KC, Rita, Ian, Mike and I first played a five player game of Notre Dame, a game I "won" in a secret Santa trade last December but hadn't managed to play yet. I had heard mixed but mostly positive reviews on the game as well as varying reports on play length. We played in a little over an hour after learning and I quite like it. There seem to be multiple paths to victory and enough competition / interaction to keep you on your toes. Balancing the rat and plague problem was a quandary - I think sometimes you just have to take your medicine. The cycling of the cards ensures that you'll have a wide range of options so you can actually strategize a bit, though the timing can interfere with those plans. I think this is a 7-8 rating for me, especially if I can play it in 45 minutes with 3 players.
Hanging Gardens is an interesting puzzle and set collection game where you draft cards with symbols that overlay on your garden. The goal is to get contiguous orthogonal sets of like symbols together that then allow you to claim the tiles you are collecting. Very easy to learn and decent fun, but I have a problem with how many tiles were left at the end of the game when the cards were exhausted. This makes planning very difficult as there are limited sets and for some (like the tiles where there are only 4), the odds seem pretty good that you will only see 2 of the 4 in the game. Not a bad game, but there plenty of other games of this weight that I would play ahead of it.