Monday, 23 November 2015

Novocon 2015


As the starlings gather in fields to set of across the continents on their yearly migration, so it is that the GNN faithful gather together on email exchanges, eager to swap city concrete for the feeling of fresh country grass under our feet. Or at least visible through the window.

Sam, Stanley and I set off from Bristol heading south-west to Devon which, apparently, sat under a giant black storm cloud. Day swiftly turned to night as rain fell. The journey was arduous, but not complicated and after a couple of hours, we had arrived in Croyde!

Adam, Hannah, Arthur and Katy were there to meet us with freshly cooked lasagna. And as we ate, Steve, Anja and Luther arrived, followed by Jon. Finally, we were all together so the games could commence!

The first game was Steve’s egg game, in which he had to balance eggs on a shelf in the fridge door, unaware that it would give way any second. It did, with Steve unable to catch them all. In the blink of an eye we went from eighteen eggs down to three. There then came the tricky matter of how to pick up albumen from a kitchen floor. Mopping it up with a sponge? Scooping it up with a spatula? Steve worked hard to clean it up.

The second game was Steve’s beer game, in which he had to pour a drink from his new Old Speckled Hen mini-keg without it suddenly spurting drink everywhere. He lost. More cleaning up.

Steve's beer. Fresh from the mini-keg!

Finally, while Arthur and Luther were being put to bed, we played a real game. You know, one that comes in a box with rules. We chose Forbidden Desert, a nice co-op game to ease everyone into the weekend. Jon, Stanley, Katy, Sam, Adam and myself all tried to find the pieces of the ancient flying machine in the shifting sands of the aforementioned desert. But we couldn’t. We were able to stave off thirst, only to die, buried under piles of sand.

Next, Adam beat Steve at Hive, and Anja joined the group on the Big Table where they broke out Celestia. Sam took out the special action cards, apart from the jet pac and spy-glass, I think. They sped through two games of high drama.

Jon 55
Katy 38
Sam 36
Stanley 30
Anja 29


Anja 52
Jon 43
Stanley 39
Sam 36
Steve 33

During the second game, Adam beat Katy at Hey, That’s My Fish, 59-38. Then, Adam took over Arthur-duties and Hannah and I did battle in 7 Wonders Duel. I explained the rules to her, and spent most of the game balefully believing she had beaten me easy. But then I picked up a number of guilds in round three to come out an easy winner, 76-51.

By now there was talk of trying something a little more substantial. Anja, Steve and I played Snowdonia. For a change, we tried the Blaenau Ffestiniog variant. This involves the players choosing which end they start from, with the events alternating between ends.

It only added frustration, as best-laid plans were scuppered by the game triggering an event to dig/build/lay tracks in exactly the place we wanted. I was unable to build any station buildings at all. However, we kept our spirits up in these arduous times by singing the hits of Bernard Cribbins. Yes, all three of them.

Steve 72
Anja 52
Andrew 25

While all this fraught contemplation was going on, the other half of the room indulged in light-hearted party games. First, they played Deep Sea Adventure, featuring Katy’s plaintive wail of “but I was being so careful!”

Jon 29
Adam 14
Hannah 13
Katy 0

This was followed by Spyfall, the game of using questions to try and deduce which player is the spy who doesn’t know the secret location. Who won? I’ve no idea, but it ended with Jon coming into the kitchen complaining that he’s always the spy.

This was followed by 6 nimmt.

Katy 23
Adam 26
Sam 27
Hannah 44
Jon 66

Finally for them, after Hannah and Adam retired, they played Raj.

Sam 59
Jon 54
Katy 25


The very epicentre of the games weekend, and a whole day of games for all concerned. However, it was a slow start with people arising at different times, such that the thought of gaming was put to one side in preference for getting children to eat breakfast or trying to work out why the wi-fi/playstation2/TV/electric hob/wall socket doesn’t work.

In an attempt at getting us away from all this useless technology, we decided to walk to the nearby beach. Although the forecast was grim, the sun was out and myself, Sam, Stanley, Hannah, Arthur , Jon and Katy all set out defiantly into the buffeting wind.

The only game we played was pooh sticks between Jon, Katy and Stanley, which Jon won with his large chunk of branch beating Katy and Stanley’s twigs. Although we also played the running up and down the sand dunes game, which I was quite bad at and needed Jon to give me a helping hand.

As we were heading home we met Anja, Steve and Luther going the other way. After a brief chat and our friendly advice about which way they should go, we parted ways. We looked back and were impressed that they too were successfully attempting to scale the same huge dune that we had climbed.

We then paused at a local shop to buy pasties (English Breakfast Pasty was a big hit with me) before heading back.

Back at the house, there was still some time before lunch and so - at 11.45 - we began the first game of the day: Celestia!

Katy 52
Stanley 37
Andrew 37
Sam 36
Hannah 28
Jon 20

And this was followed by the serene delights of Takenoko. Hannah was the last to complete any actual cards, and was complaining how badly she was doing. Then she completed three high scoring cards in one turn and the game changed in her favour. Jon cursed his luck at only ever picking up green tiles (ironically, the colour that I wanted but never got). Katy was amazed at how badly she did at a game that she usually won. They seemed to find it a uniquely stressful game.

Hannah 38
Andrew 26
Jon 21
Katy 14

After Sam’s lunch of stuffed peppers, there was a kickabout in the garden for the more energetic of us, while others preferred to watch languidly from the sofa.

But soon we were back to the board games, and Hannah, Katy and Anja played Fauna while us guys hung out in the kitchen and played the slightly more boyish game of Cube Quest. We tried to complete a full league contain six players: Stanley, Adam, Andrew, Steve, Jon and Sam. We didn’t really get close but at the end the mini league looked like:

Sam 2 wins out of 2
Andrew 2 wins out of 3
Adam 2 wins out of 3
Steve 2 wins out of 3
Jon 1 wins out of 3
Stanley 0 wins out of 4

As grown men, should we be ashamed at how seriously we took our games against Stanley? Perhaps.

Cube Quest. A serious business.

Notable victories were Adam’s win over me, in which he picked out my king from a crowd of cubes. Also when Jon beat Stanley, his winning flick was so strong, the king flew off the table and hit Sam in the face.

Meanwhile, Fauna ended

Hannah 130
Katy 85
Anja 72

Hannah put down her comfortable win due to the fact that three animals came up that she already knew about, and she seemed somehow disappointed that she didn’t win by guessing. Surely rewarding knowledge is the whole point of the game.

Then I taught Adam how to play 7 Wonders Duel, and I didn’t patronise him by going easy on him just because it was his first go. I won 83-53. Meanwhile, Katy did not enjoy her introduction to Chocolatl, giving Dirk control of her game halfway through.

Sam 56
Steve 43
Hannah 43
Anja 33
Katy/Dirk 13

Then Steve and Anja broke away to prepare food, while Katy, Sam, Jon, Adam and me played a rousing game of Mystery at the Abbey. Adam found it hard going and, at two hours, it did last longer than I expected. Jon got a free revelation (ie, didn’t lose you points at the end of the game) and seemingly used it to confuse us, saying the murderer was a Franciscan, when it turned out to be a Templar. I successfully got the murderer, so I was happy at least. I don’t think Adam was impressed by how low-scoring a game it was for so much effort.

Andrew 2
Katy 2
Adam 2
Sam 0
Jon 0

Finally, I tried to teach Matcha to Adam, but the rule book text was too small and my brain couldn’t cope, and food was imminent. I apologised and gave up.

After a hearty feast of frittata, salad and something else I can’t recall, six of us played Midnight Party while the toddlers were being put to bed since this would be our last chance this evening to shout and scream.

Stanley 22
Katy 25
Steve 25
Andrew 27
Sam 34
Jon 44

Then Adam beat me twice on Hive, using the same tactic twice. Grr. Meanwhile, Jon introduced Hannah, Katy and Steve to Waggle Dance, another game of considerable length and low scores:

Jon 5 honey
Hannah 4 plus 5 nectar
Katy 4 plus 3
Steve 3

And Adam, Anja, Sam and me played a couple of games of No Thanks in which those who gambled on the high cards were richly rewarded for their bravery.

Sam 11 (with a run from 35-29)
Anja 15
Andrew 19
Adam 43

And then...

Anja 5 (with a run from 32-26)
Sam 19
Andrew 20
Adam 28

By now it was just past nine o’clock and anyone who wanted to play a long game needed to make a decision and convince others soon. Jon persuaded Adam and I to play Power grid with the promise of robots. Steve and Anja felt their chances of playing Wallenstein slipping away, as they agreed to an evening of short, fun games which would give Hannah the chance to bow out early if needed.

They played Celestia, the hit of the weekend.

Sam 51
Katy 43
Steve 34
Hannah 25
Anja 22

Then Bandu:

1. Steve
2. Anja
3. Hannah
4. Katy
5. Sam

And then, after a few retirements, Anja and Sam played a couple of games of Matcha, winning one game each.

On Power Grid, meanwhile, Adam played like a pro, quickly moving to trap Jon and me into a corner of the map. The robot, meanwhile, was actually a cardboard cut-out made up of several pieces with rules that the robot always obeys when it’s his turn. You can put this robot together from a wide selection, meaning it will almost never play the same way twice.

Anyway, there were a couple of hairy moments when the robot was in second place. The honour of the whole human race was at stake here. In the end, Adamn had such a good start that he could barely lose, even though Jon said Adam had made a big mistake in one of the closing rounds and might have ruined his chances. I hadn’t noticed anything.

Adam 17 cities
Jon 15
Andrew 14
Robot 13

And, with the time at midnight, the day was finally over. Phew.


And, as we all know, after Saturday came Sunday. Known for its sleepy slow awakenings and quiet gentle breakfasts. Unless you’re us, in which case it involves a massive space epic. I mean Eclipse, of course, and because Sam, Stanley and I were scheduled to head home mid-afternoon, we pushed for a meaty epic before lunch. Railways of the World was mooted until a thirst for new rules and sci-fi adventures won the debate and Eclipse was set up.

Sam talked us (Jon, Stanley, Adam and myself) through the rules, with Adam referring to the rules throughout, much to everyone’s dismay. Indeed, he found a couple of rule clarifications which would have helped his military plans if he’d known about them. This, at least, counts as mitigating circumstances regarding his final placing.

We played a truncated game, since (lunch) time was pressing. When round six ended, we finished with the scores at:

Jon 25
Stanley 22
Andrew 19
Sam 18
Adam 17

After this, while I made pizzas Steve and Anja played two games of Matcha, winning one each while Jon, Adam, Katy, Stanley and Sam played football. This was followed by a swift one-round blast of Raj for some of the mud-crusted footballers.

Stanley 20
Adam 12
Sam 8

Then at around three o'clock, Sam, Stanley and I set off back to Bristol, leaving the rest to play the “Five adults with child care duties decide what to play next” game.

Adam emailed me with scores and a little description of the final games of the weekend. Adam's home made Settlers of Catan finally got an airing. He reports...

Katie 10
Hannah 7
Adam 6
Jon 5

Katie got a strong position picking on the turn and ended up getting 5 wheat everytime 9 was rolled. Hannah was Close behind while John and I grumbled and stumbled in soundly beaten. Don't let the scores fool you into thinking it was close...

Waggle dance
Anja 5 honey, fewest dice
Steve 5 honey, next fewest dice
Katie 5 honey, more nectar
Hannah 5 honey, dead weight

7wonders duel:
Katy 74
Hannah 68

Anja 62
Adam 52
Steve 47

Steve was unceremoniously squashed between Anja and I. Meanwhile she and I danced around cagily loading more and more troops into Sachsen until Anja finally struck in the second last round, taking one territory and reducing another to one cube. That victory proved decisive as I collapsed to farmer revolts in the second winter and we were definitely finished by midnight...

- - - - - -

Thanks Adam. All that remains is the division. Well done, Drs Katy and Anja. Looks like Anja was right to insist on that game of Wallenstein after all.

 And, since we played quite a lot of two player games, I made a division for those games too.

Thanks, everyone. A lovely weekend and nice to get some epics onto the table. It'll be a long time until we have a table large enough to host five-player Eclipse.


  1. Well, I had a cracking time and so did Stanley. He held up the points ratio end from a Morrison perspective too... highlights for me were the beach, Spyfall, Celestia and though I didn't really grasp the mettle, Eclipse too. Football was also fun - I love a bit of mud, me.

    Thanks to everyone for the good times, and Andrew for the write-up and statto goodliness....

  2. All sounds heavenly. Well done Stanley for 2nd place in Eclipse - that's epic!
    And I'm most sad to have missed Anja and Adam dancing around cagily in Sachsen . . .

  3. Sorry to have missed it! I'll have to console myself with three days of gaming in Eastbourne this weekend...

  4. Thanks all, lovely weekend. My highlights were the gorgeous beach, the boys all playing together really nicely (thanks Stan for being so brilliant with your little fans), fabulous food, unexpected enjoyment of Bandu and of course the epic Wallenstein finale. :) Lu's was 'the police car'.