Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Clockwork. Orange.

Half-term in GNN-land is often a sparse affair and so it was this week, with five people gathered together for gaming fun. Martin was the host, joined by Ian, Andy, Katy and me.

We began the evening in festive mood, with Katy giving Martin an early birthday present: a game of Go, complete with slightly confusing 3M corporation branding. Not sure why the multinational giant was trying to say with this branding exercise but since Martin had always wanted a go set, he didn’t seem too bothered.

Our first game was Merchants of Amsterdam. This is a game of bidding and area control in three areas: a commodity track, areas of Amsterdam, and the world. Players take turns being the mayor and draw three cards and, in a Biblios-esque (Bilbiesque?) touch, assign them so that they (a) definitely get used by the mayor, (b) are discarded, and (c) are auctioned off amongst all players (including the mayor).

The price is set according to a clockwork dial that slowly winds down, and as it does, it points to a steadily decreasing price range. Unfortunately, it couldn't be positioned in a central position, giving me, Ian and Martin a definite advantage in that we could see Katy’s and Andy’s reactions.

But it’s not all about the auctions. Choosing the right card is important too, and I didn’t buy too much although I did cause a few “oohs” of surprise when I bought a “x3 commoditiy” card for 190,000 gilders. This was later eclipsed by Katy, who spent 320,000 on a card.

I was known as Mr Second, since I managed to score second place in a number of areas without really doing a great deal. This set me off to a good start, but others began to pick up pace and soon it was difficult to guess who was winning.

Come the final scoring, Ian stared at his stack of money, bemused. He’d spent most of the game bemoaning his fate and perhaps he was surprised at the amount he’d amassed. After a little while we’d worked his score out, and the final standings were:

Martin 1,410,000
Andrew 1,250,000
Ian 1,060,000
Katy 990,000
Andy 690,000

Andy didn’t seem terribly impressed with the game, saying there were too many things going on. I thought it was okay. They should’ve designed the board with the clockwork counter in mind, though.

Next up was Why First? Since I’d been in second all through Merchants of Amsterdam, I was quite optimistic. But this simple race game rewards those who come in second, but in the end the “winner” is the one who was second best at coming in second. As we entered the last round, I was in a good position on 6 points. Ian was first with 11, but Martin and Andy were poised with 5 and 4 respectively.

They started round five by going backwards, leaving me in a good position but, alas, it wasn’t to be. My last card pushed me too far up the track, giving me six points for coming in second. I was too good at coming in second.

1. Ian 11
2. Andrew 12
3. Martin 5
4. Andy 4
5. Katy 0

Next we had a three round game of Raj. This simple game of bidding on point-scoring tiles has caused many an anguished wail of despair since tied bids cancel each other out, leaving the next in line to take the spoils.

Katy started badly, saying she wasn’t enjoying it, and decided to go Dirk for the last round. She assured us that Dirk (our random imaginary friend) would score more than she did in the last two rounds (-1 and 2).

And he did. He got seven points and did better than Ian or I. And after all the amazement at how well Dirk played, we totted up the scores and it couldn’t have been closer.

Andy 39
Martin 39
Ian 20
Andrew 20
Katy 8

But, bearing in mind Raj’s rule that ties cancel out, then in a sense Katy won this game since the rest of our scores were tied. Except, of course, she didn’t. She came last.

Finally, Martin really pushed his birthday goodwill by choosing Abluxxen, not one of Katy’s favourites. She complained during the first round that she really didn’y understand the strategy, so Martin gave her some advice. She thought for a second, and then proceeded to play like a demon, winning 17 points in the first round to take a commanding lead.

She didn’t do that well again but, who knows, perhaps she might actually quite like the game now? It was close after round two, but Martin was a clear winner since he was the only one to post positive a score in the last round.

Martin 31
Ian 19
Katy 12
Andrew 8
Andy 2

And so, we were done. Not a great evening for Katy, but a good one for Martin. And who could wish for a better birthday present than that?


  1. I did enjoy Merchants of Amsterdam. I was genuinely bemused at the outcome as I didn't feel like I had really got a foothold anywhere. And the denominations on the currency really did confuse me. In theory ignoring the last few zeroes should be a simple practice, but when I crossed the one million line I lost track of what I had... If I ever become financially successful I'll have to hire an accountant.

    Why First is very enjoyable but utterly ridiculous. Whilst I can sort of see how I managed third in Merchants of Amsterdam I can't work out how I won Why First.

    Another entertaining evening, thanks folks!

  2. When I went to log my play of Merchants of Amsterdam, I found I last played it in 2012. It's one of those games I wouldn't want to play too often, but I quite enjoy when I do. The clock is a great gimmick. Thanks for indulging me in the brilliant Abluxxen!

  3. Didn't we discover you inherited Merchants of Amsterdam (which I found in a charity shop on Gloucester Rd) from me in a maths trade before we knew one another Martin!

  4. Happy Birthday Martin! We're playing quite a few games here which one of us I guess will write up at some stage... including a classic Margarita-fuelled Codenames.