Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Longest Half an Hour

Tuesday, Joe's house. After a Tuesday night (last week), Thursday night, and all day Saturday and Sunday, we'd finally managed to break Andrew, who couldn't face playing any more. Adam had no such qualms, and with Gonz to join us later Joe suggested setting up Trains as a starter for ten. After that, it got confusing.

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:

Gonz 65
Adam 63
Joe 60
Quentin 59
Sam 52

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.

Adam 2 2 1 3 1 9
Gonz1 1 3 5 2 12
Sam5 2 2 2 1 12
Chris1 1 3 4 5 14
Joe 3 3 2 2 4 14
Quentin4 1 1 5 3 14
Andrew3 3 4 4 5 19
Hannah2 5 55 5 22
Steve2 5 55 5 22
Anja3 5 55 5 23


  1. That the third time recently that a medium length game has turned into an epic at the hands of GNNers. Well done, guys.

  2. It should have been obvious to me that a game that takes over an hour with three is going to practically double the length with five, but I felt that I'd ironed out a lot of the rules queries from our first game, so no lengthy perusal of the rulebook to slow us up, and also I'd sipped from the pewter tankard quite a lot by the time we were setting up.

    My reason for going cold on Steam was that it felt more sensible to play a game that at least one of us had played. Although Steam is very similar to Railways and Age of Steam, those small differences would have been tricky to ferret out of a fairly dense rulebook, particularly with the pewter tankard thing going on.

    Having bought Steam to take away with us in the summer, as a luggage-friendly alternative to Railways, I'd only familiarised myself with the basic game. And funnily enough, it only got to the table as far as it did last night. Lid off, quick look at the bits, a glance at the rule book, lots of umm-ing and ahh-ing, back in the box (I think we played 7 Wonders instead, and it was an instant hit). It's something to do with the rulebook I think - mind you I was drunk then too.

    In any case I do think Steam would have been the longer game, but we may never know.

    As for Spyrium, I really like it, but as someone suggested at the end of last night (Gonz?), I think three is probably the sweet spot. I do admire a game which manages to get a substantial, weighty game out of a fairly small box (Pax Porfiriana must be the ultimate example of this), which several people noted last night; perhaps not meant in a positive way, but that's how I took it (pewter tankard).

    Shame we didn't get to play Trains first thing, I'm really keen to have another go having played lots of deck-building online with Ascension. And had Railways not been taking a holiday at Andrew's I feel sure we'd have ended up playing that, and Gonz would have loved it despite his misgivings, and Adam would have won, all would be right with the world.

    Thanks chaps for coming along, and thank you Sam for taking over blogging duties in such elegant style, and for that picture of me with a sort of pink fuzzy glow. I think that pewter tankard might be haunted.

  3. that tankard was nothing but an evil bully who liked to sit on top of rulebooks!
    It was fun playing, but that game was not my cup of tea. I cant put my finger exactly on interaction, no theme, it wasnt intuitive...the mechanism were good, but together, they did not feel like a great game.
    Looking forward to try duke, thought.
    Also,can someone explain me how the scoring board for our little brotherhood works? for the life of me, I dont get it!

  4. It's the kind of thing that needs to be explained face to face. I'll try and remember to bring my blackboard and different coloured chalks next week.