Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Get Cartel!

Barely 48 hours after the Games Weekend, three hardy gamers, Sam, Ian and me, met for the regular weekly session along with non-weekender Martin.

I arrived a little late, and found them deep in a game of Funf Gurken, another example of Martin's beloved trick-taking genre. And the trick to this game is that you don't want to win the last trick, because if you do, you'll pick up gherkins. Get five, and you're out.

I was dealt into the second hand with Sam already looking perilously close to going out. And so it was, with Ian then myself. Martin won, without picking up a single gherkin.


Next to the table was Ethnos, a game that fits the rare sweet spot between deep/strategic and swift/short. At the start of the game when choosing the races, we deliberately discarded any that we were too familiar with, and Ian made a special request for no halflings. And so, we did battle with mermaids, giants, minotaurs, etc across a map that Martin reliably informed us was based on Slovakia.

I started very slowly. In fact, I barely scored at all in round one. "It's very close," said Martin, clearly referring to the three-way battle for first in the mid thirties, and not me on six points.

And it stayed close until the end. Martin, Ian and Sam all battled to the end, with Sam just scraping a win.

Sam 120
Martin 118
Ian 104
Andrew 77

After this, we chose another new game. Star Cartel, with a neon font on the box that suggested tatty eighties nightclubs, not intergalactic trade. But that's beside the point. The game involves picking up various goods and putting them in your ship, a bit like Medici.When your ship is full, you have to make a delivery. The item you have most of goes up in value. The item you have least of goes down, but you don't keep either: you keep one of the items in the middle.

It was a lot of fun, although maybe I didn't quite get the hang of it. Ian, though, almost pulled off a Derren Brown-esque piece of misdirection. When it came to count up, he revealed one red item after another and no one had noticed him take them. Almost a tactical masterstroke.

Martin 94
Ian 93
Sam 69
Andrew 59

There had been talk of Polterfass, but Martin had yet another new game to set before us. And it's a Knizia! It was Voodoo Prince, another trick taking game. This time, the theme was once you'd won three tricks, you were finished for that round. Your score was the total of all tricks won by everyone else. But, if you are the last one in after everyone else is out, you only score your own tricks. In other words, you have to judge it so you go out third.

There are a couple of other rules to liven things up a bit, but it's pretty simple. But devilish, as you'd expect from a Knizia. Ian took an early lead, and then Sam was first in the fourth round out of five. It looked hopeless but in the final round I was out third (for eight points), while Sam was last man standing (for two). This pushed me from second into first.

Andrew 26
Sam 24
Ian 21
Martin 21

Maybe it was half past ten by now, but none of us showed any signs of slowing down. The aforementioned Polterfass was brought out and we played a remarkably even game. No one crashed out early with hopeless bets and no one stormed into an early lead on blind luck. By round six, the score was 32, 33, 35, 37. It could barely be closer.

But then Martin got hit by an unfulfilled order and fell away, so in the latter stages it was a three way race. In the end, Sam won when he bet just enough to hit 75, while I bet low and Martin unfortunately (for me) didn't bet high and go bust, giving me lots of points.

Sam 76
Andrew 70
Ian 52
Martin 29

It was now 11.30 and time to call it a night. But what a night. Four corking games for four cracking guys. If I had been apprehensive about gaming so soon after a weekend, my doubts were firmly dispelled. Thanks all. It was special.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

We’ll always have Powys

GNN games weekends are the semi-regular binge of board games that allow us to experience things that simply wouldn't happen during a typical evening session. Such as a hungover Ian trying to sleep in a nook by a window while all around him is chaos, or Katy swearing loudly at noon or my attempt at playing a dense, convoluted eurogame while also making pizzas.

It all began on Friday. I got a lift there with Sam and Stanley. We off at four o'clock, and the journey was pretty straightforward, taking about an hour. No such luck for Joe and Katy who had left Bristol at one, but managed to get lost three times, meaning it took them three hours. "We were so lost, we found a games shop in Monmouth," explained Joe.

Either way, when we arrived at Crickhowell (in Powys), Joe Katy, Hannah, Adam and Arthur were already there. And, far from chucking our stuff into rooms and getting straight down to some serious gaming, we stood around and chatted, apparently oblivious to the neat stacks of games in the corner of the room.

The earliest sign of our competitive spirit was a brief spell on the table tennis table while Joe and Katy cooked. After a delicious meal, we finally started gaming with Bandu. Stanley impressed us with his withering look since Katy made no allowances for his young age, handing him some terrible pieces.

Stanley /Andrew

This was followed by Hannah beating Joe and Katy (77, 71, 68 respectively) at Isles of Skye, and Sam beating Stanley, me and Adam (130, 128, 112, 107) at Ethnos, with its irritating base-60 score track.


During these games, Steve and Jon arrived (Jon, without Power Grid! For shame) and kids were put to bed. There were a couple of games of Happy Salmon, an action game that involves drawing cards and then trying to find someone else around the table who has the same action, while everyone else is doing the same. It looks absurd, and the silent version doubly so, but it seemed popular throughout the weekend.

At first, we split into two groups of four, for Ticket To Ride and Clans Of Caledonia on offer. Then Jon made the switch across the table to TtR, leaving Clans as a three-player affair.

This was possibly a wise move, since even as a three-player (two of whom were novices) Clans of Caledonia lasted a long time. Long after Ticket to Ride ended, and they were deep into Tumblin’ Dice.

Ticket To Ride
Hannah 176
Jon 164
Joe 138
Katy 113
Steve 92

Tumblin’ Dice
Jon 138
Joe 112
Katy 102
Steve 39

Two remarkable an inexplicable defeats for Steve, who only escaped negative points in Tumblin’ Dice in the final round.

Clans of Caledonia was a struggle for me, and I probed the various options with all the timidity of a man pushing a button in a wall, convinced it would open a trapdoor under his feet. Adam, despite yawning through most of the rules explanation, had a much better idea about what was going on.

Adam 136
Sam 127
Andrew 89

By now it was late, and travel-weary and somewhat tipsy, we all got together for a game of Dead Man’s Chest, the game where explaining the rules is never quite enough. Steve and Jon were newbies, and they seemed as baffled as we once were. And sometimes still are.

As for the game, it had three Dead Man rolls (i.e., a one and two). One of which cost me a life on the very first roll of the game. Then the next two both hit Joe, one of which he opened by accident (“Oh. I looked.”). Sam finished in first, with both lives still intact.


That was that for day one. On Saturday morning, people arose in the following order: Hannah, Stanley and Arthur at 7.30 (probably earlier), then me, Jon, Joe, Sam, Katy, Steve and then a big gap before Adam finally emerged at 9.45. The first game to be played, after all the various breakfasts, didn’t get going until 10.25, and it was Junk Art.

Steve 16
Adam 13
Joe 9
Katy 7

Meanwhile, Jon introduced me to Patchwork and won 15-2, but I was impressed by the game. Ian was collected from the station by Sam and they played a tight game of Heck Meck with Ian winning 13-12.

Next up was a true challenge: A Feast For Odin. Adam, Stanley, Ian and I all set off on this epic undertaking. Adam, though, had a trick up his sleeves: the rules. He’d watched a review or two and noticed that no one else builds up from the corner as we do, and he discovered that that rule only applied to calculating the income. Everything else was a free-for-all.

I had suggested playing a six-round game, but Adam quickly insisted on a seven-round one. I didn’t think anything about this at the time but looking back I remember that, although Adam had populated two islands, his main player board had almost no minus points covered during round six. Without that seventh round, things could’ve been very different. But we did have a seventh round, so things were all too familiar.

I went for animals, Stanley went pillaging and Ian started slow before suddenly filling his board with blue tiles.

Adam 111
Stanley 86
Ian 72
Andrew 65

In the kitchenette area, a game of Downforce was played, with the general consensus that the two-car strategy was a non-starter, with the eight-wheeled Jon and Steve trailing.

Sam 27
Joe 14
Steve 11
Jon 7

Steve was keen to get back on this horse, as it were, and another (five player) game of Downforce was set up. Again, Steve ended up with two cars, although I don’t think he had planned it that way. The race ended with both of his cars still on the track, racing each other for fifth place, until Steve ran out of cards and they both ended with a DNF.

Katy 24
Jon 20
Ian 18
Andrew 17
Steve 6

At this time, a game of Flipships was underway with Hannah, Joe, Stanley and Sam trying to keep the invading aliens at bay. My notes for this game read simply “Earth died.”

Meanwhile, Steve taught Katy and Jon the card game Tenbo. Possibly because he likes it or possibly because he wanted a game he knew he’d do well in.

Steve 21
Katy 15
Jon 13

Then, if last night’s Clans of Caledonia weren’t enough of a warning, I allowed myself to be recruited to another long game beginning with a hefty rules explanation: Yokohama. Even though I’d played it before and had some idea of what it entailed, I needed a rule refresher as much as the two beginners: Steve and Jon. Joe was the rules-explainer, but even he’d forgotten a great deal, and the rule book was never far from hand.


During Yokohama, Ian, Katy and Hannah comfortably played two medium sized games: Mad King Ludwig (Ian 95, Katy 89, Hannah 63) and Hit Z Road (Ian and Katy both survived – I don’t recall who won – but Hannah died early on).

Also Sam and Stanley played Near and Far. According to my notes, it was a draw.

As for me, I had to start making pizzas while still playing Yokohama. This made things difficult, not least because the layout of the kitchen meant a lot of walking back and forth, and I had to keep washing my hands before making my move.

My efforts at making pizza outlasted the game, and lead to a largely game-free period as people got their food one after the other. The scores for Yokohama were:

Jon 116
Steve 111
Joe 78
Andrew 60

The last of the food was being served (and thanks to Joe for knocking together some burritos to make up the shortfall in my pizzas) at nine o’clock and some restless gamers were after some gaming.

Hannah, Katy, Joe and I chose Lords of Vegas while the others set up a much-requested (by Stanley) game of Captain Sonar. Captain Adam, Steve and Jon were up against Captain Stanley, Sam and Ian. This game ended with a victory for Captain Stanley after Radio Operator Steve admitted he missed one of their movements and, from then on, didn’t know where the other submarine was.

In Lords of Vegas, it was a surprisingly swingy game. Katy started well, building lots of one-tile casinos of many colours, but then stalled as she couldn’t convert them to two-tile casinos quickly enough. So Joe took over, surging into a lead. But then he was undone by some reorganising from Katy and especially Hannah, who reduced his previously presidential presence in a five-tile casino to two miserable one-pip dice. I, meanwhile, faced early frustration in the lack of brown casinos paying out. My luck turned towards the end but too little, too late.

Hannah 40
Andrew 36
Joe 26
Katy 23

With Stanley off to bed, the other five played Tortuga. Ian won. “He was Dutch” says my not very helpful notes. “Everyone else lost. Weird conversation about nationalities” it continues.


People slowly peeled away to bed, leaving six players refusing to buckle under the weight of fatigue. Myself, Jon, Joe, Steve, Katy and Ian stayed up for more. And, just like last night’s Dead Man’s Chest, we chose to introduce Steve and Jon to a game that never seems to make sense, no matter how much you try to explain it. Namely, Bemused.

Ian pours himself a beer for Bemused

This game of adopting personas is more an event than a game. A chance to throw insults at people according to which muse they’ve been dealt. Painter, Thespian, Actor (who, invariably, is accused of never being able to play The Dane), Musician, etc. This time, though, I was the Dancer and I must’ve been pretty good since I was largely ignored. I made no secret of my animosity to my gemina, the musician (Jon), because no one else was going after him. And it worked. I finished the game sane and healthy, with my gemina safely “not sane” (i.e., dead, in this case. Actually killed by Katy, who finished him off while Jon was having a rule explained by to him by Joe. Harsh).

Andrew 8
Joe 6
Katy 5
Jon 3
Ian 3
Steve 2

Midnight had come and gone, but we all felt we had one more game in us. Katy asked for something she could play while lying on the sofa under a blanket. Joe suggested I Crossed The Border. This is a simple word game where one person thinks of a rule regarding things that people can take across a border. They then give an example of it, followed by everyone else trying to get stuff across the border. The rule-maker tells them if they’re successful or not. And we go round and round until one person is still clueless.

For example, Joe’s first rule was “Words with ‘oo’ in them” so “I crossed the border with a pair of boots” would be fine but “I crossed the border with a copy of Vogue magazine” would not.

Katy chose items that began with K, A, T or Y. Ian’s rule was that you had to have your hand against the side of your face when you crossed the border. Jon’s rule was don’t hesitate when you cross the border, which I totally failed to get.

My rule was that you had to say the item with a rising inflexion, like a question. Oddly, this meant Ian did very well at crossing the border, since he always framed his crossings as questions, whereas the others were more confident and made their crossings as statements. As such, Ian crossed back and forth, but never really knew why but the others didn’t. It wasn’t until Katy got it that it slowly dawned on the others what we were doing.

We ended at 1.10 on Sunday morning before we tore ourselves away from the buzz of competitive conversation and went to bed.

Sunday morning, and we slowly crawled from our rooms. The first game was played before 9 o’clock so, in that respect, we did better than Saturday. But the game in question was the lightest of games: The Pyramid’s Deadline, a new game I’d bought in Japan from Oink Games (Deep Sea Adventure, Fake Artist, Insider).

It involves building a pyramid-y shaped structure before the pharaoh dies (indicated by the last red square being chosen). The selection of building materials is determined by the roll of some dice, so obviously the speed at which the red squares deplete is random.

This might be why in game one, none of us (Hannah, Sam and me) completed our “pyramid”. Then in game two, Hannah was too cautious since both Sam I and completed our buildings after her, and I won. But, then again, in the third round Hannah won when neither Sam nor I finished.

By 9.15 everyone except Adam was up. Well, Ian was up, but seemed to be in constant danger of falling back down again as he struggled under a hangover.

At some point around now, I introduce Steve to The Pyramid’s Deadline, but I made no notes about the outcome.

Eventually, Katy took pity on Ian’s attempts at a nap on a window seat, and arranged for him to get some sleep in a proper bed (rather than the mattress in the utility room he’d had during the night).

Then we played Deep Sea Adventure. At least, Joe, Steve, Katy and I did. We began quickly and it wasn’t until it was Steve's turn that he asked for a rules explanation. It hadn’t occurred to us that he hadn’t played before!

Luckily DSA is the kind of game you can explain while you play, so it didn’t hold the game up too much. There was a remarkable lack of drownings, apart from Katy and I in round three.

Joe 42
Steve 35
Andrew 24
Katy 13

Sam, Stan and Jon played Near and Far, with Stan running out a clear winner, but that didn’t stop Sam from saying he’d enjoyed it more than the other night when he and Stan had tied for first.

Stanley 79
Sam 42
Jon 38

Next up was a game of Downforce. I ended up with three cars in my team, which was not my plan even if I had boasted beforehand that it was. If two cars is a curse, then surely three cars is a death wish! But, no! Thanks to some clever betting and keeping an early lead, I did okay. Not first, but pretty good.

My team in Downforce

Sam 13
Andrew 12
Ian 10
Stanley 8

While this was happening, another game of Yokohama was being played. Joe was keen to try it again while the rules were still fresh and he was confident that he could teach it better this time, too. Katy was drafted in to the game, along with last night’s conscripts Steve and Jon.

They kept saying it’d be quicker than last night, and maybe it was. But not by much. After Downforce had ended, Sam and I played Clans of Caledonia again. It was much quicker as a two player, and I did better, too.

Sam 126
Andrew 118

Hannah put together salad and cold meats and cheese for lunch. Still Yokohama kept going.

People started getting anxious about not having enough time for a walk. But Yokohama wouldn’t be rushed.

Finally it ended. Scoring was calculated, and it turned out to be the same person who won last time!

Jon 123
Joe 98
Steve 95
Katy 91

After that, it was time for the walk before being ferried back to Bristol by Sam. Five other gamers stayed on for one more evening, and I hope they’ll add their comments to the end of this post.

Meanwhile, thanks all. It was special!

A bird! In the sky!

Adam reports the final scores...

Capital lux
Joe 80
Adam 65
Hannah 39


We all won. But I won most and Katy won second most. Because we're overcompetetive. Joe was an excellent ghost.

Ticket to ride
Adam 178
Hannah 161
Katy 145
Joe 142
Jon 138

Apparently Katy isn't going to play with Hannah or I ever again.

Jon 53
Adam 51
Katy 46
Joe 29

Team play
Adam & Joe 25
Katy & Jon 24

Good night folks!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

I don't need a lava

This Tuesday evening saw yours truly back from travels and keen to get back on the gaming horse. Joe was hosting and Sam, Katy, Martin, and Ian were also present.

We began with a six-hander, Auf Teufel Komm Raus, a recent new arrival and already making waves as the new luck-pushing game of choice.

Ian found he had very little luck to push. He tried his best to throw caution to the wind, only for it to blow back in his face. "No reason for me to stop now," he said, hoping for a run of luck. He immediately turned over a devil tile.

After a disaster of a second round, he had to go all-in on round three. Luckily it paid off, and the Deal With The Devil rule (those solely in last place get money every time someone goes bust) he was pushed back into contention.

Less lucky in his dealings with the devil was Joe. On those rounds where he was last, the rest of us played safe and few went bust.

Sam successfully guesses what he's going to pull from the cauldron

Martin successfully campaigned against any tactic that would benefit Katy, convinced that she was about to win. "I promise you I'm not going to win." When Sam asked if that was a genuine promise, she clarified "this round."

The final result found that Martin had not lost his touch in hedging his bets.

Martin 1600
Katy 1420
Andrew 1370
Sam 1290
Ian 750
Joe 450

After this was, we split into two groups. Martin, Joe and Katy chose Capital Lux, a card game about which I know nothing. They set themselves up on the green baize card table and got down to work. Katy looked pleased with herself when Martin responded to her tactics by saying "that was the only card that could have fucked me." Katy's delight was to be short lived as Martin stole the win by the narrowest of margins.

Martin 68
Katy 67
Joe 63

Meanwhile, we on the big table decided on Downfall of Pompeii as a fun way to pass the time, despite its unpleasant theme.

The only thing we needed to be reminded of was how to set up the deck of cards. But with that fiddly bit of detail done, we were off, populating the doomed city with carefree abandon.

It was a close game but, then again, most games of Downfall of Pompeii are. It was all down to the tie breaker, based on the number of Romans in the volcano.

I drew the majority of the omen cards and Ian, it seems drew the rest. While we both tried to be very fair in alternating between attacking our opponents, it looks like we would invariably lean towards the more populous Sam. With no further tie breaker, Ian and I shared the victory.

Ian 9 (7 in the volcano)
Andrew 9 (7)
Sam 9 (12)

When we'd finished, we found Capital Lux only five minutes from completion so we cooled our heels and waited. I recognised the singer on the stereo and I asked Joe "Is this Jonathon Coulton?"

"Yes," Joe replied.

"He's being more serious than usual," I remarked, referring to the poignant lyrics.

"Not really," said Joe, "it's about a giant squid."

So now we were six. Games were suggested until we agreed on the plan to end with three short games.

The first was For Sale, the game that Sam always agrees to, thinking they mean No Thanks.

The cards 30 and 29 came out in the first round, meaning the tense stand off began early. Luckily for me, Martin cracked first and picked up the lowest card for free. This set off a series of people grabbing cards which ended with me getting the 29 for half price while my neighbour Katy paid for the 30 in full.

Having a 29 and most of your money left is a good way to start For Sale, and played it out with little to worry me.

Andrew 55
Ian 47
Joe 41
Katy 39
Sam 37
Martin 35

Next in our late evening trilogy was Bemused. It intrigues us with its opacity. What are the best tactics? Nobody knows.

Maybe Ian does. He was a deserved winner, dismissing Poet Sam with the words "No matter how hard you try, orange does not rhyme with fromage." A devastating barb, that no one could match.

Ian 7
Katy 6
Sam 5
Andrew 4
Martin 3
Joe 2

Finally we played Chameleon. A guessing game that involves spotting which player knows nothing. Kind of the opposite of Insider.

We played three rounds. In the first, Joe was successfully unmasked as the chameleon. Although afterwards, Katy said she had known nothing about the subject (Stuart Little) and was kind of bluffing.

The second round was geography. Ian was the chameleon, but he was able to correctly identify the target word: Mountain.

In the third round, Wedding Anniversaries, I worried that my word was too obvious. The target word was Paper and my clue was First (ie, the first wedding anniversary is paper). But most of our attention was taken by Joe, whose clue made no sense, but he insisted he wasn't the chameleon.

He also couldn't understand our clues and, as suspicion against him grew, he realised he'd misread the dice, thinking the 7 was a 1. But we checked our cards telling us which dice rolls indicated which word only to find that, either with a 1 or a 7, Joe should've got the same word. Joe then said he'd looked at the wrong word on the card. Yes, that's what had happened.

But just as Joe was doing a riveting performance of a man hell-bent on incriminating himself, Sam quietly opined that Ian's clue was pretty vague.

Ian had said "leaf" which I had thought perfectly reasonable and not given it a second thought. But Sam had noticed that "leaf" could apply to a number of words on the card. This sparked a revision of our suspicion and it was enough to sway people. I think I still voted for Joe, but Ian was the majority choice and he was indeed the chameleon. He couldn't even identify the word - he'd guessed Gold. So, a win for most of us to end the evening, thanks to Sam's keen eye.

We set off into the chill of the night. Next stop, the games weekend on Friday!

Monday, 6 November 2017

Disparate Dan

On Saturday night Sally and I were joined by pals Becky and Dan for some chat and light gaming.

We began with Insider, at Sally's request. Dan had already told me he struggled with too many rules, but that can't excuse him from his constant table-talk, especially when his eyes were closed. In fact he got so into heckling the master that he forgot to look at his own tile when he should have been the Insider, so we played a game with what amounted to three clueless commons.

Becky twice pulled off sneaky Insider wins. Sally and I - as I always am! - were successfully identified (with time running out on me as the Insider I guessed 'book', knowing that the word was 'novel' - but it was too little too late, and my protestations of innocence fooled no-one. This is why I never became an actor.

We moved onto Bandu and the reason for this post. After Dan's initial failure in the first game due to stacking everything on its side (not a great foundation when I was handing him tubular shapes) he then pulled off the most spectacular Bandu move I've seen - placing the egg-cup on top of the egg (it really doesn't fit, despite one's assumption it would) and managing to balance it there with the most unconvincing pedestal beneath:

We finished off with Las Vegas, which Dan also won, after my hopes of a resurgence were dashed in the second and third rounds (and the first, really).

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Ethnos Committee

Halloween - the witching hour. As four hardy gamers made their way to Joe's house, we encountered all manner of ghostly ghouls and spooks en route. In fact, I bumped into my own children outside the co-op. What manner of frightful events awaited us at Joe's house? Dear reader, all shall be revealed...

We began as a four - the host, Martin, Katy and myself (Sam). With Andrew still away, and others otherwise occupied, we remained a four until Ian joined us an hour later.

Star Cartel

Martin arrived with two new games garnered from his birthday - Star Cartel and Auf Teufel Komm Raus, the catchily-titled game of coal collection. We began with the former - an unusual game of galactic trade. Each player has a ship, and they gather enough of five resources to fill it and trade the goods. The goods they supply most of gain value, the goods they supply least of lose value. Any in-between goods (and you really want to have goods in-between) you can stash some of, and at the game's end cash them in for whatever value they have currently in the market.

Crystals, flora

It's essentially an abstract - despite the sciencey vibe to the illustrations, it might as well be pork pies, socks, or - as we often referred to them - colours. But everyone seemed to enjoy the catch here - unavoidably the resources you're devaluing or increasing the value of aren't the ones you keep (in a given delivery, anyway) so you need to think tactically - and ideally keep track of what everyone else is doing. Martin proved the best in the cartel's inaugural outing:

Martin 71
Sam 66
Joe 58
Katy 54

Ian walked in just as the scores were totted up, and we broke out Ethnos, the game that is "Ticket to Ride with Orcs" according to Martin.


The ins and outs of this game were explained in a previous post, but we all seemed to settle into a pattern on our turn that was Ticket to Ride with Who's on First. I complained about the light. Joe complained about his cards. Martin said "This is nice!". Katy said "This is stupid" - or some variation thereof - and Ian stared gloomily at his cards until prompted that it was his turn again. Despite the previously-celebrated playing speed of Ethnos, it wasn't moving fast enough for Katy, who wanted it over, and seemingly Ian too, who announced his last place as early as halfway through the first age.

"I'm losing" he said. When Katy told him not to write himself off just yet, he retorted "No. I'm losing" as though his mind was made up, and no namby-pamby positive optimism was going to change that.  And to be fair, he was right.

Martin, meanwhile, shot off into the lead, but in the second age I caught and overhauled him, thanks to my abundance of halflings, or as Martin described them, "useless cocks". In the third age it all fell apart, for most of us points-wise, and for Katy in existentialist terms. Fortunately the third dragon came out quickly, and Martin's large bands sewed up a second win for him:

Martin 123
Sam  108
Joe 74
Ian 65 (wins on predictions)

Katy then apologised for her rage, but don't worry Katy. I still cringe when I remember my almost anaphylactic reaction to Age of Empires III, which for some reason just did my nut in.  That was about seven only five years ago.

We ended on Martin's second game, Auf Teufel Komm Raus, which is a luck-pushing thing of grabbing hot coal out of a cauldron and hoping not to end up with the devil.

Come on hell, get out

At the start of each round everyone bets how much coal can be gathered by a single player without them going bust - the coals are numbered, so you're betting on the total number value, rather than the total number of coals. Then everyone tries to pull some coal out without flipping over a devil, as if you do that, you're bust. You want enough coal to make sure your own bet pays off, but not enough to pay out to anyone who out-bid you.


It's really quite fun. My downfall in these games is to play too conservatively, and I found myself outbid in every round. But on this occasion everyone was pushing so much to claim the win at the end that my pathetic shrinking violet act was enough to grab second place. Joe took first - and with some aplomb, as he led from halfway through the game and never got the yips:

Joe 1600
Sam 1490
Katy 1460
Ian 1390
Martin 1070

And with the time now hovering around 11pm, we bade our farewells and disappeared into the frosty, forsaken night. Thanks all! That was a proper roller-coaster of a night!

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Halfling Cut

Saturday night, and Ian and Adam joined Stan and I for a quick-ish game of Ethnos. This is a new game that takes set collection and mixes in some area control - wrapped up in a fantasy veneer. On your turn you either pick up a card, or play a set of cards as a Band of Allies, and doing so allows you to add a control marker on the board in one of six territories. The catch is, when you play a Band, you have to discard all your other cards to the display, allowing other players to grab them...

At the end of each of three ages, the areas are scored, and your bands are scored too: larger ones take longer to put together, but will get you a lot of points. Add in some 'leader' abilities - each band has a leader - and there's enough strategy to keep it interesting. Our first time with four players was a smidgen over an hour, and my early front-running fell away with a poor third age where I tried to build a band of Halflings but got sidetracked with the Wingfolk. Whilst Adam built his presence on the board, Stan  and Ian cleaned up on the Band scoring, and the boy nabbed the win:

Stanley 96
Ian 93
Adam 91
Sam 84

His reward was instant bedtime. I enjoyed Ethnos: it's a mix of tactics and luck but plays up to 6 - and very quickly. Often you're grabbing a card á la Ticket to Ride, and cursing the presence of Halflings, who don't add anything to the board but can potentially build you a big band, as they're at it like rabbits.

We next played Barenpark. We blasted through the basic game, with no objective tiles at all, and whilst Ian got himself in a pickle with lots of spaces for toilets, Adam and I raced to finish in the same round.

I'd done enough to grab a win:

Sam 87
Adam 78
Ian 72

There was loose talk of NMBR9, but because it was still pretty early I suggested Glen More, as I imagined Adam in particular might like it. I'm not sure if he did in the end - or indeed if any of us did. It didn't help that I was slightly hazy on a couple of rules, but I think the main drawback of Glen More is its capacity for Analysis Paralysis. The hub if it is the turn order which functions like the time track in Tinners Trail, and when you move along the track you're picking up tiles and building your own personal point-scoring landscape. There's always a temptation to jump ahead to a juicy tile, but you need to think about how all your tiles interact.

I enjoyed it last time I played it but this was a bit of a grind! We should have played NMBR9, sorry guys! I did at least have the grace to finish last, and would have been even further back without Adam's help. Ian graciously pinned his victory on 'being spawn' but I'm not sure that's entirely true.

Ian 83
Adam 63
Sam 55

Thanks chaps.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

I hate you, Martin.

Tuesday, and eight gamers convened at the never-recently-witnessed home of Anja and Steve - as well as the hosts, there were Joe, Ian. Katy, Martin, Adam, and myself (Sam). I thought I'd emailed to say I was coming but apparently not. However Hannah was a late drop-out so numbers-wise my appearance was predestined, fortunately.

We began with a game of Rhino Hero: Super Battle, which is a combo of the fun building game that is Rhino Hero, and some utterly random dice-rolling game from the 1930's.  On your turn you add a floor, supporting it with a set of/combo of large or short walls, and possibly a monkey. Then you try and move your super-hero up the floors, because the highest super-hero (unless they knock the building over themselves) will be the winner.

However the movement is decided by a single dice roll, so the actual building is almost secondary. It was a lot of fun to build, but I think even Steve and Katy would admit their collective victory was down to fortune. Good fun, but ripe for a house variant. Steve did come up with one, but I'm not sure his stepladder will fit in the box.

Our building built (and packed away) we moved on to meatier fare. Martin led the Discworld group on one table, with Katy advertising it as the game that "Martin can lose". This was enough to tempt in Ian and Steve, whilst Adam, Anja and I joined Joe to play Downforce. This was my first visit to the racing game bunfight that's a cross betwixt trying to push your car over the line and trying to back the genuine winner.

I optimistically backed myself, but as the race continued it was a fight for first between Adam and Anja, with Joe nabbing third. I didn't see what everyone else backed, but my betting spread was a disaster, with only one of the three cars I backed placing - and in second, rather than first. Anja, despite spending big on a car that came sixth, grabbed the win:

Anja 21
Joe 18
Adam 14
Sam 11

A lot of fun. Discworld finished around the same time, and Katy's prescient words echoed around the room as Martin protested that he finished last "Because it's random". Outside of taking a picture though, I'm not sure what happened. Hopefully the comments will fill us in...

Steve 83
Ian 68
Katy 60
Martin 47

We'd started playing Kingdomino though; familiar to everyone but Anja. The early game was notable for Anja seeing what Adam was after and taking it, something she openly admitted to relishing "even more" when it's Adam she was preventing from scoring.  I set about building wheat and forest, and to my delight, no-one seemed too concerned about it. I felt pretty confident about the win, but it wasn't as cut and dried as I thought...

Sam 76
Joe 64
Anja 61
Adam 42

Ian and Joe swapped groups and when Martin suggested Flipships there was consternation when Katy said there would be no point playing it with Joe, because of his rubbish flicking would cost the Earth. How Joe must have laughed (possibly inwardly) when his first two flicks hit the mothership! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, for instance.

He was accused of practicing, and merely shrugged. But it was all to no avail, as the penultimate round saw them destroyed by a bunch of kamikaze nutters as Joe said "It wasn't even my fault":

Aliens: win
Joe, Katy, Martin and Steve: Lose

"Maybe they won't destroy the Earth" Steve said optimistically. "Maybe they'll make it a better place". His optimism almost made me feel like perhaps there is hope for humanity. But the evidence against is rather compelling.

Oh well. On our little table Adam, Anja, Ian and I were playing Blueprints, the tactical architect game of dice-building.

In each round you're building to a blueprint, and completing it gets you six points. But you can go off-piste, architecturally speaking, and risk building the tower. I recommended against it, at least in the first round, but come the second round Ian had decided to go for it: building the tower got him the best building and bonuses for both the tower (it was a tower) and the fact it was made with lots of stone. In the final reckoning, it wasn't enough, but if only all architecture was as dramatic as this! (Maybe it is. I don't know)

Adam 28
Ian 27
Sam 24
Anja 19

We ended with some rousing Fuji Flushes, as with Luther away with grandparents there was no chance of waking him with our cries of delight and talk of dicks. Both games were notable for Martin's consistently picking up appallingly bad cards and Katy and I obsessing over the (lack of) clockwise dealing. Beyond that I don't remember much about them now. Luckily, I wrote down the scores:

Fuji #1
Joe wins
Anja 1 card
Sam/Steve/Adam/Katy 2 cards
Ian 3 cards
Martin 5 cards

Fuji #2
Ian wins
Sam/Katy/Joe/Steve 1 card
Anja/Adam/Martin 2 cards

And that was it! I'm not sure about the context of the post title, except I heard Katy yell it during Discworld.