Sunday, 29 January 2017

Cold War Kids

Five of us assembled around the table: Andrew, Ian, Stanley, Little Joe, and myself. We were having a crack at Colour Wheel, one of the games in the compendium that makes up Pyramid Arcade. This box comes with a big bunch of multi-coloured pyramids, and rules for 22 games.

Colour Wheel is a co-operative effort, where several pyramids are laid out on the eponymous wheel and then, turn by turn, arranged by swapping places (matching size or matching colour) until all seven colours are collected into groups. It's quite a thinky challenge and obviously very abstract, but fun. And we won.

We followed this with a stacking game (it's called Ice House Verticality) which continues until only one tower is left - which was Ian's, as the rest of our efforts collapsed. Finally - pyramid-wise - we tried a multi-player game called Pharaohs (I think) which we eventually gave up on, as Chris has arrived and I needed to put the boys to bed.

Sally had been preparing for a hen night, and her pal Lizi seemed intrigued by the pyramids. When I joked that she would rather stay here and play games, she agreed this was the case. Hard to know how serious it was, but her gaming mettle would have been tested by the main course of the evening...

Before that arrived, Andrew, Chris and Ian bashed out a game of Las Vegas whilst I read stories upstairs. Not being present for most of it, I don't know the story of the game, only the final chapter:

Chris $370k
Ian $300k
Andrew $270k

Vegas babies

With beers and pork scratchings at our disposal, we now set up Covert. This is a Cold-War themed spying game where each player tries to complete missions to score points. You do this by collecting Mission Cards and using either/both Agency Cards or the location of agents on the board to fulfil them. If your mission card states you need an agent in Budapest, in possession of a tape recorder, then you get your agent there and hand in a tape recorder in order to complete the mission.


The catch - there's always a catch - is that all your actions are decided by dice rolls - not only might someone else beat you to the number you need for a particular action, but dice have to be placed adjacent in a 'wheel' of numbers, from 1-6. Throw in the deciphering option for code-cracking (equalling extra points/extra equipment) and you have a game heavy with pauses whilst everyone juggled the possibilities. One round in and I did remember reading that four players can make the game an AP fest...

But we all enjoyed it enough, and certainly Andrew and Ian were intrigued enough to posit another play soon; though perhaps with 3 rather than 4. My one play with Stan stood me in good stead as I claimed the win:

Sam 56
Chris 44
Ian 36
Andrew 35

We then bashed out a quick game of Timeline, during which we cursed Ian for spilling his whisky all over the cards, and Chris for knowing that the creation of the Earth was older than anything that happened subsequently:

Chris 0 cards
Sam 1 card
Andrew 3 cards
Ian 5 cards

...before breaking out Push It to allegedly finish the evening. By now three of us where reasonably jolly, and Chris' lack of drunkeness placed him into pole position for the win. I even managed to flick the jack off the table entirely... but Andrew came from behind to pull off a surprise win:

Andrew 11
Chris 10
Sam 7
Ian 4

Chris then took his leave, and we decided to revisit Colour Wheel from the Pyramid Arcade box. The rules are simple and no challenge at all. The real poser here is keeping track of how many turns you've had, as you have to complete the challenge within 27 moves. We succeeded first time, but failed the second.

wheel of misfortune

Pyramid Arcade is fun so far: need to revisit the Pharaohs, perhaps with two or three - but the colour wheel and stacking games were a hit. But with the clock nearing midnight, it was time to say goodnight.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Woolly Thinking

With Andrew and Ian on their way to our semi-regular Thursday meet-ups; I texted Ian to ask what he fancied playing. He suggested A Feast for Odin or Covert. I began setting up the latter, but the background theme of the game - international hostility, nuclear proliferation - was actually making me feel nauseous. I packed it away until the point I am drunk enough to shrug off the existential angst, and set up the tetronimous Viking game instead.

I didn't take any photos of Feast last night, but this is Andrew's hand

This was Ian's first play, but he has of course experienced Rosenberg games before and knew what was coming. I talked him through the rules, and we were off!

Ian and Andrew both built boats early on. I was tempted to repeat the winning strategy of the last two games Andrew and I had been involved in, which meant a fleet of whaling boats. But there was more to explore so instead I tried getting animals early.

You have to hold your nerve when neighbouring vikings are sailing home from the sea with treasures and initially, all you have is a roll of wool. Slowly, my animals started generating more produce, but I felt slightly left behind in the early running, and never completely figured out this strategy.

Andrew and Ian regularly hunted, and occasionally pillaged. These involve die-rolling, which both of them felt the sharp end of, returning home with only a bow, or a snare. After initial success, Andrew swore to hum a Fountains of Wayne song whenever he rolled, but abandoned this promise with Trump-esque haste after a couple of low rolls.  I think I only rolled one die during the entire game. As the end neared and Andrew started building a shed, we realised he'd already filled up his home board! In a last-round scrabble for points, Ian and I emigrated, and I sheared some more sheep. It wasn't enough though: not only had Andrew filled his home board, he'd been accruing a hoard of silver that alone scored him 51 points!

Andrew 107
Sam 93
Ian 79

We packed away making approving noises, with Ian another convert to Feast.

It was relatively early, so we brought out an old favourite in Biblios. Andrew couldn't remember if the game played two, so Ian reminded him of the time he beat Andrew 18-0 and gained the as-yet-still-intact title of King Biblios.


His crown was never under threat from us, but I managed to regain the Mr Biblios title. The potential second-place decider of the final red die had a twist in the tail: none of us had a single red card! So  Andrew  Ian took second by virtue of the tie-breaker...

Sam 7
Ian 3
Andrew 3

There was talk of Push It to finish, but with Odin still fresh in our minds I thought Ian might enjoy Cottage Garden, which has a similar puzzley aspect to it without the plethora of choices. We bashed it out in just over half an hour - Ian took to it quickly, and despite his confession of drunkenness, only the bonuses for reaching the top of the score track first gave me the win:

Sam 61
Ian 58
Andrew 43

floral geometry

Another Thursday evening closed out in very pleasant manner!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Fully Flushed

Five players congregated at Sam's this Tuesday for our regular fix of gaming delight: Sam, Ian, Katy, Martin, and me.

When we discussed what game to play, Sam wanted to play Covert and he tried a subtle piece of underselling by assuring Martin that he probably wouldn't hate it. Martin was not convinced by Sam's neuro linguistic programming and we decided to do the usual thing of staring at Sam's games wall and reading the names out loud to see if anyone is keen.

This time it took far less time than usual, as we all seemed keen on Beowulf, Knizia's homage to epic Saxon poetry.

I am unfamiliar with this game's source material but if it included a brave warrior who took one risk after another without failing any of them, then tonight's game reflected that perfectly. The hero in question was Martin who, by the end, was taking unnecessary risks because he thought a Viking without at least a scratch would look odd, especially alongside his wounded colleagues.

It was a masterpiece of fortune management, and was in stark contrast to the rest of us. Sam frequently came last in the bidding, but that did mean he was often first to choose which card he wanted in recovery sections. I was mostly fourth, missing out on both the first choice consolation prize and getting anything halfway decent. Ian shared my misfortune and despite his plucky attitude, crying "unleash the foxes!" at the start of some battle or other, he found himself on the wrong end of several bad risks.

Martin 41
Katy 22
Sam 21
Ian 11
Andrew 10

A great game, and very nice to revisit it.

After this saga (by the way, what's the adjective form of "saga"? Sagatic? Sagatious?) we went for the complete opposite as, to my delight, Tsuro was next on the table. It's only drawback is the dull coloured pieces given to each player which, according to Sam, look like colours you'd find in the worst bathroom shop in town.

And it played out as many Tsuro games do. We're all too experienced to make any schoolboy errors, so we were all still very much alive two-thirds of the way into the game. But then, one by one, we all fell from the board. Well, all but one.

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

From here on, the theme of short and light games continued. Next was Rolling America, which is Take It Easy for people who preferred geography to maths at school.

Sam and I came joint first which was surprising considering how inefficiently Sam played. He used a guard option on a 2 and then, by the end of the game, he'd surrounded it with 3s, meaning he didn't need to use that guard at all. He could've done so much more.

Sam 9
Andrew 9
Katy 10
Ian 10
Martin 11

This was followed by Mamma Mia! It's been a while since I last played, and I was very slow off the blocks, putting down no recipes at all in round one.

But quite apart from the game, all eyes were on the Mamma Mia card, and whether it would finally fall into Katy's lap. She looked jealous when Ian got it first and then was so happy when she finally got it that she clenched both fists and looked to the heavens in joy.

By now we were well into our whisky from emoji-adorned shot glasses and as for the game, no one could catch Sam after a sterling three-recipe round one.

Sam 6
Martin 4
Katy 3
Ian 2
Andrew 2

Next up was another epic of sorts: a trilogy of Fuji Flush.

This game is already famous for its Dick Moves, whereby a player ruins a winning opportunity by playing a card just one higher in value. As if to say, "I'm only doing the bare minimum to crush your dreams. Because I can."

In game one, I won after we all pushed through at the start when we all put down a three as our first cards.

Andrew 0
Sam 1
Katy 1
Ian 2
Martin 3

This was followed by a resumption of Sam's parade of winning. In round two Katy, Sam and Martin were looking good with three sixes giving them a joint score of 18 until Ian shat on it with a casually played 19.

Sam 0
Ian 1
Andrew 1
Martin 1
Katy 4

Then in round three, Katy was stuck on one card for a long time, unable to close the deal and then Sam snuck a win by playing the same card as the about-to-push-through Martin.

Sam 0
Katy 1
Martin 2
Andrew 2
Ian 4

Once we'd finished, we all voiced our appreciation of the game, which once looked like a luckfest but is now showing certain subtle strategies to (somewhat) negate the luck.

It's back to normal for the Division this week.

Thanks all! More next week!

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Animal Night Rate

Andrew wended his way to my door on Sunday with A Feast for Odin set up and ready to go. We have both been intrigued by this game - me after a solo play-through that left me initially bemused, followed by several plays of experimentation - whereas Andrew won his first game convincingly. We were eager to play again, and sat down just after half seven to play the 'long' game of seven rounds.

Viking water-cooler

As previously posted, Odin sees you place workers (Agricola), while also juggling tile placement  (Patchwork). Andrew seemed intent on trying new things this time, and even explored - a first in any of the games I've played, as it give you more spaces to fill and hence the risk of more negative points.

Andrew in Iceland, again

I took a leaf out of Andrew's book in the previous game and went whaling, whilst also nodding to Steve's tactic of shearing sheep and turning wool into blue stuff. In fact both of us embarked on animal business that set something of a pattern for the evening... We both emigrated near the end of the game, too, but come the count-up Andrews experimentation counted against him somewhat (though he still improved on his previous score):

Sam 103
Andrew  77

And the time was only 9pm!!!

There was still time to bash out three short games, so we did. First I introduced Andrew to Hounded, which Stanley and I like a lot, but has yet to win over anyone else. The fox (Andrew's) task was to skip around the board, avoiding the attentions of the Master of Hounds and his dogs (all me). He can win by outlasting the hunters: either turning over the three time tiles, or 42 tiles in total. I can win by catching him. My previous experience told as Andrew found himself blockaded into a corner...

Sam (hunter) wins
Andrew (fox) dies

me, with my dogs

Sticking with the animal theme, we bashed out an old-timer from GNN in Hey That's My Fish, which Andrew took the win at:

Andrew 52
Sam 46

It was only 9.30 so, with a bit of taunting, I managed to get Andrew to stay for long enough to play one of our favourites - Take It Easy. Andrew called books he read as a boy, whereas I called footballers I have played with and interesting/uninteresting facts about them. Andrew kindly suggested I could open a bespoke bingo hall, as yet another nugget of near-forgotten info from the late nineties about people he never knew assailed his brain. It didn't put him off his game though:

Andrew 318
Sam 315

A fun evening came to a close. I'm eager to play Odin again too. It still grows on me...

Friday, 20 January 2017

Whales of Pleasure

Thursday, and as I sat down for my (Sam's) third play of A Feast for Odin, I wondered if I finally had enough of a grasp on the game to actually win it, having been beaten by Stanley, Adam, and even Dirk. Joining me at the table were Andrew, Chris, and Steve, who had made the trek from Easton. He knew we'd be playing Odin, so I'm not sure if he came because or in spite of.

I explained the rules as best I could. I'd sent out a handy overview during the day, and everyone had genned up a little too. Plus, we've all played Uwe games before. How hard could it be?

Not that hard at all. Admittedly it was nearly 3 hours long - including rules explanation - for the 'short' game, but the time seemed to sail by.

My strategy was to put all my metaphorical chips in aggression; going out raiding and pillaging as much as I could, abetted by three massive blocks of ore in my ship to clonk people over the head with. Chris also built a longship, but spent a lot of time hunting at home. Steve built a trading ship, and Andrew - perhaps inspired by his wasp strategy in Eclipse - built a flotilla of whaling boats and set about destocking the ocean.

Andrew was first to have a real impact on his income, getting up to 3 silver per round whilst Steve was still at zero. Then Steve branched into animal husbandry, and started picking up lots of wool. Chris was still hunting and setting snares, but occasionally went for a pillage when the mood took him. Andrew began picking up animals. I stayed true to my raid and pillage strategy, chucking in a few Occupation cards in the mix.

spices, booze, and a rug

In the mid-game I was looking strong, with the highest income and several bonuses popping up each round. But my strategy was much like raiding and pillaging in real life, I suppose: there's no long-term development. And my steady success was eclipsed on the last two rounds as the bell-curve of the others' plans reached maximum verticality. Suddenly Steve traded: flipping a gazillion green tiles to blue, and placed them all down. Chris emigrated his two boats, turning 13 points into 39 points. And Andrew - the only one to do so - filled out his board, giving him exactly no minus points. He'd also built a shed! All that blubber he'd harvested from the sea really paid dividends:

Andrew 64
Chris/Steve 47
Sam 44

We packed away the game now more in admiration than fear. It is mad, and it doesn't have the strong theme of Agricola/Caverna, because for all the logic of resources build boats, boats catch fish, it still has the Patchwork abstraction of arranging things on your board.

I can see that, like Caverna, this is perhaps not a game that will serve me well on the leaderboard. But every time I play I enjoy it a little more, and last night was no exception. There's something about the way Uwe stitches things together that - even with the thematic incongruity of tile-placement- scratches several itches for me.

Thanks gentlemen!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

All the fun of the Pharaohs

This week, Adam and Hannah were hosting, but unfortunately Hannah came down with a migraine and not even Caverna could convince her to join us.

"Us" meaning Adam, Joe, Sam, Ian, Katy, Martin, Matt, Anja, Ben and me. Martin was running late and had sent a text asking that we not start a big game without him. However, Katy had already requested that Joe bring Lords Of Vegas as part of Ian's (last Sunday) birthday treat. So it was that four of us (Katy, Ian, Ben, and Matt) sat down to play, with the option of a fifth of Martin fancied it.

Sam had brought A Feast For Odin, and opened the box, just to show Adam. He then seemed interested enough and, with Anja, the three of them set up to play in the front room.

This left Joe, Martin and me with an acute lack of table space. In the end, after weighing up the possibilities of various occasional tables, we squeezed into an unused area next to Lords of Vegas.

Our first game was Eggs of Ostrich, which was such a big hit last week. We sped through three games of the super simple bluffing game. I won the first solely due to picking up some amber in the final round. Joe didn't seem to get the hang of it and ended the game with three last places, notwithstanding his steady improvement in points. Mind you, that final six we mostly due to apiece of amber.

Game 1
Andrew 1
Martin 4
Joe 1

Game 2
Martin 10
Andrew 5
Joe 2

Game 3
Martin 15
Andrew 10
Joe 6

I popped in to see how A Feast For Odin was getting on and they were just about starting.

And to my left, Lords of Vegas had begun quietly but ominous clouds were looming for Katy, as she found herself with some prime property on the Strip, but not enough money to build on it.

The three of us decided on an Egyptian theme to our next two games, with Ra followed by Imhotep.

Ra began oddly. I thought Joe had played it all wrong by buying stuff early and leaving himself with low tiles for round two. Instead, it turned out to be the best choice as a wave of Ra tiles left Martin and I making panic buys on next to nothing. Martin tried to win big on the auction track as last player standing, but the last Ra tile took away his dreams.

In the second epoch, Joe remained in a distant lead. His dominance in Pharaohs was briefly threatened, but before long he had re-established a decisive majority. Once again, Martin was last player in the epoch and once again, the auction track filled up before he could get anything.

In the third epoch, I tended to call "Ra" a lot, hoping for something nice for my 1 tile, but was outbid too often. All Joe had to do was avoid any minus points while adding to his array of buildings. Martin insisted it was the worst game of Ra ever, and after Joe and I finished our tiles, he was alone with four spaces on the auction track. It wasn't enough and, for the third time, it closed before he could grab the loot.

The worst game of Ra, ever.

Joe 51
Andrew 41
Martin 25

By now Lords of Vegas was growing in all kinds of interesting directions. Most astonishing was Ben's blue die: a lonely outsider in Ian's nine-tile mega casino.

Whatever possessed Ben to try and reorganize with such poor odds, I don't know, but he did and he won. Outright. No ties, no re-rolls, just one blue six among the reds and yellows and a purple.

Ian looked aghast and Ben looked pretty shocked too. Ian took little consolation in the fact that it would "only" cost $26 million dollars to reorganize again. It would be Ben's for some time.

As all this was going on, Katy was still stuck in last place, on eight points and seemingly unable to get control of a two tile casino long enough for it to pay out.

As for Imhotep, it was Joe's first game and he seemed to take to it pretty well. He pretty much monopolized the market and had best obelisk, while I went for pyramids and plonked a single stone in the otherwise empty Temple. Martin focused on the burial chamber.

All of this lead to some pretty even scores, as I got a satisfying win by the slimmest of margins.

Andrew 34
Martin 33
Joe 28

We went to see how Feast For Odin was doing, and although I'd read the rules, it all seemed very dense.

Lords of Vegas was coming to an end. Ian had finally got enough money to reorganize, but the gods were not on his side tonight and against all the odds, Ben plucky lone die won the day again. It would be much cheaper to reorganize again, though, and the next chance he got, Ian rolled the casino once more and this time probability behaved itself and he finally regained control of the casino that he'd done so much to create.

Katy, though, had only just managed to squeeze past the ten point mark (at one point her score was just one fifth of Ben's) and her frustration with her lack of luck was shown in her annoyance at Ben's skill at rolling dice in such a way that one would finish leaning against something at an angle, meaning a re roll was required.

Matt's audacious double-sprawl casino

But when the Strip paid out, she came good. Well, if not good then, at least, respectable. In fact, she scored more in the final scoring round than she had all game. Ian, too, was able to steal second place from Matt who had been stealthily whittling away at Ian's place on the score track.

Ben 49
Ian 32
Matt 26
Katy 23

At this point there was only one round left in Feast For Odin, so the rest of us joined together for a rousing game of Fuji Flush. Or "Fudgey Floosh" as Joe called it.

We played twice and the first game in particular was notable for"dick moves" in which a player outbids lots of other players' cards by a single point. It wasn't until afterwards I thought this should be accompanied by the cry of "eat shit". Extreme Fuji Flush, anyone?

Game 1
Martin 0 cards left
Ben 3
Andrew 3
Ian 4
Joe 4
Matt 5
Katy 6

Game 2
Andrew 0
Katy 0
Joe 1
Ian 2
Ben 2
Matt 2
Martin 3

And finally A Feast For Odin was complete. While Anja can be pleased with avoiding negative points on her first game, Adam demonstrated once again his unequalled aptitude at Uwe Rosenberg games.

Adam 61
Sam 36
Anja 7

All of which brought us to the end of a lovely evening, and into the arms often all new, ever changing Division. This time, I looked at the amount of time we've actually been playing and work out some stats according to that, along with the usual points and points ratio. And Victoru Points is just a tally of points scored in games, as opposed to points given on the division itself. I hoped this would uncover some new winners but instead it just made Martin look even more dominant. Oh well. I’ve done it now.

There's still the loser's boost which makes a difference this week: thanks to Joe agreeing to play Eggs Of Ostrich, it actually pushes him up two places. And if you’re wondering how Ian only has six victory points, it’s because most of the games he’s played this season have scored negative points (ie, points are bad) such as Fuji Flush and Rolling America.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Return to Løkta

Saturday, and a week after the first visit to A Feast for Odin, I thought it was time to try it again. This time, instead of Dirk for company, I had Stanley, whose skeptism over playing it evaporated when he saw all the bits. Good old Uwe...

Regular readers - there's at least four - will know that my haphazard experimenting on the first play last week resulted in the kind of scores you hesitate to blog about, even in a dusty corner of the net such as this: I'd managed to finish both Dirk and I in negative points. Not so much engine-building as throwing carburettor pieces randomly into a lathe. This time I was determined to finish with a positive score, even if it was only 1 point.

I went through the basics with Stan and we were off. This time I had a better idea about how to go about things, and though some options still remained untaken, our choices had a bit more of sense of methodology about them. Stanley ignored my positive musings on the wonders of sheep, and built a ship instead. Then he proceeding to sail the seas (raiding/pillaging/plundering/whaling) to see what he could raid/pillage/plunder/whale (rolling the dice; adjusting scores for ore/stone/swords/spears).

He did well, only failing to return with a bounty twice in several trips.

He also, in the main, ignored surrounding the bonus spots on his player board - forsaking bonuses - while I fiddled about, trying to activate all the bonuses by surrounding them. I'm blaming my focus on this for my poor showing elsewhere: I was late to the pillaging and my die-rolling didn't have Stan's consistency.

table eater

We diversified in animal husbandry; Stanley acquiring sheep and me cattle. I built a shed, and brought back treasures from my pillaging. Some stuff still remains untested - neither of us explored the islands, or played occupation cards ***Update: Because I'd somehow missed that you can pick up when you play to a three-viking spot, and play them at a four-viking spot*** The latter probably play quite a large part in the game as well, as Uwe has included not one but three decks of them! So on my next play I'll have to explore that.

We played for about an hour and a half before tea, and an hour after. Stanley, to my pronounced chagrin, filled up his player board in the last round: meaning he would get no penalty points! I did much better than last time, but was nowhere near that. A late flurry of hunting and setting snares meant we could feed our hungry vikings on the last - most expensive - round.

Stan's board, with 3 vikings to go...


And - it was fun! It wasn't the kind of fun I would introduce to non-gamers, of course, and it's not some gamers cup of tea either - for obvious reasons of length/mechanics/abstraction. But Stanley loved it and I really enjoyed it too - eclipsing my slightly irksome experience of a week ago.

Stanley 72
Sam 38

When I get the inevitable rule corrections, I'm sure it'll be even better!

Anything You Bandu I Bandu better

A cold Thursday night, and Katy was baby sitting Arthur at Adam and Hannah’s. Possibly without their knowing, Katy invited the GNN crowd around to keep her company but only I, Ian, could make it.

Being just the two of us it was a fairly quiet affair, but it made choosing games relatively easy as there was only a limited number of games that either of us felt we knew well enough. After my attempts to get Katy to play Railways of the World were met with reluctance, we instead chose Castles of Mad King Ludwig.

Whilst we both enjoy COMKL (as all the cool kids are calling it), we agreed that this particular game felt like it ended rather quickly; a bit anticlimactic. I couldn’t shake the feeling that we’d missed some rules, but as far as we could tell we played it all correctly.

I fell into the trap of chasing my bonus cards (bonus points for circular and downstair rooms), when instead I should have been looking elsewhere. Katy completed far more rooms than I, which gave her almost double the number of points I had. The results came in:

Katy 50
Ian 28

After that I suggested Hive, and after a quick read up of the rules we were away. I still think Hive (a game whose title can’t be contracted any further. “HV”, maybe?) is a rather clever game, with a tension that builds in an almost chess like manner.

This time, my own defenses were a bit slow to react to Katy’s attack, and I realized a little to late what she had planned. My own bugs were too far away to stop her circling my Queen.

Katy wins
Ian does not

Next, Deep Sea Adventure was mooted. Katy couldn’t recall if it worked well with two people, so we thought we’d find out. Turns out it works rather well, although it was a death-light game, with only Katy running out of air once in the three rounds.

I played fairly conservatively whilst Katy was a little more daring, being the only player to dive deep enough into the abyss to collect a three-dot tile. If the tiles had been shuffled differently she could have easily have won, but she did not.

Ian 38
Katy 34

It should be mentioned that Arthur had been sleeping quietly throughout the evening, to the point where we wondered if he’d somehow wandered off somewhere. But we felt confident enough that we’d notice a small child roaming around, and played on.

Push It was next. We used four pucks each, and rather arbitrarily decided to play to sixteen. We also played a possibly-not-official rule that if you had all four pucks closest to the jack, you would score four points. We also decided that knocking the jack off the table would result in minus two points.

The table surface proved challenging, having a high friction, so many of our shots came up short, whilst others went flying well past their mark. So, a usual game of Push It.

At one point I did manage to get all four pucks closest to the jack and in another round Katy knocked the jack off the table once, both of which helped give me the win.

Ian 16
Katy 10

There seemed to be time for one more game, so I suggested Bandu.

This game of Bandu is the main reason why we felt it was worth recording the night. My tower featured some rather impressive balancing, even if I do say so myself. Katy agreed, and at one point seemed more interested in seeing my tower succeed than winning herself!

But I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Behold.
The photos make it seem less impressive
Somehow Katy’s tower (which I didn’t take any pictures of, though a fine construction it was) toppled before my unlikely creation succumbed to physics.

Ian wins
Katy does not

Around this point Arthur stirred, possibly awoken, though hopefully not, by the sound of wooden blocks clattering onto a table.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Ex of Österreich

The moon hung in the night sky, it's grey light turning the gossamer thin clouds into translucent pools of silver.

None of this was important, though, because it was Tuesday and therefore games night. Sam was hosting, arranging this week's shenanigans from an internet-less stay in the Netherlands via Joe. There were seven of us: Sam, Joe, Ben, Ian, Katy, Martin and me.

Our first game was one that Martin picked up during his recent trip to the US. He described it as a Take It Easy kind of game where everyone has the same numbers to complete the fiendishly difficult task. The idea is to fill in a map of America using numbers (supplied by the roll of two dice, coloured to match different areas on the map) but the trick is that adjacent areas on the map can't have numbers with a difference greater than one. For example, 4s need to be next to 3s, 4s and 5s. If you can't place legally, you have to fill in an area with an X and at the end of the game , the player with least Xs wins.

There's more to it than that, with opportunities to break the rules a limited number of times, but at its heart it's a very simple game.

And, just like Take It Easy, there were constant sighs of frustration at how cruel fate can be, occasionally punctuated by cries of delight. But only occasionally.

Martin 9
Sam 11
Katy 15
Andrew 15
Joe 16
Ben 16
Ian 17

Katy wanted to play again immediately, but the consensus was not in favour. Instead, we split into two groups. These two groups could broadly be characterized as a the Happy Giddy Fun Group and the Thinky Ponderous Assassinate Hitler Group. Martin, Katy and Ben went for chuckles with Eggs of Ostrich while me, Sam, Joe and Ian were more historically minded in Black Orchestra.

Both of these games were new to people, and there was a period of simultaneous rules explanations. The ever-competitive Martin wanted to teach and finish a game of Eggs of Ostrich before Sam had finished explaining the rules to Black Orchestra. He didn't manage it, but they were able to finish two games very quickly.

Martin 4
Ben 4
Katy 3

And then...

Martin 12
Ben 9
Katy 5

As for Black Orchestra, it's a game that squeezes every bit out of its theme. The artwork and text really add to the game as the four of us adopted personae from the real life attempt to assassinate Hitler and we shuffled around a map of west Europe to pick up things we need. It is a co-op game, and it had shades of Pandemic in that it requires a fair amount of choreography among the players, all the time dealing with the historically accurate Event cards that are uncovered after each player's turn.

Early on I had a chance to do the dirty deed, but my dice rolling let me down. At least, oddly, no one noticed my assassination attempt. Ian, too, later had a pop at the fuhrer, but he failed too.

On the other half of the table, they played Biblios which, I believe, was Ben's introduction to the game. He did pretty well.

Martin 9
Ben 3
Katy 2

And the crown of Mr (or Dr, in this case) Biblios passed to Martin.

Then they played Las Vegas, roping Dirk into their game, awarding him money whenever the dummy dice happened to win any.

Katy reminded Ben of his duty as a GNNer to pick on Martin when necessary, but alliances never last long when they rely on the roll of a die.

Martin 440
Katy 380
Ben 340
Dirk 110

And this victory gave Martin his very own Perfect Five. And all in one evening, too.

Meanwhile, back in the grip of the Third Reich, Hitler seemed more powerful than ever. But in case anyone runs away with the idea that Black Orchestra was a dour experience, let me put that to right. There's a grim humour, and you can't help but laugh at the things that fate flings at you. For example, Joe was wandering around southern Germany, minding his own business, when the entirety of the Nazi upper echelons turned up on his doorstep. "The wrong time to visit Nuremberg," he muttered, regretfully.

The game, too ended in fine comedic fashion. With Sam, Joe and Ian all in jail Ian managed to escape only to be instantly arrested again as he ran straight into Bormann. Then I went to get them out, but this time my plan was detected and, just like Seinfeld, the four main characters ended up behind bars.

A pity, but I'd thoroughly enjoyed our attempt. It avoids the usual pitfall of co-op games where the most experienced keeps giving advice to the others, because the text on the card and board allows even the complete newbie to understand what's going on and what needs to be done.

While the Gestapo had been busy rounding us up, one more game of Eggs Of Ostrich had been played.

Katy 10
Martin 5
Ben 0

Now we were all together, we had one last game together to round off the evening. We chose Fuji Flush, described at the time as the new 6nimmt or Pairs, only not as good as 6nimmt... or Pairs.

Ben made early gains by chaining his cards to other players', allowing him to push through on a regular basis (which is always desirable) but he was slowly pegged back and when Sam placed the twenty as his final card ("I was wondering where that was," remarked Martin) and no one else could chain together a decent response, his victory was assured.

Sam 0 cards left
Ben 1
Martin 1
Andrew 2
Ian 3
Katy 4
Joe 4

And with that, the evening was over. We set off into the crisp January night, the moon still shining down on us benignly, as if approving of our weekly battles.

Finally, we come to the Division for the first time this season.

You might be surprised at how many points Katy has. Well, I've been finding the Division a bit boring recently and have been thinking about changing things around a bit. Whether these rules stay or are just a passing fad, I don't know. Any opinions are welcome.

One of the ideas (implemented here) is something I call the Loser's Boost. In this, if you agree to a game you're bad at, you get a little multiplier to add to your score, i.e, x2 on your second game, x3 on your third, etc. So, this week, Katy kept playing Eggs of Ostrich even though she wasn't good at it, and her score was increased as a result. I hope that this will be of consolation to anyone who ends up playing a game they never win.