There’s no winner, only one loser: the player who knows the tower down. I lost.
During this, Ben arrived and we weren’t expecting Joe to arrive for another ten minutes, so we began a good old fashioned game of Pairs. Sam went out immediately in the first two rounds (two eights, then two tens) and then Joe turned up, so we made it a brief dash to eleven points. My lassiez-faire attitude to twisting gave rise to the phrase that is this week’s blog title.
With all six of us around the table we began the night proper. We chose Last Spike as a game we could all play together. It was new to Sam, whose evening was to be noteworthy for the amount of new rules he had to take in.
The Last Spike is all about holding on to your best pieces and hoping for a few payouts. The game could’ve been much shorter, as a route across the board through the centre was only two tracks away from being finished. But it must have been two different players who held those tiles, since neither was placed (allowing the other to take the $20k bonus for finishing the route).
Ben had to sell a share since he ran out of money thinking he could pass if he couldn’t build, which probably contributed to his poor showing. Sam did well for a beginner and I got lucky (again!) and placed the last track tile. Without that $20k bonus, I would’ve been a feeble last.
But well done to Joe, who was unlucky in the early stages and got no free stations at all. But he promised to demonstrate how some judicious purchases could override his bad luck. And he did.
Now we split into two. Katy, Sam and Joe chose Russian Railroads for their evening’s main course, while Ian, Ben and I decided (after not being able to find Istanbul) to play 7 Wonders.
This GNN favourite is new to Ben, and I thought it would be a perfect time to introduce him to it. I explained the rules to him and, instead of overloading him all at once with every detail, I spread my explanation out across most of the game by saying “Oh. One more rule...” every time something occurred to me.
It must have been a decent method, since Ben just scraped a victory in his first game of 7 Wonders.
After this I suggested we play again. I was keen to get rid of explainer’s curse and see how he’d cope against a fully focused opponent.
Obligatory reference to 7 Wonder's artwork
Turns out, he coped pretty well. Apart from knocking some bottles (thankfully all empty) across the table mid game, Ben played well, recording an even bigger win than before. In fact, after the first three scoring rounds (money, military and wonders) I had one point, Ian had eight, and Ben had forty-one! A large gap to recover.
Luckily, I had my blue buildings and Ian had his sciences. It wasn’t enough to secure a win, but at least it wasn’t too humiliating.
At the other end of the table, Russia still had plenty of Railroading to be done (and it looked like Sam and I had missed out on a lot of rules in our recent two-player jaunt), so we had enough time to play something else.
I went to get Biblios, but I came back with Raj. I figured even I could explain these rules in one go and not have to keep going back and adding something new.
We played a three round game, and in round one it looked like Ben was going to crush us all over again as he took an early 43, 4, -4 lead.
But Ian and I are nothing if not persistent, and over the next two rounds we limited him to four points per round and, in doing so, I took the chance to close the gap. Admittedly I got some luck (or was it skill?) getting a nine-tile with my one with Ian and Ben played their fifteens.
I got a little bad luck a few minutes later, but nothing I couldn’t handle.
In the end, I took first place.
And Russian Railroads was just finishing too. Katy, who’d seemed quite keen on the game earlier, had not played well in the final stages. She blamed her last place on Sam “producing a bit of magic” in the final round. Joe, again from a weak start (where he’d begun all four scoring tracks), sailed to a handsome victory.
Now we were six again, and Dead Man’s Chest had been sitting patiently on the table all evening and now it was its chance to shine! Sam got an explanation of the rules. But he kept forgetting that doubles were high, and when he bid 44 as a middling, innocuous bid, Katy challenged and he was out. It didn’t help that he had his little chart of dice values upside-down for a while.
Joe kept saying that “Dead Man” (21) came out more often than you’d think, but when he bid Dead Man this time, Katy challenged and he was out.
Ben had to leave for the bus, and I smartly dispatched of Ian and Katy to take the win.
And with that, we were done. It was 11.30. Katy, Joe and I walked off together, discussing politics and how Katy can stop her need to win spoiling her enjoyment of games.
And then, the next morning, when I emptied out my bag, I found a bag of Skittles in there! Thanks, whoever it was. I hope it was one of you guys, otherwise it means I had a trip to a 24-hour garage that I have no recollection of.
We haven’t seen the leaderboard for two weeks, but Ian is still top. Meanwhile, Joe now has points ratio and I head the medals table.