That's what I thought as I walked home after this fortnight's Roll For The Soul evening.
But Roll For The Soul with no Adam or Joe is a delicate proposition. No Ticket To Ride, nor Joe’s selection of light games. But Martin and Gonz had said they’d be there, so I could be sure we wouldn’t be playing Tsuro all evening.
There were five of us in all: myself, Martin, Gonz and Katie and Tom even though Katie said she might go upstairs in a few minutes to watch a Cuban zombie movie. We might have been seven, as there was a couple that Katie recognised from an earlier games night, but we weren’t sure if they were here for games or not. They left without saying anything, but were we supposed to ask them over? Oh, the etiquette of board gaming in public: it’s a minefield.
The five of us began with a new game: Fauna. Possibly the most underwhelming title of any game since Draughts. Martin explained the rules of the game: Place one of our six cubes on a map of the world or on three scales of weight, length or (if applicable) tail length. Accurate guesses score big, close guesses not so big, wrong guesses means you lose your cubes.
This game, so simple to explain, caused much thought and debate as we scraped through our memories for any mention at all of the Moonrat, the Collared Peccary, or the Northern Brown Bandicoot. This latter, in particular, confused a lot of people. The word “Northern” made most of us think it was in the northern hemisphere, but Gonz had played the game Crash Bandicoot on the old PlayStation, so he knew it was set in Australia. He cleaned up on that round, but it was to be a fleeting victory. He ended in fourth, just ahead of Tom.
I played it fairly safe, going for adjacent areas on the map, which meant I usually put a cube on the Tibetan Plateau and the North Indian Ocean since they were next to lots of places. You can imagine everyone’s surprise when one of these guesses turned out to be spot on. Who’d have thought a small furry rodent would live in the Indian Ocean. At the end of the game, I placed second, one point ahead of Katie, and Martin won with over a hundred points that caused the end of the game. We all enjoyed it, and Katie said it was more fun than a zombie movie in Spanish. She certainly got into it, yelling “Yes!” at the top of her voice when she correctly guessed the weight of an animal.
After this, we chose Niagara, the game that Gonz has been hopefully suggesting at several GNN nights recently. Roll For The Soul is exactly the kind of venue for tiny canoes on plastic discs slowly being pushed off the edge of a board, so this time his suggestion was happily accepted.
It was another game with very few rules to learn: use you cards, 1-6, top move your canoes back and forth, picking up coloured crystals and bringing them safely back. I started out as the nice guy, using my cloud card to slow the flow of the river. Later on, though, I turned evil, speeding the river up in an attempt at getting myself to the end quickly, and also maybe sending a couple of opponents off the edge.
Meanwhile, Katie also played an evil game, stealing crystals from myself and Gonz. Not that it made any difference. He calmly picked up four crystals of the same coloured, and paddled his way to victory.
It was still barely nine o’clock, so the next game we tried was Hanabi, the game of firework displays. When Katie heard this, she was definitely keen to give it a try, and even accompanied Martin’s explanation of the rules with “oooh, aaah” reactions, as if the fireworks had already begun.
Mostly it went fairly smoothly, apart from when Martin told Gonz about a particular card because he wanted him to not play it yet. Gonz misunderstood and discarded it, ruining our green fireworks. Otherwise, it was mostly a case of using slight intonations of voices or looking for reactions when considering playing a particular card. Funny but silly. We ended with 19 points.
There was just enough time for one game of Tsuro! Martin hadn’t played before, so I explained the rules. Most of them, anyway. He’s a clever guy: he worked out the rest. We all lasted for quite a long time before Gonz sent Katie off the board, and then Martin and I ended up in the same corner with no available exits. Another win for Gonz.
By now it was ten o’clock, and even though the night was young I am not. So I'm quite glad the evening had to end there. A very nice evening. Thanks all!