Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Serial Killer I Always Wanted To Be

Finally, at the sixth time of asking, Jack the Ripper managed to get away with it.

Tonight Ian and I convened at my kitchen table with a pre-agreed Letters from Whitechapel already set up. Ian, Andrew and I have all had a shot at being Jack and all failed, either on the second night or - in Ian's case - the third. Tonight as Jack I managed to pull off the remarkable - not to say remarkably lucky - feat of murder most foul followed by dash to the hideout most frantic.

I chose an unusual hideout - rather than being the rats nest of central Whitechapel, I went for the bottom of the map - somewhat isolated, but quickly accessible via carriages. And I must admit I rode my luck in the first round when Ian twice looked for clues in the location I was standing: this action tells him I've been there, but not when. If he had employed Andrew's wave of arrests strategy, he might have got me. But he lost my trail just in time for me to make it home.

Courtesy BGG

The second round followed a similar path - although Ian was never in arresting distance I managed to sneak past him and get home, still not giving away even the neighbourhood of my hideout.

Now was the third round - the double murder. In this round Jack strikes twice, and the police don't know which murder came later - i.e. they don't know Jack's starting position, but know it's one of two possibilities. I set off on a kind of L-shaped course for home, but mid-journey had to pause for thought. I paused for so long, and became so immersed in what I was doing, that as I wrote my supposedly secret location down I announced "I'm moving to eighty".  Whilst this supreme idiocy caused much mirth between us, I consoled myself with the fact that A. Ian couldn't reach me where I was (-he let me retake it in any case) and B. I'm clearly not cut out to be a murderer. Not the type that writes down a series of clues behind a screen, anyway.

Despite my gaffe I made it back, albeit with another close call as Ian searched for clues in my actual location. The last round was a gimme, as I was a simple carriage ride from the crime scene to the hideout! I celebrated wildly before realising, like Lady Macbeth, the horror of what I had done.

Never mind, Ian was about to take his revenge in proper dish-served-cold style. Or maybe hot, actually, as he won the next game. It was two-player 7 Wonders, with Dirk taking the ghostly third-player role. If 7 Wonders was one of those games with intermediate scoring rounds Dirk might have taken it, as halfway through he was looking good for the win. But Ian's blue buildings were rising up like a cheap loaf in Greggs, and he amassed a whopping 33 points for them. I wasn't feeling optimistic, but my spread of military, science, and a little bit of other stuff was enough to tie me on points!

Bloody science

So in the end I lost because Ian had money in the bank, and I - just like life - didn't.

Ian 50 (wins on tie-breaker)
Sam 50
Dirk 44

We were going to call it a night, but I had picked up Pickomino (my copy is called Heck Meck) from Area 51 on my way home and I thought it'd be nice to give it a run-out. I've played it more recently, but the time that sticks in my mind with Pickomino is at Stabcon when Joe, Andrew, Adam and I played for the first time and Hammy kept telling everyone what to do, like a solitaire game for someone with a multiple personality disorder.

That's not going to fill anyone up

It's a game of pushing your luck - a simple dice-rolling Knizia - where you're trying to collect as many worms as possible without going bust - but I pushed my luck too far and went bust too many times. Ian won his inaugural Pickomino adventure 10-5, then followed it with a 12-8 victory. Since my Letters victory I'd had my ass handed to me on a trio of plates, and we called it a night with blood on both of our hands.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Murder most hurried

Tuesday night games was thrown into upheaval when a late cancellation due to illness was announced by potential hosts Adam and Hannah. Suddenly the full force of modern communications technology shifted into hyperdrive as a new venue was arranged. Or rather, Joe said he could host and everyone else seemed okay with that. We were six in total: Joe, Sam, Ian, Matt, Martin and myself.

We began with Kobayakawa and, while we all enjoy this slimmed down betting game, the last round does seem overly powerful. Once again, the player who won the final round won the whole game.

Joe 15
Andrew 5
Sam 4
Ian 4
Martin 4
Matt 0

Next we split, not into the more usual 3 and 3, but into 4 and 2. Martin was keen to play Witness, a game for four players only in which each game has a new brief scenario and each player is given a piece of evidence. We then whisper this evidence to the person beside us, who then has to whisper what you said AND their own piece of evidence to the person next to them. Very simple and very confusing as we try to remember what everyone said.

As me, Martin, Joe and Matt were setting this up, Ian and Sam went for a game of Letters from Whitechapel. Ian managed the best performance yet as Jack, lasting into the third round before being caught, leaving four dead bodies in his wake. Well done, Ian! But, technically, it’s a victory to Sam.

Board games! Such fun!

As for Witness, each case is solved by each player successfully answering three questions. The team needs to get 9 out of 12 or more to succeed. We played three times, solving a murder (9 out of 12) despite one piece of information getting lost somewhere, then we failed in our attempt at helping some people out of a maze of tunnels (6 out of 12, but Joe got all three of his right) and finally we opened up a combination lock with a five-letter word. 12 out of 12! Excellent. Although Joe took a surprisingly long time to work out the word from the letters C, E, H, I, N. (answer below the Division, if you want to work it out yourself)

Mortimer seems appalled at our deduction skills

After Witness, Jack the Ripper was still at large on the other table, so we played Potato Man. This superb trick taking game starring Evil Potato Man, Super Potato Man and Sexy Potato Lady is always a favourite. Especially with Martin. I can’t imagine why.

Martin 17
Andrew 15
Joe 13
Matt 10

By now Letters from Whitehall was over and Ian and Sam had begun on another two-player game, Lost Cities. I kind of recognised it, but didn’t pay much attention to it, I’m afraid.

Ian 71
Sam 56

Then just to fill in the time for Sam and Ian to finish off Lost Cities, we played Rattlesnake, the clever game of placing powerful magnets on a board on a rickety table. More challenging than usual. Martin was first to put down all of his egg magnets.

Martin first to have 0 eggs left
Matt second to have 0 eggs left
Andrew 1 egg left
Joe had lots left

Finally, we were all as one again, so we chose a couple of six-player games to round off the evening. First was Skull and Roses, the simple bluffing game that I’m really quite bad at. Boldest move was Joe who correctly guessed that there were 8 roses out of a possible 9 cards placed face down. Equally impressive, especially since it was for the win, was Sam’s guess of five roses out of six. It was correct, got him first place, and Joe revealed that his card (the one Sam hadn’t chosen) was a skull. It’s a game of fine margins, is Skull and Roses.

Sam 2 correct
Joe 1 correct
Matt 1 wrong
Martin 1 wrong
Ian 1 wrong
Andrew 2 wrong

Finally, Pairs was put to the table as a nightcap. On my way to the toilet, I heard someone suggest Timeline, but Martin firmly demanded Pairs. A decision he may regret. By the way, I recently picked up a handylittle cheat sheet for Timeline.

Pairs remains full of queer coincidence and strange self-defeating predictions as each player tries to avoid picking up a pair of any fruit/vegetable. Martin is an expert at this: his first was expertly aimed at Sam. Martin boldly said “There’s no way a lemon can kill anyone in this round” seconds before Sam was dealt a lemon to go with his other lemon, sending him out of the round.

But Martin didn’t learn his lesson, and his powers flew back in his face in the next round. Buoyed up by a first place in the last round, he optimistically said “I could get back in this!” just before being dealt his second cherry. Poor old Martin went bust four times out of five. I, on the other hand, didn’t go bust at all.

Andrew 21
Sam 20
Joe 17
Matt 9
Ian 8
Martin 6

And with that, the emergency games evening was over. It was just left for me to negotiate a tricky hill start crossed with a three point turn to take Sam home, and the tension and excitement was done for another week.

The five letter word was niche.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

American Express

Recently, non-Tuesday events have been limited to myself, Sam and Ian but tonight a sudden rush of people accepting Sam’s invite pushed the number of attendees up to a giddy six: Sam, me, Ian and Andy, Steve and Chris who’d come visiting from the Bracknell branch. We all arrived with tales of picking our way through Bristol Rovers fans, and cyclist Steve even told us about how he yelled at a careless pedestrian, knowing there was a policeman nearby and he was in no danger of getting beaten up.

Any discussion of the first game to play was circumvented when Andy casually put Colt Express on the table when he came in. Since it played six and it was only forty minutes long according to the box, we decided to give it a go.

Our previous reluctance to play it in Bristol was due to it being compared to Robo Rally, but on actually playing it, I found it to be a shorter and funnier game. Due to the limited space, there’s always something happening to you. Each of the six characters had their own special power. Cheyenne can steal money from people when she punches them, Django can shoot people into the next carriage and Belle is so pretty that she is never chosen to be shot or punched if someone else is available. Ian was Belle, and he found his newfound physical attractiveness very useful as he/she stayed in the most crowded part of the train and picked up gems. Sam/Cheyenne got shot a lot in his/her dash along the roof for the Marshall’s $1,000 suitcase. Chris/Tuco got picked on.

Ian $2,750
Andrew $1,900
Andy $1,700
Sam $1,500
Steve $1,300
Chris $250

After that amusing episode, we split into two groups: Sam, Ian and Chris chose Rialto and Andy, Steve and I chose The Castles of Mad King Ludwig.

Not sure how Rialto went, but I shot into an early lead on CoMKL thanks to plenty of bonuses for a particular room that then scored again on completion!

Talking of completing a room, a rereading of the rules about putting doors next to walls reassured us that this was a legal move, but it meant that the room couldn’t be counted as “completed” – a subtle distinction. As it happened, it didn’t change the placings as I managed to win by a single point with my castle built in the style of Number 5 from the film Short Circuit.

Andrew 113
Andy 112
Steve 70

In the time it took us to finish that game, Rialto had ended:

Sam 69
Chris 61
Ian 57

And they had enough time for a game of Raj. This game always throws up amazing strokes of luck as ties cancel each other out, but none perhaps as remarkable as Chris picking up a 9 tile with only a 1 card as Ian and Sam both played their 15s.

Ian 53
Chris 51
Sam 34

After this, Steve and Andy went home, and I stayed on for a game of No Thanks. I watched in amazement as Chris went for a coin-focused approach, picking up cards with lots of coins even if there was little chance of chaining them together. At the end of the game he had 37 out of the 44 coins available in the game.

Didn’t help, though.

Andrew 22
Ian 36
Sam 45
Chris 68

And with that, it was back out into the Spring drizzle and off home to bed. A fun-packed evening, and we didn't even get to play Buckaroo!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Jack and Jack

No, not a gender-balanced version of the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill, rather it was the most common hand to be dealt in last night’s poker extravaganza: pocket Jacks came up about five times during the evening.

Anyway, since I boasted about my win at Poker last time, I think it’s only right that I should report my loss this time. We were six in total, after the usual spate of last-minute apologies: hosts Tom and Hannah, Joe, Mart, Simon and myself.

Simon was either new to Poker or a mean card shark, as he tried to deal from the bottom of the pack and then sped into an early lead, all the time insisting that he didn’t really know what was going on.

Furthermore, he introduced us all to a Chinese rice win called Baiju. We tried it with ice and found it largely undrinkable. While trying to pin down it’s distinctive flavour, I suggested tennis shoes while Tom thought it had more of an air of petro-chemicals. Either way, it was quite a struggle to drink and even Simon admitted defeat and poured the rest of the bottle down the sink.

To keep things short, though, Simon went out first followed by Joe. I was in a healthy position mid-game, having won big a couple of times with just Card High as my winning hand. My poker face was strong this night.

With four of us left, we fell into the old routine of folding if we had a middling-to-poor hand: something that only usually happens when there’s only a couple of players left. This rather stilted state of affairs continued until Hannah decided she wanted to go to bed. She began betting all-in, but kept winning. She went from a weak position to a very strong one, as Mart fell by the wayside and then I, too, followed (foolishly going all in on unsuited 3-4, hoping for some low cardson the flop. No such luck).

Once it was just husband versus wife, they decided to end the evening and split the £60 of winnings between them. Congrats to the hosts, and thanks for another tense evening.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Unforgettable Fire

First five, then six and finally seven eager gamers congregated at Joe’s house for this week’s leaderboard shenanigans.

We began as a five (me, Joe, Ian, Sam and Andy) with Kobayakawa. This betting game is simple but complex. I remained true to my strategy of (mostly) doing nothing, thus starving the other players of vital information. And it worked. Or, at least, I won the last round, which was enough to push me into first.

Andrew 13
Andy 8
Sam 7
Joe 0
Ian 0

During this game, Joe’s friend Andy arrived for his first experience of the GNN lifestyle. No doubt he was impressed by our skill at guessing what cards other people had, and was keen to get started himself, but first we had to wait for one more: Matt. Until he arrived, we chose two games and then Matt could decide which he wanted to join.

Joe, Ian and new Andy went for the Downfall of Pompeii while me, Sam and old Andy chose Pergamon. Both thematically linked in the sense that the events of one game may well have been what was being dug up in the other game.

Sam hadn’t played in a while, so he got a quick rule refresher, and he was out of the blocks very quickly, posting a long exhibition made up of stuff from the upper levels which, nevertheless scored highly and kept scoring points until the end of the game. I was cash-rich halfway through the game, but not at a time when there was much to dig up.

In the final round, both Sam and Andy had plenty of money for some frantic last minute buffing to get their exhibits as far up the score track as possible. At the final scores were totted up, Sam had done just enough to win, beating Andy by a single point.

Sam 36
Andy 35
Andrew 26

Meanwhile, in Ancient Rome, the final resting place that we archaeologists were desecrating ended:

Joe 9 (wins on tie-breaker)
Andy 9 (2nd on tie breaker)
Ian 9 (3rd on tie breaker)
Matt 7

Happily, the two games ended almost at the same time so we were able to join together for a rousing game of Incan Gold. Joe quickly explained the rules to Andy and we began in high spirits, only to be burnt badly by fire in the first temple.

Well, not everyone. Sam decided on a tactic of getting out the moment there was some treasure worth getting in the temple. Not so much Tomb Raider as Foyer Raider. It did well for him, though.

Meanwhile, in the second temple, for the second time fire was the disaster that ended the expedition. At least now, with two fire cards gone, we were all immune to fire! That was nice.

As for the game, Regular Andy only did well in one temple, but he did very well indeed, going it alone through corridors or treasure and artefacts. Matt managed to pick up a couple of artefacts, too. New Andy, though, just seemed to be jinxed, and ended the game empty handed.

Andy 30
Andrew 27
Sam 22
Matt 15
Ian 15
Joe 6
Andy 0

Joe was keen for one more game: 6nimmt. Sam decided his evening was at an end and, just like in Incan Gold, he was the first to bow out and go home. Us remaining six diced with lady fate in an hilarious game of 6nimmt.

It was new Andy’s first, and with six players it can be especially cruel as it seems very easy get get stuck in a spiral of doom, picking up cards every round. It happened at least once to everyone called Andrew who played, but it happened most often to the least experienced one and it ended with him being the first player to hit triple figures. He made history in his first evening at GNN! Ian, meanwhile, got two clear rounds on his way to an impressively easy win.

Ian 20
Andy 39
Joe 44
Andrew 62
Matt 70
New Andy 106

On the Division, Ian clings on to top spot and Andy takes the medal table.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Jack, your body

Over the last few days (or nights) Andrew, Ian and I have been exploring the delights - I use the word hesitantly - of Letters From Whitechapel, a deduction game where one player plays Jack the Ripper and his opponents - it's a two-player really, but you can have up to five opponents - play the detectives on his trail.

Unlike the similarly bleak Mr Jack, Jack's job is not simply to escape, but to actually commit five murders over four nights; the nights making up the rounds of the game. Having done so he has to successfully return to his secret hideout (chosen by the player) to end the round.

And the detectives' task isn't to work out who Jack is, but where he is. The large board is a map of Whitechapel, dotted with numbers for Jack to move around on, and a separate grid of black squares for the detectives. After committing a murder the detectives know Jack's current position - there's a dead body - but they don't know where he's off to. Jack has a basic move of one number to an adjacent number, but he also has a couple of special moves - carriages to take him faster, or alleyways to sneak through a 'block' of buildings.

The detectives have no such special abilities but they do outnumber Jack five to one. Now aware of where the murder took place (there is some preamble at the start of each round where Jack and Detectives place both potential victims/detectives and red herrings) the detectives start moving in and looking for clues. If they find a trace of Jack he plonks a marker on the board, and the detectives get an idea of the direction he's going and where his hideout is - and instead of searching for clues they can choose to 'make an arrest' on a particular location they suspect Jack to be in.

Over four rounds the detectives will know more and more about Jack's hideout and it will be harder for him to reach it... in theory, anyway. In the four games we've played, Jack has been caught on the second night every time!

There are a couple of optional extra rules that give both Jack and detectives special moves (the aforementioned letters that bamboozle the police for Jack, some movement and arrest options for police) but certainly as yet I don't think any of us felt the game was crying out for more. As detectives it's an intriguing, shifting puzzle. As Jack it's incredibly tense - and as I think our results display, no mean feat to win. I know we don't do a lot of 2-players at GNN but I think most of us will enjoy this... though I say that with the caveat we have yet to experience a four-round game, which could be rather long.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Blotting out the sun

It seems a long time ago now, as I've been ill in the interim, but it was on Sunday last that Stanley and I broke out Eclipse. Broke out seems an apt term, as with over 900 bits to be popped and sported, just getting the thing from the box to the table took the kind of time and organisation required to spring Jon Voight from prison (and get him on a train).

Stan had been asking to play this for a while and I'd been putting it off. But to be fair to him he stuck it out - not the popping; most sane adults would have given up on that - but the game itself which we played over about three hours in two sessions during the day. As Quentin probably tried to tell us many moons ago, the game at heart is rather simple - you have six actions you can do on your turn. You can explore (adding more hexes to a modular board) build ships, advance the technology to equip them, equip them, fly them into other people and have battles, or choose 'influence' which is kind of a getting-ducks-in-rows move, gathering your strength for the future.

endgame v Stanley

Around those moves are the technologies and upgrades and the vagaries of the parts of the galaxy (the hexes) you explore. Stanley and I played several rules incorrectly but we did enough to get the gist of it, and I felt confident enough explaining (or refreshing) the rules to Ian and Andrew tonight.

We got off to what we might later refer to (during our Eclipse dotage) as a flier, as the early rounds kind of suggest either exploring (which we did) or advancing technologies (which we couldn't do, as none of the cheaper ones were available). At the centre of the galaxy is a particularly rewarding hex and we all edged toward it whilst keeping an eye on each other. Ian was first to do battle with some ghostly alien spacecraft, and went down with all hands. Andrew and I edged closer... but while we took our time, Ian rebuilt and rebooted his hugely destructive dreadnought spaceships and moved into the middle hex.

Too late I realised I was massively under-defended in my own territories, and despite my entreaties to "get Andrew instead" Ian cut a swathe through my hexes, obliterating my better-armed but unwieldy spaceships that could only react after being blown to shite. Bollocks, I thought. But whilst Ian was making hay in my part of the galaxy, Andrew stole in and claimed that centre hex. Fortunately for me, that took Ian's attention back to the centre of the galaxy and whilst they waged war on each other I got on with developing technologies and exploring the outer reaches of space - each hex worth a lowly point, but because of that not attracting the attention of the others.

                deep space

Andrew was victor in the battle of the central hex, but come the count-up we were all surprised (or I was anyway) - final scoring for hexes saw Andrew in the lead and me lagging at 20-15-11. We added our reputation tiles (gained during battle) and Andrew was still leading 34-31-24. But the bonuses for discoveries and technologies saw me surge back to nab the win by a single point:

Sam 37
Andrew 36
Ian 33

Our game, with Sam's distracting tablecloth removed
and a lovely backdrop of stars put in its place

We all enjoyed it but all also felt we were ready for the end - the game took slightly over three hours which was way over the half-an-hour-per-player estimate on the box. But it was also slowing down toward the end as we a. took longer to decide things and b. realised we got one or two things wrong. It was only my second play and Ian's first (Andrew's third?) so with those mitigating caveats in place we felt it was definitely one to revisit again. I must say, even though I didn't relish being on the receiving end, I haven't experienced that much drama in a game for quite a while - Vangelis playing in the background as my spaceships were blown to smithereens! I even forgot about the pain in my foot.

Thanks chaps.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Chuffing Great

Eight gamers assembled at Adam and Hannah's for the weekly game fix. At first we considered the tantalising idea of two concurrent games of Railways Of The World, since Joe had brought his copy along with him. But not everyone was sold on the idea, so I suggested Takenoko as the 'other' option in today's gaming multiple choice. Hannah wanted an early night, so she agreed. Andy wanted to see what he'd missed, having been too late to pick it up second hand, and Katy is not a big fan of RotW so we broke away into the other room while Adam, Joe, Matt and Ian set out to find their fortunes on Joe's new Europe map.

We went through the rule book of Takenoko to refresh our memories, and we kept asking ourselves if that's how we played it last time. But once we were on our way, there was no stopping us. Apart from the long pauses whenever Katy rolled a '?' on the die, meaning she could choose the weather. This triggered off lengthy bouts of AP and she admitted she preferred it to when the die made the decision for her.

During this pauses, I popped into the kitchen to see how Europe's railway system was shaping up. Although I was disappointed that Moscow wasn't a red city,  I was impressed by Ian and Adam's matching slightly train-driverish hats.

As for Takenoko, Katy triggered the end of the game by playing a gardener card that got her seven points and pushed her into the lead. Andy couldn't catch her, and neither could I. In fact, I only just beat Hannah by the little known tie breaker rule of best-fed panda.

Katy 36
Andy 28
Andrew 25(plus fat panda)
Hannah 25 (not as fat panda)

After this, we went into the kitchen where Hannah inadvertently insulted me by telling Adam she'd lost terribly. I reminded her that she'd only just finished behind me. I guess her standards are higher than mine.

Hannah retired to bed, and my suggestion of us watching the end of RotW was not favourably received so the three of us tried Welcome to the Dungeon. A simple game of chicken, as we tested each others’ steely nerves. At least we would have if we’d been better acquainted with the game. Katy didn’t care for it, and I wasn’t sure what was going on.

In the game, each round has a character (mage, warrior, etc) and their collection of beast-beating equipment. In the bidding round a player either (i) picks up a monster card, looks at it and puts it face down on the dungeon pile; (ii) picks up a monster card but discards it. To do so, a piece of equipment must also be discarded; or (iii) passes and plays not further part in the round. The last player to not pass then enters the dungeon. Each monster card is shown and is killed or takes HP off your character, with the aim of living until the end. First player to successfully got through two dungeons wins.

Andy 2
Andrew 0
Katy –1 (ie, one loss)

I’d need to play it again to be sure about it. I didn’t really get to grips with it. Andy seemed better suited and won the game after three rounds.

Finally, RotW had ended. The game was tight and the winner was unexpected: Ian won, for his first ever victory on Railways. A night he will always remember, I expect. The rest of the field were hot on his heels. Adam seemed pleased with the game, though, as he described it with the phrase used as the title of this blog post.

Ian 64
Adam 58
Joe 56
Matt 55

Another lovely night. Although I was surprised to hear that Adam is yet to use his copy of Railways of the World! This situation can’t be allowed to go on. Railways back to the table soon, please.

On the division, Ian’s success sends him from second from bottom to first place: such is the power of a win at RotW.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Of mice and meeples

With the election campaign well underway, but no sign of any party wooing the influential, affluent (if they stopped buying board games) gamer vote. Undeterred by our anonymity, nine of us met at Steve and Anja's house for the first evening of a new season. Apart from our two hosts, we were: Sam, Martin, reigning champion Katy, Andy, Adam, Ian and myself.

We split into two groups. Sam, Martin, Andy and Ian went for pastures new, with one of Sam's recent acquisitions, The Golden City.

The other five game (minus Anja, who was putting Baby Lu to bed) went through the usual motions of debating a game. Steve suggested 7 Wonders, and pulled it from the games cupboard, only to see a peculiar substance smeared across one corner of the box. Further investigations revealed the truth: they had mice in there! Plenty of tiny droppings were perhaps meant as a damning comment on our hobby. Steve got the vacuum and did a brief stint of housework. He then left the vacuum cleaner out, clearly with intentions to finish the job later.

So, with 7 Wonders no longer an option since no one wanted to touch it, we went for an old familiar: El Grande. It was new to Katy but, frankly, El Grande doesn't need a great deal of explanation, and once I'd removed the expansion pack bits from the main game, we were ready to go.

I got off to a flier, using a “Score the region(s) with the least meeples” card, and then putting one meeple in three regions and scoring them to leap into an eighteen point lead. A killer move! And one that convinced everyone to gang up on me. Then Adam took his go, and the next thing we knew, his phone went and he had to go back to look after his poorly baby.

So we were down to four players. This turned out to be a blessing, as El Grande grew into an epic. At one point Steve took so long over his turn that I had to do something: he was leaning over the board, cube between his fingers, holding it pensively above a region while he thought. I swiftly slapped the back of his hand so he dropped the cube onto the board and that was his go!

Meanwhile, on the other table, they'd sped through The Golden City (relatively speaking). During the game we had heard plenty of swearing from Martin, so we foolishly thought he was doing badly.

Martin 62
Andy 54 wins on a tiebreaker
Sam 54
Ian 51

Since we were nowhere near finishing, they started another new game Tower of Babel. I did have a look at the board mid-game, but didn't understand any of it. I did approve of the comedy placing of one of the game pieces before they began.

They ended before we did. The scores were:

Andy 86
Martin 80
Sam 73
Ian 57

And as they ended, so we too, entered the final lap. After my initial burst, Steve and Katy were playing catch up and a few times they got pretty close. But, like a man in an Audi teasing a hitch-hiker, I managed to pull away just in time. Anja said she was just glad she wasn't lapped.

Andrew 136
Steve 116
Katy 114
Anja 78

Finally, here's the division which I wasn't going to post (because it's so early in the season) but I like d the way the two groups of gamers intertwined.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Geography, History

It seemed like a nice way to round off Easter. I imagine when Jesus came out of a cave, way back when, he might have appreciated just sitting down with a couple of mates and breaking out Tinner's Trail along with a beer or two. So that's what Ian, Andrew and I did this evening.

For a long time TT was my favourite game. I'm not sure I even have such a thing any more, but it remains a classic to me. Andrew was designated starting player, and he established a 4 point lead in the first round - a lead I thought was catchable, but I was to be proved wrong. Andrew played the game like a master, knowing exactly when to adit and when to sell a pastie. It was all Ian and I could do to stay on his trail, and Ian's fight for second place deflated when he tried to force up the auction price in the last round, and was left with the soggiest mine in Bodmin Moor.

A very damp Cornwall

My grand plan to have a shedload of cheap stuff to mine in round four didn't quite pan out, as Andrew had done exactly the same thing. Although I managed to get an extra £5, it wasn't enough to catch him:

Andrew 133
Sam 128
Ian 83

The night was still young, so we perused the cupboard and went with one of last year's hits, Istanbul. Andrew announced before we even started that he would finish last, as he had 'no mojo' with the game. He was as good as his word, as Ian and I surged to a 3 gems apiece with Andrew stuck back on one.

The guard outside the police station

We'd set up the board in the 'fast' layout, and I found it was so streamlined I didn't even have to travel west. I spent the whole game on the eastern end of the board, shuffling around the Tea House and making money. It was enough to secure the win:

Sam 5 gems
Ian 3 gems
Andrew 1 gem

I'd mooted Take It Easy but as we'd now gone past ten pm and Andrew and Ian - in a kind of forlorn competition - both claimed they always came last at it, we elected to go with Love Letter instead. I volunteered that I always came last at that, which is to my memory reasonably accurate. This time though the game turned on its head: after Ian won the first round, Andrew won the next two rounds and it looked like I would be, at most, an unwilling kingmaker. But thanks to a large portion of luck I got back in the game, winning three rounds in succession to claim an unlikely win:

Shitty Baron

Sam 3 cubes
Andrew 2 cubes
Ian 1 cube

Eleven o'clock wasn't far off so we decided to finish with Timeline. I got a nice easy set of cards, and noted at the outset that the formation of the Knights Templar was probably before the final crusade. But having got the latter down, when placing the former I completely ignored the events on the cards and only looked at the numbers, guessing incorrectly that it came later! What a fool! Andrew profited from my idiocy with his Cleopatra-Pompeii one-two and took the first game:

Andrew - no cards
Sam - one card
Ian - two cards

It had all happened so quickly, we played again. I confess I got another easy set - having got rid of the invention of glasses and some other card that now escapes me, I had the simple task of getting shot of Australopithecus (which despite being 4 million years out, I succeeded in dumping) and the invention of the wheel. Ian had a chance to claim a joint victory, but he couldn't quite nail the discovery of anaesthetics (or something).

Sam - no cards
Ian - one card
Andrew - one card

Saturday, 4 April 2015

King of the Castle

Easter Friday, and the games began early. My mum had visited the night before, and having stayed over she joined me and the boys after breakfast for Keltis: The Dice Game. I think the last time this was played by any GNN member outside the Morrison household, it was Andrew and I watching Everton in a pub, back when they were a half-decent team. Long time ago.

It's a really simple game - you have four stones and you're pushing them up different tracks. If your stone stops on an emerald, you pick up an emerald. If it stops on a clover, you get to push any stone up an extra place. If it stops on a leprechaun, you get another turn... it's the sort of thing the Irish tourist board probably have nightmares about. As soon as five stones go past a certain point on the tracks the game ends. Stan and Joe played as a team, and with zero help they wiped the floor with us:

Stanley/Joe 22
Sam 14
Crysse 11

Crysse then headed home and Stan and I played Black Fleet. More easy-going stuff, albeit with the slight edge of getting your pirate ship sunk (by the navy, to stop it stealing goods) or your merchant ship stolen from (by the pirates, to gain doubloons). The game is super-simple: play a movement card and move three ships (both your own, plus one navy ship) and if you choose to, play a fortune card as well. Fortune cards do various bits and bobs. Your aim is to get enough doubloons to flip over all your cards in a tableau in front of you - and as each one is flipped it gives you a special power.

One such power for Stan was the ability to sink my merchant ship with the navy, a politically incorrect move he emptied to effect on his winning turn:

Stanley: all cards flipped
Sam: one card unflipped

In the afternoon Katie and Mark joined us with their kids Peppa and Lula. After a stroll around Narroways in the afternoon, an Easter egg hunt, and several unintended interactions with the mud, we returned for a roast tea.

Whilst Sally began working her magic in the kitchen (Mark and I washed up later, honest) myself, Mark, Katie and Peppa began playing Trans America, the game of semi-cooperative track-laying. We only managed one round before the food arrived, but with a bit of help from Mark on her final turn, Peppa won it. I don't recall the exact scores but I think I was back in last place.

Next we played Linkee. It's a quiz game where four usually-easy-to-answer questions are linked in some way, so the game is really about that bit of lateral thinking. If you get the link you win a card, and normally you play until you have managed to spell Linkee, as the letters are randomly distributed on the back of the cards. We found at Christmas though this can take hours, so just played until someone had five cards.

Mark won every single time, with the rest of us usually back on one or no cards at all. I'd like to say I didn't win because I was questioner, but Peppa took over this role and I suffered the same fate as Katie and Sally before me.

About nine Sally managed to get the kids both into bed and asleep courtesy of a sedate reading of The Secret Garden. Downstairs I'd managed to get Castles of Mad King Ludwig set up and explained the rules to Mark and Katie, so when Sally reappeared we were ready to go.

Sort of.

King Ludvig wanted kitchens, gardens, exits and corridors, and my bonus cards rewarded bedrooms and corridors. So for reasons I haven't really fathomed, except perhaps mild drunkenness due to my inroads on a 5-litre keg of Gem, I started building cellars and utility rooms. Sally, as revealed at the end, was after one of every type of room, and like others before her fell agonisingly short. Mark built a string of gardens - broken only by a large meat locker - leading to a confection of living rooms. And Katie stared at the choices before her, seemingly more bewildered by every passing turn. I watched the equally bewildering sight of Sally explaining a game to somebody, as we chipped in to help.

I lagged behind early on, and lagged behind later too. The other three took turns in the lead, but toward the end Mark and Katie surged ahead of us and clearly wouldn't be caught. When we added up at the end, my bonus cards did was get me from a horrendous fourth place to a mildly embarrassing one. Katie's bonuses took her momentarily into the lead, but when Mark turned his cards over he overtook her again to claim the win:

Mark 96
Katie 90
Sally 73
Sam 70

With the clock approaching eleven, we broke out one last game - Timeline. New to Katie and Mark but as ever, very easy to play. Sally made the early running with her historical knowledge leading to educated guesses - possibly too educated, as Katie speculated on the privileges of private schooling. But Mark and I managed to catch up and at one point the three of us were hovering over a single card. Katie meanwhile was hampered by her rather ambitious card placements - going for a ten year gap in one turn and a three-year gap in the next. Unfortunately neither paid off.

Mark got his card down and as last player to his left, I had one chance to force a tied win. Could I determine the development of Euclidean Geometry? It was definitely after ceramics, but was it before the cork? I managed to get it down and we celebrated in our joint victory:

Mark/Sam: all cards down
Sally: 1 card remaining
Katie: 3 cards remaining

Including Linkee (with a joint second for the rest of us), it was still a clean sweep for Mark though, meaning he cleans up on the hugely-seldom KMSS leaderboard. Sally also sweeps past me, though The Chiseller, Katie, remains back in fourth place for now...







Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Oregon and on

The final night of the season was held at Steve and Anja's place, a welcome return for them after a lengthy absence.Also absent were Joe (abroad), Katy (unwell) and Matt and Hannah (don't know) leaving Adam, Martin, Sam, Ian, Andy and myself joining our two ghosts.

Anja was expected to arrive later and Steve was finishing off family things, so the six of us played Pairs, the game where a doomed sense of inevitability doesn't stop the passionate gamer, as Martin demonstrated. He declared "These goddamn peppers will be the death of me," just before he drew another pepper to send him out if the round. Adam overcame his distaste of luck based games by clocking up a comfortable win.

Adam 22
Andy 14
Andrew 13
Sam 10
Martin 8
Ian 6

Then we split into two groups: Ian, Sam and Andy played Rialto, while Steve, Martin, Adam and I chose Oregon. This game is a bit of a rarity at GNN, but we were pleased when we discovered that everyone had played it before. After a brief rules refresher, we got stuck in.

No, Adam's man hasn't just shot three of Steve's men.
They're just lying down because they've scored a bonus.

Steve went for mining in a big way, picking up coal and gold. Adam and I also dabbled. Martin used buildings to re-use his jokers, and I scored big when I dropped a church in amongst a group of my own men. In fact, I was doing well, until I went to the toilet. When I got back, I got confused, accidentally discarded the wrong cards from my hand, and generally wondered where my mojo had gone. I just did enough to cling onto Adam's coat-tails. It may have been last, but it was a respectable joint last.

Martin 91
Steve 86
Adam 85
Andrew 85

It was nice to get this underrated game back on the table and, despite what I implied with the blog title, it's a fairly speedy game, packing in a lot of thinking into its forty-five minutes.

Rialto still had another half an hour to go, so the four of us played Potato Man. This was Steve's first go, and Adam's second. It looked like Steve's beginner's luck hadn't left him, as he shot off into an early lead. It was an odd game, with each round lasting much longer than usual. Martin reaped the rewards in rounds two and three, while Adam's late surge dragged himself from distant third to almost first, much to his apparent bemusement.

Martin 39
Adam 31
Steve 21
Andrew 17

By now Rialto had ended, with Sam coming out on top without resorting to spamming the green building action, which had previously seemed like such an easy win. Andy seemed non-commital after his first playthrough.

Sam 78
Ian 76
Andy 54

Also, Anja had returned from her evening of politics and so was able to join us for one last game before the end of season firework display (in my head). 6nimmt was voted in, and so the eight of us began.

What a game it was. Steve appeared to be doing cow impersonations for much of the game, and Sam commented on the Mexican wave of curses and grumbles that went round the table every time a new round started. It was tense and quite painful. In one round, all of the rows ended with cards in their eighties.

But it was Sam who really suffered. One full row, ending in 89, had been on the table a long time. Martin said that there must be someone with a card in the nineties that keeps bottling it. Sam, as he later explained, interpreted that to mean that there was still a space on that row. Next turn, he was the last to put his card down, and he sighed with relief “I don't believe I got away with this,” only to realise instantly that he had to pick up the whole row, full of bad cards. It was a turning point: after a good first round where he was leading, he dropped down the placings. Meanwhile, Anja won comfortably.

Anja 25
Adam 29
Steve 30
Ian 38
Martin 39
Andrew 39
Sam 59
Andy 78

And so, that was that! Despite Katy's absence, the gap to first place couldn't be bridged, and she wins on points and on the medal table. Big congratulations! Anja wins on points ratio, just sneaking in at the last minute. More congratulations for her!

Finally, it's a last hurrah for the form table, since it's too much of a pain to format. Well done to Adam who will, unless we have a change of heart and decide to bring it back, remain winner of the form table for all eternity!

Anja165 5 5 22