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.
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.
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.
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!
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!"