Gamechurch's Gen Con Games Jesus Would Love

by April-Lyn Caouette

I recently went to Gen Con 50 as part of the editorial team for Gamechurch.com, and we demoed tons of games. We also interviewed a bunch of game designers. After some deliberation, we came up with a list of games from the con that we think Jesus would love. This is part one of three of that list.

http://gamechurch.com/gen-con-50-part-1/
Source: GitNG @ BoardGameGeek

Arranged! takes on arranged marriage

Processing my trip to Gen Con and starting to sort through all the demos and interviews we did while we were there. That content will start showing up on gamechurch.com soon and I hope to write a little about it here. In the meantime, here’s an article about how one woman made a board game to address the issue of arranged marriage in Pakistan—while avoiding¬†her own.

https://broadly-bkstg.vice.com/en_us/article/d33dzm/nashra-balagamwala-arranged-marriage-board-game

Nope, still losing…

 

by April-Lyn Caouette

After swearing I’d post after each games night… I’ve now missed two. Not out of perfectionism, but plain forgetfulness.

The highlight from Wednesday was that I got to play two of my favorite games with people who hadn’t played them before: Puerto Rico and Alien Frontiers. Puerto Rico is one that I gave away when I moved to California, and I was glad to find someone else who owned a copy they wanted to play. It’s one of those classics I think everyone burned out on long ago but still stands the test of time. I think my favorite part of it is that while there isn’t a ton of direct player interaction, you do need to pay attention to what your opponents are doing. Sometimes the best move is to make a move that will block your opponent from scoring more points than you. Too many euros are glorified games of solitaire. I also like that victory points are hidden, so at some level you need to keep track of how many points your opponents are scoring as you go. Are they making lots of shipments? Are those chips in front of them all fives or all ones? How much trouble are you in, really? It was a joy to be able to share this game for the first time with a friend who is no stranger to Euro games.

Then on to Alien Frontiers, which the other J hadn’t played before. Honestly my favorite thing about that game isn’t the game play at all. It’s the components. The artwork so accurately reflects the golden age of sci-fi cover art that it was inspired by, down to the colors they used. I love the mechanic of rolling dice and placing them as workers. And the only thing that would make the little plastic colonies from the Upgrade Pack better is if they were tiny snow globes I could shake between turns to keep myself entertained.

Saturday I played my brand new copy of This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us, which besides having an entertaining title is a great little filler game. Also had a chance to play another game of 7 Wonders Duel, which I have decided I enjoy a good deal more than 7 Wonders. Although I’m also feeling the itch to add 7 Wonders to our regular rotation again for when we need a 7 player game. I was sick of it for a long time, but I think I’m ready to play it again.

This weekend the Ventura County Strategy Boardgamers are hosting two consecutive Thanksgiving weekend gaming days: FATDOG (Friday After Thanksgiving Day Of Gaming) followed by DOGCAT (Days Of Gaming Continued After Thanksiving), which I’m hosting at my church building. I will do my best to NOT forget to post about those two events!
Source: GitNG @ BoardGameGeek

 

Winning against Perfectionism

by April-Lyn Caouette

I haven’t posted to this blog for a long time because my expectations for myself got in the way. I have these grand ideals about posting lengthy analyses about every game night, complete with pictures, and when I’m attending 7-10 game nights a month, that just gets ridiculous. Maybe I can work my way back up to that as I get back into the habit.

When I can’t meet my grandiose goals for myself, the voice of my inner critic paralyzes me and I decide that rather than do a half-assed job and fail to live up to expectations, I’ll just quit altogether. Pretend it doesn’t exist.

I’ve decide that’s dumb and I’m setting a new goal for myself: each time I game, write about one particularly memorable moment. Just a paragraph or two to start. I know some of you were enjoying my longer stories, but if I don’t start this way I’ll never get going again.

Next game night is tomorrow, so feel free to hold me to that and send angry messages if you don’t see a post. ūüôā
Source: GitNG @ BoardGameGeek

A Game by Any Other Name

Set a posting schedule for myself and I already broke it. I’d like to think that calling my dad for Father’s Day and spending the afternoon with a friend is a good excuse. But then last night night I have zero excuse except that Trigun has sucked me in again. I felt a little guilty… but not enough, clearly.

Saturday I made a challenge to myself: I wasn’t going to wrinkle my nose up at any game that was proposed to me, no matter what. I’ve been far too negative about other peoples’ game choices lately, which has limited who I get to play with. I also think it reflects poorly on me – it’s important to me that my gaming isn’t just about me and what I want to do, but rather about supporting community and inclusion by placing others above myself more often than not. Even if it means playing some games that certainly aren’t my top pick. As we learned with Monopoly, sometimes giving a game a second chance has its benefits.

I showed up about 40 minutes after the meetup started, which meant that everyone else was already engaged in a game when I arrived. So I parked myself at an unclaimed table, and took the opportunity to browse the rules for the Bohnanza board game. I haven’t played it yet – every time I think about playing it I decide I’d rather just play Bohnanza instead. But the fact that my eye keeps getting drawn in its direction means I should probably give it a try at some point.

While I was doing this, a pair of women I didn’t recognize walked in. They looked a bit intimidated, so I said hello, asked if they were there for board gaming, and they said yes, but actually they were hoping to play some cards. Part of me thought “Bleh, I want to keep reading these rules!” but I stuck to my agreement with myself and said I’d be happy to play – what game were they thinking of?

Melds for the seventh round: three runs
Melds for the seventh round of Shanghai Rummy: three runs

Their game of choice was a rummy variant called Shanghai, which BGG has listed as just Contract Rummy or California Rummy. As they explained the rules I realized it was a progressive set-building game very similar to Phase 10, and the fourth player who joined us just as we were getting started was familiar with it as Progressive Rook. There was some confusion as all four of us women reconciled the version we knew of the game with the version that was being taught to us, but it didn’t take long before we were all on the same page.

A set and two runs in Shanghai Rummy
Shanghai Rummy: A set and two runs, and apparently one “buy” that hand

The unique elements of this variant are the ability to “buy” a discard on someone else’s turn if the active player doesn’t want it, up to three times per hand and with a “penalty” of an additional card from the draw pile, and the ability to trade the wild card in someone else’s sets or runs with the card it represents from your own hand. I wasn’t entirely keen on playing such a long card game as my first game of the day when there were a number of other people I’d been looking forward to playing with, but it was nice to be able to welcome a few new people to our community, even if just for a few hours. Maybe next time they’ll be brave enough to try something new!

Shanghai Rummy: One set and one run
Shanghai Rummy: One set and one run

When our game was finished, a few more people had arrived and were hovering awkwardly at various tables. So I roped them in to learning The Builders: Middle Age with me. One of them was a brand new board gamer and opted to just observe instead of playing, so it ended up just being two of us.

Using my circular saw to build the Stables in a game of The Builders: Middle Ages.
Using my circular saw to build the Stables in a game of The Builders: Middle Ages. Not sure why there’s a circular saw in the middle ages…

The Builders was a fun little game, but a little over the head of our newbie gamer. He asked if everything we played in the group had a steep learning curve, and I assured him that we played all sorts of games, and also that everyone in the group was friendly and willing to teach games to newcomers. I was impressed that he showed up alone and with no board gaming experience! To demonstrate that some of the games we played were short and easy to pick up, and to hopefully entice him to visit us again, I grabbed a copy of Red7.

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Forgot to take a picture of gameplay so here’s the box

At first I feared I’d misstepped again and picked another one a little too convoluted for a newcomer. I’d never taught it before and I always get tripped up on how tie disputes are settled – I understand in theory but when it comes to specific examples I get confused. He started to get the hang of it, though – just in time for the game to end… and for him to win. laugh

overview of the board for Wildlife

Another group had just finished up their longer euro moments before Red7 ended. I’d been hoping for exactly that thing to happen since I hadn’t played a game with a couple of them in a while. Two people took that opportunity to leave, and what was left of our two groups joined forces to play a game of¬†Wildlife, which one of the guys had just gotten in a BGG trade. Thematically and visually, it reminded me a little of Inhabit the Earth, which I’m really sad that I still haven’t had the chance to play! (I don’t have the funds to buy it, so I’m hoping one of our more obsessive collectors picks it up soon.)

Crocodile player card for the game Wildlife
My crocodiles in Wildlife. They’re apparently not Plains Crocodiles or Mountain Crocodiles…. yet.

Wildlife was an interesting twist on an area control game. Each player starts with a different species with different abilities in each of six terrain types. Over the course of the game, you can “evolve” your species to travel and/or attack in additional terrains. You can also steal abilities from your opponents, and each turn you are required to auction off one of the action cards in your hand in exchange for food (the game’s currency) – then the player who wins the auction gets to take that action immediately.

The final scores for Wildlife
Men in the lead, followed by the eagles, the crocodiles, the bears, and finally the mammoths

My crocodiles maintained a strong lead for the first half of the game, but my lack of solid strategy started to catch up with me and eventually they were overtaken by the sneaky eagles and the pesky men. There’s more strategy in choosing which cards to auction off than I took advantage of, and that among other oversights almost certainly cost me the game. I let several other players amass much larger herds than I should have, and also probably gave my opponents the opportunities they needed to break up my own herds. As you can see, we had a pretty wide spread of points, and I was right smack in the middle. I don’t feel bad about that at all. Looking forward to giving this one another try now that I have a better grasp of what the heck I’m doing.

Tomorrow is another Wednesday, and then this Saturday is the monthly event I host at my church building. That already has 14 RSVPs and several maybes, and I know that at least five people always put in their RSVPs at the very last moment. So I’m hoping we can beat our March attendance count of 19! (We had an amazing 52 for International Tabletop Day in April, and then in May took a month off so I could recover and my team of helpers wouldn’t mutiny.) I think I’ll continue my “no turning up my nose” challenge through the rest of the week to see what interesting adventures come my way.

Loan Sharks and Restless Natives

Came home from work this afternoon and my roommates plus a friend had just finished a up game of Robinson Crusoe. They had just died after being attacked by a band of cannibals… but not because they were eaten. After defeating the cannibals, they then starved to death. If only they’d been able to eat the cannibals…

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Rewind to last night. After Wednesday’s game of Monopoly Deal at games night, I was actually craving a game of Monopoly proper for maybe the first time in fifteen years. I wanted to find out if it was actually the terrible game everyone (including me) has been claiming. But I knew I’d have a hard time getting the folks at any of my local meetups to play. What to do? Enter my housemates. Or at least one of them. M was all for it; B was hesitant when we first asked him before dinner, and straight against playing with us when we brought it up again afterward. That’s fine. Two players was more than enough.

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I’ve been told that if you’re going to play Monopoly, you should do it with the rules as written and omit all the house rules people like to use. In particular, putting payments to the bank on “Free Parking” to be won by the next player to land on it. I was a little sad about that, since it seems like Free Parking is a useless space otherwise. Also I like unexpectedly coming into large sums of money and Get Out of Jail Free cards.

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At first, the game was super slow. Roll, move, purchase property, pass the dice, repeat. But then, as we started to collect sets and run out of cash, things started to get interesting. One rule I never even knew about was that if you decide to not buy a property you land on, the bank has to put it up for auction. There didn’t seem to be much purpose to this in the early stages of the game, and it was actually pretty annoying. But as available properties became more scarce and our funds ran low, auctioning turned out to be a powerful way to get inexpensive properties and/or drive up the price of properties M needed so that she would be forced to either give them to me cheap or go further into debt.

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Several internet friends told me after the fact that the orange properties are statistically the most valuable in the game, and while I don’t care enough right now to look up the statistics I will confirm that holding a full set of orange deeds and steadily building up houses on them was a key to my victory. That, and owning three railroads, and owning all the colored properties on the first side of the board. I was also saved by the foolish deal M made with me – the remaining orange property I needed in exchange for the remaining red property she needed, plus she would waive the rent for the next three times I landed on her red properties. Considering she was deeply in debt at the time, it was too good an offer to pass up.

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As a child, I always assumed that owning Boardwalk and Park Place were important to victory. As an adult, I never played Monopoly enough to question that assumption. Now I know that it’s straight not true. M owned both, with a house on Park Place, and I landed on it at least three times at $175 a pop. It hurt. But not as much as the $900+ rent she couldn’t pay when she landed on Tennessee Ave in the final turn of the game. I crushed her under my oppressive capitalist heel the celebrated my victory by taking a shower and going to bed.

Conclusion: Monopoly wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered it, and was actually a fun diversion for a few hours. It gave me a chance to hang out with M (and B when he wandered over out of curiosity for the last 1/4 of the game) and not have to think too hard about what I was doing.

Also, Free Parking totally has a purpose. Its purpose is to be a safe haven that means you managed to make it half way around the board again and don’t have to pay out to your opponents this turn. Similarly, being in jail can actually be a good thing once all the properties have been purchased. It’s three turns where you will probably collect some rent and not have to pay any out in return. Who knew a life of crime could be so cushy?

Is there a game that you either discovered wasn’t nearly as bad as you remembered it, or a game that you’ve dismissed out of hand in the past but might want to give a second chance?

All the Small Things

Warning: this is going to be an image-light post because my phone died at the beginning of games night last night. I managed to get exactly two pictures before we started our first game of the evening.

This was a night full of small games for me – I managed to get in six unique games, eight games total, over a period of four hours. Not bad! First up was Karuba. I’ve been wanting to try it for a month or so now, and B¬†started bringing it regularly a few weeks ago. But each other time it came to the table I’ve been otherwise occupied.

Here is a picture of all my tiles laid out neatly in numerical order:

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And here is a picture of the explorer and temple meeples. I’m a fan.

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Immediately after this picture was when my phone died, so you’ll just have to use your imagination!

I liked this game. The combination of tile-laying, spacial puzzle, risk-management (should I lay down this good tile or spend it for movement points? Will I have enough movement left? Will the other players get ahead of me?) worked well for me. I wouldn’t want to make a steady diet of it, but I’d certainly play it again without hesitation.

While we played that, the other half of the room occupied themselves with a game of Monty Python Fluxx. I’m honestly surprised every time the more “hardcore” gamers play Fluxx – I’m not sure it’s anyone at our night’s favorite game, and even *I* wrinkle my nose up at it most of the time these days. It has its place – and that place is for playing in lines at con, playing late at night at con when your brain is tired but you’re not ready to give up and sleep yet… pretty much, its place is for playing at con.

This is the point where my memory of who played what when gets a little hazy. There was a long game of Panamax played off in one corner, a game of Evolution in the middle of the room, and on our side of the galaxy there were a half dozen shorter games, several of which I got to knock off my “to play” list. First up was Welcome to the Dungeon, one that I’ve been eyeing for months, but wasn’t entirely sure I’d like. “Press your luck” games can be fun, but most of the time they just irritate me. Welcome to the Dungeon turned out to be the former, I’m happy to say, although I wish it had gone on a little longer. I feel like just as we were getting the hang of it, it was over. Maybe if we were more devious with our playing we could have extended the game longer.

Next up was Monopoly Deal. I wouldn’t normally play this sort of game (ie games based on major game company franchises) but I’ve been more willing to give them a chance since I learned that Yahtzee Free for All is actually a pretty fun game. My mom sent me this one in her last care package, and I’ve been looking forward to giving it a try so I could report back to her. It was a success! It some of the parts of Monopoly I like (set collecting, demanding money from your friends) and none of the parts I hate (playing for much too long, landing on your opponent’s properties over and over and over again, hating your friends). Playing it also made me realize that I haven’t played actual Monopoly in maybe 15 years. My roommates and I may remedy that tonight so I can see whether it’s actually the terrible game I’ve been claiming all this time.

Since the rest of the room was still busy in their long games, the three of us kept gaming together, and found three more games we could all agree on – and they all happened to be cooperative! We played two rounds of FUSE, and didn’t win either of them. Although I think we would have won the second round if another restaurant guest hadn’t come over and said “Okay, I’m curious. What are you playing? It looks fun!” I think I did a pretty good job of chasing her away politely by saying, “We’re playing this game called FUSE where you have ten minutes to defuse the bombs in this deck of cards – and we have about four minutes left.” I would have loved to explain further but bombs are Serious Business. I did hold up the box lid for her to see, probably costing us the game but it made me feel less rude.

Two games of that was about all the stress I could handle, so then we moved on to a couple games of Mysterium (bringing my total count for my 100 Play Challenge up to a whopping 17). Turns out being a psychic in a three player game is even harder than being a psychic in a 4+ player game! Of course, we did play on hard mode, too, which made it even trickier. Winning one out of the two games felt pretty good.

To finish the evening off we played a quick 3-player game of Codenames, which we just barely managed to win against the dummy blue team. And that was that! Another Wednesday in the bag.

Now, I’m off to play Monopoly without the help of the “money on Free Parking” rule I’ve always played with. Wish me luck….

Gamers Gone Wild

I hereby vow to do a better job of sticking to a schedule. Here it is Wednesday, almost time for another gaming meetup, and I haven’t blogged about the weekend’s gaming. Plus I have these great Youtube videos I want to share!

On Saturday I took a leisurely drive up the 118 to visit friends in Moorpark who were throwing a “board games and relax” party. I was actually looking more forward to the “relax” part of that invite, as occasionally it would be nice to have a conversation with my friends that doesn’t involve resource management, rules manuals, passing dice, and negotiating treaties.

That… kind of happened. I did have some lovely conversation with one of their friends about indie roleplaying games, and I’ve added a whole bunch to my list of games to try: Lady Blackbird, World Wide Wrestling, Sorcerer,The Final Girl, and Night Witches. He invited me to join in their Apocalypse World game but as much as I’d love to, I think joining a regular RPG campaign isn’t a good fit for my schedule. We left with an understanding that we’ll make some one-shots happen at some indeterminate point in the future. Also he was super jealous that I had the chance to game with Vincent Baker once upon a time. If only I’d known what I had and taken more advantage of living in MA!

Because we were all gamers, there was no way we were going to have a get-together without some games getting played. While we waited for pizza we enjoyed a game of Aye, Dark Overlord. Which it turns out is a lot more fun when you don’t try to use too many rules and just enjoy blaming each other for being bad minions. “Well, you see, your Lordship, yeah, I was going to use my magic wand just as L told me to, but it turns out the wand was made from the wood of an ancient tree, and it didn’t have any magic power. So I sent K to the scorched desert to find a new one. It’s really HER fault the mission failed.” This needs to make its way to our game nights more often.

After we had filled our bodies with delicious pizza, Codenames was next to the table. My new RPG buddy was itching to try it out, and I am always more than happy to teach it. I think maybe I should have used that for my 100 play challenge instead of Mysterium!

After three rounds, we switched to Telestrations. I haven’t decided yet if I like it less or more than its big brother¬†Telephone Pictionary, but in either form it’s a worthy addition to any game night. Adding to the challenge/hilarity was the team of father-and-five-year-old-girl. I wish I’d taken pictures of their artwork!

Once the kids had left, the rest of us settled in for some games of Fibbage. It seems like that has become the default way to end the evening at least half the time at our gaming parties. It is also the time that we are the most mature. Even if there hasn’t been drinking involved, most of the answers end up devolving to fart and booby jokes, because really, winning is secondary to getting your friends’ approval as the funniest liar and deep down we’re all ten-year-olds pretending to be adults. Also, somehow, T and K won a few rounds despite not even being there.

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Thus ended another night of gaming. I used to be super snobby about party games, and I’m glad to discover there are party games I enjoy that my friends also enjoy. Gone are the days when I have to cringe as yet another game of Pictionary, Charades, or Trivial Pursuit comes out of the closet.

Also, I promised some videos. First, the reasons that Heroquest is the best game ever made. It’s hard to argue with this guy’s logic. If it wouldn’t mean taking Heroquest away from a seven-year-old who’s really enjoying it with his dad, I might try to retrieve my copy from MA after watching this excellent argument.

Then there’s this French video that Stuart shared on his blog today. It’s funny because it’s all true, down to the confused reactions of non-gamers.

However, just once I’d like to see a video where the gamers are predominantly women and the non-gamers are men. Us ladies game too! And we have the same difficulties in communicating with non-gamers that you menfolk have. I don’t understand why more women aren’t interested in this hobby (and not just because their husbands and boyfriends drag them into it). I guess it’s the same reason that math and science are always struggling to find ways to get more women involved. It’s frustrating. Sometimes it would be nice to complain about resource management AND my nails to someone who isn’t going to simply be tolerating me on one or the other of those topics.

A Strange Game

Last night being Friday night and also the release of the first season of Voltron: Legendary Defender on Netflix, a couple of the guys and I grabbed some Chinese takeout and put Netflix up on our church projector screens while they did some work around the sanctuary.  I figured it was a  perfect time for me to catch up on my blogging.
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Sadly, I underestimated how distracting awesome robotic space lions would be, so blogging was only moderately successful and here I am finishing it up on Saturday morning instead.

Twilight Struggle was the first challenge of Wednesday¬†evening’s games. While K refreshed my memory on the rules from the explanation he gave me at Gamex, the rest of the gang played a short game of Yardmaster, and then settled in for¬†a not-short 7-player game of Caverna: the Cave Farmers. ¬†Yikes.

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This game is not for the faint of heart.

T.S. wasn’t nearly as mechanically complicated as I expected it to be. Cutting my teeth on games like Agricola,¬†Eclipse, Twilight Imperium,¬†and Kanban: Automotive Revolution made it a lot less intimidating than it would have been before those monsters. Not that it was easy or I came anywhere close to not getting completely crushed. So many things to keep track of! So many decisions! So much potential for mistake! So much opportunity for global thermonuclear war! (I kept wanting to make obscure War Games references but most people haven’t watched it as often or as obsessively as I have.)

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I opted for the strategy of making the rookie mistakes in my first game so I could see what would happen. So far I’ve learned to coup often and especially when I have the advantage (and before DEFCON drops too low), to not get too excited about non-battlefield countries, and to definitely not ignore Africa in the mid-game. That last one was what ultimately lost me the game – the US should not have been able to score 11 points in one go, but I was too busy trying to increase my standings in Central America to notice or care about¬†the US domination in Africa.

Playing Vietnam Revolts early on gave me an early advantage in Southeast Asia. It didn't last.
Playing Vietnam Revolts early on gave me an early advantage in Southeast Asia. It didn’t last. K really fought to keep India and it went downhill for the USSR from there.

I was happy to discover that not only did I not hate this game Рdespite losing I actually really enjoyed myself.  I would happily play again.

Since it was 9:30 and the other seven weren’t anywhere near done with ultramega Caverna, we decided we had time for one more short two-player game before it was time to be responsible adults and head home to sleep. I saw that one of the guys picked up the chess-like game Onitama at Gamex, and I’d just learned about it on BGG earlier in the week. It claimed to take 15 minutes to play, which sounded exactly right.

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At first it seemed like 15 minutes was much too short an estimate for how much thought we were putting into our moves, but then the game ended suddenly when K realized he had me not in check but in checkmate. You win this time, sir, but next time I’ll be ready for you! (And will probably still lose, but whatevs.)

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Demonstrating his mad kung-fu skillz

When I first started in modern board gaming, my problem was finding enough good two-player games to play. I didn’t have a regular gaming group anymore, so it was just me and my then-husband. We played a lot of cribbage, Hacienda, and Munchkin (until I refused to play it with him anymore). ¬†Now I have the opposite problem – so much of my gaming is in large groups of ten or more that I don’t get to enjoy two-player gaming as often as I’d like. Gaming¬†in groups of 4-5 is great, but sometimes I’d prefer the intimacy of one-on-one gaming with a good friend, or as a way to know¬†a new friend better. And there are so many more great two-player games available than there were in the mid 2000’s (or at least, a lot more that I know about now that I’m in community with other board game collectors).

Now that I’ve played Twilight Struggle, I only have two more games on my BGG Top Ten list to play! Turns out both of them are massive Vlaada games, too: Mage Knight and Through the Ages. (Technically the updated version of¬†Through the Ages is also the top ten, but I’ve been told they’re similar enough that I can safely count playing one as having played both.) If only I were close enough to attend Vlaada Con

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