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.


  1. I didn't even notice you guys playing Spice Merchant. I was wondering why you kept talking about cinnamon and ginger too. Safranito was fun, especially once we corrected a badly-described rule. It also gave Katy the opportunity to call me 'spice c*nt'.

    I know what you mean about Villa Paletti. It's a wonderful construction, but some of the rules seemed a bit odd.

    K2 was as good as I remembered it from years ago. Frustrating to be stuck just short of the peak as Ian hogged it though! Apparently the Broad Peak expansion is really good.

  2. K2 does wear it's theme well; compared to Villa Paletti anyway, which was fun but somewhat opaque. I like it - but I loved Safranito! At the opposite end of the theme scale (tossing coins to get spices) but the play was brutal and brilliant.

  3. Thanks for the games, everyone. I'm trying to post comments on the games on the Geek, since I've been routinely rubbish at that so far, so will repeat them below for (possible) interest. Sad to have missed out on K2, so hopefully will get the chance to play it again soon.

    Spice Merchant
    First play - 3-player. Didn't seem to be enough going on in this to make it a keeper. Seemed quite easy to ensure that you scored at all (or nearly all) of the markets. Final scores were quite close, but didn't feel any real tension in the game. Maybe 4-player would be better since there'd be that extra player to potentially muck up your plans? (Rating: 6)

    Villa Paletti
    Fun dexterity game let down by badly written, over-complicated rules. Played 3-player and the rules as written made the game feel a bit flat. Would like to try the variant someone suggested on this site. Or maybe the best way is to simply play free form and just play it for laughs? ((Variant is when a new floor is placed, that player also moves a column of the neutral colour to the top level.)) (Rating: 7.5)

    Such elegant simplicity in a blind-bidding game with plenty of scope for deduction and bluffing. If only I weren't so rubbish at it! (Rating: 9 (from 8))

    Was Sticht?
    A trick taking card game that is too tricksy for its own good. When you finally play the tricks after the lengthy but dull process of drafting your hand, there's just no tension in the card play. Maybe that's a 3-player game problem, with only two objectives in play, often diametrically opposed with both achievable, but I'm not sure that the extra player would add that much more to the game. (Rating: 4)

    An OK filler that can generate some laughs during play, but repeated play is not doing much for me. (Rating: 6)

    Hmm, maybe that's a little indulgent on my part. :-)