Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Building cities

This week's regular games night happened downstairs at Joe's place. Not a notorious speakeasy from the 1930s, but our good friend's kitchen, which was set up ready to welcome eight gamers around the table. Apart from host Joe, we were Ian, Sam, Katy, Martin, Andy, Adam and myself. We split into two groups: Joe, Katy, Sam and Ian went for Lords Of Vegas while the rest of us chose Blue Moon City, making its debut on GNN. Up against Martin, Andy and Adam, I was not confident of anything higher than last.

With space in short supply, Lords of Vegas was set up on a card table and they shared part of the main table with us four diligently trying to rebuild Blue Moon City. Martin, while explaining the rules to Adam and I, even dipped into the game’s extensive back story. Sam expressed surprise that Martin was playing a fantasy-themed board game, but Martin said that the amount of Knizia-ness outweighed the D&D stylings. And besides, he tries to not look at the illustrations.

Blue Moon City is quite Istanbullish in that you can only move up to two spaces, and once you’re there you can take an action: usually building. You can complete a building for a big reward, or just contribute a bit and get a small reward when someone else completes it. Additionally, completing a building next to another already completed building gets even more rewards (in the shape of crystals or cards). And if that weren’t enough, if you can get a dragon to be there when you build, he will reward you with dragon scales which may later be traded for crystals. These crystals are for the obelisk and the first to build four bits of the obelisk wins.

Adam clearly decided that going after dragons was the way to go. It seemed like every turn, he’d add “Oh, and I’ll just move this dragon.” I was the first to build a bit of the obelisk, but later on I couldn’t get that all important card which let you build twice at the obelisk. Martin had one, though, and he used it to finish the game. Quite galling for Andy, who was one move away from winning, but in fact, ended up in last place.

Martin 4
Andrew 3
Adam 3
Andy 2

While we’d finished building our city, the other four were still midway through constructing Sunset Strip. Sam was feeling slightly patronised since, although he was in last, everyone kept telling him what a strong position he was in.

We four went for the joys of Potato Man, starring Super Potato Man, Evil Potato Man and, as we noticed this evening, Sexy Potato Woman. I had an excellent first round (thanks to Super Potato Man!), scoring fourteen points.

Over the next few rounds, Martin whittled my lead away (also thanks to Super Potato Man!) but luckily for me, Andy could not play a card of the right colour in round four, and it ended in my favour.

Andrew 17
Martin 16
Adam 6
Andy 3

What a fun game, even if Andy didn’t like it: he said it just didn’t seem to click with him. Martin tried to explain that most of the fun is saying “Super Potato Man!” but I don’t think Andy will be trying this game again.

We then played That’s Life! An interesting dice-rolling game where you have to pick up the tile you’re on if you’re the only piece on it. As such, the board gets smaller the more the game progresses. Most tiles are negative, some are positive and some are able to turn a negative tile into a positive. It’s a lot of fun, and a good example of good dice: you have three pieces and, later in the game, access to some communal dummy pieces that everyone can move, so there’s a lot you can do with your roll.

Andy started out with a flurry of sixes while Martin seemed to prefer ones. Nevertheless, they did a lot better than me since I just about managed to make my negative and positive tiles cancel each other out perfectly. Adam took to this game like a duck to water, speeding round the track, picking up good tiles as he went.

Adam 14
Andy 13
Martin 9
Andrew 0

By now, though, Vegas had been built after what sounded like a lot of sprawling illegally into neighbouring lots. Everyone’s prognosis had been correct: Sam had been in a strong position as he went from last to first in the second half of the game.

Sam 40
Katy 36
Ian 32
Joe 20

And as if they hadn’t lived enough of the high life, they filled in the time while we finished That’s Life with For Sale.

Sam 62
Joe 57
Ian 49
Katy 42

Finally, since we were all together, we decided to play Pairs, the new craze that’s sweeping GNN. It’s a lot of fun but, let’s be honest, it’s all luck. Right? Right, guys? I (luckily) decided to stick on a single card and was vindicated when it later turned out to be one that would have killed me. Martin (unluckily) shares last place with me when the last blueberry made a pair and finished him off. And three of the blueberries were already showing. What are the odds, eh?

Sam 26
Katy 20
Andy 16
Joe 13
Adam 13
Martin 9
Andrew 9

On the Form Table, Sam stands on the brink of his first “official” Perfect Five, and has a comfortable seven point lead over Ian in second. Ian, meanwhile, is going for his own Perfect Fifteen.

Sam 1 1 1 1 2 6
Ian 3 3 3 3 1 13
Katy 2 4 2 2 4 14
Andy 3 2 4 3 2 14
Adam 4 1 3 2 4 14
Hannah 1 1 3 4 5 14
Martin 5 3 2 1 5 16
Joe 4 2 4 3 5 18
Steve 3 3 3 4 5 18
Andrew 5 4 1 2 7 19
Matt 6 2 2 6 6 20
Anja 6 5 3 4 5 23
Dirk 5 5 5 5 5 25

Hey, I forgot! It's the last games night of the month, so it's time to look at the Division. And what an interesting one it is. Sam's games binge has seen him shoot to the top in points, but his record on the medal table is already mightily impressive. Out of 34 games this month, he came first or second in 27!

Meanwhile, the Points Ratio column has a story all of its own. Adam has come back from the dead, and is leading the pack having won almost two-thirds of the games he's played. Hannah and Katy are in hot pursuit.

And a big hello to a newcomer to the Division, our imaginary friend Dirk! And he's not even in last.

Key related post title

Last night was the first time in an age that the three of us Bracknell gamers had been able to coordinate our calendars and get round a table. Finally my chance to get Keyflower out as a three player. But first a new game to my table if not to Paul and I, No Thanks. James took no time at all in taking in the simple rule set for this modestly tricky game to win comfortably first time. Paul took the next game easily as I languished, professing to not having a clue to it's inner subtleties.

Better luck with Keyflower maybe? James had spent a bit of time with a Keyflower training video ahead of time and it must have been a doozey as he needed no confirmation of rules before play. None!

With the three of us competing for the few good tiles bidding and counter bidding was harsh. Especially around the tile which allows you to produce the rare green meeple. James won the battle and I, maybe foolishly, turned down the option when I had it to produce a green guy. I found myself getting edged out of some of the better tiles although at that point my strategy wasn't set. Reviewing the hidden winter tiles I'd decided on collecting tool tiles. Unknown to me Paul had decided the same thing and that left us in direct opposition.

In Keyflower one of the agonising decisions you need to make is whether to bid early to lock in the colour or come in from behind to outbid. In summer I probably did a bit too much early bidding and found myself without my preferred tiles again. Paul cleverly won the powerful summer boat which allows you to ignore the bidding colour and after that he was always the threat. It could be argued that this tile is too strong but it should be up to the others to make a player pay heavily for it. Which we didn't really do.

As autumn and winter finally came around Paul had covertly created a strong position based on boats and tool tiles. Scoring his winter tiles came to 31 points, one shy of my over all total. His win was crushing!

Paul - 64
James - 45
Chris - 31

I can't even blame explainers curse! I was totally outplayed....

We then managed to squeeze in two more No Thanks rounds which I won! Therefore taking the No Thanks crown on the night. A bit of luck mixed in with the realisation that you can make people pay for cards they don't want....

Friday, 23 January 2015

Mocked by horses

This week has been a week of games, games, games for Sam. And since the week isn’t over, tonight saw him hosting more games. As you’d expect for the third games night in four evenings, the turn-out was diminished somewhat. Just me and him, basically.

We began our evening with new arrival, Versailles. This game pits players against each other to build the best bits of a communal castle. The motive for all of this is to please the king, who dawdles aimlessly towards the castle as if he really didn’t want to visit at all.

The whole board is basically one big rondel, which you move your meeples around, activating actions (with the proviso that you cannot do the same action twice in a row) and collecting materials, buying sections of the castle and then placing those sections.

It’s a very dry game. No sense of theme at all, and the strategy seems to be pretty one-dimensional: get the bonus action that lets you take an action whenever someone else does. Job done. With no story and no engagement, there wasn’t much there to entertain me. Except the nice artwork.

Sam 110
Andrew 92

We managed to get the castle complete, though.

After this, I got choice of next game and I went for the least Versailles-like game I could think of: Age of War. This dice-rolling game is pretty much all luck, with a few decisions thrown in to make it look like you’re influencing it. While it’s funny watching Sam struggle to roll anything but some swords and a bow and arrow when all he needs is a horse, after a while I felt this game also started to outstay its welcome. We reduced the deck by one set. Maybe we should have removed two.

Andrew 18
Sam 16

Finally, we played Castles of Mad Ludwig. Sam insisted he was happy to play something else, having initially suggested it in jest, but I wanted to play a proper game where you can see what your opponent is up to and try to stop him with exploitative costs.

My far-too sensible mad castle

And it was fun. A far better castle building game than Versailles, with some bluffing and spoiling tactics thrown in for good measure. Sam was cash-poor for most of the game, and I tried to exploit that by keeping what I thought he wanted out of reach. Didn’t always work, and he got his hidden bonuses to work together well.

Sam 92
Andrew 82

And with that, we were done. It was still only ten o’clock, but it had been a long week, and I set off home through the thick drizzle outside.

The Treaty of Versailles

The games began early: my working day ended at about 2pm when I had to dash off and take Finn into Little Joe's class for a visit. That done, we returned home and the boys requested Cube Quest. They both played me and I won both games! If that sounds a bit like Competitive Dad, Stan normally beats me at everything, a fact he proved when we moved on to Alien Frontiers. I did chip in and help him quite a bit, but even so a 7-2 victory to him was a bit of a trouncing.

Joe goes for the Inverse Corridor set up whilst I play the phalanx

The evening arrived, and so did Ian and Andy: the plan was to play Versailles. I had sworn off new games for a bit, but then I got an email saying I had money in my Paypal account, which of course is only good for one thing.

Versailles is thematically similar to Pillars of the Earth, as each player contributes to the building of the palace (or cathedral, in Pillars) - in this instance for the pleasure of King Louis XIV, who is making his stately way toward the site to survey the finished article. Mechanically it's a little like Mancala-style games, where you move pieces clockwise around the board. Rather than worker-placement, it's worker-movement. Each player starts with their guys set up on the board, and on their turn they move one of them (or two, if they can afford it) to a new place and take the benefit that place gives them.

Hand not included

As you'd expect some of these are the stuff you need to build a palace of opulence: wood, marble, gold. There was a place to get your ornate decorations made and a place to buy the tile (theme gets a bit shaky here) that you'll then try and build in the centre of the board above - like Alhambra or Carcassonne, tiles have to match each other. Unlike those games, you can get screwed by people deliberately building a part of the palace that means your own tile won't fit anywhere, and is good for nothing but a paltry point at the end of the game.

However there's also the Alchemist Guild, the classic euro way of saying the game wasn't tricksy enough so we added this. Here you can go up one of three tracks and they get you the following benefits - extra resources when you get resources, extra resources when somebody else gets resources (as long as you have at least one worker there) and actioning the tile-buying, decoration-buying, and construction areas whenever someone else does - again, as long as you have a worker there yourself when this happens.

Andy twigged as to the power of this last track early on and utilized it very well - letting Ian and I move our guys from place to place whilst he picked up the benefits. Stanley, who had roamed downstairs to join us, went into the front room to do some printing - so the grown-ups were playing a game whilst the 7-year-old busied himself with making artwork...

Versailles, then. I would go so far as to say this was a really good game - for the first hour, that is.

What happened after this hour was a real rarity on GNN - the game kind of ground to a halt, to the extent that we all agreed (treaty, see? I'm here all week) to abandon it.

The problem was that the game ends immediately when one of three conditions are met: the palace is finished, you run out of palace tiles, or the King arrives. He's been edging closer all game, in theory.

But in our game we needed a particular tile to finish the palace, and it was neither visible on the board nor, as we subsequently discovered, in existence at all. So we couldn't finish the palace, and all the tiles available for buying were only worth a solitary point. The King was miles from arriving and looked like he'd stopped to examine the flora en route. Our only option on the board was to travel around slowly accruing more resources to get a few more points at the end: the worst kind of gaming exercise, really. I suggested we bail and Andy and Ian readily agreed.

The king may have been expecting a bit less garden

It struck me as ironic that a game about architecture had such an inherent flaw in the design. As we remarked last night, it's all about how the tiles come out and get placed. If those metaphorical cards had been dealt differently, we might have wrapped it up half an hour sooner and been very positive about the game today. Andy had done his homework and said this had been commented on in BGG - I'll look into it as there is enough there to merit keeping the game if there is a fix.

I think we can still call it leaderboard though. Ian - despite his predictions - managed second place when his decorations allowed him to sneak past me in the final scoring. Andy was way off in front:

Andy 82
Ian 64
Sam 63

The only light relief during the final stages of this game was Finn's remarkable - even for him - insistence on changing chairs to whichever had been most recently vacated. Even giving him his own chair didn't resolve this.

That's where I was sitting

We packed away whilst debating possible ways to make Versailles not outstay its welcome, then I left the guys to choose the next game whilst I went to the toilet, cursing my impulses (in buying games, not weeing). When I returned, they were setting up Biblios!

I was surprised to hear Andy was new to it so I did my best to explain the workings. Andy refreshed his memory by checking the rules throughout, and discovered yet another rule we've been playing wrong! In the auction phase after the active player flips the card, the bidding starts with the person to their left. 

Ultimately it made no difference. I kept bidding or passing immediately anyway, giving away my plans. Considering I'd only had a couple of beers I was curiously tipsy during Biblios - I twice announced what card I was putting in the auction pile during the Gift phase. Still, I did enough to claim the Mr Biblios crown, as Ian grabbed the blues and browns and I, wriggling out of explainer's curse, got everything else. 

Sam 7
Ian 5
Andy 0

There was still time for more game. Nobody wanted anything long though so even Love Letter was eschewed in favour of No Thanks. Ian ran away with the first game whilst Andy and I fought over scraps:

Ian 34
Sam 45
Andy 58

And it was so quick, we played again. This time Ian went for chains that didn't quite link:

Sam 27
Andy 35
Ian 65

And that was that. 


My insatiable appetite for playing right now isn't quite enough to knock Adam off the top of the form table, but I move up to second. Andy and Ian are close behind, moving ahead of Katy, Hannah and Martin. 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

1st world problems

It's been a while since I have made a report after a Reading Boardgames social event and that has a lot to do with my current contract tying up much of my spare time. Since I last filed an account a change has happened to the little ad hoc club which would have most similar outfits praising the heavens.

Off the back of a planned social in a friendly brewery where a day of games took place the RBS numbers have swelled from a unlikely weekly total of 10 to at least 30. This is largely due to the guy who runs the club to inviting the Reading Meetup group to the Brewery day. Such was the success of the day that most people vowed to come to the Wednesday meets. Fine and dandy you might think. Endless possibilities for games and opponents is a natural conclusion you might reach however, almost all of these meetup chaps and chapesses are newbie gamers.

This means that for us experienced gamers Wednesdays have turned into a kind of never ending games training session. The idea was to teach enough of the basic games to enough of the new regulars that they might get on with it. This is starting to happen but as everyone knows it takes a while to get up to speed with any of these games so one play is not really enough.

Last night we played a 7 handed game of 7 Wonders with 5 new gamers. It went well although it took twice as long as a regular game. By the end my throat was a dry as a dingo's arm pit. 7 Wonders with that many is a weird beast. It kind of operates like 4 or 5 mini games all stuck together. The possibilities for mistakes are very high and I'd be surprised if it was a pure game. With my experience explainers curse didn't touch me this time and I came first. It was satisfying to see that all the new guys enjoyed it.
Post game calculation with the phone app!

After that I suggested our little gang (There were games of everything being played all over the place) split into two smaller groups so that I could teach one Stone Age. Another entry level classic. This went down even better than 7 Wonders. Teaching was relatively quick but the game lasted 2 hours. I won by a landslide but that was to be expected. I even did the classic thing of pointing out how important culture cards are (And made them repeat it in a comedy fashion) but nobody can prepare for it on the first game.

We finished up with a 6 player Incan Gold which is now a club tradition complete with random screams of Zombie Lady all over the pub.

The problem with all these great and enthusiastic new gamers is that right now I'm not getting to play any of our heavier games with the characters from the club. If we do teach the games they often turn out to be one horse races. The next session there appears to be even more new faces so I'm left wondering if there will ever be a point that people will just help themselves to my bag of games and people just get on with it.....

A nice problem to have I suppose.....

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Ten out of ten

Tonight, we were ten in number. Ten players and ten games!

There were nine players at first: me, Sam, Martin, Matt, Steve, Ian, Katy, Joe and our hosts, Adam and Hannah. Although, to be exact, the offer to meet up at A&H’s came from Katy’s email. On our way, we did wonder if perhaps tonight was a huge practical joke by Katy, and that actually Adam and Hannah weren’t expecting us at all. But it was all kosher in the end.

We decided on a rousing ten-player game of 6nimmt to begin the evening. Steve hadn’t arrived yet, but we dealt him in anyway, choosing random cards for him as we played without him. In the end, he didn’t turn up during the single round that we played (although we kept checking the front door, thinking we heard someone knocking) so we awarded his position to our imaginary player, Dirk.

1. Adam 0
2. Martin 1
2. Katy 1
3. Joe 3
4. Hannah 13
5. Sam 19
5. Dirk 19
6. Matt 24
7. Andrew 25
8. Ian 45

Then we tried a new game, Pairs. So simple: a deck of cards has values one to ten. Each value has the same number of cards as the value (ie, there is one 1 card, two 2 cards, three 3 cards, etc). Each player is dealt one card at the start and then a player can either chose to stick or twist (get a new card). If they get a pair of anything, they are out. Highest points according to values on the card wins: eight points for first (because this was an eight player game: Dirk bowed out and Joe was dealing), seven for second, etc. No points at all if you had a pair. First to 21 points wins.

It was a fun game of pushing your luck and then cursing it when it let you down. Katy and Matt both scored nothing in three out of the four rounds we played. I stuck early, hoping that other people’s greed would improve my rankings. As you’d expect from such a timid technique, I finished more or less in the middle.

Adam 23
Ian 21
Martin 19
Hannah 19
Andrew 18
Sam 15
Matt 8
Katy 4

During Pairs, Steve arrived and we split into three groups. Four played Potato Man (Martin, Joe, Hannah and Katy). Three played Casltes of Mad King Ludwig (Adam, Matt, Steve) and the final three played Rialto (Sam, Ian and me). We were in the kitchen, while the other seven went into the front room. Judging by the amount of chatting and laughter, they had a high old time. Apparently, though, they were all briefly distracted - and amused - by Sam yelling “Bridges!” at a moment of high tension.

As for Rialto, I found it less intriguing this time. My initial impression, that there were several ways to win, took a knock. Sam bought up three buildings that helped increase his hand size, and when one player has seven cards while another has eleven to choose from, it becomes almost impossible. Maybe it’s sour grapes as I clock up my second last place in a row, but unless I’m missing something, it’s not as deep as I’d thought.

Sam 90
Ian 62
Andrew 49

After this, people in the other room were still knee-deep in their respective games, so we played Tinners’ Trail, convinced we could squeeze it in before it was time to go home. Speed Tinners’ Trail, we optimistically called it.

My Little Kingdom in Cornwall

It all went surprisingly well for me. I established a little network in the south west of Cornwall, while Sam and Ian fought over the same areas, bumping up their costs for mines as they did. The prices of tin and copper, too, seemed to suit me when it mattered.

Andrew 124
Sam 111
Ian 92

In the other room, the Potato Man people had finished:

Katy 23
Hannah 23
Joe 21
Martin 10

And had also completed another quick game of Pairs...

Hannah 11
Martin 10
Joe 5
Katy 4

This was Hannah’s last game of the evening, as she retired to bed. The remaining three on that table tried Trump Tricks Game! A card game that Martin often brings along, but has never appealed to me in the same way that a TV show called “Endless Laugh-a-thon Chuckle Show” would make me run the other way. I’ll leave it for them to describe its charms, because they seemed pretty impressed with it once it had ended.

Katy 143
Martin 125
Joe 118

Castles of Mad King Ludwig had also ended by now. No danger of Explainer’s Curse for Adam here. But it was close. Mighty close.

Adam 92
Matt 91
Steve 87

At this time (this blog post is a bit like Pulp Fiction how it plays with chronology, don’t you think?) we were still finishing off Tinners’ so, after Steve went home, the five of them played No Thanks, with Adam getting the first negative score since Joe managed it in the pre-blog days.

Joe is upset at having to share his claim to fame with Adam

Adam –2
Matt 13
Martin 23
Katy 30
Joe 34

Finally, we were all together again. Sam went home, but the rest of us clung on for one more game of Pairs. At first, Adam bowed out. We asked why, and he said he had to wash up the bottles in the kitchen. He also added, foolishly, that he’d just won four games in a row. Of course, now we all insisted that he join us for one more game. History beckons! We cried (even though Adam has already achieved a Perfect Five).

Of course, one of the secrets of a Perfect Five is to hope that no one else notices that you’re about to achieve it. Ian knows this, Steve knows this. So why did Adam announce it? We will never know. Maybe he was drunk. Either way, trying to finish a Perfect Five on such a luck based game when everyone wants to stop you was a hopeless cause.

Ian 24
Katy 21
Joe 16
Adam 14
Martin 11
Matt 10
Andrew 6

Finally, it was over. What a roller coaster of an evening. Ten whole games. Some people managed to squeeze seven into one evening.

The form table looks like this after a brutal evening. I have two sevens and Matt has three sixes! Adam missed out on his Perfect Five (and we all apologised afterwards), Katy worked hard to get rid of the seven she got at the start of the evening, and with good results.

Adam 4 1 1 1 1 8
Katy 2 4 1 4 1 12
Hannah 1 1 3 4 5 14
Sam 2 1 5 5 2 15
Martin 5 3 2 2 3 15
Ian 1 3 2 2 8 16
Andy 2 3 6 2 3 16
Joe 3 5 3 3 2 16
Steve 3 3 3 4 5 18
Matt 6 2 2 6 6 20
Andrew 7 1 3 4 7 22
Anja 6 5 3 4 5 23
Dirk 5 5 5 5 5 25

Monday, 19 January 2015

Anyone for Venice?

They say that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon can set up a series of chain events that leads to someone from GNN getting a perfect five: that’s how unpredictable it is. Tonight saw Ian come so close, but so far from that historical moment. (Rumours that anyone who gets a Perfect Five will have their face carved on the side of the Avon Gorge a la Mount Rushmore are, as yet, unconfirmed.)

Tonight was only meant to be a first play of Rialto, a game that Sam’s had tucked away in his cupboard for a few weeks now. This game of area control and building bonuses is set in Venice and, as such, reminded us a lot of San Marco, simply because the names of the different areas were the same.

The game itself is quite different. While the initial aim seems the same (get more meeples into each area than anyone else) the way it’s done is quite different, using a hand of cards to activate different actions, and then having buildings to boost these actions. Plus, you can influence how much each area is worth by building a high-scoring bridge to it, or a low-scoring gondolier.

It was new to all of us, but I showed the greatest lack of understanding when it came to getting meeples on the board. My presence on the map by the end of the game was so sparse it would make even a Liberal Democrat laugh. Ian, though, won handsomely, despite having only a few buildings.

Ian 71
Sam 68
Andrew 51

Ian and I were especially impressed when Sam, unable to find the elastic band that held the cards together, fashioned a quick and efficient solution: just throw enough string at it until it works.

By now it was half past nine and we thought we could squeeze in one more game before it was too late. Then again, if we chose 7 Wonders, we could squeeze two games in. And so that’s what we did. It was an odd game of 7 Wonders, with no one specialising in anything, really. I, at first, cursed my stupidity in building a parchment card when my wonder already produced parchment.

But then, I used a parchment card to build part of my wonder, which gave me a monopoly on this resource. Excellent. Maybe I’d stumbled upon a new tactic. It was a resource-lite game, too. But despite that, Ian came through with a little bit of military, a science guild and a bunch of blue buildings.

Meanwhile, I remain very impressed by the artwork on even the most insignificant cards.

Ian 51
Andrew 47
Sam 43

And then we played Biblios. I tried so hard at this, and fell on my face. A pretty galling experience. I was especially upset about not winning the blue dice, and allow me to explain why in detail. At one point I had 17 points of blues in my hand. Since there are only 25 in the pack, and some cards are discard at the start, I thought it was unlikely that the other eight points would all end up with one player. As such, I discarded my blue cards until I had eight. When it came to adding up, Ian had eight! And he won the dice on the letter tie-breaker! And he won browns from me! Two dice that I had boosted during the auction round!

Ian 10
Sam 4
Andrew 0

Oh well, you live and learn.

By now, the chance of Ian getting a Perfect Five had occured to us so we thought we should keep going. I guess the whiskey macs helped fuel our enthusiasm. So we dug out another quick game to see if Ian could maintain his good form. It was Timeline, but it was not to be. The details about when the cork was invented escaped him, and he ended in third.

Sam 0 cards left
Andrew 1 card
Ian 3 cards

I was ready to go, and I was getting my stuff together while Ian and Sam debated what they should play next. Someone said No Thanks, and I was persuaded to stay. Ian has taken my tactic of taking low cards and, even more annoyingly, he’s managed to win with it! I was stung by a late 33 that I had to pick up.

Ian 22
Sam 25
Andrew 45

So, four wins out of five. So close, yet so far away. All of this leaves Ian on top of the Form Table, but still dreaming about what might have been...

Ian 1 3 1 1 1 7
Sam 2 1 2 3 2 10
Adam 4 1 1 1 5 12
Andrew 3 2 3 2 3 13
Katy 3 3 1 1 5 13
Joe 2 1 2 4 5 14
Matt 2 3 4 5 1 15
Andy 2 3 6 2 3 16
Martin 1 1 4 5 5 16
Steve 3 3 4 5 5 20
Anja 6 5 3 4 5 23

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Luck loves a fool

It’s not leaderboard, but with three GNN regulars in attendance, it would be wrong to not mention tonight’s game. Many, many years ago, when Sam, Chris, Paul and I lived in London and our interest in games was little more than Chris mentioning that he might like to try one sometime, we would have regular Poker nights. Some years later, the Poker nights transplanted to Bristol, but by now they have the added distraction of Settlers of Catan and El Grande to compete with. In the end, the meeples overthrew the chips, and board games became our regular gaming fix, with Poker reduced to the occasional cameo role.

Today, though, saw the first of what might become a monthly occasion. Hosted by Tom, original emails suggested we would be seven or eight in number, with a £10 buy-in. But a number of last-minute bail-outs meant that Tom had to subsidise his wife and eldest daughter to join us, putting the numbers back up to a respectable six.

We were Tom, Hannah (not GNN Hannah) and Lola (these three made up the host and family) and also Joe, Sam and I (the visitors). We began without Sam, who was still en route. He got their soon enough and, panting from his bike ride, and still trying to sort out his sandwiches and crisps, he distractedly kept raising until everyone else had folded. His first win, and he hadn’t even got his breath back.

This was where his good form ended, though. His recent form at Poker has been that he is out first, and so it was tonight. He went all in on one hand, and Lola did the same. I had Q J (don’t remember the suits, but they weren’t the same) and plenty of money in reserve, so I figured I may as well stay in. They had K 7 (Sam) and K 8 (Lola) and Sam had the upper hand with a pair of sevens until the fifth card showed another Queen. I had won, and knocked two players out in the process.

This was especially galling for Lola who had only recently folded a hand on the advice of her father, when later cards revealed that she would have won. But that’s Poker, a game that is hard to write about because so much of it is in the Past Present Conditional tense: “I would have (verb) if only I hadn’t...”. That verb is usually “won.” Accompanied by bitter tears of regret.

So now we were down to four: Tom, me, Hannah and Joe. Hannah, after a poor start had got her mojo back towards the end of her second glass of wine, winning one hand with a straight when everyone else was obsessing over pairs and three of a kinds.

But after a while, Joe and Hannah both fell by the wayside. Joe stayed to act as dealer for Tom and I, which I regretted at first since, under his dealership, my previous good luck evaporated faster than an ice cube on the Sun. The balance of power tilted back to Tom. I moaned, and Joe suggested that he stopped dealing. But I said it was okay for him to continue, partly because I didn’t want to be a slave to superstition, and also because if we did change dealers and I still lost, who was I supposed to blame?

But after a few rounds of me folding or losing, Tom made a tactical error. I went all in on a pretty boring board (those cards everyone can see and use) and Tom matched me. Almost as he did, he said he shouldn’t have, because he had nothing while I had a pair. The last card to be shown didn’t change that, and I won a pivotal round. After this I pushed hard on my next good hand and got another win. After this it was just a matter of waiting until Tom raised when I also had a good hand, in the hope that my luck lasted longer than his.

And it did. I got him out and claimed a rare victory at Poker. Admittedly, a lot of stronger players than me weren’t present, but you can only beat the opponents you play against. And if they want to chicken out at the last minute, then that’s their affair.

However, this win is pretty rare, and I did have a lot of luck. Almost much every hand I had showed some possibility. And what are the chances of me winning two hands in a row on a Full House with three twos in there somewhere? I guess Lady Luck took a fancy to me that night. And so I’m posting about it now. Pure vanity publishing, but hey – I may not win another Poker game for the next couple of years.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Appeasing the Gods

Thursday. Andy, Adam, and birthday boy Ian converged on my house (Sam's) at 7.45. Andrew was weirdly too tired. What's he up to over in Redland?

We thought it'd be nice if Ian chose the games. Admittedly I did *mention* my current favourite Castles of Mad King Ludwig, but not exclusively. Ian was keen though, and so that's what came to the table. Andy broke with tradition (in this house) and actually read the rules properly, clarifying that the purple living rooms re-score both their own building points AND adjacency points when completed*. I'm not sure if playing it wrong hugely effected the placings in our previous efforts, but apologies to anybody if so.

* a completed room has all its exits leading somewhere, or in our house-rules version, either leading somewhere or blocked off by a massive stone wall

Andy shot off into an early lead courtesy of a huge entertainment room that got him a whopping 13 points or so. Adam and Ian battled it out over gardens - one of the kings favours - whilst I looked to try and get a bit of everything.

My castle: three bedrooms and a cellar.

Post two whisky-macs, I honestly don't remember a huge amount about it now, except late in the game I got complete analysis paralysis when, as master-builder, I was setting the prices on the rooms to be built. Succumbing eventually to the fact I didn't want to drive everyone mad, not least myself, I made the two food rooms the cheapest. Adam bought them both, embarking on a crazy triple or possibly quadruple move scoring spree. However I'd left it would be good for Adam (who was left of me and first to buy) but I really put my foot in it with this...

Adam 103
Sam 101
Andy 87
Ian 63

I still feel Adam's castle looked a bit like a set of porta-cabins

Next up was Ra. I scored big in the first round when having picked up Pharaohs and Civilisations, I could watch with satisfaction as a glut of Ras emerged and ended the round quickly. The second round was a cagier affair, which started with Adam having the craziest set of bidding tiles ever:

after me, everybody

I wasn't sure who was finishing where in this game. Partly because Andy did very well in the third round, partly because I had no idea how well Ian was doing, and partly because I didn't realise I had a set of five Civilisations. Thankfully Adam pointed it out.

Sam 42
Andy 40
Ian 31
Adam 24

And with Ian - now 32 - ending the game with a pun* worthy of a seasoned GNNer (i.e. terrible) we elected to call it a night.

*pharoah nuff

Sam 1 2 2 1 2 8
Adam 4 1 1 1 5 12
Andrew 2 2 3 3 3 13
Katy 3 3 1 1 5 13
Joe 2 1 2 4 5 14
Matt 2 3 4 5 1 15
Ian 3 4 3 3 2 15
Andy 2 3 6 2 3 16
Martin 1 1 4 5 5 16
Steve 3 3 4 5 5 20
Anja 6 5 3 4 5 23

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Key Decisions

Last night we were two as James was at home on baby duty for the evening. It was to be my unplayed Christmas present to myself Keyflower, which I had been itching to get to the table since I had snuck it home and hidden it in my games cupboard. Very honest and healthy marriage I have there.

Paul was completely new to it and I prepped him that he would need to get his mind ready to take on information. And this he did with great ease. In no time we were bidding on tiles generating resources and building little villages like nobodies business. Inevitably Paul was struggling to build on a strategy. He had his 3 winter tiles hidden and understood the benefit they gave the owner but to understand whether it was a better tile than the other is only gained through experience.
Green on green - a nice look

As the seasons wound round my experience told as Paul suffered at the hands of the transport and upgrade rules which take a little getting used to. When it came to placing down the winter scoring tiles I elected to place just one, that benefitted me, and Paul put down all three. I then quickly generated some green meeples (These are rarer than the other 3 colours) and then used them to effectively lock out my preferred scoring tiles. I wouldn't have got away with this against someone who had played before.

Paul still ended with a nice score though.

Chris - 91
Paul - 64

After this session I'm on the fence about Keyflower as a 2 player. It would probably get better as the experience of the two players becomes more equal. There is a lot of scope to do what you want but the skill appears to win certain tiles that benefit you more.

We then failed to play 7 Wonders to its conclusion. With 3 cards left in the 3rd era Paul was in the lead. He reckons I might of over taken him but I guess we'll never know!!!


Today we were six in number: Joe (host), Martin, Sam, Matt, Katy and myself. As is usual whenever the number of attendees is six, Joe suggests I’m The Boss. Sam said he’d be willing to play it again if there was enough support from everyone else. There wasn’t.

So instead we all played Skull and Roses. This simple game on betting with beer mats is such great game, I was glad that it was picked. Although I was sad that it beat Igloo Pop to claim its place on the table.

Skull and Roses was meant as a gentle warm-up, but ended up in being a fantastic display of bluffing and brinkmanship. From the very first round, only eight tiles had been played face down when Joe said he could find seven roses among them. Amazingly, he succeeded.

After this, it proved harder, especially with Sam ruining other people’s chances with his skull card, while winning a round of his own (thanks to Martin accidentally putting down a rose card, when he thought he’d placed a skull). Finally Joe won it by finding six roses among seven cards. A worthy winner. Sam came second and Katy and I came joint third, having never made a bet that we had to act upon. Basically we just watched the game.

Katy was so amazed by Joe's guessing abilities 
that she dropped half a biscuit into her coke

1. Joe
2. Sam
3= Andrew
3= Katy
4= Matt
4= Martin

Then we split into two groups of three. Sam, Joe and Katy went for the Madness of King Ludwig’s Castles while Matt, Martin and me went for Impulse. It was Matt’s second game, but since that was some time ago, he could a brief recap of the rules. It was also Joe’s and Katy’s first play of Castles, so before long, the room was humming with simultaneous rules.

On Impulse, I forgot how one action can trigger another one. I thought I’d finished my first go, but Martin pointed out that I hadn’t: if I discover a new card, I get to action it immediately. This went on for a while until I finally shot one of Martin’s ship out of the inky black sky.

My initial boost up the score track was soon matched by Martin. Matt never really got going. He did, however, invent a technology that allowed him to use a technology, thus risking the kind of infinite regression that all gamers dread.

Martin 20
Andrew 17
Matt 6

One Castle of Mad King Ludwig, Katy revolutionised mad castles by placing her foyer the other way round. Joe sped off into an early lead but Sam, like the tortoise in the fable, build a more profitable castle, ending the game cash rich.

Sam 112
Joe 87
Katy 77

While we three were waiting for them to finish, we played a game of Red7, which would be unremarkable were it not for two things: the number of times I got multiple fives in my hand; and the score. It’s only Martin’s first appearance of the year but he’s already staked his place on the End of Year Review for biggest victory.

Martin 50
Matt 0
Andrew 0

Finally, we all joined up for a game of One Night Ultimate Werewolf. This non-leaderboard game is like The Resistance in that you’re trying to discover people’s true identity. An identity that some people don’t even know themselves, thanks to some card exchanging during the period where everyone’s eyes are closed. The options were werewolf, drunk, seer, trouble-maker and some very bland villagers.

In our first game, we did the card exchanging during the eyes-shut phase in near-silence, with only the voice from the One Night Ultimate Werewolf phone app to disguise any sound. It didn’t and Martin was soon outed as the werewolf, much to his disgust.

Then we played again, cards nearer the centre of the table, everyone standing, and everyone repeatedly knocking on the table to hide any movement. Guess what? We still successfully found that Martin was the werewolf. His dislike of these kind of games was not even slightly overturned.

I’ll put up the form table tomorrow evening. Thanks to Joe for a really enjoyable evening. Still wish we’d played Igloo Pop, though.

A happy table

And here is the Form Table...

Sam 2 1 2 2 1 8
Andrew 2 2 3 3 3 13
Katy 3 3 1 1 5 13
Joe 2 1 2 4 5 14
Ian 3 3 2 3 3 14
Matt 2 3 4 5 1 15
Andy 6 2 3 2 2 15
Martin 1 1 4 5 5 16
Adam 1 1 5 5 5 17
Steve 3 3 4 5 5 20
Anja 6 5 3 4 5 23

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Hillmann Impish

I finally gave up the idea of playing games tonight when Andrew texted me to say he had no trousers. It's been that kind of weekend. Then suddenly, whilst reading The Greatest Gresham to the boys, the phone rang. It was an unusually perky Adam, saying he'd try and get Ian out of his sick bed and up to my house.

Ian was too ill to join us - get well soon mate - but Andrew, thanks to the wonder of radiators, jumped in the car and made a dash up the hill whilst Adam - with an alarming lack of bags under his eyes - and I played The Hive.

I say we played. Actually Adam played - I never got started, and if it was a boxing match my metaphorical coach would have thrown in the metaphorical towel well before the end. Maybe Adam metaphorically slipped on it and knocked himself out on the metaphorical corner post. We'll never know.

As it was my bee - after several desperate delays of the inevitable - succumbed.

Adam - beats Sam, comprehensively.
Sam - loses.

Andrew - perhaps his driving affected by the dampness of his trousers - still hadn't joined us, so I talked Adam through the simple delights of Black Fleet and we quickly had it set up and ready to go. Andrew walked in, sat down, and began sailing his ships like there was no tomorrow. Nautically speaking, there wasn't, as Adam broadsided and scuttled us.

I did manage to force it to a tie-break at least, but when the Creeping Custard already has enough money to flip his last card with a turn to go, and you have had your last turn and only have one doubloon left for a tie-breaker - in gaming parlance, you're fucked.

Adam - 5 cards flipped; 9 doubloons
Sam - 5 cards flipped; 1 doubloon
Andrew - 4 cards flipped.

With the bit now between his teeth Adam took us on at Castles of Mad King Ludwig. He had won this last time he played, but at that point I was just a rank amateur and hadn't fully understood the scoring. I felt with the practise Andrew and I had been putting in, at least one of us would give him a run for his money.

It looked like it'd be Andrew at first as he surged up the score track. But we caught him and as the game neared its end it was fairly close. Then, at the very end, it wasn't close at all:

Adam 115
Sam 101
Andrew 86

When is he going to have another baby, for chrissake?

Sam 2 2 1 1 2 8
Andrew 3 3 2 2 1 11
Ian 3 3 2 3 3 14
Andy 6 2 3 2 2 15
Adam 1 1 5 5 5 17
Katy 1 1 5 5 5 17
Matt 5 1 1 5 5 17
Steve 3 3 4 5 5 20
Joe 2 4 5 5 5 21
Anja 6 5 3 4 5 23

Friday, 9 January 2015

Hit for six

Ian, Sam and I met up at Sam’s place on a mild turning cold winter’s evening. Ian and Sam were keen to cram five games into an evening to rid themselves of the 8 and 7 they had respectively picked up on the Form Table on Tuesday. In the end, we tore through six, and Sam was even suggesting a quick game to end the evening once we'd done that! But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We began with The Castles of Mad King Ludwig, with the by now necessary disclaimer that King Ludwig may have not been mad. Ian got an explanation of the rules and we were off! I ran into an early lead, thanks to putting down an entertainment room that was immediately finished and next to a room that gave me a bonus for it, netting me a cool 13 points and putting me in the lead for one of the king’s favour bonuses. Sam called it a killer move. Yeah!

Sam and Ian both built hallways, although Ian’s didn’t lead anywhere. Sam’s castle was full of tiny rooms’ aiming for the tiny room bonus. He clawed his way back into the lead but in the end, I managed to get bonuses from three of my four bonus cards, putting me level with Sam, and I won because my castle was the biggest! Sam’s small room bonus came back to bite him on the behind!

Cloak room next to the foyer?
That's not very mad.

Andrew 80 wins on biggest castle
Sam 80
Ian 64

Then we played Black Fleet, the piracy game with the smart box insert.

It was my first game, but it’s not exactly rule-heavy. Each player moves there two ships and a shared navy ship and, occasionally, each others ship. Attacking others while trying to sell your goods is the basis of the game, and there was a lot of opportunism and even some apologising as we stole from each other in our quest to earn enough to flip over all the cards we had in front of us.

Sam flips all cards
Andrew 1 card left
Ian 2 cards left

Then we played No Thanks. Ian got hurt bad when he ran out of cash. Meanwhile, Sam and I were after the same card. I picked it up first, loaded with coins, even though I needed a 29 to chain it to another card. To Sam's dismay, the very next card was the 29. Wasn't enough to over take him, though.

Sam 26
Andrew 33
Ian 63

Then we played Love Letter. At first Sam and I sped off into the lead, poised to win, but then Ian came back to level the game at 2-2-2. It looked like he was going to win the game from an unwinnable position again, but I took the last round thanks to Ian comparing hands with Sam and winning. Sam had had a king (value 6). I'd already played the countess (7). Even in my inebriated state, I was able to work out that Ian must have had the princess (8), and used a Prince to force him to discard it.

Shitty Baron: just kept getting in the way

Andrew 3
Sam 2
Ian 2

Then we played Biblios. What an odd game it was. After the first phase, I still hasn't decided what colour to go for and I had lots of money. Imagine my surprise when the first part of the auction round was all money cards and church cards that let you change the values on the dice. I kept passing, hoping if Ian and Sam spent their money now, I'd rule the auctions later on. It almost worked.

Sam 8
Andrew 6
Ian 3

Finally, we played Raj. Sam's really got this game sewn up. After his last 100+ points haul, he scored big again, thanks to an impressive second round where he and Ian tied on every red tile, handing me a whole bunch of negative points.

Sam 88
Andrew 27
Ian 23

The whiskey macs we'd had gave use a warm glow but by now it was time to go home. The warm glow did not last long under the freezing rain that was falling outside, but it probably sobered me up a bit.

Sam 1 1 2 1 1 6
Andrew 2 2 1 2 2 9
Ian 3 3 2 3 3 14
Andy 6 2 3 2 2 15
Katy 1 1 5 5 5 17
Matt 5 1 1 5 5 17
Steve 3 3 4 5 5 20
Joe 2 4 5 5 5 21
Anja 6 5 3 4 5 23