Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Ale's well that ends well

Tonight's games night was to have been a five-hander but the last minute apology from a potential debutant left us as a quartet. Sam was the host and myself, Ian and Martin were the eager gamers sodden by the rain.

But Ian was a late arrival, so we played a couple of quick games with Stanley. The first was a roll 'n' write game called Knister. This was Stanley's introduction to the genre and, by his own admission, he played pretty randomly.

The game is like a dicey Take It Easy, in that everyone writes the result of two dice into their 5x5 grid. The idea is to get pairs, three/four/five of a kinds, straights or full houses along the rows and columns and two diagonals. Sam had to explain to his son what a full house was.

The game itself was very odd, with the dice obeying the laws of probability to the letter, showing only results between five and nine. Martin even picked them up to check they did have ones on them. I suspect this meant we ended with some higher scores than average.

Martin 57
Andrew 54
Sam 52
Stanley 36

A fun game, but I'd like to play it again when the dice aren't so well behaved.

Next we needed a game to take us up to Ian's expected arrival and Stanley's bed time. Martin introduced us to Texas Showdown. It was Stanley's first trick taking game too. What an auspicious occasion. Two new game genres in one night.

This is a trick taker with a difference. Then again, aren't they all? In this game, the 60 card deck is split into eight suits. But the numbers are exclusive to each suit. For example, numbers 1-10 make up the black pistol suit. Then numbers 11-20 make up the orange cowboy boots suit (which look a bit like squid heads to me, but never mind). And each suit has fewer cards so that the highest grey buffalo skull suit runs from 70-74. Some numbers aren't included at all, which is why the highest is 74 in a 60 card pack.

So that's one twist. The other is that you have to follow lead but if you can't and you play another colour then that suit becomes another lead suit. For example, Martin plays blue but Ian has none so he plays green. Sam has the choice of blue or green to follow. If he can't and plays purple, then I have to follow blue, green or purple if I can. Ingenious.

And if that wasn't enough, the winner (and winning is bad in this game) is decided by the highest card on the suit which has most cards showing. Another example; in a round with three blacks and one grey, the highest black will win even though the grey will have the highest value. In the case of a tie, though, the highest value takes the trick.

The reason I'm going into such detail about the rules is that we kept commenting how amazing it was that new trick-taking games were still coming out with simple ideas no one had ever thought of before.

I loved it. It was so simple but so easy to screw over an opponent or, more likely, yourself that it had an appeal much greater than I'd expected during the rules explanation.

Sam looked like he'd sussed it immediately, going through the first round without picking up a single trick. But his clean sheet couldn't last and the game ended in a heart warming draw between father and son.

Stanley 9
Sam 9
Andrew 10
Martin 17

So after this Stanley climbed the wooden hill to Bedfordshire (with his sprained ankle and all) and Ian arrived shortly after.

We looked over Sam's games collection and Martin's suggestion of Heaven & Ale was quickly agreed upon. We set up, gave Martin a rule refresher and we were off.

Ian went entirely dark side early on, trying to build up some money making options. Sam began by picking up monks but then instead went for some low-value shed building instead. I forced myself to buy some monks, too, and after building a bit in the dark side, I focused on the lighter side of my game board. Martin focused on green, blue and yellow with a couple of monks thrown in there too.

As the game headed to a conclusion, we were all aware of the risk of a last round bun fight for the scoring tiles. Ian impressed us all with his monk's quarters and wide selection of barrels.

I got the two scoring tiles I needed and was especially pleased to learn I'd stopped Martin from making a mega move. I also managed to squeeze in a final shed right at the end. Sam sauntered on the final round, and did enough to fill his entire board. But Martin had a plan B. Unable to score his yellow tiles he picked up some barrels and this, along with his lofty biermeister, was the key in a victory every bit as convincing as the 5-2 score in the Liverpool-Roma game we kept checking on while we played.

Martin 49
Ian 28
Sam 24
Andrew 22

So there was time for one last game. Texas Showdown made another appearance and as we moved from a Michael Nyman soundtrack to a more suitable Johnny Cash backing, we delighted in the close escapes and cruel defeats of the game.

Martin 12
Ian 14
Sam 16
Andrew 18

And so we were done. The rain had stopped and, quite apart from the late hour, it seemed wise to leave while it was dry.

Friday, 20 April 2018

The Fiery Pit of Hell

Quantum is back. Andrew thought it had perhaps been a year, but actually it was six months almost to the day since it was last on the table. I mentioned the possibility last night and Ian leapt - as only Ian can - at the opportunity for space battle, so away we went.

It was myself, Ian and Andrew with the board vaguely pyramid-shaped and the three of us starting in the corners. We all began with favourably numbered ships and at first it seemed that turn order might even decide the game, as we all placed quantum cubes on the same turns. As Ian was starting player, that put the spotlight on him somewhat, and Andrew moved some low-numbered ships threateningly into the centre of the board.

Ian came after me though, slaloming between planets to blow up my cannily (- I thought) placed 5, which was all set to get another cube down. "I'm not sure why I did that" he said.
"If it was to irritate me, you succeeded" I retorted, as the game began its inevitable spiral into dastardly manoeuvrings.

Andrew was next to have a pop as he embarked on a series of one-two punches to both me and Ian. But as the game progressed Andrew's strategy of Cruel Plundering seemed to be punching under its weight, as he fell behind in the race. At least it seemed that way, until he pulled off one of the moves of the game, getting both his research and dominance up to six on the same turn.

Meanwhile Ian had pulled ahead of both of us courtesy of his Arrogance - allowing him to take an extra action if he had most ships on the board. He was making so much hay with this I expanded just to stop him running away with things. Still, he only had one cube to place whereas I had two and Andrew three. Then Andrew got another cube down and we entered a dramatic endgame... first, Andrew sabotaged us, meaning both Ian and I lost one of our special abilities. Ian was now down to the standard three actions per turn, but manoeuvred himself into an imminent winning position. It looked hopeless, until I realised the replacement for Andrew's Sabotage card was Momentum.

Utilising my Conformist to give me an extra action, I got my penultimate cube down, then used my free Tactical move to push my 6 ship sideways into a new orbit. I took Momentum and used both actions to place my final cube. A pretty nifty move, if I do say so myself.

Sam - 0 cubes left
Ian - 1 cube left
Andrew 2 cubes left

Still in the mood for dickery, next to the table was Azul. I decided early on a strategy of going after a couple of colours and sacrificing the point-by-point round scoring to a degree. Andrew went for columns and managed to cram most of his tiles close together. Ian couldn't get going, although he did have the highest scoring individual round near the end, I believe.

Andrew's impressive board

We continued the GNN tradition of providing pointless names for things, with the light blue tiles now christened 'bathroom', the black 'Axminster' and the yellow 'Fiery pit of Hell". I finished off my blue tiles near the end and could have completed reds or fiery pits of hell, only not enough of the buggers came out. Ian put all his money on Axminster, and I took the final three of them, leaving Andrew and Ian with a load of crap to pick up:

It wasn't enough! Andrew's shrewd play had done enough for the win:

Andrew 66
Sam 60
Ian 42

Exhausted from ninety minutes of pure adrenaline, we decided to do something less feisty and play Burgle Bros. But because the games cupboard had a load of boxes stacked against it and I couldn't face moving them all, we played The Mind instead.

So far this game hasn't failed to entertain, and last night was no exception. We had quite a few near-misses, and only lost lives when someone - usually me - went a fraction too early. Level 7 was achieved with only one or two issues, and we forgave ourselves a lost life when Ian, having checked that I didn't have any cards left, played his 100. "I've still got a card" Andrew pointed out.

Ultimately though, level 7 was it, and we moved on to Sakura, Reiner Knizia's game of bumbling sycophants: follow the emperor as close as you can through the blossom garden, but take care not to bump into him when he stops to admire the flowers.

This was my fourth play and I finally decided it is not mere chaos (though it's pretty close to it) however whatever modicum of control the game gives you, I handled it rather badly, bumping into the Emperor more than anyone else and never being closest to him at his stopping points. Ian, despite mine and Andrew's efforts, did rather better:

Ian 11
Andrew 9
Sam 7

Andrew stood up as though readying himself for home. I asked Ian if he fancied a two-player and Andrew said "Two-player?" and sat down again. Ian requested Love Letter and in trying to extract it from the cupboard I discovered all the boxes in the way were remarkably light. I was baffled as to what was in them, but it didn't seem the time to investigate.

Ian often seems to win Love Letter. But last night there was some drama! He surged into a two-point lead with Andrew on one cube and me on none at all. I guessed Andrew was the princess and he hurled his card to the table in disgust, bending it in the process. As we tried to straighten it out Andrew said it was about time I bought a new copy anyway. Then Andrew and Ian were tied on two points, and with either of them set to win, the doorbell rang. It was 11 o'clock and Andrew was baffled as to what gamer would chance their arm this late. But it was Sally, who is not a gamer, and we recommenced. I won the round and set up a nail-biting three-way sudden death...

Which Ian won. I can't remember how now but I do recall I was knocked out before the grand finale. If Andrew is still keeping tabs on scores I'd be interested to see the stats on Love Letter, as it seems so much a game of chance to me and yet it's clearly not. Not to Ian, anyway.

Three games, three winners. But hey everyone's a winner in boardgames, right?

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

We don't need no regulation

Six gamers converged at Joe's table this evening; along with the host there was Stuart, Martin, Ian, Andy, and myself (Sam). Martin plonked Auf Teufel Komm Rass on the table so without further ado - apart from the mystery of the unheard door knocker (people were talking!) we started picking coal from the cauldron.

Ian began badly and slipped into sixth position whilst others surged ahead. I can't remember who now; my default was usually not-quite-last-place. Joe seemed to be doing rather well throughout, even taking a big hit in one round didn't throw him out of his stride. Ian's tactic - or by-product - of being last and getting paid worked out rather well, as he timed a run up the score track to near-perfection. The game's main drama (outside of Ian's struggle with numeracy) was Martin announcing in the final round he was going for something like 370, which is what he needed to end the game. He blew up, as Joe took the win with Andy claiming a noble second:

Joe 1610
Andy 1430
Ian 1180
Sam 1060
Stuart 840
Martin 450

A crazy game of swings and roundabouts. We stayed as a six for our next game - Flamme Rouge, with the additional water-stops and bidding for a breakaway at the start. Andy and I won that so placed our sprinters miles ahead of everyone else - but lost cards from our deck in order to do so.

We stayed ahead for about half (me) or three-quarters (Andy) of the track before the peloton arrived, breathing heavily down our necks. At this point both Andy and I had decks drowning in exhaustion cards, but we managed to stay competitive until the final furlong. But what an absolute bastard that last furlong was, as Martin surged into joint lead with Andy as my sprinter finally lagged.

With the finish line in sight I was sure I had a '9' somewhere in my deck, which would be enough to hopefully claim a win, assuming neither Andy nor Martin had the same. But the nine didn't show and my sprinter could only feebly cycle by Andy before being overtaken by both Ian and Stuart, who surged past Martin for a one-two finish! Back in the doldrums somewhat, Joe said he had no idea what he was doing. In the end, I felt the same.

1 Stuart
2 Ian
3 Martin
4 Sam
5 Andy
6 Joe

As if wanting to dissipate the tension, Sybil now embarked on what sounded like a protracted air guitar solo, using her throat for audio. Suitably inspired by this all-mates-here show of solidarity, we broke out Team Play with Joe and Martin, Ian and Stuart, and Andy and myself teaming up in pairs. The game was notable for how many times the objective cards got rejected, usually accompanied by some foul-mouthed disdain, or failing that more noise from Sybil under the table.

I thought Martin and Joe were running away with it as they seemed to be cashing in objective cards every round, but as it turned out Ian and Stuart scored the same, and Andy and I had the larger points haul:

Andy and Sam 21
Stuart and Ian/Joe and Martin 19

Next up was Perudo. New to Stuart but less confusing than Dead Man's Chest to explain, after a brief run-down of the rules we were away. Everyone got shafted whenever they called dudo at the start; it seemed there was always enough to meet the call. I began reverting to aces whenever I could, which Martin referred to as the "wanker's call". Joe still insists that all the dice can fit under the cap, which proved to be true. Sort of.

Ian and Stuart were first out in the fairly balanced six-way war of attrition , before I made what I thought were reasonable bids only to find the law of the dudo had been repealed. Andy went out on his own palafico round, leaving just Martin (one die) and Joe (two) in a face-off. Martin called one six. Joe called two. Martin called dudo, and Joe revealed his two sixes! Martin was harpooned by his own gun.

1 Joe
2 Martin
3 Andy
4 Sam
5 Stuart
6 Ian

For Sale was next. Martin again took the rules of explainer to newbie Stuart, although I added the unwritten rule that I always come last. The game began with high drama when Joe paid a lot of coins for a 28 (I think; it's a bit murky now).

Then Martin overpaid for the 26 (or something) before I paid top dollar for a 29. Andy was frugal with his cash, but that couldn't save him when Martin moved into action, defying the group-think of the moment. Three times in the bidding-for-checks round he picked up high value checks very cheaply. His guffaws of disbelief even blotted out Sybil momentarily, and it was a very convincing win:

Martin 54
Ian 49
Stuart 47
Andy/Sam 42
Joe 29

Not sure what happened to Joe, but he definitely broke a rule.

I nipped to the loo thinking I would probably head home now, but I came back to find some curious pieces on the table courtesy of Stuart, who had brought Die Mauer with him - The Wall. This is a simple game of table-reading and memory, as everyone tries to be the first to get rid of their pieces (a tower, a gate, and a few walls of varying length). Each player takes turns being the Master Builder, and chooses a piece to reveal in their hand. All the other players also choose a piece, and hope (or work out) that they are choosing the same piece as the Master Builder. If no-one guesses right, the Master Builder may place their piece on the growing wall on the table. If other players do, they get to place their pieces instead - with the caveat that the added pieces must meet building regulations: towers and gates can't go next to each other, or other towers/gates.

On top of that, the Master Builder can also reveal an empty hand in order to place any piece they like - unless someone else does the same, in which case they can give the Master Builder one of their pieces! (If more than two people have an empty hand, nothing happens)

It's a real mind-meld trying to guess what's going to be offered up, especially at the start.

As the game goes on, the more pieces down on the table and, in theory, your precise memory helps you narrow things down. When one person has gotten rid of all their pieces the round ends, and all other players score points (which are bad) for what they have left. I was appalling at it, but it was fun. Martin was very good:

Martin: all pieces down!
Joe/Stuart 5
Ian 7
Andy 16
Sam 19

I'd like to play again, if for no other reason than it looks rather lovely on the table.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

The Great Crisis Roll Swindle

And so it began. Four would-be emperors carved up the known world from the sodden thick turf of Britannia to the fine dry sands of Syria. Having set up camp (Martin in Gallia, me in Macedonia, Ian in Galatia, Joe in Africa) they proceeded to push and pull at the Roman Empire like four children trying to wrestle ownership of a prized toy away from the other three.

In red, with a border. That's how important today is.

We began at 8.06pm. In our first round, we all took another state: Martin into Hispania, me into Thracia, Ian into Syria and Joe (unwilling to move into Egypt since Zinobia just turned up) into Asia. Then we all built ourselves a nice Limes because barbarians were massing on every border.

In this game, more than any other, the Crisis Rolls played a pivotal role. For example, on the very first roll Ian was instantly invaded by a single Sassanid, to mine, Joe's and Martin's delight. Then, as the mortar on our Limes was still drying, Joe rolled a Pax Deorum. Then Martin rolled a Priest King into Syria (and took Pannonia), before I rolled another Pax Deorum. This meant Ian and I had seven cards in our hands. Time to do some damage, I thought. But my military excursion against Joe failed and I couldn't get voted into Britannia. A poor use of a large hand of cards.

Ian was more effective, finishing off that pesky Priest King. Meanwhile, Joe killed off Zinobia who had, last time, remained part of the game for so long that we started resenting the fact she hadn't bought snacks.

Suddenly, three Nomads invaded Joe’s Africa, instantly placated by the sight of a Limes. Martin added to the confusion by chucking a mob in there too, as well as using six yellow points to boost his support across his three regions. After this, another Nomad moved into Joe's Egypt. I consolidated: heal an army, build an army, build a Basilica. It felt like everyone else was building an empire while I was just doing some jobs around the house that I'd been putting off until the weekend.

Joe has visitors

Ian took Britannia, and the neutral Emperor's level was now just one. But Joe had four nomads on his plate. Good Auguries came to his rescue! Especially since he only had one red point in his hand. He used it to kill the one Nomad in Egypt and his yellow points were enough to disband that mob. At this point Sam texted to ask who was winning. The standings were: Joe 24, Ian 18, Martin 16, Andrew 12.

Of course, with the Emperor level so low, Martin only had to stroll in at 9.10pm and take control at a healthy four-point strength. No army, though.

Martin's fledgling empire

But I was in no position to counter this. I needed a third region, and I had my eye on Ian's Britannia, even after a bunch of Franks decided to ignore Emperor Martin's Pannonia or Emperor Martin's Gallia and invaded Britain. Honestly, whose side were they on? I took it anyway, tributing the hordes into inactivity and grabbing a much needed Feoderati card.

Ian, meanwhile, was clustered in the Middle East and couldn't reach any of Martin's regions and didn't have a spare governor! Instead he was reduced to attacking Joe (ironically, the only player who, at that point, could stop Emperor Martin). Ian won and took over Egypt. Now he had a second basilica. He hired a new governor and then rolled three dice to try and unseat Martin. Failed.

We kept telling Joe he needed to attack Martin, but he had problems of his own to deal with. He drew against the Nomads still camped in Africa, so he boosted support there as a failsafe. Then he lost to me in Asia before failing to be voted into Rome with three dice. After this poor round, though, he was still in the lead while Emperor Martin tried to engage our sympathy by pointing out he was only in third: Joe 27, Ian 26, Martin 25, Andrew 19.

Martin, with little else to do, generally strengthened his position. I lost Britannia to the Franks, but gained undefended Asia from Joe. Then I moved a weak army into Rome, hoping for some exploding sixes for me and imploding ones for Martin to stand a chance of winning. Martin didn't even take a scratch as he wiped me out.

Ian, though, was in better shape. His seven red points allowed him to move a large army into Rome and win thanks to a Flanking Manoeuvre. That was the high point of his move though. He lost the election to be Emperor and then Gallia fell to a mob.

Ian versus Martin

The third Pax Deorum of the night was rolled! Joe took on the Nomads again. With Good Auguries, we reassured him that he just had to avoid rolling a one to win. He rolled a one. “We've all been there,” we sympathised.

But then he took Egypt with exploding sixes (“Ah, there are my sixes,” he bitterly remarked) and then Britannia with more sixes, paying tribute to the Franks still stationed there.

Emperor Martin was still Emperor. He defeated some Franks who'd had the temerity to invade Gallia, and then he took undefended Thracia from me. My move in response must have been pretty dismal, since the only note I made about it was “I have no reds”.

Ian went for Emperor and this time he succeeded! We had our second Emperor at 10.15pm. Three of us were pleased to avoid the ignominy of a one-Emperor game.

Joe's crisis roll put even more Nomads in Egypt. “You are fucking kidding me,” he remarked. Joe killed them though. He then had a choice with his last two reds. Attack three Franks in Britannia or one Nomad in Africa. “You'd have to roll three hits with two dice,” Martin warned. Joe played safe and went up against the one Nomad. He rolled three hits. A bitter victory.

Martin's crisis roll sent the extremely lively Franks into his own Pannonia. However, any hope that the game may be turning against Martin were dashed when we saw he had nine blue and eight red points to play with.

He took Syria from Emperor Ian (he needed five votes. He got twelve). He then used the Pretorian Guard to get voted into Rome and, to add insult to considerable injury, he damned the memory of Ian's short reign, slicing five points off his score. Emperor Martin passed the sixty point mark and triggered the end of the game

I stepped in and won an election in Syria, had a pop at some Goths in Thracia and lost a battle against Martin.

Ian moved his army from Italia to Joe's Britannia and successfully cleared it of Franks. He failed, though, when he took on some Sassanids and by the end of his game he had no governors on the board at all. “Ian is the governor of nowhere,” is how my notes put it.

Joe attacked Ian, and won with even more exploding sixes. His luck continues as he racked up seven votes from five dice to become Emperor of Rome! The third Emperor took his seat as the game finished at a remarkably early 10.42pm.

Martin 80
Joe 61
Ian 42
Andrew 40

“We got schooled,” was Joe's summary of the game. Martin's dominance was due to his skill but also a bit of luck. He became Emperor at a time when no one could attack him, allowing him to consolidate.

Since it was so early and we'd all mentally prepared ourselves for a game that lasted until midnight, we ended the night with a couple of shorter games.

I got my introduction into Krass Kariert, and I suppose I should be flattered that they didn't patronise me by being nice to the newbie. I got stuck with six extra cards twice. Twice! But Joe was first to lose all his lives.

Then we played a couple of games of The Mind in between trying to catch the bathroom when it was free, even at this late hour. Someone had a bath at midnight! How bohemian of them. We struggled to an unimpressive round five in our first attempt, and then somehow got to round six in our second. Joe's play was remarkably slow off the mark. He waited several seconds before putting a 31 on a 30, and then at the start of a round, he suddenly lurched forward when he saw Martin move in order to slip his 1 card under Martin's 3. Ian was the opposite, happily banging a 93 down on a 76 because he hadn't seen I had a card left. It was a 99, though, so we were fine.

We came through some crazy scrapes, though. Not enough to get us to the dark mind, but enough to send us home smiling.

How we got through this, I'll never know

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Your ever changing moods

Thursday night club returns! It's been a while, but tonight saw myself (Sam), Chris and Andrew congregated around the alcove of joy, pondering how to spend the next couple of hours.

Chris suggested Great Western Trail or Clank! and as it was a school night, we plumped for the latter.

As previously explained, in Clank! you are dungeoneers, grabbing loot as you creep around underground. But you are also clumsy dungeoneers, and as you pilfer, you also stumble and drop stuff, making the clank of the title - which wakes the dragon, who comes out and attacks!

As soon as one player makes it back to the surface, there's a mad scramble to escape as suddenly the dragon goes absolutely batshit, attacking again and again. Chris was first to return, propping up his paltry 15-point artefact with a bag of swag. Andrew made it next, and I was left with just three turns to get safe. Well actually, I was safe already, but the reward for seeing daylight again was a very handy 20 points - enough for a massive swing into first place!

If I'd made it. As it turned out though, I didn't, and the game ended with me staring up at the hatch in the roof, as Chris and Andrew pointed down at me, laughing:

Chris 78
Andrew 70
Sam 69

The Mind was still out on the table and Chris was curious to try it, so we dealt out the cards and went for it. And my word, what a game it was. The opening round left Chris bemused, but as the card count ramped up so did the tension, and I think we pulled off some pretty impressive manoeuvres with many cards in close succession, reaching level 6 with a loss of no lives at all. We fell apart spectacularly in level 7, but boy, what a journey. Great game!

After that tension though we needed something light, preferably about loading animals onto semi-biblical boats. So Animals on Board it was; the set-collection game where Noah - the Noah - steals any pairs of matching animals on your boat. I won the first game:

Sam 43
Andrew 39
Chris 31

Before Andrew went for a cheap-as-chips method of loading his boat with any old crap in the second game, in defiance of my "shitty chiselling ways" (© Andrew) tactic of picking up the odd, I like to say bespoke, animal as I put together something of an exclusive vessel. Exclusive, but crap, as I was caught unawares by the game end:

Andrew 36
Chris 28
Sam 25

Lots of fun, thanks chaps!

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

That's literally Numberwang

Joe's house. Five gamers. Joe, Sam, Martin, Ian and me. Five is getting a reputation for being a difficult number to please, but there were no worries on that score tonight.

The first game was The Shipwreck Arcana, a co-op deduction game. Four slightly Tarot-y cards are played, each with a rule written on them. Each player has two tiles with a number between one and seven on them. The idea is to play one tile to a card and then the other players have to work out what your other number is. For example a rule might read "If your fates (ie, tiles) are a factor of two or three of each other, then play one here." Then if someone puts a three there, then their other number is either a one or a six.

It was quick to learn but tricky enough to slow us right down at times. Also, when discussing the meaning of a particular placement, Martin sometimes drew logical conclusions that I'm not sure even the person placing the tiles had thought of. Either way, we made no mistakes and brought the game to a swiftish end after getting seven right in a row.

Next up was Mü. This card game made its last appearance six and a half years ago and at the time we found its layers of rules pretty opaque. After such a long time since the last game, we found ourselves in exactly the same situation again.

The game is a trick taking game, but with two teams, which are decided by a bidding process during which you definitely don't want to be "on the hook". Once the Captain and Vice Captain (actually on different teams) are declared, they chose two trump suits, which might be numbers not suits. Then, when a round is completed, you consult the score chart (a sort of periodic table of even more numbers) to discover who succeeded and how much they won.

The winner is first to 500. We ended after two rounds. Criminally, I didn't take a note of the scores, but Martin won.

An intriguing experience, and one we need to try again soon if we're to get a grip on this game.

Next up was The House Of Borgias. This cross between Perudo and papal legacy was well received, as I recall, last time it was played, but hasn't been seen since. After a quick rule refresher, we fell back into our old skullduggering ways, bidding on poison, bribery, rumours, accusations, etc. The game is best remembered for the "Seven bribes" bid usually being followed by "for seven brubbers." Quality comedy, right there.

Ian was the only player to be correctly identified, so he scored no points at all. Meanwhile, Sam played a cautious game and his remaining four dice got his preferred cardinal an extra eight point bonus.

Sam 15
Martin 13
Joe 12
Andrew 10
Ian 0

At this point Sam left us at a sensible hour for sensible reasons. But the rest of us felt no rain on our parade, so we ploughed on.

By this time, there was no chance of a big game, so we stuck to lighter fare. Kribbeln was up next, using Joe's split-level dice arena which allowed us to properly specify which dice were frozen and which were still in play. Essential stuff.

At the end of the second round, Joe and I were level on 17 points. As we entered round three, I failed a roll but scored 34 points. I decided to put it in my Kribbeln, thinking that a guaranteed four points followed by a practically guaranteed no points was better than trying to be clever and scoring twice at the end.

A clever plan, but not enough to beat Joe who scored enough in round four that my dash for glory was for nought.

Joe 25
Andrew 23
Martin 18
Ian 16

After this we plumped for The Mind, the game that Sam had told us, barely able to believe it himself, that his wife had started playing as he was setting out this evening.

We played twice. Our first attempt seemed charmed at the start, as we cleared round one with the cards 2, 8, 9, 50. We lasted until round five where we fell to a combination of 66, 68, 69, 70. My (really quite drunken) notes state "fractionally out... like bad sex." It probably meant something at the time.

Then we tried again. We lost lives in the first two rounds and then in round three nobody moved. Eventually, Joe put down the lowest card - a 28.

We somehow got through round four without losing a life, which ended 93 (Ian), 96 (Martin), 99 (Ian), 100 (Martin). But eventually we fell on round eight, one round before the dark mind.

What a way to end a night. Big thanks to all concerned. And hope to see more of us next week.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

One more time around the world before she leaves

This week's games night was Katy's last one before setting off on a crazy bike ride across America. It seems only fitting that the games we played had a globe-trotting theme, taking us to deepest Cornwall, the Scottish Hebrides, South American jungles, Japanese bamboo groves and a slightly dubious re-imagining of some Caribbean Islands.

Adam and Hannah's house was the venue and, along with the hosts, we were: Katy, Sam, Ian, Matt, Stuart, Martin and me.

We split into two groups. Martin, like a jovial shepherd of fun, corralled three other players into a game of Tonga Bonga. This is a race game where four players speed around some regrettably named Caribbean Islands ("Samboa Bay"? Really?) and the richest player wins. In that sense, at least, it is a remarkably accurate portrayal of the development of modern sport.

I didn't watch it much, but at the end Sam was surprised to see how far off the pace he was and Katy was just pleased to not be in last by herself.

Martin 149
Ian 121
Katy 110
Sam 110

On the big table, we were playing Isle of Skye. With five players. What an adventure! We had all played it before, but so long ago that we needed a rules refresher. Cue Adam and his laid back method of pointing at things and saying what they are while others point at other things and ask what they are.

Before long, we were off. Despite the high number of players, it went pretty fast. I lead for most of the game, which meant I was cash poor. But I kept scoring every round. Stuart began slowly before charging up the score track in the final two rounds. Hannah impressed everyone with her extensive collection of lighthouses, bothies and farm houses but not a huge amount else. Matt was in contention mid-game but slowed down as the game wore on. In more ways than one. He fell into analysis paralysis in a big way on his final turn, prompting me to declare "This is going in the book!" as I grabbed pen and notepad. All that thoughtfulness couldn't save him. Adam won the game having spent the whole game at my shoulder in second place before easing past me during the end of game bonuses.

Adam 55
Andrew 50
Stuart 49
Matt 42
Hannah 42

Before we'd ended, the four on the other table had started a game of The Mind. I feel I should apologise for their weak showing, since just as they started round six I announced I'd brought A Fake Artist Goes To New York, and I waved it about a bit. This was enough to distract Ian who failed to put down his 4 before the 6 and 7 went down in quick succession.

Then again, to be on your last life on round six... Poor show, despite their elaborate method of 'palms on the table, lifting them up together' method of synchronising psychically.

There was now a bit of a reshuffle. Adam, Martin and Ian chose The Quest for Eldorado. Sam, Stuart and Matt went for Tinners' Trail. Katy, Hannah and I, for old times' sake, chose Takenoko.

There were rules explanations for Tinners' and Eldorado, and a rules refresher for Takenoko. In fact, the reason Takenoko has been away for so long was due to the fact there was always a rule we'd misunderstood or misapplied.

I think we got it right this time, though. We didn't move the panda so much, meaning the bamboo grew strong and fast. Katy triggered the game end and was far enough ahead that neither Hannah nor I had any chance of catching up.

Katy 37
Andrew 32
Hannah 29

The Quest For Eldorado ended in uproar, with Martin declaring that Adam had broken the game and there was no point in playing it any more. At least not with the tile containing two base camps next to each other. Since these allow you to trash cards, Adam went back and forth between them to give himself a supremely efficient hand of just five very powerful cards. He ended the game a full two tiles ahead of Ian or Martin, who were languishing in a second or third place so distant there was little point in distinguishing between the two.

Adam wins
Martin/Ian not even close

They finished before we had finished Takenoko, so they had a one round sudden death game of Krass Kariert. Ian lost, apparently.

Then us Takenoko-ites joined them while Tinners' Trail played out its final stages. Hannah retired to bed so the rest of us played a one round sudden death game of Zero Down.

Katy 0
Martin 7
Adam 7
Andrew 11
Ian 19

Now we were all together, since Tinners' Trail had ended. Despite sharing a table with it and actually being quite jealous that they were playing, I didn't follow the game. Where it was won and lost will remain a mystery. Unless someone tells us in the comments.

Sam 71
Stuart 58
Matt 43

Now we were all together again, and keen to end on Fake Artist. After a quick rules explanation to the newbies, we began with me deliberately choosing Matt as the fake artist, and Theatre as the subject to be drawn. But Adam was chosen as the fake, apparently because he doesn't know how to draw a stage with one line. Matt couldn't guess the word, though, so we won!

In round two, Katy shuffled the clue cards so she didn't know the fake. The topic was "places" and the actual word was Mexico. Cue lots of abortive attempts at drawing a cactus or sombreros. A circle in the sky became a sun and then a football but all this was not enough to distract the fake artist, Martin. He was correctly identified, but was able to guess what we were drawing.

In the third and final round, the word we were drawing was "helicopter" and, between us, we pretty much drew a helicopter. I seem to remember that it was identified as the fake artist. Wrongly, of course. The true fake was Stuart (memory is a bit foggy here) but he was easily able to guess the word.

And once that was done, so were we. And so was Katy! There were hugs and goodbyes and a promise that she will blog if she gets the chance to play a board game or two in America. Bon Voyage and Happy Trails, Katy, or whatever they say these days. As for the rest of us... same time, next week.