Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Ruletide Greetings

Nine of us arrived at Anja and Steve’s house. Steve was out when we got there, but was expected to arrive just as soon as he got his fill of Palestinian cinema for the evening. Otherwise we were: Anja, Sam, Andy, me, Martin, Joe, Katy and Ian. We split into three groups and, thanks to Steve and Anja’s new dining table, it wasn’t a problem to give us all the required space.

It wasn't planned as such, but it ended up being the Christmas edition of GNN as most players won't be around for next week. There were snacks and mulled wine and mince pies on hand! A lovely cosy winter's spread.

As for the games, Andy and me went for Lewis and Clark, while Joe, Katy and Martin chose Ascending Empires. On the coffee table at the far end of the room, Sam, Ian, and Anja chose a new game Olympos with the option for Steve to join a game when he arrived.

All of which meant that every game needed a rule explanation, and the whole room hummed with the noise of criteria and options being described. By 8.50, Steve had arrived and no one had actually started their game (a situation that Martin found appalling). He chose Olympos, because there was enough space around that table.

Since I was sat at one end of the room, I can’t say much about Olympos, except that there was the occasional exclamation of “Fuck Zeus!” And, I have to say, my neighbouring game of Ascending Empires was every bit as foul-mouthed. Martin played an aggressive game, as he and Katy fought over one half of the galaxy, leaving Joe's half nearly untouched, with Katy using her very best swearing to try and ward Martin away from further attacks on her quarter. Joe, meanwhile, continued to have the yips, mis-flicking almost every move that meant anything.

As for Lewis & Clark, compared to the other games, it was relatively sedate. There was a bit of worker placement, and a bit of hand management. This sounds like a euphemism for a quick wank – what it actually means is that we were trying to build up a strong hand of cards that would allow us to win the game. Each card has a historical character and a vaguely related action. I was amused by Big Horse, who allowed you to turn two Native Americans into a horse: I imagined it being a pantomime horse, carrying your supplies through the mountains (“Oh no he wouldn't!”).

But Andy had a couple of cards that allowed him to build canoes for cheap, and then combine them with food for an extra two spaces. This was enough to beat my cards that got horses for cheap and then gave each one an extra space on water or land.

Andy won
Andrew didn't

When we'd finished, no one else seemed close to winning. So we started on a quick game of Red7. It was a close game, with the scores at 33-31 as we went into the last round. But Andy's attempt to wake the forces of darkness must have been enough to get him some luck.

Andy 41
Andrew 33

By now, games were entering their final stages, so we were able to watch the scores being totted up. In space, Martin had won by a very comfortable win, and his merciless aggression gained him the title of Space Cunt.

Martin 33
Katy 17
Joe 15

Finally, the scoring for Olympos was worked out. There were plenty of different categories and it all looked very complicated.

Sam 48 (wins on tie-breaker)
Anja 48
Steve 47
Ian 28

The overall impression seemed to be that learning the game with four players was a bit of a bump to get over. When I came over to watch the final stages, Ian looked like he'd just spent the evening doing squat thrusts since he was slumped back in the sofa, absently clinging onto his beer. He may have been shaking slightly. I didn't check.

Then we discussed whether or not to bring back the Game Of The Month, or have a system where the host gets the privilege of choosing one of the games to be played that evening. Something to slow the relentless march of progress as new games are brought to the table about once a week. I'm all for this, and I'd also like to suggest we play more two-player games. It would give us a little bit of flexibilty, at least.

I've been thinking about this for a while and I've put together a new two-player division so that two-player games aren't forgotten. Nothing like the old one that I tried about a year ago: this is based on football divisions. Three points for a win, one for a draw and none for losing. Then multiply this by the game length, and finally add one (so the person in last gets at least a point). This is what it looks like right now for this season.

It doesn't need points, just a winner and a loser. We could even play Chess!

And, of course, there's our old pal, the Form Table which looks like this. Martin maintains pole position, while Matt has been away so long, his score has started to decay.

Martin 1 2 1 2 2 8
Sam 1 1 3 2 2 9
Andrew 2 1 4 1 1 9
Jon 2 2 2 2 1 9
Katy 2 1 3 2 2 10
Anja 2 2 1 1 5 11
Matt 4 1 2 1 2 11*
Joe 3 2 1 3 3 12
Andy 3 2 2 4 1 12
Hannah 3 3 2 2 2 12
Chris 2 5 1 1 4 13
Ian 4 1 3 3 3 14
Adam 3 2 2 4 4 15
Steve 3 3 3 5 1 15
Stanley 3 2 4 1 5 15


  1. Nice sweary write-up Andrew. I like the two-player division, particularly since I win on points ratio, is that right? Not sure how, but I like it.

    I was out of shape with AE, thinking I needed to explore far from home, which was at odds with my flick ability. Had I spent more time exploring my immediate vicinity I'd have done much better, which would have meant Martin's ultra-aggressive strategy wouldn't have worked.

    On the way home he mused that it could be a very negative game where stuff gets repeatedly shut down by blockading, but I think that was mostly a function of the above. If he'd had to divide his attention between the two of us it would have been futile.

    In any case I was in awe of both my opponents ability to land ships pretty much exactly where they wanted them repeatedly. Martin scored a fine piece of luck on the one occasion his starship flipped on to its side; it bounced out of Katy's orbit, paused, then rolled back in.

    A late flick by Katy just missed Martin's orbit, which would have been enough for her to take his planet, but that aside they both seemed in perfect control of their forces, where as mine seemed to have had their ranks filled with the wrong fuel, stalling or kangaroo ing off into deep space at the touch of the ignition.

    The key to not being able to flick is getting your techs up, and that's what I usualy do. But not last night. Silly moi. Great to get it to the table again though, it's a very unique game, underrated IMO.

    Thanks Anja and Steve for excellent hosting, and Merry Christmas all.

    1. There was so much swearing this evening that when I got home to write the report I felt I needed to make up for lost ground.

      Joe, you're high points ratio is all down to your run of good form on Wir Sind Das Volk.

    2. And to think I got lightly rapped on the knuckles for couple of smutty titles!

  2. In theory there was much to like about Olympos - the rules were quite straightforward and it had a nice mix of area control and combat. Discoveries got you additional powers and wonders got you a big chunk of points, and every now and then one of the Gods popped up to shaft everyone (or occasionally reward someone) which was a nice balancing tool for a player less focussed on winning areas. Atlantic featured in the midst of the sea and got you double points.

    The main drawback for me was the interface between player and game. The whole of the playing time we were passing the rules around to check how to pay for Discoveries, what they did, how they worked, and how to use other cards. Then the Zeus cards also needed interpreting. A better layout on the board and tiles would have really helped.

    In the game itself Anja marched down the east and we ignored here, letting her accrue stars by virtue of wiping out tribes. Later I realised we needed to stop her before she bought all the wonders and won by a huge margin. Ian and I struggled to be leader in the Zeus tokens (which keep the Gods from the door, or let them in, depending on their mood) and Steve started amassing a heap of Discovery tiles.

    I got the Discovery of Democracy early on and this gave me a big hand throughout the game as I won all ties. There were quite a few. However that wouldn't have been enough to stop Anja by itself - luck was on my side in the form of the final Zeus card, which gave me two swords. If there had been another Zeus card I would have had to discard it, but there wasn't, and I didn't, and I had a discovery that scored me 2 points per sword at the end of the game!

    I did wake up feeling less disdainful of Olympos today. Maybe I'd even play again. But crikey it's not a friendly game - and I don't mean the combat.

  3. *Atlantis. Bleedin' auto-correct...

  4. I agree with Sam about Olympos having a less-than-ideal interface. I was mulling the game over on my short walk home, and I think I'd have enjoyed the game more if there had been less need to constantly refer to the rules, and if the overall design was a little less busy, at least on the discovery board. It seemed quite cluttered, making reading information from the board a little harder than it ought to be.

    I didn't really take to it on this first play, but I'd give it another go because there might well be an enjoyable game in there somewhere.

    Thanks Anja and Steve for hosting though, and I wish you all a good Christmas!

  5. Merry Christmas all, and thanks for a fantastic first full year as a GNNer!

  6. Many thanks to Anja and Steve for hosting last night, and, as a bit of a newcomer, to everyone involved in GNN for making me feel so welcome. Now to work on my swearing...

    Thanks to Andrew for playing Lewis & Clark last night - I think it's a lovely game and I'm very happy that I bought it. And the silicone cake cases!

  7. P.S. If more 2p games are on the table (so to speak), then who fancies some Memoir '44 action?

  8. I'd like to try that at some point Andy.

  9. Oh, I forgot to mention Katy's heart-breaking story of having to play The Game Of Life recently. A terrible situation for anyone to find themselves in. No wonder she drank so much gin.

  10. Commands & Colours: Ancients, the 2 player I brought last night, is the same designer and game system as Memoir 44, just a bit more rule-y and er, ancient - with lovely wooden blocks instead of mini's. I'll happily play this with anyone who want to get their Publius Scipio on...