Friday, 18 October 2013

Soul Through The Ages

I arrived late at the fortnightly Roll For The Soul games meet, and I found four gamers (Hannah, Martin, Adam and Ryan) knee-deep in a game of Carcassone, and Joe watching while he ate. It was Adam’s homegrown version, where the fimo farmers tower over their fields and cities like a B-movie version of Carcassone. Except that the usual B-movie trope of the woman falling over at important moments and needing to be rescued by the hero did not take place. In fact, Hannah won, with the others not winning.

While they finished their game, Joe and I played Roll Through The Ages. Joe was a bit rusty on the rules but not on strategy as he went for the quick win, filling himself up with cheap developments, while I got more cities nice and early and went for more exclusive developments. Joe’s spoiler tactic won, and he got to five developments, ending the game, when I had only got three.

I got a beer from the counter, and I guess I must be a regular now since the owner handed me my order before I’d even said anything.

Hannah left and more people arrived, and we decided to split into two groups. The friendly, mixed-gender group playing a game on a recognisable map with trains that passers-by can instantly understand. And the other, less friendly group of three old men in the corner, playing a game with cubes and tiles and no clear objective unless you’ve already played it twice.

Adam cleverly sold Ticket To Ride to the newcomers by describing as being like Inter-Railing. That seemed to swing it, but one of them was intrigued by Tinners’ Trail, amazed that there was a board game set in Cornwall.

I didn’t take many pictures today, so instead here’s one I took earlier:

Happy Adam

Joe, Martin and I decided to give The Palaces of Carrara another go. This game has tantalised us with its sense of almost understanding it, but not quite. Maybe next go it’ll click. Not since Biblios has a game hidden its winning strategy so effectively.

Except that maybe Martin has cracked it. He won the first game, although it was close between himself and Joe. Martin’s strategy was to end the game soon as possible and rely on after-game bonuses, even though he’d barely scored a point during the game itself. Joe got second and I was third.

During this game, a drunken man wobbled over to us, pointed out of the window at a passing bus and stammered “Look! A train! In London!” After a few seconds, he changed London to Bristol, but was still shocked at seeing a train in the street. And then the cafe owner gave him some food in a brown paper bag, and that distracted him long enough for him to forget that he’d been talking to us at all and he wobbled away again.

Then we begun on a second attempt at Palaces... and found it was a closer affair. Possibly because Martin misread one of the end-game criteria (which change every game) and far from being about to finish he was, in fact, in a terrible position.

Despite that, he still grabbed a couple of powerful upgrade tiles and shot himself off around the scoretrack. As for me and Joe, our tussle for second relied on one decision: whether or not Joe would build a new building, or score what he already had. If he built, he risked a cheap building being drawn from the pile which I’d be able to build and end the game immediately leaving him without a chance to score.

He chose to build. A cheap building came out, and his fate was sealed. Martin hit triple figures, I got seventy-something and Joe lay in a distant third in the 30s, cursing his luck.

On the other table, Ticket To Ride ended. Adam didn’t win, despite his usual tactic of hoarding masses of cards in his huge spade-like hands. I can’t remember who did win, but they got 114 points. More or less the only number I remember from that evening.

But before they finished, we were able to squeeze in a quick game of Sticheln. This cunning trick-taking game is beautifully designed, even if it did take us a couple of attempts at getting the dealing right. Joe won, despite picking up the highest number of bad cards. I got no cards at all and came in second.

And then it was time to wend our ways away, into Bristol’s darkened, drunk-lined streets. See you in two weeks!


  1. Thanks for the back-to-back plays of Palaces guys! I wouldn't say I've cracked it, but maybe there's a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. I thought it was much better without the player screens - my only fear had been that it would slow the game down, but if anything we got through it faster. Three players might be better than four too.

    Shame we didn't have time for enough rounds of Sticheln to allow the luck to even out and the skill to shine through ;)

  2. You just watch it, that was pure skill.

    Yeah I'm very keen to keep clawing away at Palaces, despite my poor judgement in the second game yesterday. It's really nice to play game repeatedly and really dig in to it, particularly one as short yet deep as Palaces.
    Thing is, had I done the sensible thing yesterday and scored the reds instead of taking a huge risk turning over the tile, it wouldn't have changed my placing in the game, I'd have just got a higher score. I think. SO I stand by my decision. I think.

  3. Andrew you changed the title. I was going to suggest you amend it to Games Without Front Doors . . .

  4. Of course Joe's door is a frontier, it is the final frontier!
    Too bad I could not go, it seems I missed a lot of gaming...Anything going on this weekend?

  5. The Ticket to Ride scores were:

    Lizzy 122
    Adam & Mel 105
    Kerry 102
    Ryan 80ish

    I'm claiming rule-explainers curse. Ryan also told us about a dogfight tabletop game that I'd like to play, but I don't know what it's called...

  6. Um... Was that Hannah in Carcassonne?

  7. Oh now I realise you didn't change the hit toe, it was just the title of the email...

  8. But I'll remember "Games Without Front Doors" for when we all go on a picnic.

    (PS "hit toe". Ha ha.)