Ben Bateson(ousgg)United Kingdom
Ross-on-WyeOi! Hands off...
Everyone has those great nights when we hit all the right levels of enjoyability and strategy for everyone around the table. Friday, I think, was certainly one of them; although it helped that there were only three around the gamers' table in the White Lion this week.
Ben and JP took a cursory look at Pocket Battles and decided it probably wasn't right for a swift 10-minute opener, although one day I'd like to get some play time out of it. We opted instead for Famiglia, a terrific 2-player card game and currently sitting proudly on top of my 2P list. John made a firm start, but tangled himself up in the green cards, and the game was brought to a slightly premature halt when he chose to pass out rather than offer me a choice of six new cards on the street. Timing is everything...
Ian's arrival prompted the emergence of St Petersburg, a favourite for all concerned, and Ian wanted some more practice after a single game at 4am the previous week. After a bit of basic coaching, he proved well up to the challenge. I blundered early by forgetting to use my Observatory, but made up ground with a pair of Libraries and some heavy blue-phase scoring, and John deprived me of a crucial aristocrat on the final round for the win. The adjacent table of diners also declared their curiosity without asking the crucial question 'is it like Monopoly?', although there was a subsequent riff on 'is it like Risk?', which I suppose is progress of a sort. While St. P remains as close as our last few games, this is a very difficult option to say 'no' to.
With a growing collection of games that cost £8 from the Works, all of which are remaining unplayed, I hastened to get Batavia to the table. We were all struck by the beauty of the game and the quality of components, my pimping of the promissory notes into chunky coinage was complimented, and the pirate mechanism was described as most satisfactory. John discovered that the ideal opening strategy was not to dump down nine cards straight away (cards are the real currency in this game, not the promissory notes), and Ian took a close win by the margin of hoarding the more expensive good compared to my cheap tobacco and cotton. We were all reasonably impressed by this hitherto unheralded game and it definitely looks like one for future table-time.
With time for one more meaty game, Arkadia caught John's eye. It is definitely to my regret that this spends so much time unplayed on my shelves, for I'm a big Rudiger Dorn fan, and have never failed to enjoy this one. I'm always impressed with how few rules it needs for the depth of gameplay as well.
Ian and John both came out strongly, but I employed a wily coat-tail strategy to go ahead near halfway. Ian discovered that he had mis-planned as he saw the game out with a banner remaining (almost certainly a fatal mistake), and I thought I had things tied up, only to discover that JP had been hoarding lots and lots of worthless yellow seals and waiting patiently for the market to correct itself (part of the beauty of this game is that it NEARLY always does, but you can't guarantee it). When he cashed in 12 of them, he raked in 48 money for a 9 point win. This was another game new to both John and Ian, and although Ian was lukewarm on it, John agreed that it too needed a more regular outing.
We closed the evening with the inevitable discussions of Agricola, including the riff on 'why Tony wins so much' (curiously enough, the obvious solution of 'he needs to get out more' wasn't proposed), and why it's so hard/easy to score 50 points in the Solo game. I suspect there might be an interesting path to follow in duplicate-solo Agricola there somewhere.