PatK's Gathering of Friends 2009 Report
Patrick Korner
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Thanks to the infinite wisdom of Air Canada, I am stuck in Toronto for the better part of 6 hours waiting for my flight home. This, to put it mildly, is rather annoying.

The plus side? I have time to put some thoughts to electronic paper. Enjoy!
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1. Board Game: Maori [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:2128]
Board Game: Maori
Patrick Korner
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Coquitlam
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I took the red-eye from Vancouver, departing at 11:30 pm, which got me in to Toronto at about 6 am local time. Thanks to my inability to sleep on planes unless I'm nearly comatose already, I didn't sleep a wink.

I even got upgraded to Executive First (!) and I STILL couldn't sleep. Growl. Instead, I got to watch The Day The Earth Stood Still.

It seems that an emotionless alien is the role Keanu Reeves was born to play.

Anyways, connections through to Columbus were fine, and I got to hotel at about 11 am. I walk through the door and the first person I see is Christian Hildenbrand (of Huch & Friends), working away in the lobby on a laptop. Between the lobby and my room, I run into several more folks I know from Gatherings past - it's good to be here again. My time is short this year (my little girl had a birthday right smack in the middle of GoF time), but I plan on making the most of it.

After getting my stuff squared away in my room (hey, the hotel has new, actual comfy beds this year!) I wander down to the ballroom and check things out.

As usual, gaming's in full swing. I say hi to some friends and manage to finangle my way into a game of Maori (Hans im Gluck). Thus Maori is my first game of GoF 2009.

Sadly, this will probably be my only game of Maori. Very light, not much room for planning, and thematically bizarre. Apparently, the Maoris explored by sailing around in circles, magically encountering new regions each time. Sometimes, they wouldn't be quite ready to settle a region yet, so they'd throw it in the canoe's trunk for later. Or something.

Others I spoke to seemed to enjoy it more, but the general concensus was of a middling game that would probably appeal to those who'd never seen any of this stuff before.
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2. Board Game: Municipium [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:2787]
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Patrick Korner
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Coquitlam
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Next up, Municipium. This was an Essen 2008 release that I hadn't managed to get a play in of, but as it turns out I've actually played this already (sort of). Seems this is actually based on a prototype I played way back at my first GoF (2005) - the company that was going to publish it went under and the design languished until Valley picked it up and dusted it off.

This game is somewhat different from the one I played - there was some more development done to the design by Valley, I think.

It's actually pretty good. Nothing earth-shattering, but a fun game nonetheless. I liked it enough to buy a used copy at the flea market later in the week.
 
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3. Board Game: Tichu [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:159]
Board Game: Tichu
Patrick Korner
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Coquitlam
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Next was a break to get some sleep. I'd been awake for about 26 hours at this point, and it was time to get some z's. I napped for about 2 hours and then came back down to play a little more.

Tichu was the game of choice - twice.

First time, Tom Lehmann and I came oh-so-close to winning, but ultimately Ted Alspach and Mary Prasad pulled out the win (going in to the final game, the score was something like 935 to 965 - very close).

The second game, Ted and Mary went down to defeat as I (with my new partner Noreen Fair - David Fair's better (much better) half) managed to prevail.

Tichu is awesome. Getting a chance to play the game with and against such experienced players is a real treat and something I look forward to each year.
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4. Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:691]
Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age
Patrick Korner
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Coquitlam
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My last game of the night was Roll through the Ages, which I'd not played yet. Larry Levy was kind enough to teach me, and I managed to lose to him (which is not surprising given Larry's ability to coax more planning and strategy from dice than anyone else I know).

This is a very good game. I wish it didn't cost so much - the size of the box is far out of whack with its price point - and I wish the dice were standard plastic instead of wood. Seriously, RTtA's dice look like they were hand-whittled by tribal craftsmen. Kind of cool, but when half the sides are nearly too faint to read, it makes you wonder.

Does anyone know if that was a deliberate design choice? I mean, the game IS subtitled 'The Bronze Age', which makes sequels kind of obvious. Perhaps the next game will feature non-Bronze Age dice?
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5. Board Game: Automobile [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:440]
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Patrick Korner
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Coquitlam
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Next morning, I woke bright and early - around 11 am or so. I try to keep myself on Pacific time while in Columbus, which is good since most of the folks there are night owls, so around 11 is my preferred time to get up.

I managed to get one of the three copies of Automobile at the Gathering to the table with Larry Levy and Sterling Babcock, with Larry being kind enough to teach.

Automobile is one of my hits of the show. Pure Wallace and at a complexity level that's a touch below Brass but nearly as good a game.

In Automobile, players try to build cars and sell cars for profit. This involves building factories, making cars, selling them (both directly and through distribution channels) and then making tough decisions as to how to expand - and when to shut older factories down. Everything is very well-implemented, thematically - and unlike some of Wallace's other games, here the theme and the mechanics integrate very tightly. No awkward 'virtual connection' hacks needed to force the theme to fit the mechanics - this is the full package.

An auto-buy (pun intended) for me when the final production copies roll off the end of the line (see what I did there?).
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6. Board Game: IGOR: The Monster Making Game [Average Rating:5.79 Overall Rank:11287]
Board Game: IGOR: The Monster Making Game
Patrick Korner
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Coquitlam
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Next up was a quick game of Igor while waiting for dinner plans and such to get firmed up. I'd been feeling a little off (rapidly-growing headache) but still enjoyed this one a lot.

Igor is a light dice-rolling game from Knizia where you try and roll symbols printed on cards to claim them - cover up all the symbols with matching dice and you can claim the card. The cards are worth between 1 and 5 points depending on how hard they are to get.

If you use up all your dice (or if you have nothing left but dice with the "Igor!" side showing you get to cover up all the spaces you filled up with black chips, take all your dice back and keep going.

Crap out, though, and you lose everything - and any cards you would have been able to claim are lost as well. Any unfinished cards are left for the next player - which means that you may have left them some very nice gifts in the shape of half-finished cards.

Very cool game. I'd buy it without hesitation if it came in a proper-sized box. This is NOT need to be in a Time's Up-sized box - it makes the game bits look awfully puny. Too bad - downgraded to a medium-hit as a result.

And here, gentle reader, Friday's gaming ends. Only 2 games? Yup. Dinner came and went, both time-wise but also body-wise, thanks to my headache having invited its good pal nausea along for the ride too. After getting back to the hotel I staggered up to my room, ran a bath and passed out in the tub. Good thing I'm a big enough guy to not risk drowning - passing out was not part of the plan! Afterwards, I crawled into bed and slept.

Until 3 am. At which point, no matter how sternly I spoke to it, my body refused to go back to sleep.

Nuts. I didn't want to go down the gaming room (although I'd be able to find some gamers there, no question), because I wasn't sure if I was going to be ok or not.

But by 7 am, I was tired of reading and realized that, whatever horrible bug had invaded me, I'd managed to get rid of it in less than 12 hours. So I went back downstairs and had the good fortune of running in to Tom Lehmann on his way to breakfast.

And that's how I managed to have breakfast at the hotel for the first time ever. You know, it wasn't bad. It was especially good because I was kind of famished after having gone nearly 24 hours without proper nourishment (dinner having... well, you get the idea). Tom is a great guy who spilled some info on future Race plans (can't share 'em, sorry) and was happy to discuss Tichu strategy too.

After breakfast, it was time to go downstairs and get back to the games.
 
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7. Board Game: The Name of the Rose [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:1849]
Board Game: The Name of the Rose
Patrick Korner
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Coquitlam
British Columbia
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The game room at 8 am is a much quieter place than at 8 pm. Only one table was going, and since they'd just finished up I joined in to teach and play The Name of the Rose. I was happy to see that the English rules I'd spent so much time on were actually in the box this time - apparently there was an international edition after all that included rules in more than just German.

Name of the Rose turned out to be another in what was becoming a trend - medium-weight, medium-quality games. I liked it well enough, but it wasn't quite as tight a game as I'd hoped. The story arc is quite flat - what you do on the seventh day (round) is not unlike what you do on the first day. This gives the game a repetitive nature that's a bit of a turn-off.
 
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8. Board Game: Finca [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:616]
Board Game: Finca
Patrick Korner
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I had time for one more game before the flea market, and Henning Kropke was kind enough to teach Finca to me.

Finca is the other new Hans im Gluck game for Nurnberg 2009. It's about collecting fruit on an island and bringing it to market for fame and glory.

The game's actually pretty good. The rondel-style fruit collection mechanism is good - you move as many points forward as the number of pawns on your starting spot, and collect as many fruit as the number of pawns on your ending spot. In two places are lines that award you a donkey for crossing them (donkeys are very key in the fruit-transportation and logistics world, you see).

If you don't want to move one of your pawns (okay, fruit pickers), you can bring fruit to market. Each donkey can transport 6 fruit, letting you claim victory point tiles worth between 1 and 6 points. You can claim more than one as long as you don't overload your donkey in the process. There are some other victory point tiles (for getting tiles worth 1 through 6 first and for having the most of certain types of fruit), and when five island regions have run out of tiles the player with the most points wins.

It's a solid middle-weight game, and in terms of rating I'd put it at high medium. It's not great, it's not a game I feel the need to rush out and buy, but I'll gladly play it (unlike Maori).
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9. Board Game: Zoowaboo [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:4877]
Board Game: Zoowaboo
Patrick Korner
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Coquitlam
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Next up, the flea market. I didn't buy as much as last year, mostly because I already have most of what I want (ha!). I ended up buying Municipium (mentioned above) as well as Phantasia somethingorother - basically Barbarossa Junior. That was a gift for my daughter.

So is Zoowaboo, a brand new Selecta game that one of my German friends was kind enough to bring over for me.

Zoowaboo is about rafts and the animals that want to fit on them. There are six rounds, and each round a thick cardboard raft is placed in the middle of the table. The raft has an oddly-shaped cutout in the middle of it, into which the animals are supposed to fit. 10 animal cards are turned up - these are the initial 10 animals that players have to inspect to see if they think they'll all fit or not.

Each player has two discs - a green 'thumbs up' and a red 'thumbs down' disc. Each time all players vote green, another card (and matching wooden animal) is added to the mix. If all players vots red, one animal is removed and replaced. If some vote red and some vote green, the green-voting players have 1 minute to make all the wooden animals fit onto the raft.

This game's a hoot and I look forward to playing it with my daughter. I took the game for its maiden run with William Attia, who continued his dominance when it comes to winning games against me.

I would rate this game a hit, although I doubt anyone else will mention it since my copy was the only one there...
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10. Board Game: Witch of Salem [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:1954]
Board Game: Witch of Salem
Patrick Korner
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Coquitlam
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Next up, a chance to try Der Hexer von Salem, aka "Arkham Horror in less than 90 minutes".

The theme is familiar to anyone who knows the Cthulu mythos - seal portals, defeat monsters, defeat Great Old Ones, all in beautiful downtown Salem.

Gorgeous production values and a fairly unforgiving game engine make this coop game a winner in my book. I must now seek out a copy. Our game was a blast of pure fun, made all the more so by someone (who shall go unnamed) forgetting which portal they'd peeked at (you see, in order to win you have to seal the main portal, defeat the Great Old One, and seal the other smaller portals on the game board - miss anything and you lose). Some of the possible portal locations are just brick walls, so peeking at them is important - you need to know where the real fires are, so to speak. This, of course, means that when the game ends you won't have sealed all of portal locations.

We defeated the main baddie and sealed the main Portal. Much rejoicing!

I had sealed one of the other portals, Eric Martin had sealed another, so were were left with four verified brick walls.

The first one was turned over - brick wall.

The second - brick wall.

The third - brick wall.

The fourth - Portal.

Wait, what? Portal!?

Oh crap. I'm now insane. Thanks (name withheld)!
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11. Board Game: Perudo [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:659]
Board Game: Perudo
Patrick Korner
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Coquitlam
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Next was the Liar's Dice tournament, where I managed to once again prove my incompetence by going out in the first round despite having a 3 to 1 dice advantage against my final opponent. Sigh.
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12. Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:691]
Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age
Patrick Korner
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Coquitlam
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Another game of Roll Through the Ages followed. This game has an addictive quality to it, no argument. I may have to bite the bullet and buy the thing after all. Except that it's probably sold out now. Just my luck.
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13. Board Game: Dice Town [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:840]
Board Game: Dice Town
Patrick Korner
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Coquitlam
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Next up was Dice Town, a dice-rolling game from Matagot.

Dice Town uses poker dice - you basically roll them to make poker hands. You must lock one die each time, and can pay cash to lock more (or lock none). Once all players have made (or not made) their hands, the various board locations are resolved.

The player with the most 9's in their hand gets to take one gold nugget per 9. Gold is worth 1 victory point per nugget at the end of the game.

The player with the most 10's in their hand gets to rob the bank (where the money paid to lock dice in the previous round is). Money is worth 1 vp per 2 dollars at the end of the game.

The player with the most J's gets to go to the General Store - draw 1 card per J and then discard all but one. The cards here are a mix of special action cards (that let you do various nice / nasty things) and some victory point cards.

The player with the most Q's gets to rob another player (thematically, you have hired saloon girls to distract your opponent while you fleese them). You get to look at 1 card per Q, keep one and return the rest.

The player with the most K's gets to become Sheriff. The Sheriff breaks all ties in the game and can accept bribes from other players to have him/her break the tie in their favour. Being Sheriff is also worth 5 points at the end of the game.

The player with the best overall poker hand gets a land deed from the Mayor. Deeds are worth victory points too. For each A in the highest hand, that player gets to take an extra deed (up to 2 more).

And finally, players who got nothing get to visit Doc Badluck where, depending on what dice they rolled, they can either a) lock down two deeds (making them immune to theft), b) draw one General Store card, c) take 2 dollars from each other player or d) take 1 nugget from each other player.

The game ends when either the nuggets or the land deed supply runs out, most victory points wins.

I loved this game. Yes, it's random. Yes, it's chaotic. But yes, it's fun. Don't take it too seriously and realize that it's only about a 30-40 minute game.

Mind you, some of my enjoyment came from the fact that for about 4 rounds, no matter what my starting locked-in dice were, Warren Madden would have locked in the EXACT SAME DICE.

One round, I had 2 kings. He had 2 kings. We rolled again. I locked in 2 jacks. He locked in 2 jacks. At that point another player had finished their hand, which gave us each one more roll max to finish our own. I rolled and revealed an A.

He revealed his own die ...

... an A.

And the table collectively collapsed in hysterics.

A hit for me, but guaranteed that other's mileage will vary. If you dislike lack of control, stay far away from this one.
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14. Board Game: Dixit [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:262] [Average Rating:7.26 Unranked]
Board Game: Dixit
Patrick Korner
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Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Dixit is another French game, albeit with a lot less chaos than Dice Town. This is kind of like Apples to Apples with illustrations - each card in the game has these gorgeous, detailed and often surreal illustrations on them.

One player is the 'storyteller' and has to come up with a word or sentence that they feel describes one of the cards in their hand. This card goes into the middle of the table. All other players then have to pick a card from their own hands that they think also matches the word/phrase.

The cards are then shuffled and laid out in a row, after which each player secretly votes (via numbered cardboard chits) for which card they think is the storyteller's.

Once the chits are revealed, points are scored. If nobody chose the storyteller's card, then everybody else scores 3 points. If everybody chose the storyteller's card, then everybody else scores points too. If at least one (but not all) of the other players chose the storyteller's card, he gets points.

And finally, each player gets 1 point for each time their card was mistakenly chosen but the other players.

It's kind of like Apples to Apples, except that the concept (the Green Apple) is at the storyteller's discretion. And it rocks.

Another unquestioned hit in my eyes. Hard to get as it's an import, but I'll do what I can.
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15. Board Game: In the Year of the Dragon [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:282]
Board Game: In the Year of the Dragon
Patrick Korner
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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After Dixit, it was time for the Prize Ceremony. Lots of fun stuff as usual, and all I'll mention are my prize table picks: Samurai (original edition in shrink) and Pit (Repos cow-themed edition).

Pit may seem like an odd choice, but do you have any idea how hard the cow themed edition is to find in this country? I balked at paying 16 Euros for it last Essen, so I was very pleased to get it. One of the other folks I was sitting with had elected to pass on his second choice, so I went up to see what was left - and grabbed Prophecy. Not a bad extra game!

We then played In the Year of the Dragon, where I proved that yes, I really can suck at this game. I finished dead last - but didn't care, it was great fun.
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16. Board Game: Tichu [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:159]
Board Game: Tichu
Patrick Korner
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Another round of Tichu followed, where sadly Tom McCorry and I were not able to defeat the combined Tichu prowess of Ted Alspach and David Fair.

Although we did manage to pull of a Tichu call in the face of a 5-bomb AND a 10-bomb. That was nice, even if it wasn't nearly enough.
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17. Board Game: FITS [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1588]
Board Game: FITS
Patrick Korner
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Next up were 2 games of Fits with Sterling Babcock. I won both, so hooray for my Tetris skillz not being too rusty.

Most will probably be aware of this game by now, but the simple summary of Tetris: The Board Game is about right. There's a little more to it than that, as there are multiple rounds where you are trying to do more than just cover up all the dots and make complete rows, but generally that's all there is to it. Good non-gamer game and probably one of my new fillers of choice, since a 2p game can be pulled off in about 15 minutes.
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18. Board Game: Diamonds Club [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:1329]
Board Game: Diamonds Club
Patrick Korner
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Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Next up was Diamonds Club, the other major Essen release from Ravensburger that I hadn't tried yet. I don't think I need to describe the game in detail since it's been talked about on the 'geek a fair bit already, but generally you're using money to get stuff that lets you mine gems / improve your park. The nicer your park is, the more points it's worth, which is how you win the game. In true Dorn fashion there are a few other ways of scoring victory points.

Calling it Goa 'lite' is not 100% accurate as the park-expanding stuff is a little different, as is using mined gems to buy the stuff you put in your park, but there are a few similarities in the way you get stuff and the way you can improve three different 'techs'.

I finshed second (I think, might have been third) in a game with Larry Levy and Sterling Babcock. Another hit for me and a game I'm glad I already own.
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19. Board Game: Airships [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:2122]
Board Game: Airships
Patrick Korner
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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To finish the night (and a 15-game marathon run), Larry Levy and I turned to Airships along with Rob Smolka and Evan Tannheimer.

We played twice - I won the first game and lost the second. But I don't think any of us really cared about the scores, as the games themselves were so full of odd things, misremembered rules, take-backs ... and the oddest die-rolling technique I've ever laid eyes on ... that the scores were kind of secondary to the experience.
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20. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:2734]
Board Game: Unpublished Prototype
Patrick Korner
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Sunday morning I had planned on playing in the Can't Stop tournament but (ahem) kind of slept in. So I wandered over to where the prototype of the next Czech Games Edition game was being set up, only to be told that there was room for one more at the table.

Unfortunately I can't say much about this one, although there's enough info on Doug Garrett's podcast by now to let me spill a little. It's going to be an Essen release and is (I think) going to be called Dungeon Lords. It's by Vlaada Chvatil and features all the hallmarks of his games - humour, punishing gameplay and massive doses of fun. This one will be an auto-buy for me.

Evil is Good.
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21. Board Game: Dice Town [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:840]
Board Game: Dice Town
Patrick Korner
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Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Played again, this time the other players didn't like it as much as the first time. I still had fun and managed to buy the game off of the owner for 10 bucks. Hee.
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22. Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:691]
Board Game: Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age
Patrick Korner
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Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Next, my third and final game of Roll Through the Ages. Yup, this is addictive.

After this game, it was time to head out for dinner (Chinese food, yum). And then back to the room for some final games before having to go upstairs and pack.
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23. Board Game: Finito! [Average Rating:6.15 Overall Rank:4403]
Board Game: Finito!
Patrick Korner
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Next, two games of Finito! (one of the Schmidt EasyPlay line). It's a cross between Take it Easy and Bingo and it's actually pretty fun. I wish I'd asked for a copy of this from Germany, but I hadn't heard anything about it so I didn't. I will have to rectify that situation.
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24. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:2734]
Board Game: Unpublished Prototype
Patrick Korner
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Sorry folks, had to edit this one because the word I got from the publisher didn't mesh with what I heard second-hand was the designer's wishes for info. Move along, nothing to see here...

EDIT: Well, thankfully all is sorted out and the good news is that I can spill a little after all.

The game is a revised Airlines by Alan R. Moon and is based on Union Pacific. It will be published by Abacus (partly to celebrate their 20th anniversary) and will hopefully show up Essen 2009 or Nurnberg 2010. It probably has more in common with UP than the original Airlines, although I can't go into the actual mechanics details - not everything is hammered out yet.

The good news? This was one of my favourite games of the show. Looking forward to this coming out!

And that's it for this year. Pack, say goodbyes, sleep (a little), and soon I'll be home with my family. I miss them but I'm still looking forward to next year! Many thanks to Alan for letting me join in the fun!

pk
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