Sunday, 30 June 2013

Under Prussia

Sam and I met up for a brain storming session for future writing projects and after a whole hour (including a meal), we decided to treat ourselves to a game or two. Or five.

We chose Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India. We had both prepared for this new game by watching an introduction to it on BGG where a silky voiced Australian promised us “delicious options”. How could we turn that down?

After we scratched our heads over another inadequate rule book, we brought up a player aid on BGG and used that to guide ourselves through the rules and we were off.

It’s an interesting take on the worker placement genre, whereby you only have one worker (the architect) and while you can build buildings anywhere, you need to have the architect present to build those all important palaces. Because what do palaces make? Prizes. Palaces in a city earn you money, and at the end of the game, money decides the winner (unless someone was smart enough to build a seventh palace before their opponent(s)).

Sam, after a shaky start, took the honours in its inaugural game.

Sam 10
Andrew 7

After this, we decided to break out good old A Castle For All Seasons. Since it’s already gaining favour for it’s depth in the two player options, this now needs no introduction. I hogged the market and then hoarded money like Ebenezer Scrooge after the Ghost Of Christmas Future told him about a stock market crash. Sam went for the unfinished buildings bonus and silvers. In the end, I just edged it.

Andrew 81
Sam 80

After this, I suggested Samurai. It’d been a long time since I’d played it, and it showed. I was comprehensively beaten, with Sam winning on two categories of items, and us drawing on a third. The only positive thing I can take is that Samurai isn’t leaderboard, since I can’t work out how to convert the final result into points. Phew.

Then we brought Campaign to the table. I have a dim memory of playing this in the 1970s with my brother. At the time, it seemed like a dazzling new variant on chess but now, with eurogames offering a new gaming experience (and with my own greater appreciation for chess) it just seems like a hollow strategy game. I also remember thinking that “Prussia” was a made-up name for a country, and I was surprised when I found out it wasn't. That was the first time I found out that a country could disappear off the map.

Each player has their pieces and they roll a dice to see how many movement points they get. In other words, the player who rolls highest, on average, will win. It looked nice and, I suppose, for 1973, it was a brave attempt at something new. It hasn’t aged well, though.

We abandoned the game in favour of something else.

And that something else was 7 Wonders. Quick, exciting, and we both knew it well. Dirk was up for it, too.

Sam went down the “no-resources” route, relying on Dirk and me to bail him out. And also relying on military might, along with a little bit of everything. I threw in my lot with blue buildings (including the palace) while I offloaded sciences onto Dirk, just so Sam couldn’t build them and exploit his wonder’s benefit.

It was an odd game. There seemed to be a lot less resources around for anyone, meaning I couldn’t build my wonder until late, and Dirk barely got started on his. In the final tally, the Palace came through again, just pushing me ahead of Sam who, at one point, had serious fears of being overtaken by Dirk.

Andrew 49
Sam 46
Dirk 33

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Brand New Worlds

Due to Jon’s new job taking away his reason to visit Bristol, this games night was to be the last featuring our forest friend for a while. And it began in a slightly awkward manner, with everyone bringing four-player games for a five-player evening. In the end, we plumped for the only workable option: a three-player and a two-player game.

Anja, Jon and I went for Village. Steve and Sam chose A Castle For All Seasons, both designed by Inka and Markus Brand. Jon explained the rules to Anja in his rich, baritone voice that rang out across the room and caused Steve to complain, since he couldn’t hear Sam’s less theatrical explanation of their game.

Once we got started, I decided to go for the very option that Jon had highlighted as being a bad idea: travelling. It meant I was behind on the Town Hall and the Church, but I got all cities and I managed to get five meeples into the history books, for the maximum bonus, so I thought maybe I was in with a shout.

Anja and Jon went for very similar tactics, filling up the church and town hall and going to the market. Despite it being Anja’s first game, and having to deal with a baby, she seemed to take to it very quickly. Jon, the most experienced played of the three of us, played quickly and efficiently, complete with a gleeful running commentary whenever he killed someone off.

In the end, it was close. It could hardly have been closer. Anja thought she’d won by a single point, but Jon’s one gold coin was enough to force a draw. And my travelling tactic wasn’t far behind.

Anja 53
Jon 53
Andrew 51

An exciting game, and good to get it onto the table again.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the room, Sam and Steve played half of an aborted game of Castle For All Seasons, and then one which they saw through to the end.

Sam 95
Steve 86

Then, since Village was still in full flow, Steve organised some dessert for us all, consisting of fruits, jelly, ice cream and cream. A lovely touch. And then they played Biblios (not designed by Inka and Marcus Brand). Sam explained the rules to Steve, and then took him to the cleaners.

Sam 10
Steve 3

And all that’s left is to tot up the final scores. The Form Table isn’t much different from when we last saw it, which gives Joe the title for this season!

Joe 2 1 1 2 1 7
Steve1 2 1 1 3 8
Anja1 2 3 1 1 8
Jon1 2 1 2 3 9
Andrew2 3 3 2 1 11
Sam1 2 3 3 3 12
Adam 2 2 1 5 3 13
Quentin2 23 5518
Hannah3 4 4 5 2 18
Martha1 5 5 5521
Will3 3 5 5 5 21
Bea4 5 5 5524

On the division, we see the honours shared around in a very open and friendly way. Sam takes most Points, Anja wins comfortably on Points Ratio, while Adam’s win on the Olympic style leaderboard is a commanding one. Meanwhile, Paul takes the Bracknell crown, just squeezing past Chris on points and Points Ratio. There is the small matter of the two-player leaderboard still to be calculated, but I’ll put that up later. I think Sam’s won it, though.

EDIT: And the scores from the two-player division are in! I said I thought Sam had won, and he did, but it was much closer than I'd expected. Thanks to Chris being good at Agricola, he boosted his Points Ratio and almost stole the Points title, too. I've also added Dirk to the table, just to celebrate his unlikely win and, anyway, he's practically part of the gang, isn't he?

And with that, we bring this season to a close. We wish Jon all the best in his new job, and hope he can find his way back soon. In the meantime, let’s all rejoice in our shared victory of a love of board games. God Bless The Queen! Huzzah!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Snow Exit

We had thought that Tuesday would be a wash-out, but at the last minute, Joe was able to attend. And Will said he thought he could make it, but in the end he had to cancel. That makes it official! Leaderboard, here we come!

We put current favourites, A Castle For All Seasons on the table, and talked Joe through the rules, even realising that we’d got a couple of rules wrong. When we started, Joe seemed to grasp the rules pretty quickly. Quicker than Sam, who suffered from Explainer’s Curse: the terrible affliction that means that the person who taught the rules always does badly.

I capitalised, putting my men in places that Sam was aiming for. He never got a chain of production going, and ended the game in a humble third.

Andrew 75
Joe 60
Sam 33

After this we tried another new game that Joe had brought along. Snow Tails looked like a fun card-based racing game where you guide your husky-powered sled along the unforgiving frozen track to the finish line. It was enjoyable, but the rule book was vague about “drifting” (the method used to go from one lane to the next). We muddled through in a way we thought was logical. And we couldn’t help but notice that the person who started first finished first, etc. We did wonder if that might be a flaw in the game: whoever starts, wins.

But it looks nice, and the modular nature of the tracks means that plenty of different routes are available. And at just £2.50 from a charity shop, I’d say Joe did well.

1st Joe
2nd Andrew
3rd Sam

By now, Sam was hurting from two last places in a row. He suggested a third game, San Juan. It was certainly not one of my strong suits, but Joe’s recent practice on his iPhone clearly paid off. While Sam dashed to the 12 building limit to cash in on his violet building multiplier, Joe had the Palace and a couple of monuments lying around, giving him another victory.

Joe 30
Sam 27

Sam thought we could squeeze in one more game, despite Joe’s better judgement. And so we played Biblios. Joe says he’s never won, and he managed to keep his spotless record intact. Meanwhile, my brief taste of glory at Biblios has not lasted. I got far too many dice cards early on, before I’d even begun picking up colours. Sam, meanwhile, was very much Mr Biblios. Seemingly having cards to spare during the auction round. How does he do it?

Sam 8
Joe 6
Andrew 0

Meanwhile, on the form table, Joe makes his bid for glory at just the right moment. Can he keep this up until the end of Thursday? The heat is on!

Joe 2 1 1 2 1 7
Steve1 2 1 1 3 8
Anja2 3 1 13 10
Andrew3 3 2 1 2 11
Sam1 2 3 3 3 12
Jon2 1 2 3 513
Adam 2 2 1 5 3 13
Quentin2 23 5518
Hannah3 4 4 5 2 18
Martha1 5 5 5521
Will3 3 5 5 5 21
Bea4 5 5 5524

Sunday, 23 June 2013

I thought the Germans liked rules

With it looking likely that the week’s dose of games will be put back to Thursday, Sam and I met up for a little two-player action over a new (for us) game from Germany, A Castle For All Seasons.

It’s like a cross between Citadels and a worker placement game. You all play cards simultaneously, but they are resolved in a strict order. These cards may allow you to place workers to get resources or claim essential end-of-game bonuses.

We began slowly, since the rulebook was not written with the newcomer in mind. We scratched our heads over examples that didn’t make sense (unless you’d already played the game) and, crucially, the rules never defined what “a round” was. Playing two cards, or exhausting all eight cards? At first we played it with the latter rule in mind until we realised that it’d never fit into the advertised 45-60 minute time limit, so we tried the former. Also, the illustrations, while very nice, were not very descriptive. The Tavern did not have any drunken people outside it, and the only animals near The Stables were pigs.

About halfway through, it started to make sense, and by the end Analysis Paralysis had kicked in, which at least meant we were on the right lines. Finally we decided we knew what we were doing as the final rounds played out. With an improbable score-chart busting 102-102 scoreline (since we'd effectively played six extra rounds. Sam won on a money tie-breaker) we decided to play again.

And we did, and it went a lot smoother. It still wasn’t the most user-friendly game ever designed. Part of the game relies on playing cards in order (like Citadels) but to find out the order, you have to refer to the rules. There is nothing on the cards to tell you. Similarly, the icons describing each card’s action are vague.

Nevertheless, with all this, it turned into a lovely game. Given the fact that it looks like a strategic beast when laid out on the table, it is very quick. Sort of deep, but light. This time, Sam won comfortably.

Sam 89
Andrew 72

For a game that is so quick, there’s plenty going on. Part of the game is to cash in on your opponents tactics, either by playing the Master Builder card (5 points for every building built by your opponent(s) on that round) or by claiming an end-of-game bonus that capitalises on their strategy. It’s quite cunning and simple. Far more so than the poor rule book indicated. We went from dismay and dismissal to interested and impressed before the evening was done.

And then we played Biblios. But not Extreme Biblios. Quiet, Contemplative Biblios with cheese on crackers with pickle and a bowl of grapes. Possibly, this is how Biblios is meant to be played. And it was close. I had a hand full of cards focusing on three dice, but ran out of money half way through the auction round. Would I have enough to see me through? I had no idea until the final reckoning.

Sam 10
Andrew 6

An evening to rekindle one’s interest in new games. Once you’re over that annoying hump of rule-learning, there are whole new vistas to explore! Maybe we can get Campaign to the table next? Or am I being too optimistic?

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Ave, nice day

Joe’s on Tuesdays. But not the core four, more like the wee three, as Adam couldn’t make it. It was me, Joe and Sam in attendance. The first thing to catch our eye in the corner of the room was Das Exclusive, Joe’s sumptuous dice arena. We tried it a couple of times and Sam noted with approval that the underside also has a baize finish, allowing for another dice-rolling surface.

We were discussing what good three player games Joe has, when Augustus was suggested. This raised some interest in two of Joe’s daughters who, in an attempt at pushing back their bed-time, said that they wanted to play too.

And so it was that, suddenly, we were five. Joe explained the rules to Sam, and off we went. After my first dismal game, I felt like I was more involved, and the house rule of shouting “Ave Caesar” when you’ve finished a card made it more fun. But then there was a dry spell when I barely got anything and my competitive edge was blunted.

Meanwhile, Joe’s youngest, Martha, showed a propensity for cards which damaged her opponents, and whenever she had to pick up a card, she sweetly asked if there were any “evil cards”.

In the end, new boy Sam came second in a close game.

Martha 53
Sam 49
Andrew 48
Bea 47
Joe 47

After this, the youngest and most female part of the games group went to bed, while the old men ploughed on. After far too long in the games cupboard discussing what to play, we chose Africana as being deep but short enough that we could squeeze in another game afterwards.

My plan was to ignore the adventures, and just go for expeditions. Joe went for end-of-game multipliers, and Sam picked up two jokers. The game is one of those when you always have one less card/a little less time than you need. Fun but frustrating.

Sam 42
Joe 36
Andrew 32

It was still early. Not early enough for 7 Wonders or Lords of Waterdeep, but still time for a couple of light games. We chose High Society. And in keeping with the luxurious nature of the game, we turned Das Exclusive over and used it as a tiny table. Sam kept his bidding cards until the end, and it worked. I kept hoping for that final red-bordered card to end the game soon, and it didn’t.

Sam 20
Joe 19
Andrew OUT!

Then we had to play a dice game. We just had to. We chose Pickomino. Sam began, bafflingly, by rolling his dice from his hand onto the kitchen table, instead of using the dice arena and cups. Das Exclusive does not take kindly to insults like this, and one wonders if his lack of success at the game wasn’t a sign of Das Exclusive’s displeasure.

But it’s a great feeling, hurling your dice from a leatherette cup, knowing that they won’t fly off into unlit corners of the kitchen. And, as Sam noted, the slightly hollow sound of the dice landing adds to the effect. The game itself was almost superfluous. If only we’d been dressed in velvet suits that stank of cologne and cigars, we’d have been living the dream! The dream after eating a lot of cheese, that is.

Joe 11
Andrew 10
Sam 0

Steve1 2 1 1 3 9
Anja2 3 1 13 10
Sam 3 1 1 2 4 11
Joe 1 2 2 4 3 12
Andrew2 3 3 3 1 12
Jon2 1 2 3 513
Adam 2 2 1 5 3 13
Quentin2 23 5518
Hannah3 4 4 5 2 18
Martha1 5 5 5521
Will3 3 5 5 5 21
Bea4 5 5 5524

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Twice in one night?

Uncle Paul loves coming to the Smith household every two weeks. Of course its not the lure of an evening playing boardgames or even the promise of dinner that makes his trips so worthwhile. No, from the moment he steps over the threshold he is immediately tackled by the two Smith children who cling to him, limpet like, insisting that he plays two different types of game at once. Rather like the Lions tour of Australia, these early exchanges serve as a "softening up" tactic so that when the real event occurs they are too worn down to put up much fight. By the time Paul had cleared a whole section of grass with children's scissors he looked done in.

With James sunning himself in Cornwall I had arranged my pile of two player games on the table. In Paul's weakened state he couldn't offer any real resistance to my feigned indifference to playing Agricola. Hurrah!

We elected to have the 7 occupations and minor improvements dealt to us with no options because the task of looking through them all took long enough as it is. Paul was claiming rustiness but we both knew the Smith kids had done their work. To be fair I had had a couple of goes on the new iPad version and therefore strategy was fresher in my mind. Two player Agricola has a nasty side effect of making you think you are good at the game. There's plentiful resources to be had (Especially as I had laid out the 4 extra 3 player cards by mistake) and it becomes an exercise in who can cover every base the best. In relative terms we raced through the game with Paul never coming to terms with feeding his family having neglected to build a cooker that converted animals.

Chris - 54
Paul - 35

Another one of my green tinged photos showing the end board of game 2

Then to my great surprise Paul announced that he would like to play again. Surely we couldn't fit two games in? You betcha! This time we decided to select 7 from 10 of the additional cards. We had spent most of the first game bitching about our useless god given cards. This time we would have to bitch at ourselves. Second time round Paul was right in the swing of it. Fireplace, pastures, ploughed fields, grain, and grazing animals all embedded whilst I was getting all excited by the grocer occupation I had just played which gave me a little tower of about 7 resources that I could buy for one food each.

Piles and piles of resources stacked up, in fact at the end of the game 23 pieces of clay were sitting there unclaimed (Another problem with putting the extra cards down). The game came down to the wire with the difference being that I had taken advantage of my Axe, renovator, conservator combination to upgrade my rooms to stone, whereas Paul had ploughed fields a plenty sitting fallow.

Chris - 42
Paul - 34

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Saturday Night Farmer

Last night Sally and I made our way to Mark and Katie's for our irregular games match-ups. I'd brought a few 4-player options, but as Katie's son Jack was there - and willing to participate - we ended up playing blast from the past Carcassone. Once upon a time this felt the promised land of gaming, only to pale slightly as more complex, or thematically interesting games took its place. But it still retains something - even if your strategy is pretty much decided by luck, it's so simple to pick up and play, and looks lovely. My recent match-up with my own boys meant I was a little fresher than the others:

Sam 98
Mark 80
Sally 52
Katie 47
Jack 35

Carcassone cake, courtesy of Toniemn

After that most of us we still perky, but fancied something a bit faster-moving, so Mark brought Las Vegas to the table. This is even more down to chance, and lady luck smiled on me - as Katie and Jack fought an intergenerational battle, I managed to pick up some hefty first places (- their dice were tied, meaning they cancelled each other out). In mitigation of Sally, she at this point was trying to stay awake:

Sam $540,000
Mark $350,000
Katie $320,000
Sally $240, 000
Jack $130,000

Lots of dice, courtesy of diddle74

Full of good food, games, alcohol and company, we collapsed into bed.

But wait. Today was Father's day, so after a slap-up breakfast Mark and I found ourselves with the special treat of a couple of hours to ourselves as the ladies took the kids out. We decided to fill it with a couple of games, and Jack - now slightly jaded by the pirate-themed Soft-Play world - joined us.

First up was Samurai. Andrew and I can vouch for how more-ish this game is. And I think Steve can too, as he trounced us if I recall. But at the same time as having a simple rule-set it also has the head-scratching element of trying to work out your optimal move. Mark really liked it, though his appreciation was often expressed in cries of despair.

1 Sam
2 Mark
3 Jack

It was really close between the three of us, so we played again:

1 Sam
2 Mark
3 Jack

Again it was very tight, and Mark and I were probably lucky that Jack was focusing half his attention on his laptop.

Thanks, Club Amatent

Finally we bashed out three games of No Thanks. I won two and Mark the other, as Jack placed second each time. We all had at least one completely duff round, scoring overall (over 3 games):

Sam 126
Jack 127
Mark 184

magyar kiadás

And that was that. On the KMSS table (recording the Saturday night games only) I surge into a healthy lead as the incessant nerdiness finally pays dividends. Admittedly not the kind of dividends that pay for anything, anywhere, ever, but I'll take what I can get at this stage,



Saturday, 15 June 2013

From Macao with love

Friday evening, and the GNN call-sign was projected up onto the rainclouds that hung low over Bristol. Adam and Hannah hosted, with Sam and I in attendance.

We perused H&A’s imposing games cupboard – the sort of games cupboard that King George III might have had – but decided on a game that Sam brought with him: Macao. Everyone had played it, although there were some rusty memories, and everyone liked it, so onto the table it went.

I’ll be honest, up against three players who’d all beaten me comprehensively in the past, my hopes weren’t high, but when Spin The Bottle chose me as the starting player, and I saw a strong card in the opening choices, I thought perhaps I had a chance.

The star of the evening: Adam's Lambourghini Countach of dice arenas.

The card was The Store, which allowed you to swap two cubes for a cube of your choice. With this, as long as I had more cubes than I needed, I was able to build buildings far quicker than my opponents, all of who ended up taking a –3 punishment token or two as their tableaux filled up with unbuilt buildings.

Then I managed to put together a little gold-making chain, which allowed me to buy prestige points. In fact, my win was assured on the last round when buying any prestige points suddenly became very expensive. Since I was the only one who could raise that kind of capital in the short term (apart from Adam, who had some cash in reserve) I was able to hold on to the lead I’d held almost from the start.

Adam’s gold reserves and chain of city quarters allowed him to steal second from Sam in the last round. Meanwhile, Hannah’s minus points pulled her back into fourth.

Andrew 72
Adam 64
Sam 63
Hannah 58

I was very proud of my win, which was so clear to my opponents that Sam started packing away the game as I was playing out my last moves. If he’d started stacking the chairs on the table, he wouldn’t have been more obvious.

Last scores being calculated: pieces already in the bag

And then we played Biblios. Sam felt he needed some pride restoration, and so he suggested his favourite light game to round off the evening. We agreed, and so we began. There was a flurry of dice-adjustment cards early on, causing grumblings of “who shuffled these cards?”, but otherwise, the game played out as normal.

I went for two colours and picked up good letters, and won both. Hannah put all her effort into winning one die, and did so. But Sam lost both of his potential dice on the letter tie-breaker, and so he ended the evening on a slightly jilted note, as one of his most reliable games seemed to have found new people to hang out with.

Andrew 7
Adam 6
Hannah 3
Sam 0

On the form table, my two wins don’t launch me up as I hoped they might, with that “6” still hanging round my neck. The big winner tonight is Jon, who rises up to fourth without lifting a finger.

Steve1 2 1 1 3 9
Anja2 3 1 13 10
Joe 3 3 2 1 1 10
Jon2 1 2 3 513
Adam 2 2 1 5 3 13
Sam 4 3 2 1 3 13
Andrew1 1 3 6 4 15
Quentin2 23 5518
Hannah3 4 4 5 2 18
Will3 3 5 5 5 21

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Gloop dynamics

Tonight saw the return of Joe, after a couple of weeks away. Joe and I arrived at Steve and Anja’s, raring to go. But Steve was still eating and no one else was there yet. Except Anja, of course, who was busy trying to placate Luther, who was crying about something. Perhaps he’d just found out he couldn’t join in with board games.

Slowly, the gang arrived, left for chips and then arrived again, and meanwhile while of us (me, Joe, Steve and Adam) played Augustus. A roman-themed game where tiles are drawn from a bag and its symbol matches (or may not) on a tile you’ve got in front of you. It is, effectively, Roman Bingo (or Bingus, as I quipped).

Steve flew into an early lead and stayed there, picking up bonuses left right and centre which gave him a commanding win over the other three. Adam’s dreams of a perfect five wins in a row stood no chance against this.

Steve 61
Joe 48
Adam 43
Andrew 33

I can’t say I was hugely convinced. I felt like I was watching the game being played, rather than being part of it. Plus, the game suffered from a lot of interruptions and so perhaps lost a lot of flow. It’s supposed to be a light half hour game, but we managed to stretch it out.

Now, with Luther showing no signs of giving up, and Sam and Hannah having arrived (with exciting gossip about Adam having categorised all the games he's played since GNN began), we went for a quick game we could play until Anja got the baby off to sleep. We chose 7 Wonders. It’s a bit of a luck-fest with six, but at least we all knew it and could get it started quickly. It was a high scoring, quick-fire game.

Steve went into Sciences in a big way, and I was best soldier, but only because those were the cards handed to me at the end of the game. Hannah kept “accidentally” building armies and Joe, once again, barely had any materials of his own. Steve ruined Adam’s game when he built a last minute army, without seeing the armies perched on Adam’s wonder. Instead of a five-point bonus for one of them, they cancelled each other out. Sam scored in every category (except Science) and that is how the game is meant to be played.

Sam 63
Steve 53
Joe 50
Hannah 49
Adam 48
Andrew 45

Then Anja arrived and Hannah bowed out of the next game, and we split into two groups. Kingdom Builder was the attraction on one table, and it was enticing enough that it looked like there’d be four on that table, while Sam and I played out a rematch on Lords of Waterdeep. But Steve joined us, and so the three of use strode, side by side, down the quaint medieval streets of Waterdeep, recruiting clerics and calling them wizards by accident, before setting off on our quests: studying arches, placating statues and doing things to undermountains.

It was another close game, and as round six began, we were all next to each other on the score track. In the end, though, Steve had enough in reserve to push through to the end.

Steve 193
Sam 186
Andrew 165

Hopefully, someone from the other table will tell us how Kingdom Builder went. The scores were

Adam 57
Anja 50
Joe 48

Anja and Joe rounded off the evening with a little Augustus: Joe 74, Anja 61. A score that Joe graciously called “not a whitewash.”

On the form table, Steve loses three four-pointers and jumps to the head of the queue. Three rivals stay in close contention, though, looking over his shoulder and tutting.

Steve1 2 1 1 3 9
Sam 2 1 3 2 2 10
Anja2 3 1 13 10
Joe 3 3 2 1 1 10
Adam 1 5 3 1 2 12
Jon2 1 2 3 513
Hannah4 5 2 1 4 16
Quentin2 23 5518
Andrew3 6 4 2 3 18
Will3 3 5 5 5 21

But will we ever find out the secrets of Adam's "Will Never Play Again" list?

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Drop the Pilot

Friday night. Gloucester Road heaves to the rhythm of people on their way to pubs and restaurants and also to me, on my way to Sam’s for a quick game or two.

I had been inspired by the Bracknell bunch, and their tales of derring-do over a game of Lords of Waterdeep, so when I suggested it as the first game of the night, I was glad that Sam agreed so easily.

I remain endlessly impressed with the effortless way the pieces come out of the box while you set up. It’s almost as if you can pour it over the table, and it’s ready to play. But game box ergonomics aside, what about the game?

Well, bearing in mind my constant mispronunciation of “Plot Quests” as “Pilot Quests”, you’d have thought I was clueless, but I had focused early on these Plot Quests as a means to getting bonus points and cubes and how to chain them together. Thanks to these, in one round I managed to complete three quests in a row and catapult myself around the score track, building up a lead that Sam never caught, especially not after he realised he’d picked up the wrong quest in one round, and ended up completing a quest that scored no points at all, but got you two points every time you played an intrigue card. Not much use in round seven out of eight.

The fabled "fifth bowl" of Lords of Waterdeep

Perhaps the biggest laugh was when a Plot Quest came out that promised money every time a player took a black cube. Well, I already had a Plot Quest that gave me a black cube every time I got money. How we chuckled over the image of a game that’s ground to a halt because a player is trapped in an infinite loop of getting gold, then getting black cubes. We imagined him sitting next to a huge pile of black cubes and cardboard chits, while his opponents pop out to buy more black cubes. However, any chance of it being a viable sketch on a TV comedy show was ruined by the amount of time it’d take to set that joke up. Basically, we’d have to explain the rules of Lords of Waterdeep.

Still, we found it funny.

Andrew 228
Sam 199

Since it was still early, we dug out San Juan. This is the new light game with a deep heart. Short, but complex. Sam got his production buildings down early, while I put out violet buildings, again, trying to maximise an early bonus card, and I got a gold mine which didn’t really help. Sam traded well, and the tower meant he could save up his cards. I completed twelve buildings first, but Sam really won it on the “?” cards, getting bonuses for all his buildings.

Sam 36
Andrew 28

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Clerical terror

There was a Beano story once, where the character (Dennis or Minnie, or it might have been Rodger) wished it was Christmas every day. By the end, they were sick of it. This has been the concern of the Bracknell Trio with their favourite game, Lords of Waterdeep. If they play it too often, will its brilliance fade?  This week, enough was enough. Chris was urged to set up Lords.

Paul accelerated into an early lead, rapidly knocking off the relatively low-reward quests. So fast and furious was his quest completion, it was hard to pin down exactly what he was after. James plucked up the purple wizards, so it was clear he was after the Arcana quests. And he soon had a couple of 25-point quest cards and a 20-point one in his hand, optimistic that the high-scoring quests would win him the game.

Chris bought buildings. Soon, he had a commercial empire. Though it was more like an empty precinct in a struggling seaside town. And as he dropped further and further behind, he bemoaned his luck and his tactics and woefully buried his head in his hands each time he missed a good quest card. But James was having none of it. It was glaringly obvious that Chris had the Lord card that favoured buildings. Chris’ acting was fooling no-one and James and Paul had to keep up the momentum knowing full well Chris could come steaming back when the bonuses were counted.

But Chris did execute the cruellest, most devastating move of the game playing an Intrigue card that wiped out any Clerics in any opponents’ taverns. Paul and James’ taverns were packed to the rafters with clerics one moment... Eerily empty the next.

Paul was almost always in the lead. James would momentarily leapfrog ahead as he completed the high-scoring quests, but Paul was slapping down the cheap and cheerful quests faster than a kid playing his first game of Snap.
The game’s rounds ended with Paul just ahead of James and Chris a long way behind. Paul totted up a lot of bonus points where James didn’t have that many. So the gap widened. But Chris was just about to announce what had been obvious from the start. Buildings make bonuses. Just how fast would this terrible actor come zooming round the scoring track?
It didn’t happen. He’d actually been after commerce and warfare. Not buildings after all. He’d built those to produce the resources that would pay for the quests that would grab the glory but fallen too far behind in doing so. It’s not a tactic he’ll be using again. Chris’ commentary on his tactical shortcomings was not an act at all. Just genuine despair.  

Final score: Paul 170, James 159, Chris 135.

Atmospheric 7 wonders picture
So, for pudding it was going to be 7 Wonders, the B-sides. Again a game they all know quite thoroughly now. Paul had Babylon and went for military mastery, adding a dab of science in the third round. James had Giza and steadily assembled the points through structures and the completion of all his wonders, plus his yellow cards. Chris had Ephesus and stacked up the structures too, before making a killing with a couple of cracking guild choices at the end. With three coins worth a point, Chris’ pile of dosh helped seal the victory.

Chris had the Grand Palace. So there’s still not been a game where someone has built the grand palace and not been victorious.

Final score: Chris 54, James 53, Paul 47.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Yellow Jam

Half-term is over, and everything is returning to normal, you might think. But no. This week, gamers were thin on the ground, with just me, Sam and Adam.

We began with Tsuro. Something light and fluffy to ease us back into the giddy whirl of regular gaming. However, we play Tsuro like they would in The Deerhunter – from the start we all sped towards the middle. After some dodging and feinting, we found ourselves lined up beside each other. Unfortunately, I was in the middle and it was more a choice of who I wanted to kill me. I went for Sam.

Then, in the battle between Sam and Adam, it was a matter of whose corner of the board ran out first, and when Adam found a path across the board to a new corner, then Sam’s fate was sealed.

1. Adam
2. Sam
3. Andrew

Next we considered what to play next. The games cupboard was perused and, in the end, we chose Railways of the World. Why on Earth we chose that, I’ve no idea. We may as well have just given Adam the win, and then Sam and me arm wrestle for second place. Would’ve been quicker.

The Mississippi delta was shining like a...
well, like a glossy board game.

It began with Adam and Sam tussling for the north-east seaboard and, although my Baron needed a link from New York, I decided to leave them to it, hoping that they’d take points of each other. Fat chance. Instead, Sam found the beer going to his head far too quickly, and Adam played the shitty bastard card (not literally) by cutting off Sam’s options of expanding past the Appalachian Mountains.

Meanwhile, we all found ourselves cash-rich and racking up a decent amount of points. Not enough to overhaul Adam, certainly, but no one seemed to be struggling. Playing three-players on the Eastern Seaboard map (we were missing the Mexican deck of cards) means a more open game, but Adam still managed to put the boot in when he could. We wouldn’t respect him if he didn’t.

Adam 106
Sam 79
Andrew 75

By now it was half past ten. Sam was keen for another game, but we weren’t convinced. Then No Thanks was waved under our nose, I agreed and Adam crumbled under peer pressure.

This was the game that showed us that Adam’s success tonight was written in the stars. His luck in picking up cards that matched his own was astounding. It wasn’t just Lady Luck on his side, but Gentleman Jammy Git and Saint Spawny, too. It wrapped up a highly productive evening for him, with a confident third win in a row.

Adam 25
Andrew 66
Sam 81

All of this leaves Adam poised once again on the precipice of immortality. He has four wins in a row, and heads to the top of the leaderboard.

Adam 1 1 1 1 2 6
Joe 1 1 2 1 2 7
Sam 3 2 2 2 1 10
Jon2 1 2 3 513
Anja3 1 13 513
Andrew2 3 3 4 2 14
Hannah5 2 1 42 14
Steve1 3 4 4 4 16
Quentin2 23 5518
Will3 3 5 5 5 21