Friday, 14 November 2014

One good Turk deserves another

Due to difficulties in finding attendees, Tuesday was cancelled (and in fact, I was quite ill that evening so a good thing too) and our regular GNN was shifted back to Thursday. And as I walked to Sam’s, I did wonder if I had to cancel that evening too, since my stomach was grumbling up a storm. Luckily my belly held out until I got there, and after a mercy dash to the toilet, I was up and raring to go.

There was Sam, Matt, Ian, Martin and me. Martin had brought Greenland, but that would have left us with an awkward 3/2 divide, so it wasn’t really considered. Instead, we went for Istanbul, the new game of moving and actioning that has fewer rules than Impulse and less AP than Five Tribes. Matt and Martin were new to the game, so Sam talked them through the rules.

With five players, the game changes slightly, but to our relief it scales up rather well. The biggest difference is that you have to pay other players two coins for landing on their square far more often than in a three player game. Otherwise, it was largely the same: you move, you collect, you convert into gems.

Martin, as he so often does, seemed to get a grip on the process very early. In fact, he played by eschewing the usual route of building up your wheelbarrow and then circling around the warehouse/market/gem dealer (with a detour to the tea house if you’re feeling lucky). Martin flouted all of this, and instead used his tiny wheelbarrow, with no upgrades, to get goods and then buy gems at the Sultan’s Palace.

It was a smart move, and shot him into a lead where he had four jewels (needing five to win) while the rest of us struggled with one or two. But we started to close the gap on him. Not enough to take the win, but enough that the last two rounds were pretty tense, with Sam and Martin on four jewels and the rest trying to catch up fast. Sam lost it by gambling too high in the Tea Room when he could have played safe. It ended

Martin 5 gems
Sam 4 gems (and 15 cash)
Andrew 4 (3 cash)
Ian 3 (21 cash)
Matt 3 (18 cash)

Perhaps the best bit about Martin’s win was that it showed that there wasn’t just one route to victory. You can build up your wheelbarrow, but in the time it takes to do that, perhaps someone has already taken the cheap stuff from the board. It’s not just a case of pursuing the right path to victory in the most efficient manner. I think that after this game, Istanbul has cemented its place as a new favourite in the GNN pantheon. One that plays five as well as it plays three.

After this, another new game was brought to the table. Reiner Knizia’s Capacious Derriere Colossal Arena. This game of betting on victorious mythical creatures is very simple. You start with eight creatures, and cards get played below each of them. The lowest value (once all eight have at least one card) is eliminated from that round. And this goes on until three are left. Or until the draw pile is finished, which is what happened in this game. Perhaps the biggest challenge was trying to remember which creature had been eliminated. We tried turning cards face down, or moving them to the top of the rows and we eventually signalled it by using upturned shot glasses on the now-useless cards. It seemed to work.

During the game, you can place bets on which creatures will be still standing at the end. The earlier you place a bet, the more it earns you. I was lucky that I had bet big on a creature that another player (Matt) also wanted to keep alive. At the end, the scores were

Andrew 16
Sam 13
Martin 13
Ian 11
Matt 8

I said it was simple, but since it is a Knizia, there are subtleties, such as being the backer of a creature (allowing you to use some kind of super power that round) or by using spectators (annulling that creature’s super power) or by using a referee (that does things).

Then, just to round the evening off, we played Raj. This game of bidding with an aversion for ties was once a hot favourite. It was great to see it back, especially after round two when a fortunate set of tied results gave me an 8 tile (iirc) for next to nothing. That meant I had commanding lead after the second round, and only had to play safe in round three to record the win. Sam, meanwhile, played the first round by using his cards in numerical order! An audacious tactic that only netted him 3 points in that round. We finished:

Andrew 42
Matt 38
Martin 16
Ian 12
Sam 12

With that, Martin dashed from the house in search of a nicely-timed bus. I set off for the toilet, just for luck, before I went and we all went home, happy after an evening of great games and some very nice whisky.

I hold on to first on the Form Table. For now, at least.

Andrew 1 1 3 3 2 10
Martin 3 2 1 1 5 12
Katie 1 5 1 2 4 13
Sam 4 2 2 2 3 13
Joe 3 2 3 3 1 13*
Chris 4 2 4 4 1 15
Matt 2 4 5 4 1 16
Ian 4 3 4 2 3 16
Hannah 2 2 2 5 5 16
Anja 1 1 5 5 5 17
Adam 4 4 3 3 5 19
Stanley 4 1 5 5 5 20
Steve 3 5 5 5 5 23

* And I've just noticed that Joe's been away so long (three weeks) that his score has started to "decay". (This rule was introduced to stop a player getting a good score on the Form Table and then not coming again - eventually, the score starts to increase, and the player will slip down the table) I hope Joe can make it soon. Not just to wipe that point off, but also because of the joie de jeux that he brings to the evening.

Oh, and one more thing: the division for Raj.


  1. I enjoyed that a lot, even if I woke up at 5.30 (thanks Stanley!) with a sore head. I agree with Andrew, Istanbul feels like a bit of a classic to me. Raj is always awesome and I really enjoyed Reiner Knizia's Colossal Arena too. It was nice to finally have a good look at it.

    Andrew maybe you could start a blog about your stomach adventures! I'd read it.

  2. Apparently FFG tinkered with the endgame of Colossal Arena. Originally you kept playing until you've used all the cards in your hand. That'd avoid the anticlimactic ending we had last night.

    I wouldn't go as far as calling Istanbul a classic, but it was definitely better than I expected :)