Ben Bateson(ousgg)United Kingdom
Ross-on-WyeOi! Hands off...
John, claiming he felt sorry for me after my last-minute despairing email, turned up early in order that I didn't have to sit alone for half an hour (in a pub?! With beer?! What an absurd suggestion).
But, in any case, we kicked off so early that we couldn't actually get a table for gaming. So we cleared off out to the balcony and played something that couldn't blow away in the shape of the excellent Ablaze. One of the things I like about this game is - despite the prescripted tile placement - how often it leaves you with an agonising decision, and one wrong pawn placement might seem insignificant at the time but will often spell life or death later. And, indeed, I found myself in a late game position where I had to scrabble for the edge of the board to prevent myself being cut off. John won this one convincingly 62-49.
Hurrying back indoors to get our table, we almost broke out another game of Louis XIV to try and learn from our mistakes last week. But just then, it was our pleasure to welcome Ian, who had made the short journey up from Raglan to join us. Deciding unanimously that no newcomer to the group deserved to have Louis XIV thrust on them as soon as they came in the door, we settled for London, a game which had sat dormant on my shelves for far too long: to the extent where I had to have a quick flick through the rules to remind myself what I was doing.
Ian's comments pretty much sum up London for me: there are some key cards; you're rewarded quite heavily for knowledge of the deck, and any long-term strategies are quite broad-brush. I can't get excited about the token tacked-on interactive aspects either. In fact, the whole game is packed full of soul and theme while completely failing to excite me. JP made a bit of an error mid-game by letting me pick up a second omnibus, and being the only player to play any Underground cards at all proved to be decisive - I won a good close game 49-47-42.
Becky arrived at this point after some out-of-hours bellringing, and we were celebrating having a good table of four for the first time in several weeks. Becky suggested we break out Small World, due to John's general dislike of all things Dominion (for shame...), and indeed it was too long since I had played this mainstay of my Top Ten.
Ian started strongly with Pillaging Trolls, although a lack of choice forced him into some distinctly under-powered Hill Dwarves later. Becky swathed through great sections of the board with her Tritons and Giants, and John took some Were-Halflings to open up a lead, but suffered with his Pixies later. I tried to play it slowly by tucking away some Flying White Ladies in corners of the board, declining immediately and taking Stout Elves intending to play out the game with them. Strategically withdrawing the Elves allowed good strikes on the Trolls and Pixies, but at the penultimate turn, I spied Wealthy Amazons and couldn't resist. They cost me 5 gold, but I scored 18 points in the final round! Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to beat John, who had amassed a whopping 91 points. In fact, I was dead last. But I don't care, because Small World is always a good experience, even if I suck at it.
I got my revenge in a closing game of Innovation, though. John tried an alternative strategy by snapping up two of the Special Achievements early. But, with an early lead in castles, and quickly lightbulbs and power stations, I was in a position to really abuse the game. Repeated abuse of Coal had my score pile fit to burst and I had 4 achievements before we'd even got started on Age 7 cards. MASSIVELY chaotic, as already discussed elsewhere in this blog, and I still find it difficult to credit the victory to anything other than the card effects. Maybe it's time for a Glory To Rome renaissance when Tony gets his re-print, as he inevitably will.
So: a new member, one of my favourite games, and a lot of cards. What's not to like?