This Tuesday was a mild November evening, and Anja and Steve hosted for the first time in a while. Ten gamers were present in total: the two hosts and Chris, Ian, Matt, Martin, Katy, Joe, Adam (making a welcome reappearance) and me.
We split into three groups. On the coffee table sat myself, Anja and Martin, ready to be introduced to Pax Pamir, an exciting recreation of the political upheaval in Afghanistan in the nineteenth century. On one half of the dining table, Ian, Joe, Katy and Matt were introduced to The Last Spike – something to do with railroads. At the far end of the table Chris was delighted to discover that Steve owned a game of Keyflower, and explained the rules to Adam and Steve. Soon the room was humming to the sound of three simultaneous rules explanations.
The first game to finish was The Last Spike: the shortest and simplest of the new games. In fact Joe said he’d been hoping to finish before Pax Pamir had even begun.
On our table, Martin explained the rules to us. The game is set during the time when British, Russian and Afghan forces were battling for control of Afghanistan and aim of the game is to be the one who is most loyal to the strongest army when a Topple card is played.
We were going along quite nicely, Anja and Martin practised their counter-espionage skills on me, and I assassinated one of Martin’s cards to try and gain favour with the Afghan forces. But then, just as Martin was cursing my move for ruining his chances of a win, he realised he could do it anyway. And so he did. After only about maybe forty minutes of play, our epic came to an abrupt halt. It was over so quickly, that I forgot to take a photo of it.
Anja said it was a bit of an anti-climax and Martin later admitted he wished he hadn’t won the game. At least, not so soon. There’s only winners and losers in Afghanistan so, although I was also loyal to the winning Afghan forces, while Anja was cosying up to the invading Russians and British, I can’t claim second place. Joint second, though.
When we’d finished, Joe, Matt, Katy and Ian were having a rip-roaring game of Can’t Stop. In this game, you roll die and move meeples along a track until (a) you decide to stop or (b) you can’t move and you go back to where you started. Get your meeple to the end of the track and it’s yours to keep. The winner is one who has claimed most tracks. Something like that, anyway.
At the far end of the table, Chris, Adam and Steve were deep in thought over Keyflower. We on the coffee table, though, began another game. This time: Sticheln, the trick taking card game that changes every time you try to pronounce it. It’s like trumps, except that not following suit turns your card into a trump card. And there are ‘0’ value cards, which never win and, most importantly, each player nominates a suit whose cards count as negative points when scoring.
Anja had trouble with the rule about not having to follow suit since it’s so different from the norm. Martin was doing okay, but misjudged the very last hand of the last round. He still had a red seven which would be minus seven points if he won it. He was confident that he wouldn’t since I was going first, so imagine his annoyance when Anja changed the trump suit to red. He got stung as he won the trick with his suddenly very strong trump card.
By now, Can’t Sop was over, Sticheln was done and finally the scores for Keyflower were being totted up. Adam was absent by now, having left in the final stages (having left instructions with Katy as to what to do) because of family business.
Finally we ended with Pairs, as you probably guessed from the blog title. Nine of us, clustered around a table, getting all excited about the prospect of blueberries.
Matt started badly, being killed of by two peaches, and his luck didn’t improve. Anja, too, faced down Lady Luck and came off the worse for it.
Chris could’ve won, but didn’t realise we were playing until 21 points (the last game he played lasted until 33). Joe, in a moment of melancholy reflection, asked that when we’re all playing Pairs in an old folk’s home that, if he should die before us, that we deal him in anyway and decide amongst ourselves whether Joe would stick or twist. That’s one way to gain immortality, I suppose.
On a lighter note, a mention of the catchphrase “That’s Numberwang!” gained approval, but for some reason gained an increasingly German accent, ending up as “Das ist nummerwang!” while people who could speak the language gave our their scores in German.
In the final round, Martin and I were first and second. Just before Martin was dealt a card, the deck needed replenshing, so Martin shuffled and handed the cards to me, the dealer. I didn’t want Martin’s shuffling to decide his fate so I cut the deck and dealt him the next card.
He was out.
Such drama! And I won, with Joe making a late charge into second.
On the Division I'm first on points ratio for perhaps the first time ever. Well, that's me done for the season. See you in January!