Letters from an Eminent Homesteader at Acute Survival Point

This report is a bit of a mess.  It covers 2 game nights spread over 3 weeks, which certainly isn’t ideal for giving any coherent thoughts on the earlier games I played.  But I’ll give it a try, even if my remembrance of the actual game events are a little sketchy…

Homesteaders [BGG]

This is the November Game of the Month!, and I was excited to play it again.  I went in feeling a little unsure and without much of a plan, but then sort of fell into a “build lots of buildings” strategy.  By the end, I had built 11 buildings over 10 turns, and picked up several end-game scoring bonuses that keyed off of having different types (or just my total number) of buildings.

My impressive homestead… or so I thought.
Unfortunately, Alton was in the game as well.  And Alton has a particular strategy of picking up the Copper Mine and then the Gold mine (or some other gold-producing thing) early on, sitting back all game, grabbing a few high-VP buildings along the way, and then scoring a ton of points from trading in copper for gold at the end of the game.  It works really well, and he won. 

Time: 72 minutes
Score: Alton 74, Norton 66, Chip 43, Rory* 35
Ratings: Alton 9, Norton 7, Chip 8.5, Rory 8

In fact, Alton’s strategy works too well.  I don’t think he’s lost a game yet, and he doesn’t vary from using that approach.  And frankly, it almost ruins Homesteaders for me.  I’m not saying it’s cheating or anything, but for the game to have such a dominant strategy, especially when it seems to be a pretty boring way to play the game, is not very appealing to me.  And I totally acknowledge that this may be a “group think” thing, and maybe there’s a total counter out there for it.  Or maybe the rest of us just aren’t all that good or efficient, and could win if we just played better with other strategies.  But I can’t help if my interest in the game dropped precipitously after this play.

Acute Care

Since this was the game night just before MACE, I had my freshly printed prototype ready for Acute Care!  And rather graciously, some of the guys agreed to play it with me.  As I mentioned in the MACE article, I’ll cover how the first playtests went in a future Boardgame Design Project article, so I’ll leave it at saying that it was really awesome to finally play the game that’s been running around in my head for so long!

Eminent Domain [BGG]

I really don’t remember much at all about the game from November 8th, but it sure seems to have lasted a while.  I’ve never felt that the game drug on or took too long, though.

But last week, something really cool happened in our game of Eminent Domain.  As I was setting up the game and laying out the Technologies, I read over the Kickstarter Promo card Elusive Victory/Exclusive Victory.  Exclusive Victory basically just gives you the win if you tie for points at the end of the game.  But the Elusive Victory is sort of crazy in that it is an alternate victory condition.  If you control both a Prestige and a Utopian world and can play 12 lightbulbs during a Research role, you just win the game outright.  So, sort of jokingly, I proclaimed arrogantly that I was going to win with the Elusive VIctory card to Josh, Kenny, and Keith.  They ignored me, of course.

And in reality, I was mostly joking.  But then in my first Survey role, I managed to pick up a Utopian world, and I sort of decided to keep my options open.  When a Prestige world presented itself on the top of the planet deck a few rounds later, I decided to commit right then to making it happen.  Eventually, I picked up Data Network, which let me clear my deck of pretty much everything that wasn’t a Research card (even though I did hold on to a Survey card or two for the drawing action).  I went a few more rounds, picking up another few Technologies that I though would help, but then it happened… After dissenting on everyone else’s turn to draw more cards and then playing an Improved Survey card to draw 3 more, I actually managed to lay down a grand total of 13 lightbulbs to claim the ridiculous Elusive Victory and win the freaking game!

Time: 72 and 40 minutes
Game 1: Chip 35, Keith 27, Kenny* 26, Norton 24
Game 2: Norton – Elusive Victory; Keith 16, Kenny 14, Josh 10 
Ratings: Chip 8, Keith 8, Norton 8.5, Kenny 8, Josh ?

I almost wrote that Eminent Domain was my favorite deckbuilding game, but I really hate to even apply that label to it.  The deckbuilding mechanic is certainly central to the game, I’m not arguing that or anything, but I just hate to group it in with Dominion and all its clones, which all use the “spend resources to buy more cards in the middle to get more resources to buy more things in the middle” cycle that has been systematically driven into the ground through stupid numbers of iterations and expansions.  

But regardless of the label I attach to it, Eminent Domain continues to impress me with its variety and subtlety.  I know that the Elusive Victory card was an afterthought promo thrown in for Kickstarter backers that may or may not be balanced, but I think it’s a really cool idea to have alternate victory conditions like that in a game.  It takes what is already a pretty wide-open game in terms of strategic choices and blows it open even more, especially with the potential for future expansions.  What about something like a really huge planet or alien race that required a ridiculous number of ships to conquer, but that would give immediate victory?  I really see a lot of potential, and want to see where they take the game from here.   

Flash Point: Fire Rescue [BGG]

Just before game night last week, I got in my Kickstarted copy of Flash Point: Fire Rescue, which I’ve been anxiously awaiting.  Enough people were interested for us to fire up a game (see what I did there?) at its maximum capacity of 6 players.  I had read the rules the night before at approximately midnight between periods of exhausted dozing-off, so the rules teach was definitely on the sputtering and sketchy side.  But miraculously, I think we actually played things correctly for the most part (barring a little mistake about placing new hot spots the first time or two).

I decided to skip right past the basic game and head straight to the Veteran difficulty for the advanced game.  Mostly, it’s because I wanted to use the special roles, and I also wanted it to be pretty difficult.  I did use the basic map, though.

With so many people, the biggest challenge was that you didn’t make much progress in any one area unless you had more than one person there.  If Keith hadn’t been playing the Fire Captain (who can move others like the Dispatcher in Pandemic), we really would have been in a bind.  As it was, we barely pulled out the win with 3 victims dying while we rescued the other 7. 

Time: 60ish minutes
Score: Firefighters (Josh*, Keith*, Jim*, Shawn*, Alton*, & Norton*) – 7 rescued; Advanced, Veteran Fire – 3 killed
Ratings: Josh 8, Keith 7, Jim 7, Shawn 7, Alton 7, Norton 7.5

I had a lot of great expectations for Flash Point: Fire Rescue, and I have to admit the the first play was a little shaky.  Given my shakiness with the rules and the fact that we pushed it to its maximum player capacity, however, I’m definitely going to give it some slack.  I also had the chance to play it a couple of times 2-player with my brother Tony over Thanksgiving, and that went much better.

The house at the end of the game…

As of right now, I’d have to say that I’m happy with it.  It’s got a great theme and looks incredible (especially with the fireeples from the KS campaign).  It’s probably a little more random and more fiddly than Pandemic, and is overall a little lighter in real depth.  But I also feel like there’s a lot of tactical depth to explore both in using the roles/abilities and in moving victims and extinguishing the fire.  I haven’t tried it solo or with Gwen yet, but I have high hopes for it in those venues as well. 

Letters from Whitechapel [BGG]

Britt had never played Letters from Whitechapel, so we had to fix that.  And on top of that, we even had long-absent Jim who popped in this week and was able to try it out for the first time as well!  I have been wanting to try out a particular home location for Jack for a while, so I gladly volunteered to take that role against a full slate of investigators.

As I’ve done before, I’ll link to the map if you want to follow along with the rest of this report…

My “perfect” home location was # 102.  It’s right in the center of the board, and is connected to 12 other locations.  More than that, many of its connections are less than obvious (as you’ll see in my path below). And in my flight each night, I tried to use the techniques of misdirection, doubling back, and speed as much as I could to limit the information I gave to the investigators.

On the first night, I waited for one turn to let them move the Wretched off their initial spots, mostly for the possibility of killing in that same area later in the game.  They moved the pawn from 84 to 51, and that’s where I chose as my first crime scene.  I was actually only 3 spots away from home at that point, but wanted to take them on a bit of a chase before retiring for the evening, so I started by taking a carriage to 65 and then to 84.  On my next move, I carriaged again back to 65 and then to 83 to try and cunfuse them regarding my first few moves.  I then carriaged once again to 100 and 86, allowing me to walk home on my last move.  The investigators discovered clues at 65, 84, and 86, which they figured were my first 3 moves and therefore led them to believe that I was 4 moves away from 86 (rather than the single move that was true).

Britt, Jim (seated), Josh, Keith, and Kenny trying to chase the elusive Jack!

Then on the second night, I killed at location 158, which is sort of buried in the maze of streets in the southeastern part of the board.  As it turned out, there were no investigators nearby, so I spent the first few moves wasting time by moving to 185, 172, and then back to 158.  As they closed in a little, I slid over to 157 and 156, where they had one small chance to catch my trail.  But they checked out another path instead, so I was able to make the incredible jump from 156 all the way home to 102 without them getting a single clue.

For the double event on night 3, I chose locations 149 and 21 (on opposite sides of the board).  I made 21 my second site, which was a bit of a mistake due to the fact that they pretty much ignored 149.  I made one more mistake, though, because for my first move, I carriaged to 40 and then 57 along the main road.  Keith came up and asked for a clue in that spot and discovered my location, which I really didn’t care about.  What Keith should have done, however, was to arrest 57, since it was the only location he was adjacent to that I could have reached.  He realized it, a little too late, so my mistake of being careless was cancelled by his mistake of being careless as well.  From there, I took an alley to 69 (which no one was close enough to check) and then walked home.  They knew that I was an alley and a walk from my home, but that could have been something like 20 spots or more, so I wasn’t worried.

On night 3, I returned to location 84 for my last murder.  From there, I carriaged to 100 and then 125, and though there was a little chance of them jumping in my way, in the end they chose another path to block, so I was able to walk home from 125 to 102 and win the game! 

Chillin’ at home after 4 hard nights’ work…

Time: 94 minutes
Score: Norton (Jack) – Win, Investigators (Britt*, Jim*, Josh, Keith, & Kenny) – Lose
Ratings: Norton 10, Britt 8.5, Jim 8, Josh 10, Keith 9, Kenny 9.5

I think I see now why some groups play with a random assignment of Jack’s home location.  I was pretty much right that 102 was a nearly perfect spot, and the investigators only found something like 4 or 5 clues on me all game long.  There was definitely a little bit of learning curve going on with the new investigators, but I also think that my experience as Jack really made a difference as well.  Maybe the game is less tilted towards the investigators than we thought…

But anyway, we played a full game with 6 players in just over an hour-and-a-half, which I think is pretty incredible.  No one seemed to feel rushed as far as I could tell, and I think that everyone had a good time.  Now that I’ve got a dimes-worth of plays with Letters from Whitechapel, I’m definitely ready to write my full review, so keep your eyes peeled for it sometime soon!

Survival Camp [BGG]

Designer Valerie Hope sent me a prototype of her Survival Camp game a week or so before, so I wanted to get it played as well last week.  Survival Camp is currently on Kickstarter, and is a zombie-survival themed game that shares a lot of similarities to Carnival (in that it is a set-collection game featuring a dice-rolling action mechanic).

I won the game, but it wasn’t exactly a rewarding experience.  In its current form, I can’t really recommend the game, but I do think that there’s some real potential in it, and I’ve offered Valerie some feedback that we thought might make it better.  So as for now, if you think the game sounds interesting, check out its Kickstarter page, its website, and read the rules for more information.

Time: 31 minutes
Score: Norton* – win; Josh*, Keith*, & Kenny* – Lose
Ratings: Not Rated

Other Games Played

Too many to list from the last few weeks, but here’s some pictures…

* First play for that Person


  1. Chris Ingersoll

    Assuming 156 is the white circle just cut off at the bottom of that picture, that is indeed a disgusting “walk” for Jack.

  2. Chris Norwood

    Yep, that would be it!

    So, I’ve now clearly identified 102 as the perfect home location for Jack!  Unfortunately, by the mere act of observing and reporting that, I’ve now totally ruined it as a home location!

    Dern you, Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle!!! 

  3. Chris Norwood

    That map is printed out and in both my and Kenny’s copy of the the game.  It’s pretty nice both as a larger yet private version of the map and to help identify nice home locations.  But again, spot 102 has both connectivity and a few long, non-obvious connections that make it especially special…

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