Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The Discharge Pile

This week, a mere (mere in quantity, not in quality) five gamers arrived at Sam’s house for their weekly dose of board games: Apart from the host, we were myself, Katy, Ian and Joe.

Joe was the last to arrive, and while we waited for him, we played Rhino Hero. Another reading of the rules gave us a method of grading us as 1st, 2nd, 3rd... instead of just having one loser. It would be leaderboard! However controversy reigned as the tower collapsed several seconds after Katy had completed her move and just as Ian was poised to put a card on top of the tower. Who was responsible for the fall? Arguments raged for tens of seconds before we agreed on joint third. Or joint last. Whichever you prefer.

1. Sam
2. Andrew
3= Ian
3= Katy

Then with Joe on his way, we discussed what five-player game we should set up. Viticulture was considered, but instead we chose Istanbul, because Katy thought she remembered liking it. Joe seemed happy with our choice when he arrived, and once he was taught the rules, we were off!

Katy went big on the black market, trying to stock up on gems. I went for a card-heavy tactic, but as a consequence had too few goods or cash and when I did have some goods, I kind of wasted them on an expensive gem from the Sultan’s Palace. Everyone chased the governor and the smuggler around and visited the mosques.Katy lead from the start, and swooped to a swift win by buying two gems from the gemstone dealer in one go. Ian snuck ahead of Sam by one coin.

Katy 5 gems
Ian 3 gems and 4 coins
Sam 3 gems and 3 coins
Andrew 2
Joe 1

Next, Joe introduced us to The Grizzled, a co-op game set in the trenches of the First World War. And, I have to say, it succesffuly recreates the confusion and feeling of bitter fatalism that I assume real trench warfare had. At least it did the first time we tried it.

In this game, we are all French soldiers, making our way through missions by playing cards from our hand while avoiding three-of-a-kind in anything, such as terrain (rain, snow, night) or threats (gas mask, shells, whistles).

Also we need to support each other in case one of us gets too many “hard knocks” – a kind of status change that makes the game more difficult. If anyone has four at the end of a round, the game ends in defeat. But if we can support our comrade, then they can discard two hard knocks. The simple aim of the game is to reduce a stack of cards until the dove at the end is revealed, while trying to avoid cards being taken from the other stack of cards which has a war memorial at the end.

The first game was confusing, and difficult to know what was going on or what was a good move. We didn’t do very well. But were we downhearted? No! We tried again, and this time did somewhat better. There was a brief moment of debate over whether Sam’s misunderstanding of a rule meant he could take back a turn even after Ian had taken his. In the end, we did, with Joe mumbling about “hollow victories.”

As it turned out, though, we didn’t even get that. With the dove card in sight we were unable to clear the final mission with everyone intact: Ian had five hard knocks and not enough people could support him so he couldn’t discard any.

Four of Ian's hard knocks

Next, we had a quick game of Tsuro. During this game, Katy (perhaps still thinking about WWI) called the discard pile “the discharge pile” Oh, how we laughed (quite drunk by now, you see). As for the game, I killed Ian, Joe killed me, and then Sam and Katy couldn’t do anything but throw themselves off the board, leaving Joe as last dragon standing.

1. Joe
2. Katy
3. Sam
4. Andrew
5. Ian

And we ended with a lovely game of Spyfall. And I’ll tell you what: we did not hang about with our accusations. In the first round, we accused Joe (can’t remember why) but it was Katy who was the spy. Next game, Katy made a fatal blunder. She was the spy, and she relied on her old familiar “What’s the atmosphere like in here?” except this was an outdoor scene. Sam drew attention to her gaffe and before long, she was voted out.

In the third round, Katy decided to bluff and brought suspicion on herself deliberately. But there’s no point in bluffing in Spyfall (unless you’re the spy) and she was voted out, giving the real spy Sam an easy win.

In round four Joe stopped the questioning and revealed himself as the spy. He almost won, too. He guessed we were in a circus tent, but we were actually in a theatre.

Then in round five, I was (rightly) accused as being the spy from very early on, and was voted out. This was annoying, since I’d worked out the location from only a few questions – a passenger train.

And with that, we were gone. Ready for Friday and the NSPCC big games bash thing in an art gallery. Possibly with no chairs. We shall see.


  1. Replies
    1. Something about a double booking, so they need to find more chairs.

  2. Apologies to Katy - we really didn't shut up about the discharge pile, did we?

  3. I enjoyed revisiting Istanbul - perfect length and weight for a five player Euro - a nice race aspect too. My rustiness showed though.

    I also really enjoyed The Grizzled - much shorter than Hanabi, and less clever perhaps, but clearly very hard to beat.

    I won at Tsuro! That's a rarity. Possibly even the first time that's happened. And Spyfall - much simpler playing with the actual set rather than my homebrew - and the roles help too I think.

    Thanks to Sam for hosting and all for a fine evening. Next time let's have songs by Discharge all evening! (Let's not).