First up was Abluxxen, a German trick-taking game which is based on you placing runs of a certain number (ie, four sixes) to ruin the chances of anyone else who put down a run of the same length but of a smaller value (ie, four threes). If you do this, they either take their cards back into their hands, or draw the same amount of new cards. The first to get rid of all the cards in their hands ends the round, and then scores are counted up.
Maybe it was beginner’s luck, or maybe it was because it seemed like a simple version of President, but I did well, scoring well in the first two rounds and doing enough to stay ahead in the third and final round.
However, modesty prevents me from describing the frequent (and often unintentional) double entendres caused by the terminology of the game. Stealing cards from an opponent was called a “snatch” which prompted all kinds of merriment that falls firmly in the “You Had To Be There” category.
After this we perused the games cupboard. I vetoed Take It Easy, since I’d had quite a lot of that recently. We debated the ethics of playing 7 Wonders when Gonz wasn’t there to join in. In the end, Joe suggested Igloo Pop. I was doubtful at first, but once he explained it was a game about guessing how many items were in a tiny plastic igloo by shaking them, I was an instant convert.
Only one of these igloos has eight Eskimos in it, though
Each of us picked up an igloo, shook it next to our ear and (if we thought we knew how many were in it) we put the igloo on a card with the corresponding value on it, with our counter stuck in its door.
What was the right tactic? Quickly guessing so you can claim more igloos than the others, or take your time over each one. You’ll have fewer igloos, but feel more certain about your chances (perhaps). I went for option two, which seemed to work okay. Sam seemed confused about the nature of the game, referring to the Eskimos as "astronauts."
After this we tried another new game: Port Royal. This one is a simple game of building up victory points by buying cards. But each time, you can reveal as many cards as you want (unless you go bust). More cards is better for you, but also better for your opponents, since they can buy whatever is left over from you.
It’s a simple mechanic, and it certainly had people invested in the actions of other players, yelling at them not to turn over another card in case they went bust and all of the cards on display would be discarded. First to 12 VPs triggers the end of the game.
Joe and Ian had an early lead, having completed an expedition (5 VPs each), but I kept buying victory points whenever I could afford them, and built up my points that way. And it worked. Sam never got started, having seen his early fortune cut in half by a tax inspector, and never managed to recover.
Finally, with the big hand past ten and the little hand on four, we chose our last game. I suggested Skull and Roses, and was very happy to see it accepted. It’s been a while since this game of bluff (and very little else) was played, and it’s odd that such a perfect filler - or nightcap - should be so often overlooked. It was quickly explained to Ian and we were off. Turns out that Ian is something of a natural as he (and Joe, too) ruined Martin’s predictions with their skulls.
On the form table, Gonz remains safe at the top of the pile while I climb to second. Sam is tonight’s big loser, dropping to the bottom of the table.
But on the monthly division, Sam is top of the pile: his early good form is enough to carry him through today's drop in form. Plus, he (and I) have played more games than anyone else. But that’s life: play more, win more.