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Other Games / Overview and First Impressions: Not Alone
« on: January 02, 2017, 01:07:15 am »
The first game I played in 2017 was Not Alone.  I've played it 5.5 times now and it is already one of my best purchases of 2016.

Rules Summary

Not Alone is a 1 vs. many game where one alien creature hunts up to 6 other players who have been shipwrecked on its planet.  It is a relatively simple game of cat and mouse, hide and seek, risk and reward.  The goal for the Hunted is to survive long enough to be rescued; the goal for the Creature is to keep them there and assimilate them into the planet.  The board is a simple track with two token starting on either end.  As the game progresses, both the Rescue token and the Assimilation token will advance inward toward the same goal space that marks victory for one side.

Each of the Hunted starts with the same 5 Place cards in their hands, representing 5 locations on the planet that they can explore.  Each round has 4 phases, and in the first phase the Hunted players decide where they will be going.  Each one plays a Place card from their hand face down.  They are free to discuss and make plans, but the Creature gets to hear everything.  Each Place has a different effect that can help the Hunted survive and move closer to rescue.

After those decisions have been made, phase 2 lets the Creature go on the hunt, putting the Creature token (and possibly others) on one Place where it will stalk its prey.

Phase 3 is the reveal and resolution.  Going to the left from the Creature, each player resolves the effect of the Place they have chosen.  But if any players were caught by the Creature then that Place is ineffective, the Assimilation token moves forward 1, and the caught players lose 1 Will each (more on that soon).

Phase 4 is clean up.  The Creature gets its tokens back, the played Place cards are discarded, and the Rescue token advances 1 for another day survived.  The Creature also draws back up to 3 Hunt cards (these cards confer special effects, many allowing the Creature to place an extra token to further hinder the Hunted; the Creature can play only one per turn at any time during the phase listed on the card).

Maintaining the will to live is important when you're stranded on a hostile alien planet.  Each player has 3 Will tokens.  If you ever lose all your Will, then you must Give Up and the Assimilation token advances further (and then you get those 3 tokens and all your Place cards back).  You also have the option to Give Up at the start of Phase 1 for the same effect.  Alternatively, you can choose to Resist, losing 1 or 2 Will in order to retrieve 2 or 4 Place cards into your hand.  Losing will is costly, but it may be necessary lest you become too easy to find.

This is because the Hunted will lose options as the game continues if they aren't careful with their hand management.  The Place cards that have been discarded remain face up.  When the Creature knows where you've already been, it becomes easier to determine where you may go next!  There are only so many ways to get those cards back into your hand.

The Places are all pretty simple.  I think I can remember them all off the top of my head.  In addition to the usual effects, you can also just take back 1 Place card instead (unless the Place is rendered ineffective that turn).

1. The Lair.  You can choose to retrieve all discarded cards (which means not the Lair itself, as it isn't discarded until phase 4) OR copy the power of the Place with the Creature token.  However, if the Creature catches you here, you lose 2 will instead of the usual 1.

2. The Jungle.  You immediately return the Jungle to your hand and also retrieve one other Place card.

3. The River.  Next turn, you play two Place cards instead of one, returning one to your hand in phase 3 before revealing.

4. The Beach.  You either charge the beacon (putting a marker on the Beach) or use the beacon (removing the marker) to advance the Rescue token 1 space.  This can only be used once per turn (so multiple people going to the Beach on the same turn is inefficient).

5. The Rover.  You can add an advanced Place to your hand!

The Hunted can't visit Places 6-10 initially, but some may gain access via the Rover.  There aren't enough copies of these cards for all of the Hunted to gain each one though.

6. The Swamp.  You immediately return the Swamp to your hand and also retrieve TWO other Place cards.

7. The Shelter.  You draw 2 Survival cards, keeping 1 and discarding the other.  (Survival cards have special effects to aid the Hunted and can be played at any time during the phase listed on the card.  Each Hunted starts the game with 1 Survival card.)

8. The Wreck.  You move the Rescue token 1 space forward, max once per turn.

9. The Source.  One Hunted of your choice regains 1 Will, or you draw a Survivor card.

10. The Artefect.  Next turn, you play 2 Place cards and resolve both of them!

And that's it!  When either the Rescue token or the Assimilation token reaches the marked space, the game ends.


I don't know how it comes across in the rules summary, but the game is remarkably simple but also extremely immersive.  I've played both sides and they both feel tense but fun with many chances to outwit, trap and be the hero, and just as many to be outwitted, trapped, and become the victim.

My first 2.5 plays had some minor rules mistakes.  A friend had played before so he taught the game, and I only discovered the errors later after reading the rules on my own.  The 0.5 is for the middle game where one rule mistake had a major impact -- we thought that the Assimilation token moved forward for each Hunted caught, rather than just moving once if any Hunted are caught.  Three times in the first four turns, the same 2 players went to the same Place and were caught.  That game ended very quickly.

Game 1: early lead for the Hunted, but the Creature caught up and pulled out the win at the end.

Game 2: quick Creature victory thanks to that rules misunderstanding and some major bad luck.

Game 3: Valiant effort by the Creature, but a fairly solid Hunted victory.

The next three plays were with a different group.

Game 4: extremely close game that ended with a victory for the Hunted, but the Creature (me!) was only 1 space away.  In retrospect, I believe I could have won if I had paid slightly more attention.

Game 5: Solid victory for the Creature, who managed to catch out two Hunted fairly often.

Game 6: Solid victory for the Hunted, who managed to evade the Creature on most turns.

Overall, it feels incredibly well balanced.  Victory or defeat doesn't feel too random, but depends a lot on figuring out where the Hunted can go, want to go, and need to go, and then playing around that.  Maybe you really need to go to the Beach, but everyone knows that so it may actually be a better play to NOT go to the Beach, since obviously the Creature will go there.  But then there's the WIFOM -- the Creature knows you know that it should be going to the Beach, so nobody will actually go to the Beach, so the Creature will go elsewhere... so the Beach will be clear, right?

I do have a concern that the strength of the Creature may be unduly influenced by the randomly drawn Hunt cards.  As I recall, the games where the Creature won featured Hunt cards that allowed the Creature to target adjacent locations with a special token, thereby vastly increasing its chance of blocking multiple players.  It's too early to tell though, and it's worth noting that I didn't get any of the "adjacent" Hunt cards in the very closest game we had (Game 4 above).

I also think that there's a lot of room for clever team play by the Hunted.  In all 6 games we played, the Hunted chose their Places in relative silence, rarely discussing plans.  I think we/they were always afraid to let slip plans in front of the Creature.  Thinking on it now though, there are plenty of plans worth making.  A very simple one: "I may go to the Beach this turn, so nobody else go to the Beach!"

There were some cards with slightly ambiguous effects, but they aren't too tough to house rule.  After reading through some of the rules questions on BGG, I think we houseruled too much in favour of the Hunted.

Anyway, I highly recommend this game.  Plays up to 7(!), pretty easy to teach and learn, engaging and fun, and it offers a relatively uncommon experience as a 1 vs. many game.  It's great!


A few months ago I received my kickstarter copy of City of Iron, 2nd edition.  I'm a big fan of Ryan Laukat, both for his art and his particular style of euro games.  At this point, I am backing pretty much all of his kickstarters even though it would be a lot cheaper for me to wait until the games hit retail.

I finally got a chance to play City of Iron for the first time yesterday.  Since it's a deck builder, I thought I'd start a new thread and share my first impressions.

Game Overview

City of Iron is a 2-4 player area control game that also features tableau building and deck-building.  The game plays in 7 rounds of 3 turns each and scoring in rounds 3, 5 and 7.

The primary method of scoring victory points (referred to in the game as "Influence" or "Prestige" or something, I've already forgotten) is by having the most of certain "resources".  As a game mechanism, they're actually areas for area control rather than actual resources (you never spend them for anything).  Throughout the game, you will be gaining more and more of those resources.  Having the majority for a resource earns you more money at the end of each round, and will also score you VP on scoring rounds.

There are two ways to gain more resources: building and attacking.  This is the tableau-building aspect of the game.  One of the actions you can take is to Build a card that is available for sale (or that you've previously stored for building later).  Cards cycle out each round and later cards are stronger.  Most buildings provide more resources, many provide additional turn-end money income, and some provide other bonuses like turn-end card draw.  You only have a limited amount of space for buildings, but if you run out you can build or upgrade your city districts or explore to establish new lands (more on that when we get to the deck building).  Buildings have costs in coins and science (which you can gain by taking a Research action and paying 4 coins, or as income from some buildings; you also gain 1 Science at the end of each scoring round).

Another action is to Attack a town.  There are three piles of Town cards, each pile with a different power rating.  You can attack any of the face-up Towns if you are able to meet requirements listed on them (again, more on that in the deck building discussion).  You can also attack towns that have already been conquered by other players, though they are stronger at that point.  Towns all provide resources and money income.

The Deck-Building

The deck-building in CoI is unique in several ways:

1. You have two decks (Citizens and Military).
2. They start especially small -- generally just two cards in each deck (one faction has a third Citizen card to start).
3. There's no shuffling.  When you would shuffle, you just turn your discard pile over and continue on.
4. Card draw is very limited.  By default you get to draw 1 Citizen card at the end of each round, and you may draw one card from one deck as your action for a turn.  You can get additional turn-end draw from other sources (like buildings) but those seem to be rather limited.
5. Rather than buying cards from a common source, each player has their own faction-specific buy pool.  There is asymmetry here, though in my one game I saw a significant amount of overlap as well.

Like the building cards, citizen and military cards have costs in coins and science.  At the end of each round, you can buy as many such cards as you want that you can afford, adding them directly to your hand.  Some cards provide special effects and most (or all?) of them also provide banners.  Citizen cards tend to provide blue Hammers, Military cards provide red Guns, and both provide green Distance.  Guns and Distance are needed to attack Towns -- when you take an Attack action, you discard cards from your hand to meet those requirements on the Town.  Hammers are often needed to fuel Citizen cards for their special effect when you take an action to play a card.

From what I could tell, all the cards you can buy are unique (each faction has only one Junkbot, one Magician, one Tax Collector, and so on), and many had very specific effects.  For example, you need the Explorer in order to explore new lands (which needs enough Distance to reach the desired land, and maybe a ship or an airship).  You need the Regent to upgrade your starting Capital District into an Imperial District (which can only happen once per game!), or a Mayor to add new districts to your starting land or any land you've explored.  (Districts provide more space for buildings and turn-end card draw, but you only get a few.)

Overall the deck-building is very open and pretty much always niche as you buy specific cards to support your strategy on the rest of the board, e.g. "I really need some more Science next turn so I'm going to buy my Scientist", or "I want to Attack that 3-star town but need more Guns and Distance, so I'll buy this Iron Dragon".  The card play is much more restrictive because card draw is so low (at least to start), cards and actions tend to use up your cards for their banners, and you only get to play a card if you take that as your action for a turn.  It makes for a very different experience from Dominion.

My First Game

It was a 2-player game.  I forget their names but I used the green faction and my opponent used the silver faction.  I have no idea what our faction specializations were; the only one I really know is that the red faction is more inclined toward attacking.

I ignored military entirely, while my opponent pursued it from around mid-game.  I also focused more on building cards for resources than getting more card draw, which also meant I didn't really get into the deck-building aspect early on.  I diversified early with resources, which gave me a lead when it came to coin income for most of the game.  My opponent scooped most of the buildings that provided card draw, which gave me the resource (area) majority edge but allowed him to do a lot more with cards. 

For my part, I picked up a little bit more card draw by getting some more districts later in the game, focusing entirely on Citizens.  Even without that though, getting new cards right into your hand allowed for some highly tactical purchases.

Unfortunately, my opponent's card management was sub-optimal -- there were multiple turns where his relatively high turn-end card draw was wasted because he was still holding all of his Citizen cards.  Moreover, he probably should have gotten into attacking towns a lot earlier because the income and resources would have had more impact then.  As it happened, I managed to gain a moderate points lead in the first scoring round thanks to diversification and then maintained the lead through to the end.

Overall Impressions

I really liked it.  The deck-building aspect was overwhelming at first, because there were so many choices for such specific effects.  I guess Dominion can be like this too, if you're unfamiliar with the entire kingdom, but that's still just 10 cards (usually) whereas City of Iron is... well, a lot more.  That said, the wide range of abilities also allows for strategic diversity within each faction, and I also think familiarity with those cards creates a high skill cap for the game.  Since this was our first game, there is no doubt that we made many sub-optimal choices.  One aspect that seems especially difficult to me is managing the discard order.  I mostly tried to discard "stronger" cards on the bottom, so they would appear sooner after the "reshuffle", but I found at the end that I had not properly managed my card order to ensure I had hammers to fuel the cards I wanted to play.

The area control mechanism was not great with only 2 players.  I buy a Turnip Farm, my opponent just goes for a different resource instead.  We clashed a couple of times, but mostly we just stuck to our own things.  I expect that the game is much more exciting with more players competing for majorities.  Each round also begins with a bid for turn order which isn't all that exciting with only two players.

I hope I'll get a chance to play it again with more players.  If any of you have had a chance to play it, let me know what you think!

Other Games / Mystic Vale
« on: June 12, 2016, 12:46:08 am »

Has anybody had a chance to play it?  The card building mechanism really sparks my interest.

Other Games / Splotter Games
« on: January 20, 2016, 07:30:43 pm »
Splotter has got a few new things available in their shop -- notably, limited pre-orders are open for Indonesia, The Great Zimbabwe, and Food Chain Magnate (their newest game).

They are expensive, but highly acclaimed.  Anybody have thoughts on these titles?

I don't think Indonesia is in my wheel house, but I'm very interested in The Great Zimbabwe.  I'm looking into Food Chain Magnate now.  Watching rahdo's run-through, I'm getting a Dominion-y engine-building feel from it.

Variants and Fan Cards / Additional Game Ending Conditions
« on: December 09, 2015, 01:36:06 am »
Can you think of any game ending conditions we could add to the rules which would open up new design space?

I've thought of one in particular: The game ends if, at the end of a turn, any player has 100+ VP tokens.

The number is arbitrary; the purpose is to open up design space around +VP cards.  With +VP cards, there is always a concern that it could cause a stagnant game that doesn't progress towards an end.  It's already a rare possibility with official cards, Bishop-Fortress being the standout combo for this.  But if this game end condition were added, even a cantrip +VP card could possibly work.

What do you think of this potential fix?

Variants and Fan Cards / Gain-to-Coin Reaction
« on: November 16, 2015, 09:00:10 pm »
$4 - Action-Reaction
+1 Buy
Gain a card costing up to $4.

When you gain a card, you may reveal this from your hand.  If you do, trash that card.  If you did trash the card, +$ equal to its cost.

Wording is a bit awkward to prevent infinite coin from revealing it repeatedly to a single gain.  Any suggestions to improve it?

If you have two in hand, you can play one for +$4 instead of gaining a card.  +1 Buy means you could also spend the gained coin to buy another copy of the same card, with a net result of trashing an extra copy of it to lower piles quickly.

The reaction can be used with other gainers (Rats!), and there is a significant combo with Fortress.  The reaction also provides Watchtower-like protection against junkers.

In the absence of big combos, it's hardly better than Workshop.  Even when used with itself, it's only a small bonus if you don't have extra actions (two Factories just get you +$4, +1 Buy, which isn't much better than +$4 from two Silvers).


Puzzles and Challenges / Storytelling with Cards
« on: June 05, 2015, 10:33:37 pm »
After some earlier story puzzles in the Flavor Synergy thread, it seems like it would be a fun thing to have as its own thread.

The idea is to tell a story using only Dominion card names.  The links above have some examples.

Here was one from shmeur:

Here's an easyish story puzzle:

Princess/Merchant Ship/Sea Hag/Trade/Prince/Possession/Save

And this post by Ghacob looks like it's meant to be a story as well:

Peasant/Farming Village/Prince
Princess/Goons/Pirate Ship

Other Games / Kickstarter Games of Interest
« on: May 06, 2015, 10:10:14 pm »
The previous thread ended up being a dumping ground for advertisements, so I thought I'd start a new one.  Please use this thread to talk about any kickstarter games you personally find interesting or worth discussing for whatever reason.  If you're a forum regular who is lucky enough to be publishing a game, that's worth sharing too.  If you are a random passerby who wants to advertise, you should plug it over here.

Puzzles and Challenges / Most Cards Gained Per Cards Played
« on: April 23, 2015, 08:37:46 pm »
For this puzzle, your goal is to have the most cards gained per card played in one turn.  No Durations in play at the start of your turn, no Reserves on the Tavern mat, no Black Market, no coin tokens, max 2 Events.  You're allowed to have set up previously (e.g. with +1 Buy token on a pile already).  You must play a minimum of 1 card (so no Alms to divide by 0).  Let's make it a 4p game, and you get to count cards that others gain as well.

As an example: Play Ambassador, revealing Death Cart.  The other 3 players each gain a Death Cart and 2 Ruins, for 9 cards gained total.  Then you buy Alms to gain Death Cart and two Ruins for 12 cards gained total and only 1 played.  Score is 12/1 = 12.

I don't have a specific answer.  My best so far is 21.  My solution is below.

Ferry previously on Messenger.  Play Princess.  Messenger now costs $0 and you have 2 Buys.  First buy Messenger, choose to gain Border Village (which now costs $4).  All four players gain Border Village, choosing to gain Cache (or Death Cart).  In total, each player gains 4 cards here.  Finally, buy Alms to gain another Border Village to gain Cache/DC for another 4 cards for 21.

Spin-off from this thread.

It is a precedent for specifying who chooses, but (in my opinion?) it is specifying because it is going against the default of the player gaining the card choosing.

Certainly.  I am just saying that I think the hurdles are less significant.

It's very possible he did.  It definitely doesn't feel like it fits well in Dominion, but don't think fan cards always have to fit inside the mold. There was also a time when $7 cards were seen as outside the realm of Dominion.  I think it would be pretty easy to define the rules for how a Curse type card would work. I think the real challenge would be coming up with a Curse type card that is any good.

I meant to mention in my last post that throwing off the balance of Cursing cards doesn't really seem like an issue at all to me.  Isn't throwing off the balance of other cards kind of what the most interesting Dominion cards do?  Do strong trashers not throw off the balance of Cursing cards already?

My point is that many of these things are ambiguous and don't follow from established rules.  A $7 card doesn't create any ambiguity at all.  The way Moat interacts with Duration attacks can be confusing to casual players, but it follows directly from a proper reading of established rules.  New Curses would, however, require new rulings that contradict previous rules.  The better way to introduce new Curses is to not use the Curse typing at all... like Ruins.

Fan cards don't have to fit into the "Dominion mold", but that is how we judge them.  You could also use this defense for targeted attacks, but people will criticize such fan cards and rightly so.

Throwing off the balance of Curses is dangerous because it directly impacts a whole bunch of separate cards at once.  It could be like saying all VP cards are now worth 2 extra VP, or all Reactions are now non-terminal, or all gainers now gain to your hand, or all cards that draw now draw one less.  This kind of balance change is not an interaction between cards, like strong trashing vs. Cursing cards.  it's a shift of an entire class of cards.  With one individual trashing card, you can adjust its effects or cost as needed to achieve balance.  But here we already have a bunch of set cards. 

Again, it's not impossible.  But man, this is a whole lot of mess for not very much gain.  If you make the new Curse such that you maintain some semblance of balance, it's probably not going to be different enough from old Curse to be any interesting.

Someone has been reading the Secret Histories again, hasn't he?

The real easy option is that you could make a new "Curse" and just use those instead of the -1VP "Curse" that came with the game. Now nothing changes. (This would not allow multiple piles of Curses though.)

No, it's been a while since I've read them.  If I had read them recently, I'd be able to bring up a direct quote.  I think replacing Curses with new Curses is either going to be a balancing mess or relatively uninteresting, especially since you'd need them to be different from both Curses and Ruins.

I was at a local board game convention this weekend.  Learned some new games, played a bunch of others, mostly with people I did not know.  One friend was also at the convention, but not the whole time.  I like reflecting on new games, and I will share it here as well for anybody who cares to read.  I'll also talk about two tournaments I entered and some other games I played.

New Games I Learned

Five Tribes
2p with a friend.  I enjoyed it, but the intense analysis paralysis makes me hesitant to play it again.  It might be better with more than 2 players.  With only 2, you bid for turn order with two pieces each.  I found that getting a double turn was far more important than vying for first player, so I just went for that every time.  I don't think I ever paid money for turn order.  The double turn also adds AP because you have to think through how you want to set yourself up.  I completely destroyed my friend in this game, probably because I handle AP better than he does.

??? Prototype
I don't remember what the game was called, but it was a prototype.  There wasn't an NDA but I won't say too much about it anyway.  It is a bluffing game inspired by Coup, with the intention of making it a deeper experience with somewhat lengthier play time.  I've never actually played Coup so I can't compare very well, but it was still pretty quick (about 30 minutes, I think).  We played twice.  My friend crushed us the first game.  The second game was extremely close but a bit of luck allowed me to take the win in the end.  There was one small aspect that I think was overpowered, but it's tough to tell with just 2 plays.  Overall I was pretty impressed with the design.

Played with 4.  Really, really neat game.  Everything is colourful and looks good.  It played smoothly and felt tightly balanced.  There were tough choices pretty much every turn, but it always felt like there was something good for you to do.  There is some light engine building and the possibility of cool combos.  I lost to the owner of the game by about 2 points (it was relatively new for her as well; it was actually somebody else who taught us).  Definitely try this if you get the chance (and note, it is playable on Boite a Jeux).

4p game only with strangers, all new to the game.  I've been interested in this one for a long time just because of that neat rondel mechanism.  There was some rules confusion early on and probably some accidental cheating by all by the end, what with all the tiny cards with special abilities.  Also, it is really easy to jostle the rondel and get all your cubes mixed up, as one other player discovered.

Early on, my strategy was mainly to get the things that were easy to build.  Whenever I started taking too long with analysis paralysis I defaulted to choosing the biggest dice, giving me giant heaps of resources to deal with in later turns.  This worked to my advantage in the end because I was able to fuel a giant cross-map spree to sell 3 different goods.  I won with a moderately healthy lead.

There was at least one special power I had that we all misinterpreted early on, but it only gave me $2.  Not sure how much of a difference it would have made.  There may also have been other rules that we all missed because we mostly just skimmed the rulebook.  I may actually read it later to see.

Overall impression is good.  Again, I liked having all the tough choices, special powers and multiple paths to victory.  I do think that it gets a bit unwieldy at the end, when we had a dozen different tiny cards that all did different things.  I couldn't really keep track of my opponents' actions at all.  But yeah, it was fun.

Kingdom Builder
4p game.  The scoring cards were Knights (build in a horzontal line), Miners (build next to mountains) and Farmers (build in all four quadrants).  I don't remember their names but the special powers were [extend a line], [build 1 on grass], [move 1 to just-played terrain] and [move 1 onto water].

On my first turn I went for the line-extending power, but it was actually a bad choice because it got me stuck in a really poor location.  I also had some bad luck -- I purposely avoided being adjacent to flowers terrain, but I never drew a single flowers card.  Two other players were similarly lost, though one recovered a bit by the end.

My friend though.  Oh man.  He also used his first placement for the line-extending power, but his second placement allowed him to go across the map and grab the place-on-grass power AND put him in position on a nearly unimpeded horizontal line that also happened to go past a large number of mountain regions.  It was pretty much a perfect location.  By the end of the game, he had also managed to land a cluster in the fourth quadrant, allowing to score well on all 3 cards.  He wiped the floor with us.  He likes the game. :P

As for me, it actually left me feeling a little cold.  Granted, a large part of that is probably because my friend won by such a huge lead and it was completely predictable from about round 4 on.  Even in retrospect I don't think there was anything we could have done to stop him.  That said, I expect I would have a better time on second play because I have a better idea of how to look for a good starting placement.  Moreover, I expect that the mix of new special powers and scoring cards would really appeal to me, much like how Dominion really clicks when you play your second game with a whole new kingdom.  I'll play it again if I get the chance.

Tournaments I Played

It was a poor tournament setup, but I wasn't expecting it to be good based on previous years (when I had not participated).  Everybody played 3 preliminary matches.  They were all 4p games with base only, and each set of matches used the same kingdom for all.  Every preliminary match had Gardens, one had Witch, two had Chapel (and these were randomly dealt, not designed kingdoms).  Some specific number of semi-finalists were chosen based on how many wins they got out of their 3 prelim matches.  Of course, with only 3 matches (and the chaos of 4p base), there is not much spread in there.  Their tie-break solution was to use your actual scores from each game, which were incredibly variable.  Some groups had extremely low scoring games, others extremely high (mainly depending on how Gardens got played).

Anyway, my first match was OK.  The player to my right made some rules mistakes early on (she was nesting actions and also shuffling just-played actions back into her deck mid-turn) that got her some early Gold and 2 Provinces.  The other 2 players did not want to start over so we played on.  She was very nice about it when we corrected her (and also very nice when we played Macao together later on); I have no doubt that they were honest mistakes.  I won in the end, but my score probably would have been higher if she hadn't  those 2 provinces.

My second match was terrible.  I somehow did not notice a couple of key cards during the opening and did a lot of other really idiotic things.  I lost horribly and it was completely my fault.

My third match was just a matter of bad luck.  I went for a Gardens rush, another started going for Gardens as well but did not commit, and a third half-heartedly started following halfway through the game.  I got a favourable Gardens split and the game ended on piles, but I lost by one point.  I was a single card off from Gardens levelling up.  Heartbreaking.

I know that some other players who only had 1 win got to to move on to the semi-finals because their one win came from a group that had extremely bloated scores from huge Gardens.  So yeah.  Disappointing.  But I was really, really stupid in my second game, so I put that on me.

7 Wonders
I hadn't played this in about a year.  It was base only.  The tournament structure had six tables with (I think) 7 players each.  The winner from each table advanced to the final table.  Very simple.  By tournament rules, you could not choose between sides A and B; you got what you were dealt.  They allowed us to change that if everybody at the table agreed on a method.  Personally, I much prefer the choice.

In the first round, my table agreed on only using side A (there were a couple of players who were still new to the game, and I preferred that over full random).  I was dealt Giza.  My friend had Alexandria on my left and my other neighbour had Babylon.  I think it's a bit problematic for a tournament to allow friends to sit next to each other due to the chance of collusion, but whatever.

The strategy with Giza is pretty straight forward.  I was really resource-starved after Age I (I had to pass on two Caravanseries because I had no access to a second wood, and I had to discard for coin at least once) but I managed to make it up by the end of Age II.

A highlight -- for the final hand of Age I, I had to choose between left and right Trading Posts.  Since Alexandria was left, I figured it would be better to trade right.  By the end of the game, I had purchased Ore from Alexandria 3-5 times.  The only thing I bought from Babylon were commodities, so I never got any use out of that TP.

Another highlight -- I built my second wonder stage on the first turn of Age III, burying a Palace that I couldn't afford.  I was then passed the second Palace, which I immediately buried for stage 3 (other options were poor too).  I think the third hand allowed me to get the Arena, so I actually built my wonder stages just in time.
One of the "rookie" players actually ended in second place by a single point (bolstered a lot by a big Philosopher's Guild -- the one that counts neighbour's science).  I was first!  And if I had built the correct trading post in Age I, I could have done even better. :P

At the finalists table, at least two really wanted to play full random.  I ended up with Babylon B.  Babylon has always been my least favourite base game wonder.  In last year's tournament I got Babylon A for the initial table and came in second (I think).  As it turned out, the person who won at my table last year also won that tournament, and this year she was on my left with Ephesos B (my favourite wonder)!  I didn't realize it was her until the end of the game.  She also told me that Ephesos was her least favourite wonder.  On my right was Alexandria, but there was an empty chair between us so I ended up paying less attention to what he was doing.  Anyway, I like Babylon B better than Babylon A.  But still, I am not a fan.

Age I was not good for me.  I only got a few resources and commodities, 1 science card (tablet) and a couple of weak blues.  Halikarnassos (left of Ephesos) also went science.  Even though she was downstream from me, she got a better science start (having cloth to begin really helped her).  I got my tablet before Hali had started on science, and luckily nobody else followed suit (probably because everybody was savvy enough to know that 3 science players spells doom for all).

My Age II was much better.  By the end of it I had all three commodities, a Caravansery, my first two wonder stages (and the resources to build the third), a military card and a couple more science.  Hali was still doing better on science thanks to her round 2 passing advantage.  IIRC she was almost done her second set while I only had two tablets and a gear.  I also had a decent amount of money thanks to Ephesos purchasing from me.

My 2 military beat Ephesos (at 0) but Alexandria was going steady on red.  It was weird because Rhodes was on his right, and Rhodes did not even try to fight back.  Alexandria did not go overboard on reds either, I think he built 2 in Age I and one more in Ages II and III.  At the end of the game, he said he just doesn't like to let other people win military.  I don't know if he gets into counter-productive arms races, but it worked out fine for him at our table.  He built up just enough to deter us from competing.

Age III was scary.  Unlike the Dominion tournament, it was clear that everybody at the table knew what they were doing.  Everybody could actually afford things.  The very first hand was scary because my neighbour Ephesos' first card was the Philosopher's Guild (VP for neighbour's green).  By the end of the game, it was worth 15 points for her.  Insanity!

By the end of the game, I had not seen a single Guild card in my hand.  Hali ended with 2 sets of science plus a tablet and gear (so, short 1 compass for set 3).  Olympia (seated between Hali and Rhodes) and Alexandria got most of the guilds between them, with almost all of them being beneficial for them (Alexandria built the Scientist's Guild to deny me).  Rhodes got many of the blues, but Ephesos had the biggest blue stack.  That blue stack was very intimidating; on my last turn I had to buy a resource from a neighbour and that big line of blue pushed me to pay it to Alexandria.

As for myself, I ended the game with exactly 2 science sets plus my final wonder (which I only built because that hand was really bad) for a science score of 31.  Hali's science score was 36, so I really managed to catch up.  I had a smattering of VP from all other sources (except for guilds).  Notably, Ephesos still had not built a red card.  I think the main reason was because she knew I could trump her, since I was passing to her.  I didn't built any age III reds either, so my one age II red managed to net me 8VP.

All scores were over 50 at the end.  My neighour Ephesos, the previous champion, clocked in at 63.  She was second place.  I scored 64 points.  Yes, I won both games by a single point.  My prize was a $40 gift card for our local board game cafe and, more importantly, a really fun story.

Other Games I Played

Dead of Winter
I taught a group of 4 strangers how to play.  There was some good thematic stuff going on, with my John Price, the student, following the principal to the school to rummage around.  Despite the possibility of a traitor, it turned out that everybody was good.  We all managed to fulfill our secret objectives (me on the last turn, running to the hospital to find medicine).  We all had fun.

Later on, I noticed that some people (including a couple from the DoW game) were playing Splendor for the first time and doing so very incorrectly.  They thought that the Nobles also counted your chips, not just your purchased cards, so there was one player sitting on a bunch of chips with 3 nobles and only one card bought.  I let them know their mistake, there was a collective lightbulb moment and they restarted their game.

One of the players had to leave so they invited me to join them.  I'm still pretty unfamiliar with the game, but it was fun.  One guy won pretty handily (about 4+ points ahead of the rest of us), but they all really enjoyed the engine building aspect (which was, of course, absent when they had their rules misunderstanding).  He won by focusing on the level 1 buildings early on when the rest of us were going between levels 1 and 2 trying to net some points.  It seemed like he was behind, but then suddenly he was getting noble after noble (not all on the same turn -- we remembered that rule) and he was suddenly buying the level 2 cards with ease.  They all wanted to play again.

Now we were all savvy to this tactic so we all went at it.  I kind of stumbled about at first but I somehow managed to get a combination that coincided with multiple nobles.  The previous winner (on my right) and I were going for the same colours while the other two players were competing with each other.  I managed to stay two steps ahead of my counterpoint.  We actually ran out of the level 1 cards.

There was one key moment.  My neighbour picked up 3 chips with the intention of buying the only available level 2 black gem (what kind of gems are those, anyway?).  He did not notice that I already had everything needed to buy it, which I did.  The amazing thing was that it wasn't only him who groaned -- the other two players cried out as well.  I was barely paying attention to them because they were aiming for different nobles, but they both wanted black cards as well.  It was hilarious and wonderful.  I won that game with a good lead.  The others expressed an interest in buying a copy in the future, which was even sweeter than the win.  It's always nice when everybody at the table has a good time.

For the record, I know that this "spam tier 1 cards" strategy may not actually be the most competitive.  I've read reviews that talk about tournaments where the winners build point-scoring cards (read: not tier 1) almost exclusively.  I just have no idea how that works.

Betrayal At House on the Hill
I will avoid spoilers here.

At the very end of the conference, my friend and I ran into another friend of mine (plus two of his friends).  He had just purchased a copy of Betrayal and was punching out the tokens.  They invited us to join them for a game, so we obliged.  Most of the other players got buffed pretty heavily.  My sanity went up extremely high, but my physical stats got nerfed into the ground and I never found a single item or omen.

I ended up becoming the traitor anyway, but it was late in the game, I was super weak, the others were powerful and loaded with items and useful omens, and key haunt-specific items for the heroes spawned just a couple tiles away from one of the heroes.  My character was killed immediately, though that was not the end of the game because I still had a monster that they had to defeat.

Unfortunately, all my movement rolls were really bad.  Instead of running at the separated heroes and picking them off one by one, my monster just travelled a single tile each turn for a few rounds, allowing the heroes to group up together.  When the groups finally collided, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion.  Nonetheless, it took about 4 full rounds for them to bring down my creature.  It was hilarious.

I just learned this game recently; we've actually been playing it here in the games forum.  I did not actually play it this weekend, but I found a used copy of it for $20 at the convention flea market.  Everything was in good condition and the discount was steep.  I am enjoying the game online so I decided to pick it up.  I don't think it is particularly innovative and the theme feels a bit generic, but the mechanics seem solid and, from what I can tell, there are multiple viable paths to victory.  There are a lot of tough choices and a lot of stuff to think about in the game, but it also seems very simple to teach and learn.  I look forward to playing it IRL.

Overall, it was a very good weekend.

General Discussion / Poll inspired by The Mask: Are you smokin'?
« on: March 19, 2015, 07:31:58 pm »
If you are indeed ssssssssssssssmokin', how ssssssssssssssmokin' are you?

(Edit: Also, how do I make the poll results visible to all?  Or is that working properly even though it says "admins only"?)

Variants and Fan Cards / Draw From the Bottom
« on: March 10, 2015, 08:13:41 pm »
$2 - Action
Put a card from your hand on top of your deck.
+3 Cards

While this is in play, when you would draw from the top of your deck, draw from the bottom instead.

This idea came from a cheeky answer to a design challenge, but the more I think about it the more I think it's actually kind of interesting.

I think the $2 cost is justified by comparing it to Courtyard.  Courtyard has an advantage in that it top-decks after drawing, giving you more options and more control.  Charnel has a potential advantage when combined with other draw, including more copies of itself.  You won't draw back the card you just top-decked so your subsequent draws let you see more cards, and you have a greater ability to set up your next turn.

As written, you still use the top of the deck when you look at or reveal cards from the top.  This could be confusing, but it also creates several interesting interactions (e.g. Wandering Minstrel, Wishing Well, Ironmonger, just to name a few).  Is the confusion worth it?


General Discussion / Twig (Web Serial) Discussion
« on: March 10, 2015, 04:48:19 pm »
Wildbow, author of Worm, has just wrapped up his second serial, Pact.  His new venture Twig is just starting up, so I was wondering if anybody is interested in keeping up a discussion thread here.

Feedback / Domain Expired
« on: February 24, 2015, 10:09:25 pm »
Uh oh! Your blog’s domain expired yesterday!

Renewal needed!

Dominion General Discussion / Tom Vasel's Top 10 (Favourite) Cards
« on: January 28, 2015, 07:47:42 pm »

What are your favourite cards, power level aside?

Variants and Fan Cards / Inspired by Donald's Persuasive Procurer
« on: December 10, 2014, 04:24:20 pm »
Eminent Domain
$5 - Action-Attack
In your buy phase this turn, the other players reveal their hands.  You may buy a card from another player.  He gains coin tokens equal to the card's cost in coins.

I think this may work because it gives the targeted player major compensation.  As the attacker, you'd mainly use this on high value VP cards, Potion cards and important contested piles (especially if they're already empty).  If there are no +Buys on the board, the attack also stands out as one of opportunity cost.  Yes, the victim gets a bunch of coin tokens, but he also loses a Buy.  Note that each play of this card only lets you buy one card from another player; you need multiple plays to buy multiple cards from others.

The primary problem with this card is that it is rather political.  A way to fix this is to limit it to the player on your left.

A second problem is that it's probably too weak most of the time, but overly strong in rare cases.  Instead of +$2, it could give 2 coin tokens.  It could also get some limits.  If it could not gain Victory cards, it would be a niche attack for contesting splits and inflicting opportunity cost on others.  So maybe:

$5 - Action-Attack
Take 2 coin tokens.  In your buy phase this turn, the player on your left reveals his hand.  You may buy a card that is not a Victory card from him.  He gains coin tokens equal to card's cost in coins.


Other Games / Thoughts on Digital-Board Hybrid Games?
« on: November 04, 2014, 08:59:33 pm »
Alchemists is a recent release that has earned a lot of buzz, a lot of which stems from the use of a "mandatory" app.  The app isn't actually mandatory, but without it you would need a moderator with a rather boring job for a very long game.

XCOM: The Board Game is a cooperative game that has a mandatory app which manages the alien invaders.

Most interesting to me (and what prompts this topic) is a a game that is currently on Kickstarter: World of Yo-Ho.  This looks to be a far heavier integration than either Alchemists or XCOM (though I don't know much about the XCOM game, other than the fact that it needs an app).  It's a pirate game where the ships are represented by players' phones.  There is also a pass-and-play version if there aren't enough phones to go around.  You use one phone to manage all the app bits and use tokens to track individual ship locations.

It looks like the app is necessary for the following:

- random events (e.g. weather conditions, undersea monsters, wreckage, messages in bottles)
- randomly generated missions which can change depending on the player's actions

It also provides some other benefits:

- easier setup and less space needed
- save games for future sessions
- higher immersion (via sound and animation)

It all looks very slick.  Even so, I won't be backing the campaign because I want to see how well it pans out.  The lowest reward tier still offers a fully playable game at $35.

Any thoughts about this game, or the incorporation of digital components in general?

Variants and Fan Cards / Ranger
« on: October 29, 2014, 07:04:20 pm »
$8 - Action
Set this aside.  At the start of each of your turns, reveal the top 4 cards of your deck.  Put the revealed Victory cards into your hand.  Put the other cards on top of your deck in any order.

This card is basically the Prince of Scouts.  It isn't exactly the same as a Princed Scout.  It does not give you an extra +1 action, because the point of Ranger (like Scout) is to vacuum up green from the top of your deck.  Compared to actually playing Prince on Scout, Ranger has less opportunity cost because you don't need to buy a Scout and you don't need to get two cards to collide.  Compared to Prince+anything else, this has the advantage of not needing to collide with anything (and not needing to permanently set aside a copy of that thing), but the potential benefit is arguably lower.

But does it work?  Is it interesting?  Theoretically, this card could actually enable interesting hybrid VP strategies in the way Scout wishes it could.  It also has interactions with cards that care about handsize like Secret Chamber and Vault, as well as cards that care about the top of your deck like Wishing Well and Mystic.  Outside of combos, this card should also allow you to green earlier and with greater impunity.

If it does work, could a similar treatment be given to other cards?

Other Games / Dead of Winter
« on: October 13, 2014, 11:43:59 pm »
Played my first game of Dead of Winter today, with 3 players total.  It was fun!

We did the recommended main scenario ("We Need More Samples").  My secret objective was "Germophobe" -- to not take any wounds on any of my characters.  My group leader was Sparky the stunt dog and my first follower was Bev Tyler, mother.

The player to my left (I'll call him K) had a doctor as his group leader.  I forget who his first follower was because she died on the first turn.  His secret objective was "Masochist" -- one of his characters had to have at least 2 wound tokens at the end of the game.

The player to my right (will call him L) had Kodiak (the promo character), who is self sufficient (doesn't count towards food needs and zombie additions), and Buddy, who takes 4 wounds to kill instead of 3.  IIRC, his goal was to have at least 4 cards in hand at the end of the game.

(Our objectives were indeed kept secret.  Nobody ended up as a betrayer though.)

In the first round, one of K's characters went to the grocery store to search for food.  A zombie there bit her.  She got a sample though.  On the same turn he pulled a new character, a Janitor.

L sent Buddy out to the police station, but it immediately triggered a Crossroads card.  No spoilers, but the end result was that Buddy became a cold-blooded warrior who was able to attack once per round without rolling for exposure.

Since I was trying to have no wounds, I immediately sent Sparky out to the hospital.  I used fuel to keep him safe from exposure.  I got an event card to add one character to my following as well as a helpless survivor, which was great because it would allow Bev Tyler to shine.  My new follower was Talia, a fortune teller.  Her special ability wasn't that helpful but she was amazing at searching for stuff.  I also sent her out to the hospital, using another fuel.

Subsequent rounds were surprisingly breezy.  Bev Tyler was a zombie killing machine thanks to her special ability.  Sparky was a decent fighter and every roll of the exposure die went well for me.  Buddy was also good at taking out zombies, and Kodiak got better as well when he was equipped with a pistol.

IIRC, we managed to fulfill the main objective on the third round thanks to L's powerful fighters.  At this point, K's doctor character had joined Sparky and Talia at the hospital.  4 zombies were there now, so I planned to run back to the colony and leave the doctor to fend for herself.  I spent most of my actions searching for medicine, eventually adding all 4 noise tokens to the spot.  Anybody still there was in serious trouble.

On Sparky's way home, he ran into a pirate who ended up usurping the dog's place as faction leader.  C'est la vie.  He also got a wound from exposure, but some medicine fixed that up nicely.  Talia got bitten on her way home.  I opted to let another of my characters die rather than risk the bite spreading further.

K spent his last turn gambling on getting the doctor out of the infested hospital and getting the correct amount of wounds on his doctor to fulfill his secret objective.

We won in the end, pretty easily.  In retrospect, it would have been easier for me to leave all my characters at the hospital.  Even if one of them died, my objective would still be met.  I think it may be worth trying a variant that makes a betrayer more probable.  I'm excited to play again!

General Discussion / Book to Film and TV
« on: October 08, 2014, 09:56:30 pm »
The Homage thread has had enough.  Let's talk here?

It's not that it's in an alternate universe, it's that it's a different piece of entertainment/art. It's based on the same universe, and the story is the same in broad strokes, but it's purpose is not to be the books put on screen.

But isn't that exactly the purpose?  Unless it's supposed to be a spin-off or sequel or something...

I don't know.  To me, that's like saying "the purpose of Dominion Online is not to be the game put online".

(Tried to find a meme for that statement, but none seemed appropriate.  Insanity Wolf, maybe?)
That's actually a great analogy. Real life dominion doesn't have point counters or veto mode, but the variant created for online play is still clearly based on it.

From everything I hear of Game of Thrones though, it's not so much "Almost Dominion, but with some online variants."  It's more like "Dominion at the start of the game, but every time you buy a kingdom card you also gain a card from the nearest copy of Ascension, the Curse stack is replaced by a Euchre deck, and you win by taking more tricks than your opponents."

Interesting.  Is this hyperbole?  If they deviate so much, why?  I understand that some concessions have to be made for film, but television doesn't suffer the same time constraints.  There also has to be some change to accomodate the different medium.  Shows tend to avoid excessive narration, especially from multiple characters, so they'd have to work a bit to convey what characters are thinking.  And pacing would have to be adjusted to make individual episodes cohesive in theme and roughly chronological.  But you make it sound like far more liberties are taken...

Other Games / Rules for 7 Wonders: Babel now available
« on: October 02, 2014, 02:30:43 am »
English rules here.

It looks more interesting than I thought it would be.  The Tower module looks like it could be really disruptive, notably:

- a tile that makes wonders free to build
- a tile that disables Trading Post, Marketplace, Caravansery and Forum
- a tile that disables the Age I mixed resources and the Age II double resources
- a tile that converts the single resources into INFINITE RESOURCES
- tiles that buff or nerf military VP values

A lot of shenanigans to be had here.

The Great Projects module is pretty neat too.  The rewards can be very powerful while the penalties can hurt a lot.

Overall, I like how much replayability the expansion adds.  Given how game-changing some of these effects are, each game can feel very different depending on what Tower tiles are built and which Projects are selected.  It remains to be seen whether the game-changing effects are fun or if they just feel too chaotic.

Other Games / BattleCON: War of Indines
« on: May 30, 2014, 04:48:33 pm »
The kickstarter for a new edition of this game has just been launched.

BattleCON is basically the board game version of a fighting game.  It's pretty highly praised for its gameplay and the sheer variety of characters to choose from, each of which feel very different.  War of Indines was the original game and there was a stand-alone expansion called Devastation of Indines.  This KS project is for the "remastered" version of War, with updated graphics and some mechanical tweaks.

Has anybody played this game before?  It is high on my list of games to try.  I am extremely tempted to back this, but will probably sit out because:

- I pretty much never get to play 2 player games.
- I have too many other games that I rarely get to play.
- A friend of mine has already stated his intent to pick this one up.

If you haven't looked into BattleCON before, I think it's worth checking out.  It looks really fun!

Dominion General Discussion / Is Possession an Attack?
« on: May 14, 2014, 08:52:27 pm »
one of the reasons why Possession isn't an attack :)

I'm pretty sure the main reason Possession isn't an attack is because it doesn't directly harm an opponent, unlike every other card that bears the attack type. :P

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