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Dec 15

Last Month In Games: The Plague Edition

Well, hello again my dear gamer friends!  Some of you may be curious what has happened to the “Last Week In Games” feature and why this article will be listed in the same category when it is in fact about the entire last month.  The reason being, as the title implies, this is a plague edition as I have been sick to one degree or another for the last month!  I began feeling less than awesome the week before Thanksgiving and as of this writing I am still in the final lung purge phase of ongoing bronchitis.  Ahh bronchitis…my old nemesis, roughly once a year I begin with a head cold/sinus infection that drains into my chest resulting in my transformation to Doc Holiday for about a month.  I am glad to say that I am on the mend, but somewhat less glad to report that not a great deal of gaming, or as I am sure you are well aware, writing has taken place in the last month.   This article is attempt to get back on track and fill you in on my rather sparse gaming activity during my time as an invalid.

On the week prior to Thanksgiving, as the sickness first made its move, I did have some buddies over for one quality night of gaming!  My old friend, and subscriber to this blog, Jim Bennie was the first to arrive.  We began with a few playtest games of my design, Legacy Wars.  Things ran smooth and Jim enjoyed the game, much to my satisfaction!  As we were finishing the second game, Eli and Garwood arrived.  We discussed some changes that Eli and Garwood had suggested from their playtesting and ideas that Jim had as well.  After considering their advice, I have decided to implement their suggestions to change the Ranger champion.  I value their input greatly, and truly appreciate anyone, friends included for taking the time to test one of my designs.  I look forward to further refining the game ‘s rules and mechanics with their help!

We began with a four player game of Stefan Feld’s classic, In the Year of the Dragon.  One of my personal favorites, and one of two games that I rate a perfect 10!  As you might imagine, I was more than happy to play this one.  Jim had been itching to learn this game, and after a brief explanation, we started.

Part of my love for In the Year of the Dragon stems from how well the game scales from 2-5 players.  While it may play differently with varying numbers of players, the game’s core mechanics function perfectly and the game loses nothing regardless of how many are playing.

It was a hard-fought battle, in which Jim did quite well for a first timer, but in the end my vast experience advantage allowed me to bring home the win!  Garwood was a close second, with Eli in third and Jim trailing by a significant margin in fourth.  Still, it was an admirable performance for a rookie versus three seasoned veterans of In the Year of the Dragon.

Next up was the scheming and betrayal filled, Spartacus:  A Game of Blood and Treachery!  While Spartacus may not be a perfect game, I must say that it is easily the game that I am having the most fun playing these days!  This game is so much fun that Eli cannot even hear its name with grinning from ear to ear.  If you like cutthroat player interaction and backstabbing you will be very hard pressed to find a better game than Spartacus: AGoBaT!

Both Jim and Garwood were first timers for this one, with Eli and I being the cagey veterans.  With our experience we were able to teach the game in short order and never really had any rules questions crop up during the game.  We did implement our house rules to nerf House Glaber and buff House Batiatus.  We force Glaber to exhaust four guards to draw a scheme card instead of just three.  This was done because Glaber was winning every time that we played.  We improved House Batiatus by raising the income generation of exhausting two gladiators from 2 gold to 3 gold.  This is a huge improvement as it allows them to profit a little for the massive investment of acquiring and maintaining numerous gladiators.  Since our fix Glaber has won once, Batiatus has won once, and Solonius has won once.  Given that we already felt that House Tullius was the second strongest house prior to our fixes, we feel confident that he will get some wins in future games.

As for this particular game, I was victorious with House Solonius!  I focused on economic infrastructure by paying a premium for early slaves and burning through any cards that were not absolutely needed.  I took early influence losses because I refused invites to the arena and avoided host until I had my budget in order.  Once the pieces were in place, and I could argue in favor of leader bashing, I was able to charge from last place to pull off a strong come from behind win!

The last game of the night was another of my favorite Stefan Feld games, Macao.  In a long string of firsts for Jim, he also logged his first play of Macao.  Eli and I may be in the running for the most plays of anyone in the world when it comes to Macao, and Garwood has played his fair share so Jim was in for an up-hill battle.

It was a very close game throughout, but Jim’s inexperience started to show as the game progressed.  Eventually he fell out of contention and it came down Eli, Garwood and I.  Eli played the most ridiculous long game that I have ever seen in Macao by not scoring any points until there were three turns to go.  Somehow, he was able set up his position so perfectly that he accumulated a huge endgame score allowing him to beat Garwood by a mere two points and me by four!  I was a little disappointed to not run the table in all of the day’s games, but Eli played a masterful game and deserved the win!

That weekend was great, but sadly represented the end of fun for a while!

In late November, I had received a copy of Body Builders to review, but I proceeded to get so sick that I barely left bed the entire Thanksgiving weekend.  When I trudged into the day job on Monday it was straight to bed upon returning home at night.  There was no joy in Dirtyhammville!

Finally, on December 5th, I started to feel halfway human.  After sending an apology to Brian Henk, the designer of Body Builders, regarding the delay of my review, I was able to get down to playing it with the family.

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After a few plays with the wife and kiddos, which we all enjoyed, it was clear that I had enough of an understanding to write a proper review.  It was published December 9th and that was the last gaming goodness that I have been able to enjoy as I started to get sick once more.  The review of Body Builders can be found here.

This brings us up to the present and I am happy to report that I am finally feeling about 95%!  This past Friday night, the entire Life in Games Team (Heather and I) ran a board game night for a local Boy Scout Troop that was having a lock-in event.  It went very well and I will fully recount the tale in my next article.

In conclusion, I simply wanted to bring everyone up to speed about what has been going on the last few weeks and fire this feature back up, as I am no-longer trying to die!  I would love to hear tales of your gaming adventures during my downtime, so feel free to regale me with stories of your gaming fun and glory in the comments.  It surely had to be better than my game of survive the plague!

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