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Gencon 2010: So Intense!
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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For another year, our adventuring party set out from the beautiful paradise of New Jersey to the unexplored, exciting and dangerous wilderness known as GenCon. Meeting up with our companions who had made the journey from the distant realm known as Chicagoland, we set forth on an adventure of gaming that would surely be the subject of songs to be sung by many in the future. Here's our party roster:

- Alex the Wizard (that's me): Always can be found with his nose in a book. Rolls high on Knowledge (game rules) checks.
- Stephanie the Paladin (my wife): A paladin of Athena, she seeks to purify the unclean and unwise with her +2 Purell of Might and her Tome of Grammar.
- John the Fighter (our friend from NJ): Dependable, stalwart, always willing to shoulder the burden of the Bag of Game Holding.
- Jeff the Bard (from ChicagoLand): Good at Appraise checks, uses his Knowledge (game business) to help keep his party informed and in the know. Knows everyone who is anyone.
- Collin the Monk (from ChicagoLand): Quiet and wise, uses his extreme height (6'6") to his advantage when using the Photobomb feat that he took at 1st level.
- Tony the Ranger (from ChicagoLand): Excellent scout, great at finding paths in crowded aisles and to the front of long lines, rolls well on Survival checks for finding game booths.
- Tamela the Rogue (from ChicagoLand): Rolls great on Stealth and Sleight of Hand checks, always willing to share the treasure she finds, and is a member of the WotC guild.

We adventured, split the party at times, reunited at others, and played lots of new games over the course of the convention. We were able to roll well on our Fortitude saves versus fatigue, and made pretty much all of our skill checks. This GeekList is a chronicle of the games we demo'd, played and bought this year, with accompanying annotations. Feel free to chime with your own insights. I hope everyone left GenCon up a level and gaining as much XP as we did, and cannot wait until next year's adventure.
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1. Board Game: Zombie State: Diplomacy of the Dead [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:2200]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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Our first night here, Jeff had arranged a game of Zombie State with the creators (he was assisting on their Profession (game designer) check) for our party to play. The game was easy to learn, great components, good gameplay and kept us engaged the whole time with strategic decisions. Even though we didn't buy this game (it wouldn't hit our gaming table, unfortunately), we were happy to play it and wish nothing but the best for the creators, who were also cool guys to hang out in the ES Open Bar with.

Notable moment: Jon allowed the entire continent of Africa to be overrun with zombies, which is funny because he just returned from there three weeks ago.
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2. Board Game: The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:999]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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This was a new one for the New Jersey contingent, even though we'd seen it at GenCon last year. Lots of fun, great theme, quick and easy to learn. Who doesn't want to play Indiana Jones: the Board Game? We played this two times over the course of the weekend, and we liked it enough to pick it up for ourselves. This is a game my mother would definitely enjoy playing with us, which is always a good thing to please the adventuring party's sponsor.

Notable moment: Jon and Jeff getting crushed by the boulder after electing to go backwards into the dungeon for more treasure. Served those greedy fools right!
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3. Board Game: Dixit [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:160] [Average Rating:7.35 Unranked]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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In a word: beautiful. The art and graphics in this game are absolutely amazing and the entire party found ourselves falling into a state of serenity and calm as we played. Not sure if this was due to the long hours of gaming, or due to some mysterious enchantment placed on the cards by the creators, but we really liked everything about it. The mechanic is similar enough to Apples to Apples that non-gamers should be able to pick it up really fast. Jon purchased this one, and I hope he remembers to bring it over the house on game nights.

Notable moment: Steph says "intense" and her card had a picture of a full-on double rainbow. No one got it (although I should have).
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4. Board Game: Priests of Ra [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:1366]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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Our half of the party played this one in the Rio Grande room while waiting for the dealer room to open. We were joined by some friendly fellow adventurers (one of whom was from the sometimes-friendly land of Long Island) who had played Ra before. The game was reminiscent of Colosseum (one of our favorites) with bidding for tiles to make sets. Greatly enjoyable, but we weren't sure how the game would work with only 2 players, so we held off on buying it (for now, anyway).

Notable moment: It's always funny when I, being of Jewish faith, play games that involve Egyptians and building pyramids.
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5. Board Game: Cutthroat Caverns [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:1044]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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Tony had gotten this a while ago, but had never played it (must have gotten lost in all the treasure he collects in his adventuring) so we busted it out. A card-based monster-fighting game, this was a bunch of fun to play. I liked the "screw your fellow adventurer over" mechanic in the card-playing, but it had a Munchkin-like feel in that it seemed like whomever killed the monster was the one who was lucky enough to outlast all the interference from the other players. I'd play it again, but I wouldn't buy it.

Notable moment: Jeff used a Text Message spell to secretly let the rest of us know that we should all kill off Tony first so he could start reading the rules for City of Thieves. So much for brotherhood and esprit de corp among adventurers!
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6. Board Game: Cadwallon: City of Thieves [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:2140]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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This game is one of the games that I had heard a little bit of buzz about going into GenCon, but was unprepared for the sheer amount of people that were lined up to get the game. Tony, using his scouting skills, was pretty much the first person on line to get the game, avoiding a ton of wait. I, wanting to do my diligence, watched the demo for a short bit (couldn't get on to a table), then took my place in line to buy it. I must have failed a Will save, because I normally try not to buy games before playing them or doing lots of research on them.

Quick aside: Fantasy Flight, I love your games, your production values are top-notch, but next year, please have more registers so you can process your transactions faster. Thank you.

Tony, Jeff, Colin and I played, and were admittedly a little underwhelmed. The rules were easy to get, and the mechanics were decent (maybe a little too much dice rolling). We didn't like the fact that all the PC characters had the exact same stats, and the scenario was bland. I'm hoping that the combination of playing with 2 players (which is always a plus in my house) and a more complex scenario will make this game worth the investment.

Notable moment: Nothing memorable, honestly.
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7. Board Game: Battlestar Galactica [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:54]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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One of our favorites, coincidentally the game that brought the adventuring party together back at GenCon 2008. Jeff rolled rather well on his Bluff checks, while I was able to Sense Motive and convince the party that Steph was, in fact, a Cylon. However, like most games of BSG, the Cylons ended up triumphant, and we had to watch as Steph and Jeff did the happy dance of victory.

Notable moment: Stephanie did nothing to give away that she was a Cylon; I just usually automatically assume my wife is one.
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8. Board Game: Crokinole [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:65]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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I had heard a little about it, knew that it was expensive, knew that Mayday Games was selling them, and was happy to see them demoing it when we picked up our Dominion: Prosperity sleeves. Our party got some bonus XP when Seth, the owner of the company, recognized us from last year. As mentioned before, I'm not the most dexterous, but I still enjoyed playing, even though we got hustled quite a few times by Seth's 9-year old son.

Notable moment: As teachers, we deal with kids all the time, for better or for worse. We don't normally deal with elementary-level students, but we have to say that Seth's son (it is absolutely killing us that we can't remember his name right now - someone cast Brain Fog, I suppose) is one of the most mature, well-spoken and responsible 9-year olds we've ever met. He taught us how to play, wiped the floor with us, and made sure to give us his business card before we left. We've had nothing but great experiences with Seth & Mayday games, and it's obvious apples don't fall far from trees.
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9. Board Game: Dominion: Prosperity [Average Rating:8.30 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.30 Unranked]
 
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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Pretty much, the one game I knew I had to get. Single-minded in my goal, I was very anxious pretty much all of Thursday morning. Fortunately, Steph kept casting calming spells (aka feeding me snacks) on me to try to keep me mellow until I was able to get my hands on Prosperity. We played a bunch of times over the weekend, and it's just as awesome as I hoped it would be. For me, it may very well be my favorite expansion.

A slight thumbs-down, I was missing the coins from my box. I did speak with Jay (the owner) who was more than apologetic and eager to help. Only reinforces that I like Rio Grande and I'll continue to buy their games.

Notable moment: Steph always assumes I'm winning when we play. Not so tonight, when she won with a score of 93 victory points, with a final deck with only 3 action cards. Damn.
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10. Board Game: Zombie Dice [Average Rating:6.24 Overall Rank:1613]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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Fun and fast, a great game for killing time before/between/after games. I like rolling lots of dice, and obviously lots of people do as well since they were sold out by Sunday. Unsurprisingly, Tony was able to pick this one up before it sold out, and I may very well sometime in the future.

Notable moment: Steph played one round and didn't get *any* brains during the game. Sad, because she really enjoyed playing!
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11. Board Game: Cthulhu Dice [Average Rating:5.22 Overall Rank:13763]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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Tried this in the dealer hall. Essentially L-C-R, with a d12 and a Cthulhu theme. About as fun as its sounds.

Notable moment: When we played Zombie Dice immediately after.
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12. Board Game: The Stars Are Right [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:2269]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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Stephanie and I had played this last year, and I (being a nerdy wizard with a good INT score) really enjoyed playing it, . This year, we had a great guy from SJGames helping us out, and Steph switched her opinion on the game and decided she liked it! Since it plays well with two (always a consideration), we picked it up, and I'm very happy we did.

Notable moment(s): 1 - The man from whom I bought it told me I must be a brainiac, since only brainiacs had bought that game. I was complimented. 2 - Stephanie and I are both teachers, and we really appreciate it when we have good people teaching us games. The man who played with us at the SJGames booth did a great job, which was an exception to the norm, in our experience. Many times this weekend, Steph and I brainstormed how we could market a "Let us teach your staff how to demo games" workshop to game companies. It was that bad, sometimes.
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13. Board Game: Road Kill Rally [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:2197]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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Tony, being a good ranger, had a great Survival skill check and was able to track us down in the crowded and busy dealer hall, where we demo'd this game with him. Essentially, it's a combination of Death Race 2000 and Mario Kart, in board game form. Arm your car, move your car, run over pedestrians, shoot other cars, rinse, repeat. Had a good time, even though we only played through a few rounds. I would definitely have purchased this game, but $60 was *way* too expensive for what was in the box. I'll be keeping my eyes out for good deals online.

Notable moment: Had to ask the demo guy when the next one was running, since we had been standing there a good 15 minutes without nary a glance. Come on, people.
 
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14. Board Game: Dungeon Lords [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:153]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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I had bought this months ago, but my Profession (science teacher) rolls got in the way of my Knowledge (game rules) checks at the time. Fortunately, Tony had uncovered a copy of it on our adventure this year. Collin and Jon went off to study the unarmed combat techniques of the UFC fighters, leaving Jeff, Tony, Steph and myself to play. After taking what seemed like hours to figure out the rules, we ran through and found that we all really enjoyed the game. We ended up playing twice, and got our collective rears handed to us. However, we are not an adventuring party to shy away from a challenge, and we have all taken a solemn vow to be the best Dungeon Lords we can possibly be!

Notable moment: Stephanie pointed out that the imps looked like caramels, so that's what we ended up calling them.
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15. Board Game: The Hunger Games: Training Days [Average Rating:5.25 Overall Rank:12426]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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I love the Hunger Games novels, and I was intrigued by the idea of a game based on them, hoping for some good PvP that would be reminiscent of the action in the books. However, this game is representative of the training sessions before the Hunger Games, where the tribunes have to forge alliances and impress the judges. An auction game, you bid on different events that boost your stats up and let you do various things. Highest score wins. The theme worked, with the different districts having strengths, weaknesses and special powers that were based on text from the novels. I was hoping for some PvP though.

Notable moment: Jon thought to make an opposed Charisma check with the cute young lady running the demo, but rolled a natural 20 on his Perception to see a wedding ring on her finger. C'est la vie.
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16. RPG Item: Advanced Player's Guide [Average Rating:7.94 Overall Rank:52]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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Steph, Jon and I stopped outside the Paizo room to go through a quick delve and play some of the new character classes. Sticking to my wizardly roots, I played an Alchemist (no coincidence that I am a chemistry teacher), and wreaked havoc immediately. This book has tons of great stuff, and I can't wait to let my game group ret-con their characters if they like to integrate some of the good stuff that is found in here.

Notable moment: My character drinking a mutagen that increased my Dex and decreased my Wis, and Stephanie calling me a cokehead, much to the delight of Sean the DM from Paizo.
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17. Board Game: Catan Histories: Settlers of America – Trails to Rails [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:1030]
Alex
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Monroe
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Sadly, having a rogue or ranger around would have helped us out immensely, because every time we stopped by Mayfair to see if we could go through a demo of Settlers of America, we arrived 2-3 minutes after they had started a new one. Fortunately, I was willing to roll the dice on a Knowledge (game rules) check and Jon, Steph and I played this one in the games library. We enjoyed it so much that we immediately went and purchased our own copy. Even though there is plenty different from this game and traditional Settlers of Catan, we found that it put a refreshing spin on an already awesome game. The core mechanics of resource gathering and purchasing remain, but are altered in a way that make a completely new and enjoyable experience.

Notable moment: We played this twice, and I ended up victorious both times. Shocking, since Steph usually wins at Catan. (She just yelled across the room to remind me to write that the last game was close).

Notab
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18. Board Game: Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:550] [Average Rating:6.99 Unranked]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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This is where Tamela the rogue really earned her XP. Our party was sitting around, playing Battlestar Galactica, and Tony, Jeff and I were talking about how we would love to demo Castle Ravenloft, but that all the demos were sold out and that it would be impossible. Not to Tamela, who gets out her phone, makes a few phone calls, and says "We can go over to the ICC and play after we're done here!" Always good to have a rogue in your party who's got Knowledge (GenCon).

So, at 1 AM, Tony, Jeff, Tamela and I head over to the convention hall and meet up with Wes the wizard, who had traveled many miles across the sea from Australia to be at GenCon, and we got to play Castle Ravenloft, much to our delight. After some quick rules-learning, we got underway, with me playing a rogue (of all things). The game was a lot of fun, a combination of Descent, Betrayal at House on the Hill and D&D 4E. However, I think the only reason I'd buy it would be for the minis, and that's not worth the investment. Good time gaming into the wee hours, though.

Notable moment: I apparently am no good at being a rogue, because I single-handedly unleashed some nasty monsters and pretty much died 2 times, causing our cleric to be less-than-pleased with me. I'll stick to wizardry, thank you.
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19. Board Game: Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:139]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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We were able to sneak onto one of the tables demoing this game on our last day (helped by a surprisingly high Intimidate roll). From the quick rounds we played, the game seems to play very much like the video game does, which is great since I've lost many hours playing Civ on the computer. Stephanie (not ever having played the video game or really knowing anything about it) enjoyed the mechanics and theme of the game as well, and I'm hoping that this is going to be waiting for me come Hanukkah-time. Even though I was playing the Chinese, something tells me I'm going to end up playing as the Egyptians, if only to build more pyramids.

Notable moment: Making jokes about Gugs and Byakhees attacking other Civilizations, since they were using pasted-on Arkham Horror chits as markers for the game.
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20. Board Game: Thunderstone [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:476] [Average Rating:7.01 Unranked]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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This was a game that a number in our party were interested in trying out, since we are all such big Dominion fans. Jon, Steph and I were able to get onto a demo table at the AEG booth, which was run by a good guy who taught the game well. We enjoyed the theme and playing the game - what adventurer doesn't like killing monsters in a dungeon? However, we couldn't see ourselves playing Thunderstone often as we are such big fans of Dominion.
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21. Board Game: Egizia [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:246]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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I get some sort of penalty to Will saves vs. games with an Egyptian theme, as I was immediately drawn to this game when I saw it in the Rio Grande room. As I was perusing the rulebook, we were joined by another friendly adventurer named Dion from the arid and isolated land of Phoenix. We sat and started to play, joined by one of the rules wizards from Rio Grande.

Note to rules wizards: Let your players make their own moves, choose their own paths, and move their own bits. It's the only way they'll learn how to play and determine whether they are enjoying the game or not. Our rules wizard was pretty much the antithesis of a good rules wizard.

Steph and I are fans of worker-placement games, and this one did not disappoint. Again, must have been something in my genetic memory, because I seem to really enjoy games that involve building pyramids. We loved it, and went and picked it up that day. It worked just as well as a 2-player game when Steph and I played it later on. Win!

Notable moment: We must have run into Dion 5 more times over the course of the convention in one way or another. Really nice guy to game with!
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22. RPG: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (3rd Edition) [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:61]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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Attracted by the large amounts of pretty-colored dice on this vacant table, Steph, Jon and I drifted over to see what it was about. Turns out it was a RPG system based in the Warhammer universe. Seeing that we know nothing about Warhammer, our demo guy was very helpful in explaining the system and how everything worked. We really liked the idea of simply adding dice instead of figuring out bonuses/penalties to rolls, and it seemed like a pretty novel system of running a role-playing game. Unfortunately, our party back home has a good amount of people, and we couldn't buy one base set to satisfy the needs of everyone.

Notable moment: Even though it was a demo, Steph (who was playing a naked male dwarf, oddly enough) was actually the only person who got to do anything.
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23. Board Game: We Didn't Playtest This At All [Average Rating:5.67 Overall Rank:6612] [Average Rating:5.67 Unranked]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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Stephanie had excommunicated Fluxx a while back, declaring it unholy and an abomination, so I was surprised when she really enjoyed this game. I think she enjoyed the fact that Fluxx attempts to have some manner of structure, whereas this game is just completely random and silly. We played quite a few games over the course of the convention, and this will definitely be brought to parties in the future.
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24. Board Game: Defenders of the Realm [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:312]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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Any adventuring party that doesn't feel their adrenaline flow and their pulse quicken when they hear the words "Defenders of the Realm" should just turn in their adventurer's permits and go become farmers. We were drawn to this game because of the Pandemic-like mechanic combined with the fantasy theme. However, we did NOT enjoy playing this game at all. Poorly written rules, a game board that was laid out with no logic or order, way too much dice-rolling and a theme that didn't come alive with the game. Your mileage may vary, but we didn't even bother finishing up our game. Alas.
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25. Board Game: Nuns on the Run [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:1174]
Alex
United States
Monroe
New Jersey
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I had read about this game while doing my research in preparing for GenCon, and it did not disappoint for either myself, Stephanie or Jon. I like games that are based in critical-thinking and problem solving, and I was not disappointed one bit. Great theme, easy to learn, would definitely like to play again. I was rolling really well Intelligence checks, as I somehow ended up victorious. We didn't end up buying it, simply because we were worried how it would scale down to 2 players.

Notable moment: It was while we were playing that our party last reunited before Jeff, Tony and Collin departed back to Chicagoland. It was great to spend time with them and game with such amazing and cool people.
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