Friday, 20 September 2013

Guilding the Lily

Today saw an Adam-less Roll For The Soul evening. Joe arrived first, sitting by the window, a suspicious bulging bag by his side. It wasn’t until I arrived that he felt secure enough to put the games out on the table. Although, if he had done that while he was alone, people might have thought he was selling them.

We began with Zooloretto: The Dice Game. Joe explained the rules to me and then new boy Martin arrived. He knew Joe because he’d once bought a bespoke Pax Porfiriana baize playing area from Joe, which is enough to make him best mates for life, so Joe invited him along to a games night. He seemed nice enough, and Joe explained the rules to him too and we began.

Zooloretto with dice is a shorter and sharper version of its big brother. I enjoyed it a lot more, and it seemed easier to set up trucks that would annoy other people. Maybe that’s because there were three of us instead of four. I got the lions bonus, and no negatives so I won. Hurrah.

During this game, a Spanish guy, Gonzales Gonzalo (or Gonz, with the z pronounced as “th”) arrived and asked us if we were a group of board gamers. A very small group, yes, but still a group, said Joe. He joined us, even though he’d only been passing by chance. He was pretty clued up on games, though, and he said he knew Guildhall well, so that was the next one the four of us played.

Well, he said he knew it well, but he didn’t know about the “two actions per turn rule,” and he thought that each player only had one. However, he adapted quickly and soon became the person to attack. Despite all that, he still ended as a clear winner.

It was much more fun this time. I knew what the signs meant and what the cards did. It all seemed to make more sense this time, even though I came last by a mile. I was also a little put out by how quickly Martin learnt to read the symbols on each card, suggesting that my initial bemusement was more my failing than the designers.

Then we set up a new game. A brand new game that Martin had brought, that needed the cardboard pieces popped out of their boards before use. This is usually one of the best bits of any game, but I felt a bit self-conscious doing it in public. Unfortunately, there are no curtains on the windows at Roll For The Soul.

The game was The Palaces of Carrara, and Martin (who’d played before) suggested we dive in with the advanced version of the game, even though the advanced rules come in an envelope with a sticker that says not to play this version until you’ve played the basic game at least twice. It's not often you see rules with a health warning. But Martin thought we were up to it. He set the game out, explained the rules and we were off. On the table, it’s a bit of a beast, and has all the appearance of a lengthy strategic battle. So I began with buildings that would score money, which I could use later to build buildings that would score points.

Except, I never got the chance. Just as I was getting going, Martin ended the game. Each game has a different set of criteria that needed to be filled by one player for the game to end. It just so happened that in this game, they were all quite easy to achieve. We all had one turn left before the game ended, so the best we could do was to score what buildings we had available. And then in the end of game scoring, Martin sped off further around the score track, seriously threatening to lap us.

After this, we chose Las Vegas as a nice antidote. Random, silly and confrontational in a way that Guildhall isn’t: You can always blame the dice. Two remarkable rolls will live on in the memory. Joe’s final neutral dice that, if it were a four, would ruin Martin’s $90,000 haul. It was a four. And also my roll of three dice (two mine, one neutral) that came up all ones, and somehow knocked out Joe while giving me a quite undeserved win in his place.

But Vegas is like that. Every roll of the dice tells a dozen stories. Martin came first again, with me in second. I left after this, but the three of them carried on, with some card game about storming Hadrian’s Wall. I’m sure Joe will fill us in.

A good evening, with some exciting new people arriving at the GNN Mansion. We must welcome them and make sure they never leave.

I mean, that they stay here happily. Not that we kill them.


  1. Hi there! Great to meet you all last night, it was a fun evening.

    I agree that Zooloretto Dice improves on the rather bloated original, but I still think Coloretto is by far the best game in this little series.

    I quite enjoyed Guildhall but didn't love it. In particular I'm not a fan of targeted direct attacks like the Assassin card. And the 'first to 20' finish seems to give quite an advantage to the first player - at least two of us, maybe all three, would have got to 20 on the same turn.

    I felt a bit bad about Palaces. I really like that it's so quick and abrupt, but it can come as a shock to new players! If you guys would be up for trying it again, I'd love to play some more.

    Vegas was probably my highlight of the night - brilliant fun. And Romans Go Home was a nice quick filler to finish - I think Joe and Gonz liked it too.

  2. I enjoyed Guildhall on a second play, but it seems fairly abstract and not that varied. I guess the counter to the first player advantage is that everyone should be more on their toes, and more proactively nasty, but as Andrew pointed out, we tend to prefer games where the aggression is more oblique.

    Palaces I enjoyed, though I remain sceptical about variable end objectives in games, at least while you're learning them. Would definitely like to play again now I know what's going on.

    Vegas is brilliant, and agonising - can't believe you got my $90m card, yes mine, on that last roll with your stupid ones, Andrew. I scored nothing on the last round Idon't think.

    Really liked Roman's Go Home too, very clever and crazy card game that plays very fast and has an almost Mission: Red Planet feel to it. Six VP cards are laid out, and each player puts down 6 of their clan cards, playing them face down - programming RoboRally style. Then everyone turns over their first card, and the person who played the highest gets the first VP card. But most of your cards have special powers which mess with the game, and some of the VP cards are minus points which you don't want. Except . . . there's a 'shoot the moon' thing where you can win by getting three negative point cards. So I was winning on VPs, except that in the last round Martin picked up a third negative VP card and won!

    Roll for the Soul is a great venue, kudos to Adam for coming up with the idea. I thought the people who saw us punching out cardboard bits through the window looked delightfully intrigued ... or was that confused and scared.

  3. Great! A blog, so my victories get chiselled in marble! will my (more numerous) defeats...Glups!
    And hurray for popping out out tokens in public! Exhibitionist geeks for the win!
    Anyway,it was great meeting you guys, I had tons of fun, and I look forward to match wits with you soon. It was really nice of you inviting me like that.
    About the games....

    I used to like Guildhall, now I love it! I seriously cant understand how I missed that rule about having two actions. I love
    direct confrontation, not a fan of games you feel like you are playing on your own (blame my hot latin blood) Maybe we could try this: the game finishes the round someone gets to 20, with everyone having their turn, with the winner being the player with the most points.

    I liked Palaces, I guess you need a couple games to even begin developping a strategy (at least, I think I will need it) I liked the clever mechanism about spinning the wheel. I have to say I wasn´t expecting your sneaky ending of doom!

    And yeah, the vegas game was a blast!

    Ps: My name is Gonzalo (but don't worry, no English men can get it right. I carry no grudges :-) )
    Remember, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!

  4. Oh I wouldn't want to give the idea that I don't like confrontation - I totally agree with you about hating solitaire-feeling games! I just didn't really like the way the Assassin cards worked, I think partly because they slow the game down by hindering progress. I would certainly play the game again, but I don't think it will be a favourite.

    Sounds like I should bring Palaces again next time.

  5. It was good to meet you two. I'm glad you seem to positive about our irrational necessity to write everything down. With photos. And thanks for the correction, Gonz.

  6. I love the post-game analysis/banter! We often had 'games played at London on Board' geeklists for that purpose.

  7. Ey! This is like the replay of the best scenes! If there is something better than playing games, is playing games and then talking about it!

  8. Welcome to GNN chaps! Look forward to seeing you on a Tuesday night soon...

  9. Surely Romans go Home should be called People called Romanes, they go, the house...!