Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Revolution nmbr 9

As England baked under a midsummer heatwave, Joe's call to host this week's event with a bumper response. Ten of us (Sam, Andy, Matt W, Matt K (previously known as Matt and Matt2 respectively), Martin, Katy, Ian, Adam, Chris and myself) arrived for an evening's entertainment that spilled out of Joe's kitchen and into the garden.

The first game to be done and dusted was Nmbr 9, a new game with Take It Easy tones in that everyone has the same options, which quickly diverge among the players.

Adam 95
Ian 79
Sam 61
Chris 50

I was one of the four lucky enough to start outside. Me, Martin, Joe and Matt K played Montage, a crossword game without any letters. Instead, colours stand for a group of letters.

The aim of the game is to give clues (maximum five words) to words whose letters fit the coloured counters on the board. It's a team game and you hope that your partner gets the clue (indicated by knocking on the table) before both - and it must be both - of your opponents do. The board is divided into nine sectors and the winning team is the one that gets a majority of its pieces in four sectors.

All of this takes place under the watchful eye of an hourglass. Everything in a turn: choosing the position, thinking of a clue, giving the clue, solving the clue, must happen before the sand runs out. Obviously, planning ahead is key.

I paired up with Matt and Joe was with Martin. Up against two giant intellects meant Matt and I were the underdogs. When Joe gave the clue "Prince's reign" and Martin got it with "purple" I thought we were in trouble. However, they were perfectly happy to go route-one with the clue "Number two" from Martin, meaning "poo" which Joe got without even looking at the board.

Martin & Joe 4
Matt & Andrew 1

Inside, Adam, Ian, Chris and Sam were flying the flag for chunky Eurogame with Raiders Of The North Sea. While Matt1 and Katy waited for Andy to arrive, at which point they threw themselves into Flamme Rouge. I know nothing other than the result.

Early days with Flamme Rouge and Raiders...

1. Andy
2. Matt
3. Katy

They followed this with Nmbr 9.

Matt 86
Andy 61
Katy 56

Meanwhile, us outside moved onto Movable Type, continuing the recent trend for word games. Joe sold it to us by saying "It has a fun aspect."

Sheer folly!

This time, there are four rounds of trying to make the highest scoring word using the five cards in your hand and three open cards that anyone can use. The better you do, the more cards you can take from the array of all cards that were used that round. Then, in the fifth and final round, those cards would be used to make the highest scoring word you can manage.

A ha ha!

Martin 20 (he won with Mashable)
Joe 19 (ticketing)
Andrew 17 (fleshy)
Matt K 16 (jilted) (I think. Can’t read my writing)

Apart from the marauding Vikings in the North Sea, the rest of us had finished our games at the same time, so we had a quick reshuffle. Katy, Joe and Martin brought a card table outside and played Cobras.

Cobras in the long grass

Joe was first to hit the game ending score, but then fell back due to negative cobras on his card at the end of the round. This allowed a delighted Katy ("We've screwed Joe!") to grab a win.

Katy 113
Joe 105
Martin 75

An unimpressed cat

Meanwhile, Andy, me and the two Matts played Escape From The Aliens In Outer Space. This is a game of hidden identities and escaping and/or attacking. I didn't have much of an clue how to play, and the game for me may as well have been called Have A Nice Stroll Through A Spaceship.

My unhelpful notes during Escape...

The two Matts were more clued in. Alien Matt W killed Human Matt K early on, just because Matt K made a noise near him. This meant the last human, Andy, had to escape. He managed to get to an escape pod, but it malfunctioned. Rather than try to walk across to another escape pod, he played a card the allowed him to mutate into an alien and the game ended in a draw.

Not a bad game. Would probably have been more fun if I'd known what was going on.

Still playing Raiders...

On the card table, Cobras had been replaced by Eggs of Ostrich.

Martin 15
Katy 10
Joe 9

The four of us played Andy's print and play (and laminate) version of Red7. After a rules explanation, I played a card that immediately knocked newcomer Matt K out. A very steep learning curve. But he came back well, and we ended after three rounds. We had to, since the light had faded so much that most of round three was played under the light from my mobile phone.

Really quite dark now

Matt K 39
Andy 12
Matt W 0
Andrew 0

By now Raiders of the North Sea had ended. Everyone else had gone through multiple games and rules explanations, but the pure of heart on one half of Joe's kitchen table had gone through an epic. A game, after which, they all stood around proudly and talked about what they'd just done.

Nearing the end of the game

Ian 43
Adam 39
Sam 36
Chris 31

And they even managed to squeeze in a game of Nmbr 9. Ian quickly said he’d got off to a bad start. I couldn’t tell how he knew this so I took a photograph, hoping that one day I’d look back and understand what he’d meant.

He was right, though.

Adam 72
Chris 67
Sam 61 (“Again!”)
Ian 52

Finally, we were all together and all inside. So we went for a rule-stretching 11-player game of 6nimmt. We could only manage two rounds before time caught up with us. Short, but agonising, as the quotes I jotted down demonstrate:

“Joseph, you wanker!” me, probably.

“It’s like golf!” Ian

“My dreams were ruined years ago.” Sam

“I’m going to get boned and not in a good way.” Katy

It ended like so:

Adam 10
Matt K 12
Matt W 14
Chris 14
Sam 19
Ian 28
Katy 35
Andy 39
Joe 39
Martin 43
Andrew 52

Thanks all. A bit of a classic.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Mr 75%

Sunday, and after five hours of intense Bristol heat - the world really has changed - watching the boys play cricket, I laid down on Joe's bed and listened to the sounds of children in the gardens playing. When I said to Sally I might have drifted off, she confirmed I did with an allegedly accurate impersonation of my snoring.

But Stanley had been promised a game, so whilst I brewed coffee he set up Raiders of the North Sea. As previous posts have elicited, the basic premise of Raiders is that you gather what you need to go and pillage: violent viking! But subsequent plays have shown there are other avenues of pursuit - staying at home to make offerings for the chief: Sycophantic viking! Or indeed, trying to build a quick lead and then hurry the end of the game before anyone catches you: Lazy viking. If you're clever about it you can even time the killing off of your crew in order to gain maximum points on the Valkyrie track (Psychopathic viking).

I went for the lazy option. Stan asked me to play at 75% (determination to win) but to be honest my head was pretty fuzzy at the start anyway. I tried a new tactic of not bothering with the far-flung, inland raid-able places such as monasteries and outposts, instead blitzing the harbors for a meagre two points reward per raid. Although this didn't build much of a lead, it did give me a shedload of resources. Allied to my Forager - who gave me a steady stream of provisions to raid with - I realized that I was well-placed to go Crap Raiding: taking my rubbish crew to fortresses, and emptying them of resources whilst scoring no points (- the stronger the crew, the higher your points reward for a raid)

Stan pretending to be sad

Stan's tactic was more honorable - if you can call raiding honorable - building a stronger crew, and sacrificing them nobly in battle before building them up again. But seeing I was about to end the game, he changed tactics and quickly made an offering to the chief at home, successfully pulling off the violent, psychotic, sycophantic, blend that marks the true viking.

But when I raided the penultimate fortress though, I'd done just enough to impress the chief. I hadn't killed anyone outside of the harbours or let any crew nobly die in battle but my three offerings at home were just enough to hold off Stan's surge up the track by virtue of all his dead raiders:

Sam 46
Stan 45

We shook hands as Stan resolved to get me next time.

Now Joe joined us for Trans America, which 2 or 3 years ago was the game of choice for the boys before Stan went heavy-Euro and Joe refused to play anything except Spyfall. Halfway through the first round I realized he'd forgotten you don't have to build track contiguously but can go from anywhere, and had to keep reminding Joe as his spirit of adventure saw him striving for new boundaries by himself instead of hitching the available lift.

But once he kept this in mind, he actually beat us. Stan won the first round, but Joe the second by a bigger margin, ending the game (we only played the two rounds) with Stanley and I joint second. Very nice end to a hectic weekend, and a taster for Tuesday...

Friday, 16 June 2017

Sticks and Stones . . .

Thursday... the poor man's Tuesday. Or maybe it's the millionaire's Tuesday... I don't know. In any case, Sam and I met at his for a little bit of head-to-head gaming, and I came armed with some favourite two-player stuff, new and old.

Despite Sam's plan to inculcate me in the ways of Feast for Odin, he graciously agreed to have a crack at Paperback - the marvellous game of words and deck-building.

Paperback's roots are very obviously in Dominion, from the starting hand, the points cards (in this case not entirely useless, as they function as wild letters, but offer no cash for purchases) and market of more powerful cards available for purchase. But to these it adds the endlessly engaging challenge of creating a word, and in doing so soars far and away above its inspiration, in my opinion.

Sam here: I managed one photo of the game half-set up

An optional rule is that if your opponent is stuck for a word, you can offer help for a small reward, though the benefit to your rival is probably much greater. The fact that this is almost impossible to resist is testament to the huge attraction of word games to those who like them. You get to play the game on your opponent's turn too! Sam offered to help me with my N Y P D (ha!), plus four wilds - and did so with spectacular ease. It might just have won me the game. (I'll put the word in the comments later, so you can all have a chew on it in the meantime).

We moved on... to Manoeuvre! An all-time favourite of mine, and a game that never fails to impress me with how easy it is to remember the rules, even when you haven't played for over a year. We chose the classic armies of France vs GB, and were off and running in no time.

The early stages of the game are cagey, with very quick turns as both players manoeuvre their troops into good spots, whilst trying to form a coherent hand of five cards. I was trying for a powerful assault from the start, while Sam pecked away with a few bombardments and skirmish assaults. Both strategies are viable, because although the latter won't necessarily do lasting damage to your opponent, it does ensure you to get a stream of fresh cards, until hopefully you've assembled something nearing a plan.

Running for the hills is a good idea

I love the elegant combat system, and the choice of whether to retreat (or force a retreat) rather than take damage. A well-timed retreat might force the attacker to advance in your wake, leaving them surrounded just in time for your turn - though if you try this against cavalry they might just do for you with a lucky pursuit roll or two.

It was a pretty even-handed game, and the sunset was nearly upon us with four kills each. In what would have been my last turn before a nightfall victory was assessed, I got very lucky and drew two cards for my 1st Foot Guards from a freshly shuffled deck, allowing me to lay waste to Sam's hobbled Guard Cavalry. Oh what a lovely game! And evening. Thanks Sam!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Snakes on a game

A week. It's a long time in politics, especially this past week, but it's an age and a half for the GNN regulars eager to match wits over Sam's kitchen table.

We began as a two, with Sam showing me (Andrew) Mint Works. It's a worker placement game in a tiny tin box. We didn't get anywhere near finishing a game, but I played enough to recognise the familiar "Get stuff to get stuff" mechanic at its heart.

First, Matt and Joe arrived and Sam invited his son down for a couple of rounds of Insider. For these, little Joe was always the Master.

In game one, Sam guessed right (ruler) but was not voted as the Insider. Instead, suspicion fell on me since, according to Sam, I had my funny face on. But it wasn't me either. It was Joe, who none of us had even considered!

In game two, Katy was now present and involved. Katy guessed right (the World Cup) but wasn't voted as the insider. Instead it was between me and Matt and a 3-3 vote meant that the Insider won. It was Matt.

I am yet to be the Insider.

Now we were ready for a real game so, with little Joe back in bed, we chose Cobras, a new trick taking game. The game is loosely based on a real event: in India, during the British Raj, there was a problem with a large cobra population, so the British offered a bounty for each dead cobra. Thus lead to the locals breeding cobras just for the bounty. When the British found out, they dropped the scheme, so then all the suddenly worthless cobras were released into the wild, leaving them worse off than when they started.

The game itself is a card game where losing tricks allows you to collect cobras and winning a trick allows you to sell them. But there is an optimal amount. More than that and the value of your pile of cobras suddenly drops in value.

It's all about timing. Losing and winning to maximize your potential. Any unused cobras you have at the end of the round count as negative points. Technically, Matt ended round one on -6 but we allowed him to stay on zero. We're so generous.

Then Sam got stung at the end of round two with fourteen unsold cobras. Neither of them recovered before Katy hit 75 and triggered the end of the game.

Katy 75
Andrew 64
Joe 49
Sam 44
Matt 44

Next up was Blockers! Rarely suggested but always enjoyed, this Knizia-ish game (but not by the great German, as I wrongly assumed) is an underrated gem.

Having said that, I did badly. I'm reminded of Ian's recent poor performance at Railways Of The World after he was so keen to play it. Maybe there is such a thing as Chooser's Curse, whereby those most excited to play a game are least likely to do well.

It was Katy's first game, I believe, which would explain why she couldn't tell how well she was doing. She constantly bemoaned her fate right up until the moment the scores were added up.

Katy 5
Sam 6 (fewest tiles)
Matt 6 (fewer tiles)
Joe 6 (most tiles)
Andrew 7

Katy did, at least, look a bit embarrassed when she discovered how misplaced her pessimism was. Talking of pessimism, Joe announced near the end of the game he'd split his tiles into two groups: "Can't play" and "Will lose me the game."

As for me, well, I entertained the crowd with my straight line right across the board, but starting in the centre meant I was quickly surrounded. Not a good tactic.

Next up was Perudo. So long it remained unloved and alone until its sudden and welcome revival.

In this game, Katy got into an early death spiral, followed by Sam, but Matt was first out. At the end it was between me and Joe, with three dice each. Not a good time for a death spiral, but that's what I got. Joe ended a comfortable winner.


Finally, there was time for two games of Fuji Flush. I was too lazy to record dick points, but had to make a note when Joe pulled off his big swinging dick! All of us had played twos, and he swept them off the table with a nine. Well played.

In the first game, I won again! At the time, I said it was four wins out of five, but I was wrong: it was four wins in a row! I really must do a Fuji Flush division.

Andrew 0
Sam 1
Matt 2
Joe 2
Katy 3

In the second game, Katy got off to a flier, managing to push through twice in the space of playing two cards! Classy stuff. Not enough to steal first place from Matt, but worth a mention.

Matt 0
Andrew 1
Katy 1
Joe 1
Sam 3

And so we were done. We set off back home, happy and enriched. Thanks all!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Election Night Special

I arrived at Andrew’s at 7.25, and after five or six minutes he’d finally made it down the stairs to let me in. Wanting to avoid the election coverage at the start of the evening, I ended up seeing about 3 hours of it in the end - but in the meantime Andrew I had business over the North Sea, as I talked him through the basics of Raiders. 

This was my fourth play in 4 days and the game - whilst still being basic on the rules - showed a little more of itself again. There was a tension over the ending: Andrew had the wherewithal to finish the game but because I didn’t, he bided his time and picked up a few points. Should I gear up for the raid myself, or kill off my crew? The problem with the latter is that would leave Andrew free too take as much time as he wanted. But as soon as I had the potential to raid, he carried out the final bit of pillaging himself, and I realised I might have been able to stymie him with more careful viking-management… my earlier raiding had me far ahead on the scoretrack, but Andrew’s final raid combined with his offerings to the chief saw him nab the victory!

Andrew 56
Sam 55

With Raiders wrapped up we set up Flamme Rouge. Andrew shot out in front early doors and I was forced to play high cards just to keep up with him. I kept my rouler in front of my sprinter for as long as possible, and did wonder - again - whether he had enough cards to make it over the line. But he did - after the final hill both my guys made a break for it - the sprinter pulling off a convincing win with my knackered rouler with enough in they tank to claim second:

Sam - wins
Andrew - doesn’t

Andrew had also requested I bring 7 Wonders, so we set up the three player (the third player is Dirk) where you take turns to play Dirk’s hand for him. The early signs weren’t good for me when I kept getting the rules wrong, and I made an early decision to go for sciences. But I only had resources in the form of stone and logs, and scientists can’t do all that much with that. I did manage to chain several cards together to build a decent score, but struggled to do anything else, and Andrew ended the game cash and resources rich, with the most military, some guilds… at least I beat Dirk.

Sam's resources as we enter round three!

Andrew 58
Sam 54
Dirk 41

Obligatory reference to the artwork on 7 Wonders

We ended on Biblios - not exactly a banker for me, but a game I have a decent pedigree in. But Andrew completely trounced me - he’s Mr Biblios! - and walked away with a convincing win. 

Andrew 11
Sam 4

It was almost as if I had entered the episode over-confident of my own success, and a softly-spoken man had taken me by surprise. 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Eight games a week

Tuesday rolled around again and it was sans Endersby chez Joes'. Whilst Andrew was at home nursing his leg, I joined Ian, Katy, Martin, and Matt (2) with the host at the table. Matt (1) and Andy were late withdrawals.

After we got over our shock that Ian had forgotten his beer ("You don't bring any games" Martin cried "That's the one thing you have to remember!") we cracked into things with Fuji Flush. I had a bunch of twos and threes and every time I got rid of one, I picked another up. There was a lot of teamwork going on around the table and - as ever - plenty of dick points, delivered with great relish. With the game quite far progressed both Katy and I still had plenty of cards. We both made a late surge for it, but were beaten to the punch by Joe.

Joe - no cards
Katy/Ian/Martin/Sam - 1 card
Matt - 2 cards

Those of us broken by the experience consoled ourselves with the beautiful view out of Joe's window:

We then split into two groups of three, with Martin leading the Hit Z Road faction and me suggesting Raiders of the North Sea. Matt and Ian were amenable, so while Martin talked Joe through the rules of the zombie apocalypse, I explained Raiders.

Raiders has a simple worker-placement thing going on, but with a couple of twists. One is that every time you place a viking (taking the action of a location), you also displace one from the board - taking the second action too. Another is that the vikings have a hierarchy - black, grey, white - and this has a bearing on placement too. You're basically building a crew and gathering what you need to go off and raid - but each member of your crew gives you a little ongoing bonus, and a potential action to play as well. Some of these - not many - involving stealing from your fellow competitors, but while Matt and Ian got into a tit-for-tat of nicking provisions off each other, I was left relatively unscathed.

All the same, it looked to be Matt's game as the final furlong came into view. Ian was ready to raid and end it - however he was stymied by both Matt and I stealing provisions from him. I really wanted to raid and end the game myself, but didn't have the viking to do so. However, with the finale postponed, I hit upon a new strategy: killing off my crew. Vikings love a noble death, and the more you lose in battle the more points you score at the end - so there's a balance to be struck between short-term loss and long-term gain. I managed to kill off my whole crew just before Ian finally wrapped things up - I''d love to say I planned it to perfection, but I didn't. I just got lucky. Nice game though.

Sam 62
Matt 56
Ian 53

While we'd been raiding the North Sea, Martin had been the sole survivor in Hit Z Road, with Joe biting the dust somewhere around Colorado - not helped by rolls like this one:

...and Katy falling at the final hurdle, eaten by the living dead with a marvellous view of the Pacific.

Martin - survives!
Katy - dead last (second)
Joe - dead first (last)

Matt now left, leaving Ian and I to witness the end of Jump Drive, which Joe likes to describe as the snack version of Race for the Galaxy: it follows a very similar path of card selection and using other cards to pay, but with a simpler interface - and a much quicker playtime.

I suggested maybe it was the Boy Band version of RftG, but for whatever reason Joe did not approve. Either way, the ending was very dramatic, with Joe scoring more in his final round than Katy managed in the entire game. He and Martin both finished with the same score, with the latter winning on a tie-breaker!

Martin 91 (wins on tie-break)
Joe 91
Katy 38

After all that competition, it was time for a light-hearted semi-co-operative game where nobody falsely accuses anyone of being something they're not. But instead we played Insider.

I think I'm right in saying Ian was the Insider in the first two games and was correctly accused both times. Oddly we had to guess Board Game in one of them, and failed miserably. Ian gave himself away but justified it by saying we were all being really dense, which was a fair comment considering the context.

Then - drama! - Martin appeared to be the Insider and we all at one point were convinced. "You were asking all the pertinent questions" I said. "That's just because I'm clever!" Martin protested. Remembering his bewilderment at having to lie in Ultimate Werewolf (and subsequent hatred of the game) I was having doubts now. Joe, too, had a hunch that Katy might be letting Martin take the heat. We subsequently accused Katy of being the Insider, and she was!

Phew. All that co-operation was exhausting, so we went back to our default mo of trying to screw each other over - in Perudo. Joe tried to hide 20 dice under the cup lid again, but still couldn't manage it. Maybe he was distracted by the cup lid conundrum, because he was out rather quickly, following Ian. Joe's tactic seemed to be going for high bids, so I - to his left - kept dudo-ing him.Then he made what he described as a premature dudo, and was gone!

Martin fell next, when he found to his chagrin I had 3 aces. It was left to Katy and I, and I managed to dudo her away:

1 Sam
2 Katy
3 Martin
4 Joe
5 Ian

With the shadows lengthening over Europe, and an early start looming for Ian, he stole away before the clock struck eleven. The rest of us kept playing. Next to the table was Qwixx, the dice-roller that gives Joe a chance to bring out Das Exclusive.

It's a funny beast this one, where everyone gets to take the two white dice and on your turn you can combine one of them with one of the coloured dice. All the while you're crossing off numbers on a score pad - and potentially locking off certain colours. I'd played it years ago with Joe and forgotten how sweet it is. There's a tactical element, but also quite a bit of luck.

Sam 61
Martin 36
Joe 24
Katy 15

We finished off with Rolling America, another notepad-assisted experience where you roll dice and assign numbers. Your numeric map of America swiftly takes shape, then just as swiftly falls apart, as numbers can only go next to a matching number or one numerically adjacent. In a game where points are bad, Katy and I picked up a joint win:

Katy/Sam 10
Martin 11
Joe 12

And with no less than eight games played we finally called it a night and weaved our ways home. Thanks all!

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

All you guys care about is the Picts

I arrived at Joe's late to find a cupboard kitchen almost bereft of gamers - with hardy stalwarts Andrew and Martin not attending, and frequently-spotted peripherals happening on a collective absenteeism, there was just Joe, Katy, and Ian. Joe had no music playing and no offspring present. Even Sybil's tail seemed to wag with less mania than normal. But this was merely the calm before the storm...

They were playing Sheep and Thief, a new addition to Joe's collection. Because I only caught the end of it I can't give an entirely accurate description, but there was 7 Wonders-style drafting aligned to card-laying along with sheep moving, road and river building, and sheep rustling by virtue of a fox.

I know the latter because Katy stole three sheep from Joe, who was suitably unimpressed. The game did appear to fit the wolf-in-sheep's-clothing description, as it was feisty enough for a variant on the classic Dr Wall insult to come out more than once...

Katy 36
Joe 29
Ian 23

"At least it's more than zero" Ian said, heroically channelling Eeyore.

We debated what to play next, with Istanbul and Orleans both mentioned before settling on Jorvik, Stefan Feld's game of spiteful Vikings.  Well, they're not really spiteful, but it can sometimes feel that way. Like Beowulf it's a game whose mechanics fly in the face of its theme: this is a bidding game where however many people bid decide what the 'winner' - not necessarily the person who bids most - has to pay. What you're bidding on is cards, and they do various stuff in the way of point-scoring, but really the game is all about the bidding, broken up occasionally by raids from the Picts, who I usually saw off (for points) as Joe disdained mine and Ian's efforts at defending the collective - see post title.

We all enjoyed the swingy, screwy nature of it - but agreed the game is probably a little too long for what it is. Personally I felt an hour would have done it justice, but it took two. However repeat visits would probably bring that down substantially.

I didn't really play with a long-term plan, and went for short-term gains in the main, bolstered by my cards that gave me points for string (?) and one completed order, whereas the others each had at least two orders apiece. And Joe had a bit of string too. But my in-game chiselling had built me enough of a lead that I couldn't be caught:

Sam 52
Ian 41
Joe 29
Katy 25

We then blasted through a couple of attempts at Magic Maze, which has been explained in the previous post. Playing with Katy was a new experience - having grasped the logic of it all in our first (failed) attempt at pulling off the heist, she pretty much co-opted the Do Something piece and dictated events in the second game. It's supposed to be a co-operative really, but I think Katy won.

Then we played Perudo!

Ian needed a little convincing this was the best choice, so I offered him a lift home, and Joe broke out the dice. He also insisted that the cup lid could easily hide 19 dice underneath it, which brought much scorn from Katy and I. Oh, Joe, you hopeless optimist!

Katy was out first when she put too much faith in everyone else's numbers. It looked like Ian or I might be next, but then Joe got caught in a death spiral and went swiftly from the only person with five dice to the next one out!

At that point Ian was still palafico and I had the advantage of three dice. I played cagey with a low bid on twos and Ian - not unreasonably - gambled on a dudo - giving me my second win of the night.

I like these 4-player evenings!

All that remained was for Joe to prove that the cup lid could easily hide 19 dice, at which he failed miserably. Katy's opinion on fellatio, which came out candid and unbidden during Jorvik, is probably best left a mystery.