Sunday, 18 February 2018

Pie Faces

This week me and the boys spent a few days with Mark and Katie and their girls in Devon, with Sal joining us at the weekend. We arrived on Peppa's birthday!

eleven!

This meant that as well as the fresh sea air and salty breeze, there was also the occasional whiff of cardboard and margaritas, with Animals on Board hitting the table a few times, as well as Avenue, Heck Meck, Fuji Flush, and numerous plays of Insider, with Stan effortlessly deflecting attention when he was the insider. I was the insider twice and although I was collared in my first attempt, I successfully implicated a nearby infant in my second.

waves were great

Mark and I played Flamme Rouge with Peppa as well, which we both enjoy a lot - and Formula D also hit the table. Burgle Bros got played three times - a co-op where you attempt to pull off the heist of three safes on three floors of a building. Twice we failed, but on our third attempt Peppa, Stan and I made off with the loot - which happened to be a cat, if I recall. We had some gold bars too, but dropped them.

cheery burglars

At the end of the week everyone sat down to play Pie Face, the brilliantly-titled game of getting hit in the face with whipped cream. The cream goes onto a lever, you place your face in the target - there'c a chin rest - and then spin a wheel which denotes how many times you crank the lever.

pie....

At some point the lever will crank too far and spring up, depositing its load into your mush. But it's not a case of cranking too far, as sometimes it will spring up first time (as it did with me).

...face!

Katie actually wore swimming goggles to play, and I have photographic evidence. But I promised I wouldn't post it.

Lucky

I think everyone bar Joe and Lula took a hit. Joe, in fact, decided early on that Pie Face was an activity best observed rather than indulged. He might be right, but all the same - a lovely end to a lovely week. The view from the cabin was amazing.

complete with tiny man walking along balcony

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Monarch for nothing

I'm writing this in a pub (where I write all my blog posts) and two women are sitting nearby, working out how to play Monopoly (Bristol edition). Alas, I am unequipped to leap over and show them the folly of their ways. If only I was more like Martin who turned up to this Tuesday's meeting with a bag full of Reiner Knizia games. I'm sure those would have made Hasbro's often mis-played and misunderstood critique of capitalism pale by comparison.

Or would it? More on that later.

At first, there were four of us: host Adam, Katy, Martin, and me. Ian was expected at 8.45, give or take five minutes, so we decided now was our only chance to play Azul. Katy hesitated for a moment, but when she realised she wasn't sitting to Martin's left, she agreed. It was Adam who had that particular honour.

I did my best to stop Katy and her early low scoring rounds suggested I was doing well, but before long we saw that she'd finished two whole colours for a whopping twenty points. But by the end of the game I had two columns, one completed colour. I'd spent the whole game building out slowly from the centre in a very satisfying way. It finished...


Andrew 90
Katy 72
Martin 65
Adam 65

(The women have put Monopoly back and have chosen Scrabble instead.)

Next, we needed a short game that could end instantly when Ian arrived, so we went with Push It. With this vaguely-defined end-game criteria, it made the game a tense affair, knowing that a slender lead could be lost forever in an instant. Well, exciting for everyone except me.

Adam 4
Katy 3
Martin 3
Andrew 0

Sound, with Ian among us, we tried one of the Reiner Knizia games that Martin had brought: King's Road.

"It's a simple area majority game," explained Martin. "Simple" was perhaps an understatement. Nothing about the game engaged me. The rules were almost too straightforward (although Katy still managed to misunderstand the role of the nobles until it was too late) and the board design was a banal fantasy map with areas called The Dark Tower or The Temple Ruins. It reminded me of the map in Bored Of The Rings, with its Intermittent Mountains.


The gameplay was shockingly one dimensional. I can imagine that, after several plays, new and cunning strategies emerge, but as I played I couldn't help thinking I was just doing the same thing over and over again.

Ian got a grip better than anyone else and concentrated all his resources in the North with its two high scoring areas (the evocatively named King's Castle and Dragon's Lair). It did the trick and, as he later summarised, he won by ignoring half the game.

Ian 51
Martin 48
Andrew 46
Adam 44
Katy 41

With that over, we indulged Adam's request and played Take It Easy. We played two rounds. Ian was first caller and, perhaps spurred on by King's Road and its flaccid nomenclature, chose fantasy locations. He was doing very well until we worked out, just after The Floating City Of Dave, that he was probably making them up.

I was also slightly unnerved by Adam and I making exactly the same moves and Martin making mirror image moves for the first six or seven tiles. Usually, doing the same thing that Adam and Martin are doing is a good thing but, of course, the moment I diverged I knew I was sunk.


Meanwhile Ian suffered from Caller's Curse, and ended that round in last while Katy had a 39-point lead on her nearest rival. In the second round Martin was caller and dazzled us all by calling Reiner Knizia games. He didn't get Caller's Curse, ending second for the round but Katy could not be caught.

Katy 334
Adam 314
Martin 290
Andrew 242
Ian 197

Finally, Knizia got a chance to redeem himself with a rousing game of Voodoo Prince. We played three rounds (Black was the trump suit each time) and I did shockingly. Out first in round one and then out last in rounds two and three.


The real battle was between Katy and Adam. It was Katy's first game, and she found it stressful. But in a good way. They were tied on 18 points at the end of round two with Martin lurking dangerously on 14. However, Katy went out first in the last round and, once Adam was confident there were enough points on the table to win, he went out too. It's a great game and the perfect way to erase the memory of King's Road.


Adam 25
Katy 23
Martin 23
Ian 22
Andrew 9

And so we were done. Big thanks to Adam for hosting when it looked like half-term had removed all our hosting options. Hope to see you all next week.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

City of Games!

This weekend is the City of Games convention here in Bristol which Stan and I attended, ostensibly to promote gamesnightguru, but in the main, it transpired, to play games ourselves.

I spent Friday night exploring Quebec, which is an interesting tactical game where every decision affects another decision. The theme is about the building of the city over four centuries, but the interesting decisions are slightly compromised by fiddly iconography and a fairly messy board. All the same, I'd be interested to try it with other human beings.


On Saturday Stan and I arrived the Futures Inn for City of Games about midday and, having nervously dropped some leaflets on a couple of tables, set about playing our first game - Raiders of the North Sea. This is twist on worker placement where having placed a worker, you also remove one from the board and activate that as well. There are also a hierarchy of viking types which come into play too. I was looking strong mid-game, but needless to say, Stan overhauled me.


We blasted through some games of Crokinole and Klask - a crazed two-player mash-up of hockey and magnets...


and then sat down with Wibbell designer Bez for a quick game of Grabbell, followed by another quick game of a prototype called Kitty Cataclysm. I'm not sure how much one should share about prototypes online but suffice to say it was a very Bez-ish fun, fast-moving filler. With puns.

I was eager to try out Quadropolis and Stan indulged me. The look of the game has never really appealed to me - pastelly tiles with comic-style drawings - but always seeing it in the shops made me think it'd be good to get it on the Guru website, at least. It's a fast-moving game too, where over four turns in four rounds you grab tiles from a central board and use them to build on your own. How the tiles interact and activate scores points, not massively unlike some other games, but the catch here is your four architects dictate both what you can have, and where they can go.


I enjoyed well enough - more than Stanley in fact - but although the puzzle element is fun, the look and slightly abstracted-Machi-Koro feel of it all didn't blow our minds. Maybe playing it knowing the scoring system would have helped though, but by the time I reached end-game scoring in the rule-book we were both reaching glazing point.

A few more games of Crokinole and Klask and we called it a day at the City of Games... although as it was a Saturday night, there were more games to be had at home. Andrew now takes up the baton of narrator...

At eight o’clock, Sam, me, Chris and Katy converged on Sam’s kitchen for a weekend dose of games. At first, it was the three boys, with Katy expected in fifteen minutes. For a few seconds we considered having a “conversation” until she arrived. And then, once the laughter had died down, we played Wibbel.


The game veered from unnecessarily long words to short, sharp terms of abuse as we swiftly sped through the deck. Luckily we were done and dusted by the time Katy got here so she didn’t have to see our reliance of body-parts vocabulary to get us across the finish line.

Sam 19
Chris 18
Andrew 11

After this, the four of us stared at the wall of games in Sam’s living room, eventually choosing Queendomino. This reworked version of Kingdomino comes with a few extra choices which, apparently, means it needs a much bigger box.

The core of the game is the same: make a 5x5 grid of tiles, trying to score for contiguous landscapes. Yes, I said contiguous. In Queendomino, you also get to build towers and end-of-game-scoring tiles or do a bit of taxing too, using the teeny tiny knights.


It was okay. A nice diversion. At the end I jokingly said “I reckon I’ve won that,” and it turned out I had.

After that we chose Rajas of the Ganges. While Sam set it up, Katy and I stood outside for a bit, enjoying the night air and being appalled by the student neighbours who played that “Dancin’ in the Moonlight”* song by Toploader twice in a row. Shocking behaviour.

As for the Rajas of the Ganges, I found that my previous game when I played as blue had completely rewired my brain. Or maybe it was the night air. Either way, I kept moving Katy’s blue pieces instead of my own red ones.


My initial feelings of sympathy towards Katy and Chris for going up against two old hands were quickly replaced by a sinking feeling as my dice-rich approach got very few points on the board early on. Chris got his markets going early on and sped off up the river, with the rest of us close behind. Katy went for fame points in a big way, getting her fame point marker halfway along the third side of the scoretrack. Sam went for money and by the end, his money marker was almost on the home straight. 

It was an unconventional game, which is good since it shows there are still avenues to be explored here. I actually finished the river, which was a first for me. I kind of regretted doing it so soon, since that now meant I had one less option. It felt very different with four players. In a good way.

Katy won!
Chris second, but only just
Sam third, but only just
Andrew fourth, by miles

After that, we ended with Push It. I sent the jack off the table early on (caught by Katy before it hit the floor) putting me into negative points, and I never recovered. 

Sam 7
Chris 6
Katy 6
Andrew 0

Chris and I reached for our coats with indecent haste after this, leaving a bemused Katy plaintively suggesting Hit Z Road to a reply of arms through sleeves and scarves round necks.

A lovely evening. Thanks all. Cheers!

* I don’t actually know if the song title drops the “g” off the end of “dancing” but it’s so bad, that I expect it does.

*

It wasn't quite the end of the evening for me (Sam) though, as the rowdy neighbours were only getting louder and after the abortive texting I went around and hammered on the door like the proverbial suburban Meldrew, telling them it was nearly midnight and they had to bloody well pipe down. ...I'm not sure that's exactly how the conversation went, but certainly my many previous polite texts had used up my patience. They gave up singing some kind of demented barbershop chorus as a result, and went out. 

As a result of the booze and the games and the slightly gritted-teeth exchange, I was a bit fuzzy on Sunday morning when Stan and I made our way into town by bike. We began with breakfast and then decided, with similar reasoning to Quadropolis for me, and more enthusiasm from Stan, to try out Dice Forge.


This was actually rather fun: a simple dice-roller where your round by round choice is to upgrade your dice, or 'perform heroic quests' - buy cards. Cards can be helpful in-game and/or bring you victory points. We ended up playing three times during the day, and enjoyed them all; with the caveat of slightly fiddly pack-away and the potential for luck to undo your whole game: both Stan and I had times where all our upgraded dice were still rolling the un-upgraded sides, which was a bit frustrating. But the game is so brief it wasn't too upsetting. 

We bashed out another few games with Bez as well - another prototype that crossed Wibbell with Dobble to good effect, albeit I'm terrible at those games and Bez' mate Jake wiped the floor with us. 

After lunch we tried out Kitchen Rush, a real-time co-operative game of running a restaurant. In each of four rounds you place workers to carry out tasks, with the catch being each worker is a timer, and the task is not complete until 30 seconds are up. You can plan as much as you like, but once the round begins you have exactly four minutes - to bring in customers, take orders, prep food and cook it and add spice and buy more food and even wash the dishes. At the end of each round all your workers must be paid as well. 


It was... interesting. I can imagine it being fun at the right time - maybe after everyone's just had their third coffee. There was genuine stress in trying to manage everything and several times we - or I - got recipes wrong. We did win, but only by cheating both inadvertently and slightly-on-purpose. That was the easy version! Quite a mad one and despite the unique feel I'm not sure anyone at GNN would be keen on playing it more than once - it's like playing 8 overlapping games of FUSE. 

After playing EXIT last week (thanks Martin!) Stan was keen to try another Unlock escapade, so we blasted through the Haunted House adventure, where you have to rescue some lost kids.  If you can call me feeling increasingly tired and exasperated 'blasting'. The final puzzle we had to completely give up on. Oh well, it was probably bloody students again*

We hung around for a while hoping to win a basket of games, but didn't get our number come up in the raffle. I was hoping having the very first ticket might be rewarded, but there are no early bird rewards in probability. After some Looping Chewie, another game of Crokinole, and our third and final visit to the Dice Forge, we called it a weekend.


A very fun weekend too. It seemed like City of Games was a big success too, which is a credit to Frank West who not only organised the whole shebang but supplied his not-inconsiderable games library for people to use. Some of it was on the floor at the end! But then, so was I...

* swore about 25 years I would never say this except ironically 



Thursday, 8 February 2018

Bungle Bros

With Ian still under the weather, the occasional Thursday Night Club was reduced to myself and Andrew, which gave us the opportunity to trot out Rajas of the Ganges again. This is the game Andrew currently requests, and I'm always more than happy to oblige. We're still discovering nuances to the play, such as Andrew's boat-crafted dice via the medium of karma. 


While he was doing that I was selling lots of spice at the markets, and the game moved at a brisk pace. Half an hour in, Stanley roamed down from his bed to watch a couple of rounds, and after he went back upstairs the game was pretty much done! I triggered the end of the game with my fame and money markers passing each other (they travel in opposite directions in order to do this) but Andrew still had one last turn... I spotted a way he could beat me, but to be fair the options in Rajas are so bountiful there were probably numerous ways to do it!

Andrew : top Raja
Sam: second-best Raja

My markers (yellow) and Andrew's (blue) in the background

With the hour still early, I introduced Andrew to the delights of Burgle Bros, a co-op game where you're trying to pull off a slightly farcical heist - cracking three safes on three floors of the same building - as three guards wander around and you try your best to avoid them: if you're in the same 'room' as them a fourth time, you're caught and immediately shop your accomplices. 


We began trapped in a corner as a guard wandered to and fro, unaware of what pain he was causing us. Then we broke free and cracked the first safe. Andrew made his way to the second floor whilst I moved on to the third - separating like this helps a lot, as it means the guards move about a bit less. 

Andrew did travel up through a duct to help me crack the third floor safe, but then returned to his task as I escaped through the roof. He needed to flip a tile to reveal a number to crack the safe, and flipping the tile involved rolling a single six. It was a pity Martin wasn't there to see how many times Andrew rolled one, two, three, and then four dice (using up his four actions) over and over before he finally rolled the needed six! It was bizarre. And all the time it ate up saw the guard stumble on him, franctially rolling dice and appealing to the Gods. He was caught - and so was I!

Andrew and Sam: in chokey.


And then we played Biblios! And what a Biblios it was, with Andrew convinced from early on that he'd lost, and me increasingly optimistic that I'd won, as Andrew ended the auction phase with bugger-all cash and I had the pick of the last few cards. Unfortunately though, it wasn't enough! If I'd just bid higher on the 2 Blue card, things could have been so different...


A classic trio of games. Thanks Andrew and see some of you Saturday...

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Yokohama Tires

This weeks' Tuesday shenanigans were hit by late dropouts due to work and illness, with Andrew, Matt and Ian all belatedly unable to furnish us with their presence at Hannah and Adam's house. Nonetheless we were still a six, with Adam, Katy and Joe (who drove me there in his new car) setting up Yokohama on the big table, and Hannah, Martin and myself (Sam) set up Martin's new acquisition Medici the Card Game on the coffee table.


The card game is unsurprisingly reminiscent of the original Medici - players spend each of the three rounds filling their boats and scoring for boat value, plus the set collection. Unlike Medici there is no bidding - the push your luck comes from flipping cards, as you can take up to three from the communal area, but must always take the last card you flipped. There are also some rogue cards mixed in that help with either boat value or your sets, but take up no space in the boat.


It was a pleasant enough game - I kind of missed the bidding of Medici. But then I didn't miss Medici's terrible board. I'd play it again, and hopefully slightly better:

Martin 130
Hannah 120
Sam 105

Yokohama was still going strong...


...so we moved swiftly on to The Quest for Eldorado, Reiner Knizia's card-drafting game. This was new to Hannah but she took to it as one might expect - surging off into the lead - the caveat of course being a geographic lead can be overhauled with a couple of decent rounds with decent cards.


Early on I felt stranded next to a cave, taking three whole turns without being able to move even a single hex. But I twice dumped cards from my hand to finesse my deck a little, and this turned out to be my saving grace; in the latter part of the game I sped past both Hannah and Martin to claim the win. Though it must be said, if Martin had remembered to use one of his cave tiles at the optimum moment, it could have been very different...

Sam: wins!
Martin and Hannah - too close to call second

With Hannah tiring, and Yokohama still yet to finish, we blasted through a quick game of Eggs of Ostrich. I picked up the win thanks to a golden egg, and Martin's burst sack:

Sam 12
Hannah 10
Martin 7

Before Hannah said goodnight, with Yokohama still unfinished.


But much table-talk was breaking out over, among other things, Katy's insistence over scoring the whole game before she took her final turn. She pointed out that it might affect what she did with that turn. Joe and Adam got up and wandered around the house. Martin and I played two-player Azul, and I realised that the next time I play it, I really don't want to sit to Martin's left:

Martin 72
Sam 48



Which lasted long enough for Yokohama to finish! And what a finish it was, it literally could not have been any closer without resorting to tie-breakers.



Joe 107
Katy 106
Adam 105

I'm not sure what tie-breakers are in Yokohama. Last one up the stairs?

They also bashed out a rapid game of Eggs of Ostrich, ignoring Martin's cries of "It's finished! It's finished!" as he packed away Azul. There was still much debate over the relative value of Yokohama, with Katy swinging from declaring that she would never play it again to suggesting perhaps it was best with two. "Or none?" suggested Martin, before adding that Yokohama's relative value might be discovered in its combustive powers.

Our gaming nightcap was Avenue, which Adam didn't look massively enthused about playing. But it played five relatively quickly and would allow him to go to bed relatively quickly too, so he succumbed. He needn't have worried - while much teeth-gnashing was going on all around the table, Adam sailed to an absolute trouncing, racking up a score I think may stand as an Avenue record for a good while:

Adam 133
Sam 59
Martin 51
Katy 45
Joe 40


And with that, another GNN night drew to a close, with Martin weaving his way home happy with a Huddersfield victory and Katy and I treated to another lift from Joe. Amazing leg room in the back of that car.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

New Moon on Friday

I don't really blog my exploits over in the Chippenham provinces very often but last night Paul, Stuart and myself (Chris) had agreed to roll out my Christmas present Luna. This title is one of Stefan Feld's lesser celebrated offerings falling under the sizeable shadows of Castles of Burgundy and Macao.

Stuart was running late delivering various children to the their respective owners and therefore Paul and I took the opportunity to run out a quick game of 7 Wonders Duel. This is quite a favourite of mine and I tend to fair well against Paul when we play. This time was no exception. I had got my money machine working quite well and had settled on a strong military tactic. As Stuart arrived I completed a military victory half way through the third era.

Then to Luna. I'd previously watched a How To video and run through the rules. The instructional video made it seem a lot more complex than it actually was. Reading the rules, which were reassuringly concise, made total sense.

The basic premise is that we are all orders of Novices based at a temple surrounded by 7 islands. The orders are all competing with each other to win the favour of the Moon Priestess and become the next temple leader. The islands basic function is to serve as worker (Novice) placement locations which you can either collect a game helping tile or place a shrine, should conditions allow it. The main board represents the temple and the centre of it is populated with a section for each player, up to a maximum of 4. Encircling the temple is a path which is home to a Guardian character whose only job in the place is to show you which of the 6 rounds you are on and to dispense tiles for placement into corresponding spots in the temple.
Early in the game

There are four movement actions, about 3 temple actions and 3 more special actions. To the uninitiated they seem random. The context of your moves are not obvious. Add in to the mix a Priestess, a Master builder and a nasty Apostate which occupy islands and have their own movement rules after each round, it was plain to see why the start of the game became a tentative exploration of actions. (for the record we all made the "I'm having trouble with my Apostate" gag at some point).

By round two we had a grasp of how to manipulate the actions and islands to our benefit but that didn't stop it being quite the brain burner. The game rewards forward planning, such as, working out where the Master Builder is going to be next so that you can get two novices there and also making sure that you have a Shrine token so that you can build a shrine. Stuff like that meant there were quite a few rounds with players staring at the board calculating permutations. We got faster as the game moved on.

The game doesn't really have that much in the way of direct conflict. The worst it gets is that one action allows you to place tiles with Novices on in the temple and if they meet certain criteria they can displace opponent Novices previously placed.

Even with the lag the game was engaging enough in a puzzly kind of way and the scoring is tight. Stuart ended victorious with around 78 points, I was next on 75 and Paul third with 71.

One thing to note was there was a lack of post game narrative when we discussing the tale of the game. Most of the actions we made had plus and minus points and it was difficult to say which moves the game hinged on.

With the rules and first play under our belts we all felt like giving it another go even though it was a slightly dry experience.

We finished up the evening with a quick game of Sushi Go Party - Stuart winning and an even quicker game of NMBR9 which I eked out a win.


Friday, 2 February 2018

From Mr Kepler to Mr Biblios

Andrew had been tempted enough by Kepler 3042 to wander over this evening and try it out. As explained in the previous post, it's a non-combative space exploration game where you're managing three resources - matter, anti-matter and energy - to facilitate the spread of your culture around the galaxy. The catch is no matter how widely spread you get, your resources are on rotation, and spending them on the juicy 'secondary' actions (cheaper than the main actions) removes them from the game.

space!

I went through the rules and by 8.15 we were settled in for the long haul. But by 9.15 we were done! There are 16 rounds, but you only take a maximum of two actions in every round - usually one - and by the time we were sailing across the firmament. terraforming and whatnot, the final rounds were closing in.

tech!

We'd played it with the kind of lassez faire I imagine one doesn't see too often at NASA, and it showed in our frankly dreadful scores:

Sam 17
Andrew 15

Which was abut half the points I managed playing with Dirk when I was feverish and hallucinatory. It's not a game where you're pull off any dazzling moves, however. The grinding of gears reminded me of distant times playing Year of the Dragon - Kepler isn't as fire-fighty as that, but you certainly get the sense of progress moving in tiny increments.

And the kindest conclusion is that the jury is still out. It did give the space flavour in a digestible bite-sized chunk, and has a clever mechanic at its heart. But it lacked the combative spice of Quantum, Ascending Empires or Eclipse. And it didn't even have the vaguely-anguished, occasionally funny luck-pushing of Cosmic Run.

We packed it away pleased the hour was early enough to play Rajas of the Ganges, mine and Andrew's current favourite - or one of them. Last time Andrew blitzed me and I was out for vengeance, inasmuch as one can seek vengeance via the medium of worker-placement.

Rajas!

He began strongly but realised a few rounds in he'd build no markets in his province. Conversely I was picking up 8 coins every round, and despite some late game jiggery-pokery, overhauled him on the fame track to claim the win!

Sam is best Raja.
Andrew is second-best Raja.

We blasted through two quick games to finish - firstly Avenue, which I won by 55 points to 14. Andrew, perversely, was keen his score be the worst ever, but checking through the completed scores we saw that I'd actually managed zero before. Sorry!

Then we played Biblios! And I ate shit no less than four times, once via my very own spoon.

shit!

I usually begin Biblios confident that I'm in with a shout at least, but halfway through the game I could feel it slipping away from me. I only had one die in the bag and Andrew had stopped even bidding on anything. It was a whitewash!

Andrew 14
Sam 5

burnt

And Mr Endersby walked away as Mr Biblios. A very enjoyable evening, despite the inscrutability of Kepler!