Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Diamonds, gems and cold, hard cash

Tuesday games night at Joe’s was a packed affair. Nine of us (Joe, Sam, Martin, Andy, Katy, Ben, Ian and me) were in attendance.

We pooh poohed the idea of a big collective game to start with, and split neatly into two groups: Sam, Martin, Matt and Andy went off to play Diamonds: a trick-taking card game that Martin bought. The remaining five chose Lords of Vegas, with its new Up expansion, which allowed a casino to be raised up at a cost of $15 million per square, which meant it scored more points and protected itself from potential take-overs. Also, it allowed up to six players, which is a blessing, since the four spaces in a regular game tend to be over-subscribed.

Nine people in one kitchen needed two tables to hold both games. At one point, Joe had to get things for his family that they needed from the now-inaccessible other side of the kitchen.

Diamonds flew by without me following it. It ended:

Sam 37
Martin 34
Matt 32
Andy 25

In Vegas, it was quickly looking like Ben’s night. As it should be since, after all, he had bought a copy of the game so he could practise. I reminded everyone of this, and Ben had to keep insisting that he’d only played once.

The dice rolls went his way, too. When Ben took over a single tile casino belonging to Katy, she rerolled there dice to try and get it back. At first she turned a 5-2 loss into another 5-2 loss, and then on her next go, she rolled again and got a 5-1 loss. She stopped trying after that.

I got lucky too with the plots I drew from the deck. After a bit of sprawling, I soon found myself with the rare opportunity of getting a seven-tile casino, with only one opposing die to threaten me. And threaten me he did. In a glorious last-ditch attempt Ian reorganised my casino, hoping his one die would score higher than any of my six. It didn’t, but we all admired his optimism.

Joe never really got going. His early hopes of a large casino evaporated as the plots in between went to Ben and Katy. Ian’s winning run finally ended and the scores were:

Ben 29 plus $69m
Andrew 29 plus $28m
Katy 20
Ian 18
Joe 16

While we were finishing off our wheeling and dealing, the Diamonds crew had a game of Steel Driver. This new (to us) Martin Wallace game had its debut on GNN only a couple of days ago. Martin was not a newcomer to the game, but after five years, how much of its strategy would he remember?

Well, enough. He won a close match, and the scores made it look like a tense game, but Andy pointed out that they didn’t know how close they were while they were actually playing.

Martin $1,940
Sam $1,850
Matt $1,840
Andy $1,810

Finally, we all joined together to play Dead Man’s Chest. This is a new game of bluffing, not dissimilar to Perudo. Except there are only two dice. One player shakes a box with the dice in, looks at them, calls out a number, and then passes them on to the next player. If the new player thinks the dice show a value less than the number called (ie, a 2 and a 62 would become sixty-two: highest number always becomes the ten) then they can challenge. Whoever is wrong loses a gem. Doubles are higher than any non-doubles, except for 21, which is highest of all.

If he or she doesn’t think its less, they can simply raise the bet and pass on the box without looking. Or they can shake the box, look at the dice, say a new number (which must still be higher than the last) and pass it on. Or they can shake, look and then if they don’t like it they can shake again and pass it on without looking and say a number. Effectively, a blind bid.

However, it only plays eight. Joe said he was happy to act as referee, and he explained the rules to us. But then we realised we each had a different section of the rules on the back of our card detailing the different possible dice results. So we read out the rules to ourselves! Joe stood in the corner and watched the game unfold and he admitted he felt a bit like a games pervert, just standing in the shadows, silently watching.

Talking of shadows, Joe’s explanation of the rules seemed to have a lovely chiaroscuro feel to it, complete with a range of pensive expressions from onlookers.

The final standing were (from last to first)

8. Ben (out by Ian who blind bid 62, and it was indeed 62)
7. Sam (out by Martin who blind bid 61 and it was 63)
6. Katy (Ian bid 33. She bid 44 and passed it to Matt. Matt challenged.)
5. Ian (out by Martin who blind bid 44. Ian challenged. It was 55!)
4.Andrew (out by Andy who bid 66, and it was 21)
3. Martin (out by Andy who bid 55 and it was 66)
2. Andy (out by Matt, challenging a bid of 62)
1. Matt wins! With two gems remaining!

What an end to an evening.

On the Division, little changes, except for Martin’s lead getting ever longer.


  1. Diamonds was pretty neat, but Dead Man's Chest was the hit of the night for me.

    I also discovered we'd made a pretty major rules error in Steel Driver. I think I would have won anyway though ;)

    Nice to see my points ratio is approximating to pi.

    And fantastic pic of LoV!

  2. How unlike me to get a rule wrong. I enjoyed all those games - Diamonds was pretty neat although I'm sure you could play it with a standard deck really. Steel Driver I quite enjoy as well; like Macao the way to master it seems elusive. Maybe too much so, I dunno.

    Dead Man's Chest was great. At first I found the turn options slightly confusing what with looking/not-looking shaking/not-shaking shaking-again/not-looking-again... but got there in the end. I looked on BGG and the designer's name has been misspelled on the box: it's not Paul Jeffries - it's actually Paul Jefferies!

    Paul, how long has this been going on?

  3. Lovely - that's surely a still from Glengarry Glenross, not our little old games night. Brilliant pic Andrew!
    And it's Dead Mans Chest Martin, (unless you were admiring the pic of LoV).
    Thanks for a great evening peeps - birdwatching next time!

    1. Yeah, I was talking about the LoV one. The other one's good too though :)

  4. New rule - I shall always game in rolled up shirt sleeves. And we must all be serious all the time.

  5. Diamonds had made it to my Geek wishlist, but I fear the concept sounded more fun than the game itself. Need to play again, though, to see whether I'm right, but currently removed from wishlist.

    Just looked at the Steel Driver rules online and there's a very helpful overview section that we missed. Looks like the rule that we got wrong was paying out profits each round to shareholders per share, rather than just to the person controlling the company that turn. "Other players who may have shares in a company do not receive a payout." It also clearly states the initial turn order for track laying. D'oh! Interesting game, though, and one that definitely needs playing again soon while I have some idea about what is going on.

    Should we tell Martin that Dead Man's Chest was a Kickstarter game?

    1. Andy if you let me teach you a game you know you're getting an unintended variant! Martin spotted this too and yeah we should play again so we experience the game proper. I think if we all 'know' it it'd be under an hour playtime