Great Lakes Games 15 - Good Friends, Good Games, Good Food!
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
California
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Great Lakes Games is a small, family oriented, invite only Con held in Auburn, IN the first weekend of November. I connected with a good number of the people who attend when I lived and worked in Michigan and have continued to attend since moving to California as it provides a great opportunity to spend time with friends (and usually my twin brother who unfortunately couldn't make it this year due to everyone in his family getting sick) as well as often playing a few of the Essen releases if desired.

As I have not yet found a good BBQ place near Irvine, CA, I always make a point of going to the BBQ place there at least once and this time I went three of the four days. Love their burnt ends plate.

I was actually surprised about the number of new to me games I played this year. Many were Essen or GenCon releases but not all - Joe Huber brought a few of his games from his eclectic collection and they were fun to play and one of them may have been my favorite experience of the weekend.

FAVORITE GAMES of the CON:

1. Die Schlacht der Dinosaurier
2. Santa Maria
3. Sentient
4. Race for the Galaxy
5. Flamme Rouge
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1. Board Game: Downforce [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:1176]
Larry Rice
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New game #1. Was invited right away to play this one which is basically Daytona 500 with betting. While I bet on the right car all three times, my opponent who owned that car also did the same and ran away with the victory. Fun game with I'd play again but don't need to own.
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2. Board Game: Alien Artifacts [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:2518]
Larry Rice
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This was the first of several plays of this game this weekend. Unfortunately, I misunderstood the Portal ruleset and we did not play the attack operation correctly and I believe there was something else we figured out later as well. Regardless, good fun was had in each game, particularly the third one which occurred near midnight on Saturday where Jonathan crushed us all with his development strategy.
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3. Board Game: Clans of Caledonia [Average Rating:8.27 Overall Rank:220]
Larry Rice
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Played this one three player and I had the clan with the extra export marker. I focused on maximizing this ability and scored over 190 points. I didn't get a great infrastructure built outside of all my lumberjacks but focusing on those export tiles worked very well.
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4. Board Game: Mini Rails [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:2484]
Larry Rice
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Taught this one and while I enjoyed the game, that didn't seem the prevailing opinion around the table. Five player game.
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5. Board Game: Santa Maria [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:2579]
Larry Rice
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New game #2. Denise taught this one and I really enjoyed this dice/tile puzzle optimization game. I do think you want to try and specialize in this one keeping in mind the end game scoring tiles you wish to pursue. My first game I fumbled around quite a bit exploring some different levers.

My second game I focused on moving up the monk track hard out of the gate and got all three blue dice in the first round. I wasn't sure it was going to work out that well as I didn't ship hardly anything until the third and final round, but I was able to fill out my whole board and ship about 5 times in the third round to jump past the others playing. The nice thing about putting out monks early is that everyone else has to pay you $2 to go in those spaces. Money was not hard to come by for me in my second game.

This was likely my favorite of the Essen releases I played this weekend. However, another much older game was my favorite experience.
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6. Board Game: Lagerstätten [Average Rating:6.78 Unranked]
Larry Rice
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Irvine
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New Game #3. My friend Bruce had offered to mule a game back from Essen for me and this was the one I had asked him to mule as it looked to be challenging to acquire later. I actually really enjoy the sparse art look of the game but everyone playing the game was pretty disappointed overall - I was hoping for another Thebes-esque game but this one proved less well put together than Thebes and trying to draw a complete set of fossils for a dinosaur proved challenging. I think between the four of us we discovered 3-4 complete dinosaurs. It was generally just better to go for exhibitions and if you lucked into drawing a complete dinosaur, hurray for you!
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7. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
Larry Rice
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Four of us RftG enthusiasts decided to play Alien Orbs as we hadn't played the map in a long while. It initially got off to slow start as we tried to remember the different rules for exploring/building the alien orb but we got going eventually. I largely ignored exploring the Orb and focused on building up my tableau and won thanks to flipping an alien orb chit giving me 10 points (1 point for each green thing on the map).

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8. Board Game: Bist Du sicher? [Average Rating:5.94 Unranked]
Larry Rice
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New game #4 (to me). This is an old German game that has a similar theme to the game of Life but plays totally different. One rolls a die and then either takes money or chits depending on the die roll. You need to have a complete set of 16 specific chits and positive money to win but a good number of chits are various disasters that set you back unless you paid money for insurance to cover the specific event earlier. I was very lucky in this one and won fairly easily. I only ever had to deal with one disaster and it was not a bad one. Fun to play once but not sure I'd have interest in playing again. This is one of Joe Huber's eclectic games.
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9. Board Game: Pioneers [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:3661]
Larry Rice
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Irvine
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New Game #5. Played this one twice although I don't know that I really desire to play again. I do know this one was fairly popular and feels well designed and quite streamlined. The most interesting decisions are likely between moving the stagecoach and managing how you prioritize spending your money.
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10. Board Game: Codenames Duet [Average Rating:7.97 Overall Rank:381] [Average Rating:7.97 Unranked]
Larry Rice
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New Game #6. I wasn't planning to really check this one out but was a bit surprised to find out this is quite an interesting little cooperative game. Sat down with Amanda to play this one and while we didn't exactly fare well, had a good time with it. I didn't realize that if something was black on my side, it might be green on hers so that created a bit of a stumble.
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11. Board Game: Noria [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:3008]
Larry Rice
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Irvine
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New Game #7. This one is quite fiddly and didn't receive a great reception overall from those who played. For me, I found it engaging and intriguing trying to build my wheel (which I probably overdid) and then trying to figure out how to compete once I realized I was out of the running for a couple goods tracks and building factories. The player interaction regarding the scoring is interesting and may cause people to pause before starting a run up a track as opponents can really reduce the value of a track using cogs. Looking forward to exploring this one more. AP can occur in this one quite easily.
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12. Board Game: Flamme Rouge [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:466]
Larry Rice
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Irvine
California
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New Game #8. This one is a year old but I hadn't played before. Ended up playing this one twice although the first play was wrought with rules errors and enjoyed both plays. Might end up trying to pick this one up. A bit of a different bike racing game in the vein of Ave Caesar but with less blocking...and be sure to consider the terrain of the track before choosing when and how to play your cards!
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13. Board Game: Mucho Macho [Average Rating:5.77 Unranked]
Larry Rice
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Irvine
California
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New Game #9. Ended up playing this one twice. It is a quick playing game where you are really trying to anticipate what cards others are going to play as well as key decisions in card selection for scoring/returning to your hand. I'll play but don't need to own. This type of game rarely goes well for me. I swear that Lauren always played two cards that ended up being 1-2 points higher than mine, sigh.
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14. Board Game: Calimala [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:3074]
Larry Rice
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Irvine
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New Game #10. This one has an interesting action selection and scoring mechanism. This one is largely tactical while keeping a long range plan in mind. I think I would like this game a bit more if there was some rule allowing you to trade in a couple cards as a wild action card as it was annoying to grab action cards that weren't something of interest - but generally I found those cards to be useful later in the game (except in my final turn). Won this one after a slow start. Rules were a bit confusing in a couple places.
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15. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:44]
Larry Rice
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Quick game of this with the usual four. Fun as always.
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16. Board Game: Sentient [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:1901]
Larry Rice
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New Game #11. This was the surprise of the Con for me. I didn't really have any expectations of this one and really had a good time wrestling with the cards and dice in this puzzle in order to build my majorities to take the necessary tech type.

I have already purchased a copy of this one after this play.
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17. Board Game: Qwinto [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:1262]
Larry Rice
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Attempted somewhat successfully to play this one during the prize table drawing. I ended it and won fairly easily amidst all the distractions.

My prize table acquisitions were Photosynthesis and Dark Horse with all the expansions. I also received cash from selecting a specific game someone else wanted when there wasn't much on the table of interest. I think people at my table were most impressed when I managed to pack all of Dark Horse including the box inside the Photosynthesis box - had to be creative to get my games to fit back in to fly back to California!
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18. Board Game: Merlin [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:1894]
Larry Rice
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Irvine
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New Game #12. I've been chuckling a bit over the reactions on the Heavy Cardboard slack to people who have been posting pics of just dumping all the game components together in the box and leaving it unsorted that way. Imagine my surprise when I opened the Merlin box to find all the components unbagged and jumbled together - and there were a ton of chits and pieces. We went ahead and sorted them and realized the dice were missing from this copy so we raided dice from another game and finally got around playing 20 minutes later. Ugh. The game itself is Feld point salad and is quite tactical. I was frustrated with the fact there was little opportunity to manipulate the dice - it was mostly just checking to see what order you wanted to use your dice and which spaces you would end up on the rondel. I wasn't overly enthused with the game and I believe all of us would likely have been ready to quit early if someone had suggested it but we stuck it out to the bitter end. I won but it was a learning game for all. I hope the other modules improve the game experience.
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19. Board Game: Anomia: Party Edition [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:2222] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
Larry Rice
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New Game #13. Played this one with a bunch of kids, a couple of whom were much better than me. Denise was also much better than me. In fact, only one person wasn't better than me in our group of 6.
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20. Board Game: 5-Minute Dungeon [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:845]
Larry Rice
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New Game #14. Played this one and we won with a minute left. Cooperative time pressure game where you have to spend cards to overcome the baddies in the 28 card baddie deck and then defeat the final boss. I think the rules took longer than the game.
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21. Board Game: Terraforming Mars [Average Rating:8.38 Overall Rank:6]
Larry Rice
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Saw the Rietveld family trying to learn this one from the rules and offered to teach and play. We played the basic game and Mars was fairly well developed by the end. The oceans were placed so quickly that everything was still frozen and oxygen was barely increased on the track. Fun times! Really enjoy this one although I do prefer drafting rules. We did play with the whole deck which we did get all the way through.
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22. Board Game: Montage [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:3480]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
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It has been a while since I last played and it was good to revisit this title again despite my poor play. Despite my poor play, Jonathan pulled our team through to victory with just a little help from me. We won on the England map via the three in a row condition. It was a close match.
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23. Board Game: Team Play [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:2770]
Larry Rice
United States
Irvine
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Six player partnership game which my team might have won if my partner who was learning the game had realized the slash meant pick one or the other objective instead of having to try and complete both. I was puzzled why he wasn't completing his objective after passing him cards he needed to complete it twice and finally asked him....
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24. Board Game: Stich-Meister [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:2854]
Larry Rice
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Jimmy was curious about this one so we quickly played just one round of the game so he could get a feel for it. I really enjoy this one despite the chaos that results from the rules changing every round.
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25. Board Game: Table Battles [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:7020]
Larry Rice
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New Game #15. I will likely look to pick this one up in the near future. This felt like a pretty clever two player filler using dice to activate your units on the field which also have different abilities and/or restrictions. I'm not sure if all scenarios are balanced, but I'm curious to play this one more. Thanks for introducing this one to me Jimmy!
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