Sunday, 22 March 2015

It’s okay once you get your finger in

Saturday! Games! Ian, Martin and I arrived at chez Sam’s at six o’clock (actually Martin arrived one hour earlier having not received the news of a slight postponement. That did, however, mean he got supper) for some gaming. This first event of the evening involved Sam’s two boys, Stanley and Joe. It was Camel Up! Sam and Joe formed a team against myself, Ian, Martin and Stanley.

The game of crazy betting and judging probabilities went pretty smoothly once we'd taught Stanley how to use the dice pyramid. Ian won big early on and then kept winning big. Sam/Joe won 16 points on their bets, with both the winning and losing camels being exactly as they predicted. Kudos.

Ian 28
Sam/Joe 28
Stanley 15
Martin 9
Andrew 8

Next Sam put his boys to bed, so we had to fill in with a medium-sized game. Martin suggested Impulse and I and Ian agreed. Ian hadn’t played in a while, but with his zen approach to gaming of knowing, yet not knowing (what you should do next) that he perfected while playing Concordia, he happily agreed to give it another go against two seasoned pros.

It turned out to be a very odd game. After a few rounds of tentative exploration and the occasional skirmish, Martin went for the jugular, attacking Ian . If he had won, he would’ve been on course to take me out, too. As it was, Ian won! The key to battling in Impulse is that your hand needs to contain cards that match colour and value of one of the cards showing on the “impulse” (the action cards shared by everyone) and your tech cards and plan cards. Martin played a card to the impulse (a red three) which allowed Ian to defend himself successfully (with two more red threes). If Martin had played a different card, he would've won. Oh, the irony! And, oh the relief for me.

Towards the end of the game, war had taken its toll, and there were hardly any ships left on the map as the game neared its closing stages. Martin almost wiped out Ian, and then I swooped in to take out some of Martin's ships, before Ian took his revenge too. Finally, with only one ship left, Martin attacked me. All of this war left us with a very empty map.

I suffered throughout the game with a lack of cards, and couldn’t get going. Despite this, I was able to trade a number of red cards for points, so it remained close until the end, when Martin scored two points (by fighting, of course) to reach twenty points and won the game.

Martin 20
Ian 14
Andrew 13

Now Sam was back, and it was time for a new game to hit the table. In The Shadow Of The Emperor is a game in which we are vying for area control with our steadily aging barons. Winning an area gets you a vote in the election for emperor. The twist is that the emperor will get certain benefits for the next round, so you have to bear that in mind when deciding who the next emperor is. That part is pretty clever, and it's a neat catch-up mechanism. The rest of the game, though, is as dry as old bones.

We tried to power through it, but this is a game that demands long periods of concentration. We promised ourselves a rousing game of Cube Quest once we were done, and that kept our spirits up. I didn't really understand what was going on, Sam had so much cash that he couldn't spend it all, Ian was emperor twice in a row, and Martin... well, I'm not sure how he won, but he did.

Martin 26
Ian 23
Sam 22
Andrew 17

And so we ended with Cube Quest! Hurrah! The Emperor has been overthrown by two feuding kings and their unpredictable armies! With toast from Sam!

We played in rotating teams of two a side. I was Mr Cool-under-pressure (at least, I don't remember any wild flicks). Martin was a crazy maverick, building a tower in one game to get at the opponent's king straight away (and it very nearly worked) but mostly just pinging his cubes off the table, leaving his enemies largely unruffled. Ian, though, was the killer, finishing two of the games with cold precision. We were remarking on how well he was playing, which is when he explained that “It's okay once you get your finger in.” Which is where this blog post's slightly distasteful title came from.

Ian 2 wins
Sam 2 wins
Andrew 2 wins
Martin 0 wins

And with that, we were off into the night air, all gamed out.


  1. As much as I can respect it from one angle, from another In The Shadow of the Emperor is probably asking to be traded. Even though the theme kind of hung on grimly to the mechanics, it felt abstract to me because there was so much to think about - and that was just muddling through, being fairly reactive.

    I did like the ageing of Barons and the elections, but did it need knights and castles as well? I did like the 'offspring' but did it need the rule that 'couples' can't take an elected seat? I suppose a house rule could be they can take a seat but one of them is forced to retire, so you flip it back to the single Baron side...

    It was definitely good to play Cube Quest after that madness!

  2. Camel Up was better than my previous play (with 8 players) but I still feel something vital is missing. I'm interested to try a variant where you get to choose the colour of the dice you roll if you take that action.

    There were a few bits of ItSotE that I liked, but I agree with all of Andrew and Sam's criticisms too. Given the scarcity of points available, it also seems very likely to always come down to 1-2 points here and there, and I can easily see an endgame in which the two players who aren't contesting the final emperor election are essentially voting for the winner.

    I suck at Cube Quest, but it is awesome. Wish I could have pulled off one of those tower shots!