Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Prisoners of Preponderance

With Andrew set for distant climes and Joe unavailable, it was a mere quintet making up GNN last night - Ian, Katy, Andy, the host Martin and myself (Sam). Five is proving to be a difficult number in terms of gaming choices though. We went through Martin's collection making various suggestions that only played four, before coming to a final decision of Tammany Hall or San Quentin Kings. Perhaps it was Martin's relish in describing how brutal Tammany Hall was that made us plump for the latter - but as it turned out, San Quentin Kings is pretty brutal too. As one should expect from a game set in a prison.

Martin set about explaining the rules and I realized I was feeling sick. Was it the theme? Was it the fact I'd just eaten about half a kilo of popcorn? Was it the absence of Andrew and Joe? Or was it Martin's tablecloth, which he refused to remove, despite the combination of optically bedazzling pattern and bumps.

 dear lord

Combined with the fact I'd forgotten my glasses, I had to keep closing my eyes to focus on the words.

Fortunately the nausea passed, and I was soon ship-shape and ready to start being really abhorrent. In San Quentin Kings everyone is running a gang and trying to finish the game with the best reputation. Rep in this case is brought about by frankly horrible things - violence, bribery and drugs; the latter coming in three forms of brown horse, white horse and green baboon. The game plays over three years and in each year all the areas of the prison get activated: allowing you to recruit more members, get drugs or contraband, work out at the gym (improving your gang's fighting performance) and shank each other.

San Quentin, surrounded by acres of fencing

But how much you can achieve comes down to bidding - whenever an area gets activated there's a blind bid where gang members are simultaneously revealed. You can bid a lot, a little, or none at all. You can also bid different types of gang members. But that's just the start - now there are three rounds of fighting where you can add cards to your bid/gang in order to boost their strength. You hope for a matching card for your gang members because non-matching ones have no effect. But you can also get caught by a guard and sent to solitary, killed, or - just as bad - get out on parole. A gang member not actually in prison is of zero use. So having the biggest bid at the outset is no guarantee of success.

Mix in the bribes and it's a game that could have been called Take That, if the nomenclature didn't come with such melodic baggage. You can use them for all manner of chicanery, but it's more than likely your target will simply hit you right back, giving them the shall I-shan't I? feel of the highest bidding tile in Ra.


Each time you win a fight you gain a fight point, and having most fight points at the end of the game gives your rep a big boost. After the final (third) year, there's a riot in the yard - one final fight for no other reason than to punch each other in the face. Nothing to gain but gloating and sore knuckles.

I started reasonably well, building a hand of contraband that allowed me to make bribes. But often one bribe is simply parried with another, and I found them almost a source of frustration. After that though I played too conservatively, and ended up with a gang too small to have any real outcome on the game.

big guys; medium guys

Ian also started well but by the time the third year arrived, he still hadn't won a single fight and was well behind on the fight track. "That's because Ian's a pacifist!" Katy said defensively when Martin pointed it out. "No I'm not!" Ian retorted.  He announced that he was in a bad position: "A bad, bad, bad, bad position" to be exact, and said he'd lost. He was right.

Rear shows the fight track, with Ian (yellow) lagging

Despite Martin being in last on the reputation track everyone suspected he was going to win and kept stealing his drugs. He and Katy kept stealing each other's horses, much to Martin's chagrin. "I've got baboons coming out of my arse" he grumbled, like a resentful mule.

My hunch on the scores was Martin - Katy - Andy - Sam - Ian, but as it turned out Andy's largely narcotic-free approach saw him surge up the track in final scoring to clinch the win, with Katy third.

Andy 27
Martin 24
Katy 18
Sam 17
Ian 11

To borrow an appropriately judicial term, the jury seemed to be out on San Quentin Kings. Martin and Katy liked it. Andy didn't, as evidenced by his hurling his gang members down the table with the style of a leader who uses fear, not respect. Ian and I seemed to be havering; I think like me he felt it was a bit too chaotic for the two and a half hour play time. I'd try it again though.

After the riot everyone was ready for something a bit gentler, so we cracked out Mamma Mia.

pineapple and olive. the great lost pizza-topping combo

It was as tense as Mamma Mia can be, as after two rounds anyone - conceivably anyone, though Martin was lagging behind - could have won. I had a slender lead of one recipe, but Ian, Andy and Katy all had just one less than me. They all managed to draw level, whereas Martin and I floundered, leaving the scores at a near-equilibrium:

Everyone apart from Martin - 4 recipes
Martin - 3 recipes

There was just time for Martin to channel his disappointment into another scathing assessment of Uwe Rosenberg's big games (Andy and I tried to defend them, but we were no match for Martin's passion) before another classic GNN Tuesday drew to a close. Thanks all!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Unified Theory of Nothing

I sat down to write up our second visit to Alchemists, and found myself joined by two miniature co-authors. So here's a three-person report on our Sunday games session:

Sam: On Sunday Andrew joined Stanley and I for a bash at Alchemists. We (me and Stan) had already played a 6-round game of A Feast for Odin by the time he got here, so we were really in the zone.

You have to be in the zone to play Alchemists. Although there's a very strict logic at play here, working everything out isn't easy.  For someone like me, who goes blank at long division, trying to break down the very components of life itself is a challenge.

Stan: I won A Feast for Odin, by the way.

Sam: Yes. Anyway...

Stan: By quite a few points.


Sam: Yes. So with Alchemists - as I tried to write in the previous post - you're making and selling potions for gold to buy artefacts to get points, but that's kind of the day to day business. What you're really trying to do is work out what the (al)chemical components are to your ingredients. Do that, and you can publish theories about your work and improve your rep.

Stan: A Feast for Odin is much better. 

Sam: Alchemists is fascinating. I don't know if I think it's the 52nd best game in the world, or even the 52nd best game I've played, but it is definitely very different.

Stan: Yeah, but A Feast for Odin has a good tang to it and it's like a thousand times harder to do, so I'm much better at playing games than you are!

Sam: What Stan is trying to say is that I trounced them both at Alchemists. And what I think is fair to add is that we all went seriously wrong in our deductions. Both Stan and I spotted Andrew's first theory was incorrect, and we raced to debunk him. But Stan also tried to debunk my theories three times and failed - even though my theories were actually, it turned out, utterly wrong. I meanwhile managed to eliminate every single alchemical as a possible match for not one, but two ingredients. As an alchemist I was essentially moronic. I had no idea how to utilise the knowledge of neutral matches, and I still don't.

Joe: I wasn't even there, but I just like saying stuff. 

Sam: The best part of Alchemists is the final reveal, where you uncover the actual alchemical for each ingredient, and reveal everyone's theory. Of the eight, we had two right - an exceedingly poor return for supposed experts!  I pictured us all shuffling out of the conference with our heads bowed, trying to spin it that we had made great progress...

Joe: I hate alchemists!

Sam: Thank you, Joe.

Stan: All you have to understand that A Feast for Odin is a very technical and strategic game and should be given more importance to than a rubbish game like Alchemists.

Sam: Despite the late drama where I lost about 12 points, I still hung on to the lead. I should add in fairness to Stan that he forgot to exhibit potions in the final round. And in fairness to Andrew that he wasn't aware of the terribly punitive effects of having your theories debunked, as his were.  I had neglected to explain it, as in mine and Stanley's two-player we'd never dared cause that kind of consternation in the alchemic community.

Stan: You could also add that I won A Feast For Odin?

Sam: I think they got it.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Turning cardboard into gold

Alchemy! The art of turning base metal into gold... or in this case, turning toad and leaf into a potion of healing. I picked up a half-price copy of Alchemists this week, courtesy of trading in Steam Park - turning steam-punk amusements into life or death elixir.

It's a very unusual game, in part because it uses an app. Each of the game's six ingredients have a corresponding 'alchemical' comprised of three parts: red, blue and green circles. A circle may be large or small, and each contains a symbol of either positive or negative. During the game, you mix these ingredients together to make potions (or soup) and at the start the app randomly (and secretly) assigns each ingredient its alchemical.

The game itself at first seems like a worker placement thing: you use actions to gather ingredients, turn them into gold, combine them to sell potions to adventurers, use gold to buy artefacts, and test potions - on either a willing (sometimes more willing than others) student, or yourself.  Each potion has a symbol, and you keep track of how you made things behind your individual screen.

And then you realise it's a deduction game. As it goes on, you use the information you're gathering about how the various ingredients interact to figure out what each ones alchemical is. If, for instance, scorpions and frogs combine to make a potion of speed, this is defined by a blue plus. You don't know yet what eithers' alchemical is, but you do know that scorpions and frogs alchemical won't have a blue minus on them, so these can be eliminated on your secret pad.

And as the game continues further, and you gather more knowledge on how the ingredients interact, you can announce the theories to the world you've developed in you secret lab/pad, by placing the alchemical and ingredient together with a seal that represents your theory. You gain reputation by doing so - but theories can be debunked (even by yourself) later, so there's room for a little shenanigan-ing here.

There's more to it than that, but basically the app comes into it for combining ingredients to make potions, selling them and testing them, and checking everyone's theories at the end of the game. In the final round there's even an opportunity to show off your potion-making to the wider world and gain - or lose - reputation. Inevitably, you ultimately live or die by how good an alchemist you are - if your theories are lousy, you lose rep. And - though the game doesn't mention it in the rules - if you make a mistake on your secret pad, you also lose rep: both in the game (can't really have a theory about scorpions if you've managed to cross every alchemical off) and in real life, as you realise in your foolishness you've eliminated every single alchemical for mangrove root.

Stanley joined me halfway through a playthrough and afterwards announced "It's a brain-burner". And it is. Not only the deduction, which has the get-there-first tension reminiscent of Mystery of the Abbey, but how the actions play out. Turn order is really important, as there's a Fresco-style benefit to getting up early and taking actions first. There's also a fight (in the two-player game) to sell potions to adventurers, with some blind-bidding thrown in to decide the winning vendor. It's one I definitely want to play again (maybe with three), but I think we'd need three hours for a first play, so it might not be one for a Tuesday...

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Panickin' Skywalker

This week's regular gaming forum was held at Adam's place, minus Hannah who was away for work. But here for play were Katy, Sam , Joe, Ian, Martin, Andy and myself. There was apple crumble on offer once we had arrived and Adam looked quite relieved we he found out that we hadn't finished the lot before he'd got his son to bed.

But what to play? Andy had bought plenty of new options, including a still-shrinkwrapped Stefan Feld game. But Adam's eye was caught by Sam's copy of The Networks and Joe had bought the betting and racing game Down Force which got enough approval to be set up.

Sam, Adam and I played The Networks on the blue coffee table. It was new to me but the rules aren't complicated although it certainly looks baffling to the uninitiated. Before long, I was scheduling prime time entertainment for the masses along with the best of them.

I began the game, which meant Adam had last choice in the first round. This was considered a disadvantage when it was last played, so I thought it was a fair method of levelling the playing field against the might of Adam.

I was keeping pace with the other two quite happily throughout and made sure I was always cash-rich so I was never short of choices. Adam, though, made no money from his TV network until halfway through the game, and he was living hand to mouth until the end.

This lack of money almost blew up in his face in the last round when he forgot that he couldn't pay for his programming. He sheepishly changed a recent decision from Get Viewers to Get Money to avoid the hit on victory points he'd receive.

He might have still won, though, as he proved the last-player disadvantage to be an illusion.

Adam 142
Sam 125, plus money tie breaker
Andrew 125

I enjoyed it a lot and am keen to play again. With just three players, we'd shaved a full hour off the playing time of the previous four player game.

On the big table Down Force had ended. I paid it little attention, apart from the times when I took a photo, but Andy came out a clear winner, which makes sense since I remember him being good at Winners' Circle, too. No idea what happened to Joe.

Andy 24
Martin 19
Katy 15
Ian 11
Joe 7

So while we on the coffee table were still haggling over fading stars and dodgy TV formats, they played Hanabi (after Andy didn’t seemed hugely excited by the offer of Bemused, with the enticing slogan “we’re pretty sure you’ll hate it”). I felt a bit jealous when I saw this. I think it was Katy's first game, but I could be wrong about that.

They set about putting on a fireworks display and, although they didn't complete it and Katy often complained that she knew nothing about her cards, they got 20 points (out of 25) which, according to the German rules, was "Gut" and only one point off "Sehr Gut." Well done!

However, the two tables were completely out of sync. While they played Hana-bi, we started on Finca. Sam persuaded Adam to play it by suggesting it was exactly the kind of game that he was good at.

The last time Sam and I played it, we hid the bonus tile at the bottom of the pile of delivery tiles. This time, we didn't, instead preferring the official rules. We also didn't use the Special Ability tiles. As we're all still newbies, there doesn't seem much point. The game is already plenty complicated enough.

It was a tough game. I think both Sam and I split our tactics between trying to stop Adam and trying to not be last. Sam did that better than me, as his original prediction regarding Adam's suitability proved bang on the money.

Adam 53
Sam 39
Andrew 35

Another game I'm keen to play again. On reflection, I think three players might be the sweet spot: two players and it's too predictable; four players and it's too random. Just my impression, though.

While Finca was reminding us of Adam's immense AlphaGo-style ability at reading a game, The five on the other table were starting on a game of Kribbeln. In this game, Martin went very high on his Kribbeln right from the start, and came to regret it. Joe, though, stormed back with almost a clean sweep of round three after a poor opening. Ian, meanwhile, lived up to his reputation as Le Coq Blocquer when he consistently tied with Katy, taking points from her whenever he did.

Kribbeln: not a very photogenic game

Joe 27
Andy 25
Ian 22
Katy 22
Martin 18

Now we had all, finally, ended at the same time. There was a brief reshuffling of tables, with Joe, Sam, Martin and Katy deciding to save the Earth with Flipships. Andy, Adam, Ian and I went for the more prosiac option of real estate gaming with For Sale. It was an odd game for most of us who are used to the Italian edition, with it’s different number spread. Adam, though, had no difficulties in that respect.

Adam 65
Andy 55
Andrew 50
Ian 49

The invasion of Earth was still underway, but we ignored the possible extinction of the human race and chose No Thanks.

Three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and the suspicion that someone hasn’t shuffled the No Thanks deck properly. In today’s game, we began with a glut of cards in the twenties. I went for high twenties and got lucky. Adam and Ian fought over mid-to-low twenties and got in each others’ way. Andy went for mostly low cards, but got stung by a lone 30+ card.

Andrew 24
Andy 31
Ian 54
Adam 57

We had finished just as Flipships was entering its final round. By now Katy’s unerring accuracy had earned her the nickname Red Leader One. But despite the four of them wiping out the horde of alien fighters, the Mothership was still on four hit points, just down from six at the start of the game. So it was just a case of each player hitting the mothership once in the final round, and they’d win the game.

Martin went first. He hit it once, sticking to the plan. Sam was up next, but didn’t get a hit. Then Katy, who struck twice. Back on track!

All our hopes were with Joe. This genial guy, famous for his flicking issues with Ascending Empires, now had to save the planet. He felt the pressure acutely, all the more so since now we had to whisper since Adam was upstairs putting his son on the toilet. (It was now that Ian said the words which are now the blog article’s title.)

He flicked high and long. He flicked high and short. He veered far off course. He came so close. But not one ship found its target. The end of the world. A disaster.

We're all dead

The end of the evening, too. Luckily this evening was anything but a disaster. Thanks for hosting, Adam. And thanks for playing, everyone else.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Franks, but no Franks

Once upon a time there were three great empires, and another not-so-great empire. Perhaps not even an empire at all. More like a loose economic union. Anyway, this night we told the story of those great empires, and the men behind them: their trials, their tribulations, their... Time of Crisis.

Ian, Martin and I arrived at the same time to find the game set up, not in Joe’s kitchen downstairs, but in the room by the front door (the study?). We took some time to appreciate our new surroundings before beginning the game at 7.45.

Joe began like a man with a mission. He was first to draw blood, his single militia hitting an Alamanni three times. Then he moved an army into Rome and made a bid to be Emperor. He needed five votes with three dice. He got four. Martin, frustrated by Joe doing exactly what he was going to do for the first three rounds, attacked Joe for want of anything better to do.

A familiar feeling for Joe as he's attacked
by barbarians in Pannonia

Even at this early stage, I was falling behind and, keen to get some points, I chased after some Sassanids and killed them, only for another bunch of them to rise up and invade my now-undefended Galatia. How we laughed at their sneaky ways.

Emperor Joe!

Joe was finally crowned Emperor at 8.45. A momentous occasion. Martin’s presence on the board stretched from Britain down to Greece, but his resources were so thinly spread that he couldn’t keep Gallia, and Pannonia and Macedonia were entirely undefended. Surely a hopeless position.

Talking of hopeless, Galatia was now hosting two of the worst armies in history, as both repeatedly rolled non-hits at each other. Eventually, my support whittled away to nothing and I was ousted. My four-region potential empire was now split in two and I had to waste more time putting it back together.

Galatia falls after two rounds of non-violent uprising

Ian failed to beat Joe in an election, and so he stirred up unrest in Rome with a mob. Martin’s turns were long and complicated, like a series summary of Game Of Thrones on Wikipedia. He became Emperor and took back Gallia in one turn after some carefully considered probabilities with dice rolls. But then Postumus suddenly turned up, weakening support in both Gallia and Rome, sending Martin to new levels of frustration.

And if that weren’t enough, Ian became a Pretender Emperor, making Martin’s job even harder. Joe then suggested that Ian should attack Martin and went into so much detail that Martin complained.

Pretender Ian eyes Rome from across the sea

With the time at 10.00, Martin had 40 points, Joe 33, Ian 30 and me 24.

Emperor Martin had no choice but to attack Pretender Ian. His best army steamed into Hispania, but it could only muster one hit against Ian’s three. Martin used his a flanking manoeuvre! Hope sprang eternal and the battle was run again. But Martin still couldn’t manage more that one hit, and Ian’s single hit was enough for a draw and Martin’s attack was repelled.


With Martin’s support in Rome at an all time low, I tried to become Emperor in a desperate attempt to do something this evening apart from lose to barbarians. But I lacked the blue cards to recall a governor and have a chance in the election. My deck of cards was lean, but with only ten in my pack, it meant that every other turn I had no choice at all in what cards I played. A dismal situation.

Joe tried to flick Lampedusa off the map, thinking it was a crumb. Real Roman emperors probably did the same.

Ian then became the real Emperor, putting him in a commanding lead. Joe gave up on winning and attacked Martin in a bid for second. Martin now only had one territory – the far-flung, mostly ignored Brittania. But he was not downbeat. “I think I have options,” he said, ominously. He regained his throne in Rome and saw off the invading Franks in yet another epic move. Joe got out the whiskey.

Ian fought back, became emperor again and played the Damnatio Memoriae card meaning the previous emperor loses points. This also put him past 60, triggering the end of the game. Joe spent his last turn attacking and beating barbarians, while Martin took Thracia, became Emperor and, in an audacious move, his otherwise dormant Britannic army swept into Northern Sahara and took out some Nomads. It was enough to give him a close victory after three and a half hours.

Martin checks his British troops

Martin 72
Ian 70
Joe 66
Andrew 38

It was just past eleven, but we still had one more game in us so we got out Las Vegas, inviting Dirk along, allowing him to pick up points if the neutral dice happened to win any money. Martin got the pieces out of the box, surprised that Joe had kept the cardboard sprues that the casino tiles had originally come in. “You’re a sprue-saver?” he asked, incredulously.

My Time of Crisis luck stayed with me in round one as I said “Watch me roll two twos,” since it would be my worst possible result. I rolled two twos.

I took quite a lot of photos, clearly thinking it’d help me remember the exciting situations we found ourselves in, but now they just look like pictures of dice. I barely recall a thing, although my notes tell me we were still discussing Time of Crisis during round two.

The game ended with Martin winning again, while Dirk avoided last place for a change.

Martin 420,000
Joe 390,000
Andrew 350,000
Dirk 230,000
Ian 220,000

And so, with midnight a distant memory, we set off home. Another evening of epic tales of empires, pretenders and barbarians behind us. Thanks all.

Even Cybil was exhausted

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Fruitful Pastimes

Another night, another alien invasion averted by the power of flicking. Yes, it was Flipships again, as Stanley and Joe were suiting up for space flight (furry onesies) just as Andrew walked through the door to join us at 7pm. We played a standard mission, and saw off the invaders so comfortably - about eight flicks to spare - I'm thinking it's time to play expert next time.

Joe hits the mothership. Cries of joy supplied by Stan.

The reward for saving the planet was a good night's rest, so I put the boys to bed whilst Andrew packed the game away.

We decided that it was a good night for Macao, the game that everyone many of us profess to like but only ever gets played by Andrew and I. Maybe because it's a much faster game with two, I'm not sure. Anyway, we went wildly divergent routes. I picked up hard-to-activate cards but because one of them - I managed to activate it - was the Idler, I could choose not to pick up extra cards from then on if it took my fancy, and this came in jolly handy.

Idler, skulking in the distance

However my idleness looked less than wise when Andrew got his gold-making engine going and repeatedly bought points from the tribute track, overhauling my narrow lead to push himself ahead. I came back into it though, using my stockpiled cubes to sail my boat repeatedly in and out of Antwerp delivering tea, like I'd fallen in love with a waitress there. My paper delivery got me double points too, and it was enough to see off Endersby and claim the Crown of Macao (just made that up, but it's like Mr Biblios).

It was approaching 9.15 but as it was a school night Andrew wanted something light to finish. I taught him the delights of Finca - it plays up to four, but is best with two as it's more tactical and less random. In the game your Farmers are delivering various types of fruit around the island of Mallorca, and the board shows what is in demand where. But the game itself is really about the windmill - a randomly-generated rondel system that works in a clever way: on your turn you move a Farmer as many spaces as there were farmers on the spot you started. Then you take fruit pieces equal to as many Farmers on the space you stopped in.

Extreme windmilling

You can forego collecting fruit in order to make deliveries, but the rondel - and the fact you collect the donkeys you need for delivering when passing certain spots on the windmill - is really the game.  I'd like to try it with three but I imagine four to be chaos.

A Finca is added when a region is sated

Andrew took a debut win after he sped the game to its end, which happens when five regions have had their fill of fruit:

Andrew 50
Sam 45

A delightful aperitif, thanks Andrew!

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Flip flip hurray

After last week's sparse turn out, we were somewhat back to normal with seven gamers: the host Sam and Joe, Martin, Matt, Katy, Ian and I.

From the start, we split into two groups. Katy had reserved a game of Lords of Vegas, and was all excited about it until it was pointed out that, given the recent tragedy, it might not be the most appropriate game to play. She went off the idea, but by then she had three opponents and so the game began.

Matt, Sam and I (and Stanley, too, in the latter stages of the game) played Flipships, the game that would be the board game version of Space Invaders except there's already a board game version of Space Invaders. I've never played it, but I can't imagine it's better than this.

It looked bad for us early on, with hoards of angry aliens bearing down on us. But it turns out that Matt is the last starfighter, picking off aliens with his short-range cannon, and taking two out with one flick.

He kept us alive long enough that we got to The Last Assault: the part of the game where all pretense of strategy goes out the window and we just target the Mother Ship. The Earth was on one health point, but we whittled the mother ship down and I, the last player to flip their ships, dealt the fatal blow with my penultimate ship! How we all cheered!

Earth Alliance 1
Alien Federation 0

Lords of Vegas was barely underway. They'd been tolerant of our ships overshooting the Mother Ship and landing on Sunset Strip, while they wheeled and dealed in Vegas.

Ian's early attempt at a sprawl, making a four-tile casino, blew up in his face when Katy drew the card that gave her the lot that Ian had sprawled into. Suddenly, that four-tile casino was hers. She made no attempt at hiding her glee, while Ian slipped into glum Eeyore-mode. He fell behind and never recovered.

Meanwhile, the other half of the table was not finished with War In Space. We chose Quantum for our big-ish game to last until the probable end of Lords Of Vegas.

Buy-in setting up Quantum, Sam brushed against a wine glass, sending it to the floor with a smash. I noticed that the first thing he wiped down was the board game box. Sam knows his priorities.

After more wiping and hoovering, we were ready to start. And what a game it was. We chose the Origin Of Thought map, an thanks to some good rolls, the early part of the game was mostly the three of us putting cubes down in the far-flung outer reaches. But then we were forced into the middle where it all kicked off.

I was one cube behind quite early on, and spend a lot of time fighting people to try and stop them. Sam used his Tactical card to good effect, often squeezing in a final attack at the end of his go. Matt, though, was relentless which came in very handy with a seemingly invincible 4-dice the Sam kept attacking but never destroyed.

The end, when it came, was swift and unexpected. I thought Sam was no threat, so focused my attacks on a clearly dangerous Matt. Then Sam launched a ship, and used Tactical to move it into a battle over an orbital point. A battle against Relentless Matt. But Sam won, and he moved into the space with allowed him to put down his final cube. If Casino Royale had been about Quantum, not Poker, that's how it would've ended.

Sam 0 cubes left
Matt 1
Andrew 2

By now, people were remarking on the strange Eighties turn that Sam's YouTube playlist had taken. He tried to put it right, but even then it veered back to Peter Gabriel via a period of Kate Bush.

By now Lords Of Vegas had finished. The final stages were notable by how close it was. Whenever I looked over, the first place space was always occupied by at least two counters.

Maybe the crucial moment was when Martin tried to reorganize a large casino, but failed and gave it to Joe, causing him to declare that the purple casino was cursed.

But was it so important? The Strip paid out for the last time, and Joe squeaked a win.

Joe 32 plus $49m
Katy 32 plus $23m
Martin 29
Ian 23

An odd game of LoV, with no brown casinos built at all. Was that why it was so close?

Then all seven of us played Bemused, the game that so successfully lived up to its name last week. Technically, it's only a six player game so Sam and I joined forces as a team.

The game itself seems like a simple card game with a bit of hidden secrecy regarding our gemina (a card telling us which other we are especially interested in) and how we feel about them (love, hate, disdain etc).

I'm not sure if the whole bit about getting into character is entirely necessary for the game, but we did enjoy a bit of role playing. Joe (painter) complained about Martin (dancer) visiting his studio and making snide remarks. Sam and I (thespians) we're offended by any critique of our stage version of Jaws, and people flung doubts at Ian (poet) telling him to get back to his garret.

Katy (singer) was not enough in character to give us a tune, but she did prove pivotal to the game. She drove Martin insane which curiously lead to the death of Joe. And then, right at the end of the game, she killed Matt who revealed his gemina was Katy, which gave her a Dread card, killing her off too. The only people left standing (albeit insane) was the Thespian. However, it seems that survival is a losing tactic in this game.

Katy 7 (died last)
Joe 7
Matt 5
Ian 5
Martin 5
Sam & Andrew 3

Then we reformed into two new groups. Martin, Ian and Sam banded together to defeat the Alien Federation again (they don't give up, I'll give them that) while Joe, Katy, Matt and I played Animals On Board.

My tactic was to get as many 5 value cards as I could, but it’s an optimistic one. I was soundly beaten by Joe’s and Matt’s set collection.

Matt 46
Joe 39
Andrew 36
Katy 35

As for Flipships, the aliens didn’t last long in the face of Ian’s, Martin’s and Sam’s withering death ray. “Good flicking, guys!” said someone as Ian put the fourth decisive hole in the mothership’s hull.

Earth Alliance 2
Alien Federation 0

They filled in until we finished Animals On Board with Eggs of Ostrich.

Sam 10
Martin 9
Ian 3

Then the night ended with Fuji Flush. It’s all luck of course. Wish I could remember more about it, but by now I was really quite drunk.

Ian 0 cards left
Katy 0
Matt 1
Sam 1
Martin 2
Andrew 2
Joe 2

After that, we bid our fond goodbyes. Or did we? Joe, who was driving, admitted that he couldn’t be arsed to give the Eastonites a lift across the M32, preferring to help out Katy and I since we live closer to his home (and also closer to Sam’s home, which may be where the argument began). Here’s hoping this doesn’t lead to a massive schism in the ranks. Let’s all love each other again next Tuesday!