After idly speculating what I could do with a free night (Sally is still away) - it hit me: Games! Usually the feeling arrives after my first coffee, but this time it was quite unexpected and late in the day after the previous indulgences. I didn't really expect any takers, but Ian bit, and we rounded off Novocon with an evening of two-player games tonight.
First out of the cupboard was Arkadia, which has never really hit the main drag of GNN but remains a firm favourite with myself and Andrew. Ian was new to it so there was a brief and possibly muddied rules exploration before we were off.
Those of you who've missed out on this, it's one of those games where a drab board (and little plastic men that could very easily be wooden discs) hides some neat and easy-to-learn mechanics. There's precious few options on your turn - either place a building or place workers, and then if you have a mind to, cash in a pennant in order to get more workers and cash in your seals, which you get by surrounding buildings on the board with other buildings. That admittedly idiotic sentence does contain the essence of the game - the key to it is maximising when you surround buildings (and of what colour) and what colour stones you add to the castle, as the colours in the castle dictate the value of your seals. Simple eh?
I have made it sound very complicated I know but it's a game of very few rules and deceptive depth, like a well that's been made into a pond.
It was only just gone nine when we wound up Arkadia so we brought out Quantum. I left Ian to set up whilst I went to put Joe on the potty. When I returned he'd gone for a very confrontational layout - though let's face it, the whole game is confrontational.
We began as is tradition by concentrating on our own shit, but before long Ian was blowing up my ships (and getting +2 dominance as reward) and I was combining some movement cards (1 free peaceful move, 1 free and possibly aggressive move of one space only) in order to go back at him. Aligned to my ability to knock a point off defence and attack rolls and after a series of skirmishes I claimed the win:
Sam 7 cubes
Ian 5 cubes
It wasn't even ten yet, so we broke out the whisky and what we thought was a quick game to finish off. We pondered a few options but I remembered how much I enjoyed Hive with Andrew on our sortie to York recently. The rules are simple - very chess like, with each piece having it's own movement abilities - and each player is trying to surround their opponents' bee in the hive of the title.
Ian entered the fray tentatively but whereas mine and Andrew's games tended to be the football equivalent of end-to-end cup ties (won by Andrew) this game took on the tense tactical air of a crucial golden-goal situation. Ian manoeuvred himself into a strong position and it was all I could do to keep blocking him, so he couldn't place the final piece to claim the win.
My bee is nearly surrounded, but my two ants
and grasshopper (all on the left) are stopping
Ian from completing the job.
But despite three or four desperate defences on my part, I eventually succumbed, having rather optimistically moved an Ant hoping to mount a counter-attack. Ian one-two-ed his way to a victory that was something of an epic, if a long time coming in his favour.
My bee is dead.
Whisky drunk and bees surrounded, we finally called time on Novocon 2014. Thanks everyone for making it a cracker!