Thursday, 15 May 2014

How to attract newbies with hexagons and houses

The fortnightly edition of Roll For The Soul games meetings carries on. This week there were four of us: me, Martin, Gonz and Johnny. Gonz made a return to the fold after having spent a few weeks entertaining friends visiting from Spain. Johnny was a new face to the crowd, and was a friend of Martin’s.

We began with an assortment of wraps and once those were eaten, we went for a very cramped game of Kingdom Builder. Our space was so limited that when we chose the scoring criteria, we had to discard any that scored during the game, because there wasn’t space for the score track on the table.

Johnny was given an overview of the rules, but of course, he couldn’t easily grasp the nuances of Kingdom Builder’s many strategies. The main strategy being get as many tokens as possible as soon as possible. In our first game, Gonz managed to pick up five of them, and consequently strode to a comfortable win.

Gonz 71
Andrew 48
Martin 39
Johnny 37

I was very pleased with my second place, but I did wonder if it was a fluke caused by Gonz picking up all the tokens that Martin wanted, and also by me ending the game just as Martin was about to play a card that would have got him 15 points. So when a second game was suggested, I didn’t put up any argument.

During this second game (with enough space for the score track), a customer walked up to our table and asked if our game was anything to do with Settlers. Usually I am appalled with lazy comparisons to popular board games, but this time he did have a point: the houses were the same, the territories were similar and there were a lot of hexagons. Martin said it was like Settlers.

The man looked impressed said he didn’t know that there were other games like Settlers. Martin said there were loads, and I got the feeling that he was suppressing the desire to push this guy onto the nearest chair and describe in detail some of his favourites.

We invited him, but he said he was going to watch the football, leaving us bemused that he’d chose watching sport over playing a board game. Especially since it was Rotherham versus Preston.

As for the game itself, it was much closer and I was delighted by my performance, sneaking up from third to joint first by a storming performance on a particular bonus. I think this is my first win since the first time we played it and we didn’t quite understand the rules.

1= Andrew 65
1= Martin 65
2. Gonz 62
3. Johnny 44

After this Johnny had to go, and we decided on a new game, Masques. By now, the ales had been slipping down easier than usual so, while I listened to the rules, I decided that I wouldn’t make much of a mental effort to win. It’s a sort of bidding game, where the rewards (cards with tokens on them) are laid out in a square on the table. To bid for them, you lay a card of your colour between the cards. This means you’ve placed a bid on both adjacent cards.

Masques tries hard to make you think it's a game for grown-ups

It’s easier to understand once you’ve seen the layout of the game. It’s also easier if you actually know what your colour is. For whatever reason, I was told I was red when, in fact, all the red cards had been removed. I was supposed to be purple.

Ignoring that, it’s an interesting game. I was reminded of Spyrium and Bruxelles 1893 when I was playing it, but it’s much shorter and simpler. There are also special cards you can buy and use to help you on your way to victory. It’s an interesting game. It certainly has depths which aren’t apparent at first.

Gonz won on the slightly odd first-in-clockwise-position rule. Martin was second, I was a distant last.

After this, we began Port Royal. I went to the bar for another drink, and while I was there the guy serving me asked about Kingdom Builder. He seemed to think it looked pretty interesting. I made encouraging noises and, who knows, maybe there will be two extra people around our tables in two week’s time, demanding Kingdom Builder. I doubt it, but you never know.

As for Port Royal, well, I never got started. I’m a cutlass guy, and Martin kept buying them before me. I had ship bonuses which were okay, but nothing really worked for me. Gonz seemed to like it a lot. Certainly, he got the hang of the game mechanics with lightning speed.

Gonz 15
Martin 14
Andrew 9

And that was it. By now, we were the only people left in the cafe, listening to Nick Cave’s Stagger Lee on the shop stereo. What a remarkable lyricist he is.


  1. Yeah, Masques was neat. I'd definitely give that another go now I know the tricks.

  2. I feel like if I read about Kingdom Builder while listening to Stagger Lee on really loud, that would sum up how butch boardgames are.

  3. It's good to be back!
    Behold the alluring power of Kindom Builder! Its siren's song keeps drawing people towards our table.
    It was so close to a triple tie in Kingdom Builder, that would have been neat.

    I enjoyed Masques, I guess we need a couple more games to learn how to use the especial agents. Sorry about that sneaky manoeuvre of misleading you about your family colours, Andrew.

    I really,really liked Port Royal. In fact, I want my own copy! Any ideas of where I can get it for cheap?

  4. I got mine from BoardGameGuru. He's out of stock at the moment but he'll be getting more in as soon as he can.