After a brief bout of conversation, Martin suggested we play Insider, the new game from the company that gave us A Fake Artist Goes To New York and Deep Sea Adventure. The concept is simple, while the method of working out who won isn't.
It's basically 20 Questions. In each game, roles are dealt out and kept secret except for the Master, who declares him or herself immediately and will be the person who chooses the words to be guessed by the others and who answers their yes-no questions.
However, there is a spy in the group who also knows the word and has to get their group to guess correctly without anyone realising that they are the Insider.
I shall refrain from explaining how he winner(s) is/are decided. Instead I'll just explain what happened as best I can.
We played twice. In the first round, Joe was the master and fielded our questions. Towards the end, as we were pretty stumped, Martin asked "Is it wood?" And it was! We had succeeded! But who was the Insider?
Unfortunately for Martin, his blurting out the answer made him suspect number one. After a unanimous vote to accuse him, he admitted his crime.
Everyone else won.
We played again, but this time the result was quite different. The cold, calculating manipulation on show is quite chilling to recall.
Martin was the Master and we started the usual guessing. It was small and not found in cities. A toy made of wood, but had no wheels. Then Joe asked if it was from a particular part of the world. It was. We kept guessing. Katy guessed Frisbee but then, dejected, remembered that they aren't made of wood. At this point, Joe asked "Is it a boomerang?" And it was! With only a few grains of sand left in the timer, we had succeeded again.
But who was the Insider? With Joe's insightful questions and conveniently timed correct guess, he was very suspicious. Joe insisted he'd got the right answer "Because I'm smart," but even he admitted, the more he defended himself, the more guilty he looked. We voted for him and we were wrong! It was Katy!
Everyone else loses.
She explained that her guess about a wooden Frisbee was supposed to make people think about boomerangs, which was exactly what Joe did. But what of Joe's question about parts of the world? Katy explained that, actually, Joe had finished her sentence for her. She'd said "Is it from -" and then Joe jumped in with "a particular part of the world?" She'd played Joe like a puppet. Such subtle manipulation was both amazing and worrying in equal measure.
I really enjoyed it, since it's a Resistance-esque game of subterfuge which is over in ten minutes and still works with fewer players. I guess five would be the minimum. Andy was not convinced.
After that was the small matter of the evening's main attraction. Six players without Sam usually means I'm The Boss, but Martin mentioned that he had Winner's Circle, and I was keen to play it again. Katy was quick to tell everyone how bad she was at it. Another attempt at the power of suggestion.
We set off on the first race, which was notable for Andy always rolling a horse's head on the die and then moving the same horse, we all did okay ish except Ian. Joe and Katy ended up placing their bets in exactly the same way.
In race two, we had a horse called Colin. He was a steady horse with average values across the board, but he was starting near the front of the pack so definitely worth a shot. In the end, we all bet on him because who can resist a horse called Colin. He came second or third and everyone was happy.
Two slow starters?
No! One horse is about to be lapped!
Also in round two, I got stuffed by Joe repeatedly moving a horse who'd been doing well, despite only me having a bet on it, the fewest possible spaces. I regretted bringing crisps when I saw that shameless gamesmanshipness.
So, I was screwed. Ian got screwed in race one and in the third race, in a crazy bout of optimism, Joe put three of his four bets on the three horses right at the back. A foolish move.
Katy, Andy and Martin were a league apart. Such was the gulf between us, they may as have well have been playing on a different board.
We ended with a handful of lighter games.
First we played For Sale. Katy insisted that she had a new tactic she was going to use, and began by confidently bidding two chips. Towards the end of the first round, though, she admitted she hadn't followed it at all.
After the first phase had ended, I had nothing too high or too low, which meant I needed to bid well in the second half of the game. I did okay but, just like Winner's Circle, it ended with a final score with a huge divide halfway down, separating the consummate professionals from the eager amateurs.
Next up was Perudo. Katy's newest favourite game and, as usual, it was a roller coaster of lies and deceit.
Most shocking was the news that, after about ten years, we'd been playing a rule wrong! On a person's first pallathiko, aces are not wild and so the value of the bid can't be changed, only the quantity.
In the midst of all this controversy, I obviously couldn't concentrate. I was out first on an optimistic bid that no one (i.e., not Martin) believed. However, later on, I jokingly predicted that Katy had 2,3 and 4 based on her hesitation before bidding, and I turned out to be right. Shame it's not leaderboard.
But let's not forget to mention Ian's amazing bid when he was down to one die. He called 4 twos. Joe said Dudo, and every dice was a two or wild. At least, that's what I've written down in a drunken haze. It might not have been every dice, but most of them. Either way, it was amazing. Ian was still out next, though.
Finally, it was down to Katy vs. Joe, both with three dice. Joe was first to pallathiko when we discovered ANOTHER rule we'd been playing wrong: there's no pallathiko when there's only two players left. Joe couldn't recover from the shock of this discovery and Katy won.
We considered Dead Man's Chest to finish, but it was too similar to Perudo. Team Play, too, was passed over.
Instead, we played two games of Fuji Flush. Andy won the first one so quickly (Martin was still on five cards) that we played a second.
In game two, I got a bit of luck with my cards, being able to piggyback onto other winning rounds, which is how I got rid of my last card to win the game.
And I won on dick points, too. I had eight, while my nearest rivals Katy and Martin (of course) only had four. Joe didn't have any at all. What a genial host.
After that, we stumbled out into the evening air, our game-thirst fully sated.