Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Dad on Arrival

This Tuesday we congregated at Sam’s. Apart from myself and the host, there were Ian, Andy, Joe and – making his first full appearance since becoming a father – Martin.

At the very beginning, Andy was still to arrive and Joe was too busy eating his roast chicken supper from a Tupperware container so the four of us were cajoled into the first game of the evening by an eager Martin.

It was Librium, a balancing game (which is why we had to play it before Andy got here) and it was apparently an impulse buy when Martin was in Cardiff earlier. It involves balancing interlocking credit cards on a tripod (“A tripod!” exclaimed Martin in awe). Winner is the last person who hasn’t caused a minor collapse.

1. Ian
2. Sam
3. Martin
4. Andrew

After this, with Andy present and Joe with both hands free, we played Diamonsters. It’s a very simple trick-taking game with two ways to win a round (and collect a jewel): Win cards that have a total of five or more diamonds on them, or win three of the same monster. We played until someone had two jewels.

The cards only number from 1 to 5, and since draws cancel out, there were plenty of occasions were people’s plans interfered with each other. It all seemed a bit random to me, but Ian appeared to have a better idea about what to do.

Ian 2 jewels
Sam 1 jewel
Andy, Joe, Martin, Andrew no jewels at all

As we were getting ready to play Diamonsters, Sam was occupied elsewhere when Sally came back. She popped in to say hello, saw Diamonsters and asked Joe if it was his new game. Joe was stumped for a reply. He didn’t know if Diamonsters was a surreptitious new purchase and if he said “No,” he might have landed Sam in hot water. But if it wasn’t and he said “Yes” then he would have been lying. And that’s not nice. In the end, he explained his hesitation and Sally laughed, impressed that Joe would consider taking a hit for the team.

Finally, before we split into two groups for the night’s main features, we all played Birds of a Feather. It’s become a favourite for a quick yet agonising game. And, for some reason, I keep forgetting to photograph it.

It was Sam’s and Martin’s first game, so Joe dealt out a dummy round to demonstrate. In this random example, Joe seemed to have played a terrible move, and Joe swiftly pointed that out in case anyone thought that he thought that playing the same card twice was a sensible thing to do.

Once we got going, the newbies seem to take to it fairly quickly. Andy, though, complained about his hand right at the start and his prediction was spot on.

Ian 35 (three locations completed!)
Martin 30
Sam 30
Andrew 29
Joe 26
Andy 20

Now we split into two groups and two new games were set up. At the far end, Sam, Ian and Martin played Origin. Nearer me (obviously) the rest of us played Cyclades.

Cyclades was a proper old-fashioned eurogame, and as Joe explained the rules it occurred to me that this was the most rule-heavy game I’d learnt in a while. The main mechanic of the game is the bidding. In a three-player game, we can bid on three gods. If someone bids higher then you have to change your bid to another god. I’ve seen this game mechanic before (can’t remember where) and it does rely on someone else really wanting to bid on a God that you don’t want so if you get bumped off your first bid, you will be bumped off your second bid and allowed to go back to your first. The bidding ends when each god has a bid on it.

Then these bids are paid, the actions carried out on the map and that’s more or less it. Apart from the mythological creatures who you can buy and use their powers to aid you.

It’s quite confrontational. Andy quickly replaced one of Joe’s ships with one of his own thanks to the mythical Sirens. And then thanks to Chimera, was able to use a card from the discard pile which, at that time, only contained Sirens, so Andy used Chimera, and then Sirens and replaced one of my ships with one of his.

But Joe had the final say, using Pegasus to transport an army across the map to attack my island with a metropolis on it. He won the battle and therefore got a second metropolis, ensuring the win. We ended the game there and then but we should have continued to the end of the round to see if Joe could hold on to that second metropolis.

I wasn’t bothered, though. I liked it, but it seemed to lack a certain something. Andy said that the bidding didn’t really work and perhaps it would’ve made more sense to be able to bid further up the track you’re already on instead of having to move to a different god. A quick look on the Geek confirmed that it was considered best with 4-5 players.

1. Joe, two metropolises
2. Andy, lots of armies
3. Andrew, not much left on the board

On the other half of the table, they had long finished Origin:

Martin 75
Ian 64
Sam 42

... and started a game of Ra. In this game, Martin was given free reign on the bidding track at the end with two bidding tiles in hand. Despite lots of monuments in play, Sam and Ian couldn’t close the gap.

Martin 62
Sam 39
Ian 29

After this, we dashed off two games of For Sale. Joe picked up the 1 card for free, insisting it was a solid card since you know what you’re going to get.

Martin 55
Sam 47
Andy 45
Ian 45
Andrew 35
Joe 35

And then, in the second game Martin fell foul of some big bids in the second half of the game as he played high cards and got poor returns.

Andy 54
Sam 46
Andrew 44
Ian 43
Joe 42
Martin 38

Martin slightly ruefully said he shouldn’t have played that last game, since otherwise it was a sterling performance with no sign of the drop in form that effected Sam and Adam after their babies. He, Ian and Andy all set off together.

But me, Sam and Joe stayed for one last game: Kodama. This is a simple card game where you build a tree, getting points for chaining together certain features (stars, caterpillars, mushrooms, etc) and also for fulfilling certain criteria for bonus points.

It was a pleasant and calming way to end the evening. I sped into a late win with my last round bonus card getting me thirty points.

Andrew 135
Sam 120
Joe 113

And with that, the evening was finally done and the GNN whiskey bought by Katy on my birthday was also finally finished off. Thanks, Katy!

On the Division, Ian rises to the top in points while Ben and Katy hold on to points ratio and the medal table respectively.


  1. I think the bidding system Cyclades may have reminded you of was in League of Six, Andrew. Long traded away now, but I thought it was ok actually...

    I shot myself in the foot with Origin, misunderstanding my first 'goal' card, and then realized late in the game that you're only allowed to play one card of each colour - a pretty basic thing to miss! But for all that it was fun - I'm just not keen on games where cards kind of screw things up for you, so I'd take the not-massively-dissimilar Mexica over Origin for that reason.

    Liked Birds of a Feather too. I think Diamonsters is a game for 2 or 3; it's far too chaotic with six.

  2. Great to be back, and to fit in so many games! Librium was definitely the most fun game with a tripod I've ever played. Diamonsters I will charitably agree will be better with fewer players. Birds of a Feather is quite neat but didn't blow me away. Origin was cool - sorry that you bore the brunt of my dickish cards Sam, you just always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time! Ra and For Sale were a magnificently familiar finish after 4 new-to-me games.

  3. Oh and I'm not infallible rules-wise - the straits and hunting tiles should have been face-up.

    1. Whaaast??! That changes everything

  4. Cyclades performed true to its reputation on the Geek - abrupt ending by Pegasus (though as Andrew points out, more abrupt than it should have been in our case).
    Abrupt ending by Pegasus is a bit like death by chocolate but less satisfying and even worse for your waistline.
    I'd like to try it with four or five. It has cards, Sam, but they come out one at a time so at the beginning of a round you can all familiarise yourselves with what the new card does. And the text is not on the card, it's in an accompanying booklet!
    Think I'd rather play Raj than Diamonsters, and Kodama was okay; I like the mix of decrees for each round and scoring cards from your hand. I'd like to play again when less tired (drunk). I wasn't crazy about the art, and that shouldn't matter but for some reason it does. A bit. Anyway, lovely evening, thanks all.

    1. Yeah I wouldn't put Diamonsters up there with Raj but I'm keen to try it with 3. Kodama's art I quite like! Sorry

  5. I agree with Martin; Librium is the most fun game with a tripod I've played.

    Diamonsters was all right. I'd play it again happily but I also think I'd rather play Raj. I liked the monster designs though.

    I enjoyed Origin; I thought it had fairly simple and intuitive rules but also felt like had a lot of depth. The cards weren't too wordy, which can be a problem at times. Really nice to look at too.

    Cheers folks!