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.
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.
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.