Sunday, 14 January 2018

Four emperors in one evening

January’s monthly Time of Crisis meeting saw a return to the usual four players: Joe, Martin, Ian and myself. I arrived a few minutes before eight and discovered that I was the last one there! I found the game already set up, with the last of the Christmas mince pies on offer as an early appetiser.

The opening stages of the game played out pretty quietly. I decided to forgo my usual attempt at an unorthodox opening and went for two red, three blue. Ian began in Egyptus, me in Africa, Martin in Pannonia and Joe in Gallia.

Early days

Ian quickly found himself with his hands full: the Sassanids were the most lively barbarians of the evening by far and if that wasn’t enough, barbarian leaders kept coming out. He had one to deal with in Galatia after a turn or two and there was a Priest King in Syria, annoyingly right between his two regions. Martin took on some Alammani and when Joe picked up the dice to roll for the barbarians, Martin asked “Are you going to roll well?” to which Joe said he would. And he did: he got two hits.

After I noticed that Joe’s dishwasher makes the same grumbling noise that his dog makes, he became Emperor! The first of the the evening at 9 o’clock. Then a shock: Martin became Emperor on his next turn. He was, he admitted, just trying to weaken Joe’s army in Rome when he won the battle. Joe retreated and Martin moved in. Then, since he had one blue point and a spare governor, he decided he’d have a go at taking over the Empire. And he won! Thus ended Joe’s eleven-minute empire.

I asked if a moving army can stop in the sea. “Not without drowning,” replied Joe.

Martin’s lead was too great to ignore, and Joe and I took regions from him, weakening his support in Rome, hoping that Ian could stop Martin from benefiting from another Emperor turn.


He couldn’t. Instead he took out his frustration on some barbarians. Martin’s next move was “a bit of a repair job,” as he simply put back all the changes we’d made.

I became increasingly irritated by the Nomads’ apparent shyness on my African border, so I considered attacking them for points but I didn’t want my army so far from the action in Rome. Another barbarian leader popped up among the Sassanids at this point, much to Ian’s sarcastic delight.

Joe attacked Martin in Rome and forced his army out of the capital. He then had two dice to get two votes and become Emperor again. He rolled 3-1 and his plans were ruined.

Ian failed to kill the Priest King and that Sassanid leader decided to take loads of his friends and move into Syria. It was looking bad for Ian. Emperor Martin clearly decided that the matter of the Priest King needed to be sorted out, so he moved an army into Syria and killed him. Ian just sighed.

Ian's complicated situation

Joe lost to the Franks in Gallia but beat the Alammani in Thracia. Then, at 10.21, he became Emperor again! Despite forgetting he had a Basilica for an extra die, he still won an election in Rome.

Ian took Asia and reinforced his Syrian army with a view to taking out a few barbarians. This was just as well because on the next crisis roll, yet more Sassanids crossed the border into Galatia.

Martin fought Joe in Rome, but didn’t win. Both were weakened though. The rest of his hand were all blue. Martin wanted Rome and one other region, eventually choosing Asia. He rolled for Asia first with two dice. He ended up with seven votes: 6-6, 6-6, 6-5, 4. He was appalled that he’d used up all his sixes on Asia. Of course, we know that’s not really how dice work. But, then again, maybe it is because Martin then failed to get elected into Rome.

I invaded Rome and beat Joe. Now I needed five votes from six dice. With my first roll I got four votes and a six among them. I re-rolled the six, but failed. I blame me for rolling the die into the barbarian chits, which stopped it’s natural path too soon. I’m sure it would’ve been another six otherwise.

My army in Britannia, not doing much

Joe’s next move was accompanied by the sound of his dog rattling her empty food bowl accusingly. And then Ian’s luck turned. While Joe was occupied with his pet, Ian became Emperor at 10.55. And he killed some Sassanids in Gelatia too for a bumper scoring round. I was now in danger of finishing last.

Martin lined up an army to take out two Alamanni. Despite there being four dice against two, there were no hits at all. Disappointed, he used his Flanking Manoeuvre, but to little effect. Just one hit for each side. “Well, that was fucking shit,” was his considered opinion on the matter.

The board at 10.48pm

After staying in play for ages, Bad Auguries finally went! Relief for everyone, except Ian because now Zenobi turned up in Egypt. His fourth barbarian leader of the game.

Joe had a dilemma. He had three blue points but he wanted both of Martin’s weakest provinces: Britannia and Asia. Boldly, he went for both and succeeded! Martin noted that they were “exquisitely vulnerable,” so Joe popped a Quaestor on both.

The scores now (as we began turn nine, according to Martin) were Joe 56, Martin 52, Andrew 42, Ian 39.


Ian then took out a load of barbarians in an impressive three pronged attack, defeating a barbarian leader and two Sassanids in Syria, Zenobi in Egypt and then, for fun, he invaded the Goths massing in their homeland and finished them off too. His regions were now finally clear of barbarians and Emperor Ian was up into second on 54 points.

Martin used his Pretorian Guard to force his way back into the Senate. At 11.45 he became Emperor again! He also killed some Alamanni for cheap points and triggered the end of the game.

On my final turn I attacked the three Nomads who’ve been sitting there motionless all game, just because they were annoying me so much. Then, at 11.49, I became Emperor too! I needed just one vote, with my army still occupying Rome. I had seven dice. I used them all. Five votes! Success!


Joe now had some sums to do. Become Emperor and tie with Martin on the Emperor score track, or get points elsewhere? The sums were so complicated that he had to stand up!

Thinking on his feet

In the end, he went for an election. He had nine dice to get eight votes. He only got seven votes: two ones and no sixes. Tragic. And so, after four (very short) hours, the game ended

Martin 72
Joe 68
Andrew 59
Ian 57

What an epic. In every sense of the word. Also, this time there was no single player that gets left behind (usually me) on the score track. It was all pretty even. Of course, I like to think that since I was Emperor at the end of the game, that is a victory of sorts. Right?

Martin’s away in February, but surely we have to play when he gets back: Beware the Ides of March and all that.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Angler Management

Adam and Andrew both arrived on the doorstep at the same time, with Uwe Rosenberg's latest pre-industrial sustenance game pre-agreed and laid out on the table. I(Sam)'d played through it by myself yesterday, and lived up to my new GNN moniker by mistakenly setting up for two. No matter: everyone was new to the game and no ill effects were had.

The game in question is Nusfjord, where each player runs a small fishing company in north Norway. It takes all the elements of classic Uwe games but with two twists - 1. there are shares in companies and 2. it doesn't take three hours to play.


Much of what happens is familiar from Agricola and the like; you're placing workers on a centre board and trying to build an engine really. Aside from some minor kinks - elders give you your own worker-placement spots but demand fish; you can feed all the elders for gold - the main deviation from the standard Rosenberg smorgasbord is the shares - each player has five, and as unissued shares count against you in the final reckoning, you really want to issue them if possible. But doing so means other players can grab them before you get them yourself, meaning you have to pay them fish every round, and lending Nusfjord a slight feel of Uwe being daring - breaking away from his multi-player solitaire, but in a somewhat inhibited way, as the shares, though worth considering, didn't feel pivotal enough to be, well, pivotal.

That said, when Adam, Andrew and I sit down to play an Uwe game, there isn't going to be much complaining, and we all enjoyed it for it's relative simplicity and speed, playing in just over an hour - including rules explanation! Mmmm.

Obviously, Adam won. Don't ask me how. I got two of his shares early on but he shrugged off the catch-tapping in the manner of a man born to run a small fishing company on the Lofoten Peninsula in the 18th century.

Adam 26
Sam 23
Andrew 18

We packed it away making approving noises and perused the cupboard, eventually settling on The Quest for El Dorado. This was new to Adam, but it's not too onerous to explain or perceive, so after a brief overview of the cards, we were off!

I surged into the lead, geographically-speaking, only to be caught by the others a third of the way to the mythical city.


After a round of faffing and hedge-betting, not much had changed:


Then I was off again! Only this time Andrew not only kept pace, but surged ahead. I tried to block Adam off, but he snuck by too. As I languished near a cave, looking inside for unlikely help in the form of a discarded compass, they both made it to El Dorado! And Andrew won the tie breaker convincingly!

Andrew - completes the quest
Adam - also completes the quest, but in less pioneery fashion
Sam - faints at the sight of water

There was just time to bash out a quick game of NMBR9, which remains as brilliant as ever, despite Andrew flipping the nine itself on the first card.


Adam 91
Sam 80
Andrew 73

And with that, we were done.  A good night, thank you gentlemen!

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Dice Boobs 

This week witnessed the first GNN of the year for a couple of regulars: Sam, the host, and Joe. However, any attempt at wishing Joe a Happy New Year were met with a dismissive insistence that it was far too late by now.

The rest of us trying to wish him happy tidings were Katy, Ian, Martin, Adam and myself. At the beginning we were also joined by Sam's boys, Stanley and Joe.

We began with Fuji Flush to get us under way. Sam began well, but then got stuck on three cards. Katy began slowly and then shed five cards in quick succession. Stanley played the move of the game, as four of us put down fours and were getting excited about our chances of beating two eights (if I remember this right) when he put down a seventeen and cleared the table.

Doomed

Adam, Katy and Martin were all sitting next to each other and were appalled whenever they had to team up together. It ended in tense fashion with more than half on just one card.

Little Joe 0
Adam 1
Andrew 1
Katy 1
Stanley 1
Martin 1
Joe 2
Sam 3

After this we split into two groups. Joe, Katy, Martin and I chose Majesty. Sam, Stanley, little Joe and Adam went for Blokus, the game of, well, blocking. I didn't pay it too much attention but when the final scores were announced, I was pleased that the two adults had not gone easy on their inexperienced opponents.


Sam 13
Adam 15
Joe 19
Stanley 26

Then it was bed for the boys and a quick two player game of Fugitive. This ended in a draw, as Sam explained "we're not sure who won because I don't have the board or the rules." which would explain the improvised card area.


Sam looked it up on the Internet, and concluded that Adam won. "Something to do with the 29."

Anyway, that was the exciting half of the table. The four of us playing Majesty had a fairly hollow experience. Katy complained throughout that it just wasn't her kind of game and the rest of us found it rather bland. The artwork was typical eurogame medieval subjects and the game mechanism of playing cards to get points was quite drab.


Joe 181
Andrew 177
Katy 159
Martin 143

Back as a single group again, it was time to split up again. Ian had bought the Tichu set he'd received in the Secret Santa, so he and Martin faced Joe and Katy. It started in fine fashion, with two Grand Tichus called and completed in the first two rounds.

Sam, Adam and myself played Rajas of the Ganges. We persuaded Adam by telling him that it was exactly the kind of game that he would be good at. In fact, I was preparing myself for a heavy defeat before we even began.


Near the start of the game, when Sam didn't take a particular option that got him a lot of money, Adam asked if there was a reason he hadn't done that. "Just stupidity," shrugged Sam when he saw what he'd missed.

Adam had clearly decided that money was the way to go, since it had all those bonuses along it. He generated dice so efficiently that he had to use his player mat's “dice boobs” to hold them all.


He also made good use of the Score Mixed Markets option. Then, once the money track had paid out its last bonus, he turned his attention to glory points and quickly finished the game. Sam matched Adam for glory, but not for cash. I was a long way back, having not even picked up my second extra meeple.

Adam's considerable lead on the money track.

1. Adam
2. Sam
3. Andrew

The Tichu group played out one last hand when we had ended. Not the full one-thousand pointer, but enough to give Ian a taste, I imagine.


Joe & Katy 600
Ian & Martin 500

Next up was another reshuffling of the groups. Katy, Martin and I played Azul. You'd have thought, after playing against Adam at a eurogame, I'd have learnt my lesson, but I must've been in a masochistic mood this night. Sam, Joe, Ian and Adam chose Poison.

During these two games, and I can't remember why, we all tried to work out our defining traits. We ended up with Martin – evil, Katy – annoying, Andrew – snide, Joe – avuncular, Ian – self-depreciating, Adam – calculating and Sam – mistaken. Joe, though, did not like his nominated trait. He pointed out that the definition was “kind and friendly towards a younger or less experienced person” which he found somewhat inappropriate. Katy pointed out that he was the oldest one here but, like the New Year's greetings at the start of the evening, Joe simply refused to accept his new defining trait.

All of this shouldn't detract from the gaming activities. In Azul, I was disconcerted by Martin's constant glances over to my board. He played a spoiling game, such that I scored only six points in my first round, but I was too distracted to do the same to Katy. She had no issues with putting together her mosaic and spent most of the game complimenting her own work, like a bird happily chirping in its nice new nest.

Only when she felt victory was assured did she look up and try to ruin Martin's game. He had to pick up negative-scoring tiles at the end of the game, which pushed me into an unlikely second.

Katy 75
Andrew 57
Martin 51

Poison ended:

Sam 4 (with two clear rounds, I believe)
Adam 17
Ian 17
Joe 29

Now it was the end of the evening and we were all together. Dead Man's Chest was suggested and pooh-poohed. Instead we decided on a subdued game of Hugo. This game is usually so loud, it's been banned twice, so we kept out cries of anguish to a minimum. It was especially hard for Katy who got so excited she had to insist she wasn't drunk on the gin she'd bought with her. Unfortunately it came out as “I haven't had any more Jill,” so no one believed her.

We played three rounds. In the first round, Sam was the last-man standing but a comfortable distance ahead. Hugo then sped around two corners and finished him off before he could move. In the second, it was the opposite. Joe was left alive in a precarious position but Hugo wouldn't budge. The dice went right around the table without a Hugo in sight. Then Joe rolled a 1 and managed to sneak into a +3 room.

It was a rare piece of luck for him.


Martin 25
Sam 26
Ian 30
Katy 32
Adam 35
Andrew 37
Joe 41

And with that, we were done. Another quality evening's entertainment done and dusted.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

No train, no gain

With the threat of 80 mph winds and driving rain, six gamers (mostly Eastonites) congregated at Adam's place for the weekly fix. At first there were five of us: Adam, Martin, Katy, Ian and me. Railways of the World sat temptingly on the table and I immediately made my preference clear, with Adam in agreement . The other offering was Azul, which Katy was keen to try, having watched a couple of games and Martin was happy to join in too. So, the games were decided. All that remained was to decide the line-ups. With Steve expected shortly, we thought it fair to wait and give him a choice. But Ian suddenly decided that, actually, he'd prefer Azul after all. Thus,when Steve arrived, he was thrown in at the deep end in a game of RotW, a game he'd played maybe once a few years ago.


After an all-too-brief rules explanation, we were off. I grabbed an early Railroad Executive as my first move and so was able to complete two more actions. This confused Steve who now thought you took all your actions at once. It would not be the last time that Steve needed on-the-fly guidance about the rules.

"So, this... What does this do again?"

Adam's strategy could be conservatively called Feisty. He (and Steve) both used depot cards to plonk their carriages on other players' tracks, but then Adam went on to grab the Guadalajara Hotel card in order to profit cheaply off my brilliantly planned four link connection from Brownsville.

Talking of which, after a promising start, Steve found himself becalmed in the corner of the board down by Mexico City. We advised him that he needed to get to Brownsville, but he did not have the infrastructure in place to fully exploit it. By the time he had, both me and Adam had built in the vicinity. Adam's track took a course that seemed designed to cut off Brownsville from the south. Steve, though, had a plan. Unfortunately, his plan involved building six pieces of track in one action, which we had to tell him was illegal. He was appalled, insisting that we hadn't told him that at the start. We might have done, or we might not. We might have just mumbled it, who can say? We offered to let him take his move but his pride wouldn't allow such a flagrant discard of the rules (“Brownsville ain't worth nothin' to me now,” he declared) but, after some contemplation, he completed it in two actions, just like the rules insist.


By now Azul was over and they all enjoyed it. Martin tried to think of anyone who'd played Azul but didn't like it. He couldn't.

Katy does shadow puppets!

Martin 49
Ian 37
Katy 27

Than they began a game of Kingdom Builder. Another debut for Katy, and apparently she struggled with remembering some of the terminology during the rules explanation. But it's not a very intuitive game for the newbie. Even Ian had to be shown when he was already “touching canyons.”

As it was, Martin and Katy ended the game with the same score, being a lovely display of teacher and student unity. Pity that Ian ruined it by beating them both.


Ian 65
Martin 61
Katy 61

Katy said she liked it, but mostly because she hadn't lost to Martin.

Around now, the heavens open and dropped a whole load of water of Bristol. We looked out onto Adam's decking and saw pretty much a solid wall of rain hitting the ground.

But Railways ploughed on. For a long time we were two empty cities from ending the game, but then a New City card came out or someone Urbanised, so the endgame lasted longer than any of us expected.

On the other table, while waiting for us, Martin had had the idea to snap Katy out of her anti-Ra world view. With few other gaming options available (she admitted she didn't know Takenoko well enough to teach it) she agreed. Such a good sport.

During Ra, with it's song-related catchphrases - “Smooth Pyramid” to the tune of “Smooth Criminal” and, of course, gold (“Gold!”) - promoted Martin to tell us that he'd once say next to the bassist of the Sisters of Mercy. And he was very nice.

At the other end of “very nice” was our game of Railways of the World.


By now, Steve had largely run out of options and most of his points were from Adam using his track. Adam, once his victory was assured, toyed with the idea of making Steve second. Maybe he still felt bad about not telling Steve about the four tile maximum rule. I, meanwhile, had fallen into temptation with one of those Bounty cards giving extra points for deliveries to certain cities. I bid high to go first, built the link but then wailed in despair when I realised that Adam could deliver there using my track. Which he did. Bastard. He insisted he hadn't noticed until I'd said it, but I'm sure he'd have worked it out.

I managed to complete two scoring links and complete my bonus Baron to keep a healthy distance between me and Steve, keeping a little dignity for myself.

Adam 77
Andrew 65
Steve 58

I feel a bit of sympathy for Steve, since it was a bit of a baptism of fire. I hope he comes back again soon. Not every GNN is as arduous as this one was. Adam was kind enough to thank us, but I enjoyed it. Adam also pointed out that he could've been much meaner, which makes me think it might be interesting idea to try an overtly nasty, bare-knuckle game of Railways, just to see how it plays out.

Since Ra was still mid-game, we played Mapominoes. A card game where you place countries next to other countries that share borders. I found it quite drab, I'm afraid. Apart from me and Steve making up accents for each country. Most of which were fairly similar, as I recall.


Steve 0 cards left
Adam 1
Andrew 2

The third epoch of Ra was notable for the large number of Ra tiles pulled from the bag. It ended the game in short measure, leaving Martin regretting what might have been, if only that last tile...

More shadow puppets!

Katy 58
Martin 53
Ian 43

To fill in the time while we finished Mapominoes, they played Push It. On a tiny table. When they stopped, the score was 3-3-1, but I'm not sure who to.

Once Mapominoes was over, Martin was up for another game with the six of us, but it was quarter to eleven, and most of us were keen to bed. Or at least to get back before another cloudburst hit. Martin seemed dazed by the speed that we got our shoes and coats back on, but a collective decision had been made.

Thanks all. It was a special night.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

I'll Tichu a thing or two

Christmas at Joe's was actually Christmas at Joe's parents, who were away and allowing their offspring to party while the house was empty. By party, I obviously mean play games, which began with three of us - the host, Stanley and myself (Sam; Andrew will take over narrative duties when he arrives). And by empty, I mean there was some Michael Crawford style comedy of Joe being unable to let Stanley and I via the back door, so we passed games through a gap under the window before walking around the block to reach the front door.

Finally in, there was some further comedy - less Michael Crawford, more Friday Night Dinners - about getting the heating working, before we finally stood perusing our options. I was keen to play Rajas of the Ganges, Stan suggested Pulsar, but Joe proposed we begin with lighter fare in the form of Majesty: For the Realm.

Generation game

Each of us has a tableau of cards forming key buildings in a village (Inn, Barracks, etc) and on your turn, you simply add a card from the display beneath one of the buildings to gain points and sometimes some other benefit. But claiming the cards uses the same economy as Tribes or Firenze - the further up the display you go, the more expensive the card is.

Cards!

Joe focused on his castle and the chaining of this rewarding multiplier offset the attacks from Stanley (via Barracks) and my mish-mash of different cards. If Stan had managed to get himself a single castle card he might have claimed a debut win, but as it was the host's calculated castling got him the victory:

Joe 190
Stan 184
Sam 179

It was quite a sweet game, and I definitely prefer it to Splendor. And with the palette-cleanser out of the way, I suggested Rajas of the Ganges again, but no joy. Joe was keen to play The Quest for El Dorado though, and this was met with murmurs of approval from Stan and I.

forgot to take a photo

If only we'd known then how Joe was going to show us a clean pair of heels and sail off to the most convincing victory I've seen yet, with both Stan and I miles behind him. Stupid game!

Joe wins.
Sam probably second.
Stan most likely third.

With time on the afternoon session running out, the possibility of playing Rajas of the Ganges looked remote and so we had a few rounds of Zendo, doing the easy and figure-able-out rules.

plastic!

Katy arrived at the tail end of it when I was master, and guessed the rule before either Joe or Stan did. Then it was time to take Stanley home for tea, which I did, hoping that when I returned, perhaps we'd play Rajas of the Ganges!  We bumped into Andrew arriving as we left, and it is he who will now tell you the story of What Happened Next.

*

I arrived at around five o’clock, just in time to pass Stan and Sam leaving the house. Inside I found Joe and Katy about to embark upon the grand tour of Joe’s parents’ house. Soon after this, Adam arrived so Katy and I decided that now would be the best time to go and get chips. We set off, with promises to get Adam some chips too.

But the chip shop was shut so we went walking to find other food establishments. We looked in the local shop, but did not fancy limp sandwiches and crisps. Instead we found a “multi-cuisine” place that did wraps. And fries too, so we were sorted.

We returned and ate while we watched Adam and Joe play Azul.


Joe 60
Adam 54

“And that's the only time I will ever beat Adam at Azul.” said Joe, referring to the fact that it was Adam’s first game.

We were still waiting for Sam to return for the evening session, so we decided to start playing a game of Tichu. The last time I played it was a while ago, and I didn’t care for it (I don’t like old card games given a few new game-breaking cards and then sold as a brand new game) but I was happy to try again.

We split into teams according to how we were sat around the table, and began. There were a few occasions when I sighed at Tichu's fiddly rules, and Katy kept playing a card or set of cards by mistake and then putting them back into her hand meaning that we all knew what she had. It didn’t seem to help us, as Joe completed an early Grand Tichu and put them into an early lead.

Katy and Joe 295
Adam and Andrew 105

Then Sam returned and we finished off the hand we were playing while he satisfied his curiosity by investigating the cellar. Once we were all together we decided to play a five-player before the inevitable split into smaller components. Five players is a tricky number and, in this mostly gameless house, our options were more limited than usual. But Sam had brought The Godfather: A New Don so we set it up and he explained the rules for the newcomers.

It was fun, and there was a nice amount of muscling in on each others’ patches but there was confusion about when you can re-roll and, like the last time we played, the grimy pastel colour scheme lead to some confusion about where the boundaries were.


Adam won, despite having never been the Godfather while Joe came pretty close despite having only a handful of soldiers on the board. Perhaps there are hidden depths to this game under its murky surface.

Adam 15
Andrew 14
Sam 14
Joe 13
Katy 8

Nice, but a bit too long with five.

So now we split into two groups. Katy cradled Yokohama in her arms long enough to tempt Adam into a rematch. The board looks tiny when it’s set up for only two players.


Sam, Joe and I played Paperback since Joe couldn’t find his copy of Movable Type that he thought he’d brought with him. Paperback is a word building game.


I found it a bit dry. You make a word that gets you enough money to buy a new letter card which, if you use that in a word later on gives you even more money to buy cards. It was a “get stuff to get stuff” mechanic pasted onto a word-making game.


Sam 46
Joe 39
Andrew 29

Yokohama was still in full swing, so we played Azul. Such a nice game, with opportunities for evil. Sam told Joe to “stop looking at my board!” But I got two columns completed for a win.

Andrew 62
Joe 51
Sam 45

As for Yokohama, Adam didn’t score any points at all while Katy raced into a 44-0 lead. Adam said he was “trying something”.


Whatever it was, it almost worked. I remember him making a long and complicated mega-move near the game end and, during the final count up, it was quite close.

Katy 129
Adam 124

In the after game discussion, Adam worked out that he could’ve won if only he’d played his last turn differently.

Then Katy neatly put the game away. Into the box lid. She just closed it anyway, and flipped it over so it was the right way up again, to Joe's appalled wails of dismay.

Than Sam decided he would probably go back and, in indecent haste, Joe said “We can finish Tichu!” before he remembered to thank Sam for joining us.

Katy was not keen, preferring instead Divinare but Joe had already said he wasn’t in the mood for new any more rules. She was also unwilling to lose their 295-105 lead. "Come on, we'll take it home!" said Joe, encouragingly.

So we recommenced our game. It was an epic. Adam and I came out of the traps running, winning the first two hands in first and second for two 200-point bonuses. Then I got cocky and failed a Tichu, allowing J&K back into the game. Joe Grand Tichued again, under extraordinary circumstances. When he picked up the card given to him by Katy, he pointed out that if your partner declares a Grand Tichu it’s usually the done thing to give them your best card.

But despite Katy’s lack of help because she wanted to keep the two straights she had (we later found out she’d given him a five) and despite having no aces in his hand, Joe still managed to complete his Grand Tichu to edge them back into the lead.

Later Adam put down a 12-card run, which was nice.


Soon after that I noticed that midnight had passed and, since this was the closest to a New Year’s Party that I was going to this year, I wished everyone a happy new year!!

Katy was keen for the game to end, and seemed disappointed that Adam and I, regaining the lead, ended a round a mere ten points off the game-ending 1,000 point mark.

Surely it would end in the next round. And it did, but only just, as a lone king in our stack of tricks gave us the ten points we needed to close the game as winners.

Adam and Andrew 1,000
Katy and Joe 800

And so we were done. Phew, what an evening. What a year! Well done everyone for getting to the end. Let’s do it all again next year.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Bishop!

An unusual Wednesday night games occurrence occurred as Andrew, Ian and I all found ourselves free, and chomping at the bit for some more Christmas gaming - Andrew and I especially, having been unable to attend the official GNN last night.

So it was we converged at my table with the pre-agreed Rajas of the Ganges set up. Initially, it must be said it looks like someone ate a Hawaiian pizza and threw up on some Christmas lights, but as previously touched on, the game at heart is quite simple - it's a race to push your cash income one way and your glory another, until the twain meet.


Everything else is about maximising that engine: keeping the dice rolling in, so you can roll 'em back out again, getting money for markets, glory for buildings, and lots of other glorious shit inbetween. Ian rinsed us, having chained together a bunch of spice markets and scored a whole load of buildings. Despite my late-game surge of ten - ten! - points along the glory track, when Ian ended it neither Andrew nor I had managed to get our markers in kissing distance.

That most Euro-y of Euros packed away, we played another new game: The Godfather: A New Don, which we couldn't work out was meant to be a pun on a new dawn or not, but for some reason Andrew insisted we all use Australian accents.


It's a little like Las Vegas and a little like something more directly interactive. Players are one of the families in the 1950's hoping to become the dominant force in New York. You place soldiers in the various New York districts to score points at the end of the game for controlling/nearly controlling/nearly nearly controlling a district, but in order to get a soldier in there you need to spend dice. So dice are handy, but in each round one player is the current Godfather, and they take dice (or offers) off the other players. If you want to be Godfather yourself, you need to work your way up the muscle track, which takes... dice. There are also dice to be won at Las Vegas if you feel lucky.


It all made for a feisty, spicy affair, as being ahead on the muscle track also allows you to eject other players from districts you fancy having yourself. The game end is triggered when either a district is full or a player runs out of soldiers, then it's all about majorities.

As it turned out, Ian was the new don, as his points scored for soldiers left-in-hand pushed him ahead of me on the score track - a crushing twist, as I'd deliberately spent soldiers in order to trigger the end of the game!

We moved on to Phrasell, one of the games from the Wibbell++ deck which I have long wanted to play, and Andrew rated as one of his games of the year.


It's all about coming with an appropriate phrase for a randomly-chosen subject, which officially plays 5 players or more but we thought we'd have a crack at anyway. And it was funny, not least in part due to the difficulty of coming up with a phrase that made any kind of sense. Andrew's Someone Call Nurse Fatima had no relevance to the subject, but he won the round anyway. It's that kind of game.

Overall though, it was yet another win for Ian, who was on a roll. Maybe because Andrew and I were clearly drunk at this point; I'm not sure. I can't remember if Ian was.

Sticking with the Wibbell++ deck, we bashed out the game Andrew and I created with Scrabble tiles some 25 years ago - Hypothetickell. In this game you add a letter to an ever-extending chain of letters, but you must (unless you're bluffing) have a word in mind that has the current letters in it, in the current order (though there can be any number of letters before/after/between them). I don't know who won but we played a couple of rounds before Andrew remarked that if we add it to Games Night Guru we'll have to say there is a shitload of AP. Good fun though.

My word was locksmithing. Andrew added the S as a bluff

And we rounded off the evening with Love Letter - a GNN mainstay and classic. Countless times we've played it and countless times Ian has won. But not tonight. Tonight was Andrew's turn; a win richly deserved if only for the fact he was drunk enough to ask me if I had a Bishop, and I was drunk enough to reply "No". While Ian merely blinked, before we collectively recalled there are no Bishops in Love Letter.


Andrew 3
Sam 2
Ian 1

Thanks guys, a great bunch of games and a lot of fun!

As always, Azul ways

Tuesday. The most frequent blog writers being unavailable I asked the question "Who is
blogging tonight?" and thus it fell to me, Ian, to cast some words to page to record the
events in perpetuity. They say pictures are worth a thousand words, but as I didn't take any
this will have to do.

Seven of us convened at Hannah and Adam's. After some discussion regarding Christmas
travel plans we split into two groups. Katy, Adam and Joe were to play Yokohama. Hannah,
Andy, Martin and I opted for Flamme Rouge, with the Peloton expansion that Andy had
picked up earlier in the day.

The Peloton expansion seems to add a couple of new terrain types - cobblestones and a
refreshment area. Cobblestones act in a similar way to mountains as they prevents slip
streaming. Unlike mountains they don't have a speed penalty, but they create a possible
choke point as they are only one space wide in places. The refreshment areas acts in a
similar way to a downhill section, every card being worth four in speed.
Despite Martin attempting an early break away, it was ultimately Hannah who crossed the
line first and claimed victory.

Hannah Wins
Martin, Ian and Andy do not.


We then played Squirrel Or Die. Hannah received this game as part of the secret Santa last
week. It's a realistic approximation of the struggles a squirrel faces in it’s existence.
Essentially, there are a series of cards that either have FOOD or DEATH on them. We
spend the first half of the game placing the cards face down in a grid, trying to remember
where we placed the FOOD or DEATH. The second half we pick up the cards and receive
either FOOD or DEATH. Pick up three DEATH cards and your squirrel dies.
Of course, I forgot what card I placed where almost instantly, and so picked up cards semi-
randomly.

One by one we squirrels succumbed to the DEATH cards. In this game, as in the
Christopher Lambert-starring film Highlander, there can be only one (winner). And that
winner was Hannah.

Hannah wins
Martin, Ian and Andy do not.


Yokohama was still in full swing, so we four set up Azul. Whilst the game was being set up
Katy responded to a sentence I can't quite recall with the innocuous phrase "As always!" I
queried if this was some sort of pun based on "Azul ways". I can't recall if Katy claimed this
as a witty intentional pun or not, but either way it gave me a blog title.

I think Azul has been documented before on this blog by better writers than I, so I won't
describe the tricksy wall-tiling game, but it was a close outcome. I steadily scored points throughout, but Martin scored more points from bonuses at the end and won. Final scores
were:

Martin 78
Ian 76
Andy 62
Hannah 45


By this point Yokohama had finished. Despite Katy's certainty that Adam would win it proved
not to be the case, but there was a notion bandied about that Adam had let Katy win to
ensure that she would play again. Joe didn't seem convinced by this idea, and described
Katy's performance as a "masterclass". However they came about, the final scores were:

Katy - 144
Adam - 122
Joe - 89


Hannah retired for the evening, and the rest of us joined together for a final game, a bit like
how those robot lions in Voltron join together to form a giant robot for a climactic battle. And
that game was Auf Teufel Komm Raus. Some disastrous bids saw Katy and Myself lose all
our money in the very first round.

Alas; my notes for this game are even more scant than for the previous games of the
evening so detail is entirely lacking, but I do recall Katy, after going bust, turning over coals
to see how many devil's remained, despite Martin still waiting for his turn, leading to a cry of
"No Katy!"

The game ended early, with Andy's break for victory falling just short, but we decided it was
close enough, and late enough, for it to be a victory.

Andy - 1580
Ian - 1480
Martin - 950
Joe - 950
Adam - 650
Katy - 650


And thus ended the final Tuesday Games Night before Christmas 2017.
Thanks to Hannah and Adam for hosting this evening. As it's the last Tuesday games I'll
make this year I'd like to say thanks to everyone for the all the fun over the past year. Let's
do it again next year!