end. We had fun playing and I somehow managed to win – not that it really counted, as none of us really saw the subtlety of using each other’s routes until about half way through. It seems like a solid game though and I certainly look forward to more plays.

November 24
Tikal (Chris, Zoe)
A lazy Sunday afternoon seemed perfect for a slightly longer game; I put a few on the table and Zoe chose this one. It proved a good choice for her, as she beat me 189-174. I thought I was doing pretty well, but stupidly left my fate to the flip of the tiles s Zoe started to dominate an area and I ignored it. As it became too difficult for me to get there she drew temple after temple, racking up a sizeable second and third scoring lead. I got to grips before final scoring and won that on points, after sending a few guys off to scupper her plans, but by then it was too late.

November 26
Copycat (Andy, Carl, Chris)
It was Carl’s week to pick the game and it proved a winning pick, as he just squeaked home in the final round on 103 ahead of me (99) and Andy (92). Carl had gone for many extra guys, grabbing 3 of the 4 available early purple cards, while I went for extra card drawing. I thought I was in when my 10-pointer came into my hand on the final round, which I managed to double, but Carl drew three extra cards – and drew all three of his extra worker cards! And that, as they say, was that. I’m still very much enjoying the game, now being beyond 10 plays, and I very much feel the game is in the worker placement, turn order etc as much as the deck building; something I think many people miss on their first play.

November 27
Blueprints (Chris, Zoe)
This was picked by Zoe and she preceded to get a 6-0 lead in the first round, nailing five black dice in one big tower as I floundered around helplessly. But I got it together in rounds two and three, taking each 4-0 for an 8-6 win. I think both of us were too tired to really play well, but enjoyed the game anyway.

November 30
NEW Lady Alice (Ann, Chris, Karl, Zoe)
Ann and Karl came to visit us for a really nice weekend. We got six games in – and as generous hosts we let them win all of them… Ann got things rolling with a one-point win (9 to 8) over Karl in Lady Alice, with Zoe and me back on 5. Although if I’d understood the rules properly, I think I would’ve won – I hadn’t understood how calling the result part worked, and if I had could’ve called it (as I new it for certain) on my turn before Karl called in. If I’d known what a lousy set of results I was going to get, I probably would’ve fought for it!

Manila (Ann, Chris, Karl, Zoe)
In which Karl did his ‘I’m losing’ routine and came back to win in the final scoring. Karl and Zoe absolutely stormed it, thanks in most part to a couple of very successful joint pirate runs (one sharing 66 pesos). I had the worst run of luck in living memory, with every boat with a strong advantage I backed from the off going down in flames. It was still great fun though, with Karl pipping Zoe by 10 (139-129) with Ann and me way back.

Nefertiti (Ann, Chris, Karl, Zoe)
In which Karl did his ‘I’m losing’ routine and came back to win in the final scoring – again! It’s not like he’s fooling anyone; I’m just not good enough to do anything about it, hehe. I played OK – except for completely ignoring the more valuable goods. Oops. I was well last, with a frustrated Zoe just three points behind Karl (103-100) and Ann just two further back.
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