This Tuesday, despite my best efforts at dawdling and checking my phone, I arrived early at Joe’s. His family were still in the kitchen eating, so I was escorted to the lounge. A rare treat, with its soft furnishings and lovely view. Katy arrived soon after and she went straight to the window to pick out Bristol landmarks.
Before long, more of us had arrived and Joe decided there were enough of us to take over the kitchen.
The first game was Birds of a Feather, and there were seven of us: Joe, myself, Ben, Matt, Andy, Ian and Katy. Sam was making a last minute dash to the off-licence while we played.
It was a nice warm-up to the evening. Katy complained that she didn’t know what to do, but rejected any suggestion that she should go Dirk. I sailed to a comfortable win, having completed two sets of bird-spotting.
Then Sam returned and we split into two groups. The evening began as an all Japanese affair, with one half of the table hosting Takashi Ishida’s Magical Athlete, and the other half featuring the Japan-based Tokaido, by 7 Wonders designer Antoine Bauza. And if that weren’t Japanese enough for you, I was on the Sake this evening.
Tokaido features the players travelling from Kyoto to Tokyo, stopping off at inns along the way, and also visiting temples, painting panoramas, buying souvenirs. These all give you points, and at the end of the game, there are bonuses for those how did the most of a particular activity.
The four pieces plod along the road, with the furthest back always the next player to go. This means that simply shooting off into a big lead is pointless, as you simply won’t move again until you’re overtaken.
Katy, Ben, Joe and Andy played Magical Athlete. Ben asked to play this solely based on the picture on the box. He must’ve been disappointed by the under-designed dirt brown track that the races would take place on.
Ian, Sam, Matt and myself went for Tokaido and, apart from Matt getting confused over what colour he’d chosen, it was quite a serene occasion. I was so serene that I let myself fall back into a distant last. Sam went big on souvenirs and the eternally skint artist, Ian, picked up lots of bonus points for panoramas.
Luckily, Magical Athlete ended at the same time as Tokaido.
So with the eight of us together again, we were able to reshuffle the groups. We split into two groups of four again. This time Katy, Ian, Sam and Matt chose Riff Raff while Joe, me, Andy and Ben played Isle of Trains.
Isle of Trains is a card game not dissimilar to Impulse in that the cards serve a number of functions: as parts of the train, as money to buy new parts and – if you rotate them – they become goods (timber, coal or oil) that you can load onto trains. And here’s the trick: loading goods onto other players’ trains gets you a bonus (more cards, an extra action etc). Once your train has enough, you can make a delivery, either to the discard pile (and then pick up more cards) or by picking up a card in the centre for points.
It’s all quite simple once you got going. Joe never upgraded his engine above the basic level, whereas I did, and I had a caboose to boost the pulling power. Ben upgraded to a level three engine pretty early on. Andy had trouble getting the cards he wanted, at one point having a hand containing only three level one engine cards.
By the time we’d ended, Riff Raff had long since finished....
... and they’d begun on Africana. Obviously, this evening was going to be an epic. I was too distracted to really appreciate what went on in Africana, but I did notice a couple of moments where players got confused about which colour they were.
To entertain ourselves, we four had a game of For Sale using Joe’s newly bought copy from Italy. The cards were nice and big, and the illustrations clearer. But it’s the same old For Sale that we know and love.
During this game, Ben found a packet of Skittles in his jacket pocket! Oh, how I wish I lead a life where things like that might happen to me. We all shared in a late-night sugar rush. They were all very welcome except that Katy said she didn't like the orange or purple ones. Insanity.
Then we discovered that Ben had missed his bus, so we played once more while Africana reached its closing stages.
When Africana finished, it was another win for Katy.
And with the time creeping past 11.30, we were away. What a night! Thanks to Joe for hosting, and to his patient family for letting us turf them out of their kitchen.
The Division makes its first appearance of the season, and after two weeks Katy has the lead in Points and the medal table, while Ben leads on Points Ratio.