Saturday, 30 December 2017

I'll Tichu a thing or two

Christmas at Joe's was actually Christmas at Joe's parents, who were away and allowing their offspring to party while the house was empty. By party, I obviously mean play games, which began with three of us - the host, Stanley and myself (Sam; Andrew will take over narrative duties when he arrives). And by empty, I mean there was some Michael Crawford style comedy of Joe being unable to let Stanley and I via the back door, so we passed games through a gap under the window before walking around the block to reach the front door.

Finally in, there was some further comedy - less Michael Crawford, more Friday Night Dinners - about getting the heating working, before we finally stood perusing our options. I was keen to play Rajas of the Ganges, Stan suggested Pulsar, but Joe proposed we begin with lighter fare in the form of Majesty: For the Realm.

Generation game

Each of us has a tableau of cards forming key buildings in a village (Inn, Barracks, etc) and on your turn, you simply add a card from the display beneath one of the buildings to gain points and sometimes some other benefit. But claiming the cards uses the same economy as Tribes or Firenze - the further up the display you go, the more expensive the card is.


Joe focused on his castle and the chaining of this rewarding multiplier offset the attacks from Stanley (via Barracks) and my mish-mash of different cards. If Stan had managed to get himself a single castle card he might have claimed a debut win, but as it was the host's calculated castling got him the victory:

Joe 190
Stan 184
Sam 179

It was quite a sweet game, and I definitely prefer it to Splendor. And with the palette-cleanser out of the way, I suggested Rajas of the Ganges again, but no joy. Joe was keen to play The Quest for El Dorado though, and this was met with murmurs of approval from Stan and I.

forgot to take a photo

If only we'd known then how Joe was going to show us a clean pair of heels and sail off to the most convincing victory I've seen yet, with both Stan and I miles behind him. Stupid game!

Joe wins.
Sam probably second.
Stan most likely third.

With time on the afternoon session running out, the possibility of playing Rajas of the Ganges looked remote and so we had a few rounds of Zendo, doing the easy and figure-able-out rules.


Katy arrived at the tail end of it when I was master, and guessed the rule before either Joe or Stan did. Then it was time to take Stanley home for tea, which I did, hoping that when I returned, perhaps we'd play Rajas of the Ganges!  We bumped into Andrew arriving as we left, and it is he who will now tell you the story of What Happened Next.


I arrived at around five o’clock, just in time to pass Stan and Sam leaving the house. Inside I found Joe and Katy about to embark upon the grand tour of Joe’s parents’ house. Soon after this, Adam arrived so Katy and I decided that now would be the best time to go and get chips. We set off, with promises to get Adam some chips too.

But the chip shop was shut so we went walking to find other food establishments. We looked in the local shop, but did not fancy limp sandwiches and crisps. Instead we found a “multi-cuisine” place that did wraps. And fries too, so we were sorted.

We returned and ate while we watched Adam and Joe play Azul.

Joe 60
Adam 54

“And that's the only time I will ever beat Adam at Azul.” said Joe, referring to the fact that it was Adam’s first game.

We were still waiting for Sam to return for the evening session, so we decided to start playing a game of Tichu. The last time I played it was a while ago, and I didn’t care for it (I don’t like old card games given a few new game-breaking cards and then sold as a brand new game) but I was happy to try again.

We split into teams according to how we were sat around the table, and began. There were a few occasions when I sighed at Tichu's fiddly rules, and Katy kept playing a card or set of cards by mistake and then putting them back into her hand meaning that we all knew what she had. It didn’t seem to help us, as Joe completed an early Grand Tichu and put them into an early lead.

Katy and Joe 295
Adam and Andrew 105

Then Sam returned and we finished off the hand we were playing while he satisfied his curiosity by investigating the cellar. Once we were all together we decided to play a five-player before the inevitable split into smaller components. Five players is a tricky number and, in this mostly gameless house, our options were more limited than usual. But Sam had brought The Godfather: A New Don so we set it up and he explained the rules for the newcomers.

It was fun, and there was a nice amount of muscling in on each others’ patches but there was confusion about when you can re-roll and, like the last time we played, the grimy pastel colour scheme lead to some confusion about where the boundaries were.

Adam won, despite having never been the Godfather while Joe came pretty close despite having only a handful of soldiers on the board. Perhaps there are hidden depths to this game under its murky surface.

Adam 15
Andrew 14
Sam 14
Joe 13
Katy 8

Nice, but a bit too long with five.

So now we split into two groups. Katy cradled Yokohama in her arms long enough to tempt Adam into a rematch. The board looks tiny when it’s set up for only two players.

Sam, Joe and I played Paperback since Joe couldn’t find his copy of Movable Type that he thought he’d brought with him. Paperback is a word building game.

I found it a bit dry. You make a word that gets you enough money to buy a new letter card which, if you use that in a word later on gives you even more money to buy cards. It was a “get stuff to get stuff” mechanic pasted onto a word-making game.

Sam 46
Joe 39
Andrew 29

Yokohama was still in full swing, so we played Azul. Such a nice game, with opportunities for evil. Sam told Joe to “stop looking at my board!” But I got two columns completed for a win.

Andrew 62
Joe 51
Sam 45

As for Yokohama, Adam didn’t score any points at all while Katy raced into a 44-0 lead. Adam said he was “trying something”.

Whatever it was, it almost worked. I remember him making a long and complicated mega-move near the game end and, during the final count up, it was quite close.

Katy 129
Adam 124

In the after game discussion, Adam worked out that he could’ve won if only he’d played his last turn differently.

Then Katy neatly put the game away. Into the box lid. She just closed it anyway, and flipped it over so it was the right way up again, to Joe's appalled wails of dismay.

Than Sam decided he would probably go back and, in indecent haste, Joe said “We can finish Tichu!” before he remembered to thank Sam for joining us.

Katy was not keen, preferring instead Divinare but Joe had already said he wasn’t in the mood for new any more rules. She was also unwilling to lose their 295-105 lead. "Come on, we'll take it home!" said Joe, encouragingly.

So we recommenced our game. It was an epic. Adam and I came out of the traps running, winning the first two hands in first and second for two 200-point bonuses. Then I got cocky and failed a Tichu, allowing J&K back into the game. Joe Grand Tichued again, under extraordinary circumstances. When he picked up the card given to him by Katy, he pointed out that if your partner declares a Grand Tichu it’s usually the done thing to give them your best card.

But despite Katy’s lack of help because she wanted to keep the two straights she had (we later found out she’d given him a five) and despite having no aces in his hand, Joe still managed to complete his Grand Tichu to edge them back into the lead.

Later Adam put down a 12-card run, which was nice.

Soon after that I noticed that midnight had passed and, since this was the closest to a New Year’s Party that I was going to this year, I wished everyone a happy new year!!

Katy was keen for the game to end, and seemed disappointed that Adam and I, regaining the lead, ended a round a mere ten points off the game-ending 1,000 point mark.

Surely it would end in the next round. And it did, but only just, as a lone king in our stack of tricks gave us the ten points we needed to close the game as winners.

Adam and Andrew 1,000
Katy and Joe 800

And so we were done. Phew, what an evening. What a year! Well done everyone for getting to the end. Let’s do it all again next year.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017


An unusual Wednesday night games occurrence occurred as Andrew, Ian and I all found ourselves free, and chomping at the bit for some more Christmas gaming - Andrew and I especially, having been unable to attend the official GNN last night.

So it was we converged at my table with the pre-agreed Rajas of the Ganges set up. Initially, it must be said it looks like someone ate a Hawaiian pizza and threw up on some Christmas lights, but as previously touched on, the game at heart is quite simple - it's a race to push your cash income one way and your glory another, until the twain meet.

Everything else is about maximising that engine: keeping the dice rolling in, so you can roll 'em back out again, getting money for markets, glory for buildings, and lots of other glorious shit inbetween. Ian rinsed us, having chained together a bunch of spice markets and scored a whole load of buildings. Despite my late-game surge of ten - ten! - points along the glory track, when Ian ended it neither Andrew nor I had managed to get our markers in kissing distance.

That most Euro-y of Euros packed away, we played another new game: The Godfather: A New Don, which we couldn't work out was meant to be a pun on a new dawn or not, but for some reason Andrew insisted we all use Australian accents.

It's a little like Las Vegas and a little like something more directly interactive. Players are one of the families in the 1950's hoping to become the dominant force in New York. You place soldiers in the various New York districts to score points at the end of the game for controlling/nearly controlling/nearly nearly controlling a district, but in order to get a soldier in there you need to spend dice. So dice are handy, but in each round one player is the current Godfather, and they take dice (or offers) off the other players. If you want to be Godfather yourself, you need to work your way up the muscle track, which takes... dice. There are also dice to be won at Las Vegas if you feel lucky.

It all made for a feisty, spicy affair, as being ahead on the muscle track also allows you to eject other players from districts you fancy having yourself. The game end is triggered when either a district is full or a player runs out of soldiers, then it's all about majorities.

As it turned out, Ian was the new don, as his points scored for soldiers left-in-hand pushed him ahead of me on the score track - a crushing twist, as I'd deliberately spent soldiers in order to trigger the end of the game!

We moved on to Phrasell, one of the games from the Wibbell++ deck which I have long wanted to play, and Andrew rated as one of his games of the year.

It's all about coming with an appropriate phrase for a randomly-chosen subject, which officially plays 5 players or more but we thought we'd have a crack at anyway. And it was funny, not least in part due to the difficulty of coming up with a phrase that made any kind of sense. Andrew's Someone Call Nurse Fatima had no relevance to the subject, but he won the round anyway. It's that kind of game.

Overall though, it was yet another win for Ian, who was on a roll. Maybe because Andrew and I were clearly drunk at this point; I'm not sure. I can't remember if Ian was.

Sticking with the Wibbell++ deck, we bashed out the game Andrew and I created with Scrabble tiles some 25 years ago - Hypothetickell. In this game you add a letter to an ever-extending chain of letters, but you must (unless you're bluffing) have a word in mind that has the current letters in it, in the current order (though there can be any number of letters before/after/between them). I don't know who won but we played a couple of rounds before Andrew remarked that if we add it to Games Night Guru we'll have to say there is a shitload of AP. Good fun though.

My word was locksmithing. Andrew added the S as a bluff

And we rounded off the evening with Love Letter - a GNN mainstay and classic. Countless times we've played it and countless times Ian has won. But not tonight. Tonight was Andrew's turn; a win richly deserved if only for the fact he was drunk enough to ask me if I had a Bishop, and I was drunk enough to reply "No". While Ian merely blinked, before we collectively recalled there are no Bishops in Love Letter.

Andrew 3
Sam 2
Ian 1

Thanks guys, a great bunch of games and a lot of fun!

As always, Azul ways

Tuesday. The most frequent blog writers being unavailable I asked the question "Who is
blogging tonight?" and thus it fell to me, Ian, to cast some words to page to record the
events in perpetuity. They say pictures are worth a thousand words, but as I didn't take any
this will have to do.

Seven of us convened at Hannah and Adam's. After some discussion regarding Christmas
travel plans we split into two groups. Katy, Adam and Joe were to play Yokohama. Hannah,
Andy, Martin and I opted for Flamme Rouge, with the Peloton expansion that Andy had
picked up earlier in the day.

The Peloton expansion seems to add a couple of new terrain types - cobblestones and a
refreshment area. Cobblestones act in a similar way to mountains as they prevents slip
streaming. Unlike mountains they don't have a speed penalty, but they create a possible
choke point as they are only one space wide in places. The refreshment areas acts in a
similar way to a downhill section, every card being worth four in speed.
Despite Martin attempting an early break away, it was ultimately Hannah who crossed the
line first and claimed victory.

Hannah Wins
Martin, Ian and Andy do not.

We then played Squirrel Or Die. Hannah received this game as part of the secret Santa last
week. It's a realistic approximation of the struggles a squirrel faces in it’s existence.
Essentially, there are a series of cards that either have FOOD or DEATH on them. We
spend the first half of the game placing the cards face down in a grid, trying to remember
where we placed the FOOD or DEATH. The second half we pick up the cards and receive
either FOOD or DEATH. Pick up three DEATH cards and your squirrel dies.
Of course, I forgot what card I placed where almost instantly, and so picked up cards semi-

One by one we squirrels succumbed to the DEATH cards. In this game, as in the
Christopher Lambert-starring film Highlander, there can be only one (winner). And that
winner was Hannah.

Hannah wins
Martin, Ian and Andy do not.

Yokohama was still in full swing, so we four set up Azul. Whilst the game was being set up
Katy responded to a sentence I can't quite recall with the innocuous phrase "As always!" I
queried if this was some sort of pun based on "Azul ways". I can't recall if Katy claimed this
as a witty intentional pun or not, but either way it gave me a blog title.

I think Azul has been documented before on this blog by better writers than I, so I won't
describe the tricksy wall-tiling game, but it was a close outcome. I steadily scored points throughout, but Martin scored more points from bonuses at the end and won. Final scores

Martin 78
Ian 76
Andy 62
Hannah 45

By this point Yokohama had finished. Despite Katy's certainty that Adam would win it proved
not to be the case, but there was a notion bandied about that Adam had let Katy win to
ensure that she would play again. Joe didn't seem convinced by this idea, and described
Katy's performance as a "masterclass". However they came about, the final scores were:

Katy - 144
Adam - 122
Joe - 89

Hannah retired for the evening, and the rest of us joined together for a final game, a bit like
how those robot lions in Voltron join together to form a giant robot for a climactic battle. And
that game was Auf Teufel Komm Raus. Some disastrous bids saw Katy and Myself lose all
our money in the very first round.

Alas; my notes for this game are even more scant than for the previous games of the
evening so detail is entirely lacking, but I do recall Katy, after going bust, turning over coals
to see how many devil's remained, despite Martin still waiting for his turn, leading to a cry of
"No Katy!"

The game ended early, with Andy's break for victory falling just short, but we decided it was
close enough, and late enough, for it to be a victory.

Andy - 1580
Ian - 1480
Martin - 950
Joe - 950
Adam - 650
Katy - 650

And thus ended the final Tuesday Games Night before Christmas 2017.
Thanks to Hannah and Adam for hosting this evening. As it's the last Tuesday games I'll
make this year I'd like to say thanks to everyone for the all the fun over the past year. Let's
do it again next year!

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Treats and Treaties

Sunday was Stan's birthday party - his actual birthday is in a couple of days - but before we set off for the annual Three Hours of Carnage Including Putting Cake Into Fizzy Drinks, there was time to try out Rajas of the Ganges, the game that has already made Martin recoil at its very mention and Sally shiver at the memory of her crappy History GSCE exam. With those endorsements ringing in my ears, I set it up in the front room and had a gander at the rules. Then, sensing it was a Stanley game, I called him down to play it.

board looking busy

workers looking confused

So in Rajas of the Ganges you are the aforementioned Rajas, seeking to  out-Raja all the other Rajas by developing your province with buildings and markets, until eventually there ain't no other Rajas around here but you. Designed by Markus and Inka Brand, the couple behind Village and A Castle For All Seasons, it was always going to be as Euro-y as Guy Verhofstadt, and so it proved. It reminded me slightly of Marco Polo too, in that there is dice-rolling, but then dice are spent rather than placed - they don't return to you, so you have to make your workers generate dice for future actions. Yes! It's worker-placement too. It's lots of do stuff to get stuff, and I suppose the only new thing about it is the winning conditions - you're simultaneously pushing your markers along a cash track (counter-clockwise) and a glory track (clockwise). When two markers of the same player meet, the end-game is triggered and the person whose markers are furthest past each other wins.


Inevitably, this person was Stanley, who won in convincing style whilst my markers could barely see each other by peering across about a third of the board. We both loved it, but outside of Martin hating it I'm no longer sure who likes what at GNN. I'm certainly up for playing again, though, and soon.

Theistically accurate depiction of god of Euros

There was now the three-hour cake-throwing interlude...

...after which Joe and Sal pitched up on the sofa to watch Blue Planet while Stan and I played 878: Vikings - Invasion of England. The title does most of the explanatory work here, so suffice to say Stanley was the invading hordes (Norsemen and Berserkers, serving Leaders, of whom one appears per round) and I was the defending Thegn and Housecarl, with occasional feeble help from the Fyrd. Over a maximum of seven rounds the vikings arrive in great numbers, and the English counter-punch as best they can. The vikings win by controlling 14 city shires at the end of a round; the English win by having the vikings control none at all. Or - as with happened to us - you can end the game by forming a treaty - two of the same side need to 'sign' the treaty in order to trigger the game end, at which point the Vikings need to control 9 or more city shires.

Thegn considering movement. Housecarl considering rebelling

With one eye on bedtime I triggered the treaty in round six. Stan had played his Norsemen and I had played my Thegn. With my Housecarl I bombarded into three city shires, and won back just one of them. One I had most hoped to win had been defended successfully, and to my chagrin I realised I'd left an undefended city shire behind!

Coming over here...

There were just the Berserkers to go, and they had to win three shires. One was a gimme, but Stan couldn't see how, despite his well-supported leader, he could win two more - he was shackled by having only one movement card and could move only two armies. But working together we spotted a way it was possible. As Leaders can move, fight, and then move again, he could take two shires - but only if he defeated me on his first roll in combat in the initial battle, as any further battle rolls would cost him a movement point.

Arthur - the only English Leader in the game - just watches on 
until round five, when he suddenly gets involved

As it turned out, the Berserkers and Norsemen were in feisty mood, and my treaty-playing lassez faire turned out to be the petard that hoisted me. Never mind! We will fight another day.

It's a more asymmetric game than the predecessor I've played (1812: Invasion of Canada) because as you would expect the Vikings are very much the aggressor here - the English are simply defending, and play very reactively. But there's still room for tactics, and the dice-rolling throws up the odd surprising - and funny - result. Good, solid, pillagey fun.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

What dreams are made of

On Friday, Paul made one of his occasional journeys across land to join myself, Sam and Chris for some old-style gaming fun. And when I say “old-style”, I’m mostly referring to the jokes.

Ha ha!

My day of gaming began early when I had a dream that morning with the four of us in it. I’d invited them round to play games in my posh London flat. We were all sleeping in the same room, so we had to push the furniture to the walls, which I was a bit annoyed about, but never mind. We were playing a game where the board was illustrated with tree tops and a white hexagonal grid over them and we all had coloured cubes. Paul suddenly said “I’m going to sack all my butlers!”

That’s all I remember. I told the rest of them my dream, and they said that was a very Paul thing to say. Will Butler Forest ever become reality? No one knows.

As for the real games, we began with a couple of rounds of Avenue. This path-making game is simple to learn and even easier to get wrong. Sam showed us a solo game he’d done in which he ended with zero points.

On the final round of the first game, Chris realised he’d completely cut off the last scoring farm and completed the routes to his castles, leaving him with nothing to do. If only he’d played it a little different, he could’ve got a win on his debut.

Sam 42
Chris 41
Andrew 30
Paul 15

A second game was quickly arranged, since Chris and Paul felt they’d only just got a hang of it. If I remember right, Chris painted himself into a corner in the last round, finishing one point behind Sam again.

Andrew 55
Sam 41
Chris 40
Paul 30

None of us managed to go through an entire game without having at least one non-scoring round.

Next up we chose Council of Four. This game is not just a points salad, but also a bit of a gameplay salad, using ideas reminiscent of other games. Chaining, area-control, set-collecting, doing things. You know the sort of thing.

Almost the only thing it doesn’t have is a chance to trash your hand and draw new one. This caused Chris some anguish with his hand of all purples which were decidedly not fine. His options were non-scoring moves preparing the councils to be more purple-friendly in the future.

Sam started well. He explained to us newbies how getting the 5-point bonus for building in both blue cities allowed you to pick up an additional 25-point bonus tile for completing the first bonus. And then he went and did just that! You can’t accuse him of not giving us advice he wouldn’t take himself. Chris and Paul also got in the bonus tile action fairly early on.

I ignored the build-in-coloured-city tactic, preferring for a long chain of buildings that paid out like a malfunctioning slot machine every time I added to it. In the latter stages of the game it helped me put together a move that included two extra moves! Very nice. However, my extensive lead on the score track was not enough of a buffer against Sam’s end-of-game bonuses.

Sam 70
Andrew 68
Chris 56
Paul 42

We played a swift game of NMBR9 as a palette cleanser.

Andrew 87
Sam 74
Paul 70
Chris 69

Then we played Quest For Eldorado, another game new to everyone except Sam. It’s basically a deck-building race game. Since my opening hand allowed me to move four spaces, I decided I would. Sam and Chris hung back early, buying cards and Paul walked back and forth investigating the same cave.

In the middle, I struggled through villages, while the others used machetes to go the long way round. Then, when out of the village, my best machetes refused to come out of my deck, so was either stuck or forced down the winding path through the overgrowth.

Sam then, by his own admission, got a huge dose of luck. His last two hands just came out perfectly to get him across the last tile. Chris ended in a not too distant second while Paul and I seemed to be lost, no doubt shouting advice to each other in the darkest part of the jungle.

As eleven o’clock approached we dug out two old favourites. 6nimmt. After a low scoring first round, Chris picked up 26 in round two. I got stuck in a death spiral in round three for 31 points. After that things settled down until Paul and I crashed out together, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid bursting out of their hideaway to face the insurmountable massed guns of the police. Only far less cinematic.

Sam 43
Chris 53
Paul 71
Andrew 77

Then we played No Thanks. Chris went for a high-card strategy which earned him lots of coins. But he then found it much funnier to let 30+ cards go round until I had run out of coins and had to pick them up.

Sam 17
Paul 30
Chris 41
Andrew 77

And with that we were off to sleep in various rooms in Chris’ house. I slept well, dreaming about us playing board games again! No Butler Forest this time. Instead, it was all about ghost hunting. In this game, you first got the commission, then went to the place and then you had to chase the ghost. Chris must’ve played the game before because he explained to me that rolling a six after a one was actually sixteen, which was far too many movement points and I’d gone past it.

Thanks all, it was fun. And thanks to Daisy the kitten for keeping me entertained in the morning.

Friday, 15 December 2017

While the cats are away...

With our respective other halves both out at the Immediate Christmas do, Joe popped round to mine for a rare 2-player games night. To the accompaniment of Effie singing herself to sleep (piped in by the baby monitor), we started puzzling out Joe's recently acquired Bridgette.

As the name implies, it's a scaled-down version of Bridge, specifically for two players. There are three special cards called 'colons', leading to an amusing section in the rulebook headed 'Colon Irregularities'. Fortunately we didn't suffer from these.

Joe made a tentative 2 No Trump bid in the first round but my terrible cards meant he comfortably made it. In the second hand, I benefited from an odd rule whereby if an Ace is the turn-up card, the dealer can draw 9 extra cards and then choose the best 13 from 22. My hand of 11 clubs and two other Aces pretty much played itself...

We decided to move on to another one by the same designer - mad genius Joli Quentin Kansil (also responsible for Montage). This one is called Krakatoa and it's a part-dexterity dice game: you're trying to roll particular combinations of colours on the three sets of d12s, but each successive roll must knock into and move one of the dice lying on the table. The rules also stipulate that it be played on a soft surface such as a tablecloth, encouraging the dice to turn over when hit rather than just skidding.

Joe seemed to have an innate talent for rolling matching sets of three ('volcanoes'), raced into the lead and never looked back. I had a brief moment of hope when I achieved the best combo in the game - a 'Big Eruption' with all 9 dice showing the same colour (pictured). This quadruples your scoring for the next two throws, but sadly four times nothing is still nothing.

It was already 9.30 and we were yet to start the main event! Joe has recently acquired the long-awaited 'Distant Lands' expansion for our old favourite Manoeuvre, offering four new armies with interesting new powers. I went for the Indians while Joe was keen to try the Japanese. Unfortunately, after several minutes of meticulously shuffling the freshly-unshrinked cards, he realised he'd picked up the Swedes instead so an unlikely battle ensued.

The new armies seem to have lower basic strength than the original ones but with a few tricks up their sleeves - my Indians could launch rocket attacks! I made a couple of positional blunders and Joe seemed to have the advantage in the midgame. We settled into an attritional battle, mostly managing to heal wounded units before they could be eliminated, and proceeding through our decks quite slowly.

The tide started to turn when I drew a handful of cards for an infantry unit which had spent the game so far hanging around lazily far from the front line. Now they charged forward and delivered an instant kill to one of Joe's units. We'd now made 4 kills each (5 is needed for an instant win) but our decks were also close to depleted, which brings the game to an end with victor decided by territory occupied. Neither of us could quite manage another kill and my slightly more advanced units gave me a tight 9-7 win.

The ladies still seemed to be happily partying so we finished off with Joe's Secret Santa gift Qwinto. It's another roll-and-write game and most similar to Qwixx. However, while the decisions in Qwixx often seem quite obvious, Qwinto offers a lot more freedom. You can start a row anywhere - not just at the ends, but it's still quite easy to box yourself into a corner later in the round.

Joe easily won the first as I ended it with a sequence of 'fehlwurfes'. The second seemed to go much better than me and we calculated a 79-79 tie until I realised that I'd added 12 points I hadn't earned.

Midnight was striking and it was time to call it a night - and Sarah reported they were just having the last dance too!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Lord of Mis-roll

I left my flat this Tuesday evening to the warm tones of Silent Night coming from a nearby group of carol singers. Nice of them to come out on the night of the GNN Christmas special.

I went to Joe's for a lift, and then we sat in traffic on our way to pick up Sam. As such, the three of us were the last to arrive at Adam and Hannah's, joining Katy, Matt, Martin and Ian.

First there was the little matter of the Secret Santa to settle. Everyone had bought a game related gift for everyone else, and we opened them in order of age, youngest first. We were all very happy with our gifts since they all seemed perfectly chosen for us. Even for the last minute entry, Matt, which required a slight change in the pattern of gift giving.

Ian's festive jumper won many admirers

After all that generosity, we all played a game together: Avenue. In this game, each player has a map (all identical) of grapes, castles and farms. As the oldest player reveals a card showing a road (straight horizontal, straight vertical and four ninety degree turns) which we all have to draw on our maps. The idea is to link the grapes to the farms and, eventually, to the castles too. But be careful! One farm won't score at all, so take care not to waste useful roads on that one.

It's like a simple Karuba but despite the simplicity, it caused anguish around the table. Katy was appalled to see that the last farm to score was the one she couldn't reach any more. Joe, in contrast, was only one tile away from connecting all of his roads into one long super highway (for grapes).

Joe 78
Andrew 66
Martin 63
Sam 61
Hannah 58
Ian 58
Katy 55
Matt 42
Adam 41

After this was a break from gaming for mince pies and the Quiz of the Year. Sam was quiz creator and question master and the teams were Joe, Martin, Katy and Ian against Hannah, Adam, Matt and me. Since I had written most of the blog this year, it was considered only fair that I should be partnered with those who hadn't been able to attend.

Katy didn't realise mince pies had been served
until there was only one left.

However, my spotty memory was no match for the other team who had, after all, actually been there.

Katy, Joe, Martin, Ian 22
Adam, Hannah, Matt, Andrew 17

Next, we split into two groups. Katy, Ian, Martin and Sam chose The Quest For Eldorado while the rest of us played Zendo.

It was the first go on Zendo for everyone except Joe who talked us through the rules. It's basically a game of Spot The Rule, communicated through the medium of coloured plastic shapes. We played for three rounds. Adam won the first round, with Matt guessing right in the second.

Then disaster struck! As a bag of salty nibbles was passed across to Matt, his bottle of beer was knocked over. Quickly, we leapt into action, saving the rule book. Then we realised that, since all the pieces were plastic, the game itself was waterproof.

All we had to do was dry it, so Hannah got out the salad spinner and we put all the pieces in there. Despite several brisk spins, each piece still needed some personal attention so we spent a little time drying them off one by one.

And after all that, Hannah correctly guessed the rule!

The people on the big table were still playing Quest For Eldorado so we tried Joe's secret santa gift of Qwinto. This is a roll and write game whereby you have to right the results of some rolled dice along one of three rows. Each row has to contain values that increase from left to right. Complete a row and you get a number of points equal to the largest number in that row. There are also a few columns to complete, too. You must write a number on your turn, but can choose to pass on other players rolls. If a player completes two rows or goes bust four times, the game ends.

Since each roll can be used, there’s always something you need to be aware of. As such, I preferred it to other roll and write games. But my warm feelings for the game were nor reciprocated, as I ended the game with four mis-rolls giving me –20 points in the final reckoning. It would’ve been a whitewash if I hadn’t kept rolling eights.

Andrew 63
Matt 63
Hannah 40
Joe 39

Eldorado had, by now, had the shit quested out of it, with Martin getting there first, fighting off a late burst of activity from Ian and a machete-weilding Katy. Sam was only a couple of hexes further back, too.

1 Martin
2. Ian and Katy
3. Sam

So we were all together and a final game of 6nimmt was enough to persuade Hannah to postpone her bed-time. In a display of festive cheer, we also invited Dirk to join us. This loose cannon is always good for a chuckle or two as he either falls on his sword or pushes someone else into danger.

In the first round, Dirk ended with 39. Martin had 22 and I felt obliged to point out that he was the worst sentient being in the room. Ian scored only two in round one and then finished round two clear of any points at all! Adam and Sam were struggling and Sam reminisced about when it was usually him or Adam who won. Sam managed to get through round three with only a single point. Adam did not fare so well. He scored over twenty in each of the three rounds, leading me to dub him “The Human Dirk.” My, I was in a feisty mood this evening!

Ian 24
Andrew 30
Sam 37
Matt 38
Hannah 39
Martin 45
Joe 46
Katy 48
Adam 65
Dirk 80

And so we were off. Full of the joys of the season, with happy memories of mince pies, festive jumpers, wet plastic and mystery presents. Big thanks to Adam and Hannah for hosting and see everyone soon!

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Best Games of 2017!

You know the rules. They don't have to be published this year, just New To You.

I just browsed through the last year and jotted down all the new games worthy of consideration for my own top ten. Ended up with quite a few...

Many of them I didn't want to leave out. But for brevity's sake, let's keep it to ten. I found myself adding extra criteria (different types of games) just to help me make a decision though! Starting with three who have to be here on account of getting played so many times it seems weird to leave them out.

1. NMBR9 - the vertical version of Take it Easy. Always guaranteed some swearing. I rarely play a game by myself, but I kept doing so with NMBR9 - I found it addictive. Easy to teach, quick to play, zero set-up. Lovely.

2. Flamme Rouge - a hit with almost everyone who played it. Always enjoy this game and love the way the play genuinely resembles a race: to break or not; if so, when? Pushing on will tire you out, and someone far ahead at the halfway stage is usually caught as they run out of puff...

3. Near and Far - this is the game I play a lot with Stanley. It's very simple to teach and the mechanics by themselves are a reasonably streamlined get-stuff-to-do-stuff. What elevates it into the ten is partly the story element: not as absurdly silly as Arabian Nights, but fun all the same. And partly - mainly - its presence here is down to the joy I've had with Stanley.

The Euro. Let's get it out of the way. I really enjoy Clans of Caledonia but for it's big, bizarrely abstract great behemothiness it has to be...

4. A Feast for Odin. When I first played it I thought Uwe had had some kind of episode, but I then I found myself wanting to play it more and more. Until I played Adam.

The co-ops. Not a massive player of co-ops, but I think I will be hanging onto...

5. Black Orchestra. Perhaps not as elegant a design as Pandemic, but Andrew and I have really enjoyed playing this. Like Lord of the Rings, it suffers from the actual moment of victory or defeat not quite having the fireworks that the rest of the game does, but I like it all the same.

6. Flipships. Just genius. We played it again last night. As with Lost Expedition and Insider, I'm grateful to Flipships being a game (little) Joe asks to play.

The (other) silly one.

7. Polterfass is one I'm always happy to play and just about bumps Auf Teufel Komm Rass.

The wordy one.

8. Montage just sneaks in ahead of Paperback and Movable Type, even though I am shambolic at it. All three are great.

The hidden identity one.

9. Chameleon. I love Insider too, but Chameleon avoids some of Insider's occasional lop-sidedness, where the Insider can win just by being quiet.

The new one.

10. The Quest for El Dorado. There had to be a new one! And it was this or Azul. Though I have also been enjoying losing at Stanley to Pulsar 2849 and been impressed with the beige-looking Council of Four.

Bubbling under:

Voodoo Prince, Jorvik, Eggs of Ostrich, Hit Z Road, Ethnos, Kingdomino, Downforce, Alchemists, maybe even... Time of Crisis?