When I arrived, Ian was there too, setting up Riff Raff. Chris wasn’t there, so we decided to start playing and he would be bound to turn up. Seconds later, he arrived.
It was a longish game of Riff Raff, with all of us picking up fallen items at one point. Sam’s revolutionary tactic of hanging the sailor off a yardarm by his other arm worked a treat and he stayed there for the rest of the game, but it was Chris who got all his items aboard first.
Then we discussed which game to play as our main event. We all stood in front of Sam’s games wall, slightly pulling out games that we were considering and then pushing them back when we decided against them. Viticulture won the debate, and so it was brought to the table.
Sam’s record on this game is not great. Apart from a second place, he’s suffered a couple of heavy last places. It seemed like this time he was determined not to let the same thing happen again.
The first time he’d played Viticulture, he’d tried selling a field for money, but found it held him back. He tried the same tactic again (even having two field sold at one point), but with far better results using the money to train more workers and build more buildings. In fact, so invested was he in the world of wine-making that he finished off a bottle of the stuff almost single handed.
Sam's early lead
The rest of us trailed Sam for most of the game. I simply never got going, with few workers and an empty field that I should have sold. A recurring theme was, whenever someone played a card, the other three would jokingly complain how unbalanced the cards were. This may be true, but I think all four of us relied on the cards a lot.
As the game reached its closing stages, Chris suddenly broke away from the trailing pack, completing a number of orders to put last minute pressure on Sam. He couldn’t quite manage it, though.
By now it was 9.40, and we were in the mood for some lighter games. Poison was chosen first, as a welcome blast from the past. Chris explained how he was trying to perfect a new riffle shuffle technique. This “delicate riffle,” as he called it, didn’t put so much strain on the cards by bending them. Such commitment to gaming left Ian and I speechless.
During the game, Sam’s King Creosote playlist took a turn for the ambient. At first, I fell into a Celtic reverie, babbling about old fishermen with beards and calloused hands appearing through the mist. Then, as the ambiance became more electro, it felt like an episode of Wallander where the angst-ridden detective had taken a day off to play his favourite Reiner Knizia game.
The classic opening gambit
I can’t remember if Poison is supposed to be a raucous knock-about game or not, but we played one round in almost complete silence.
Next up was Love Letter. “Ian always wins Love Letter,” Sam declared, trying to curse Ian into losing. It didn’t seem to work initially, as Ian won the first round with a shitty Baron.
The music was changed to prog rock bands. Sam, Sally (in the background, doing domestic things) and myself contributed some lovely three part harmonies on the first chorus of “More Than A Feeling.” I briefly regretted not wearing a jacket so I could roll the sleeves up, especially when the playlist (via Phil Collins) morphed into the soundtrack from Miami Vice.
As for the game, despite Ian being dubbed “the Tony Pulis of Love Letter,” he couldn’t replicate his usual form. It was another win for Sam.
Finally, we knocked off a couple of games of Push It. First to seven, Chris lead from the start:
And then first to five. I got to four points quickly and then suffered some yips as everyone closed the gap. I had just enough gaming gas left in the tank, though. It helped that the puck was knocked over in my direction on the last round.
Games were played, drinks were drunk. Now all that was left was for the way home to be wended.