There's been a slight drop-off in organised gaming in the last few weeks - probably due to Easter hols and all that jazz - but I have managed a fair amount of extra-curricular fun. Martin and I have had a spate of lunchtime Manoeuvre-ing; so glad to revisit this game, it's one of my all-time favourite two-player short 'war-games'. And this last weekend we Bergers went off to walk a bit of the South Downs Way from Eastbourne to Lewes, with our friends Henry and Rachel and their three girls.
Conscious of needing to pack lightly, but wanting to have games on hand should they be needed, I distilled a few games into a small box;
Manoeuvre, including all the terrain and the four best armies; Sticheln for up to 6; Race for the Galaxy inc. Alien Artifacts expansion; and Verrater. Another small box held Vegas, Incan Gold and Werewolves. In the event, Sticheln and Werewolves were the only games that didn't get played.
Henry and I managed a few late night games of Manoeuvre, all nail-biters, and trotted out Race at every available opportunity. My training from Martin gave me the edge in the latter, though Henry trounced me four-nil at Splendor back at their house after the weekend. We also managed one-and-a-half three player games of Verrater; I was really pleased to finally get to grips with this, and it proved a nigh-perfect portable big (ish) game experience. I expect four players is the sweet spot, and had we had more time I think we could have persuaded Charlotte to play, but even with three it was really interesting.
Like it's sibling Meuterer, the fun hinges on whether anyone has picked the traitor card in a Citadels-style character draw, and what that will entail for the ensuing showdown. It seemed obvious to me that one should always take the traitor if it's available, and I did win but it was close, and a couple of times what felt like a sure-fire win as the traitor disintegrated. I can see real potential for mind-games, convincing your opponents that you're the traitor, getting them to pile their precious supply cards in, and then revealing that you weren't at all and winning anyway. Could be a bit too vicious if played like that, but in any case very interesting.
We got back to Bristol on Tuesday, and last night (Wed) a couple of friends were coming round for food. They've played the odd game with us before, Pickomino, and I think Skull and Roses; last night felt like the perfect opportunity to try something a little more involved. But what? I found myself weighing up the options during the day; perhaps Splendor? If I wanted to demonstrate how sleek and refined a game could be, maybe. But it's not that 'fun'. Lords of Vegas? That can drag a little, and you can get hosed if you're new to it.
You know that feeling, that there's the perfect game somewhere in your collection to introduce new gamers to, if only you could remember what it is? I went through a mental list of all the games I've recently acquired, that at some point or other I've been desperate to get to the table. None of them were right, but there was something at the back of my mind, I knew - a little voice saying "I'm the game you're looking for!". And then it hit me - and the answer was so obvious it was laughable - Settlers of Catan!
The venerable, the grand-daddy of eurogaming, the game we wouldn't dream of playing on a tuesday night; but it remains the perfect game to introduce new players to the hobby, as far as I'm concerned. So much of the fun is off the board, cajoling your opponents into trading with you, and if they won't, stealing it anyway. There is something unique and mysterious about the way it appeals to non-gamers. Oh and it's the only game Charlotte likes! It was the perfect choice.
I won, which is a rare thing for me, and it took nearly three hours. But it was super fun.