Just had several days of great boardgaming with my friend Tony Carnevale visiting from New York. Let's see, we played Tragedy Looper twice. I totally blew it both times. It's really hard to keep everything straight running a game once you've moved past the beginner's rules. And it's really frustrating, because a game of Tragedy Looper is only as good as the mastermind player. I had a great group, and in both instances, I screwed up an important detail that basically scuttled the game and wasted hours of gameplay. Urk. At least I'm learning what NOT to do in terms of running a game. But, really, I'm bummed that I didn't get to show off what makes Tragedy Looper cool.
We got in two full-on five-player games of A Study in Emerald, which is how it really shines. One of them involved a zombie apocalypse. Those are always fun. A series of unfortunate setbacks had beaten down one of the better boardgamers at the table, so he decided to just go a scorched earth route with zombies. He actually got pretty far and almost ended the game. I managed to win one of the games by doing something I rarely see: tricking the table into thinking I'm the other faction than the one I'm really playing. That was pretty gratifying. The team scoring dynamic in Study in Emerald works especially well when you're playing with people who understand it, which was the case in both our games.
Troyes is sooo good. Bruce Geryk made a disparaging comment about the theming in Troyes, as if it was some abstract Euro game. It's so not. It's about participating in the interlocking systems of religion, politics, and the military in a Medieval city, all represented with distinct mechanics. The concepts of citizens as dice involves some abstraction, sure, but what you're doing with the dice is vividly themed. And the "activities" that power these systems vary every game. We had Saint Augustine, a liquor maker, archers, a religious parade, and woodcutters as prominent activities. In terms of events, a bandit leader (one of the cards from the Ladies of Troyes expansion, which is cool mostly for all the activities and events it adds) terrorized us throughout the game. Since I'd thrown my lot in with (expensive) military power from the very beginning, I was able to stave him off most efficiently, even if I wasn't quite able to muster the power to beat him. Christien Murawski played a great bluffing game with the secret scoring -- one of my favorite parts of Troyes' game design -- but it wasn't enough to compensate for my advantage with the bandit chieftain's predations.
I got a couple of games with a weird set collection cardgame called Portal Heroes, where each creature you summon from the deck is unique. Each one requires a specific set of numbered cards and confers specific powers. It's one of those games that supports up to five players, but probably shouldn't be played with more than three in order to ensure some degree of interaction.
Battle for Olympus is a better game along those lines, and much more interactive given that it's a two-player only direct card battle. Unique heroes drawn from a deck to fight over a small board for either cards, resources, or victory points. The theming is awfully haphazard -- why does Odysseus do what he does???? -- but it's a really nice short and pitched two-player battle.
Tides of Madness is a Cthulhu variation on the Tides of Time card-drafting game. I won a lot. And then realized we had played wrong, specifically in regard to the madness mechanic I had been using to win. Oops.
Got in a game of 13 Days, the Cuban Missile Crisis that shaves every ounce of fat from the fatty Twilight Struggle.
Lost a game of Inis, which I've recently reviewed. I think that's going to displace Kemet and Cyclades for me.
Oh My Goods -- terrible name -- is about setting up a chain of resource harvesting and production goods. Very German, although I'm not sure if it's actually German. Also short, quick, with a cool concept for a dynamic market. Somewhat haphazard mechanics, in that one player's textile mill might run on ore and cotton, while another player's textile mill runs on wood and cotton. But I like how it plays with the idea that the cards in your hand each have two different functions. And who doesn't like setting up a run of wheat ground into flour and sent to the bakery to pay for the development of a butcher's shop while your opponent can't get enough coal because no wood showed up in the market and he didn't save any wood cards? Ha ha. And I say that as the player who couldn't get enough coal.
We played some Saboteur, in which dwarves cooperate to dig a tunnel to a gold vein, but some of them might be saboteurs. It's a short and nicely paced game, but I think the scoring pretty much kills it. You play three rounds, but by the third round, it's likely some of the players have no hope of winning. They can't do anything other than maybe play kingmaker, if they care enough. That's a gameplay problem that's been solved in other games, so I think I'm pretty much done with this one.
We revisited Endeavor. Still so good. I love the interplay with the other players in terms of who takes what and who goes where. I won by implementing slavery and then maintaining a military hold on Europe so neither of the other players could abolish it. Very uncool, but since I was the winner, I guess I get to write history so that slavery isn't such a bad deal.
Christien pretty much cleaned up the table during Voyages of Marco Polo by taking the character who I wanted to play. Of course, he plays online all the time, so me and Tony didn't feel so bad. Me and Tony also got embroiled in a rules lawyering session -- I seriously love rules lawyering and Tony's one of my favorite adversaries/collaborators for that -- but Christien solved with one simple question. "Is there a lightning bolt on the token?" he asked while we were furiously Googling various scenarios. Oh, no, there wasn't. It helps to make sure you're using a piece correctly before arguing about arcane edge cases involving that piece.