Saturday, 29 March 2014

Back on the trail again

The last season may have only just ended but, unable to wait those few short days until April and realising that because we’re adults we don’t have to wait, it’s not like Christmas or anything, let’s bring next season forward. The invite went out and Gonz and I arrived at Sam’s.

I got there first, and discovered that Sam had already set up a game of Tinners’ Trail. He said he was happy to unset it up, but he thought tonight might be a good time for Gonz to have his first experience of Cornish tin and copper mining.

As we waited for Gonz, Sally came in and, seeing the boot-shaped peninsula, thought it was a game set in Italy. She walked over, all interested, until she recognised it. She exclaimed “Oh Jesus, Tinners’ Trail!” demonstrating that the scars hadn’t healed from last time.

Gonz arrived and agreed to give the game a try. First signs were good, as he rolled high numbers for the values of copper and tin. But his luck didn’t last. Throughout the game, he went for cheap mines in the unexplored north-west of the map. Each time it came back full of water with a little bit of tin in it.

I went for an odd strategy. I decided not to invest at all in the low-scoring first round, and try to get as much as I could in the last three rounds. By round three I decided to put my fate in the hands of lady luck: I got as much out of my mines as possible, and invested everything, ending the round with one pound, hoping that the prices of both commodities would collapse in the final round.

Unfortunately, tin remained valuable, so it didn’t work. And, besides, I think Sam was already ahead of me by then, anyway.

Sam 150
Andrew 134
Gonz 103

Gonz seemed underwhelmed by the game. He said it was a typical dry Eurogame. Ironic, considering how much water there was in his mines. Oh, how we laughed!

After this, we chose Quantum as our next game. We couldn’t find the sheet of paper that had the official maps on it, so we put one together. It seemed to do the trick. And now, with a better understanding of the rules, we set off into space. Woosh, we went. Kablam! We cried. Dice were rolled and put into battle. We picked up cards. Gonz was conformist and I was curious. Sam had two cards that helped him win battles. And helped him win the game.

1. Sam
2= Gonz
2= Andrew

After this we had a quick trip down memory lane with Timeline. I ended in first after a lucky guess about the invention of the rubber band.

1. Andrew
2= Sam
2= Gonz

Sam2 11 55 14
Andrew1 22 55 15
Gonz2 23 55 17

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Growing pains

On the trip back to the train station Paul admitted that he had been very tired this evening. We speculated that this might have been the reason why he had been in such fine playing form, posting two wins on the night. Was it possible that his weariness meant he had no other energy to draw and deflect away attention from formulating efficient strategies?..... Maybe.

We started off the first of tonights Bracknell league games with the crop building card game Nile. We had never played it with three before as it had previously always been a bit of a 2 player filler. James and I struggled to get crops planted of a diverse enough nature, whereas Paul gave a summary demonstration of crop rotation. I got stuck with a hand full of Papyrus and no chance to lay it as flood after flood of Papyrus came off the deck to prevent me from planting. After the third deck had been worked through our final harvest decks were revealed. Paul got at least two of everything where I was lacking in one type and James in two.

Paul - 2
Chris - 1
James - 0

Table cloth thematically sound

7 Wonders was happily unboxed next and the executive board decision was taken to use the B sides of the wonders. James got Giza with its appetising 20 points, Paul the Colossus of Rhodes, with only 2 stages, and mine was the Temple of Artemis with it's fairly uninspiring victory points.

Players strategies took a familiar path as sciences where largely ignored (By the end of age 2 I was the only player to have one) buildings quickly gobbled up and, Paul and I vying over the military.  In the third age Paul took the best guild which gave points for neighbours buildings and I was taking the best blue cards owing to the fact I was the only person that could use glassware. Luckily for me everyone was still ignoring sciences so I was able to add to my solitary one to make three of the same type and a valuable nine points.

Chris - 47
James - 41
Paul - 40

Finally we took on another game that up until now had only been played as a two player, Citadels. James and I were just working up to something that might have resembled tactics, if you cocked your head to one side, squinted and jumped up and down in a figure of 8 when Paul laid his 7th and 8th buildings. James and I had 4. Damn.

Paul - 27
Chris - 20
James -13

The table so far - Paul and James are joint second only separated by the order of the alphabet.


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Quantum Beery

This week’s Tuesday saw a slimmed-down GNN, after last week’s bloated extravaganza: six eager gamers sat around Sma’s table. At first, though, we were just five. Joe wasn’t expected until eight, along with Russian Railroads. We (myself, Sam, Gonz, Martin and Ian) filled in the time until his arrival with a little three-round game of Raj.

It was to be my finest hour of the evening. In the last round, I noticed that everyone else had played their 15 cards very early, and the ten tile hadn’t come out yet. All I had to do was fend off minus cards, pick up a couple of lucky tiles thanks to other players tying, and victory was assured!

Gonz and Ian, though, had less luck. Gonz started making strange noises, which is his habit when playing a game he can't get a grip on, while Ian tended to start most rounds on the wrong end of a bidding war for minus tiles.

Andrew 60
Sam 30
Martin 26
Gonz 12
Ian 4

After this, Joe arrived and we split into two groups. Joe, Martin and I set forth once again into Russia to build awesome railroads. Sam, Gonz and Ian set forth into the future to fight over planets and dice in Quantum. I don’t know what happened there, since I was too worried about my game, but it ended:

1. Gonz
2. Sam
3. Ian

We were still in the middle of building the railroad to St Petersburg, or inflating our industries, so they started on a game of Lords of Waterdeep. Before they began, Ian asked what a decent score was. Gonz said “100 something” and then Sam expressed surprise, saying he was about to suggest 80 something.

In Russia, I was ploughing through my new and extremely simplistic tactic: get those useless non-scoring black tracks out of the way as soon as possible, and start getting bonuses. It kind of worked, but towards the end, I took my eyes off the prize and wasted a turn building an industry that I never used. Was this the difference between second and third? We will never know.

The difference between second and first, though, was huge. Martin’s twin industries scored handsomely, and he was able to win with a one-level locomotive still on the board, and no tracks more advanced than grey.

Martin 388
Joe 307
Andrew 299

What was most depressing that Martin said he didn’t enjoy the game. I mean, I’m sure he enjoyed the soul-crushing nature of his victory, but he didn’t care for the game itself. Still, two more weeks for the Abacus Of Fun we call Russian Railroads. Who’s up next?

Lords of Waterdeep was still in full swing, so Joe, Martin and I decided to try Quantum. I’d played it the day before, and Martin had read the rules on the internet, so we were confident that it wouldn’t be too much of a learning curve. As it was, Martin reading the rules trumps any other playing experience, as he hones in on misunderstood rules like a kestrel. Still, once I’d got used to the idea that Martin knew the game better than me, even though he’d never played it, everything went smoothly.

Meanwhile, on Lords of Waterdeep, it ended

Gonz 158
Sam 136
Ian 128

Which is a very creditable result for a first go from Ian, especially against two old hands like Gonz and Sam.

After this, they embarked on a quick game of Timeline. It’s one of the few games that rewards paying attention at schoool rather than a idiot savant level of understanding of probabilities. Ian won. I will not be so cruel as to reveal which of those three uttered the terrible pun “Uranus was discovered after your Arsteroids.” What happens at games night stays at games night.

1. Ian
2. Sam
3. Gonz

Back on our half of the table, Martin was ultra-aggressive right from the start of Quantum, attacking two of Joe’s cubes. I was on the other side of the galaxy and couldn’t help. Not that I wanted to. I thought, if they cancel each other out, I may squeak a first place here. But Martin’s combined skills of maths and luck are not to be underestimated.

He strode to another solid win. It was so obvious, that I spent my last move making sure Joe couldn’t place another cube, giving me joint second instead of another dismal last.

1. Martin
2= Joe
2= Andrew

By now it was only half past ten, but by now people had to set off. We ended the evening at a sensible time, our gaming thirst quenching for another week.

Then, when I got home, I realised it was the last Tuesday of the season! A time for prizes and accolades!

The form table ends with Martin on top of the pile, narrowly beating Anja. It was a close season, though. Only five points seperated first from eleventh.

Martin 1 1 3 2 2 9
Anja2 1 2 3 2 10
Andrew2 3 1 1 3 10
Hannah1 3 3 2 2 11
Sam2 2 2 2 3 11
Gonz3 1 1 4 2 11
Steve3 2 1 4 1 11
Matt 1 2 2 5 2 12
Joe2 2 4 3 1 12
Adam3 1 1 4 3 12
Ian1 3 3 5 2 14
Will3 2 5 5520
James4 5 5 5524
Charlotte4 5 5 5524

On the Division, after seventy-one games in total, Martin has a complete whitewash spoilt at the last moment by Sam winning on the medals table. Otherwise, Martin takes first in points and also, impressively, in points ratio by a mere three hundredths of a point. A comprehensive performance.

We still have any final results from Bracknell to come in, but other than that, it’s goodbye from us for another glorious season. See you next week for a brand new chance for glory.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Quantum Physics - a bit dicey

I'm reticent to rave about any game these days with A. GNN's tastes as diverse as they are and B. my ill-conceived attempt to introuduce Castle Dice after a game of Railways of the World, when it was played with an air of suspicion. I confess my initial enthusiasm for the game palled and I ended up trading it - but this was mainly to do with the drawback that (when playing with 4 and 6 year-olds) it involves more dice management than a game of Yahtzee.

A box
pic courtesy Wolverine1977, BGG

Anyway that preamble was just to say that here's a new game that I like a little bit, and you might too. It's called Quantum and it's like a faster Ascending Empires, with flicking replaced by basic math.

Admittedly  that doesn't sound so great, - but wait! There's more. There's space, and planets, and fighting each other, and you win by building all your quantum cubes on the planets in question before anyone else does.

The dice represent spaceships, and can move as many spaces through the galaxy as there are pips showing. So it sounds like a die with six pips would be best, right?

Well, in terms of freedom of movement, yes. But in combat high numbers are bad, so there is a balancing mechanism in place. And each die has its own special power, which you may choose to use before or after moving it...

1's  Can attack neighbouring ships
2's  Can pick up and carry friendly ships
3's  Can WARP and swap places with a friendly ship
4's  Can change themselves into a 3 or a 5
5's  Can move diagonally
6's  Can be re-rolled.

You can only place a quantum cube on a planet if your ships in its orbit add up to a particular number (varying between 7 and 10) and doing so takes two actions of an availble three you have on your turn.

the main board can be rectangular, or a wide variety of shapes
pic courtesy Rashktah, BGG

Other actions are reconfiguring (rerolling a ship to give it a new value) redeploying (returning a ship beaten in battle into space) or improving your research. Get your research value up to six and you gain a 'breakthrough' - giving you a card with either a special power or a one-off event or improvement - build an extra ship, move all ships around one planet to another etc. Building a quantum cube also gets you one of these cards.

We've played this a lot over the weekend. Stanley isn't yet chaining cards or ships but has twigged the whole cube placement thing, and Joe just likes looking at it and placing cubes, picking up cards etc. It's a nicely-judged game that doesn't outstay its welcome, playing in under an hour.

Once a cube is down on a planet there's no removing it from the board, so it's a bit like a race where opponents can shoot at each other while they're hurtling toward the finish line. You can literally learn it in ten minutes as well.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Trouble comes in threes

Today was the first day of Spring and, bang on cue, the sweet Spring showers began. Despite an email from Adam saying he was unwell, and strong suspicions of a low turn-out, I set off into the rain.

Martin was the only one there at the start, and since I wanted to eat, we played a game that was low on meeples and cards: Decathlon! Adam may not enjoy this collection of 10 mini-games of luck, but Martin and I do. It was a close game right up until the final round, the 1500m, where sixes are subtracted from your overall score of all eight dice. Martin used up most of his re-rolls trying to get rid of a series of sixes right at the start, and ended the race with a score of 3. I rerolled only if I got ones or sixes, and came away a comfortable winner.

The Gonz turned up, wet from the rain, bringing a number of games, none of which were in their original boxes. We set up Oregon. Martin explained the rules to Gonz, and he said it sounded intriguing. Certainly, its Kingdom-Builder-style card aspect meant he felt right at home. The two of them managed to use buildings to unflip there “extra-go” and “joker” tiles, leaving me stranded far in last past, despite having lots of gold. Martin won.

During this game, the café turned the house lights down. Unfortunately, this meant we couldn’t really see the board clearly. Usually, we use a side lamp to illuminate us, but we were sitting too far from a power point to make that a viable option. They tried pointing the lamp towards us from across the cafe but that didn’t make much of a difference. In the end, after other customers starting called the staff Spoilsports, they turned the lights back on.

Then, if Oregon wasn’t Kingdom-Builder-ish enough, we decided to play Kingdom Builder. A similar pattern emerged, as the two practised players shot off into the distance, with me just entertaining myself with my massive empire. Sure, Martin may have won the game (only four points ahead of Gonz), but in the parallel universe where this actually took place and didn’t stop after Gonz ran out of pieces, my empire would have risen up and crushed Martin’s and Gonz’s tiny, splintered settlements one by one. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

Then Hanabi was suggested. I was worried, since my last experience with this game involved Gonz getting frustrated at my inability at working out the most logical consequences of his clues. Once I mentioned that, Gonz was even more keen to play, just to show me how wrong I was. And we did okay. We got to 21 points. Not bad at all.

But that was it for me. I left at that point, while Martin and Gonz pondered about a final two-player game of the evening. As I walked out I heard Gonz suggesting his new Street Fighter type game. I shall have to wait for the comments to find out what was chosen.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Hothouse Flowers

Not the kind of flower that grows out of the ground, but the kind that flows. Tonight’s name is in honour of three brave gamers who chose to play Manila twice! And also in honour of Joe's kitchen being quite warm

But tonight was a historic night for many reasons: Three new names on the leaderboard. Three games running concurrently! Seven games in total! And one retirement! And Fursty Ferret ale in a can! So many things never before seen.

It was also the first night of the Game Of The Month. Russian Railroads was given pride of place on its own table, with Joe, Martin, Sam and myself seated around it. On the other table, while they waited for Anja and Steve, they played Incan Gold. We four looked on with jealousy as they played out a game that was actually fun. Adam, Matt, Hannah and newbies Ian, James and Joe’s wife Charlotte set out to plunder five Incan temples. The first one of which was so evil that Adam wondered if the pack of cards was missing some treasure.

At the end, Adam won with Joe’s visiting friend James in last. He’d been introduced by Joe to the wonderful world of board games previously and he must’ve enjoyed Incan Gold, since he stuck around for the next game. Charlotte, however, could not be tempted. After coming fifth in a game she says she hates, she seemed only too glad when one of her daughters called down to her to watch some TV together.

Adam 39
Matt 34
Ian 34
Hannah 31
Charlotte 29
James 28

We ploughed on with Russian Railroads. Martin made an excellent start on the industries and looked to have the whole game sewn up after two rounds, with Sam languishing in last.

On the other table, they made the best of what space they had by splitting into two groups and playing Colosseum (Adam, James, Ian and Matt) and Manila (Steve, Hannah and Anja). Theatre larks and ship-gambling, right in front of me? It was almost as if they’d chosen those games to torture me.

But I’m being harsh to Russian Railroads. The fact is, I never really got going. I began by starting on all three railroads, but this game does not reward diversifying. Joe began to power away in round three, with Martin trying to keep up.

Joe was first to hit 100 points

Meanwhile the first game of Manila ended. We’d heard moans from Steve throughout. In particular, we all heard a very jaded “Well, that’s another shit round from me” from Steve at one point but at least he didn’t come last. Anja, Queen of Pirates, came out top by a significant margin.

Anja 127
Steve 70
Hannah 66

They enjoyed it so much (at least, Anja did) that they started on a second game. Also because it was clear that neither of the other games was about to end any time soon. In fact, this was so clear that James retired from the game of Colosseum.

We finished Russian Railroads, and saw that Sam very nearly used his multipliers to their best effect by rocketing up the scoretrack in the last two rounds. Not enough to overtake Joe, but a valiant effort.

Joe 377
Sam 363
Martin 329
Andrew 215

Joe pointed out that I’d won Russian Railroads on my first go, Sam had won it one his second go and Joe had won it on his third go. Indicating that Martin would win it on his fourth go. We shall see next week.

After all that thinking, we broke out Raj, just to show the other table that we knew how to have fun too! Oh, how we laughed as a three-way tie gave Martin a high-valued tile for next to nothing. How we gasped as the game began with Sam turning over four negative-value tiles. No point in going to detail, though. The anecdotes of Raj are very much of the “you had to be there” type.

Sam won convincingly. To give you an idea of how easy it was for him: In the final round, he came first with 34 and I was second with 6!

It was also notable as being the second game that evening when two players had tied on 34 points.

Sam 71
Martin 41
Joe 34
Andrew 34

Manila II and Colosseum still hadn’t finished, so we leapt into 6nimmt: The 20th anniversary edition! The came with “jokers”, in the form of decimal places that you always got to place first, either replacing a row, or adding to it, as you wished.

I still found it a frustrating and baffling game, but this time, I squeaked through for my first win at 6nimmt! There was some debate that we should finish the game properly (ie, once some gets 66 points) but Colosseum and Manila were both packing away after round three, so it seemed sensible to me to end. And I had suggested we finish after round two, when I wasn’t winning, so my conscience is clear.

Andrew 33
Martin 36
Sam 48
Joe 54

Colosseum finished like this:

Matt 82
Ian 73
Adam 62
James 25 (retired)

And the second game of Manila was a closer affair:

Hannah 86
Anja 83
Steve 78

After this, we set off, very grateful to Joe for his capacious hospitality. Twelve people in attendance. Thirteen if you include Hannah’s and Adam’s little meeple who is due any week now!

The form table has transformed after all this activity. Sam is still top, but Anja, Hannah and Matt all make great strides in an upwards direction.

Sam3 1 2 1 1 8
Anja2 1 2 3 2 10
Hannah1 3 3 2 2 11
Steve3 2 1 4 1 11
Matt 1 2 2 5 2 12
Gonz2 3 1 2 4 12
Adam3 1 1 4 3 12
Joe4 3 1 3 1 12
Martin 2 2 3 4 2 13
Andrew1 3 4 5 3 16
Ian2 2 5 5519
Will3 2 5 5520
James4 5 5 5524
Charlotte4 5 5 5524

Monday, 17 March 2014

Felds of Glory

Monday night, and Andrew and I arranged one of our little two-player sorties into gaming territory. Before Andrew got there and with the boys out for the count upstairs, I started popping the in my new copy of Stefan Feld game Amerigo. Ten minutes later I was still at it when Andrew arrived... both of us were tempted to try it, but with plenty more gaming to come this week, not quite tempted enough to embark on what looked an epic voyage. Amerigo will have to call slightly louder next time, though I very much look forward to it.

Instead we broke out another Feld, Castles of Burgundy, which I had proposed earlier in the day. Apparently there are still GNNers among us who haven't played this - more abstract than Macao, but, with the right players (ie Andrew and I, who probably don't think enough) faster-moving also.


However it's also, as Andrew noted, very much a multi-player solitaire with player interaction minimal to non-existent - at least, until the latter stages of the game when some tactical play is open to you in closing off your opponents preferred strategy... but this must be balanced with achieving your own aims. I blow slightly hot and cold with this game but tonight it really scratched an itch for both of us. I ran out a narrow-ish winner thanks to a player board with loads of options of area bonuses.

Sam 197
Andrew 174

It was early yet, and we were both in the mood for Raj, the instant hit of the last 2 or 3 weeks. With two players the potential for hilarity is admittedly less than 3 or 4, but it still had us giggling like goons at several stages and cursing like dockers at others.

Two tied bids, a decider about to come

We kept playing one more game until we'd managed a best of five, which Andrew won by 3 games to 2, twice narrowly outbidding me on the final game as I attempted to keep my powder dry for the final tiles, by which time the jig was up.

The jig up in game three, where our last cards tied

Lots of fun, played to a soundtrack of my birthday CD, and a great primer for tomorrow. Thanks Andrew!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Kingpins of Industry

With us back on track this week with our random game generator, Industry was carried round from James's house and unboxed whilst I busied around shoving kids into beds and drinks into glasses. It has only seen one airing since purchase and the group had mixed feelings about it. A solid enough game, if a little long, but always with an alternative preferred to it. Tonight was its chance to try and convince the gang that it was a slow burner.

For those that can't remember back to the last post James wrote about it Industry is a game of forging links and aiming to tie those links to the precious multipliers. It is played over 5 rounds against an ever increasingly industrial (natch) theme where you start out bidding for various facilities which, if developed can give you either resources, links, points or a combination of all three. The sequence that the twelve facilities appear is randomised as the first person to bid is rotated. Money is tight in the game but there is a neat mechanism that means paying for your bids means that your opponents get the money you bid for them. Bid high for something you really want, it depletes your money and boosts the bank accounts of your opponents. Canny bidding can make a real difference. There is also the added frustration that you need to keep enough money back to develop (activate) the buildings. If you don't do it in the same round you can't get the points. Although we agreed you could develop it and keep the links and resources.

It's another one of those games that rewards a strong start. I managed to secure a few good links and a couple of resource generators which meant that people would need to pay me to use them throughout the game. However this did mean that I fell way behind on the score track due to those buildings not generating any points. Paul tied up the sciences part of the board so much so that often he could pick them up unchallenged due to lack of interest. James struggled to get a foothold but scored heavily for his buildings and I, some what under the radar, picked up the multiplier buildings to help my links.

Confusing board

The multipliers made all the difference in the end and I think that if we played this again next week I wouldn't be allowed to pick them up like I did.

Chris - 93
Paul - 62
James - 47

Time was running out so we chose to squeeze in a quick game of Kingdom Builder. Unfortunately two of the boards selected produced Paddocks and Barns, special moves which allow jumping about. Coupled with the winning conditions of farmers and hermits it meant for a game that became a headache to compute the adjacency rule. Additionally, I didn't explain the special moves very well to Paul. As time drew on we began to prompt each move with a hasty look at the kitchen clock. If Jimmy White, Alex Higgins and Ronnie O'Sullivan had ever been persuaded to play a board game in the lunch break during the Masters I think the result would have mirrored how we finished this game.

My poor start and subsequent run of the repeated forest cards meant that it was me stacking shelves this week whilst Paul and James slugged it out. Paul over came his special move confusion to squeak a win in front of James.

Paul - 39
James - 37
Chris - 29

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Roman Holiday

Tonight was supposed to have been the first evening of the Game Of The Month program. However, with two regulars (Sam and Gonz) away there were five of us in attendance. Since Russian Railroads was four maximum, this meant a split of three and two. This seemed a bit mean-spirited, so the whole GotM experiment was put back a week.

I arrived a little late, and found myself dealt into a game of 6nimmt. The other players (Joe, Adam, Martin and Matt) gave me a score that was the average of the then current scores. Thanks to an excellent round by Joe, the average actually put me in second place! It was to be my best position in a difficult game.

One round ended with Matt one point away from the magic 66 points that triggers the end of the game. But time was moving on, and we were keen to begin our five-player feast of the evening. Despite Martin’s eagerness for one more round, we agreed to end it there, giving Joe first place.

Joe 29
Martin 33
Andrew 51
Adam 58
Matt 65

After this we stared at Joe’s wall of games, and decided on Colosseum as our Russian Railroads substitute. I was overjoyed. This is one of those games which can’t help but be funny and I love it. The whole fabulous atmos of putting on a show is just totes adorbs!

Matt and Martin were new to it, and we tried playing the auction with the official rules: with only one player at a time allowed to trade. It was okay, but I missed the chaos and the confusion of our all-at-once method.

Since no one else was going for boats, I decided to focus on shows that used them. Joe pointed out that the title of one of the plays, Mare Speilbergus, is clearly a reference to the film Jaws. This gave rise to some “You’re going to need a bigger boat” quips when my fleet didn’t quite match the required amount.

But the final score was desperately close. Only one point separated third and first!

Adam 88
Matt 87 (wins on money tie-breaker)
Joe 87
Martin 79
Andrew 74

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the game was Adam’s last roll. There was a cluster of dignitaries near his theatre but, as Martin commented, he needed two sixes to get the two big-scoring meeples into his theatre.

Just as those words left his mouth, Adam rolled the dice, and in the kind of twists of fate that can make you think you’re in a badly-written episode of The Twilight Zone, the dice came up with two sixes. Just for show, he used two tickets to get two consuls into his theatre too, even though it made no difference to the overall score. A beautiful, yet somehow tragic, scene.

It was a great game, and it’s my nomination for a possible future Game Of The Month. I do worry, though, that it might not stand up to repeated playings in a short period of time. I may have to reconsider my nomination.

In the meantime, the form table resembles this...

Sam1 1 3 2 1 8
Martin 4 2 1 1 1 9
Steve 1 4 1 3 3 12
Hannah2 2 1 3 4 12
Gonz2 3 1 2 4 12
Adam 1 4 3 3 3 14
Joe3 1 3 4 3 14
Andrew5 3 2 2 2 14
Matt 2 5 2 2 4 15
Anja2 3 2 45 16
Will3 2 5 5520

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Triple Boing

Back in the mists of time (Thursday I think) I brought home Timeline Inventions and was greeted with disbelief - another game?!?

That was just the kids. They currently refuse to play anything other than Raj, but I decided the best way to win Sally around was to get her to play it. She remembered being embarrassed by her lack of historical knowledge when playing it before (Joe's copy) but as several games have proved, all of us are capable of being several thousand years out on our guesses.

glasses - old

Timeline couldn't be simpler - you have four cards and you attempt to place one accurately in the growing timeline on the table. Flipping the card reveals the correct year, and if you get it wrong you have to take a replacement card. First one to get shot of their cards is the winner.

Sally and I played three games and she won them all. "Boing boing boing!" she cried, "Get blogging!"

You see these non-gamers pretend they don't care, but they do.

Three time’s a charm

Tonight, three gentlemen of fine standing and educated background met together to discuss art, science, history and culture. In other words, three gamers with nothing else to do on a Saturday evening played Timeline and Fresco.

Gonz, Sam and I were in attendance in this impromptu games night, and we had some important matters to deal with before we started the games: the choice of the inaugural Game Of The Month. We put all six contenders in a small bowl, shuffled them around, and drew one out. The game chosen was

Russian Railroads

Congrats Joe! Your choice came out. So that game will be an option for the next four weeks. (Video evidence of the draw is available on request. I won’t put it on YouTube due to my regrettable decision to try and imitate Graham Kelly, former FA boss who would commentate on FA Cup draws.)

But what about the games? Well, we began with a little warm up of Timeline, since it was sitting on Sam’s kitchen table. We guessed about what came first, the catapult or the crossbow, and whether Karl Marx could have written Das Kapital in denim jeans.

1. Andrew
2= Gonz
2= Sam

After this, we continued the cultured theme with Fresco. A new game for Gonz, but one that he’d expressed an interest in. This game of painting cathedral ceilings is a pleasant stroll at first, climbing to tense frustration in the final round. Gonz drew our attention to one particular part of the painting which he didn’t remember from the bible:

Obviously, it’s the fable of the practical-joke playing woman. Is that in Corinthians? I’d have to check.

Anyway, Gonz got the hang of it pretty quickly, and later said he found it quite straightforward. Interestingly, he held on to his extra worker for most of the game, while Sam had the sixth worker sometimes, whereas I never did and was even down to four workers on occasion. But this level of manpower wasn’t necessarily reflected in the scores.

Gonz 82
Andrew 78
Sam 73

I enjoy Fresco, and Gonz said he liked it too, even if he was disappointed at the lack of opportunities to block your opponents. But I appreciate Fresca’s clear target. It’s less of a point salad than Caverna or Village and all the better for it. Plus the simple rules means it might be something of a second gateway game to anyone tired of Ticket To Ride or Settlers.

Then we discussed what light game to finish with. We were seconds away from starting Love Letter when we decided to have another go at Timeline. Once again we were plunged into discussions about ceramics were invented before writing and if the wheel was invented before fire.

1. Sam
2. Andrew
3. Gonz

1. Sam
2= Andrew
2= Gonz

All of which puts Sam on top of the form table, and sends me up to third, having lost that annoying “6”.

Sam1 1 3 2 1 8
Martin 1 1 1 2 4 9
Andrew2 2 2 1 3 10
Steve 1 4 1 3 3 12
Hannah2 2 1 3 4 12
Gonz2 3 1 2 4 12
Joe3 4 3 3 2 15
Anja2 3 2 45 16
Matt 2 2 4 4 5 17
Adam 3 3 3 3 5 17
Will3 2 5 5520

Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Shape of Gamers

Not in the sense of physical shape. Good God, why would I write about that? It would be too depressing. But I mean in a more abstract sense. What are our strengths and weaknesses? Where do we shine and where do we fall flat? This is not a means of comparing players against each other, but a look at each player individually. I went through this season’s scores and, using the games mechanics as listed on BGG as a guide, I tried to work out how well we do in certain types of games.

The categories are:

Set Building, Worker Placement, Card Management, Luck, Mathematics, Territorial Control, Bidding, Tile Placement, Bluffing, Stock Manipulation, Humanities and Team Performance.

These are all fairly obvious, except for “Humanities” which is a rare category which requires the gamer to have some knowledge of scholastic subjects like Art, Literature, Writing etc. For example, Dixit and Timeline.

If it all seems confusing, I hope a few graphs will smooth things over. We’ll start with the current leader of the division and work our way down. This is how it looks a t the moment.
And remember: this is just about our performance this season...

Martin does well in all games, so it seems, but he seems to do worse in games that involve Set Building and Stock Manipulation. But this could be because we daren’t play Palaces Of Cararra on a games night. On the plus side, as you might expect for a man who can glance at a game of Take It Easy and tell you who’s won, his strength is Mathematics. And he’s pretty lucky too, which makes it all the more infuriating!

Like Martin, Sam does well in games of Luck and Mathematics. Surprisingly, given his love of and skill at Tinners’ Trail, he’s done badly in Worker Placement and Bidding games this year. (By the way, Sam has played no team games this season, hence the break in his graph.)


Next is me. I’m terrible at Tile Placement and Worker Placement, but make up for it with my bluffing skills. Clearly, my habit of giggling whether I have a good or a bad hand is paying dividends.


Fourth in The Division at the moment is Adam. Can it be coincidence that the top four places on the Division are held by people with plenty of luck? It’s been an odd season for Adam so far. He can rely on his mathematical prowess, bidding skills and sheer good fortune, but little else this year.


Fifth is Joe. He has a fairly well-rounded graph, showing skills in Worker Placement, Tile Placement, Card Management and a whole host of board gaming skills. But, as he will no doubt agree, he’s had no luck at all.


Sixth comes Gonz. Another graph that shows decent across-the-board ability, especially in territorial games. However, Gonz falls down when it comes to Mathematics.


In seventh place comes Chris, the leader of the Bracknell Bunch. Fiercely territorial but has very little luck. And I thought all that pessimism was just his personality. Turns out he might have a point!


Paul scores well in Set Building, Card Management (so that’s why he’s good at Alhambra) but does badly with Mathematics and Territories (so that’s why he never became a cartographer).


Steve’s graph is the prettiest, since it looks like a ribbon tied in a knot. Although Steve hasn’t played any games with Tiles, Stocks or Humanities, he does well in four important categories: Set Building, Worker Placement, Card Management and Luck, which explains why he has such a large lead in Points Ratio.


In tenth place is Hannah. Her graph show ability across the board, apart from that all important Luck factor.


James is next. He might be the luckiest of the Bracknell Bunch (or “The Brunch” as I might start calling them) but he’s still in third this season.


Anja has played the fewest games, which is why her graph looks half-finished. No surprises that she’s very territorial (Wallenstein, anyone?) but her strength this year has been in Bidding games. But not lucky, and bad with Card Management. Stay away from the Poker tables, Anja.


Newcomer Matt’s graph is a bit splintered, but he’s already showing promise in Mathematics and Bidding.


Lastly is Will, who’s only played two games, which isn’t enough to put a graph together. Hopefully he’ll join us more often when he realises he may be immortalised in a spreadsheet somewhere.

And that's all for now. I hope you find the graphs interesting. And framed prints are available at a very reasonable price!

Thursday, 6 March 2014


When Netrunner was pulled out of the bag both James and I looked down dejectedly at it. I knew at that point that my Ebay account had a new sale item coming it's way. Next out was Mammut. We looked at each other and shrugged. Mammut it was. Not a popular title and quite a while since it was last played. A perfect example of why we are embarking on our trip through the games cupboard. Tactic rusty we were as we fudged our way through the first few rounds. By round 4 I had built up something like a 12 point lead but with the way that the game is designed that can be eaten away quite quickly. My one tactic of denying James the last sabre toothed creature that he needed went some way to helping make the final totals look a little skewed. The game has never really caught fire with us and perhaps it's better with more players. It's possible this title might be joining Netrunner on Chris's new game fund raiser.

Chris - 76
James - 53

Dominion was up next as we left leaderboard games behind. I again selected a recommended 10 cards but this time choosing one which offered fewer victory points. Fewer victory points meant only one legit route to victory - Provences. Again James felt money was the best route and I, after dabbling with a few cards, followed suit. However James was ahead of me in collecting Provinces and I never caught up. Especially as he laid a card which took a card off my deck. A Province... We both felt that the game needs something to stop it being a race to stuff Provinces in your hand. You get presented with all these lovely action cards and end up ignoring most of them.

James - 42
Chris - 40

What came next will probably be referred to as the lost games or the forgotten games or something catchier. Two games of Kingdom Builder were squeezed in to the remaining hour however the outcomes were spoiled by a dawning realisation after our last moves that James had missed a key rule about the secondary action, namely, it can be played first. Although I didn't make a lot of use of this facility, the fact it was there for me to use if I needed meant I was able to get out of some tight areas.  It had never been an option for James and, had it been, the games would have played out much differently.

Chris - 52
James - 27

Chris - 43
James - 29

Bring on the next games.....!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Hip Hip Hoo Raj

At first, today’s attendance at games night threatened to peak at nine. In the end, two people bowed out at the last minute and so we were seven: Sam (the host), Joe, Martin, Gonz, Matt, Steve and me. While we were waiting for Steve (minus a poorly Anja), the six of us played Tsuro. This game gets very difficult very quickly with six players, and I was first to find myself boxed in with no hope of escape. Sam had the chance to get both Gonz and Martin out in one go, but though the will was there, the tiles were not. He bumped of Martin, but Gonz escaped to safer parts of the board and, eventually, to victory.

1. Gonz
2. Joe
3. Sam
4. Martin
5. Matt
6. Andrew

The oft-discussed Game Of The Month did not happen this week, mostly due to a freakish occurance: while debating what we all wanted to play, we happened upon an agreement after only a few minutes! Amazing. Before anyone could change their minds, we split into two groups.

At one end of the table was myself, Gonz and Steve. We didn’t have the nerve to learn anything new so we chose Village as our evening’s entertainment. The others went for Municipium, the Reiner Knizia game set in Rome. I know nothing about it, except that the meeples can gain tiny green circles that sit on top of their heads, like laurel wreaths. Martin likes this and he proudly demonstrated it for everyone.

In our Village, we needed a little refresher of the rules before we set off. My initial plan was to try and maximise Politics, but it wasn’t quite the advantage that I remember it. I did a bit of everything, and this is not a game that rewards diversification.

Steve played his game, as usual, with all the bemused confusion of a man who’s just wandered into a room full of optical illusions and disembodied voices. But I wasn’t fooled. Behind every tentative move was a sharp and cunning mind.

Gonz, meanwhile, seemed to know what he was doing. He barely killed anyone at all, and by the end hadn’t used a single third generation meeple. The game was a long and thoughtful one. I looked across the table, a little jealous at Municipium and how relatively quickly it passed by. Although I wasn’t sure what to make of the rule where you get bonus points for being second in the bath when the prefect arrives. Kind of hard to visualise that, thematically. We were still mid game when they ended.

Sam: 5 coins
Martin: 4 coins, 4 workers
Joe: 4 coins, 1 worker
Matt: 3 coins, 3 workers

They then chose a Tournament game of Raj, the excellent game of bluffing and luck. We ploughed on with our game, made all the more difficult by the fact that, after two hours of play, the score was Gonz 10, me 7, Steve 4. I know that there are big end-of-game bonuses, but after all that time, it felt like a very small return fro all that effort.

Before long, they had finished their four-round game of Raj. It was noted that, despite everyone starting with the same cards, the results were so different. Sam played an excellent third round to put himself in pole position but Martin still had enough gas in the tank to push him into first. Joe and Matt finished some distance behind them.

Martin 69
Sam 61
Joe 23
Matt 17

We were still knee deep, wading through Village. We began one round, quietly convinced it would be the last, but then we couldn’t kill off enough villagers and so we had to begin another round. Then the game ended and the points were added up. Steve’s presence in the market saw him past the well-travelled Gonz.

Steve 62
Gonz 57

Even at this late stage, the other four had squeezed in another game. This time, it was Love Letter.

Martin 3
Matt 2
Sam 1
Joe 0

After this, my brain was completely fried, so I got lift back while the remaining five played Take It Easy. I got a text later telling me the scores.

Sam 473
Martin 473
Matt 444
Joe 381
Gonz 358

On the form table, several players hit the reset button, being able to play five games in one evening. This means Joe’s table-topping form has now vanished. Also, Adam is getting perilously close to being in last place. Is the world coming to an end?

Martin 1 1 1 2 4 9
Sam1 3 2 1 3 10
Steve 1 4 1 3 3 12
Hannah2 2 1 3 4 12
Gonz4 2 1 1 4 12
Joe3 4 3 3 2 15
Anja2 3 2 45 16
Andrew 3 6 3 3 1 16
Matt 2 2 4 4 5 17
Adam 3 3 3 3 5 17
Will3 2 5 5520