Friday, 30 November 2012

Rooms for Manoeuvre

Back in the eighties raves were convened at short notice, and attendees would have to jump through a series of logistical hoops - picking up signals, signs and prompts - to get their fix of tabs, dancing, and seeing deities in a field. So it was again last night, as Joe, Andrew and I plumped for a little gaming session late in the day. 

First, I had to get the kids to sleep, so after a couple stories and some singing I was scraping the ice off the car, headed to Andrew's via the shop for a bottle of pale ale (see: tabs). Once there we played a quick game of Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small, shovelling crisps into our mouths and waving our hands in the air. We both left it a little late picking up animals, as though we didn't want their faeces and hoofprints muddying up the place. After a last minute rush on sheep, I triumphed due to my magnificent collection of horses (5) and timber-built cottage:

Sam 26
Andrew 11

we parked the XR3 in a lay-by and jumped the fence

Just as we were counting up, the call came in. Joe's table had been cleared of condiments and he was good to go. We were in the car moments later, checking the rear view mirror for the bizzies and listening to 808 State. 

Joe had pulled the oldest trick in the book: he'd got a game out of the box already, so our dreams of High Frontier were checked at the door. The game in question was Africana, and as players we took on the role of colonialists pillaging the continent in question during the 1800s. It was a little bit Ticket to Ride-with-imperialism, as we set off on adventures (by placing our pieces on the correct starting point on the map) and completed them by being the first one to arrive at the end point. If that sounds overly competitive, well, there are several adventures at any one point so you can get yourself on more than one to weight the odds in your favour - something Joe seemed very adept at, as he led the early running.

You can also collect pages from a book that reward you for a single destination (ie the starting point is immaterial) and during the game your options are one from picking up cards, travel (using cards), or buy a page from the book. Joining an adventure doesn't take an action, you just have to be in right place on the board. 

this is what Toto were actually singing about

It's nice to look at, and reasonably quick to pick up. It's also hard to judge who's winning - both Andrew and I assumed from an early stage that Joe was walking away with it, but our late surges saw us both overtake him, with me grabbing a narrow victory:

Sam 53
Andrew 45
Joe 44

There was time for a short game, and with zero debate we chose Biblios, a game we've played a lot of recently without tiring of it. This one felt a canny affair, and I certainly had the perception halfway through the game that I had far too much gold in my hand and not enough colours. But Joe didn't have enough gold, and sacrificed his green cards to pick some up - I'm not sure what happened to Andrew...

Sam 8
Joe 6
Andrew 0

And with that, we called it a night, wending our way to Micheldever services for a carton of orange juice and a blueberry muffin.*

* at this point I should probably confess - in case you haven't guessed - I never went to a rave, and my dancing is a bit like this.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Accidental Spy

Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday, so much more than just a day.

This week, games night was at Adam's house, and five of us (me, Adam, Hannah, Sam and Joe) convened in the early evening. With Anja expected later, we started on a quick (?) non-leaderboard game of The Resistance.

This game of bluff and double bluff (most of which goes on in Joe's head) is a lot of fun, but this game had a twist in the tail that John le Carré couldn't come up with, even if Frederick Forsyth and Ian Fleming had double dared him to come up with a really surprising ending that no one would believe.

Sam (easily detected) and Adam (remained covert) unveiled themselves as spies after Adam had ruined my mission. Adam then admitted at one point he had mistakenly played a Success card instead of a Fail card. This error, which Sam admitted he thought was a stroke of genius, was enough to confuse me so I took him on our last mission, much to Joe's dismay.

1= Sam
1= Adam
2= Hannah
2= Joe
2= Andrew

Anja arrived during this game and patiently sat through our bickering, and at the end we split into two. The Easton contingent (Adam, Hannah and Anja) chose Ys while me, Sam and Joe went for Village. We were keen to try this again after struggling through our first encounter.

It went a lot smoother, as you might expect, but it was clear that only one of us learnt from our experience. I more or less did the same as before – focusing on the market – but this time I ignored the chronicle. I was very sparing with my men and managed to make them last.

Joe, meanwhile, was like the Grim Reaper on a bonus scheme as his meeples died out quickly, getting their names in the history books before anyone else. Sam's meeples also died out quickly, but not fast enough and they usually ended up in a pauper's grave, forgotten to future generations.

As it was, Joe's strategy was a masterful display and left Sam and I fighting over scraps.

Joe 61
Sam 34
Andrew 33

Since Ys still hadn't finished, the three of us indulged our dice-rolling needs with King Of Tokyo. This game gives you three rolls, allowing you to keep any number of dice, as you try and build up hands of six dice to score points, earn cubes or deal damage to your opponents. It's not a game of luck, insisted Joe: it's a resource management game. The resource in question being luck.

Joe pushed his luck too far, and when the dice turned against him, it gave Sam a chance to steal first place.

Sam 20
Joe 18
Andrew 13

I'll leave it to the others to describe the ups and downs of Ys, though I wonder if Adam will want to relive that game, as he ended in a distant last.

Hannah 112
Anja 96
Adam 75

After this, Hannah and Anja called it a night so it was left to us brave boys to fight it out in one more game: Biblios. Sam now has something of a reputation for doing well in this game, and so it was once again.

Sam 5
Adam 3 (wins on colour)
Joe 3
Andrew 2

Steve1 1 1 2 4 9
Sam 1 1 2 3 2 9
Anja2 3 3 1 1 10
Adam2 3 1 2 3 11
Joe3 2 1 2 3 11
Hannah1 1 5 5517
Andrew4 3 3 4 4 18
Jon35 5 5523

Friday, 23 November 2012

A Rum Deal and No Mistake

Tonight Andrew and I dragged a bit of a curio out of the cupboard - Stefan Feld's Rum and Pirates. Feld is known, directly or otherwise, in GNN circles for Year of the Dragon, Castles of Burgundy and Macao, but this was an early effort, as though Mozart had composed "Shaddapa Your Face" before graduating to more serious work.

Jonny Depp played this as research. So did Keith.

In Rum and Pirates players send their salty sea dogs careering around the board, fighting with guards, getting drunk, getting married, practising bigamy, and discovering half a treasure map on the floor - only to pick up the other half of it later, if luck is with them. Each of the five rounds climaxes with a fight over the best bunks on the ship as they bed down for the night. It's kind of a ludicrous game, and not especially pretty, but fun nonetheless, in that it's the closest GNN has to the thrill of Blackjack.

Andrew didn't do anything wrong, but the game is extremely luck-dependent, and I was punching the air like a man possessed as dice roll after dice roll went my way. Fun for me, probably a bit tiresome for anyone else.

Sam 97
Andrew 60

Upright, but sleepy

Because of the chance aspect there are two main things to note about Rum and Pirates - one is that it's definitely not a 2-player. The other is that it's probably a little long - it took us an hour - and the sleeping-bag fight is not the most riveting bit of game design ever. But all that said, I do think it's one to get out now and then, if only to level the playing field. No matter how strategically adept you are, if someone really, really wants a hammock, you're in a dogfight.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

I'm ready for my close up, Mr DeMille

Tonight was a slightly strange games night as two of Joe's friends, Chris and Alex, joined us. Not as eager participants (although they do both enjoy board games) but as potential directors of a feature film documentary about us board games and they were doing a bit of talent spotting research.

We began with the six of us (me, Alex and Chris, Joe, Sam and Adam) playing The Resistance. Since Chris had come down the M4 in driving rain after a long day at work, we decided something with simple rules would suit him best. However, this didn't stop Joe from first describing the rules to a similar but different game first. He sheepishly had to ask him to forget all that, because the rules to The Resistance aren't the same.

But once we'd got started, it all became clear. After the first round, in which Alex and Chris were the successful spies, they had a better idea of the bluff, double-bluff and counter-double-bluff that goes on during this game.

So we started a second game, and this time Sam and I were the spies. I thought I blew it when I referred to the spies as “us”, but no one was listening to me. Sam retained his air of bemusement well enough to deflect any suspicion and we were victorious in our triumph. I enjoy The Resistance, and found it quite difficult to be a spy and not ruin everything (which I almost did).

After this, Alex and Chris decided to become observers, and had the dubious pleasure of us working our way through the rules to a brand new game, Village. After about half an hour, they made their excuses and left. This turned out to be the best move anyone made all evening. We ploughed on, and begun the complicated game of worker placement. It's not unlike Caylus, if you can imagine that game being played with pieces that suddenly drop dead after a while.

The longer your players stay on the board, the more powerful they become, but each meeple has an expiration date and before long will die, and need to be replaced. It's a delicate balancing act of trying to keep them alive as long as they're useful, and letting nature take its course.

There are many ways to score. The council house, the church, travelling, money and market tiles. Sam, Adam and Joe crowded into the church, and went travelling too. I didn't score at all during the game, but I launched myself up the score track with all the tiles I'd bought from the market. In fact, I was one mistake away from being first, since I could've bought a tile before Adam did, and thus make him lose four points while giving me an extra four. Just call me Kingmaker.

Adam 56
Joe 54
Sam 52
Andrew 51

Remarkably close. Either this game is cleverly balanced or we were all equally bad at it.

On the leaderboard, Adam puts more pressure on the leader.

Steve1 1 1 2 4 9
Adam1 2 3 2 1 9
Anja3 3 1 1 2 10
Sam 3 2 2 3 3 13
Joe2 3 1 5 3 14
Andrew4 4 3 3 4 18
Hannah1 5 5 5521
Jon35 5 5523

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Going loco down in Puerto Rico

Four of the Bracknell posse's totally made up and imaginary non members couldn't make tonights games fest and therefore we were reduced to the three stalwart regulars that continually make the effort, Paul, James and myself Chris.

Inspired by current events across the Atlantic where a group of small islands off the coast of the United States are having a referendum to decide whether they want to take the UK's place as the 51st state (Ooo, a little bit of politics), I put forward Puerto Rico for this weeks main game.

This game has sat serenely in my loft next to classics like El Grande and Tigris and Euphrates for years waiting for the right mix of players to appear. Buoyed by the success of El Grande's reappearance I felt it was time to give another old classic a dusting off.

One of the problems Puerto has is although game play is simple, options are multi-various in the same way that Agricola is and often a first play acts as a tutorial for any newbies. Considering the amount of time since either Paul or I had played it we were all practically fresh to the game. The start was understandably stop start as each action required a quick nose into the rules for clarification. After about three rounds this became less and less however any definite strategies were naturally absent.

I had concluded that the captain was a quick win for me as I was the only one producing goods early on. Clearly we were all struggling with the mechanics to form any consistent approach. Then, subtly, the balance of power shifted as James got his coffee roaster commissioned and Paul manned his sugar refinery. All of a sudden the pair of them were awash with cash and began snapping up the bonus buildings. I read somewhere that if you don't get one of these you stand little chance of winning, so with no small effort on my part I managed to secure the least profitable building, the city hall, and then made a mad trolley dash to claim as many violet buildings as possible before the colonists ran out.

Despite my incredible poor attempt at adding three numbers together the totals revealed a very close game.

Paul - 60
Chris - 58
James - 55

Puerto Rico, another classic which has stood the test of time. All parties agreed that we should play it again in two weeks time and totally disregard what our totally made up imaginary non members might say about that.

10.45 was looming large so we managed to shoe horn in a game of speed Roll Through the Ages which Paul quickly won as he was putting his coat on to leave.

Paul - 28
Chris -19
James - 19

Thursday, 15 November 2012

I was Monty's double

Today saw a joining together of two games nights, a crossover worthy of DC/Marvel, a shift in the Venn diagram of board gaming groups in Bristol. Tuesday's GNN met up with Thursday's Monty games group. Actually, there's already quite an overlap, as GNN regulars Anja, Steve, Adam and Hannah are also members of the Thursday cohort, and Jon from the September weekend was there too.

Sam and I arrived just in time to catch dessert since, apparently, part of Thursday's group involves sitting up at a table, eating a meal and talking like adults. Crazy. The desserts were very nice, and put our usual cheezy wotsits to shame.

But soon we got down to business, and chose our games. Me, Adam, Hannah and Jon chose Tinners' Trail. Sam, Steve and Anja went for League of Six. I'll leave it to them to explain the raised voices as they moaned about their lack of guards but in the meantime, the scores ended.

Steve 60+guards
Sam 60
Anja 58

On our table, it was Jon's first time playing Tinners' Trail and Adam explained the rules to him. Then we started to take chunks out of Cornwall like it was a lovely cheesecake made by Anja. Copper was at a premium and Tin was at its lowest price, but Jon bought a tin-rich mine for little money, hoping the market would pick up. I went for short-term gain, buying only mines with copper in. Hannah kept her mines close together, and Adam hid in the corner, down by Land's End.

It was close game, and Jon seemed to get a hang of it before too long and his long term thinking did pay off, despite Tin remaining rock bottom for much of the game. Adam had a curious method of buying bonds at the end of each round. He'd start with the smallest denomination before moving on to the largest, like someone at a restaurant telling everyone they're on a diet and they just want a small salad before caving in and ordering the banana boat chocolate sundae as well.

In the end, it was one of the closest games of Tinners' Trail we've had. At least, from second to fourth it was close.

Hannah 126
Adam 115
John 113
Andrew 108

Since we were still up to our knees in Cornish mines and pasties when they'd finished League of Six, Steve, Anja and Sam played Biblios. This ever-enigmatic game of zen cardship punishes those who think logically and rewards people who stumble haphazardly through a haze of confusion.

Steve 9
Sam 7
Anja 0

And here the evening ended. We said our goodbyes and gently pushed Molly the cat off Adam's stinky rucksack before heading home.

Steve jumps to the top of the form table, with fellow Eastonites hot on his tail. And we welcome two new names to the form table to make us look a little more popular and sociable.

Steve1 1 1 2 4 9
Adam2 3 2 1 2 10
Anja3 3 1 1 2 10
Sam 2 2 3 33 13
Joe3 1 5 3 1 13
Andrew4 3 3 4 1 15
Hannah1 5 5 5521
Jon35 5 5523

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Resistance is Futile!

Tonight was the first "big" game night since my return from Japan, so I brought some Japanese Green Tea Kit Kats by means of celebration with me. Kit Kits are very popular in Japan because the Japanese pronounciation sounds very similar to "kitto katsu" which means "surely win" and they're often handed out at exam times, etc. I should've kept this in mind and made sure I ate them all before I arrived at Steve and Anja's. Instead, I shared them around. And I think Anja took two, which may have been the decisive factor.

The secret of success.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We (me, Steve, Anja, Sam , Adam and Joe) began with a rare contribution to the communal games cupboard from myself in the shape of Tsuro Of The Sea (or Tots, as Joe calls it). This new version of the classic lacks the purity of the original and the dice rolling slows things down, but having several menacing dragons marching around the board is quite exciting and I think we all did well for lasting as long as we did. In the end, it was Adam who sent Anja down a path straight to a dragon, and took first place.

Dancing with dragons

1. Adam
2. Anja
3. Sam
4= Steve
5. Joe

After this, we split into two groups of three. Sam and Steve were tempted by the gleaming newness of Mission: Red Planet, and Joe was happy to talk them through the rules. Adam, Anja and I went old school. Perhaps inspired by Chris' recent rediscovery, we went for El Grande.

I'll leave it for the others to fill in the gaps regarding their mission to Mars. But it seems like Joe managed to avoid Instructor's Curse this time.

Joe 51
Steve 43
Sam 40

Meanwhile, back in the olden days, El Grande was set up and our rusty memories of the rules were given a squirt of WD40 and put back into motion. And what a great game it is. All about bluffing and challenging and not annoying Anja early so she picks on you, using your bloody and bruised body as a stepping stone to greater heights. That's the mistake I made, and I paid for it in spades. At least that's how it felt.

But, in fairness, her tactic was the winning one as she sprang into first place in the final round, despite being in stoney last for the first half of the game. She admitted she wasn't sure how she managed to squeeze into first, and Adam seemed equally bemused, but the scoretrack doesn't lie.

Anja 150
Adam 149
Andrew 125

I'll be honest, I was very relieved that my happy memories of El Grande weren't the result of naive ignorance, and that it is a great game that still stands up today.

After this, the six of us joined together again for The Resistance. In this game, we secretly are assigned roles of resistance members or spies. We are then given five missions to complete. Spies can chose to ruin the mission, by slipping a Fail card into the deck of mission cards. The idea is to sniff out the spies quickly, allowing you to complete three missions before it's too late.

However, our innate suspicious natures came into play. I giggled, Adam was too quiet, Joe protested too much, and Anja didn't give herself a mission. All of these brought us into suspicion. In fact the only one who obviously wasn't a spy was Sam, whose air of bafflement and confusion was akin to James Stewart at his best. Steve was the only doubt.

I had him labelled as a spy, but no one listened to me, and thus it was that he was able to sabotage the third mission to take the victory with his partner-in-crime, Anja.

1= Steve
1= Anja
3= Andrew
3= Sam
3= Joe
3= Adam.

It's a game that's a lot of fun, and it's hard not to have a big smile on your face, spy or no-spy, while you're playing it. And it felt good to have a games night with more than three people there. Thanks everyone! Same time next week! Or earlier, if someone's wife is out for the evening?

On the form table, Steve leaps upwards and congratulations to Anja who takes first place for the first time. Meanwhile, Sam impresses everyone with a perfect score of sorts: all threes.

Anja1 1 2 51 10
Adam 3 2 1 2 3 11
Steve1 2 4 33 13
Joe3 1 5 3 1 13
Andrew3 3 4 1 2 13
Sam 3 3 3 33 15

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Lording it again

So this Monday it was just myself (Chris) and James to do battle over a table top. I was keen to play Lords of Waterdeep again and had given it to James to read the rules over the weekend. Learning from last week I didn't hang about with the quest making and bounded into a quick lead. James still feeling his way amassed adventurers (Or whatever they are called) and money. By mid game however, James had caught me up by putting his resources to good use and it became a lot more cat and mouse. Coming into the final round it really wasn't clear which way it was going to go. The key deciding factor was probably when I laid a Mandatory Quest on James with my second agent. (Sorry Andy but I like them and kept them in!) It was just enough to prevent him from completing an additional big quest.

The difference still was only 10 points in a keenly fought match. James was impressed, another LoW convert!
A familiar scene

We finished the night with Agricola - All creatures small and big. In this game I got my tactics all muddled and created a too restrictive farm, not allowing adequate space stick livestock. Across the table James had a well ordered farm bristling with baaing sheep and neighing horses. Although I recovered with a whole lot of pigs James took the winners rosette for best farm in show....

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Bright Lights, String Theory

Last night Sally and I entertained Katie and Mark, gamers in every sense bar the enormous collection, card-sniffing habit etc. On a recommendation from Joe we'd bought Mark Vegas for his belated birthday present, so after a hefty helping of cheese we cracked it open and dived straight in.

It's a very simple game of allotting your dice to different casinos and collecting cash when they pay out (when everyone is out of dice). The numbers on your dice are irrelevant; it's about how many dice you have in each casino... the catch being that if more than one player has the same amount of dice in the same casino, they are all rendered null and void.

the fun never stops

In the end it Katie "the chiseller" Daniels who took first place, with some canny die-play that picked up a lot of $60 and $50k cards while the rest of us fought over the odd $90k:

Katie $480k
Mark $430k
Sam  $390k
Sally $340k

With the night still young and lactose surging through our veins, I took the plunge and broke out String Railway. Like Vegas it's very simple, but the friendly feel of round one was clouded by growing analysis paralysis over subsequent rounds as the 'board' became more and more crowded. We didn't help ourselves by playing one more round than the game recommends for four, but anyway... I was barricaded in by the river and spent the first four rounds fretting, but my final play into the mountains finally got me a decent score and I leapfrogged Katie into third place...

the fun stops

Mark 25
Sally 24
Sam  22
Katie 20

The tactical challenge exhausted everyone, but I managed to convince Mark into a game of Monza to finish off - it's a very simple racing game, a little like Ave Caesar but with almost zero strategy. Basically you can move your racing car according to the colours on the dice you roll, so though it says ages 5-99 on the box, I somehow can't picture Wallace sitting at home exclaiming "Hey! Who fancies a game of Monza?" We won one race each, then in the decider Mark found himself stuck on the second corner, rolling a series of useless dice as I skidded to an unlikely victory.


We decided to start a little KMSS leaderboard and see who was doing best between the four of us, so here it is, based on our games from last night (ignoring Monza), and previous games nights in August and April. As you can see, Mark is the man to beat, heading the form table by some distance.



I do feel a bit ropey today though. Too much cheese.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Late report is late.

On Monday I (Chris) found myself looking after Ashton for the day whilst his school's teachers sat around smoking fistfuls of fags and bitching about the kids in what is more commonly known as an Inset day. It took me until about 10 o'clock to realise decide that my son might really love a trip to Reading. Co-incidently the town also boasts my local games shop, Eclectic Games, what luck!

With the whole range of games on display I couldn't quite get past that itch to play Lords of Waterdeep again and duly left the premises with it stretched into a flimsy plastic bag. Only Paul was due in the evening owing to James' jaunt 'oop north' and Sam had reassured me that it played well with two.

We kicked off the evening with Roll Through The Ages. Paul and I made our customary gallop toward gaining the maximum compliment of cities. Being a dice game luck can be disproportionate and no more so when Paul, all out of wheat, copped a revolt, twice. With something like a minus 24 in disasters come the tally up he was always going to have a mountain to climb.

Final scores
Chris: 41
Paul: 24

On to the main event Lords of Waterdeep and the very satisfying unboxing and separation of components. This game has a lovely feel to it and is 10 quid cheaper than Agricola. A briefest refresher of the rules and we were straight into it, placing 4 agents instead of two which the 5 player gave us last time. Paul quickly set the pace by completing some medium quests and settled on a strategy of more quests the better. I took a more balanced approach but felt that I had wasted too much resource on getting the lieutenant which actually didn't benefit me as much as I'd hoped. I had however, picked up a bunch of cheap plot cards which stay active for the whole game, but as I discovered mid way through Paul had the best one of the lot. Every time he received money he also got a Rogue (black) cube. A fair number of the quests require Rogues and he was off into the distance and in a commanding position and there was little I could do about it as Mandatory Quests were swatted aside with ease.

Despite a nice late rally from me Paul notched a convincing win......

Paul -182
Chris - 162

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The games we played were mostly on the train

We all love train games, don't we? Railways of the World. Ticket To Ride. Decathlon.

What's that you say? Decathlon isn't a train game? Well, it can be if you're with the right people.

Since myself, Sam and Joe all needed to go to London by train today, we decided to combine our journeys. I brought along eight dice and the rules to Renier Knizia's Decathlon for our journey. Joe brazenly sat at an already reserved table, saying that they probably won't turn up and if they do, then we'll move. I was highly doubtful, but I was made to eat my words, as none of the four people arrived to take their seats. I was a bit appalled too. Such waste.

But it meant we had a table, so we could play Decathlon. First, Joe successfully identified the dice I brought as coming from Troyes. Remarking that Joe's in-depth knowledge of games had now reached uncanny proportions, we began.

This is a game of ten dice-based challenges. It's all about pushing your luck, and trying to guess if you should go for another role for a higher score, but risk losing everything. Last time we played it was at Stabcon, where we got quite a crowd watching. But commuters are a tougher crowd and no one paid much attention to our cries of despair or victory. In the end, Joe won by a large margin, with Sam just pipping me to second.

Then in London, Sam cajoled me into visiting the Orc's Nest, a small but irresistible board game shop in the West End. I chose the newly released Tsuro Of The Seas, to go with my homebrew version of the original. And then Sam looked at a board game, Divinare, which caught his eye with it's mock Victorian spiritualist design. I liked the look of it too, and after a quick look on BGG I decided to buy it too.

Sam was at first tempted by a dice version of Biblios, but was then swayed by the sight of Village, a worker placement game that currently lies just outside the BGG Top 100. Back at the hotel, we got out Tsuro Of The Seas, keen to learn how the monsters would change the feel of the game. It's still much the same game of survival, but now with certain squares that move around at random, threatening to swallow you whole. It was fun, but I can't help thinking it's ripe for some variations.

Sam then opened up Village, keen to give it a go, only to find that it needed to stickers attached to the meeples before the game could begin. I looked through the rules of Divinare, but found it hard to follow the flow of the game, so I decided further research online was needed before bringing it to the table. After Sam had finished his sticking, it was late and we decided to call it a night.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Steampunk and steam trains

Tonight saw the return of an old regular: me! And as I walked to Joe's, I could help but think that all these firework displays were a bit over the top. I mean, I'd only been away two weeks.

Once again, three players were in attendance. The aforementioned me and Joe, and also Adam. From the pile of new games that Joe had got in a trade, we chose Mission: Red Planet. This is co-designed by Bruno Fiadutti, who also did Citadels, and the mechanic is similar. You chose which character you're going to play, and this also effects where in the order of play you go. But instead of building a medieval city, you are colonising Mars using some nifty looking Victorian technology.

You need to have most astronauts in an area to score points during a scoring round (of which there are three), and then at the end of the game you can add to your score with some bonus points from cards hidden in your hand. I enjoyed it. There are more rounds than there are cards, so at one point you will have to play the weakest card in your hand, which at least gets you all your cards back. I tried to avoid playing it until the last minute. I've no idea if that was a good idea or not.

During the game, Adam got picked on, and I thought I'd done enough to see off Joe too. But I reckoned without the wise one's wily ways. He edged past me thanks to his bonus points.

Joe 52
Andrew 50
Adam 44

It doesn't take long to colonize Mars, and we still had ample time for another game. We chose Ticket To Ride: Switzerland, the faster-moving but more claustrophobic version of the Europe-spanning game. Perhaps the biggest challenge in the game comes from when you get your routes to complete at the start of the game, and then you have to look for the towns in question without giving it away when you'd found one. My technique was to glance over the board casually as if it were a pile of magazines in a dentist waiting room. Don't know if anyone noticed.

I got lucky with my routes, and had completed them early on, which lead to me picking up more. And I got lucky with those too, so I got some more. By the end, I had nine routes cards in my hand, eight of which were complete. Joe had the longest route and seven route cards. Adam had six.

We totted up the points, and I sped off into first place, but Joe had a terrible discovery. A route that he spent ages in completing one end was not finished at the other. This cost him in points, and gave Adam a chance. Finally, as Joe's points for longest route were added, the magnitude of his mistake became clear.

Andrew 117
Adam 98
Joe 97

Joe may be cursing his lack of concentration on Ticket To Ride, but that doesn't change the fact that he now leaps up to first. Little else changes in this very sedate season so far.

Joe3 1 221 9
Adam 2 3 1 13 10
Andrew1 2 242 11