Wednesday, 30 April 2014


Despite being only two days since the GNN weekend, Sam and I threw ourselves headlong into the board game maelstrom once again, this time at Joe’s house, not a cottage in a village. There were five of us: myself, Sam, Joe, Martin and Ian. And since five is considered perfect for a number of lengthy, strategic games we spent some time wondering what we should play. But instead, we went for several short games that really put the emphasis on fun.

First up was Abluxxen, a German trick-taking game which is based on you placing runs of a certain number (ie, four sixes) to ruin the chances of anyone else who put down a run of the same length but of a smaller value (ie, four threes). If you do this, they either take their cards back into their hands, or draw the same amount of new cards. The first to get rid of all the cards in their hands ends the round, and then scores are counted up.

Maybe it was beginner’s luck, or maybe it was because it seemed like a simple version of President, but I did well, scoring well in the first two rounds and doing enough to stay ahead in the third and final round.

However, modesty prevents me from describing the frequent (and often unintentional) double entendres caused by the terminology of the game. Stealing cards from an opponent was called a “snatch” which prompted all kinds of merriment that falls firmly in the “You Had To Be There” category.

Andrew 30
Martin 21
Ian 16
Sam 16
Joe 8

After this we perused the games cupboard. I vetoed Take It Easy, since I’d had quite a lot of that recently. We debated the ethics of playing 7 Wonders when Gonz wasn’t there to join in. In the end, Joe suggested Igloo Pop. I was doubtful at first, but once he explained it was a game about guessing how many items were in a tiny plastic igloo by shaking them, I was an instant convert.

Only one of these igloos has eight Eskimos in it, though

Each of us picked up an igloo, shook it next to our ear and (if we thought we knew how many were in it) we put the igloo on a card with the corresponding value on it, with our counter stuck in its door.

What was the right tactic? Quickly guessing so you can claim more igloos than the others, or take your time over each one. You’ll have fewer igloos, but feel more certain about your chances (perhaps). I went for option two, which seemed to work okay. Sam seemed confused about the nature of the game, referring to the Eskimos as "astronauts."

Martin 29
Andrew 21
Joe 17
Ian 16
Sam 14

After this we tried another new game: Port Royal. This one is a simple game of building up victory points by buying cards. But each time, you can reveal as many cards as you want (unless you go bust). More cards is better for you, but also better for your opponents, since they can buy whatever is left over from you.

It’s a simple mechanic, and it certainly had people invested in the actions of other players, yelling at them not to turn over another card in case they went bust and all of the cards on display would be discarded. First to 12 VPs triggers the end of the game.

Joe and Ian had an early lead, having completed an expedition (5 VPs each), but I kept buying victory points whenever I could afford them, and built up my points that way. And it worked. Sam never got started, having seen his early fortune cut in half by a tax inspector, and never managed to recover.

Andrew 13
Joe 11
Ian 9
Martin 9
Sam 4

Finally, with the big hand past ten and the little hand on four, we chose our last game. I suggested Skull and Roses, and was very happy to see it accepted. It’s been a while since this game of bluff (and very little else) was played, and it’s odd that such a perfect filler - or nightcap - should be so often overlooked. It was quickly explained to Ian and we were off. Turns out that Ian is something of a natural as he (and Joe, too) ruined Martin’s predictions with their skulls.

1. Joe
2. Andrew
3. Ian
4. Sam
5. Martin

On the form table, Gonz remains safe at the top of the pile while I climb to second. Sam is tonight’s big loser, dropping to the bottom of the table.

Gonz 1 3 1 1 3 9
Andrew2 1 2 1 3 9
Joe 1 2 3 4 2 12
Martin5 3 1 2 1 12
Matt2 21 55 15
Ian3 3 4 3 3 16
Will2 4 23 5 16
Sam4 4 5 3 4 20

But on the monthly division, Sam is top of the pile: his early good form is enough to carry him through today's drop in form. Plus, he (and I) have played more games than anyone else. But that’s life: play more, win more.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Six go even madder in Gloucestershire

A games weekend with children is neither a sprint nor a marathon. They’re an odyssey, an epic, a wide-eyed roller-coaster of emotions. Luckily, the kids were mostly distracted by a Nintendo DS or an iPad, leaving us adults to emote in relative peace.

Bad traffic and poor weather slowed down the journey to the venue for both cars: me Sam and Stanley coming from the West, and Chris, Paul and Ashton heading from the East. When we finally arrived (within a few minutes of each other) welcomed by the farmer’s wife and her dogs (one of which almost ran under Sam’s car as he was parking) we settled in to the cottage, pausing to look at the paganesque wicker sculptures of hares at the foot of a nearby tree. I hope that the rabbit's head we later found wasn't a sacrifice to some pagan icon.

Back in the house, Stanley and Ashton were very amused by the twin staircases that ran up either side of a supporting beam, and they soon decided which staircase belonged to who. Us grown-ups were sorting out more important stuff like filling the fridge with beers and sorting out the snacks.

Our first game was Timeline. You’d think that something so educational would be perfect for kids, but actually they were in the next room, watching TV. Chris won that, and then he won Tsuro of the Seas, which we played without dragons. We did try a three-player game of TotS with dragons and, after only two rounds, Paul won when an unlucky dice roll killed Chris and me at the same time.

(I won't put scores or anything like that on the blog post, but if you want details about the scores then you can download the spreadsheet from here.)

The first main game of the weekend was Quantum. I sped into an early lead, and so most of the third game was spent with the other three attacking me. Luckily I managed to get my final cube down just as Sam was threatening to sneak the win from me.

After this we played a series of shortish games. Sam won a Raj tournament, then I won Take It Easy and then No Thanks for possibly the first time ever! My run of good form was not to last, since we played it again and Paul won with only 5 points. I came last and order was restored to the universe.

The next day dawned bright and early, but Sam possibly dawned even earlier, as his energetic child was up and about before six. The rest of us we up and about by half past seven, and after various breakfasts, Stanley, Ashton, Chris and Sam played Astronauts, a card game about travelling the solar system and getting back again safely. Stanley won. Then Timeline was given another outing, with Sam finishing in first this time.

Then we decided to go for a walk, taking a closer look at some sculptures in a nearby field.

The cottage was near a pretty busy road into the nearest village, but a friendly passing horse-rider told us about a path into the village where there was a playground. We set off, buying supplies at a Post Office, and then found the playground. There we spent a happy half hour trying to throw a ball into the top of hollow spherical thing that would then sent the ball randomly out of one of four holes. At least, it would have if we’d managed to throw it in. In the 30 minutes we tried, I think we managed it four times.

Once we got back, we had lunch of meats, cheeses and a salad. Then Sam, Paul and I played Alhambra while Chris, Stanley and Ashton played Cube Quest. Sam went into a nearby town with the two boys to get some more supplies and give the rest of us some serious game time.

Acknowledging his sacrifice, we decided to play a game that he wouldn’t have chosen himself: Agricola. Although, with all the cards and boards, I doubt there would have been room on the table for a fourth player. Chris won, despite not having any animals at all on his farm, mostly due to me taking them and eating them as soon as possible. But he scored big on family, stone rooms and bonuses.

Following this, after Sam’s return, we went for an old favourite: El Grande. One of the earliest games we bought, and it prompted many memories of our earliest games weekend when barely a handful of games was enough to keep us going. El Grande was won in handsome style by Paul.

By now, the weather had stopped vascillating between rain and sun, and had settled on sunny for long enough for us to go outside for a while. First, the boys played on the trampoline, and then the six of us played Smite, the game of throwing sticks at other sticks.

Team Smith (Chris, Ashton and me) quickly took an early lead and it was a while until Team Morrison (Sam, Stanley, Paul) scored a point at all. They game took quite a long time until Chris finally threw the winning throw, and Chris later admitted he may have placed the oche a little too far away. Still it was fun.

After this, there were bangers and mash and Chris put Stanley and Ashton to bed with a story. Meanwhile, Sam and I taught Paul Love Letter. He proved to be a good student, since he won comfortably, 3 –1 –0.

Now it was the evening, it was time for something more serious. We went for Railways of the World. It’s a great game, epic in scale – both in terms of theme and the size of the map. Sam got an early lead, which he held onto since the end. Chris’ railway that hugged the southern coasts of the Great Lakes looked nice, but never run at a profit.

Then, for a complete change of atmos, we chose Dixit. This charming game of story-matching was the perfect way to wind down after the stresses of building railways. Chris won. And Chris was winner again in Incan Gold. Interestingly, in both of those games, Paul and I tied for second place.

Our last game of the late evening, which by now was turning into early morning, was Take It Easy. We battled through sleepy eyes, and our bingo calls became increasingly surreal as the game wore on. Chris won a close game, meaning he ended the evening with a hat trick of wins to lessen the hurt from Railways of the World.

The next morning, Sam said he couldn’t remember much about the last game of Take It Easy. That’s how we roll at GNN. Hard and fast!

There were no large scale games on Sunday. There was another game of Astronauts and then Chris beat me and Sam at Timeline. Paul, Sam and I sat down to try a new game, Fleet. Paul tutted at the olde-worlde style design paired with the pictures of modern fishing boats. We also tutted at the rules, and although we ploughed on until the end, we were never sure we were playing it right. We decided to research on the internet was necessary.

Then, another new game was brought to the table: Smash Up. Chris had bought this by accident when looking for King Of Tokyo. It didn’t inspire much optimism at first glance, with rules for each card and then rules for each area of the game. I had to stop to make pizza halfway through, and Sam admitted he wasn’t enjoying it, so the game was ended with Paul and Chris looking in best shape for the win. Paul’s robot zombie army seemed particularly powerful.

While I was cooking pizzas, we played Tsuro with Ashton as a fifth player. I forgot to write the results down to this game. Probably too excited from winning. And after food, the final game to hit the table was Raj. My run of poor form on this game continued, but Sam won, overcoming a 19 point deficit in the final round.

And so the weekend was over. We packed up and said our goodbyes. The roads home were much kinder, and we were back in Bristol almost before we knew it.

The Division shows how close it all was. I'm first in points, but I did play more games than anyone else. Chris won the medal table and Sam won points ratio, but both were winners by fine margins. Congrats everyone!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Five Go Mad in Vegas

There were five of us at this week’s games night: myself, Sam (the host), Joe, Martin, and Gonz. Adam is still on parental leave and everyone else was busy. This turned out to be perfect, since Martin had brought a game that was best with five.

And to compliment it, Joe had brought his latest piece of treasure found in a Bristol charity shop: a wooden box, with handle, designed to hold poker chips, cards dice and other gaming paraphernalia. Admittedly, it weighs more than twice as much as if you just carried those things in a plastic bag, but style overrides convenience in our world.

The game in question was Vegas Showdown. This game involves bidding on various rooms that you put in your casinos in such a way that they fill spaces or connect areas and such like. The bidding is fierce and often influenced by cards that effect what is or isn’t available, and how much money you get.

Gonz quickly invested in slot machines and raised his income levels. Sam went for lounges. In fact, he built the most laid-back casino in the world, with only three rooms for slot machines, and then just endless lounges. This tactic paid dividends when a card giving two points per lounge was revealed. He shot off into the lead.

Martin found himself with a bunch of rooms that didn’t seem to fit together, but for all his cursing, he was never out of the running like me and Joe. An interesting game, and one that I’d like to return to soon. If nothing else, there was no end of double entendres, as we complimented each others’ Fancy Slots.

Sam 70
Martin 64
Gonz 60
Andrew 48
Joe 46

After this we chose 7Wonders. Gonz had brought it along, as usual. And, also as usual, he’d brought it in the box of a different game. We played the vanilla version, without expansions. Sam got the wonder that rewarded sciences, and then told everyone he hated sciences. I was sitting next to Gonz, and I remembered his fondness for sciences, so whenever possible I either built them myself or used them to build my wonder.

Joe was largely resource-less, relying on my handsome array of materials. Martin, Joe and Sam went for blue buildings, which brought them varying levels of success. Gonz turned warmonger in the final round, and copied a neighbour’s guild to get enough points to tie for first.

Gonz 57
Martin 57
Joe 51
Andrew 48
Sam 47

After this, it was almost time to leave but for one final important piece of official business: to decide the next game of the month! How exciting. Russian Railroads had been retired by its nominee, Joe, after three weeks, so now it was time for the successor. This time, names of people were put into a hat, and they got to nominate two games that we could vote on. My name came out! Oh, the pressure. I nominated Pergamon and El Grande, and Pergamon won the vote due to it being good with 3 or 4 players.

So, see you all next week down at the archaeological site! Last one to dirty their trowel is a rotten egg!

Martin1 2 1 1 4 9
Gonz 1 3 1 1 3 9
Sam4 1 2 1 1 9
Andrew3 4 1 2 2 12
Joe 2 5 3 3 1 14
Ian3 3 3 3 3 15
Matt2 21 55 15
Will2 4 23 5 16

Monday, 21 April 2014

Sole Trader

I am hoping for a bumper crop of blog posts about everyone’s gaming escapades over the holiday break, describing our attempts at converting family and friends to the joys of gaming until we get over-confident, mistakenly suggest Caylus or Hansa Teutonica, and they never speak to us again.

Before that happens, I thought I’d write about my holiday gaming. The last time I looked after Finn while Sam was away, I tried a one-player version of Macao that I’d seen on BGG. I found it a tedious experience, far too rule-heavy for no good reason.

Mine! All mine!

This time, I tried again, but I played the usual game of Macao, treating it like a puzzle where you have to get the highest score possible.There’s no wall, naturally, and some of the cards refer to being in first or last – simply discard those and draw another. But with those minor tweaks, it was much more enjoyable, and it works well. With no opponent to take the card you want, you can really plan ahead.

My choice of cards at the start of game three.
Pity I couldn't take all of them.

In my first game, I scored 84. I was fun, but I had no idea if it was good or bad. I played two more games and scored 75 and 81. Turns out I had a bit of beginner’s luck: in game one I built the Abbot, which means any unbuilt cards didn’t count against me. That card alone was worth twelve points.

But it was nice and quick (half an hour) and it definitely scratched a gaming itch.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Roll for the soul of the undead

Tonight, as with Tuesday, the Easter break saw a dip in our numbers at the fortnightly Roll For The Soul gathering. It began with just the three of us: me, Sam and Ian, like a little reunion of the meet from earlier this week. The three of us chose a table and ordered food. With this in mind, we began with a little Decathlon to fill the time until the table was clear enough to host a full game.

We played a truncated game of five rounds, and because time was short we eschewed the usual method of adding up the scores to see who’d won in favour of a medal table, with ended in a draw! Thanks to a tie in the high jump, we all one two events each. I was most impressive in the 100m, though, scoring 31 points (compared to Sam’s 17 and Ian’s 15) in only two rolls. That’s the closest I’ll ever get to feeling like Usain Bolt.

After this we considered playing Castles of Burgundy, but with a live gig schedules for later and a need to move tables at some point, we chose Hansa (lent to Sam by Joe). It was new to me and Ian, but it’s not very complicated so we were up and running before long.

Hansa is quite a dry, thinky game and didn’t lend itself well to the hubbub and noisy ambiance of Roll For The Soul. It was hard to concentrate, or be very engaged in a game as abstract as this. Ian said he liked it. We had to stop halfway, to make room for the musician to set up. I didn't mind when we were interrupted.

During the game, two other people arrived: Gareth and Katy. We told them we’d let them know when we were going to start the next game. Then we realised we didn’t have any five-player games. Without Joe or Martin to supply the games, the pickings were pretty slim.

Sam decided he’d go back to the studio to do some work, leaving me, Katy, Ian and Gareth. Gareth brought a few games: Pandemic and Dominion (plus expansions) and Zombie Dice. We went for Divinare, since I thought it was the right length with the option of a quick game to finish with.

I bought Divinare years ago and then didn’t play it for ages, but recently it’s come into its own. It fits that niche of light but challenging and you don’t have to play all rounds if you don’t want to. But we did. Katy was excited at first, insisting that she was a bit psychic, but then complained that the game had nothing to do with psychic powers. Time after time, she was on the correct space, on a board only to have to move since she had the card for that particular board in her hand.

I enjoyed it, and the musical accompaniment wasn’t too distracting. Gareth won, and Ian came last with no points at all. I suspect he was playing for zero in the last round once he realised he was way off the pace with one point. The fact that he got it is quite impressive in its own way.

Then we ended with a couple of rounds of Zombie Dice. Collect brains, while avoiding gunshots. That’s the basic aim of this dice game. You can stop your go at any time, and take the brains you’ve collected. If you get three gunshots, then you lose all the brains you had.

Katy sped into an early lead with an impressive eight brains on her first go. But then she didn’t score again for the next three rounds. I won, with 17 points.

The second time, Katy tried to encourage Ian by saying “This is your time!” when he began to roll his dice. At first, it didn’t look to be doing much help. In fact, it looked like a bit of a jinx as Ian was still in last in the fifth round. But then suddenly his luck did change, and with two good rounds, he ended the game in first place with 19 points.

Although the music was still playing, the games were over. We left the sticky table and set off home.

Settler's Tums

There's been a slight drop-off in organised gaming in the last few weeks - probably due to Easter hols and all that jazz - but I have managed a fair amount of extra-curricular fun. Martin and I have had a spate of lunchtime Manoeuvre-ing; so glad to revisit this game, it's one of my all-time favourite two-player short 'war-games'. And this last weekend we Bergers went off to walk a bit of the South Downs Way from Eastbourne to Lewes, with our friends Henry and Rachel and their three girls.

Conscious of needing to pack lightly, but wanting to have games on hand should they be needed, I distilled a few games into a small box;

Manoeuvre, including all the terrain and the four best armies; Sticheln for up to 6; Race for the Galaxy inc. Alien Artifacts expansion; and Verrater. Another small box held Vegas, Incan Gold and Werewolves. In the event, Sticheln and Werewolves were the only games that didn't get played.

Henry and I managed a few late night games of Manoeuvre, all nail-biters, and trotted out Race at every available opportunity. My training from Martin gave me the edge in the latter, though Henry trounced me four-nil at Splendor back at their house after the weekend. We also managed one-and-a-half three player games of Verrater; I was really pleased to finally get to grips with this, and it proved a nigh-perfect portable big (ish) game experience. I expect four players is the sweet spot, and had we had more time I think we could have persuaded Charlotte to play, but even with three it was really interesting.

Like it's sibling Meuterer, the fun hinges on whether anyone has picked the traitor card in a Citadels-style character draw, and what that will entail for the ensuing showdown. It seemed obvious to me that one should always take the traitor if it's available, and I did win but it was close, and a couple of times what felt like a sure-fire win as the traitor disintegrated. I can see real potential for mind-games, convincing your opponents that you're the traitor, getting them to pile their precious supply cards in, and then revealing that you weren't at all and winning anyway. Could be a bit too vicious if played like that, but in any case very interesting.

We got back to Bristol on Tuesday, and last night (Wed) a couple of friends were coming round for food. They've played the odd game with us before, Pickomino, and I think Skull and Roses; last night  felt like the perfect opportunity to try something a little more involved. But what? I found myself weighing up the options during the day; perhaps Splendor? If I wanted to demonstrate how sleek and refined a game could be, maybe. But it's not that 'fun'. Lords of Vegas? That can drag a little, and you can get hosed if you're new to it.

You know that feeling, that there's the perfect game somewhere in your collection to introduce new gamers to, if only you could remember what it is? I went through a mental list of all the games I've recently acquired, that at some point or other I've been desperate to get to the table. None of them were right, but there was something at the back of my mind, I knew - a little voice saying "I'm the game you're looking for!". And then it hit me - and the answer was so obvious it was laughable - Settlers of Catan!

The venerable, the grand-daddy of eurogaming, the game we wouldn't dream of playing on a tuesday night; but it remains the perfect game to introduce new players to the hobby, as far as I'm concerned. So much of the fun is off the board, cajoling your opponents into trading with you, and if they won't, stealing it anyway. There is something unique and mysterious about the way it appeals to non-gamers. Oh and it's the only game Charlotte likes! It was the perfect choice.

I won, which is a rare thing for me, and it took nearly three hours. But it was super fun.
Ah, Settlers.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Three is definitely not a crowd

Tonight’s games night, tucked away in a late Easter holiday, did not attract many gamers. Less than one month ago, we were replete with attendees, with Joe’s flat full to bursting. This time, there were just three of us in Sam’s kitchen: myself, Sam and Ian. Steve and Anja were a late cancellation, so we began our evening’s entertainment as a trio.

First, we went for something quick but not too luck-based. After a quick look over Sam’s games cupboard, Medici caught my eye. A game that was once fated, but is now under-rated, it was brought out as a nice little filler before the main course.

Since it was Ian’s first go, he wasn’t sure of what strategy to take. Sam’s tactics were bolstered by a bit of luck in round one as the Gold tile came out when his two opponents had full boats and couldn’t bid for it. This gave him an early lead that couldn’t be overtaken, and it ended

Sam 181
Andrew 138
Ian 120

After this we asked Ian if he wanted to play something that he already knew. The trouble with being new to gaming: there are so many games to learn just to become even half-knowledgeable. In the end, he chose a game that was new to him: Stone Age. This game of resource management with a gambling edge is definitely a gateway game.

As before, Ian didn’t have a real strategy, but what strategy he had was the same as mine as we both went for civilizations. Sam went for the twin multipliers of meeples and axes, and it served him well, despite having no fields and having to send most of his family to get food every couple of rounds. I also had hut and field multipliers, which got me into second.

Sam 157
Andrew 134
Ian 77

Finally, we decided on a light game to end the evening. If a game involving cruel fate and desperate agonising over the turn of a tile can be described as “light”. We tried to make it more palatable with bingo-style calling from all of us. I started badly, with a first round score of just 84 before two good round propelled me past the other two, who were no doubt too intent on thinking up couplets for each tile. Sam even managed to get a bit of Shakespeare in there.

Andrew 380
Sam 321
Ian 308

And with that, the evening ended, or gaming thirst quenched and our beers all drunk. It was time for that final visit to the toilet, and then home! On the form table, Sam remains in pole position while Ian creates a little bit of history with a score of all threes.

Sam2 1 1 2 2 8
Martin1 1 4 1 2 9
Gonz 1 1 3 4 2 11
Andrew1 2 2 4 2 11
Joe 3 3 1 3 1 11
Ian3 3 3 3 3 15
Matt2 21 55 15
Will2 4 23 5 16

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

We need to talk about Kiev-ing

If it’s Tuesday, then it’s games day. No need for explanation, just turn up at the pre-arranged house and spend a happy evening in the company of like-minded people.

I got there a little early, and found Ian, Martin and Joe (the host) trying out a new game that Joe picked up in a charity chop, called Stack. In this game, everyone has lots of dice, that they roll at the same time (try to avoid the “dice everywhere” effect, the rule book warns) and then you have to stack the dice, without them falling over, with each die going on top of another die of the same value. Anyone who successfully stacks four dice gets to keep them, and scores that value.

We were halfway through when my deliberately wonky stack of three collapsed under Martin’s fourth dice. We checked the rules to discover his forfeit. We discovered that he had to miss a turn and maybe roll a die to see how many points he lost. We also saw that anyone attempting to use an opponent’s die would be penalised.

We weren’t sure when you would want to do that, unless you’d forgotten which colour you were. We suspected that some of these rules had little to do with strategy and more to do with padding out the rules to cover at least one side of an A4 sheet of paper.

During the game, Sam, Gonz and Matt arrived, and Martin suggested that if we stopped now, we could pretend it never happened. Still, at least Joe got some nice dice for only a pound. So the seven of us discussed what to play. Russian Railroads returned to the table as Game Of The Month. Me, Joe and Martin said we’d be happy for another go. Then, after some debate, Sam joined us too, while Gonz, Ian and Matt chose Kingdom Builder.

By now, you would think that a winning strategy would have been found, but not just yet. Matin, who’d won so easily by using industries decided to mix things up and try building a railroad. Sam went for his classic tactic of a railroad plus multipliers, and I ended up going for a bit of everything. I had wanted to try industries, but everyone else got in on the action, too.

Martin cursed Sam’s ability to go where he wanted to go and, later in the game, my habit of picking up multipliers, apparently for no reason (I had an end-of-game bonus related to how many I had, though).

Joe, meanwhile, played smart. He maxed out industry and Kiev and St Petersburg and he got the 9-level train as a bonus, which I had my eye on. It was to prove a successful combination, as he broke the 400-point barrier and during the game he lapped first Martin and then me. Sam kept his dignity intact by only a few points.

Sam (yellow) in second just avoids being lapped by Joe. I'm further back, in third.

Joe 401
Sam 303
Andrew 292
Martin 262

On the other table, they’d managed to squeeze in two games of Kingdom Builder. The first saw Gonz hit by Explainer’s Curse, as he lost to two newbies.

Matt 29
Ian 22
Gonz 19

Or maybe he was just trying to lure them in: make them think they stood a chance and then, once they’re addicted, hit them for all they’ve got. That’s my theory, anyway. Gonz managed to win the second game by a narrow margin.

Gonz 59
Matt 56
Ian 47

We were still midway through Russian Railroads, so they began on a game of Trains. This time it was Matt’s turn to explain, as Gonz and Ian were playing the Dominion-esque game for the first time.

The four of us decided on a game of Quantum. This dice-based space-opera is “all about the fighting,” as Martin reminded us. Indeed, Sam needed no reminding after one brutal round which ended with him having no ships at all on the board. Joe’s tactic was to act like the school snitch, telling everyone when someone was about to place a cube, hoping to start an intergalactic war between his rivals. I didn’t work. Martin managed to close the game up nice and quickly, before the rest of us had really got started.

Martin 5
Sam 2
Andrew 2
Joe 1

Trains was still rolling along, so we dug out 6nimmt. It remains a chore and a joy. You face down impossible odds, placing hopeless cards, only to be saved by another player’s worse fortune. At least, you do if you’re Martin.

Woah! Super space age filters!

Martin 22
Sam 45
Joe 61
Andrew 69

And the game of Trains ended

Gonz 62
Matt 44
Ian 27

After this, we set off into the night. All of this activity leaves the form table looking like this:

Sam2 2 2 1 1 8
Martin1 1 4 1 2 9
Gonz 1 1 3 4 2 11
Joe 3 3 1 3 1 11
Ian3 3 2 2 3 13
Andrew4 2 3 3 3 15
Matt2 21 55 15
Will2 4 23 5 16

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Whirled Wildlife Fun

It rains on every other Thursday in Bristol. Of course, it rains on lots of other days, too, but in particular: every other Thursday. So it was that this evening, I walked through the rain to Roll For The Soul. I was not expecting a huge turnout, but our new leader Martin (since Adam now has family business to attend to) and his friend Andy would be there.

And so it was. When I arrived they were playing Hana-bi, and it was a world apart from the first time I played it. When I play, it’s all about the inflexion of the voice, but these two actually seemed to be using logic. Amazing. They didn’t succeed, though.

Then we played Divinare, and I got soundly thrashed, ending with 9 points to Andy’s 10something and Martin’s 20something. The game was notable for each round having almost all the pink cards in play.

By now, Andy had his eye on the clock, since he had to get a bus home. To fill the time, we played Love Letter, first to four cubes. Martin won the first two rounds and it looked like it would be a walkover. But then he didn’t win again for ages and I was first to get three red cubes. But then I stopped scoring, and Andy stole the win, minutes before he had to leave. Well played and well timed.

Then, as Andy got ready to leave, some women arrived at the next table and started putting board games on the table. At first we wondered if they were here for games night, or perhaps they’d just come from the charity shop and were looking at what they’d bought. Unfortunately, we had no board games on display for the sake of space, so we just looked like a bunch of guys, one of whom was about to leave. So our new leader Martin spoke to them, and got us invited onto their table. It was a bit of a relief to get off the sticky table, too.

There were four of them. Venus and Mira are the only names I heard (or half-heard). I’d met one before, at football or somewhere and the name of the fourth one escapes me. They had a game I’d never heard of but, unsurprisingly, Martin had played it before. He even helped Venus explain the rules.

It was called Wildlife Adventure, and it involved building communal routes across the world (three routes that anyone could use) to link up the endangered species that you are dealt at the start of the game. It was interesting. A bit like Trans America, in a way, but what was most interesting was watching other people play a game that they knew really well. They even admitted to having little songs for certain cards, like “Monkey-eating Eagle”.

As for the game, I was helped by other people building tracks to my animals for me, so I was a comfortable winner. However, I was a little self-conscious about taking photos of the board during the game, so I nabbed one off Board Game Geek.

Once that had finished, whatever was happening upstairs at the café had ended and more people came down, looking for a game. One of them was semi-regular Katy, who insisted that we play Fauna since she’d had a dream where she was at a games evening and other people (including Martin) were at another table playing it and having fun while she was stuck with a really boring game.

But first, the six or seven of us who were currently around the table, decided to play Dobble. It was quick-paced, fun and very loud.

And so, she, me, Martin and Owen decided to play Fauna. We had to decamp to a new table, since our numbers had increased dramatically, and no table is big enough to contain the twin world maps and collected rare species of Wildlife Adventure AND Fauna.

At first, I was a clear leader and I started thinking, maybe nature likes me! But then I scored badly in the last two rounds, and Owen won by a large margin, despite having to deal with the metric system. Being an American, he’s more used to furlongs and hundredweights or something. In the last round, we had to guess where a particular type of Lemur came from. We guessed Asia-Pacific, we guessed South America, but with the last cube of the game, Owen went for Madagascar, and he was spot on.

By now it was ten o’clock. We dispersed into the night, dreaming of endangered species.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Flow must go on

It may have been April Fool’s Day, but there were no jokers in this pack. Playing games is a serious business round here. Although, you might have been forgiven for thinking that one of the games brought by Martin was a practical joke. San Quentin Kings is a game where you have to put together the toughest gang in jail. The first reaction when we opened the box was “Did they actually make this game in jail?” The artwork was kind of amateur, and Joe studied the board (printed onto flimsy cardboard) with the words “You seem to actually have the original artwork.” But the game itself sounds like a lot of fun. Martin says there are three rounds and a riot. Can’t be all bad.

For our main games, the seven of us split into two groups. Will (the host for tonight), Sam, Gonz and myself went for Gonz’s new game Ice Flow. This game involves transporting three men across the Bering Straits, hopping from one chunk of ice to another, using a combination of fish and ropes. Ian, Joe and Martin went space-battling with Quantum.

Ice Flow started slowly, as you might expect. There were a fair amount of rules, and remembering all your options took a while. I was distracted by the early stages of Quantum, where empires seem to rise and fall every time I looked.

While all that history was being made, our band of guys defecting from the US to Russia tiptoed across the icy seas. Will found himself running out of fish and ropes, with no clear way to get any more. Polar bears, meanwhile, dominated half the board. This meant we had to all try and get through a limited space. Not easy with a two-man limit on each space.

But Sam got his trio across first. I came second, having got two guys across, and Gonz and Will had both managed one.

We then decided on a light game to keep us going until the other three finished Quantum. We chose Raj. I continued my recent run of good form and/or luck. Sam, meanwhile, achieved new heights of misfortune during round three: he lost four times on negative cards, thanks to other players tying. A remarkable achievement.

Andrew 77
Will 47
Gonz 26
Sam 24

While we were playing Raj, they’d finished Quantum and started on another new game, Splendor. This game is not one of those games that you can tell what’s going on just by looking. I had no idea what was going on, but they seemed to like it.

Joe 16
Martin 10
Ian 5

In fact, they liked it so much, they decided to play it again. Of course, by now, we’d finished Raj and had started Las Vegas as a light game to keep us going until the other three finished Splendor. As you can see, we were hopelessly out of sync. Las Vegas ended like this.

Sam $460,000
Gonz $330,000
Andrew $260,000
Will $210,000

And, of course, when we’d finished, they were still mid-way through Splendor. What else could we do except twist Gonz’s arm and play on round of Take It Easy! I chose the tiles, and they came out bad. Only six nine tiles in the whole game. It ended

Sam 162
Will 160
Andrew 113
Gonz 82

While the scores from the second Splendor game were

Martin 16
Ian 15
Joe 9

After this, we had all finished at more or less the same time. We relaxed and chatted for a few minutes, as if we hadn’t seen each other in weeks, before heading off into the night.

And Happy Birthday, Steve!

Sam 1 1 4 1 2 9
Andrew3 3 1 2 1 10
Gonz 4 2 3 3 2 14
Martin1 21 55 14
Will2 4 23 5 16
Joe3 12 55 16
Ian2 33 55 18