Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Yukon count on me

The summer recess is fully upon us, and a rag-tag bunch of four gamers assembled at my (Joe's) kitchen table last night for a spot of tuesday night gaming. As it turned out, four ws the perfect number, as Martin had brought his recently acquired copy of Lost Valley - a well-regarded 2004 game which has recently had a new lease of life via Kickstarter.

But while we waited for Martin, Andrew, Ian and I started with a quick game of Timeline. My set contains a massive jumble of inventions, animals, historic events and more (The Big Bang is a personal favourite). Martin joined us halfway through, but it didn't make much difference; Andrew closed out the game with the rest of us a three-way tie for second place.

An interesting note; the invention of the cork in 1695, the invention of the corkscrew a full 100 years later - what were people doing with all that wine for a century!? Poking the cork in with a knife I guess.

Andrew winner
Martin, Ian, Joe joint 2nd

So we set to and unpacked the plethora of bits that come with Lost Valley. It's hard to imagine a game with more bits, certainly one that actually coheres as well as this does. It helps when you've got Martin as your teaching guide of course, and I'd got up to speed via a comprehensive review on the Geek earlier in the day.

The theme is strong in this one. You are prospectors during the Yukon gold rush of 1896, discovering and extracting river and more precious mountain gold, some of which you'll trade for gear that makes it easier to get more gold. It's got elements of Carcassonne, the tiles that form the board being added by the players as they explore.

Here's me, for instance, thinking I was in clover as I found myself surrounded by untapped gold reserves:
Martin hovering in the background . . .
Unfortunately, you need to spend resources such as food and timber to mine the gold - so I had to wander off in search of these things, leaving others to snaffle my finds.

Ian with lots of precious mountain gold, and jerky. Oh look it's Martin lurking in the bushes again.

Ian's skill was the drunkard, meaning he could drink twice as much whiskey as us each turn, but at the expense of experience which gets you new skills.  As I mentioned earlier, it's a game with big ideas - there seem to be tons of things going on, but it's all very thematic and as a result it never feels overwhelming. In fact, for the first time in ages, I felt I was playing a game for the first time with a real sense of discovery, rather than stress at not fully grasping the mechanics.

The game can end in a couple of different ways, and ours was scuppered by the encroaching winter.
Despite all being fairly gold-rich at earlier points in the game, we'd all spent gold on gear, and not quite got round to using it, so the final tally was less than impressive. That said, Andrew had almost twice as much gold as his next nearest rival, and four times that of Martin in last place, so he was definitely doing something right.

The Yukon, as winter hits and the game ends.
I enjoyed it a lot. It was long, but there was a lot of consulting the rulebook, and we were taking our time exploring the options. It has a lot going for it though - feels like a very open space in which to explore different strategies, and that feeling fits so well with the theme that the net result is a game with real charm.

Andrew 18
Joe 10
Ian 8
Martin 5

Martin scooted at this point, as he had a plane to catch to America the next day. We three manfully pushed on with a quick game of High Society. Unlike our last few, this one played out in the way you might expect, with a decent showing of points cards interspersed with negatives and multipliers. Ian's greed got the better of him in the end, as he snaffled a multiplier for a whopping 32 points but did so with all his money, instantly disqualifying him.

This took the pressure off Andrew and I, and we fought over another multiplier. I should have taken it but I let Andrew pay a lot for it, hoping a few high point cards might come out next for me. But the card that came out next ended the game,and Andrew scooped his third win of the evening. 
Well played sir.

Ian 32 OUT
Andrew 10
Joe 4

A fine evening, and I hope to read of some gaming exploits over the next few weeks whilst away in Scotland. If I manage to bribe my kids in to playing any games with me, I'll be sure and let you know.

Andrew 1 1 1 1 2 6
Sam 1 3 1 3 2 10
Joe 2 2 2 3 3 10
Martin 4 2 2 1 2 11
Matt 1 4 1 1 5 12
Ian 3 3 2 3 3 14

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Carrara’s Advice Service

This Tuesday saw yours truly at the helm of GNN Towers, experiencing that exhilarating anxiety just before everyone is due to arrive and you’re unsure if there’s time to go to the toilet or not.

There were three of us tonight: myself, Ian and Martin. Martin arrived with a requested selection of games, cheekily slipping Palaces of Carrara into the line-up, hoping to bring it out of retirement.

First, I asked for Port Royal. This card game, quick but deep, is a great way to start a games evening. I went for +1 gold ship bonuses early on, but they never paid back their investment, and I watched as Ian and Martin fought for supremacy. And I ended up watching for longer than I thought, as both players found themselves becalmed on eleven points, unable to make the winning move due to going bust with ships. I was even able to raise my pitiful score from five up to something more respectable.

But Ian was able to close the game, having slowly built up cash reserves every time someone went bust, when he was able to grab a 2-point victory card, he did, leaving Martin with no response.

Ian 13
Martin 11
Andrew 8

After this, Palace of Carrara made a glorious return to the table (complete with Italian soundtrack). Martin explained the rules to Ian, but there would be no Explainer’s Curse tonight. No beginner’s luck, either. Just a slow, steady progress until you suddenly realise that Martin was about to end the game. He actually kept the game going two more rounds than he needed to, just so he could accumulate more points.

Martin 80
Andrew 49
Ian 42

Ian said he hadn’t played with much of a plan, so I suppose I should be disappointed that he came so close to me, with all my experience. But oh wells.

After this, it was still only nine o’clock. I considered something meaty to take up the rest of the evening, like Castles of Burgundy, but in the end we chose Abluxxen, a short trick taking game. Since it had foxes in it, we listened to Fox Confessor brings The Flood.

It was mostly between me and Martin, as Ian had a nightmare first round (no points at all) and couldn’t catch up. Highlight was Martin’s seven sevens which no doubt helped him win the round, but it wasn’t enough to win the game.

Andrew 44
Martin 42
Ian 13

So, with everyone having won one game, we considered a decider match. And then we thought about Hanabi. Wouldn’t that be lovely: everyone wins, and we end with a lovely co-op game about fireworks.

Ian was a newcomer, but Hanabi doesn’t need much explaining. I put on some Japanese music (mostly music from different film soundtracks) and we set off, our logical minds loosened by some soju (a Korean wine) which, despite being described as “mild” on the bottle, was 16.8%.

Things were going smoothly, but we were running out of time. As we got desperate, mistakes were made. Plus, we had some poor luck with the cards, starting with mostly fours, and having to patiently wait for the ones to come out. In the end we scored 17 out of 25. As firework displays go, it was no Bristol Harbour Festival closing ceremony, but it would do as a finale for us.

Andrew 1 2 3 2 2 10
Sam 1 3 1 3 2 10
Martin 2 1 2 4 1 10
Ian 3 3 1 3 1 11
Matt 1 4 1 1 5 12
Joe 3 3 3 3 2 14

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Large Mahal

Sam was (is) unable to attend the usual Tuesday meet, so he sent out a call for a Monday get-together. Ian and I (Andrew) were able to make it.

First, we played Taj Mahal, a game of trick-taking set in the North-West of Iandia, although the map is somewhat lacking in detail or atmosphere and I noted it might as well be set in Staffordshire. It’s a game that doesn’t get to the table very often here at GNN towers but, when it does, it’s usually a treat.

Sam and I needed a big rule refresh, and Ian hadn’t played it at all, so Sam took the risk of getting Explainer’s Curse and went through the rules. It’s a nice trick-taking game of quitting while you’re ahead, but it would’ve been nice if it had been a little bit more in character. As we moved around the twelve unnamed provinces, taking anonymous cities and fortresses, it all seemed a bit shallow. Sam commented Taj Mahal would get played more if it looked nicer.

We also had to stop halfway through when we realised we hadn’t been scoring for links between provinces. We’d assumed that it was some big end of game bonus, but when Sam double checked the rules, he found we should have been doing them as we went. We spent a few minutes trying to recreate our moves, and readjust our scores accordingly.

In the end, it was the elephants what won it. Ian and I went for economic power, while Sam when for chains. Ian snuck it right at the death. Grrr.

Ian 61
Andrew 60
Sam 42

After this, we wondered what to play to finish the evening off. We chose Citadels, figuring that with three players, it wouldn’t be that long. Sam explained the rules to Ian, and we were off. The assassin seemed to have quite a grudge against the merchant and, as such, it was not a quick game. Halfway through, I suggested we finish on the seventh building, not the eighth and happily, Sam and Ian agreed.

But eleven o’clock, I was in a position to build three shitty districts and trigger the end of the game. It wasn’t quite enough, though. Sam only build six districts but they were all high-scoring and he got the rainbow bonus, putting him in first and cocking a snook to Explainer’s Curse.

Sam 27
Andrew 26
Ian 25

Three hours of play, and only two games. I won’t be fooled by Citadels again.

Hmm, the moment I get some free time, I’ll have to sort out the Form Table...

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Bracknell mini meet

Nobody can surpass Paul's commitment to gaming - every other week he travels from Croydon to Bracknell to join Chris and James at the table. So the least Andrew and I (Sam) thought we could do was make the effort to trundle along the M4 and join them - the last time we made the trip was nearly three years ago, and another attendance was long overdue.

The games began in the car, as Andrew and I played our still-unnamed word game we devised about a quarter-century ago in Maidstone. In turn each player says a letter, and the first person to end a word (4 letters or longer) loses. But you can't say any old letter as your opponent can challenge, and if you don't have a word to back your choice up, you lose. Equally if you challenge and your opponent does have a word, you lose (Andrew challenged me on CRESC) We played first to 6 victories and it was a close-run thing:

Sam 6
Andrew 4

(if you play it on a table with scrabble tiles you can insert letters in anywhere, which is a much harder challenge - you might insert a Z into HP, making HZP, thinking your opponent will never think of cHutZPah, only to find they stick an N on the end (making HZPN) and are thinking of scHiZoPhreNia)

We arrived at the Smith's abode where Jacqui, Ashton and Ava were waiting for us. Ostensibly they were watching Enchanted, but as I'd brought them a little present of a game (the crazy-lookin' Galapa Go) the focus quickly changed and we ripped open the packaging. Then we saw there were 12 pages of rules and we packed it away again. However it looks quite easy after all.

Chris arrived having collected Paul from the station, and after a while catching up (I know! Talking!!) Paul, Andrew and I played a game of Hey That's My Fish with Ashton. Ashton knew the rules, but that didn't necessarily mean he was going to follow them like some brain-dead sheep. However, despite threats to fly his penguin over the ice floes, he stuck to the games established parameters, and not only that, pulled off a (joint) victory.

1. Ashton
1. Sam
2. Paul
3. Andrew

Then Paul suggested we try Samurai: The Card Game. We weren't averse to the idea and it has a certain similarity to its chess-ish big brother, in terms of scoring and winning. And also in terms of being very thinky and abstract.

Paul won his first game of his newest purchase: always a good feeling.

1. Paul
2= Andrew
2= Sam

Jacqui then served up a delicious bolognese and berated herself for overdoing the dough balls. It was all great Jacqui! Then there was ice cream and finally, like Victorian gentlemen retiring to the lounge to discuss matters of the world, we played a game whilst the Smiths put the children to bed.

Only the game was Max the Cat, a children's co-operative. As a team we were trying to get three little creatures - a bird, a mouse, and a chipmunk - from the back door to the safety of the garden tree. Potentially spoiling the fun, and alerting young players to concepts such as peril, death, and grieving, is Max. He's chasing them all the way and if he catches them they get devoured.

Fortunately as a team we also had three treats with which to tempt Max back to the house whenever he got too close to the wildlife. Thanks to the treats - and to Paul's canny idea to let Max go past his prey via the shortcuts on the board - we got everybody to safety. Thanks, fellow doomed mortals!

Then Chris returned, James joined us, Bristol and Bracknell truly merged, and we cleared the table in time to pillage the Incan Temples, like the exploitative bastards our forefathers were.

I bailed out early on the first round and watched in horror as loads of gems came out. Then I cackled with glee as most of the others died under a hail of falling rocks. James picked up an enormous cache in the second or third round which made him chip leader. I kept jumping out early which meant I finished the game safe, but of course Incan Gold really rewards - unless it kills them first - the risk-takers:

James 37
Chris 27
Sam 21
Andrew 19
Paul 4

After this we wanted to play something a bit weightier. Paul, enthusiast that he is, was pushing for Ticket to Ride, but it was only really me getting onboard with him. Chris mooted Lords of Waterdeep and despite Andrew and I playing it the night before, we agreed. It's never a trial playing this game.

In contrast to Monday's game I got off to a flier and managed to keep in either first or second place until the end of the game. Again I began with Lord-unfriendly quests but for whatever reason I managed to get a good thing going on - playing a lot of intrigue cards and completing a few relatively low-scoring quests.   Chris was pushing for the lead all the way as Andrew and Paul seemed to struggle James was playing a dark horse/unlit mule type of game, not seeming to do that much before suddenly hurling a load of wizards back into the city/plastic bowl and completing a high-scoring quest.

Despite being hit with Mandatory Quests twice by Chris, I grabbed a win:

Sam 147
Andrew 129
Chris 122
James 110
Paul 110

We'd breezed through the city of Waterdeep in no time and so without further ado we broke out 7 Wonders. Although the Bracknell crew know the game well, as with the previous game, playing with five players was a novelty to them. But there are no rule changes, just some new cards, so we jumped right in. I had the wonder which allows you to build discarded cards for free - which always seems really exciting until the moment you discover a load of abandoned bricks and a compass.

On the other side of the table Paul was building a strong military and Chris was cussing him out. James was specializing in blue buildings and Andrew seemed to be doing a bit of everything. The game ended and we were unsure who was on top - I thought it was me or James, James thought it was me. It was actually James, but nobody realized how well Paul had done until the final count-up:

James 58
Paul 57
Sam 54
Chris 42
Andrew 42

It was now 10.20 and Paul's train left at 11pm. What to do? As I went to the loo they debated, and I was surprised to find on my return they'd plumped for Medici. In half an hour?? Paul said there was a later train if necessary, and we started throwing stuff into the sea like renaissance merchants were prone to do.

Back when GNN was young - pre-blog - we played this A LOT. Then it lay fallow for a while, but it's seen the table a good deal in Bracknell, I believe. Thematically it's kind of nonsensical, as one would presume even in the infancy of trading, merchants would go down to the docks with some kind of mental shopping list and not just take whatever comes off the boat - but as it's a Reiner Knizia it inevitably plays well. I nabbed the gold on round one and scored the best boat. Then I subsequently concentrated more on the colours - specifically red and blue (or cloth and dyes). James and I shot ahead of the others and then James edged ahead of me and up along the score track. And he would have most probably stayed in first place had I not pulled out two jammy tiles at the tail end of the final round - a blue 4, and the gold again.

They say not to sell your soul to the devil but it's working out ok for me.

Sam 128
James 113
Chris 95
Paul 95
Andrew 66

There was just time for a coffee and another brief chat before James headed for home and Chris drove Paul back to the station. By this point I was a little tipsy, but I still managed to push Andrew all the way in a quick game of Hey That's My Fish:

Andrew 52
Sam 48

And then Chris returned. It was only about half eleven and at that hour, what else is there to do but play 7 Wonders again? So we did. This time my wonder encouraged me to go for sciences, so after some cussing out of the sciences, I did.

I don't think any of us played our A-game at this point to be honest, and I was certainly approaching the development of my civilization with a laissez-faire attitude. However my scientists took advantage of this fiscal freedom and went for it in a big way, scoring 40+ points for me in the green buildings. Sadly I cocked up my last move, otherwise I might have pipped Chris at the post:

Chris 61
Sam 59
Andrew 47

It was nearly pumpkin o'clock, so we called it a night, and Andrew and I only returned to games in the loosest of sense on the return journey when we attempted to name all the USA states. We missed out seven: Conneticut, Maryland, Nebraska, North Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin and Oregon. It's harder than you think… I mean, I can't help thinking Maryland is totally made up.

But then I guess they all are.

Thanks to Chris, Paul and James and not to mention Jacqui and the kids for having us. Hopefully next time will be before 2017.

I had a Faaarm in Africaaa

The threat of a gaming drought abated, and despite Sam and Andrew defecting to Bracknell for the night, we managed a quartet of gamers around the table at mine; Martin, Ian, Matt and me (Joe).

Martin brought Metropolys, a simple and quite pretty auction game, where players bid for occupation of areas of a city. At the end of the game, players will score points for occupying areas corresponding to the colour of their secret objective card, and fulfilling conditions on another secret objective card can give them even more points.

Martin schooled us in the rules, and once we started playing he schooled us in the tactics, biding his time and then snaffling lots of cheap areas. He did say there were other ways of playing, but it was a pretty effective strategy.

It has similarities to a trick-taking game, in that you will only lead an auction by winning the previous one, so timing is all. Certainly the kind of game you need to play more than once, but I rarely want to jump straight back in to a new game - I usually find I need a night's sleep to assimilate the experience and wake up deciding I'd like to give it another crack.

Martin 45
Ian 29
Joe 22
Matt 21

Next up was Africana, which has been waiting in the wings for a while. Sam, Andrew and I have played a fair bit of three player, and we may, with Adam, have played a four player game, I can't remember. It was new to all but me, but it's fairly straightforward to get your head around.

One easy-to-forget rule is that you can pay 5 coins to change the colour of a card - in fact the first few times we played we didn't even know of this rule. It was certainly put to use last night, Ian in particular eschewing the book of adventures, at least early on, instead spending money to get where he needed to go. And it seemed to work, as he racked up a healthy pile of expeditions.
Martin cursed his hand of purples, and spent a few turns hanging around in Cairo waiting for the stars to align. He and I both made use of extra assistants, his, ironically enough, being purple. Matt lived up to his unlit pony moniker, and kept his cards close to his chest.

In the end, we all did a bit of everything, and the last turns slowed down a little as everyone worked out how to squeeze a final few points from their explorations. As we totted up, I was hopeful that my set of three masks worth 12 points would propel me into first, but it was not to be. Matt had accrued a startling number of expeditions, and a set of four different artefacts for 10 points sealed the deal. Ian's pile of expeditions didn't look so strong after that, but his adventure cards boosted him into second place by a whisker. And Martin had dallied too long in Cairo - he may even have eaten a bad date or two - securing fourth place.

Matt 47
Ian 37
Joe 35
Martin 28

Martin noted that it is an extremely tactical game in that you are only really responding to what happens on your turn. As with other such games, lower player counts tend to work best as they minimise the amount of change between turns. I agree, though often games that fall into that category feel very chaotic with higher player counts, and I don't think Africana is a chaotic game. It's opportunistic - and the opportunities you were hoping to exploit may have disappeared by the time your turn comes around, but you can quickly assess the new ones and, hopefully, form a coherent plan.

I particularly like to the way you can over-reach, setting off for a destination that you'll only get to if the card you pick up en-route allows you to cover that last link. It worked for me last night at least three times; it is admittedly less fun when it repeatedly doesn't pay off.

We still had time for a bit of Love Letter, and decided to play best of three. I'm starting to see the point of this little game - despite it's lightness each round suggests new strategic possibilities. Most of which I realised after the event.

Matt took his second win of the evening, and we called it a night. Thanks chaps - look forward to hearing all about the Bracknell breakaway.

Monday, 14 July 2014

LoW and Order

Since Sam and I are going to visit the Bracknell Branch of GNN tomorrow, and Joe cannot host, there’ll be no regular Tuesday shenanigans. Instead, myself, Sam and Ian met up today to keep the leaderboard ticking over.

The air was hot and humid, almost suffocating, and the three of us sweated and drank our way through three games.

First was Quantum. It’s been a while since the space epic got to the table, but Ian’s lost none of his touch. He researched early, picked up Stubborn, and suddenly was almost impossible to beat. It wasn’t just his tactics, though. Lady Luck showed no mercy to Sam and I, as one battle after another went Ian’s way and his dominance rose.

Near the end, we all had to get one cube down. Sam was one move away from a win, and I told Ian to stop him, even though he’d just taken his go. Sam graciously allowed him to take his move again. Later I stopped Ian by warping a three dice and knocking out an all-important five dice.

But with Ian’s Stubborn-ness impossible to defeat, he got to a position where we had to attack him to save the game, but if we lost, he’d win the game with his dominance going up to six, allowing him to place his last cube. We attacked! We lost.

1. Ian, all cubes down
2= Sam and Andrew, one cube left

Then we went for a bit of Waterdeep action. We all knew how to play, so there was no tedious messing around with rule book. Just get a gang together, get out there and placate that walking statue.

Sam started slowly, while the first thing I did was try to get a money-making machine going. And it worked okay. Ian also built up heaps of gold, and large numbers of fighters or rouges, most of which he didn’t need.

But it was all very close. Sam’s tactics were very hand to mouth. Most of the time he picked up money, he just left it there, since he needed it to finish a quest. I was in the lead for much of the game, but even I relied on a last minute stroke of luck as I reset the quests with my last agent, and got one that I could do, and that scored pretty well (14 points, iirc, plus a bonus for being the right kind. Without it I would’ve come last). A very close game.

Andrew 161
Ian 157
Sam 154

Finally, we went for a quick game of No Thanks. This challenging game of luck and bluff was new to Ian, and it must be said, it was a fairly unusual game, in that everyone’s scores were high. But he did okay. I went for low cards as usual, and it almost worked. I just needed that 33!

Sam 65
Andrew 82
Ian 96

One win each! How civilised.

Sam 1 3 2 1 2 9
Ian 3 2 1 2 1 9
Andrew 2 1 2 4 2 11
Joe 3 3 2 2 3 13
Matt 1 1 5 5 5 17

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Four pundred blows

Last time Martin gave up an evening of board games to watch the World Cup, I mocked him for choosing a 0-0 draw. I can’t make fun of him this time, as this evening was punctuated by Sam informing us of another Germany goal every time he checked the scores. But there was enough tension around tonight’s table as we focused on a number bidding games for this evening’s entertainment.

First we began with a Reiner Knizia game that was new to us: Hollywood Blockbuster. In this game, each player bids to receive the best actors/directors/camera/sound/explosions etc for their films. At first glance, it is not a welcome sight. The puns for the films and actors are feeble and it’s funnier to actually use the real names when describing your films, making everything seem like a cheap remake. Mind you, they couldn’t have afforded the rights to use real names, I suppose.

The Knizia twist to this game was that the winning bid is shared out to the losing players. Everyone starts with twelve chips, but these are constantly recycled during the game. I didn’t quite get the hang of it. Sam did, who got Best film for his epic several years in a row! Joe came close, as Best Director. Ian's and my films were straight to DVD.

Sam 85
Joe 81
Andrew 47
Ian 44

After this we chose Sigma File, another debutante here at GNN. The rules are simple: you can either move, assassinate or pay any spy on the board. If another player has already put money in that spy’s account, they can challenge. The idea is to transport a suitcase to your base in either Washington, London, Moscow or Beijing (Peking, according to the board),

The challenge is a series of very dignified guesses. The challenger declares an amount that he’s placed in the spy’s account (preferably not the full amount) and the challenged says whether that is “Covered” (ie, that have an equal amount) or “not covered”. It’s the kind of espionage that’s done in a back room of the MCC, or at a dance held by an Austrian archduke. All terribly civilised.

It dates from 1973, so the map has some nicely anachronistic geography, and it does feel like something from another time. A time when sophisticated board games were all about moving one piece and then sitting back confidently, waiting for your opponents to do their worst.

As the game began, it did seem like most of it was taken up by people wordlessly writing numbers in their bank books. Once it got going, it got interesting. The suitcase came close to reaching both Moscow and Peking, but just as I’m dragging it back towards London, Sam takes over and whisks it across the Atlantic.

It turns out that Sam had bought out two of the most useful spies on the Western half of the board, as he was able to give orders without being challenged. Before long, we were unable to stop him, and he won the game.

1st Sam
2nd Joe, Andrew, Ian

We also got an email from Gonz mid game, explaining that he played Dungeon Petz with his friends in Spain, and Glory To Rome, that was tricky to explain in a noisy pub.

Lastly, we played a couple of rounds of High Society, ending with another Knizia Classic. We explained the rules to Ian, and then were amazed at the most atypical game of High Society you could ever expect. Three red cards came out almost immediately, along with the –5 and a “lose a card” card.

We played on, trying to explain to Ian that normally it’s nothing like this, and eventually a few luxury cards came out. Just enough to tempt Joe into over spending and new-boy Ian won on his debut, having managed to get one point! Sam and I only had multipliers and nothing to go with them.

Ian 1
Sam 0
Andrew 0
Joe OUT! (least money, but 8 points)

We played again. This time, some luxury cards came out first. In fact, 10, 9, 8, and 7 did! We played big, but lost big. My $20m in the bank apparently not good enough for this table!

Sam 24
Ian 10
Joe 8
Andrew OUT!

And so the evening ended, and as I walked home, I passed a pub. Out of the hubbub of conversation, I could hear “Seven – one?” “Yeah.” I wanted to go in and say "You think that's weird? Let me tell you about the game of High Society I just played!"

Sam 1 2 1 1 4 9
Ian 2 1 2 4 2 11
Joe 3 3 2 2 3 13
Andrew 4 2 2 3 4 15
Matt 1 1 5 5 5 17

Friday, 4 July 2014

Smashed again

This week saw the regrouping of the three Bracknell members after a month long hiatus (One meet up!). Despite it's inauspicious debut Smash up has become a firm favourite in the East Berks section of GNN. Before any real discussion on games was entered into the title was barged to the front of the queue like an eastern european at ski lift. Dominion was pulled from the baking soda pot for our Bracknell leader board game, if there was time. (There was time).

We elected to go for random selection of factions with James getting first pick of the eight face down packs. He chose the much sought after Robots! He was pleased. We all then picked our factions in turn and ended with this: James - Robots and Ninjas, Chris - Aliens and Tricksters, Paul - Zombies and Pirates. I'd seen James do very well with Tricksters so I was hoping they would play well in combo with the Aliens however, going several turns without Minions (The guys that score points) is not a good strategy and I was left stacking shelves as the other two racked up points on the bases. Four quite tricky bases had come out in the first draw so the start was slow with players organising thier hands for optimal moves.

This is quite key and a hidden aspect of the game that isn't apparent until after a few plays. The nature of the game is stymie each other from smashing the bases, therefore producing heavy sweeping moves is strong play. The Robots are a good faction for this as they link up well with other cards. Also the Ninjas have a unique quality in that they can whisk in as a base is scoring and change the outcome. James was very tempted to do this on some early bases but kept his powder dry (Unlike the Pirates Garrrrrr), however toward the end of the game he used his hidden cards to great affect, nipping in and stealing the win after Paul had smashed a pirate ship. (Or something).

James - 15
Paul - 11
Chris - 11

As mentioned above that left us time for Dominion on the All Games leader board. I choose the point salad version of cards which would guarantee some high scores. All three players made the mistake of filling their hands with Victory Point and Action cards early on and therefore money for Provinces was stretched out. The game wore on and it was starting to look like we were going to run out of 3 separate piles of cards, itself a game ending condition. Eventually the Provinces depleted and everyones huge decks were tallied.

Paul - 65
James - 63
Chris - 61

Discussing the game afterwards both James and I rued passing on 1 point Estate cards because of his Masquerade action card. Effectively that creates a 2 point swing in the totals and either would have changed the positions in this game. Also if my uncle had tits he'd be my aunty.

Dr Feld and Mr Biblios

Stefan Feld has been on the table - figuratively - more often than not these past few weeks. We finally played Amerigo, and then played it again - and Macao has also been spotted recently. And then last night Andrew and I played Castles of Burgundy. What is it about Feld's games that make them (subjectivity warning) so good?

If that sounds like I have a theory I don't, I was just wondering. I'm sure there's heaps on BGG for anyone who wants to wade through it. I do like the fact there is a seam of luck (dice in Macao and CoB, the Tower in Amerigo) running through otherwise dry games though. 

Anyway we began expanding our Burgundian Realms with no hesitation, apart from the confusion I always have over shipping and laying boat tiles. Two different things! 

Graham Coxon supplied the watery soundtrack by singing the words Caspian Sea 50,000 times (jump to the three minute mark for full-on Caspian misery). I still don't know why he put that thing on an otherwise perfectly palatable album. It's a Whodunnit for the 21st century.

not my table, but the table of maeddes

Castles was a game of really fine margins. Andrew completed his mines just before I did. I jumped ahead of him on buildings. On the last round I had just enough workers to do what I wanted. But the clincher was the fact I was starting player on round four and grabbed the bonus tile for shipped colors.

Sam 197
Andrew 196

If anyone hasn't played CoB yet sorry about the above paragraph.  

And then we played Biblios. 

It's been a while since this game has seen the table but it remains a classic for us. It's such a wonderful combination of strategising, gambling and bluff, aligned with the tantalizing possibility of telling someone you love to eat shit when you hand them 1 gold (Extreme Biblios is otherwise identical to the base game). 

dice pic courtesy Zombiegod

I thought I had things in hand with a strong showing on blues, greens and reds, and I was blissfully increasing the greens value, unaware that Andrew was about to outscore me:

Andrew 9
Sam 5

And with the Mr Biblios crown atop his head, Andrew drifted regally into the night.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


First, there there two. Then there were three. Today, there were five! I’m talking about Concordia players, of course. Since there were five of us around Joe’s kitchen table, we decided on a big five player that we could all join in with.

We chose Concordia, Sam’s newish game that has already had two trips to the table with fewer players with decent success. How would it fare, pushed to its maximum five players? Well, the game needed a bit of patching together, since the blue player was missing his three ships. Joe got some plastic blue trains from Railways of the World, and so Ian was blessed with some Roman Sea Trains to get his game started.

Sam explained the rules and then Explainer’s Curse struck early as he proceeded to forget most of them. Joe, Matt and Ian were all new to the game, and there was a lot of lengthy deliberating right from the start. We all used our architects at first, except Joe who postponed building in favour of some extra cards. He later expressed dissatisfaction with this choice, and he more than made up for it by building everywhere. In fact, he triggered the end of the game, by building his fifteenth settlement.

During the game, there was a moment of ghastly realisation when we discovered we were an hour into the game, and all the end game criteria seemed like impossible dreams. For most of the second half of the game, Joe would encourage other players to buy up cards to finish the game sooner, whilst never actually buying any himself. Did his cunning plan work? Only the final count could say.

As we totted up our multipliers, I had a distinct sinking feeling. Having put my all into meeple multipliers, everyone else shot off without me. But then my 6x8 score put me right back in contention. Not enough to overhaul the final winner: Matt’s focus on silk was to be his saving grace, keeping his head above water. Sam, though, ended the game cursing his lack of progress in the final two rounds.

Matt 95
Andrew 84
Joe 83
Ian 79
Sam 74

After that epic, lasting almost two hours, we went for something that we thought would be light and enjoyable to end the evening. We chose 6nimmt. You’d have thought, after four years, we’d know better. Igloo Pop, maybe. Or Dixit. But 6nimmt is fun only a certain amount of the time. Otherwise it’s hell.

But we chose it. Matt started well, while Sam flopped to 25 points in round one. Then we all took turns in doing badly. It was the best of games, it was the worst of games, but in this high-scoring 6nimmt, Matt took first place by a comfortable margin.

1. Matt 44
2. Ian 63
3. Joe 74
4= Sam 80
4= Andrew 80

And that was that: the opening day of the season had opened! Matt takes an early lead.

Matt 1 1 5 5 5 5 17
Ian 2 4 5 5 5 5 21
Joe 3 3 5 5 5 5 21
Andrew 4 2 5 5 5 5 21
Sam 4 5 5 5 5 5 24