Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Katy rea11y is terrible at that game

Summer holidays hit GNN as only four gamers could make it to mine (Adam) and Hannah's this week. However with Martin and Katy present the foursome probably made up the most (over) competitive field GNN can field.

Competitivity struck early: As the only one of us who'd played Mammut I struggled to explain how players divvy up the cardboard spoils from their Mammoth hunt so that others won't steal them. Martin quietly snuck the rule book from my hands and proceeded to take over - unknowingly paying homage to a grand old tradition of competitive rules explanation. It was probably for the best as I trailed in last. Martin also struggled, thus proving that explainers curse is still a real and cruel affliction. Katie ran away with the game early on and the result was never in doubt and entirely unrelatedly she enjoyed it.

Katy 71
Hannah 43
Martin 42
Adam 36

Next up was Deep Sea Adventure. The dice-based-push-your-luck-oxygen-deprivation game. A game which saw Katy imploring her competitors "don't be greedy" as if for all our benefit. A transparent ploy to save her own skin which we duly ignored, abandoning her to drown as we hauled our huge stacks of loot back to the surface. Twice. It was around now that Martin gave us the title for this post.

Adam 33
Martin 29
Hannah 15
Katy 4

Finally, as Katy professed ignorance of Team Play, Martin and (sitting opposite) Adam's eyes lit up (as we'd obviously all be too lazy to move seats to even out the newbie players), but when it was presented she remembered (especially the rule about NOT TELLING YOUR PARTNER WHAT THEY SHOULD DO). The game featured Martin rocking a crying baby Effie, holding a hand of cards and playing his turn, all with only two hands. As Effie's hunger pushed us to rush the ending it would have been a tie, but Martin spotted that I'd claimed a goal card incorrectly (playing a pair of odd cards when we needed evens) and the tie turned into defeat - but proved that however competitive we may be, the games are always played with the proper GNN spirit. And no one muttered about how he should have just kept quiet. Okay?

Hannah & Katy 30
Martin & Adam 27 

Monday, 29 August 2016

Five out of Ten

Sunday night, and I (Sam) found myself facing off across the table against Andrew and Ian. We'd chosen Five Tribes, the game Ian suggests almost out of habit, and I was struggling. Mitigating factors were attempting to get the music working and two rapscallion children calling for the odd sortie upstairs. But mainly, the problem was Five Tribes.

In some ways it's so good - the moving and dropping off of workers takes that Mancala thing and does something more interesting with it than going in circles. The different coloured workers do different things which is neat. Taking ownership of a tile you empty is neat. But when you add the fact the tiles themselves have an action, and you can buy resources to sell or sacrifice elders for Djinns that add more rules to the game (a lá Alien Frontiers) it starts getting complicated - which I don't mind, except you can't plan your turn until it arrives, as the board is constantly changing complexion, and it feels like there are quite a few more tribes than you'd like. As the others seemed to pull off one shrewd move after another, I struggled with both the game itself and my plan - I didn't have one, until I decided to try and collect a shitload of resources to stay competitive.

The game closed out with Andrew winning reasonably handsomely, and me sneaking past Ian into second:

Andrew 137
Sam 121
Ian 118

Nice to play it again, but I think we might be done with Five Tribes. At least, I am!

We needed something comparatively light, so I taught Ian and Andrew the hit of my holiday in Wales - O Zoo le Mio, the game that crosses Carcassonne with blind-bidding. We all enjoyed this - it plays in less than half and hour but packs a lot into that time.

1 Sam
2 Ian
3 Andrew

With our gaming juices flowing again, we played a game designed for six-year-olds: Outfoxed. This pie thief-identification game can be tweaked to entertain grown-ups by simply speeding up the rate the fox runs back to his or her den, as your time to solve the mystery runs out.

We had no room for failure left when Andrew mooted that the culprit was in fact Gertrude: she had no top hat or umbrella, which is in the world of Outfoxed tantamount to smashing your bloodied/pastried hands on the desk and screaming "I did it!" There were still other foxes it could have been though. was it right to single out Gertrude like this?

It was.

Gertrude stole the pie!

Next up was Codinca, which Andrew and I had found reasonably entertaining as a two-player. You're shuffling tiles around trying to form patterns, and the first to complete all their (four) patterns wins. However, like Bullfrog (as Ian noted) before it, what was a sweet and canny two-player is transformed into a cognitive evisceration with three. At least, it was for us, with Five Tribes still fresh in our minds. We abandoned it after we realised our plaintive yelps were outweighing any snickers of delight.

Instead we played Knit Wit, flying from one end of the gaming spectrum to the other. Although I suppose their is some head-scratching in Knit Wit, it's of the creatively thoughtful variety. Andrew's silent, creepy and found inside was a slug in a flowerpot. Ian conjured up at least one apocalyptic vision involving people falling into crevasses. As far as I can recall the whole game only saw one call of Knit Wit, when Andrew and I contested something of Ian's. But what it was now escapes me.

Sam 45
Andrew 43
Ian 26

There was just time for one more game - Push It. We dived straight in without a single warm-up flick, and it proved to be a mistake, particularly for Ian. Whilst Andrew surged off into a healthy lead we lagged behind, with Ian unable to score at all for several rounds. More than once our discs limped feebly puck-wards only to fall despairingly short of anything that could be considered a threat. Despite Andrew's mid-game slump where Ian and I both feigned competitiveness, he walked away with the win:

Andrew 11
Sam 5
Ian 4

Emboldened and refreshed by the classic game of flicking bits of wood, we decided on one more game to really finish - Biblios. Or Extreme Biblios, as Andrew and I, lacking any sophistication worth the name, like to call it. In Extreme Biblios gold isn't a tie-breaker at the end, you don't shuffle the cards after the gift phase, and during the gift phase if you hand out a single gold tile you get to say "eat shit". There wasn't a lot of the brown stuff around though, and despite hopeful enquiries as to whether anyone ate their own it was a game with a dearth of frustration, though - as always with Biblios - there was plenty of tension and second-guessing. I'm not proud of our scatalogical humour, but at least I can say I'm Mr Biblios:

Sam 8
Andrew 5
Ian 4

Friday, 26 August 2016

Boarding nine to five

Just holed up for a week in Wales with Mark, Katie, and their kids. I brought a big bag of games knowing that if Scythe didn't get played, we would at least get through some lighter affairs. As it turned out, though, 8 and 9-year-old children seem to adore Scythe...

I've not written down all the scores but outside of a smattering of Love Letter and Pickomino and a one-off Lords of Waterdeep, the hits of the holiday were Bandu (grown-ups), Scythe (kids), and O Zoo le Mio (both). The days were spent body-boarding and sandcastle-building at the beach, and the evenings playing boardgames at the house. On the first night I introduced Katie and Mark to Bandu, which they liked a lot. I think we played it every night bar one, with a variety of winners. Most notable, however, was the night we broke Bandu - running out of pieces with everyone's tower still yet to crumble.


The kids enjoyed Bandu too...

Peppa verges on winning

...although what Peppa and Stanley wanted to play on a regular basis was Scythe. We played it a couple of days in with me facing off against the pair of them in a team, and although I sped to six stars to trigger the game end, I was a vastly unpopular leader with the locals, and came a desultory second. For our second game I managed a win. Finally we played individually, and as the game progressed towards its close it was between myself and Stan. Not wanting to damage my (much improved) popularity, I demurred from knocking Peppa out of the central hex. I should have been a bit more hard-nosed:

Stanley 67
Sam 66
Peppa 53

The game that was a hit with everyone was O Zoo le Mio, which I picked up very cheaply from Area 51. It's a cross between Carcassonne and something a bit more screwage-y. Everyone is building their own zoo (laying tiles a lá Carcassonne) but the tiles are flipped over five at a time and everyone makes blind bids for them. What's on the tiles defines how many visitors will be attracted to your zoo, which in turn defines the winner. Over five rounds the points rewards escalate, so starting poorly doesn't write you off, but finishing strongly is a must. You're juggling a number of things - how the tiles fit into your zoo, how much you spend, and keeping track of how much everyone else is spending.

Just like a real zoo, you secrete your cash in the entrance

Just like a real zoo, visitors are attracted by bushes

On the last night we also played a few games of Knit Wit, where Katie insisted that "you're always safe with lard" and Mark said lightening is "tall" which, despite the seeming incongruity, you can't really argue with. I somehow smuggled pygmy soup through as a definition for organic, coarse, flavourful and wild. Again, a variety of winners, but the game was mostly notable for Katie's answers usually involving food in some way.

And in the morning it was time to go. Despite my occasional proffering, Lords of Vegas never got played! Sorry, Joe.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

And then there were eight

GNN slowly digs itself out of the August lack of attendees, with a bumper crop of nine gamers. Adam and Hannah hosted (with Hannah arriving halfway through the evening) and Andy, Ben, Joe, Katy, Ian, Matt, Martin and myself were the eager visitors.

We quickly split into two thanks to the decisiveness of Martin who, with a tiny baby strapped to his chest, was painfully aware of the time. He, Joe, Adam and Ben went into the front room to play Tichu. The remaining five pondered what to play. Joe had brought Colosseum, but with five, it would be too long. It soon came down to Ticket to Ride or Ra. I was keen to play Ra again, to try and get over that drubbing I got from Andy the last time we played. People seemed amenable and, with Katy graciously agreeing to play although she preferred TtR, we set up.

Katy and Matt had a rule refresher and then we were off. Ian, Matt and I began collecting buildings early. I made an early decision to ignore pharaohs and take the –6 hit, hopefully benefiting in other areas. Andy and Katy both started slowly, with very few tiles. Katy didn’t even manage to use her 12 bidding tile before she brought the epoch to a close with an involuntary Ra.

It was around now that Hannah pointed out that Katy had inadvertently eaten Hannah’s supper earlier that evening. Katy was a bit embarrassed and apologetic and, while Hannah said it didn’t matter, Katy’s game seemed to go through a rough patch. Was she distracted? Who can say. But she ended up going through the second epoch with her 12 bidding tile still in front of her, unused.

Ian played a cautious game, calculating the points of each bid carefully. At one point he had two yellows and a red civilization and he had to discard two because of a disaster. He kept the red. And, of course, the next civ out was also a red. How annoying for him (but not us).

In the third and final epoch I kept my eye out for any buildings I could nab and hoped for a flood tile, too, but with no joy. Katy had, by now, remembered that she didn’t like this game at all (even though she won it the last time she played) and encouraged anyone who was thinking about calling Ra to do so, thus ending the game sooner.

It was a close run thing. My last round 20 point bonus on buildings was not enough to get me into first, but it was that old dark horse again, sneaking up without anyone noticing, who took the win.

Matt 42
Andy 41
Andrew 40
Ian 35
Katy 25

In the front room, Tichu ended at much the same time.

Joe and Adam 1,080
Martin and Ben 920

Post-defeat, Katy makes clear her feelings towards Ra.

Now, with all of us together, we decided on a big party game. Martin had to leave so we tried a nine-player game of Midnight Party, with promises to be quiet. Since it’s only made for eight, Hannah got the two pieces from Takenoko and used them. The panda was totes adorbs and I was quietly pleased whenever it was able to seek safety in a room.

But Hugo was in a mean mood. Even though he moved only three spaces, he made quick work of the dawdling party goers. Especially Joe.

Andrew –13
Hannah –14
Adam –19
Matt –19
Andy –26
Katy –26
Ian –29
Ben –32
Joe –34

It was still quite early. Too early to say good night, but too late to sit down for another full game. Andy left, so there were eight of us remaining. We decided on a single round of 6nimmt. Katy bemused everyone with her dealing technique: ten piles of ten cards, and then take back two piles and there’ll be one pile each. Or something. She asked everyone to count their cards, but since everyone else seemed to have ten, I didn’t bother. As I learnt when it got to the final round, I’d had eleven.

Didn’t help, though.

Hannah 0
Katy 6
Ian 11
Joe 14
Matt 17
Adam 18
Ben 25
Andrew 36

And so, the night was done. I gave Ben, Joe and Katy a lift back and during conversation it barely registered with me when Ben used a word like “mizzled.” Joe, however, was most excited to hear it because he said that word didn’t exist. The word in fact was “misled” which shold be split in half “mis-led” but Joe used to say it as Ben just had: like the past tense of the verb “to misle”. Joe was quite overcome to find someone else who’d made the same mistake he had.

Only at GNN, guys. Only at GNN.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Lucky Sevens

Tonight’s games night was hosted by Katy since none of the big-hitters were available. Thus we were faced with the prospect of a games night with people who only dabble in games-buying. Luckily, we had enough games of quality to be sure of a good night.

We were Katy, Ben, Ian and myself, with the vague promise of Matt turning up later on. We began with Decathlon, the dice-based sports-themed multi-mini game by Knizia. We chose it because we could easily stop it if Matt arrived.

But first was the small matter of snacks. I brought the Cheese Puffs that Ben had brought to previous games night for the past two weeks. This time, instead of being passed over, they were the first to be decanted: into a lovely piece of kitchenware.

As for Decathlon, we got three events in and, although Katy was enjoying it, it was clear that Matt wasn’t going to arrive and I (and Ian ) were keen for something more substantial. Especially since Ben had brought Lords of Vegas with him. So we ended after the shot putt. I’d taken notes of the results, but I’ve lost them now. I was probably ahead, but we can’t call it leaderboard.

Instead we geared up for a proper game: Lords Of Vegas! A game that needs no introduction. We gambled. We hustled. Katy sped off into an early lead with a purple casino that kept paying out. Hardly any greens had come out, so that was the focus for most early building.

In the mid-game, there was a lot of sprawling, and redecorating in order to take over neighbouring casinos. It was tough, but since everybody knew the lay of the land, it was expected. Everyone, it seemed, gave advice on how to screw over everyone else.

Mid-game, I was lagging in last with Ben in third, Katy in second and Ian out in front thanks to a five-tile silver casino that he built without any sprawls. It just fell into his lap. There was loads of reorganising as people gambled on holding onto a casino just long enough for it to pay out before it was re-reorganised.

I put my all into two big casinos, one of which was a five-tile green casino. The other three tussled for control of several others and I wished I had just one dice involved, just to have an outside chance of taking over.

We gambled a lot, too. Sometimes risking the future of an entire turn on the roll of some dice. Ian's was a popular casino and, after initially off-setting everything, he started to rake in the money as we rolled seven after seven. I worked hard to remind everyone that they weren't gambling one dollar, it was one million dollars!

At the end of the game, I was behind by a country mile and built an expensive three-tile casino on the strip just because my green casino (not on the strip) wasn't paying out at all.

Ian 49
Katy 44
Ben 20 (plus cash)
Andrew 20

I checked the last unused quarter of the deck and there were three green cards in there. Talk about backing the wrong horse.

With that, we were done. Thanks for hosting, Katy, and for the lovely gin.

On the Division, she rises back to the top.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Complexity 5 and 6

This is the sequel to the post Complexity 4 as Sam and I met up for games not only on the Friday evening, but also on the Saturday during the day.

A quick run through of Friday since I didn’t take many photos.

First up was Codinca, a game of strategy and some puzzling as you move your squares around a 4x4 grid to try and achieve certain patterns before your opponent does. I won.

Then we gave Nippon another outing: we thought it was best to get this out quickly before we forgot the rules and it ends up in the same fate as Canalmania, occasionally suggested but never chosen because no one remembers how to play it.

This time, I got my game up and running faster, with an early consolidation. Then I went mad on ships and trains. Sam, again, built six factories and was poised to make his big point-scoring move in two moves when I pointed out the game only had one turn left.

This gave me a handsome win, with Sam ruing his lost opportunity. Then, as I went to the toilet, before he packed away, he worked out what the scores would have been if his plan had worked. I still wouldn’t have won, but it would’ve been closer.

Then we played Magician’s Night a game played entirely in the dark, with only the luminous characters on the pieces visible. The idea is to nudge your cauldron into the middle while hoping you don’t knock anything off the play area. When you hear the “clunk” of a piece falling, it’s someone else's turn.

With two players, it’s not great. Just a case of pushing one way then the next. Sam won.

Then we played Heck Meck. Sam informed me during the game that on a recent holiday he’d played it against someone and lost 18-0. His luck hasn’t improved much.

I won 16-0.

The next day, me and Ian went round to Sam’s at 1.30 to try Sam’s recent acquisition: Scythe. The behemoth of a game (“It’s even heavier than Caverna,” said Sam) has a big old rule book to go with it’s figurines, cards and meeples. It looked daunting. I’d watched a half-hour walkthrough on YouTube, so I felt I had a handle on the concepts. Sam went through the rules and, before too long, we were off.

Where you sit around the table decides who you are (or vice versa) since every character has their own home base. They also have their own special powers. Mine was “meander,” which does not seem like such a great military strategy, but it meant I got to chose two options during an encounter rather than one. Encounters are like a light-hearted vignette, where a little scene plays out with rewards for the player involved.

One thing I didn’t do mcuh was expand. Unlike Sam and Ian, my empire didn't get bigger than five hexes until the very end. Sam sped to the game-ending criteria of six stars for certain achievements, while I boosted my popularity for the end of game multipliers.

Although Sam had six stars compared to mine and Ian’s four and three, my better popularity meant more returns on what I had, getting me the win.

Andrew 62
Sam 49
Ian 42

Ian had to go home soon to look after a dog while the owner was away. We chose a short game: Bandu. Shorter than Scythe, certainly, but still longer than we’d expected. Ian went out first.

Sam and I built increasingly rickety buildings.

Sam won.

Last photo taken before my tower (front) collapsed

Then we fired off a quick round of Timeline, where Sam won again and Ian and I came joint second.

Then Sam and I did (most of) the Guardian cryptic crossword for last Monday, ate food, and played Pueblo where we both tried the strategy of leaving your neutral blocks until last. It was a close thing.

Andrew 66
Sam 69

So now, Chris was on his way so we set up Scythe again since we knew Chris was keen to give it a try. This time Sam and I chose different characters. This time my special ability was that I was able to win more than two stars for combat. Slightly more aggressive than my previous meanderings.

This time I concentrated on upgrading my skills so everything was cheaper and better. Sam did the same. In fact, he was so efficient that he still only two workers on the board about a third of the way into the game. Chris expanded cautiously and steadily. Perhaps too much so, as his lack of specialising meant he put down fewer stars than the rest of us.

I was on four stars when Sam suddenly sped past me, putting down two stars in a turn and setting himself up for a win the next turn. My previously peaceful plans would take too long, so I had to use my special ability. I initiated two attacks, winning them both for two stars, and ending the game. Although I was less popular than Sam, my multipliers were still good enough to score another win.

Andrew 78
Sam 63
Chris 26

I like Scythe, perhaps because I won both times, but also because of the mix of resource management and strategies. But it does satisfy the same needs as Eclipse does: an epic with many ways to win and lots of different bits to move around.

Then the three of us played Magician’s Night.

Sam charges up the pieces

With three players it’s more fun. Chris won the first one, and then liked it so much, we set it up again. I won the second thanks to Chris nudging my cauldron into the centre while trying to push his own.

I set off after this, leaving Sam and Chris to play Raptor.

What a day. What a couple of days. Thanks for hosting, Sam. Enjoy your travels and see you in two and a bit weeks.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Complexity 4

Andrew and I didn't sit down with the intention of playing a heavy Euro game, but that's what we did.

It all began rather innocuously with a couple of games of Raptor, a two-player battle between scientists and raptors. One side is trying to capture raptors, the other is trying to eat the scientists. It's rather fun - the basic mechanic at work is the playing of cards - players compare value of cards and the person who played the higher number gets action points to spend. The person who played the lower number gets one special action. It allows for table-talk and bluffing, as well as raptor capture and scientific ingestion.

Mummy Raptor, pissed off

On a crazy whim I then suggested Nippon, which is a fairly heavy game about Japanese industry I've never played before tonight. Japan, of course, is Andrew's sweet spot, and, aided by the early hour, he was immediately intrigued.

We busted it out and tried not to be alarmed at the number of bits. The rulebook seemed fairly light too, compared to something like Eclipse, but the game was quite complicated.

stuff happening

On your turn you take a worker from the board, and in doing so take an available action. The first action we read in the rulebook (Industry) almost stopped us, but we ploughed on. And a good thing too, because what at first appeared like a unintuitive point salad (not helped by the desire to make it language-independent) revealed itself to be a neat combo of engine building and luck-pushing - trying to time your moments of 'consolidation' for maximum return and minimum cost.

I am about to consolidate

Before long we were building factories, running them, generating income as well as knowledge and coal and developing influence all over the place. There was a whole bunch of stuff that made sense. We broke a couple of rules and had a couple of do-overs, but actually the game was over quickly - we finished just after 10pm having played a longer version than the official game!

It would of course have been substantially longer than that with more players. Writing this now I'm not convinced it would be a GNN hit - certainly not one for Martin or Katy, though others with a more Euro bent (Andy, Chris, Adam...) might enjoy it.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

In Vino Veritas

This week’s GNN was another slimline affair. Just five regulars huddled around Sam’s kitchen table, eager for their fix of gaming crack. We were, in total, Sam, Andy, Ian, Ben and myself.

After a brief opener where we (Sam, Ben and me) entertained Sam’s kids (Joe and Stanley) with a rousing game of Paraoh Gulo Gulo. The kid’s had a clear advantage with their little fingers expertly plucking the spheres from the bowl, but it was Ben who timed his game to perfection. He burst into the mummy’s lair after Stanley had opened it and Sam had failed, and successfully overcame the mummy’s curse. It wasn’t leaderboard, though. I didn’t even note down the positions of the other players. Also, we learnt that we’d got some rules wrong on the mummy’s movement. Oh wells.

After this we thought about the next game of choice. Glen More was considered, since Andy had played it on an app and so he kind of knew the rules. But we were also drawn to Viticulture. Andy looked at the time needed on the side of the box and optimistically said “We can probably play both!” And so Viticulture was chosen.

The game was laid out and explained to newbies Andy and Ben. They seemed to get the gist of it pretty quickly.

The usual pattern of slow start rising to tense climax was repeated here. In fact, Sam was still on zero points after one hour of play. Ben had taken a hefty hit early on, sacrificing three victory points for a stash of money. He then played a series of cards, giving us the chance to take advantage of certain opportunities to do things for cheap, in an exchange for a victory point for Ben. Before we knew it, he was out in first.

Ian horded wine and looked like any second now he would unleash a series of orders. He also kept taking the bonus spaces for actions, and then not using the bonus taking great delight in ruining it for the other players.

The risk of cards being too powerful was counterbalanced by everyone using lots of cards. So we all raced down the score track (even Sam, eventually) pretty much neck and neck for most of the game. In the end, it looked like it was either me or Ian who’d hit 20 points, since I was only three points away and Ian had a cellar full of excellent wines to sell, but in the end Sam snuck through the pack to trigger the end of the game with him in first place.

Sam 20
Andrew 19
Andy 18
Ben 17
Ian 15

After this two and a bit hour epic, we decided to end on something a little less substantial. Any thought of trying Glen More was forgotten about and instead Dice Heist was chosen, with Ben saying his goodbyes and going for his bus.

This game of art theft is a lovely slice of push your luck. The poor old Hermitage was a favourite target. I suppose they can’t afford decent security because they keep having to buy new exhibits. Andy picked up the Mona Lisa early, and after that was in pole position for paintings. Ian and Sam managed to tie for last place in paintings and so were both hit by the –4 point punishment.

Andy 22
Andrew 15
Ian 15
Sam 10

And with that, we were done. Thanks to Sam for hosting at the last minute and thanks to everyone for another great night.

I lead the division without having won a single game! Some form of history is being made here, surely. Points ratio and medal table stays the same.

Monday, 8 August 2016

From Athina to the Pharaohs

Sunday night, and after missing several GNN meets recently, I (Sam) was keen to break out some cubes. Just back from Greece, we'd played some Dice Heist and Pairs, and a lot of Heck Meck - but even in the land of Socrates I couldn't have gotten anyone to play a Greek-themed Euro - especially as I don't own one. So I was craving for something a little heavier - Eclipse, say.

However the evening started belatedly as Sally and I and the boys dashed back from Wales later than planned. My phone was dead and Sally had dropped her phone in the toilet. With no way to contact the guests, we could only veer wildly between traffic up the M4. Luckily they were loitering outside like middle-aged teens, and having gained entry to the house, Ian, Chris and Andrew began playing King of Tokyo whilst Sally and I did housey and parenty things. I didn't witness much of the game, therefore, but Chris was declared King.

Ian then suggested we play Eclipse but by this point my yen for something deep and strategic had slightly waned. Sorry Ian! Instead we proceeded to play a whole bunch of short games, that Chris won. I can't actually remember the order of them all now, despite  drinking no alcohol at all. I must have been drunk on games!

I think the first game was Blockers. Chris was new to it, but it's not hard to pick up. Everyone seemed to have a strategy; Chris going for a ever-widening single group of tiles, Andrew and I going for two groups. Ian berated his tiles, which seemed to come out as some kind of biblical penance. As the game closed out we were all forced to make unproductive moves, and my insistence on sticking to plan A meant I picked up four of Andrew's tiles. Silly game!


Then we played Pharaoh's Gulo Gulo, which is exceedingly silly. It's fun though, although the finale can feel a bit of a damp squib if when someone (me, in this instance) enters the Pharaoh's tomb the curse (lifting balls out of a bowl) has been recently reset. Sam wins!

Next up was Spooky Stairs, which is very like Midnight Party in that ghosts are after you, but different in that the hiding in Spooky Stairs is the player's pieces, which get consumed by ghosts. The winner is the first one to the top of the stairs, but the main task of the game (and fun it generates) is all about attempting to keep track of which ghost is yours. When a ghost is rolled, you may swap the positions of two ghosts - even with the early hour, we were thrown into doubt by these shenanigans. I won, but only because Andrew moved my ghost to the top thinking he was winning. And Chris indulged in a (successful) spot of bluff when he deliberately swapped someone else's ghost instead of his own.

We decided to go for a bit of an old-timer after that, breaking out Poison.  It's a filler that takes a little longer than a filler really should, but nice to revisit it all the same. I thought I might be able to snatch the victory from Chris, but a final card with a sting in the tail put paid to me:

Chris 13
Andrew 17
Ian 18
Sam 20

We brought in a few short games to try out but then ignored most of them in favour of playing the quiz game About Time. I've never actually tried the board and bits that come with this game - maybe it's worth a pop, but I can't help feeling the fun is mostly in the cards, were you are trying to identify a year from several facts. We played first to five cards, and Chris won!

There was just time for a little game of Push It before we called it a night.  Chris won...

Chris 11
Ian 10
Andrew 10
Sam 8

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

New Buildings Fall Down

After last week’s surprise hiatus, with vacations leading to an overall lack of venue and attendees, this week saw GNN back in business. Hannah (sans Adam, who was on a train at the time) hosted and Ian, Matt, Katy, Ben and me were the eager visitors.

With six, there was talk of splitting into two groups of three, and so we perused the games cupboard with this in mind. But I was in the mood for Fauna and, despite Katy’s warnings that Hannah would win and she’d come second, it was brought out as a nice inclusive starter. Katy was especially happy when she realised she was sitting to the left of Hannah, and so could copy her guesses for some easy points.

It had been a long time since I’d played Fauna and I’d forgotten how thinky it can be. Players took long pauses as they tried to remember what they knew about the beluga whale. Various mimes were employed as people tried to work out each animal's length and weight. Ben picked up a pack of cheese puffs and thoughtfully weighed it in his hands wondering how it compared to a muskrat. This lead to a little diversion about Ben’s potential as a new presenter of a populist nature documentary: “... and this bat is almost exactly the same weight as an electric whisk.”

Hannah was kind enough to point out whenever she already knew about an animal so we went on to the next one. I was lucky enough to be starting player with an animal that was found in only one area and had the word “Andes” in its name. Meanwhile, Katy’s prediction was only half correct. Hannah cruised past the eighty-point target with ease while Katy fell from second in a poor last round.

Hannah 95
Andrew 88
Matt 88
Katy 85
Ian 66
Ben 63

After this there was still some talk in the air about dividing into two groups, but someone suggested Bandu and so we stayed as a group of six for another game. Katy went from being delighted at the seating arrangement to being appalled. She was convinced that Hannah was going to find the most difficult piece to give her. And so it was.

(In the later stages) My building stands next to Katy's ruin

Katy crashed out early as she failed on only her third piece – an upturned egg-cup that she should’ve passed on to me, but it never occurred to her. Ian went out next, trying out quite an innocuous piece and dislodging another. After this, we carried on for some time. Matt’s structure was short and squat while Hannah’s was mostly tiny pieces clustered around a central pole.

Matt's still standing while Hannah is out

I had two spheres at the bottom of my structure, but managed to build it so that the upper pieces were all leaning on each other. Ben’s was another series of gravity defying blocks that was eventually topped off with a remarkable split-sphere effect as my attempts at giving him awkward round shapes backfired in a surprisingly artistic manner.


Tension increased as the stakes grew higher and higher. I even refused to breathe in the direction of the table during the later stages and Ian had to mop up his lively, overflowing craft beer a little more gently than he otherwise might have.

Hannah was next to fall, followed by me. The shock waves from my collapsing tower also caused Matt’s and Ben’s tower to fall, giving them a joint win.

1. Ben
1. Matt
2. Andrew
3. Hannah
4. Ian
5. Katy

It was then decided that we should finish with 6Nimmt. Thus, we began as a six and ended as a six. How convivial.

It was a higher scoring game, with all of us sharing the pain over the four rounds. Since there were six, that meant people were at risk right from the very start. And so it was: in rounds one and two Ben got stung both times. Once was sheer bad luck, but the other one was the result of someone playing low and taking a particular card.

Talking of playing low, Katy found herself frustrated at the number of times she played a card lower than any showing, but – she felt – high enough that someone else was bound to play lower. We almost never did, much to our amusement and her despair.

At the end of round three, Ian and Katy were a distant last, but the rest of us were on 35-36-37-37. Could Ben hold on to his lead against such opposition?

Well, it turns out he could. This time it was Matt who found himself on the wrong end of a row of six far too often. Ben’s single point in the last round giving him his first win at the game.

Ben 36
Andrew 43
Hannah 51
Ian 61
Katy 67
Matt 67

And so it ended. Katy said how much she enjoyed it, despite it being perhaps her worst performance in GNN history. A smashing evening, and it bodes well for the return of some of the regulars next week.

We may be one-third of the way through the season, but the Division still seems like it’s in its early stages. Katy still leads, but with a smaller advantage, and Matt has picked up the lead in points ratio.