Sunday, 27 April 2014

Six go even madder in Gloucestershire

A games weekend with children is neither a sprint nor a marathon. They’re an odyssey, an epic, a wide-eyed roller-coaster of emotions. Luckily, the kids were mostly distracted by a Nintendo DS or an iPad, leaving us adults to emote in relative peace.

Bad traffic and poor weather slowed down the journey to the venue for both cars: me Sam and Stanley coming from the West, and Chris, Paul and Ashton heading from the East. When we finally arrived (within a few minutes of each other) welcomed by the farmer’s wife and her dogs (one of which almost ran under Sam’s car as he was parking) we settled in to the cottage, pausing to look at the paganesque wicker sculptures of hares at the foot of a nearby tree. I hope that the rabbit's head we later found wasn't a sacrifice to some pagan icon.

Back in the house, Stanley and Ashton were very amused by the twin staircases that ran up either side of a supporting beam, and they soon decided which staircase belonged to who. Us grown-ups were sorting out more important stuff like filling the fridge with beers and sorting out the snacks.

Our first game was Timeline. You’d think that something so educational would be perfect for kids, but actually they were in the next room, watching TV. Chris won that, and then he won Tsuro of the Seas, which we played without dragons. We did try a three-player game of TotS with dragons and, after only two rounds, Paul won when an unlucky dice roll killed Chris and me at the same time.

(I won't put scores or anything like that on the blog post, but if you want details about the scores then you can download the spreadsheet from here.)

The first main game of the weekend was Quantum. I sped into an early lead, and so most of the third game was spent with the other three attacking me. Luckily I managed to get my final cube down just as Sam was threatening to sneak the win from me.

After this we played a series of shortish games. Sam won a Raj tournament, then I won Take It Easy and then No Thanks for possibly the first time ever! My run of good form was not to last, since we played it again and Paul won with only 5 points. I came last and order was restored to the universe.

The next day dawned bright and early, but Sam possibly dawned even earlier, as his energetic child was up and about before six. The rest of us we up and about by half past seven, and after various breakfasts, Stanley, Ashton, Chris and Sam played Astronauts, a card game about travelling the solar system and getting back again safely. Stanley won. Then Timeline was given another outing, with Sam finishing in first this time.

Then we decided to go for a walk, taking a closer look at some sculptures in a nearby field.

The cottage was near a pretty busy road into the nearest village, but a friendly passing horse-rider told us about a path into the village where there was a playground. We set off, buying supplies at a Post Office, and then found the playground. There we spent a happy half hour trying to throw a ball into the top of hollow spherical thing that would then sent the ball randomly out of one of four holes. At least, it would have if we’d managed to throw it in. In the 30 minutes we tried, I think we managed it four times.

Once we got back, we had lunch of meats, cheeses and a salad. Then Sam, Paul and I played Alhambra while Chris, Stanley and Ashton played Cube Quest. Sam went into a nearby town with the two boys to get some more supplies and give the rest of us some serious game time.

Acknowledging his sacrifice, we decided to play a game that he wouldn’t have chosen himself: Agricola. Although, with all the cards and boards, I doubt there would have been room on the table for a fourth player. Chris won, despite not having any animals at all on his farm, mostly due to me taking them and eating them as soon as possible. But he scored big on family, stone rooms and bonuses.

Following this, after Sam’s return, we went for an old favourite: El Grande. One of the earliest games we bought, and it prompted many memories of our earliest games weekend when barely a handful of games was enough to keep us going. El Grande was won in handsome style by Paul.

By now, the weather had stopped vascillating between rain and sun, and had settled on sunny for long enough for us to go outside for a while. First, the boys played on the trampoline, and then the six of us played Smite, the game of throwing sticks at other sticks.

Team Smith (Chris, Ashton and me) quickly took an early lead and it was a while until Team Morrison (Sam, Stanley, Paul) scored a point at all. They game took quite a long time until Chris finally threw the winning throw, and Chris later admitted he may have placed the oche a little too far away. Still it was fun.

After this, there were bangers and mash and Chris put Stanley and Ashton to bed with a story. Meanwhile, Sam and I taught Paul Love Letter. He proved to be a good student, since he won comfortably, 3 –1 –0.

Now it was the evening, it was time for something more serious. We went for Railways of the World. It’s a great game, epic in scale – both in terms of theme and the size of the map. Sam got an early lead, which he held onto since the end. Chris’ railway that hugged the southern coasts of the Great Lakes looked nice, but never run at a profit.

Then, for a complete change of atmos, we chose Dixit. This charming game of story-matching was the perfect way to wind down after the stresses of building railways. Chris won. And Chris was winner again in Incan Gold. Interestingly, in both of those games, Paul and I tied for second place.

Our last game of the late evening, which by now was turning into early morning, was Take It Easy. We battled through sleepy eyes, and our bingo calls became increasingly surreal as the game wore on. Chris won a close game, meaning he ended the evening with a hat trick of wins to lessen the hurt from Railways of the World.

The next morning, Sam said he couldn’t remember much about the last game of Take It Easy. That’s how we roll at GNN. Hard and fast!

There were no large scale games on Sunday. There was another game of Astronauts and then Chris beat me and Sam at Timeline. Paul, Sam and I sat down to try a new game, Fleet. Paul tutted at the olde-worlde style design paired with the pictures of modern fishing boats. We also tutted at the rules, and although we ploughed on until the end, we were never sure we were playing it right. We decided to research on the internet was necessary.

Then, another new game was brought to the table: Smash Up. Chris had bought this by accident when looking for King Of Tokyo. It didn’t inspire much optimism at first glance, with rules for each card and then rules for each area of the game. I had to stop to make pizza halfway through, and Sam admitted he wasn’t enjoying it, so the game was ended with Paul and Chris looking in best shape for the win. Paul’s robot zombie army seemed particularly powerful.

While I was cooking pizzas, we played Tsuro with Ashton as a fifth player. I forgot to write the results down to this game. Probably too excited from winning. And after food, the final game to hit the table was Raj. My run of poor form on this game continued, but Sam won, overcoming a 19 point deficit in the final round.

And so the weekend was over. We packed up and said our goodbyes. The roads home were much kinder, and we were back in Bristol almost before we knew it.

The Division shows how close it all was. I'm first in points, but I did play more games than anyone else. Chris won the medal table and Sam won points ratio, but both were winners by fine margins. Congrats everyone!


  1. Nice write-up Andrew and thanks to everyone for making it fun.

    I love Take it Easy but starting it at 11.30 after a day of gaming (including football, and throwing-the-ball-in-the-hole-thingy) was a bad suggestion on my part. Both Chris and I flagrantly disregarded scansion on our couplets.

    Fave games were RofT, Smite, Raj and Quantum. Least favourite was Smash Up - sorry for bailing - though I was disappointed with Fleet. I think it's worth revisiting though; detective work on the geek says we weren't playing it wrong. We just needed to refine our strategies of expansion.

    Great to see the old London/Bracknell arm and Ashton too. When various sprogs are of a suitable age it would be great to convene en masse again, as we did on the famous weekend with the Wall of Games...

  2. * re Fleet - we should have been turning over licences for the next round after bidding for the current ones. Which would make a difference to how you manage your cards.

  3. Great weekend everyone, nice to see you all again. I had my fears realised with Smash Up. A case of the game owner willing it to be good. It's a shame because we could have been playing something good! Anyway I feel we got some good games played and had a bit of a break...

    1. Sounds like a super weekend of fun, chaps.
      "A case of the game owner willing it to be good" - I suffer this affliction somethin' terrible, Chris.