Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Arle be the judge of that

There is a legend that says that if the Core Four of GNN (Sam, Joe, Adam and Andrew) ever have a games night to themselves again, then King Arthur will rise up, the River Thames will flow backwards and all manner of strange omens will be seen in the sky. Such an event almost happened tonight, except that Sam was absent and Martin and Ian were there instead. Still, it was nice to see Adam again.

You would think that, with five, we would be sociable and sit around the same table, but Adam was keen to try Fields Of Arle, Uwe Rosenburg's two-player homage to his ancestry. That much history takes up quite a bit of space, so Martin, Ian and I set ourselves up on the card table to play Yellow and Yangtze. I was keen to play again before I forgot all the rules, but as I listened to Martin giving Ian a quick rules refresher, I realised that I already had.

Ian got off to a poor start, with Martin building a blue pagoda quicksticks, me trying to muscle in on his patch and Ian mostly tucked away in a corner, losing battles.

He seemed quite distraught, but as the beer flowed, so his mojo returned as he set off wars between me and Martin or him and Martin or him and me. Often it seemed like he didn't know what battles would take place until Martin explained it to us.

This method, coupled with the tactic that we all used of dismantling/building a bridge connecting the main bloc of action to a useful patch of four red tiles, seemed to work for Ian. I felt myself drifting further away, with more leaders off the board than on it.

This lead to my declaration that I wasn't keen on the game. I said at the time that it wasn't what I wanted in a game (which is, broadly speaking, a sense of narrative). Y&Y is too swingy, too random and too often I found myself simply trying to put things back the way they were, which maybe demonstrates my lack of understanding of the game. I suppose I need more practice to appreciate it because it often felt like a boxing match on a bouncy castle and I did pretty poorly. A purple patch mid game when I picked up more points saved my blushes, though.

The game itself was an odd one, since almost all of the action centred around the starting point in the middle of the board. This cluster of activity only took in other centres once it had expanded close enough to make it worthwhile. Ownership of pagodas changed regularly and leaders shamelessly leapt into battle. There were plenty of Peasants' Revolts and perhaps the best was one of Ian's, who removed a previously overlooked tile and then dropped in a leader in its place, right next to three black tiles, instantly making him very powerful. Despite this, Martin ran away winner once again.

Martin 16
Ian 13
Andrew 11

What happened in Fields Of Arle? Despite my frequent (and slightly jealous) glances in their direction, I know little about the flow of the game. We sniggered when we overheard Joe saying "you get wood at the end of every summer" but that was about it.

In the end, Adam's uncanny empathy with Uwe Rosenberg gamers propelled him to a debut win.

Adam 102
Joe 90.5

While Fields Of Arle had been finishing, the three of us on the card table played Ganz Schön Clever. It was my first game and all previous references to fireworks or bingo or pinball suddenly made sense. I would add the analogy of rows of dominoes falling, and setting off clever displays in a world record attempt. That's how this game feels.

I came last, although Martin assured Ian and I that over 200 is a good score.

Martin 239
Ian 209
Andrew 207

And so, with Fields of Arle back in its exquisitely packed box, the card table was vacated. Ian was persuaded to stay for one more game and we all set off on a rousing finale of Texas Showdown.

We all enjoyed giving Martin a nightmare first round, but that did mean Ian got through clean. Although he couldn’t keep up this high standard, at least he didn’t collapse. After three rounds, it ended:

Ian 5
Joe 6
Adam 7
Martin 9
Andrew 9

And with that, we were done. Off into the warm Spring night. Thanks all. Let’s do it again soon.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Consulting the Oracle

Playing/not playing the Oracle of Delphi has become something of a meme in our house, as Stan has fallen into a pattern of suggesting it close to bedtime, simply in order not to go to bed. This never works - I'm too clever for that - and so for a week Stefan Feld's game of completing the 12 Tasks of Zeus has remained unplayed (bar my own run-through).

That finally changed yesterday when we sat down to play it at six o'clock. With an eye on the clock I reduced the 12 tasks to a jaunty 8, and we were away!

Unlike most/all of Feld's other games, this isn't a point salad, but a race. Like most/all his other games though, it does involve a lot of moving parts.

We are mortals hoping to join Zeus in his apartment in the heavens, and the first to complete the twelve tasks and return to him will be the outright winner. The tasks consist of four things - building shrines, erecting statues, delivering offerings to temples, and defeating monsters (three of each example in the full game). The modular board can be set up any way you like, as long as all the water is connected.

In front of you is your player mat, where you keep track of your tasks and your other Feldian attributes - oracle cards, companion cards, equipment, standing with the Gods, and in particular your oracle dice. This are the nub of the game, as on your turn you roll, and decide how to spend them. Any dice can be used to pick up favour tokens (helpful die-or-movement-manipulators) or improve your standing with the Gods, but the juicer actions require the right colour roll: moving your ship around the water, loading/unloading it, exploring islands (need the right location for your shrine!) or battling monsters all need a matching die colour.

Whenever you complete a task, there is a reward: companion cards can help boost the speed of your ship or improve your combat level v monsters, for instance. When you boost a God marker to the heavens on your player board, they will reward you with a one-off special move: Poseidon will sail you instantly to any water spot on the board, whereas Aphrodite allows you to discard all your injury cards.

Oh yes, injuries! One cannot undertake a perilous quest such as this without taking some scratches, and every round the Titan attacks. If you haven't bumped up your shields sufficiently, you take a hit in the form of injuries. Six injuries (or three of a matching colour) mean you have to skip a turn to recover.

temples, monsters, statues

Fighting monsters also involves a die-roll. A monster's strength is always nine, and you minus your shield strength from it before rolling a d10 and hoping to beat whatever number it is. This is where my game fell apart, as having spotted Stanley only had three tasks left to complete, I elected to tick my monster tasks off and proceeded to roll a series of 1s, 2s, and 3s as Stan sailed serenely around the board to finish off his business. By the time he returned to Zeus to claim his prize, I was raging at the dying of the light/rolling of the d10 - and no longer feeling clever.

All in all then, a very typical Feld in some ways (moving parts) but others (racing, battling) distinguishing it from the likes of Burgundy or Macao. It took me back a few years to when those sorts of games felt very new, so I wouldn't say it was groundbreaking or fresh. But I really enjoyed it.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

When In Rome

The monthly GNN game of Time of Crisis is usually planned weeks in advance, but not this time. I had been expecting a fallow May followed by activities in June when Joe discovered he had the run of the house on Saturday. With Martin occupied elsewhere, it was Sam who stepped into the breach.

We begin at 7.13 on the dot, and it is a slow start. I am in Thracia, Ian in Gallia, Joe in Africa and Sam in Galatia. Joe looks at the board and said “interesting...”

In fact, I was so disappointed in my last game that I was determined to do the same opening move as before. So with three blues and two yellows I put an undefended governor in Macedonia, only this time instead of giving him a militia I boosted his support to level two.

Everyone else went for the classic opening of three blue, two red. Ian puts a governor and army in Hispania, Joe puts a governor in Egypt and builds another army in Africa. Sam builds a governor and army in Syria.

It’s a very quiet start. In the next round, I build a Basilica in Thracia and moved an army into Pannonia. Ian, Sam and Joe all built Limes, prompted by the sight of an Ira Deorum crisis roll that sent masses of barbarians to our borders.

The Franks are first to invade (as they did repeatedly throughout the game) but we have Good Auguries on our side, so we are almost happy to see them.

Ian certainly is, as he clears them out of Gallia and then takes Britannia. Joe moves an army into still-neutral Italia, and Sam takes over Asia.

For my next move, I get beaten up by some unusually active Goths in Thracia, but console myself with becoming Emperor! At 7.57. I have little chance of holding onto it with Joe’s army in the capital, but I figure I’d best start on my Empire soon.

Ian then mobs me in Italia while building in the UK. Joe strengthens an army in Africa, as the Nomads are congregating, and steals Asia from Sam. The Sassanids suddenly rise up and swoop into Syria and Egypt. Sam thinks about attacking the Sassanids, even though it’s two legions versus three barbarians. “It’s as good a time as any,” suggests Ian, cunningly prompting one of his rivals into war. After some contemplation, Sam does attack but, alas, he picks up the evil dice and rolls a 2-1. He should’ve used the other dice. The Sassanids get in three hits in reply.

I get the Goths out of Thracia and clear that pesky mob in Italia. I am still Emperor, to my surprise.

My surprise does not last long as Ian easily unseats me in his next move. Our second Emperor at 8.22. Joe has a dreadful hand with two blue points that he can’t use. He invades the Nomad homelands and wins handsomely, but forgets about that lone Sassanid in Egypt. His support falls to zero and suddenly he only has Africa and a very tenuous grip on Asia under his command.

Sam rolls and gets an event card that I don’t recall ever seeing. Ludi Saeculares. Ian, as Emperor, has to discard a card but he gets points according to it’s value. Discard a strong card but get points on the board? He decides against it and gets rid of a lowly one-card.

Sam takes Asia back from Joe. I finally get rid of the Franks in Pannonia thanks to recruiting one of them that happened to be very good at rolling sixes. Ian is still Emperor, though.

My largely military-free regions

Ian builds an army in Italia and tries to get rid of Joe. He fails, though. Joe uses one blue point to try and retake Egypt. He needs a six but rolls a five. He kills off the Sassanid anyway.

Sam hangs on to troubled Syria by boosting support and then watching it fall back to one. I build two armies and recruit a barbarian.

Ian is annoyed at still being Emperor, since he needs the governor and won’t survive the support check so won’t get the rewards of his Empire-ness. He boost supports in other regions instead.

With a neutral senate, Joe easily becomes Emperor at 9.19. He finally takes back Egypt, too. Sam clears Syria of Sassanids and a Priest King that I forgot to mention in my notes until now. He then gets voted into Egypt to weaken Joe in Rome.

By now the scores are pretty close: Ian 40, Joe 38, Sam 35, Andrew 34.

I take Egypt from Sam since I need a fourth province to get a Pretender card. Ian moves an army into Italia and beats Joe. Joe retreats and Ian becomes Emperor again at 9.53! He is also on 52 points.

Sorry for putting my glass on your board, Joe.

Joe loses to Ian in Italia, takes Egypt off me and then fails to get voted into Ian’s Hispania.

Sam invades the Sassanids’ homeland, and also takes Egypt from Joe even though he knows he’ll lose it immediately. I have a plan to attack Ian’s Britannia and then use his Basilica against him. I am unsure of the number of movement points between Gallia and Britannia, though. I don’t want Ian to know of my plan (although, in retrospect, he couldn’t have done anything about it) so I text Joe and ask him. He texts me back, saying there are two movement points. This ruins my plans, since I don’t have enough red points in my hand.

Instead I attack him in Rome but fail. I beat the Alamanni in Thracia but lose to the Franks in Pannonia. Sam said “I’ll try to roll low” before he rolled a double six. After that I needed a hopeless nine votes with my five blue points. Needless to say, I did not succeed.

Ian’s last hand has 10 yellow points! He build three buildings and triggers the end of the game as he hits 69 points. My sad Pretender card was still sitting in the discards, waiting to be recycled but never to be used.

In his final turn, Joe attacks Ian in Hispania but Ian’s single legion manages to get four hits to Joe’s one! Joe fails to get voted into Emperor and he ends on a damp squib. Sam’s final turn is a cracker, though. He kills some Sassanids, and fights and beats me in Thracia before unseating Joe in now-undefended Africa.

Ian 79
Sam 57
Andrew 53
Joe 48

A great performance by Ian and well done to Sam for coming in second despite never becoming Emperor.

We ended with a quick Texas Showdown, during which Cybil really got talkative.

Andrew 3
Sam 7
Ian 8
Joe 12

And then we played two rounds of Dead Man’s Chest, with only two lives instead of the regulation five for a four-player game. I won the first when Joe foolishly tried to challenge my 5-5. In the second game Sam won when he bid 3-3. I passed it back, thinking perhaps he was being clever, with the bid of 5-5. It wasn’t.

And with that, we were done. Thanks for hosting, Joe, and for the bourbon. Very much appreciated. And thanks to all for another great evening.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Schön of the Dead (Man’s Chest)

Seven gamers made their usual Tuesday pilgrimage to someone's house to share in the joy of board gaming. This week's house belonged to Joe and joining him were Martin, Andy, Sam, Ian, Joe's friend Matt and me.

After a little discussion, we split into two groups. Martin, Sam and Joe played a new roll 'n' write game called Ganz Schön Clever. On the other half of the table we chose Flamme Rouge as our newbie friendly option. Although, to be clear, Matt wasn't a newbie at board games by any means but we've lost too many potential regulars after a game of Quantum to take any risks.

I didn't follow Ganz Schön Clever at all, I'm afraid so the meanings behind references to foxes or owls remain a mystery for now. Joe called it "more bingo than bingo." It must've been complicated since both Sam and Joe needed Martin to double check their scores. And what remarkable scores they were.

Sam 181
Martin 181
Joe 166

As for Flamme Rogue, we were playing with the track pieces that had cobble stones but without the pieces with watering stations. Matt got a rules explanation and seemed to be in good shape from the start. My rouler, on the other hand, became a figure of fun throughout the race.

Cut adrift early on, he couldn't catch up and picked up exhaustion cards almost every round. I started to suspect that he wasn't a professional cyclist at all, but a plucky amateur that had somehow landed a place in the team.

End of the game: my rouler's 
collection of exhaustion cards.

That was the back, though. At the front, it was more changeable. The strategy seemed simple. Get over the hills as efficiently as possible and then pedal like a madman in the final stage. Matt said that he'd used too many strong cards at the start and subsequently had a weak finish. Ian took the first place with his final 4 card being enough to beat my 3 and Andy's 4. I think we were all hoping for that large card we'd been saving to come out at the end (Andy even asked Martin to chose the last card he drew into his hand, perhaps not trusting his own luck) but we were all foiled. Ian was foiled less than the rest of us, though.

1. Ian
2. Andrew
3. Andy
4. Matt

After this we had ended more or less at the same time. We reshuffled and reformed into two new groups. Martin, Sam and Andy played another game of Ganz Schön Clever while Joe, Ian, Matt and I played Zendo, which Joe repeatedly assured us was the hit of the Festive season in the Joe household.

After a rules explanation and a first round with easy rules and Joe as moderator, Matt had the same issue with the game that I had on my first play: it's hard to know what criteria a rule could possibly be made from.

But we ploughed on and the game played out in a very equitable manner. I guessed Joe's rule, Matt guessed mine, Ian guessed Matt's and finally Joe guessed Ian's rule. We ended honours even after a lengthy and often silent game of deduction.

Ganz Schön Clever finished:

Martin 233
Sam 184
Andy 146

And, since we were still fretting over Zendo, they played another new game, Cuckoo. Apparently, it is a bit like Blackjack.

Andy 12 (wins on a tiebreaker)
Martin 12
Sam 5

And now, we were a sevensome once again. At this late hour, our tastes tend toward the lighter side, but which game? Fuji Flush? Dead Man's Chest?

In the end we went with The Mind, but not a big seven-hander, rather two groups of three and four since we had two copies. Both groups had a newcomer but, astonishingly, we did not have one rules explanation for both, we had two separate explanations at the same time: Joe taught Matt and Martin taught Andy. Such is his level of competitiveness, Martin actually looked a bit disappointed when Joe finished explaining the rules before he had.

We did, briefly, consider sitting around the table in such a way that the two groups alternated around the table, but that would've been too intense. Kind of interesting, though.

Instead, we remained separate, and kept an eye on the other group’s progress. We in the four-group were doing well, until a sudden collapse in form, largely blamed by others on my lack of initiative but I insist was due to the other players’ over-confidence.

Sam, Joe, Matt - level 8
Martin, Andy, Ian, Andrew - level 8

Finally, we chose Dead Man's Chest to end the game. Matt was familiar with Perudo/Liar Dice, so once the somewhat counter-intuitive rules were explained, we were off. DMC is not a favourite game of Andy's, by any measure, but he found a way to enjoy himself by playing in a random manner which would then annoyed his neighbour, Martin. The game played out with the usual audacious bluffing that you'd expect.

Results, in order of going out...

Sam, out when Andy called 6-6, Martin passed it on, saying Dead Man, and Sam challenged wrongly.
Matt out when Joe raised a 5-4 bid to 5-5 and Matt challenged
Andrew out when Ian challenged my 6-5 bid. It was 4-2.
Martin out when Joe challenged his bid of 6-1.
Andy out when he bid 1-1 blind and Joe challenged.
Joe out when Ian called 2-2. Joe rolled looked, rolled again and bid Dead Man blind. Ian challenged. It was 6-5.
Ian wins!

And so we were done. Thanks all. As ever, a pleasure.

Everyone checks their phones while Joe explains
DMC to Matt.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

A Curate's Egg

Last night was my first Tuesday night games after a fortnight's absence - that's three nights in a single sentence! Ok, four.

Photos will be in short supply I'm afraid, as I didn't take any - maybe Sam can slot some in. But I'll add a cartoon called True Humility, by George Du Maurier, originally published in Punch in 1895.

Bishop: "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr Jones"; Curate: "Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!"
This cartoon was sooooo funny in 1895 that it gave rise to the expression 'A Curate's Egg' used to describe something that is both good and bad. What passes for hysterical may have substantially changed in the intervening century, but the euphemism is going strong.

Five of us were ranged around my kitchen table; I was joined by Sam, Ian, Martin and finally Andy B. On my request, Sam had brought Space Base, which I was keen to try - In an email earlier that day, Martin had ladled luke-warm praise on it by quoting mediocre comments from BGG, but I for one was unperturbed. While we waited for Andy, we decided to roll out a quick Knister...

This is the roll-and-write game of a 5 x 5 grid of squares which you fill in with numbers from a pair of dice, hoping to form decent poker hands. My first game, and I liked it. That agonising Take It Easy feeling of needing (and failing to achieve) just the right number to pull off a big score, but without the triple-figure addition and GNN standard bingo-calling. In fact Andy arrived just as we were about to start, so we all played, and Andy took us to the cleaners. Points are good.

Andy 65
Sam 47
Joe 41
Ian 39
Martin 34

We decided that Space Base with 5 players was worth a shot, and Sam began setting up. Almost at once my doorbell rang - the latest in a line of interruptions that included Sybil farting, Sybil scratching to be let out and Sybil scratching to be let in. By the time I rejoined the table I felt I'd missed some valuable part of the explanation - or perhaps it was the riot of primary colour on the table - either way I was discombobulated. Everyone reassured me that I'd missed nothing, we got underway and I gradually regained my composure.

It's been called Machi Koro in space, and I can see the similarities. Everyone starts with similar bases numbered 1 to 12, and on your turn you're rolling a pair of dice (the second game in a row we'd played where was the main mechanism, as Martin noted), and activating ships in those bases. Or adding the two dice together and activating that one base. Most starting ships give you money, or income, and you use this to buy better ships, from an offer a little like that in Splendor; three rows of increasingly expensive and powerful ships. There's even one, as Sam mentioned, that lets you instantly win the game once you've activated it a few times. As you replace ships on your bases, you gain abilities that can be activated on the other players' rolls. Unless you're Ian, who was dogged by rolls that he couldn't use.

taken earlier

There were a few instances of confusion with the iconography, and the rulebook stayed in play for most of the game - Martin was appalled by the size of it for such a simple game, and also by the typos. Meanwhile Andy had spotted and exploited an interesting strategy - chaining powers that let him activate the ship next highest up. With his 8 to 11 bays stocked with these, any roll from 7 upwards would allow him to activate his 12 bay. Now all he needed was a 12 ship worth all that effort. And right on queue, the ship Sam had mentioned that lets you instantly win the game popped up. And Andy duly bought it. This essentially put a three round timer on the game, and we all began scrabbling for as many points as possible. There was a slim chance that Andy wouldn't get the roll he needed, but he got it.

We all agreed that the sweet spot would be three players, and it was to long and overpowered with five. Sam and I both liked it, not sure about Ian and Andy. Martin said he enjoyed the company, so parts of it were excellent; like the Curate's Egg. Points are good.

Andy WIN
Martin 31
Sam 27
Joe 20
Ian 6

We packed Space Base off to Uranus, and decided on a game of Texas Showdown next - another that's been detailed elsewhere on the blog recently, but was new to me. I love card games, and this one had a similar feeling to Voodoo Prince - good with five, tricks are bad and all that jazz.
During the game I decided to make nuts. Walnuts dry-roasted in a pan, then doused with salt water and dusted with smoked paprika once they've dried. I'll make them again, but next time I'll pop them in a hot oven to crisp up again after the water, and I won't add as much salt - Ian found them too salty, having run out of beer. Like a trusty Saint Bernard Sam produced a bottle of San Miguel from his bag to quench Ian's thirst, and we got back to finishing Texas Showdown. Points are bad.

Martin 8
Sam/Andy 9
Joe 10
Ian 12
artist's impression of my nuts

Everyone graciously agreed to try out a recent acquisition of mine, a little card game by Wolfgang Kramer and friends called Fat Fish. No one had ever heard of it, and we felt afterwards there may be a reason for that. Players lay cards to a single row in the offer of three - following some faintly convoluted rules. If a row has five cards you have to take it, a la 6 Nimmt, and score one of each colour from it - any duplicate colours score you minus points. There's a fiasco card that nets -5 to the latest player to not be able to follow the rules regarding card placement - an addition which strikes me as an act of desperation on the part of the designers: "The game's too confusing. We could simplify it, or... we could add a card that penalises players for being confused!" Trouble was it wasn't quite confusing enough to make it funny, and by the time the fiasco card was with me, everyone had worked out how to play.

It was "Not an instant classic", as Martin pointed out. It would be better with three, but far too chaotic with five, and not enough agency for players to feel in control. I'd like to play again with three, but for now, we stopped after a single round. Points are good and bad. Like the Curate's Egg.

Andy 29
Joe 21
Sam 16
Martin 6
Ian 4

Sam decided to make that his last game of the evening, having a very early start to London the next day - we remaining four cast about for a final bit of fun, and settled on Krass Kariert.
It was Andy's inaugural play, and we all enjoyed it. Making pairs, runs and triples is satisfying, particularly with the puzzle of not being allowed to reorder your hand. Of Martin's recent card game acquisitions it's probably my favourite - though I didn't warm to it as instantly as Zero Down, it's got a bit more depth.
In this game there are no points, just lives. And Ian ran out of lives before the rest of us.

Ian 0
Martin 1
Andy/Joe 2

We called it a night, and it was a most enjoyable one. Not a Curate's Egg at all - wholly excellent.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Crisis of Time

Thursday, and Little Joe insisted on foregoing his bedtime story for a game with Andrew, so no sooner had he arrived than we played The Mind.

The first game was fairly disastrous, as we lurched from flippant to studious play and couldn't find a rhythm. We busted out on something like Level 4, before concentrating our brains and pulling off some high-five-worthy placements on our second attempt. We still didn't win, but Joe went to bed suitably sated, as the game of the moment shows no immediate sign of getting old.

I introduced Andrew to Space Base, which is a dice-chucking, luck-pushing, theme-pasted-on game somewhat reminiscent of Machi Koro. Each player begins with a base populated by twelve ships in bays 1-12, and on your turn you chuck dice and activate bays equal either to both die rolls individually, or the sum of them.

Then you can buy more ships, and 'deploy' the old ship from the bay. Deployed ships get you nothing on your turn, but get you stuff when any opponent rolls their number - so as the game continues and everyone deploys more and more ships, your inactive turns get increasingly rewarding. You can also buy some colony ships that clog up your bays, but score you points - first to 40 wins.

It's extremely fast-moving and I enjoyed it a lot, despite the fact I made a crucial error in passing up the chance to win - Andrew took full advantage:

Andrew 40
Sam 36

We hemmed and hawed over what to play next before deciding to finish off T.I.M.E Stories...


Sent back in time to solve a mystery and prevent a rupture in the fabric of continuity, we take on the host bodies of some lunatics at a mental asylum. Having made the journey thrice before, we were familiar with the majority of locations, but weren't quite sure how to piece the puzzle together. Not wanting to having to go through this all again, we afforded ourselves twice as much time units as the game officially gives you, and blasted through the place at a rate of knots, discovering all manner of unworldly creatures and a dark, macabre plot, that we eventually foiled by virtue of cheating. 

As I said to Andrew, I've never known a game to be so gripping on a first play and then drop so rapidly to unengaging. I'm still surprised by it's high rating on BGG considering how the game is structured - you fail, and start again, going to the same locations and having the same experiences... then fail, and start again. And again, and again, until you finally complete the game without running out of time units. It's beautifully made, but God, four plays was enough.

Andrew and Sam save the world.

We finished off with Avenue, the roll-and-write game of grape gathering and gathering frustration. This outdoes NMBR9 and Take It Easy in terms of getting ones' hopes up only to torpedo them in spectacular style. I still can't get over the fact Joe created one single avenue on his very first play... I tried that again tonight, and failed miserably!

Andrew 41
Sam 36

Thanks Andrew! Looking forward to The Mind, Space Base and Avenue again. Looking forward to selling or trading TIME Stories...

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Yellow River Blues

This week's games night occurred in a whirl of domestic activity as Sam's son, Stanley, was preparing for a camping trip the next day. As such we (Sam, Martin, Ian, me and Sam's other son, Joe) played a game of Fuji Flush, sharing the table with piles of carefully chosen clothes and a check list.

The game itself was unaffected. We started with the traditional "all play twos" opening, which was followed by the just as traditional spoiling move, as Sam swept them all aside with a nine. We got our revenge, though, as we proceeded to play four threes, to beat his nine.

In the end, it was between me and Joe, both on one card. I was lucky enough to piggy-back onto a couple of sixes for a win. I commented that Fuji Flush was one of the few games I am actually good at, and since Martin asked to see the division, here it is.

A bit closer than I had imagined, but in terms of wins, I'm in a clear lead. Hooray!

Then the four grown ups played another short game in anticipation of two more gamers. We chose Knister, the dicey Take It Easy. Last time, the dice kept almost exclusively to values between five and nine. This time we had twos and twelves, with proper agonized groaning over where to put things.

Sam's son, Joe, had been a spectator for most of the game until the last roll of the dice. Sam handed them to his son and asked for a six. Joe rolled them and it was a six! Good for me, but pretty much life-changing for Sam, as that one roll netted him twenty or so points.

Sam 73
Martin 50
Andrew 42
Ian 24

During this game, Andy and newcomer Laura arrived. With Joe otherwise occupied with getting ready for bed and finding his brother's hat, the six of us sat down for the next game.

We chose Texas Showdown, and after a rules explanation for the debutants, we were off. Laura found herself perhaps thrown by the idea of not winning tricks and by the time she'd got used to it, she found herself on the wrong end of five tricks in round one.

Suffering a similar fate in round two was Martin, who was dealt a hand with the highest cards in five of the eight suits. I, on the other hand, went through round one and two without picking up a single trick. Meanwhile, Ian went clear in round three. Andy hit a bad patch in round three to ruin his chances, and Sam was quietly efficient throughout.

Andrew 2
Sam 5
Ian 6
Andy 7
Laura 10
Martin 10

At this point, we split into two groups. Sam and Laura were going to play Azul while Martin and I favoured Yellow And Yangtze, the new Knizia, not even released yet. Ian and Andy both claimed to be fine with either choice but when Y&Y was described as a game similar to Tigris And Euphrates, a game Andy doesn't care for at all, Ian graciously chose the heavier option.

Since Martin's pre-release copy didn't come with its own bag for drawing tiles, he had to use the one from the copy of Azul Martin had brought with him. With a genuine Azul draw bag on the table as well, we had to make sure we didn't pick up the wrong one.

Since I was concentrating on Y&Y, I didn't really follow Azul, apart from noting Sam's apology mid-game for "congregating the blues".

Andy 79
Sam 50
Laura 36

Then they played Heck Meck/Pickomino as a light game to end Laura's evening.

I noticed Sam's remarkable pile of tiles had been whittled away by the end of the game, but not enough for either of his opponents to stop him from winning.

Sam 12
Andy 7
Laura 2

After Laura had left, Sam and Andy filled the time until the end of Yellow And Yangtze with two games. The first was Letter Tycoon. Sam cautiously asked Andy if he liked word games and got the reply that it depends what they're like. Judging by the scores, Andy liked it enough to push Sam to the end.

Sam 54
Andy 53

Then they set up a game of Santorini which, I believe (but I may be wrong), that Sam won.

As for us, Martin had talked us through the rules and even started the game so us two could see what an opening move looked like.

It is, mostly, Tigris And Euphrates on a hexagonal grid as opposed to squares, but I found my limited experience no advantage over the total newbie Ian. He complained he had no idea what he was doing at a time when he owned two pagodas to my none. And shortly after, he stumbled upon the tactic of placing tiles to force wars between the three of us, just to change things around a bit.

Martin seemed to struggle with trying to not think about it like Tigris And Euphrates. But I think the basic similarities helped him more than hindered him.

It was close in the end. Martin said he was about to make a move to swing things decisively in his favour when warmaker Ian messed things up.

Martin 14
Ian 13
Andrew 9

Finally we all got together for a game of Voodoo Prince. Initially, we said we'd only play three rounds but halfway through we all decided to play the full five.

In round one, Sam went out second from last with a flurry of trump cards, leaving Andy with just one point for that round.

In round two, we were all on two tricks at one point. The final two players in were Ian and Martin. Ian played a 13 purple and a relieved Martin out down a 14 purple to win the that all important third trick.

However, in the next round, Martin crashed out early when we let him win a trick with a seven card, netting him two tricks for the price of one. At the end of that round Sam had a commanding lead, which may be why he was out first in round four.

In round five, Sam, me and Martin had a chance of winning but Sam smartly cashed out late enough to consolidate his lead.

Sam 41
Andrew 40
Martin 38
Ian 28
Andy 22

And so, on the same evening when we'd assured the newcomer that we almost never stay up until half past eleven, we ended bang on 11.30. But it was all worth it. Thanks to everyone. It was a pleasure.