Anthony BoydellUnited Kingdom
Having failed to get more than just the one word in edgeways at suppertime (the traditional Friday fayre of chips and burgers from the "Tudor Fish & Chip Shop" - that's right, our little town has a business that suggests its been providing over-salted battered products since the 16th Century! What next? Romano-British Head Gaskets? Bronze Age Internet Cafe?), I ended up spending the evening explaining and strategizing various 'entry level' games (it was a kind of Blade Runner-esque narrative) to a positively mob-shaped Ross-on-Wye boardgames club - or, at least, to half of the 'soon to be kettled by the local Constabulary' eight in attendance.
Eight? That's pushing the envelope, that is...in fact, that's pushing the envelope, shoving the stamp and head-butting the S.W.A.L.K label into the middle of next week.
With middle son Benedict in tow, we arrived 10 minutes earlier than I'd normally 'rock up' to find that Ben, John, Bill and Anne had decided to dispense with a 'wait for Tony' filler and squeezed themselves into the Euro-corset/enormous blonde plaits of Opera. I don't know much about this game, but I do know (after copping a quick shuftie at the layout) that it all looks very purple. And flat. And mauve, with more purple/red accents.
Dragging the unallocated pair of Steve (Mr Anne) and Sam to our table, we broke out Benedict's pride and joy Busstop: The Boardgame - I bought this for him from Essen Spiel a couple of years ago complete with the designers glyphic signature in the lid. It's a quick, fun little filler - blind bid your way into a position on a central board where you will collect between 1 and 4 passengers (of five types) to load into buses. When a bus is full, you send it off to your score pile and it empties ready for the next lot. Buses only like one TYPE of passenger, so you'll often have to store collected punters in bus queue which, naturally, only empties into the vehicles in a strict front-to-back order (absolutely NO queue-jumping allowed!). Somewhat disturbingly, you will often find yourself remarking: 'I really need a schoolgirl' or 'I want that young boy!' or 'I need to take that businessman, roughly, from behind'*. The colourful tiles are quite sturdy but oddly slippery - one always needs to 'check under the table' after a session in case the non-replaceable bits have done a runner!
Continuing the slippery component theme, we broke out the horribly-plain looking Can't Stop and proceeded to drop, mis-handle and fumble the frictionless pyramids. Daftly simple, CS has just the one down-side: it takes for flipping EVER to play. What with some of us rolling ALL the dice at once and others drop-rolling one-at-a-time and the painfully-slow progress up the tracks (after all, most of the time you CAN - and should - stop), it seemed this would end up being the 'meaty game' for the evening! Luckily, Steve managed to hit the one pair he needed (after I'd spent the previous 6 rounds FAILING to hit the one pair _I_ needed) and all misery was put out of us.
The selfishly Euro-ing 'other table' were still stuck up their own Arias, so I pulled Zooloretto from Ben's stash and launched into my third rules explanation of the evening (Demo hat firmly nailed to my temples). I have the iOS app for this on my phone and it proves a satisfying diversion on tube journeys between Marylebone and Embankment (even with the slow animation, you can fit a game into that shortish trip).
Finally...FINALLY, come 10PM, both groups reached a synchronous climax and we were all able to de-camp to a slightly bigger table for a rounding off session of Pit. Sam proved quite unassailable, scoring three round WINS and only one Bear/Bull penalty - he had only slightly more positive points than Boffo who score negatively in almost EVERY one of the eight rounds (Bill was a close second in 'being left with the booby prize'). Both Benedict and I took comfort in winning a round each at some point - the first time we've managed that! The rest of the time I seemed to spend looking at my cards, calling '1...1...1?' to no takers and then failing to pick up cards from the sticky surface. At one point, I moved nearer to the goal of '9 the same' by sitting back and doing absolutely nothing!
Stupid bloody game.
Side note: some spare wooden bits and a pint of Butty Bach secured a Thrift Store copy of Tikal for Uncle Tony et famille. Tres bon.
*that last one is a bit of a fib