Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Abbey Habit

The last day of the season, but it was thought that there were to be no last minute changes in fortune with Martin way ahead on the medal table and points, and Sam only needing to avoid a nightmare to keep hold of points ratio from the threat of Hollie.

There were seven of us at Sam’s house. Apart from the host there was myself, Ian, Martin, Joe, Katy and Andy. I arrived first and found Sam in the kitchen looking over his new acquisition, Mystery of the Abbey. This is a simple game: a sort of cross between Cluedo and Guess Who? and The Name Of The Rose. It looked intriguing and Sam and I decided that this would definitely get played tonight.

When the others had arrived we decided (after minimal chat) to split into groups of three and four. Joe, Andy, Martin and Katy chose a tournament of Baseball Highlights 2045. Ian, Sam and I donned cowls and went all Cadfael in an attempt to find the murderer.

In order to guess the identity of the suspect card removed from the pack and placed under the game board, each player has to ask other players questions about the suspect cards they hold in their hand, such as “How many Franciscans do you have?” Answers should help you tick off suspects on your sheet. However, the answers are public so they will help your opponents. A player may refuse to answer, taking a vow of silence.

Through this process of elimination you can identify the killer, but there are other ways of getting points: by making a revelation. This means stating out loud a particular feature you think the killer has, i.e. bearded or not, hooded or not, fat or thin, which order he belongs to and which rank. But you get minus points for wrong revelations or accusations.

All of this makes for an entertaining game of deduction. I went early for the killer being a Benedictine monk, and was wrong. Eventually, the game ended with all three monks running across the abbey, trying to get to the room to accuse their suspects. After one round of all failed guesses (you can tell if a guess is wrong because another player can reveal that they have that suspect in their hand) we tried again and Sam just pipped me to the post. It was Brother Malachi! That little shit.

Sam 3
Andrew -3
Ian -3

On the other half of the table, newcomers Andy and Katy had the rules explained to them, and then Andy explained the rules back to Joe later on. He’s not a player to be underestimated, as he eventually went through to the final against Martin. Katy and Joe played a third-place play-off.

1. Andy
2. Martin
3. Katy
4. Joe

There was a slight gap between the ends of the two games, so Ian, Sam and I had a rousing game of three-player Pairs.

Sam 11
Ian 8
Andrew 6

And this was followed by a non-leaderboard game of psychic pairs, whereby you have to correctly guess the next card. Ian correctly guessed six cards, Sam got four and I got a mere two right.

Next, since we were all together we managed to convince Andy to agree to a game of Pairs before he left even though he isn’t a fan of the game. The main talking point of this battle of Pairs came at the end, when people told me I had a choice: twist and Sam wouldn't win the game that round, or to stick and end the game. I stuck, and Sam got his points. I checked, and the next card would've bust me anyway, so I did the right thing.

Sam 21
Katy 20
Joe 19
Andrew 14
Andy 10
Martin 5
Ian 5

After this, Andy and Martin left so Joe, Ian, Katy, Sam and I played Bandu. Joe quickly collected coins thanks to my habit of passing pieces on. However, his “tower” collapsed before he could use any of them. Like getting a Game Over in Defender when you still have three smart bombs left. What a waste!

Then it was just down to us four. Ian amazed with his high-density, low altitude building. I went for the skies. But when mine fell down, the reverberations also send Ian's crashing to the table top, gifting Katy a win.

1. Katy
2. Ian
3. Andrew
4. Sam
5. Joe

Then Katy and Joe left. Since there would be no Thursday meet we thought we'd recreate a little bit of that atmos now. So, Ian, Sam and I squeezed in one more game: Love Letter. With whiskey! Even though I still had half a bottle of 7.4% cider still to go.

Ian won the first two rounds (one of which he won with two shitty Barons), and then Sam and I clawed our way back into contention, only to see Ian take the last round and the win.

Ian 3
Sam 2
Andrew 2

Which leaves the end of season table. Well done to Martin and Sam. Especially Sam who's always said the Points Ratio is the true measure of a champion and now he's finally won it!

Friday, 25 September 2015

Princesses, Adventurers, Grunts

The planned Saturday for Matt, Ian, Andrew and myself (Sam) had to be cancelled due to life getting in the way. So Andrew wandered over to my house the night before the day that would have been, for some gaming.

Joe and Stanley joined us early on for a couple of games of Love Letter. Joe and I played as a team, but basically although Joe doesn't realise it, he actually plays solo, as I let him make all the decisions. And as such we won the first game 3-0-0, though admittedly Joe was upstairs poo-ing when we won the last cube.

The game flew by so fast I felt we had time for another. This one was a more protracted battle, with various parties picking up wins as people were knocked out left right and centre. In the end, though, the honours went to Stanley:

Stan 3 cubes
Andrew 2 cubes
Joe and Sam 1 cube

I packed the boys off to bed and told Andrew to set up whatever game he felt like playing. Imagine my delight when I returned to find Caverna spread out across the table! I love this game. It's like an Agricola theme park, where feeding your family can be an afterthought, taken care of by a nearby fast food stand.

 who knew fun could be so meepulous?

I went for a lot of adventurers, but forgot to buy the building I needed to maximise my bonuses. I was only reminded of this when Andrew bought it. Andrew seemed to get his engines going sooner than I did, but my four dwarves all adventuring kept the stuff coming in, and my yellow rooms got me a shitload of points at game end:

Sam  75
Andrew 43


I should point out however that we agreed early on to play our house rule of adventurer dwarves picking up duplicates of things on their adventures (in the official rules they can't do this) which definitely helped my score.

It had taken us less than 90 minutes to dig out two mountains and plough a dozen fields, so we breathlessly looked for something lighter and picked out Cube Quest. It's heavier in theme of course - armies killing each other - but in terms of the mechanics Cube Quest is pretty much as light as it gets. We played best of three - I won the first game handsomely, despite flicking a cube into a chair...

Safety first

...but spent the latter part of the second with my king perilously close to tragedy.

What the Bee Gees were really singing about

And in the end I pushed my luck too far.

We began the third with the tension palpable. So palpable that I flicked my Grunt all of 2millimetres as the opening move. Andrew snorted derisively before pulling exactly the same failed move with his own Grunt. After that it got messy. I forget how brilliant Cube Quest is until every time I play it:

Andrew 2
Sam 1

We moved on to Codenames, playing co-operatively. Our challenge: to identify nine correct words in each round, giving a maximum of five clues - whilst not turning over more than three wrong guesses. Andrew decided the best way to keep track of our clues was with the crab-apples harvested from Purdown.

The danger of having no silica gel

We failed miserably. Neither of us truly convinced as Spymaster, though I think I was some degrees worse than Andrew.


Finally we blasted through 7 Wonders with the ghostly Dirk, listening to Billy Joel as we constructed the Gardens of Babylon with a make-believe German. Dirk's upward momentum shows no signs of abating, but we managed to see him off:

Sam  58
Andrew 53
Dirk 46


Thursday, 24 September 2015

So long and thanks for all the Hey Thats My Fish!

A few weeks ago my trundling, seemingly never ending house sale, a mini saga that would rival the Lost box set, reached it's conclusion. This meant that the Bracknell bunch, after being told of my intention to up sticks and move west 4 months ago, finally had a date for their last get together. That was this Tuesday but the game to which we should bow out to had been the subject of discussion for many a gaming session. In the end the choice was easy to reach. One game over the years had been equally enjoyed by all, was competitive and needed no rules refreshing.

Stand up Lords of Waterdeep (Plus expansion) and take a bow. Maybe not a brain burner of the magnitude of Agricola or Keyflower, or arbitrary as say Smash Up and Blood Bowl : Team Manager, Lords has returned to table time and time again to produce some classically close games. Tonight's tilt at it being no exception. With expansion to hand we played the 'Long version" which meant that it was to be the only game of the evening.

As the rounds played out it was interesting to see the apparent leader swap from player to player. I started almost immediately completing 40 point quest and shot off into the distance, but a set of unhelpful quests slowed me up. Meanwhile James was handily getting his 'engine' going with a number of plot quests that gave useful bonuses. Paul languished behind deliberating on a strategy until he was heard to say at round 4 "I'm a bit behind, I better do something about that".

Then, with the certainty of a glacier edging its way down a valley (Or whatever glaciers do), Pauls green scoring marker sidled down the scoring track as multiple quests got completed. His new tactic was to ignore the potential penalties for skulls and just go for it!

As the game came to a conclusion, a flurry of mandatory quests landed in front of each player and last ditch quests and cube grabs were made. In the end Paul's revised tactic had worked! Although almost all of his gains were wiped out by skull penalties it was still just enough to best James and I.

Paul - 199 (Lord of Bracknell)
James - 195
Chris - 194

Ooo Close

As we cleared up James mentioned a final blog entry. Work commitments have made recent entries very difficult so this is a rare and final one from us. James pondered what had been the highlights of our sessions. The burst water pipe in my under stairs cupboard that halted a game of Agricola comes instantly to mind but the rest of the nights seem to blur into one.

The league of playing every game in my collection was nice as well as the Mini League James and I had on the same principle.

James was the master of the unique savoury snack and I thank him for introducing me to Llama baked bites. The Dorito chili roulette crisps where a real event too. At one point I thought I was going to have to burst into tears in front of everyone. The packet's warning really was accurate!

Snacks - Fruit was made available.

Lastly I would like to thank the chaps for turning up at my house (And James for hosting from time to time) for the last 3 or so years, especially Paul, who has had to train it over from Croydon to Bracknell every two weeks and thats not a cheap journey......

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Clueless Whisper

With Andrew, Matt and Katy late withdrawals, and Joe also absent, a mere four of us - Ian, Andy, Martin and myself (Sam) converged on Hannah and Adam's house for our now seven-year tradition. I think it's seven years for GNN anyway; I seem to recall pre-blog we were playing at Lower Cheltenham Place fortnightly, alternating with poker nights...?

Anyway with Martin and Sarah expecting and Joe's eldest now babysitting for myself and Sally it seems a time to reflect. Or maybe that's the Castles of Burgundy talking... more of that in a moment.


We began with a little light Codenames. I say it's light, but of course if you're the spymaster it's anything but. Apparently I kept talking Ian out of choosing Martin's words, but he was a model of poker-faced-blankness throughout, and probably gave the best clue of the night in "chopsticks" for Beijing and piano (I still contest the idea that 'Singapore' is a great clue for Beijing though). Either way, we sailed reasonably serenely to victory as spymaster Andy - a model of poker-faced-indifference - couldn't quite keep pace:

Martin, Ian and Sam: best spies
Andy, Hannah and Adam: second-best spies

Adam and Hannah fancied a turn at being spymasters so we changed teams slightly. Adam, Martin and Ian got off to a strong start and surged to a healthy lead. We needed to correctly identify our last two cards in one shot to nab the win - and we did it!

Hannah, Andy and Sam: best spies
Adam, Ian and Martin: second best spies

We'd expended an hour on Codenames so we briskly moved on to the meat of the evening. On a whim I'd brought Castles of Burgundy along and to my surprise both Andy and Adam jumped at the chance to play it. The others plumped for Ra, and when I looked over after ten or so minutes I thought they must have ploughed through the first epoch as they had so many tiles, but apparently it was just Ra - who was reluctant to show himself. I lost track of what they were doing eventually, but Martin took a convincing victory:

Martin 56
Hannah 42
Ian 35

A whole load of disaster

By the time they'd ended we had probably just reached the second round of Castles. It took a while to set up and then Adam needed a refresher, during which time I discovered I'd been playing a rule wrong. I'm going to take all my wrong rules and post them as variants on BGG.

For Adam it had been a while, whereas Andy had been playing regularly on his phone. His strategy was to ignore boats entirely, whilst I spent the early game picking them up to ensure I'd complete them first and would always be first player - with first dibs on everything. I also tried to fill as many small areas as I could for the bonuses. Halfway through the game I was a good 25 points clear of the others, but they both surged back to leave me in third.


Andy continued to surge throughout the rest of the game, and Adam at one point completed some massive building area and scored about 40 points for one tile. In the end my end-game bonuses saved me from ignominy, as Andy took a very convincing victory:

Andy 238
Sam 211
Adam 201

It was two hours since we'd started playing and even Martin had got bored of pointing out how long we were taking. It's true to say they played a few more games than we did - Sticheln finished as an utter trouncing for Martin:

Martin 35
Hannah 0
Ian -2

colour me pointless

But Hannah got her revenge in Love Letter:

Hannah: 3 cubes
Martin/Ian: 1 cube each

With 11o'clock looming there was just time for Pairs, much loved (by myself and Martin) and loathed (by Andy and Adam). I think Ian did like it, but might not after tonight. His capacity for going bust brought to mind his early days with 6Nimmt, although with Pairs it really is the luck of the draw. Martin kept finishing second, so much so that after four rounds he was poised to win on 20 points. I was on 19points and needed to finish ahead of him... with my cards showing 15 and Martin's 14 I could have stuck and hoped he went bust, but where was the fun in that?

I went bust.

Martin 24
Sam 19
Andy 15
Adam 9
Hannah 9
Ian 9

A great night for Martin on the leaderboard, with one Tuesday to go before the end of the season!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

King Bib

Thursday! It's now so well established we almost don't bother emailing to confirm any more. Except we do just in case, like last week, Thursday is on a Sunday. Luckily this week no such chicanery was at play, and Andrew, Ian, little Joe, Stanley and I sat down to play Safranito at 6.30pm. This was Joe's choice and he and I played as a team. Joe began as designated thrower but halfway through changed to designated fidget as he played with the box and the cards and I took over. Neither of us was really producing the goods, though, and like Stanley, we struggled. On the other side of the table Ian and Andrew had their gaming caps on and soon put and end to proceedings:

Ian 3 recipes
Andrew 3 recipes (2nd on turn order)
Joe and Sam 2 recipes
Stanley 1 recipe

The boys retired to bed with You Choose and half a chapter of The Hobbit. I came down to discover Ian had beaten Andrew so comprehensively at Biblios that the moniker Mr Biblios didn't really do it justice. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...

Ian (King Biblios) 18
Andrew 0

I'll leave them to explain this alchemy in the comments.

Andrew here. I won't use the comments, since photographic evidence is needed for this event.

History, they say, is written by the winners. Not this time, though. This game of Biblios will live long in the memory as the perfect gaming example of a fly being hit by a high speed train.

I started off okay but after a bunch of church cards, I panicked and changed tactics. Far too late, since we were halfway through the gift stage. This was followed by an appalling auction stage, where we were both low on money, except Ian didn't need it and the colours I wanted never came up.

I ended with a terrible hand. No card higher than a one.

Ian, meanwhile, swept the board. When one is beaten so badly, one can at least take solace in the old saying "where everything is bad, it must be good to know the worst."

We decided to play Macao, the weird cross between a standard euro and slightly convoluted roulette. Andrew started very confidently, clearing his tableau of cards whilst Ian and I picked up penalty chits for having too many. But Ian and I had a stronger second half of the game; Ian at one point delivering three tea tiles for 23 points to surge into the lead.

cubist panting

However my presence in the city quarters - and bonuses for them - saw me claim the lead:

Sam 75
Ian 72
Andrew 64

I remain very fond of Macao, even if the last couple of rounds are fairly head-scratchy. In fact we all enjoyed it.

It was only half-nine so, having failed to tempt Sally into a 4-player Codenames, we played Raj. Andrew suggested a variant where Dirk got involved - a fourth deck was randomly shuffled and a card turned over at the bidding stage. This came through for me at one stage when Dirk and Ian drew and my paltry 2 bid picked up a 9 tile...

But overall, Dirk didn't impress the way he's done recently at 7 Wonders. Maybe he needs more practice:

Sam 81
Andrew 39
Ian 18
Dirk 1

Andrew was threatening to leave but we cajoled him into a couple of rounds of Take It Easy - I called chocolate bars and Ian went full-nerd with Deep Space Nine characters. Andrew is probably glad he stayed, and his theory of losing at Take It Easy because of "always being shitfaced" was blown out of the water:

Shitfaced Andrew 297
Fairly drunk Sam 266
Inebriated Ian 214

It was not yet 10.30 but we called it a night, reminiscing already about Ian's masterful Biblios performance.

Andrew again. Just a quick mention of the weird rainbow over Bristol this evening as I walked to Sam's. I swear I will never play Biblios when there's a rainbow ever again.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Cautiously Unlimited

Hey, Internet, have you ever played board games? We have. By “we” I mean: myself, Sam, Katy, Martin, Ian and Joe. And by “have” I mean: at Sam’s house on Tuesday evening.

I arrived a few minutes late, just in time to see the last few seconds of Bandu. This a building game, with each player constructing some sort of tribute to public art sculptures of the 1960s and 70s. Last tower standing wins.

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

Codenames is the new craze that’s sweeping GNN and tonight the six of us split into two teams of three for three rounds of this crazy guessing game. Joe, Sam and Katy took on Martin, Ian and me. Katy and Ian were the spymasters in the first round. Katy found it hard going, and was 5-1 when she said “Mr Tumnus” and said it had a “cautiously unlimited” number of answers. They got up to 5-4 but then guessed wrong, and Ian’s team closed the deal 8-5.

Next up Sam and Martin were spymasters and controversy reigned when Katy unthinkingly touched a card that she was suggesting might be the answer. Martin pounced, saying since she touched it, she had to choose it! She quickly retreated, saying it was a mistake, but then Sam swooped in and accepted Katy’s “guess” even as she was disowning it, since it was a correct one. Martin ended the game (at 7-5 to Sam’s team) by steering us to the assassin with the clue “beak” (I think) and the assassin was hiding behind “Kiwi.”

Finally, it was Joe and I as Spymasters. A far less exciting round if my lack of notes are anything to go by. Joe (and Katy and Sam) won 8-7.

After this we considered splitting up, but Verflixxt/That's Life tempted us, especially since Joe hadn’t played it before. It’s a colourful game, but mostly due to the language we used when reacting to each roll of the die. Katy did best, picking up those all-important clover tiles to convert her minus points into plus points. I did not pick up any.

Katy 25
Ian 15
Sam 8
Joe 6
Martin 5
Andrew –7

By now it was around half past nine. Usually, this is the time where we start considering lighter fare to finish off the evening, but in the pile of six-player options that Sam brought in from the other room was Medici. This caught mine and Martin’s eyes and it was chosen.

I started well, getting the biggest boat for the first two rounds, but my attempts to get enough commodities in the final round fell short. Sam surged up from third in mid-game to take a handsome win. Katy said she did not like it.

Sam 103
Martin 89
Katy 76
Andrew 67
Joe 65
Ian 53

All that's left is to say congrats to Martin on his forthcoming new addition to his household. No, not another game. And he didn't tell us straight out. Sam was talking about how much space was needed for his games collection and Martin sympathised, saying that he had to reorganise his games too because "we will be needing the spare bedroom soon." And then he paused while we worked it all out.

Honestly, why couldn't he bring that form to Codenames?

Monday, 14 September 2015

Whisky Remorse

The weekend started badly, with Stanley taking a tumble at school and a Friday night trip to A+E diagnosing him with a 'buckled' bone - the bone compacts on impact and bulges out to one side. Forced to wear a cast for 6-8 weeks, Stan does at least live in a house that's coming down with boardgames. So after some weekend Safranito, Pairs, and Codenames, on Sunday night Andrew and Ian rolled up for our belated 'Thursday' session, and the boys joined us for a game of Love Letter. Joe and I made a team, whilst the others played solo.

The patient

Stanley got off to a good start, winning the opening round. I recalled our Love Letter session over the holidays, where Stanley correctly identified we had the Countess after Joe said to me "I can see her boobies". No such mistakes from Joe this time, who successfully eliminated Andrew's King. Ian, the expectant winner going by previous form, accrued two cubes and in a game of first-to-three things looked ominous. But Stanley knocked him out in the final round and Joe and I were lucky enough to have the Princess:

Sam and Joe - 3 cubes
Stanley - 2 cubes
Ian - 2 cubes
Andrew - 0 cubes

I took the boys up to bed, whilst Ian and Andrew debated which two-player game to bash out. When I returned 20 minutes later, they were deep in a gripping game of 7 Wonders with Dirk, who appeared to be outscoring at least Ian, possibly both of them. Ian's lack of resources hadn't worked out for him, whereas Andrew had plenty to choose from. It was tight, and Dirk *almost* took his first outright victory. As it was, he shared the honor with Andrew:

Dirk - 38
Andrew - 38
Ian - 30

It was time for Safranito! For those not yet in the know, this game is like a cross between Istanbul and bowls. Rather than a race for rubies, the first to complete three recipes wins. On your turn you throw coins onto the board, hoping to A. grab the spices you need by landing your coin above the correct bowl and B. knock other people's coins into shitty non-productive areas.

I started badly, at one point with a solitary spice in front of me compared to Ian's 3 and Andrew's 4. So I was pleased as punch to engineer myself into a winning position half an hour later - with a secret recipe in front of me, all I needed was a bit of cinnamon. There was loads out there, and I didn't even need to worry about turn order. But my three successive throws were all diabolical, meaning I missed out on my lovely cinnamon - and the win, as Andrew completed his secret recipe as well!

Andrew - wins
Ian - 2nd (two recipes)
Sam - 3rd (two recipes)

What now? We nearly played Africana but I think the shelf being so high put us off. Instead we played Bruges, Stefan Feld's possibly most point-salad-y game after Bora Bora. Build houses, put characters in them, build canals, improve reputation, fend off disasters... I nabbed majorities in reputation and canal (points!) early on, whilst Andrew grabbed majority in characters (points). Andrew's tactic seemed to be build as many characters as possible (points!), and in this way he stopped Ian and I ever flipping our character majority markers. Ian built some canals and got a statue (points!). Andrew built some more characters, including one who gave him money every time Ian or I built a character (money!)

Where's the balsamic?

To me it seemed Andrew was going to walk away with it - but come the count-up my two majorities (the others only had one apiece) and maximum reputation clinched me an unexpected win:

Sam 57
Andrew 55
Ian 50

By now it was fairly late, and we'd started drinking whisky. Possibly this contributed to our insatiable appetite for Pairs, as well as our inability to find anything to record the scores on. They started on my hand, but I ran out of room, and said I couldn't write on my right hand because I'm right-handed. So Ian found a Tesco receipt in his pocket and Andrew recorded the scores on that. I kept going bust on 7's. I think we all twisted at times when sticking might have been more sensible. Andrew's view on the game with three players changed from "It's not the same without Martin hassling me" to "This is brilliant. Why don't we play Pairs with three more often?". His head may tell him why this morning.

Beyond the general chaos and plaintive crying it's all a bit muddy now - but Ian won two games whereas Andrew and I picked up a solitary one. And with that, the weekend came to an end. Unless Stanley demanding Codenames at 7.10 this morning counts?

Wednesday, 9 September 2015


As you can probably guess by the great pun in the title, we played Pairs today, but that was at the end of a long and varied evening of games.

We were seven in number: Joe (the host), Sam, Martin, Ian, Matt, Andy and me. We began with a new game: Codenames. In this cross between Dixit and the TV show Only Connect, there are 25 words in a 5x5 grid. Two teams are made, and each one has a spymaster. These spymasters know which of the words belong to their team, which belong to the other team and which are neutral. Importantly, they know which one is the assassin: if the team chooses this one, it’s game over and you’re a big loser. The spymaster has to give a one word clue followed by a number that refers to how many words the clue refers to.

We started with me and Martin as spymasters. Martin was giving clues to Matt and Joe, while I had Andy, Ian and Sam on my team. Annoyingly, Martin was able to use, as his first move, the example clue that Sam had devised while discussing the rules.

For my first go, and just to give you an idea of the kind of clues involved, I said “Flies, two” and my team successfully deciphered Eagle and Time. Other guesses were not so successful, and Martin’s team were left with just one word: Smuggler. Martin said “Tobacco, one” but then cursed out loud when he saw that one of my words was “Pipe”.

That’s the crux of the game: to give clues that only refer to your words. As it turned out in this case, Martin’s cursing alerted his team to the danger of going for the obvious choice (Pipe) and go for the less obvious one instead.

Martin, Joe, Matt 8
Andrew, Andy, Ian, Sam 6

We played again with different teams, and Martin brought this to a swift conclusion by finding the assassin, Joe’s clue had been “Massachusets, three” and we found America and State easily enough, but we missed England (as in New England). Instead Martin got it into his head that ketchup was the answer, because it’s so American. Alas, it was the assassin, and the game ended early.

Sam, Ian, Andy, Matt 2
Joe, Martin, Andrew 0

We played one more game with the same teams as the second game. This time it lasted the distance, with Joe offering a very neat clue “Pert, two” lead Martin and I to Part and Port. Sam gave a clue “hit” which could’ve matched with Sock, Crash, and Tap but instead his team went for Film, as in a very successful film. Alas, that word belonged to the other team.

Joe, Martin, Andrew 7
Sam, Matt, Ian, Andy 6

A great game, and I could’ve payed all night, albeit the amount of downtime between goes was pretty long.

Next we split into two groups. Joe, Sam and Ian played Safronito while Martin, Andy, Matt and myself went for Kingdom Builder, dropping 10 Days In Africa on the floor while plucking KB down from a high shelf in Joe's games vestibule. Sorry Joe.

I’ve no idea how Safronito went, but I messed up on Kingdom Builder, allowing everyone else to get bonus tiles, while I struggled with just one.

I thought Matt was doing pretty well especially after he stole a bunch of mountains from Martin, but it was Martin and Andy who ran away with it.

Martin 73
Andy 70
Matt 55
Andrew 33

Safronito had ended a few minutes before us and it looked like they were entertaining themselves with a little improvised game of their own. Safronito ended:

1. Sam
2. Ian
3. Joe

By now we were all seven again. We considered Take It Easy and 6nimmt, but instead went for the rarer choice of Incan Gold. The first temple was a real rollercoaster ride, with every kind of danger rearing its ugly head. It was enough to have us all scurrying for the exit. All except Andy who stared down fate and was rewarded with a healthy amount of treasure before he, too, left.

We slowly chipped away at his lead, but it seemed that we'd run out of time when the final temple fell on our heads almost as soon as we walked in. But Matt's dark-horsedness resurfaced and he took the win by the finest of margins.

Matt 22
Andy 21
Andrew 18
Sam 16
Joe 11
Ian 11
Martin 3

Finally we ended the evening with Pairs. And who can resist this luck-based battle of wits? Not us. Not even Sam, who reckoned he must've played it a hundred times recently. In the end it was a cake walk for Ian, who reached 19 points after only three rounds, and simply stuck in the fourth round to pick up enough points to get him past 21.

I came up with the hilarious word “Elemonated!” to describe Matt going bust on a lemon. Alas, it was my turn next and I just knew that, like Dr Frankenstein, I had created a monster destined to defeat me. And so it was, I was elemonated too.

Ian 23
Sam 17
Andrew 15
Joe 12
Martin 10
Andy 7
Matt 0

And so, to the Division! Martin still leads albeit by a smaller margin, and Sam has stolen back points ratio from Adam. With only three weeks to go, anything can happen!

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Climb Every Mountain!

Thursday - Sam (me) was joined by Matt, Ian and Andrew. As Matt was running late the three of us started the evening off with a quick blast of Love Letter. We'd all won a round each when Matt arrived, and Andrew claimed the decider:

Andrew - 2 cubes
Ian/Sam - 1 cube

We debated what to play but with Andrew keen, Ian curious and Matt amenable we elected to play K2 - unlike Tuesday's gentle sortie, we went for the brutal(er) winter side of the board, replete with shitty weather. I left one climber behind and with the other surged to the summit. I'd erected a tent just off the peak and planned to return to it to see out the winter - but I'd reckoned without Matt and Ian following close behind me - as the top of the mountain only allows one climber per space, I was stuck, and eventually expired.


How I laughed despotically when Matt and Ian's climbers suffered a similar fate!

How I didn't laugh when Matt's remaining climber reached the near-summit and survived until the spring!

But it wasn't enough. Andrew's softly-softly approach had kept both his climbers alive, and even though they were the least daring, being alive apparently counts for something in mountaineering:

Andrew 10
Matt 9
Ian/Sam 5

Gone... all gone

We'd blasted through the Himalayas in short order, and if a few people had to die for our fun it wasn't going to stop us jumping into our board game time machine and travel back to ancient Egypt, for Matt's first play of Ra. We had an almost Ra-free first round, where everyone had time to consider their bids without the pressure of the auction track imploding. Matt carefully made sure he had high bidding tiles for round two - were they too high? He did seem reluctant to play them. Andrew meanwhile cursed his luck - especially on round three which saw his low bidding tiles abetted by a surfeit of Ras. At least he got the highest-bidding-tiles bonus, having gotten rid of his low bids...

Sam 35
Ian 27
Matt 18
Andrew 11

It was still not yet half past nine, so having all already played it, we broke out Beowulf. The risk option in this game is really what makes it - even when you play the rules all wrong like we did. We weren't out of the bidding when a risk failed (as we should have been) and we picked up scratches when we should have been picking up wounds.

Note the thematically empty crisp bowl

Oh well - a fun romp anyway, and one that we took a break from to sample Sally's home-baking. How Norse we felt - and must have looked - surveying the board in tense silence, eating raspberry muffins. I thought I might have won, had I not been hit with a double-wound from the dragon late on... but as it turned out, Andrew had the win sewn up either way...

Andrew 36
Matt 17
Ian/Sam 15

For the third time on the night Ian and I tied for last place!

We finished off with Pairs. This is already a classic at GNN and even my crappy Professor Elemental deck didn't ruin the game for us. Matt - at one stage at least nine points behind everyone - almost staged the greatest of all great Pair comebacks... but on the last round second place was enough for me, and when Ian and Andrew went bust I heaved a raspberry-scented sigh of relief.

Sam 23
Matt 21
Andrew 20
Ian 14

And that was that.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The Unbustable Engine

The odd thing about bank holiday weekends is that just as the quiet weekend finishes, you’re thrown straight into the scorching underbelly of competitive turmoil. Or "Martin’s house" as some people call it.

This week, there were seven of us: myself, Sam, Joe, Martin, Katy, Ian and Andy. We began in two groups, both playing games which involve spice trading. Ian, Andy and I played the very-very-imaginatively titled Spice Merchant, a simple card game where you can either put goods into a market or put goods in front of you. If the goods in the market match those in front of you then you win points! Hurrah! It sounds simple, but there’s the risk that another player may be trying to close the market quickly and ruin your plans. Plus, there’s the little matter of your secret trading choice. Perhaps this will save your day? Or perhaps not.

It was okay. I think it needs a couple of plays before the balance of when to do what becomes clear. For me, anyway.

Andy 27
Ian 25
Andrew 22

Joe, Martin, Katy and Sam where having a jolly old time with Safranito, a game that involves throwing chips across a board where they might end over a picture of a plate of spices. I didn’t understand much more than that.

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

But Spice Merchants is a much shorter game than Safranito so the three of us tried another new game: Villa Paletti. This is a dexterity game of tower building, with a winner at the end.

It was fun, but I was amazed how many rules they packed into such a simple game. I think it’s ripe for house variants. Anyway, we completed the tower, with Ian winner due to having more point-scoring columns on the top floor.

Ian 4
Andy 3
Andrew 1

Then we played Raj, while they finished off Safranito. It was the usual tale of cruel ties and tense bluffing, which Ian did best at.

Ian 73
Andrew 56
Andy 43

While we played Raj, the other four squeezed in two games of Villa Paletti. Both were shorter because the tower collapsed both times.

1. Katy
2. Martin
2. Joe
3. Sam

1. Sam
1. Martin
1. Katy
2. Joe

At this point we were all together again, so we divided into new groups. Joe, Andy and Katy played Was Sticht? and Sam, Martin, Ian and I tried yet another new game K2.

K2 is a mountaineering game where you can either move, acclimatize or build a tent as you try to scale the second highest mountain in the world. Weather is a major feature and most of the game was concerned with getting our mountaineers out of the areas where the cold hit hardest, like someone ducking into a coffee shop out of a sudden downpour.

It was simple but fun, perhaps helped by our choice of summer and good weather, which helped us keep all our meeples alive.

For the second time this evening, Ian proved himself a friend of high places. After winning Villa Paletti, he scaled K2 and scored a deserved win.

Ian 16
Martin 14
Sam 13
Andrew 12

Was Sticht? ended :

Andy 5
Katy 4
Joe 2

And once again we seven were free at the same time. Two rousing games of Pairs were played to finish the evening. This evening’s deadly foodstuff was blueberries. A pair of these proved fatal no less than four times (Ian, Sam and Joe twice).

Andy went through both games with only one bust hand, raising cries of “He’s unbustable!” He sailed to an easy win in game one

Andy 23
Katy 18
Andrew 16
Sam 16
Joe 10
Martin 9
Ian 0

But victory was taken from him by Martin. In the last round, if Martin had stuck, Andy would have won since Martin was beating Katy. But Martin was rather taken by our newly invented rule that getting a hand with each fruit or vegetable in it would automatically win the game. Since that was his only chance, he went for it. He didn’t get very far.

Katy 24
Andy 23
Ian 19
Sam 18
Joe 17
Martin 8
Andrew 4

What larks! And if that weren’t enough, Joe gave a quick demonstration of his own home-made dice tower for those who weren’t early enough to see it before.

What a shame such dedication and creativity isn’t rewarded on the Division.