The day began at my (Sam's house) relatively early: 10am to be precise, when Stanley's friend and Stanley's friend's dad arrived to play Scythe. This is not exactly a gateway game for 9-year-olds, but Stan was keen and everyone else was amenable. All the bits and pieces make it look pretty exciting too - mechs! eagles! planks of wood! We went on slightly longer than planned, but did finish the game. Stan looked like he had things sewn up when he went for a sod-popularity route, ignoring public opinion to bash down his stars as quickly as possible. But two fights went against him when he guessed that opponents would play low, and they didn't. Instead, competitive dad (me) beat him into second place.
As the newbies departed still looking reasonably sane, we chucked some egg sandwiches down our throats and prepared for the arrival of the GNN masses. Just like Field of Dreams, if you clear the table, they will come. First in was Big Joe, who had brought Captain Sonar! Then there was a flurry of gamers; Ben, Matt, and Hannah. Talk began of playing Captain Sonar, but the first game out of the box was Tumbling' Dice. Joe allowed Ben, Matt and Stanley a warm-up, which they all took with impressive unity:
While they then embarked on a tumbling' tussle, Hannah and I had a couple of games of Hounded. This was a birthday present to Stan and I really enjoy it: it's a two-player where one side simply has to avoid capture (the fox) and the other has to somehow surround the very manoeuvrable fox and trap it. I caught Hannah as the hunter then we swapped sides. Hannah discovered that the hunter's side requires a bit more thought, as opposed to the fox who simply gambols about, giving two fingers to the various dogs unable to catch him. The second game went on for a while, but eventually I had to gamble on flipping the final time tile (all three flipped wins the fox the game) and I gambled wrong. Hannah had me cornered and closed in for the kill.
By the time that had ended, Tumbling' Dice had too, with Stan claiming a convincing debut win:
Katy and Hannah took the role of opposing captains whilst Jon and Joe the engineers. Ben and Matt were first mates and Stanley and I the radiographers. Or something. Our job was to record what the opposing captains said, whilst our own dictated the direction we took. The Engineer kept track of various systems and told the Captain when she could fire a torpedo or drop a mine. And the first mate did something else, which I never totally picked up on.
I enjoyed being the guy-who-listens; it seemed less stressful to me than what the others were going through, which was a lot of people talking at the same time. As long as I listened to Hannah I could ignore pretty much everything else. We located their sub and blew them up for the win.
Then we changed teams and Stanley was now captain along with myself, Joe and Jon. Hannah stepped out so Adam could play along with Ben, Katy and Matt. This time the game was short and sharp - they located us and scored two direct hits before we even knew where they were!
Their followed a break for pizza, during which time Andrew arrived from work. The world was now our oyster with everyone present...
(screen goes wobbly signifying change of narrator)
When I arrived, the table was groaning under the weight of co-op pizzas and chip shop chips. Anja and Steve and Luther were there are the table too. During the meal, Stanley tried to drum up support for a third game of Captain Sonar, but to little success. Instead we split into two groups. Joe persuaded four to join him in a game of Adrenalin, winning people over by calling it “super fun”.
The rest of us went for Jamaica, but just before we began, Steve was called away so the rest of us played a game of Micro Robots on top of the game of Jamaica that was already set up to play. Decadence!
Then when we were ready to play Stanley was distracted by the lure of Seinfeld, no, Star Wars, no, PS3, so he set up camp in the front room for the rest of the evening.
Jamaica was fun, although both Jon and Steve were undone by a misunderstanding of the rules. Steve repeatedly so. For the most part, Steve sailed around the starting line, picking up gold. Unfortunately he hen tried moving, couldn’t pay for his space and ended up visiting the same “pay 5 gold” space twice.
Jon’s mistake was to take me on in battle, not knowing that I could decide how many cannons to use after he’d attacked and then he was surprised to discover that defenders could take from attackers if they won. But, as we explained, “that’s piracy for you!”
Meanwhile, everyone was else seemed to be very good at landing on treasures while I had none. And no money. My only hope was to end the game before anyone had a chance to amass a fortune, so I sped off to the finishing line and ended the game.
Meanwhile, Adrenalin was apparently a board game version of a first person shooter. Adam found himself picked on (I can’t imagine why) and Matt impressed everyone with a move near the end of the game: he dragged Joe from apparent safety into range and then leapt into a neighbouring room, grabbed a flamethrower and used it to deal damage to everyone else on the board. Katy won by killing Adam.
Adrenalin, just before Matt causes havoc
Adam takes out his frustration on a
Ben said that he was bad at real (ie, videogame, not REAL real) first-person shooters and he wasn’t surprised to learn he was bad at board-game versions too. He also said that he should be getting back since his girlfriend had only just got back from abroad. We said he should invite her along. He explained he already had. We dropped the subject.
Since we had all ended at the same time, there was a quick reshuffling of groups and the new line-ups looked like: Jon, Steve, Hannah and Katy played Broom Service and me, Sam, Anja, Joe and Matt chose Fool’s Gold.
Joe impressed us all with a high-quality dice-cup. Tall and lithe, it was a million miles away from Stone Age’s stinky receptacle. But, being so tall, it’s distribution of dice was too wide across the table and Joe put it away saying it needed a dice tray.
Joe's new dice cup
In the game, people kept getting in my way, especially Joe who ruined the mountain twice for me (and him, too) by drawing a Foul Weather card when we only had two cards to draw in the first place.
The other feature of the game was how often our player shields fell down. Whenever they did, I found it very entertaining to say “hellooo!”
Once we’d finished, there was another reshuffle. Broom Service showed no sign of ending so we played a quick game of For Sale.
Doesn't look like a winning hand to me.
I was right.
Finally Broom Service ended...
... and we divided up again. Anja was keen on a big game, and so she, I and Adam got out Viticulture. Since I was now in the front room, away from the bustle of the kitchen, my notes get a bit confusing here, but I think there was a game of Junk Art at this time.
Then, just before we got going on Viticulture, we all got together for the GNN Quiz of the Year, hosted by Sam. There were categories like “games designers” and “player performances” (I think) which tested our knowledge of games in general and also events of 2016 at GNN towers.
With the most regular attendees me, Katy and Joe, nominated as captains, we split into three teams and it ended very close.
Katy, Steve, Adam 20
Andrew, Jon, Hannah 20
Joe, Anja, Matt 19
After this, it was 10.15 and we had to get cracking on Viticulture. In the main room, Katy took up photography duties so we have evidence of a game of Super Vampires...
As well as this mid-game shot of Viticulture.
Later, I went to check on progress in the kitchen and found a game of World’s Fair
And a non-used half of the table, while people stood around talking!
Sanity was restored in a short while with a game of Igloo Pop on one half of the table, and Escape From Aliens In Outer Space on the other half.
The results of Escape From Aliens In Outer Space were, according to my notes:
Joe came second and went to get a Coke.
Matt died (by Katy)
Finally, Viticulture ended, thanks to Adam’s efficiency. I doubt it was on purpose, but he played a game using tactics that were the opposite of what we suggested to Anja. Adam said selling a field was a good idea, because you don’t need three fields. Then he used all three fields. I said it was a waste to sell grapes straight from the crush pads, and later Adam did just that. He’s so contrary, that boy.
The margin of victory was pretty immense and I only did as well as I did by using up all my point-scoring visitor cards once I saw that Adam was about to win. If the game had continued, I’d have been hard pushed to score any more points for ages. Anja came last, but said she enjoyed it. Adam really seemed to like it, though. Of course he did.
And with that, the year was over. There’s no division for this evening and there won’t be the usual big end-of-year statistics run-down that I've done in the past, but there is the little matter of the division for 2016.
Well done Katy and Adam. Well done everyone. Big thanks to Sam for hosting and feeding us all. A marvelous end to a splendid year (GNN-wise, that is.) See you in 2017!