Ben Bateson(ousgg)United Kingdom
Ross-on-WyeOi! Hands off...
Six players! A good start to the year, and hopefully prescient of more of the same.
With paltry offering for 6 players (Hare & Tortoise? Hmmm...), we split into two tables of 3. Tony, Richard and I had a hankering to play Ora et Labora, and opted for the Ireland set of boards. Becky and JP had recently discovered the joys of Notre Dame and were more than willing to teach Bill (on the 'leftover' table, as Becky rather unfairly phrased it).
Delving cautiously into Ora, I found several aspects rather better than Le Havre (a game for which I have little time). The central mechanic works better, there is a smooth turnover, and there is less reliance on one or two goods in the endgame (although I found out fairly quickly that it was a bad idea to neglect wood). I thought the three-man on-off placement system was outstanding. Generally speaking, I found it does 'fix' a lot of LH's problems, although it is a lot more thinky than Agricola, which stretched the game perhaps half an hour longer than it justified. I suppose my biggest dissatisfaction, though was that it was 'like Le Havre' or 'like Agricola.' I wrote some while ago of my uneasy feeling that the boardgame market is rapidly becoming flooded by identikit games; when one designer manages to flood his own market, it really is time to stop.
Leastways, I was pleased enough to beat Tony into second place behind Rich, who had much better co-ordinated settlements and earned nearly double the points of either of us there.
On t'other table, John had squeaked out a narrow Notre Dame victory, followed by another playing San Juan, and they set up Small World narrowly before our final accounting. Rather predictably, when asked for a card-game filler, both Tony and Rich opted for Glory To Rome, and promptly made a mockery of my Legionary strategy by hiding behind walls and palisades. Much fun was had of not mentioning the Domus.
Small World barely having reached Round 7, with debates about where John could put the dragon echoing off the stoney mantle, we threw out the tiles for Hey! That's My Fish, and played a swift one of those too. I reckon Tony might have won that, but I really can't remember.
Time to unite the six gamers with the only game worthy of six (and the scant half-hour we had left), and 7 Wonders got suitably randomised, trapping a chastened Tony between Rich and myself and committing him to three rounds of deprivation. Frankly, deprivation would have been a lot easier if the cards hadn't apparently been dealt out in matching pairs, but so be it. Thanks to a range of strategies around the table, this one played out to a satisfyingly tight finish, Bill squeaking it 55-53(JP on money)-53(me)-51(Becky)-50(Rich)-48(Tony). Proof, if 'twere needed, that playing a lot of 7 Wonders doesn't actually affect your ability to win games.