This week was a special date in the GNN calendar. it was a Katy's birthday. However, due to a nasty cold, it was not the happiest of birthdays. Perhaps, we hoped, some good company and better games would improve matters.
There were seven of us at Adam's: Adam, Ben, Andy, Ian, Katy, and myself with Joe expected along shortly. We tried to think of a nice group game we could all enjoy together, but without Martin or Sam or Joe, we were short of options. No Pairs, no Celestia, no Push It, barely anything. Only 6nimmt was available, and so we played that.
Since we were expecting Joe to arrive soon, we dealt in Dirk as a dummy hand that Joe could take over once he arrived. As you might expect from a random series of cards, Dirk veered from uncanny escapes to hopeless doom. But then again, so did the rest of us.
Midway through the second round, Martin arrived, all aglow with the joys of new fatherhood. He was only supposed to say hello, but with an unclaimed stack of cards on the table, he couldn't resist the invitation and took over Dirk's role for the rest of the game.
After this, Martin set off home and Joe arrived. He'd brought Birds of a Feather with him (the game, not a DVD box set of the sitcom) and since it played seven, he explained the rules and we all had a couple of games.
The game is very simple. From your hand of cards (with birds on), everyone plays one card into to centre. You, as a birdspotter, can see any birds that are in the same environment as the card you played. This means, you can tick off those birds on your scorepad. Then all these cards move into the centre, but stay face up, giving you the opportunity to spot birds that you missed with your next card (assuming you have the right environment in your hand).
It was fun and surprisingly thinky.
In the next game we played an extra rule: the raptor rule. This means that when a raptor (a bird of prey) is played, all the birds from the previous round from the same environment are scared off (turned face down) and can't be spotted.
A nice, relaxing game. Joe said that he wished he had some recordings of birdsong as a background. I have a feeling it's also meant to be educational, but I didn't look at the cards enough.
Then we split into two groups. Andy, Adam and Ian went the hard route, battling each other with tactics and pasties in that old favourite: Tinners' Trail.
We remaining four struck out into lighter territory with another new game from Joe: Karuba. He described it as a cross between Incan Gold and Take It Easy, and that's exactly what it was. Four meeples are placed along two sides of each players' playing area and four temple (of matching colours) are placed along the opposing two sides. Everyone starts with an identical set-up.
Then one player picks their tiles randomly, while the other players choose the same one from their supply and then play it on their area. The tiles have paths, and the idea is to get your meeples to their matching temples, picking up any gold (two points) and diamonds (one point) on the way.
We played twice and in game one, I did well. I put down to crossroad tiles in the middle of the board and they were very useful in ferrying my meeples to where they needed to be.
So, in the second game, I tried the same tactic again, except the crossroad tiles didn't come out. In fact, hardly any junctions at all came out, and before long I was stuck, not wanting to put down tiles nor was I able to move my men.
Halfway through the second game, Katy's cold started a coughing fit and she had to retire for a few minutes. When she came back, we insisted that she rest her throat, so it was an uncommonly mute Katy who chose the tiles and held them up for us to see. This inconvenience didn't stop her from winning, just one point ahead of Ben.
In the other room, Cornwall was still being plundered for its natural resources, so we played Castle Crush. It was new to Ben and I, but the rules are pretty straightforward: built a castle to protect your king and general from the cudgel of doom that topples from a circular platform onto your opponent's structure.
That's the theory, anyway. The two newbies began with contrasting fortunes. My first castle proved unexpectedly strong (I'm still not sure why). But on Ben's turn he tried to attack Katy's castle, only for the cudgel to bounce off harmlessly and it ended up hitting the side of his own castle and the king and general both popped out the other side.
But after that, Ben had better luck (or was it skill) and he quickly made up lost ground. Joe seemed think he was being picked on. Perhaps he was. Either way, his strong final round castle (withstanding two hits with barely a tremor) was not strong enough and Ben dealt the decisive blow.
Tinners' Trail had ended by now, too. Adam had done enough to overturn Ian's high scoring first and third rounds.