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.
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'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:
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:
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 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:
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:
Lady whose name I didn't catch 6
Not a game for 007
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.
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
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:
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
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.
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