Five players, one table. What to do? The end of the season loomed, but you know what we did? We played two non-leaderboard games! Yes we did! Woo hoo!
The first game we played was 1812: The Invasion of Canada. Five players is its sweet spot, and when myself, Joe and Martin suggested it, Gonz and Sam were easily persuaded.
1812 is a simple war game, where the players form two teams: The Americans and the British/Canadians/Native Americas. I thought that the last time we played, Canada etc had won, but a glance in the archives told me that it ended in a draw. This time it was me, Martin and Gonz north of the border, holding back the massed forces of newly mustered soldiers belonging to Sam and Joe.
Gonz was the only newbie, so Joe explained the rules to him while Sam succeeded in stacking all of his cubes on top of each other.
With that challenge successfully out of the way, we plunged into battle. It was a ding dong affair, with the American forces making early inroads into the Canadian homeland. We struck back, with Martin’s tactical nous making the most of his Native American tracking instincts. Gonz, too, seemed well suited to his role as the warrior-like British who either kill or take commands, with no option to run away. I was the Canadians: prone to a bit of jogging in the heat of the battle, but mostly they did okay.
Admittedly, we played most of the game while misunderstanding a rule. When killing an opponent, we had assumed that the killer got to choose who he had shot. It turns out that wasn’t the case, and this scuppered Sam’s plans when a card of his allowed this “special” ability for just one round, but we’d been using it for the whole game! Oh wells.
After the American’s good start, we slowly crawled back and before long, we began to gain the upper hand. We discussed putting down our truce cards to end the game, but Gonz hadn't even drawn his from the deck. Again, somehow staying within character of a warlike British Empire who refused to back down
At the end, Sam triggered the end of the game with a truce card. He pushed forward with their massed ranks to try and force a win. The only army left to move were the Canadians. Prone to running away and leaving their allies to fight alone, perhaps there was still a chance. But no! Just as before, a final push by the Americans left a path to another “objective” state, and we were able to walk in, raise the flag and win the game. Just for good measure, I used a special card to attack an enemy-occupied state where I previously had no soldiers at all. That worked too, making our victory even sweeter.
1. Martin, Gonz, Andrew, 5 states
2. Joe, Sam, 3 states
After this game ended, I went to the toilet and when I returned I was presented with five options. Of those (which I don;t remember) I chose Kakerlakenpoker Poker.
At first it looked like a good choice, as everyone except me got trapped in a loop of doom: that moment in a game where, no matter what you say, your opponent will know exactly what you really mean. I had avoided that at first, but got stung by Joe. I kept trying to pass of my cards to him, but the tone of voice, or the look in my eye seemed to yell out information to him, as he confidently called me out every time. Luckily, I started passing on my cards to someone else, and the loop was broken.
We kept playing, and our number of cards started to run out. Gonz had no cards at all at one point, meaning that the next guess he got wrong meant an immediate defeat and victory for everyone else. But he held on. Martin and Joe didn’t have three of the same kind of cards, meaning they were fairly safe.
I was on the edge, with two sets of three cards – Cockroaches and Toads – which would put me out the next time I got one. But since I had the last cockroaches and toads in my hand, I knew that anyone who tried to pass them to me was bluffing. Which is what happened to Sam.I rejected his card, and put him over the edge, with four of a kind in scorpions. Or spiders. I forget which.
1. Joe. Martin, Gonz, Andrew
There is one more evening of the season, at Sam’s on Saturday. In the meantime, let’s all cross our fingers and hope the finale is a little more exciting than the England’s 0-0 exit from the World Cup.