Sunday, 28 September 2014

Saturday Night Several

Saturday night games are usually rather sparse affairs, with only a few gamers with nothing better to do on a weekend evening. Tonight was a different affair, though, with six of us congregating in Sam’s kitchen which for most of us is less of a kitchen, more of a portal into other worlds. Sam, myself, Ian and Matt were joined by Steve and Anja, bringing their baby with them.

The worlds we chose this evening were Amerigo and Macao. Two games from neighbouring centuries jostled for space on the same table. Sam, Steve and Anja went for the epic sweep of Amerigo, while Matt, Ian and I chose a make our fortunes in the Portugese colony of Macao.

Macao was a strange game, with no players spending much time gathering city quarters and shipping goods. Instead, we relied on a remarkably generous Tribute Track, allowing us all to trade cubes for coins and buy prestige points that way. But Ian’s three Baronesses gave him 15 bonus points at the end, while Matt’s minus 12 points for uncompleted cards dragged him back into second.

Ian 90
Matt 77
Andrew 66

Amerigo still had another round to play, so the three of us broke out Biblios. I reminded Matt and Ian of the rules, and I like to think I was hit by Explainer’s Curse but, let’s be honest, no one knows why people win or lose at Biblios.

Ian 6
Matt 5
Andrew 3

With that win, Ian became Mr Biblios: a rather fleeting title that’s given to whoever just won a game.

Anja and Steve had to leave to catch the bus back, while Sam totted up the scores and grumbled his way through the lengthy period of packing away that Amerigo requires. In the end the scores were:

Steve 113
Sam 111
Anja 99

I set off home after my game of Biblios but, like Steve and Anja’s baby boy, the remaining three weren’t quite ready to go to bed just yet. They stayed on for another game of Biblios, with Sam picking up the title of Mr Biblios.

Sam 8
Ian 4
Matt 3

On the form table, Ian rises to pole position with just one evening of the season to go! See you for the grand finale on Tuesday!

Ian 2 1 1 1 3 8
Adam 3 2 2 1 1 9
Martin 2 1 5 1 2 11
Matt 3 2 2 4 1 12
Chris 1 2 13 5 12
Sam 1 2 2 4 4 13
Joe 6 1 3 1 2 13
Steve 1 1 1 5 5 13
Andrew 3 3 2 3 3 14
Hannah 2 2 3 4 5 16
Paul 2 2 5 5 5 19
Anja 3 3 5 5 5 21
Katie 3 3 5 5 5 21
Jim 4 5 5 5 5 24

As for this week’s mini-divisions, Macao sees Sam on top of a table that shows what an even playing field Macao is, with eight of us players having clocked up a win. Adam leads on the medal table and points ratio.

And for all the talk of Mr Biblios passing from one player to another, we all know who the real Mr Biblios is.The spreadsheet never lies (unless I’ve made a mistake) and Sam’s mastery of the game is there for all to see.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Mystic smeg?

Terra Mystica, the board game that this somewhat unsavoury title lends itself to, was again brought to the fore under heavy influence from myself and the promise that it won't be long until it is returned to it's owner (Sam). There hadn't been a clamour for its return however we felt that we owned it another chance after all the time that had been invested it so far.

James selected the Auren race which strangely didn't have a special ability, although did have a powerful stronghold ability being able to move twice up any cult track per round. I chose the Swarmlings. These guys get a lot of starting resources and income but everything is that little more expensive. Their special ability (Which I have just realised I didn't take advantage of) was extra workers on a completion of a town. Paul stuck with Nomads and their extra starting settlement and terraforming stronghold as he did last game.

The way that the round tiles came out meant that it was going to be tough to score additional points although the round bonus tiles meant that money wouldn't be a problem this game. To try and get with the intended flavour of the game we all placed our initial settlements in close proximity to each other, but then spent the rest of the game spreading out in opposite directions. To us, the feature of the game where you gain power from your neighbour as they build or upgrade, seems a little tacked on. Early in the game it is difficult to get your power moving round so that you can use it so having this available helps. However to use the power you have to lose victory points, something which none of us where particularly happy to do. Unless there is some compelling reason to do so that, we are missing, the cost of this function seems too high.

Pretty quickly each player adapted into a strategy, with James climbing the cult track, Paul building an expanding empire and me scratching my head and realising all my swamps were surrounded with hard to terraform areas!

The game does not play quick. There are lots of angles to consider and it still does become a bit mathsy, if that is a word. I even remarked at one point that my favourite part of the game was where we collected our income at the start of each round. The final scoring actually came out closer than it was expected with Paul winning the big points for territory and James cleaning up with the cults.

James - 95
Chris - 91
Paul - 77

We finished at 10.30 so not enough time to squeeze in anything else. Paul stated that he enjoyed it more now that he had got to grips with the rules but we all felt that it's still a game we would all play again but probably not suggest. A bit like how Taj Mahal gets treated I suppose.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Cries against humanity

Tuesday. Adam and Hannah hosted. Martin, Sam, Ian, Anja and Steve arrived. Chipsticks and salted popcorn were eaten. Games were played.

We began with Hannah putting the baby to bed and Steve and Anja on the way. The five of us chose to play Abluxxen, the tricky game of trick-taking and spoiling other people’s plans. Sam and Adam were both new to the game, but they seemed to pick it up okay. I was concentrating on building up an nice hand of a six of a kind (of fives), hoping to cash out with that.

Then Sam and Martin battled it out with six of a kind in threes and fours. I thought “If I play my fives now, I can screw them over and win with my next turn,” and it almost worked, except that Martin also had a six of a kind of sevens, forcing me to take my fives back into my hand. And then, Ian finished the game (just the one round) by his remaining cards in one go. Damn him!

Ian 15
Adam 8
Andrew 0
Sam -5
Martin -8

Then, with Hannah, Anja and Steve in attendance, we split into two groups of four. The guinea-pig-intolerant Anja went into the other room with Sam, Steve and Adam to play Concordia. And, for once, they rejected any use of modern apparatus such as tables and chairs, and instead preferred to lounge on the floor, just like the decadent Romans did in the olden days.

In the other room, we went super space-age hyper-tectonic. Or something. Impulse was brought to the table. It was new to Hannah, but Martin Ian and myself had all played it before. She got an explanation of the rules, and she admitted that not much of it sunk in. And at first, that appeared to be the case, with her becalmed on one or no points for much of the game. But then she made a late sprint up the score chart.

Ian found himself in a lot of trouble. At one point, he was down to one solitary ship, and in serious danger of going out of the game. He was able to build more ships, and he then consolidated them together in a fierce three-ship fleet. Unfortunately, it was too big to actually move, and he spent the rest of the game picking up points by trading and mining.

By now, though, Martin had made a mockery of the game by finding a way to clock up points by flying round in circles! It was enough to get him six points and leave him teetering on the point of victory with 19 points. We tried to stop him, but he only needed on more ship on the central core (or whatever it’s called) for the win.

Martin 20
Hannah 13
Ian 11
Andrew 11

Phew, we all thought, after that space epic. Concordia was still about half an hour from completion, so we embarked on a jolly game of Hana-bi to fill the time. Being a co-operative game, it wasn’t leaderboard, and considering how much we bent the rules (mostly to prevent me from throwing away a useful card) that was just as well. Finally, we ran out of cards which signalled the end of the game and our final turns couldn’t complete the firework display. Close, though.

Everyone: 22 out of 25

When we went into the other room, we found the scores of Concordia being totted up. Steve, in his own inimitable way (of professing bemusement while “accidentally” putting together a winning strategy) took first place. Sam was hit by Explainer’s Curse. Or by his reliance on the Saturnalia card bonus. One or the other.

Steve 112
Adam 89
Anja 81
Sam 74

Then Anja and Steve had to go, and Sam was on the verge of calling it a night too. We managed to coax him into a swift game of Cards Against Humanity, a simple card game which is best described as Dirty Dixit that can be played by as many people as you want.. I made the hilarious quip that it's the only game who's number of players is wider than the age-range.

The basic theme of the game is that one central card suggests a sentence (such as “My first sexual experience was with a _______”) and the players have to supply the funniest answers from the cards in their hand which have phrases on them like “rusty cheeseboard,” “paranoid mountaineer,” etc.

It was a lot of fun, and we laughed a lot at the thought of Sean Penn helping the victims of an earthquake in Haiti with hot cheese. If your card is chosen as the funniest, you win a point. It was a close thing, with Ian coming out victorious in this game of depraved imagination. Well done!

Ian 4
Andrew 3
Martin 3
Hannah 3
Sam 3
Adam 2

That was the penultimate week of the season! Hope to see you all next week for the grand finale! Adam and Ian push their way to the top of the form table! Can they stay there? Don’t touch that dial!

Adam 3 2 2 1 1 9
Ian 1 3 1 3 3 11
Martin 2 1 5 1 2 11
Chris 1 2 13 5 12
Andrew 2 3 3 2 3 13
Joe 6 1 3 1 2 13
Matt 4 1 4 3 2 14
Hannah 2 2 3 4 5 16
Sam 2 4 4 5 2 17
Steve 1 1 5 5 5 17
Paul 2 2 5 5 5 19
Katie 3 3 5 5 5 21
Anja 3 5 5 5 5 23
Jim 4 5 5 5 5 24

Monday, 22 September 2014


Having almost zero self-control I knew there was an element of delusion in saying I was swearing off games purchases for a year - I lasted all of two weeks. On Friday Little Joe and I wandered into Area 51 and he picked up X-Wing Miniatures game and suggested we buy it. Normally my resistance to pleading eyes is pretty good, but ally them to a game I had a previous interest in, and I instantly cave.

A couple of weeks back we were filming at the shop on a Monday and I popped upstairs to see what the Area 51 games club were up to - there were four tables on the go, and on one of them was X-Wing.  It's a straight on combat game where (in the base game) one player takes the role of the Empire and controls two Tie Fighters, and another is the good-guy rebels and controls an X-Wing.

I'm not a huge Star Wars fan by any stretch, but the boys are and for that reason it caught my eye. From the base game described above you can potentially add more and more (and more varied) ships, such as the Millennium Falcon etc. It's definitely one for the fans and completists, although the guys at Area 51 argued that the ongoing expense was was "cheaper than cocaine"

So (later trading in The Adventurers to get it half-price) I picked up and Stanley and I have already played three games of it.

I am his Father

The introductory game is very simple indeed - program your ships' movement, move it, and if anyone else is in range, fire at will. The game comes with several movement templates that you use to propel your ship around an agreed playing area: in this case, our coffee table is standing in for the depths of space.

soft right

We haven't actually finished a game yet - I imagine the 'full' game resolves the issue, but it can drag a bit. The fun of moving the ships around wanes slower on Stanley than it does me, but to be still firing hopefully at each other after half an hour feels a teeny bit long. Stan wants to progress to the full game though, so we'll give that a go soon. All those coloured numbers probably do something interesting, and the way of measuring ship damage becomes more complex too. Plus there's character cards and a load of chits we haven't had use for yet...

And in the meantime just the miniatures and the simple ruleset means he enjoys it a lot - and I am happy to indulge him. I will update the blog with the full rules in case anyone fancies at shot at it one Tuesday soon...

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Shots fired!

Being the 3rd Wednesday of the month meant that it was another chance to join up with the Reading Boardgame Social. Tonight we were 8 and as I arrived the assembled members were all sitting around waving foam pistols at one another. These were the very necessary props for Ca$h N Gun$ which was to be the nights opener. The principles of this game are simple. 8 rounds. Each round you select from your deck of 8 cards either one of the 3 bullets you have or 5 blanks. This is hidden from everyone else. Then after the count of three all players point their gun at someone (Not yourself). You then need to chose whether to duck out and avoid potentially being shot or risk staying in to in order to be able to select the money cards. Of course if nobody is aiming at you you have a free ride! Each round someone is the godfather which means they can deflect a person aiming at them. If you get shot you take one damage, 3 damage and you're out of the game! Harsh. (You can repair if you get the right card). At the end of the 8 rounds those still in count their money. Most money wins.

Do ya feel lucky? Well do ya?

Its all very noisy and a lot of fun as people shout out in mock (or real) disbelief at being targeted and swear revenge in the next round. I managed to stay off peoples radar for quite a few early rounds but as my money pile grew evidently bigger more guns came my way. Although my stash looked good I hadn't been picking the bigger scoring cards and at the end a different Chris took the win.

The group then split into two gangs of four. Places for Thebes was quickly snapped up which left me, Daryl (Organiser), other Chris and Bob (His girlfriend with a tricky to pronounce name) to debate and deliberate over what to play next. Luckily I had brought a big bag of games with me so we could prolong this discussion. In the end Kingdom Builder was selected. It was nice for me to play this as a 4 player as so often it's only three or less. It really comes into its own with 4 as space becomes tightly contested along with bonus tiles. I managed to squeak a win courtesy of one extra city that I managed to paddock jump to!
Final board
To my surprise nobody in this group had ever played Medici so after my promises of easy to learn rules it was accepted as our next game. Explainers curse took hold in royal fashion as I paid way too much for tiles, eager to win biggest boat only for the gold tile to come out and spoil my plans. Daryl played a tight game hardly paying for anything whereas Bob had a plan to maximise one or two of the goods. This plan held true after trailing behind Daryl for most of the game she came sailing past him with 30 points worth of pelts!

To end the evening, those left joined together to play two really raucous games of Incan Gold. This gang really know how to throw themselves into a party game. Roars of disbelief ran through the pub as yet again another Zombie Lady (Which they now all shout in the GNN way.) came lumbering through the cave. Such was the craziness of the games that winners and placings was a little lost but nobody cared it was definitely the taking part and goading each other to leave the caves which was important.

So another good night at the board game social, even if I did spend most the night playing my own games!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Tribes and Tribulations

Tonight we congregated at Joe’s. In attendance were six regulars: Joe, myself, Martin, Ian, Matt and Sam, along with newcomer to the group (and to board games) Jim, and old friend of Sam’s and sometime acquaintance of me and Joe’s.

Jim spoke of experience with Agricola and Settlers, and so he, Sam, Ian and Matt embarked on a four-player game of Macao. Martin had requested that Sam bring Five Tribes so he could try it again, so he, me and Joe set up on the rickety card table.

Joe started, and immediately left Martin with a move that got him the fifteen point tile. I sighed and grimly started wondering how I was going to make up that deficit. I went for resource cards, Martin built up his stock of viziers and djinns while Joe relied on his djinn’s special power to get him out of a tight spot. He was able to put three random meeples on an empty square. Unfortunately, twice near the end, the meeples he drew were the wrong colour for what he wanted and they ended up being wasted moves.

The defining characteristic of the game, it seemed to us, was that it’s not enough to maximise your points, you also have to leave nothing behind for the next player. We were all guilty of accidentally leaving the board in a state that another player could exploit for profit.

Martin 188
Andrew 164
Joe 143

A discussion about Five Tribes amongst everyone later that evening prompted Sam to suggest that a timer would make things better, but Martin thought that this would just mean that players made mistake more frequently. Perhaps, he said, the only way for the game to improve was if we all got better at it.

By the time we’d finished, Macao was still about halfway through, so we thought about what to play next. Joe insisted on Wizard. Martin wasn’t keen, and I didn’t know it, but Joe was so excited about the idea that we agreed.

Wizard is, basically, Contract Whist with eight extra cards: four Wizards that allow you to win any hand, and four Jester that allow you to lose any hand. Now you might think, looking at my performance, that what I’m about to say is sour grapes but I’ve never liked card games that are merely tweaked versions of games that already exist. The new cards don’t seem to add anything except an element of unpredictability. Especially if you don’t have any in your hand. While it was fun while it lasted, there really is no reason for this variant to exist and it certainly shouldn’t be pretending it’s a completely different game.

Joe 200
Martin 180
Andrew 0 (yes, zero)

We ended our game of Wizard to coincide with the end of the epic game of Macao. They told me the scores, and Jim made sure to tell me that, while he came last, he enjoyed it.

Matt 65
Sam 64
Ian 52
Jim 39

Since we were all ready for a new game together, we chose 6nimmt. Jim sat it out, saying he’d prefer to watch. We explained the rules to him anyway, so he could at least understand what was going on.

It was a typical game of 6nimmt, with people dodging cruel fate or, more often, running straight into it just as it's looking for a fight. In the first round, Joe picked up 40 points, and in the second round Sam did the same. As we entered the last round (the 66 point rule dropped due to time constaints) it was between Martin on 13 and Ian on 14 points. But this time, the hands on the clock of doom were pointing to Ian o'clock, and he picked up 31 points while Martin escaped with a clear round (as did Joe, by the way).

Martin 13
Andrew 41
Ian 43
Matt 53
Sam 58
Joe 61

On the form table with barely two weeks to go until the end of the season, Martin replaces Joe at the top.

Martin 1 2 1 3 1 8
Andrew 2 3 2 1 2 10
Chris 1 2 13 5 12
Adam 1 1 4 3 4 13
Sam 5 2 3 1 2 13
Joe 6 1 3 1 2 13
Matt 4 1 4 3 2 14
Ian 3 3 2 3 4 15
Hannah 3 4 5 2 2 16
Paul 2 2 5 5 5 19
Steve 1 5 5 5 5 21
Katie 3 3 5 5 5 21
Jim 4 5 5 5 5 24

But hey, I hear you all cry out, isn't there a division for 6nimmt we can all gawp at? Sure there is. Sam comes first on the medal table and is top on points, with "Silver Specialist" Steve taking points ratio. Well done, all.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Go ahead Steampunk....

Finding ourselves with a block of time before we made the journey to see Guardians of the Galaxy James and I calculated we could probably squeeze in a quick game of Smash Up. To speed things up a bit we chose to only have 2 bases instead of the usual 3. I won the toss and quickly snapped up flavour of the day - Steampunks. James replied by selecting the untried Ghosts and then Dinosaurs (Randomly) and I then plumped for Aliens.

Since we started playing this game no one faction has stood out as being too strong for any others and only certain combos have gained notoriety. Currently it would appear we have found one in Steampunks. This faction seems to have a perfect combination of strong minions and really useful actions and combined, as I did, with Aliens it became a real force to be reckoned with. James found the Ghosts fiddly. To activate some of their best attributes the players hand needs to have only a few cards in it. This is a tough thing to achieve because very often your hand size grows and grows throughout the game.
The holy trinity of Action cards!

James found himself effectively locked out of at least one base at any one time during the game due to my cards which prevented him from playing actions. It became hard work. As bases built up with minions I was able to play strong point boosting cards and claim the 1st scoring place on bases I smashed.

It was the first game that wasn't really close which kind of took the shine off it.

Chris - 17
James - 8

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Bracknell Weekly - Paul Smashes it.

Hi. Just remembered that I hadn't posted about our games session on Wednesday. I've been kind of busy with one thing and other and now I've found myself a few minutes on a Sunday afternoon to stick a few words down. The kids are out with Jacquie and I'm supposed to be cleaning the bathrooms but I did put a new fence panel in so I suppose I'm in a kind of credit.

On Wednesday I drove Jacquie to Reading in what turned out to be a wasted trip. In order to turn this around I visited the games shop for a nose round. I wasn't really in the market for a new game but I did see the Smash up expansions waving to me from the stacked shelves. The temptation was too great and a semi impulse buy was made. (I was rather pleased to see Jacquie had bought her self some cheap shoes when we met up again.)

The guys needed no persuading to try it out in the evening. We all agreed to choose one new faction and one old one. I got killer plants and Ninjas, Paul, Robot Steam Punks and James Zombie Bear Cavalry. I'm not sure why I like this game. I totally suck at it and it can very be mathematical. A type of game I struggle with. I'm more of a guestemate sort of guy who plays by feel rather than calculating the optimal move.

Having said that I started well, smashing my first base and coming second on another one however, this is where I have much to learn. In doing this I wasted a great number of my best cards. James and Paul held back and chose the best times to strike. James then nudged ahead by smashing a base using a neat Bear Cavalry transfer move. By becoming the leader he was starting to suffer withering attacks from both Paul and myself. Then Paul's star rose making use of a very strong action card that enabled him plus 5 strength for a turn. By smashing two bases in quick succession he managed to help himself to the win.

Paul - 16
James - 15
Chris - 12

With just under a hour left and since the box was already open we chose Kingdom Builder as our second game. Miners, Fishermen and Merchants were our scoring cards which promised a straight forward game. As is so often the case shrewd early placement can lead to a successful game. I thought I had placed well but in fact as events played out I hadn't. I became somewhat pinned in by a meandering river and the edge of the board. Paul had smartly spotted that certain areas denied expansion and had stayed away, dominating the centre of the board, creating various links and picking up useful bonus tiles.

The result was closer than it looked with each player dominating on one score card each. Paul's links were too powerful to over come as he strode to his second win of the night.

Paul - 56
Chris - 46
James - 44  

Love Ys...

Saturday saw a gap in the clouds, a break in the traffic, a window in the schedule. Sam sent out the call for any available gamers and Ian and I arrived at his just after eight.

When I arrived, I was fully expecting Five Tribes to be the night’s choice. Imagine my surprise when I saw that Ys had been chosen. This game was new to Ian and it was so long since we’d played, it was as good as new to Sam and myself, so we went through the badly written rule book to refresh our memories.

Once we’d got over that ordeal, the game itself is pretty straightforward. Your bidding for control of areas, with the proviso that each area gives a different bonus and it can be hard to remember what gets you what, especially the market. We also pondered the historical accuracy of using a queen to lock an area, unless this particular queen spoke like Ray Winstone, yelling "This 'ere area's locked daaahn, you slags!"

Ian went for black gems and cards mostly, getting a couple of decent super-powers such as placing all meeples face down or always winning ties. I went for points on the board early on, and then a late investment in yellow gems, pushing it from last into third. Sam pushed his blue gems up into first place while complaining that the cards he’d got weren’t as good as he’d thought. Still, they and a handful of black gems seemed to do the trick.

Sam 91
Andrew 89
Ian 85

A nice game once you get going, and a close result meant that everyone was satisfied.

Then we broke out Five Tribes. It’s been played as a four-player, and as a two-player. Tonight was its debut as a three hander. No need for the rule book this time, and we set about reuniting the five tribes of wherever it is. Sam looked good at the start as he went for a djinn-heavy tactic. I went after resource cards and Ian... well, Ian had a trick up his sleeve.

During the game, Sam thoughtfully mused,

“We should have a games night...”

“Every night!” I gleefully suggested.

“... Cheese board.” Sam finished. And true to his word, he brought out some crackers and cheese for us.

As the game neared its end, my position looked good. I had lots of Viziers and the djinn to make them three points each, plus plenty of camels on the board, PLUS lots of resource cards. Sam had an entire army of djinns lined up alongside him. I thought it was between me and Sam, but you ignore Ian at your peril.

When it came to counting up, Ian started very strongly, having a cool seventy points in money. Sam and I hardly had any, effectively giving Ian a huge lead. No one saw that coming at all (according to Ian, not even him, but we don’t believe that for a second). I got 44 points for my viziers and Sam’s djinns scored 38.

Andrew 147
Ian 140
Sam 127

What an ending to the game, and to the evening. Full of excitement and woe, and we didn’t even break out the whiskey!

Maybe next time.

Joe 1 2 1 2 1 7
Andrew 1 2 2 13 9
Martin 3 1 1 3 1 9
Chris 1 2 13 5 12
Adam 1 1 4 3 4 13
Sam 3 1 2 4 3 13
Ian 2 3 4 3 2 14
Hannah 3 4 5 2 2 16
Matt 4 3 2 3 5 17
Paul 2 2 5 5 5 19
Steve 1 5 5 5 5 21
Katie 3 3 5 5 5 21

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Ten Tribes

After last night's bewilderment I was eager to have another crack at Five Tribes whilst I still remembered it. Andrew was curious enough to join me and we tried it as a two-player tonight.

It's very much the same game (I suppose it would be) only with two each player has two turns in a round: two sets of bids for turn order, and the possibility to either get two turns in a row - potentially very rewarding - or stop your opponent from doing so.

We began fairly quickly with the comments from yesterday fresh in Andrew's mind. One thing we - or I, anyway - missed last night was that some Djinns need paying for to activate them. We probably did this and I missed it in my befuddlement. A look at BGG confirmed that Djinns can only be activated once per turn. Now you know.

We blasted pretty quickly through the first game with both of us playing with a certain experimental air. But my experiences of last night (and the fact the Viziers are less powerful in a two-player game) saw me ride away on my various camels to a decent win:

Sam 186
Andrew 137

Andrew now familiarised with the game, we reset and went again. This time a little slower, as we pondered moves a bit more and had an extended break courtesy of the kids upstairs. Andrew started well, claiming some tiles early on, and I felt I had my work cut out to keep the pace. Every time I did a decent move I left something behind, but on the other hand I got a decent set of Djinns that meant I could get more Djinns, place a camel on a populated tile and do something or other else which I now forget.

But although I got a bit of an engine going it wasn't enough to catch Andrew, who was going great guns on the resources and picked up a Djinn that let him turn slaves into resources too (see BGG for the ongoing debate about slaves in this game). In fact even nabbing the vizier lead from him at the death wasn't enough, as he sailed to a serene victory:

Andrew 208
Sam 187

We both liked it, and the two-turns thing for two players was intriguing. There *is* the downside I think, as highlighted by Martin already, of analysis paralysis. At one point in the second game my brain started to melt at the number of options and their various consequences, and I pretty much gave up, making what was a sub-optimal move (not that I could have caught Andrew).

But I think it's a bit of a good 'un - maybe it just needs a timer.

The Never Ending (Railway) Journey

One games night, eight hungry gamers. Sam was hosting, and Adam, Martin, Ian, Matt and Roll For The Soul regular (but new to Tuesdays) Katie were first to arrive. While they waited for the last two attendees, the old favourite Timeline was brought out to fill the, ahem, time.

Adam played his hands like an expert, such that his final two cards to place in order of occurrence were The Formation of the Earth and The Extinction of the Dinosaurs. He successfully put these down, and was out first. But Martin managed to place his card: The painting of The Raft of The Medusa just after Adam to share first place. Ian didn’t know that The Times was first published in 1785, and so could only manage second.

1. Adam - clear
1. Martin - clear
2. Ian – one card left
3. Sam – three cards left
3. Katie – three cards left
3. Matt – three cards left

By now I had arrived. Sam had a new game: Five Tribes, which he, Martin and the as yet absent Joe wanted to play. The remaining five had to choose what the other game would be. Adam and I were keen on Railways of the World and Katie likes trains, so it was chosen. Ian decided he wanted to play a new game instead of play RotW again, so Matt was left to learn the delicate intricacies of RotW.

It was a packed table, with the eastern seaboard of America sharing space with the tiles of Five Tribes. What a bustling games room it was, with two sets of rules explanation taking up the air space.

I have no idea what Five Tribes was about. There were a lot of meeples, a lot of cards being drawn and Sam crying out “Bollocks, Martin!” halfway through. I’ll leave it up to them to tell us what happened.

What happened on Railways? Well, a lot. Adam and I both missed a Railway Executive card as one of the opening cards on offer and neither Matt nor Katie knew how awesomely powerful it was to have two turns immediately. Adam only noticed it after he took his second go. He asked if he could take his go back, and I said “sure,” because, at that time, I still hadn’t seen it. So he did. How annoying.

Then, to pour salt on our wounds, Adam tried to warn Matt off a particular move, saying he could take it again if he wanted. Matt said he’d decided, so he’d stick with it. It was a free industrialise, so Matt turned a grey city into a vibrant new city full of cubes. And then Adam built a link to it, ruining Matt’s plan. Adam said “I tried to tell him not to build it!”

In Adam’s defence, he did notice a new rule that we’d never noticed before: that the Kansas to New York link only gets you points once you’ve paid the $30,000 to activate the Western Link.

Meanwhile, I took over the New York area, moving cubes around. By using other people’s links, I got the “four colour cubes” and “three-link delivery” bonuses on the same turn, and I continued to use other people’s links (mostly Katie’s) throughout the game. Possibly a mistake, but at the time, there always seemed to be some better way to spend my go.

It was an epic. Katie complained that we were halfway through and she’d already had two gins. She also texted home to let them know she’d be late. On the other half of the table, Five Tribes ended with the scores at:

Martin 165
Joe 120
Ian 109
Sam 96

And they began Ra, the game of Egyptian-style bidding. And it must’ve been a ding-dong battle listening to their reactions as tiles were drawn from the bag. We were still ploughing through our game, and this prompted Katie to comment that she wished she were playing a game with swearing in it, too.

But we had no swearing. Just long thoughtful pauses which could comfortably fit a visit to the toilet between turns. But time ticked on, and soon we had triggered the end of the game. Phew. And I made a foolish move: choosing to upgrade and move a cube for six points instead of moving two cubes for three points each. Why was this foolish? Well, just look at the scores...

Adam 80 (plus $7000)
Andrew 80 (plus $6000)
Katie 59
Matt 55

Matt’s last minute sprint up the scoreboard was not enough to close the gap on third, but I’m willing to bet he’d be a formidable opponent next go. Especially now that Adam’s taught him how harsh the game can be.

As for me, If I’d gone for the cheap option and not upgraded, I could have won. If I’d built a link instead of giving Katie about ten points during the game, I could’ve won. On the other hand, if Adam hadn’t been honest and discovered that new rule, he could have won by a mile.

By now Ra had finished, and Joe and Martin bade us goodbye and went home. The scores for Ra were

Joe 49
Sam 44
Martin 37
Ian 21

This left Sam and Ian with enough time for a quick two-player Ponte del Diavolo to fill the time while we finished. Sam won, but it was Ian’s first game. In fact, it had been Ian's first game at anything for almost the whole evening.

And this leaves us with a brand new name on the GNN form table. Welcome Katie, to a new world! Meanwhile, Joe heads the pack.

Joe 1 2 1 2 1 7
Martin 3 1 1 3 1 9
Andrew 2 13 2 2 10
Sam 2 4 3 21 12
Chris 1 2 13 5 12
Adam 1 1 4 3 4 13
Ian 4 3 2 3 2 14
Hannah 3 4 5 2 2 16
Matt 4 3 2 3 5 17
Paul 2 2 5 5 5 19
Steve 1 5 5 5 5 21
Katie 3 3 5 5 5 21

I said there’d be more divisions for our favourite games, and we played two this week. The division for Railways of the World is a pretty one-sided affair. Adam leads the pack in his favourite game by any measure you care to mention.

Ra is slightly more generous in sharing out its honours. Sam is top on points, with Joe the leader on points ratio and on the medal table.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Good Weather, Bad Beat

The extended Morrison clan headed to Devon this weekend, to the scout hut. Quite possibly not ever a real scout-hut, this nonetheless very scouty hut-type building perches overlooking the Channel, and on a fine day it feels like one of the nicer places in England to be. There's a short walk to a tiny beach and an even shorter one to a proper Devon pub. Way back in the pre-GNN days myself, Joe, Chris, Andrew and Paul congregated there for a gaming weekend - I'll see if I can't get the hut again for whoever can make it at some point, as it's such a great location.

The reason for the get-together was my dad, Mo (Mervyn Oakman Robinson, to give you the full nomenclature) was over from America. And in-between some cliff-top walks we of course squeezed in some games!

On Friday I introduced Mo and my brother Marty to Timeline. I'd borrowed Joe's set, and as well as having more cards, the card size made the game more accessible to three optically-challenged men. My own cards are tiny, maybe purely to meet the remit of games-that-don't-need-a-box-as-big-as-that. Marty especially liked it, and I think we all won a game apiece. Then after a breather I introduced them to Age of War, which was fun but not as big a success.

Saturday morning dawned about two hours earlier than was strictly necessary, so while the others slept, Little Joe and I took a stroll down to the beach. Upon our return we played Age of War with Marty's youngest, Betty. Nobody won as the appearance of bacon sandwiches meant all the cavalrymen went AWOL to the breakfast table, requesting ketchup.

Sally and Florrie discuss Martin Wallace's penchant for industrial age gaming

Our first walk of the weekend was to Shaldon, 3 miles as the crow flies along the Devonshire coast path. Possibly more like 5 miles as the Morrisons stagger, though, and only some heroic singing by me about men going to mow meadows and baked bean tins not making it into heaven got the boys up the last big hill.


After a perambulation around Shaldon and a stay on the Ness Beach (accessed via a Smugglers Tunnel!) we returned to the hut, and as the children played loud and frankly appalling music loudly in the hut, the adults sprawled in the grass outside. After another game of Timeline (I forget who won) I set up Fauna, and Marty and Mo were intrigued enough to play. Sarah was intrigued enough to come and watch and then team up with Marty. This was new to everyone including me, but as those who have played know it's extremely simple, and lots of fun. The only criticism we had of it was scoring adjacent regions on the map, especially for animals in lots of areas, took quite a bit of time and felt at odds with the light game-play. But overall it was a hit, and it did get played again on Sunday morning with me and the kids.

Meantime Saturday day had turned into Saturday night, and the main event was Poker.

I used to have a half-decent pedigree at this game, way back when we played regularly I often finished runner-up and once or twice even won. But the last two or three years whenever I've played I've always been first out, and this event was no different, as I chased a couple of hands and folded what would have been my best hand of the night pre-flop.

Mo followed me out a while later, then Sarah too, leaving Marty and Sally facing off to claim the £50 at stake. Sally claims to not being completely sure what she is doing, but perhaps this seam of randomness helps her game. She was certainly not cowed by Marty's famous 'poker stare' that he picked up in Vegas. The final hand, though, was a doozy.

Marty, needing to build up his chips and keep the pressure on Sally, went all in with about £9. Sally met him and the cards were flipped:

Marty A, 10
Sally K, 7

The flop came and Sally picked up a King!

K, 9, 9

Sally's kings and nines now beat Marty's nines with ace kicker. But the turn came and ka-boom: it was an ace. Marty now back in front with aces and nines. "The only thing that can save you is a king" said Mo. And sure enough, almost as if Paul Jefferies' ears twitched in Croydon, the third king came up on the river. It was brilliant for Sally, brutal for Marty, and the only thing that could follow that was two games of The Resistance.

Perhaps underlining why I'm so bad at poker, I decided from the outset that Marty was a spy in game one, and he wasn't. Sally, who spent the game telling everyone I was clearly a spy, was. The spies won - but only in part because Mart had misunderstood the final goal of the game, and thought it was about categorically identifying who the spies were by the time the fifth mission was completed, rather then preventing them from sabotaging three missions. Which to be fair, he did. Mo was the second spy.

In the second game Marty and I were the spies. After a successful first mission we weren't involved with, we found ourselves both on mission two. We both hoped the other would Fail it, and both returned Success cards. Now the Resistance were only one mission from winning! Again we were both chosen to go, and this time I actually said aloud "I'm putting my fail card in the discards" - ostensibly to assert my resistance membership, but covertly as a signal to Marty, who twigged and sabotaged the mission. It's not exactly Derren Brown, but I was pleased with it.

All we had to do now was Fail the deciding mission. Fortunately I was chosen to go and the spies won again! There was just enough time left to drive to Castle Drogo and go on a three hour walk before heading back home...

Friday, 5 September 2014

Crosstown Traffic

Thursday offered a dilemma for me. Sam was in and offering to host games on the same night as a Roll For The Soul gathering. Which should I do? Luckily, Sam’s evening began at 8.30, so I was able to do both!

My mini-marathon (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) began at Roll For The Soul, with Martin and Andy. I decided I’d be willing to give Impulse another go, since I had come to the conclusion that it was not a resource-management game as I’d initially thought: it was a war game, with a bit of resource management tacked on the side.

And so I began by building up my fleet. And, almost as if to confound my expectations, the usually warlike Martin stayed tucked away in a corner, shuffling back and forth between his trade cards for points.

The game was played out to a background of two squeaky voiced clowns who had set up a little show at the other end of the cafe. It was a little distracting and annoying, but at least we were as far away from them as was possible.

Andy and I both did our best to knock Martin out of the sky, but when Martin was out of reach, we turned against each other, and so he was able to work away, like a little space-age Switzerland, getting rich while everyone else laid waste to a generation of soldiers.

Something like that, anyway. Martin ended in first, but for once, he didn't fight his way to the top. I came last, but enjoyed it more this time. If you approach Impulse in the right way, it's a pretty good game. The scores were something like...

Martin 20
Andy 14
Andrew 13

Then I said my goodbyes and I had to hotfoot it across town to Sam's for more gaming. There I found him and Ian jut finishing off a “ding-dong” game of Age of War. For our main game, we chose Macao. New to Ian, this is a classic which has found itself in our bad books ever since a four-player game stretched out into a two and a half hour epic.

But now it was back. We explained the rules to Ian pretty quickly (if you don't include the many occasions where we said “oh, and one more rule...” during the game) and we were off! Ian found his feet very first and midway through the game he looked like the one to beat, with Sam way back in last. But Sam is never to be discounted, and with an epic final move which involved activating then using the diplomat so he could buy 20 points, while having enough cubes to zip around the board, filling up spaces, he ended in a comfortable first.

Sam 110
Ian 82
Andrew 67

I was ready to call it a day, but Sam insisted I'd enjoy a quick game of Age of War. And I did. As you'd expect from a Knizia, the game's mechanics are simple and cunning: very much an example of Good Dice. And I do feel at home with Japanese-themed games. Plus, after two last places, my luck was bound to change sooner or later.

Andrew 20
Sam 9
Ian 6

Joe 1 2 1 4 2 10
Sam 21 2 3 2 10
Andrew 13 2 2 3 11
Ian 3 2 3 1 2 11
Martin 3 1 3 3 1 11
Chris 1 2 13 5 12
Adam 4 3 4 1 1 13
Hannah 3 4 5 2 2 16
Matt 2 3 5 3 4 17
Paul 2 2 5 5 5 19
Steve 1 5 5 5 5 21

And, since I've got all the spreadsheets on my computer, it's time I did something with them. I'll start posting up divisions for our most-played games as and when we play them again. This is the division for Macao.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Reading practice

This Wednesday saw me pitching up to a pub on the outskirts of Reading with a bag of games searching for the accurately named Reading Boardgame Social. Almost immediately though the door I was met by a couple playing Monopoly over, or rather around, dinner. Pausing long enough for us to awkwardly stare at each other I promptly turned on my heel hoping that it wasn't them. Thankfully the next enclave presented a gang of chaps shifting cardboard around on a table. After introducing myself and instantly getting titled Chris 278 owing to a sticker one of my kids had slapped on me before leaving, I was invited to join a game of Libertalia.

Libertalia is pirate themed card management game played over 3 rounds (Days). Everybody receives the same 6 cards from a deck of 29 different types of piratey roles. After each day the cards you still have in your hand are carried over to join the next 6 drawn, all others are discarded. The days are split into night and day sections and the cards that you hold have a mixture of abilities that are activated at a certain time. The key to this game is that all cards have a number on them 1 - 29 and are played in sequence. The object is to collect as much booty and doubloons as possible. At the end of each day your money is converted into points and you start again.
Got anything a little less piratey?

I wasn't doing well. It pays to be a little bit swashbuckling to gain the big money and I was fannying around not making much progress. Unfortunately, after I had got a grip on the mechanics, I got whalloped with a double whammy. Matt, next to me, laid a card which meant he could move all of his curses onto me at -3 points each. On my deck I had a card that meant I lost a further 3 points per curse. I was sunk.

Paul - 67
Shane - 68
Matt - 66
Chris - 39

Next up was another new game to the group Heroes Wanted. This game which was awash with components, had an element of co-op about it but it was very much every hero for themselves. It's a game that doesn't take itself to seriously and there is a lot of humour generated by the genre embedded in the game. The optional Quirks card is a definite nod toward party games where each superhero exhibits a predisposition toward some element in the game. Mine was that every time someone used their superpower, I was to clap and congratulate them or else lose points. It didn't say that I had to do it enthusiastically though which suited me because I'd decided to be quite a sarcastic hero. It wasn't as bad as it sounds but toward the end people were getting a little jaded.
Mistress Caveman is not confused

The crux of the game is to try and stop a super villain from doing some nefarious deed whilst beating up all his henchmen and minions. (In this game it was Mistress Caveman who was naughtily littering, loitering and Jaywalking. The fiend!). My character (Selected from 2 decks of cards), Leather Thunder, had a useful superpower which allowed me to take extra points way from the villain and add it to my achievements. This meant that Robo Bullet (Matt), Mysterious Elephant (Shane), Naked Machine (Paul) and Heavy Metal Hawk (Gregg) couldn't match the 14 points I received plus add ons for my work at duffing up the super villain.

Chris - 40
Greg - 34
Paul - 30
Shane - 30
Matt -22

The initial amusement and excitement was somewhat quelled by the fairly long waits between turns and there was a feeling that maybe the game wasn't best suited for 5 players.

Last up was Incan Gold, which I had brought with me, but some of the others hadn't played before. As expected it was an instant hit with the chaps really getting into the tension and baiting of others trying to bluff whether they were staying in or not.

Shane - 48
Paul - 30
Chris - 30
Matt - 29

It was great to meet up with a new bunch and experience some different games and get out of the house for a change! I will be making return visits in the future....

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Red Means Stop

Three of us made it to Easton to join Adam and Hannah. Andrew and Matt dropped out late, Ian was away, but I (Sam) was a late addition and, having been collected by Joe, arrived at the re-stocked guinea pig hotel to find Adam and Martin in combat over a game of Hive, which to my mind doesn't get played enough (though to be fair it is a two-player).

I had just finished explaining the rules to Age of War when they finished (I didn't pick up who won) and joined us, making it the first 5-player of the evening.

It's a simple Knizia game; rethemed from an earlier title based on Risk (which was called Risk Express). Several cards are laid in the centre of the table - these are castles, and in order to capture them you roll a set of seven dice. If you can fill one of the "battle lines" in a chosen castle, you do so. If you can't, you have to sacrifice a die before rolling again. Fill all the battle lines, and you claim the castle for your own.

As well as claiming castles from the centre you can also grab them off the other players (although this is harder) and - as the castles come in certain colours, representing tribes - if you gain all the castles of a certain colour, you can flip the cards over, giving you a twofold benefit: firstly they can't be stolen from you, and secondly you gain a points bonus.


We all liked it I think, even Hannah, who fate shat on from a great height as she continuously fell short of the necessary dice icons needed (there's cavalry, bowmen and so on) and having finally captured a castle, had it nicked from under her nose. In the end it was a close run thing between myself, Adam, Joe and Martin. To win I'd have to steal a card from someone, but also hope nobody would steal a castle from me and the last castle in the central pool would still be available on my next turn. Coupled with the fact there were concerns over how long the game might last, I decided to grab the final castle to claim second place:

Adam 9
Sam 8 (2nd on most castles)
Martin 8 (3rd on most castles)
Joe 8
Hannah 0

After a debate over whether to play Railways of the World or not, we finally settled on Ra, the game that even my electronic devices have no auto-correct for.

Martin, unaware of the Ra-ing he was about to receive

This game needs no introduction, and we began like a bunch of old folks settling into a comfy chair. Although Adam and Hannah had to share a chair, as they played as a team. I bailed early on the first round, picking up a decent bunch of monument tiles and covering the bases elsewhere. It was a tactic I tried to continue throughout, despite picking up crappy bidding tiles, and it just might've worked if it hadn't been for that pesky Martin picking up a shitload of Pharaohs in round two.

Martin's Pharaohs stretched on into the night

That loss of 5 points was enough for monument king Joe to sail past me:

Joe 43
Sam 38
Martin 35
Adam and Hannah 34


There was little debate over the next game. Joe pooh-poohed playing Port Royal, as he has played it so much recently, and I pooh-poohed it too as I think it's kind of pooh-poohy. Instead we played Red, the game of completely confusing rule-changing. Like Age of War, I believe we all liked it. Unlike Age of War, sitting at the end of the table where me and Hannah were made it very hard to tell the difference between indigo and purple. "Just like real life" as Hannah philosophically noted.
"The colour's written on the cards!" Martin pointed out, in-between thrashing us all (except Joe, who in the early running looked like the likely winner).

Martin 37
Joe 25
Sam 0
Adam and Hannah 0

By now we were all, as we collectively confessed, 'pooped' - but as Martin and I had cups of tea to finish, we broke out the classic No Thanks. Joe and I both took calculated risks in putting together runs, and they both paid off. Martin ran out of coins. Hannah, perhaps sensing leaderboard implosion, let Adam go this one alone:

Joe 18
Sam 24
Martin 64
Adam 67
Arthur is there in spirit for the family portrait

A very enjoyable evening that couldn't even be spoiled by me knocking my cheap Spanish wine over. Fortunately I'd just enough left to spray the table and chair, but leave the carpet and guinea pigs completely unsullied. Now that's a games night.

Ian3 1 2 2 1 9
Joe 1 2 1 4 2 10
Andrew2 2 3 1 2 10
Martin 3 1 3 3 1 11
Chris 1 2 13 5 12
Sam 2 3 2 2 3 12
Adam 4 3 4 1 1 13
Hannah 3 4 5 2 2 16
Matt 2 3 5 3 4 17
Paul 2 2 5 5 5 19
Steve 1 5 5 5 5 21