Ben Bateson(ousgg)United Kingdom
Ross-on-WyeOi! Hands off...
A turn-out of eight (eight!) suggested two tables of four would be perfect, and the White Lion happily obliged (compare and contrast to last week where we were grumped at for taking up valuable restaurant space in the Kings Arms) and as soon as our first table showed, then we set to the meaty Opera, much to the chagrin of Boydell who arrived ten minutes later and found himself relegated to the table of lighter games.
If I hadn't been teaching, mind, I'd have swapped in a heartbeat, for their first game was the lovely Busstop, a family-friendly and little-known Japon Brand import. Essentially For Sale with an added layer of complexity, it's well worth trying to track down a copy if you're so inclined. No-one told me who won this, so I'll have to plough onwards without giving the winner any credit.
While Tony, Benedict, Sam and Steve were busying themselves with Japan's finest, I was labouring through the (appallingly-written and/or translated) rules to Opera. I'd already read them three or four times, but everything became curiously opaque when actually communicating the gist to JP, Bill and Anne. Twenty minutes of agonising, and we felt confident enough to throw ourselves into it, and - you know what? - it's not anywhere near that bad once you get started. Anne stole a march on us by getting a couple of Opera Houses early and keeping them well-stocked, and she didn't really look to be in danger until the final whistle (some 150 minutes later! Phew! That's a long one for Ross-on-Wye). True to form, I later discovered a couple of rules which we'd forgotten to implement. Our next game is going to make the Esperto a LOT more interesting.
Despite the awkwardnesses in the first game, I really enjoyed Opera. The theme and the economics feel really classy and there's a reasonable amount of interaction for a dry Euro. Oddly enough, having never played a Van Tol game before, I played Skyline of the World a couple of days later and really enjoyed that too. A man to keep an eye out for!
Meanwhile, the Boydell table had had time for a game of Can't Stop, won by Steve after what sounded like an over-cautious set of dice-rolling, and had moved onto my copy of Zooloretto. We finished just in time to watch Sam count up for the win.
A table of eight? Surely not! Well, actually, we had one game that was up to the task, although I felt the need to apologise to the rest of the pub that we were about to embark on Pit (now complete with dingy bell! Yay!). Much shouting duly ensued, with Tony celebrating winning a single hand as if he'd taken the Agricola World Championships (which, on current form, would be unlikely in the extreme. I think I'm on something like a 6-0 streak - in fact I even beat the fabled Iain Shirley last week). Sam won this easily, with three hands out of the eight, while I set some sort of record by clocking up minus 120 points. Both Boydells were justly proud of finishing in positive figures - no mean achievement with so many players.
With most of the crowd taking the cessation of all this noisiness as a cue to go home, the hardcore - JP, Bill and I - turned to Bottle Imp, a game which we'd miserably failed to learn properly a fortnight before. This time we got it right, each losing one of the first three hands, and just had time for a fourth hand tie-break before being thrown out. Rather typically, I got passed both the 1 and the 2, a situation from which it's almost impossible not to lose (and, frankly, a big lacuna in the playability of this game), and when the yellow cards failed to split properly, Bill had this one wrapped up.