Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Rocket Lollies!

The last evening of the season almost didn’t happen at all, with lots of regulars away or unable to attend. It was only thanks to Joe’s late offer to host that Ben and Katy and I were housed safely in our GNN bunker with Brexit-talk strictly off-limits.

Since there were four of us, Joe suggested Tichu. I was unwilling, but happy to play if the others were fine with it. And Ben and Katy seemed fine with it, so Joe explained the rules to them. For a game that takes only an hour, we were dilligent with the rules explanation. We even played a demo hand with all cards out in the open. The only dodgy bit was halfway through when there was a knock at the front door and we all froze thinking it might be another GNNer, meaning all our rule-learning would have been for nought.

Then we started the game proper. I was paired with Joe and Katy was with Ben. Maybe this was unfair since I’d played the game before (a few years ago, on my phone, with little joy) and the other two were complete newbies but whatevs. That’s life.

The game itself was a bit of a procession to victory for Joe and I. After two rounds it was 200 points to –200 points. Then, after round three Katy was annoyed she hadn’t had a chance to play her straight. When she showed it to us we saw that it was all the same suit: in other words “a bomb,” which is a hand that can win a trick at any time. She hadn’t realised and was so annoyed at herself that she went to the toilet before coming back and apologising to Ben.

After round four the score was 575 to 0. Then in round five, Joe went out in four rounds with none of the rest of us getting a trick. With the score at 775 to –200, I was keen to end the game, if only to get another game on the table since Katy was getting agitated.

Luckily I was able to call Grand Tichu (for 200 points) and successfully get it in just three hands (won on an ace, 7-card straight, full house) and this finished the game.

Andrew and Joe 1,040
Katy and Ben –170

Despite the margin of defeat, Katy and Ben both seemed keen to play again. Perhaps they want to avenge their defeat. Joe ssaid that Martin would be jealous when he found out we’d played Tichu without him, but Martin can take solace in the fact that there seem to be three new converts to the game.

After this game, or perhaps during it, Ben brought out some lovely spirits he’d brought back from Malta. These two tiny bottles packed a bit of a punch and once we’d sampled both completely, we were all a bit drunk. One bottle was Carob flavoured, while the other was Bajtra (or cactus fruit). This second one was a huge hit, with Katy and I comparing it to those Rocket shaped lollies you got in the past, whereas Joe and Ben thought it was more like Watermelon flavour Jolly Ranchers.

After Tichu, Joe brought in a selection of quick games. Since his table had his green felt tablecloth on it, it seemed wrong not to play a dice game, so we went for Las Vegas.

By now, alcohol was flowing freely through our veins, such that Joe tried to work out the odds of a dice roll by multiplying 1/5 by 1/5 etc, apparently unaware that a die has six sides. Also, despite my copious notes, the reasons behind a new GNN insult has been lost to the mists of time: “I’m going to use my dick on you” was employed as a general term of abuse when foiling another player’s plans.

And I attempted to compliment Katy on her brave play by saying “I like her chutzpah!” but got the pronunciation so wrong that I appeared to be saying “I like her foot spa!” which was not my intention. Finally, after we’d used the term several times, Joe told us that the phrase “shooting your wad” wasn’t sexual at all, but dated back to the time of the musketeers. He then mimed the motion of tapping down the powder in the gun barrel with some side-to-side motions of his fist which seemed to undermine his original point.

Meanwhile, the game was mean, with plenty of attempts at foiling other plans. In the final round – perhaps foolishly – everyone held onto their black dice for too long. However, Joe was able to profit most from the fall of the dice.

Joe 510
Andrew 310
Ben 270
Katy 160

And so the evening and the season ended more or less as it began. With only one leaderboard game played tonight, Katy’s slim chance of catching Ian evaporated, and coming in last behind me meant that she couldn’t steal the medal table at the last minute.

So well done to Ian for topping the division, and congrats to Hannah for points ratio and myself for the medal table. But congrats to everyone for loving board games. What a glorious evening! What a glorious hobby!

Friday, 24 June 2016

House Rules!

My mum said she couldn't face watching or talking about Brexit last night, so instead we played games.

We started with Dice Heist at around 7pm. Only a few of us have played it at GNN, but it's a fun game of luck-pushing where you're stealing stuff from art museums. My mum betrayed her oft-denied competitive streak by claiming a card after not announcing a targeted raid, then said it was my fault for "talking". Really mum! It's this kind of behaviour that will give the UK a bad name.

Stanley: won by loads
Sam: somewhere in the middle
Mum: lost by loads

The boys headed off to bed and we broke out the Scrabble. Mum and I have been playing this for years, and - thanks in no small part to fighting it out online with Chris - I think I win more often than not. But there are several house rules to be taken into account: changing the root meaning of a word is +5pts, blanks can be claimed back from the board by placing the tile of the letter they represent in their place, and points can be awarded for 'style' - an enigmatic quality at the best of times.

Last night we also introduced the final rack rule - you can play any combo of letters you like, as long as you can justify it with a fictional definition inside ten seconds. I managed to get out an acronym-based slang for ejector seats (airc) and the noise old men make getting out of a chair (hn). Mum gave a definition that was so long, I now can't remember what the word was.

And I won, but that was only because my mum found a 7-letter word for me. Another family convention is the freedom to insist on viewing your opponents'  tiles and being told where to put them.

Sam 364
Mum 334

With Sally now back from her class, I insisted we play Knit Wit. We really must play this at GNN, it's great. Throw out a few loops with words (sometimes phrases) attached to them, place spools in the loops: you create a venn diagram where spools are caught in one or more loops. Then you have to write a word or series of words that defines the spool - so, for instance, my word for Historical, Purple and Small was Prince.

Before we got to the answers the ladies were underwhelmed to say the least. I think this was the exchange pretty much verbatim:

"Who invented this? It looks like an old man, who still lives with his mum"
"Yeah, and his cat has just died."

But when we got to the answer-giving stage they got into it a lot more. I was very impressed with Sally's answer for Out in the Open, Secret and Stinky: a stash of blue cheese in a hedge. My mum struggled with the pace of it - there's a racing element and it's possible you run out of time - but enjoyed the silliness, which the game actively encourages. It doesn't encourage smuttiness, but I blame the wine.

We played again; I'd won the first game by a point but Sally took the honours in the second.

It was around 11pm now so we bashed out a couple of games of Pairs. "I like this!" my mum exclaimed. Then she kept going bust, often on her second card. "I just want to win!" she said. Then she did win - a round - and immediately lost all interest: "I've done it now! I don't care about the rest"

So Sally and I fought it out and won a game each. And with that, we went to bed.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Cheap hills

Oh, Tuesdays. You wend through our lives like a glittering river through open dales and fens. This week it wended through Joe’s house, with Katy, Adam, Matt, Ian, Sam and myself making up the seven combatants for the night.

The main point of interest at the start were the snacks. I’d brought these new Dill Pickle flavoured Pringles, which were either loved or hated, while Sam broke out the Roast Beef Monster Munch.

By the way, combining the two was strangely underwhelming.

Then Joe brought out some Honey Mustard Broken Pretzels and Adam, not to be left behind, had a packet of Skittles. We need a leaderboard for snacks!

We began with a seven player version of Dice Heist. The official game only goes up to five, but when Sam asked Joe if he had any spare dice, Joe’s slightly offended expression that Sam even had to ask told us that he had. Before too long, we all had a black die each and plentiful supplies of white dice to use as sidekicks.

It works okay as a seven-player. A bit of a gap between goes, but otherwise perfectly serviceable. Mind you, I would say that: Some games and artifacts and the best collection of paintings pushed me into first. Poor old Joe had a hard time stealing anything, ending up with a solitary painting that at least meant he didn’t get the minus four points for worst art collection.

Andrew 18
Adam 14
Katy 14
Sam 8
Matt 5
Ian 3
Joe 0

Next we split into two groups. Joe, Katy, Ian and Sam went for Fools’ Gold, the new push-your-luck worker-placement game that’s taking GNN by storm. Adam, Matt and I went for Kingdom Builder.

Now, each of us have some kind of form on Kingdom Builder. I used to be top of the KB Division in points ratio, but that was a long time ago. Matt’s win ratio is 50% (played four, won twice) and Adam is... well, he’s Adam.

Once again I fell behind when it came to picking up those bonus-move tokens. Adam was quickest off the block to grab them, and they helped him finish off his settlements first and claim a win.

Adam 74
Matt 69
Andrew 51

Fool’s Gold was only halfway through, so we began a game of 7 Wonders to keep ourselves occupied. I found it odd to unbox Joe’s copy 7 Wonders after being so used to Sam’s copy. Where was the molded plastic insert? Why weren’t the cards already sorted for a three-player game? So confusing.

The game itself wasn’t, though. It was as familiar as old socks. I avoided military and went for blue buildings and my lovely 20-point Giza pyramid. It worked.

Andrew 65
Matt 58
Adam 49

At the same time, Fool’s Gold ended. It had certainly seemed like an exciting game, with everyone commiserating with each other about how bad their luck was, not matter if they were in mountains or hills, rivers or lakes.

Sam 35
Joe 29
Ian 23
Katy 23

And with us all back together it was time for Dead Man’s Chest! This game of bluffing is so simple that we keep forgetting the rules. Lower is bad, right? Anyway, I played well. At least, I just passed on Sam’s bid, raising it by one, to Matt who then had to decide what to do. He chose badly, and was out first.

Adam won kudos for getting Katy to lose a gem by bidding “Dead Man.” Your only choice is to challenge or shake and bid Dead Man again, neither of which are very likely to end in success.

That was the only gem she lost, though.

1. Katy
2. Adam
3. Andrew
4. Sam
5. Joe
6. Ian
7. Matt

And finally, it was time for Pairs. It’s been a while since we played it and we initially forgot the Lowest Card Starts rule. We played until 21 and Matt wrapped it up in four rounds, never going bust once.

Matt 23
Sam 21
Katy 13
Adam 11
Joe 10
Andrew 10
Ian 3

And with that, we were finished. Someone spoke about a league at Chance & Counters and also a singles night was mentioned. Joe said “Surely every night is singles night at Chance & Counters” and we all laughed heartily, taking our joie de vivre home with us.

Meanwhile, with one week left, the Division looks like this...

Ian is still top, but I take back my lead on the medal table. Hannah jumps to top in Points Ratio without actually playing since I noticed today that my spreadsheet hadn’t included the scores from A Fake Artist Goes To New York.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

B-side babies

This week’s hosts were Hannah and Adam. Baby Arthur was safely tucked up in bed, but still audible on the baby monitor. This week’s other attendees were Sam, Ian, Matt (thanks to his new house, he’s now another gamer in the Easton bloc), Katy, Martin (with Effie) and myself.

Since Katy and Martin had both brought their copies, we began with eight-player Team Push-It. And, call us crazy, but we created a new house-variant, as we had both pucks in play at the same time. The began as a stack in the middle of the table, and once separated, being closest to either would score you points.

Adam and I sped off into a quick lead and we were soon just one point from winning, and so we became the targets for the other teams. Then Sam and Hannah also reached their penultimate point. Ian and Matt were still on zero, and promising that the comeback would start any second now. Martin and Katy did okay, but Martin couldn’t really bend down too far with a still-awake baby strapped to him.

Finally, Adam and I got the winning point as Ian and Matt got onto the scoreboard too.

Adam and Andrew 5
Sam and Hannah 4
Katy and Martin 2
Ian and Matt 1

After this, we split into two groups. Martin, Matt, Ian and I chose Imhotep, while Hannah, Adam, Katy and Sam decamped to the front room to play Fool’s Gold.

Imhotep was played recently at Martin’s, and it’s balance of when to use spoiling tactics and when to place your blocks on ships. Last time we played, we invariably put our blocks in first place on the ship, but this time we tried to be a bit more clever: placing them in the second or third spaces. So cunning.

It was a close game, and my end-of-game bonuses really pushed me up the scoretrack, only to be stymied by the game’s tie-breaker rule.

Ian 37+1 block
Andrew 37
Martin 35
Matt 30

Fool’s Gold was still progressing (we could hear the occasional whoop of excitement, and Sam drily remarking that “This is the wrong table cloth for Fool’s Gold”) so we tried In A Grove, a game from the publishers of A Fake Artist Goes To New York.

This is a simple guessing/bluffing game. There’s been a murder (in a grove) and we have to accuse the correct suspect. There are three suspects, made of cardboard, with numbers on their backs. And a victim. And the other four human shape things are dealt out to the four players. We can look at the number that we’re given, and the number of the player to our left. Then, in turn, each player looks at the numbers of two of the three suspects and makes an accusation of the murderer (which is the suspect with the highest number, except if there’s a five in the group – then it’s the lowest number). But you can’t look at the suspect that the previous player chose to accuse.

Then all three suspects are revealed. If you’re right, you get you accusation token back. If you’re wrong and your token is on top of the pile for that suspect, you get a bunch of liar tokens. Having more than eight tokens (or none at all) and you lose the game.

It’s a nice game. It’s certainly quite short. Perhaps too short to build up any kind of bluff. Although Martin and Ian tried to bluff in the last round, neither Matt nor I followed it. This meant Ian was top of the pile that was wrong, and he got enough liar tokens to lose the game.

There are no winners, apparently. After all, it is a murder scene.

At this point Fool’s Gold was entering it’s last round but we thought they’d want to play Gulo Gulo afterwards, so we decided to crack out Imhotep again.

This time, we played the b-sides: the other sides of the boards. Each part of the game has an alternative version. For example, on side a, cubes in the temple get you a point, but on side b the temple gets you points or blocks or a card. These changes were sometimes better, sometimes worse, but certainly changed things around. Matt got into a pattern of picking up and then using cards to devastating effect. It helped him to a sizeable victory.

Matt 45
Martin 39
Ian 36
Andrew 31

By now it was time for Martin to head back home. Fool’s Gold was over:

Hannah 35 + biggest haul
Katy 35
Sam 29
Adam 28

And they had also played Pharaoh’s Gulo Gulo while we’d finished Imhotep.

Which Hannah won.

Finally we all got together for a rousing game of A Fake Artist Goes To New York. There is still a debate about how to chose a word, what is too vague and what isn’t. But it’s still a fun game.

Hannah 6
Adam 5
Ian 4
Sam 4
Katy 2
Matt 1
Andrew 0

With two Tuesdays left to go before the end of the season, the Division looks like this:

Sunday, 12 June 2016

It's all Kicking off in the Forum

Murder in the Forum was the abstract strategy game Andrew picked up at the UK Board Game expo while I (Sam) was loading up with kids' games. Tonight we got the opportunity to see whether it could hold it's own against HABA.

The game takes place in the forum just after a civilised debate has deteriorated into violence. Players are trying to surround each other to 'take' pieces, but depending on where you are on the board this may involve two attackers, or three, or even four. Additionally, there are two guards and a magistrate who keep changing sides every time a piece is taken; the guards will assist you in rubbing people out, whereas the magistrate will protect anyone (from either side) who is adjacent to him.

At the start I couldn't see where the conflict would come from - it seemed long a drawn-out Mexican stand-off. Andrew finally drew first blood, but we were still circling warily. Then I hit upon the tactic of, whilst in control of the guards (who are more aggressive than the schoolmasterly magistrate) to line up two killings: one with the guards, then one immediately afterwards to bring them back under my control. This seemed to give me momentum Andrew couldn't stop, and I picked up the win.

We both enjoyed it, and I'd like to play it again, though I can't see it being a GNN hit for a number of reasons; mainly, it only plays two.

Next up was Castles of Burgundy. It had been a while but we know this old friend like the back of our hand and needed very little refreshing. Andrew surged into an early lead and I surged back. But then my plans to complete an 8-hex bonus came to nothing, and such was Andrew's success it may have made no difference anyway... it was a floor-wiping:

Andrew 182
Sam 145

We finished off with the HABA games I mentioned earlier, trying out Pharaoh's Gulo Gulo for two - it's better with more, but was still fun. Andrew overcame his initial phobia of blue balls to clinch a win.

Then we played a couple of games of Space Planets, and I won both. In this game you're trying to roll a die geographically - what's on the die is less important than where it stops. Our first game saw some pretty diabolical rolling in this regard, but we picked up the pace.

And having gone from dry abstract to full-on Euro to two men with a combined age of ninety playing games for children, we called it a night.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Hex bug

My pal and sometime writing confederate Alex has been slowly getting into boardgames. A couple of months back he, his partner Scott, and their flatmate Alisha came over to the house and played a few games. They loved Riff Raff and Push It. They liked Kodama. They liked games so much they came again a couple of weeks later and we played Castles of Mad King Ludwig (which they loved), then last night Alex and Alisha came over for a mooted game of Eclipse.

I did say at the start of the night this would be a beast, and offered an alternative buffet of mini-games (me and the boys have been enjoying Pharaoh's Gulo Gulo quite a bit). But they were keen, so I set about trying to explain the epic space opera. My explaining of games has come on a modicum, probably helped by writing them up for GamesNightGuru, but Eclipse is such a mo'fo in that department that by the time I finished - glossing over what technologies were and missing out some of the finer points of combat - I was already quite tired, and beginning to pine for the mummy's curse*.

We began exploring and a pattern seemed to emerge quickly: Alex either bumped into the Ancients or found discovery tiles, but hardly any planets to bung down his population and get his income up. Alisha did better in the economy department, and I was somewhere in-between the two; eyeing up that central hex and trying to develop Andrew's wasp strategy of many little interceptors that get to shoot first.

Alex was first to fight - I rolled for the ancients, and apologetically blew him to smithereens. Then I checked the rules and saw that you're allowed to retreat, which I either never knew or (more likely) had forgotten. We allowed Alex to retreat instead. Alisha also found herself on the end of a kicking as well, as the ancients proved surprisingly obdurate. I was first to defeat them, and started to mass my forces around the central hex.

As Alex continued to struggle, Alisha's game began to take on ominous form. Shrugging off the early defeat, she went in again and claimed the hex, getting a discovery tile that bumped her economy in the process. Then she got another one, and then another. In all, four of her discovery tiles boosted her three economies: money twice, and technology and building once each! Meanwhile I got the shitty tile that allows you get the cheapest technology free. Thanks for the neutron bomb, ancient and mystical mysterons!

If it sounds like I'm blaming a forthcoming defeat on poor tools, that's because I am.

But Alisha used her income well, building some big bad dreadnoughts that terrifyingly had, bar rolling a one, automatic hits for two damage each time...

She surged into the centre hex and obliterated the bad guys. I followed her in, using my superior 6* hull to sustain her abuse and then counter with maximum damage - I claimed the centre hex! However, Alisha merely rebuilt and sailed into my poorly defended neighborhoods to wipe me out. Meanwhile, Alex watched forlornly from the far side of the galaxy and could not be enticed to attack either of us. It seemed he would be a distant third place...

At midnight we finally wrapped up. I apologized for the game taking such an age but they both enjoyed it. It was, apparently, a quick 3 and half hours! In fact Alex said it "felt quicker than Kodama" which, to be fair, is going some.

For me, I was kind of exhausted for the last half hour or so and I didn't go to bed thinking, Oooh, so good to play Eclipse again. But as often happens when I play a new game, I woke up in a more positive frame of mind about it. Part of my fatigue was trying to elucidate everyone as we went, and part of it was the heat.

And the scores? As we anticipated, Alisha - who has won most, almost all, of our contests in these evenings - won. But it couldn't have been any closer.

Alisha 31
Sam 30
Alex 29

*the mechanic in Gulo Gulo is taking balls out of a bowl. That's the mummy's curse.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Chance would be a fine thing

For the first time since we stopped going to Roll For The Soul, GNN set out into the public arena as we decided to hold this week’s event in Bristol’s new board game cafe, Chance ‘n’ Counters. We took in the ambiance, and looked at the wide selection of games, and also noted the sensible drink holders attached to the sides of the tables.

There were five of us: Sam, Joe, Ian, Ben and me. In the beginning, Joe hadn’t arrived, so the four of us played Rhino Hero, noting that the tables in the cafe were sturdy enough to hold a balancing game without juddering or shaking.

By the time Sam completed his go and Ian stood up, the hotel was leaning notably. When Ian built with a card that reversed the player order, Sam’s fate was sealed. He was about to place his next card when the building collapsed beneath him.

1. Andrew
2. Ian/Ben
3. Sam

Then Joe arrived we wondered what we could play and couldn’t come up with a decent idea. Five players is a tricky number and nothing on offer seemed to be right. Then Joe admitted he’d brought Lords of Vegas which, with the expansion pack, plays five. Although it seemed a bit odd to come to a board game cafe equipped with your own game, it was the only title that everyone was keen on.

At the start of the game, Sam sped into an early lead. He quickly acquired two two-tile casinos and also earned quite a lot of money by people gambling in his casinos and losing badly.

Ben also got a two-tile casino, but it didn’t seem to do so well for him. I kept pace with Sam with a few single tile casinos and Ian pondered what to do with his conveniently clustered plots. Joe got off to a slow start.

Joe’s slow start turned into a slow middle. He got involved in a war over a five-tile gold casino with Sam and Ian. There were many reorganisations, but whenever he was boss, the casino never paid out. In fact, gold hardly paid out at all in the whole game.

This left Joe in a predicament, and Sam and Ben, too as they had built gold casinos. Sam’s reduction in points allowed me to overtake him. On the other side of the Strip, though, a Leviathan of a casino was being built. Two green casinos (mine and Ian’s) merged together, with Sam as a minority stockholder on the board, hoping for a bit of luck in any reorganising.

So determined was I to keep hold of it that I sprawled twice into unused plots, just to get another dice in there. And it almost worked, too. Ian finally managed to take over the casino late in the game. I worked out that with a bit of luck (ie, the game ending soon) I’d still win. I built another casino on the strip – a three-tile silver casino – to try and consolidate rather than risk losing a reorganisation roll.

But I didn’t have any luck. The green casino paid out on the next card, and then the Game Over card was turned over. The fact that the green casino paid out twice put Ian level with me on points, and he had enough money in the bank to sneak the win after fighting back from a distant third.

Joe was ruefully upbeat about his record low score. In a way, Joe’s luck-dodging performance will be just a memorable as Ian’s late comeback.

Ian 29 (plus $47m)
Andrew 29 (plus $39m)
Sam 23 (plus $33m)
Ben 23 (plus $18m)
Joe 8

After this heady excitement I wondered if I’d got a bit carried away, standing up while taking my go and punching the air after a lucky dice roll. I hope I didn’t embarrass us.

We settled back down to Earth with a game of Skull and Roses. Or should that be: (The Worst) game of Skull and Roses (in the World).

None of our predictions came true. Not one. Well, not until the very end. It was a horror show. The pile of discarded tiles grew and grew. At least the failure was evenly spread, with all of us having just two tiles left at one point.

Eventually, though, people were whittled away. It finally came down to me against Sam. I put down a rose, and it was my turn to call. It was simply a matter of guessing if he’d put down a rose or not. I guessed that he had, and bid “two.” He hadn’t.

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

And with that, the evening was done. We paid our bill, tipped according to whether we liked cats or dogs, and bade our farewells. A very pleasant evening.

On the division, Ian widens his lead over the rest, and I take the medal table. Adam is still top in points ratio.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Gambler placement

Monday, and with all GNN potential candidates otherwise engaged, I invited our old pal Andy Mosse over for a wee game. And fortunately, Ian also found himself available at late notice. So at 8.30 we sat down around the table to play Fool's Gold.

This is - as the name suggests - a game about gold-digging, with the inevitable down-sides of finding fool's gold, or maybe just a big pile of mud. It's worker placement, but unlike Lords of Waterdeep or Agricola, your worker may end up with nothing!

Everyone starts with a few workers in the year 1849. Dice are rolled to determine where the best spots for gold are reckoned to be - hills, forest, river, mountains or lake. Hills, we found, are notoriously shit for gold. Then players can send their workers to dig in said places, or gather a bit of cash. However many workers at a location multiplied by the dice there equals the amount of cards that get flipped for that location - BUT, around half the cards are either silt (ineffective) or actively bad, robbing you of cards. So it's quite possible your worker ends up with hands full of nothing...

another year, another worker placement which case they can gather two more coins for the cause, or pan a bit more through the less rewarding winter months. Coins are helpful during play but worthless at the end, and winter could pay big, but is more likely to hit you hard.

 there's gold in them hills

After five rounds the game ends and you get hit with penalties for not getting gold from all the areas, and your most-collected gold is iron pyrites - worth nothing! Andy forgot this vital rule and only realised halfway through his stash of River cards was worthless. However he still managed to beat cash-rich Ian into third, as I claimed the debut win:

Sam 36
Andy M 25
Ian 24

We later agreed it was our favourite game of the evening; not dripping with theme in the sense of panning, but certainly loaded with risk. We found Pharaoh's Gula Gula a lot of fun, but the board and pieces were essentially appendages hanging from the fun of taking-balls-from-a-bowl...

Sam won



Ian won

...and Billabong was great for a while, but just seemed to last for ever! Possibly we were all drunk at this point. Well, not possibly - we were. But also the AP factor was kinda mad, and Andrew was right that more players seems to equal more mind-melding.


Overall though, an enjoyable evening and notable for the debut of a couple of games and welcome return of Andy.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Birmingham Blues

Birmingham NEC is a bit bigger than our usual GNN venue, but Sam and I sped up the M32, M5, M42 to engage in this year’s UK Games Expo 2016.

I didn’t take many photos, (Sam: I did) since I hadn’t planned on blogging, but then events occured and finally I decided I should. As such, this is the only picture I took, trying to capture the overall ambience:

cloud, with flying sausage

Neither I nor Sam had any plans to buy many games, but with prices this low, and with so much variety, it was irresistible. Even a purchase-phobic gamer like me came away with three games and a book of pre-1800 card games.

I got In A Grove, from the same publishers as A Fake Artist. Hopefully it’ll be a smart little deduction game filler that’ll get some action (when I remember to bring it). Also I bought a two-player co-op card game called The Ravens of Thri Sahashri. It sounded intriguing from the blurb on the back, but reading BGG, it seems like an updated version of that 70s classic Mastermind. We shall see.

Andrew, weighing up the Kosmos

The third game I got was called Murder in Rome, and is a simple strategy game from Gothic Green Oak games who specialise in publishing ancient and historical (and out of copyright) games as well as their own simple strategy games. I chose the least chess-like one.

Hopefully Sam will fill us in on his purchases, because I can’t remember a single one (there were five).

Highlights of the day included a photo on the Push It stall which clearly showed Push It being played on a table cloth identical to Sam’s. I had to look twice to make sure they hadn’t taken it from this blog. Also, Sam kept getting appreciative comments from people on his purchases as he walked around the expo with his games in his arms.

Sam here: My appreciative comments were for Glen More and Basari. I got a lot of appreciative comments about the Haba games I bought too, but they were from the people selling them to me.

I got roped into a game of Colt Express and, let me tell you, it’s knockabout slapstick comedy is greatly diminished when playing with strangers. But they all seemed to enjoy it. I came last, for the record. As I got up, I said “Thanks for the game, everyone.” Silence. At least I got a limited edition Colt Express-style Delorean car model (a la Back to the Future 2).

Tom Vasel! I could almost reach out and touch him

There were at least four (Four?!) games based on football. A strategy-ish game with dice that was based on a single match. A card based game of the whole season where the winner is not the one who wins the league, but is the one who most exceeds the fans’ expectations. And there were a couple of others that I didn’t investigate. Is this a new trend, or have there always been football games? I invented a football game using a pack of cards once. It was pretty good. We should play it one day.

No ticket, no entry

Overall, the experience was a very enjoyable one. So why the blog title? (Apart from the fact that everyone loves an E.L.O. reference)

Well, on the journey back we were happily listening to Andy Murray take the first set against Djokovic when suddenly Murray seemed to run out of steam, and so did Sam’s car: the engine wouldn't respond. We drifted into the hard shoulder and called out the AA. So first we had about a forty minute wait (albeit in lovely sunshine, with a pretty view) during which we taught ourselves how to make funny noises by blowing across a blade of grass held between our thumbs.

Once he arrived, he couldn’t get the car started. Then Sam remembered: at the petrol station he’d used unleaded instead of deisel. Oh, calamity! He went to tell the AA man, and he decided we needed to be towed back, so sent for a recovery vehicle.

Another forty minutes or so later, he arrived and guessed immediately (perhaps by chance, or by experience, or maybe he was just joking and got lucky) that someone had filled it with the wrong fuel. Oh, how we laughed. Sam's car was winched up onto the back of his truck and we set off home with our genial driver, 70something going on 50, giving us a brief life story.

So we were back in Bristol after two and a bit hours, which is pretty good all things considered. And it was an interesting episode, if nothing else. If you'd like to relive this experience, just look at this for a couple of hours.