Instead we played Letters From Whitechapel, the game of hiding and deduction. Except Ian's Jack The Ripper flew close to the wind and was caught in the second move of the first round. But as Joe had just texted to say he was on his way, this proved serendipitous for us as well as the wretched pawns of Victorian London. We just had time to squeeze in a couple of games of Elk Fest (winning one each) before Joe arrived, and introduced us to the pleasures of Ninety-Nine.
Ninety-Nine is a trick-taking game using a standard deck of cards but removing the low values of 2-5. Each player is dealt 9 cards and then, like Contract Whist, they predict how many tricks they'll take. But there's a twist - you have to make your bid using the cards from your hand: each player discards three cards to predict how many tricks they'll win, with diamonds = 0, spades = 1, hearts = 2 and clubs =3. So if you think you can win all nine tricks you discard 3 clubs.
These bids are made face-down but players have an option to declare, which means they turn their bid face-up for everyone to see. They can also (having declared) choose to play a completely open hand. This strategy is obviously rather risky but a if a declared hand wins the predicted tricks there's a 30 point bonus. An open hand is 30 points on top of that - and as a game where the winner reaches 100 points first that's quite an incentive - one that Joe went for and pulled off! He was leading by several points when Andrew arrived and we abandoned the game in favour of chips and, following that, Beowulf.
Bidding for Victory
We all needed a refresher of the rules (in fact it was Andrew's first play) but having done so, the game was away and over the hills - rather like Beowulf himself I expect. It's neatly devised so the second half of the game speeds by - having done quite well in the first I continually felt short of cards as the game (of almost entirely bidding) closed out, with Joe looking in a strong position. But having ignored the opportunity to rid himself of a wound, he picked up another wound and was hit by a brutal -15 points, careering from what would have been second to last.
Adam - who had texted just as we took on the Hag - arrived with perfect timing, as the last card went back in the box. After a short debate we broke out 7 Wonders, which - we realised - has really only been played with 2 or 3 players for some time now. With 5 it's a very different beast. My collection of guilds saw off Adam's impressive array of sciences:
Joe's disastrous form at 7 Wonders returns!
Despite feeling like we'd been playing for hours - probably because we had - it was still early, so we went for another Knizia - Colossal Arena.
Nothing like a bum
This has been played enough recently that the bum jokes are starting to feel tired. In fact they barely featured. What did feature was some brutal screwage as various folk found their backed beasties killed off in the scrum. I think three of us bet secretly on the Magus, who was out first round!
Then we played Hugo, which I certainly didn't realise Adam hadn't played yet! He picked it up well enough, though like almost everyone he also self-Hugoed. I managed another win, beginning to wonder why I can't pull this kind of form off on a regular GNN night...
Jolly, yet homicidal
Joe headed off home as the rest of us went for a gaming aperitif. I was now (I realise writing this up) on 4 wins in a row, one away from a non-curricular Perfect Five. If only I'd realised at the time, maybe I wouldn't have been quite so gung-ho in picking up several high-scoring cards early on in No Thanks, hoping to chain them together and also force my opponents to pick up shitty cards. It wasn't a solid strategy:
There was just time for me to tread on a slug before the night ended.