Firstly I (Sam) somehow read "Trains" as "Railways" and anticipated Railways of the World. Then Quentin showed up unannounced - a delight for us, but Trains didn't play five, so we needed a rethink. Adam and Gonz were both delayed, so Quent, Joe and I went through a protracted and frankly unnecessary discussion, as having reached a choice of two we could agree on, we couldn't make a final decision on the other's behalf.
The games in question were Steam and Spyrium. Steam is the brother of Railways, but having sold it to us Joe started to go curiously cold on it. Gonz of course hates anything to do with trains, so voted for Spyrium, as did I. Adam and Quent both voted for Steam, and Joe's casting vote went on Spyrium, as it would be "a bit quicker".
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Rewind back to me staring gobstruck at "Trains" and realizing that any train-based words for me now spell "Railways". It's only just gone seven, and finally starting on Spyrium is an hour and a half away. With Adam and Gonz delayed Joe and I played The Duke, which is like acrobatic chess on steroids. There's an 8x8 grid around which you move your pieces, trying to catch your opponent's Duke. When a piece is moved, though, it flips, and now has a new set of movement capabilities. For some reason Joe's tankard seemed thematically appropriate.
How we dreamed we'd be as children
After a cagey opening I took the game to Joe and got myself in a strong position. But in a Hollywoodesque reversal of fortune I managed to box my own Duke in, giving Joe a simple victory.
My Duke shoots himself in the foot
It's a game that is growing on me. You can learn as you play, and although it's quite thinky (and long) it's not thinky enough to feel heavy.
There was no-one here yet, so we then played Elf Fest. And I must say mastering the taxing game management afforded by the game of the night Spyrium is all very well, but nobody moves an elk across a series of disc-shaped wooden islands quite like I do. I won.
Just out of shot are nine small grey thingies
Back to Spyrium. This had its debut at Novocon so the rules were fresh in Joe's mind, meaning we'd have a speedy game and time for something else afterwards. At least, that was the plan. However Gonz and I both found it hard to get our heads around the game early on, and all of us had our moments of taking our time and working out what the best possible move might be.
There's some delightful elements to it - I like the risk factor in weighing up when to remove workers and when to keep placing them. And the money-collection mechanic is pretty neat for the same reasons. However when your workers are left high and dry - as Adam and Joe were early on, and I was in the last round - it can be quite frustrating. Not knowing what else to do at the start, I tried to take an extra worker as early as possible and push myself up the income track. That meant I could see what everyone else was doing and try and mimic what appeared the best ideas.
Joe was finding it hard to build buildings, Quent was finding it hard to raise cash, and Adam and Gonz - despite the latter's professed bafflement - seemed the likely eventual winners to me. After lagging behind everyone for three rounds I managed to catch up, but the final round stumped me and I stagnated. Joe produced an electrifying surge of 30 points over the final two rounds, but as we suspected it was between Adam - with his incessant minor point-scoring - and Gonz - with his large collection workers getting him valuable buildings - who fought for first place, Gonz emerging victorious:
Opinion was divided. Quentin loved it. Gonz, despite winning, was less enamored. I was cheesed off with my plans being accidentally sabotaged by Joe in the final round (I think I could have managed third place), but up until that point I think I was enjoying it - I certainly felt a little more forgiving this morning than I was last night, anyway.
But it was certainly longer than half an hour though - it was now 11pm and talk of a light game to finish off with did not re-emerge, as we collectively exhaled after a tense couple of hours.