Thursday, 26 February 2015

Don't go Dirk!

Tuesday. Games. Joe's. Seven gamers attended: Joe, Martin, Andy, Matt, Ian, Katy, and myself. When I arrived, people were discussing a new game, Kobayakawa. This is a painfully simple betting game, whereby players bet on whether they have the highest card. The twist being that in the middle of the table whose total is added to the score of the lowest card. On your turn you can do nothing, change your card or change the card in the middle of the table. Very interesting. It plays up to six, but we couldn't think of a reason why seven couldn't play. Until we tried it. If seven play, then there's a good chance that all the cards are used. As such, whoever has the winning hand knows if they've won, and those that don't know that they've lost. We decided to stop playing and split into two groups.

Joe, Martin, Katy and Ian chose Members Only, a game making its GNN debut. It was all about recreating the refined atmosphere of a gentleman's club and their propensity for betting on various things, like hats and cups of tea.

Matt, Andy and I also played a new game: Empire Engine, a small game of few options, but a clever way of choosing those options. To choose an option you have to rotate your cards. It's simple to understand, but hard to explain succinctly.

Matt 15
Andy 13
Andrew 11

Then we played Port Royal, and Matt gave us a real lesson in how to play successfully. He doubled up on cash bonuses for 5+ cards, and it paid off handsomely.

Matt 13
Andy 6
Andrew 5

Since the gentlemans' club across the table were still knee deep in wagers about Big Ben, we continued our little run of short games, deciding to give Kobayakawa a try with three players. I enjoyed it. There's room for bluffing and a bit of manipulation, but mot so much that it gets bogged down in AP. I was in first until the last round, when both Andy and Matt were close enough behind me that I had to bet or I wouldn't win. I bet. I didn't win.

Matt 10
Andrew 6
Andy 3

Finally, the league of extraordinary (the swearing, that is) gentlemen finished. And as you would expect from a modern progressive society, this game of masculine conceits was won by a lady.

Katy 31
Joe 21
Martin 20
Ian 14

Now we were all together as a band of seven. After a little discussion, Igloo Pop was chosen, while Joe and Martin decided to try Patchwork, the rough and tough game of quilting.

I described the rules, while Andy said it seemed a lot like a game he'd sold once. We shook our igloos, we guffawed at our guesses and then were amazed by the result: Andy's first win of the season. Obviously, he'd sold that other game, not because he didn't like it, but because he'd become too expert in it.

Andy 22
Katy 19
Ian 13
Andrew 13
Matt 12

Meanwhile, Patchwork ended:

Martin 11
Joe 6

No idea what kind of game it is, but Katy did note that there wasn't much swearing.

Finally, the seven of us got together for a big old game of Incan Gold. And what a game it was. The first temple ended immediately after two rock falls. And with the laughs of incredulity still audible, the second temple was stuffed full of Zombie Ladies. Surely we'd be able to at least get through the door in the third temple.

And so we did, and the game played out as it should do. Matt demonstrated his expertise in getting out alone when there was an artifact to be had. At one point Martin, baffled as to what to do, decided to Go Dirk and chose randomly. This caused an outcry, as everyone beseeched him “Don't go Dirk!” It then caused a series of copycat threats as Joe and Ian also threatened to chose randomly. This caused Martin to reconsider. And then so did Joe. Only Ian was true to his word and, as it turned out, he left by himself, taking all the loot with him.

Additionally, Joe dazzled us all with his steely nerve in refusing to back out of a temple until he's hit the jackpot. What a shame his plans never panned out. Andy, though, took advantage of all the excitement on the other side of the table to sneak unnoticed to his second win of the evening/season.

Andy 26
Matt 22
Ian 22
Andrew 21
Martin 21
Katy 8
Joe 2

It was now 10.30. Andy and I called it a night, but the remaining five ploughed on, giving Kobayakawa another turn on the table. The results were:

Ian 11
Martin 8
Matt 6
Katie 3
Joe 0

On the division, Katy rebuilds her lead to over ten points again and, just to rub our noses in it, she takes the medal table too. Joe hangs on to Hannah steals Points Ratio from Joe.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

You don’t Hab to be Gut to work here

This Monday's gaming began in confusion, with Sam texting thirty minutes before we were due to begin that he wasn't feeling well, and he'd have to cancel. Then, just five minutes later he texted again saying that he'd battle through, and we should come as planned. This meant I was walking back and forth along Zetland Road, checking my phone for updates.

Sam had initially planned on getting a few new games to the table, but in his slightly groggy state, he asked that we stick to old familiars. And so we began with 7 Wonders, a game so familiar that I barely need to describe it.

Andy went for sciences and guilds, and I tried to get lots of money by getting a monopoly on the refined materials. Sam went for war but Ian found himself in a pickle, coming into the final round with almost no money. My last-minute attempt to overthrow Sam's military empire fell short and Andy took the win by copying one of my guilds.

Andy 54
Sam 50
Andrew 45
Ian 39

Then we play Hab & Gut. It was new to Ian, so we went through the rules for him, coming up with a little variant of our own. Each player gets to choose which cards dealt to them go on which racks. This allows you to control who get to see the cards you hold. It added a little strategic something, and may become a GNN house rule if others try it and like it.

Sam's choice of cards he wanted to share with me.

As for the game itself, black and red were expensive, white collapsed and yellow barely moved at all. Just like the real thing! Sam was over-confident in his donations. He’d made the most donations after round one, with 300 whatever they are (marks, I suppose). At the time Ian had pledged only 80. But in the final count, Ian had suddenly seen the light. He donated 405. Sam had only given 105 in the final round, making him the least pious among us and, therefore, out. His score would have been an impressive 850.

Andrew 580
Andy 340
Ian 245
Sam OUT!

We had half an hour remaining, so for our last game we chose Love Letter. Andy and I shot off into a 2-2-0-0 lead. Sam and Ian pegged us back to 2-2-1-1, until the inevitable happened and Andy won his third round. A game with very few successful guesses when people played Guard cards. Unless I was the King, in which case they usually got me.

Andy 3
Andrew 2
Sam 1
Ian 1

A lovely end to the evening. And Sam made it through to the end without falling asleep or throwing up, which is surely the cherry on the cake.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Stars on 45

Sunday was my 45th birthday, and having spent the previous 48 hours either throwing up, or sleeping, or feeling like I was about to either throw up or fall asleep, or possibly both, I was in a fairly self-indulgent mood on Sunday morning, and roped Sally and Stanley in to a game of Castles of Mad King Ludwig. Sally's games antennae must have started tingling as without even knowing we were setting it up she embarked on a lengthy phone call in the front room, and I played her first few moves for her. Not very well, either.

On Saturday I had, in the latter stages of convalescence, taken on and beaten Stanley at Lords of Waterdeep (181 to 162) with a Griffiths-esque strategy of taking lots of debt (skulls rather than bonds) in order to realize lots of short-term reward. I ended the game with the skulls taking 45 points off me, but I'd done enough to hang on to the win. Yesss! I hissed, before falling asleep again.

Sunday in Bavaria and it looked like Stan was out for revenge, as he started chaining noisy rooms and gardens together like there was no tomorrow. Or like tomorrow was a long way off and anyway we could spend it in the garden. I concentrated on getting the King's Favour and points for my own bonus cards, which meant I built a lot of circular cellars. Sally had no strategy whatsoever, except to profess an indifference to winning or losing and a lassez faire attitude to staircase placement. "It's my birthday!" I yelled, vainly. Little Joe erected a miniature cafe around the table and plied us at first with plastic snacks, then latterly interpretive dance and bird noises.

As Sally and Stanley got more and more hysterical at Joe's antics I elected to take advantage of their frivolous fun-having by scoring shitloads of points. That would show them whose birthday it was!

However Stanley's meteoric surges up the scoretrack were uncatchable. Especially as I pointed out in his last move he could score 13 points instead of 5...

Stanley 103
Sam 100
Sally 79

Mad Prince Joe not pictured

After a fairly relaxed day involving Stan and Joe lobbying for a Yo Sushi lunch just so they could watch the conveyer belt and refuse to eat the food, we reconvened in the evening with Mark and Peppa. They (plus Stanley and I) played a couple of games of Verflixxt, or That's Life as it's better known. We played a slightly abridged (less tiles) version, and Peppa won the first with 23 points. I had 21 and Mark was in the red, I think by 7 points?

However the second game - which Peppa set up - was more interesting. She put the clover tiles at the very end of the track, so basically whoever picked up red tiles was then racing to get there first and claim the clovers. Mark took a high-risk strategy of picking up high reds and ignoring the green tiles. I applaud his spirit, but not the result:

Sam 27
Peppa 15
Mark 7

There was still time for Sally, Peppa and I to play Stop Spot! The game of measle contagion amongst unsuspecting children. Over the course of a round players flip their way through a deck of cards and take whatever the card shows - usually, it's more spots to add to the cardboard children's head in front of you. Sometimes, it's cream or medicine to remove some. At the end of the round, the person with the fewest spots wins! It's the sort of thing Martin Wallace might come up with if he teamed up with David Cronenberg. Over four rounds Peppa was the least spotty, winning 2-1-1 over myself and Sally.

And with that, my 45th year came to an end!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Mad Kings go Bananas

This week was to have been at Adam and Hannah's but, due to a last minute slight illness, was quickly rearranged to Sam's. Six of us attended. Apart from Sam, there was Martin, Andy, Ian, and Katy. I arrived several minutes late, causing them to have a conversation while they waited. Apologies for that.

Our first game was a six-player, just to get us started. We went for Pairs. My luck with this game has never been great, so I stuck as soon as was possible, much to Martin's derision. Katy, though, had no such troubles. Staring down Lady Fate at every opportunity, she won the first three rounds for 18 points, and then did just enough in the fourth round to edge past 21 points for the win. Meanwhile, my slow and steady tactics got me second. Martin and Andy saw their luck evaporate with a string of instant busts as they were dealt pairs almost immediately. Ian managed to avoid a score of zero in the last round by sensibly ignoring Martin's advice to keep twisting.

Katy 22
Andrew 14
Sam 11
Martin 9
Andy 5
Ian 5

Then we decided to split into two. After some discussion Andy, Sam and Ian went for The Castles of Mad King Ludwig, while Martin, Katy and I went for Impulse. It was Katy's first play, and I wondered how she'd do against two experienced Space captains like me and Martin. Before I wrote this blog post, I went back and read how my first impressions of Impulse were not good and it wasn't until the third game that I felt like I knew what I was doing. Katy seemed frustrated by the experience, and I empathized as she stared at her hand, the map and then at the reference card in blank confusion.

She did well, though, building up a healthy fleet of ships, even if she was short on cards that would move them. Martin kept himself to himself, preferring to fly in circles, triggering point-scoring cards as often as possible. My plan was almost identical to his. As such there were no battles and only sporadic sabotages.

Martin 20
Andrew 18
Katy 7

Will Katy ever play it again? Will I score higher than 18 ever again? Tune in for the next episode in the space epic Impulse.

On the other half of the table, castles were being built. Andy's was quite a sexist castle, separating the ladies' rooms (knitting or something) from the gentlemens' rooms for billiards and an audience room (whatever that is).

Ian's rooms were mostly purple and indicated a luxurious, leisure-filled lifestyle. Exactly the type of king who'd be first against the wall come the revolution. Sam's castle was clearly the maddest and therefore a worthy winner.

Sam 138
Andy 123
Ian 120

We'd finished Impulse a while back, so I was introduced to the wonders of Trumps! Trick! Game! This is a simple trick-taking game. The twist being that everyone wins four tricks at the end of each round, therefore if you win tricks early, you'll just be giving away what's left in your hand. All this changes in the last round when you can win as many as you like in a last-gasp stampede for points.

There's more to it, for example the trumps, but it's quick and simple. It's another classic trick taking game for Martin to add to his wall of fame.

Andrew 148
Katy 132
Martin 110

While we were playing that, The Castles of Mad Ludwig ended, and they set off on a 3-player 6nimmt. This time, however, Andy persuaded Sam and Ian to try the “professional” rules of 6nimmt, where cards can be added to either end of the row. And so they played a much quieter, thoughtful game of 6nimmt. No doubt dreaming of riches in their future careers as professional 6nimmt players.

Sam 33
Ian 34
Andy 46

While we waited for them to finish off the last few rounds of 6nimmt, Martin, Katy and I played a brief non-leaderboard game of Win, Lose, or Banana. This is a bluffing game, in the style of The Resistance, or Coup or Look Out I’m a Werewolf! But with all the storyline nonsense stripped away. Three cards are dealt out: a win card, a lose card and a banana card. The person with the win card declares who they are and the other two have to convince them that they have the banana card. Simple and fun. And the ironic thing was, Katy actually had a banana at the time!

Finally, we were all together again for a final six-player game: Flowerfall. In this game, cards are dropped onto the table from eye level, with each player hoping to land their flowers overlapping (but not covering) cards with point scoring cards on them. It was very silly. Sam’s only point came from him dropping a card which had one of his flowers and one point scoring flower. Katy, however, couldn’t even manage that and ended with no points at all.

Martin 8
Andrew 7
Andy 2
Ian 2
Sam 1
Katy 0

And with that, that night was over.

On the Division, Katy’s lead is slashed from fourteen points to nine and a bit as Sam moves up to second. Ian moves up to sixth and is right on Joe's shoulder. Martin takes the medal table, and absent Joe hangs on to Points Ratio. And I’ve reinstated the Bracknell Bunch since I forgot about them last time.

Monday, 16 February 2015

One onesie, two humps

Monday. Shortly after sending out the invite for non-Tuesday gaming, I (Sam) conked out on the sofa in a fitful sleep. In my semi-lucid daze I did wonder whether drinking and playing was the best idea. Then I realised it was.

Come 7.45 Ian strode in to find me in my Everton onesie. I had elected not to get dressed again, thinking we were all friends. And sure enough Ian and - shortly after - Andrew shrugged off their surprise as we had more serious matters than my sartorial shortcomings at hand.

We started with A Castle For All Seasons. As I was setting it up Ian - possibly channelling Martin - said "this looked like one of those games where you get stuff to get other stuff" - and I had to admit it was. With the saving caveat that the main mechanic was card-play rather than worker placement. Even with Ian new to it, the game played fast - all the way through we kept saying how quickly the rounds were going. But we still managed to be surprised when the last round arrived. Andrew's end-game bonuses weren't quite enough to catch me; whilst Ian did respectably on a first play with a man in a romper suit:

Sam 53
Andrew 50
Ian 37

We moved on to Istanbul: the quick version. It wasn't as quick as all that, actually - all of us had our moments of staring at the board almost accusingly. Andrew was probably least guilty of this - but having played with admirable lassez faire, he was rewarded with a tanking. Mine and Ian's brow-furrowing was partly down to the fact we were playing a variant - each of us started with an extra neutral assistant. They could be dropped off at buildings and function normally - the only difference was anyone could pick them up. It was a game of surges - Ian burst into the lead but his method of accruing stuff to trade in at the Sultan's palace meant that he had moments of having nothing to do but collect more resources. I used one of these fallow moments - combined with a bonus card - to nab a sneaky win:

Sam 5 gems
Ian 4 gems
Andrew 2 gems

Next up was Camel Up. Andrew and Ian were keen and I was open to it, though having enjoyed the first few plays ever since I've found it a bit... faffy. I think for me it's just slightly too long and slightly too complicated for what it is. And I say that despite having pulled off the spawniest win ever - lagging in third, I catapulted myself to victory by virtue of being first to predict outright winner and outright loser. I'd love to say this was strategic genius, but I can't. I'm wearing a onesie.

We finished a rapid night of sparring with Love Letter. Ian proclaimed he liked this game because he "doesn't know" what he's doing; but whatever system he employs it serves him well. Andrew went into a 2-0-0 lead but Ian came back well enough to win. Although in the last round I was reluctant kingmaker - I knew I'd lost, but I was pretty sure that Andrew had the king. So I guessed correctly and knocked him out, by default handing the win to Ian! Sorry Andrew.

Ian 3 cubes
Andrew 2 cubes
Sam 1 cube

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Duking it out

Sarah was out of town for the day and I'd made contact with some Bristolian Pax Porfiriana fans on BoardGameGeek. Since GNN seems to have shunned this marvellous game of Machiavellian machinations, it seemed like a good opportunity for me to give Joe's playmat a workout.

We'd arranged to meet at the Barley Mow near Temple Meads at 2pm, but just as I was about to set out, I got a text to say that it was full to bursting. I proposed Roll for the Soul as an alternative, but when I got there I found that it's closed on Sunday. But gamers will game, despite the obstacles thrown in our path, and it turns out that Stuart is a member of a Bristol war gaming society that owns a room above the Old Duke pub.

He ushered us in through a side door, entered a passcode and led us up to a strange gaming den full of large tables and war game paraphernalia, and completely empty of people. After popping out to the nearby Co-op for some Old Speckled Hen (yes, you can even bring your own booze!), we unfurled the playmat to the soundtrack of jazz percolating through the floor.

The game itself was as engrossing as ever. We slumped into an early depression that lasted for more than half the game, but I just about managed to sustain myself on the income from a casino. Gambling never goes out of fashion. Meanwhile, Chris had been quietly accumulating mines, and when the depression finally ended, he launched a profitable business empire. So I wrecked it with robbers and rebel troops. Just before the second Topple card dropped out of the market, I was able to put together a winning sequence involving Henry Ford and the Porfirian Army. All hail the new Dictator.

Next we made it an Eklund double-header with Greenland, flipping the playmat to its appropriately-coloured reverse side. Stuart targeted iron from the start and eventually converted to monotheism when all his elders were wiped out by a particularly cold winter. Chris went whaling and bagged two monster trophies, leaving Stuart's only hope to convert him to Christianity too. I was the Tunit, and my colony in Markland kept me well-stocked with energy for the whole game. But every time my band of hunters grew to a decent size, they seemed to get decimated. I did eventually bag a couple of minor trophies and I just edged out Stuart for second. Chris remained unconvinced by Christianity, with Stuart's final-turn roll of a single die failing to achieve the "1" that would have leapt him from last to first.

These men of excellent taste are Chudyk fans too, so we finished the afternoon off with a bout of Impulse. I started with a Sabotage as my home card, and then proceeded to miss with my first eight bombs (that's 1 chance in 256, probability fans). Fortunately, the others weren't progressing particularly fast either, though Chris had a nasty looking mine-and-refine cycle that was just about to kick into gear. I managed to finish it off by moving a fleet of four transports into the sector core for 3VP, trading for one more and just getting over the line with a single sector core gate occupied.

As we were leaving, I asked whereabouts the guys live. Where else but Easton, Bristol's gaming Mecca? Chris is a stone's throw from Adam & Hannah's place, as will I be if my house purchase ever completes...

Saturday, 14 February 2015

What a klunker!

In a comment recently, Adam compared the new non-Tuesday games division to the Champions' League. However, given that the big hitters are usually absent, a more apt analogy would be to the Johnson's Paint Trophy: something for the lesser gamers to aim for.

The evening began early with Sam, Stanley and Ian fighting it out over That's Life, and it's only right that the player with the most life ahead of him should end the winner.

Stanley 12
Sam 11
Ian -4

After that, it was Stanley's bed time. Meanwhile, three more gamers arrived in the shape of Martin, Andy and myself. We pondered on what to play, before agreeing on Klunker, a new game that Martin brought with him. In this card game (has to be a card game if Martin bought a copy) you have to collect sets of four of a type of jewellery. Once you have four they instantly turn into money. But if you receive less money if you have any unfinished sets. You collect cards by being dealt them or by buying from other players. Martin noted that it was basically a card management game with three hands of cards.

It's not very intuitive. You'd be hard pushed to come up with a winning strategy on a first play. I think it needs a few plays before it's secrets come out. I can't say I had much fun, though, spending the last two rounds with a hand that contains one of everything isn't a good way to build sets. Sam got off to a flier, being dealt a set of four at the start. Any hope Ian had of winning was doomed when Andy bought some jewellery just to stop Ian from picking it up and scoring seven points.

Sam 16
Martin 11
Andy 9
Ian 7
Andrew 6

Next we considered more five player options. Ra, Colossal Arena and Taj Mahal were all brought to the table, but Condottiere was choice de soir. I was glad that this tiny game was getting some proper attention, and not stuck on the end of an evening in the mistaken belief that small box equals quick game.

Andy said he thought he hadn't played it before, and Ian needed a refresher, so Martin went through the rules for them, helpfully pointing out the differences between this version and the original version.

During the game, Andy realised he had played it before, and the fact he'd forgotten about it tells you all you need to know about how much he enjoyed playing it again.

Condottiere is a tough game to play when dealt a shitty hand. The best you can hope for is that the other players cancel each other out and maybe you'll pick up some cheap territories. Luckily for me, I got a hand in the third round with a key card (that allows me to end a battle when I chose) and two adjacent territories on the board. When my chance came I took it, using my key to finish a battle with me in the lead. I got my third adjacent regions, ending the game in my favour.

But what about the rest of the placings? Martin was convinced that he was joint second, and he greeted the news that he was third (because he had no adjacent territories) with a hearty bout of well-chosen expletives. But a rule is a rule, even if it hasn't been used since its invention, over three years ago.

Andrew 3 adjacent cubes
Sam 3 cubes, two adjacent
Ian 3 cubes, two adjacent
Martin 3 cubes
Andy 2 cubes

Finally we chose Abluxxen as our fun way to end the evening. Our third card game of the evening! Are we indulging Martin too much? He needs to play more worker placement games – something a bit more point-salady. Do we still have Ora et Labora? Anyway, I have a pretty decent record on this Roll For The Soul favourite, and I maintained that tonight. I lead from the start and took the win. Sam was second up until the last round, when a hefty negative score knocked him back two places. Harsh, and not terribly fair: that's Abluxxen.

Andrew 41
Martin 37
Andy 25
Sam 23
Ian 20

Finally, here's a Division. Since the number of games played is so lop-sided, it's a bit silly. Nevertheless, Sam is top on everything except points ratio, which goes to Adam.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Under mountain problems

Wednesday saw the East Berks collective meeting up in order to get their game on. Lords of Waterdeep with the Under Mountain expansion had been pencilled in from last time we met but first I wanted to try out Red 7, a recent purchase, which was new to us if not to the good folks of Bristol.

The rules are simple but trying to explain them not so much but eventually we got there after playing an open round which I won collecting 3 points. They were to be the only points I managed. James found an early pattern for victory and drummed up 15 points in no time. My luck had deserted me. On one hand I wasn’t even able to lay a single card after Paul laid Red 7 before me and my hand reflected a sea of violet cards. Then Paul made a stunning comeback and reached 20 points in successive hands. It was at this point, with one eye on the clock, we drew the game to a close. Waterdeep was beckoning.

Paul 20
James 15
Chris 3

We decided to play the Under Mountain board and card set alone rather than combining the two expansions. Under Mountain seems to add another level of interaction where nicking stuff off each other is heftier with the use of certain intrigue cards. It was with one of those cards that Paul suffered a dilemma. I was striding round the board bedazzled by completing the huge 40 point quests whereas James set about completing a lot of smaller quests and building an impressive pile of lord bonuses. In round 7 he claimed to have a card that removed a lot of cubes from a players tavern with James being a the likely recipient having accrued a sizable collection. In the end the gentleman side of Paul won over and he declined to play it much to the relief of James.
In round 8 we were all neck and neck and looking over at James’s huge pile of completed quests I concluded that Paul and I were probably playing for the runner up spot. One of the problems with playing 40 point cards is in the balancing act that you complete fewer of them. You need to be a fair bit in front to counteract the lord bonuses.

However, this was not to be. James had taken a new Lord card which gave him bonuses for every Under Mountain quest and building he had completed. Not, as he had first thought, for every quest and building. Therefore I won on a technicality.

Chris 175
James 169
Paul 165

We finished up with a round of No Thanks.

Paul successfully completing a large chain made him the stand out winner.
Paul 43
Chris 82

James 83

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Grape Expectations

February is a busy month for birthdays. Sam's, Joe's and Chris's birthday all fall within these four weeks. And so do the birthday's of Matt and myself, which were both celebrated (inwardly, without any fuss) on this very day.

But games are a serious business, and there was to be no let up in the white heat of competitiveness just because we were one year older.

And if this wasn't exciting enough, Sam had a new fridge delivered at the start of the evening.

There were seven of us and we decided to put off the decision about what to play by first playing 6nimmt. We declined Andy's suggestion that we should play professional rules (able to put a card on both ends of a row) because it just made things more complicated. And besides, I doubt that there's really a professional circuit of 6nimmt players.

The game brought new levels of cursing to GNN as everyone was convinced they had the worst hand. On a couple of occasions Ian and I were so baffled, we chose our cards at random ("Going Dirk," as it became known, named after our imaginary friend) despite Katy's insistence that you should "Choose with your brain!"

After round one, Joe arrived. A pleasant surprise, since we weren't expecting him. He joined in, and we gave him the average score of everyone else as his score. I decided to not round it up, hence his score having a fraction.

Joe 25 ½
Martin 28
Katy 31
Ian 37
Matt 43
Sam 50
Andy 64
Andrew 69

Then we split into two groups. Matt, Katy and I chose the Castles of Mad King Ludwig, simply because we all knew it. In the other group, Martin, Joe, Andy, Ian and Sam embarked on the epic Beowulf. I didn't try to follow their game, but it seemed pretty raucous. Every time I looked over, I expected to see them in Viking helmets, drinking from goblets while eating chicken legs in an over-enthusiastic am-dram manner.

As for the mad castles, Katy shot off into an early lead. I stayed in contention, with Matt never too far behind, but with a healthy handful of bonus cards threatening us with a last minute boost up the score track. In the end it was me that got my bonuses working, though.

Andrew 123
Katy 119
Matt 111

We finished at almost exactly the same time as the Beowulfians. Their scores were:

Joe 28
Sam 23
Andy 21
Martin 16
Ian 15

Joe's win got him some revenge for his previous score of -4.

After this, Joe and Andy left despite (or perhaps because) Sam getting the whiskey down from its shelf. The six remaining gamers stayed on for a game of Pairs. I did badly, having to twist to have a chance of winning, but knowing it would spell doom. And it did. Katy also displayed psychic powers, predicting the appearance of a lemon right on cue. Alas, knowing the card to come won't necessarily save you from it.

Ian 23
Martin 13
Katy 12
Sam 9
Matt 6
Andrew 5

Then Martin left for the bus, and the remaining five of us played That's Life. I still haven't got a grasp of it, and the random course offered little in the way of any obvious strategies. At least, not to me. Everyone else seemed to be doing okay.

Sam 17
Katy 6
Ian 4
Matt 1
Andrew -8

So, I got one win but also three last places, and Matt's performance was middling-to-poor. To quote Jerry Seinfeld, "Happy birthday? No such thing."

On the Division (I'm going to try doing it weekly, to see how interesting it is) Katy stays top by a considerable margin, despite not winning a game. Joe, though, grabs Points Ratio from her, and Martin and Katy tie for the Medal Table.

Martin 2 4 2 1 1 10
Hannah 1 5 1 1 3 11
Katy 2 3 2 3 1 11
Joe 1 1 4 2 4 12
Adam 1 3 3 4 1 12
Sam 1 4 2 6 1 14
Ian 3 1 5 4 1 14
Steve 3 3 3 4 5 18
Andy 3 7 3 3 3 19
Matt 4 5 3 5 2 19
Andrew 5 6 1 8 2 22
Anja 6 5 3 4 5 23
Dirk 5 5 5 5 5 25

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

A right royal knees up

This week's Tuesday followed hot on the heels of Monday. There were nine expected at Chez Adamandhannah, and while eight of us waited for the ninth we had a rousing non-leaderboard game of Pairs. This time we went for the official rules of one loser and the rest winners. At first it looked like Matt would be our first loser of the night, since he was poised on 20 points - one away from the losing score of 21. But then Ian swept past him to end the game with 23. The rest of us were winners, but Adam and Sam were best winners with 7 points each. The most challenging part was trying not to get crumbs of peanut shell onto the cards.

During this game, Andy turned up and we split into groups of three and six players. Adam foolishly mentioned he'd never played Impulse, so he and me were press-ganged into a game by Martin. The other six played That's Life, or Good Ludo as it could be called.

In the front room, Adam was told the rules and we set off into deepest darkest spacest. I got some luck early on. Martin attacked me when I had plenty of reinforcements, which got me some points, then I tried to plan some cards drawn randomly for the deck. They had to be the same colour or they couldn't be part of my plan. And they were! And later, by chance, I got two more cards to my plan so when I did it, I scored a bunch of points, putting me far into the lead.

But this was to be a blood thirsty battle-heavy game. Huge fleets of fighters roamed the skies, making me very nervous.

Martin and Adam fought their way back, and near the end, Adam was on 14 points, one move away from a win. I gambled and failed, ending my move on 18. Then Martin was able to get to the target 20 points, ending the game instantly.

Martin 20
Andrew 18
Adam 14

This space epic had taken so long that those in the kitchen had finished That's Life.

Katy 16
Ian 13
Andy 11
Matt 2
Hannah -4
Sam -5

They then split into two groups of three. Katy, Matt and Andy played Royal Palaces, a long and thinky game. It looked pretty daunting. Hannah, Ian and Sam went for Portobello Market. Afterwards, Hannah said she'd enjoyed her first go at this game. A glance at the scores might explain why.

Hannah 223
Ian 200
Sam 185

Us three dug out Port Royal. It had been a while, so Adam needed a little refresher of the rules, only slightly distracted by the sudden arrival of more peanuts mid-game. It was another close game, we me going past 12 to trigger the end of the game. A real gamble, though, since Martin and Adam both had a turn left. Martin got to fourteen points with his turn. This meant Adam, on 11, needed to buy three times on his turn to stand a chance of winning. Kudos to him - he went for it, but went bust trying to get that final ship.

Martin 14
Andrew 13
Adam 11

In the other room, Royal Palaces kept going, Hannah decided to make tea and Sam and Ian went head to head over Little Agricola, ending 42-40 to Ian. After that, Sam, Ian, Adam, Martin and I joined together for a rousing game of Timeline. It was close, but I ended up using an excuse so old that, if its invention was a card in Timeline, it would have been placed slightly after the formation of the planet: I had been dealt shitty cards. I got lucky guessing the discovery of Carbon 14, but I was relying on other people making mistakes. Which they did (Ian was surprised to learn that the brick was older than the wheel) but not enough. We ended the evening as we began: everyone a winner, except one.

Adam 0 cards left
Sam 0
Martin 0
Ian 0
Andrew 1

By now, Sam was ready to go home, and Royal Palace still hadn't ended (it says one hour on the box!). In the end, the result was emailed to me:

Katy 75
Matt 65
Andy 63

Ian 1 2 2 2 2 9
Katy 1 1 2 4 2 10
Martin 1 1 1 5 3 11
Hannah 1 5 1 1 3 11
Adam 1 3 3 4 1 12
Sam 1 3 6 1 1 12
Andrew 2 2 2 3 3 12
Andy 3 3 3 2 4 15
Matt 2 4 6 2 2 16
Joe 4 2 4 3 5 18
Steve 3 3 3 4 5 18
Anja 6 5 3 4 5 23
Dirk 5 5 5 5 5 25

Finally, there was a brief discussion about setting up a Tuesday-only division, since Sam, Ian and I play so often, it's kind of becoming silly. So here it is for the season so far. And it's a complete whitewash by Katy, who takes Medal Table, Points and Points Ratio! Congrats, but there's still a long way to go.

Bowled Over

The pull and draw of modern table top games is such that even those that once viewed them with mild distrust begin to accept them, enjoy them, look forward to games nights to eventually buying titles for themselves.

James has come a long way from an evening 4 years ago when he banned me from bringing a few examples in the pub to show him. These days he is providing lists of possible purchases to his wife for Christmas! Nice one James! The plan for last night’s two player was his Christmas present, Blood Bowl : Team Manager.

With the thrilling finale to the recent super bowl fresh in our minds (Well my mind as I stupidly stayed up to watch it on a school night) we made a bid to recreate the event albeit with bits of cardboard, playing cards and the hordes of chaos taking on the puny humans…

With the Team Manager version of Blood Bowl the board has been done away with and a virtual playing field has been planted there in it’s place. Somewhat obscurely though teams are vying for dominance over season highlights (denoted by newspaper clippings) which give the winner certain benefits such as star players, team bonuses and general scoring bonuses. The main currency of victory is fans which are symbolised by little flags on the cards. In each of the 4 seasons there is a main trophy to be fought over which mostly offers a large supply of fans to the winner and a token gesture for the runner up.

Battles over highlight cards involves selecting players from your hand of 6. Each player has certain abilities, like tackle, pass, sprint and cheat. It is cheat option which really makes the game interesting. Although there is a great deal of luck in the game, tackles are resolved by dice for example, the cheat mechanic makes adds the element of the unknown which players will either love or hate.
Picture ripped from BGG.
In the scoring round the cheat tokens are revealed and can do one of 3 things, add to the players score total, add fans or get him sent off thereby removing his total score from the battle. I found this to be fun and not at all irritating. There was a certain amount of tension as we came to the reveal section and realised we had either been undone or luckily boosted.

We played the first season in a semi open fashion whilst we worked out the process. It was all very simple and intuitive and we found ourselves reaching for the rule book only to clarify random events. Most of the information was on the cards.

Our fortunes wavered between seasons with James marginally winning the first and showing me the benefit of obtaining a star player. I fell further back in the second but had a really successful 3rd and 4th seasons as my new star signings began to repay their huge transfer fees. James was as sick as a parrot. Obviously.

Chris – 42
James – 24

Even though this game (As Joe noted when he played it) is a little random for its length I still came away with a very positive feeling. I don’t mind a fantasy theme and it reminded me a little of smash up where if you expect your best laid plans to be whipped from beneath you then it’s not so harsh when they are. It also has that Nexus Ops feel to it whereby your best laid plans can be inexplicably prevented by a series of unfortunate dice rolls. No different to the much loved Lords of Vegas in that respect….