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Teo Mrnjavac
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Collapsible D: The Final Minutes of the Titanic is a thematic board game in which the players (3-6 of them) try to save the lives of passengers on the infamous sinking ship. Each saved passenger grants victory points, but reaching the lifeboats on the top deck isn't easy, especially for a third class passenger who starts deep inside the ship.
The game takes its name after the RMS Titanic Collapsible Boat D, the last lifeboat to be successfully launched from the ship with about 25 passengers on board. At that time, there were still 1500 people on the Titanic.
The events of Collapsible D unfold over 16 turns, which accurately model the final hours of the Titanic. The game is impressively well researched, and the passenger cards come with actual names and photographs of survivors (we got to rescue Frederick Maxfield Hoyt and Jane Anne Hoyt, husband and wife).
In-game lifeboats are launched at the same times as they were on the real Titanic, so the player has to get their passengers to the right boat at the right time to even have a shot at boarding.
The way to the top deck is hindered by panicked mobs and the rising water level, gradually spilling over the bulkheads, and even if a passenger manages to reach the top deck, boarding a lifeboat is a difficult endeavor, especially if he happens to be a third class male.
A variety of bonuses can be found throughout the ship to increase a passenger's chances of boarding a lifeboat, including cash, a gun and an infant.
Collapsible D is a very suspenseful and engaging game, it is one of those board games one plays in order to experience a story rather than for strategic depth. With a simple mechanic, outstanding historical accuracy and an incredibly deep theme (no pun intended), this is one of my all-time favorites, and is sure to be enjoyed even by players without specific interest in history.
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In Cyclades, players compete against each other for the favor of the gods. The Cyclades (Κυκλάδες) are a Greek island group in the Aegean sea, named that way because they surround the sacred island of Delos, birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, meeting place of the Delian League and once a busy nexus of culture and commerce.
The Cyclades board game comes with a pantheon of five major gods. At the start of each turn all players bid for their favor in an auction, and each god bestows his or her own unique bonuses. Players can also hire mythical beasts, such as Polyphemus, Medusa or Pegasus to unleash against their foes.
The goal of the game is to be the first to build two cities on your islands, while preventing your opponents from doing the same through warfare and resource domination.
Cyclades is a fairly quick game. I've found the bidding wars for the gods somewhat limiting, because the gods are effectively the main resource, and their scarcity is what creates tension. In order to win, a player should ideally win the auction for every god at least once if not twice, and this is not easy when everybody else is trying to do the same thing. Cyclades is beautifully designed and easy to learn, and while there are games I like more, it's not hard to see why this one is a sure crowd pleaser.
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Genji is a card game of Japanese Tanka poetry. Players take the role of gentlemen trying to impress the ladies of the Japanese imperial court with their poems.
A poem is constructed by laying down two cards, a beginning and an ending. Each half-poem has a topic and is related to a season, and each lady has her own preferences. The game is played for 4 seasons (4 trips around the 12 ladies), and for every season there's a new topic in fashion.
By comparing a poem with a given lady's preferences and the current season and fashion, each poem can be rated as more or less beautiful. A player can also destroy another player's poem, this is achieved by wooing the lady with a more beautiful beginning or ending.
Genji can be played from 2 to 6 players, and it seems to work well with groups of all sizes. It's a fun and engaging game without being excessively demanding as far as time or table space is concerned. With its unique mechanic and gorgeous theme, this one is sure to get a lot of play time.
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Oh boy, Twilight Struggle. Another very competitive strategy game after several weeks of strategy games. The tension is real in this one.
Twilight Struggle is a card driven board game which simulates the (first) cold war, starting in 1945 until 1989, over 10 turns. This is a two player game, but we played it 2v2 in teams. Each player picks a superpower (USA or the Soviet Union) and tries to spread its influence throughout the world through propaganda, military coups and custom events. Card drafting adds a great deal of randomness and strategic depth to this game, since every card can be "burnt" for operation points or played as a specific event (for instance, I had an event to install Fidel Castro in Cuba, thus initiating the spread of communism in the Americas).
Unfortunately the game can also suffer greatly from this randomness, and a player might have his/her game ruined through sheer bad luck. Nevertheless, this is a very entertaining, well balanced and strategically deep game, with great replay value.
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Attention students: the Google Summer of Code 2015 student applications window is now open, and all of us at ‪#KDE are eager to accept your project proposals. Pick a project idea, dazzle us with your proposal, and hack your way to ultimate glory this summer!
PS. a nice paycheck is also part of the deal ;)

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Calamares, the distribution independent installer framework will be mentoring some students for Google Summer of Code this year.
Google Summer of Code (GSoC) is an annual program, first held in 2005, in which Google awards stipends (of US$5,500) to all students who successfully complete a requested open source software coding project during the summer.
The student application deadline is March 27. If you're a student, and you wish to spend your summer developing new and exciting software solutions (while getting a nice paycheck), why not give Calamares a try?

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A little guide I put together based on my experience as Google Summer of Code student and mentor.

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Yedo is a strategy board game set in Japan in 1605. The game accommodates up to five players, who fulfill the roles of five noble clans trying to curry favor with the new Shogun. This game is simply beautiful and very heavily themed, with a detailed board which represents the city center of Edo (now Tokyo) and multiple colorful decks of cards. Each player gets up to four mission cards of varying difficulty: espionage, assassinations, kidnappings, that sort of thing: this game is about a power struggle after all.
Yedo combines a worker placement mechanic, bidding for resources and event cards, with the ultimate goal of solving as many missions as possible. Missions are solved by meeting the requirements of the mission cards in one's hand, and the reward is usually a combination of money and prestige points.
In my experience, Yedo is a very competitive board game, and one's plans may come undone at any time because of a malicious action card by some other player. This game is all about backstabbing, so if you play Yedo, be ready for a fun but intense time.
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2015-02-25
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Colosseum is a fun and undemanding board game with a unique mechanic, we first tried it last night. Each player is a Roman arena impresario, producing spectacles in his/her arena in the hopes of attracting the most spectators. Colosseum combines a "make money to build stuff to make more money to build more stuff" cycle with auctions and dice rolls. Dice rolls usually ring an alarm bell for me, but in this game they are a minor element, and they are not overpowering at all, since the player still has ample choice on where to apply the outcome. If you're looking for a relaxing and unique board game, give Colosseum a try.
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