Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Flow must go on

It may have been April Fool’s Day, but there were no jokers in this pack. Playing games is a serious business round here. Although, you might have been forgiven for thinking that one of the games brought by Martin was a practical joke. San Quentin Kings is a game where you have to put together the toughest gang in jail. The first reaction when we opened the box was “Did they actually make this game in jail?” The artwork was kind of amateur, and Joe studied the board (printed onto flimsy cardboard) with the words “You seem to actually have the original artwork.” But the game itself sounds like a lot of fun. Martin says there are three rounds and a riot. Can’t be all bad.

For our main games, the seven of us split into two groups. Will (the host for tonight), Sam, Gonz and myself went for Gonz’s new game Ice Flow. This game involves transporting three men across the Bering Straits, hopping from one chunk of ice to another, using a combination of fish and ropes. Ian, Joe and Martin went space-battling with Quantum.

Ice Flow started slowly, as you might expect. There were a fair amount of rules, and remembering all your options took a while. I was distracted by the early stages of Quantum, where empires seem to rise and fall every time I looked.

While all that history was being made, our band of guys defecting from the US to Russia tiptoed across the icy seas. Will found himself running out of fish and ropes, with no clear way to get any more. Polar bears, meanwhile, dominated half the board. This meant we had to all try and get through a limited space. Not easy with a two-man limit on each space.

But Sam got his trio across first. I came second, having got two guys across, and Gonz and Will had both managed one.

We then decided on a light game to keep us going until the other three finished Quantum. We chose Raj. I continued my recent run of good form and/or luck. Sam, meanwhile, achieved new heights of misfortune during round three: he lost four times on negative cards, thanks to other players tying. A remarkable achievement.

Andrew 77
Will 47
Gonz 26
Sam 24

While we were playing Raj, they’d finished Quantum and started on another new game, Splendor. This game is not one of those games that you can tell what’s going on just by looking. I had no idea what was going on, but they seemed to like it.

Joe 16
Martin 10
Ian 5

In fact, they liked it so much, they decided to play it again. Of course, by now, we’d finished Raj and had started Las Vegas as a light game to keep us going until the other three finished Splendor. As you can see, we were hopelessly out of sync. Las Vegas ended like this.

Sam $460,000
Gonz $330,000
Andrew $260,000
Will $210,000

And, of course, when we’d finished, they were still mid-way through Splendor. What else could we do except twist Gonz’s arm and play on round of Take It Easy! I chose the tiles, and they came out bad. Only six nine tiles in the whole game. It ended

Sam 162
Will 160
Andrew 113
Gonz 82

While the scores from the second Splendor game were

Martin 16
Ian 15
Joe 9

After this, we had all finished at more or less the same time. We relaxed and chatted for a few minutes, as if we hadn’t seen each other in weeks, before heading off into the night.

And Happy Birthday, Steve!

Sam 1 1 4 1 2 9
Andrew3 3 1 2 1 10
Gonz 4 2 3 3 2 14
Martin1 21 55 14
Will2 4 23 5 16
Joe3 12 55 16
Ian2 33 55 18


  1. Yes, Happy Birthday Steve - hope you're feeling better!
    And thanks Will for hosting - you might just have the perfect gaming table . . .

    I enjoyed Quantum - my erroneous strategic plan to oust Ian's cube from his home planet and replace it with my own was my undoing (although Martin was by that point fairly unassailable). The card (Brilliant?) that boosts your research is extremely powerful I think - if that's on the table it's going to need to be a bun-fight to get it, as it effectively gets you a steady stream of cards for the rest of the game.

    And you could play two straight turns simply boosting your research to six just to pick it up, though your opponents might manage to get a cube on while you did that and grab it from under you. Interesting . . .

    I enjoy Splendor quite a bit - it's a very stripped-down, abstract engine building game. Martin was under-wowed by it, as was Ian I think. I felt like I messed up in game two, rather than feeling like I lost arbitrarily, which makes me think there's a decent amount of strategy there. And it's nice and quick once you get going.

  2. Thanks Will for hosting. It is a very good table, though I must protest at the idea that it's "perfect for High Frontier". The place I'd put high frontier only has two legs.

    I enjoyed Ice Flow and as is a bit of a GNN tradition (for Joe and I at least) I woke up with a slightly higher opinion of it than I had after the first play. It's a nice combo of luck and strategy... did feel like it was hard to get hold of ropes or fish once you ran out though.

    Raj! Well my opinion of that particular game has plummeted (not really, sorry Gonz) - four times I bid higher than other players on red tiles, only to end up with them anyway! Brutal.

    Fun to play Vegas again too.

  3. Yeah, Brilliant is definitely powerful, and I was lucky to roll an initial combination of ships that let me claim a planet on my second turn to take it. On the tight T-shaped board we played it was always going to be hard to win by peaceful colonisation, and Brilliant let me quickly research a set of strong attacking cards. It was great fun bouncing my Energetic Ferocious battle-station around the centre of the board destroying everything it bumped in to!

    Splendor seemed like exactly the sort of thing I should like - simple rules, quick play. But I was really underwhelmed. It just felt textureless - no real moments of drama, no arc, and very repetitive.

  4. I was dubious about 4 players ice flow, having only played it as a 2 player game, but I think it worked well..I think the key is keeping your explorers together, but I was third, so maybe I should try new tactics....It is a shame that we didn't get to throw bears in the face of the other opponents. Glad that you liked it Sam,being for us so difficult to find common ground ;-)
    Also, why I suck so much in RAJ?? WHY??????
    ps: thanks for hosting, will!

  5. With my first comment on this blog, let me say cheers for the evening folks, and thanks to Will for hosting.

    That game of Quantum was brutal. I probably should have spent more on research to get a couple more cards, which can be extremely powerful, as opposed to repeatedly jumping back into the fray.

    I didn't utterly dislike Splendor, and I'd give it another go certainly. But I couldn't quite get a strategy worked out, I ended up either overthinking things or not thinking at all. Still, did better the 2nd time so there was some improvement.

  6. So, who's up for some prison gangs next week?

    (and thanks to Will for hosting - sorry we didn't get to play a game together!)