Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Wonders and Citadels

Just a couple of short games, they said. It won’t last long, they said. But tonight, GNN was caught out by a game that seemed short when you remembered it, but lasted a long time when you played it.

But that’s all to come. We began with Anja and Hannah upstairs talking about babies or whatnot while three fellows (me, Steve and Jon ) played 7 Wonders downstairs. It was short and we all knew the rules (more or less) and we got stuck in. Although our memories were a little rusty, with a little reference to the rules, and Steve made a mistake which he didn’t realise until a few turns later. He didn’t ask to take it back, though, saying it was “ancient history” which got an appreciative chuckle from the other two players.

Marilyn the bunny admires my still-unstarted wonder

As it turned out, I ran out of money at the start of round three – a disastrous place to be broke. Jon and Steve were cash rich, but Steve was a late convert to the joys of war and science, while Jon was scoring in all categories. In the end, I was saved by some cheap blue buildings and my “copy guild” super power.

Jon 50
Andrew 46
Steve 40

After this game, Anja and Hannah came down with the baby and, after a little discussion and rule-telling and exchanging of babies, we were ready for our next quick game of the evening: Citadels.

Now, when I remember previous games of Citadel, they do seem fairly short. But then, they are usually two or three player affairs. It turns out that five-player Citadels is a bit of a beast. Everyone suffered a bit of AP, and the game took a little longer than we expected.

Citadels: not a photogenic game

Both Anja and Steve suffered from consecutive assassinations, and Hannah had her money stolen twice by Jon, but despite all that and having to feed his newborn child, Steve came out on top. Jon fell just short, and the eternal Warlord (which is why she kept being assassinated) Anja squeezed into third by attacking Hannah on her last go. An action which saw me earn fourth.

Steve 32
Jon 30
Anja 22
Andrew 20
Hannah 17

And so it was that our "two short games" ended at half past eleven in the evening. All of this means that Jon leaps up to fourth, while the three absent leaders enjoy another week in the penthouse suite of the Form Table.

Joe 1 1 2 1 2 7
Sam 2 1 1 2 3 9
Adam 1 2 43 1 11
Jon2 1 2 3 513
Anja3 1 13 513
Hannah5 2 1 42 14
Andrew4 2 3 3 3 15
Steve1 3 4 4 4 16
Quentin2 23 5518
Will3 3 5 5 5 21

And since it's the end of the month, it's time to look at The Division. Well, the core four are rewarded for their loyal attendance, by taking the top four places but that shouldn't detract from Adam's stunning run of form which has put him on top of the table. And Sam is the new Mr Consistency, having never placed outside the top three. It's very much between those two for the top of the table. In terms of Points Ratio, it's a little more clear cut, with Anja a full 0.92 above her nearest rival Steve.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Dirk you forget about me.

There was a change of venue this bi-weekly James and Chris night which saw our respective wives meet up at my house (Chris) and us chaps set up at James'. There was a strange crossing of paths, like an improbable hostage exchange, en-route to each others houses. Thankfully each evening went off without much incident and both parties were allowed to return home.

Tonight's main (and only it turned out) fare was to be 7 Wonders. The two player variant with the Free City (Played by the non player, Dirk) proving to be a popular one. We elected to play the A side of the wonders boards for the first game and then try out the B sides for our second match. James and I must have remembered from last time that utilising Dirk to stitch up your opponent was a sound strategy. Before long he boasted a long line of resources, a tidy sum of structures and most importantly a very impressive long list of sciences. In most games up to now James and I had disregarded the science route as a sub-optimal tactic. However, posing as two benevolent funders of the sciences we generated a surge in progress not seen since the 80's and all of sudden it didn't seem so weak after all. We had shot ourselves in the foot. With an arrow naturally. There is a danger that by chunking good cards Dirk's way to stymy your opponent you in fact inadvertently create a super power.

Dirk surged to a win courtesy of a 31 point score in the sciences leaving James and I slightly shame faced although, very sportingly, we did point out he'd had a lot of luck...

Dirk - 52
James - 48
Chris - 45

With the decks shuffled again and boards selected we began the second game. James, maybe encouraged by what he saw in the previous match went after scholarly pursuits where as I elected to chase after more traditional elements with structures and military. Even though James racked up an impressive score through his science multipliers he had accomplished it at the expense of other scoring avenues and again the science route had proved fruitless. James noted that whoever gets the Palace complete with its 8 victory points tends to win. This time it was sitting pretty in my city and so it proved   that I won the game.

Chris - 54
James - 46
Dirk - 31

Friday, 24 May 2013

Plow Factor Beats Wow Factor

For the second time in a week, Chris and James faced each other, farmers at the ready, for another game of Agricola. But this time, Paul was along for the plough ride. Literally, because Paul was dealt the much-envied (okay, twice-envied) riding plow in his hand of minor improvements. But first he played the clay pit and specialised in clay, threatening to disappear behind clay as he stacked it up.

James was determined to sow some grains this time round, but he fanned out his hands of cards and the cards told him instead to build a sprawling farmhouse so good it could feature on Grand Designs. In the meantime, Chris showed signs of dabbling in a bit of everything. Again. 

Paul didn’t actually do much of anything with his hoard of clay. Instead, he was again drawn to the sheep, collecting them up and promising them a good life (most got eaten). Chris soon had a frenzied grain industry on the go but also did up his farmhouse, often snatching reed and stone just before James reached for it. James’ architectural plans had the need for reed, but reed baron Chris hogged the lot, even flaunting his reed pond full of, erm, reed.

James treaded water, well fed as he was with his fishing rod and his fruit orchard. Paul took his riding plow for a spin, rapidly surrounding his sheep with fields before planting his grain. Chris grumbled constantly that he was falling behind even as his windmill churned out the foodstuff. But if the grass seemed greener on the other side, it was only because James, once again, wasn’t really doing anything in it.
James' field is looking a bit empty unlike farmer Paul's!

New Starburst Morphs were tried and the ceiling was stared at as the players tried to guess what flavours were morphing in their mouths. Ever-changing they were not and Wonker-style wonder was not achieved.

Again, the game’s end loomed too soon over the horizon. James searched his occupations cards for a chrono-mancer, hoping something would stop the march of game-time. But just as he completed the most splendid five-room farmhouse of stone, he could do little else but once again fence off his entire board as a single, empty pasture. With no points for tumbleweeds, he knew he was doomed to last place.

Paul seemed quietly confident, adding a few flourishes to his farming utopia. Chris couldn’t hide his frustration at his unused squares and regretted doing up his farmhouse as much as he had.

The scoring was totted up. Paul had done it, though only by a fairly small margin. An award-winning farm, run from an undeveloped farmhouse, marked by an unused pile of clay. Chris’ farm came second, all windmill and waste ground. James needs to swear on someone’s life that he will actually sow some grain next time. But nobody especially close, in case he doesn’t.

Final score: Paul 37, Chris 34, James 24.  

A quick glance at the clock and it was decided a game of Medici would end the night nicely. James rubbed his miserly merchant hands and readied his pea-green ship. James’ fingertips were gold magnets and he roared ahead, twice finding gold and having the best ship in all three rounds. Chris was always in second place, Paul always in third.

Final score: James 170, Chris 121, Paul 115.

Report by Paul, rumoured to be ghost written by James.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Adam wasn’t yellow

A new(ish) venue for GNN tonight. We all arrived at Will’s house despite (or perhaps because of) his 4 o’clock start tomorrow morning.

As well as Will, Joe and Quentin also arrived, no doubt tempted by the school reunion flavour of the evening (didn’t they all go to school together or something? I wasn’t really listening). Sam, Adam and I made up the rest. At first Sam and Adam ate chips, and Will very kindly added to their feast with fried egg and baked beans. If he thought that might make them go easy on him, he was in for a rude awakening.

We began with Incan Gold, an amusing game of bluff and facing down Lady Fate with a steel-cold glare. All with a light-hearted theme of exploring Incan temples. I was a little disappointed in the lack of Zombie Ladies! since they are, after all, part of the fun of the game. This time we had to put up with a new foe: the fire/spider combo which repeatedly turned an otherwise safe and tranquil temple into a death trap. With devastating results. In this situation, Sam’s tactic of get-out-early paid off.

1. Sam 30
2. Joe 20
3= Andrew 15
3= Quentin 15
4. Adam 10
5. Will 6

Then we split up into two groups of three. Me, Joe and Quentin took one half of the table, and Will, Sam and Adam took the other. At our end, we chose San Juan since we all knew it. This Puerto Rico-esque game of card management is a lot of fun, but I found myself quickly out of the running between Joe and Quentin.

Quentin rearranges the options in San Juan. Glass, bottle. Bottle, glass.

I’m sure Joe raises his game whenever there’s someone from school at the table. Maybe he thinks it’s payback time for when he got humiliated in double science or something. I don’t know. But whatever, tonight saw Joe in his pomp, chaining together purple buildings for maximum effect (except his Gold Mine, which was rubbish). Quentin played his part, though, and it remained close until the end. Joe squeaked it just because Quentin had mis-identified some cards as monuments, when they weren’t. His final plaintive cry of "I could've built a palace" will haunt me for years.

Joe 31
Quentin 30
Andrew 18

On the other half of the table, they’d chosen Tinners’ Trail. It was new to Will, and I suppose you have to start somewhere, but to go up against Adam and Sam in your first game is a tough proposition, and feeding them doesn’t help at all. A joke springs to mind: What’s the difference between Adam and Sam and a pack of hyenas? When hyenas are full, they stop eating.

However, it wasn't easy for the experienced players. Whenever I looked over at the board, the prices for copper and tin were pretty low. So much so that no one invested money in round two. Sam came first in a low-scoring game. I was, however, struck by the lack of yellow counters in front of Adam. It didn't seem right somehow.

Adam is... red?! The creeping ketchup?

Sam 97
Adam 77
Will 60

After San Juan, we chose Ra as our third course of the evening. No need for an introduction for this beauty. However, it was more of the same for me, as I ended up a distant last to the two who clearly still have unresolved issues from the sixth form common room.

The exciting early stages of Ra

Joe 55
Quentin 51
Andrew 28

Over on the other side of the table, they’d managed to squeeze in one more game. This time 6nimmt was brought into play, and Adam won again, making everyone suspicious that he had a strategy. He tried to explain it: something to do with “thinning out” and “spreading”. Or maybe he was describing his physique as he approaches middle age. Either way, he won.

Adam 15
Sam 38
Will 74

On the form table, Joe leaps to the top after a very productive evening. Quentin makes an appearance hot on my heels, and he's still got those red fives weighing him down! Thanks to Will for hosting and see (some of) you next week!

Joe 1 1 2 1 2 7
Sam 2 1 1 2 3 9
Adam 1 2 43 1 11
Hannah2 1 42 514
Anja1 13 5515
Steve4 4 4 21 15
Andrew3 3 3 4 3 16
Quentin2 23 5518
Jon2 3 5 5 520
Will3 3 5 5 5 21

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Extreme Biblios

Us gamers - us real gamers, who prioritise games above the things most sentient humans do - are a little like hurricane chasers. We get a sniff of a vacant couple of hours and we immediately converge upon them, eager to test our wits against each other or, as was the case with 7 Wonders tonight, surf a wave of jam to victory.

I'm talking about myself and Andrew of course, who meet on an almost weekly basis to battle it out. So while Adam wasn't checking his texts, Dan was turning in early and Joe was rolling around in his swimming-pool-sized dice arena (see prev. post), we sat at the kitchen table and discussed our options. I had a mild hankering to try out Campaign but Andrew mooted Arkadia and I readily agreed. No-one else has really bitten with this yet but it's a firm favourite with Andrew and I.

With a brief glance at the rules on a couple of finer points we were away, building buildings and placing workers to the manner born. Last time we played it it was a full-on Tuesday night session and I was obliterated as I held back from placing workers (by Andrew in fact, I seem to recall). But I was sure there was a value in that strategy and pursued the same path again, hedging my bets until an opportune scoring moment came up. I don't know if it's a failsafe approach - it certainly wouldn't be with more players - but it paid dividends a couple of times, and it was enough to secure me a win:

Sam 144
Andrew 91

Andrew chose the second game, and it was another perennial: 7 Wonders, which in a two-player has an additional level of strategy. Like Alhambra the game itself supplies a third player (we also call him Dirk) and each (real) player takes turns deciding what Dirk will do: a chance to prevent your opponent getting their hands on a productive card, dispose of a potential danger or just get Dirk to buy things form you. It was exceedingly close, and despite my plethora of blue buildings (38 points!) I wasn't certain of victory until I very luckily picked up (from Dirk's hand) a cost-effective military card in the very last round to get me ten points:

Dirk, in the baby chair. Forgot to build his monument.

Sam 62
Andrew 57
Dirk 23

We packed in one final game - Biblios. By this point we were both slightly tired and a little drunk so I can't remember how the extreme Biblios gag came about. Rest assured it was hilarious.

Sam 8
Andrew 6

Our gaming yen sated - until Tuesday.

Say hello to Das Exclusive

Those who know me know how much I love to trawl the charity shops for gaming treasure - among my prize finds are Bohnanza, Lord of the Rings, Traders of Carthage and Dancing Eggs. I've even bumped into Steve doing the same thing - we both found ourselves gazing at the same, flood-damaged (we hope) copy of an obscure Alan R Moon game called Wonga in a charity shop on the Gloucester Road. Have you tried it yet Steve?

I've also scooped up a few packs of good quality poker chips, a card table and various other gaming peripherals - a lovely Tudor Rose 2-pack of playing cards. Oh yes, and the card-shuffler.

I've always been on the lookout for a dice arena, and I've even made a few, but I've never found one whilst out hunting. Until yesterday. This dinky little fellow was waiting for me in a junk shop on the Gloucester Road.

 It's eminently suitable for games nights - here's Martha putting it through it's paces.

Perfectly functional

Perfect. I paid £1.50 and walked away a happy man.
And then . . .
And then I wandered into another charity shop further up the road, and my life changed forever. As I glanced around at the nick nacks and gee-gaws, I heard a weird sub-sonic rumble, and something drifted into my peripheral vision, like a Star Wars star destroyer. A German-made, deluxe Würfelbrett, still in shrink - 'Das Exclusive', no less. Just look at the size of the box it came in!

Sun-faded down the right hand side. Mmm.
I've never seen anything like it, and subsequent trawl of the internet seems to confirm it's rarity.
The box was worryingly light, and they wouldn't let me open it without paying, but I couldn't walk away without it - all £5 worth. And once I got it home and opened it up, I was not disappointed.

Genuine stained and varnished wood; four pointless dice 'docks' along the sides; no less than two synthetic baize-lined rolling cups. And two gold-effect pens (non-working).

I'm pretty sure these will start working if I grow a moustache.
It's vast - much too big to be useful for 99.9% of the games we play, but I'll make it work; even if I have to build some sort of harness to suspend it from the ceiling; and I will insist we all stand around it with cut-crystal glasses of scotch every time a dice needs to be rolled in any game.

I've got to go now - it's calling me, demanding I put on some Drakkar Noir aftershave and smoke a Hamlet cigar, whilst playing Pikomino by myself. But rest assured, Lords of Vegas will never be the same again . . . JB

Thursday, 16 May 2013

A sheep learning curve for James!

Two days after games night was postponed due to Chris’ cold, James was summoned  and promised a germ-free night of farm warfare. Agricola was strewn across the table, leaving barely enough room for a huge and rarely seen bar of Ritter Sport chocolate. This was the night the occupation and minor improvement cards were to be added to James’ training in board games. Scarred by the leap from counting apples in primary school to quadratic equations in secondary school, it was with some trepidation James fanned out two extra hands of cards. But the extra/advanced components were much enjoyed.

James had previously had some unexpected success from merely feeding his farmers, upgrading their home and then fencing off the whole farm without putting anything in it. He hoped to find a tactic more in keeping with the game. One with some farming involved.

Chris was soon ploughing and sowing and knocking up a few pastures. James’ masterplans all seemed to require far more rounds than the game allowed and he sweated under an end-is-all-too-nigh cloud of anxiety. Buying a riding plow, James churned up fields furiously as Chris looked on with envy. But James struggled to feed his farmers and picked up the begging cards (though two were negated by the mendicant being employed). Chris produced grain and vegetables and even had a lettuce patch on the side. Then he snatched up a veritable hoard of sheep (left to multiply on the space with the absence of notorious sheep-grabber, Paul).

Sweeping up the fruits of his orchard and his well, James finished neatly, mental arithmetic almost audible as he racked up the points in the final round, while adding a good showing of cattle. But that left more sheep for Chris, who squashed them together, battery-style. Even so, James felt confident of a victory with only a slight worry about Chris’ vegetable department. So it was with some shock that Chris’ score was quite a lot higher! James was happier that his finished gameboard actually featured farming this time, but there were no bonus points for happiness.
Final score: Chris 46, James 31.

Out came Roll Through The Ages, and having feared catching something horrible from Chris a few days earlier, it was Chris who caught a double-dose of well-rolled plague from James. Floundering as James lobbed yet more cracking dice rolls, Chris brought the game to an early end before the gap between scores widened to humiliating levels.
Final score James 21, Chris 19

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Its name is Taluva. Its first rule of fun...

... is to start with a Bugsy Malone reference.

Today the talk of Bristol was only about one thing. Would Adam be able to win two games tonight and thus acquire the mythical “perfect five” of five ones in a row on the form table.

The core four arrived at Joe’s on a cold rainy Spring evening. I arrived a little late and found the three of them with a game already set up on the table between them. Taluva is a game of placing huts and building up layers so you can place more huts on higher levels and and maybe some towers and temples, too. The idea is to rid yourself of two types of buildings out of the three in your stock: Towers, temples and huts. Lots of huts.

Sam and Joe had played several two-player games against each other, so it was new to me and Adam. Adam adapted quicker than most, and was even correcting Sam about the rules on his first go! I couldn’t work out a tactic or strategy and was placing stuff almost at random. This does not reflect well on Sam, who came joint third with me.

Joe was poised to win, when Adam unleashed an awesome move that allowed him to place many huts. After that, he only needed one more turn to win. Joe couldn’t stop him nor finish the game himself. Oh, the heartbreak.

1. Adam
2. Joe
3= Andrew
3= Sam

So the next game. Adam was one step away from immortality. What would it be? We had to chose well. Joe seemed up for a game of Lords of Vegas and, since no one came up with anything better, we agreed.

Lords of Vegas is practically a role-playing game. At least, it is when we play it. Mafioso accents and over-the-top reactions, coupled with absurd goomba-speak catchphrases (“Hey, you don’t touch the custard!” meaning: you can’t compete with Adam) meant the first half of the game sped by. We trash-talked each other, bitched about the casino business, and decided that smelling another man’s burp is the same as kissing him.

But before long, I realised I was in last, despite some decent luck on my side (winning a $10m bet at Joe’s casino, accompanied with an Andrew Dice Clay-style “BOOM!” when I won) I struggled. And Lords of Vegas is a game where you don’t want to fall behind. The frequency of comedy Italian accents started to tail away.

As the game entered its closing stages, Joe was already far ahead. Sam managed to steal second place from Adam while I remained last. A close last, but still last. I just needed my casinos to pay out one more time, and I’d have been on Easy Street. But how many bums on Sunset Boulevard have the same story?

Lords of Vegas. Just beautiful, man.

Joe 44
Sam 32
Adam 26
Andrew 23

Despite falling short of perfection, Adam is still top of the table, with Joe rising to third after a good evening.

Adam3 1 1 1 1 7
Sam 2 3 2 3 2 12
Joe1 2 3 4 4 14
Hannah2 1 42 514
Anja1 13 5515
Steve4 4 4 21 15
Andrew4 3 4 2 5 18
Jon2 3 5 5 520
Will5 53 5523

No news from Bracknell so far this week. In the meantime, here's the Lords Of Vegas table...

Friday, 10 May 2013

Juan To Look Out For

Friday night, and Andrew and I convened for a little writing session. However, little was all it turned out to be, as a series of computer and weather-related circumstances meant we were without the script we had scheduled to polish into a gleaming diamond.

Instead we played San Juan, the card-based version of Puerto Rico. I haven't played the latter in some time so I can't be equivocal about what's different here, but suffice to say it's a much simpler game and very easy to pick up and play. On each turn the starting player (or 'Governor') chooses a role and actions it - his opponent has the option of the same, only without the privilege that the card gives you. Then the opponent chooses an action and the same thing happens.

That's pretty much it - everything else is the movement of cards, which either represent - when front side up - buildings, or - when face-down - goods, to be shipped and turned into... more cards.

It's extremely basic then, in essence, but it's possible to 'chain' your buildings and make particular moves extremely productive. And thus it's quite more-ish. We played one game and I won narrowly, by 35 to Andrew's 32 points, but we realised I'd been mis-using the Library Card somewhat; apportioning it power it didn't have. If I'd played it correctly I think Andrew may well have won, so we disregarded this game and began again.

This time we were much faster moving. Andrew quickly established a fruitful trade route and a black market (allowing him to manipulate the cards) whilst I focussed building the violet 'bonus' buildings. The game, albeit played with two, only took about 25 minutes, and this time I ran out a verified winner:

Sam 42
Andrew 24

Perhaps not as deep as Puerto Rico then, but to some that's not necessarily a criticism. It's definitely deserving of a place in the cupboard and perhaps a not-too-distant visit to a group play is in order...?

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Gut Times

Joe hosted, and Sam, Adam myself and occasional attendee Will were available. We convened, happy and healthy, ready for an evening's entertainment. The usual teetering pyramid of choices was absent, instead Joe had brought down four or five possibilities. One of these, Hab and Gut, seemed popular and easy to explain to Will, so it was chosen.

This game of imperfect knowledge and wheeler dealing is a fun version of the German stock exchange, where you can pretend that the racks of cards are gossip from insider traders that you can use to manipulate the market.

But I struggled early on. I watched as brown (Coffee? Hessian? Driftwood?) rocketed in price, but I clung on to my belief that my whites and yellows were fine. Which they kind of were, but not enough to make my donations good enough for God, so I came last.

New boy Will came a respectable third, while Joe put everything into not coming last and, so, came fourth. In the end, we were aghast at Sam and Adam's mastery of the markets, as both came out with over one thousand points, with Adam taking a comfortable win in fine style.

Adam 1660
Sam 1295
Will 910
Joe 780
Andrew OUT! Not pious enough!

After this, Adam kindly agreed to play High Society, his bête noire, his bogey team, his Kryptonite. At least, that's what we all thought. Meanwhile, Joe bid high for a 10 point card, but then lost it at the end, when he had no money left to avoid picking up the "lose a card" card. Will ended with least money, while Adam somehow defeated his curse and came out on top.

Adam 10
Andrew 9
Sam 6
Joe 0
Will OUT! Not rich enough!

It was still early(ish) and, you know, it's been a few weeks since we'd had a flurry of silly light games, and so we were in the mood for 6nimmt. This was also new to Will, but it's so simple that we thought it wouldn't be a huge burden. Turns out we were wrong – he came last. But the rest of us had fun, and that's what games are all about, right guys?

Adam ended a good evening with his third win in a row.

Adam 11
Sam 28
Joe 41
Andrew 42
Will 70

On the form table, Adam leaps to first place with his trilogy of conquests.

Adam1 1 1 5 3 11
Sam 2 3 2 3 3 13
Hannah2 1 42 514
Anja1 13 5515
Andrew4 2 5 2 2 15
Steve4 4 4 21 15
Joe3 4 4 1 4 16
Jon2 3 5 5 520
Will5 53 5523

Meanwhile, in Bracknell, Paul notched up his first win of the season by turning green and muscular and tipping the table over during Tikal.

Paul 124
Chris 104
James 98

Actually, in the email Chris sent to me, he said that Paul's tactic of hoarding goods served him well. I thought, "Didn't Paul do well at that zombie apocalypse game too?" So if there's ever a national crisis that involves staying indoors all day, I know where I'm heading.

Alas, Paul's incredible hulk-like adventure didn't last and by the time they set up 7 Wonders, he was a gaming Bruce Banner again. James stole the win from Chris by a narrow margin.

James 48 (and 10 money)
Chris 48 (and 1 money)
Paul 39

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Mammoth Fun

With the coming of the sun it can be a bereft time for gamers. Suddenly the boys want to play outside in the garden - Stanley likes football, Joe likes mangling the plants - instead of healthier pursuits like Scripts and Scribes or Alhambra. Often the closest I get to a game at the weekend is sticking my head in the cupboard and breathing deeply for a few minutes.

Last night, however, the cavalry arrived in the shape of Mark and Katie, our occasional sparring partners. Actually as we went to their house maybe we were the cavalry, if the cavalry have ever dashed to Portishead with a selection of worker-placement games in the saddlebags. Anyway by the time we'd caught up, drunk our first drinks, and eaten some lovely parma ham with melon, there was a tight hour-and-a-half gap for gaming. I'd brought a few options but was open to anything. Katie suggested Carcassone. Sally was indifferent by this stage, but Mark plumped for Stone Age, as we'd not played it together before and he had a hankering for something new.

For anyone unfamiliar with it Stone Age's basic premise is simple - use your stone-age followers to gather resources, then use your resources to build huts or develop your culture (the latter in the shape of cards that give you end-game bonuses). But no-one ever explained the basic rules of life to a caveman after his (or her) third mojito, and there was some confusion over the games finer aspects, manifest through some facial communication and single-syllable grunting. And with time a-pressing I felt the burden of chief-chivvier was upon me, so I game-managed (okay, bossed around) everyone else in order to keep things moving, to their indulgent tolerance.

Texting the cave to say there was no clay

Maybe it was my whip-cracking, or maybe mojitos give a belated clarity, but suddenly everything fell into place and people had strategies and tactics. Actually I don't think I've ever played Stone Age with quite such a gamble-y feel to it before. There were lots of single or double followers trying to dredge up  gold, for instance, and Mark in particular felt the pinch on a number of unlucky rolls.

We didn't finish - agreeing to quit at the end of a round about two-thirds of the way through. I'd like to think I would have been in the mix with a few more rounds played, but I can't be sure. The Chiseller was way out in the lead having started building huts early and getting into the card-buying late on:

Katie 81
Sam 65
Mark 39
Sally 30

Which means while Mark - with a series of wins under his belt - stays in first place on our mini-table, Katie jumps up to second. I think I've actually amended an old table here but it's seven am on Sunday and I'm buggered if I can find the most recent one.

*Table now correctly updated, and Arch-Chisel-Wielder Katie is out in front!



Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Introducing the smallest meeple in town

This week's games night saw a return to Anja and Steve's sooner than perhaps anyone could have guessed. Despite their son being just two weeks old, they decided to risk it and host a games night, and so we all got to say hello to the soon-to-be board game champion of the world (perhaps). Also in attendance was Jon and the non-playing Morag along with their also-non-playing child. A very family feel to games night for once.

But once all that talk of milk teeth and best nappies was over (something like that, I expect. I wasn't listening) we sat down to play. Seven of us: Jon, Anja, Steve, Joe, Sam, Adam, and myself played Incan Gold. This was Anja's only chance of the evening to get points on the leaderboard, and she played it well. It was also the first game of Incan Gold that we can remember when all five artefacts came out.

Anja 33
Sam 32
Jon 29
Joe 20
Steve 20
Andrew 20
Adam 11

At this point, Hannah arrived and Anja retired for the evening, and we split into two groups. Jon was keen to play Blood Bowl and he recruited Joe and Adam to his cause. Meanwhile, Sam and I wanted to see how Samurai played with more than two players, and Hannah and Steve agreed to try it.

Sam explained the simple rules, and we put out the big four-player, four-island version of the board. The main difference between the two and four player versions is the amount of AP. With so many options, trying to whittle your choice down to one can take a while. While the other table hummed to the excited commentary from Jon, our table was mostly lost in thought, with the occasional "whose go is it?" breaking the silence.

At the end of the first game, newcomer Hannah came away with a commanding win.

1. Hannah
2. Andrew
3. Sam
4. Steve

Since the Blood Bowl was still in full swing, we set up and played again. This time, I clustered most of my tiles on the main island of Honshu, and it seemed to work.

1. Andrew
2. Hannah
3. Sam
4. Steve

With Joe, Jon and Adam still in battle, and Steve enlisted to Baby Patrol, Hannah, Sam and I tried a new but simple game called Can't Stop. In this, four dice are rolled. Pairs of dice are made to give two values, and each time those values are rolled, the player moves their counter along that particular value on the board.

In a later roll they can later nominate a third value, but once they've done that, they're stuck with those three. Rolling the four dice and not being able to make up any of those values means they are bust and return to wherever they were at the start of the turn. Otherwise, they can stop once they feel they've pushed their luck enough.

I loved it. It's a perfect example of Good Dice. We didn't have long enough to finish the game, so it remains non-leaderboard, but for the record Sam was doing best, followed by Hannah, then me.

On the other table, the blood had dried up and gone all flakey. The final scores were

Joe 35
Jon 33
Adam 23

On the form table, Sam holds on to first place, while Adam can be grateful for those tied scores in Incan Gold, otherwise his last place in a seven player game would have sent him second to bottom.

Sam 3 3 2 2 1 11
Andrew2 2 4 1 3 12
Hannah2 1 42 514
Adam5 3 3 2 1 14
Anja1 13 5515
Steve4 4 4 21 15
Joe1 4 4 4 3 16
Jon2 3 5 5 520

On the Division, however, we find that Adam's overall performance this season has been the best in terms of points scored. Anja comes out top in points ratio.

In Bracknell, Paul was away helping to form a new government in Italy. Instead, everyone's imaginary friend Dirk took his place in two games of 7 Wonders. James won both by giving Chris a Vulcan mind-meld and a dead arm.

James - 53
Chris - 48
Dirk – 24

James - 49
Chris - 48
Dirk - 40