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The Ross-on-Wye Boardgamers

Beer and Boardgames at the White Lion. "It's not F-ing Monopoly, alright?!"

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Friday March 4th (and Thursday 3rd) - Evening all...oh...

Ben Bateson
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After last week's excesses of 11 gamers, there was more of a muted response to my email call-to-arms this week, and I packed the bag for a quiet three-gamer table of just myself Becky and John. Just as I was hauling it into the front hallway, my phone 'binged', and an email came through: "Sorry, can't rely on me" from JP.

Oh, bugger. It's a long time since we've been reduced to two. I think the last time was about four years ago when Tony and I celebrated my 32nd birthday with an uncomfortable assortment of worker placement and card games. Additionally, Becky has an odd aversion to 'just sitting in pubs' which is particularly irking as it is probably my favourite pastime.

Anyway, we went to the pub and played Keyflower with the Farmers expansion (I won with a huge and varied village over Becky's Greenmeeple and cattle engine) followed by a couple of games of Glass Road (I won both, the first with a massive 29 points and the second with some five fewer buildings than Becky) before she persuaded me to call it an early night. We went home, poured a couple of beers, and played Castles of Burgundy in an effort to let Becky win something. It was not to be. I used my Bronze Wedding Anniversary gift dice which were clearly enchanted in my favour, and - shunning boats - placed nearly everything else on my board without having to take workers once.

And that's about it for Friday. However, I have a bonus session report this week, in the shape of Thursday-evening games in the home of Adam and Elaine. I want to say our fourth player was called Yann or some variant thereof, but given Adam's predilection for addressing people with oddball nicknames, he could easily have been Ian, James, Euan or something else of a similar construct.

Dogs of War was the first game to hit the table. This is one of which I knew absolutely nothing, and I was a little bit wary as a general shunner of games involving dice combat and/or miniatures. I was not to worry, though: there isn't a die in sight and the miniatures are just overproduced meeples in a very Euro-y game of tug-of-war and stockholding.

The general principle is that there are six neutral 'families', who participate in three randomly-drawn battles each round, and it is our overproduced-meeples and purchased soldiers that contribute the battle strength in each situation. Each family has a limited set of shares which can be acquired throughout and winning battles increases the share value. It's actually a pretty simple mechanic which has been elaborately brought to life, and I really enjoyed it, finishing in second place to Elaine by shadowing Ad's choice of colours and collecting a bunch of bonus cards (if not used, 1VP each at game's end). I went home and plonked it on my wishlist - apparently cheap copies are not hard to come by.

Elaine: Do you want a drink? Beer?
Ben: Beer would be great
Elaine: We've got...um...Fosters, Peroni, or cider
Ben: Ooh, a cider would be nice please
Elaine: Mixed berry cider or cherry-and-orange cider?
Ben: Fosters please.

This sort of thing should be banned in Hereford of all places.

We had started early (6pm alongside chips'n'chilli sauce), and so it was barely gone 8pm when we started a game that I had been dying to try, that of Evolution. In contrast to the previous game, this is a card game with BARKING MAD mechanics which has been implemented simply and elegantly (and, yes, I do think I'm justified in using the e-word in this instance). It's a pretty simple objective - grow 2+ animals to a sufficient population size to accumulate lots of food (food eaten = VPs), but with the nasty twist that you can evolve into a carnivore and start chowing down on the opposition! If anything, and you won't hear me say this too often, Evolution is perhaps TOO nasty: directed attacks can lead to this sort of thing. Still, it's got to be worth a go at Ross-on-Wye, right. Fortuitously, a trade offer came through this weekend, so hopefully there can be some further session reports emanating from this blog soon. Yann/James/Ian/Euan won this one by a single point from an ultra-defensive Adam, but my long-necked, burrowing, warning-call animal won all the oddity prizes.

Time to introduce the crew to a couple of games I had brought along: Isle of Skye and Between Two Cities have both become favourites for us in a short space of time, and were ideal to accelerate Adam's belated voyage into proper Euros. Indeed, he enjoyed BTC rather too much, although this might have been down to the cherry-and-orange cider. Skye was comfortably won by probably-Yann, and Adam pulled himself out of bleariness to win BTC. Elaine was rather stymied by the former due to a minor case of OCD that incited to place tiles 'right-way-up' if possible and build a non-scoring roundabout, and all nearly came right in the latter: at least I was sharing a city in order to mute her pattern-making tendencies.

Adam is very keen on a unified Hereford Guild of board gamers - it isn't a heavily populated county, after all. I think it's a good idea in principle although the practice may be somewhat harder: I already have visitors to the Ross-on-Wye group from as far apart as Hereford, Ledbury and Malvern. Well, when they turn up, anyway.
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Sun Mar 6, 2016 12:32 pm
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Friday February 26th - Yak Yak Bunny Tiger Rabbit

Ben Bateson
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Well, that's a title that will confuse quite a few people.

It was an awkward start at the White Lion this week, as no fewer than 11 people turned up (not all on time, either), leaving us uncomfortably crowding our regular table for six for a while until we managed to intimidate the local yoof at the table next door and they scarpered. Perhaps Tony asked them to playtest something, I'm not sure.

Tony had indeed whipped out his latest Snowdonia showpiece, one I've still not played regrettably, and Becky, Norm and Gary got stuck into it with him. I heard barely a peep from the table for 90 minutes until Norm dramatically celebrated beating Becky (first time ever) by pulling his T-shirt over his head and doing a celebratory lap of the pub. Well, he didn't quite go that far, but I wouldn't have put it past him.

Expecting Suz and Harry at some future indeterminate time, I popped The Boss on the table for a 5P warm-up, involving not only myself, but JP, Bill, Benedict and Dan. I have a hard time finding people who dislike this excellent little deduction/area-control game (irritatingly, Becky is the only person of the group who actively hates it), and everyone warmed to their theme - certainly too much to acknowledge Harry and Suzanna when they came in during round 2. I tossed them a copy of Biblios and they ordered desserts, which seemed to be quite acceptable.

Despite shouting assorted Biblios rules at Harry, I had opened up a sizable lead by the end of the second round. Benedict struggled with the concept of 'not getting killed' at first (surely the prospect of 'getting killed' should ring alarm bells in even the most dull gamer's head?), but came through strongly in the last few rounds, leaving Bill to flounder at the bottom reach of the scoretrack. I was pressed strongly by JP at the end, but played a very safe game. Amusingly, Dan managed a complete tactical cock-up in the last round by plonking most of his inventory on 'The Boss' without considering the cards in play, and wound up with a measly one point for his efforts.

We finished at more or less the same time as Harry and Suz; John and Dan were both keen to hone their skills at Inhabit The Earth and we roped in Harry while Benedict introduced Bill and Suz to Sheepdogs of Pendleton Hill. I don't really have a clue who won the latter, although from the frustrated squeaks emanating from our most diminuitive member, I'm guessing Suzanna's run of 'first play wins' has come to an end (she won at Biblios, I believe).

Inhabit was a treat as always; Harry, unusually for him, didn't quite get up to speed quick enough and was reduced to a couple of uneconomical card draws. I struggled to get bonus tokens, and it was looking for a long time like Dan's game, until a hitherto dormant John suddenly sprinted for the end. I was a turn short to keep pace and finished with a pretty miserable 27 points, but the finale was a nailbiter, John scoring 41 to Dan's 42!

Meanwhile, Table 2 had moved on to perennial midweight favourite, Isle of Skye. Becky reports it was won by either Gary or Norm, so at least we've broken Tony's winning streak.

Table 3 had embarked on Machi Koro, but a reshuffling at about 10:30 meant they rebooted and started again with the addition of Becky. Bill won this one rather comfortably, I gather.

To close out a varied evening, I treated the Inhabit foursome to the joys of Divinare. This is a game which absolutely never disappoints, and the assorted furrowed brows marked all four rounds, even though I had a winning lead by the end of round three. John, entertainingly, finished with precisely one point in a display of psychic ineptness to rival the infamous 'cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances' notice.

My evening closed out by getting the latest gen from Landlord Dave on the pending sale of the White Lion. No-one has nibbled yet, but I hope the new owner won't evict us! Not after six years...
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Sun Mar 6, 2016 12:02 pm
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Friday February 19th - The SpaceTeam Continuum

Ben Bateson
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My weekly waltz into the White Lion was somewhat disrupted this week as I espied a young lady with a very cute pair of puppies, not to mention two fine dachshunds in tow. Stroking them with abandon, we completely failed to notice that the games group had this week been assigned the back room and spent an incompetent few minutes aimlessly staring around.

But we were finally united with Tony and John, again playing their rather peculiar film-critic double-act, Bill and Benedict, and before too long, Suz and Harry. Tony had just the starting sample piece in the form of the ludicrously silly Spaceteam. It's one of those everyone-shout-at-each-other-simultaneously-with-occasional-special-forfeit exercises, but was really changed up by some delightfully suspicious card art and terminology in the 'Not Safe For Space' expansion. Astronomical Ballcock, indeed...

Perhaps SpaceTeam's greatest genius is in the virtually frictionless cardstock, which ended up on the floor, airlocked to the table and - in one notorious case - not even shuffled into the game in the first place. If this was deliberate, and I hope it is, then kudos has to go to the inventor of the world's first dexterity-card game.

Silliness over, we split into two tables of four for some main-eventage. Tony and Becky happily plumped for Macao and Suzanna and Harry both went along for the ride (Suzanna, being Chinese by ancestry, does have an entertaining habit of accidentally happening upon games/pieces/cards inspired by the Far East). I gather Harry was victorious, but it would be fairly pointless trying to give any sort of session report on a Feld game.

John had grabbed Via Appia out of my bulging bag of games, and this is one I had wanted to try for a few weeks now. The selling point, for those that don't know, is the rock-crusher: a semi-random way of turning your raw rocks into paving slabs, and reminiscent of either fairground tuppenny-shove machines or the game show Tipping Point, depending on your age. It's more than a gimmick, though, and much scrutiny was made of the potential physics of the machine - more games need to offer something fresh like this.

Outside of the rock-crusher, Via Appia is a very pleasing game of timing and turn-ordering: you have a choice of four different actions each turn and each one is fraught with the possibility that you might leave the next played in a better position, so you spend the whole game being tortured over the 'least worst' option. There's a subtle long-term planning element as well, and he who runs out of money down the home stretch will almost certainly suffer. We all enjoyed it, none more so than Bill, who took a commanding lead about halfway and couldn't be caught by John.

With Macao still chugging onwards, we had time for a chunky filler in the shape of Caribbean. This is one that had a vogue with us a few years back and I've been trying to get it back to the table ever since. It's a blind-action-selection game, lining up a set of bids in order to move around six 'neutral' pirate ships to capture loot, rob each other and usher it back to your home ports. I generally am in favour of all games with this sort of crafty doublethink, and enjoyed the session hugely, especially because John spent much of the first three rounds looking completely aimless. Benedict snatched the game from under my nose, though, when I bottled the final round.

With the Boydells wandering off home, we found time to throw Between Two Cities back on the table. The seating-randomiser cards were something of a problem, though, due to an assortment of monochrome shirts meaning we couldn't sit in rainbow-order, and Bill and John failing to remember the titles of any books they'd read (ever, perhaps). But eventually we got ourselves seated, and I found myself building a shoppers' paradise (York? Cardiff?) with Bill on my left and a proper Reading (nowt but offices and pubs) with Suzanna on my right. My two cities were plenty good enough for the win, and with twenty minutes to go we reshuffled ourselves. I found myself partnering Suzanna again, but had Becky on my other side, which was a combo potentially fraught with disaster. Thankfully, we avoided any unseemly squabbling and finished joint second to Suzanna, as Harry and John built a godawful industrial town which didn't even have enough industry to be proud of and sunk without trace towards the end. Ah...Middlesbrough.
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Sun Feb 21, 2016 9:28 pm
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Friday February 12th - The In-Betweeners

Ben Bateson
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The evening started, as unaccountably they often do, with JP's opinions on the latest films he has seen - think an uncritical and foul-mouthed Mark Kermode, if you will. Still, this is the childless man who recently turned 50 and thinks that Pitch Perfect is one of the best films ever made, so I tend to let it wash over me these days.

When the histrionics were over, I martialled our own Roger Ebert along with Dan, Becky and Gary into a mid-length opener in the shape of Kingdom Builder. This was a first play for both Dan and Gary, but they both acquitted themselves well. With both Hermits and Fishermen on the scoreboard, I forewent the Crossroads bonus (John, incorrectly as usual: "You MUST get one of these - it's the best card in the game") for plenty of Caravans and spent much time sliding my various residences to all corners of the board. But I neglected the fisherman too much, though, and a measly eight waterfront points allowed Dan to catch up and overtake. He pronounced himself impressed by the game, and one does wonder why we don't play more of it.

Having overcome the inanity that is attempting to deal with Yodel (note for Americans: what might happen if Charlie Sheen and Homer Simpson tried to start a parcel courier service), I was in possession of a shiny new copy of Between Two Cities, and there was no way this one was escaping table-time tonight. Suzanna and Harry looked like they weren't going to make good on a promise to turn up, so I taught the game to the assembled five, only for...guess what?

Thankfully, BTC accommodates seven very nicely, so I rolled out the rules explanation again, hindered slightly by Becky and John having a deliberately intrusive conversation about coffee (WTF? Becky doesn't even DRINK coffee...), and we launched in. Much serious discussion was being had between Harry and Gary at one end of the table while Dan and I threw up something of an industrial wasteland - think Middlesbrough in a 4x4 grid if you will - and Becky and I built a terminally indecisive town which was rescued by a glut of last-minute housing (hmmm...Halifax, anyone?). John won this one on the back of his Brighton-esque party town and an inoffensive residential leafy suburb in the manner of Kensington. I don't think the game would be half as much fun if you didn't try to name all the towns...

The best bit about Between Two Cities is that it takes barely half an hour, all in, so it was barely nine o'clock and time to break up the tables for some meatier fare. Unsurprisingly, Dan and I both plumped for Agricola, and after some dithering we picked up both Harry and Gary for a hefty 4P session. Meanwhile, Becky had taken full advantage of Tony's absence to bring a game for which he has no time, and sure enough Airlines Europe quickly made an appearance on the other table.

Harry picked up a golden baking combo in his first ever 'Gric game, and the Field Watchman, Market Crier and Hand Mill ensured he had a huge pile of yellow counters in front of him by the game's end. A little less procrastination in Family Growth and he would have been truly competitive, but 30 points is still an admirable total for his first game. Gary built a solid ranching operations, but against all my best urgings, neglected to build any cooking and ended up wasting valuable actions on food grabs. 11 points is still better than at least two members of the club have scored, though, and it could easily have been 25+ with a friendlier hand of cards. I had found a nice little fueller in the Pi-deck card, Retirement, which allowed me to 'fold' my 1st round Ock and pick up a trickle of food for the next half-dozen rounds, much to Dan's disgust for I had played one of his pet Ocks and declined to ever use it. But it was great for keeping my head above water while I double-grew the family, and ultimately contributed to the mountain of Ocks which helped me win the Village Elder bonus. Dammit, I even played the Geode (the Pelts I drew were good for a couple of points)! I finished with something like 44 points to Dan's 40, six of which were bonuses from the Village Elder and Church Warden, neither of which I had played.

Suzanna, meanwhile, was dismantling the others at Airlines, and they moved onto back-to-back games of For Sale (one apiece for John and Becky). A slightly desolate Becky and Suzanna were forced to plump for Dobble as they waited for the farming to finish.
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Sat Feb 13, 2016 4:14 pm
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Friday February 5th - 'King Tony

Ben Bateson
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Sometimes I like long games. At weekend conventions, or wet afternoons in, there's an ideal opportunity to crack open a meaty 3-hour session of Crude or Warrior Knights, or indeed Food Chain Magnate, which looks rather interesting. But I try and discourage them from our weekly game night in favour of short, sharp activities with minimal downtime and maximum opportunity to get everyone involved.

But, occasionally, the rabble (led by chief protagonists Tony and Norm) must get their way and they disappear off to the other side of the pub while those of us left over try to play as many games as possible before they've finished arguing about the rules.

Such was the case this week. Tony's current fawn is all over the aforementioned Splotter release and he didn't find it hard to talk JP, Suzanna and Harry into joining him. That left Becky, myself and Gary - returned for the first time since September and newly enamoured with Concordia after several recent plays. So, although Becky has been somewhat invincible recently, we wheeled out the Britannia board, with Salt included, to give Gary a first taste of the Salsa expansion. He enjoyed himself immensely, although might have a bit of work to do to get up to the standards that Becky and I regularly hold ourselves to. Incredibly frustratingly - especially after my Agricola result last week - she pipped me by a single point!

FCM had just about reached the end of the rules delivery by this point, so we went about introducing Gary to our current hotness, Glass Road. It was so good that we played it twice; I won the first with a remarkably low score of 16, but let rip with a bunch of interconnected pits in the second for a much more satisfactory 23.5 points. Gary, after a few beginners' errors (nothing atypical, it has to be said), enthused about the game and made a much more coherent fist of things in his second game, getting all five cards out in each of the last three rounds. I suspect a superstar in the making.

I can honestly say we were expecting the other table to be going on to midnight, but there were encouraging 'almost finished!' noises being made, so I popped my new copy of Push It on the table. I'd thought Gary perhaps a bit too earnest and serious for this take on dexterity bowls, but he took to it with good humour, although between us we were utterly incapable of matching Becky's score. Perhaps I've found a flicking game that she actually likes?

At about 10:40, Gary retired for the evening, and Tony - having come in a miserable third to Suzanna - proposed a game of Citadels. I thought we'd be a little short of time with six players, but I'm never one to turn this down, although I did reconsider after being robbed and assassinated by John in the first couple of rounds. An inexplicable series of free-association talked us through the game, leading us to appoint Tony 'King MagicTits III'. I couldn't explain it, even if I tried, but it seemed very funny at the time. Eventually, due to the dirty looks we were being thrown by the barman, we decided to impose a six-card endgame restriction, and lo and behold it turned out John had won! Can't claim this is the normal run of form for Citadels.
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Sat Feb 6, 2016 5:59 pm
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Friday January 29th - Barns Macabre

Ben Bateson
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It was going to be one of those uncertain weeks when I wasn't at all sure who was coming. Regular JP had failed to reply, Tony may or may not bring Benedict, I had taken Harry's email address but lost it before I could add him to the list, and so on. So it was a mish-mash of games that accompanied me (sans Becky this week) to the White Lion in order to try and cater for all tastes.

With the general dithering permeating the opening collective (me, both Boydells, Dan and Bill), Dan popped Too Many Cooks on the table, declaring it to be a 'fun, light game to start'. Needless to say, he was soon forced to eat his words, along with a number of chillies, once he played his No Soup card. This misfortune manifested itself in an entertaining and prolific bout of rude words, which probably explains why the remainder of Dan's clan are not invited to games nights. He later picked up another bout of chillies on his onion soup round and finished with fewer points than he started with. All good fun. I had built up an early lead, and was pleased to pick up the trick-winning '10 Pea' card during my final (enforced) Pea Soup round to assure myself of victory over a carping Boydell Sr.

There was a bit of humming-and-hahhing over the best main-eventer for five. I had brought Chicago Express but wasn't keen on exposing my ineptitude yet again (man, I need lessons in that game), and Tony's suggestions all met with generic indifference. When all is in doubt, then, it only makes sense to fall back on club favourite, Agricola. Tony insisted on randomised seating AND start player, which put me in between the two Boydells, and we played a 10-7 from the EIK+Pi decks (including Man With A Shed, which I may or may not have palmed to the bottom of the deck during the shuffle).

I happened on one of those 'gotta try it' combos: the Master Carpenter from the Pi deck (fence your rooms for extra family growth without room) and the Fence Buyer (put a fence on an action space where you can take fencing as an additional action). Of course, putting the fence on the family growth space enabled me to cheat the whole turn order thing at will. The whole thing was fuelled by my Perpetual Student, and my 45 points would have been good enough in most games, but was rather annoyingly pipped by Tony who managed to usher out both the Chief and his Clogs in the final round for 46 points. Nooooooooo!

Dan was oddly off-form tonight, trying something based around his Slaughterman and a fencing combo that never really came off. He was threatened by Bill, who was playing well above his normal par, remembering to grow his family in good time and setting up quite the ranching operation. And a special word for Benedict, who ambitiously and determinedly went at a Social Climber + Braggart combo (what a horrendous person must the Bragging Social Climber be?), despite rather neglecting his farm development. He scored 24 Bonus points out of his grand total of - um - 24 points!

It was an epic 'Gric session, and we closed off with the latest tweakings of Tony's prototype Danse Macabre (I do prefer this over his Germanic title of 'Totentanz'). With an eminently workable Church combo, I got my revenge - indeed I don't think I can ever recall Tony winning at this. We threw more ideas into the hats for the development of the game - there are a number of card features to be balanced out, which will prove exhausting, I expect.
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Sat Feb 6, 2016 4:43 pm
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Friday January 22nd - Hotel Pair-of-Dice-O

Ben Bateson
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John and Tony joined Becky and I nice and early this week, and we had plenty of time for a quick opening game before anyone else arrived. High Society was my choice, and Tony forewent his usual ten minutes of 'grumbling about Knizia' for a recap of the rules.

Knizia certainly proved cleverer than Boydell on this occasion, for the latter was all prepared to award John the win after the first half-dozen auctions, only for it to transpire that Becky had won after all.

Suzanna and Ed had arrived by now, as well as Bill, sporting his usual KGB-influenced getup, so we split to two tables. JP, Tony and I took on Grand Austria Hotel while Becky schooled (in every sense) the others in the fine art of Lancaster. She claims that Harry was 'getting the hang of how to play it' towards the end, but I fear where Lancaster is concerned that there never is one way to play it, which is what makes it a recurrent event at Ross.

So, Grand Austria Hotel. It's yet another in the neverending chain of dice-selection games, with a Catan turn-order mechanic that gives you plenty of time to wander around, order another pint, check your emails and general disengage yourself with the game if you're start player. I likened it to playing a game of solitaire with two middle-aged men dicking around trying to put me off. Despite all that, I kinda liked it in a puzzle-solvingy sort of way, even if my final score was somewhat short of Tony and John, due to my economy drying up in about Round 4. 'Tony's' card came out about mid-game, to a general reception of "sorry sir - all our rooms are booked", and John was at his most nitpicky - worrying about where Tony had got all his cards from at one point rather than paying attention to the more basic rules governing his own game - so it won't go down as a top-notch session, but it wasn't so disagreeable that I won't give it another go. Perhaps only one, though.

With Lancaster plodding onwards, we had time to plug the gap between games with a play of Tony's prototype Danse Macabre: the Holbein-inspired drafting deckbuilder. It seems to have swung from something that was too deck dependent to something that's too solitaire over the course of a few games, but tweaks are still underway, and I proffered my own couple of ideas (one of which I suspect will not make the final printing, more's the pity). We pulled to close about the same time as Lancaster and had time for a rearrange. This time, Bill and Becky were drawn in by the 'first full artwork' printing of Guilds Of London, while John, Harry and I obliged Suzanna her pre-meet request for a game of Codenames. Returning from the loo, I found myself partnered with Suzanna, which prompted a call for a slightly longer straw. But that was very mean, and Suzanna came up with good first clue (Ankh: 2 = Egypt + Cross). Near the endgame, she then pulled out 'Running: 2'. I plumped quickly - and correctly - for 'Train' (Doobie Brothers, anyone?) and 'Stream', and eyed up 'Back' for a long time. Concluding that Suzanna self-confessedly didn't know anything about sports, I passed, only to find out later that 'Back' was actually our last spy that would have won us the game. Turns out Suz didn't have a clue what a Running Back was, so I claim moral victory in defeat.

A change of partnerships brought better fortune, as Harry and I steamrollered our way to a couple of wins, leaving him victorious in all four. And that was about it, really: Codenames had taken a full hour and there was no potential for a 'quick closer'.
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Tue Jan 26, 2016 8:46 pm
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Friday January 15th - Big Dog, Little Dog, Cardboard Box

Ben Bateson
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The evening opened to the jolly sight of the pub regular Bridget the Shih-Tzu making good friends with a Great Dane that might have descended from the halls of Valhalla, such was its size.

Seeking an opener while we anticipated Dan, Suzanna and perhaps one or two of the latter's many male admirers, I urged Tony to 'whip his plums out', and we had another go at the baffling Pi mal Pflaumen, or 'Pie'n'Plooms' as I persist in calling it. This is one that Becky definitely has some trouble keeping up with, and she finished a distant third to a thriller of a competition for first place. Ultimately, I was scuppered by the narrowest of margins as the other two plotted against me on the very final round.

I don't think Pie'n'Plooms is the great solution to bidding card games, but it is amicable enough and the card art is rather good - generally speaking, it quite a classy little filler, which is enough.

Suzanna had arrived, bringing along newcomer Harry. A newcomer to the club, perhaps, but we found out through the course of the night that he had a history of TCG addiction. Some evidence came directly, as he and Suzanna were led by Tony to a new-ish copy of Die Speicherstadt, which Harry promptly won. I can't speak for how good Die Speicherstadt was, but it certainly improved when spoke with the voice of Sean Connery.

Dan, too, was in presence tonight, and Becky and I both had a hankering to set up one of his favourites in the shape of Troyes. Dan is normally one of the most clinical of gamers, but Troyes has an entertaining habit of completely melting his brain, leaving him incapable of elementary mathematics or planning. It's all rather amusing, to be honest.

It was an amicable game, the events not really hitting home until the final round, giving us plenty of time to kick each other out of the production buildings and attempt (fairly unsuccessfully, as it happened) to put combos together. My proliferation of cheap artisans wasn't quite enough to overhaul Becky, who had fought a couple of opportune events for great profit early on. Dan got in on the sculptor in Round 4 but it wasn't quite enough.

On a rare absence of John, I had hoped to put Cuba on the table, as it is generally mocked by the cider-quenching one. Ideally, I would have like a full-blown 5P game, but as this wasn't going to practical, I had to settle for talking Becky and Dan into a 3P instead. Dan got some of his mojo back with this one, carrying out a huge ship-load in the final round for a sufficient lead.

Unfortunately, it appears that some of Becky's scepticism of the game also rubbed off on Dan, and he criticised it as somewhat clunky and disjointed. This is all most frustrating - surely somebody thinks it's a good game. I will attempt to gear everyone up to playing with the expansion, and if that doesn't work I don't know what will...

Ed had joined Tony's table, and they moved onto a playtest of Danse Macabre, followed by Isle Of Skye. It would appear that Harry won everything: anyone who beats Tony at his own games (not to mention the one that he has absolutely trampled everyone else at of late) is more than welcome to come back every week. But it all got a bit too exciting and 10:30 saw the three Herefordians wend their way into the night.

To round off a thoroughly satisfying and diverse evening, we dealt out club favourite Braggart. I'm not sure I approve of Tony skinning and making a hat out of Simon the Lonely Ogre ("Are you sporting an Ogre Hat?" / "No, it's just the way my trousers ruck up"), but any other course of action wouldn't have improved his score any. An unusually close game just about went the way of Dan.
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Sat Jan 16, 2016 8:09 pm
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Friday January 8th - Fleet of Foot

Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
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The main reason behind my procrastination in writing this blog entry is because I couldn't think of anything pithy enough to fill the blog title. Honest.

Anyway, after our slightly underwhelming 2P start to the year, the email appeal brought six gamers out of the woodwork. Unsure whether or not Suzanna was going to bring one of her mysterious 'extras', I loaded something of a mish-mash of games into the straining Aldi hold-all and we had much of the pub still to ourselves as Ross continued to negotiate sore-headed January.

Tony popped Eggs & Empires onto the table to kick us off while we waited for Suzanna. It has become the norm for Becky to be rather dominant at this, so I watched passively while everyone dumped bad cards on her before waltzing away with back-to-back wins. Marvellous.

With Suzanna present, two groups seemed like the sensible way to go. Tony whisked Suzanna and Becky off to the smaller of our two 'regular' tables to indulge in some playtesting of his new Snowdonia 'Nice Cup of Tea' variant. Given that he now seems to win less often at his own game than anyone else, it was no surprise to hear Becky report a victory. Tony was to have the last laugh, however, winning comfortably (a little TOO comfortably) at Isle of Skye before celebrating a narrow Glass Road win in rather over-exuberant fashion. Quite the evening on Table 2, with all that impressive playstuff.

The main event for JP, Bill and I was Inhabit The Earth. John again seemed curiously reluctant to move ahead with any of his animals, but Bill put together a nice leapfrog chain in Australia (causing me to emigrate in disgust - or, more accurately, for points elsewhere). Indeed, he was rather taken with the game, and I imagine it's one we will play with Bill a fair few times more. Although he'll have to go some to improve on the whopping 48 points that I stacked up - I seem to have rather a knack for this thinky card-balancing exercise.

Attempting to synchronise ourselves with the other table, we tried what was supposed to be a filler in the shape of Fleet. As is often the way with intended fillers, it stretched itself out to a semi-main, but that's no bad thing in this game, with its fine balance of auction and Race-type mechanics. John seized upon a prized Cod-Lobster combo after a lean period early on, and later picked up the crucial King Crab licence (only one in the game today) for the win. Bill's big-processing economy and my Shrimp leanness didn't stand a chance.

Somehow the clock had ticked on to around 10:30, so we only had time for a proper end-of-night filler. Out came passing favourite The City for a quick couple of hands. First up went definitively John's way, but in the second Bill put a storming card-draw engine together and his big 11-card was enough to beat John's villas.

Sometimes I just don't know where the time goes.
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Sat Jan 16, 2016 7:34 pm
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Friday January 1st - Tea for Two

Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
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I had grand plans for a day-long session to celebrate the New Year bank holiday. I pretty much got it, as did John, but the inevitable 'family commitments' managed to blight the rest of our gamers.

We had Becky's company for the afternoon, though (she wanted to stay home in the evening and watch Sherlock), and we opened with the delightful Inhabit The Earth. Becky and I have already played a fair bit of this, but it was John's first time, and I think 'politely baffled' would be a fair description of his reaction (it could be worse; I've seen him 'rudely baffled'). He managed to beat my all-time low score, though (I taught to a group at Midcon last year and scored a grand total of ten in the process). Becky scored some inspired combos at the end for a win.

We moved onto an old favourite, Goa, which played very smoothly, even in John's inexperienced hands. He went for big and efficient colonisation, while I deftly avoided my usual Explorer-track strategy and instead maxed out the first two tracks. Becky went big-money in an attempt to buy the game off us, but failed when I notched up nine bonus points from purple tiles. A gift, really.

We popped some pizzas in the oven and played out a quick hand of The City, Tom Lehmann's shrunk-down version of RfTG whose only real negative point is that there has never been an English release. I really like it, especially given that you can easily play a game in ten minutes. With two villas in my hand from the opening deal, I decided to gamble on drawing a third, but my engine was just too slow and I lost out to John by some significant difference.

Pizza down, there was just time for a quick game of Ingenious before driving down to the pub. I've only ever played the 2P Ingenious Travel before, and was disappointed that scaling it up removes quite a lot of the tension and leaves it in the realm of 'cosy family game'. Still, at least I won.

John and I nipped down to the White Lion. The chef was having a well-earned day off, so the bar was quieter than usual, and it quickly dawned on us that the games table was going to be quieter than usual as well. So I popped Porta Nigra (the ONLY game I got for Christmas! My standards are slipping!) on the table and doled out the 2P rules in short order. John was very taken with it, and it was a struggle for me to keep up all the way through. I don't think I've been really blown away by Porta Nigra yet - it seems to be missing a USP that makes it stand out from the crowd. It will be interesting to see if it stands the test of time, even given our love of the design team.

I picked up the first three Tempest games shortly before Christmas, to accompany my copies of Canalis and Love Letter, so we popped Courtier on the table next, chosen simply because it accommodated 2P and was the easiest to teach. John completed two goals in swift order, and again I was struggling to keep up throughout.

I found Courtier a mite chaotic, but it was fun enough and I could see it scaling up to 4P really well. I seem to be in a bit of a minority in quite liking the Tempest world, and it's cute to see the same characters recurring in different games. Will definitely play again.

John and I rounded off a cracking day's gaming with Glass Road - I'm on nearly 20 plays of this now and still not tired of it! I exacted some sweet revenge, predicting all of John's plays unerringly (especially that all-critical Builder), and scoring a huge 27 points. This might not sound like a big score to the uninitiated, but to Glass Road connoisseurs, it is pretty significant.

Who said 2P gaming has to be a bore?
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Thu Jan 7, 2016 3:06 pm
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