Larry’s Gathering Report: 2015 Games Segment

This is my second report on the games I played at this year’s Gathering of Friends.  Today I’ll talk about the 2015 titles I tried.

Even though the vast majority of new Euros appear at Essen, there’s always some that are released during the first few months of the year.  Some years, there’s a lot of good new games to check out at the Gathering and some years, the cubbard is kind of bare.  There was a pretty good selection to choose from this year, including the game I was most anticipating and another one which was an enormous surprise.  In all, I played eight 2015 designs during the con; here’s a brief look at each of them, together with my OG ratings.

The Voyages of Marco Polo:  A Hans im Glück game from the Tzolk’in designers?  Yes, please!  I played this three times and it was my favorite game from the week.  Actually, I didn’t play by the proper rules until my third attempt, which kind of makes it the quintessential Gathering game.  But once we finally figured it out, I really enjoyed it.  The central mechanic is dice-activated worker placement, but unlike a lot of WP games, you can still use an area if an opponent has used it earlier, by paying money to the bank.  That reduces the frustration and adds to the strategy, IMO.  The game’s most notable feature is that every player is assigned a character with special abilities and these are all really strong and greatly affect how you play the game.  As someone said, “All the characters are equally unbalanced”.  HiG has been on a huge winning streak with me lately and this only adds to it.  I fully expect this to be one of my highlights for 2015.  OG rating:  I love it! Continue reading

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Larry’s Gathering Report: TL;DR Segment

I came back home Sunday after nine glorious days at Alan Moon’s Gathering of Friends.  I’ve been going to the Gathering for a dozen years or so and they just keep getting better.  The best part about it is that there are something like 150 people there that I’ve grown to know over the years, all of whom I’m delighted to chat with, game with, or just say hi to.  Having that many people whom you like and who share your passion concentrated in such a small area is indescribably cool.  I hope many of you get to experience similar things at the gaming conventions you attend.

My goal this year (in addition to my usual one of playing a bunch of recent releases and prototypes) was to try to play a lot of 2014 titles that I hadn’t had a chance to check out prior to this.  I was able to accomplish this fairly well, so my games played list included a plethora of “new to me” designs.  Too many to discuss in just one article, so I’ve decided to split up my report into four segments.  I’ll start off today with a summary of what I played.  I’ll follow that up with my impressions of the 2015 games I played, then the new 2014 titles, and finally some words about the prototypes I tried out.

So here are the fun facts about my 2015 Gathering of Friends experience:

  • I played 62 different games 77 times.
  • Of those 62 games, 19 of them are prototypes (12 of which will probably be published sometime this year).
  • I played 8 different 2015 games and 20 games from 2014 which were new to me.
  • Of the 38 non-party published games I played, only 5 of them were released before last year and there was only one game that came out earlier than 2009 (that one was the glorious Hare and Tortoise, which is just as terrific today as it was when it was published more than 40 years ago).  I love older designs, but the Gathering is a wonderful opportunity to play new stuff and I took full advantage of that.
  • I only played 8 games more than once and only 2 more than twice.  I played Chvatil’s word game prototype (which is currently called Code Names, a title that will change) 8 times (I actually sat down to play it 4 times, but each time, I played it twice, once as the Clue Giver and once as the Guesser).  I also played The Voyages of Marco Polo 3 times.
  • Here are my favorites for the week.  Of the new games (2015), the highlights were the aforementioned Marco Polo and Think Str8!, a deduction game by Leo Colovini(!) (I’ll be saying more about that highly unusual pairing in a future post).  Of the new-to-me 2014 games, I liked The Staufer Dynasty, Quartermaster General, Patchwork, and Royals the best.  And of the prototypes I expect to be released this year, my favorites were “Codenames” and two designs from Eggertspiele, Mombasa and Porta Nigra.

That’s the Bottom Line Up Front.  I’ll try to get the next article in the series posted sometime in the next few days.

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Ben’s Gathering Wrap-Up

This year’s Gathering of Friends has come to a close for me.  As happened last year, the the beginning of the week featured long, leisurely days of gaming and socializing.  Those days quickly disappeared toward the end of the week, replaced by an indistinguishable blur of laughter and tears, handshakes and hugs (all aided by an almost complete lack of sleep).  

Unlike last year, this year’s event turned out to be much more about forming deep friendships than about board gaming. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that I had spent 24 of the last 48 hours just talking with people (sans games). I met some amazing people for the first time and strengthened my bonds to many I had met before.  I came out of the event with what I hope will be long-term friends who have brought out the best sides of me. Perhaps this is precisely what Alan Moon intended when he began the invite-only event.  

Of course, there was still plenty of great gaming going on, which I suppose you would like to hear about. Continue reading

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Ben’s Gathering Day 6

Very little gaming today, as I decided to go outside and enjoy the weather.  I opened the day with another game of CGE’s word-game prototype.  It is still in the early stages, so I am limited in what I can say.  I enjoy it a lot, however, and it is getting a lot of play and buzz here.  After that, I watched a group of players try one of the shorter combinations in Friedemann Freese’s 504. 


This one was pick-up-and-deliver, race, and majorities.  It seemed decent, but probably less involved than some of the other combinations.  Still, it was interesting to watch unfold.  504 is a likely purchase for me when it comes out.

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Ben’s Gathering Day 5

The Gathering of Friends is a strange kind of event at times.  You often find yourself playing games you never expected to with people you never expected to.  That was kind of the theme yesterday, as I opened the day by playing a children’s dexterity game with Friedemann Freese.  

I was then pulled into playing a secret prototype by HUCH! & friends.  I’m not confident I’ve ever played a game from this publisher, but this one was interesting.  It had a neat central mechanism and enough going on to keep four hardcore gamers well-engaged.

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Ben’s Gathering Day 4

Another day of short descriptions and few pictures, I’m afraid, as a large portion of the day was committed to unpublished, unsigned prototypes.  Great day all around, however. 

It began with a third play of Elysium.  This is the third different table I’ve played the game with and each one has had a different reaction.


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Ben’s Gathering Day 3

Day 3 saw a return to some better games, including a couple of promising prototypes.  It started off, however, with a quick game of Patchistory. 


Brian Leet took this one home with a well-executed trade-route based strategy.  Amazingly, the game may have hinged on the want of two stone during the game’s only war (we were a peaceful bunch).  An alternative outcome there would have at least made the final scores much closer than the approximately 200-185-165 we ended up with.  

From there, it was on to prototypes. Continue reading

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Counter Magazine Issue #68 available for download

Counter 68 cover

Counter Issue #68 is available for download from the BoardGameGeek website.

Issue #68 is jam-packed with 110 pages of articles, reviews, convention reports and commentary.  You’ll also enjoy the full-color graphics and photos!

Several of the Opinionated Gamers are regular contributors, including Dale Yu, Dan Blum, Larry Levy, Greg Schloesser and others.

No subscriptions are required with this new format!  Rather, you can simply download each issue and read it on your computer, laptop, tablet or electronic device whenever and wherever is convenient!

You can download Issue #67 by visiting the BoardGameGeek store at:

As always, we welcome reader commentary and submissions.  Please send any material for future issues to my attention at

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Sunday morning

Ah, Sunday morning. A beautiful time to be awoken at too early o’clock in this hotel by loud teenaged dance teams. This has never been the quietest hotel, and being placed near the elevator pretty much means I’m awake by 7am every day.
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Ben’s Gathering Day 2

Today has been an oddly unproductive day, so this update should be quick. I only managed two games in the first 7 hours and then finished with a leisurely dinner and a lot of small games that I didn’t take a picture of.

I started the day with a great game of La Granja.  


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