I went to see Sam at his house, bedecked with Christmas cheer, and we settled down for a quick game of Macao. A remarkably quick game in its two-player guise, especially in practised old hands like ours. We sped through the first few rounds, and never let up until the dice where all ones, and it was make or break in the final round.
But, by then, Sam had pretty much won it. Some lucky rolls mid-game gave him the chance to chain together some cards to get some gold and buy prestige points. That put him in miles in the lead, and though my little engine to create two (later three) points per round for doing nothing really helped catch him up, by the end his chain of city quarters put him out in the lead again.
Then Istanbul was brought to the table. Sam and I are old enough to play on a random board, and that’s exactly what we did. But it was a bit of a tricky layout, which involved several trips back and forth through the Turkish capital just for one jewel. Early on, Sam suggested we play until five jewels, not six and I agreed.
We struggled on, having difficulty in looping back and picking up our assistants without it being a bit of a wasted move. Then Sam struck! I was on four gems, when he managed to get to the Sultan’s Palace and got his fifth gem. Victory!
Except it wasn’t. I only realised when I got home but, since Sam started the game, I had one more go. We’ve all been playing Impulse and Quantum and Palaces of Carrara so much recently, that we clean forgot that Istanbul doesn’t end the moment the first player gets the required number of jewels. I was one move away from the gemstone dealer, where I would have got my last jewel. It would’ve been down to a money tie-breaker, and I didn’t make a note of that. Let’s call it a draw. EDIT: according to Sam, he only had one lira left, and as I recall I had about twentysomething, about to buy a jewel for nineteen lira, so it looks like I would've won a tie-breaker.
Andrew 5 (wins on money)
And then, having sped through two games that, in their four-player version would take a whole evening, we set about a little light game to wind down. Good old Biblios. It never fails to intrigue. I even had the crazy idea, halfway through, that I might be able to win all five dice. That’s could have been the whisky doing my thinking for me, though.
This time, I feel that the game was won and lost on the red cards. Halfway through the auction round a red card came up. I passed, since I only had one. Sam passed too. This rang alarms in my head since the reds were only worth two. Would he really have stockpiled enough to assure victory?
The next time a red card came up, Sam passed and I bought it. And the same again the third time, too. Sam looked nervous. In the end, we both won what we thought we would win, but Sam just pipped me on reds: he had four points to my three. So, instead of a 6-5 win to me, it ended:
Sam retakes his crown as Mr Biblios. A rather battered crown by now, since it is automatically passed to whoever just won at Biblios, but still a crown nevertheless.