Anthony BoydellUnited Kingdom
Lo! The velocipede-mounted Son Of God it happened again; yesterday it was rib-ache with a side salad of sinus pressure, today it’s a cricked neck and biryani-induced noxio-flatus – what’s a girl supposed to do? You’d be forgiven (it is that time of year, after all) for thinking I was being attacked in the night by a rogue Osteopath or maybe Bill (the cat) has learned how to head-butt? It seems very unfair to follow a delightful evening of thinkyplay (of ludo vitae) with such undeserved bodily discomfort*.
It all started when Richard and I made the short trip ‘across town’ to the Crook residence for an evening of recreomechanics, pausing for only the slightest moment to exchange greetings it was up-and-at-em with a 4-player Snowdonia. I’m trying to break away from ‘play-testing’ this into ‘lets just play it competitively’ but, inevitably, little clarifications and typographic errors keep surfacing – it’s useful and utterly-frustrating in equal measure, because I recently sent a copy of the game to a blind-test group and I really want them to play a proper, good game. Really, REALLY want their session(s) to go well.
Game One was an unusual affair, one of those ‘end of the bell curve’** scenarios, where a combination of good weather in the early to mid-game and ‘we want to come out and play’ white Event cubes meant the whole thing accelerated to a quick (35-40 minute) finish – we could see that the game was going that way, so our tactics had to change to sweep up as many VPs as we could before the end. I failed to complete ANY work packages as they all revolved around some element of rubble-collection (excavation) and Richard had built a ‘very good at excavation’ train and hovered-up all the pieces (good points for him, denial for the rest of us!). Not that I’m worried, though – a quickie like this forces the players to ‘change tack’ (and keeps the game fresh!); imagine Agricola where some rounds the action cards are revealed in multiples? Result: Richard beats Tony by 10 points.
Everyone wanted to play again, so I reset the layout and off we steamed. Game Two unfurled more conventionally, with early weather being fairly even and the Event cubes displaying their usual shyness. My first Work Package was the ‘this’ll be difficult: lay five track and get 40 points’, so I determined to collect iron ore and visit ‘the Works’ as often as I could – when you go down this path, it’s often difficult to afford a train as well (because trains cost track pieces as well) – there are short cuts (some cheap ore to track card effects) but Richard managed to grab those before I had a chance – grrrrrr! Richard was the only one who ended up by a train – in fact, he bought TWO: a cheap runabout (no ability, just for use as an extra action) with lots of coal first that he ditched at the ‘train upkeep’ event and replaced with a ‘gain a free build action’ train later. Once again, Richard took a more hard-fought victory (making it three out of three for him this year), with Carl and I tied 7 points behind.
There IS an old adage that a game designer never wins at their games – I don’t mind this at all because
a) I do win Snowdonia every once in a while, and
b) I enjoy playing this game so much!
The closer for a rather over-centrally heated evening was, inevitably, Power Grid – this time with the conventional German map accompanied by the less-conventional Power Grid: The Robots expansion. One of our group, rather less in attendance now than in the past***, went through a love-hate relationship with this game in that he’s never loved it and always hated it. He did go through a phase of indulging the groups ‘Frieseian itch’**** but, t.b.h, the resultant post-match fallout wasn’t worth the effort and he imposed a personal ban on it’s re-emergence. I mention this because if you have a new ‘guest player’ in the game, it’s common courtesy to know his name - so, in my head (now, because I just thought it up on the train) the cardboard automaton was called Raybee the Robot, or maybe Ray2Dee2, or perhaps ‘PG-Vee-Toe’. None of these will mean anything to your good selves but, believe me, for those of us in on the joke, these are colon-spasmingly hilarious!
If you’re interested, this is how the randomly-assembled Rayborg***** composed himself:
The game got off to an odd start, with an auction required to determine which player would set the dummy players’ starting city that resulted in Carl winning the right and then dumping it – in a blocking move – next to Richard. This caused a measure of consternation from ‘the Beard’ that continued, in patches, for the rest of the session. He’s convinced that this allows player elimination at the very beginning WITHOUT ANY RECOURSE – I feel uncomfortable about it, but perhaps any of you with more robo-experience could chip in with a retort/rebutle/explanation?
The game proceeded in accordance with the usual parameters ie. Carl and Richard providing a running commentary while Elizabeth and I quietly went about our electrical business. Richard’s knockback and Carl’s derisory ‘ignore Tony, he never wins this’ attitude left an open spot for me to hoard some cash and nip in to buy a 7 city station / build to 16 in the final round and end up powering the lot for MY FIRST EVER WIN!
Yes, that’s right – you read this blog correctly! After nearly 18 months of regular play, Tony Boydell – Agricoholic and Carl Chudyk fan-boy, father of 5 and eater of wine gums – has FINALLY won a game of Power Grid! Finally and magnificently!
(does a little dance)
I have to say that my restraint at the gaming table was bordering on the Dalai Lama-esque ‘serene’ – it was all I could do to stop myself punching the air (or the other players) in delight!
Here is an image I shall treasure:
Unfortunately, Carl provided another image that will not be so joyful (or comfortable) to recall: at one point he turned to his new spouse and called her ‘Richard’...as verbal fauxes pas go, this is scrotum-witheringly awkward@. Her Indoors certainly doesn't have a beard OR an unhealthy interest in 3 hour+ economic train games.
Imagine Elizabeth’s reaction to this Freudian ‘bromance’ revelation?
Imagine RICHARD’s reaction?
Le Fils De Dieu Sur Une Bicyclette indeed.
*ok, so the biryani was my own fault
**often abbreviated to “end-bell”
***he’s moved away and is currently completely his Grand Tour of Europe – the intention seems to be to see the majesty of the continent from inside the Sports Halls and Conference Centres of many of the major capitals, ruling on WoW:TCG rules infringements in a fug of body odour and no eye-contact
****Beware! The dangers of unprotected play!
*****Pant-wetting, absolutely undercracker-soilingly funny
@In the interest of sexual equality, you could replace this with “nipple-shrinkingly”