Sunday, 31 May 2015

Hello Ruby in the Dust

Sunday night and Andrew, Ian and I (Sam) convened at my house for some off-piste gaming. We regarded the cupboard and, as the hour was early, vacillated between some beasts - Canal Mania? Eclipse? But in the end trusty old Railways of the World came out. We all know it and love it.

I've come up with some thematic cube labelling as well:

Red: Food
Yellow: Medicine
Blue: Post and parcels
Black: Fuel
Purple: Secret government transportation of aliens

We set up and handed out the barons. Ian again (it transpired) got the Culiacan baron. I had the barons who rewarded most track and most links out of Mexico City. As there was quite a bit of food on the table (red cubes) I went for the latter, and bid big enough to claim starting player and ship the first cube.

Thereafter the game became unpredictable. Ian clearly had the Culiacan baron as he once again set out to complete the desired links. I concentrated around Mexico. Andrew was a little more spread out, but to be honest I wasn't watching what the other two were doing that much - having built out of Mexico twice I realised with a little work I could cut off at least one of the long-distance link bonuses for them, so I put my energy into that. But I realised about twenty minutes into the game that I had built a series of links to grey cities and had nowhere to deliver. As Andrew claimed the four-cube delivery bonus I still had the solitary red cube in front of me and wasn't feeling confident.

Completing the shortest long-route delivery bonus saved my bacon and suddenly I had a bit of income to build with. As Ian continued to pick up bonds almost every single turn, my confidence grew. But there was still Andrew to worry about, with the fewest bonds... except in the final third of the game he ran out of options - Ian had built all over the north of Mexico so profusely Andrew simply couldn't get in. I scored a pretty decent return for my Mexico City baron - ten points. Ian was hit hard by his nineteen bonds:

Sam 64
Ian 49
Andrew 31

For the first time ever, I managed to win at three-player Railways!

We had bashed through the game so quickly (starting at 6.30 ish) that by the time Joe - against our expectations - walked through the door carrying Caverna with him, we were ready to go.

Joe now takes over the story...

Another game of Caverna, this time four player (a new count for me I believe), in less than a week. How could I refuse. Though when I heard they were playing Railways I felt sure we were overreaching, starting at a little after eight.

And when it transpired Ian hadn't even played Agricola, I thought we'd be lucky to finish by midnight. But it is an easy game to teach - hugely daunting to play for the first time, I've no doubt. Still, by 8.30 we were away, and with the rules for adventuring clarified, it was smooth sailing.

Sam eschewed his adventuring strategy this time, concentrating firmly on decimating the forest outside his cave and planting. Andrew got adventuring as soon as the space came up in round three, but furnished a cavern very early on. Ian felt his way into the game tentatively, happy to go last in turn order and watch things unfold a bit.

I had an odd first few rounds, picking around the edges of things but with no real strategy. I remember from playing Agricola that, if you can't formulate a solid strategy, taking spaces that offer lots of resources often pays off. I sort of did that for a bit. I got ready to get a baby dwarf as soon as possible, but then  hung back for a couple of rounds, worried about feeding.

Adventuring was generally less alluring than last game, but we all did it a bit - Sam had two armoured dwarves by the end. Rubies were far more hotly contested, rightly so as they're soo versatile - delicious in salads, make excellent pets etc.

Toward the end of the game we were all confident of being able to feed our families, and began scrabbling for points; I had a room that gave me points for stone, Andrew went adventuring just for money. Sam had a room that gave him points for yellow rooms, but had already tunnelled out his mountain and was unable to capitalise on it. Ian was gathering lots of animals, I think.

The final scoring was a fairly broad spread, with a player each in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.
 and it was only 10.30!

Joe 83
Andrew 77
Sam 63
Ian 50

I really enjoyed getting Caverna to the table again. Feels like the old days when we played a lot of Agricola. Feels like old-schooling it a bit. I wouldn't want to play with more than four, and three may be the sweet spot, though four opens up some interesting variations like starting player getting you a ruby. I'd like to play it two-player too. I think I can safely say Adam would love it, Martin would hate it.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Oh what a lovely boar

Games! Or, to be exact, one game. Joe and Sam had a hankering togive Caverna a turn on the table, and invites were sent out to myself and Ian. Unfortunately, Ian couldn’t make it so the three of us sat around Sam’s kitchen table which was just about large enough to hold this Super Agricola. (And, just like Agricola, anything that referred to a wild boar was accompanied by either Sam or I saying "Wild Boar!" in the style of "Wild Boys" by Duran Duran.)

It was new to Sam, and I hadn’t played in a long time so Joe talked us through the rules. Then we set off, our dwarves mined deeper and deeper and farmed the neighbouring forest and went on adventures to gain items or furnish caves/

Joe was a bit rusty on the rules of adventuring and when to level up, which lead to the three of us having some pretty powerful dwarves in our respective clans. But it was the same for all of us, so it can’t be considered unfair.

The game itself is a worker placement game with a myriad of options. There was quite a lot of thinking and I think each of us took a go back. During the game, items fell in and out of fashion. One place that supplied wood was barely used, and so ended the game with a veritable forest on it. Similarly, the Supplies option, which gave a range of items, was hardly touched.

Sam went big on animals, Joe got bonus points for ore and stone and I made do with points for gold.

It’s a nice game. The game constantly offers a number of options which all look good. The difficulty is in not having enough time or resources to properly take advantage of all of them. Considering this game perfectly recreates what’s wrong with my life, I’m surprised how much I like it.

Sam 78
Joe 75
Andrew 59

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Cognitive Assault

After umming and ahhing for a number of weeks I finally caved in about a week ago and bought Star Wars: Imperial Assault. I knew it wasn't a game that would tick heaps of boxes for me, but I had two reasons for splurging anyway. One, Stanley is a Star Wars fan and I thought it'd be great to get a regular game going with him. He'd found the box in Area 51 and even badgered me to get it once or twice. Two, Joe (Berger) and I are still developing our online board game guide for the uninitiated, and I felt - or told myself I felt - we needed to cover the bases on these semi-RPG, semi-boardgame bad boys.

Having watched a couple of reviews we set up the learning game and dived in. Stan took the role of the rebels and I was the evil Empire. The box includes a built-in learning game with quick set-up (all things being relative...) and simple rules.

The nub of games like this is the rule-set: with X-Wing, we found the basic rules simplistic to the point of being slightly boring, and therefore never made it to the point of the (presumably more nuanced, and more rewarding) advanced rules. I was hoping for a different experience this time.

Wookiee in the sh*t

We began with me in control of a few Stormtroopers and an Imperial officer. Stanley controlled a wookiee (not Chewbacca) and another guy whose name now escapes me. Our board was a jaggedy circle with a crate nestling in a nook and we went to battle.

The game is like Star Wars themed boxing; if the boxers rolled dice instead of hit each other. I say this after only the introductory game and, as with X-Wing, I'm sure we were not garnering the full experience - and thus, rewards! (especially in the Morrison household, where it's convention to miss at least one key rule) ...but in essence you're taking it in turns to fire or swing weapons.

The weapon system is pretty neat once you get your head around it - dice are rolled for the attacker that decide accuracy and amount of hits (plus possible extras) and the defender also rolls a die or dice that can minimise damage or even negate the attack entirely. You take it in turns to activate your heroes (Rebels) or bad guys (bad guys).

I would have been quite happy to go through an hour or so of this if Stanley enjoyed it, but unfortunately - it's not a cheap game - he got bored quite quickly. Each character has a bunch of special moves they can employ but essentially it's variations on a theme, and we both found the re-reading of all possible special moves a bit tiring, especially as we could only find obtuse references to both Havoc and Focus.

I'm not writing it off as both Stan and I would be willing to give it another whirl with someone present who knows their Imperial Onions and is happy to bash through a skirmish with us - Matt? any chance? - but when the game ended (Stan won somewhat jadedly) I said "It's not Eclipse, is it?" and Stan said "No" with a kind of scoffing finality you rarely hear in one so young.

Three is definitely not a crowd

Tuesday games night was a sparse affair. Half-term usually makes some kind of dent in that levels of attendance, but this week we were down to levels low enough that even I and my five chairs could host.

There was myself, Andy and Martin. With just three of us, any discussion regarding what game to play was cut short with the idea that we all choose one. My choice was Metropolys, a new game to me, but one that seemed interesting enough.

And I was right. It’s a simple, yet deep bidding game. Everyone has the same bidding tokens of 1-13 to try and win areas of the map, but each player has their own objectives and, additionally, placing a valid bid in an area which is a dead end immediately wins you that area (since each bid must be placed in an adjacent area).

This means that Martin’s tactic of biding his time until the end gave him a sudden push up the score chart.

Martin 43
Andy 31
Andrew 23

And Martin pointed out that during that game, he didn’t destroy a single archaeological site. “A lesson there for us all, I think,” he summarised. But I really enjoyed Metropolys. Given how simple the rules are, there are depths beneath depths here.

But Martin’s sensitive side did not last long. His choice of the evening was Impulse, and it was to be a battle-scarred game. Andy needed a quick rule refresher, as he hadn’t played for some time. For someone who didn’t like the game, he shot off into an early lead. Mostly thanks to Martin unsuccessfully attacking him.

I did an unthinkable thing: I retreated. Unsure of the intentions of Martin’s fleet of cruisers, I cowered in the corner until I was sure that the other two had weakened each other enough. Then I pounced. I ploughed into the middle of the board, reducing Martin to a single transporter. But even that is enough for Martin, and with his next turn he built up his forces and flew back into attack.

But Andy was too far ahead to be defeated. Even with a depleted army, he did enough to get to the twentieth point before too long, and I was quietly satisfied with my second place.

Andy 20
Andrew 15
Martin 10

Finally, Andy’s choice was Istanbul. We went for a random set up, and at first I felt a familiar sinking feeling as Andy and Martin picked up some early gems while I had none. But I hung around mosques and markets and before long I was able to swoop on the gem dealer twice in a row to tie the game on four gems all.

Martin needed a lucky roll at the Tea house to get enough cash to get his last gem on his next turn. He didn’t get it. Andy got enough money from the market so he was poised for the win. But they didn’t reckon with me. Even after buying two gems, I still had enough cash to get to the wainwright and grab the fifth gem. I picked up three gems in two moves for a remarkable comeback, even if I do say so myself.

Andrew 5
Andy 4 plus cash
Martin 4

And that was that. A quiet Tuesday... apart from all the bidding, battling, trading and gambling.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Sleeping Custard

When Sam found out he was unable to attend Tuesday’s meet, he sent out a call to any available gamers for a Bank Holiday Monday meet. Ian, Adam and myself answered this call.

At first, we began with Pantheon: chosen because its author was the same guy who created Stone Age. But before too long, however, we gave up on it. A mix of odd terminology and a twenty-page rule book meant that it just looked too much like work.

Instead Railways of the World was brought out. This classic has everything a gamer needs: tension, bidding, territorial struggles and tiny hexagons with railway track on them.

At first, I went south to try and pick up an early delivery bonus. I wasn’t too happy about this, because it meant building in the area around Mexico City which usually gets pretty clogged up with competing players.

Instead, though, Ian, Sam and Adam all went north. Ian played very aggressively from the start, apparently going head to head against Adam. It wasn’t until Ian revealed his baron at the end that we realised Ian was simply trying to link two towns for points.

During the game, with alcohol flowing, Sam and Ian got into a bidding war over a Engine Upgrade card. Higher and higher it went until Ian was bidding $12,000 to upgrade to a $15,000 engine. Sam was about to bid, until he glanced down at his engine card and realised it only cost him $10,000 to upgrade normally. He quickly passed, grateful that Ian didn’t call him when he offered to pay $11,000 for the card.

Sam and Ian went for a high bond strategy. Ian, though, was shipping goods around for four and five points far sooner than the rest of us. Adam started with two separate networks that he joined up mid-game, and he had two depots working for him. I had my network in the south and, despite Ian nicking all my black cubes, I did pretty well for myself.

In the end, Ian saw his bonds drag him back, while Adam and I both completed our barons for that last points-push into first and second.

Adam 54
Andrew 53
Ian 49
Sam 39

What a game! And it was only nine o’clock. Next we introduced Adam to Bruges, the game that we’re pretty sure Martin wouldn’t like. You roll dice and play cards to acquire workers or influence, build canals or houses, recruit people and fight off threats.

It may have been only nine when we started, but Adam felt his energy levels drop off a cliff midway through the game. He yawned and blinked and asked how long was left. Afterwards, he admitted he played most of the game in a haze. All of which doesn’t explain how he managed his second win of the evening. I scored my second second place, while Ian got his second third and Sam picked up his second fourth.

Adam 50
Andrew 47 and cash
Ian 47
Sam 46

Saturday, 23 May 2015


Just a quick note to give an update on the Division so far. It's been a long two weeks, and a lot of games have been played on the hallowed turf of Tuesday evenings. With the scores totted up and entered onto the spreadsheet, we find that Ian still holds onto first but, just like a turtle neck sweater, it's tight at the top.

But during one of the conversations that broke out on Friday, if I understood correctly, Martin was poo-poohing our method of dividing by the length of time. Because he likes short games, he felt his efforts weren't being rewarded. Well, it was easy to see what the Division would look like if we treated all games the same.

Now Sam is top, thus showing his prowess in games lasting under an hour.

And I would walk six thousand miles

With the mud of old Japan still clinging to my shoes, I found myself at Steve and Anja’s place after a day of planes, trains and Bristol traffic jams. Steve and Anja had recently been to visit Snowdonia and were now inspired to play the game of the same name. There was even talk of a double-header, with two tables of Snowdonia competing simultaneously. Such decadence!

Joining us tonight were Andy (complete with his unused copy of Snowdonia), Martin, Adam, Hannah, Katy, and Sam. Some of us began with a rousing game of Pairs (keeping the score on a child’s blackboard) as others of us were caught up in baby duty or still stuck commuting.

Pairs invited people to tempt fate as they ask for just one more card. Martin did especially well, confidently saying “The mushrooms are all in here” (meaning the discard pack) before being dealt another mushroom to go with the one he already had.

Katy did so badly in her first few rounds that she decided to shoot for the moon and go out each round. Meanwhile, Anja had started the game but was called away before too long. We kept dealing her in and guessing what she might have done if she’d still been playing. There was also a lot of quick dealing, with a couple of occasions were cards were given out before the word “twist” was uttered. Martin was handed a card just because he thoughtfully said to himself “I need...” He went bust. It’s a cruel world.

Andy 25
Adam 24
Andrew 14
Martin 14
Sam 13
“Anja” 10
Katy 0

Then we split into two groups. Andy, Steve, Anja and myself set up Snowdonia, while Adam, Katy, Martin and Sam tried Sam’s new family game Relic Expedition. Although in the capable hands of Martin and Katy, there’s no such thing as a family game as the swearwords flew thick and fast. Or maybe I misunderstood what I overheard, and they were actually discussing Balzac. I know nothing about the game though.

1. Martin
2. Adam
3. Katy
4. Sam

By the time that had finished, we’d just about set up Snowdonia. Adam went home to complete his daddy duties and the other three played The Game, a co-operative card game using a pack of 6nimmt. They succeeded, with Sam declaring “This game’s too easy!”

Next they played one of the games they’d asked me to get while in Japan: Deep Sea Adventure. This game of risk and reward, where people dive for treasure while risking running out of air, has been such a hit with Katy that it became the first board game she ever bought. There were cries of despair and joy (about a 3:1 ratio, I think) and it ended with Katy pointing out how much she liked it, even though she lost.

Sam 24
Martin 21
Katy 11

About halfway through the evening, us playing Snowdonia noticed that we had overlooked the very part of the game that triggers the end: building the track up Snowdonia. All we had were some very well appointed but remote stations dotted along the route, with no means to get to them. It was already getting late, so I bit the bullet and started building tracks with Andy following suit.

There was enough time for the other group to play another new game from Japan: Go Stop. I don’t know anything about this, and Martin has only a rudimentary knowledge of the rules with some details still unknown.

Sam 3
Katy 2
Martin 1

Snowdonia was still not quite complete, so the other three had a conversation! Amazing! Nobody noted the scores, though.

Snowdonia finally ended. My trainless/coalless strategy did not work.

Anja 107
Andy 101
Steve 100
Andrew 77

And that was that for the evening. Having used the power of board games to fend off jet lag, I got a lift back home and fell into bed.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Red Hot Chilli Popper

Games was at Joe's tonight, and as well as the host there was Andy Bates, Andy Morgan, Katy, Ian, Martin and myself (Sam). As Andy M was arriving later than the rest of us we kicked off with Kakerlakenpoker, the game of insect bluff. Andy (B) professed not to like it, and as we serially made correct rejections, the insects piled up fast.

Joe was best at spotting bluffs, and two (or three?) in a row from Andy amounted to Kakerlakensuicide, as he apparently deliberately torpedoed himself in order to end his misery. Following this drama, Martin refused to let me tot up the scores going by remaining cards, insisting "There's only one loser!" and pushing all the remainders into a pile. Whilst Joe, Katy and I protested Andy B backed him up, reading from the rule book. When have we ever paid attention to the rules at GNN?

Breathless stuff, and the evening was only starting. Martin - in bullish mood, it seemed - scoffed at Joe's suggestion of playing Scoville, the game of chilli farming, pronouncing it as "Kickstarter crap". Joe went ahead anyway, with Ian and Katy abetting him, whilst Martin, Andy and I used a deck of 6Nimmt cards to play The Game, which was a co-operative effort to get all the cards out in a series of rows - two ascending and two descending. Very like Hanabi, in fact, except this time you can see your own cards and cannot share information. You can however ask people to leave a row alone for your next turn, and also play a card that takes a row ten spaces backward if it is ten places 'behind' the current number. Andy M walked in just in time to see us get a perfect score.

The four of us elected to play Basari. This was new to me, but I must admit I liked it a lot - getting distracted enough not to take a photo. I liked  it most of all when I sailed into what I naively thought was an impregnable lead, only to be pegged back by Andy M as my card choices in the last round were kakerlakencacken:

Andy M 62
Sam 60
Martin 59
Andy B 45

With the other three gamers poised over their embryonic chillies, we moved swiftly on to Abluxxen and I got some really shitty hands with loads of singles. I probably could have played them better but in the wide world of games, I was never anywhere near Martin, who sailed to victory (despite scoring negative points at one stage!) after trouncing us all in the opening round:

Martin 47
Andy B 39
Andy M 37
Sam 33

By now Scoville had finally come to an end, with Joe refusing to admit that it was Kickstarter crap, but we could see from the look on his face that he was lying. As Ian admitted later in the car "I nearly liked it". Katy went further and said she did like it, but she didn't seem that convincing, considering the scores:

Katy 93
Ian 70
Joe 65

There was a reference card in the game that reminded me of the indecipherable Developments and Wonders in Olympos, where most of the game was spent checking the rulebook to establish what they did.

We were now all in one group again, so although Andy M retired to his adjacent house, there was plenty of time for a game of 6Nimmt, which Katy insisted upon. I was sure I could remember her swearing at the game like a docker at an art student, but apparently she likes it. Who knew?

Well we'll remember next time, as she sailed serenely to a convincing win as the rest of us swore like a bunch of dockers at a cafeteria sit-in over bursaries. Ian's recent good form returned to it's disastrous early days, and Andy pretty much replicated it:

Katy 29
Sam 47
Joe 59
Martin 66
Andy B 80
Ian 81

A nice bunch of games - with the possible exception of Scoville; more in the comments I hope - and plenty of time to get lost in Easton on the way home. See you Friday!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

The Child Within

Today was Really Big Board Game Day, an event held to raise funds for the NSPCC. At GNN we thought - well, Anja suggested it - it'd be nice to embrace both the idea of fundraising and extending our hobby outwards, to the tragically unaware.

I confess to being slightly nervous. The opprobrium heaped upon me in the past for even mentioning that I play board games always makes me a little wary of making contact with The Normal People, and to be fair it's not merely paranoia - the first witness to Joe and I playing Masons said "Are they gamers, or are they saddos?", like Jeremy Kyle sent in to boil down a complex social issue to its base elements. At that point, sat in a large empty room with almost no daylight, I could concede it didn't look like the most vibrant hobby. But surely it would pick up...

Masons, you wait ages for one...

Anyway, Masons. This is a really simple abstract game that reminded me slightly of Kingdom Builder - although rather than sharing building targets, each player has their own and the opposition can only guess at what they are. On your turn you add a wall to the board, then roll three dice to decide what colour tower will go at the end of the wall, and what colour houses either side of it. As soon as walls form an enclosed space (a city) players can play one or two cards to score points. The cards are all manner of things, and having played one or two you add another card to your hand, so it's potentially diminishing during the game. I liked it.

Sam 81
Joe 77

At 3pm Ian arrived, closely followed by Stuart, a friend of Martin and Andy's. Joe was already setting up Lost Valley, so after a run through of the rules, we were away! It's a game of packing up the tools you need in your rucksack, and heading off into the hills to look for gold. Or if you played Stuart's way, strolling around the hills picking up an assortment of goodies previous quitters had left behind.

Gold! Always believe in your canoe

I liked the fact that whisky gave you an extra action - very thematic, in that you might possibly reject taking it. We all - bar Stuart, who played the game teetotal - took advantage of the whisky. And I built a canoe, which was awesome. But Joe won, by virtue of grabbing the most gold tokens and pawning all his crap back in at the trading post:

Joe 38
Sam 37
Stuart 26
Ian 24

Joe's friend Tim arrived, and we busted out Raj. Tim and Stuart were new to it, but it's not exactly hard to pick up. We played tournament Raj with the winning bonus going up in increments of three. Stuart didn't even need the bonuses, whereas Ian had an experience that recalled his finest moments in 6Nimmt:

Stuart 92
Sam 50
Tim 42
Ian 6

The space was starting to fill up - Andy, Martin and Sarah had arrived and were followed by some Centrespacers and Matt with his gang from Aardman. Suddenly there were two games of Castles of Mad King Ludwig on the go, along with Tichu.


Meanwhile Ian and I went to get pizza, and while we ate it, played Masons - Ian's first time. I took advantage of my previous knowledge and surged into a lead, but as the game progressed and my hand dwindled, Ian pegged me back. I think I would have just held him off anyway, but I picked up a spawny scoring card for the very last turn and nabbed a whopping 20 points for it:

Sam 129
Ian 103

Masonic ledge

The room was now humming with the slap of cards and the jovial laughter of people with a very sensible and money-raising hobby. Ian and I teamed up with Andy and we played San Juan, which I like but hadn't played for about two years. It was new to Ian again, who I later realised was having a whole evening of rule learning. However he nearly won on his debut game, as I only beat him on the tie-breaker as Andy suffered explainer's curse:

Sam 24 (2 money)
Ian 24 (1 money)
Andy 18

Andy subsequently realised he was one card short of building the building to win him the game. As Bruce Forsythe always says though, that's San Juan.

The evening now becomes somewhat hazy with more arrivals and more games being played I could possibly keep track of. So this report does remain throughout a slice of the evenings' cake, so to speak; a random stratum of gamage.

Joe with long-time absentee Will, and his son Felix

Speaking of random we then played Looping Louie, which was one of the hits of the evening - great fun (I think we all won at least once)


...before moving onto one of the maddest games I've ever played - Artus. I can't even begin to describe it, except to say you're spinning King Arthur's table and making him change seats. And changing Kings, and often scoring negative points.

It is a silly place

Andy got the best handle on all the mayhem, and royally whupped us:

Andy 111
Sam 52
Ian 28

We took a break from sitting and stretched our legs at table tennis. I beat Adam, then Martin beat me in a bit of an epic, then he beat me much more easily. He beat Ian too.


I drifted away to play Pairs with some friends of Joe's, plus Katy - who is also a friend of Joe's. Alistair said "you only live once" every round, and this fatalism served him well, as he and I celebrated our joint victory:

Alistair 22
Sam 22
Andy 18
Will 17
Stuart 8
Katy 6
Lady whose name I didn't catch 6

Not a game for 007

...How mysterious!

I then beat Ian at Cube Quest before imploding twice in a row against Adam. I left Adam and Ian to duke it out and took on Andy at table tennis, exacting revenge for Artus.

Then Martin, Andy and I played Las Vegas.

Vegas, baby

It was a close-run thing, with another tie-breaker! I managed to snatch the victory from right under Andy's cocained-laced (thematically speaking) nose:

Sam $330 wins on notes
Andy $330
Martin $290

The room was starting to thin out a little and I was ready to go. But I'm nothing if not cajolable, and cajoled I was - by Martin, of course - into played Potato Man. This trick-taking game is new to me - I think I've seen it played before - but I quite liked it. There's something about saying the word "sack" over and over that seemed oddly engaging. Or maybe it was sexy potato. Who knows? All I know is when Evil Potato Man struck, Super Potato Man was there to defend us. It was another close one:

Andy 16
Sam 15
Martin 9
Ian 8

They were still playing on the other tables - I saw Ticket to Ride and Ra going on - but I was shattered and had to head home. Lots of fun, and £130 raised for the NSPCC! Well done everyone. Sam

Sunday update
Joe here, with details of the shenanigans that went on that evening.
During Lost Valley, my friend and distant relative Tim turned up. He watched the game play out patiently, even helping distribute some tools and whiskey, and after it was over played Raj with Sam and the others whilst attended briefly to my work.
Then Tim and I took on Matin and Sarah at Tichu. I say 'took on' but they are seasoned professionals, whilst Tim had never played before and I had only dabbled (enough to know how much I enjoy the game).

Part of the art of the game is recognising when you have a strong hand, and that's difficult to do when you're new. I didn't once have a Tichu-able hand (which didn't stop me calling Grand Tichu at one stage, but then it was all getting very desperate). Tim on the other hand got a few rather good hands, including a bomb on his very first. Thus, despite not calling Tichu, he managed to go out first at least three times. As he got to grips with it, he began calling Tichu, but of course, aided and abetted by me, failed to make these. When he finally did make a Tichu it felt like a huge achievement for both of us, but as the final scores will attest, it was in fact a horror story.

Martin/Sarah 1000
Joe/Tim -300

Tim's EIGHT card bomb!!
 During Tichu, Will and felix turned up for a quick game, so I taught them Welcome to the Dungeon. Will won, then I left them to play a two-player, which Felix won handily.

Next was a five player game of TransEuropa, between Tim, Sarah, Me, Emma and . . . someone else. Adam? Stuart? Sorry, whoever you were. It was over in two rounds I think, but was fun never the less, and Tim won I believe.

Then Katy, Tim, Stuart and I played Ra. New to Stuart and Tim, and as brilliant as ever, though quite an odd game. So many Niles, so many monuments, and a l,ighning third epoch as all our Ra's appeared practically one after another. II made a list of all the scores to all the games I played in, but lost it before the night was out. I did win Ra though, for the record. My record in Ra being one of the only ones I care about, as I do seem to have a handle on it.

By now Sam had left, and so had Martin. On the table behind us, Matt and his friends had played Ticket to Ride and Incan Gold, and probably others besides, he'll have to tell us in the comments.

Emma nd Hugh had returned from the private view next door, and tried to play Rummikub but were distracted to the point of hysterics by the sight and sound of Tim, Katy and me being taught Deep Sea Adventure by Stuart. I've wanted to play this very beautifully produced diminutive Japanese gem for ages, so it was the perfect nightcap. Players make forays from the submarine to pick up treasure, but as soon as they have any, the oxygen begins to drain and it becomes harder to drag yourself back to the sub. We mostly died. great fun, and I think Katy texted Andrew in japan there and then to request a copy. Here's hoping.

Somewhere along the line I played and lost a game of Table Tennis to Hugh, despite being far less drunk than he was, annoyingly. And then we called it a night. Thanks to everyone who cam along, it was great fun and we must do it again soon. The Chocolate Factory proved the perfect venue for board-gaming, enhanced no end by the Letterpress private view going on next door - when it ended Nick and Harriet brought through the remaining canapes and wine.
If I find the scores for all the games I'll update this post with them. Joe

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Form is Temporary

Tuesday. Andrew was away in Japan, and Joe had been enticed to play Bridge. Matt, Steve and Anja were also absent. But there were still seven of us gathered around Hannah and Adam's kitchen table - briefly, whilst we discussed this Friday's NSPCC day. Then we split into two groups - Katy and Adam were keen to try Atlantis and I was keen to play it again. The others - Hannah, Ian, Andy and Martin - eschewed Martin's overtures to play Witness, and plumped for Ra. I hope to hear the high spots in the comments, as due to the vagaries of gaming fate I never saw what they got up to in the kitchen...

After a quick conflab with BGG on the set-up, the Atlantis group were off. It's not a heavy game, but occasionally it can take a little while to work out your best move. Or what appears to be your best move. Adam's ingrained habit of keeping the rules handy was not negated by the fact they were in German. Worryingly, he took a long time over his early moves. Then equally worryingly, he sped up.

Save yourselves!

Adam's tactic was to race off for the mainland (see previous post for more on this) - Katy's was to lag and pick up points. Mine was somewhere in-between. But somehow Adam raced off with a phenomenal amount of points - even my ending the game and giving them both a 7pt water gap to cross didn't dent his score - it was a trouncing:

Adam 35
Sam 14
Katy 8

Katy announced she didn't like the game, and added that she didn't like losing. Especially to Adam.

In the other room Ra had already finished with Andy the victor:

Andy 39
Ian 33
Martin 30
Hannah 29

Tidy gamers

They had finished just before us, in fact, and never a group to stand on ceremony, they were out of the blocks on another game already: Basari. So we played Pickonimo. I've been playing this a fair bit recently - it was a hit with my brother and sister-in-law at the weekend - but I'm not sure that experience was truly brought to bear. It feels like a game of luck.

Sam 13
Adam 6
Katy 2

Katy clarified that she didn't like losing to me, either.

In the other room they were still playing Basari (I think; it's all a bit hazy now) so we started on
Red7.  For anyone unfamiliar with Red7, it's a card game where you can either play a card to the table in front of you or play a card to the centre, which changes the game's rules. Or you can do both - although I get the impression you want to avoid playing two cards if possible. Either way, at the end of your turn you need to be in the lead, according to the current rules. Katy scored a whopping 25 points in the first round, and though none of us reached the official 35 points to 'officially' win, it was enough for our agreed three-round game.

Katy 25
Adam 23
Sam 16

Basari had finished by now. I have no idea what this game does other than accrue a large amount of numbers on the score sheet. Looking at the bottom, it seems (unless points are bad) that Hannah won:

Hannah 65
Ian 64
Andy 40
Martin 39

...and they were now playing Love Letter. We just couldn't get our tables to co-align. I missed all of this and kept forgetting to take photos, but Ian's good form in the game was brought to bear on the final standings:

Ian 2 cubes
Martin/Hannah 1 cube
Andy 0 cubes

Hannah came into the front room and said she didn't like Love Letter. Adam said he didn't either. Eastonites eh? Don't let them turn you, Martin. We hoped to finally play a game with all of us, but before that could happen the kitchen group needed to finish their game of Dobble. Martin took the honours:

Martin 20
Andy 14
Hannah 13
Ian 8

Despite the relatively early hour, Hannah was threatening to go to bed and I was threatening to leave; my foot had started playing up and I was keen to lie down. However, who can resist Martin at his most bonhomie-ish? Like a cross between Oliver Reed and someone who plays a lot of board games, he cajoled us into our seats for a game of Pairs. His reward from the gaming gods -possibly tired also - was serial punishment, as he took hit after hit and ended on zero points. Adam took a miserable score on the last round just to ensure he didn't finish last.

At the other end of the scorecard it was close between myself, Hannah and Katy. As we entered what would prove to be the final round any one of us could have won it - but as Katy and I both went bust, Hannah did. Somebody (Andy?) went bust on a pair of peaches.

Hannah 23
Katy 17
Sam 16
Ian 13
Andy 10
Adam 5
Martin 0

It was only half ten but we'd played a lot of games, so we drew the curtains on yet another episode of GNN.

I don't have access to Andrew's underground spreadsheet vault, but as a blast from the past here is a one-off form table - for last night only!


Thursday, 7 May 2015

That sinking feeling

Atlantis! City under the sea! Or, as once supposed, above the sea, and imminently to sink. It's at this point that hardy gamers - myself (Sam), Ian and Andy - step into the breach, if for no other reason than to give Andrew something to read on that long flight to Japan.

Atlantis the game assumes the moments of the city's descent, where the population swiftly descend themselves - from neighbourly lawn-mower borrowing civilians (or whatever) to a manic screw-everyone-else fuckos engaged in a frenzied dash for safety.

Soggy, linear Atlantis

Set-up and play is not hugely dissimilar to That's Life, as players move their pawns from one end of a track (Atlantis) to the other (the mainland). But whereas in the former the track closes up when people take tiles, in this game the sinking city leaves water behind - which can only be negotiated by discarding your hard-earned points, or discarding your much-needed cards, or discarding your hastily-constructed but one-use-only bridge. And using your bridge means everyone coming up behind you can cross it for free as well.

The game strikes a nice balance between dashing headlong or lingering and picking up more points - the later you leave it to get to the mainland the more water you have to cross. Also, rather than dice-rolling you are playing cards to move, and there is a strategy to this as well, as your cards allow you to move to the next tile of a certain colour... I played the first couple of rounds not sure if was any kind of improvement on That's Life, but grew more enamoured as the game went on. Maybe that was because I was doing well, though...

Sam 25
Ian 24
Andy (explainer's curse) 12

Ian and were keen to try Bruges again after its debut on Tuesday, and Andy was amenable. It's a classic Feld points salad, where you can build canals, gain majorities, activate characters, boost your prestige... the stuff of Martin's nightmares basically. Unlike say Amerigo, however, you can explain it in ten minutes and play it in around an hour.

After digging enough canals to rival Birmingham on my previous play, I went for a more three-pronged approach of canals, cards, and getting cheesed off that I didn't have the workers to activate my cards. Andy got a good engine going early on and always seemed to have a couple of extra moves to play. Ian built a lot of character cards that scored him points - this time getting a King to go with his Queen and picking up big points at the final scoring.

Need Flanders

We were all bamboozled by the sheer amount of brown cards in the deck, which seemed to be never-ending. Despite my utilising all this brown to continually hit Ian and Andy with disasters - a latent, potentially screwage-led seam of destruction in the game - I floundered, continually finding myself without the right colour cards. The others had similar problems but managed them better, and my lack of majorities came back to bite me on the ass:

Andy 62
Ian 53
Sam 46

We all - I think - liked it. I certainly did, anyway.

With a couple of decent lightish games under our belts, we called it a night and Andy (in a T-shirt!) strolled out into the chilly night with a surprisingly mobile Ian, considering his recent encounter with a set of stairs. Until Tuesday, then...

Oh, and bon voyage to Andrew!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Trees are good! Trees are good!

It is Spring, and as flowers bloom and birds sing their mating calls, on Tuesday I received an email with those three words that everyone wants to hear:

"Games at Joe's"

We were six in number, the host and myself, with Sam, Ian, Martin and Katy. We fell into what can only be described as a "conversation" until we came to our senses and started to play. We promised ourselves some six-player parks at the end of the evening, and we began by splitting into two groups of three. Joe, Martin and Katy went for the leafy delights of Arboretum. Sam, Ian and I chose Stefan Feld's Bruges.

Bruges is a pretty typical Eurogame. You roll dice, move up tracks, hire workers, earn and spend money, and all the while you'll be having enormous fun.

On the other table, Arboretum seemed straight forward enough: play a card to the table, and then someone swears at you. That was pretty much it. Oh, and no one liked Dogwood.

Joe 24
Katy 16
Martin 13

We three were still up to our elbows in workers and aristocrats, so they played Botswana. Another game of things' values suddenly changing, only this time it was animals, not trees. I’ve no idea about how the game went, except for Katy squealing with joy at the plastic animals, and Martin’s amusing positioning of two animals trying a bit of, shall we say, hybridisation. I do know it ended, though.

Martin 78
Katy 71
Joe 53

By the time they’d finished Botswana, we had completed Bruges. It had been a relatively lightweight game, with plenty of options, but not enough to cause an unbearable block of AP. We wouldn’t go so far as to say even Martin would like it, but it was a pleasant game and not too long.

Ian had a Queen that scored a point every round, I had some people multipliers and Sam went for canals (and so did Ian, now I think about it). All hail the Queen!

Ian 59
Andrew 48
Sam 42

Then we joined together again and split up in a different formation like one of those fancy T-1000s from Terminator 2. Except one that plays games, not assassinates people in the past. First, during some toilet breaks, Sam, Joe, Katy and Martin played Rattle Snake. It was Katy’s first go, and it took her a while to get used to the awesome power of the magnets. And in the time it did take her, Martin managed to get all his magnets onto the board.

Martin 0
Sam 1
Joe 1
Katy lots

Then Joe, Martin and I played Basari, a nice little card game of bluffing and bidding. Similarly, Katy, Sam and Ian played High Society on the big table. Trying to capture that much game theorising and double bluffing into one pithy paragraph is impossible so I’ll just give you the scores and you can fill in the rest.

Martin 86
Joe 79
Andrew 60

High Society I:
Sam 26
Katy 12
Ian BUST!!

High Society II:
Ian 30
Katy 17
Sam BUST!!

Finally, the six of us got together to do battle in the fiercest arena there is: Take It Easy! During the game, Joe, Sam and I were the bingo callers. Sam went for the films of DeNiro, I chose defunct or obscure football teams but the award for style went to Joe who did the songs of Bob Dylan (suggested by Martin). After a while, he gave up since he was thinking about what to say more than the actual game. This lead to people just doing Bob Dylan impersonations, before Joe dropped the bombshell that his favourite Dylan album was Street Legal. To convince us he wasn’t mad, he put it on to show what a good album it was. If only it had helped his game.

Martin 498
Andrew 495
Sam 470
Joe 445
Ian 411
Katy 383

And that was that. Out the door, into the night.

I’m off on my hols now. I’ll be keeping an eye on the blog, so don’t go slacking off, now. You hear?

Meanwhile, on the Division, Ian remains clinging to top spot. Martin storms to first on the medal table and Andy regains Points Ratio.