Wednesday, 29 March 2017

What's the opposite of a point salad?

This week's regular event saw the final games night of the season. Dizzy with anticipation, eight of us crammed into Sam's kitchen: Sam, Katy, Ian, Joe, Martin, Andy (arriving later), myself and newcomer Matt.

While we waited for Andy, we cranked out a swift game of Fuji Flush. It was new to Matt, but there aren't many rules. So few, in fact, that Martin felt he had time to explain the concept of dick points. During the game, Katy complained about her cards, and that gave us the opportunity to explain to Matt that Katy's level of annoyance is in no way connected to how well she's doing.

As for the game, Sam and Joe crossed the finish line hand in proverbial hand. Furthermore, Sam got most dick points, too. Pity it's not a tie breaker.

Sam 0
Joe 0
Matt 2
Martin 2
Ian 3
Katy 3
Andrew 3

By now, Andy was here and with Joe, Martin and Andy bringing new games with a fierce desire to play them, dividing into groups took very little time. Joe, Martin, Matt and Katy set up New York Slice. I know little about it except the basic premise is that you have to share a pizza but you inevitably get last choice, so you have to balance the options, Mammut style. It also looks like the kind of game you don't want to play if you're hungry.

It finished with Joe looking surprised that he'd won.

Joe 33
Martin 30
Matt 28
Katy 28

Ian, Andy, Sam and I went for Flamme Rouge, a cycling game which involves careful deck management as you guide your two cyclists around a course. You have a Sprinter and a Rouler, how each have their own deck of cards. Slightly disappointingly, the artwork is pretty similar, leading to occasional Incan Gold style confusion.

The game itself is rock solid, though. Simple but strategic enough to be exciting. Andy pointed out how well the game recreated the ebb and flow of a real race as we jostled in the peleton, after the leaders.

My strategy was to send one rider off as fast as possible right from the start, to see what happens. Answer: he gets tired.

Sam kept his riders tucked away in the chasing pack, conserving energy. Ian seemed to go from hopeless last to challenging for first and Andy complained about his cards. "It's mostly luck," Sam said, ever the gracious host. Did he mean it?

1. Sam
2. Ian
3. Andrew
4. Andy

By now, New York Slice had finished, and they were onto Ponzi Scheme, a game that has the dubious USP of being a fun re-creation of uncontrollably spiraling debt.

They ran the gamut of emotions from agony to desperation, with the only light relief being other players' discomfort. Joe was in trouble early on and somehow kept holding on, stating at one point "I'm extremely soluble right now." He managed to stay afloat until Katy joined him in ignominious bankruptcy.

Katy, meanwhile, rued her chances of stopping Martin. If she'd given a pound to Matt, he could've done something (I didn't fully understand. I wasn't really listening) and beaten Martin. But she didn't.

Martin 29
Matt 23
Katy 0
Joe 0

It looked like hell, but they all seemed to enjoy it. It also seemed quite long, since the four of us where able to squeeze in a game of Tinners' Trail.

It was Andy's choice since it's a game he feels he should play more but doesn't. We didn't need any prompting as it was set up, quicksticks.

Sam went for a new strategy: buying poor but well-placed mines for cheap. I used the tactic of bidding on empty and distant parts of the map, hoping no one would bid too much against me. Ian put all his energy into taking over Land's End and Lizard Point, while Andy took over the south coast.

By round three, with prices low, we were all hoping for a bumper crop in the final round and the board was still replete with cubes. But Andy's dice rolling let him and all of us down.

Prices stayed low, which goes some of the way to explain the low scores. Ian regretted an adit, Sam miscalculated how much money he'd need and Andy had too much ground to make up. I can't complain, though.

Andrew 91
Sam 79
Ian 68
Andy 63

And now, we were all together again. Katy was keen on Dead Man's Chest and so Matt got the dubious delight of having rules explained to him by people who didn't fully remember the rules themselves. But once we'd all reminded ourselves of how to play, we were off!

Katy struck upon the tactic of always calling low (3-1) as a safe strategy. I looked back in the GNN archives, and the only other person who did that came last too. It seems like it’s only safe for the person you’re sitting next to.

1. Sam
2. Ian
3. Martin
4. Andrew
5. Joe
6. Andy
7. Matt
8. Katy

And with that, we were done. After an evening of all last places, Katy still seemed happy and as she, I and Joe walked home, we discussed Gold West and wondered what the opposite of a point salad would be. I suggested point custard, but they said it had to be something you usually eat by itself. Katy thought of point blancmange, which I liked but Joe didn’t like crossing over from savoury to sweet. He came up with point pie or point sandwich before texting me late at night with his eureka moment: point smoothie! The debate may never be resolved.

On the division, Ian wins the season! Hurrah! Meanwhile, Adam takes points ratio and Martin win the medal table. And that’s it. Phew. See you all next week!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Heroes of Space Travel: Minus 2 Points

Last night I reached for the stars; finally playing Leaving Earth after a series of near-game experiences. And I might have finished it too, but I ran out of time. And power. And supplies. And ultimately, astronauts. They were either dead or, in my case, headed for bed.

Space takes up a lot of room.

The game tells of the twenty-year space race, 1956-1976. It plays five - you can be the big hitters of the USA or Russia, or go more divergent with the likes of France, China and Germany (I think. Can't remember at this moment). I played Russia, and Dirk was China.

Russia's space control. Note all the numbers

The 'board' is a layout of cards that denote areas of space - and the amount of thrust and time needed to traverse them. Some cards (Mars, the Moon, etc) are dealt from several possible cards, meaning you can't be sure what's out there. Will the Moon be as spaceman friendly as in real life? Or will it contain hostile life-forms?

The banality of evil

You need to assemble a ship that has room for astronauts, supplies to keep them alive, plus - the game's central economy - the thrust to move them. For every manoeuvre in space, you calculate the weight of your ship and multiply it by the difficulty of your route: that's your thrust. And basically, the game is a protracted, pliable maths equation. Not got enough thrust? Add more rockets. But now you've added more rockets, your spaceship weighs more, so you'll need more thrust...

Once you've solved that particular humdinger, there's the chance that your underdeveloped technology will explode anyway. You can improve your faulty tech, but it all costs money, and your government only gives you a certain amount per year. There's three different types of astronauts: pilots help you land, mechanics can fix a life-support failure, and doctors can fix other astronauts. They don't weigh much - in fact they weigh nothing, as far as your thrust equation is concerned - but they do take up space. So you'll need a bigger spaceship for all of them - and for that, you'll need more thrust.

The result of a lot of thrusting

The game gives you a set of randomly dealt goals from three decks: Easy, Medium, and Hard. Easy is stuff like getting a man into space (and back safely) whereas our Medium missions required you to get all the way to Venus or Mars. I didn't have any hard objectives, but any idea that the game would therefore be straightforward proved to be misplaced. At the end of each year your astronauts in space need to keep the life support going and consume supplies. Sally, who joined me in the latter stages of the game to knit and make occasional observations, wondered why I hadn't tested my life support on Earth, and it did seem a reasonable question.

Initially both Dirk and I set our sights afar: I was going to head to Mars, and he to Venus. Dirk's plans changed when he got a bit impatient, and sent a rocket successfully into Earth's upper atmosphere. I only realised after the fact that in doing so he'd completed two of the Easy objectives! And it was only 1958. Damn your starry eyes, Dirk.

I kept to my plans and finally generated a ship that took three astronauts all the way to Mars' orbit. The problem was, this took a long time, and as I'd only packed for three years, they were going to run out of supplies before they could return. As I scrambled to try and get another ship out there with further supplies, they starved to death. That really wasn't rocket science.

Dirk at home, me on Mars. 

By this time it was 1969 and my reward for three hours play was watching my friends decay from afar.  And if the tragedy of your astronauts kicking the bucket in Mars' orbit wasn't enough...

Dirk: 6
Sam: -8

The jury on Leaving Earth was out for me, but I can hear them muttering through the wall: it scores very high on theme and the mechanics of it all do make sense. But the mathiness, for me, made it somewhat gruelling. It felt like accounting, and though I can appreciate that's a crucial component of rocket science, it didn't feel like fun. Mechanically appropriate, but not fun. My closest experience to this was High Frontier, which I found to be equally opaque, although even longer.

But perhaps playing with real opponents could improve the experience: players can agree to share technologies and give each other lifts in space in order to further their own causes, so the game can be played with a seam of co-operation. More importantly though, having someone vaguely numerate will inevitably be a boon.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Spring forward, Fall Back

The night of the spring equinox rolled around, and in the Morrison household myself, Ian, Stanley and Little Joe rolled our way to glory/defeat in Las Vegas. We were expecting Andrew any moment, but he'd assumed an 8pm start and was at home putting his hair on.

 Stan's domain

Ian and Stan played solo; Joe and I were a team with Joe designated dice roller. We played a game of hedge-betting, whilst on the other side of the table things were more dynamic. Dynamism paid off - or it did for Stan, anyway:

Stanley $210,000
Sam and Joe $120,000
Ian $40,000

The boys went upstairs to read, and Ian and I almost played Quoridor. But then we realised that with Andrew texting his agreement to Eclipse, we had better start setting the game up.

Andrew arrived and space conquest began. Ian explored in search of peaceful lands, but found hostiles. Andrew went for his wasp strategy - he can't resist! - and went in search of hostiles, but found empty air. I was lucky: finding a mix of both, in the right order. I also discovered an ancient chit that improved my dice-rolling. Those ancients! They knew how to make an artefact.

Early exploration

Unlike previous games where we have circled the centre hex warily, Ian and I barrelled in there on the same turn. I managed - just - to see off the hordes of Hickman, but my fleet was near-obliterated, and despite nearly defeating the ancients, they saw me off. We wondered whether Andrew wold take advantage of our military weakness, but he carried on exploring, content to keep distant.


We rebuilt, and re-attacked. But as the final round arrived, there was a proliferation of movement as ships flew in and out of hexes before finally settling into battle. I held onto the central hex, and managed to nab one of Ian and Andrew's. It was enough for the win:

Sam 31
Ian 21
Andrew 15

By the time Eclipse had finished, our evening had morphed from a genial 70's commercial for board-games into a bleak 70's health warning about alcohol. Ian and I both managed to research knowledge we'd already acquired. Andrew forewent his usual Zen fatalism in order to retake a turn, and insisted that not being able to see the research tiles was better.

In light of which it seemed apt that our next game was Extreme Biblios - or Blissful Bibs, as my fumbling fingers and auto-correct decided to call it. The game was notable for Andrew's apparent decision to bid on every colour in the auction, which for some reason gave me the giggles. Or maybe it was his voiced desire for Ian to eat his own sh*t.

Ah, Blissful Bibs...

Ian was more circumspect, but I managed to grab the Mr Biblios title by grabbing Blue, Brown and Red dice:

Sam 10
Ian 2 (wins on Extreme tie-breaker)
Andrew 2

Andrew and Ian started drinking whisky at this point, and we played Love Letter. Ian seemed to morph into a Derren Brown type figure, as he wiped out Andrew (once) and me (twice) with his first guesses.

Discard your future

I never recovered - or got going, to be more exact. Andrew did, though:

Andrew 3
Ian 2
Sam 0

As it was Saturday, we played more games! First up was Push It, which Ian won in the manner of Mike Tyson taking on a couple of small kangaroos.

Ian 9
Sam 5
Andrew 1

one reason I didn't take pics of Push It

But Andrew wasn't going to take that lying down, so we played again. This time it was as tight as it possibly could be, with all of us poised on 8 points. I have no recollection of how I won, but the evidence says I did:

Sam 9
Ian/Andrew 8

Whew! The curtains came down on the evening as we stood up, stretched, and put our coats on (except me, because I was already home). Then Andrew noticed we hadn't played Deep Sea Adventure, so we all sat down again as the curtain went back up.


I played a similar game to my Incan Gold tactics - safety first; making it back to the sub in all three rounds. I think Ian did similar. Andrew definitely drowned once, possibly twice. But he still remained competitive, which is quite impressive if you're dead:

Sam 36
Ian 34
Andrew 27


And with that, the evening really did end. They managed to find the front door, so I'm hopeful they both made it home...

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Grand Theft Loco

Thursday, and Ian, Andrew and I gathered around the table ready to test our wits and indulge our senses in a deduction game: Watson and Holmes. This takes its leave from Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, but unlike the older game it's not co-operative. Instead you utilise various currencies to get ahead: bobbies, whistles, keys, but mainly carriages - as you dash from place to place to pick up clues to solve the crime.

location, location, location

Thematically it's slightly weird to be spending carriages when you're going up and down a train - as we were in our case - but whatever. After a prologue read aloud to establish the case, you're given three questions to answer. In our case it was Who stole from the train's mail car, How did they access it, and How did they get clear without being identified.

Cards are laid out denoting the various locations to visit - when you go there, you get to flip the card and - secretly - read the information it contains. The catch is that you bid carriages to visit a place, and if someone outbids you, you're forced to either up your bid or, as Holmes would say, bugger off elsewhere.

competitive detecting

We all established theories but, under a time pressure to crack the case before anyone else, they became increasingly surreal. Andrew wondered if the felon had hurled his cache from the moving train onto a bridge as he sailed under it. Ian wondered if a dog was responsible - he did have sooty paws, after all.

But I was first to have a stab at answering the questions, and got them all right - or right enough for our little company. It was the man t and he got in through a thing and hid the stuff cleverly.

It wasn't a heavy game, but there was a palpable tension, even though much of it is spent in silence, as you read cards and curse the fact they seem to have no bearing on the case whatsoever. However we agreed that for the bidding to really have any weight to it, you need at least 4 players. With 3 there's simply too many places to go at minimal price - like a deductive avenue full of Lidl clues.


With Holmes back in his box, we went for the other gaming extreme - Martin Wallace's push-your-luck adventure of undead avoidance. I put rather more thought into my choices in the early rounds, having been serially eaten in my previous games. And it seemed to work out, although in the end it was extremely close.

Andrew blasts his way through

With two rounds to go, Andrew succumbed to the zombies when his lack of resources finally counted against him in the worst possible way. Ian - down to his last survivor - saw off four zombies in the penultimate round, and six in the finale - but he was out of strength and options when the final wave fell upon him.

Ian's last stand

Sam: lives to tell the tale - just
Ian: dies
Andrew: dies also

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Discovery of Fingers

... by Europeans

Today Sam hosted a number of gamers (Joe, me, Katy, Ian and, making his leaderboard debut of the season, Chris) this week and, as you may have guessed the first game we played was Timeline (The Discovery of Fingers was Joe’s alternative title for the card that illustrated The Invention of Sign Language.)

This was the choice of Sam’s son, Little Joe, as a quick game for him before he went to bed. Despite his young years, he managed to win the game with only sneaking a peek (apparently) at a couple of the dates. He probably thought he had to after the first round when his father gave him the wrong advice about where to put a card.

Little Joe 0
Andrew 1
Katy 1
Ian 2
Joe 2
Sam 2

With Joe off to bed and Sam’s other son back from Ju Jitsu, so Sam went and did the dad thing and put them both to bed. The rest of us (now with late arrival Chris) played For Sale. Chris was given a quick precis of the rules and we were away. Among the usual banter (“You know where you are with a one”) were some new comments (“You’ve no idea where you are with a fifteen”) and, just like last week, Joe dealt out the wrong number of cards in the first auction round and no one noticed until half way through.

In the final reckoning, Katy came top.

Katy 58
Chris 54
Ian 51
Andrew 44
Joe 43

Then, with Sam back, we split into two groups of three. Joe, Chris and I went for the point-salady Euro-goodness of Gold West, while Katy, Ian and Sam went for Martin Wallace’s least Wallace-like game, Hit Z Road.

The hum of simultaneous rules explanations filled the air. When Joe explained how you get points for chaining your camps in a group, I wanted to say “It’s a bit Kingdom Builder-y,” but instead it came out “It’s a bit Killdem Bingery” and Chris looked at me as if I’d lost my mind.

The game itself was fine. A bit odd on first play and not very intuitive, with the mancala-like method of activating your pieces on your go, and also there's a wide variety of options available to confuse a newbie. Joe sped off into a massive early lead, leaving Chris and I feeling like we’d just been suckered into a game chosen by Joe just so he could win. He kept insisting that’d it would all be much closer in the final count but Chris and I were sceptical. And, it turned out, we were wrong to be. To be exact, Chris was wrong to be sceptical. I was bang on the money.

The worst episode of Wacky Races ever

Chris 98 plus most camps
Joe 98
Andrew 79

On the other half of the table, with it’s nightmarish vision of America gone crazy (insert political joke here) Sam, Katy and Ian seemed to be having a whale of a time. I noticed that Katy was a hoarder, keeping a healthy stash of resources in front of her. Sam, meanwhile, looked far less prepared and before long, he was a lone survivor, making his way through the landscape twitching at every shadow.

He almost made it, too. In one round he was attacked by twelve zombies, and had killed off eleven when the last one got past his valiant defence and killed him. The cry of anguish at that last roll was genuine and heart breaking. It could’ve been one of those stories you tell your grandkids. Instead, it got him last place as Ian and Katy both survived.

Ian 20
Katy 16
Sam 0

We actually ended at about the same time, so we ended the evening with two six-player games. Verflixxt/That’s Life was first, with some questions about whether Katy’s copy had any bits missing since there seemed to be only six clover tiles and we thought maybe there should be eight. Still, it was the same for everyone.

We were still baffled by the illustrations and we came up with the theory that maybe they illustrated German proverbs, for example “It’s like when you get a package in the post and it’s a live dog.” As for the game, Chris did splendidly picking up more than his fair share of clover tiles.

Chris 25
Sam 15
Katy 6
Ian 0
Joe –2
Andrew –11

Next up was Fuji Flush and what a game it was. For a start, we began by all playing a “2” and pushing through together, which would never be allowed to happen if Martin was here. As we chuckled happily in our moment of solidarity, I wondered out loud why we even bothered dealing out six cards.

Dick points were spread out pretty evenly, and soon four of us were on one card. Katy managed to push through her 19 just before Sam’s 20, giving her the win.

Or did it? That night, in a fitful sleep beset by doubts, Katy realised that Sam’s 20 should’ve wiped out her 19 (or 5, see comments) but she’d forgotten to discard. No one else noticed. But her guilt was too overwhelming, so she emailed us the next morning to explain her mistake and give the win to Sam. What a nice gesture and I hope Katy didn’t feel too bad about her honest mistake. After all, as they say in Germany, Es ist wie wenn du ein Paket in der Post bekommst und es ist ein Live-Hund.

Sam 0
Katy 1
Ian 1
Andrew 1
Joe 2
Chris 3

Thanks for hosting, Sam. And thanks to me, Katy and Joe for bringing snacks which were pretty much hoovered up the moment they hit the table.

It’s the penultimate week of the season, so no shenanigans for the Division. Just cold, hard numbers. Ian hangs onto the lead, with Katy and Joe within striking distance and Martin still with an outside chance. Adam's hold on Points Ratio is a bit slim, too.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Survival of the Most Resourceful

Sunday night, and our grand plans for a weekend four-player had crumbled with Chris and Ian both unable to make it. Instead, it was a head-to-head between Andrew and I. Just like the old days, when we used to play chess every night in 1993...

But before we could start gaming there was the small matter of the wine bottle whose cork refused to budge. I'd been struggling with this when Andrew arrived. He too, found himself unable to coax it out. So we called on the internet for instruction, and discovered there are many ways to remove a cork with no corkscrew, but most of them involve a highly probable trip to A+E.

Furious, I picked up the bottle again, and with one heave, yanked it out. All it took was a bit of male frustration! Look out for my YouTube channel soon.

zombies edge closer to the Hula Hoops

Having resolved the booze situation, we got down to the nitty gritty, which in this case was barrelling across the states avoiding zombies in Hit Z Road. I've only played this four times, but each time it seems to reveal a little more potential for strategy - terrible strategy, in my case. I decided to avoid spending money on bidding, and let Andrew (usually) take first choice of route. But with first choice of route, he was picking up the most resources, which meant he could keep bidding the most comfortably... aligned with my crappy dice rolls, the game looked to be swinging his way already, but then I was caught by zombies and died anyway.

Andrew: wins
Sam: dessert

It was 8.40 by the time I was eaten by zombies, and we thought that was early enough to crank out a game of Viticulture. The game was notable, though, for its speed: the whole thing took less than an hour. Andrew was first to get an order filled, but my tasting room, selling a field (and a grape) and buying it back again all contributed in chiseller-style to keep me in touch, whilst I gathered enough grapes to fill some high-return orders.

Grande admires tasting room

Sam 21
Andrew 15

We followed this with Quoridor, the abstract race/block game Ben picked up in a charity shop. You're trying to get your pawn to the other side of the board, and on your turn you can either move it, or place a wall instead, hampering your opponent.

pawns eye each other up

But you only have ten walls to place, so the strategy is to try and manufacture a short route for yourself, and a long one for your opponent. Andrew began well but ended up with a bit of a trek for himself - too much of one, in fact.

Sam wins
Andrew doesn't

Finally we broke out the GNN classic: Take it Easy. Rolling back the years again, Andrew called Pink Floyd songs and I did Genesis albums. We ended up playing Who Dunnit? over the speakers, still in disbelief that it was considered worth recording, let alone playing to people.

decent, but no cigar

Anyway in this case it was Andrew who dunnit - despite my pretty decent score, he outplayed me in both rounds!

Andrew 397
Sam 372

Friday, 17 March 2017

Zombie Death Mettle

Unable to cajole any gamers to my house last night, I sat with a doleful expression on my face as I tried out Martin Wallace's game of zombie apocalypse travel, Hit Z Road. It's a terrible title as, as a Brit, you can't say it without sounding like you're doing a bad impression of a German tourist.

Three routes, but the bottom one costs 2 extra resources to travel

The game itself is a rather un-Wallace-esque blend of luck-pushing and simple resource management. You're trying to get from the zombie-infested east coast of the US to the sunnier zombie-free climes of California, and begin with 5 Survivors and some resources of bullets, adrenaline, and gas.

Cards are flipped that represent routes the players can take, and there's a bidding round where players decide who gets first choice on the routes, which are pivotal: some have lots of resources to scavenge, some have lots of zombies to fight (and possibly die fighting).

pick up bullets, fight 5 zombies

The catch is the bidding is made with your resources, so the more you spend bidding, the less your chance of survival on the road.

Each card has three elements played out in order: you scavenge (picking up more resources, though where you might find adrenaline is never explained) you deal with an event (on some cards only, and quick to resolve) then you fight zombies, if there are any present,  using bullets first, then at close quarters in a melee. Or you can speed on past by spending gas, which is safer, but doesn't get you any victory points.

Targets are hits. Skulls mean you've been bit

Unlike most GNN games, there is player elimination here - which feels kind of appropriate. It's possible no-one wins. But if more than one player makes it to the west coast, points are tallied: which is where your bravery in fighting zombies will come to count for you.

I played for myself and Dirk, and unusually I actually won. Dirk found himself outnumbered 6-1 after spending too much on the bidding, and though he fought bravely - the final battle was tense - he was eventually eaten. I played it safe and drove on to victory, at which point Stanley appeared saying he couldn't get to sleep.

Well, the game was already out on the table. What harm could it do to put a 9-year-old child through a deadly apocalyptic wasteland after bedtime?

This time we both made it through the end, but I won because I had a bunch of resources and 4 survivors left. Stan had scraped through with only 2, narrowly avoiding consumption in the final battle.

Zombies aren't my thing, but the game is simple to teach and plays in half an hour, making it a decent GNN filler that most will enjoy, I think - like Cosmic Run, but with extra cannibalism.

Probably best with four though, because the interaction is really all in the bidding - that's where you can get totally stiffed.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Pass the Duchy

This week was an auspicious occasion as a new name was added to the GNN Roll Of Honour: Rob, Katy's patient and understanding other half. He was here, not for games, but because it was Katy's birthday and he wanted some cake and had agreed to play one game with us.

"Us" were Hannah (hosting), Katy, Andy, Joe, and me. Still to arrive were Adam (also hosting, upstairs putting his son to bed) and Martin. After an unusually long preamble of taking and some lovely cake, we chose For Sale as being just right for a newbie like Rob. Katy preferred Why First but we thought it easier to explain a game in which the winner actually wins.

Rob played a solid game, avoiding some of the common mistakes like Katy paying eight for a 20, but nor did he show any special aptitude, like when Andy spent all his money once he was sure the lowest cards had all gone.

In the second phase, Joe initially dealt only five cheques for six players, and no one noticed until it was time to distribute them. We decided to play that round again, to Katy's annoyance since she'd won that round.

The other notable event was when both $0 cheques came out at the same time. "I hope you didn't all go stupid," said Katy, just before we revealed our cards. Alas, we had all gone stupid. Joe and Katy picked up the zero cheques for 23 and 24. Ouch.

Andrew $52K
Hannah $51K
Andy $47K
Katy $41K
Rob $35K
Joe $30K

After this, Rob left and by now Martin was here, so the only question was, had Adam fallen asleep? Hannah didn't want to go and check, because that would risk resetting the whole bed-time routine back to the start. We pondered that Adam was currently existing in two possible states: awake and asleep, like a sort of Schrodinger's Adam. But then Adam came down, collapsing one of the probability waves and restoring order to the universe.

We split into two groups. Katy and Joe corralled Andy into a game of Isle Of Skye, while Adam and I were introduced by Martin and Hannah to Rheinlander, Martin's recent rediscovery that he wanted to play again before he forgot everything about it.

Rheinlander is a Knizia and, as you'd expect, it's a delicate balance between risk and reward. You can use cards to place shields and more than two shields is a Duchy, and you place a knight next to it, which is good. But if two Duchys (duchies?) join up, then the majority holder gets control of the whole thing. All is not lost for the victim, though, as their removed knight scores points.

It's all hugely confusing.Adam went for the archbishop card, which allows you to remove opponent's shields, so I did my level best to stop him. And it worked. In the final rounds he cursed his lack of archbishop in the way that only board gamers can understand. Also Martin decided to block Adam from doing something, but in the after match analysis, Martin decided it would have been better had he played elsewhere. All fine by me, is I was delighted by my not-last place against such strong opposition.

Hannah 40
Martin 37
Andrew 32
Adam 29

Meanwhile, Isle Of Skye ended in agony for Joe, who was just one coin away from forcing a draw.

Katy 61
Joe 60
Andy 54

Next, it was time for Hannah to meet Fuji Flush. And the concept of dick points.

She took to it very well, and came a comfortable first in our first game.

Hannah 0 cards left
Andy 1
Katy 2
Adam 2
Martin 2
Andrew 2
Joe 4

She was keen on another go, so we dealt again and this time Martin won.

Martin 0
Hannah 1
Andrew 1
Andy 2
Adam 2
Katy 2
Joe 3

Finally, there was time for one more round before Hannah retired for the evening. I began by mocking Joe's two last places, and he paid back my insult with interest.

Joe 0
Adam 1
Andrew 2
Martin 2
Hannah 3
Andy 4
Katy 5

In this game, Katy pushed through no cards at all (thanks to being next to this evening's dick point king , Andy) and we wondered if that had happened before. Well, I checked and it has. By Katy.

Finally, the six of us played Diamant, the Incan Gold remake which improves on the tents and hard to discern Go/Leave cards but then fails slightly with a lack of zombie ladies and some meeples that are a little too extruded, making look as if they are just warping in from another dimension.

Joe went for the 'get out early' tactic and it was almost perfect. Only on round three did he stay in due to peer pressure and we all died. He almost got an extra four gems. My tactic was to leave a dungeon the moment Joe suggested he turn over the next card. Knowing his poor luck, I did pretty well too. No idea what Katy's tactics were.

Joe 22
Adam 13
Andrew 12
Andy 11
Martin 7
Katy 5

And with that, we were gone. Into the night glowing like fireflies with the joys of winning and losing.

This week's Division is a special one for Katy's birthday. I've converted everything to base four and then replaced the digits 0, 1, 2, 3 with K, A, T, Y respectively. No Points Ratio, though because I couldn't be bothered to do decimals (quadrimals?) Thanks all, and special thanks to Hannah for the cake.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Made of Orleans

Six gamers, one kitchen table. The gamers were Ian, Katy, Sam, Andy, Martin and me and the table belonged to Sam.

We began with a jolly six-handed game of Fuji Flush. In amongst all of the excitement about dick points (with Martin starting the game with a big swinging dick point, clearing five two-cards with an eleven) I snuck into a winning position and was down to my last card before anyone noticed. But then Martin noticed and after that, people seemed reluctant to join me. Luckily, when Sam got down to his final card, he put down a seven to make a fourteen with another seven already showing, and then I put down my seven. We pushed through together, and rejoiced in our shared victory

Andrew 0
Sam 0
Martin 1
Ian 1
Andy 2
Katy 2

After this, we split into two groups. Sam bundled Ian and I into a game of Orleans. Martin, Andy, and Katy spent a little time before deciding on Vikings.

Ian and I got a run through of the rules which are straightforward if a little fiddly with a lot going on with each turn. As I played, I started to get a feel for how to best manage my luck, while going for the, perhaps simplistic, strategy of Get Stuff.

Sam built Guildhalls as he hopped across the board while Ian ignored the map completely at first, preferring to build up his presence on the range of tracks that gave out little bonuses as you did. At one point, he was in first place in four out of six, and generating large amounts of money while also monopolizing cheese.

On Vikings, Katy was having a difficult time of it. Although she'd played before, it was a long time ago and up against two seasoned professionals like Martin and Andy, she was struggling. Martin reassured her that she was doing fine, but Katy wasn't convinced. And during the final count up, she made sure I noticed when she briefly edged into second place, before Martin and Andy sped off into the distance once more.

Andy 88
Martin 81
Katy 62

Back in Orleans, Ian's initial advantage was slowly being pegged back by Sam. Ian and I started building Guildhalls, and we even began populating the Town Hall.

On the other half of the table, Vikings had been replaced by Karuba. This Take-It-Easy-ish game of pathfinding is usually a big hit but Katy, stymied by Explainer's Curse, didn't seem to enjoy it as much as usual.

Martin 23
Andy 22
Katy 20

As Karuba ended, so we came to the end of Orleans. And what an ending. At first, once the scores had been counted, Ian had won. But, as we were packing away, Ian pointed to a lone citizen (a multiplier for an end-game bonus) on the board and asked what it was there for. Sam then realized that it should have gone to him (as the player with most Guildhalls) which would put him in first.

What to do? Does the original score stand or does Sam take the win? In the end, Sam remembered that he'd not explained this particular rule, and so he couldn't very well invoke it now. The initial tally would stand, with Ian taking first place.

Ian 125
Sam 123
Andrew 95

Now we were all back together so we decided to play 6nimmt as our nightcap. After two games against tough opposition, Katy seemed keen on a familiar game to level the playing field. However, before long, her enthusiasm waned as we embarked on a very tough game of 6nimmt. One impossible situation after another kept cropping up. In desperation, at one point, I went Dirk and was delighted when it came off and Martin had to pick up a row!

In the end, fully fifty percent of the players ended up past the losing score of 66.

Sam 22
Ian 46
Katy 62
Andy 67
Andrew 68
Martin 72

Which leaves us with the Division. This week, I've taken the points score and changed it so that zero points is 1066 and the leader's score is 2017. That way, everyone is represented by an historical event.