Cambridge Gradpad Games - how this girl spends the first Saturday of the month

Blog about the games I play at Gradpad each month

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March 2015 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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I was able to attend the day part of Gradpad this month, after a couple of months off. I started by suggesting Terra Mystica, which I was hoping to play with Ray, but he was slightly late. I found others who were interested in playing it, one of them new to the game, and we set up a 4 player game, only for Ray to walk in and join us. We decided, reluctantly, to make it a 5 player game, despite concerns on length, but before we'd got much further another player walked in also keen to learn it, so we split into two threes - me playing with Lee and Ray. Ray's copy had the expansion in, and although I wasn't keen on playing the expansion itself, I agreed to play one of the new boards at least. I was dealt mermaids again (I seem to have played them a lot recently), while Ray got Darklings and Lee Halflings, which was a good race for a first game. I explained the rules and Lee was soon up and running. He managed to build himself two towns, but wasn't able to connect his two regions. Ray abandoned one of his starting houses, but built a huge network from his second one, but I was able to make mine one bigger. I also managed to get top on all four tracks, as neither of the others were playing for them - Ray using his men for digging, and Lee focusing on other aspects of the game. These end of game points were able to put me ahead of Ray, although he did better from in-game points.

After this I spotted a copy of Roll for the Galaxy, and asked to play it. Timothy had played it once before, so managed to explain the rules, although I think we were all a bit hazy on the details, and Ray decided to abandon playing before we started, leaving 4 of us to play. I made the mistake of trying to build a 6 alien world with only 7 dice - which took me far too many turns and lost me momentum. Meanwhile Timothy seemed to be doing amazing stuff with lots of small production worlds and consuming for lots of VPs every turn, and won easily.

After lunch three of us set up Notre Dame. I went for rat killing and lots of cubes and cash, while Robin was being overrun with rats! Timothy managed to get away with being the only person in Notre Dame in the second round, and we thought this might win him the game, especially as he had a park going for most of the game too, but at final scoring I was just a few points ahead of him, with Robin just a couple of points behind that - a very close game!

Then there were three tables of people milling around choosing games. I ended up joining a game of Tokaido. I'd heard this was a beautiful game, and I suppose it was very pretty if you care about artwork. Gameplay wise though I have to say I was very unconvinced by it. There just didn't seem to be a way of setting up a "strategy". Timothy just always picked the back spot he could and won by miles, and I think this was probably a good idea! I tried to use my bonus, of extra VPs from hot springs and cats, by focussing on them, but didn't get as many in-game VPs as the others, so had a lot of catching up to do at end-game.

We then pulled out Stone Age. One player had played before but only once, so was a bit hazy on some of the rules, while the other three of us knew it better, but it became clear early on that it was between Timothy and I. Timothy went for my usual strategy, going for farms, and tools, and just generally getting lots of points from being efficient. I ended up doing a starvation strategy, which is something I almost never do, after breeding kept getting left, and I got some early cards which gave me bonuses for number of people. Some terrible food rolls with 9 men meant that I really wasn't likely to feed, so I decided not to bother any more, and just starved and instead monopolised goods - annoying a couple of people one round by blocking clay with my 7 men after they'd gone for huts that needed clay. Timothy won though.

As we were finishing the final round the next table set up Roll for the Galaxy with 2 players, saying that someone else would join them probably, so Timothy and I did so as our game finished! This game went rather better for me in terms of play, but I was still third of 4 players at end-game!

I had just time for one more game before I had to leave, and we settled on Dominion, with Michael using one of his random selections with cards from all sorts of editions! Timothy and I both made good use of a card that when you discarded a treasurer you got +3 cards, +1 action, which combined with a trash card, and a reaction card that gave us gold when we trashed cards made a nice combo. However Timothy was able to get his deck working much earlier than mine, and bought a Colony before I'd even bought a Platinum, and ending on 60 points to my 41.
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Mon Mar 9, 2015 11:14 am
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December 2014 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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I arrived at Gradpad and found myself with a choice between a thematic game that really didn't look like something I'd enjoy, and an unknown worker placement game that looked way too fiddly for me in my headachy state (I had picked up a bad cold only a couple days before and was still suffering). I spotted that Paul had brought Pandemic: The Cure, so declined both the games on offer, and stood there holding it, waiting until more people arrived and asking the ones that did if they'd like to join me. Soon enough I had three players for the game and we set it up. Thematically it's very similar to the usual Pandemic, but the actual mechanics are somewhat different. My role, being able to hand samples to anyone, turned out to be quite useful - especially as Daniel rolled successfully for the cure on the first attempt. Andy took longer with the second cure, and in the meanwhile outbreaks started occurring everywhere. We scrambled to get the next cure but a run of outbreaks lost us the game before we had a chance. Paul turned up to take a photo of the game just as we lost - although with a foggy lens, so it didn't come out very well!

Paul started setting up Evolution on the next table, so as a few more people had arrived, I asked my table if it was ok to move across, as I really wanted to try Evolution. I enjoy Evo, and thought this might have some similar appeal. After one play I'm still not sure about Evolution. I liked some of the ideas, choosing the characteristics of our dinosaurs, but I think maybe we were just too nice to each other, and put too much food into the game, as it felt like it was too easy to feed (for herbivores anyway!), and only one species went extinct. Carnivores struggled a bit more - I created a new carnivore race, but it found that all its food sources either had shells, horns, or could climb trees, so weren't particularly tasty to eat. Next year it evolved into a larger animal and learned to climb, which provided some food sources for a turn, but unfortunately became a target for the only other carnivorous species too. Definitely one I'd like to try again, to see if it does have long-term appeal.

After that Paul asked if we were happy to play Wits & Wagers. I've had this game for years, but it was new to Paul. It was the new edition, which definitely has better rules than the original, as well as slightly less US centric cards (or maybe that was just the cards we drew) - although I didn't like the tiny cards - our version were much easier to handle. I had an absolute disaster with this, getting almost none of the questions right, while Timothy to my right was amassing a huge pile of chits, and Dave had almost as many. On the last round I managed a lucky bid, which put me just 1 cash ahead of Kathy, who hadn't been doing much better than me! Always a fun trivia game.

Next we went to lunch, and on our return I suggested I teach them Machi Koro. There was a slightly awkward patch, as we sat down with 4, but then Kathy returned from lunch too, so ended up taking Dave's place, and he spectated for a bit. This was my second game, and I went for the strategy of buying lots of mines, and then lots of 8 cards and going to two dice. However I just couldn't roll my 8, although Paul sitting to my left managed to roll an 8 almost every time he chose to roll two dice. Timothy, to my right, was keeping me in cash though by rolling 5s almost every turn without fail, and the others were all exchanging cash between themselves by rolling repeated 3s - they all had cafes. Eventually I rolled my 8 - by this time having four of 5 8s, all worth 15 cash, and that was obviously my win, just needing enough turns to buy the necessary cards.

At this point we split and merged with another group, and Juliet suggested playing Tigris & Euphrates - a game she knows I love as we used to play it regularly together (going back about ten years!!!) - in fact she was probably the one who taught me the game! It was new to Kathy, and she suffered playing with three experienced players, although Hans still had confusion between internal and external conflicts. Kathy bought some temples and got some good scores early on in those colours, but then an attack by Hans wiped her off the board. I was doing ok in two colours, but really struggling with the other two, and Hans's ability to produce 4 or 5 red tiles in every internal conflict was helping no-one! Juliet got her civ set up nicely and was amassing a huge number of cubes, and was clearly in the lead. It wasn't really a surprise to anyone when the final scores were revealed and Juliet was first, just ahead of Hans, who I had almost inadvertantly handed the game on the last turn when I did an attack to get me an increase of 4 cubes in my weakest colour, but handing him a huge pile of cubes in other colours in the process, which had increased his score slightly too.

Next Kathy left and was replaced by Adam for a game of Splendor. Then we merged with another table, and Juliet and I played our game of Outpost that we'd been talking about, with James and Peter joining us - surprisingly it was new to Peter! I had an absolutely disastrous start, ending up a whole water factory behind everyone else only two turns in, due to absolutely ridiculously low income. I overpaid for a Data Library to try and get myself back into the game, and the Science cards came into the game in the right way so I could almost do so, but inexperience with the Science strategy (I'm usually a Titanium player), combined with the lowest income (and almost half of James's ridiculous uber-income by then), meant that I just wasn't well-placed when Stage 3 hit, especially as it hit a round early because we ran out of Stage 2 buildings, so I didn't have a chance to ramp up my income or save cash. James had such a good income by now that it was clear he was going to win, and sure enough he was a clear winner.

After that I played a game of Fauna, and for once it was a game with all experienced Fauna players, so it was a very tight game, and we chose the black cards. I had a disaster in the first round, losing two cubes, permanently as it turned out, as I was never able to get them back. It didn't hurt me TOO much in all the rounds, but there were definitely times when I could have used the extra cube. James won this too.

We then moved on to a 4 player game of Ave Caesar, which was almost decided by the first round, as both the next two rounds ended up with a crash and burn finish, and then the third round neither James or I could play our final 6, so only Paul and Timothy finished the race - ending up joint winners. My passengers were just finishing up their game, so we played a quick game of Love Letter while they were packing up and then I headed home.
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Thu Dec 11, 2014 11:44 am
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November 2014 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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I was hoping this Gradpad I'd get to try out quite a few of the new Essen releases, but there were surprisingly few of them there. My first game, La Isla, was Feld's lighter Essen release. It was typical Feld, with every action feeling very balanced for scoring. Hans won, with a couple of very impressive scoring turns!

After that there were lots people milling around, and I suggested The Hanging Gardens, and Kat and Simon joined me for that. Kat had played it with me before, but it was new to Simon. Simon ended up building a road in the early game, rather than a garden, which was quite amusing to watch! In the late game though this did make him more limited in placement, and meant he was struggling to score. My extra experience showed over Kat, with me managing right at the end a double scoring 6 region!

I suggested Black Vienna next, a deduction game I always enjoy. Both were initially bemused about what to do with the information they had, but then suddenly it started coming together and they worked out some clues. Simon was first to guess, but only got two right. I guessed a couple of turns later, with the same two right. At that point Kat made a guess too, but hers wasn't right either. I don't know if one of the clues went wrong or we were just incompetent!!! We then had just time for a quick Augustus before lunch.

After lunch Peter suggested that we finally played the Twilight Struggle game we'd been talking about playing for years! I was interested to try it, as being top of the BGG rankings. I must say after playing it, I can't see why it's top, although it was an enjoyable game. It started out very balanced, with the VP marker moving around zero, and me having a slight advantage in Europe and Asia, while Peter had the Middle East completely under his control! I then started moving into Africa and South America, in preparation for the middle part of the war, and nearly got away with a cheap African scoring round, but Peter was able to counter it. Then when we reshuffled the deck I drew both the African and South American scoring cards, and had all four of the purple cities in both, as well as the majority of the cities anyway! I played one, followed by the other, before Peter could counter my position, which pushed me right up to 19 points!! He managed to score 2 points to push it back to 17, but I had a card in hand that gained me 3 points if I was the only one who had used sufficient military operations, and I was able to perform a coup, then score that card for the win, just before the Late Win started. Quite enjoyable, but not as satisfying as the rest of the Top 4 ranked games, which all rate as 10s for me, and been favourites from their very first play.

After that Peter had to leave, but we played two quick games of Race for the Galaxy first. Another table then finished, and we shuffled people around, with me playing a game of Egizia. It was a very odd game - early on I took lots of stones and grain cards, while the others both struggled with feeding, Adam going a long way back on turn 1. I then picked up an eating stone card, which with my income of 12 stone solved most of my problems! Neither of the others seemed keen to go into the building spots most turns, so in the three middle turns I ended up in all three, scoring 6 points, plus the huge number of points I scored in there. However, on the 5th round both of them were only interested in those squares, while I was hoovering up the points cards on the other side of the river that were worth more points to me, but I did then get shut out of all three building spots. I was miles ahead before we started scoring Sphinx cards, but failed to do two of the four (one block short in both the regions), so only scored 7. Better than Ray though - his pair of cards got him zero!! Adam however had a very impressive Sphinx card collection, and managed to lap the board with them, jumping straight past the pair of us!

Meanwhile Paul had been trying to set up a game of Fauna and was waiting for me to join him. Fauna is quite popular at Gradpad, so became 6 players by the time it started (although James nearly missed out from a badly-timed coffee break!). There were some amusing moments as always - such as Peter not knowing where Lemurs came from, and coming in for quite some teasing - and all six of us losing three cubes on the seal round (it turned out to live only in the northern hemisphere, and be a slightly different size than we expected!!). James in particular was unable to recover from that round. On the penultimate round I stopped one point short of the finish line, but was able to maintain my lead going past it.

I then asked to play Camel Up, which I tried for the first time last Gradpad and wanted to try again. It was fairly chaotic, as to be expected from this game, but quite fun - especially the usual inability to roll the dice in the cardboard temple at times! I was keen to try this again, but I think it is probably just a bit too light for my tastes for me to buy it, although it is fun, and I'd happily play from time to time.

After that finished there were a large number of people looking to play a game, and mass indecision over what to play. Then Cole and Shane said they were looking for two more for Tigris & Euphrates, and as it's one of my favourites I joined them. It was a very high monument game, with four being built on the board over the game. Initially I was struggling really badly with black cubes, unable to build the black temple I wanted because someone else built it first, and unable to draw any black tiles to play next to my leader. Then James tried an external conflict, which unfortunately for him when against what he was expecting, and benefitted me rather, giving me access to the black monument briefly, and also giving me lots of tiles in my second weakest colour, and another treasure. He joined three of the monuments in the same region in the process, all giving out blue, so that my blue problems were also fixed very rapidly! I was knocked off that black temple quickly, but another one had been built by then, and had enough reds to get into it, and that, combined with my treasures, was able to give me enough black for the win - although they were impressively far behind all my other colours. James was never able to recover from that disastrous conflict himself unfortunately, and found himself in last place.

We then just had time for some quick fillers before the end of the evening, and played Mamma Mia! (one of Uwe's early games), followed by two hands of Der dreizehnte Holzwurm, the second of which went very badly for me, as I was forced to take a huge line at the end!

All in all a fun Gradpad, with 13 games played and with 16 different opponents over the day!!!
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Mon Nov 3, 2014 12:27 pm
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October 2014 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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I had the afternoon session this month. My husband left me to take over a short way into Rolling Freight. I had a nice set-up, with some track together in the bottom area, two extra dice, and a 1 dice discount on improvements and track contracts. I rapidly shipped several goods in my area for 3 or 4 each, which meant the players setting up longer routes in my area suddenly found themselves with nowhere to ship to! Then I focused on building some long track sections in my area, both for points (making sure I never had more than two contracts), and to set up some longer routes. When Phase C hit I rapidly ran two trains down to some newly opened up areas - not for as much if I'd ran them on the longer routes I could have used, but doing both in one turn successfully blocked other players from running their longer routes! Then I spent most of my dice in the new few turns building and buying track contracts. Paul, Jessica and I were all tracking each other on points, but suddenly the other two seemed to stop getting points, while I steamed ahead. I was lucky with the end-game, as I triggered it myself by buying two contracts, and then on the extra turn was able to use one of the track I built to run some goods that had got stuck because that track was missing, which gave me a lovely end-game burst. This game is very reminiscent of Age of Steam, and many of the same strategies seem to work, although the mechanisms in the game are quite different. I was slightly concerned by the length though - it went well over the listed box time of 90 minutes!

After that we mixed with some other tables, and I found myself teaching For Sale. I seemed to get lucky in the first phase, but was still quite surprised to find when I picked up my hand that I had 20, 22,23,24 and 25!! Effectively all the same number! I made a mistake early on, and played the 20, where I should have played the higher numbers, as the 21 came out the same round, but it didn't cost me much, and it didn't matter at end-game.

Again we finished with several other tables, and this time I found myself in a game of Augustus with Hans and Pete. It zipped along very quickly - I started by going for one of each type, then moved into orange, as I kept picking them up, and I also picked up the gold bonus tile. Meanwhile Pete was finishing contracts at a huge rate, mostly people, while Hans was going for greens. Then we got the stage where I needed two crossed swords and a pink to do my last card, which was worth 25 points to me, between the card bonus and other bonuses it gave me (for the symbols on it, and 3 orange cards), but Pete just needed a pink - but he had already drawn both pinks out of the bag, so he was just looking for the wild. He drew one crossed sword which gave me hope, but then drew the wild before he drew a second one - grr! This mean he was exactly 24 points ahead of me, to add insult to injury, with a very impressive score of 78 (it took him forever to count it!!).

Then Hans left, but we picked up another player and moved on to Macao, one of Pete's favourite games. It was a very tight game. Pete was generating an absolutely huge amount of cash each turn - ending the game on a ridiculous amount of cash that he'd been unable to use. I meanwhile picked up a bonus tile that got me 1 extra VP for each good I shipped, so focussed on buying and shipping. A large number of low rolls in the mid-game meant that I was struggling to move my ship, even with the 2 bonus squares a turn, so I did miss shipping my last good. It looked like Pete was going to win, but he turned out to have no end-game points, whereas I had one end-game bonus, and a large city area (having cut him in half), so managed to just pull ahead.

Then Jess was looking for a quick game before she left, and Paul suggested Concept, which I always enjoy, although it was a change of style rather! Pete struggled with giving clues, but a spectator helped him out a bit. We were playing with just the middle level of cards, which were mostly fairly getable, although I struggled with Crocodile Dundee for a while, and Pete had to give up on Transformers (partly because he didn't really know much about them he had to admit).

Then we gained two more players to replace the two that had left, and I suggested that I taught them one of my new games, Five Tribes, with a warning that it can degenerate into AP if you try, so to be aware of that. It was a very different game of it from the two that I've played before, as each player did actually go for a "Tribe". James on his first turn picked up a Djinn that meant he could give in a white and either white or slave to take over an empty square. I had passed over this as too hard to get white, but apparently it wasn't - James spent all his remaining turns pretty much taking two whites off the board and taking over all the most valuable empty squares. On turns when he couldn't he just took blue and took cash. It looked like an unbeatable strategy, but actually at end-game he was behind on points!! Paul spent his first three turns hoovering up no less than 7 yellow men off the board, going for the majority there, and then spent the rest of the game set-collecting via the green tribe and board actions - which turned out to be the winning strategy, but just by one point ahead of me. Peter and I both went more for board points. I picked up a Djinn tile that enabled me to add trees to a tree square, and rapidly built up a forest, using greens to get myself slaves for tree placement (as James was hoovering up all the whites), and also doing some set collection too. Peter was meanwhile using assassins to take tiles himself, with a Djinn that gave him points for assassination, and then picked up all the remaining yellows for second place in yellows, which also turned out to be worth lots of points, and he was just two points behind me. I still seem to enjoy this game more than everyone else though, from the discussion at end-game!!

We then ended up with a discussion about older games, and SdJ games, and ended up pulling out Wacky Wacky West, which Paul had brought, which was new to Peter and unfamiliar to James, although he was sure he'd played it at some point in the past. It was a very high scoring game, with Paul's 9 being a losing score, and my 16 only just winning! We were too busy protecting our buildings by dead ending things to do too much squashing - water in particular went almost nowhere before it was dead-ended!
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Sun Oct 5, 2014 8:36 am
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September 2014 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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After an absence of six months I finally got to Gradpad again - although only for half a day, as I had a 40th birthday party to go to in the evening. I went with a mindset of trying lots of new games, as there were bound to be quite a few since I'd last been.

We arrived early and started with a few games of Spot it! while waiting for other people to arrive, and followed it with a game of Incan Gold, dealing Paul in from the second round. It was the highest scoring games I've ever seen of this, certainly for a 6 player game - the losing score was Paul on 20, having missed the lucrative first round, and the highest score was a tremendous 44.

After that we headed to Paul's car to go fishing for games in it that we might want to play (and to move our own cars to the proper car park now he had arrived with the card). One of the first I pulled out was Camel Up, which I wanted to try thanks to its recent award win. It turned out to be quite a fun light race/bidding game, and I really enjoyed the experience, but I'm not sure yet if it's something I want to have in my own collection - need a few more plays to tell. I really liked the mechanic of choosing a bid, or rolling the dice, and working out the chances of various camels ending up in the scoring positions. I got out to an early lead, so when a camel got close to the end played to end the game as soon as possible - unfortunately Richard was able to bet on the losing camel, and as first person doing so, and this was enough to put him just ahead of me at final scoring.

After that there were 6 of us looking for a game, so we went to see what we could find. One of the games I'd dug out of Paul's car was Tsuro, so I suggested that. Timothy knew it, and said it worked well with 6, so after a bit of dithering we went for it as a six player game. It's a very odd little game - like Metro with only one train. Everyone set off and early on dodged each other. Then gradually players ended up in trouble, either being forced to run off the board or crashing into each other. We ended up with a three way tie, as the final tile placement sent all three of us to the edges of the board simultaneously.

We were struggling to find another 6 player game, so at this point we split into two threes. I happened upon a pile of light filler card games on the games table, and grabbed the whole pile, and two players joined me. While we were still setting up a fourth player joined us from another table, and we started with Sushi Go!. This is a very light drafting game - less in it than even Fairy Tale, and nothing like as rewarding as 7 Wonders. I can imagine I would enjoy playing this with my kids, but for adults I like a little bit more in even my fillers really.

Next I tried Linko!, which I'd heard good things about from a gaming friend months ago. It turned out to be an amazing little filler that I loved, and went straight on the buy list. In fact we enjoyed it so much we played it twice, as we wanted to play again once we knew how to play. Even on that second play more strategies became apparent - as well as some amusing moments, such as on the last turn when I played 8 of a kind, assuming that was safe, only for Timothy to play a higher 8 of a kind on his turn - eek, that was a very bad negative score!!!

Then we went to lunch, and after lunch I made sure I was first back so I could book the copy of Istanbul in for a game, as earlier it had vanished off the table while I was playing Camel Up! I found three people to join me in playing it without any trouble, and another gamer offered to explain the rules to us, as it would be easier than reading them, and yet ANOTHER gamer wandered by and set up our board for us while we he was doing that! I really enjoyed it, and now have a copy sitting in my house - just arrived a few hours ago! It's a neat optimisation game - on our first play we were all making stupid plays that I definitely would know not to do next time, and the end caught us all out a bit, as we suddenly realised Colin could end it and we were all scampering to get as many gems as possible before he did. It was very reminiscent of Royal Palace, I was quite surprised to hear it was a different designer.

The owner of Port Royal had to go shortly, but I was keen to try this one, as it had been on my watchlist for a while. We played a quick three player game. I was very disappointed - I think I was expecting more. It seems you have very little decisions on your turn - flip a card or not, but it's far too easy to miss several turns in a row because you draw a pair right off the top of the deck. And then when you have got a row of things to choose from, often there's very little "choice". Not one I'd choose to play again even, never mind buy. Glad I got to try it anyway!

We then had about half an hour before I had to leave, so we looked at the table, with a fourth person joining us, and chose a game of Splendor, as Paul hadn't managed to get himself a copy yet, but said he enjoyed playing it. It was new to Ben, but it didn't take him long to pick up, and he ended up winning comfortably, being the only person to get any of the bonus tiles - and he got two!!!

While waiting for one of our group to finish up with her game we pulled out Spot it!, which was new to Paul, and had a game of that.
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Wed Sep 10, 2014 10:57 am
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March 2014 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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When we arrived, after being stuck in traffic annoyingly close to Gradpad, there were two tables of Hanabi going, and I must say, although I don't like playing Hanabi myself, it is a fun spectator game!! We then split into tables, and I found myself in a group wanting to try out my new Flash Point: Fire Rescue expansion, Dangerous Waters. I'd played the Submarine board the night before, so we started with the Merchant Ship. We all started in our four corners of the board, and Kathy, as Medic, tried to reach the victims, while Gill and I tried to put out the fire, and Paul tried to help Kathy. There was a bit of confusion about the rules in the base area of the Merchant Ship, which meant we were struggling to put out the fire at first, until I re-checked the rule book. Eventually though, the whole of that side of the board was on fire, and it wasn't long before we lost. We flipped the board over and started on the other side. This time we had more success. Paul as Rescue Specialist ran round the ship saving people, while the rest of us spent most of our time putting out the fire, and occasionally carrying people short distances where we could. Definitely interesting boards, and a few different things to think about compared to the base game and first expansion, without quite as many extras as Extreme Danger!

Next we played Fauna, as I knew quite a number of people looking for a game at that point were Fauna fans. I had a disaster with my Tropical Rattlesnake - I placed all my cubes around Mexico, but it turned out it was further south than Mexico, and all the ones north of it got lost, which made me low on cubes for the rest of the game. Timothy won comfortably, but thanks to Paul having a similar incident to me with his African mistake, I didn't come last!

After a break for lunch we played Takenoko, which Hans had learnt recently and was keen to play again. It was a very low pink game, which didn't help me, as two of my cards were dependent on pink tiles. However, I managed to get quite a few panda eating cards done, and had a mega-turn in the middle where I completed three cards at once, which helped me into second. Hans was clearly first from very early on in the game!

After that we gained an extra player and played Bohnanza. Hans went for the early third bean field, in an attempt to get his garden bean planted and safe for a while. However, it backfired on him, as I had a garden bean in hand, then drew one at the start of my turn, and then managed to draw another one into hand, and another at the start of my turn - almost overloading on garden beans, and certainly not helping him! I won comfortably, with Hans last, and the others very close in between.

After that Matt had only half an hour before he had to leave, so we played a game of Incan Gold, which turned into two as everyone was enjoying it so much. Lee abandoned the game he was initially going to play to join us too, and then managed to win both games, with amazing timing on running away for artifacts. Gill managed second in both games with a deeper strategy - staying in a long time and in just one round netting a huge number of gems that went past everyone else's total!

Then the four players remaining wanted to play Flash Point: Fire Rescue again, so we did, this time the garage board, with the addition of a basement. The fire remained quite spread out due to the addition of the basement (my main issue with the extra boards), and so it seemed relatively easy to save everyone - even with the car exploding mid-game! My dog did some great work dragging people up from the basement!

Then we were a group of 5 looking for a game, so went for Vegas Showdown, which was unfamiliar to a couple of the players (one had never played, two had only played once or twice). The extra experience helped me win, but the new player did come second, with a solid restaurant strategy. I went for a high income strategy, and was worrying that I wasn't getting many points on board, but was able to pay 10 cash for 5VPs both times the card came out, and also got the end-game VPs for income.

We finished with a quick Chronology - the rest of the table had already played it once that day, but were happy to play again with me. I won, mainly thanks to sitting to the left of Paul, who was having a really bad day at getting questions right! When I was on 15, the others were both well into double figures, but he was still on only 8!!! I also got some very easy questions - three BC ones, and one very obvious date, which helped.
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Tue Mar 4, 2014 12:52 pm
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February 2014 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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I arrived, and we started by setting up two games with the players available, with me in a game of The Palaces of Carrara, with one experienced player and two who'd played only once or twice. The goals all favoured a large building strategy - two buildings size 5+, a total of 20 building stones worth of buildings, and four matching types of symbols, with extra scoring for the most in a particular city. I went for bricks heavily early on, getting a large collection - so that when the bag ran out I had significantly more than the others. I then built a large 8 building in the 2 cash region, and upgraded it, and built two small buildings of the same type there too when they turned up, and scored the region, and the building type, to get enough cash to buy more blocks and the required symbol - using 10 cash to buy the sixth symbol of that type too. I rapidly accumulated 21 blocks, so then it was just a case of building enough buildings to go over the 20, one of them being a 5+ building - easy! I ended the game, to the surprise of everyone else, none of whom realised I was even close! The player to my right, as start player, was a bit unfortunate as me ending the game like that pushed him into third, as his next action was going to be a huge scoring action! I more than lapped the losing player!

Then Andy said he'd like to try Gauntlet of Fools and explained the rules. The problem was, even knowing the "rules" doesn't help for the initial draft, as you have no idea how to value the various heroes - how much are their various abilities going to help, how much are the various penalties going to hurt? There was one hero who did look dramatically better than the others, even to our untrained eyes, and that was double-boasted, and my second choice hero (after that one), was stolen from me, but at that point I just took the last remaining one as there didn't look much to pick between the remaining three. As it turned out though the best hero was the one that got one extra coin every time he had an encounter - we hadn't reckoned on quite how many you'd come across in a game! I had the worst dice rolling ever (plus only 4 dice in attack, while many of the others had 5), so although my hero stayed alive far longer than anyone else, thanks to the ability of being able to run away from the worst encounters, I never got any points! Three players died very rapidly from not being able to defend the guy who made you lose a health every turn after that. Fun game, but you'd need to play a few times for the initial draft to work really.

We then pulled out Augustus for a quick game, and followed that with Fauna. Timothy joined us, and I made a comment about him being very good at Fauna - he protested, but his score was huge compared to everyone else at end-game! Partly this was being lucky in the nightmare round where most of us lost all our cubes (I forget the animal, but it was not where we expected, and much tinier than we expected too!). He knew where budgies came from (although he wasn't confident enough to put more than two cubes there), and had way more cubes than everyone else when it came to the sperm whale in every ocean, for easy points! I spent most of the game trying desperately to claw back my cubes after my mid-game disaster!

After lunch we had two groups of players, both wanting different styles of games, and the rest of the tables just heading for lunch, so we decided on a quick half-hour game of 7 Wonders while they ate, and hoped the extra people would make it easier, rather than harder, to select the next game! It also included the Wonder pack wonders, for the first time for me - I ended up with the Great Wall. Not knowing the wonder properly though, I think I over-focused on it, and ended up with terrible production, and although I had respectable science, I was missing one type (thanks to the two players to my left collecting it all!), which meant my science score wasn't enough to be competitive.

The gamer who owned Eclipse had arrived, and said it was in his car - I was desperate to try it again, so asked if he was happy for me to go and get it - he gave me the keys and I dashed out for it - and while I was there also spotted a copy of P.I. in his boot, another game I'd really enjoyed my one play of and was keen to try again. This was the next game to table - I found two players who were also keen on deduction games, and a fourth joined us. I still enjoyed the game, but it was marred by a few things - firstly that I just seemed to be better at it than everyone else, winning comfortably, finishing first in two of the rounds, although I suspect on subsequent plays Paul might give me more challenge. Secondly, one player took FOREVER working out his turns - complete brain-meltdown. He eventually got himself a pen and paper to help him, so that he didn't keep rethinking the same things, but, especially at first, that just made him even slower, having to write things down!! Thirdly, the fourth player in the group really struggled with the deduction aspect. I'm still not going to buy it, but if someone else I know does (she says hopefully) I would happily play it!

After that I asked if they'd like to try out my new Flash Point: Fire Rescue expansion, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – 2nd Story, and a fifth player wandered up and joined us while we were setting up, and we let him join - although I don't really like this with 5 - less control. The game was new to two of the players, but they were willing to give it a go; the other three of us had played it many times. We struggled initially to take control of the fire on either floor. Our Medic and Rescue Specialist saved a couple of people, before an explosion sent them both to the ambulance (and killed the person they were rescuing). We stayed out of one side of the house so the Fire Captain could douse fire for a couple of turns, but eventually had to move in, and he did too. At this point the fire just got totally out of control, both upstairs and down, and was exploding faster than we could put it out - not to mention occasionally sending firefighters to the ambulance, as with 5 players you could easily have a couple of explosions before your next turn, even if you stood in a relatively safe spot! All in all, not a surprise we lost. Would happily try again though - much preferred this map to the attic board from the Extreme Danger expansion - tighter, less space, and lots of fire.

After that I knew two of the players wanted to try Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island, so we played that, while the others played Ursuppe. We played the first scenario again, as there were two new players in the game. We didn't have a good start - not finding any tiles that looked good for building shelters on, and eventually, with autumn coming, I built a shelter on a not-great square. We then had a run of events that removed the source on that square, and most of the surrounding ones, and were struggling with resources, and really couldn't afford the loss of roof and palisade moving our shelter to a better spot. We never got close to amassing a stockpile of wood for the fire, and we had two players hovering near to death, but I, as the Cook, couldn't even cure them because we couldn't ever manage to keep enough food to do so - even with boxes to save some between rounds! Eventually one player got to zero health, but we stood no chance of building a big enough wood-pile anyway!

After that came my long-awaited Eclipse. There were two fairly experienced players in the game, who'd both been new to it when I had, but had both played several times since, and one new player. I went for the alien race of my board, which seemed to be quite an aggressive one. I struggled early on with a complete lack of orange worlds in the area - huge amounts of brown! I bought the orange upgrade worlds ability when it came out, which helped, but most of the game I was really struggling with orange - and couldn't even convert sensibly, as it was 4 to 1 conversion for me! On turn seven I built a huge fleet of ships, and an upgrade on their speed, then started turn 8 by building wormholes - an obvious aggressive move on the player who looked in the best position. He spent the rest of his turn defending, so instead of attacking him, I attacked the centre region, and despite losing more ships than I expected from not knowing the combat rules properly, managed to defeat it (some of this was bad dice rolling by my defender!). That netted me a nice number of points, and the player directly opposite me then asked to ally with me. I agreed, and this turned out to be a great move for me, as next turn when he looked where he wanted his huge fleet of ships to attack, I was the obvious target, but not if he had to lose three points to do so - instead his eyes turned to the player he wasn't allied with - who then got pummeled rather - although the conqueror didn't have enough discs to actually take over many of the systems. I instead was safe, as one player was not attacking me, one couldn't reach me unless he also bought wormholes, and the third was under attack. I built monuments instead with my cash, and won the game. I think I really should have come second, and that allying move was what won me the game!

After that there was just time for a quick filler before the end - The Bucket King being our filler of choice - although with the usual clash of rules, as so many players play house rules for this game (we don't!).
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Fri Feb 7, 2014 9:55 am
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January 2014 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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Well, this was definitely a cooperative day!! We arrived, and helped Paul carry in various games, some of which were two expansions for Escape: The Curse of the Temple. As we needed a starter game that wouldn't take long, I suggested we tried one of these - the Escape: Quest one. We decided on the hardest level of difficulty (of course!), did a quick rules read, and then another gamer arrived. Paul let him take over his dice, but he was new to the game, so that required a quick rules explanation. We got going, and went into the temple. Three of us went off together, with the other two doing other things, and we rapidly put most of the gems on various places, and the first quest we did fairly easily. The other two meanwhile did the second one, and then we found the exit, and escaped - without too much difficulty. Now, those of you who know the expansion will have spotted a contradiction here - the hardest difficulty required THREE quests! Well, one player had explored the third quest tile, put it right on the edge of the map, then put his elbow on it while rolling dice - so none of us even saw it, never mind knew to do anything about it!!! We marked it as a win on the level 2 difficulty!!

Next three of the players went on to play Firefly, and I suggested the remaining players played another game, as people were still arriving rapidly. However, two of them were new to it, so it required ANOTHER rules explanation. One of them was still a bit bewildered when it started, and was a bit behind the curve speed-wise, so we'd say "Come here then roll these dice", and he'd get there just as we completed that and moved on, but I was going my best to tell him what to do - then I got a curse that made me mute!! Suddenly the poor guy was left with no-one telling him anything, and then we ran off to the other side of the board, and he got stuck with 5 black dice. Oops!! The others then realised that the problem was because I was mute, but with two new to the game, and one only on their second play, it wasn't going too well!!! I did eventually get my voice back, but we lost horribly. I have to say that I was really impressed with this expansion and may well buy it - it adds more difficulty, which the base game definitely lacks now with experienced players, and the variable player powers are a nice touch too. The only thing that puts me off a little is the cost.

I had brought Takenoko with me, a new acquisition the day before, and I knew Paul wanted to try it, and it would probably appeal to one of the other players too. One our of Escape players dropped out to make a three player with two spectators, and we got it out. I discovered after this game that we were playing a rule slightly wrong, but I still say that you never seem to see much bamboo in this game - the panda is VERY hungry! I was really unlucky with my early card draws in this game, drawing several that proved to be impossible to do, and every time I rolled the dice it was either windy or cloudy - and I had a huge pile of unusable improvements by the end (finally I got to choose weather when they ran out!) - so the game did not go well for me. I still enjoyed it though, it's a very neat little light family game - I look forward to introducing it to my daughter.

After that we had an obvious group to pull out Flash Point: Fire Rescue, and we used the garage map of the Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Extreme Danger expansion. Initially all the explosions set off a huge fire in one end of the garage, surrounding the car, with all the POI hiding in the small rooms off that area. Paul, often moved by Dave as Fire Captain, rescued the people, while Mark and I put out the fire, luckily before the car exploded. After that the room that had three of the four hazmats in, the office, was getting a bit smoky and had two POIs in, so as a group (of three, leaving Dave outside directing operations) we moved to there. We successfully rescued 7 people, and decided to carry on to get all ten - with Mark commenting that it had been remarkably easy - no major explosions, and almost no cubes on the board. That was tempting fate. Only two minutes later, first the car exploded, although that caused surprisingly little damage as it happened, and then the smoke around the isolated hazmat turned to fire, setting off a chain reaction in that room, which set off the hazmat, which set of an explosion igniting the smoke in the corridor, which set of another hazmat, which exploded igniting more smoke, which promptly ignited the last two hazmats, which set of a chain reaction in the other corridor, and cremated the last POI, blasting Paul and I out of the front door to the ambulance waiting just outside. Half the board was covered by fire after this chain of events - the most impressive I've ever seen in this game - and the number of cubes went from about three on the board to about three off the board!!! Very impressive end to the game.

Next was lunch, and as everyone finished I asked who wanted to join me to try my other new acquisition Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island. I easily found four people, and we set up the first scenario. I have played it before, but a year ago, so we needed pretty much a fresh rules explanation, but it did help that I'd played before so had a pretty good idea of how it worked - although we had a few issues at setup. "Place the card and put two cubes on in the boxes" - we couldn't find the relevant cards with boxes on for ages! Our explorer explored very rapidly and found us some good squares for me to gather on, while our builder built various items - although probably not in the best order. However we did go for an early cure and that proved to be a lifesaver, literally, as we drew so many hazards that needed it. We didn't take advantage of our starting item weapon bonuses early on, but when we realised that we could, suddenly it was much easier to feed, and use the fur (from the odd furry animal we found) to roof our house. We did however get very wet and cold first, and lost a lot of wood and food as a result. It didn't go too badly though - we were able to fill our wood stockpile four turns in a row, and we were entering the fifth turn with five wood, but two players on very little healthy. We drew an event - and it stopped us using any of our available resources that turn - eek - we had to survive another turn!! We managed it though, by the skin of our teeth, and lit the fire and were rescued by a passing ship.

After that I was convinced to try Amerigo, much against my better judgement as I haven't enjoyed any of the recent Feld games, but I thought it would be better than Firefly - in hindsight maybe not. I really liked the core mechanic in Amerigo - the idea that the dice tower chooses the quantity and style of actions available each turn. However, that was about all I did like in the game. Where you started sailing seemed all to important for the islands, as after the first two rounds no-one was able to break into any more islands. Then building was a bit dull, and the rest seemed very much a boring points-grab.

Next came dinner, then Paul was desperate to teach me Forbidden Desert. I like Forbidden Island and Pandemic, so thought it might be something I'd enjoy. We found four for it, and we were setting it up while Paul went to the cafe - and I managed to upset my tray, luckily with just half a cup of water on it, but that was bad enough. It mostly landed on the table, but we had to hurriedly grab all the games components to stop them getting wet, and one did - although it dried off remarkably well - and Paul's IPad luckily had a good cover on it that stopped it getting too wet from splash damage. We moved tables and set up again! Paul explained the rules and said the first thing was to find the tunnel system, and then stay together when we went for the first oasis. We split up rather more than he liked as we searched, in vain, for tunnels, and then the first oasis was a mirage, and very rapidly everyone was running out of water. We failed fairly quickly, and decided to try again. This time it went better initially - we found an oasis, and had a water carrier, and found one tunnel to hide in. However, we couldn't find a second tunnel, and the opposite corner of the board to our tunnel was getting covered in sand. Paul, as digger, was sent to sort it out, but it just kept coming, and we were struggling, even with an oasis, to keep alive and were wasting lots of actions doing so. Eventually we just couldn't keep up with the rate of sand being added and died again. I must say I'm not sure about this one - it is so much more chaotic than the other two, and I like the extra control that the other two give you. I'd play again, but I'd prefer to play either of the other two.

I said that after that I wanted to play Flash Point: Fire Rescue again, but with the attic this time. Unfortunately two players had returned from dinner and wanted to join in, and so one of us had to leave to join them to make the numbers work. Peter drew the short straw, and we set it up, with the laboratory board too. It was remarkably easy - somehow the addition of the attic made the fire more spread out, so explosions didn't run into each other, and were much easier to put out as a result. I put fire out, while the other two rescued people, firstly the ones on the ground floor, then using the hydraulic lift to get the ones in the attic, and I walked the ones on the first floor down to the ground once they'd been healed. We saved all ten people easily, and it didn't even seem a challenge. I was a bit disappointed - I thought the extra board would make it more challenging, but it didn't seem to work that way.

We finished by trying the other Escape: The Curse of the Temple expansion - the Escape: Illusions one. The other two had played this one before but not me. We included the treasure room too, which was new to them. The first time we got the treasure, pushed it one room, then the gong went and we dashed for the start room, leaving the treasure behind. Then we turned back to get the treasure, and it had gone - along with the illusion room we'd left it in - oops!!! We started again, and this time it all went better; we did everything we needed to do and got out of the temple - only to turn to each other and say "Where's the treasure?". Noooooo - we'd left it behind in the temple!! It happened to be the bottom tile of the deck, which we'd never explored, so we'd forgotten all about it. We still had time for one more try, so we did - and this time it all went fairly well - minor hitches such as the other two being split from the start room by an illusionary room vanishing being easily fixed. Colin found the treasure only a couple of rooms from the exit and made sure we left with it this time - pushing it straight into the exit room and leaving us to put gems on things so he (and us later) could get out. I managed a very high speed run across the map at the second gong to get from one end of the board to the exit and out before it went - very impressive if I do say so myself. Paul, probably more sensibly, returned to the start room instead, then came out at his leisure afterwards.
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Mon Jan 6, 2014 4:05 pm
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December 2013 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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We arrived to see Paul with the Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Extreme Danger, so of course we had to start with that. We took the lab side of the board, and were planning on adding the attic, but had some fairly inexperienced players join us, so decided to leave it out in the end (the fact that no-one knew the rules for it helped with that decision!). It was a nice board - a long corridor to enter the building, and then rooms off it. Paul was the dog - which turned out to be useless early on as he couldn't open doors, so just kept running around the corridor area barking at us. He changed briefly to a more useful role, then changed back when the doors were open, and did great work dragging all the victims upstairs down to the base corridor, where I healed them, and either assisted them out the door, or asked someone else to. Meanwhile Pete did some great work with the deck gun eliminating all the early explosions, and Jessica helped him with the bits he missed.

Next I asked if people would like to try my new game - Concordia. We set up the rules (confusing ourselves initially with the double set of cards in German and English, as I mixed them together before realising there were two distinct decks in there - oops! We all went different strategies. I went for different types of cities, whereas Martin went for brick cities, Pete just went for lots of city building in general - and in fact nearly managed to build all 15 houses. His strategy turned out to gain him the most points at game end. It's an odd game, because although it's not a rondel, it still has that feel at times. I like it, but still am not sure how much replayability it has - for me a great game is one I can play 50 times without getting bored - I'm not sure if this can get there, but it'll easily get 10 plays.

After that I asked if we could try Eight-Minute Empire, which Keith had brought for me to try, having mentioned it in a previous month. Peter borrowed my phone to see if it really could be played in eight minutes and we explained the rules and off we went. The first play no-one really knew what was going on, and in fact most of us had the scoring cards switched round in our minds, so that the ones that were bad seemed good and vice versa. I suddenly twigged that this was wrong mid-game and pointed it out, and suddenly there was a mad rush for the ones we'd been passing up on until that point! Because of that card scoring was quite minimal, and board position seemed to determine final scores. We decided to play another game now we understood the rules, and this one didn't go much better in terms of interest - and thanks to Nigel spending a whole minute on his last turn, we went over the 8 minutes - but it was close. I don't think you could get the whole game PLUS scoring in the eight minutes, but it's certainly not much more.

Nick then suggested Coup, which I vetoed as I don't like it, and then Mascarade. I wasn't overly keen, as I hadn't liked the look of it, but decided to give it a go as it was short. It set of all the same feelings as Coup for me - I think I just don't like the lack of control in a game like this, and bluffing never does it for me in any game - I remember hating Poker at university for the same reason! At least I've tried it now, so know I don't like it!

After that we split into two groups, with one group taking Nigel's playtest, while the other three of us went through my 3 player games, and Mariella said she'd like to play Galaxy Trucker - which I had the new ships for. The first two ships didn't seem that much harder to build, but certainly did seem to fall apart slightly easier than I was used to - especially for Mariella. In the first two rounds I amassed a huge amount of money, Nick rather less, and Mariella none at all, not even finishing the second voyage. The third map completely blew all our minds! Mariella went for only half a ship to avoid overlaps in one direction, while I managed to get a larger hole than I expected by messing myself up, and had way fewer lasers on the ship than usual - which turned out to be my undoing when the flight happened. A few meteors and my ship was soon falling apart, and then the inevitable happened, and the one piece remaining holding my ship in one piece was blown off, leaving me with half my ship falling off. From there on it was just a matter of time before the rest got blown to bits - but at least there were less rows and columns to target! Mariella came out of the third round amazingly well - her ship not looking that much worse than at the start! I still won, thanks to my big lead in the first two rounds, and Nick not having that much more luck than me!

We then joined together with another table for a game of The Bucket King, one of my favourite fillers. I lost a lot of my pyramid early on, but then managed to stabilise, while everyone else's suddenly started collapsing, and at the end was second, with James winning.

After that we played Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Extreme Danger again, as James wanted to try it and had missed the first game. We tried the garage board this time. The car nearly blew up, so we shut all the fire doors to that half of the garage and just concentrated on the other half, which was where most of the victims were anyway. I was the dog this time, ferrying people out to the ambulance.

Next we played Fauna, which was one of the closest games ever between James and I, with us being within a point or two of each other every round - sadly on the final round I was on 99, whereas he just crept over the line with 102. Kathy, who normally is quite good at this too, had a complete disaster with the rabbit, who turned out to not be European, and as a result had not very many cubes for the later, easier, rounds and couldn't keep up.

We then played some fillers while Mariella's dad finished the never-ending game of Battlestar Galactica - Qwixx and King of Tokyo.

Then everyone went for dinner, and Peter and I found ourselves needing a two player game to play while they ate, so played a quick Innovation. He got off to a great start with early scoring, netting the early achievements, but then I picked up Pirate Code, and after he defended that he couldn't tech ramp high enough to stop me, three levels ahead of him, from achieving the next few, plus some of the bonus ones, for the win. It was pretty close though!

Then we had enough for two tables, and struggled to find two games for the two tables. Eventually it appeared there were enough for Suburbia on one table, so I went with that, and the other table agreed on Dominion. I won, mainly because I was more experienced at the game than the others, none of whom had played more than once before. We then gained a couple of players for a few fillers to finish with - Augustus and The Bucket King. By now the Gradpad staff were clearing up around us, so we decided to call it a day, and headed home. (In my case for another game or two before bed with the gamers who were staying over at my house!).
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Wed Dec 11, 2013 6:31 pm
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November 2013 Gradpad

Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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There were five of us looking for a filler to start with, so Ray produced High Society - it was new to quite a few of the players. The first three cards to turn up were small, 1, 2 and 3, and Douglas bid high for all three, and won them. The next two were 5 and 6, and both were won by me, again. After that the pain started - first a -5, which Paul took, followed by a thief, which he also took. Then the 2xs came out - two of them in a row. Ray won the first one, but was beaten by Douglas for the other. Paul also bid high, but it was actually just making his score worse rather than better! After that came a couple of big numbers, and here Lee started joining in, with some very big bids, so everyone assumed he would have spent the most. Then the third 2x came out, and was very hotly contested by Douglas and Ray. Douglas won, but there was lots of teasing of Ray that 4 x nothing was still nothing! Last came out a very big item, and by now it was a game of chicken - how high could you go and still not have spent the most. I decided I was on the limit, so dropped out, at just the right level as it turned out. It was between Ray and I, as Douglas and Lee had spent out, and Paul had effectively given up - still having his thief to take his first item anyway, a -5 even after that, and very little deck left in which to get enough to put him back in it. Ray won it, and it put him on one less cash than Douglas, who in turn had just a couple less than Lee. If I'd won it instead, I'd have been joint least with Douglas and Ray would have won. Douglas one, beating Lee and I by just one point.

Next Ray brought out The Palaces of Carrara which was an obligatory play for me, as my copy still hasn't arrived. It was a very odd selection of goals, wanting variety rather than majorities, which made for a slightly slower game than sometimes. Ray played heavily early on for an 8 building, and upgraded that town. I rapidly build to three buildings in that town ahead of him and scored it, which certainly messed up his game, but sadly not enough to stop him winning. I would probably have won had I not mis-read one of the goals though - it said 20 "points" whereas I thought it was 20 value worth of buildings! Doh! I will be more careful next time - I hadn't seen that goal before.

After that Agricola was suggested, with 5 players, using Pete's copy, which was much newer looking than mine! With two fairly inexperienced players we stuck to the E deck, but it's one of my favourites anyway. Ray got off to a brilliant start, growing his house and his family (although he clearly forgot the extra family growth square in 5 players which was amusing!), but then completely forgot to feed, and found himself at the start of round 7 with three people, but 0 zero food, and no way to get 6 on the board. Even his best efforts could only get him 5, and that was effectively missing the whole round to do so, and that hurt his position badly for the rest of the game. I managed to get myself in a position where I was doing different things from everyone else all game - renovating early and growing in clay instead of wood, so picking up all the clay stockpiles while everyone else was fighting for wood, and then picking up wood later while they were competing for clay. That combined with some very nice cards (treble plow twice for instance!) and a fireplace for feeding, gave me a very good position, and at end game I was just ahead of Pete.

We then took a break for lunch, and after lunch Pete suggested Macao. Lee, very excitedly, asked to join us "Please please please please please!" - apparently he likes Macao. Pete and I both got a set-up where we were getting lots of points every round from various cards, while Lee spent the early game taking cards, not building them, and building a large area in the city. Then his turn arrived, and he built out almost every card on the board, and transported something like 7 goods in one turn, some for double points, and flew from the back to the front points-wise! His negatives he picked up earlier in the game kept him behind me at end-game though, while Pete's end-game points kept him ahead.

After that I was desperate to try the new Suburbia Inc, having seen it arrive with Keith, and being a big fan of the base game. Two players who like Suburbia joined me, plus Pete, who it was new to. I decided over this game that I most definitely did not like the expansion. It seems ok at the start - some new tiles in the mix, ok; some special new border tiles, which looked an interesting idea; and some goals to do in the A and B deck. This last I still liked at end-game, as it gave you an extra thing to think about, and they were trivial - getting 13 VPs before the B deck started sounded easy, but actually was only just doable, and that was with buying Suburbs on the last turn before it scored; and getting 5 greens by the C deck start was ok if you were the green player, but with several players competing for it, only two of us managed it. Sadly that was the only bit of the expansion I did like. The new tiles seemed overpowered compared to those in the base game, and even the drafting mechanic couldn't save that from being a problem. The border tiles were even more overpowered, and it was very easy to get incredibly high income or reputation from them, so that in general players found it much easier to get either one or the other high. This was ok in theory, but in practice, when coupled with a PR firm which Timothy bought, these tiles turned out to break the game. Two powerful tiles and a PR firm, and Timothy was on 15 reputation for the rest of the game, as well as -5 income, as he was going over lines so fast. He went off the top of the scoring track, and was a ridiculous amount ahead of the rest of us. In future games this would make PR firm an insta-buy for anyone when it turns up - whereas in the base game it's powerful, but not all-powerful, and it can be quite tricky to get it early enough, and with enough cash left, to make good use of it. All four of us were not impressed, and will stick to the base game in future. A shame, because as I said, the goal idea is really neat - it's just a pity that the rest of the expansion isn't.

After that we decided on Tigris & Euphrates, which I love but often can't get players to join me for. Ray set up a beautiful area of monuments in the mid-board, and the rest of the game turned into a battle to knock him out of there. I had some success, but not enough, and Ray was safely ahead of the rest of us at end-game.

Then I asked to play TurfMaster, which James had asked me to take. Surprisingly it was new to the other two, and to quite a few others at Gradpad, from the number of spectators who came over to look! The first race I think the new players thought it was easy - until they realised how much race they still had to go, on very few cards!! We had some very odd dice rolls - all either 2s or 3s, or really high 11s and 12s, which made for some odd things happening at times. Ray managed to win two of the three races, and that gave him the win. I managed to place four times, but usually far back in the turn order, so was joint last. One of my favourite racing games still!

I had also brought Colosseum, so we played that next, with 5 of us. Paul managed to get the best production every round but one, and the bonuses from doing so turned out to be decisive, despite losing a chit to James every round, but it was close! I actually had more fun with this game than normal, but still not enough to save it from going on the trade pile - it just doesn't grab me somehow.

It was nearly time to finish now, so we played a couple of fillers - first 23, which didn't go down too well with James or Paul, both new to it, and they both got terrible scores from barely being able to play any of their cards, while Ray and I tied for the win. We then finished with Love Letter.
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Fri Nov 8, 2013 12:19 pm
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