By the time our 4-player game had ended Paul (not Jefferies) had arrived, and we were set for our evening of 5-player snappy games.
We began with Pairs, which everyone had played before and even if you haven't, doesn't need much of an introduction. I got off to a solid start with my Incan Gold tactic of safety play, and for a while it looked almost valid, albeit not one Martin would approve of. Then as other braver players surged forward, I had to take more risks. Risks that didn't work. The game was notable in the main though, for Paul's repeated suffering at the hands of the double mushroom, which kept choosing to spore in his face:
Next we played Las Vegas - new to Paul and Stuart, but easy to pick up and play. Too easy, in fact, for my liking, as my first round of hedge-betting yielded very little, and it with a three-round game, I'd given myself a bit of a way to go to catch up. Chris's last die of the last round cost me a whopping $80k... meanwhile, Paul strolled to a convincing debut victory.
Next we blasted through a couple of games of Skulls. This was new to everyone but Andrew and I, but it's not exactly dripping with rules. After two games of skirting around the edges I decided to take on the Berger mantle of guessing early and guessing high. Although you do run the risk of implosion - I lost my skull early in the second game - not playing skulls at all means you're always in the bidding, and I picked up a couple of wins.
Next up was 7 Wonders which needed no introduction. Andrew's card preparation was scrambled by his conditioning of playing with three or less, but when he reminded himself we were five, the mystery was solved.
For the first time in a long while, play on the other side of the table was irrelevant in terms of military scoring and resource retail. Neither Andrew nor I went for military at all, in part because I was being handed my cards early on by Chris, who seemed to be encouraging me to go for sciences. I became resource-rich and cash-rich, but was neglecting the diversification that 7 Wonders traditionally rewards. Paul and Stuart fought out a military battle, whilst directly opposite me Chris was benefiting from mine and Andrew's pacifism. He scored big on battles as a result, and had points coming in in pretty much every category. I'm not sure what happened to Andrew.
Then another classic: Heck Meck! Famously the first time we played this one person took everyone's turn for them, and I think none of us wanted to play it again for about two years. Then we discovered that when you're allowed to think for yourself, the game is actually pretty fun. I guess it can occasionally run on a little though, and possibly this was one of those times, in part down to the serial worm heists we were pulling off. In the end, Chris and I tied for wormage with me grabbing the win on the tie-breaker. We didn't note down the scores.
Next up: Insider! I was the Master first time out, and the word was Dictionary. It was successfully guessed, but we wrongfully accused Stuart of being the Insider when it was actually that dastardly Andrew!
Stuart was the Insider next time around, but we aborted when he made the mistake of saying "Okay" aloud when the Master - Paul - said the Insider should look at the word.
Then I was Master again and we collectively failed to identify the word, which now escapes me.
Finally, I was the Insider and managed to pull off a win after guessing the word myself, which was sleeping bag. I like to think all my fake guesses contributed, but probably we were all marginally tipsy at this point.
We kept playing! Raj made a long-awaited appearance from its box and we played three rounds with the winners bonus of 3/6/9. The sting of the ties-cancel-each-other-out rule was much to the fore, with Chris picking up a high tile very cheaply and Paul serially finishing on minimal, or even negative points. In the end - if I read Chris' note correctly - Andrew won with 75 points. Or someone did. Whoever it was, it wasn't me.
We finished off our five-player session with 6Nimmt. By the this point the evening was a little hazy and again the note (above) isn't totally clear on who won. But I seem to recall Paul, who had apparently a long line of 6Nimmt defeats under his belt, finally emerged victorious!
It was now midnight and we were ready to call time on the evening. As Stuart and Paul made their way home, we blasted though a quick pallet-cleanser of NMBR9 again. I think I won - I seem to do well at this game, unless I'm playing Martin or Little Joe.
In the morning Andrew and I were up and about before anyone else, as I enjoyed the novelty of having children in the house who don't arise at dawn. We enjoyed a few more games of NMBR9, and Andrew's colourful spread reminded me of that Michael Jackson video when he dances about on a neon pavement. Then we played a two-player variant where when a card flips, you pick up two matching numbers instead of one. This led to some pretty hefty scores.
michael jackson pavement
We also explored Andrew's idea of a YouTube channel where professionals are invited to play a game that's themed on their profession - a medic plays Pandemic, a Provost plays Caylus, and so on. I wondered who or what we would recruit to play NMBR9 as unfortunately Michael Jackson is no longer with us.
Finally Stan and I saw off the Saturday with a blast at Hostage Negotiator, which is a solo-player we played co-operatively. In this not-particularly child-friendly game, a madman (or woman, but the intro game has a male) has taken several meeples hostage and you're tasked with trying to get them released, by virtue of chatting to them for a while over the phone. Chatting successfully buys you conversation points, which in turn buys you more cards to chat with. It's part high-pressure stress, part dinner-party discourse - which I guess for some of us amounts to the same thing.
The problem is your chat is manifest in dice-rolling, and when the dice don't go your way the madman gets cross with your negotiation anecdotes - possibly cross enough to start gunning down his guests. In our case, two of them went this way, but we successfully got half the hostages out and won.
dinner party adventure
A happy end - for most of us, anyway.