I arrived first and, having only recently learnt that the right way to knock on Joe’s door was to rattle the letter-box, I completely missed the new and handsome door knocker that’s now attached. Joe patiently pointed it out to me, and even gave a little demonstration, so I’d know for next time.
There were four of us: myself, Joe, Adam and Gonz. At the start of the evening, while we were waiting for Gonz, we decided to have a look at a new game: Renaissance Man. Joe had played this game half a dozen times as a single player, so he knew the rules well. When Gonz arrived we were still looking at it and, since it was already out we decided to give it a go.
The reception was not great. It’s sort of like Ludo, but with cards. In Ludo, you have no choice but to wait patiently for the right roll of the die. In Renaissance Man, if you don’t have the right card, then there’s not a lot you can do. The game looks as if it’s giving you options, but it’s only an illusion. Each card has an action, but to do those, you still need the right card. There are four cards in the middle of the table that you can fight over, but only if you have the right card. Also, as the game progresses, and people’s pyramids of cards are built, you get more actions per turn (one go per level) but fewer actions to chose from (you can only action those cards which are not covered).
At the end, Adam needed one more card to build his pyramid, and his game was reduced to picking up new cards at the start of each round, hoping one would fit, and if they didn’t, he couldn’t do anything. I was close, but I had a little leeway in my actions. Then I worked out how three cards in my hand would work together, so I was able to win triumphantly (or rather, put us all out of our misery).
Joe apologised as he put the game away. He said during the game that he didn’t understand how the problem of just waiting for the right card hadn’t come up in play-testing. Then he had the terrible thought that perhaps it had, but the play-testers had gone “Hey, this is fun!”
I could see how it might be an enjoyable single-player: just you, your objective, and a strict time limit. As a multi-player, it was very dry and with almost no interaction except over the four cards in the centre. I will hold off from rating it on BGG so Joe can trade it away before its reputation spreads.
After this, we were in need of a pick-me-up. Gonz suggested Space Alert, which was certainly a complete change, but we wanted something less co-operative. We chose Stone Age. A classic, by any definition of the word. Gonz needed some prompting since he was used to playing on the computer, which did all the collecting stuff/moving pieces for you. Adam, too, needed a helping hand since he seemed to “round up” some of his sums at the start of the game.
I went for civilisations, and had half a plan to go for people multipliers, but it wasn’t to be. Adam got into farms and axes early - the Sam tactic, as he later called it. Joe got a bit of everything and Gonz built his family up. But mostly we were all in thrall to the Stinky Cup. Oh, Stinky Cup! Somehow it’s peculiar aroma adds to the realism of a game based on unbathed hunter-gatherers.
Everyone except me went for huts in a big way. I was mortally hurt mid-game by two rolls for food that came up snake eyes, and me with no axes! I almost starved! Luckily, stone-age man could digest wood. We used two of Joe's finest dice arenas, and Joe managed to roll a die in such a way that it paused dramatically on one corner, before settling on five. Adam shot off further and further into the lead, and it was a comprehensive win by the end.
After this, the rain had begun and we set off into the night. A new season is underway! New hopes, new dreams, new horizons! Surely, if God hadn’t meant us not to play games, he wouldn’t have made cubes dice-shaped!