Thursday, 30 July 2015

Thursday Night of the Living Dead

We really need some kind of moniker for the Thursday night gang - usually myself (Sam), Ian and Andrew. But with Stanley and Little Joe now joining us regularly, maybe Thursday Night News or something equally TNN-y? Or maybe it's just enough to play games with no attendant lingo. Certainly that was the case tonight - though Andrew couldn't make it, Ian and I bashed out five games in the four hours we had.

the boys keep a vigil for Ian

We began at 7pm with Hugo. There was some debate before Ian arrived, with Trans America being mooted, but we elected to get the tubby ghost on his skates again, this time with three guests each to try and get to safety.

two farmers

Joe - perhaps emboldened by a smaller crowd than Tuesday - elected to join us as a player this time. The game commenced with Hugo pretty much snoozing down in the cellar as we strolled around with a permanent sense of early-party-anxiety. But with a rush of blood - or ectoplasm - there he was, suddenly up and about! Ian started well, hit for only five points while the rest of us took between 8 and 15 of them. On the next round though, it was all change, as Joe went from last place into first, a position he held onto until the end of the game:


I don't have the points recorded but Stan was a distant fourth and rather less enamoured of the game than on Tuesday. However if he can curb his desire to sail so close to the wind Hugo-wise, I think he'll be back again.

While I took the kids to bed Ian chose the next game, plumping for Reiner Knizia's obese backside Colossal Arena. This has only been played once before but Ian was keen - in his own inimitable fashion - to try it again. And as I was not moved to veto, we dove in. It's a game of trying to back your own monster to win, so having placed your bets you're egging it on from the sidelines, occasionally throwing on a ref or a berserk spectator.


We both felt, however, that the theme didn't really emerge on this occasion - probably it's better with more players. We spent a lot of time realising we had forgotten to replenish our cards, and looking at the rules and sometimes forgetting them... if we were recording ourselves as a podcast, it would have scored minimal thumbs on BGG.

As it was, I eliminated Ian's backed creatures and ran out a winner:

Sam 10
Ian 0

We moved on to Ian's other choice, Bullfrogs. This was last seen as a chaotic multi-player but it's really best for two, as you can plan ahead to an extent as the ever-changing board is changing at a far slower rate. My previous experience told as I got off to a decent start and established a crowd of frogs on the Log card, getting me my second win of the night.

Sam 65
Ian 48

We moved on to Old Faithful - 7 Wonders. I chose the B side of Halicarnassus, which allowed me - assuming I built all three parts of my wonder - to build up to three free cards per round. This meant in the early part of the game I was kind of farting about, adding cards to a wonder that scored pretty much zip and building cards for free that also didn't do a great deal. By the time the third round came, however, the world was my oyster and I built both palace and pantheon whilst chaining sciences from round two. It was kind of beautiful.


It was also kind of crap, as my non-scoring opening round and middling second round undermined this fantastical progress. Ian cleaned up with military and blue buildings:

Ian 54
Sam 43
Dirk 39

We still had some beer in our glasses, so I introduced Ian to the Viking Game. This is a genuinely ancient tafl-style game (there are several variants) supposedly played over 1500 years ago. On a reindeer pelt (or cotton, in my copy) there is a grid with two opposing armies on it. One begins on the four sides, and the other army - which has a King to defend - in the centre. The army with the King needs to get the King to one of the four corners in order to win. The other army has to surround the King on four sides.  All pieces move the same way - like a rook in chess - and non-king pieces are taken by being sandwiched - having an opponent on both sides of it - though you can legally move into this position and not be taken.

as battles go, it's kind of passive-aggressive

Our short online investigation told us that the King's side has a slight - possibly not-so-slight - built-in advantage that can be negated - or balanced - by bidding on the part of both players - how many turns you think you can win in, with the lowest bidder getting the King.

We didn't do the bidding, but we played twice and both times the player with the King won. It's a neat game, but quite a heavy one to end the night on... nonetheless. Good enough for the Vikings, good enough for TNN.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Cracking Skulls

Six gamers at seven for Sam’s house. We began this early to give Sam’s boys, Stanley and Joe, a chance to play a game before they went to bed. We chose Midnight Party which had recently been a big hit with the family on Sam’s holiday. We began before GNN regulars Joe and Matt arrived, but since Joe arrived soon after we’d begun, he was dropped into a couple of random positions on the corridor. Meanwhile, little Joe decided he wanted to be on a team with Sam.

This time we played a variant where Hugo speeds up each time he goes around the board so that in the fourth and final round Hugo was moving six squares at a time! Oh what fun! Ian started well, getting no points at all (in this version, points are bad and you start at 10) in the first two rounds. But then Hugo got the better of him, and Joe was able to sneak a win at the last minute. Martin often found his plan ruined as people ducked into rooms immediately ahead of him and Stanley went on a bit of a suicide mission in the last round, starting at the top of the stairs when Hugo was moving five squares at a time.

Joe 26
Ian 27
Martin 33
Andrew 34
Sam (and little Joe) 37
Stanley 50

Matt arrived towards the end of Midnight Party so when Sam took his boys to bed, the rest of us played a couple of rounds of For Sale. It was Ian’s (and maybe also Matt’s) first game, so Joe explained the rules. He must’ve slipped some strategising in there too, because I got stuffed both times we played.

Martin 52
Ian 51
Joe 47
Matt 43
Andrew 37

Joe 58
Martin 44
Ian 44
Matt 40
Andrew 38

Then Sam came back and we split into two groups: Joe and Martin tried Baseball Highlights 2045. Meanwhile, Matt, Ian, Sam and I considered playing Lords of Vegas. However, we couldn’t be that cruel to Joe to play his favourite right under his nose. So we went for Tinners’ Trail, the classic evergreen of boardgaming. And what a damp game it was. I feel like we say this every time, but there were a lot of areas with the maximum amount of water.

So we got mining. The most notable feature of the game (apart from the collapse in prices in round four) was adit-stealing, as Ian and Matt built adits into neighbouring unclaimed regions, only to be outbid for them by Sam and me. Ian cut a particularly morose figure, as he surveyed the damp county with a sigh of despair. He’d have made a great 19th century tin mine owner.

Sam 113
Andrew 102
Matt 65
Ian 63

Martin and Joe were still deep into their game of baseball so we played Sumeria, a simple game of area control. Too simple for me, since I had little idea of what the best strategy would be. No worries for Ian or Sam, though. I guess Ian must have taken great pride in my downfall after I stole half his adit.

Ian 23
Sam 20
Andrew 6
Matt 5

By now Baseball Highlights ended and Martin won the world series 4-3 from 3-1 down. I know little about the game, bit apparently it all changed when Joe went for a piss.

Since we were now all six again (in number, not in age) we decided to play a rousing game of pairs. I found myself in the unusual position of being in first place with 20 points, just one short of ending the game. Martin had 18 as we went into the last round. I cautiously decided to stick on just one card, meaning Martin had to push his luck. Alas, he didn’t have any and got out on his second blueberry. In fact, a lot of people got out that round, which meant my lone card came in second and got me five points.

Andrew 25
Ian 20
Martin 18
Joe 15
Matt 12
Sam 11

Finally, we ended on Skull & Roses. And what an odd game it was. A flurry of skulls early one meant that no one could make any predictions at all. Joe and Martin were first out, with Matt taking out Martin twice in two rounds by putting down a skull which Martin foolishly flipped. Matt and Sam finally managed to make one correct guess as to the number of roses everyone had put out. But Matt’s luck didn’t last.

In the end there was me, Ian and Sam, and I only had on tile left: a rose. And it was my turn. And I played rather well, even if I do say so myself. I guessed that neither Ian nor Sam would want to give me any leeway in my guesses so they would both put down a skull. I bid “one rose,” and I was right. Neither of them could outbid me without losing a tile (which might have been the right thing to do, Sam later pondered). So I got one prediction right.

Next, I figured that Ian would want to be able to make a bid, so he’d put down a rose. But Sam was last in turn order and unlikely to be in a position to influence things, so he’d probably put down a skull. I guessed “two roses.” Ian must’ve thought the same thing, since he didn’t try to outbid me, and nor did Sam. And I was right! My second correct prediction, and my first win on Skull and Roses (I think)! What a way to end.

Andrew 2
Sam 1
Ian 3 tiles left
Matt out with 1
Martin out
Joe out

Wednesday, 22 July 2015


This week Adam and Hannah offered to host games night. And then they forgot what day it was until Martin knocked on the door, eager for games.

This week, as is usual in the time of summer holidays, attendance was sparce, with just six of us. The two hosts, Martin, Ian, Katy and myself. We began with a rousing game of Fauna, with Katy happily reminding everyone that she recently came second in Fauna to someone from the BBC Nature Unit.

We began and I was a little shocked to see that such a fun, family game should have tactics, with the more experienced players guessing areas or dimensions according to whichever scored the most. What’s wrong with just guessing like a blind fool?

Anyway, we got a bit lucky with the animal names, with the American Black Bear and the New Zealand Sea Lion appearing, as well as references to cotton and Java in other names. Adam had a poor game until the final round when he scored more points than he had in all the previous rounds put together. Katy repeated her previous form by coming second again. This time to Martin. Somehow, she didn’t seem as pleased.

If it has 'Cotton' in its name, it must be around here somewhere.

Martin 91
Katy 83
Hannah 67
Ian 56
Andrew 50
Adam 40

Then we split into two. Railways of the World was a strong favourite but a six-player game would have been far too long, so a suitable alternative was debated. In the end, Ra was chosen and Ian, Katy and Martin decamped into the front room to play. Meanwhile, Hannah, Adam and I set up Railways of the World while little baby Arthur decided that only losers snooze, and kept waking up and needing attention.

Eventually, he got off to sleep and we began while Ra was midway through its second epoch. I was lucky. While Adam and Hannah were distracted by their charming baby boy, I got a long look at the board set-up. During most of the game, I monopolised the North-East of the board and my San Antonio Hotel card got me a whole bunch of points throughout the game. Adam started in Mexico City, with its glut of red cubes and Hannah went for Guadalajara.

In the other room, Ra came to an end, and what a close game it was:

Martin 59
Ian 57
Katy 43

However, they weren’t finished with pyramids. Oh, no. They began a game of Zendo, the game of doing Zen, I suppose. They spread out the multicoloured pyramids on the multicoloured tablecloth, which probably made the game a little bit harder.

Back in the good old US, Adam had the speed bonus and the four-colour bonus, but Hannah and I were both lucky enough to have a delivery bounty in our neighbourhood. At one point Adam linked his network to Hannah’s. When she then didn’t move a particular cube at risk, he suggested she might want to rethink her move. She did and shipped the cube for points, wondering out loud why Adam built the track and then didn’t take advantage of it. I suggested it might be love.

Adam’s good deed went unrewarded, however. Late in the game, Hannah decided to urbanise a grey city, and put down a black city right in the path that Adam wanted to use to ship a black cube. Adam’s first game on his own set of RotW was not going well. We ended at 10.40.

My match-winning move

Andrew 71
Hannah 49
Adam 45

Don’t know what happened with Zendo, since it was non-leaderboard. I think Martin won. At least, he said no one guessed his rule.

And with that, we were off. Another evening of high tension and crumbly shortcake biscuits.

Meanwhile, Katy complained that the division was making her too competitive and she was obsessing over it, so maybe it could go back to a monthly thing. But Katy can rest assured she is no longer bottom of the table.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

To be the Master, you Must Earn It

Thursday rolled around, and Martin and Ian made their way from Easton, having generously agreed to relocate from Martin's house to incorporate myself (Sam) and Hollie.

We started at 7.30 and Little Joe (watching) and Stanley (participating) joined us for a couple of rounds of In A Bind, the game of contortionism, never more starkly contrasted with reality than when my wife turns up with a camping proposition midway through and everyone - holding their anatomies in a smorgasbord of unnatural poses - pauses to listen to our summer vacation plans.

I was out first both times - first off I charitably reached over to assist Stan, and a card fell off my shoulder. Second time I can't even recall distinctly, just a general falling away of any sense of control. Despite having to hold a card in a sweaty armpit, Ian held on for the win in the first game:

1. Ian
2. Stanley
3. Martin
4. Sam

elbow up, finger down, card on neck, card under chin

Whilst in the second game Martin was so in control he even kept turning cards after everyone else was knocked out:

1. Martin
2. Stanley
3. Ian
4. Sam


We'd hit 8 o'clock at this point so I took the kids upstairs to bed; reading half a chapter of Moominvalley in Midwinter to the boys. I have no idea what happened downstairs - when I returned there was no game set up so I can only assume conversation had taken place. We put a stop to that with a quick game of Ra whilst the returning Hollie freshened up, prepping for her second games night in her debut week.

In the first round there wasn't a whole lot of Ra - I pictured him/her/it in a recliner watching daytime soaps whilst we made merry on the Nile. I was sure everything would change soon and followed my previous tactics of grabbing the basics - civs, pharaohs - and getting out. But Ra was still at home, now watching repeats of Heartbeat on BBC4, and Martin made hay while the sun shone, as it tends to do in Egypt. Ian seemed to stagnate, suffering with the arid air.

I'd picked up the highest bidding tile and was so determined not to suffer the highest-tile-curse (that of being unable to bring oneself to bid) that I picked up a few tiles rather expensively, when - as Martin pointed out - I could have added a tile to them. As round 2 closed out I was concerned about my lack of monuments, whereas the others - Martin in particular - seemed to have a healthy crop.

A decent third round wasn't enough  for me, as Martin consolidated his strong position with a heap of lovely monument tiles that scored him a whopping bonus at the end. Meanwhile Ian's monuments saved him from the ignominy of finishing with less points than he started with:

Martin 59
Sam 48
Ian 19

Hollie had watched the last round of the game did not seem deterred, so Martin broke out Zendo, the game of guessing the rules. Multiple pyramids of three sizes (and three point values) and five colours sit in the centre of the table. One player is "Master" and secretly chooses a rule from a deck of cards to implement: using the pyramids, they show one layout (or koan) that matches the rule (it has the Buddha nature) and one that doesn't. Rules might be a simple as Koans always include one green pyramid or as crazy as Koans must have a small black pyramid on its side, or  all pyramids in the koan must have a collective point value of seven.

Play moves clockwise, and on your turn you propose a new koan then either ask "Master?" and the current master will tell you whether your koan has the Buddha nature or not - or you say "Mondo" and Brian Wilson sashays into the room.

I am the Master now

OK that doesn't happen. If you say Mondo all the non-master players guess as to whether the just-built koan is 'of the Buddha nature' or not - if they guess right, they get a guessing stone and on their turn, they can guess the rule. We - with some difficulty - figured out the rule each time, but we were playing the easy and medium rules. Some of the expert rules were pretty insane... prime numbers... points divisible by three... we stayed on the path.

Red cube shame: Not of the Buddha nature

And being the master was tricky, because disproving a guess involves making a new koan - either one that matches the guess but not the rule, or the other way around. Hollie found being the Master so tiring she actually went to bed - all our good work with Lords of Waterdeep, undone by one fell Buddhist abstract puzzle!

I was quite pleased I guessed Ian's rule - it took a few stabs but I realised we were focussing on what was present in the approved koans rather than what was absent. I managed to identify that the blue pyramids were in all the non-Buddhist koans and the rest, as they say, is history. (No blue pyramids, at least one green pyramid)

With Hollie beaten by the challenge of being Master, we packed Zendo away and finished off with Love Letter. And something of an epic Love Letter too - you may not be surprised to hear that Ian won, but it wasn't straightforward. He picked up two easy rounds and then I won one. Then I won another. Then Martin said he would win three in a row, and he won two. Then Ian won again!

Ian - 3 cubes
Martin - 2 cubes
Sam - 2 cubes

Classic Love Letter. If only it had been around when they were making It's a Knockout. I bet Kevin Keegan would have been awesome.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Blocked and Bound

This week’s regular board-brawl featured a new face: Hollie. Visiting Bristol for a short period, this was her chance to experience for herself what she’d only seen in fictionalised form since she was one of the crew in the sitcom pilot we made last year.

Apart from Hollie, we were Adam (host), Martin, Sam, Andy, Katy, Ian and myself. We began with a nice game involving all of us: 6nimmt! If, that is, 6nimmt can ever be called “nice”. We were using Adam’s Living Dead pack, which brought a little sneering from the purists. But at least, thematically, it’s quite apt because I noticed that during the game we were saying things that could easily be dialogue from a zombie film: “This is horrendous,” “We’re screwed,” etc.

It was close, with me in the lead until the final round. Martin and Katy both posted what they thought were their worst ever rounds (42 and 35 respectively). But most of all, at least you can’t say we make special efforts to be nice to the newcomers.

Andy 19
Adam 20
Andrew 22
Sam 39
Ian 50
Katy 62
Martin 65
Hollie 79

Next up was a game designed by a friend of Martin’s. In this, you draw a card which has an instruction (eg, right palm face down, or always touching nose) that you must obey. During the game, you pick up more cards and end up looking increasingly stupid. Cards against physicality, you could say.

Sam was out first but, ironically, seemed to be the one having most fun. Martin managed to successfully fulfil the wishes of nine cards before he failed. Well done him.

= Andrew, Katy, Andy

Next up we played A Fake Artist goes to New York. We only played one round and Adam cleverly evaded detection by simply copying other player’s drawings of feet. Katy fooled everyone by saying "What is this supposed to be?" and she got most votes as the fake artist, if that means anything.

Then we spilt into two groups of four. Hollie had mentioned to Sam earlier that day a fondness for Dungeons and Dragons, so Sam put two and two together and got Lords of Waterdeep, the D&D themed Eurogame. Andy, Adam, Martin and I went for Blockers.

Unlike LoW and its evocative quest names and locales, Blockers does not lend itself to exciting descriptions. Halfway through, Sam came in to see why we were all so quiet (and also to complain that everyone was stealing his rouges). Meanwhile Martin tried to liven things up by saying “Blockers!” in a singsong voice whenever someone player their Blockers tile. In the end, I did best.

Andrew 4
Martin 5
Adam 6
Andy 7

As for Lords of Waterdeep, Sam lack of rogues undid him while Hollie must;ve felt right at home as she took the win on her debut game.

Hollie 122
Ian 114
Katy 106
Sam 105

Meanwhile, we’d started on Hogger Logger, a game where you simply have to guess whether the next card will be higher or lower than the showing card. Except that the other players are trying to put you off by changing the card (you can change your guess too) or executing actions to try and make things harder.

Adam had no luck, and in his two guesses he had what looked like a safe bet, only to be undone by some unlikely cards. Martin managed to win while I was in the toilet. Martin played a card that made everyone pass their cards (or, in this case, lack of cards) to the left, so he got my card and was the only player with a card. Since no one could stop him, he was able to make a bet on the final card and he was correct. Two victories is enough to win.

Martin 2
Andrew 1
Andy and Adam 0

Then Adam got out Carcassonne. Now, this is a game that I’ve happily been avoiding for the past five years but who can resist Adam’s homemade version. Especially now the fimo meeples are starting to fall to pieces. Well, I sort of pottered about a bit and didn’t do much, while the more experienced players shot off into the lead.

Martin 108
Adam 104
Andy 96
Andrew 56

In the next room, they finished off with Pickomino.

Sam 8 + most tiles
Hollie 8
Ian 3
Katy 2

So, farewell then, Hollie. Will we see her again? Who can say? But she has left us a marker to match on points ratio.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Night on the tiles on the cards

Friday night! Whilst other folk were out at pubs, clubs, or maybe a one-off event, the real action was at my (Sam's) place. Andrew came over early, as the boys were looking forward to a game with him. Ascending Empires was mooted, as was Lords of Waterdeep. In the end though we went for Relic Expedition (the Friendly Animals variant). Joe teamed up with me and across the table were Andrew and Stanley.

Off we went on our explorations. Andrew and Stan conversed, schemed and planned. Joe made weird noises with his mouth and wandered around the kitchen scavenging for actual food, but he did at least roll the die. My team collected the first set of 4 matching relics needed for a win, and headed off to the helipad to conclude matters. Thinking I was being generous I said I needed to roll a 4 on the action die to catch the helicopter (and win) but my generosity was moot - I rolled a two (three is needed to use a helicopter in the real rules) and on the next turn they - having since gathered a set of their own - rolled the 4 they needed to win. AAAAARGH! I cried in anguish. Luckily for Joe, he had nipped upstairs for a poo at this point.

Stanley and Andrew: 4 relics, safely home
Joe and Sam: 4 relics, waiting at helipad with a sense of indignation

Andrew began perusing the games cupboard as I put the boys to bed. When I returned Lords of Waterdeep was now set up, and we dove in without further ado. The score track saw a lot of action as we both built buildings (or 'shops' as they tend to get called) that saw a lot of use, with lots of minor scoring quests - plus the odd doozy. I thought I was safely ahead and then Andrew came back at me. In the end it was down to the Lords rewards - Andrew scored 24 points but I'd managed to get every single quest to score me a 4pt bonus, and ran out OverLord of Waterdeep:

Sam 202
Andrew 180

I chose next, and went for the lesser-spotted Mord Im Arosa. Andrew loves this - and I have to admit it was the second-funnest game of the night in the expletive-loading sense. For those not familiar, the Mord in question is a death - two, actually - in the hotel Arosa, where players are first trying to find the bodies and then secondly trying to implicate each other by guessing where their cubes have landed, having been dropped in the top of the cardboard hotel.

Please enter on top floor

I successfully identified Andrew's location several times, but was totally obliterated when he found my cubes (or detectives) hanging about inappropriately close to the crime scene:

Andrew 6 pieces of evidence against (wins)
Sam 13 pieces of evidence against (banged up)

Heck Meck/Pickonimo was up next. This was completely unpredictable. Andrew surged off into the lead and I was fighting for scraps. But with both of us having claimed all the low tiles on the table, suddenly we were returning tiles of our own as our attempts to claim the multiple-worm tiles faltered.

Itsa Knizia

I was hoping there'd be a pattern where Andrew would return his tile and I'd subsequently pick it up. It didn't work out like that, but - thanks entirely to Lady Fate - I did grab the win, just...

Sam 10 worms
Andrew 9 worms

Finally we bashed out a quick game of 7 Wonders. I didn't get involved in military at all and my plan to have Dirk out-army Andrew never materialised. Dirk did pretty well himself, but it was Andrew who walked away with a convincing win:

Andrew 57
Sam 50
Dirk 45

It was still only ten past ten, but we'd been playing for three hours and Andrew called it a night.

I didn't realise I was this drunk

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

It’s the hope that hurts the most

First Tuesday of the season, and seven hungry gamers were hunched around Joe’s kitchen table, keen for gaming sustenance. Apart from the host, Joe, it was an all-male affair with Martin, Andy, Sam, Ian, Matt and myself making up the numbers.

While waiting for Andy, we began with Go Stop (or Ghost Op, as some of us thought Martin said when he suggested it, perhaps expecting a Tom Clancy style strategy Black Ops game with a supernatural theme).

This card game resists any attempt at working out how to put it on the leaderboard. Adding up the scores doesn’t make any sense because this is a game where winning with a one (as Matt did) is far more impressive than winning with a high card. We will have to leave it as non-leaderboard.

Any way, we played three rounds, and we scored (winning scores in bold):

Sam 0, 0, 0
Ian 3,0, 0
Martin 9, 7, 0
Joe 0,0, 0
Matt 0, 5, 1
Andrew 5,0,0

Sam's tactic of going Dirk in rounds two and three badly went wrong as both times he shuffled his cards, played them without looking at them, only to discover his only scoring Stop card still in his hand when the bets had been placed.

Then Andy arrived and we split into a group of four (playing Africa) and a group of three (playing Darjeeling). Africa is a new game to GNN, and Joe explained the rules to me, Martin and Ian while Sam explained Darjeeling to Matt and Andy.

Africa is all about exploration. You might find animals, jewels, nomads or monuments. Each one can be used in a different way to score points either when you find them, or later in the game if you find yourself next to them and can move them to a more suitable place on the board. With all of Africa to explore, you’d imagine it would be quite a solitary game, but in fact we spent most of the game in a group, moving from one area of the board to another like herding animals. How apt.

As you’d expect from a Knizia, it’s a bit thinky and strategic, but it also seems a lot more luck based than usual. It got a rather guarded appraisal of “I’d play it again” from us. Maybe we were missing something.

Joe 69
Martin 65
Ian 56
Andrew 52

Over in India (confusingly, set up on the table to the east of Africa) I noticed that new boy Matt had a huge lead halfway through the game, and he did enough to hang on despite a late push up the score chart.

Matt 96
Sam 94

However, at this point we got stuck in a bit of rut of games that never seemed to end at the same time. Sam, Andy and Matt played Koryo, a card game. I know nothing about it.

Sam 15
Matt 14

We played Die Dolmengötter, a game with a singularly uninteresting board. I noticed that the borders had a bit of grass on it, showing that they had made an effort to make it look nice. Joe said it looked like pubic hair. I’ll let the reader decide.

First impressions were not helped by some very ordinary game pieces. But once we got going, it had a certain charm. Place your stones by moving your men around stone circles. If you have a majority, you can place a scoring tile of your choice (face down) on top of the stack. If you draw then you can put a tile at the bottom of the stack. The further up a tile is in the stack, the more its value is multiplied for points.

Four stages of indecision

Quite clever and cunning. Joe clocked up his second win of the evening.

Joe 70
Andrew 60
Martin 58
Ian 55

On the other half of the table, Sam was teaching Matt and Andy the joys of Bullfrogs. It ended:

Sam 57
Andy 52
Matt 46

While those frogs battled it out, we played a couple of games of Qwixx: a dice game which showed Das Exclusive off to its fullest potential. Finally, a game where its stadium-like dimensions are a bonus, not a hindrance.

We scored:

Martin 78
Andrew 69
Ian 56
Joe 49

And then...

Ian 64
Andrew 60
Martin 57
Joe 54

By now we had all ended at the same time, so we decided to finish with the closest thing to Ghost Op that we had: Midnight Party! Or Fuck Off, Hugo as Martin dubbed it after some bad luck with the die. It was a very close game. Clearly, we’re all getting the hang of it. Still, it gave us enough anguish as we Self-Hugoed our own pieces and Martin uttered the line (immortalised in this blog post) to describe the very special cruelty that this game demonstrates.

Sam -18
Andy -22
Ian -24
Joe -25
Martin -25
Andrew -28
Matt -28

And that was that. We set out into the warm summer rain, invigorated and alive.

The Division currently looks like this:

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Teabags of Fun

Saturday night rolled around like a fateful set of dice. With Sally out at a Germaine Greer talk, somebody had to play the role of the fools - that was me, Andrew and Ian.

First up was Darjeeling, the game of sitting-in-Sam's-cupboard for a year, unplayed. Upon opening it up we discovered it resembles tea-picking in the same way sandwiches resemble a radiator. It's a strange game of moving tea-pickers around a geometric country (ours allegedly resembled Sri Lanka), selling at a time when barrels were suitably arranged on a ramp, and piling up your crates of tea on boats so they continue to pay points until enough other people have shipped crates to denote your tea as 'old'.

I struggled to get into it but in the main that was down to the boys rolling back the years with a succession of sorties downstairs or shouting from upstairs with various accusations about each others' behaviour. So mainly I was travelling around the house, vacillating between threats or moral reasoning. Neither really worked.

 You lose points if you turn around!

Darjeeling meanwhile was a race - it's first to a hundred points and when that happens the game ends instantly, and any unshipped stuff behind your screens counts against you. Andrew found himself deliberately scoring minus points in order to avoid this - a strategy I perceived as dubious at the time, but only minutes later it paid off, with some aplomb:

Andrew 104
Sam 84
Ian 80

Tea shipped, boys settled and the evening rolling, we moved swiftly on to Quantum, choosing a layout that encouraged early interaction. As with my games v Ian recently, I was smiled on by fate when I rolled a decent set of starting dice, and even Ian destroying one of my ships before my first turn didn't stop me getting off to a flier.

fun x 3

Of course, they came back into it. Andrew managed to get his Dominance up to five but then chose to hold onto his ace in the hole, perhaps put off by my ability to win ties as defender (and destroy attackers!). It was closer than it looks but I managed a win:

Sam: all cubes down
Ian: 2 cubes left
Andrew 3 cubes left

Next up was Bullfrogs. Andrew and I have played it (and I've since played both Stanley and Sally) but this was its debut as a three-player. As anticipated, it did slow down and become rather thinky. I think the sheer amount of permutations with three meant planning your turn was fairly pointless and there was a not-ideal amount of AP. That said, we did enjoy it.

Sam 59
Ian 53
Andrew 43

Warning: Pond is deep

It was gone half ten so we went for a quick game of Love Letter to finish off. However, Ian finished us off so quickly that there was time for another game afterwards. I never even made it to the end of a round, being successfully identified twice and forced to compare cards by having two Shitty Barons in the other round!

Ian - 3 cubes
Andrew - 0 cubes
Sam - 0 cubes

We ended with Biblios. I opened with an uninspiring meal of shit for myself whilst handing out decent cards to my opponents. It was that sort of game - we all did a reasonable amount of cursing and at least two of us - myself and Andrew - swore we were on to a loser. Accurately, as it turned out:

Ian - 6 (Mr Biblios)
Sam - 5
Andrew - 3

Five games played and it was not even midnight! Thanks chaps, a good night!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Take the Fifth!

The last day of the season was a hot and sultry evening. Joe gave me a lift to Martin’s place where Katy, Ian and Andy were also present. Martin had already wrapped up the points and medal table, and all that was left was for Katy to try and push her points ratio up by more than 0.01 and beat Adam to the title.

We began with Deep Sea Adventure, the game I’d brought back from Japan but still hadn’t played. I’d been a bit jealous of all the wails of anguish and hilarity, so I was keen to try it. It was also Ian’s first go, and he found himself in a number of difficult situations, dragged far too deep by a pair of suddenly generous dice and running out of air with only a space or two left before safety.

As for the rest, Katy began by saying she had a new strategy which is, apparently, rolling nothing but double ones. She got going after a while, though. Andy tried a mean tactic in round two has he loitered just below the surface, laden with cheap treasures, using up all our oxygen. Alas, all that treasure was too heavy and he was unable to get to the boat himself before the air ran out.

Joe 47
Katy 43
Martin 40
Andrew 35
Andy 33
Ian 10

After this, we decided to try Hornochsen, the sequel to 6 nimmt. In this game, instead of four rows of endlessly regenerating cards, there are a number of rows in a circle. Instead of the sixth card taking the previous five, this time the fifth card takes the whole row. Add to this two bonus cards of x2 and +5 which can influence your score. The aim is to collect the scarce green cards (plus points) and avoid picking up the evil red cards (minus points).

It’s a nice game. A bit shitty and underhand, as your opponents invariably pick up the row of green cards that you have your eye on. Fun, but it’s no 6nimmt.

Martin 12
Katy 12
Andrew 12
Ian 8
Andy 0
Joe -16

Next up, for some unaccountable reason, I felt the need for some Winner’s Circle. Last time I wasn’t impressed, but something inside me said that this was the right game for revisiting it.

Martin explained the rules for the newbies, and we began. First, though, he had to sort out the music. He asked for suggestions while admitting he’d only had the chance to unpack A-D of his CD collection. At first we went for Lexicon of Love by ABC, but Joe was being distracted by too many flashbacks to the eighties, so it was changed for The Band instead.

As for the game, twice I struggled to try and get a horse around having been the only person to bet on it (and I can’t believe there wasn’t more love for a horse called Colin) but I mostly did okay with other people moving horses that I’d bet on. Not as good as Martin, though, who must’ve had some insider knowledge of the form book (or whatever horse betting people say).

Martin $2,500
Andy $2,150
Andrew $1,850
Ian $1,750
Joe $1,350
Katy $1,150

Finally, there was time for just one more game: the eternal crowd pleaser: Midnight Party! Poor old Andy was an early target of Hugo, and he picked up –36 by end of the second round. Katy, though, managed a plus score in her second round and, by sensibly avoiding risks she ended a pretty successful evening with another win.

Katy –13
Ian –14
Joe –19
Andrew –19
Martin –42
Andy –49

With that, it was eleven o’clock and not even the offer of a final game of Pairs could keep us awake. We set off to our various homes, with Joe showing me some very steep back streets on our way back to my place.

Now all that’s left is the Division! Martin, as expected, won the medal table and points category. Ian, who led for much of the season, will have to be content with a creditable second place. Sam is runner up on medals. Katy’s haul of points in the final evening took her into first place on points ratio! Andy takes second place on that measure. Congratulations everyone!