Sunday, 23 April 2017

Counting Cows

This Saturday meeting was initially organised as a chance to really get to grips with Great Western Trail, a recent acquisition of Sam’s that promises 150 minutes of playing time, according to BGG. So it was no surprised to find GWT already set up, with Joe sitting beside it having already reserved his place, along with Sam. Matt was the third player, preferring cattle trading to the epic space adventure being organised on the other half of the table.

Apologies for the fuzziness.
Camera lens is damaged.

Chris, Ian and I chose Eclipse as our Saturday epic, going for an all alien battle against upgraded ancients. I ended up going for my usual Swarm of Wasps tactic, only because Interceptors were cheap, and resources were in short supply. Chris was cash-rich, but went through the whole game with very little in the way of building resources. He could hardly ever build more than one ship per round. Oh, but what ships they were, bristling with advanced tech and improved hulls. He also ignored aliens in his own sector, preferring instead to head towards the centre. Ian, too, had ships stuffed with hulls and +2 and –2 die-adjusting computers, but weaker weapons.

As is usual in Eclipse, the final round played out with everyone piling into the centre, currently controlled by Chris. I put my interceptors in first, not as a serious challenge, but simply to pin his ships down so he couldn’t invade. Then Ian decided to join in too.

After this, there was a lot of cagey attacking around the perifery. Ian invaded me, just so I couldn’t invade him. Chris explored a sector, hoping for a route to me, but found only ancients (which I then attacked and beat) and finally Chris attacked and defeated Ian’s home planet. Oh, the humiliation!

Chris 38
Andrew 28
Ian 26

Since Great Western Trail hadn’t finished, we quickly whipped off a game of Love Letter.

Chris 3
Ian 2
Andrew 1

Finally, Great Western Trail had ended, with the scores at:

Sam 116
Matt 97
Joe 73

Although Sam said he’d inadvertently cheated. He didn’t go into details (with a game like GWT, that might have taken a good few minutes) but we salute his honesty.

Then we went to the chip shop, except for Joe and Chris who stayed behind and played a card game that looked like Race For The Galaxy. I didn’t note the score, but I think that Chris won.

After food, while we waited for our last arrival, Katy, we played Fuji Flush.

Andrew/Chris 0 cards left
Matt/Joe/Ian/Sam 2

And when this was over, Katy was here and we split into two groups: the foursome of Chris, Ian, Joe and Katy went for the high tension of Ponzi Scheme. The remaining trio chose A Feast For Odin.

It was Matt’s first play of Odin, but the rules aren’t difficult, just remembering what some of the iconography means and how the options should go together for best results.

I decided to simply ignore most bonuses on my player mat, preferring instead to build over them. I regretted this when I saw Sam’s use of the bonuses on his player mat and the Faroe Islands net him an increasingly impressive haul each round.

I think this game was the first time that the grey tiles from the oval bit of the board (I forget its proper name) were extensively used, with Matt and Sam buying stuff there regularly, and even I nabbed a couple of things late on. Buildings, too, were built by Matt and I. Meanwhile, I don’t remember Sam playing a single occupation card. He didn’t need to.

Sam 109
Matt 62
Andrew 59

By the time we’d finished, Ponzi Scheme was long over, with Katy being the sole survivor as you might expect since she confidently predicted her imminent demise mid-game.

Katy 19
everyone else went bankrupt

They filled in the time while we finished our final round by playing Vegas

Chris 500
Joe 360
Katy 280
Ian 260

And, post-Odin, we trotted out No Thanks, with Matt’s clever choice of high cards meaning he only had one run of cards in front of him by the end, compared to Sam’s and my three or four. Maybe five, in my case.

Matt 31
Sam 39
Andrew 67

After this it was just past ten, but I seemed to be the only one winding down. I had to turn down Matt’s offer of a game I’d never played before in favour of Dead Man’s Chest, about which Katy observantly noted “the best bit about losing is that you get to play.” Honest Joe did well just by telling the truth, until he lied and got caught out.

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

After that, there were a few rounds of Spyfall. Sam, as the spy, guessed the first location after only two questions. Then Joe was too honest, and his inability to keep a straight face swiftly got him collared as the spy. This was followed by another round where Joe was the spy, and he got so close to winning, with the old Polar Station/Space Station confusion.

After this, Joe tried to accuse Chris based on the fact that Chris was perusing the list of locations in a suspicious manner. No one agreed, though. Sam was the spy then, but he didn't guess the location.

Finally, we all accused Matt when he asked an odd question, but it wasn't him, it was Ian. Matt explained that he was also asking questions according to the role he was playing, not just answering. We'd never thought of playing it that way. Spyfall Extreme, anyone?

After this, Chris and I left – I was so keen to get to bed that I dashed out without my notes or a beer. How lackadaisical of me.

Once I'd gone, the remaining gamers launched into a little Cube Quest Tournament. Sam texted me the scores and notes.

Matt beat Sam when Sam flicked his own king off the board.
Ian beat Katy with a long shot.
Joe beat Matt with “Hari Kiri” method.
Katy beat Sam “early doors”.
Ian beat Joe in an epic

Thus ended the weekend. Thanks all. Good to get some epics undertaken. See you guys on Tuesday.


  1. As my boys would say, that was Epic.

    I did enjoy GWT; the only caveat being the rather odyssean length. But I think that will drop: we were all learning it. My inadvertent cheating was not realising everyone could stop at the same stations, and as dashing ahead on the track was part of my strategy, Joe and Matt were under the impression (as was I) that I was blocking them out. Oh well.

    Great to play Spyfall and Cube Quest again. It comes to something when we played A Feast for Odin 'at some point' during the day!

  2. A very lovely time, thanks Sam. I enjoyed GWT hugely; I was in the mood for that sort of game, and it is certainly EPIC. At the heart of it is a very neat, simple deck-building idea - draw 4 cards from your deck and take them to Kansas City to score them. But only unique cards score, so you use the opportunities en-route to cycle your hand, hoping to maximise your pay-off, and buy bigger cards for subsequent trips.
    On top of that is ladled so much 'other stuff' that that core thing seems to get lost, and you end the game, as Sam mentioned in his first run-through, with an 11 item list of point-scoring categories. It's like a delicious cottage pie in an expensive restaurant to which the celebrity chef has added layer upon layer of unnecessary flashy flourishes - but it's delicious all the same, as an occasional experience.

    I felt utterly spent as we totted up the points, and frustrated by the number of end-game scoring opportunities I'd ignored - but woke up this morning feeling keen to have another go.

    As so often happens

  3. Ponzi Scheme was similarly befuddling, despite having three rules and no end-game score sheet - just the inscrutability of one's opponents. Ian was, I think, unimpressed, and Chris felt it went on too long. I agree it feels a tad too long for the (lack of) variety in the gameplay, but I'm sure a game that didn't involve teaching, albeit only a few mins of teaching, would feel shorter.

    A good counterpoint to GWT for me, as the game is very much among the players rather than in the tightly constructed system of checks and balances of the latter.

  4. But there's a big place for both styles of game in my head and heart.

    Well not so much in my head.

  5. I still haven't played Ponzi Scheme- for some reason it doesn't appeal. I think that's a fair summary of GWT though. But if it was just the cards I think it'd get a bit dull. It's one of the few games too where the point salad approach works because it gives you a variety of strategies.

  6. Thanks Sam, that was a most enjoyable Saturday. Eclipse was, well, an epic.. Finally tried playing a non-human, which changed the game in an interesting way. I didn't quite work out the best way to capitalise on my races particular traits, but I never felt it was unbalanced. The game just keep growing in my estimation.

    I have to admit Ponzi Scheme didn't really grab me. I just couldn't get my head around it; It sort of felt like I was going through the motions, waiting for a moment where it all clicked, which was a moment that never came. Happy to have tried it though.

    Really good to play Spyfall and Cube Quest again too. I was slightly hampered by the location sheet being so far away, it was difficult to to take a surreptitious look without giving myself away. Great game though. And I'm still quite happy with my final flick in Cube Quest.

    Reading what you wrote in your earlier playthrough and Joe's comment, I would like to GWT a go at some point...

  7. Thanks Sam, it was a good day of games. I really enjoyed GWT, it felt like the perfect game for a long, sunny afternoon. I'd like to give it another go, like you say there are so many ways to earn points that it gives you a variety of strategies. I think I spread myself a bit thin to start with, it was only when I started focusing on buying cattle and scoring objective cards that I started racking up points.

    Despite the simpler(ish) rules I found Feast for Odin a bit more confusing but I did enjoy it.

    We played a lot of Spyfall during a holiday last year and I think that is when we started asking questions in character. It can make it harder to figure out the spy but leads to a lot of funny questions and answers.

    1. Yeah, I can imagine! If I had twigged that's what you were doing I might not have accused you of being the spy Matt - sorry!

      My first play of Feast left me a mix of underwhelmed yet intrigued. Revisiting it left me more enamored, so do give it another try if you get a chance!