Sunday, 30 October 2016

Major Improvement

Lucifer and all his little underling devils must have been pacing around the underworld this morning puffing out lungfuls of condensation and staring quizzically at the thermometer because last night I think Hell must have frozen over.

It was a Saturday night and I was expecting to be watching some of the poor fare served up by the terrestrial networks when Jacquie asked me "Did I want to play a game? Do you think I'll like Agricola?". Probably not was my first thought, remembering the time we almost got divorced over a Roll Through the Ages rules explanation. But there it was, a golden opportunity..... Apparently the cast of Orphan Black had been playing it in one of the episodes and it had peaked her interest. So set it up on the kitchen table and agreed that if at any point she was hating it we would stop, also that we would take the first game as a training game....


Anyway its Sunday evening and we've had four games of it already, the last one with the cards. This is such an unlikely event I had to blog it.

At a table for one

This week, while several GNNers are off having a games festival in Ilfracombe, I was cat-sitting for Sam. This gave me a chance to try some of the single player versions of recent favourites.

I began on Friday evening with Viticulture. This game has been a big hit recently, but how would the game stand up away from the thrust and parry of real opponents?

Unfortunately, not too well. The method used to place your opponents workers is to draw a card at the start of summer or winter and place workers accordingly. Since the game uses a two-player set up this means certain spaces will be unavailable, unless you use your grande.

With these obstacles in the way, the game gives you seven rounds to beat twenty points. I managed it (got to twenty-five) but it didn’t feel that satisfying. It lacked a certain something.

Then on Saturday morning, I broke out Caverna. Recently, this has been the go-to game for Agricola-style worker placement since it avoids the most stressful part of Agricola, trying to feed your family.

Well, in the single player game, that part is back: every round after round five is a harvest! This can cause some serious issues with AP.

Also, and this is the clever bit, when a space has six resources on it, it will reset at the start of the next round. When I read that rule I thought, fair enough, I’ll just wait until it is full and then take it. The trouble is, by that time, I had other plans in motion and the idea of using a go just to pick up lots of stuff seemed like a waste.

The cards for the later rounds are always in the same order, so the game can play out the same way each time, if you do the same things. I got to 59, but the rules suggest that 100 is possible. I’d love to know how. Anyway, this is an excellent version of Caverna and one that really captures what’s so good about the main game.

My board at the end of the game

Finally, on Saturday evening, I went the full Matt Damon and played Terraforming Mars. Now, this must be mankind’s second attempt at colonising the red planet, because the game begins with two cities and two bits of greenery already on the board. After that, you have 14 rounds to achieve all three game-ending criteria.

Blimey. 45 credits and +/-2 on criteria

I enjoyed it, but found my progress rather slow. When round fourteen was over, I’d barely got halfway to each of the end-game targets. Perhaps I haven’t played it enough to know how the cards work together, but it seems like a tough assignment to beat.

Let's science the shit out of this!

It's all getting a bit I'm The Boss

Plenty of production power

But not enough time to make it pay.

So, anyway, that was my weekend. Disappointed by Viticulture, delighted by Caverna and still undecided on Terraforming Mars.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Flower Power

Thursday evening saw myself (Chris), Paul H and Stuart gather, if three people can do that, at my house for another session of gaming. To aid the decision making process I suggested that Paul be the one choosing  the table top encounters for the night. Keyflower was proffered as something he’d wanted to try for a while and I disappeared off to get it before he changed his mind.

Keyflower is not to everybody’s tastes as it can seem more tactical than strategic. The iconography and art can be seen as obtrusive and unattractive and it can be a problem for the AP prone player. However it is one of my favourites, and I'll never turn down a game of it. Its central mechanism whereby you have to decide whether to use your meeples on production and upgrading of tiles or for bidding to gain additional ones adds a unique aspect to the game. I tend to prefer games where you make your plans up on the fly and react to emerging situations. This one almost insists that you do as you get out bid for village tiles and players use production spaces you had your eye on.
Forgot to take a photo. Here's one I made earlier
The chaps took on board the rules rather well and we were up and bidding in no time. To help the easing of their first game I made a number of suggestions which, unless you’ve played before, could be easily missed. To their credit these were few and far between. A testament to how successfully they had picked it up was reflected in the final scores.

Chris 54
Paul 53
Stuart 51 – (Although this could be more. I neglected to score the first player marker which is used as a general wild card!)

Keyflower had taken a little longer than expected so we rounded of the evening with a game of 7 Wonders. Well two actually. As with many people before them this has become a firm favourite with the guys. In the first game Paul showed us how to play the game as Giza by focussing on resources to build his wonders and at the same time buying every blue building he could.

In the second game he observed how I had played Alexandria in the first game by focussing on one science and using the 2nd wonder to improve the score. Then showed us how to win by using that tactic. Really well!

Paul 54
Chris 49
Stuart 38

Paul 67
Stuart 45

Chris 39

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Mechs and the single girl

...With an eagle on her arm. But more about Scythe later.

This week’s games night began as a sparse affair. Just Sam (host), Katy and myself meeting up at half seven. With the promise of Ian and Adam at around 8.30, what should we play to fill the fifty-seven minutes or so (after we’d dispensed with the chit-chat)? We decided Istanbul would be a game that would test our minds and also fit easily into that time.

If only Sam and I had known quite how easily...

While we busied ourselves with building up our wheelbarrows, Katy shuffled between the black market and the palace, slowly getting gems. Then she sped off towards the gem dealer, with plenty of cash in reserve. Then Sam realised she had a “gem dealer times two” card and was about to end the game. And there wasn’t anything we could do to stop her.

Sam's wheelbarrow

And Katy's

Katy 5 gems
Sam 3 plus cash tie-breaker
Andrew 3

So with the spare time, Katy suggested Deep Sea Adventure. And with no one to say that it was the wrong number of players, Sam and I agreed. We dove, collected, returned to the submarine. Well, Sam did. Katy and I died an early death in round one.

Then Adam arrived, so we instantly included him in the roster, and a little yellow man was added to the crew while Adam was still taking his shoes off. We didn’t think he’d mind starting on zero since, in this case, he was still joint second.

Adam died in round two, while the rest of us got back safely. Then in round three, Sam (clearly winning) simply loaded himself up with treasure, used up all the oxygen and so we all expired.

Sam 23
Andrew 11
Katy 8

And Adam got no points at all, but I can’t put him on the leaderboard since he wasn’t there/paying attention for about fifty percent of the game.

With Ian on the way, we decided to go crazy and give Scythe a go. Katy was the only person who hadn’t played it, so Sam went through the rules.

By the end, Ian had arrived and got settled while Katy looked decidedly unsettled at what lay before her.

I was Nordic something, the blue tribe and a recent favourite. Adam wanted to be yellow but was sitting in the wrong place and had to make do with red. Katy was black, Ian white, Sam yellow.

With five players, there’s a lot less space on the board and, as you’d expect, more fighting. Six battles raged over the course of the game. Movement was fraught with dangers and the encounters apparently at more of a premium. Sam happily took two points off his popularity, ploughing through two of my workers to get to the last on the board.

Adam spread out, slowly but steadily, a veritable red menace. Sam remained concentrated near his base. Katy sighed as she tried to get her head around the rules. Ian also bemoaned his lot, stuck almost exclusively in his three opening hexes. With no metal to make mechs, he spent a lot of time repeating the same actions.

As the game progressed, so Katy became more proficient and Ian got out, by using a mine. Adam took control of the centre hex. Sam spread out and I became hemmed in, stuck behind Sam’s, Ian’s and Adam’s forces, and mostly sulking in the lakes by the end of the game.

Adam finally triggered the end of the game by producing his eighth worker, and getting a sixth star. The scoring produced a surprise for everyone, with Ian coming in first, despite having never built a single mech. How this analogue, tech-free lifestyle ever worked, we’ll never know.

Ian 73
Sam 64
Adam 58
Katy 41
Andrew 38

With the hour just past eleven, we packed up and set off.

Katy leads the Division for Medal Table and Points, while Ian’s win at Scythe propels him into first in Points Ratio.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Pork Scything

Saturday. Just before Ian and Andrew appeared at the door at 7.30 the boys debated what to play. With surprisingly little stress, Spyfall was chosen. We set up around the table, and after a few moments of exploratory questioning, I wrongly accused Andrew of being the spy - it was Little Joe. Then Stanley, as the spy, correctly guessed our location. Two-nil to the spies! Finally the non-spies won a round when Andrew outed himself but got the location wrong.

The boys were packed off to bed whilst Andrew and I did our best Derren Brown impressions in order to get Ian to play Terraforming Mars. Andrew even managed to get him to open the box and unfold the board. Then I lobbed in rules-explanation hand-grenade.... would he? Could he...?

Our NLP expertise still needs work. However our lust for exploring and resource-management was sated by the setting up of Scythe. I can't get enough of this game; for some reason it really pushes my buttons. Ian had a quick rules-refresher and we were off! Despite it only being his second play Ian's early showing was strong, as he was first to get a mech out and begin exploring the landscape.

But though there are many paths to victory in this game, you make yourself unpopular at your peril. Ian's ability to take two options on Encounter cards, and the temptation to take the most powerful (and unpopular) ones kept him languishing in the doldrums of the proletariat's estimation, whilst Andrew and I courted them rather more graciously. Whilst Andrew populated the south with his seemingly-Catholically-minded workers, I spread my workers far and wide, encouraged by their ability to swim.

Outside the world of the game, we opened up Ian's bag of pork scratchings and Andrew announced he could feel the consumption of each piece shaving minutes off his life.  I made my way to the Factory and then triggered the game end by getting my last two stars down in one turn.

Sam 75
Andrew 48
Ian 33

As Scythe was packed away we decided on its' polar opposite in gaming terms: Push It. This is always fun, and especially so when everyone is high on pork. Fantastically awful flicks seemed to be the predominant feature, but Ian seemed to be the person most in control of himself:

Ian 11
Sam 7
Andrew 4

We followed this with Love Letter. This is one of Ian's go-to games in terms of results, but Andrew's astonishing telepathy was what decided it. Of his five guards played in three rounds, four of them guessed correctly:

Andrew 3
Sam 1
Ian 0

Andrew went ti get the next game, and returned with this mysterious bulb

"What kind of game is that?" he asked in dismay.

We played Take it Easy. I began calling different types of cheese, and ran out after about fifteen of them, calling simply "cheese" each tile for the remainder. Andrew and Ian didn't seem bothered. And cheese seemed to be rather lucky for me, as I replicated my recent score of 222! Andrew then called things he used to have on VHS, giving us rare insight into his oft-concealed psyche - as well as his age. "You remember that!" he cried to Ian, who looked blank. Ian called video games that had a pivotal impact on him. I didn't realise there were so many. It was like someone talking in latin...

Sam 532
Andrew 463
Ian 375

Finally we bashed through a game of Micro Robots. This is hard enough after a strong coffee, but with all of us now in the Saturday night vibe, it took a humungous effort to focus our brains. My training sessions with the kids paid off, though, as I managed to pick up the win.

We made plans to force Ian to terraform soon, then called it a night.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Terra Visions

Last night Andrew, Chris and I sat down to play Terraforming Mars, the big hit at Essen this year. Would it stand up to scrutiny? Because scrutiny is Chris' middle name - he'd prepared for the game intensively, as his clarifications to my rule explanations revealed. I'd watched a couple of reviews and Andrew had done no prep at all. From the get-go we were slightly concerned that Chris seemed to know his Martian onions.

But to the game itself: as the name suggests, players are in the act of turning Mars from a barren wasteland into a garden teeming with life. At the start, we've only just arrived and are merely cracking our corporate knuckles. Then we begin building cities, aquifying oceans and cultivating greenery. When the temperature and oxygen levels reach a certain (habitable) point, and all nine ocean tiles have been placed, the game will end.

early Mars, as seen by Andrew

Meantime we are buying project cards (3 money per pop) and then activating them (variable costs) to either do stuff on the planet itself (the aforementioned terraforming) or bump up your productivity: all players have their own corporate mats that generate money, metal, plant life and energy at the start of each round. You can turn that plant life into greenery hexes and use that energy to heat up the planet. Both reward you with points. You can also spend actions to claim milestones (for stuff you've done) or pay for awards (for stuff you hope to do, or have done and don't want to be out-done). Because of the variety of cards, and the fact you can take either one or two actions on your turn - there's a lot to think about.


Chris surged into an early lead and stayed there. Andrew paid money every round to look for life, and never found it. I generated lots of energy and heat, but kept forgetting I could pay for my expensive cards by using metal rather than money, even though the whole structure of my final round was based on doing so. However even if I'd remembered, I wouldn't have caught Chris, who was decreed the best Terraformer by a very respectable margin:

Chris 80?
Sam 69
Andrew 50something

the vague scores are based on what I remember, and the tantalizing image below.

Andrew's cube hidden top left, Chris' hidden top right

Including rules explanation to Andrew we'd terraformed Mars in just under three hours. Not bad if the human race is ever in trouble, but rather long for a board game. I would hope that play-time is going to drop significantly, as although I enjoyed it a lot, three hours is a bit long for me.

We decided on a quick palette-cleanser to finish on, and busted through a three round game of tournament Raj. I won every round, but the game was most notable for mine and Chris' habit of playing the same card on the negative tiles, ensuring poor Andrew picked them up no matter what tactic he went for:

Sam 84
Chris 45
Andrew 10

And then we played Micro-Robots! My boys love this game of quickly-figuring-out the way to get the robot from one space to another, but it's not for everyone. Chris watched the whole game in silence, broken only once in order to get his move fractionally wrong. "I'm never playing that again!" he announced at the end, in the manner of a man who has better things to do (i.e. terraforming Mars).

Sam 5
Andrew 3
Chris 0

Verdict on Terraforming Mars from me was that it felt like a winner, but one that needed Raj played after it. It's more interactive than it first appears too, as you can beat each other to the punch on numerous things, and even blow each others' resources up! I need to play again soon.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Dirky Chancing

Games at Joe’s. Not an affair for the faint hearted. Genial Joe’s hospitality is a trap, designed to keep people enthralled until long after their bed time, high on dice and towers and cards. This is exactly what got the tippling houses of Victorian England closed down in the Great Gaming Purge of 1867 (possibly made up).

During the day, it had looked like there’d be six in attendance, and Joe got excited about the prospect of playing Captain Sonar. However, perhaps Joe’s excitement was contagious, because in the end there were nine of us. We said that someone is bound to go home early, and then we can play it with eight.

Anyway, after a remarkably long time in deciding what to play we settled on Junk Art (for Ben, Joe, Katy, Sam Matt and, eventually, Martin) and Kingdom Builder (for Ian, Andy and me).

You couldn’t ask for two more different games. Junk Art prompted gales of laughter and curses against fate, which Kingdom Builder couldn’t compete against. Even the sight of two opposing scoring cards (one for large settlement areas and one for small settlements) couldn’t raise more than a wry chuckle.

In Kingdom Builder I went for one big settlement areas, Ian went for small and Andy went somewhere in the middle. It was a close game, with me just sneaking into the lead thanks to being next to cities.

Andrew 55
Andy 50
Ian 42

By now, Junk Art had ended with Ben a clear winner and Katy’s dream of a perfect fifth win in a row was in tatters.

Ben 12
Joe 9
Sam 9
Matt 8
Katy 6
Martin 2

They had begun a game of Team Play and so once we’d finished Kingdom Builder, we set up Forbidden Desert. This team game of survival and escape from a desert wracked by storms is Andy’s new acquisition (from Sam) and it didn’t take a huge amount of rules-refreshing before we were back in the fray.

We started off okay, with Ian excavating whenever he could, while I climbed over the huge banks of sand that kept building up. If only I’d done something while I was up there. Andy also excavated when he could, but accidentally uncovered a well when he was on his own, meaning that we’d exhausted all out water supplies. It was just a case of how long we could hang on.

I find the power supply. Mmm, how it glows!

Well, we were able to hang on for longer than it takes to play a game of Team Play.

That ended:

Martin & Matt 24
Katy & Joe 20
Ben & Sam 18

And they embarked on a game of For Sale:

Sam 51
Joe 48
Katy 46
Martin 44
Matt 43
Ben 37

And by now the terrible news was in: I died of thirst in the desert and our fate was sealed.

Never mind.

Next, since we were all together, some kind of big party-ish game was called for. We went for a single round, sudden-death game of 6nimmt. Martin wasn’t keen, saying it was just a luck fest which might have had more weight were it not for the fact he was suggesting Pairs. We jokingly decided that whoever came last would have to go home and then the remaining eight could play Captain Sonar.

Since there was nine of us, it seemed a shame not to invite Dirk to make it up to a round ten players. Katy shuffled and dealt and we were off.

For such a short game, a lot of incidents were packed in. Katy played for herself and Dirk and there was some suspicion that she may have been passing her losses onto Dirk. Joe kept trying to have conversations, meaning he was usually late in choosing a card. This annoyed Katy such that she threw a couple of things at him. First a bit of food and then the 6nimmt box! These are the kind of emotions that 6nimmt can conjure up. By means of punishment, she’s listed at the bottom of the three-way tie for 15 points.

Andy 6
Sam 7
Ian 9
Matt 13
Ben 15
Andrew 15
Katy 15
Martin 18
Joe 28
Dirk 53

Anyway, with Joe being the last among real players, we joked that he now had to go home while the rest of us played Captain Sonar.

Instead, Sam and I departed. I rely on Joe’s email for the scores of the rest of the evening which stretched out until eleven o’clock.


Katy 21
Martin 20
Matt 15
Ian 13
Andy 12
Joe 9
Ben 5

Then Ben left and we played Dead Man's Chest:

Katy won

Then Martin, Andy and Ian left, and we played Push It:

Katy 8
Matt 3
Joe 3

Then No Thanks:

Joe 45
Katy 51
Matt 72

And so to the Division: Katy leads, making a mockery of anyone else’s attempts at winning the medal table. She also has the highest points total, while I take Points Ratio by the thinnest of margins.

Oh, and after playing Team Play, people said what a pity it wasn't leaderboard because it's so much fun. You know, I think you guys may have a point!

Team Play Division

Monday, 17 October 2016

This One Goes Up to 12

On Friday Andrew and I recruited Joe to teach him our current favourite 'long' game - Scythe. Joe was willing, in fact he was openly keen, but first he had to go through the warm-up games with Stanley and Little Joe: we bashed out a quick game of PitchCar (Big Joe won after my third lap collapse) followed by FUSE (which we all won) before the little folk were packed off to bed, and Scythe set up.

Scythe is like Eclipse - only on land, not in the future, and faster-moving. And different in other ways too. In fact I'm not sure why I keep equating the two in my head, other than the fact that I'm happy to break my no-long-games rule for both. Also! - Scythe isn't actually that long, although thematically it feels broad in scope. There's worker-placement, but also worker movement. There's engine-building, but also luck. There's combat, but the winner can potentially be the most placid (...although you'd have to wonder what on earth the other players were up to if that happened).

Joe took to the game much as Adam had done a couple of weeks previously. Like Adam, he focused on production, whilst Andrew and I mobilized and traveled the board. Andrew's special ability - workers can swim! - was one I'd previously pooh-poohed as rather prosaic, not to say silly, but he showed quickly the benefits of spreading the net wide, claiming territory as well as resource rewards.  Mine and Joe's workers baulked at the sight of water. Joe bunched his workers together for what I assumed to be reasons of cosiness, whilst I delayed building my mechs until they were really cheap.

But by that point the game was approaching its final chapter - both Andrew and Joe had reached the factory and had a decent spread of territories, whereas I was slightly hemmed in on the western side of the board.

Joe's mechs look rural

Andrew triggered the end of the game, but he wasn't as popular as Joe or I - popularity deciding exactly what your monetary rewards will be for objectives/territory/resources. Despite his strong presence on the board, might he have moved too soon? It's all very well completing objectives, but do you have enough respect from the people, man? As it turned out, he did:

Andrew 60 - wins on tie-breaker!
Sam 60
Joe 49

A strong showing from Joe on his first play, and I'm glad to say he liked Scythe. Hopefully we'll play again soon.

Joe enjoying himself, despite paparazzi

Thanks to Scythe's aforementioned brevity, it was still early. So we played Joe's new purchase Junk Art, which I'd missed out on at the last GNN meet. Each round has a new rule that players must obey, so it's like a scrambled Bandu: no currency to avoid blocks, just various rules to implement them. It was a lot of fun, and I think Joe won this.

Because Scythe doesn't take that long - have I mentioned that? - we still had time for another game!

We introduced Joe to Cosmic Run, our current favourite short game. Roll dice, race to planets - before they blow up. Possibly the most fatalistically-themed game out there, where you are essentially on a protracted suicide mission. I had a good run of results going on with this game, but -whether it was the hand of fate or the wine - Joe handed our arses to us despite insisting he didn't have a clue what was going on. The old Steve Dale manoeuvre! Works every time.

By now we were rather merry. I do recall Joe playing a recording he'd made in his studio: whilst a somber and plaintive piano track played, someone in the studio next door was tuning an oboe to combined comic effect. How we laughed! Although I must confess I misunderstood Joe's explanation at the time and thought we were merely listening to an odd and badly-recorded bit of jazz improv.

After the last planet had imploded cosmically, it was nearing midnight, so we called an end to proceedings, safe in the knowledge that the next day nobody would be waking us up at 6am mistakenly claiming the goldfish was dying*.

Also: chipsticks give you ulcers.

*not necessarily true for me

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Lords of Midnight

Nearly, anyway. One week after the shortest GNN, our thirst for games suddenly explanded again as if it were a spring that had been squashed and held down for seven whole days.

Joe hosted and I, after texting him to say I’d be late, arrived one minute early. I got a sneak preview of Joe’s medieval GNN money.

Then Ben, Ian and Katy arrived soon after.

We began with Junk Art, a game not dissimilar to Bandu, but with added rules. In the first round, for example, instead of choosing a piece for the next player, you are dealt three cards with pictures of the different available blocks. You keep one for yourself and then give the other two to your two neighbours. Then everyone adds that block to their tower.

There’s a whole stack of potential rules to fill a three-round game. Our other two rules were “Speed building,” and “Everyone building the same tower.” Doing best of fulfilling certain objectives gets you “fans”: either a black counter (five fans) or a white counter (one fan). Katy was overjoyed that the black fans were better than the white ones. She cried out “black power!” and raised a clenched fist in salute.

Despite being last in the first round, Katy fought back to take the most fans by the end of the game. Ben dazzled with his creativity in round one, but somehow didn’t attract much of a following.

Katy 9
Joe 8
Ian 6
Ben 4
Andrew 4

With Ben saying he was going to leave early, we decided not to play anything too epic and instead went for another new game: Land Unter. This is a game which is very difficult to describe. Us five players were dealt the whole of the 60-card pack (numbered one to sixty).

These hands contained a number of life belts on them, and when we’d worked out how many we had, we were given that number of lifebelt cards as sort of “lives”.

Three lives left!

Then cards (from a deck of twenty-four, numbered 1 to 12) are revealed two at a time. This is the water level. Everyone plays a card, and the highest card gets first choice (of course, the lowest) of these two water cards. Whoever’s in second gets the other one. Then the player with the highest water card loses a life-belt.

This leaves some 6nimmt-ish agonising as you try to second guess what others might do. Katy proved to be an expert at just undercutting whoever was in first so she rarely picked up a water card at all. After two rounds, her lead was insurmountable: 13, 2, 2, 2, 1.

The clever thing is, at the end of a round, everyone gives their hand of cards to the player on their right. Then another round is played. This means that every player uses everyone’s hand, so there’s no chance to blame a lousy deal for your poor performance.

Towards the end of the game, Joe attempted a stunning comeback, but just fell short.

Katy 19
Joe 13
Ben 10
Ian 7
Andrew 6

Then Ben set off home, and he mentioned that he had a Mah Jongg set and maybe we could play it sometime. We must sort something like that out someday.

So now it was only 9.30 and in the pile of games that Joe had brought in at the start of the evening was Lords Of Vegas. We suggested it first as a joke, then we thought we could get it finished by 11.00. And so it was that the four of us, drunk and sugared up on Skittles, set up the evening’s main event at 9.30! Crazy days.

And Lords of Vegas did not disappoint. Katy got an early three-point casino thanks to a lucky re-organise. I got three lots near each other and then bought one from Joe to link them up. Joe went big on gold and silver. And they lived up to their reputation as rare materials: he had not scored a single point by 1 hour 15 minutes. I made a note.

Joe bides his time

There was controversy and double-crossing and undercutting and gazumping and probably some grouting in there too as we all struggled for more than our fair share. Ian rolled a re-organise and as the dice left his hand he says “It doesn’t count.” Then he saw that he’d won, so he said “It does.” Shameless.

Joe's scoring chip is hidden behind the pretzels

Katy was threatening to join up two casinos to build a huge eight-tile complex and swallow up Joe’s gold casino when Joe offered to buy a vacant lot off her. She accepted, needing the money, but then Joe built on it, using up the last gold tile. Her plans in ruins. Joe was rewarded for this tactic by Lady Fate, as his casinos started to pay out and he powered his way up the score track. Ian’s game, though, fell away, and he ended up with no casinos at all.

At the very end, I joined the gold casinos together (making a nine-tiler), and reorganised, taking control. But it was not enough to get me past more than one five-point barrier and Katy held on for another win.

Katy 54
Andrew 49
Joe 40
Ian 29

Katy’s 54 score being a tie for highest score. A title she shares with Joe, Martin and Gonz.

It was now 11.40 and no sign of any need for a little game as a night cap. Certainly not for me, having long ago run out of alcohol and relying on the kindness of Katy and Joe to keep me feulled.

What an evening. Lords of Vegas, complete with appropriate music, was an event as always. But Katy was unstoppable: Lords of Vegas was her fourth win in a row.

Here’s the Division for the season so far...

And here’s the Division for Lords of Vegas...

(Sorry, Ben. Lost the first letter of your name, and am too lazy to make a new one.)

Friday, 7 October 2016


Thursday night saw my (Chris) old board gaming world in Bracknell and beyond meet my new one in Chippenham. A long over due visit from Paul coincided with my semi regular Thursday games session here in my relocated home. Paul was here early this time so an afternoon of games beaconed after we got the perfunctory nuisance of lunch out of the way.

First up saw Jacquie join us in a couple of games of Heck Meck. This recent purchase of mine has seen a lot of activity in the household since I tentatively asked my understanding wife to indulge me in a game. Subsequently, it seems, I now never win a game and that vein continued for the two matches we managed before she had to rush off and collect the kids.

Jacquie 11
Paul 7
Chris 0

Jacquie 12
Chris 7
Paul 6

With the kitchen table to ourselves I then convinced Paul to take me on at 5 Tribes. Sam off loaded this to me a little while ago but I hadn't got to play it yet. As documented before in these fair pages its a simple enough game to learn but quite a brain burner to play. I didn't think too much about my strategy and picked up what ever looked good whereas Paul collected goods cards. Toward the end of the game I was nervously eying his colossal stack knowing how much they could score. Unfortunately due to a misunderstanding of how the multipliers worked he had collected a fair few of the same card and thus negated his advantage.

Chris 245
Paul 169

Then Paul was whisked away for Lego duties with the kids whilst dinner was being prepared and even though the general melee of kids bedtime then ensued we still manufactured enough time to play Nations the Dice Game. Again, possibly, a new title to Paul but this didn't hold him back squeezing in a very neat final round by scoring heavily on famine and war where I narrowly missed out.

Paul 27
Chris 23

Shortly after this was packed away my gaming buddies from Chippenham (Paul H and Stuart) arrived for an evening of laying cards, pushing cubes, making bids and pretending to be a medieval sheriff. After some introductions and quick laugh about there being two Pauls, we got down to it.

The general consensus was many quicker games rather than one big one. A kinda schedule was drawn up with Pairs getting its first airing for the collective. I'm not sure if the rules we play are actually the right ones but it doesn't seem to matter because the objective is met. A quick, light, fun jaunt to get the gaming muscles warmed up. In this bout Paul H calculated his winning position very well by sticking when he was assured of enough points.

Paul H 21
Stuart 16
Chris 16
Paul J 15

Next to the table was King of Tokyo. The remarkable part of Paul H's win in this game was the lack  of visits to Tokyo he made. This many have been instigated by the 5 damage whacking he got from me in his first foray to the bright lighted city. However, three strong rounds in a row which saw him collect 13 points was enough to see him slip in to first place with Paul J narrowly missing out on his turn.

Paul H 20
Paul J 19
Chris 12
Stuart 10

The bits had barely been stuffed back in to their box when 7 Wonders was being decanted and arranged. The first game of the night where nobody needed a rules refresher. Well nearly. This game still causes a memory black spot for Paul J even though he's been playing it on and off for 6 years!

Didn't prove to be much of a hinderance though as he squeaked past me and wrapped up first place. The game was notable for the lack of any cloth which I discovered late into the second era. This threw the proverbial spanner into the machinery of my careful devised plans and meant I couldn't build my last wonder. Shame.

Paul J 46
Chris 45
Paul H 42
Stuart 33

See...No cloth.

Then it was Kingdom Builders turn to be hastily arranged on the table. Stuart absorbed the quick rules explanation like a boss and was playing within 5 minutes. It was here that I managed to catch a bit of luck. My long and winding civilisation finally meeting up to make one large settlement area to take advantage of the citizen scoring card and score big

Chris 62
Paul H 50
Stuart 40
Paul J 37

By now the beers had been sampled to an appropriate level to bring out Sheriff of Nottingham. Nobody really stood out as a particularly good liar but with Paul J, the eventual winner, it was possible that his nursing of a single bottle of ale may have aided his decision making processes. Who knows?

Paul J 205
Stuart 153
Chris 138
Paul H 105

With the late hour approaching there was just enough time for a 13 point game of Push It. Paul J's 'technique' of blasting the pucks to the four corners of the table may need some work as his final score of minus 3 bares testament to a bit of jack abuse.

Chris 13
Paul H
Stuart 7
Paul J -3

And at that we called it a night. I'm not sure we could have squeezed any more games into the evening. What a corker.

Micro Wave

The last night of my marathon three-and-half weeks of gaming almost-every-night began with Stanley, Joe and I playing Micro Robots. This is a spin-off (I think) of Ricochet Robots, which I've never played (or wanted to) but it sounded like a fun thing to do with the boys.

The board is laid out randomly and dice are rolled to determine a starting position (certain colour, certain number) and end position (likewise). If you play the game properly (we just worked as a team), then everyone works out in their head how to get the 'robot' from one to the other - you can move orthogonally to a matching colour, or a matching number. If you can do it you announce how many moves you can do it in, and then - theoretically - prove it.

Both boys liked it and Joe - who often insists on playing in a 'team' with me - really came into his own, figuring things out quicker than Stan or I a couple of times.

So come 7.45 I introduced the game to Andrew, who also seemed enamored. It's more puzzle than game, really - the game aspect is the race to work out the puzzle - but rather sweet nonetheless.

Moments later Adam walked in, and with very little discussion, we set up Scythe. It was new to Adam but having taught it to a few people recently, we sped through the introduction and began the game. As ever, there is no combat in the early stages, but as the first to get my mechs out beyond my own territory, Andrew and Adam started talking as if there would be.

My special power was being able to take the same actions as many times in a row as I liked (usually, you have to change action on every turn) and it did come in handy. I ran away from Adam in order to complete my goal card, and travelled far and wide claiming the Encounter tokens. But my success was partly down to Adam's lack of familiarity with Scythe - he forgot his special power of stealing combat cards before a fight. Had he remembered, our two vital face-offs could have ended differently. As it was, I stole all his lumber and then successfully fought him off late-game having hinted I wasn't going to bother.

As a result I'm not sure how much Adam enjoyed it, but hopefully he's intrigued enough to try it again before too long. I do like this game.

Sam 62
Adam 38
Andrew 32

Andrew would have finished second except, not realizing the game was about to end, he vacated the Factory hex and let me steal in at the death.

Because of Scythe's delightful brevity it was not yet 10pm, so we broke out Take It Easy. We also broke out the cheese and biscuits too, and discovered Adam's dislike of olives (not at all) and indifference to grapes (I think he ate about three). Andrew and I stuffed our faces like the gannets we are.

Then Andrew launched into round one of Take it Easy, calling Beatles songs. There was nary a pause from his encyclopedic memory, but he did cry "this is terrible" very early on: on his fifth tile. That has to be a record. My efforts at calling words ending with 'ology' only lasted as far as cosmology, theology and biology before I sidestepped into psychiatry, trigonometry etc, before eventually saying anything that ended with an 'ee' sound: easy, doozy, floozy, etc.

Pathetic! But at least I won.

Finally we tried our hand at FUSE. I'm not sure if I dealt out too many cards again, but it felt nigh-on impossible. We ran out of time with five cards still in the stack - although four of them were Fuse cards. I would have been up for another stab at it, but time was a-pressing, so our evening came to an explosive close.

Thank you for your time, gentlemen!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Appetite for Construction

The last few days - and evenings - of Sally's prolonged absence are now upon me, and I decided to see them out in much the same way I started them - by playing games to what to most people would be an obsessively unhealthy degree. But I'm not most people, and neither is Chris.

We sat down last night having set up Caverna, braced for the long haul. But of course, Caverna is only a long haul with four (or three, if Ian or Steve play) and we zipped through it nippily enough. Chris needed a couple of rule-reminders, but overall didn't seem too rusty. Three-quarters of the way through the game I saw that whilst my mountain was nearly dug, his was still the Dwarf equivalent of a embryonic maisonette. But any confidence I had evaporated as his plans seemed to coalesce over the last couple of rounds to facilitate some hectic building.


I held on for the win, but it was closer than I'd suspected it would be.

Sam 70
Chris 56

It was only half nine, so we had the option of taking on another Euro-y game. But Chris suggested Cosmic Run, and I'm never going to turn that down. Not after just playing Caverna, anyway.


I decided to pick up cards if I could, rather than ignore them, and did pay notional heed to that intent. But it's hard to ignore those tracks when the dice-rolling is good... whilst Chris seemed to pick up cards at every given opportunity, I only ended up with three in the fastest game of Cosmic Run I've yet played:

Sam 69
Chris 62

It was 10pm now and I was pretty tired, but agreed to one more game: FUSE, the game of co-operative bomb defusal. If anyone hasn't played this, it's a high-pressure hoot; the game lasts ten minutes exactly (unless you win, in which case it might be less) during which time you're trying to 'defuse' cards by placing dice on them of a certain colour, number, or combination thereof. We didn't realise I'd dealt too many bomb cards in the first game and exploded like amateurs snipping wires randomly. But the game had woken me up, so we went again, this time with the correct amount of cards... we dallied with doing the easier 'training' mission, before going for the standard one - and we did it! With literally ten seconds to spare. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Art and Kraft

It was a rather sparse Tuesday again this week, with GNN stalwarts Andrew and Ian both absent, and Adam unable to make it despite actually hosting. Hannah welcomed us into their abode: Katy, Martin, Joe, and myself (Sam).

Not realizing there'd only be five of us I'd brought Scythe as an option, but my only response was a mere sniff of disdain from Martin, who couldn't even rouse himself to a withering verbal assessment. Fatherhood is clearly taking it out of him.

Instead after a short discussion we played Reiner Knizia's classic of auctioning horrendous paintings: Modern Art. I had last played this game literally about 15 years ago, possibly longer, so I needed a rules refresher. Basically you have art, you sell art, when the market gets flooded with a certain painter the round ends and paintings are worth money depending on their popularity.

Yoko rips off Lichtenstein

There's more to consider than first appears - because the round ends instantly once a fifth painting by the same painter is put up for auction (that auction doesn't even happen) you're juggling what paintings you collect with what paintings you have in your hand with what paintings other people are collecting with what paintings they might have in their hand - along with the accrued value of each painter, as their worth can increase over subsequent rounds if they've been popular previously.

Christian P is all the rage

As it turned out, I was a terrible juggler. Perhaps I'm naturally too cautious, as I never wanted to pay too much for a painting. The fact they all look horrid doesn't help. Martin, despite his insistence that he was rubbish at it, seemed to lurch into action in the last two rounds like a latter-day Frankenstein art dealer, suddenly realizing (or perhaps realizing his plan) that he needed to buy some art.

Although Joe said Charlotte has won the game in their house before by only selling art.

Martin 399
Joe 369
Hannah 324
Katy 310
Sam 300

With that slightly long 'filler' done and dusted, we moved on to another game that was new to me - Mamma Mia. It's a very untypical Rosenberg game of effectively warring chefs scrabbling over pizza ingredients that have been thrown into a massive pile. Chuck some ingredients in, then add a recipe if you think when everything is revealed later, there'll be all the ingredients you need underneath your pizza to bake it. Baking: points.


I tried to complete my pepperoni pizza first, but hoping to pick up pepperoni cards didn't work. Then I tried to throw a recipe in the deck and pick up pepperoni after the event (to add from my hand later) but that didn't work either. Basically I picked up a lot of jalapeños and olives, when I needed other stuff. So to me it felt rather luck-dependent, but clearly the others were finding their way around it:

Katy 6 (wins on tie-breaker)
Martin 6
Joe 5
Hannah 2
Sam 1

Despite my shabby showing I enjoyed both games, Mamma Mia particularly.

The hour was still relatively early but with almost everyone present now a parent we elected to call it a night. The early season leaderboard will show that Martin and Katy remain the sharks in the GNN water, while my Tuesday night form remains resolutely in the doldrums.