Sunday, 28 June 2015

It’s a shame about Reille

Saturday night games at Joe’s is a rare treat. However, it very nearly didn’t happen. Jessie J’s cancellation meant that Joe would not be home alone that evening, but then fate intervened and Joe could host. However, by then, potential attendees had made other plans and I was the only one lucky enough to have nothing to do on a Saturday evening.

Since it was a nice warm evening, we decided that today would be our only chance to play outside. We began with W1815, a game that recreates the Battle of Waterloo in fifteen minutes. Technology, eh?

This is a war game based mostly on the roll of a dice, although there are limited ways to offset losses if you’re British. It’s very historical, with the names of various generals (including Reille, as immortalized in the blog post above) and certain real events portrayed in the game, like Ney's Cavalry Charge. When this is triggered, a red mist descends upon one of your generals and the only move you can make is for him to keep charging until he dies or rolls a 1 or a 2. At this point, he calms down so you can do other things.

We played it twice, taking turns to be the French/British. And both times the British won! However, Joe’s victory was more overwhelming than mine and he was the overall winner 39-32 or something.

After this, we played Cities. A kind of mini-Carcassone, where meeples score for their areas and surroundings. These areas are built up using a Take It Easy style one person draws tiles at random and the other takes the same tile from their stack.

It was quick and easy and very easy to pick up. I enjoyed it for the short time it lasted, but I didn't win. I didn't keep a note of the scores. Somehow, playing games under the gaze of the moon meant that winning or losing didn't seem important.

Next up was Aton. This was my first game, but the rules were easy enough to understand. I couldn't withstand the onslaught from Joe's experience mind, though. We played twice: the first time was closer, and the second time was something of a rout.

By now it was 9.30, and it was cold enough for us to decide to go indoors. Now we had a larger table and still a couple of hours, we went for something a bit more meaty: Sekigahara, the unification of Japan. Joe assured me that the rules were simple enough, though as ten o'clock ticked past, I started to get a bit nervous. They're simple enough once you get going, but there are lots of exceptions.

Basically, you have armies of various clans, but when it comes to battle, you cannot use them unless you play a card with the same symbol on it. Additionally, your opponent may play a loyalty card – nothing to do with supermarkets, but a test to see if that army really is loyal to your cause. When this happens you have to play another card with that symbol on it, or watch it defect to the other side.

As the evening threatened to turn into morning, we kept playing, fighting and jostling for position across Japan. There was a period of hysteria on my part when Joe kept knocking over his stacks of generals. I imagined the game redesigned by MB Games as a knockabout dexterity game. “You've knocked over my samurai!” was Joe's suggestion for a tag line.

As midnight rolled around, I hauled my largest army out of the safety of Osaka and into Kyoto, where Joe's largest army was waiting. It was a grand battle, with two generals defecting to the other side, one going each way. They probably exchanged pleasantries as they passed each other by.

Joe, as the war lord Tokugawa, won that battle, and I admitted defeat just after midnight. Technically I still had armies on the board, but time – the biggest enemy of all – had the final say.

So, four games and four wins to Joe. Plus two historical games with factually accurate endings.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Night of the Long Axes

Friday. I thought I'd be up to the the gills in family, but Sally was out and her folks retired early, so Andrew made his way to Ashley Down to join me. We weren't sure what to play at first, but a glimpse of Letters From Whitechapel stirred our latent homicidal/righteous detective tendencies and we were away.

This had a flurry of plays on arrival at GNN but because - despite it's claims to the contrary - it really functions best as a two-player, it hasn't seen the table much since. Which is a shame because it has genuine tension and mystery to dispel it's somewhat bleak theme.

Andrew was Jack The Ripper first and I the detectives on his tail. Andrew played a high-risk game of sauntering through my detectives and allowing me to know his potential location. Twice I attempted arrests and failed - but the third time proved lucky, and Jack was caught before he could wreck further havoc upon London.

We quickly swapped over and my hitherto morally sound compass went awol as I played as Jack, making it successfully through the first and second nights by employing a doubling-back strategy that Andrew cottoned onto but couldn't quite negate. However on the third night I made two elementary mistakes - firstly I gave away my position early on (on the third night Jack has two possible starting positions) and then I didn't realise how close I was to one of Andrew's detectives - who made an arrest on a hunch and ended up the toast of the department:

Andrew - wins as detectives
Sam - wins as detectives

After that nail-biting bloodiness I thought it'd be nice to go for something light, so we tried my recent purchase of Bullfrogs. Would it be a little gem, or Kickstarter Crap (©Martin)?

We think the former. Whilst not a two-player classic in the vein of, say, Manouevre or Battle Line, Bullfrogs had a pleasing amount of tactical depth. On the table the Lily cards build a playing area, and having added a card, on your turn you can either add frogs (in columns or rows adjacent to the card you've just played) or sabotage: by moving an opponent's frog - also following the same columns-or-rows rule. Lily cards only have space for so many frogs, and as soon as they are full they 'sink' and the player with the most frogs on the card nabs that lily card for themselves - along with the victory points.

They also 'empty' the card of frogs by moving them (up to four, anyway - staring with the losers' frogs) to adjacent cards, and potentially sinking further cards. Mix into this each player having a couple of feisty axe-wielding bullfrogs (worth two normal frogs), extra points for claiming your own lily cards (as opposed to your opponents) and a central card - the log - that cannot be sunk, and you have a little bit to think about.

thanks to nad24, who couldn't have known I would lose my iPhone lead

It's quite neat, and though I can imagine it would be trickier with three - and simply chaotic with four - for two players I rate it. Having said that, I did win though:

Sam 58
Andrew 52

There was just time for one more game, and Andrew chose Extreme Biblios. And all the shit he made me eat in the gift phase came back to haunt him, as I had just enough of it to outbid him for the crucial brown card that ended up as the decider:

Sam 10
Andrew 5

...I am Mr Biblios!

Cinderella was still at the ball and we were yet to see in 11 o'clock, but it was the end of a long week, so we called it a night.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Choosing the best of two strategies

Tonight we arranged ourselves around Joe’s kitchen table. We were five in number, which is perfect for a game of A Fake Artist In New York, except I’d forgotten it and left it at home. Instead, we (Joe, Martin, Sam, Matt and myself) pondered what to play, idly casting an eye over a pile of games but never really approaching a decision. We almost thought about never choosing a game, and just spending a relaxing evening discussing them.

But then the deadlock was broken when Joe brought in Blockers. This underrated abstract game got my instant seal of approval, and debutante Martin was willing to give it a go. He was given a walkthrough of the rules, but asked that Joe not read out the section marked “Strategy”, wanting to work it out for himself. You win the game by having the fewest distinct areas on the board, and having captured the least number of opponents squares.

So we played and blocked and from a very early stage, we got in each other’s way: everyone seemed to try to take control of the middle area. There was a lot of cursing at bad luck, in a very Take It Easy kind of way, as each time we picked up a new tile, it was never quite what we wanted.

It was Matt who really impressed, though, joining up his disparate red nations in a long column that stretched from one edge of the board to the next. It was to prove to be decisive move and one that left him in a strong position for the rest of the game.

Matt 4
Martin 5, wins on a tie breaker
Joe 5
Andrew 6
Sam 8

Finally, after the game had ended, Martin looked at the strategy guide in the rules. We discovered that it recommended one of two strategies: either focusing on having fewest areas or capturing the least tiles. In other words, it just told us what we already knew. It dressed it up a bit by talking about a “Balanced” strategy or the “Edge” strategy, but nothing seemed very deep. Not exactly a discussion on the Sicilian Defence.

It was during Blockers that we decided to play five short games this evening, each chosen by a different player. Joe had chosen Blockers and, since Matt won it, he was given the next choice. He went for Skull and Roses.

It was an odd game. Or maybe all games of Skull and Roses are odd. Joe was an early loser, and was quickly down to one tile that everyone knew was a rose. That didn’t stop him from winning a round with just that one tile.

Meanwhile, Matt, Sam and I all lost a round or two while Matt and Sam won a round. It was then that we suspected that Martin was the only player left to have a skull. This put him in a position of considerable power, if only he’d fully believed it himself. After several rounds of him stopping people from winning, he foolishly played a rose, allowing Matt to guess he’d done that and so he won the game.

Matt 2
Sam 1 (more tiles remaining)
Joe 1
Martin 0 (more tiles remaining)
Andrew 0

Matt had already chosen a game, so Sam was given the choice. He went for High Society, the game of bidding just the right amount or be damned to a cruel last place for your greed.

I think this was the first time we’d played with Martin, who certainly seemed appalled at some of the high bids made for the cards early on. Time after time he’d pass on a bidding round for a mediocre card that was already $20m+ in value. He managed to get the 10 card, though. Matt, meanwhile, was looking good with his x2 card until he picked up a ½ card to go with it. Cautious Sam, with his 7 card and a x2 won it. I found myself in last place, having misjudged the last bidding round. Oh wells.

Sam 14
Matt 12
Martin 10
Joe 8
Andrew BUST! (with 11, for the record)

Since Matt and Sam had already chosen, it was now Martin’s choice. He went for Abluxxen: a swift three round game. However, he didn’t reckon with a tipsy Joe needing a rule refresher on every turn. After the first round of confused gameplay, Joe actually found himself in the lead.

We decided to limit the game to two rounds for the sake of time. Martin must’ve mentally rolled his sleeves up, determined not to let a drunken ingenue take first place, and he did it with some style, finishing with a four of a kind just before I was about to put down a five of a kind.

Martin 26
Joe 17
Matt 13
Andrew 11
Sam 6

Finally, it was my choice and I suggested No Thanks! Sam went for what now seems to be called The Endersby Strategy of picking up low value cards (just like Blockers, this is one of two strategies available: Endersby and Non-Endersby. Although the Non-Endersby Strategy does tend to be quite varied).

We were slightly distracted by the large jar of old school sweets that Joe had on a shelf in the kitchen, and he got it down so we could relive the joys of sherbert lollipops and love hearts (Martin’s first love heart said “Grow Up” which made us all wonder how it knew we were playing board games). Sam, however, did not appreciate the synthetic taste of a Fruit Salad sweet, having to spit it out after only a few seconds chewing.

I went for the middling cards but couldn’t get my two chains to join up and Martin picked up an early 33, deciding he wanted to control the top end, but then let a 34 card go round once too often and Matt picked it up. This sealed both their fates. Joe, though, got a streak of luck and ended with a negative score, to go with the one he got five years ago that he likes to mention every now and again.

Joe –2
Sam 21
Andrew 27
Matt 28
Martin 58

What an evening! Martin convinced us to play one more game of Go Stop before we left and while we finished the whiskey kindly supplied by Joe. We did, but we forgot that Matt is Kryptonite to Go Stop. Just like the last time he played, he ended the game by getting the highest showing card. Thank goodness it wasn’t leaderboard.

Which now looks like this. With Andy and Ian away, Martin stretches his lead at the top to what is surely an unassailable position with only one week left.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

AP-ness Extension

Tonight eight of us congregated at Adam and Hannah’s place. Even Joe, who had sent emails updating us on his impending lateness, was on time.

We began with a nice little chat about what game we should play. It all seemed terribly civilised, and I was almost sad that it would end soon. Katy had requested that Sam bring The Castles of Mad King Ludwig, so that was a favourite for one table. Meanwhile, Martin corralled myself, Sam and Joe into a rematch of Tigris and Euphrates.

We set up in the front room, and as we began Joe sighed and said it had been a while since he’d played on his iPad. It had been a while, and I knew most but not all of the rules, with Martin giving a few reminders along the way.

The game went entirely as you might expect, with Martin as the confident harrasser of the rest of us. Sam won a few battles this time, and he and I had trouble keeping our leaders on the board. For my part, I barely bothered the pile of cubes used to keep score.

The most unexpected part of the game was when Martin got annoyed at Sam saying that red tiles are important for the win. He insisted that it wasn’t and that there was so much more to it than that. He did explain afterwards the “red tile” criticism was a sore point for him. I wonder if maybe we should’ve pushed it: a bit of sledging, try to put him off his game?

Martin 10
Joe 7
Sam 5
Andrew 3

When we’d finished, King Ludwig was still building mad castles so the four of us decided on a rousing game of Potato Man. Another chance for Martin to push us around, although Sam made the running early on with a score of ten in round one, he then failed to score another point. I just squeezed into third by winning the only point in the very short final round, which Joe brought to an end during the second trick.

Martin 17
Joe 15
Andrew 11
Sam 10

When we finished we went back into the kitchen to watch the points being added up on Mad King Ludwig. Adam and Ian were frowning at Ian’s castle, calculator in hand, trying to work something out. Martin didn’t seem impressed by the amount of effort it took to work out how many points people had got. Finally, with the count complete, we found that Adam had lost his 100% record on the game, and Katy chalked up her first win.

Katy 123
Adam 110
Hannah 98
Ian 95

Sam decided he was too tired to go on, so he set off home first and Hannah went upstairs to bed. Mad King Ludwig was put away in a bit of a hurry and perhaps not to regulation standards. Katy did worry that perhaps Sam wouldn’t be happy but, as Ian laconically pointed out “But Sam’s not here.”

It was only ten o’clock, so the rest of us had a quick non-leaderboard three-round game of Go Stop. Last time Matt had brought the game to a brutal end by winning the 10 card immediately. This time, however, it lasted a bit longer. Adam won round one (with a mere 4) over me (3) and Joe (2). In round two Joe won with an 8 and in round three Ian picked up a win, also with an 8, beating Joe who was the only other player to score. If we had gone with the initial suggestion and aggregated these scores into one, it would’ve looked like

Joe 13
Adam 11
Ian 8
Andrew 3
Martin 2
Katy 0

But we did say beforehand it would be non-leaderboard.

Joe then challenged us with a little maths quiz regarding the angle of the line running acorss the back of the cards. No one can say we don’t know how to have a good time!

As for the leaderboard, Ian’s two-month stay at the top is at an end, as Martin takes it from him. He also consolidates his grip on the medal table. Meanwhile, Adam’s second place in King Ludwig is enough to nab him the lead in points ratio with Katy just one hundredth of a point behind. Only two weeks left! What will happen in the closing stages?

And thanks to Joe for the blog title.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

The Caverna Club

A Friday evening with a weather warning might be enough to put off some gamers, but not me and Sam. Although it nearly did. As it was, I strolled through the very un-rained upon North Bristol streets to Sam’s house, wondering where all the thunder storms had gone.

Sam had recently bought Caverna, and since there’s a Caverna craze sweeping the nation we decided to see how it was as a two-player. However, as we were setting up, we discovered a missing piece of the board: and important part that included rounds one to three.

Sam quickly knocked up his own version of the missing part of the board in his own inimitable style. Say what you like about having kids: surely the main benefit is that you’re never far away from a felt tip pen.

As for the game itself, I went for the Joesian strategy of going for rubies. However, I hardly used them, meaning I had a healthy stash by the end of the game. Sam went adventuring. He ended with five family members, four of which had weapons. I had but one adventurer in my family of three.

It was also interesting in that the three non-harvest counters came up all in a row, allowing us (once we’d built up our food resources) two rounds of relatively care-free gaming. While Sam went out adventuring, I cleared the forest and dug tunnels. This gave me plenty of options for further works, and I ended a comfortable winner. Sam, though, had somehow convinced himself that there was one more round after the final one: a round where his four adventurers were about to really hit pay dirt. Although one extra round might not have been enough.

Andrew 69
Sam 48

Nice to see that Caverna works well as a two-player. Now we just need someone to try the solitaire version, and a band of brave players to attempt scaling the seven-player version, and we'll have some idea of how many players would be best.

After this, we were faced with the dilemma of how to follow Caverna. We went for the silliness of Cube Quest as a suitable digestif. The first game began well for me. I played a sensible and somewhat lucky game, sending grunt after grunt into Sam's half the right way up. Sam started his match with all of his cubes shadow side up, and this seemed to jinx him, as all of his cubes landed shadow side up in my half and couldn't be saved with a roll. How I laughed as his team was decimated.

The mid-game casualties: Sam blue, me red.

But a desperate Sam is a dangerous Sam, and he took out my king with a single shot when the cards (or cubes) were stacked against him.

We set up for a second game, and it was a more even affair but with the same result.

Sam 2
Andrew 0

Finally, with half an hour to spare, we got out the old faithful, 7 Wonders. Dirk joined us, and he seemed to have been drinking, since he had an empty wine glass next to his player mat.

I went for a little bit of everything: a cunning plan that had Sam thinking I'd come in last. Sam went for blue buildings and a bit of military. He also had a habit of getting up and standing at Dirk's player mat when thinking about Dirk's turn. I guess if you really want to understand Dirk, you have to see the world through his eyes. Dirk went for sciences. He usually does.

Although Sam was wrong about my failing wonder, he was right to be confident of a win.

Sam 59
Andrew 52
Dirk 40

A delightful evening. But, if you end with 7 Wonders and whiskey, it can never be anything else.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Do Not Pass Ghost

Tuesday, Sam’s. Eight players in attendance, and Midnight Party was on the table, ready to be played after its tantalising cameo last week. In this game each player (myself, Sam, Ian, Matt, Anja, Andy, Joe, and Martin) gets two meeples, who are then placed in a corridor along which a ghost will soon travel, eating all in its path. The only way to escape the ghost is to duck into a room, but the rooms are available until Hugo the ghost reaches the corridor. Players roll a die to either move their meeple or the ghost.

It was a fun game. Once we got used to the idea that the point of the game is to avoid getting minus points rather than scoring points, we all stopped trying to get into one of the two rooms that actually got points, and instead flung ourselves through the nearest door to safety. It still wasn’t enough, and the Hugo is fast when he wants to be. I was especially keen on the number of times a player rolled the die, only to have one of their own meeples eaten by Hugo. Martin captured the mood when he wailed “what is probability doing to us?!”

Sam –12 (and he scored +3 in the third round)
Andy –13
Anja –17
Andrew –18
Matt –26
Ian –27
Martin –27
Joe –29

Actually, we had played one game before that before Anja arrived. It was a single round of Go Stop, which Matt won immediately since he got the 10 card (which can’t be beaten) in the first auction. Bit of a damp squib, really.

But after our midnight party, we split into two groups of four. Andy, Anja, Sam and Martin chose Municipium and Joe, Matt, Ian and I went for Lords of Vegas. It was Matt’s first time, so we talked him through the rules. However, it can be a ruthless game for a newbie, especially against three players who’d all said they’d bring it to a desert island with them.

It was a very swingy game. I went from thinking I was definitely third, to hoping for first place if the game ended soon, back to thinking I was in third again. Joe battled with Matt over control of a six-tile casino, as its ownership c hanged hands. Luckily for Joe it was under his management when the strip paid out and also when the game ended. This was enough to edge ahead of me.

But it was all about Ian, who got an early five-tile casino (was I wrong to sell him that plot of land early on? Oh well) and it paid dividends. A late four-tile casino also kept him ahead when Joe and I were at his heels. He kept his cool though, to hold out for the win. A great game.

Ian 49
Joe 44
Andrew 40
Matt 23

I was especially proud of my early tactic of sprawling into a neighbouring lot that I didn’t own. It remained unclaimed for most of the game, getting me a decent amount of points. As I said, “That was a game-winning move, if only I’d won the game.”

While we’d been living the high life, not wanting the evening to finish, the other end of the table had got through three games. Municipium (which I still haven’t played) ended with Martin as the winner

Martin 5
Sam 4
Andy 3
Anja 2

Then they played Pickomino with, apparently, a whole bunch of rules that Sam didn’t know about. Didn’t seem to put him off, though.

Sam 10
Martin 5
Anja 2
Andy 1

And finally, after Anja left, they waited for us to finish Lords of Vegas with a tense game of Love Letter. After two rounds, Andy was ahead 2-0-0. It ended:

Sam 3
Andy 2
Martin 2

“Joint second,” said Martin, phlegmatically. “Joint last,” I insisted, clearly addled by my time gambling on the Strip.

We set off home, weary but amused.

On the Division, with three Tuesday’s left to go until the end of the season, it’s between the top four for the three titles. Ian is still top, but only by two meagre points. Martin is still ahead on the Medal Table, but for points ratio Ian and Andy are locked in a duel, neck and neck.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Ascending Order

A new week, and a window opened up for a bit of Monday Night Action. Normally Andrew can be relied on to manifest at my (Sam's) door, but he was mysteriously 'not up for it'. Eerily unnerved at the prospect of No Games, I was comforted by the fact that Ian made the journey from Easton, and after a short discussion we broke out Fresco, which has been away from the table for a good while. I promised Ian that it was the game about not wanting to get up in the morning, and he agreed that as it was also about artists, that seemed thematically appropriate.

In keeping with the laziness theme, I packed Fresco away again when I realised there were extra rules to learn for two players, and we set up Ascending Empires instead. Ian was new to it, but had been present during the historical occasion when Katy christened Martin "space c**t" due to his incessant attacks on her, so he kind of got the idea. And the rest of the game is fairly straightforward to explain. 

There was no such badinage last night, however, as Ian and I cagily explored the firmament in a kind of overlapping solitaire, moving around the board with - aside from the odd underwhelming shuffle - the confidence of space pilots who are never going to fly off the edge of the universe and onto the tablecloth. But eventually, space was inhabited, and it was time to kick the shit out of each other. I started proceedings by attempting to blow up Ian's city but having flown in two starships successfully, my third one didn't quite make it into orbit.

just like NASA

Ian countered, and the rest of the game became a battle royal around the centre of the galaxy, as we flew back and forth, successfully demonstrating the pointlessness of war (unless you count victory points). Ian provided a moment of genius when, having realised his ship's route was blockaded by a planet, he deliberately tried to ricochet off another planet and into firing range - and pulled it off! Now he just needed to bring his other ship into play - unfortunately it cannoned into both my ship and his own, wiping all three out, but a memorable bit of derring-do nonetheless. 


Ian had managed to build up his 'grey' technology to the point where he had four movement points and another turn, as long as the free turn was not a move itself. We both thought - as Andrew had a while back - that it seemed overly powerful, as Ian kept on moving and recruiting to bolster his defences and take the odd point off me. As the game ended, he had the larger stack of chits and we'd both built cities in every quadrant. I thought he'd won. What saved me was my own level 4 technology (brown) which had allowed me to recruit on unoccupied planets. Stuffing four guys on shitty asteroids in my last move meant I led the occupied worlds 17-9 and overall, I'd done just enough:

Sam 44
Ian 42

Though we both agreed the board seemed too big for two, I'd forgotten what fun this can be. 

As I'd chosen Ascending Empires Ian chose next, and elected to stick with the space theme in Quantum. No introductions needed! We went for the 'circular' set up that I thought I'd played before, but now I'm not sure. Apart from your starting worlds all the planets have a value of eight, and I was given a huge advantage by fate: rolling a mathematically advantageous five and two threes. Ian had low value dice, and kept rolling more low value dice when he reconfigured, so I simply ploughed my way around the board to the point where I had one cube left and Ian was forced to defend the available planets to try and hold me up. 


Having flirted with high value dice he was back at the ones and twos though, and I managed to sneak around the other way and finish the game.

Sam - no cubes left
Ian - three cubes left

We reckoned Ian had been dealt a shitty hand so quickly set up and played again. This time it was closer - Ian went on the attack early, and even though I managed to get the first cube down, the game swung to and fro like an excitable pendulum. Ian got his dominance up to five quite fast, but luckily my redeployed ships were low value and I counterattacked, knocking him back down again. Crucial to my success this time was picking up Agile, which let me move all my ships an extra space. And just as in the first game, the warping power of the three-pipped ships proved invaluable:

Sam - no cubes left
Ian - two cubes left


We'd bashed through two games of Quantum in under an hour, so there was still time for whisky and 7 Wonders. I picked up Babylon, the sciencey wonder, and decided early on to go for sciences in a big way. I'd never attempt this in a four-player game, but I was pretty sure Ian wouldn't go for them and just hoped Dirk would keep his scientists in check too. 

Not space!

I'm not totally sure the sciences justify the amount of cards you have to spend to make them worthwhile; though I managed to pull off a win it was in the end down to the last card I built for Dirk - a military building, which meant he took 5 points away from Ian and I squeezed past him, scoring 36 points for science and not a whole lot else:

Sam 51
Ian 50
Dirk 32

With space conquered and wonders built, it felt like a bit of an epic evening. But maybe that was the whisky talking. 

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Desert Island Risks

It's been quite some time since we discussed our top ten games? - a couple of years or more. I thought it'd be interesting to see how (if at all) our tastes have changed and hear also from various new GNN members - I'm pretty sure the collective collection will be fairly diverse; much more so than in the past.

Back in 2013 I think we did games of the year as in games played that year. Today I'm proposing your desert island games - trapped forever on a remote location with only basic supplies, a cabin, a table, and maybe a limitless supply of fatty snacks and beer for you and your 3 or 4 like-minded gamers to survive on. What to take with you? Here's mine.

1. Railways of the World.

I'm not throwing these out in reverse order or preference but if I were this would probably be number one. It ticks so many boxes for me, and almost everyone seems to like it. Expansion, economics, some hidden knowledge, cubes, hexes... it's just wonderful.

2. Quantum

Initially I put Eclipse down as something that could be played once in a blue moon: a really fat juicy steak of a game that I consider excellent. But for all it's excellence, I couldn't bring myself to leave Quantum out. There you go.   

3. Biblios

Whew. After all that heavy hitting above it was time for something light, and Biblios has never really gone out of favour at GNN, though it does occasionally lie low. I couldn't take Timeline because you'd get to know all the answers, and 6Nimmt feels better with more players, so this is my go-to twenty-minute game.

4. 7 Wonders

It almost feels unimaginative putting 7 Wonders down, but I just think it's great. I love that - when you play as inattentively as I do, anyway - the end scoring can throw up surprises. I love that there are a variety of ways to play. And I love that it's all over in 25 minutes.

5. Macao

It was a toss-up between this and Castles of Burgundy for my Feld itch-scratching. I think the latter is a tidier game, but there is something I have always really enjoyed about Macao. I even like the fact it throws up the odd duff game, which is rather silly I suppose, but it feels slightly unruly.

6. Tigris and Euphrates

If only to stop Martin being sick over the screen... no, I do like Knizia and though I found it really hard to get my head around this on both my plays (about 15 years apart!) I appreciated it's cleverness and potential swingy-ness. I'd want a game that bamboozles me and a challenge too, so I'm going for this.

7. Caverna

Back to the big hitters with Tigris and then this. With Agricola it latterly became a game I respected rather than enjoyed, but with the feeding phase simpler and less punitive in Caverna, I really got into this recently. Maybe it's the cult of the new. I guess I'll find out when I've been on the desert island for a few months and am pining for Lords of Waterdeep.

8. Ra

Need a bidding game, so why not a Knizian one? I must confess up until this point while I was thinking of variety I wasn't thinking of game mechanics specifically. But though I don't think I ever yearn for this in the way other GNNers do, I do consider it a classic.

9. Cube Quest

Assuming you didn't flick them all into the sea, I'm thinking this would get a fair amount of play and leagues, cups, and campaigns would grow out of it.

10. A deck of cards.

How could you not bring cards? Poker, Trumps, Cribbage... you can jerry-rig a few other games too, such as Skull and Roses (Kings and Bullets?). The trick-taking itch can be scratched a multitude of ways with this handy cure-for-many-ills.

So, no room for Tinner's Trail, Love Letter, Lords of Vegas (which so nearly bumped Ra) or Castles of Mad King Ludwig, and quite a few others that I look on fondly in my collection. No room for Deep Sea Adventure which I've only played once but think is great. I love Africana, Colosseum, Galaxy Trucker, and many others. But you can only take ten!

So that's mine, what are yours? (which will no doubt cause me to amend this list...)

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

An Acquired Taste

I’ll be honest, I almost didn’t make it tonight. I was tired and I wasn’t giving anyone a lift, so I was tempted to bow out. However, I wanted to see Martin’s new place, because it was his first time hosting. I got there a bit late though, so I suppose I missed the opening ceremonies, the cutting of the ribbon and the Reiner Knizia shaped cake.

Anyway, I was thrown headlong into a game of Pairs. I missed the first two rounds, but that was a mere technicality to Martin who dealt me in just as I was sitting down.

Around the table were: Sam, Katy, Martin, Hannah, Andy, Joe, Matt, Ian and myself. Pairs was its usual self, handing out the cruelest of defeats to the most undeserving of people. Joe was singled out for some particularly bad luck, as he was dealt two peaches in one round to send him out without dignity or honour.

Matt 24
Hannah 22
Ian 21
Sam 16
Katy 16
Martin 12
Andy 9
Joe 8
Andrew 6

I did think about leaving myself off the results since it’d damage my points ratio on the division, but then I thought differently. After all, if we let the division rule our gaming, then we just reduce ourselves to the levels of animals.

Not sure what animal plays board games and cares about spreadsheets, though. Possibly an okapi.

Then we discussed which games we should play. During this, we were treated to a display of Andy’s magical game sack, where Joe mentions a desire to play a really obscure game that no one had heard of, and then Andy says “I just happen to have it here!” and pulls it out of his bag of games. The game in question was Midnight Party. It looks rather good. Why didn’t we play it?

Unfortunately, Andy's Magical Game Sack only worked once.

Eventually, we split into two groups. Hannah was enticed down to our end of the table with Atlantis, and it’s fairly short playing time. Her plan for the evening was to swap halfway through and let Adam join in while she took over baby duties.

So Ian, Hannah, Sam and I set up Atlantis. Katy wanted to join in too, until the saw the game, remembered that she didn’t like it and joined the rest of the group for a game of Acquire (Joe had brought Caverna, but Martin insisted it wouldn’t fit on the table).

I don’t know what kind of game Acquire is. There was a sort of plastic bingo card where players put black tiles with letters on. Then they’d buy shares, or curse at each other for buying shares. And then Andy won.

Andy 47,000
Matt 43,000
Joe 31,900
Katy 29,000
Martin 22,500

Meanwhile on Atlantis, any initial similarity to That’s Life goes pretty quickly, replaced by a slow thinky game of trying to maximise limited resources. Guide you meeples from the sinking land of Atlantis to the mainland, picking up points as you go, and leaving water behind if you do.

Ian 21
Andrew 17
Sam 11
Hannah 6

I’m not sure what to make of it. I went from thinking it was quite exciting to thinking the game was far longer than it needed to be. There seemed to be a lot of down time. Perhaps that was just us, I don’t know. I’d need to play it again.

Hannah set off home, with Adam replacing her after a short time. While he walked the short distance from his house to Martin’s, we set up a game of Metropolys. This game if bidding and (a bit of) bluffing is fairly new to me, but I was the one who’d played it most recently so I had to explain the rules to Adam. I think I did okay. Adam did ask to see the rules halfway through, but he always does that: he knows it scares us.

Towards the end of the game, Adam had just one building left to place and therefore end the game. Although it was a fairly good one, he hung onto it, perhaps hoping for a better bet next turn. He waited too long, though, as Ian got all his buildings down and notched up his second win of the evening.

Ian 37
Adam 35
Andrew 29
Sam 27

In the meanwhile, the other half of the table had played a couple of rounds of Go Stop. I haven’t had a chance to look at the Japanese rules yet, but it looks like Martin’s got a firm grip of what to do. He asked Sarah to join them to make it a six-player game, and she and Martin both won one round each before they decided to try something else: Deep Sea Adventure.

This game of comedy drowning (or not) has been a big hit since its introduction on the NSPCC day, and so it was again. And Katy didn’t come last this time.

Andy 43
Katy 40
Sarah 37
Joe 35
Martin 33
Matt 25

I left during this game, after we’d finished Metropolys, even more tired after two quite thinky games. The last three of our half of the table stuck around for one final game of No Thanks!

Adam 36
Ian 73
Sam 83

A lovely evening, and it’s great to have a new venue on the map. Katy was so pleased with the way the evening went, she even sent an email out to everyone thanking us. This lead to a veritable e-group hug amongst the GNN regulars. Bless us, one and all!

Ian, meanwhile, stays top of the Division on points, but he loses points ratio to Andy. Martin keeps control of the medal table.