Sunday, 29 November 2015

Sloppy Expansion

After a day of packing, loading, driving and general shifting, Ian and I (Sam) were a little worn out. But we wanted something more memorable out of the day than marginally chapped hands, so we invited Andrew to my house for a little gaming, plumping for another go at Eclipse.

I came down from bedtime reading for the boys to found the unexplored universe ready for plunder, and we were away. With two or three recent plays under our belt, our decisions were faster: we knew what we were doing, and all of us set about creating monstrous war machines in a sad reflection of humanity's true nature. I went big on plasma missiles. Andrew built a fleet of wasp-like interceptors. And Ian built the Eclipse equivalent of a massive hammer hitting you over the head rapidly until you expire.

Wasp-like Interceptors

But the first big battle was me against the ancients GCPD or whatever it's called - the central hex, with rewarding planets and points. However Ian - up until this point rolling appalling dice for his own ships - rolled for the aliens and obliterated me in short notice. I retreated, tail between legs. In the following round Ian moved in himself and despite an initial hesitancy, took the hex and set about reinforcing it. Andrew and I circled warily, but in the end Endersby chickened out and left me to surge in, fuelled by a ludicrously vain optimism. He made the right decision:

Andrew (yellow) cleverly decides not to get involved

Andrew 33
Ian 28
Sam 26

Andrew's cautious expansion and Swiss-like stance on the big battle worked well.

We still didn't have it quite down to the alleged 30 minutes per player, but we'd knocked a whole hour off our last playtime (33.33 mins per player!) , and it was barely 9pm. There was talk of Tinner's Trail, but as it currently resides at Adam and Hannah's house we played Istanbul instead. I think the set up and pack away took longer than the game: we all raced to four gems and I nabbed a fifth as Andrew pipped Ian to second on a tie-breaker:

Sam 5 gems
Andrew 4 gems, lots of money
Ian 4 gems, not much money

Then we intended to play Love Letter - but a visit to the cupboard reminded me this is also currently holidaying in Easton, so instead we set up the rarely-seen Mord Im Arosa. For those unaware, the unusual mechanic at play in this game is listening: trying to work out first where the bodies (red cubes) are in the Hotel Arosa, and then attempting to either implicate your fellow players (their investigators (or cubes)) or clear your name (your cubes) by guessing those colours will be on a certain floor. But: get your guess wrong, and you've made a sloppy investigation. You now have to add another of your own cubes to the hotel and the risk further implications...

I don't know how Ian did it, but over halfway through Andrew and I were implicated all over the shop, whilst Mr Hickman never seemed to get his accusations wrong. As a result, his investigators remained back in the station, drinking tea:

Ian's unused investigators massively outnumber my guys

I was accidental king-maker when I accused both of them on a certain floor and Ian - Ian! - wasn't there. Points are bad in this game:

Ian 9
Sam 13
Andrew 14

A lovely thing to revisit - thanks Joe, who bought it for me many moons ago. We must play again!

Andrew here: I couldn't help but notice the sexy lady having a shower on floor five. How very risqué.

Friday, 27 November 2015

The Top 20 GNN Games

Admittedly there are more pressing things to do than ponder the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of our little crowd, but I thought it might be interesting and not remotely obsessive to take a look at the most-played games since the blog was initiated, as the five year anniversary looms.

Which games do we still like? Which games are in there just because they are acceptable fillers? Which are bona fide classics?

So, in reverse order, here they are!

20 Roll Through the Ages / Port Royal / The Resistance: 13 plays
Who can forgot how The Resistance knocked us sideways when it first arrived? It was so different, so... tense. Maybe that's why it's not been seen much since. Port Royal was similarly impactful, only to fade from view, whereas Roll Through the Ages has taken a slow-and-steady approach. 

19 Lords of Vegas / Castles of Burgundy / Las Vegas / Ascending Empires / Carcassonne: 14 plays
A nest of games here with an upward trend - Burgundy, Lords of Vegas - more downwards direction with Ascending Empires (though it did get played at Joe's recently) and Las Vegas, plus the flatline of Carcassonne, which I personally haven't played in a long time. I'm surprised it's on the top 20 at all to be honest - and I thought Burgundy and Lords would be higher.

18  Medici / Istanbul: 15 plays
Although it had its critics, Istanbul was another entry in the GNN canon that racked up a number of plays quickly, before tailing off. Medici on the other hand retains a strong position after lying fallow for a long period before rising from the grave over this past year. It also got a lot of plays pre-blog, so is unlucky not to be in the top ten.

17 Hey That's My Fish: 17 plays
The game of fish-grabbing whilst the world around you dissolves apocalyptically. Despite its childlike appearance it also has potential for big-time screwage... but I'm not sure quite how it got 17 plays though. 

16 Poison / Castles of Mad King Ludwig: 18 plays
Poison was the pre-6Nimmt 6Nimmt, and brings to mind sat in Joe's house on a wintry Tuesday evening... or indeed a summery one. I still like it. Mad King Ludwig had an instant hit and longer tail than some - it still gets played now, though I'm no longer quite as enamoured of it as I once was.

15 Agricola / Macao: 19 plays
Like Medici, Agricola's position suffers from existing pre-blog. Macao on the other hand sits here on merit, for those of us who like Feld. 

14 Ticket to Ride / Raj / Quantum: 20 plays
Ticket to Ride probably deserves it's place here if only for demonstrating how many cards Adam can hold in his hand without doing some tendon damage. Raj is generally played as a short tournament and pops up now and again. Quantum is just fab as far as I'm concerned. I've been playing it at work.

13 Kingdom Builder / Cube Quest: 23 plays
Cube Quest has built it's reputation in fits and starts, but still seems to divide the genders in a way other games don't. Kingdom Builder was the hit of a couple of years back but has sagged since then.

12 Timeline / Incan Gold: 24 plays
The latter can claim to be a perennial favorite, whereas Timeline has faded slightly from view with the return of 6Nimmt and the advent of Pairs.

11 Take it Easy: 25 plays
I think GNN's couplets or themes meme has helped Take it Easy, but since the initial burst of enthusiasm it has settled into the solid occasional-play territory.

10 Railways of the World / Ra / Pairs: 28 plays
Three very different but classic games. RofW has gone quiet, but will certainly come again.

9 Tsuro / Alhambra: 30 plays
Thirty plays for these two? It seems incongruous now, but once Alhambra was almost the go-to game on a Tuesday night. Tsuro maintained a long initial burst of plays before picking up the odd hit here and there, when its ability to play 8 quickly stood it in good stead. 

8 Trans America and Trans Europa: 32 plays
Perhaps contentiously I've grouped these two together (it's actually a 21/11 split in America's favour) and they are the same game in all but name. Neither have set my heart beating fast, but they must be getting something right. 

7 Stone Age: 33 plays
Good old Stone Age! Still up there and hanging on, despite not seeing the light of day much in a while. I still rate it. 

6 Tinner's Trail: 36 plays
Good old Tinner's Trail! It arrived around the same time as Stone Age (I think) but has sustained a longer replayability in  GNNer's eyes apparently. Last seen only a couple of weeks back. 

5 No Thanks / Love Letter: 39 plays
I like No Thanks. It's a neat little game. But I hope I haven't personally played it 39 times. Whereas Love Letter I regard as more of a mini-classic.

4 6Nimmt: 41 plays
The game that produces the most inventive swearing at GNN towers was bound to be in the upper echelons, wasn't it? It was a hit first time around, then Martin's enthusiasm for it brought it back into the limelight, where it has stayed ever since.

3 Lords of Waterdeep: 43 plays
Waterdeep's easy accessibility and variety of strategies have seen it rack up a very respectful number of hits, and it still gets revisited today; very nearly seeing the table as recently as Novocon.

2 Biblios: 62 plays
A whopping jump in plays takes us to Biblios, whose mysteries feel like they have never been completely resolved. It also has two titles available to the winner: Mr Biblios (winning) and King Biblios (winning to zero, the latter only achieved so far by Ian) A great game. 

1 7 Wonders: 74 plays
Despite being nobody's favourite game (as far as I'm aware) 7 Wonders has somehow soared away in terms of plays. Maybe it's everyone's second-favorite - or enough people's anyway. What it does have going for it is play-time (short) and variety: it's hard to be sure who is really winning unless you actually grind the game to a halt and count up. Out of interest, the very first play (almost 5 years ago to the day) was won by Steve: 

Steve 48
Adam 45
Sam 42
Andrew 34
Joe 33

And there we have it. The top 20 GNN games - or positions, to be exact; it's actually 37 games all told. I wonder how it'll look in five years time. Will one of the big beasties like Eclipse or Caverna start to climb? Or will it be populated by trick-taking games like Potato Man? Maybe Bandu will surge up the charts...

Wednesday, 25 November 2015


Games never stop, as the old saying goes. And so, for a few hardy gamers, the recent weekend away was followed up by the regular Tuesday meet for Katy, Sam (hosting) and myself. We were joined by Ben, Andy, Chris, Ian, Joe and Martin.

Early arrivals, Katy and Ben played Sam at Verflixxt. While the rest of the gamers came in, having done their best to avoid the football traffic.

Katy 20
Ben 19
Sam 17

Martin was keen to play Twilight, the non-franchise card game of moon cults and bad art. “Look,” he said, as he drummed up support for the game, “they’re burning a chicken on the cover!” Well, that seemed to swing it, and he, Joe, Ben and Katy adjourned to the front room.

Meanwhile, the five remaining players gave Chocolatl a spin. Chris looked offended when Sam started to explain the rules to him, forgetting that they’d played it together less than a week before. Andy listened to Sam’s explanation of the rules, and then double-checked a few things in the book, for good measure.

As for the game, there was bidding, as you’d expect, but I’m not sure it’s at its best as a five player. There was a lot to take into account. So much so, that it wasn’t worth thinking too much. Sam went for the +1 tiles in rounds one and two and, almost by chance, Ian was usually second in the city, so he ended up with a healthy collection of bonus dice to roll at the end. Neither tactic was enough to win the game, which went to Andy and his softly softly collectee pointy approach. What I mean was, it was hard to see his tactic, except avoid losing points. Maybe he didn’t have one.

Andy 54
Chris 46
Andrew 44
Sam 43
Ian 43

During this game, Twilight ended in high drama. Joe and Katy made up the Moon Cult, against Ben and Martin in the Sun Cult. At the end of the third round, the Moon Cult lead 386-91. Amazingly, by the end of the fourth round, the tables had turned completely thanks to a total shut out by the Sun Cult.

Martin & Ben 397
Joe & Katy 386

Since we were still knee deep in Chocolatl, they began Can’t Stop, the fun dice rolling game. Katy managed to go through the whole game without getting a single meeple on the board.

1. Joe
2. Martin
3. Ben
4. Katy

And now our game timings were overlapping, so since they were halfway through Can’t Stop, we cracked out Samarkand. This is a game where your meeple moves around a board following arrows, having to trade with nomads, buy cards or trade cards for points. The trick is arriving at the nomad camp when the camp is full, so that you get all the cards. And then hot-footing it to the right city to sell those goods before anyone else does.

The most notable aspect was some confusion about one small icon in particular: a tunnel entrance. Was it a burnt mushroom? A man? A tunnel? Of course, it was swiftly dubbed the burnt mushroom man tunnel, and cue childish giggles every time someone went to exploit the man tunnel.

Sam didn’t seem to get to grips with it and gave a poor judgement of it by the end. Ian seemed much more favorable but, then again, he did win. I’m sort of in the middle, as my placing will testify.

Ian 510
Andy 405 (possibly more, can’t read my writing)
Andrew 380
Chris 375
Sam 145

In the other room, The Last Spike was now on the table, with Katy seemingly taking her revenge for those two last places she’d had to endure.

Katy 133
Joe 91
Ben 75
Martin 36

So, with that going on, the five of us went for Celestia.

Sam 52
Chris 51
Ian 46
Andy 45
Andrew 39

And with that, we were all together again, for a hearty game of 6nimmt (chosen in favour of Pairs, despite Sam’s new fruit version).

Cue the usual cries of agony and woe, as one piece of shitty luck gave way to something even crueler. It was close for first place, though with four players tying for first and second. (Or first and third, if you prefer).

A particularly nasty situation

Ian 33
Katy 33
Andrew 35
Martin 35
Sam 36
Andy 49
Joe 50
Ben 62
Chris 63

On the division, Katy regains points ratio and top spot, while Martin keeps hold of the medal table.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Eclipse of the Heart

Andrew and I were so taken by our revisiting of Eclipse at Novocon (get back, autocorrect!) that we nearly played it again on Sunday night. But we were exhausted (I went to bed at 8.30) and instead brought it back to the table last night, Monday. Ian joined us. (Apologies for not extending the invitation outwards; it was a combination of not wanting a big group and assuming everyone would run a mile anyway.)

I'd gotten some of the game set-up before the others arrived, and we ran Ian through the rules as this was completed. He'd played it last in April, which is not that long ago, but there's been a lot of cardboard under the bridge since then, and Andrew and I had the advantage of playing only the day before.

Nonetheless Eclipse is a deceptively simple game and Ian was soon back in the swing of things. I went exploring early and, as with Sunday's game, encountered double aliens again. Having pinned my strategy too much on optimism before, I decided to hang back and build up my fleet.

Ian was exploring a lot and I admit I did curse him as he seemed to find a lot of uninhabited space. What I only realized later in the game was all this expansion was costing him dear in influence discs - he ran out of money very quickly, and had a couple of turns where he was forced to pass very early.

Andrew and I were more cagey. I did do some exploring, but as the hexes were only worth a point, I claimed my influence back and kept things cheap. I also developed technologies to get more cubes on the board, and concentrated on developing some mad bastard spaceships:

Come have a go, then

But actually, there wasn't a huge amount of battling going on. Ian and I agreed an accord not to fight, and I overcame the central hex ancients with comparative ease. Andrew took out Ian's hopeful resistance to advance toward me. Not so easily did I overcome Andrew though, in the battle of the game. Not at all, in fact: despite my Dreadnoughts seemingly impervious hull (8 points!) Andrew's dogged Cruiser managed to blast me into vacuum-unpacked smithereens. I recovered, threatened again, but chickened out in favour of more rewarding and peaceable moves.

 Me (green) poised to move on the central hex. Andrew (white)
and Ian (red) are moments from battle; this was just before Andrew
move into Ian's hex.

Andrew managed to replicate Jon's monolith-building on the penultimate round, but it wasn't enough to secure victory - I'd developed one of my technology tracks all the way to the top for a 5 point bonus and held onto the valued central hex. 

Sam 39
Andrew 33
Ian 27

Ian was pleased with his showing considering his 8 month absence from the world of Eclipse. Andrew and I were pleased Jon and Adam weren't there to beat us. Stanley wanted to play, but the 2 and half hours it took us to play the full nine rounds took it well past his bedtime. Finn doesn't count - though he was present he didn't even try and negotiate seating terms:

I usually shy away from games that go beyond the 90 minute mark, but I'd like to play this again soon!

Monday, 23 November 2015

Novocon 2015


As the starlings gather in fields to set of across the continents on their yearly migration, so it is that the GNN faithful gather together on email exchanges, eager to swap city concrete for the feeling of fresh country grass under our feet. Or at least visible through the window.

Sam, Stanley and I set off from Bristol heading south-west to Devon which, apparently, sat under a giant black storm cloud. Day swiftly turned to night as rain fell. The journey was arduous, but not complicated and after a couple of hours, we had arrived in Croyde!

Adam, Hannah, Arthur and Katy were there to meet us with freshly cooked lasagna. And as we ate, Steve, Anja and Luther arrived, followed by Jon. Finally, we were all together so the games could commence!

The first game was Steve’s egg game, in which he had to balance eggs on a shelf in the fridge door, unaware that it would give way any second. It did, with Steve unable to catch them all. In the blink of an eye we went from eighteen eggs down to three. There then came the tricky matter of how to pick up albumen from a kitchen floor. Mopping it up with a sponge? Scooping it up with a spatula? Steve worked hard to clean it up.

The second game was Steve’s beer game, in which he had to pour a drink from his new Old Speckled Hen mini-keg without it suddenly spurting drink everywhere. He lost. More cleaning up.

Steve's beer. Fresh from the mini-keg!

Finally, while Arthur and Luther were being put to bed, we played a real game. You know, one that comes in a box with rules. We chose Forbidden Desert, a nice co-op game to ease everyone into the weekend. Jon, Stanley, Katy, Sam, Adam and myself all tried to find the pieces of the ancient flying machine in the shifting sands of the aforementioned desert. But we couldn’t. We were able to stave off thirst, only to die, buried under piles of sand.

Next, Adam beat Steve at Hive, and Anja joined the group on the Big Table where they broke out Celestia. Sam took out the special action cards, apart from the jet pac and spy-glass, I think. They sped through two games of high drama.

Jon 55
Katy 38
Sam 36
Stanley 30
Anja 29


Anja 52
Jon 43
Stanley 39
Sam 36
Steve 33

During the second game, Adam beat Katy at Hey, That’s My Fish, 59-38. Then, Adam took over Arthur-duties and Hannah and I did battle in 7 Wonders Duel. I explained the rules to her, and spent most of the game balefully believing she had beaten me easy. But then I picked up a number of guilds in round three to come out an easy winner, 76-51.

By now there was talk of trying something a little more substantial. Anja, Steve and I played Snowdonia. For a change, we tried the Blaenau Ffestiniog variant. This involves the players choosing which end they start from, with the events alternating between ends.

It only added frustration, as best-laid plans were scuppered by the game triggering an event to dig/build/lay tracks in exactly the place we wanted. I was unable to build any station buildings at all. However, we kept our spirits up in these arduous times by singing the hits of Bernard Cribbins. Yes, all three of them.

Steve 72
Anja 52
Andrew 25

While all this fraught contemplation was going on, the other half of the room indulged in light-hearted party games. First, they played Deep Sea Adventure, featuring Katy’s plaintive wail of “but I was being so careful!”

Jon 29
Adam 14
Hannah 13
Katy 0

This was followed by Spyfall, the game of using questions to try and deduce which player is the spy who doesn’t know the secret location. Who won? I’ve no idea, but it ended with Jon coming into the kitchen complaining that he’s always the spy.

This was followed by 6 nimmt.

Katy 23
Adam 26
Sam 27
Hannah 44
Jon 66

Finally for them, after Hannah and Adam retired, they played Raj.

Sam 59
Jon 54
Katy 25


The very epicentre of the games weekend, and a whole day of games for all concerned. However, it was a slow start with people arising at different times, such that the thought of gaming was put to one side in preference for getting children to eat breakfast or trying to work out why the wi-fi/playstation2/TV/electric hob/wall socket doesn’t work.

In an attempt at getting us away from all this useless technology, we decided to walk to the nearby beach. Although the forecast was grim, the sun was out and myself, Sam, Stanley, Hannah, Arthur , Jon and Katy all set out defiantly into the buffeting wind.

The only game we played was pooh sticks between Jon, Katy and Stanley, which Jon won with his large chunk of branch beating Katy and Stanley’s twigs. Although we also played the running up and down the sand dunes game, which I was quite bad at and needed Jon to give me a helping hand.

As we were heading home we met Anja, Steve and Luther going the other way. After a brief chat and our friendly advice about which way they should go, we parted ways. We looked back and were impressed that they too were successfully attempting to scale the same huge dune that we had climbed.

We then paused at a local shop to buy pasties (English Breakfast Pasty was a big hit with me) before heading back.

Back at the house, there was still some time before lunch and so - at 11.45 - we began the first game of the day: Celestia!

Katy 52
Stanley 37
Andrew 37
Sam 36
Hannah 28
Jon 20

And this was followed by the serene delights of Takenoko. Hannah was the last to complete any actual cards, and was complaining how badly she was doing. Then she completed three high scoring cards in one turn and the game changed in her favour. Jon cursed his luck at only ever picking up green tiles (ironically, the colour that I wanted but never got). Katy was amazed at how badly she did at a game that she usually won. They seemed to find it a uniquely stressful game.

Hannah 38
Andrew 26
Jon 21
Katy 14

After Sam’s lunch of stuffed peppers, there was a kickabout in the garden for the more energetic of us, while others preferred to watch languidly from the sofa.

But soon we were back to the board games, and Hannah, Katy and Anja played Fauna while us guys hung out in the kitchen and played the slightly more boyish game of Cube Quest. We tried to complete a full league contain six players: Stanley, Adam, Andrew, Steve, Jon and Sam. We didn’t really get close but at the end the mini league looked like:

Sam 2 wins out of 2
Andrew 2 wins out of 3
Adam 2 wins out of 3
Steve 2 wins out of 3
Jon 1 wins out of 3
Stanley 0 wins out of 4

As grown men, should we be ashamed at how seriously we took our games against Stanley? Perhaps.

Cube Quest. A serious business.

Notable victories were Adam’s win over me, in which he picked out my king from a crowd of cubes. Also when Jon beat Stanley, his winning flick was so strong, the king flew off the table and hit Sam in the face.

Meanwhile, Fauna ended

Hannah 130
Katy 85
Anja 72

Hannah put down her comfortable win due to the fact that three animals came up that she already knew about, and she seemed somehow disappointed that she didn’t win by guessing. Surely rewarding knowledge is the whole point of the game.

Then I taught Adam how to play 7 Wonders Duel, and I didn’t patronise him by going easy on him just because it was his first go. I won 83-53. Meanwhile, Katy did not enjoy her introduction to Chocolatl, giving Dirk control of her game halfway through.

Sam 56
Steve 43
Hannah 43
Anja 33
Katy/Dirk 13

Then Steve and Anja broke away to prepare food, while Katy, Sam, Jon, Adam and me played a rousing game of Mystery at the Abbey. Adam found it hard going and, at two hours, it did last longer than I expected. Jon got a free revelation (ie, didn’t lose you points at the end of the game) and seemingly used it to confuse us, saying the murderer was a Franciscan, when it turned out to be a Templar. I successfully got the murderer, so I was happy at least. I don’t think Adam was impressed by how low-scoring a game it was for so much effort.

Andrew 2
Katy 2
Adam 2
Sam 0
Jon 0

Finally, I tried to teach Matcha to Adam, but the rule book text was too small and my brain couldn’t cope, and food was imminent. I apologised and gave up.

After a hearty feast of frittata, salad and something else I can’t recall, six of us played Midnight Party while the toddlers were being put to bed since this would be our last chance this evening to shout and scream.

Stanley 22
Katy 25
Steve 25
Andrew 27
Sam 34
Jon 44

Then Adam beat me twice on Hive, using the same tactic twice. Grr. Meanwhile, Jon introduced Hannah, Katy and Steve to Waggle Dance, another game of considerable length and low scores:

Jon 5 honey
Hannah 4 plus 5 nectar
Katy 4 plus 3
Steve 3

And Adam, Anja, Sam and me played a couple of games of No Thanks in which those who gambled on the high cards were richly rewarded for their bravery.

Sam 11 (with a run from 35-29)
Anja 15
Andrew 19
Adam 43

And then...

Anja 5 (with a run from 32-26)
Sam 19
Andrew 20
Adam 28

By now it was just past nine o’clock and anyone who wanted to play a long game needed to make a decision and convince others soon. Jon persuaded Adam and I to play Power grid with the promise of robots. Steve and Anja felt their chances of playing Wallenstein slipping away, as they agreed to an evening of short, fun games which would give Hannah the chance to bow out early if needed.

They played Celestia, the hit of the weekend.

Sam 51
Katy 43
Steve 34
Hannah 25
Anja 22

Then Bandu:

1. Steve
2. Anja
3. Hannah
4. Katy
5. Sam

And then, after a few retirements, Anja and Sam played a couple of games of Matcha, winning one game each.

On Power Grid, meanwhile, Adam played like a pro, quickly moving to trap Jon and me into a corner of the map. The robot, meanwhile, was actually a cardboard cut-out made up of several pieces with rules that the robot always obeys when it’s his turn. You can put this robot together from a wide selection, meaning it will almost never play the same way twice.

Anyway, there were a couple of hairy moments when the robot was in second place. The honour of the whole human race was at stake here. In the end, Adamn had such a good start that he could barely lose, even though Jon said Adam had made a big mistake in one of the closing rounds and might have ruined his chances. I hadn’t noticed anything.

Adam 17 cities
Jon 15
Andrew 14
Robot 13

And, with the time at midnight, the day was finally over. Phew.


And, as we all know, after Saturday came Sunday. Known for its sleepy slow awakenings and quiet gentle breakfasts. Unless you’re us, in which case it involves a massive space epic. I mean Eclipse, of course, and because Sam, Stanley and I were scheduled to head home mid-afternoon, we pushed for a meaty epic before lunch. Railways of the World was mooted until a thirst for new rules and sci-fi adventures won the debate and Eclipse was set up.

Sam talked us (Jon, Stanley, Adam and myself) through the rules, with Adam referring to the rules throughout, much to everyone’s dismay. Indeed, he found a couple of rule clarifications which would have helped his military plans if he’d known about them. This, at least, counts as mitigating circumstances regarding his final placing.

We played a truncated game, since (lunch) time was pressing. When round six ended, we finished with the scores at:

Jon 25
Stanley 22
Andrew 19
Sam 18
Adam 17

After this, while I made pizzas Steve and Anja played two games of Matcha, winning one each while Jon, Adam, Katy, Stanley and Sam played football. This was followed by a swift one-round blast of Raj for some of the mud-crusted footballers.

Stanley 20
Adam 12
Sam 8

Then at around three o'clock, Sam, Stanley and I set off back to Bristol, leaving the rest to play the “Five adults with child care duties decide what to play next” game.

Adam emailed me with scores and a little description of the final games of the weekend. Adam's home made Settlers of Catan finally got an airing. He reports...

Katie 10
Hannah 7
Adam 6
Jon 5

Katie got a strong position picking on the turn and ended up getting 5 wheat everytime 9 was rolled. Hannah was Close behind while John and I grumbled and stumbled in soundly beaten. Don't let the scores fool you into thinking it was close...

Waggle dance
Anja 5 honey, fewest dice
Steve 5 honey, next fewest dice
Katie 5 honey, more nectar
Hannah 5 honey, dead weight

7wonders duel:
Katy 74
Hannah 68

Anja 62
Adam 52
Steve 47

Steve was unceremoniously squashed between Anja and I. Meanwhile she and I danced around cagily loading more and more troops into Sachsen until Anja finally struck in the second last round, taking one territory and reducing another to one cube. That victory proved decisive as I collapsed to farmer revolts in the second winter and we were definitely finished by midnight...

- - - - - -

Thanks Adam. All that remains is the division. Well done, Drs Katy and Anja. Looks like Anja was right to insist on that game of Wallenstein after all.

 And, since we played quite a lot of two player games, I made a division for those games too.

Thanks, everyone. A lovely weekend and nice to get some epics onto the table. It'll be a long time until we have a table large enough to host five-player Eclipse.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Like whisky for chocolate

Thursday, and Chris and Andrew joined me (Sam) for some non-leaderboard high-jinks. And what an evening of high-jinking it became, with our inner souls bared before the night was through...

We began with Chocolatl, a recent purchase via BGG. The theme of the game is competing to make chocolate, but the theme is as light as an Aero with it's casing stripped away - this game is all about the mechanics. Luckily, the mechanics were pretty neat. The preparation of chocolate comes in a series of bidding rounds with each chocolatier starting with an identical set of cards. You bid on getting the Chocolate Man (helps you bid) and if your bid is rubbish you end up with the old man, who hampers your bidding. Then you bid on points, then the option of +1 on every bid or a die to roll to increase your bid, then points plus end-game points, and so on, until the last bid which is over high-value bidding cards to add to your hand for the next round.

I really liked it, and I should add that despite winning both games I expressed the same opinion when lagging miles behind the others in game two. It's not hugely unlike Yspahan, but easier to pick up and play and is over much quicker. We didn't keep track of the scores but I romped away in game one with Andrew second and Chris third, then staged an end-game recovery in game two for a narrow victory over Chris, with Andrew third.

image courtesy JackytheRipper on BGG

We moved on to Africana - new to Chris, but relatively straightforward to pick up. It was nice to play this again, and I'd love to say I operated as shrewdly as the scores suggest. But really, lady luck smiled on me repeatedly as adventures and expeditions just seemed to fall into my hands at the right time:

Sam 114
Andrew 55
Chris 36

Finally, we saw off the night with Take it Easy. I began the calling with Phil Collins songs. I ran out about halfway through, which is possibly a good thing, and changed to Peter Gabriel. We all agreed the tiles improved at this point.

Chris called the next round and went for people he "hated at college". This stream of names could have been unnerving on another night, with the volume of the detested alarming enough without the fact Chris could recall all their names with minimal effort. Luckily, Andrew and I were quite drunk. We only protested when Chris called the name and didn't actually mention the numbers, seemingly lost in reverie.

Andrew then gave us a treat by calling Japanese TV dramas, giving both title and précis in the most culturally elevated round by some distance, after my 80's pop idol and Chris' psychopathy. I won, but the battle for second couldn't have been closer:

Sam 433
Chris 387
Andrew 386

Thanks guys, a great warm-up for Novocon!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

A hundred kingdoms under the stairs

Martin offered to host games night this week, with the tantalising opportunity on offer to view his new games cupboard, under the stairs, barely six feet from the games table (or "dining table", as I suppose some people might call it).

We admired the perfect proportions and clean lines of the Ikea shelving used to house such a collection. Then we decided to use some of this collection.

But first, while we waited for Chris caught in traffic, the six of us (Martin, Sam, Ben, Andy, Ian and myself) played Celestia, a game of pushing your luck and hoping that your captain has the right cards to see off any dangers as your slightly over-designed airship sails towards ever more exciting rewards.

If you suspected the captain wasn’t up to the job, you could jump ship and take whatever rewards were there.

It was a fun game and hats off to Ian who had few cards in his hand, but usually seemed to have enough to see off any hazards, much to our disbelief. Oh, how we laughed as he sailed off without us on more than one occasion.

Andrew 53
Andy 50
Ian 48
Martin 47
Sam 47
Ben 43

Then Chris arrived and we split into two groups. Sam, Andy, Ben and Ian chose Broom Service. Chris mentioned that he’d like to try Impulse. Well, Martin and I needed no prompting and this tiny space epic was brought out.

Chris was given a quick run through of the rules, and we were off! I set off in an early lead after a move where I traded a red card and shot down one of Martin’s ships. This left me high up the score track, but low on cards. Chris, despite being a newbie, kept up well against the two experienced hands and Martin, perhaps slighted by my early success at his expense, spread out expansively across the board.

I was down to one ship at one point, and I could’ve been obliterated but Martin held back. A rare act of kindness, but he finished the game in the next round with a series of moves that got him eleven points, pushing him past the target score of twenty.

Martin 22
Chris 10
Andrew 10

Broom Service still had some way to got, so we began a game of Hanabi, using Martin’s deluxe set.

It was Chris’ first go on this one, too, although he’d often seen other people playing it at the Reading meet. Perhaps not in as much style as us, though, as the Mah Jong-esque tiles felt nice and weighty.

We did well, not picking up a single storm counter, and we were only stymied at the very end by Martin have the green four and five, meaning he couldn’t put both down. Still, with me correctly guessing at the end which of my tiles was a blue five, we were able to complete four of the five tracks for a creditable score of 24 out of 25.

By now Broom Service was over:

Sam 85
Andy 84
Ben 72
Ian 65

But since we were knee-deep in Hanabi, Andy suggested Koryo. Sam recoiled like Andy had just sprayed the room with Mace, and kindly declined the offer. Ben and Ian were up for it, though, and it ended in Ben’s first win of his GNN career!

Ben 17
Andy 14
Ian 7

Meanwhile, in the gap between Hana-bi ending and Koryo ending, Sam introduced the rest of us to Matcha, the very quick two-player bidding game for tea-making utensils (either one each of the five different items, or a set of four). The design was nice, and it kept the Japanese vibe going after Hanabi.

Chris and Sam played first, with Sam quickly winning with his four tea leaves. Then Sam and I played and, in a longer game where we cancelled each other out most of the time, we finished with a draw.

And now we were all together again, keen for a final game before we headed home. Pairs was chosen. Ben never got going, crashing out early one. Usually after the second card. In one round, Andy dealt out onions like they were going out of fashion. Then, next round, he was sent out by a pair of lowly cherries. But Martin kept his cool to claim the win.

Martin 22
Chris 20
Sam 15
Ian 11
Andrew 10
Andy 7
Ben 0

So that’s it, until the weekend gaming fest that is Novocon. And then next Tuesday again, of course.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Cult of the New

Tonight Ian and I (Sam) did our best impression of assembling at my house, and cracked out a cluster of new games. First off we played Celestia, which is about sailing through the skies in the manner of Gulliver, each player taking turns to be the ship's captain and avoid the celestial hazards. It's very much a push-your-luck game, that we knew from the outset would probably suit more players. Nonetheless it produced the most laughs-per-game ratio of the evening by far. Whether that was the game or my diabolical shuffling remains to be proven.

Sam 57
Ian 49

Next up was Matcha, the tea-making game for two. This I find almost impossible to explain easily, but once we started playing the mists cleared and things began to make sense. Basically it's a race to collect a set of tea-making implements, and players are 'bidding' - I use the word reservedly - using alternating currencies of numbers and symbols. It's a really neat game we both liked, and won one game each.

Ian had been subjected to two new sets of rules already, but he remained open to the 7 Wonders 2-player option of 7 Wonders Duel. I played this with Andrew last week and we won a game each, with rather swingy results. This game was much tighter, with neither of us really pushing for a military or science victory (these options end the game instantly in Duel) and so balancing our play reasonably well. We both made mistakes, but my two previous plays counted for something:

Sam 71*
Ian 63*

*Weirdly I remember the Celestial score but anything after that I'm kind of guessing slightly. I blame the Leffe.

Finally another new game - or at least, new rules. Secrets is the Castles of Mad King Ludwig expansion, where you can build moats, secret passages, score for courtyards and collect swans (cash em in, or keep em for points!)  I feel the jury is out on this slightly. As is tradition in this house we played a couple of rules wrong, but Ian and I both liked the moats and swans - kind of - whereas the secret passages remained unimplemented, and the courtyards are just a scoring option really.

But a fun night all the same, and something of a trouncing for me from Ian in the finale:

Ian 87
Sam 65

- something like that anyway.  A bracing evening of new rules, and some decent finds.