Friday, 29 August 2014

Mystic Rhythms

So Wednesday rolled round again and with it a chance to play Terra Mystica as a three player. Not wanting to eat into the playing time by going over the rules I unboxed the game and went through the copious rules with Paul hoping that his eyes wouldn't glaze over too quickly. To his credit he lasted to the end of my detailed run through.

Despite this, the evening was understandably punctuated by rule book clarifications, if only to back up my answers. The 30 minutes per person playing time stretched to a 2 and a half hour game as a consequence. The factions selected were Mermaids for James, Nomads for Paul and Witches for me, again, each taken without any real idea as to how to play them. Inevitable as we are in that initial phase of a game where strategy is being discovered through play. Context of moves and impact of accruing scores are only realised at the end when you are staring at the board wondering where it all went wrong.

In direct opposition to the games intended design each of us placed our initial dwellings well away from our opponents. This allowed for some easy growth in various directions but did mean that gathering power (One of the games currencies) was a little restricted. James again had a nice handle on preparing his moves to coincide with collecting the round bonuses whilst I concentrated on the cult track and Paul on building dwellings everywhere.

The first 4 rounds skipped by fairly quickly with James keeping his nose in front but as we started to ramp up the workers and power the final two rounds started to drag on as each player tried to squeeze as many moves in as they could. Your options are plenty and as I found out in my final round there is a preferred order to your moves if you can see it. If this game is any indication money seems to be the most sought after resource. By going out first in the last two rounds James was able to select the money option and leave it tight for the rest of us, additionally his clever manipulation of his resources and spotting of scoring opportunities allowed him to gain victory points on both the cult track and the main scoring. Enough to claim a win even after coming 3rd in the largest territory competition.

James - 98
Chris - 94
Paul - 77

Staring at the board afterwards there was a feeling that although it was epic, was it enjoyable? Nobody was indicating that they were looking forward to the next instalment. As an experience, it certainly feels like the game is playing you rather than the other way around. The jury is still out on this one.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Judged Red

Today’s GNN outing was a sparse affair: just the three of us available on a Tuesday. I was hosting, and Ian and Martin were in attendance.

Martin was keen to play Impulse again, and I felt it deserved a second go. Ian was given a walkthrough of the rules and we were sped off into space. As before, I scored quickly, trading in cards to gain points. Alas, this just aroused the interest of Martin’s evil space empire who, in one turn, build six cruisers, most of whom seemed to be facing my way.

Before long, the wave of green doom swept across the board and I was running for my life. I ran towards Ian’s sector with my last remaining ship, only for him to blow me out of the skies the first chance he had. Oh well. I did try to sabotage his ships earlier, I suppose.

I remain unconvinced by Impulse. The problem is that despite the appearance of a lot of options, your opportunities for reacting to another player’s moves are quite limited. I felt like I was being told what to do by the cards in my hand, rather than the other way round.

Martin 20
Ian 3
Andrew OUT!

After this, just like the last time we played Impulse, we followed it up with Red again. This is starting to feel like a kind of sorbet that can take away the taste of the previous meal and leave you refreshed again.

It’s a great little game. Very easy to pick up, but not so easy to understand. The constantly shifting rules make for an endlessly changing game.

If our last game was quick and decisive, this was an epic, as we all clawed our way to the magical 35 point target. In the end, Ian just made it across the line. And you know what? He won with the boring old “Highest card wins” rule. Yawners!

Ian 36
Andrew 34
Martin 28

Finally, to fill the time before Ian’s train home, we broke out Love Letter. This was Martin’s rare (possibly. I didn’t ask) Japanese version. Some of the names of the characters had been changed, but the mechanics were identical. Find the Princess, and avoid being found out first.

Martin 3
Andrew 1
Ian 0

And so we finished at a terribly civilised 10.30ish. Martin sits atop the form table, with Ian in a close second

Martin1 3 1 3 1 9
Ian3 1 2 2 1 9
Andrew2 2 3 1 2 10
Adam 1 3 3 2 2 11
Chris 1 2 13 5 12
Joe 2 2 2 3 3 12
Sam 3 4 4 2 1 14
Matt 2 3 5 3 4 17
Hannah 2 2 5 5 5 19
Paul 2 2 5 5 5 19
Steve 1 5 5 5 5 21

And since it’s the end of the month, let’s take a look at the Division. There's one more month until the end of the season, and everything is still up for grabs!

Friday, 22 August 2014

Terra Mystica - Not terror forming!

After spending the week learning the rules to Terra Mystica, including a three way game against myself, I was pleased that James allowed himself to be talked into trying it out.

I won't bore everyone by explaining all the rules. I'll do it by explaining some of them instead. The game pits different mystical factions against each other in bid to create the biggest settlement and the most influence on the cult track consisting of the elements earth, wind, fire and water. It's played on a regular board covered with hexes and different terrain types. There are 6 randomised rounds in a game which have differing scoring conditions and each round is made up of three phases.

Phase one players choose their bonus tile for the round and collect income, in the form of workers, money and power. You then get to spend those resources in phase two by alternately taking one of 8 different options from terraforming and building (Changing hexes to your factions territory so you can place dwellings on), Upgrading your buildings, Upgrading your terraforming ability, Upgrading your shipping, selecting power options, selecting special actions, using a priest to improve your standing on the cult tracks and ending your go. You can perform as many of these options, in any order as long as you have resources to perform them. Passing order determines turn order for the next round.

Phase three is tidy up time, scoring bonuses and selecting new bonus tiles for the round.

And around you go, 6 times, until you can do no more and then the end of the game is triggered and final scoring takes place. There is a bit more to it than this of course but this is the essence of the game which appears to be complicated but really isn't!

So to our inaugural game. We chose the two recommended starting factions, James - Witches, me - Alchemists and set up our boards, gathered starting resources, placed our starting dwellings and dived straight in with no appreciation of any strategy. Only James cottoned on to a very effective strategy early on, being, to score points from the round bonus each turn. I busied myself with developing the cult tracks thinking that the 8 point bonuses for being first in each at the end of the game would make up for it. However, this thinking was a bit fuzzy as second place in the tracks scored 4 points. In a similar vein the scoring for largest settlement was 18 points but then second place was 12. I wasn't scoring heavily enough and James was racing round the track. After the first turn, James had built his stronghold (The biggest piece) and had a bonus each turn of placing a dwelling in one of his territories. As his influence on the board grew so did his ability to gather resources from his factions board.
Our end game board

I did rally later on by taking a few bonuses but James was just far enough ahead to not suffer any reverse at the final scoring.

James - 107
Chris - 87

Our verdict on it was mixed. Certainly we didn't feel that it was particularly suited to two players. Too much space and not enough interaction. Once you got going it was simple enough, without the need to much rule reviews. The symbols on the board and faction boards become quite explanatory fairly quickly. We both felt that as the game was building to a final climax, it sort of petered out as we both realised, slowly, that we were out of actions and the game had actually finished. Also, in our game, it didn't take much mental arithmetic to realise who had won.... Having said that, it's just the sort of game I like. Loads of scoring opportunities, lots of options per turn and a feeling that you are building something! James may reserve judgement until our next three player night.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Men just can’t help acting on...

Impulse! Martin’s new game he picked up while on holiday in the United States.

Adam and Hannah were hosting again, and myself, Sam, Martin came in one car, Matt arrived on his bike while Ian sauntered over from his house just five minutes away.

While Hannah put baby Arthur to bed, the six of us decided on a stirring game of 6nimmt. Adam has The Walking Dead-themed version, and I commented during the game that most of what we were saying could easily work in the setting of a zombie apocalypse. “This is brutal,” “I hope this works,” and “I think I need two people to die if I’m going to survive.”

A terrible second round put Ian on the brink of extinction, and with just thirteen points between the rest of us, it was a tense third round. But Martin cleared it with just one bullet.

Martin 17
Andrew 22
Adam 38
Sam 48
Matt 50
Ian 69

Then we split into two groups. Me, Martin and Matt decided to brave the final frontier with Impulse, while Ian, Adam, Hannah and Sam were debating between Tinners’ Trail and Macao. In the end, TT won the vote because Ian didn’t want to learn any new rules tonight.

Meanwhile, in outer space, Martin walked us through the rules. And there were plenty of them. Cards have actions, colours and strengths on them, and these can be used in a variety of ways. Cards can be activated by moving your spaceship onto them, by going through the communal group of four cards, by actioning one of two cards you have tucked away in your player area, plus a number of cards you’ve managed to stash away as part of a plan. On one move, Matt managed to put all of these together to produce a leviathan of a move that went on for card after card.

But it was Martin who won by picking up points for shooting other ships out of the skies, and suddenly ending Matt’s reign of power as hit reached 20 points and suddenly ended the game. My good showing was solely due to me picking up a load of points after a round or two, and then being attacked by Martin and then not doing much else until the game ended.

Martin 20
Andrew 9
Matt 7

I’m unconvinced. I have a mistrust of games with cards that have rules on them. It seems like a very easy way to build up a complicated game. It certainly wasn’t what you’d call elegant, but it might have its attractions if we played it a few more times.

During this, Tinners’ Trail ended with newcomer Ian picking up a very respectable win against some tough opposition. Hopefully he’ll tell us his secrets in the comments section.

Ian 108 (wins on money tiebreaker)
Hannah 108
Adam 107
Sam 93

Since our games weren’t syncing up properly, they’d already begun on Port Royal by the time we’d finished Impulse, with Ian reminding Sam and Adam of the rules. So Martin introduced us (matt and me) to another new game, also by the same designer as Impulse (although he didn’t mention that until we’d started playing and we’d said how much fun it was).

This game, Red, is a sort of game of trumps, but the rules for winning hand can change each time someone puts a card down. During a turn, a player can either add a card to his showing hand, or put a card on top of the current “rule card” in the middle of the table OR do both. A pile of cards builds up in the middle and the topmost card’s rule is the won that everyone has to obey. For now. Happily, each card has it's new rule (one for each colour) written on it.

The trick is that you have to play cards such that you are winning at the end of your turn. If you cannot, then you are out. It seems amazing that such a simple game came from the same designer as Impulse (Carl Chudyk), but it’s true.

I enjoyed it a lot. Perhaps because I won. By a lot.

Andrew 32
Matt 7
Martin 0

We finished when we did because Port Royal was over, and it was time we were heading off, despite the relatively early hour (not even eleven). Port Royal ended:

Adam 13
Ian 10
Sam 9

With Sam declaring that, after three attempts, Port Royal would remain in his bad books as far as games were concerned. On the Form Table, I remain top in what is looking like my best season ever! Still a long way to go, though.

Andrew1 2 2 1 2 8
Adam 1 3 3 2 2 11
Martin 3 1 1 4 2 11
Chris 1 2 13 5 12
Joe 2 2 2 3 3 12
Ian 2 1 6 2 3 14
Sam 3 4 4 2 1 14
Matt 2 3 5 3 4 17
Hannah 2 2 5 5 5 19
Paul 2 2 5 5 5 19
Steve 1 5 5 5 5 21

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Delivered poisonally

Traditionally, August has been a fallow month for games at GNN, with families and holidays taking precedence over a swift evening of strategising and snacks (actually, I just checked: not necessarily true). This year is turning out somewhat different, with weekend games a plenty to keep us entertained during the dark days of Joe and Martin being away.

Sam was hosting and, at first, Ian and I were in attendance. Matt was expected in about half and hour, so we chose 7 Wonders to fill the time. Still fairly new to Ian, this game’s lustre shows no sign of fading with us more experience types.

It was an odd game: there was a lack of resources, meaning I couldn’t finish my wonder (The Colossus of Rhodes) so I went for war in a petulant show of anger. Sam dabbled in sciences, Ian went for guilds. But judging by the number of burnt cards and the amount of money still left in our vaults at the end of the game, I suspect none of us really completed their plans to fullest effect. It ended very close.

Ian 45
Andrew 45
Sam 44

As we were packing away, Matt arrived and we chose Poison: an old favourite from the early days of GNN. We chose it because we could end it quickly in the event of Adam arriving, but a mid-game text informed us that he couldn’t make it tonight. In the event, we played the regulation four rounds, and Ian took the win on his first ever game.

Ian 11
Sam 18
Andrew 23
Matt 34

The next game on the table was Tinners’ Trail, as the evening turned into a nostalgia-fest for Sam and me, with another classic being pulled from the cupboard. It was new for Ian and Matt, though, and a somewhat inebriated Sam explained the rules, no doubt having flashbacks to the last time he tried to teach this game under the influence.

Until copper collapsed in the last round, the prices remained high for almost the entire game, which made up for the number of water-logged mines that we prospected (or “hunted” as I kept calling it, as the wine took hold on me too). I had a great round two, earning seventy pounds, which set me up for a comfortable win.

Andrew 106
Sam 87
Ian 80
Matt 74

After this, the feeling of nostalgia continued, with GNN stalwart being brought out: Biblios! Another new game for Matt and Ian, and Sam explained the simple yet cunning rules including, of course, the all-important “Eat shit” rule.

Sam 5
Andrew 4 (wins on browns)
Ian 4
Matt 2

Even though it was eleven o’clock by now, Sam thought there was still time for another quick game, and he suggested Timeline. I got some good cards (Theory of Relativity: 1915), and was out first.

1. Andrew
2= Sam
2= Ian
3. Matt

And with that, we were home, and I woke up this morning deciding that Sam’s giant bottle of wine was as dangerous as it was delightful.

Andrew 1 2 1 3 1 8
Sam 2 1 2 2 2 9
Ian 2 3 3 1 1 10
Martin 4 2 2 1 2 11
Chris 1 213 5 12
Joe 2 2 2 3 3 12
Adam 2 2 3 5 2 14
Matt 3 4 4 4 3 18
Paul 2 2 5 5 5 19
Steve 1 5 5 5 5 21
Hannah 2 5 5 5 5 22

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Return of the King

It was back to drawing games out of our mini league tub for this week's entertainment. Only we cheated a bit because we all had a desire to play something substantial, and on a board.

Ticket to Ride and El Grande was nudged to the front and as two titles that hadn't been unboxed in many a Bracknell moon. TTR is not my favourite game as I feel it's a bit too light weight for it's length but James and especially Paul, regard it with much fondness.

Everybody plumped for a regular style of play whereby you do a little bit of card hoarding, then get a little bit worried someones going to go in your place, then stick down some routes and then hoard a few more cards. Only Paul's strategy varied from mine and James. His experience playing my iPad app had taught him that lots of short routes interlinking creates more possibilities when picking up extra route cards. At the end his routes were many and completed which meant that my longest route didn't affect him. Or James for that matter as I had forgotten to finish one of my routes.

Paul - 146
James - 124
Chris - 118

On to El Grande the old lady of Euro games. It was only James that needed a few prompters so ingrained that it is in Paul and my memories but we were up and running pretty quickly. Paul's general advice of "get men distributed on the board early" was heeded by all bar himself, and as James and I stretched our leads after the second scoring round he never recovered. In the final third it became nip and tuck between James and myself as he steadily ate into my lead and eventually passed it. All of the tricks were being adopted, moving each others men into useless places, usurping each others home territories, and out guessing everyones placements with the wheels. All the while Paul played catch up whilst admirably not becoming kingmaker in the process. My penultimate move where I moved 5 of James's men into one low scoring territory seemed to be enough to nudge me ahead as he wasted his final move repositioning them.

Chris - 154
James - 146
Paul - 109

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Games are like Amerigo-round.

GNN is like a lucky dip these days: you never know what you’re going to get. One minute Adam shows up unexpected, then Chris can make it over from Bracknell, and today Paul came all the way from London to visit Cardiff and join us in our regular Tuesday games night. And if that weren’t enough, Steve manged to make it over too. Adam was hosting and, with Hannah to tired to join in, we were seven in number: Me, Sam, Matt, Paul, Ian, Adam and Steve.

But before Steve arrived, we indulged in a little Camel Up. This betting game is simplicity itself, which is probably why it appeals so much to us. But this was the first time we’d played it with so many, and that did change the game slightly. Because there was such a long gaps between turns, it seemed like everyone was doing whatever they could except actually move the camels along. If they did this, then they next few players would be in a better position to bet with the new position of the camels. Steve arrived midway through and commented that, for a race, the camels didn’t move much.

Matt 24
Paul 15
Ian 14
Sam 13
Adam 10
Andrew 8

Then we split into two. Like last week, Adam, Matt and myself we sent to the front room while the other group played a game that needed more surface area. We chose Concordia, while Ian, Steve, Paul and Sam took on Amerigo, an epic game whose promises of random maps and a dice tower were enough to convince the newbies to set sail.

In the front room, I explained the rules of Concordia to Adam and we began. It was pretty slow going, and Adam found the cognitive load quite a burden. He said that every new card that was revealed made him want to change his strategy.

Matt’s reputation as the obscure mule was well deserved, as he quietly monopolised wine. I went for brick and cloth cities mostly. In the end, those rolls of blue silk were enough to push me into first.

Andrew 125
Matt 120
Adam 104

With Amerigo nowhere near ending, we went for a game of No Thanks. This was new to Matt, so we explained the rules and then explained them again midway through the game as he didn’t seem to have understood the rule about chaining cards together. He still did okay though.

Matt 43
Adam 67
Andrew 74

Still Amerigo had land untouched by human hand, so we squeezed in a second game. This time I eschewed my usual strategy of low cards and went for higher cards instead. I got a bit of luck with a run of five, and that was enough to give me what I think is my first ever win on No Thanks! (I’ve come joint first before, but this is my first solo victory.)

Andrew 30
Adam 31
Matt 49

And by now Amerigo was over, and multipliers had been totted up. As you might expect from someone with such a strong reputation with long thinky games, Steve came away the winner.

Steve 128
Sam 118
Paul 118
Ian 100

Amazing scenes on the leaderboard, as Joe rises to top spot, even though we haven’t seen him in about two weeks!

Joe 2 2 2 3 3 10
Matt 3 1 2 1 3 10
Sam 2 4 2 1 2 11
Martin 4 2 2 1 2 11
Chris 1 213 5 12
Andrew 1 3 1 6 3 14
Adam 2 2 3 5 2 14
Ian 3 3 4 4 3 17
Paul 2 2 5 5 5 19
Steve 1 5 5 5 5 21
Hannah 2 5 5 5 5 22

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Wine bottles and cola cubes

On Sunday with the house still empty - and having spent a day doing tax return stuff - I whimsically texted Chris in case he could make it to Bristol… and he could! We sent out invitations and Andrew - despite the epic games session of the day before - came up to join us, and help me out with the 5-litre bottle of wine I've been struggling through over the weekend.

Before he got there I familiarized Chris with Camel Up, so when Andrew came in we were ready to dive straight into leaderboard action with a flurry of ungulatory betting.

But despite mine and Chris' warm-up game it was Andrew who romped home with the most winnings:

Andrew 31
Sam 24
Chris 18

With that palette-cleanser out of the road, we browsed the cupboard. Chris fancied playing something new and reasonably weighty, so I proposed Concordia. It was to be an epic battle! Concordia's unusual scoring system reminded Chris of Stone Age, and after taking over Spain, generating enough cloth to put a curtain around it, and getting a whole bunch of followers on the board, he was worried that he hadn't picked up enough cards for the end-game bonuses.

I was of a similar mind, but Chris' strong showing on the board was enough to score him a big 96 points - exactly the same as me, in fact. Chris won on the tie-breaker rule of holding (or being next to receive, in this case) the Prefectus Magnus card. Andrew had never seemed to get going to me and I thought maybe he was worn out from the camels - but obviously he'd been effective enough to stay competitive:

Chris 96 (wins on tie-breaker)
Sam 96
Andrew 88

Next up we pulled out Take It Easy. This game burnt bright for a good few weeks at GNN before sloping off to the cupboard; but I still really enjoy it. We stuck with our meme of announcing the tiles with a theme. Andrew did things from the eighties, I did B-Movies, and Chris did sweets-you-had-when-you-were-young, meaning 5-7-8 was cola cubes. 

I decided not to obsess over nines and curiously, it paid off:

Sam 537
Chris 505
Andrew 340

Andrew at this point said he was going to head off and Chris and I decided to do one more game before he too, went home. We chose 7 Wonders, at which point Andrew shucked his coat off again and sat down at the table. 

Not for the first time I elected to go for sciences, only to abandon the plan very early on. Andrew did them instead, and scored big - but neither of us got close enough to the 7 Wonder king, who combined military might with a hefty collection of blue buildings:

Chris 58
Sam 54
Andrew 49

Great to get Chris on the leaderboard, even if he won too many games for our liking! 

Sam 2 1 2 2 1 7
Adam 2 1 1 2 4 10
Joe 2 2 2 3 3 10
Martin 4 2 2 1 2 11
Chris 1 213 5 12
Andrew 3 3 3 1 3 13
Matt 33 3 1 4 14
Ian 4 4 3 3 2 16
Hannah 2 5 5 5 5 22

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Nights of Camel-ot

Saturday games! Two words that don’t go together nearly enough. Sam’s injured foot meant he was unable to accompany his family on a brief camping trip. And so, with the house to himself, he and I met up during the afternoon for some gaming and writing shenanigans, with the evening open to all for some leaderboard activity!

We wrote a bit while the other set up a game. At first, I was typing away while Sam sorted out a game of Camel Up (at first we erroneously called it Camel Cup, a name that I’m quite fond of now I’m used to it) which is a quick and quirky betting game. Five camels run around a short circuit, propelled by dice that go from 1 to 3. But the catch is that if one camel lands on another, then it is carried on the second one if it moves too. Therefore, it is rare for a camel to be completely out of the running, and common for the possibilities for the eventual winner to be very complex.

Add to this plenty of mid-race betting, and other ways to get money, and you have a quick half hour gambling fix that reminded both Sam and me of Manila, but shorter and sillier and more tense.

Andrew 46
Sam 36

Then, with about three hours before Ian’s arrival at six, we decided to try one of the epic games that have been taking up precious space in Sam’s games cupboard. First, we went for Colonial, with it’s lovely design and promises of politics and diplomacy on the high seas. But, as we were setting up, we noticed the rules suggested that the first game shouldn’t be a two-player game, since that’s a variant of the “real” game.

Not to worry, we thought, and we switched our attention to Terra Mystica. However, after painstakingly separating out the pieces, lining up the scoring tiles, we discovered that first-timers needed to follow certain rules... which we couldn’t find in the rule book. With time pressing, we put it away too, and broke out another new game.

This one, Lewis & Clark (nothing to do with Superman - apparently they were two pioneers of the American West) was quicker to lay out and easier to understand. Sort of. Sam struggled with some of the maths, and with almost every card having a different power, the options available towards the end of the game meant there was some analysis paralysis.

The game is simple. You need to explore the wild west of North America (as shown by the progress of your scout along a river from Saint Louis to Fort Clatsop) and to do this, you need to activate certain cards by using other cards to support it and, if necessary, some native Americans too.

This allows you to collect resources, turn them into canoes/horses to help you progress, but be careful: if you end up with no cards left and having to “set up camp” (ie, take all your cards back into your hand) while you have lots of resources and Native Americans, then you can find yourself being sent backwards down the river.

It’s not very intuitive, with lots of obscure icons clogging up cards and tiles. I got the hang of it quicker than Sam but, ultimately, my winning move was actually an illegal move that we’d been getting wrong all through the game (the number of Native Americans able to use each space in the village: I thought it was unlimited, Sam thought it was two, it turned out to be one). It would’ve been wrong to suddenly play by the real rules, but it still felt like a hollow victory. But a victory nevertheless!

Andrew won!
Sam didn’t.

An interesting game. Interesting and worth a second look sometime.

By now, Ian had arrived, and we had supper (Sam’s chili – very nice it was too), completed the Guardian’s cryptic crossword (Sam had already done most of it) and set forth on a real game.

Sam and I were keen to get Camel Up (still called Camel Cup at this hour) back on the table. We explained the rules to Ian, and we were off!

Sam 28
Ian 24
Andrew 22

The first game whizzed by so fast that we couldn’t resist the lure of a second game. Like the cheesy nibbles I kept scooping into my mouth, it was impossible to just have one. So we set the game up again, and they were off!

Andrew 45
Sam 28
Ian 25

I played the odds and bet early on that the camel in last would finish last, and the camel in first would be first, and I turned out to be correct! That alone inflated my win to huge proportions.

After this, I suggested 7 Wonders, since Ian had just learnt the rules, I thought it better to get him back on the horse as soon as possible.

I had the Pyramids of Gizah, so I concentrated on building that, with some military and the occasional blue building here and there but little else. Sam had the Gardens of Babylon (which he said were shit) and went for sciences, a little warfare and a general spread of cards. I don’t remember what Ian had, but he went the pacifist route. Meanwhile his wonder’s power of copying guilds was annulled by neither me nor Sam building any guilds. Ah ha ha!

Sam 57
Andrew 56
Ian 36

As we were finishing off, the doorbell rang. Who could that be, we wondered? Perhaps a neighbour with some pressing domestic crisis? No! It was Adam! We welcomed our friend from Easton with smiling faces and open arms. And then, perhaps foolishly, we gave him the choice of game. He plumped for Railways of the World. This was brand new for Ian, but he’ll have to learn one day so why not today?

We guided him through the rules, but there’s no substitute for experience in this game. Adam rushed off into an early lead, with me in hot pursuit, with both of us picking up bonuses and bounties. Adam had the lucrative north-east seaboard mostly to himself but, for some reason, he wouldn't deliver the many yellow cubes in the vicinity to Baltimore where I had a hotel.

My operations focused around Charleston and Mobile, simply because that’s where the service bounties sent me. Sam went for the big link from Kansas to New York, which shot him into second place midway through the game – a gap I couldn’t close. Ian built around the Great Lakes and, as you’d expect for a first game, never really got going.

Adam 92
Sam 76
Andrew 66
Ian 35

To finish the evening, Camel Up (now properly called Camel Up, thanks to Adam reading the back of the box) was brought back to the table. The rules were explained to Adam, and before he could properly assimilate them, the camels were unleashed! Adam often claimed he didn’t know what to do, but he seemed to know how weigh up the probabilities.

Sam 39
Adam 32
Andrew 29
Ian 25

And after this, we were away into the night. Adam remarked that he should take more months off, because everyone seems to pleased to see him when he arrives. Speaking for myself, I don’t think he should be given choice of games next time. Or any time. Just saying.

Meanwhile, on the Form Table, my reign at the top comes to an abrupt end, with Sam and new-boy Adam fighting it out for top spot.

Sam 1 2 1 2 1 7
Adam 2 1 1 2 4 10
Joe 2 2 2 3 3 10
Martin 4 2 2 1 2 11
Andrew 3 3 2 1 3 12
Matt 33 3 1 4 14
Ian 4 4 3 3 2 16
Hannah 2 5 5 5 5 22

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Cornish Pastimes

Last week Sally and I took the boys to Polruan, Cornwall, and though most of the time was spent on the beach we did squeeze in a few games. I'd taken Ice Flow, Flash Point, Hey That's My Fish and Sumeria, the latter an incongruously popular choice with the boys (usually; we didn't actually play it this time).

Castles of Beige

First out of the box was Hey That's My Fish, or Hey, That's My Fish as Jon correctly emphasizes it. This was a two-player with me and Little Joe. After some early shenanigans of Joe's penguins slaloming toward the more rewarding tiles, we settled into a neat pattern of Joe picking up the most fish while I made suggestions as to how he could block me off. It ended closely:

Joe 52
Sam 46
(two tiles left on the 'board')

My apple

Stanley had spotted Blokus at the cottage so we pulled it out. The board is a grid of 1cm squares and each player is given a collection of tetris-style pieces in their own colour. I looked for the rulebook only to find there wasn't one, and I was thinking ho-hum... until I realized the rules are printed on the back of the box. Genius. Here they are:

1. Each player starts in a corner.
2. On their turn players place a piece that cannot be adjacent to any of their own pieces (they can be adjacent to other players') but must touch one of their own pieces at at least one corner.
3. Whoever manages to play the most pieces wins.

The key is squeezing between the corners of opposing players pieces really, and making sure you don't have all your biggest pieces left in the endgame. It was so simple and the boys really liked it - even Sally did, in fact. What I don't understand is how it works as a 2-player - there's so much room on the board you'd have to make a concerted effort to not get all your pieces down. There's probably something on BGG about it…

We played lots of games of this and there were many winners. We also had some pub lunches and I messed about with my phone:

Stanley and I played Ice Flow. I'd remembered it as quite simple but it's actually a bit of a puzzle, trying to get three explorers across the Bering Strait while being pursued by polar bears and stymied by the opposition. There was a fair bit of head-scratching, and although Stanley won (a collaborative effort) it was not requested again.

The other popular game was Flash Point. Stan is not one for tantrums when he loses but he can occasionally get a little forlorn, so I think he liked the fact this was a team effort. Together we put out many fires and rescued many victims, but we also (courtesy of my longstanding blind spot) played a rule wrong, making it easier for ourselves than it should have been. Having corrected it we both died as the building collapsed on us. Oh well.

Finally upon returning to Bristol I suggested Lords of Waterdeep, which Stanley has played before. Joe did not play but was The Shopkeeper - in charge of cube distribution.

Last time Stan needed a little help with some of the reading, but no such qualms for him this time. In fact he shot off into a healthy lead, and although I assisted by 1. once pointing out he could get wizards by going to the harbour and 2. not nicking cubes off him when I could have, he pretty much bossed the game, picking up handsome endgame bonuses that I didn't see coming:

Stanley 145
Sam 122

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Don’t Take No (ko) For An Answer

I arrived at tonight’s games night with a troubled air. In the last GNN bulletin, I scored my fourth win in a row. Thus the first game tonight was to be pivotal. I stayed quiet, hoping that no one would remember. There were five of us at first at Adam’s house. Adam (his first time back after paternity leave), Ian, Matt, Sam and myself.

7 Wonders was chosen. I thought “This is possible.”

I was given the Mausoleum at Harlicarnassus. This one gives the player the chance to build a discarded building for free when they complete a part of their wonder. A tricky one, easy to get wrong. But play it right, and it’s pretty powerful.

The game was new to Ian and Matt, and Sam explained the rules to them. Considering it was their first time, they did pretty well. They focused on armies, facing off over a steadily increasing pile of blood red cards. Adam went for sciences but found that he couldn’t build his science-friendly wonder because of a lack of wood.

I kept my wonder unbuilt until the very end of the second round, when I thought there may be some decent buildings in the discard pile. And then in round three, I was able to build three guilds and a last minute army (to stop Adam’s sudden conversion from non-violent research to blood-thirsty warlord. No doubt driven to violence by the lack of wood) to assure a comfortable victory and my very own Perfect Five!

Andrew 62
Sam 50
Matt 49
Adam 45
Ian 35

Andrew 1 1 1 1 1 5
Sam 2 1 3 1 3 10
Joe 2 2 2 3 3 10
Martin 4 2 2 1 2 11
Matt 3 1 4 1 1 10
Ian 5 3 3 2 3 16
Adam 4 5 5 5 5 23

After this hands were shaken, celebratory texts were sent out, and I could finally relax as I basked in the glory of only the second ever perfect five!

Then Hannah came down from putting their baby to bed, and we split into two groups of three. I found the Japanese stylings of Takenoko (which I guess is 竹の子, Child of Bamboo EDIT: I was too literal. It means Bamboo Sprout) irresistible and so Adam and Matt joined me in the front room, while Sam, Ian and Hannah chose Concordia.

Takenoko is a lovely game to look at, with tiny but perfectly formed Panda and Gardner pieces to move around. The rules are simple: you have two actions and a random action decided by a die each move. The aim is to score points by achieving particular formations of tiles (coloured pink, green and yellow) on the table, or particular combinations of bamboo that the panda has eaten, or particular heights of bamboo that the gardener has grown. You find out these criteria according to cards dealt to you at the start of the game, but you can pick up more cards as you go.

The first player to successfully complete eight (me) gets a bonus of two points, and the other players get one more go to try to finish what they can.

Andrew 38
Adam 35
Matt 34

And I’d won my sixth game in a row! An occasion so rare, that it doesn’t even have a name! The Splendid Six, perhaps? Although the Smug Six might have been a more accurate description of my attitude once the scores had been added up.

We’d finished but Concordia was still in full swing. When I went in to check, Ian had France all to himself, and there was still a largeish pile of cards to be bought. We went back into the front room and decided on Galaxy Truckers: a game that Matt actually owned but hadn’t played yet.

Adam explained the rules to him, but it is simply a game about a bunch of unlucky jigsaw puzzles. Once put together, they are beaten up by cards and dice. My fate was sealed in round two: I had looked at the cards beforehand, and had planned accordingly. But a mistake in my ship meant that one of lasers fell off immediately, and before long a stray meteorite had removed a second, leaving me at the mercy of the same pirates and slavers I’d seen earlier and had been so confident of beating. Instead I was desperately trying to slow my ship down, and let Adam go first. Cowardly, but necessary.

But my shoddy engineering left me in a distant second, my dreams of a seventh win in tatters. Adam added insult to injury by hitting three figures.

Adam 100
Andrew 47
Matt 35

The last round of Galaxy Truckers was played with an audience, as Concordia had ended and been packed away, so the three of them watched us rush through our final round of meteorites after meteorites. Adam remembered a rule that allows sideways facing lasers to shoot either side of their level, but he described it so badly that no one believed him. In the end, he found it in the rule book, allowing him to reinstate his previously destroyed engine.

But as for Concordia, Ian's Francophile approach did not pay dividends. Sam said that if Hannah had been fully up to speed on the tactics, she would have won. Hannah expressed surprise at how easily Sam had spread his influence across the map. He explained that he’d just moved around a lot. Ah, such depth.

Sam 155
Hannah 144
Ian 117

All of which leaves me at the top of the form table, but more importantly, it welcomes two familiar faces back to the world of games. Cross fingers that they can come again soon.

Andrew 2 1 1 1 1 6
Sam 1 2 1 3 1 8
Joe 2 2 2 3 3 10
Martin 4 2 2 1 2 11
Matt 33 3 1 4 14
Ian 3 5 3 3 2 16
Adam 1 2 4 5 5 17
Hannah 2 5 5 5 5 22

Sunday, 3 August 2014

It's the 500th post

I hope no one wanted to use this special occasion to make a speech or anything. I decided to mark our 500th blog post with a division that covered the whole history of the GNN blog. Sam wins on points and the medal table, while Dan takes points ratio with just three games! Amazing. As we turn to the regulars (tipping a hat to Jon on the way) we see that Adam just beats Quentin by 0.02. Well played chaps. And well done to Bea and Martha, whose combined ages probably aren't even half of most regulars here, but they've both managed to win a game (Long Shot and that Ancient Rome bingo-ish one - I forget the name).

As for the rest, well, look at us all. Aren't we magnificent? 724 games on the leaderboard, and each one has its own story.