The Ross-on-Wye Boardgamers

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

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Friday February 5th - 'King Tony

Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
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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
United Kingdom
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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
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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
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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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Friday December 18th - Party like it's £9.99 at The Works

Ben Bateson
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There was a critical moment on Friday when both Daffers and Dan cried off with mysterious gastric ailments and - horror of horrors - it looked like we might have to call off the Ross-on-Wye gamers' annual Christmas 'do' altogether. Thankfully, the Boydells pulled through with a cheery 'we'll be there for puddings beforehand', so it was just four of us this year.

Tony opened with his very best grinch impersonations, suggesting that four was too few to play Balderdash (he was wrong), and suggesting we play Mombasa instead. As keen as I am to play this design, I insisted we stick to the Christmas mantra of 'silly games only', and sent Scrooge McBoydell off to buy the desserts.

Having distributed 'Christmas Presents' (ie. all the bits from the Brettspiel Advent Calendar that he had no use for), Tony's thoughts turned to 'game of the year'. In some ways, it's been a bit of a vintage for us, and I trumped TB's suggestion of Isle of Skye with the magnificent Concordia and the snazzy Glass Road. Leastways, I developed my Top Ten some time ago, and you can find it here.

The thought of puddings naturally inspired our dexterity opener, Kapitan Wackelpudding and the sight of three-and-a-half grown humans pushing around a wooden boat raised nary an eyebrow, except on the congealing lager-drinking who came to check his suspicion that it was a 'moving Jenga'. Yeah, that's pretty much the shape of it. For some reason, certain people are able to play Wackelpudding with nary a spillage, and others are utterly hopeless, for which read Becky and Benedict respectively. Other than the lopsidedness, the other problem with the game is the end-condition which drags it out approximately 10 minutes past when it stops becoming fun. So we called this slightly prematurely when the final placings became obvious.

What is a Christmas party without Balderdash? A lot less fun, inevitably. Despite Tony's inexplicable reservations, it works absolutely fine with four, as long as you remember that the optimum number of answers is five and therefore the 'cluer' has to write their own as well.

There were many highlights, including but not limited to the National Nude Gardeners Association, an infantile joke about erections, and the heartwarming tale of a man who stole a tram piece by piece. Becky got off to a fine start, but was overhauled by first Tony and then myself, and I was just starting to get competitive down the home straight when Tony (inevitably) pulled away for his annual victory.

Nothing's more hilarious than Balderdash, right? Well, we had a close competitor this year in Taboo. On more than one occasion we had to put the sand-timer on 'pause' as we guffawed our way through our incompetence. Benedict's attempts to convey 'tearjerker' to his own dear father might well go down in club tradition as 'things we should never have to experience'.

It's not often one plays King Of Tokyo as a sobering and calming-down exercise. But it was certainly a more straight-faced quartet who started chucking dice around. Benedict attempted to hold onto Tokyo for perhaps one round too long and was eliminated immediately before Becky. Tony and I had both picked up 'extra attacking' bonus abilities, and rather than grind each other down, I took an optimistic view of rolling threes and - after a vicious heal-and-fight exchange - won on victory points with Tokyo all but forgotten. All hail Cyber Bunny!

Perhaps the most monumental event of 2015 has been the complete 180 that Tony has performed on Dobble. for some reason, the penny dropped on Norm's birthday and Tony transformed from grumpy cynic to evangelical advocate. It seemed only right to round off the year (we're not meeting next Friday for obvious reasons!) with a game - Becky was in imperious form and couldn't be outdone at Hot Potato despite our best combined efforts.
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Sun Dec 20, 2015 12:27 pm
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Friday December 4th - Daedo Rails

Ben Bateson
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There's a lovely throwaway gag in one of the Zucker films (Hot Shots 2, maybe?) where a chap aggressively whips off his sunglasses, only to reveal that he's wearing another pair underneath. I got a sudden flashback to this moment when Dan came into the pub for the first time in a while and shrugged off his brown jacket to reveal another brown jacket inside. Lo and behold, it happened again on Saturday, when my father-in-law took off a brown knitted gilet to reveal his brown knitted cardigan underneath, although - given my father-in-law's taste in clothes and my mother-in-law's profligacy in turning out knitwear - this is perhaps less surprising.

Obscure comedy references aside, we were a gaming sextet this week, and with no unexpected arrivals or declinations, we had brought the right selection of games to split into two tables of three. Becky whizzed Tony and Benedict off to the back-room for our current fave, Glass Road, while - less willing to move - I acquiesced to John teaching Dan and I how to play Dadaocheng. Allegedly he had played before, but it would have been hard to tell: I don't think I've ever seen anyone succumb to AP over the rulebook before, and we made one false start before rebooting and doing it properly.

Recognising the central disc-flipping mechanic from Clacks, Dan and I got stuck in quicker than the man reading the rulebook, and I set about some ship-building in oppositions to the mansions of the other two. Dan switched to ships halfway through, which was probably not the best idea, and it helped John clock up a decent win.

Tony has been getting unnecessarily excited about this game for several weeks now, although I struggled to find any substance behind the claims. It seems like another routine goods-conversion exercise, and the event cards were swingy to the point of unnecessity (we disposed with one of them by mutual agreement at one point, and I cannot credit the suggestion in the manual for shuffling the deck). The rules for negative-scoring of opium seem to be off-kilter. I don't see us playing a lot of this.

The other trio were back in the bar at this point, and happily immersed in the latest tweaking of Tony's prototype Danse Macabre, so we broke out Glass Road for our own session. And a great layout it was too - the board lacking in obvious building-combos and the final score spread just 1.5 points between myself (19.5 with the aid of some Private Supply conversion tiles) and Dan (18 with a high-scoring Glass engine). This is also the lowest winning score I have ever seen in Glass Road, and I've played about 15 games in the last month!

The others had just packed away Isle of Skye and Pi mal Pflaumen (Tony winning both, but in this instance not able to diminish the group's affection for either), and were positively keen to join everyone together for an end-of-evening Codenames. Deciding it would be best for everyone's sanity if we kept Benedict and Becky on separate teams, I wound up playing with Dan and Benedict. Dan and John were the Spymasters for the first round, and a long spell of thinking ensued, during which Tony and I took every opportunity to prat around and generally provide a distraction, naturally. Dan found himself bereft of inspiration, though, and we were scuppered in short order.

Round 2 saw Tony and I cluing, and I had a swathe of 'orrible words ('Czech'? Really? We're not all from your country, Vlaada!). Worse still, the assassin was on the innocuous 'Ring', and try as I might I couldn't keep my team away from it. To be honest, we were doomed from about the third clue, when Becky went on a rather fortunate out-loud ponder of 'maybe THIS...or THIS...or THIS', unerringly mentioning all the right answers for the red team.

So, Round 3 dawned with us needing to salvage some pride, and the not-always-transparent Benedict sitting in our Spymaster seat. Thankfully, he had the not-always-unable-to-clue-with-a-straight-face Becky as opposition. We started with a few enigmatic clues which gave Dan and I plenty of food for thought, and the Reds stretched into an early lead. Becky hence got overconfident and threw in a couple of simple 1-clues to mop up the difficult answers. We were not to be outdone. With fully five Blue spies to identify, Benedict chucked us a 4-bagger and we mopped up all the remainder without error for a new club record. I daresay I got somewhat overemotional as a result.
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Sun Dec 6, 2015 6:27 pm
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Friday November 27th - Benedict Spoils the Broth

Ben Bateson
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Tony and I both committed the 'counting error' tonight, turning up with armfuls of 4-player games, when in fact we numbered five. So we had to scrape around a little in order to assure ourselves a schedule for the night: thankfully, I never come out without a cornucopia of gaming entertainments and we found plenty to take us up to closing time.

Workshop of the World was my selection to start. I had - oddly enough - traded it a few weeks ago for its predecessor, Canal Mania, and was hoping it would provide a more satisfactory game experience. It didn't appear so at first, as Tony initially had a lengthy bicker about the interpretation of the rules, and then an even more lengthy sulk when he realised he wasn't going to win. Such was his posturing that I feared we might not even get finished at all, and in retrospect it didn't help that we STILL managed to play an important rule wrong, but we did eventually get to the end and a resounding win for JP. At this point, rather than castigating the game outright (along with the canon of Reiner Knizia, which had somehow crept into the equation), Tony then led a civilised discussion on 'what we learned from playing that'. And eventually stated it to be "not that bad at all". Words fail me.

I broadly enjoyed Workshop: the valuation is very tough (but not so much so that Bill failed to cope), and it leads to the sort of groupthink-price-market that works so well for us in Modern Art. It feels decidedly less fussy than Canal Mania, which always got bogged down in picky rules which were clearly inserted to prevent game-breaking during playtesting. Workshop has none of that, but the one area on which it fails to shine is production quality. The map's not as pretty as Canal Mania, the cardstock is much poorer, and the less said about the columnar playing pieces the better.

Tony regaled us next with the changes he had made to his prototype design, Danse Macabre. It's a bit like a head-on crash between Coppertwaddle and Sushi Go, with the music by Wagner. Last time out, we had identified a range of card distribution issues, but the retweaked version seemed to be a great deal more strategic. I think this one might have legs.

After the anti-Knizia polemic Boydell had spewed forth, we thought it only right to treat him to the outstanding Too Many Cooks. The soup-making exploits number among the group's favourite, and it had been quite a while since this one had had a run-out, so much so that I found myself involved in unexpected rules recap. All seemed to be going well - I was heartily engaged in screwing over JP - to my left - on most of the opening rounds, and Bill was quietly amassing points. But both the Boydells made the grave error of leaving their 'No Soup' menu until the very last round, and Benedict made quite a meal of things by taking somewhere in the region of minus 15 points. Meanwhile, I had had a fulsome Pea Soup round and overtook Bill for what turned out to be a comfortable win.

Becky had arrived from her sojourn at the theatre, but both her and Bill were making yawny noises, so we dispatched them into the winter night and Tony broke out Best Treehouse Ever, a colourful little drafting game (more drafting?) from the sure hands of Scott Almes. There were reminiscences of the dismal Ark in the need to keep a balanced tableau of cards, but thankfully any further complexities were dispensed with and what was left was a perky little creation with an intriguing scoring phase mechanic whereby everyone gets to double the score on a particular suit or remove one suit from the scoring altogether.

After the first game, we queried a few of the more idiosyncratic rules decisions (Why doesn't the draft direction change? Why is the leader the first to choose a scoring card but the order then proceeds clockwise?) and played a second round with a couple of modifications. But it turns out the design was spot-on: the original way is definitely the best. Perhaps we should leave the rules tinkering to the playtesting sessions!
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Sun Nov 29, 2015 10:18 pm
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Friday November 20th - Mum's the Word

Ben Bateson
United Kingdom
Ross-on-Wye
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Oi! Hands off...
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After my exploits at Midcon last weekend, it was back to normal at the White Lion this week. In fact, it was almost a little sub-normal, for without JP, Suzanna and many of the regulars there might have been something of a dearth of games-players. Thankfully, my mother was visiting for the weekend: a perfectly adequate gamer in her own right, she made up the quartet with Becky, myself and Tony.

First up was Glass Road, the latest in my line of 'games to get enthusiastic about'. I had had an excellent introduction to it on the Friday of Midcon, and was pleased that it seemed to roll out very well amid the RoWBGers. It should have been a bit of a no-brainer, to be honest, the short play-length and condensed Rosenberg mechanics make it highly suitable to our general style. I most liken it to an hour=long Ora et Labora with a great card mechanic tacked on.

With a bit of prompting from myself, then Mum worked herself into a good Forestry-and-Wood engine, Tony went for the highest scoring buildings, and Becky put together a massive series of Ponds. But I had comboed together a great 'discard tiles from your private offer' set of blue tiles and had the run of resources in the endgame to score my first win. Both Tony and Becky are keen to see more plays, so that can only be a good thing.

Trying to keep things relatively light tonight, we moved onto a Boydell Classic, Totemo. I still rate this as by far the best of his designs (Snow-what, now?), and was pleased to demonstrate the Bateson opening (plonk a 2-scoring cube on the opening rainbow, score 5 and give someone else the problem). It developed into a really awkward board - one colour (purple) being almost entirely absent until the endgame. And Tony, yet again, failed to beat me (this is an event as traditional and unstoppable as Hallowe'en, Christmas or the first round at the White Lion including two bags of pork scratchings). Although that didn't mean I was victorious, oh no. Becky managed to sneak clear with a couple of rounds to go, and I couldn't do a thing to catch up.

Reducing Tony to conniptions of incompetence was clearly going to a theme of the night once we got stuck into Dixit. Despite a worrying buttocksy-theme running through the game, Mum and I had our usual level of intuition going on and threatened to leave the rest behind, especially as Tony went about five consecutive rounds failing to guess the correct answer (no mean feat when there's only a choice of four). Becky threatened a late surge, but I held her off for the win.

Tony's latest squeeze is the delightfully-illustrated and frankly rather barking Pi mal Pflaumen (or, in the Yorkshire translation: "Pie'n'Plooms"). He seems to be under the impression that I dislike it, but in reality I find it an entertaining if overly unstrategisable card game. Certainly, Mum took to it well enough, enjoying a joint victory with - again - yours truly. I was rather threatening to run away with things tonight.

Codenames to finish, as is often the way. Becky, as usual, explored the boundaries of what was actually acceptable in this game, leading to much complaint with clues like 'Woolly Mammoth' and 'London Underground' (both ruled illegal by me). Justice was served and Ma-and-son beat her in her round as the cluemaster. In the return tie, we ALMOST picked up a four-to-finish to snatch the game from under Tony's nose, but justice was served and we went away honours even.

I suspect Codenames, if not Dixit too, might be appearing under the Christmas tree in my mother's house...
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Sun Nov 22, 2015 8:48 pm
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